On May 10, 2021, I received the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. I had an appointment to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, but on the day I was to drive 20 miles to get it, distribution of the vaccine was paused.
After weeks of wondering when I’d be eligible to get a vaccine, followed by another few weeks of battling for an appointment, I had little mental energy left to do anything but work and practice for my music lessons.
Record Store Day Drops happened, and I was actually dreading it. A large music shop in my neighborhood closed permanently, and I haven’t eulogized it yet.
After a year and change of a pandemic that is nowhere near close to ending, I haven’t put much energy into listening to music of the current year. I visit the thrift shops every week to discover the past, but the present has no allure for me.
TL;DR: I don’t have much to offer for this half-year list.
The one release to which I’ve listened with any consistency contains remixes of a song released more than a decade ago. I’ve been distracting myself with so much YouTube and violin practice that I have a backlog of unopened vinyl, including titles I bought on Record Store Day.
I hope the second half of the year is kinder than the last year and a half.
Here are my favorites of 2021, what few I could find.
Utada Hikaru, One Last Kiss EP: I haven’t cottoned to an Utada song this hard since “Be My Last”, and all the incarnations of “Beautiful World” on this EP makes a strong argument that it too is one of her strongest songs.
Anton Reicha, Reicha Rediscovered (Ivan Ilić): Reicha is pretty obsessive about interrogating the theme of L’Art de varier (The Art of Variation) to the point it’s almost maddening. But maybe that’s the point.
Yo Majesty, Return of the Matriarch: Earlier this year, I had a hankering to hear “Club Action” by Yo Majesty, though I had sold my copy of Futuristically Speaking … Never Be Afraid when cash got tight. So it was a bit of serendipity to learn the duo reunited to release Return of the Matriarch.
Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, Thanks for Coming: I actually don’t think this album is as good as it could have been. The trio’s self-titled debut EP is actually stronger, but it has enough attitude that I can’t completely dismiss it.
The older I get, the more I find music from the past I hadn’t yet discovered more interesting than the new.
Riz Ahmed, The Long Goodbye: Wow, a breakup record with an entire country. Amazing.
Laurie Anderson, Big Science: Oh, so that’s why Laurie Anderson is a BFD.
Kelela, Take Me Apart: I find indie R&B way more interesting than indie rock these days.
The Fixx, Reach the Beach: File under: an album I would have owned a long time ago if only I learned who sang those songs at the time I first heard them.
Linda Ronstadt, Mad Love: I’ve read the success of Mad Love allowed Ronstadt to record more adventurous albums, which makes me wonder what would have happened if she had done another new wave album.
Gang of Four, 77-81, March 12 (vinyl), April 23 (CD)
I don’t need this boxed set. I already have Entertainment! and Solid Gold on vinyl. But I want this boxed set because of the ephemera that goes along with it, including an actual cassette tape of demos. I’m glad I still have my TASCAM 424 to play it.
MONO, Beyond the Past: Live in London with Platinum Anniversary Orchestra, March 19
I don’t think I ever got around to listening to Holy Ground: Live in NYC with the Wordless Music Orchestra. (NOTE: I’m listening to it now as I write this entry.) As much as the orchestra is important to MONO’s studio recordings, it’s not terribly important in a live setting. I have seen the band enough times not to miss it. Still — I’d love to see them perform with one.
Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, Thanks for Coming, May 7
I’m usually skeptical when Hollywood actors form bands, but Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under, Dexter) played the title role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which is enough cred for me. Also, I’m definitely the target market for the trio’s post-new wave sound. I liked the self-titled EP enough, but I’m curious to see what they can do over the length of a full album. Thanks for Coming is already available on digital platforms.
PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, Feb. 26
Yeah. This reissue is the one for which I’ve been waiting. I’m even going to get the accompanying disc of demos released separately. Next target: Let England Shake.
Bad Brains, Bad Brains, April 22
Because … Bad Brains.
Death Cab for Cutie, The Georgia EP, July 30
Death Cab for Cutie made this covers EP available for one day on Bandcamp to raise money for Fair Fight. With Senators Warnock and Ossoff now sworn in, the band is making it available on vinyl.