Happy New Year!
I don’t know about you, but I am SO stoked that this pandemic is FINALLY over!
Damn, apparently that was just a dream I had. My bad. We are actually almost two years into this seemingly endless zombie apocalypse. However, as much as our “new normal” has sucked and provided numerous challenges to our physical health, mental health, employment, travel plans, and entertainment options, one major positive has been that musical artists have had way more time to write and record albums in lieu of touring. This has allowed musicians to be much more prolific than usual.
Coming just a few short months after my favourite album of 2020, Taylor Swift released another instant classic with evermore. While not quite as perfect as folklore, it showed that she is indeed the real deal and needs to collaborate with Aaron Dessner (The National) and Jack Antonoff more often. Oh, and she also re-recorded her early albums Red and Fearless, complete with a couple albums of impressive unreleased material. She sure wasn’t slacking in 2021.
Alt-rock veterans Mark Lanegan and Juliana Hatfield keep pumping out great tunes with various projects and this past year was no different. Mainly known for fronting Screaming Trees during the grunge era, Mark Lanegan’s latest album and collaboration Dark Mark & Skeleton Joe is a darkly fun electro-rock listen. After making cover albums of Olivia Newton-John and The Police, Juliana Hatfield released the criminally overlooked Blood.
Speaking of alt-rock vets, Liz Phair FINALLY returned with her first album in over a decade. After the frustrating and disappointing Funstyle, Phair decided to right the ship and release the stellar Soberish. Nothing will ever top Exile in Guyville, but this was a nice return to form.
This past year was also about pleasant surprises. After their first couple albums, I basically gave up on The Killers. They always had *ahem* killer singles but they basically shat the bed with their albums… until the last year and a half. They finally found their mojo with 2020’s Imploding the Mirage. When their tour plans got derailed because of the pandemic, Brandon Flowers and company decided to go into full Bruce Springsteen Nebraska mode with Pressure Machine. If you were expecting another “Mr. Brightside” then this would not be an album for you, but it is stunning from start to finish.
The biggest redemption story of the year was Weezer. Like The Killers, they almost seemed like they were going through the motions after classic early albums. But Rivers Cuomo and the gents delivered the goods with two incredible albums in 2021, and they couldn’t be anymore different. Ok Human has a chill, ‘70s singer-songwriter vibe while Van Weezer is an unashamed love letter to ‘80s hard rock acts like Van Halen and Ozzy Osbourne.
Locally, Saskatchewan proved once again to boast an incredible amount of talent that are getting much deserved national and international attention. Megan Nash, Andy Shauf, Jeffery Straker, Christofur Real, Val Halla, and many others made the SK proud.
While lots of my favourite albums are pretty mellow, I always need to rock out and strut and be the cock of the walk sometimes. Some of my fave “rawk” albums were by bands like IDLES, Viagra Boys, Amyl and the Sniffers, Serlin Greaves (of The Watchmen), Death From Above 1979, Royal Blood, Real Sickies, and the Foo Fighters.
2021 didn’t have an obvious “album of the year” for me, but I have to go with Mother Mother’s Inside. I have always appreciated this band’s earlier work but I never really gave them the proper attention they deserve. That all changed with this album. It’s been the one release I find myself gravitating to more and more. Overall all it is fairly mellow, but it just exudes positive energy and celebrates love in all its forms: romantic, sexual, friendship, family, you name it. And after two years of this zombie apocalypse the world certainly could use some more love.
Anyhoo, here are 30 of my fave albums of 2021. For a taste of each album I made a playlist of one song from each release I think people should check out.
- Mother Mother – Inside
- The Killers – Pressure Machine
- Taylor Swift – evermore
- Viagra Boys – Welfare Jazz
- Dark Mark & Skeleton Joe – Dark Mark vs Skeleton Joe
- Weezer – Van Weezer
- Jesse Malin – Sad and Beautiful World
- Liz Phair – Soberish
- Garbage – No Gods No Masters
- IDLES – Crawler
- CHVRCHES – Screen Violence
- Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
- Foo Fighters – Medicine at Midnight
- Serlin Greaves – Sad Songs For Sale
- Amyl and The Sniffers – Comfort To Me
- Megan Nash – Soft Focus Features
- Real Sickies – Love is for Lovers
- Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
- Juliana Hatfield – Blood
- Weezer – OK Human
- Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days
- Nancy Wilson – You and Me
- Royal Blood – Typhoons
- Death From Above 1979 – Is 4 Lovers
- Whitehorse – Strike Me Down
- Snail Mail – Valentine
- Jeffery Straker – Just Before Sunrise
- St. Vincent – Pay Your Way In Pain
- Christofur Real – Little Addictions
- The Wallflowers – Exit Wounds