I can’t say I expected much from 2021 given how Generation X has turned out to be such dumb fucks, but I didn’t anticipate those expectations should have been lower. If the current trajectory holds, 2022 can already go fuck itself.
At least we got a new ABBA album out of the deal.
ABBA, Voyage: When Frida sang the opening notes of “I Still Have Faith in You,” I hadn’t realized how starved I was to hear that voice, those voices. Voyage also pulls off the remarkable feat of picking up exactly where the band left off in 1982, practically ignoring the musical developments that came in the wake of ABBA’s hiatus. It makes sense for the virtual live show. Why let 2022 intrude on 1982? It’s also remarkable how the band’s lyrics are darker than I remember. But I was 8 years old the first time I was an ABBA fan, so a lot of that subtext would have been lost on me.
Duran Duran, FUTURE PAST: ABBA shows how you can take the past into the present. Duran Duran takes the future into the past. Duran Duran has always tried to run parallel with the contemporary, but on some albums, they skew too heavy on relevancy. (I’m looking at you, Red Carpet Massacre.) With FUTURE PAST, Duran Duran embraces its past self, grounding all the experience of a 4-decade career into the fundamentals that make their signature sound.
Deafheaven, Infinite Granite: Yes, I’m far more into post-rock than heavy metal, so the fact this album embrace more of the former and less of the latter does not disappoint me in the least. Toward the end of the album, we do get treated to the scream vocals.
sungazer, Perihelion: Adam Neely is correct when he says recorded music has been too de-valued to be a reliable income source. As much as I love this sungazer album, I’m not going to complain if the next one takes years to arrive, if it ever does.
Utada Hikaru, One Last Kiss EP: I don’t think I’ve spun an Utada Hikaru song this much since “Be My Last”. I also love that all the remixes of “Beautiful World” are distinctive enough to withstand repeated listening.
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert: Glad to hear it’s lost no longer.
Jam and Lewis, Volume 1: There’s a melodic turn at the end of the chorus on “Happily Unhappy” that pretty much encapsulates the longevity of Jam and Lewis. Volume 2 reportedly includes the pair’s biggest collaborator, Janet.
MONO, Pilgrimage of the Soul: I seem to like every other MONO album since Hymn to the Immortal World. Couldn’t get into For My Parents …, The Last Dawn or Now Here Nowhere, but I’m all about Requiem for Hell, Rays of Darkness and this album.
Helmet, Live and Rare: I have only the first three Helmet albums in my collection, but this live album makes me wish I had seen them live.
FINNEAS, Optimist: Sorry, Billie.
Some other favorites from the past year:
Yo Majesty, Return of the Matriarch: Q: Will sex, God, and titties continue to be a part of the Yo! Majesty brand? A: Anything less is uncivilized. It’s time to be free.
Lil Nas X, MONTERO: Given the amount of time I spend in thrift shops, I have a bias against streaming-only releases. For the price Columbia is charging for downloads, I may as well wait for a physical release. I like this album, but downloading FLAC files from Bandcamp is the closest I’ll consider owning a digital release. I’m old that way.
Perfume, Polygon Wave: Yeah, this was really a maxi single. But I couldn’t stop playing this one either.
CZARFACE / MF DOOM, Super What?: To be honest, I don’t own very many MF DOOM albums, but man, that was a 2020 loss that affected me more than I expected.
Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, Thanks for Coming: This album is good, but I have a sense that it could have been phenomenal with a few more tweaks.
Duran Duran makes it a point to make each album sound distinctive, but that’s often meant the band would run away from the fundamentals which made them famous. FUTURE PAST, as the title indicates, finds the band embracing its past while still facing forward. Generations of bands in their wake is proof enough they were onto something enduring.
Adam Neely said his goal was to be the Neil deGrasse Tyson of music theory education, and I say, he already is. But he can also write. If you had to file Perihelion in a section of a record store, jazz would be as a good a fit as any, but it wouldn’t be a complete descriptor of what Neely and drummer Shawn Crowder do.
Sugababes, One Touch (Deluxe Edition)
One Touch has grown on me over the last year, and the previously unreleased demos on this deluxe edition would have fit well on the album proper. I didn’t even mind the remixes on the second disc.
Spandau Ballet, True
I picked up this album on vinyl a long time ago, but I hadn’t really listened to it since. So I gave it a few plays on Spotify and grew to like it enough to want it on CD.
ZARD, BEST ~Request Memorial~
ZARD has always existed on the periphery of my Japanese music fandom. I had a sense they would be too mainstream J-Pop for me. This compilation showed up in the thrift store, and yes, it’s quite mainstream J-pop but not cloyingly so.
I couldn’t really get into Billie Eilish’s second album, but I really like the one her brother made.
This album was wildly successful at the time, buoyed by a nascent promotional tool called the “music video.” The deluxe edition of Physical includes one of the first video albums produced by a pop artist. Sorry, Beyoncé fans.
Spice Girls, Spice (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 29
In the UK, this deluxe edition of the Girls’ debut album is accompanied by five color vinyl reissues, each featuring a member the group. I’d probably opt for the Mel C one, but I already have this album on LP.
Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Georgia Blue, Nov. 26
Jason Isbell makes good on his promise to record a cover album of Georgia artists if the run-off election in January 2020 sent a pair of Democrats to the Senate.
Kylie Minogue, Fever, Oct, 15 Sinéad O’Connor, So Far … The Best of Sinéad O’Connor, Oct. 15
National Album Day in the UK looks like Record Store Day Lite from a distance, but this year’s focus on women artists has some nice reissues in the pipeline. Honestly, Fever should just be perpetually available on vinyl. Every special pressing sells out fast and fetches exorbitant prices on Discogs. I have So Far on CD from when it was first released, and it’s an excellent compilation.
Old 97s, Fight Songs, Oct. 29
I would have preferred a vinyl reissue of Satellite Rides, to be honest.
I liked Rogue One probably a lot more than an average Star Wars fan might, so I was willing to entertain Riz Ahmed’s hip-hop work with the usual skepticism afforded to Hollywood actors dabbling in music. This work is no dilettante effort. Ahmed prosecutes the societal forces in the UK that brought about Brexit in an astonishing performance.
Wayne Horvitz, Live Forever, Vol. 1: The President – New York in the 80s
Wayne Horvitz dives into his archive to surface this must-have collection of live recordings and outtakes.
Kelela, Take Me Apart
I love how modern day R&B artists are willing to blur the lines between pop music and indie rock.
I’ve known about this album since it was first released in 1987, but I was too young at the time to have understood the impact of the Minutemen on independent rock.
sungazer, vol. I sungazer, vol. 2 Adam Neely, time//motion//wine
I never paid much attention to YouTube till I learned about Adam Neely and music theory YouTube. It’s been a year now since I discovered his channel, and YouTube has since eclipsed Science Channel as my television entertainment of choice. Neely’s own music combines electronic beats with rhythmically complex jazz, and while I enjoy watching him explain music theory, I sometimes wish the YouTube algorithm would give him enough slack to create more music.