TalonsOfFire
Benjamin Kuettel
Staff

Reviews 105
Soundoffs 120
News Articles 30
Band Edits + Tags 59
Album Edits 56

Album Ratings 3285
Objectivity 66%

Last Active 01-16-22 5:00 pm
Joined 08-27-12

Forum Posts 783
Review Comments 19,972

 Lists
01.10.22 Progressive and Gothic Euro-Metal 12.12.21 Top 25 Albums of 2021
10.04.21 Every Tool Song Ranked 12.15.20 Top 20 of 2020
10.28.20 3000 Album Ratings 12.23.19 50 Best Albums of the Decade Ranked
12.14.19 Ben's 25 Favorite Albums of 2019 Ranked 01.15.19 50th Anniversary of King Crimson
12.20.18 Top 25 Records of 2018 12.19.17 Talons' 2017 Favorites
09.13.17 Top 100 albums since - 2000 - Ratings f 08.26.17 Talons' 5 Year Sputversary
03.30.17 Concerts I've Attended 12.08.16 Talons' 2016 Favorites
02.08.16 Snow day jams11.07.15 Talons Turns 21 Years Old
05.22.15 Recent CD Purchases/Last.fm Scrobble/Co05.08.15 Mad Men (spoilers)
More »

Top 25 Albums of 2021

The bottom eight or so were mild disappointments, but this is one of the best top 10 line-ups in years. Probably since 2017, the last really excellent year for music in my opinion. It’s heartbreaking though that a year where both Steven Wilson and Kayo Dot released new albums don’t even make my top 25 picks. Goes to show that plenty of the best new music comes from unexpected places. Thankfully, Steven Wilson releases instrumental versions of his solo albums, and that version of The Future Bites would be around 12th place or so. My #1 choice, Sweet Trip, is one of my top 5 favorite albums released since 2010.
25Thrice
Horizons/East


Another perfectly acceptable post-reunion Thrice; not great, but not bad.
24Modest Mouse
The Golden Casket


Another okay Modest Mouse album, my least favorite yet. I basically consider them a completely different band now compared to their fantastic 1996-2004 era (and Spitting Venom) that I first fell in love with.
23Jon Hopkins
Music for Psychedelic Therapy


Solid ambient with some psychedelic flourishes. Not his best of course, but a pleasant listen and I imagine effective for its purpose.
22Godspeed You! Black Emperor
G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END!


A return to a more post-rock sound after the wandering nature of the last few 2010s releases. Not all that memorable, but good.
21My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket


After the ambitious psych rock of the two Waterfall albums, the band returns to a more accessible sound again. Would’ve made sense if it had come out around a decade ago, but I slightly prefer it to Circuital and Evil Urges regardless.
20Hammock
Elsewhere


What is there to say? All their releases after Everything and Nothing sound the same, and there’s a new one every year now. It’s not really special at this point when there’s a new Hammock, but it’s always decent.
19Iosonouncane
IRA


Now here’s something different. Seeming to channel Swans, Coil, Thom Yorke’s solo material, and other things for a massive double album of ritualistic experimental rock, post-industrial, and ambient electronic music. Can’t say it all clicks with me, but there’re some fantastic pieces here like Hiver, Ojos, and Horizons.
18Amon Tobin
How Do You Live


Amon Tobin has been on a roll lately, and while this may be his worst yet it’s still a challenging and unpredictable release that celebrates the sound he’s explored recently that began with ISAM, or maybe Foley Room depending on who you ask.
17Lantlos
Wildhund


Not really the direction I wanted from them, as Astronoid kind of accomplished it already. But it’s still high quality shoegaze metal or whatever lol.
16Jonsi
Obsidian


A massive improvement from his previous solo record, Obsidian embraces wide open icy atmospheres not unlike Valtari, and could easily be a companion album to it. I’d imagine a perfect soundtrack for being up north in Finland or Canada at night, surrounded by snow and gazing up at the aurora borealis.
15Grouper
Shade


Another dependable sadgirl ambient record from Liz Harris, for the first time in a while returning to the sparse, airy folk music she explored in pre-Ruins releases.
14Cynic
Ascension Codes


Cynic return again, this time without 2/3 of the line-up, as both men tragically passed away over the past year. It’s nice to hear Paul Masvidal making music again, and this album is quite good despite being a bit up and down quality wise. An improvement of Kindly Bent to Free Us without a doubt.
13The World Is a Beautiful Place...
Illusory Walls


The sput favorite of the year it seems like, people are raving about this up and down. Not being familiar with the band or that into this genre, I found it quite good, if a bit inconsistent. Infinite Josh and Trouble are my favorites.
12The War On Drugs
I Don't Live Here Anymore


The War on Drugs going more mainstream and sounding like they’re on autopilot still makes for very good music. I wish there was more shoegaze and dream pop.
11Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine
A Beginner's Mind


Well, I’ll certainly take this over whatever that was he released a year or two ago. Sounds like more of a traditional Sufjan album than that. The highlights are mostly in the first half, but a very pleasant listen overall.
10Julien Baker
Little Oblivions


Julien Baker goes for a more band-oriented sound on her third LP, sacrificing some of the intimate, emotional impact found in Sprained Ankle and Turn Out the Lights. Her songwriting talents are still in full effect however, even if I think her strengths lie in the more low-key singer/songwriter approach on the debut.
9Mastodon
Hushed and Grim


I’m not that into post Crack the Skye Mastodon if I’m being honest, as the style just isn’t as suited to me. But this album was highly impressive, with almost every song being great in one way or another. I don’t think I’ll jam it very many times, but it makes me tempted to listen to this band again after having exhausted listening to their music many years ago. I even ranked all their songs at one point, in one of my very first lists.
8Musk Ox
Inheritance


Another achingly beautiful neofolk record and the first follow-up to Woodfall, their breakout hit. This particular style of folk from Musk Ox really appeals to me, as the instrumentalists are so technically skilled and the compositions complex. Perfect winter listening.
7Big Red Machine
How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?


This supergroup consisting of Aaron Dessner of The National and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver is a real treat, and their sophomore release is a musically diverse indie pop album with numerous guest appearances by the likes of Fleet Foxes, Sharon von Etten, Ben Howard, Taylor Swift, and others. More expansive than the debut, with a longer track list than either The National or Bon Iver have done before. Might slightly prefer this just for the sheer variety, whereas the debut was more uniform. Favs are "Latter Days," "Phoenix," "Ghost of Cincinnati," "Mimi," "Magnolia," and "Brycie."
6BRUIT
The Machine Is Burning...


My favorite post-rock of the year, channeling some early Godspeed vibes and having a very majestic feeling to it. Not much to say other than if you like instrumental post-rock that’s well written and emotional, this is a must-listen.
5Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
Carnage


This gets better as it goes along, with the last few tracks being excellent. Interesting that it’s labeled as being just Cave and Ellis, as it doesn't seem like that big a difference from Skeleton Tree or Ghosteen, as those they were also primarily those two. I guess this is the direction they've been going in for a while. The title track, Shattered Ground, and Balcony Man are wonderful and on par with much of Skeleton Tree and Ghosteen. I also like how they brought back some of the biting attitude from pre-2010s releases on the first half. Cave can do no wrong.
4Swallow the Sun
Moonflowers


One of the first metal bands I ever got into, the fact that they’re currently releasing some of their best material is impressive. The first two songs are fine, but it really gets amazing starting with Woven into Sorrow. Honestly one of the best, if not the best gothic metal albums in many years. I always knew they were special, but this takes it to a new level and further proves how special and outstanding this band has always been. If you haven’t heard of them, for fans of Katatonia, Novembre, Opeth, and Paradise Lost.
3Alora Crucible
Thymiamatascension


While under a new moniker, Thymiamatascension from a certain point of view could be seen as solo album number 2.5 from Toby Driver. Channeling his recent and strongest solo album They Are the Shield, he emphasizes space, silence, texture, and nocturnal atmospheres. As opposed to being traditionally song-oriented, each piece is more unpredictable and open-ended with very few vocals. "Livonomancy in Jasper" is a particularly stunning piece. Whether this haunting and occult sounding at times musical direction is indicative of where his meditative solo career will go, or simply a blissful diversion under a new name, Thymiamatascension avoids the loudness of his main bands and exists in an abstract space of engrossing, otherworldly beauty.
2Deafheaven
Infinite Granite


Deafheaven continue evolving and release their most consistently impressive and impactful record yet. Gorgeous musical passages and walls of sound are abound, with the band taking more inspiration from shoegaze and post-rock while still sounding uniquely like themselves. George Clark's clean singing voice has a wonderful, haunting goth rock quality to it, perhaps due to the reverb and vocal effects. Much of the production is dense and various instrumental elements blend together beautifully. It's not easy to pick favorites, but a few would be "In Blur," "Great Mass of Color," "Other Language," and "Mombasa."
1Sweet Trip
A Tiny House, In Secret Speeches, Polar Equals


Enchanting from beginning to end, and worth the 12 year wait. Displays a masterful use of various instrumental components, the electronic/digital elements balanced perfectly with acoustic guitars and stunning bass lines coalescing into pure musical ecstasy. Each song is its own little masterpiece, flourishing with inspiration and creativity. I wouldn't be surprised if it took years and years to make this, though it seems effortless too. Easily my favorite new album in years and sounds like music made just for me. Great for spring and summer, a perfect marriage of blissful 60s psychedelic pop rock and ethereal ambient electronic music, also with Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine influences. Their best work I'm thinking, perhaps tied with the recent remastered You Will Never Know Why with bonus tracks. A must-listen.
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