Friday, December 31, 2021

Year In Review 2021 - Favorite Albums 2021

Here are our all of our favorite albums of 2021. This is the year end review, all in one place.

You can find our favorite album cover art, RtBE's favorite archive releases and picks for best live shows

Below are our picks for RtBE's favorite albums of the year. It starts with our honorable mentions then moves into our top ten albums of the year. There is a short blurb about the album and a song from it, click on the title to read our full review of the selected records. The focus here is on full albums, not singles, but long playing releases you can slap on and listen to all the way through.

Thanks for reading. Until next year....

2021 was a good year for new music releases. Remote recording technology allowed a ton of artists to craft tunes during the pandemic and a lot of artists who had full albums recorded pre-pandemic chose to wait until this year to release and tour. 

That said the pandemic also fucked up artists like everyone else, even more so in some cases, and some efforts delivered a weird feeling. RtBE are not sure how many of these records will stand the test of time, or just be pigeonholed as "pandemic releases", but perhaps more than any other year since we started doing these lists back in 2009, there has never been a year where the gap from our 'Honorable Mentions' selections and the number one album has been this small. 

Every artist mentioned below is worth your time and money. 

The Honorable Mentions:

This funky record is a quick blast of cinematic 70's soul and funk from some of the best around who dabble in these waters. 

A restrained record that dabbles with nature, reemergence and hope as the violins, acoustic sounds and Jenkins singing shines. 

It was a good year for NOLA funk releases. The Meters backbone/legend dropped his first studio album in a long time as Porter was restricted from touring. Solid funk from the bassist extraordinaire. 

The best NOLA funk outfit doing it today gives another solid studio effort to their discography. 

Here is another NOLA funk legend...only he goes the singer songwriter route with a very solid album that only took fifty years to see the light of day. 

The first two selections on this list are from Brooklyn artists, the next three are New Orleans players and now there is Jon Batiste who represents both cities. Admittedly more NOLA during WE ARE, but there is a lot to like on this break out, pop leaning effort from the late night jazz man.   

Taqbir - Victory Belongs To Those Who Fight for A Right Cause

Now we go half way around the planet for some blazing lo-fi/punk/noise that is screaming to literally change the world in which Taqbir live. 

Some more righteous, slamming and catchy female fronted punk rock. This one from an up and coming outfit out of Melbourne, Australia. 

The Screaming Females front woman went an electro-gloomy dance route and it worked. Peace Meter took a few listens, but it gets better and better the more RtBE hears it. 

A post-bop jazz record from some of the greats of that era who are still going strong. This jazz super group delivers a set of originals that really live up to the bands name. 

An overload of good blues based rock from the Mule on this one, nothing earth changing, just a stout mix of cover tunes and originals.

Speaking of blues, few currently do them better than the young phenom Kingfish, whose debut made this list back in 2019.  His sophomore release 662 is chock full of dope blues rockers. He is an artist to follow closely. 

(The following three albums all spent considerable time in our top ten but just missed out on chairs when the music stopped. Consider these 11-13 for the year.)

A sweet crisp collection of Buddy Holly like tracks that glide by.  The secret weapon in the Drive-By Truckers delivers the solo tunes excellently, especially RtBE's favorite "(I Wanna) Hold You". 

A lush sounding 80's pop-rock record that has a ton of layers to it. More transitional and a bit less engaging than A Deeper Understanding, but still a solid effort. 

Displaying RtBE's favorite album cover along with one of our favorite songs of the year (the title track) this is a good record, but a step below their previous to these ears as a full length offering. There are just a few too many songs we skip these days to put the full length into our top ten. That title track though....woah, it is dynamite. 

RtBE Top Ten:

The NYC based rock band was clearly influenced by another NYC based rock band a few decades removed as Sympathy For Life is the most dance-rock album Parquet Courts have produced and delivers a clear Talking Heads in their prime vibe. It is also RtBE's favorite release of theirs as glimmers of hope mix with their angular sound as great rhythms bounce throughout while still delivering a punky edge. 

Tamara Lindeman and crew delivered a break through album with Ignorance. Her pop leanings and a great rhythm section propel the songs forward. Tension/release, gorgeous vocals, bumping beats, all work together. Call it folk-pop, call it a call to action on climate change, call it whatever, it is simply a great listen. 

RtBE's favorite jazz record of 2021 is The Hands of Time from Weedie Braimah. Weedie, his band, Christian Scott aTunde and everyone involved do a great job of mixing up new/old sounds. They craft a solid, long record that dips into hip hop, soul, funk, r&b, all the while delivering exciting jazz in a vibrant form. An album that rewards with multiple spins.  

The second album from the London based hardcore punks broadens their musical scope with glam and folk rock influences as The Mutt's Nuts goes above and beyond their great debut Speed Kills. By allowing ballads and arena rockers to sit side by side with punk blasts of aggression the group shows it has a lot to offer listeners beyond the punk/hardcore subgenre. 

The rumbling alt-rock trio returned from the pandemic with more of their soaring guitar based rock and roll. This go around the group seemed poised to play a bit brighter and with more psychedelia than previous punkish offerings. A bright slice of heavy, spacey rock with strong songs tossed in (Barlow's "Garden" is a standout and one of the best songs he has ever written) Dino Jr. just continues to pump out solid records.  

In a year chock full of top notch blues albums, Burnside's I Be Tryin' rises to the top of our list as the talented artist puts it all together with an excellent supporting cast of Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars), bassist Zac Cockrell (Alabama Shakes), and drummer Reed Watson (John Paul White). While all of the supporters are great, this is Burnside's record through and through. He shows off his cool, no nonsense blues using his ingrained hill country style as a base while injecting, funky lines, gospel singing and a great sense of soulful style. His most complete and the best album of his still young career.   

The first album post pandemic that truly perked up our ear holes was this gem of garage rockin' soul from Greg Cartwright and the Memphis version of his Reigning Sound. From the opening winking "Let's Do It Again" to The Parting Gifts reunion track "Just Say When" to the album closing sweet swells of  "On and On", each song just swings a little easier and freer. With the spring came a hope of making it out of the darkness and A Little More Time was the perfect soundtrack. Even removed from the pandemic, these are fun, catchy, great tunes to get down with and those are always needed. 

The amalgamation of funk, soul and New Orleans second line which runs through one of the best albums of 2021 is exhilarating as Cha Wa's My People checks all of the boxes for RtBE. The bumping bounce and horns of the title track, the extra percussion throughout that adds to that masking Mardi Gras Indian feel, the killer energy of "Fire Water" and the hip hop of the bright "Second Line Girl" are all awesome. Throw in a well executed Bob Dylan cover and RtBE couldn't be happier; a hell of a record. 

A different slice of New Orleans also delivered a damn good record in 2021, and it is a debut at that! Silver Synthetic's self titled, first release pulls from classic rock of the past and formulates itself a respectful tribute, but also a burner in its own right. Lots of influences like The Velvet UndergroundTelevision, The Beatles and Neil Young on tunes like "In The Beginning", "Chasm Killer", "Unchain Your Heart" and "On The Way Home". Taking those major influences, breathing them in and exhaling Silver Synthetic's own version of classic rock was the true magic on this debut. A really cool, tight, enjoyable, throwback rock and roll record from a band that needs to be followed.      

Yola's debut is an excellent record and made our top ten back in 2019, but Stand For Myself is a huge step forward; a supremely confident release from a rising star. It brings in soul, funk, and dance ready disco to mix with her easy country style. "Starlight" follows producer Dan Auerbach's guitar line, and "Like A Photograph" slows down to a ballad so Yola can deliver her stunning vocals. For an artist who can hit every note, her restraint and commitment to the sound/song is admirable. 

This record just feels like a coming out party for a superstar in waiting, Yola addresses social issues throughout, especially on "Diamond Studded Shoes" as production, instrumentation and singing all facilitate her songs. Tracks like "Barely Alive", "Be My Friend", "Great Divide" and the Donna Summer inspired "Dancing Away In Tears" all work wonderfully. Stand For Myself is RtBE's pick for our favorite album of 2021. 

Here is our full Top Ten List.  How did we do?  Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment below and as always, thanks for reading. 

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