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Best Of 2021: Albums In Alphabetical Order By Artist Through August 31st

Isata and Gershwin

The Blixky Tape 2 – 22Gz – the Brooklyn native via Guyana is a cold and icy OG trap tracks as violent as the most violent drill on these strong and bad news rap songs from a man who has been arrested for murder… twice. Try “Fallen Blixky”

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

Where Have You Gone – Alan Jackson – Jackson is well on his game on this beautiful collection of pure balladering and country singing, with the best one-two opening of an album this year. This is proving to be an excellent year for country

House of Lull . House of When – Alexis Marshall – The lead singer of Daughter has created something that Beats Per Minute (here) claims  replaces melody with found  percussion (chainsaws, like that) and along with Alexis strangled and anguished bark makes a difficult to penetrate but intoxicating hell of life after god died. We follow Alexis through a major breakdown, veering on insanity, and try to get in there somehow. There is no catharsis and only darkness visible on an industrial rock hybrid

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

Wary + Strange – Amythyst Kiah – I have a lot of time for LGBTQ+ and it isn’t all underdog; Kiah, who used to play in a band with Rhiannon Giddens, doesn’t need my condescending on this excellent singer songer, folk indie rock triumph, the songs are depressing (one song is about her mother who drowned when she was a teen) . The songs are uniformly excellent with “Black Myself” the very best protest song I’ve heard this year

Mother Nature – Angelique Kidjo – “Brothers, why we fighting each other?” the Queen of Africa asks. So Kidjo  offers an alternative filled with afrobeats, and reclaims her throne with a strong Afropop collection featuring some of the genre’s biggest stars including the undoubtable Yemi Alade, Mr. Eazy, Sampa The Great, and more. A terrific state of the art album that will be considered one of Kidjo’s greatest achievements

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

Remedy – Azure Ray – The indie duo’s first album in over ten years is well worth the wait, with the pure, low key beauty we always great from these gifted women harmonizers

Our Extended Play – Beabadoobee, The 1975 – the English via the Philippines Beabadoobee has recorded a four song EP with The 1975 and all the songs are great and “Last Day On Earth” is better than that

See You Next Wednesday – Belly – modern r&b and rap talent Belly with a modern hip hop album, is the Palestinian via Canada rapper’s feature crammed move onto the chart

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

Save Energy – Bizzy Banks – after Smoke Pop’s death no one considered Favio Five as a serious replacement for the face of New York drill, he didn’t have the voice. Neither does Bizzy Banks but Bizzy has some very tough minded, super-violent drill and the best Brooklyn flow. Even if nothing kills you here, the lack of major features is proof of his self-confidence and the tracks catch you and keep you

Vivir en la Habana (Live from Havana, 2019) – Blondie – I’ve written about Blondie plenty in the past (here is a live review from 2018) and I’m a big fan, I can’t wait for the short film about Blondie in Cuba, and on this song live presentation, the band add Spanish rhythm to pure pop moves, two songs you might not know, 2011’s Panic Of Girls track “Wipe Off My Sweat” and the exceptional 2017 vintage “Long Time”, written by Debbie Harry and Blood Orange. When you aren’t going straight to the hits you know it’s a goodie though the nine minute “Rapture” is a magnificent thing, so you really can’t go wrong

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

Cavalcade – black midi – I wasn’t crazy about the first album by the math rockers, but this has grown on me as it veers between post-punk and experimental art rock and math rock, with an obstreperous, large screen sound and a prog rock 70s overcoat sans classical leanings

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

Mingus At Carnegie Hall (Deluxe Edition) [2021 Remaster] [Live] – the 1974 concert, adds over 70 minutes of unreleased material including “Big Alice” off the CD release of the underrated Mingus Move

Déjà vu 50th Anniversary Deluxe – Crosby Stills Nash & Young – it hasn’t stood the test of time as well as it might have, the first side is alright but the second side sure ain’t. If they added “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Marrakesh Express” and maybe “Triad” and “Harvest” you’d have a masterpiece, but they haven’t and you don’t. Having said that, Steve Stills owns the extended deluxe, on track after track he is at a peak that would continue through his first three solo albums. If the album isn’t what we remember, the outtakes, demos, etc., are better than anything we have the right to expect

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

Infinite Granite – Deafheaven – the hardcore band go shoegaze and rid themselves of screamo vocals with an entrancing version of orchestrated guitars and hook and tune rimmed tracks. A huge breakthrough for the band who have left off blackgaze for a fuller and more beautiful sound that stands up for itself

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

Planet Her – Doja Cat – Cali’s own Amala Dlamini (aka Doja Cat) has been circling Dua Lipa for a coupla years now though her extreme badassness may have held her back (she nearly got cancelled for using the n word, till people realized she was biracial), the social media star is an emblem of modern pop, she raps, she creates beats, she is comfortable with melodic pop and she is very comfortable with hyper-pop image mongering, her third album  is built for the twenty somethings who spend their life in nightclubs, and their kid sisters who spend all their time on Tik-Tok and it is good -even if we heard the best song back in April with that great “Physical” interloping

Exodus – DMX – this was a career move by the born again DMX before he was dead again, it is pretty good but not enough of DMX… the Jay Z-Nas feature is good, as is the Griselda posse… the song for my son thingy sucks

How Many More Times – Esther Rose – The New Orleans native has a voice that registers Joni Mitchel in her upper register, and neo-country women like a Maren Morris elsewhere, but Rose’s country morphs effortlessly into pop with sharp arrangements and clever songs. Only six songs and each one a gem, the first one featuring Shamir and the title track the best of the lot

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

All Things Must Pass (50th Anniversary/Super Deluxe) – George Harrison – Those sixteen songs, from “I’d Have You Any Time” to “Art Of Dying”,” remain a signpost up ahead, whereas the follow up Living In The Material World, is a missed exit, the jam remains somewhat useless, and the outtakes, demos, one song not on the original album, aren’t very interesting unless you have an academic interest in how slow Hari can krishna

if i could make it go quiet – Girl In Red – the patron saint of lesbian Tik Tokkers began life as sad girl bedroom pop but success breeds success and she widens her scope entirely with the Fineas produced best work yet from the gifted woman

If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power – Halsey – wanna break into a cold sweat? Imagine if Jack Antonoff and not half of Nine Inch Nails had produced it

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

Back Of My Mind – H.E.R. – We’ve been waiting for Gabi’s (aka H.E.R.) debut album for three years now, and our expectations were probably too high. The album is first rate neo-r&b, immaculately sung and produced with plenty of songs to get into and way too much filler

Summertime – Isata Kanneh-Mason – part of the seven family members Kanneh-Masons, Isata is the one to find, the young piano virtuoso is the recipient of the 2021 Leonard Bernstein Award. On her sophomore album she tackles the Great American Composers, highlighted by George Gershwin and a beautiful collection that should further her international reputation

The House Is Burning – Isaiah Rashad – the Top Dawg signing’s third album is his best, a remarkable collection of r&b-hip hop with raps (as opposed to rap with r&b) and a tight, intelligent set of bangers that bang. When you get Lil Uzi Vert on a feature and it still isn’t the best song available, you simply know how great it is. The best “Darkseid’ is hard to beat and 6lack brings his best to “Score” 

Bernstein, Barber, Crawford & Ives: Americans – James Gaffigan and his Luzerner Sinfonieorchester – spectacular take on Bernstein, and consistent and beautiful mini-realization of American compositions

Over The Rainbow: The American Standard EP – James Taylor – the three song addendum to  his genius covers album, this  is more than welcome if also no less than obvious, Taylor’s  guitar on “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” on the all strings arrangement is lovely

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

Natty Dread – Jesse Royal – reggae is the genre that never got a big time second act, even while the likes of Bounty Killer on the dancehall side and Buju Banton on the rastafarian, certainly deserved it. Yes, to both, from the 90s, but Chronixx was all set to give reggae a return to the charts and failed. Jesse Royal is excellent, straightforward reggae but it won’t do the job

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

Blue 50 (Demos & Outtakes) – Joni Mitchell – A sampler from the upcoming box set, if you aren’t in the market for a demo of “California” you’re a better person than I am

Goodbye & Good Riddance (Anniversary Edition) – Juice Wrld – Three years later, includes some featured add ons with Lil Uzi Vert

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

Kalevi Aho: Solo, Vol. 1 – Kalevi Aho – The Finnish classical composer is having his entire chamber music compositions re-released as a series of albums -consider him postmodernism meets modernism

Dear Lemon House, You Ruined Me: Senior Year – Kaonashi – post-hardcore with a bowels from hellish lead singer tells the story of a High School person being drawn to bringing two rifles to school for its revenge… Powerful stuff and acquired taste but with a singular, horrified, vision. Improves with listening as it reinvents math rock in its own, howling image

Donda – Kanye West – West’s best album since Yeezus, but so what does that mean? Public opinion and knee jerk music journalism be damned, Kanye has never released a bad album and Donda, named for his late mother, is far from it. A three pronged story of his late marriage, his late Mom, and his beloved Jesus (also a little late), moves back and forwards from doubt to deliverance. The last four songs send it into the stratospheres with “Jail Pt 2” and closer “Jesus Lord Pt 2” strong, strange and beautiful

Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound – Kasai Allstars – Congolese collective who sound like South African pop with quieter instrumentals and brilliant drumming

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”

We Are Lady Parts (Music From The Original Series) – Lady Parts – the TV sitcom is about five devout 20something Muslims who pray towards Mecca between rehearsals. I have devout Muslim nieces in the UK myself and this is more or less what it feels like. The TV show humanizes the otherness of women and Islam in Western society. The music maybe less so, it kinda hurts from being  a question mark where sincerity should be, though when the punchline to wanting to murder your sister is that it is an “honor” killing, you’re gonna make it on points even with that Farsi Freddie Mercury cover

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

Castles, Castles II – Lil Peep, Lil Tracy – the too short collaboration has plenty to show on these five years old mix tapes, I has “White Wine” and II has the best song here “Never Eat, Never Sleep”. It sounds like the door opening to emo rap

Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi – Lise Davidsen -the 34 year old Norwegian soprano is well on her way to legend status, with a big voice for a soprano and completely at home with bombastic Wagner, big can(n)on Beethoven and especially Verdi in the terrific sets highlight, except from his “Otello”

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”?

Louis Andriessen: The only one (feat. Nora Fischer) – Louis Andriessen – the avant garde composer passed last week, and leaves behind an incredible catalog of compositions, consider him a Stravinsky disciples Nora Fischer is a glorious soprano from the Netherlands who can sound agonized

Home Video – Lucy Dadus – Before  I caught em live, I considered Lucy the third wheel in Boygenius, but she held her own with Julien Baker and blew Phoebe Bridgers offstage. The same is true on a better than the first sophomore album of Americana pop tracks with a few really good songs… try “Going Going Gone” (no,  not Dylan’s one)

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

You Signed Up For This – Maisie Peters – the Ed Sheeran find is a very good songwriter with witty and painful lyrics of boys and their gaslighting

Love Will Be Reborn – Martha Wainwright – albums, a marriage, a couple of kids, and a divorce later, the “Mother Fucking Asshole” singer returns with a lovely album of songs about moving on and finding her life again

The Wild Exciting Sounds of Marshall Crenshaw: Live in the 20th and 21st Century – Marshall Crenshaw includes the best take on “Monday Morning Rock” I’ve ever heard and while I could have used more of those mid-10s EP tracks, at least we get “I Don’t See You Laughing Now” and his Elvis Presley take kinda makes up for it

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

Celebrate the Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac (Live from The London Palladium) – Mick Fleetwood and Friends – recorded February 2020, just before the pandemic closed business as usual, and five months before the great former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green died, Mick brought together a who’s who of surviving Brit bluesmen and beyond to celebrate Peter Green, highlights include “Oh Well, Part One” with Steven Tyler and Billy Gibbons, “Oh Well, Part Two” that sounds just like Pink Floyd featuring David Gilmour, and much more, including (gasp) Jeremy Spencer, Bill Wyman, Noel Gallagher, and Pete Townshend

Culture III – Migos – I caught Migos on tour for Culture II where they blew Drake off stage TWICE A NIGHT (here), though the album wasn’t much, and none of the solo stuff was that great -all very boujee. III is their best since 2017, over an hour of big time features adding shading to hooks upon hooks, the Justin Bieber feature is ear candy, and it doesn’t hurt to hear Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD again. And sure, in the end, it’s just Atlanta Trap -and the word just is doing a whole lotta work here

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

Live at the Shoals Theatre – Mike Cooley, Patterson Hood, Jason Isbell – No “Outfit”? Drive-By Trucker’s pros returned to the place where they started for a benefit seven years after Jason left the band in 2007. It is actually excellent and if I was you I’d look around for live video of the show because, really, this is as good as Southern rock ever gets

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

Merci Miles! Live at Vienne – Miles Davis – Months before he passed, Miles Davis on a live album of songs from his last coupla albums, “Amandla” is proforma

The Löst Tapes Vol. 1 (Live in Madrid 1995) – Motorhead – is, as Lemmy notes at the top, rock and roll, the sort of performance only The Ramones could top

Muddy Waters: The Montreux Years (Live) – Muddy Waters – Waters at the festival three times in the 70s, with only sixteen tracks we deserve much more

Every Grain Of Sand – Nana Mouskouri – 86 year old Greek legend Mouskouri has been working since 1962 and has over 200 albums to her name, and this one filled with Dylan covers from all periods of her career, some in English, some in Greek, and a French language “Farewell Angelina”… all delicate and respectful and beautiful, better than Chrissie Hynde’s recent Dylan covers album, highlighted by “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” and “Every Grain Of Sand” in both English and Greek. Just about flawless

Natalie Dessay à l’Opéra – Natalie Dessay – the coloratura soprano, now 56 years old, with a retrospective broken down by region (French, Italian, and German), and the Frenchwoman is considered a major French opera star, or did till she moved sideways into the entertainment. A beautiful collection from all parts of her career till her retirement from opera in 2013

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

Beam Me Up Scotty – Nicki Minaj – a set we can all agree upon: her 2009 mixtape, an hour plus of the sort of rapping, flow, and brittle lyricism, that births a superstar. with a new lead off song featuring Drizzy and Weezy at full strength on “Seeing Green” -a sort of reminder that the class of 2021 have not overtaken the best in class here, with an especially strong Lil Wayne verse

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

Death Of A Cheerleader – Pom Pom Squad – Mia Berrin channels her time as a queer High Schooler in love with the unobtainable on a first rate collection of indie rockers. “Head Cheerleader” is brilliant and the band’s cover of “Crimson And Clover” is first rate

Shiesty Season – Spring Deluxe – Pooh Shieisty adds a handful to the already poppier than rap has any right to be (except, of course, Lil Uzi Vert makes an appearance), and the Lil Baby feature is worth the opportunity to listen to it again, brrrr

Big Colors – Ryan Adams – no features except John Mayer on “Fuck The Rain” -before the fall. The songs are Americana rock, stunningly executed tracks that are greater than anything he has given us since Cardinology in 2008, much better than last year’s spotty and sad Wednesday, here he is depressed but pressing forward on one great song after another. Really, if this doesn’t get Ryan out of purgatory, what will?

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

Crowlink – Shirley Collins – last year Collins released the sublime English folk (and one of the best of 2020) Heart’s Ease, and with this 5 song EP the 86 year old woman’s return to music after a forty year break (2016) is a great success, and all three are part of a late career surge with exceedingly few antecedents. A masterful English folk resurrection

All In – Skepta – After Stormzy, Skepta is the best rapper in the UK, and with only five songs on All In he doesn’t waste a second, both the J. Balvin and Kid Cudi featured songs are tops, and the other three are right behind

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

Ten Songs of Worship and Praise for our Tumultuous Times – St. Lenox – singer songwriter Andrew Choi’s Americana as indie pop and more, as the gay singer tries to maneuver between faith, organized religion, and self-awareness. These are neither songs of worship, nor are they songs of praise, but deeply melodic and clever songs about how difficult faith can be. St. Lenox is new to me, but not for long as this is one of the best things you’ll hear this year: borderline rap and prosaic rhymin’ and ideas both complex and simple, “Hallelujah, I am not a religious man but I can understand religion”

Tiny Music… Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop (Super Deluxe Edition) [2021 Remaster] – Stone Temple Pilots – If Scott Weiland is remembered for anything it should be this magnificent grunge glam rocker album and not their earlier “Plush” period and definitely not anything after Tiny Music. For its 25th year anniversary it gets the triple album remastered original, alt takes, and live box set and deserves it.  You show me an album with a song as great as “Pop’s Love Suicide and I’ll show you In Utero

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

Coral Island – The Coral – This is the first time the UK, 60s style pop rock band have really nailed it, a nearly hour long of gorgeous pop rock track world of sounds. A triumph for the band 25 years into their career

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”

The Definitive Collection – The Harptones – lead singer Willie Winfield died last week, he was 91 years of age. he retired at 89 in 2019. Till then he and the Harptones sung doo wop, never had a hit but remained one of the great doo wop band, helped immensely by baritone, arranger and pianist Raoul Cita. Formed in 1953, that would mean they were a performing band for nearly eighty years. This series of immaculately arranged, gorgeously sung songs have less aged and more been superseded. From 2020, we have a 60 song anthology, an unwavering collection of great doo wop that will remind you that they never, ever, found a way to update doo wop and the genre is the better for it

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

Saskadelphia – The Tragically Hip – Canada’s favorite band, still reeling from Gord Downie’s early passing from cancer, are releasing old songs that never made it onto albums, from all points south of their 33year career. These are unreleased songs from 1991. TTH were easy to miss if you weren’t Canadian, but a listen to their seventeen albums finds a great rock and roll singer leading a great rock and roll band band, and a real loss

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

Thank You For Believing – Toosii – on his sophomore album, the young and very intelligent rapper, singer, is even better than his double platinum debut album last year. An immaculate set of songs, it is all good and the daBaby collab “Shop” is best. One of the best hip hop albums of the year

Thirstier – Torres – her sexuality is voracious, her songs are indie rock of the first order heading into the mainstream, and her fifth album is where everything clicks on a song not her breakthrough, she’s both broken through and got dumped by 4AD, but Merge got her at the right time and here is the album for those who don’t know what they’re missing

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

Capricorn – Trevor Powers – Trevor used to be known as Youth Lagoon, and I once saw the mesmerizing wall of electronica musician open for The National at Barclay Center and was very impressed… still am, this is a gorgeous set of ambient sounds and you can up the grade if you love ambient anyway

CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST – Tyler, The Creator – Tyler spends his pandemic on the Italian Riviera and falling for his best friend’s girl as he develops the several strands of sound into a well justified mix of sounds

Bigga Baggariddim – UB40 – the only band named after a British unemployment form, UB40 are back again with a collaborative album of really gorgeous lover’s rock plus reggae bands follow up to their 1985 album. Trust me, this is a goodie and goes down well with red, red wine… Sure, Ali Campbell is missed but this is excellent

Solid Gold – U-Roy – we lost the great Jamaican singer and toaster in February and this final album was completed just before his passing. With features from the likes of Ziggy Marley, Santigold and (gasp) Robbie Shakespeare as well as up and comer Jesse Royal, it is still U-Roy’s album, with some great toasting on “Man Next Door” and great songs updated.  A huge loss

Latest Record Record Project, Vol 1 – Van Morrison – Cancel Van? Really? why? Because you think he is an idiot because of his anti-vaxxer position (he calls it satire during the interview above). Van isn’t a politician, he’s a rock and blues and jazz genius whose music remains vibrant on album after album… but please go back to reviewing his song titles, don’t let me stop you. For the rest of us, Van Morrison changed circa 1994 with A Night In San Francisco, where he paired his sound to his genre and narrowed his vision to blues, soul, jazz, and Celtic mysticism. And he has done the same on album after album, and they are all about as good as each other ever since, with the occasional humdinger, like 2008’s “Behind The Ritual”. His latest is a steady hander Van, “Psychoanalysts Ball” is the best, and while the rest is just what Van does and as generic as its title, it’s the equal of all but the best of his 90s material and with 28 fresh slices of Van The Man, as much fun as you hoped for. If you are as big a fan as I am you’ll be glad to own his 42nd album, and if not please feel free to give Van Weezer hugs and kisses

Get On Board The Soul Train Volume One: Philadelphia International box set – Various Artists – the first eight studio albums released by the label from 1971-1973, they are Billy Paul: Going East, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes: I Miss You, The O’Jays – Back Stabbers, Billy Paul: 360 Degrees of Billy Paul, Dick Jensen: Dick Jensen, The Intruders: Save the Children, MFSB: MFSB and Billy Paul: Ebony Woman… Harold and O’Jays we know but, except for “Me And Mrs Jones” I never considered Billy Paul a major soul man contender till listening to these albums fifty years later

Vince Staples – Vince Staples – Vince never improved upon his “Norf Norf” era, and this doesn’t either, but it is a minimalist rap memoir and a self portrait after break through, it has some fine, low and calm, rap and flow, and it isn’t catchy with the hooks either submerged or written out. None of that matters on a rap for art’s sake sound that puts him back near the top after the bizarre FM!

Off The Rails – Wallice – Californian pop rocker singer songwriter confessional but with a bright pool and as real a signpost up ahead of her twenties… plus anybody who calls a song “Dramamine” has a dreamy sense of reality, at 28 minutes in length it doesn’t have a wasted moment  and it is so good it is hard to choose a best track (“23” if you were wondering)

Ordinary Life – We Are The Union – non-binary, queer friendly, pop friendly, rock pop friendly, banded together band with a clutch of great songs, especially “Boys Will be Girls

Made In Lagos: Deluxe Edition – Wizkid – adds three songs to the already brilliant 2020 drop

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

Queendoncom – Yemi Alade – the Queen of Afrobeats, Nigerian Yemi doesn’t have another “Yoyoyo,” and she dropped it to tie in with her upcoming tour of the US this September. It’s not the greatness that is Empress and Mama Africa, but it equals Woman Of Steel and “Fire” is both the end and beginning of complete infatuation

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

Off The Yak – Young M.A. – well on her way to being my favorite rapper in 2021, the first listen to the post-breakthrough album, , finds her at the top of US drill now we don’t have Pop Smoke anymore, this is in the running for album of the year as she beats on everybody while fucking every woman (and treating them with the same respect as a male rapper). One word, ten letters

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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