Welcome to my Album of the Year 2021 blog. I guess we all had hoped for a better time after the prevails of 2020 but, despite a few short months of relative freedom, its successor has turned into another strange year with a real sting in the tail. Not, however I am pleased to report, in the quality and quantity of great music it has produced.
I guess you find, when you have written about music for as long as I have, that you hear ever more echoes from the past – whether they are influences on new artists or samples from old hits. This year, I found myself both concentrating on a vast array of new music, as well as on my Classic Albums section, which has featured a number of albums that celebrated their 50th anniversary this year, the majority of which still sound as fresh today as they did all that time ago.
When I wrote at the beginning of my Album of the Year blog for 2020 that it was probably the strangest year of our lives, there were two things I was not expecting. Firstly that, six months later, we would still be suffering the majority of restrictions imposed on our lives – particularly in the arena of live music – and, secondly, that so many great albums from 2020 could have got away from being assessed for that last blog.
Regular readers will already be aware of my ‘ One that Got Away ‘ feature most years, mentioning albums discovered too late for inclusion previously. These often arrive as a Christmas surprise from one of my offspring or the subject of emails from regulars where a sentence commences with the words: ‘I’m surprised that you missed ….’ But those can usually be counted on the fingers of one hand, and have normally had their first listening well before the end of January. This year’s crop, however, are now well into double-figures, and have kept on coming through the early months of this year – so many that the regular slot for them would potentially take over this year’s blog. So, halfway through 2021, here is a roundup plus a top ten of all those albums that got away last year.
So, the Brits 2021. Billed as the first major live musical event without masks and social-distancing since the pandemic started, and another major step on our road to freedom. But is this what the industry’s leading lights think they should be serving up for us as normal ‘entertainment’ in the future? Where to start?
It was, of course, great to see the country’s first live virtual-signalling event in over a year go ahead with a crowd, even if they were specifically-selected to react positively to every loaded message thrown their way. It was also unfortunate that, of all people, that prince of wokedom Bono couldn’t be there for such a prestigious celebration of the art, but he did suffer from the worst-possible handicap to getting such an invitation on this particular night – he has a dick.
Regular readers will know that I have two blogs. As adversity always brings out the best in people, on morethanmyblogsworth, during the first two lockdowns I shared some of my friends’ humour to brighten the long days in isolation. We had all hoped that there would be no need for another but, like all trilogy franchises, although the first one was quite successful, the follow-up was hopeless; meaning the third has come-along quite quickly. So welcome to Lockdown 3 – Attack of the Variants!
This time I have decided to try something different to lift spirits through what could be a long winter. So, taking the cue from my favourite DJs Radcliffe & Maconie, I started a Lockdown Chain on my Facebook page – every day a live video of a track with a tenuous link to the previous day until we are finally free again to go to real live gigs. Below are the daily choices if you want a catch-up:
2020 was probably the strangest year of our lives for a lot of us, especially those like myself, of more-advanced years, who have been semi-isolating for most of it. Even when we were able to escape, the closure of non-essential retail for months on end curtailed the ability to browse record store racks to find candidates for my Album of the Year 2020.
Not only that, but the complete shut-down of live music venues since February has meant, for the first time since I was a teenager in the early-sixties, that this has been a year with no live gigs whatsoever. We did have tickets to see last year’s AoTY winner, Sam Fender, in January (postponed from December) but that gig was also postponed twice further, eventually falling-foul of the lockdown along with another pre-booked gig by Tash Sultana later in the year.