Best Of 2021: Albums In Alphabetical Order By Artist Through April 30th

Written by | May 9, 2021 4:53 am | No Comments

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Future, Tense. – Adir L.C. – The Israeli singer songwriter with heavy skills in arrangements and tunes, with a straight out winner…  he should contact Merge, they’d love him

Detroit Stories – Alice Cooper – Alice returns to his childhood heroes, using local musicians and classic rockers (the “Rock And Roll” that opens the set is killer) with an old school selectism that sounds like classicism, some recently composed

Down in Texas ’71 (Live) – Allman Brothers Band – a month before we lost Duane, a good live set with a stellar fifteen minute “You Don’t Love Me

Los Dioses – Anuel AA, Ozuna – the reviews have been mixed, but I absolutely love it. The most exciting buncha bangers by a duo since Bad Bunny and J Balvin in 2019

Madre – Arca – They is the best sound of hyperpop around, it is reworked and weird instrumentation pop that goes on till it stops and is more than background, it is more like seeped in. I recommend to the adventurous (and so we you won’t get blindsided when they become the next big things). It sounds like a spiritual awakening without the gods, like liturgies that aren’t. The instrumental at the end is another beauty

FRIENDS KEEP SECRETS 2 – benny blanco – the producer (behind hits like “Move Like Jagger”) and Juice WRLD friend and musical companion adds six songs to the 2019 EP and it sounds terrific, Justin Bieber is great on “Lonely,” Juice WRLD on “Graduation” (you know: THAT GRADUATION SONG), another song has Ty Dolla $igh AND 6lack, even the late 6 Dogs makes an appearance… a very, very song set by a man who was always a music smarty and should one day have the success Juice WRLD once had, in a strong week it is a strong album

The Plugs I Met 2 – Benny The Butcher, Harry Fraud – Pitchfork’s Pete Tosiello compares Griselda superstar Benny The Butcher to pre-retirement Hova, even though Benny can’t withstand comparison to Hard Knock Life Vol 2, but what he can do is take care of business on a brutal and strong nine song suite of street legal gangsta rap

1970 – Bob Dylan – released due to popular demand in response to Europe’s wacky licensing laws, the May 1st 1970 recording session with George Harrison is a loose and wooly thing and makes the $40 investment a must buy

Landscapes – Braam Brothers – 70s style Yacht Rock as Americana aloneness by the brothers Braam, guitar oriented yet widescope moodiness and a clear and present sense of mutated nostalgia… a definitive low key classic rock

ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE – Brockhampton – whether you consider Kevin Abstract’s Brockhampton a boy band or an alt rap art band doesn’t matter, they are consistent enough to be at least in the running for best band alive, and when your featured performers include everyone from Danny Brown to JPEGMAFIA (to Charlie Wilson), and the songs are intensely catchy and unique, you can consider them anything you like. for sure: they are what youth in 2021 is, every color, every gender, every sound, entirely one of a kind and just like everybody else (plus they kill live here)

Mis Manos – Camilo – an outrageously gifted pop star from Colombia, song for song nothing beats it this week. Camilo is off center always: tunes, sounds (sometimes he sounds like Paul Simon circa Graceland), “KESI” is a great song that’s all

ONCE UPON A TIME – CHIKA – Alabama rapper and EXPOTUS Obama fave, sounds more like neo-R&B and the better for it on this excellent EP which doesn’t even need the raps

Detroit Blues – Danny Kroha – Detroit local hero Daddy (once of the Gories and Demolition Doll Rod) drops his second album on Jack White’s Third Man record. Using songs available from public access (though I’m surprised “Up Above My Head” let its copyright lapse), he performs acoustic blues, Americana, folk takes and all, much like his side job renovating houses, looks much sharper in this context

Dancing With The Devil…The Art of Starting Over (Expanded Edition) – Demi Lovato – a new pop classic that leaves from Ariana’s thank u, next, to thank you, more

Heart – Eric Church – great country rock triumph for half an hour of top rock plus “Put That In Your Country Song”. It is, in fact, the album of the week except I wanted to note someone else… I consider it the best year of the year (so far!)

Soul – Eric Church – the third part -remember & is vinyl only to fanclub members, and this match of rock, soul, and country is fabulous and “Rock & Roll Found Me” is undeniable for sure

GRACEFUL RAGE – Harmony Woods – Produced by no less a populist than Bartees Strange, this is very dramatic Indie rock and singer songwriter confessional with some strong emotions and overwhelmed songs that build and blast on a wall of tunes that catch you unaware. Though the songs blame guys for most of Harmony’s (that’s the band name, her name is Sofia Verbilla) messed up emotions -and she may be right and on the strength of the electric guitar on “Rittenhouse” you might believe she has every right to be angry; the first three songs are as perfect an intro as you’ll hear right now

Oh! Pardon tu dormais… – Jane Birkin – Serge’s widow, Charlotte’s Mom, Brigitte Bardot’s lover, with a memento mori for her late daughter Kate Barry, ten years after Kate’s passing. Did she jump or did she fall, Birkin works through these questions on a dark and heartbreaking pop Francais

Mariposa de Barrio (Soundtrack De La Serie) – Jenni Rivera – in Latin pop terms, Jenni was the Patsy Cline of the genre in the best ways and also in the worst way: she died at the age 43 in a plane crash. This functions as a primer and is beyond worth your while. If you listen to Mexican music it is part of knowing the sound

Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic – Joeboy – the young Nigerian popstar has a perfect feel for afrobeats, but his songs seem out of step with the new meld of r&b and African pop, heavier on the latter. Still, his debut is brimming over with strong songs and potential hits -in Africa if not in the US

Plastic Ono Band (The Ultimate Collection) – John Lennon – The best post-Beatles release to date with the entire album, outtakes, dems, jams and more for 120 songs and over seven hours, and a must own

Little Oblivions – Julien Baker – Julien sounds so committed to her story, the 25 year old alcoholic who reneges on god (the big oblivion) for sex (the little oblivion), her voice is her reason and her words are the sort of words you’d want them to be: “Pass out in the back of a cab, could you pull over? I think that I’m trapped. There has been a whole lotta Julien passed out over the years, she sounds like a reborn Conor Oberst

Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe) – Justin Bieber – have we forgiven him for the MLK interloping? I guess so, at over an hour in length Justin’s soft and sweet romantic love stuff can get boring but it can also pay dividends on the hits like “Holy” and “Peaches” and… it is pop music that is popular

Freedom. – Justin Bieber – With an immediate follow-up, 27 year old Bieber drops the best of his last three releases, a Gospel EP that though lacking West’s body and soul, at least keeps away from pure Gospel with a reverse secular soulfulness that includes Afrobeat and… Tori Kelley

GRACE – Kelly Price – few better Gospel singers than Price, this is 90s style r&b as Gospel and the singing is so strong and the beats so sweet that opening hooks with “I wanna dance,” makes you forget the proselytizing as the punchline only happens once: “It let’s me know that God is in control”

Acquainted with Night – Lael Neale – her Sub Pop debut (a major minor release if there was ever one), has an early best in show with “Every Star Shivers In The Sky” -just a synth and an 808 and Lael’s voice, and never looks back on a first rate debut ten years after the fact

Lamb of God (Deluxe Version) – Lamb of God – adds the Livestream event on September 18, 2020, plus two new songs to the metalcore greatest band’s excellent 2020 return

My Midnight Special – Lonnie Donegan – a greatest hits from the skiffle legend who was the king of proletariat UK pop back in the 1950s, put out to pasture due to rock and roll

Still Woman Enough – Loretta Lynn – at 88 years of age, all power to the second greatest woman in country history (her friend Patsy Cline is better), here she introduces the current generation of women singers, the Maren Morris’s and Margo price, as well as a generation earlier Tanya Tucker and Reba McIntire, and it all sounds wonderful. One complaint… where is “Fist City”?

Sound Ancestors – Madlib – I’ve always admired without being enamored of the Mad crew -sadly MF Doom just died. But Madlib’s first solo album finds the producer reborn as an r&b guy and a real good one. It gets a little arty here and there, but it steadies itself as a strong black soul outing

What’s Going On (Deluxe Edition / 50th Anniversary) – Marvin Gaye -four mono takes, a coupla “singles” versions, a handful of remixes including one with BJ The Chicago Kid, and a demo of “Symphony”. But this is Marvin and we don’t need to be reminded to listen to him and that makes this a little useless.

Serpentine Prison (Deluxe Edition) – Matt Berninger – adds four covers, two originals, to last years solo outing for the national’s baritone, and it sounds better than ever. Matt, can’t help sounding dramatic but he doesn’t let himself become Scott Walker about it, the songs are smaller and better cultured

Beautiful Scars – Merry Clayton – you remember Merry as the Stones’ “just a kiss away” back up singer, what you might not know is that she was in car accident in 2014 and had both her knees amputated (here): “I just looked at them and said, ‘Really? Well, did anything happen to my voice?’”… Nope, nothing wrong with her voice, and she found God on the upswing and we got this beautifully performed Gospel album of original songs that even Diane Warren can’t hurt

Mikey Erg – Mikey Erg – The Ergs drummer stays close to home with a first rate rate collection of three chord punk rock, including a stellar cover of “Spin The Black Circle” which is, if anything, a better barnburner than Pearl Jam’s original

Art Dealer Chic 1 – 3 – Miguel – If you think this is a whole lot better than his recent stuff, you are right. It dates from 2012 and the three EPs have just been released in preparation for Vol 4, dropping in on April 9th, this is the stuff that’s whispering the love that dare not be named: Prince

Way Down In The Rust Bucket (Live) – Neil Young, Crazy Horse – From a 1990 concert with the entire 1990s, maybe Neil’s second best decade, just waiting

Young Shakespeare (Live) – Neil Young – From January 1971 (a month before Harvest dropped), Neil harvesting his hits to date on acoustic guitar, from this time period it is the best live one I’ve heard, yes, better than Massey Hall Young called it the performance of that era and as a guy who has grown indifferent to Young and his Vaults, this one ain’t like that. The show was filmed by a German TV crew and is out on DVD somewhere

CLOUDS (THE MIXTAPE) – NF – The white, born again, poster child for mental illness returns with a fine, very strongly rapped (think Eminem at his tongue twisting best) set of 00s style rap

CARNAGE – Nick Cave, Warren Ellis – clearly it is no Ghosteen, but the first half is as upset and the second half is his most inviting work since Dig, Lazarus, Dig

Greatest Hits Vol.2 The Better Noise Years – Papa Roach – eleven years later, the great “Last Resort” hardcore rockers sound excellent on volume two, a true greatest hits with every one of the 21 songs must be heard and memorable. An indefatigable energy is placed at the center of rock hard rock and emo rockers

Something Wonderful: Peggy Lee Sings the Great American Songbook – Peggy Lee – from her radio show, one of the great interpreters of the classics returns, including duets with the men who wrote em, including Johnny Mercer and Frank Loesser

The First farewell – Peggy Seeger – American folk singer Peggy Seeger was married to the legendary Ewan MacColl and at 85 years of age, her new album, recorded with sons and daughters, is all original material and all quiet, pleasant, light hearted and yet not really

Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century – Peter Stampfel – 100 covers recorded between 2002 – 2019, and despite his olf-kilter and weakening through the years vocals, his acoustic takes always finds the pleasure points and presses them, try “I Love You Truly” early and “Concrete And Clay” late

Is This Desire? – Demos – PJ Harvey – yet another compilation  of demos from a specific album, this time the excellent Is This Desire? That’s the one where she put away her guitars for synths and piano, but on the demos you still get the guitars in full swing. The problem with all her demo albums is that what you want is the skeletons of songs being worked through, but the demos here are just about completed and waiting for the band to flesh it out a little but if that is what it takes to hear the album again, so be it

Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea – Demos – PJ Harvey – pointless in a pointed way the way the GOAT Bring His Love To Me wasn’t, I don’t really care that much one way or the other, her New York album was her fifth great work in a row and I am more than happy to listen to a stripped down version

DEACON – serpentwithfeet – the soulful singer with his second collection of songs but this time detailing the easily empathized joy of sexual love between black men of the same sex for each other. An early contender for album of the year

J.T. – Steve Earle – Steve smudges his son Justin’s impeccable Americana in a ten song plus one farewell to his late son

Somewhere – Sun June – The Austin, TX five piece have the alt-pop “Driver’s License” on “Everything I Had,” and on their second album they bypass their sophomore jinx on a gorgeous load of what they call regret pop, every song hooks you in the end with a pop yet art implied winner. A contender for album of the year, “Everything I had” is as good as “Driver’s License”

Stage Fright (Deluxe Remix 2020) – The Band – Although it has “The Shape I’m In” and the title track, this is the worst of the first three albums so what does the worst mean? Added odds and sods plus a live album, remixed by Bob Clearmountain, it remains in tact as a sign post to Americana yet to come

Solid State Logik 1 – The KLF – The 90s UK house duo weirdos came and went, refused to re release any of their material, and refused to put any of their music on streaming services. And now they’ve put a greatest hits package on streaming services and it is absolutely magnificent, altogether: “doctor who-oooo”

Tethers – The Natvral – I always loved indie poppers The Pains OF Being Pure At Heart and am happy to inform you that Kip Berman is back as The Natvral who sound like Pains Of meets Roger McGuinn meets Tom Petty meets Bob Dylan and on “Sun Blisters” might add Garth Hudson to the mix, the songs are great especially the opening track. So how does it feel? It feels like brilliance in a world without much

Let The Bad Times Roll – The Offspring – The pop punkers of your youth have always done what they do, tuneful twist and shout for white kids with low self-esteem. It might not more than what it is, it is still precisely what it says it is

Death By Rock And Roll – The Pretty Reckless – Taylor Momsen returns to her hard rocking classicist’s The Pretty Reckless for the first time in five years with a rip snorting, burn down the houses, we didn’t know we missed ya album that puts fellow classicists Foo Fighters to shame

The Highlights – The Weeknd – Abel is the r&b Drake, singing sad songs about things that can be happy and sad, and over three albums and a coupla mixtapes he has hit the charts on a consistent basis. Just before his boring Super Bowl halftime show, he dropped this greatest hits that is one

The Who Sell Out (Super Deluxe) – The Who – their second attempt at a rock opera of sorts, isn’t as good as A Quick One but is in many ways better than the overblown Tommy. These 115 songs and jingles find Pete Townshend near the top of his creative powers

Surrounded By Time – Tom Jones – his first release since his wife of 49 years died in 2016, they are superb covers reaching an apex of soul and power singing on “One More Cup Of Coffee” and one of the finest “The Windmills Of Your Mind” you’ll hear. His son Mark Woodward and go to producer, Ethan Johns, join him for an excellent, and let’s hope not final, release

All the Right Noises – Thunder – 2020 was the worst year for rock in living memory, perhaps simply proven by Springsteen’s dreadful Letter To You. Or perhaps exemplified by this week in 2021 in which the likes of Serj Tankian, and the 1990s hard rock Londoners Thunder with a heads down, no nonsense, hard rocking guitar band as good as anything they have ever done

I Won’t Care How You Remember Me – Tigers Jaw – the band dubbed themselves the middle ground between Fleetwood Mac and Saves The Day, which means they know from a melody but not from song construction. Even so, indie pop lovers are gonna love it and everyone else is gonna like it a lot

The Complete Decca Studio Albums Collection – Tom Jones – from 1965 – 1975, Tom was a force of major (he still was when I saw him in the mid 00s – women were still throwing their panties at him), and these songs of pop and soul power on remain his greatest legacy. As adept at pop singles like “It’s Not Unusual” and “What’s New Pussycat” as hard soul bangers “It Takes A Worried Man” . This protean qualities are all over the box set, everything stands up supremely well and that thunderball voice still gets everyone else. From Along Came Jones to Memories Don’t Leave Like People Do, the welsh sex star recorded over 200 songs… so enjoy

Human Work – Worn – have you ever been to Wilkes Barre? I went to a wedding there decades ago and it is the only US city I’ve been to that has tombstones on the sidewalks, and, of course, a legitimate hub for screamo. On their debut, worn are the best Screamo I’ve heard all year, the singer’s voice is an echoey foghorn and the drummer a power too

Rich Slave (Deluxe) – Young Dolph – adds eight good tracks to an already good album, the guy is a real gangster (he nearly got shot to death a coupla years ago), but that just makes him real. I love the way he constructs a track, he plays around with not beats, but voices

Slime Language 2 – Young Thug, Gunna – plus a cast of dozens, including Drake and Travis Scott, from the YSL label a fine odds and sods of songs I really am not certain why I have never heard of a single one, it should be huge because as pop rap goes it has edge to spare and Young Thug remains a world class rapper

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