My Favourite Music of 2021
Some years, I have a hard time picking a favourite album. Not this year. Cassandra Jenkins’s An Overview on Phenomenal Nature came out in February and has been in heavy rotation ever since. She creates such a mood with these intimate and atmospheric songs and my love for this album hasn’t waned with all the listenings. Nothing came close to knocking it out of the top spot for me.
Listen to the My 2021 Faves playlist on Spotify
Some other new discoveries this year include The Last Exit by Still Corners, which you may like if you’re into a little dream pop; Collapsed in Sunbeams by Arlo Parks, which might appeal to Sade fans; Somewhere by Sun June; and New Long Leg by Dry Cleaning, if you want something a little louder.
Meanwhile, Lucy Dacus returns to my year-end list. Her “Night Shift” from her 2018 album Historian remains one my favourite songs of the last five years. Home Video doesn’t include anything quite that good, but it’s still an excellent album. Torontonian Tamara Lindeman, who records and performs as The Weather Station, put out Ignorance, her best yet. And Julien Baker added another fine effort, Little Oblivions, to her impressive portfolio.
The great Steve Earle recorded a tribute to his son, the also great Justin Townes Earle, who died of a drug overdose in 2020. J.T. includes one original song and ten covers. Dad remains faithful to his son’s originals, but not too faithful.
For a long time, I couldn’t forgive The Hold Steady for not putting out albums as good as Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America. While Open Door Policy isn’t at the level of those two, it’s still damn good and worth checking out if you’ve haven’t heard The Hold Steady in a while. Another band that suffers from comparisons to its previous work is The War on Drugs, which seems determined to erase any remaining edge from its music. I debated whether I wanted I Don’t Live Here Anymore on this list, but in the end, I made my list a top eleven.
My playlist features a few other gems from this year: a song from a new EP from The Real Shade; a bit of a return to form from old friend Billy Bragg; and songs by Indigo de Souza, Snail Mail, Steady Holiday and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
For a little fun, I’ve also included four covers: Michael Stipe paying tribute to The Velvet Underground, Jason Isbell doing a John Prine deep cut and Car Seat Headrest running up a hill with Kate Bush.