Thursday 2 December 2021

2021 Albums of the Year

I don't tend to blog on albums that often, as when I do, they tend to be in depth pieces that take some time. Indeed, as of March 2021 I had only blogged on 79 albums across the history of my blog

But I always keep a running list of my favourite albums released through the year saved in a draft blog that I review at the start of December to narrow down to my absolute favourites.

2021 has been a good year for new music and also for re-issues; BMX Bandits My Chain album was released on vinyl for the first time, my sister Carla reissued her Homemade Lemonade album on its 5th anniversary under her own name (previously released as Ette), Trashcan Sinatras I've Seen Everything received loving care in terms of packaging and reviews, and then you had big hitters like The Beach Boys with their magnificent Feel Flows boxset and The Beatles with Get Back - book, boxset and documentary.

In terms of music released in 2021. While old favourites like Teenage Fanclub and Primal Scream feature in my top 10, I hope that this blog might point you in the direction of some albums you might have missed by new, emerging and developing artists and bands you might like.

Other end of year lists are likely to point me in the direction of albums I've missed through the year. I've also included a few other albums I've enjoyed through 2021 after my top 10 and a list of all my previous albums of the year.

My top 10 favourite albums of 2021 are;

Endless Arcade - Teenage Fanclub

PeMa / Merge

Setting the tone with 7-minute opener Home, Teenage Fanclub's first post Gerry Love album saw Norman pouring his heart out and Raymond offering friendship, support and advice.

Raymond's Come With Me melted my heart, it might be my favourite song that he has written. While Norman tugged on heartstrings with Back In The Day and the exquisite The Sun Won't Shine On Me

My first post pandemic shows were Teenage Fanclub in Edinburgh and Glasgow shows. It was so good to see them again and they were brilliant. Roll on SWG3 in April.

I'm More Inclined - video

Come With Me

Magic Mirror - Pearl Charles

Utterly gorgeous. Echoes of Carole King. Beautiful voice, compelling songwriting. I heard about Pearl Charles in that very 2021 way - through a #timstwitterlisteningparty

Opener Only For Tonight is joyfully upbeat with a chorus that you don't want to end. While Don't Feel Like Myself sounds like something you should have heard before - classic songwriting, beautifully performed. 10-songs, 37-minutes - perfect.

Only For Tonight - video

Plays Nice n Sleazys on 3rd February.

The Umbrellas - The Umbrellas

Independent guitar pop from San Francisco with a passing nod to Glasgow and The Pastels in particular. When I first heard them singing of Autumn leaves leading to the boy/girl vocals both singing the hook lets lay in the sunshine, just you and I my heart burst with joy. Great guitars, melodies and hooks - a sense of love and care pours out of this album.

I fell for this album on first listen, so did many others and the initial pressing sold out really quickly. The second vinyl pressing should be out in February/March.

Near You - video

Live at home - video

Uncommon Weather - The Reds, Pinks & Purples

Oh how I love the sound of someone pouring their heart out over fuzzy/chiming electric guitars. I only discovered this album in November while talking music in Monorail. Uncommon Weather was actually released back in April and had I discovered the album then, it may well have been my album of the year. 

I hope I never fall in love, all the things you do for love sings Glenn Donaldson, beautifully and soulfully. Also hailing from San Francisco, this is a truly beautiful album. I really hope Donaldson brings it to Scotland sometime. 

The Reds, Pinks & Purples Bandcamp

Don't Ever Pray In The Church On My Street - video

The World Within Our Bedrooms - Drug Store Romeos

Bedroom dreamy, shoegaze-y, psychedelia with pop melodies. I think I read about this album in The Sunday Times Culture magazine! A far cry from me discovering bands from the NME or Melody Maker!

Anyway, this is a really gorgeous album, the band sound like they are in their own little world and they're inviting us in for 50-minutes. There are lullabies like Cycle of Life and dream pop moments like Frame of Reference. Their melodies are sublime, like they have been dreamt.

Frame of Reference - video

Still Life - Massage

Formerly The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, in the words of their Bandcamp page, these are 12 deft songs full of late-summer sunlight and deep shadows, pained grins and shared jokes, shy declarations of love and quietly nursed heartbreak.

The same page states - take a little There She Goes By The La's, some If You Need Someone by the Field Mice, the honey-drizzled guitars from The Cure's Friday I'm In Love, a Mary Chain backbeat and you're almost all the way there. Indie pop, jangle pop, power pop - whatever you want to call it.

How can you fail to fall for a description like that? And how pleasing to find it to be accurate!

Turn My Dial - M Squared Recordings and more, 1981-84 - Tangled Shoelaces

Raw, innocent, pure ... these recordings by a very young Tangled Shoelaces captured my heart. Aw man, Oceans Away is incredible, I love it so much, kind of like New Order by way of Melbourne. I blogged on the album HERE and interviewed Stephen from the band HERE. The best songs on this compilation are among the very best released in 2021. 

The Biggest Movie Ever Made - video

Demodelica & The Screamadelica 12-inch singles - Primal Scream

Sony / BMG

Primal Scream have been in a very reflective mood for a while. Something they would previously have poured scorn on, but looking back kind of suits them. They've earned it after blazing a trail with Screamadelica and XTRMNTR in particular. And also, they're kind of lucky to still be around to reflect after their hedonistic lifestyles. Primal Scream are an important band.

Of course, reflecting on Screamadelica 30-years down the line after the loss of Andy Weatherall must have been hard. His influence is undeniable. But Demodelica really highlights the songwriting going on and the experimentation with new equipment and sounds. While the 12-inch singles showcases that Primal Scream and all their friends created some incredible music that still sounds remarkably fresh, futuristic and vital all these years down the line. I'm including both in this list!

This Is How It Starts - TeenCanteen

What should have been their debut album. Recorded after a handful of rehearsals over 2 weekends. Under My Covers with Duglas T Stewart is sublime, You're So Analogue is warm, fuzzy and funny and the original version of Friends is equally heartmelting and spine tingling, while the original version of How We Met (Cherry Pie) is a slice of sugary sweet pop perfection.

Like rain that falls without a warning

On a sunny morning

This is how we met

How We Met (Cherry Pie) 


System - Callum Easter

Lost Map Records / Moshi Moshi Records

Only released in November, System builds on Easter's Here Or Nowhere debut album. I love the way everything sounds so urgent, it comes across as if it was recorded live, or as if each layer to the songs was recorded in 1st take. Opener What You Think? has Easter in full (almost continuous) flow with a choir backing at times, a thrashy/trashy beat, catchy keyboard riff and it sounds glorious.

Beautiful at times, Lose Sometime is a real favourite, barmy at others, always with energy and soul. There are pop hooks, brilliant use of backing vocals and a scuzzy soulful feel throughout. Can't wait to finally catch Easter live in 2022.

What You Think? - video

And I also enjoyed;

Ronin I - UNKLE, The Tide is at the Turning - Man of the Minch, Black Acid Soul - Lady Blackbird, Seeking New Gods - Gruff Rhys, 1:2 - Cindy, Sweep It Into Space - Dinosaur Jr, Fir Wave - Hannah Peel, Utopian Ashes - Bobby Gillespie & Jenny Beth. Hen Hoose 

Previous albums of the year

2010 - Shadows - Teenage Fanclub, This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem, 

2011 - Love & Lemonade - Futuristic Retro Champions, Jonny - Jonny

2012 - One Day I'm Going To Soar - Dexys, Electric Cables - Lightships, 

2013 - Big Inner - Matthew E White, Reflektor - Arcade Fire

2014 - Morning Phase - Beck, Tied To A Star - J Mascis

2015 - Beyond The Silver Sea - Dr Cosmos Tape Lab, Modern Nature - The Charlatans

2016 - Pii - Stephen Solo, Say It All With A Kiss - TeenCanteen, Here - Teenage Fanclub

2017 - Adios Senor Pussycat - Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band, How The West Was Won - Peter Perrett

2018 - And Nothing Hurts - Spiritualized, Impossible Stuff - Carla J Easton

2019 - Kiwanuka - Michael Kiwanuka, Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains, Pii3 - Stephen Solo

2020 - Fugitive Light & Themes of Isolation - Andrew Wasylyk, Weirdo - Carla J Easton, 

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