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.
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.
Selecting my Album of the Year 2019 was a lot more difficult this year, as there was a lot of good music about. Although some of it was from a selection of new artists, this was a small cohort in relation to the number of old friends whose new offerings found their way onto the player this year.
Having said that, there were also some notable absences from the purchases of acts I have followed for many years, who also released albums this year. Old favourites that couldn’t raise my interest beyond a tentative listen included Hozier, Chemical Brothers, Morrisey, Santana, Madonna, Kaiser Chiefs, Sheryl Crow, Bat for Lashes and Stereophonics. Others survived the tentative listen test, only to be rejected fairly swiftly in the shortlisting process. Continue Reading
My selection for Album of the Year 2018 was not, perhaps, chosen from the greatest year for new music in recent times. In fact I seemed to spend the first half of the year catching-up on some 2017 albums that, somehow, passed me by. Maybe this was due to our trip to the other side of the world to see our Grandkids in Australia, and their Mum & Dad of course, which spanned November last year into February this year, meaning that I missed my usual year-end trawl of the CD racks here.
Never mind, I thought, I’ll be in Australia’s largest City, so I can do it there – somehow forgetting previous experiences. Sydney is an anachronism. It is really modern and vibrant on the surface, and very easy to get around either by Ferry or Bus. The bus drivers often have their own beatbox playing as they travel along, the only problem being their selections seem to be totally stuck in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties. The record shops are similar – rack after rack stuffed with multiple copies of classic albums, but far less that’s current. Not that it’s a bad era to hear, you just yearn for an up to date surprise from time to time. Continue Reading