End of year round ups used to be fairly predictable affairs. Sounds/Melody Maker/NME would have broadly similar lists drawn from the world of Indie/Alternative, whereas the likes of Smash Hits and Record Mirror would be more focussed on the charts.
The internet has of course given us access to a much wider selection of music, we no longer have Radio Playlisters and Music press editors dictating which bands we get to hear about.
As a result, there is very little consensus amongst lists of who the best artists of the year were, indeed I’ve looked at “Top 50 Albums of the Year” lists where I’ve only heard of a couple of the artists, and didn’t like them much.
In the pre-internet days I spent a lot of time and effort trying to track down new and interesting music to listen to, but these days I find that I can’t even keep up with the artists I’m already aware of and like.
For example, this year’s Dry Cleaning and Wolf Alice albums have appeared on a number of lists, I don’t doubt they are great albums as I’ve enjoyed their previous output, but for one reason or another I’ve only listened to those respective albums once. Maybe they didn’t particularly grab me on first listen (the best albums often don’t) or maybe I’ve just been busy with other things.
I was tempted not to bother with an end of year list this year, it’s not like I’ve got a lot of spare time on my hands.
But then I saw the Spotify Unwrapped of a chap whom I introduced to Emika, and she was his most listened to artist of the year.
This makes me happy, not because it validates my musical taste in any way, it doesn’t, but her music has given me a lot of pleasure over the years, and knowing that someone else is enjoying it to the point where they have listened to it more than anything else this year, has got to be a good thing.
Have a look and a listen, you never know – you might just find your new favourite artist!
Once again, my favourite artists of this year are largely female, and no doubt simpletons will conclude once again that I’m having some kind of mid-life crisis. Sexism is so deeply ingrained in society that they can’t even comprehend that it’s their amazing music that I’m interested in. Will attitudes ever evolve from the stone age?
Anyway, without any further ado, here’s my 2021 list.
|Band of the Year:
|Photo: John W. King / Live Music Pix|
|Likely to surprise absolutely nobody who hasn’t been living under a rock – Wet Leg are my band of the year.
After all, when was the last time a British band with 2 songs were selling out shows on both sides of the Atlantic? Especially one that achieved it through raw talent rather than hype.
Never mind 2 songs, when I saw them at This Must Be The Place in Leeds back in August they’d only released Chaise Longue, and already they were the most anticipated band of the day with everyone I spoke to, to the point that we were worried about going to the other stage to catch bands in case we didn’t get back in, as it was it was jam packed, with a crowd who were clearly in their element, the band deservedly won the most enthusiastic reaction of the day.
Their songs are “pop” enough to have their latest single debuted on BBC Radio 1, whilst simultaneously cool and intelligent enough to be playlisted on BBC 6 Music, a band who know how to have fun, without being irritating – after a year of lockdowns they were exactly the breath of fresh air that we all needed, and are all set to tear-up 2022 too. Just look at the faces of the audience in the Chaise Longue clip from Green Man, people of all ages absolutely loving it.
Anyone who’s seen them live will know that all their songs are strong, and the album which is set for release in April 2022 is guaranteed to be something special.
|Video/Song of the Year:
Coach Party – FLAG (Feel Like A Girl)
Photo: John W. King / Live Music Pix
|In the past we’ve had Merseybeat, Madchester and so on, but we haven’t had one of those regional scenes for a while.
Now all of a sudden, Isle of Wight has brought us Wet Leg, Lauran Hibberd and Coach Party.
Just a perfect song and Music Video.
|One to Watch:
Photos: John W. King / Live Music Pix
|Usually at a festival I’ll check out some of the bands before attending, but with covid cancelling so many festivals, and This Must Be The Place losing lots of it’s acts to covid, it didn’t seem worth checking out the bands meant to be playing when it could all be cancelled.
Fortunately, the festival went ahead and Deep Tan were very much the “new” (to me) band of the day, with their irresistable mix of deep thinking political lyrics, killer tunes and attitude.
LIVE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
In no particular order:
With all the hype around “Chaise” anticipation was running high, with just one song released at the time it was really hard to know what to expect, but they totally smashed it with an 8 song set that never disappointed.
A real breath of Fresh Air from Edinburgh – paired with Coach Party, gigs don’t get much better than this.
A faultless live performance, can’t wait to catch them again.
Ok so most of us only know that one song… but her entire set was outstanding at Liverpool Music Week in 2017, and was on equally top form at Positive Vibration 2021.
Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum
If Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum’s lead singer looks remarkably like Dexter Morgan, there’s a good reason for that! But this is no Hollywood Actor’s vanity project – the long queue outside the venue half an hour before the gig started were no doubt Dexter fans like myself, but it was Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum fans who left the venue.
It was a real privilege to catch A.A. Williams anthemic sound in a sparsely packed small venue. The support act didn’t turn up and covid had took it’s toll on attendance, but none of that could dampen just how great a gig it was – with everyone in the room wide mouthed at the incredible sounds we were hearing. Music is of course subjective, but I honestly can’t imagine anybody not liking A.A. Williams.
We often take gigs for granted – bands coming from all over the world to perform for us just down the road. But after a year of no gigs, it really makes you appreciate the amount of effort that goes in to them. NNHMN came all the way from Berlin to play the 90 capacity Kazimier Stockroom, and I think the smiles on everyone’s faces showed just how much we appreciated their effort.
Great live set and love their EP, hoping an album appears before too long.
The White Ribbons
The White Ribbons are such a great band, with a great attitude and social conscience. The fact that they have an album coming out next year is one of the best bits of news this year. A special mention for the support act too – Ec-Tix a great bunch of lads with learning disabilities who had the room enthralled.
Catch them live when you can!
Albums of the Year (no particular order)
Reb Fountain: Iris
I was first introduced to Reb Fountain’s music last year with her amazing self-titled album. When I realised it was actually her 4th album, I kind of expected last year’s effort to be a career high – with earlier albums hinting at later greatness and the next album being good but not quite hit the spot in the same way.
Well, I’m happy to say I was totally wrong – her albums have been superb from the very start, and with Iris, incredibly I’d say she’s raised the bar even higher. A superb artist who I hope performs in the UK sooner rather than later.
Dlina Volny: Dazed
It’s fair to say the Italians Do It Better label have been serving up some of my favourite artists lately, and Belarus’s Dlina Volny are no exception. A must listen for anyone who enjoys superb Brut-pop / Darkwave.
Read: Exclusive Q&A Interview
GLÜME: The Internet
One of my most anticipated albums of the year, didn’t disappoint in any way. Sheer pop perfection, which is an absolute must listen.
Kaelan Mikla: Undir Köldum Norðurljósum
I love how Kaelan Mikla do something different with each album, and yet manage to keep coming up with superb albums. This one is no exception.
Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum: Thanks for Coming
Not content with being everyone’s favourite Blood Spatter Analyst and Serial Killer with an Code of Ethics, Dexter actor Michael C. Hall impresses everyone lucky enough to hear his excellent band. A superb album.
To celebrate her 10 years of making music, Emika released her Vega Trilogy. From synth-pop to modern classical, Emika always does things her way and this album was no exception – instead of trying to sell as many “units” as possible, she released a limited edition of only 101 copies each with different cover art.
This album ably encompasses the diversity and ingenuity of her music.
Kraków Loves Adana: Follow The Voice
Krakow Loves Adana’s “Darkest Dreams” was my album of the year last year, so anticipation was running high on this one! I’m happy to report that whilst it took a few listens to fully appreciate, this is another superb album from KLA!
Check out my exclusive interview with the band last year.
The Catenary Wires – Birling Gap
Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey have created some fantastic music over the years in their various projects, but to my ears this is the very best album they’ve done (so far).
So that’s pretty much it for my end of year list – but don’t miss by 2022 preview next week 🙂