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.
Recently during Lockdown, there have been lots of ‘challenges’ on social media that you had to be nominated for by someone who had already done them. Name ten albums that mean something to you, one a day for ten days was probably the most popular – I did it twice, although I modified the ‘rules’ to suit, as is my wont. Then there were books, films, TV comedies, and so on. The last one, just before it all began to peter-out, was your six most memorable gigs of all time.
A friend was nominated and I was hoping he would pass on a nomination to me, but it never came. I was discussing this omission with another friend – actually I was having a bit of a whinge about it – to which he simply said: well, write a blog then! Obvious really – duh! Continue Reading
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