2021: A music odyssey! (LPs & Mixtapes)

2021 is here! I've decided to make a list where I can put all of the 'complete' reviews of the year in one place! Hopefully by December 31st, there will be a cohesive list of my favorite artistic achievements of 2021!

*My rankings are almost always changing by a bit, so this is all pretty fluid...

"Rankings":
10/10 - 0
9/10 - 2
8/10 - 24
7/10 - 20
6/10 - 17
5/10 - 16
4/10 - 5
3/10 - 2
2/10 - 0
1/10 - 0
0/10 - 0

Dean Blunt - Black Metal 2
1.
93
GENRE: Art Pop, Hypnagogic Pop,
(It's Dean Blunt, he's his own genre)

RELEASE DATE:

ORIGIN:

Dean Blunt's follow-up to the 2014 masterpiece, "Black Metal" is just as if not more impressive. Dean Blunt centers these alluring song structures around the mysterious magic of the guitar. Blunt's usual aesthetic is more poignant and succinct than ever. From Blunt's trademark esoteric lyricism and his dystopian delivery to what can only be described as "Bluntian" sound design. This is arguably Dean's most hypnotic atmosphere as Dean slithers confidently with his usual oddball charisma around these shadowy soundscapes wrapped in a unique blissful enigma.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "SKETAMINE", "DASH SNOW", "NIL BY MOUTH", "WOOSAH", "the rot"

Link to review:
https://www.albumoftheyear.org/user/andrevital/album/377381-black-metal-2/
Pink Siifu - NEGRO DELUXE
2.
91
GENRE: Sound Collage, Experimental Hip-Hop, Abstract Jazz

RELEASE DATE: April 9th, 2021

ORIGIN: Birmingham, Alabama

The deluxe version of Pink Siifu's 2020 album, "NEGRO" manages to be its own unique experience even separated from the original artistic statement. This deluxe is full of the same seamless blend of sound collage, punk, jazz, and hip-hop that Pink Siifu mastered last year. In comparison, these tracks are much more formless and atmospheric, creating a mesmerizing bind that leaves me hypnotized by the brilliant commentary commemorating the deaths of black people due to primarily police violence and celebration of black culture through nearly every genre. This is one of the most impactful pieces of art I've listened to all year.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "NEGRO FRIDAY", "BREATHE.birth", "Numbers on yo head", "NATION TYME PSA", "BLACKBETHAGOD!!!!!"

Link to review:
https://www.albumoftheyear.org/user/andrevital/album/343524-negro-deluxe/
Viagra Boys - Welfare Jazz
3.
88
GENRE: Art Punk, Cowpunk

RELEASE DATE: January 8th

ORIGIN: Stockholm, Sweden

Viagra Boys' sophomore record is an outstanding achievement in storytelling whilst also playing with overlooked subgenres in the post-punk sphere such as Cowpunk. Perhaps "Welfare Jazz" is most impressive when you take the rewarding progression of the album's protagonist. Lead vocalist, Sebastian Murphy takes the role of a sluggish scumbag in the dirtiest alleys of life slowly acknowledging his errors and desperately looking for forgiveness and redemption. One of the themes of this album is our protagonist's desire to leave the city and find refuge in the "country" which is also significant for the instrumental palette of "Welfare Jazz". The band embraces a mix of country influences along with their heavy punk sound making for a unique mix which is hard to find anywhere else.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Ain't Nice", "Creatures", "Secret Canine Agent", "Girls & Boys", "To The Country"
Pi'erre Bourne - The Life Of Pi'erre 5
4.
89
Pi'erre Bourne's latest is a spectacular display of the calming power of trap music. "The Life Of Pi'erre 5" isn't just full of harmless fun built for lazy summer evenings on a basketball court, it's also honestly an impressive achievement from a musical perspective. Pi'erre's production is taken to a whole other level on "TLOP5" with pristine transitions and creatively vibrant beats. Although these tracks certainly are reliant on mood, there's something about the ambitious progression of the production mixed with Pi'erre relentless stream of hooks that keeps me coming back. Pi'erre takes a risk with much longer track lengths and it pays off as this is honestly the most hypnotic trap album of the year and I doubt many will impress me as much as this did. From the blissful nostalgia on "Retroville" to the nocturnal conviction on "Sossboy 2", this album is consistently and thoroughly entertaining.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Switching Lanes", "Biology 101", "Sossboy 2", "Practice", "40 Clip", "Retrovillle", "Amen"
Anthony Joseph - The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives
5.
87
GENRE: Jazz, Spoken-Word

RELEASE DATE:

ORIGIN: Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago

Anthony Joseph's "The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives" fulfills 2021's criterion of protest music. Joseph doesn't only deliver some of the most invigorating and fresh-sounding Jazz compositions I've heard in a while but Joseph's spoken-word additions to these tracks channel the energy of greats like Gil-Scott Heron. The cultural commentary about the concept of "Home" is striking throughout this album as Joseph tells stories from all throughout the Caribbean Diaspora. From the fiery vocals and clashing horns on "Maka Dimweh", the story of a Guyanese Soldier sent to clean up corpses after the Jim Jones massacre to the stellar ode to legendary Barbadian poet, Kamau Braithwaite on the opener, this album is a passionate journey and somewhat of a celebration of Caribbean Culture. Even if that doesn't intrigue you, the song, "Swing Praxis" see Joseph use his commanding cadence to create an urgent and gorgeous call for revolution. "The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives" is nothing short of an incredible triumph as Joseph crafts brilliantly forward-looking Jazz whilst painting this vivid, colorful and immersive picture of an often overlooked part of the world. This is the culmination of all of Joseph's work in the past decade and it's a wonderful magnum opus.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Calling England Home", "Maka Dimweh", "Swing Praxis"
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - CARNAGE
6.
86
GENRE:

RELEASE DATE:

ORIGIN/LABEL:

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis's latest collaboration is a predictably gorgeous and lavish chamber pop journey without ever being self-indulgent. Nick Cave lets loose with some of his most organically urgent verses lyrically and his most tortured and emotive vocal performances. Warren Ellis manages to pair Cave's emotions with elegance of the highest caliber instrumentally which ranges from unsettling to cathartic. Ellis' instrumental dynamic experimentation forces Cave to push his songwriting skills to another level as each track feels essential and focused. A violently poignant listening experience.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Hand Of God", "Old Time", "Carnage", "Balcony Man"
Armand Hammer & The Alchemist - HARAM
7.
86
Armand Hammer links up with legendary producer to create a intxociating vibe that Armand Hammer's music has never aimed for before. billy woods & ELUCID are still delivering unforgettable commentary and coming through with harrowingly focused song topics like on "Chicharonnes" or "Robert Moses", however "HARAM" sees the duo attempt to match the vibe set by The Alchemist's jazzy production with more singing and mood pieces. All of this creates one of the most unique listening experiences in abstract hip hop and possibly the duo's most accessible project to date.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Falling Out The Sky", "Chicharonnes", "Robert Moses", "Stonefruit"
Madlib - Sound Ancestors
8.
86
Iconic and influential producer, Madlib gifts us a crisp collection of otherworldly instrumental hip-hop beats. The material on "Sound Ancestors" is reminiscent of a peak Dilla in many ways with its succinct nature and clever samplework. On top of that, the mixing and mastering are lush as Kieran Hebden of Four Tet fame helped make this sound as smooth as it does. Of course, Madlib is a master at creating an engaging atmosphere without overwhelming the sense, so this was always was going to be great but I also have to admire the thematic consistency as Madlib explores the sounds of indigenous/folk music of Latin America and Africa. This is a cratedigger album through and through and I'm here for it.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Road Of The Lonely Ones", "Hopprock", "Sound Ancestors", "Hang Out (Phone Off)", "Two for 2 - For Dilla"
Arab Strap - As Days Get Dark
9.
85
Arab Strap's grand return after 16 years of silence sees the duo continue to craft some special sardonic slowcore jams. Moffat's songwriting has only improved as he takes on topics such as porn addiction, depression, and xenophobia with such dejected self-defeatism, it's pretty cutting. "As Days Get Dark" understands dark comedy, from the topic of a man pursuing a career as a man who tells tragedies and weeps on the road to an audience on "Tears On Tours" to "Another Clockwork Day" which focuses on Moffat's distaste for the evolving technology surrounding in pornography, everything is presented in such a self-deprecating and nihilist tone. The eclectic yet consistently moody production from Middleton keeps this album sounding weirder than ever as he utilizes an impressive range of instruments. "As Days Get Dark" basks in the dark with muddy morality and putrid poetry, that's the point as Moffat and Middleton's refreshen their sound for this era's urgent topics.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Another Clockwork Day", "Heres Comes Comus", "Fable Of The Urban Fox", "I Was Once A Weak Man"
Bo Burnham - Inside (The Songs)
10.
85
GENRE: Synth Pop, Musical Comedy

ORIGIN:

RELEASE DATE:

This might not be a conventional "album" per see. However, the music from Bo Burnham's critically-acclaimed Netflix Special is so strong, they continue to resonate even without any visuals. Burnham utilizes clever and nostalgic elements of synthpop to distract from the heavy and often depressing sentiment of isolation which s overwhelmingly present in the lyrics of each track. Aesthetically, "Inside" is simple yet uniquely accessible, however, on a songwriting front, we have some of the most essential tracks written of this year. Not to mention, that it provides the laughs that so many of us need this year.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Comedy", "Sexting", "Welcome To The Internet", "That Funny Feeling"
The Body - I've Seen All I Need to See
11.
85
The Body has kept all the original appeal whilst creating its most candid and powerful albums to date. With "I've Seen All I Need To See", The Body keeps it simple and focused on what they do best. This album emphasizes the brutally relentless noise factor of The Body's music. The loud mixing, the crushing and compressed drums, and the waves of distortion are all turned up as The Body creates a hideously grotesque beast. If there was ever a track that would be able to physically mutilate a listener, it would be "A Lament" or "Eschatological Imperative". At the end of the day because of "I've Seen All I Need" laser focusing on their ability to create a gigantic and blood-curdling soundscape result in an apocalyptic experience that proves how unforgettable The Body's music can be.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "A Lament", "Tied Up & Locked In", "The City Is Shelled", "A Path Of Failure"
Rochelle Jordan - Play with the Changes
13.
84
Rochelle Jordan's "Play With The Changes" is the much-need celebration of nightclub culture through the sounds of
Robert Finley - Sharecropper's Son
14.
84
GENRE: Blues Rock, Soul

RELEASE DATE: 21st of May

ORIGIN: Bernice, Louisiana

With Robert Finley's third album, Finley has cemented his name as one of the most magnetic performers in Blues music. Even if his career started late in his life, his ability to convey vulnerability through his outstanding vocal range places him alongside Delta Blues Legends like John Lee Hooker & Muddy Waters. With the help of Dan Auerbach, "Sharecropper's Son" provides a sufficient amount of nostalgia and innovation as the soundscapes blend Gospel, Soul, and Blues Rock. On top of everything, Finley's sharp songwriting transcends the genre and serves as a vivid portrait of the Delta life as Robert tells stories of his time in jail, picking cotton
and his rough childhood.
CHAI - WINK
17.
83
The Japanese girl-band's genre-bending mix of everything from neo-soul to new wave to J-pop marks a harsh stylistic change for CHAI. Miraculously, this change I wonderfully executed as CHAI balance the messy nature of genre-hopping with an undeniable charismatic approach which makes every track feel like unforgettably carefree summer jams.
Lancey Foux - First Degree
18.
82
With "FIRST DEGREE", Lancey is liberated to create a deeply unsettling picture of a demonic destiny and an unquenchable self-confidence. Apart from being a concise and intense 24 minutes, there is not a single moment here where I'm not entertained. Lancey's eccentric style of melodic hip-hop has always been energetic but his pure presence behind the mic with a myriad of manic ad-libs and animalistic vocal deliveries is what makes this mixtape above and beyond. All in all, "FIRST DEGREE" is a psychotic batch of seamlessly strung-together rap tracks slightly left of center which have me extremely excited to continue to follow Lancey as one of the most intriguing characters in the UK Hip-Hop scene.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "AIN'T THIS", "DON'T - TRUST ME", "CONTROLLING ME", "CLARITY"
Flying Lotus - Yasuke
19.
82
FlyLo poured his heart into the entire "Yasuke" project and that shows in the wonderful score. "Yasuke" may be a score for a Netflix anime show, yet this truly an ambitious project for even an incredibly well-respected and beloved artist such as Flying Lotus. "Yasuke" attempts to incorporate influences from traditional cultural east Asian music with multiple traditional Japanese woodwind instrumental sounds. FlyLo doesn't stop there, also making a conscious effort to bring in thrilling traditional African percussion and blend all of that with his trademark tantalizing mix of hip-hop and Jazz. All of this whilst simultaneously aiming to make his own Blade Runner-esque synth masterpiece...and somehow it worked! "Yasuke" is an instantly immersive experience that never feels too busy whilst having such rich soundscapes and sharp melodies. The luxury comes from the natural beauty of the subtle instrumentation and masterful progressions along with the seamless aforementioned cultural blends happening constantly throughout this art piece. An impressive undertaking for any artist.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Black Gold", "Pain And Blood", "African Samurai", "Mind Flight", "The Eyes Of Vengeance"
TOBACCO - Fucked Up Friends 3
20.
82
TOBACCO never fails to impress me and although "Fucked Up Friends 3" isn't his boldest release, it's another healthy serving of psychedelic electronic music which only Tom Fec can create. After the wonderfully weird pop-inspired direction that "Hot, Wet & Sassy", "FUF3" serves a return to Fec's comfort zone. Maybe these tracks are a bit more abstract and formless, yet the emphasis has returned on the hazy atmospheres and the intimidatingly heavy synths. The griminess that fans adored about the original "Fucked Up Friends" has returned as Fec dips each of these melodies in layers of muddy distortion and other effects to make the entire album sound dirty as hell. Exactly as I and other fans want it to sound. A bold and unforgiving electronic album from the Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman that basks in its filth!

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Accuser Of The Fuckin Brethren", "Everything Around The Knife", "Dianetics Jr", "Half Tengu", "Saturday Coyote"
slowthai - TYRON
22.
81
slowthai's sophomore effort is an effectively accessible yet ambitious pop-rap as slowthai spits the album by mood. Although the first half designated for the bangers seems a little less fleshed-out, Frampton still dishes out some wild tracks like "MAZZA" featuring A$AP Rocky and engages listeners with pure energy on others. Where this album really shines is with the gentle melancholy throughout the second half. With stellar singles like "nhs" and "feel away", it was easy to predict the poignant direction this album was heading. Yet, even with that one can't help but be impressed with how vulnerable and cutting tracks like "adhd" and "push" ended up being. All of this being said, this is also arguably more accessible and inviting than "Nothing Great About Britain" even with its somber tone. The choruses are cathartic and catchy and the album's relatively short run-time makes it flow crisply.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "MAZZA", "terms", "push", "nhs", "feel away", "adhd"
Young Stoner Life, Young Thug & Gunna - Slime Language 2
23.
80
Some may dismiss "Slime Language 2" as another bloated trendy hip-hop posse album. Be that as it may, in my opinion, the latest project from the Young Stoner Life label encapsulates exactly what attracted me to its main players in the first place. Despite its lengthy run-time, each track presents a fresh and risky subversion of the expected mainstream trap format. All of the eccentric characteristics that Young Thug embraced when he grabbed attention have been passed on to his protegés like Lil Keed, Lil Duke & T-Shyne. Not to mention some impressively colorful and vibrant production complimenting big-name appearances from heavy-hitters like Travis Scott and Future, both of which match the energy by giving odd and adventurous performances. Ultimately, "Slime Language 2" is a collection of infectiously entertaining detours into the nooks & crannies of the psychedelic trap.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Slatty", "Warrior", "Pots N Pans", "Superstar", "Came Out", "Trance", "GFU"
Weezer - OK Human
24.
80
Weezer's adventure into Orchestral soundscapes and Quarantine storytelling is surprisingly a return to form after their underwhelming last records. The very idea of Weezer attempting to make a Chamber Pop album sounds like it should be garbage fire but against all odds, Rivers Cuomo and the gang pull it off! "OK Human" instrumental shift is a beautiful one as the lush instrumentation compliments Cuomo's sticky melodies. However just as impressive as the instrumentation has to be Cuomo's focus on Quarantine throughout this album. Rivers has always been best when he's at his most humble, relatable, and charming. Tracks like "Aloo Gobi" which is all about cherishing the details of domestic love and "Playing My Piano", an anthem for escapism through his trusty piano resonate because of that very "human" charm. "OK Human" is Weezer's most sonically refreshing album since the 90s and thematically it's a heartwarmingly gentle description of feelings we all went through in the past year.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Aloo Gobi", "Numbers", "Playing My Piano", "Bird With A Broken Wing", "La Brea Tar Pits"
Bruiser Wolf - Dope Game Stupid
27.
79
The combination of Bruiser Wolf's unique inflection, drop-dead hilarious bars, and creatively vintage production makes for one hell of a good time. "Dope Game Stupid" might not have the most variety since Bruiser Wolf's cadence is almost too distinct. Yet the album makes up for that with pure golden hip-hop charisma. Bruiser Wolf's sharp focus on one-liners is nothing short of stellar as each song will have at least one moment which cracks me up. All of this whilst also legitimately telling some pretty compelling stories about Wolf's life as a dealer and the repercussions that came with it. If you can get into the stand-up comedy-esque delivery that Bruiser Wolf utilizes, you'll be pleasantly surprised with some of the funniest raps of the year.
Steve Earle - J.T.
28.
79
To put it simply, Steve Earle's album dedicated to his son is heartwarming, moving, and pretty much the
Pan Daijing - Jade 玉观音
47.
71
Pan Daijing's follow-up to 2017's violently bleak, "Lack" is an unconventional, genre-bending masterclass in how to build an immersive ambiance. "Jade" starts pushing the industrial influences to the side as Pan embraces more dark ambient soundscapes. The album is relentless experimental and unsettling whilst still coming across as inviting for me. From the poisonous airy nature of the opener, "Clean" to the hypnotic electroacoustic track, "Dust", these moments work in execution just as much as they do in concept. It certainly won't be for everyone the levels of experimentation and subversive methods used here might be self-indulgent to some, yet for me the way that Pan Daijing plays with these fields of sound is fearless and each track leaves a lasting impact on me.

FAV TRACKS: "Clean", "Dust", "Moema, Forever"
Jeff Rosenstock - SKA DREAM
48.
70
Jeff Rosenstock has essentially "ska-ified" his last album, "SOME DREAM".
Honestly, that's it. This is the Ska version of that album. As absurd and tongue-in-cheek as that sounds, the effort that went into transposing these songs into a Ska aesthetic is pretty mind-blowing, not to mention that this is the most tasteful Ska has sounded in possibly decades.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Airwalks - Alt", "SKrAM", "p i c k i t u p"
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