JohnnyoftheWell
giving 4 reviews to albums only 3 people in the world have heard
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Last Active 01-24-22 3:22 pm
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 Lists
01.15.22 Scrobble post-mortem (2021)01.11.22 mort's doormat
01.06.22 January = slowcore12.31.21 2021_well: COMPLETE (A-list)
12.29.21 2021_well: Rejects・OKs (B-list) 11.23.21 2021 ENDGAME
11.11.21 Radiohead・Stereolab [deathmatch] 11.02.21 re-using lube
10.24.21 All Kayo Dot trax ranked 2021 10.19.21 Cringe index: Best New Music
09.29.21 SPUT ROYALE: FINAL (results) 09.27.21 SPUT ROYALE: FINAL
09.23.21 SPUT ROYALE: Round 6 (½ final)09.20.21 SPUT ROYALE: Round 5 (¼ final)
09.19.21 SPUT ROYALE: Round 4B (playoff)09.17.21 SPUT ROYALE: Round 4A
09.16.21 SPUT ROYALE: Round 3 Group B09.14.21 SPUT ROYALE: Round 3 Group A
More »

2021_well: COMPLETE (A-list)

This is the end! Of the year! And I guess I owe it an apology - for the longest while, I thought we were living through a 2019-standard musical slump, about which I bitched and moaned to no end (m'bad). I blame this on spending too much time following shitty albums that everyone else was following; having spent the last fortnight or so scavenging individual lists, looking at genre charts, and following my intuition instead of stooged out hype trains, this year was full of gems! I packed in around 30 discoveries over that time and almost all of them made it here, some of them highly - so let's meet them. Happy new year to you all, can't wait to do this again...
100Lana Del Rey
Blue Banisters


#100
singer/songwriter

Lana del Rey making her first good album since Born to Die was not on my 2021 checklist, especially after Chemtrails... was such a trainwreck, but Blue Bannisters is good! Sometimes dull, definitely overlong, but occasionally really genuinely fantastic! She has lost Antonoff (hopefully permanently) and regained her magic! What gives.
99For Tracy Hyde
Ethernity


#99
Dream Pop / Shoegaze

Over their past few records, For Tracy Hyde kinda bubbled themselves up into a largely predictable but always ~nice world of cutesy Japanese dreamgaze. Their latest doesn't exactly burst the bubble, but it does dish out a range of quaint surprises, from slight stylistic switchups to Beach Boys and Twin Peaks reimaginings. It's a little hit-or-miss, but I'm keen on what this means for their trajectory; on they go!
98Kaonashi
Dear Lemon House, You Ruined Me: Senior Year


#98
Mathcore / Emo

What a horrible record. As thoroughly uncomfortable in its relentless mathcore as its tortured lyricism as *that* delivery, I don't think I'll ever revisit this again, but there's a lot to respect here. Stockholm syndrome, I guess - and that's just from a cursive encounter!
97Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Candy Racer


#97
J-Pop / Electropop

Remember Kyary? Judging by her unexpectedly forceful opening barrage of raved-up synth pop, she sure as hell hopes so. Even if her schtick is nowhere near as fresh as a decade ago, it's good to see she has this kind of life left in her batteries... but mostly I'm just glad we got to hear the MAGNIFICENT single "Kimi ga iine kuretara" on an album. One of her finest, without a doubt.
96Lice
WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear


#96
Post punk

Shrewdly executed noisy post punk with an ambitious lyrical spiel and good pacing? Yesh pleash. The band apparently wrote a book about what kind of we-live-in-a-society record this is, so maybe get that too one day lol
95Mastodon
Hushed and Grim


#95
Metal

LOL I wasn't expecting Mastodon to make the good list. What an achievement.

My feelings on Hushed and Grim are still mixed (with a slightly positive skew), but I can respect their songwriting and inspiration, even if a certain amount of the album feels overly old hat (jfc, cull that opener). End of the day, this just has too many solid (but safe!) tracks not to include? Ok.
94Julien Baker
Little Oblivions


#94
Indie [rock?]

Julien Baker touched base with the tropes, expanded her toolkit to no end, and made a pretty solid indie record that everyone else either wishes they could make or (maybe more likely) have already made!

Nice. The aftertaste might be as dreary as anything she's made, but Little Oblivions is a relatively breeze to sit through.
93Buke and Gase and So Percussion
A Record Of...


#93
Post-minimalism indie schpeek

Well, this was not at all something I saw coming from Buke and Gase, free-spirited indie skronkers that they are - this is their take on an ambient percussive record, I guess, and it suits them surprisingly well. It's a little shapeless, but at its best ("Hold It In") this record commands an airy mystique that feels potentially a little bit unique.
92INVT
Prendida


#92
Electronic / UK Bass

Strong Latin grooves that I would enjoy a whole lot more if I had the space and opportunity to shake it to them. As it is, they're aight!
91Tinashe
333


#91
R&B / pop

For a Good Singer, I still think Tinashe has perplexingly little identity behind the mic, but her new album is at least an entertaining pop/R&B lucky dip of all shapes and sizes. I love fishing.
90Amenra
De Doorn


#90
Post metal

This bunch of iron-knuckled post metal veterans finally decide to do something outside their Mass series; bemusingly enough, this involves them getting twice as ritualistic, roping in extra ambience, extra ceremonial Flemish spoken word sections, and extra haze.

I read a little about this album's genesis as part of a shared rite of closure - interesting! - but I'm not sure how much these elements add to the music outside of that context. Fortunately, this doesn't have too much bearing on the heavy as death post metal that the album takes as its bedrock. Good good nice stuff.
89Millennium Parade
The Millennium Parade


#89
Hip-hop / J-pop / art pop

Whew, cool! What a mostly-refreshing debut, split almost equally between pop, hip-hop and R&B in a way that flits between Japanese and international genre tropes. I enjoy the orchestral tracks on this a lot (Lost and Found and 2992 in particular), but am less sure about a few of its pop instincts and those English lang verses. Ah well, it's a fun debut and I hope this group goes on to spread its wings - I'll be listening!
88Silk Sonic
An Evening with Silk Sonic


#88
Soul / funk

Silk Sonic may be too slick for its own sneakers, but that's no reason to rag on them! There's a lot of craft and fun to be had from this, and if those highlight tracks don't fluff you right, I don't know what to say.
87Pom Poko
Cheater


#87
Noise pop / noise rock

Who's a cheater?

WHO'S A CHEATER???

[i didn't mean to say what i said
and i'd break all the rules for u
break my heart and start again
i'm not the type of girl you'd///

i like this album
86Leon III
Antlers in Velvet


#86
Psych country

What if country but spliff -- OK --

What if spliff but *not* psychedeli/NO evidently it does not work that way. I guess this is psychedelic country it sounds like psych it sounds like country it does everything you'd expect and it ain't half bad
85Laura Stevenson
Laura Stevenson


#85
Singer/songwriter

This was my year of tentatively getting into Laura Stevenson, and while I don't think this comes close to touching the peaks of The Big Freeze, it's warm and homely and pleasant and very Sunday afternoon. It has a time, and it comes once a week - awesome.
84Big|Brave
Vital


#84
Drone metal

BNNNNNNNNNNNNNNMMMMMMMMMMMMWAAAAAAAAHHHHH

this airplane is fuckin huge
83Wolf Alice
Blue Weekend


#83
Dubiously alternative rock

Everyone's favourite alt-rock grab bag - much more a highlight album than an album-album for me, though it has such a solid opening trio that I almost forget this is the case. I don't know if this was ever quite worth the hype, but it packs enough memorable cuts across enough guises that its *hard* stumbles don't feel like such a big deal. My playlists are grateful.
82Slant (KOR)
1집


#82
hardcore

fierce Korean hxc big energy short runtime good fix nice
81Quicksand
Distant Populations


#81
Post hardcore
A short, snappy churning of meaty grungy post-hardcore RAWK hell yeah! Honestly, this is the first Quicksand I've heard since their iconic early '90s debut Slip, and I'm impressed at how much of their sound and edge they've preserved on here. Minus points for sameyness/lack of standouts, but this is a good band doing good things
80Terminal Bliss
Brute Err/ata


#80
hardcore

more fierce shit, this time nastier and noisier. apparently the members are from city of caterpillar and that other iconic 00s skramz band. awsm
79Sete Star Sept
Bird


#79
grind

this is disguisting. cowardly average rating from a cowardly combination of users. no-one deserves anything.
78Pupil Slicer
Mirrors


#78
Mathcore

Another impressive heavy record that I felt very little need to return to past that initial bombblast, I guess this made its mark. Their vocalist has terrible taste in music, but this brand of mathcore is bracing as anything and she's got the voice for it. Rips !?
77Darkside
Spiral


#77
Electronic

Wow it's a psychelectric journey. Spiral meanders like hell, but them tones and textures are just about enough to be worth the trip; at its best this album is weightless... at it's worst? Plod plod!
76REOL
The Sixth Sense


#76
J-Pop / electropop

Nowhere near as overcharged or abrasive as last year's Kinjitou, this is basically a short compedium of all Reol's singles and hairstyles since then. Some of them are great (Q? and Boy), the rest are mostly okay, but her voice and performance style are still at the top of the tree and I guess this makes for one of 2021 pop's saving graces. Now vamp it up and get back to taking risks, please!
75Bisk
Vacation Package


#75
IDM

Jazzy megapolygon yes please! There's a limited amount to latch onto here, but Bisk knows his shit and the flow:headfuck ratio is impressive and FUN! And it's a short trip. What a boi.
74Twice
Formula of Love: O+T=<3


#74
K-Pop

I refuse to look at TWICE critically. This album has fun-bad and fun-good songs, along with a couple of huge sugars and the odd atrocity. It is an album. That is all!
73Low
Hey What


#73
Ambient noise pop

Ambient [post]pop Low strike again, now with more claustrophobia and more concertedly conventionally catchy vocal hooks. If Double Negative was a vacuum, this is the inside of an oven - and I appreciate and, to a point, enjoy what they do with this sound and space, but it feels more like a well-executed experiment than something that speaks to me in the same way as its predecessor or earlier Low or even the best bits of Ones and Sixes (overlooked). Excellent effort all the same, would have loved to stick it higher up.
72Dvne
Etemen Ænka


#72
Post prog metal

Heh, this one's a fun nerdy rampage. These songs dip and weave despite their very chonk weight, always finding ways to stay fresh (although I think this band is better at prog than post - some buildups are a little cumbersome hmm). Props to Sì-XIV for taking one of the most overused riffs in metal (we're talking Nickelback level) and turning it into a fresh banger
71Injury Reserve
By The Time I Get To Phoenix


#71
Weird hip-hop

The running theme for this stretch seems to be highly acclaimed records I like and admire but never worked out how to love. By the Time I Get to Phoenix is a poster child for that brand - I can get into the intrigue of the first track, and the intensity of the second, and mayyybe the wistfulness of the closer, but the bulk of these songs feel evasive and a little uncomfortable, like they have a lot to tease but don't necessarily want to be pinned down. Testatment to their strength (maybe), I'm still curious.
70BRUIT
The Machine Is Burning...


#70
Post rock

Sputnik's 2021 post rock flagship, huh? This got enough love that I can almost take that category seriously, and shock horror it is pretty solid! I don't think the GY!BE comparisons are all that helpful; this is far more convincing at its most intricate and melodic (the gorgeous "Renaissance" mmyes) than when it goes doomy and climactic, and even then there's not much in common between their arrangements aside from *sigh* those iconic strings of the apocalypse.

tl;dr I like this better when it's straightforward pretty music than when it tries to do things that no post rock band can make exciting anymore, but it's a worthwhile outing for sure
69Parannoul
To See the Next Part of the Dream


#69
Emo / shoegaze

The figurehead of 2021 (mainly) Korean noisy emogaze, one of my favourite unlikely breakout trends this year - and also the lowest ranked of those releases. Well.

I think Parannoul is best taken in small doses, and as such their work on the upcoming exciting Downfall of the Neon Youth split lands better for me. To See... has a whole lot of warmth and discomfort and nostalgia, but it feels a little stifled taken as a whole, particularly as its infamous production starts to outstay its welcome.

However, those unlarge doses are wonderful and I think Parannoul has something special down - the opener and the monumental White Ceiling especially keep it firmly in the conversation of Good Things that happened this year. Excited to see what kind of future they has
68Ad Nauseam
Imperative Imperceptible Impulse


#69
Tech Death

Everyone said this was good and I doubted, so I listened to it.

It is good.

Case closed.
67The Armed
Ultrapop


#67
Post hardcore / noise rock

Never quite got the doolally levels of hype this album has within niche quarters, but I easily enjoy it enough to wish I did. Love the everything-at-once approach and gratuitously noisy production probably more than most of the songs themselves. Neat!
66Aeon Station
Observatory


#66
Indie rock

Kevin Whelan returns to the land of the listening with a lovely short bittersweet LP that doesn't quite remedy 18 years of silence but is very nice all the same. Thank you, Kevin!
65Belvedere
Hindsight Is the Sixth Sense


#65
Skate punk

Belvedere are fun as hell and sorely underappreciated - get on them! Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense isn't on the level of their best, and it's definitely cleaner-sounding than I would have liked, but it's still an infectious and ultrabreezy listen: bangers galore, worthwhile political lyricism, and a worthwhile showcase of Belvedere's wonderful techy skate punk style. Sleeper pick
64Poppy
EAT (NXT Soundtrack)


#64
Pop metal

Similar story to Blue Bannisters down at #100, here's an artist I never expected a decent new release from. Unhinged screamo Poppy is best Poppy, she will never top this, we must treasure it forever, thank you Poppy.

I am overrating it and ignoring half the tracklist because it is that gratifying :]
63Soumbalgwang 소음발광
기쁨, 꽃 (Happiness, Flower)


#63
Post punk / emo / shoegaze

Korean emo noise gaze uprising Part #2! This album is super fun! Always energetic, enjoyably varied and with some delicious bursts of furious gazey rapture (Romantic, Happiness) to round things off. Bit of a sleeper - peep this!
62Little Simz
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert


#62
hip-hop

SIMBI is huge and epic and good and i like it even if Grey Area had harder bangers. love the ambition here slightly more than i love sitting through the whole thing, but it's full of good tracks and everyone should admire it
61CFCF
memoryland


#61
Breakbeat / EDM / other electronics

long long long ol' headtrip with varying combinations of beats, cutesy synthbells, ever evolving progressions and a lovely Sarah Bonito vocal feature. a little EDM for my superliking, but there's a lot to love here. thank u Pika-ryus
60Ruby Haunt
Watching the Grass Grow


#60
slowcore / dream pop

slow and sad and very pretty and extremely replayable this is top 5 music to fall asleep to material from this year. this is a good thing. lovely album!
59The Killers
Pressure Machine


#59
pop rock / americana

Gotta concede, this new Killers is more or less worth the money. Their dusty American is hit or miss (Terrible Thing and Runaway Horses, no thank u) and Brandon Flowers' small town nothingpit narratives are very yes-we-get-it after the first few hillbilly hits, but when those scenes get paired with the group's biggest bestest pop rock (In the Car Outside, In Another Life), there's something huge here. Gotta love the closer too, very touching winddown.
58death's dynamic shroud.wmv
Faith in Persona


#57
vaporwave

I'm a little shocked that a vaporwave album worked its way this far up the list, but this project has a really nice blend of exciting kinetic songs and floaty floatsongs. This is the kinda shit I'd jam in preparation of explaining some epic awesome complicated difficult truth to my past-or-future self, and you'd better believe it because it *is* epic and awesome a fair amount of the time perhaps yh
57Perturbator
Lustful Sacraments


#56
darkwave / electroindustrial

Perturbator's been a fun new discovery for me, courtesy of underloved MVP Lacedaemonius and this album. Thanks to Dangerous Days (hnng), I spent relatively little time with this *but* it is rather good! Perturbator going darkwave//postpunk/industrial/etc is a fitting shift, although at points I feel the palette is a little cramped to dish out the same range of thrills that I now love him for. Creepy thumper-bangers all round, huzzah
56Emma Ruth Rundle
Engine of Hell


#56
singer/songwriter

Engine of Hell is simple and quietly devastating and I think I need to give it more time to ruin me; for now, I'll say this is a solid record with great songwriting and potentially more depth than I know what to do with. I'm selling it maybe, but we'll see where it goes
55Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
Shyga! The Sunlight Mound


#55
psychedelic boogaloo

good music better band name this should be on every list
54Zao
The Crimson Corridor


#54
metalcore / sludge

This one feels a little not-my-zone - the vox and dry, off-kilter core sections in particular - but mmm, I'm most definitely here for the sludgey bits on this. Was a rough first listen, but it's done nothing but grow, and revisiting it for the first time in a while now, I wish I hadn't left it so long. I can respect this band; they play well together and I might check their roots sometime.
53Tokenai Namae
Taimu mashin ga kowareru mae ni


#63
shoegaze / dream pop

This lovely noisy cutesy keyboardy Japanese gaze-pop rerecorded their debut! I had no idea it existed prior to this - how nice! This is mostly solid stuff, wish they washed things out a little more, but these tracks mostly deliver the GOODS. great sound, lots of energy !
52KANGA
You And I Will Never Die


#52
electro-industrial / pop

KANGA's sexed up darkroom electropop is infectious as all hell. This is good, because it's a very one-note LP, the kind where every song goes for the same thing and you can tell very quickly which ones nail their mark and which don't, but she gets there enough to make it count. Feels like she was refining something on this, perhaps a little overzealously - I'd kill to hear a riskier (and maybe risque-er) followup within the next couple of years.

Cheers to Gonz for this, the best handful of tracks have been getting traction ever since I checked in
51Yoasobi
The Book


#51
J-pop

2021 was the year of Yoasobi being absolutely done to DEATH by Japanese radio in ALL SECTORS of the public, and still this is fun and semi-fresh and catchy as all hell. Much better than the new one, I have reservations that this pair have peaked hard and early - all the more reason to enjoy it while it lasts! Great, if ambitious, karaoke fodder right here
50Lost Horizons
In Quiet Moments


#50
dream pop in like all of its traditional guises ever

Technically a double album, but with a different vocalist every song and a ton of different takes on good ol' dream pop, it feels more like an anthology. The more I've approached it that way, the more I've enjoyed it; I started off swamped and miffed when it dropped, but picking out and chewing over a few favourites (particularly partial to "Nobody Knows My Name" and the t/t) worked wonders when it came to navigating it.

Point is, this album-thing is full of good material from seasoned collaborators and I think anyone could find a fair bit to love in it. Worth taking time over, cheers Dewi
49Lil Mariko
Lil Mariko


#49
trap metal

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - I wanna be a/GREAT EP THIS IS VERY EXCELLENT
48MAPA
四天王


#48
J-idol

Seiko Oomori-helmed idol jingles of jazzy funky nostalgic excellence. Some classic idol thrills n spills (not the cool kind), but my goodness are the best tracks here wonderful and infectious and - get this! - largely free of the Too Much factor that relegates most idol LPs to respective niches.

Make a few allowances for the (actually quite spirited and v much balanced performances of the) vocal dept, and this is your way in
47Split End
moratorium


#47
shoegaze / power pop

Ever underappreciated, Split End - still holders of the poisoned but otherwise untarnished chalice of 2019 (eww) AOTY! - have made a solid EP. Not quite the pop rock lightning or deep-reaching heartthrob of their best, but still very lovely and gazier than ever before.

The fourth track esp is easily one of the best gaze outings I've heard from anyone this year, so while I miss the energy, I hope they have a future in this sound. Best band.
46Tomaga
Intimate Immensity


#46
post rock / electronic / ambient / shut the fuck up RYM

"electronic", "post-industrial" (lol) ya ya whatever, this sounds like a descendant of Tortoise-esque post rock to me! Lovely mesmerising instrumental percussives (tribal, at that) with delicate melodic overlays. I like this a lot! Best post rock of the year without much contest (sorry BRUIT)
45Drumcorps
Better Days


#45
Cybergrind / djent / digital jank / hell

This beautiful tiny EP is unlistenable sludge bazookaed together from godawful genres and it works bigly and I love it
44Alora Crucible
Thymiamatascension


#44
New age / ambient

Toby Driver's new ethereal dustymusty out-of-time ambient new age floatproject is great and deeply boring to write on. Hear it, ye
43Makthaverskan
För Allting


#43
post punk / dream pop

THIS TIME i stg imma put some thought into this blur

THIS TIME ugh what a great hoo

THIS TIME love how this can be vintage postpunk and universally indie and dreamy at the same ti

THIS TIME how many songs does this album even contai

THIS TIME IT'S TOO LATE

k fair preach sis bye

[prose fragment re. Lyric on a highlight track on this album that is wonderful and should be heard by everyone all the time starting 5 minutes ago]
42Seiko Oomori
Persona #1


#42
J-pop / electropop / pop rock / trap pop / neoclassical dance pop

WHO IS BABY???
NANKA GIRL ZONE
RUUUUUUUUUUUDE
*beatdrop over moonlight sonata 3rd movement*

Seiko Oomori, inspirational problematic damaged iconic supersongwriter QUEEN of our times, may not have claimed the AOTY title as she did last year, but she's responsible for no fewer than THREE records in the top 50. Is this shabby? No. PERSONA #1 is fun as fuck. It's [mostly] a collection of tracks that she originally wrote for other artists [/alt idols], now available as her personal versions!

It's extra as a messy divorce, easily the most synthed-up manic idol-esque thing in her solo discog, and while this is not my favourite of her faces by a long shot, these tracks have still been a ton of fun throughout the year.

now seriously, who the fuck is baby?
41Amon Tobin
How Do You Live


#41
IDM

Amon Tobin ties the odds and ends of his last few LPs together as one work; the result likely won't sit in anyone's estimation of his best stuff, but it's still a dark, intriguing showcase of his best stuff. His touch with percussion is inimitable at this point, and it's as fascinating as ever hearing him approach more abstract material with the same skillset
40Alexis Marshall
House of Lull. House of When


#40
post industrial

Yes Alexis Marshall is a walking sack of shit, but I'm not going to pretend not to be impressed at how much this raised his game as a sinister industrial performer-vocalist from the mediocre strivings that cramped out Daughters' last album. Credit where it's due - now, fingers crossed this will be the last release we ever hear from him
39Kraus
View No Country


#39
shoegaze / noise pop

Wall of sound fuzzrocking shoegaze hell yessss. This album might as well be one song, but it's *always* a good time to have it on. Utterly satisfying stuff
38nobodyis
And I Found Nothing There


#38
IDM / drone / drill n bass

wow i just had a sudden flashback to ten years ago, when my #1 priority for electronic albums was for them to sound like post-rock but digital. That's a sorry sell for most of these shimmery droney surprisingly inviting tracks, but if the lovely closer "Sky Seams" doesn't kick off into a smoother and more spiritual climax than any actual post rock this year, I don't know what to say. The rest is strained and modulated over crisp beats, but it always feels like a clearing of the air rather than stress or tension; round that off with colourful interspersions of soothing folktronica, and you've got a strong sound
37ZOC
PvP


#37
alt J-idol

The mothership. Seiko Oomori [3]'s original and biggest idol group [2]'s album [149] is 90 fucking minutes long and full of fiercely outgoing almagamations of heavy rock, synth pop, fun, pain, and huge choruses. It takes a refreshing number of risks, many of which pay off (fuck me if "14sai" isn't the most moving thing I've heard on any idol album), and although the backend suffers from predictable levels of burnout and the covers of Seiko's solo canons aren't quite on the same level (though v important thematically), this album was a surprisingly successful landmark that I'll be pillaging from for some time. ZOC's future will doubtless be as turbulent as ever (though hopefully we're past the worse, re. drama) - aight. This convinced me.
36Papangu
Holoceno


#41
Experimental sludge metal / zeuhl

it is real it is loud it is intense, it's a bit too bracing to be fun but it's creative and tenacious enough that you'll hardly feel you're missing anything. super cool record
35Stomach Book
Stomach Book


#35
emo / noise pop

so this is a bedroom-scented woe-is-my-tortured-existence emo record presented as a noisy as hell CABARET?! i can see this turning a lot of people off, but hot damn does it slap. really tight execution, perfect blend of messy thrills and contorted angst with great pacing and seamless sequnencing. this album carries itself enough to work as a cabaret and BANGS enough to be a great album. Hooray!
34o'summer vacation
Wicked Heart


#34
noise punk

Dewi's band are good chaos and their live show rocked my fuckin socks. Loved this when it dropped in 2019, loved it when it dropped in 2021, NEW MUSIC PLEASE MR. DRUMMERMAN! ily
33Drinking Boys And Girls Choir
Marriage License


#33
skate punk

poppy skate punk that sometimes rips and sometimes does wistful melodic goodthings, yes please. great band, great album
32Hiatus Kaiyote
Mood Valiant


#32
neosoul

i think the *deal* with Mood Valiant is that it's just about as [over?]saturated as pretty awesome albums are allowed to be.

is that what i mean?

well, it feels utterly satisfying mid-spin but somehow overwhelming in retrospect - that's closer to it

that all?

maybe it's the vocals - i'm usually down to jive with ultrabusy records, but this lady's voice is so rich! it's like eating an entire box of choc truffles at once every 5 seconds

...but i do love truffles.

what to do? very cool album.
31Parannoul / Asian Glow / sonhos tomam conta
Downfall of the Neon Youth


#31
Shoegaze / emo

Three emerging emogaze mainstays crown their year with an excellent split - fab. I found this a nice introduction to Sonhos Tomam Conta, and Asian Glow is as solid as always, but hot damn Parannoul stepped it up here. Hearing them in small doses works wonders, and I feel their craft has really gone places since To See the Next Part of the Dream - lovely to hear an artist grow in real time. This right here is where the good distorted maudlinhaze is, and that often piecemeal/throwaway quality attached to splits is turned on its head. This is an *essential* mapping of one of 2021's better trends - required listening for all.
30King Woman
Celestial Blues


#30
Doom metal

Celestial Blues is basically a character piece - frontwoman Kris Esfandiari steps into the Satan's horseshoes and offers an occasionally grotesque but deceptively moving portrayal, pining and howling over the badboi's wounded side and could-this-be-you'ing him through to a convincing humanisation.

The effect is less traditional pits-of-hell and more a Faustian Mephisto - my favourite kind of devil. The dry ice and costuming and huge doom riffs and succinct but spacious songwriting and killer atmos are par for the course. Great album
29Asian Glow
Cull Ficle


#29
noise pop / emo

emo noisepop champion 2021! Asian Glow are my favourite of the breakout bunch because they have the most energy and the keenest sense for lofi - those Microphones comparisons are mucho valid. if we're being extra-real here, this album is a little overlong and gets lost in its own roots, but - kerlassic emo - i think its sentiment runs thick enough to see this off without too much harm. and the energy - that helps! that always helps.
28Lightning Bug
A Color of the Sky


#28
Dream pop

This may well be the gorgeousest record of the year, gosh. Mazzy Star-ish cloudy sky dream pop done just right, *really* great vocal melodies all round. If the whole thing was on the level of the opening three and I Lie Awake, this would have top 10 potential; as it is, the other tracks don't bring it down per se, but it pans out as a floaty gem rather than a superhighlight or whatever.

Always hard to make these calls, but I think this will be one of the records here I return to most next year
27Cult of Luna
The Raging River


#27
Post metal

Cult of Luna drop two of their dullest tracks followed by two of their best - guess which side carries more weight? There is Mike Lanegan interlude halfway, which is nice. Nothing like being given an "EP" that you can immediately narrow down to two cuts; very considerate, love love love the ones in question and am a lot more excited for the new record than I would have been had ADTF been their most recent. There's still juice in this engine, kiddo
26Frontierer
Oxidized


#26
Mathcore

BOOM BOMBOOM B=B=BABAB---BABoB BBo BOOOOOM m Bngweg BA

this record does one colossal huge poundy glitchy bloopy djenty dja dja dja da pow thing extremely well for what feels like an extremely long time and i enjoy it considerably and love it even more.

love also that it has apparently alienated half the users with awful taste who jam djenty porg meatl on the reg. fuckin losers lol
25Sleigh Bells
Texis


#25
Pop / electro-industrial

The most fleshed out, much-needed saving grace for English-language pop this year, Texis is basically a potentially over-generous gamut of cheap thrills threaded through with killer hooks and lean, lean songwriting chops that, far as I can tell, were absolutely nowhere to be found on this group's mess of a debut ten years ago.

Damn, this thing is stacked with bangers, and I appreciate that they come in subtly distinct palettes, from jagged industrial metal (SWEET75, I'm Not Down) to pure pop (Knowing, True Seekers) to extravagant madness (Locust Laced, Hummingbird Bomb) even though it feels like the same madness throughout - makes for an engaging start-to-finish spin but, perhaps more importantly, means this album will nourish all manner of different playlists.

SWEET25
24Lexie Liu
Gone Gold


#24
Mandopop / synth pop / R&B

MA RETRO LUVAAAA damn, I'm amazed how well this one's rush holds up like 11 months on. It pays to be cheesy sometimes, and the synthed up opening pair play right into this, whipping up enough momentum that the following three (great) R&B cuts land with could-it-be extra bounce.

Things kinda trail off shortly after, but this is easily one of the most fun fixes of the year. Ty pots, you died so that Lexie Liu could spit sick bouncy puns about real gamers and macho noodles, atta gal.

Oh, and extra royalty points for Magdalena Bay using the same hook as track 4 on "Secrets" lol, LA posers got no swagger
23No No No
NO NO NO


#23
Hardcore

I meant to plug this one hard early in the year, but iirc the band or label or distribution company or whoever messed up on the release and it took forever for there to be a streamable version, by which time things moved on and I fucked up. Whatever.

NO NO NO is no-bullshit hardcore, 19 minutes of girl group savagery that (if you're cultured and have the disc) immediately restart upon completion in an *even rougher* alternative mix. There's not much to pick apart here, certainly not any bells and whistles or gimmicks - hell, you'll be clinging onto the scant moments of downtime just to get through this thing, certainly no time for ~dissecting it or posing silly questions.

My guarantee, however, is that it goes off Satan's nosebleed. It's a brisk catchup - get on it
22Kero Kero Bonito
Civilisation II


#22
Indie pop

oh shit yes, 3-for-3 on the most explosive synthwork and ambitious songwriting on a KKB release to date, with a lovely bittersweet pandemic diary-song thrown in between for good measure. perfect EP and exactly what i wanted from these guys and gal at this point in time
21Dale Kerrigan
noise bitch


#21
NOISE ROCK

fuck it i luv u asparagus man (you know this.)

YOU WERE MY BEST - - FRIEND - -

this album stomps. pacific coast highway, it is not [quite], but this great deadpan lady of piss and oxygen is magnetic and full of quotables. she is great. this band stomp. something something ditto ditto this is the kinda jam that either has the *it* factor or doesn't and no considerations of origina-na-na-nality or whatever stutter nerd shite really touch it. for it stomps.

WHASSUP WITH THAAA
20Wolves in the Throne Room
Primordial Arcana


#20
Atmoblack metal

In my head, this is the metal AOTY. There are technically still metal albums to come, but I like them for reasons that don't feel so specific to the genre. Not so, Wolves in the Throne Room - the atmosphere, intensity, mystique and good ol' cheesy epicness of this record all feel decisively metal, and I'm here for them in a way that I haven't really been for that sound in years (I think).

Even after being bowled over by Two Hunters, this stunned me - I guess it's relatively compact by their standards, but boy do they hit those heights. Love the acoustic instrumentation and would possibly maybe stick Underworld Aurora in my top 10 songs of the year list, were such a thing to exist.

But it shall not, because that is dangerous and silly - WITTR can enjoy a well-deserved top 20 spot instead, hats off.
19Rhododendron
Protozoan Battle Hymns


#19
noise rock / post metal

this is exactly the kind of eleventh hour discovery i was after - total behemoth of a record lurking under the guise of deliciously unpolished name-ur-price bandcampcore. starts out with some tentative jams, makes inroads with meaty big rock, goes through some longass freaky shit, turns into the reincarnation of the Pax Cecilia, ends with a fuckin bang.

Rhododendron are thunder and they rock my socks; if they do not make a new, better album as soon as possible, 2022 will be ruined
18Fire-Toolz
Eternal Home


#18
Post-Industrial, Progressive Electronic, Avant-Garde Metal, Utopian Virtual, Blackgaze, Electro-Industrial, Glitch, Cybergrind, Sequencer & Tracker, Jazz Fusion, New Age [tyvm rym]

there is absolutely no way i am writing on this cursed as all fuck record again ever, go find it on the staff list (somewhere in the 20s) and get the scoop there. 77 minutes of genre mutilation and electro industrial black metal vibeage but, like, good. you missed this one. don't make excuses. cover your tracks, coward.
17Tropical Fuck Storm
Deep States


#17
Psych rock / noise rock

Scuzz marks for the end of times and a nice long cynical look at the fuckin state of things - that's my kind of jam. Perfect for feeling inwardly terrified but outwardly immensely flipped off, thas the good visceral smart shit. it is also catchy.

Give A Fuck Fatigue of the Year.
16Claire Rousay
A Softer Focus


#16
sound collage

gorgeous patient music for gorgeous patient peoplhey wait
15sassya-
呼吸


#15
Post-hardcore / noise rock

Bloody great Japanese phxc rockers full of grit and sawdust - was a really pleasant surprise to find this so late in 2021; sounds like something that would have dropped twoish decades ago when the genre was peaking in America. Absolutely delicious post-and/or-noise rock infusions.

Won't lie, I jammed this twice and then ordered the CD because it's impossible to hear it outside of Spotify (yuck.), but it rips hard enough warrant a little good faith, and so it lands High Up.
14betcover!!
時間 (Jikan)


#14
Weird alternative rock cocktail of a bunch of good stuff

Same as everyone else on Sputnik (except alamo, BABE), I slept on Betcover this year - phwoar, what a last minute gamechanger!

Jikan is everything I've been missing from Japanese alt/indie this year: ambitious style play, steely focus, large measures of flair, firm songwriting discipline, an endless sense of surprise, and an assured sense of expertise when it comes to dishing out familiar gratification (which comes often and never at the expense of the many weird elements on show here). Crazy that this is a debut. I love how many times songs mutate in unexpected directions without losing sight of whatever urgent/maudlin impulse is at their core - this impulse has a lot in common with a lot of J-rock, but Betcover have a hundred ways of voicing it refreshingly, punctuating crooned verses with single distorted barks the moment they border on whinge.

Stage-setting opener aside, it starts out skronky and teases messiness like a zany Japanese matador with a sexy cape, up until the centrepiece track "Shima" snaps everything into focus. Hot damn, that track is one of the sharpest pieces of songwriting I've heard from anyone this year: it's built around an ace chorus and quite a straightforward (self-pitying?) emotional stew, but the band pull an unbelievably slick sequence of gearshifts from around the midway mark that somehow land it an edge and depth far beyond anything I'd have believed on paper.

And did I mention codas? These guys are monsters for complementary codas - they come in all flavours from electro-industrial to bossa nova to tearaway disintegrative lofi, and they all sound cogent as anything.

Honestly, if """experimental""" rock has been your thing this year, then throw out all your Black Midis, Black Countries, Squids etc. and get on this right now this minute - and if it wasn't your thing, do so anyway. Bloody great record.
13Ulver
Hexahedron


#13
Progressive electronic / drone

Awesome reimagining of parts of one of Ulver's weaker albums - love, love, love the atmosphere here, love that this is long but not cumbersome, love Ulver's incredibly smooth blend of an organic live sound with studio polish mmm yes this is fab
12Otay:onii
Ming Ming


#12
[Electro-]industrial / Chinese folk

austere Chinese folk glitched out, blown up with propulsive beats, and backed by a stunning droning voice of TERROR??? there's no saying no to any of that. the intrigue is still so fresh. give me more of it - any recs in this vein appreciated next year. easily one of the most distinctive and engaging visions and performances of this year.
11Kayoko Yoshizawa
Akahoshi Aoboshi


#11
J-pop

Pop AOTY, quite unexpectedly. Also the most expensive single-disc CD of the year without a doubt, jfc that 6500yen price tag still haunts me (no, I did not cave).

Anyway. Kayoko Yoshizawa has always had an affinity for putting a bit of heart into artsy pastiche, but this rarely translates into an even tracklist. Akahoshi Aoboshi is definitely top-heavy, but it never drops the ball - rather, it takes all Yoshizawa's strengths in its stride, adds a few pinches of sugar and ends up as perhaps the most easily enjoyable record she's put out so far. I scarcely listened to anything else on the week of its release, and it's easily one of my most-played from the year - how could it not be when those first 4 songs pack such impeccably graceful choruses and the rest is largely packed with whimsy and charm?

Past Kayoko records have usually been too choppy for their childish enchantments to draw me too close, but this direct approach suits her and I hope she maintains it as a standard.
10Indigo De Souza
Any Shape You Take


#10
Indie / indie / indie / indie pop / lofi

I think Indigo de Souza might have practically single-handedly revived angsty guitar pop this year? Feck what a great voice, what great HARMONIES! What lovely fuzzy winding lofi indie guitar motifs and damn, what solid *risks* this album takes.

Starting out with a shimmery (enjoyably forgettable?) indie pop daydream only to kick in with a stomach-lurching HIT of a slow rocking track #2? and damn, Real Pain. Rowan wrote (he admits) a little gratuitiously but (he should admit more) brutally accurately on how much this track improves on the whole I Know The End nu-trope of pained indiegirl songs disintegrating and screaming etc; this track is 1) not just performative melodrama and 2) rounds things off with an absolutely killer final coda-chorus so yes.

I'm just gushing about individual tracks now, but there is much to say!! Real Pain hits like a truck and is just about the very best closer of the year. Goodbye.
9Xiu Xiu
OH NO


#9
chamber pop / gothic stuff

yeah at this point i'm not even gonna bother pitching this to you ungrateful halfhearted cravens. come ye, porcupinetheater, arise from the masses and holler by my side as we draw lots for who sings jamie's part on each song and who gets stuck with the dodgy mic. i have been practicing my sharon van etten voice all year for this occasion, but my karaoke instincts tell me that you'll do a mean chelsea wolfe. only stipulations are that we're booking for a free-time session and that you do angela on fuzz gong to afford me sufficient closure from that lovely collaborative-ish trauma back in the meltdays of astral pariah striking the world. this is a wonderful record and has so much personality and endearment and it doesn't deserve to be heard by stale un-chamber turnips. humbug.
8Sweet Trip
A Tiny House, In Secret Speeches, Polar Equals


#8
indietronica / dream pop / shoegaze / IDM

this big bloated triumphant outing of almost all the lovely things that Sweet Trip do wonderfully well should be on the bottom half of every top 10 this year, thank u
7Kayo Dot
Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike


#7
Death/doom / Kayo-garde

Y'know, I swear every other comment I've made about Kayo Dot has been an indirect (or otherwise) snipe at their metal fanbase for losing their marbles whenever Toby Driver takes the project into more understated or sophisticated territory -- and yet, no denying it, the man's heavy shit is the heckin business. Moss...' death/doom roots are heavily foregrounded but, as per, Driver wastes no time in taking his compositions to unlikely shadowy places the moment he's set the tone. Swirling atmoblack, luminary prog, and full-on drone metal: this record does it all damn well, trailing an oppressive atmosphere of decay and death and all that. Factor in that this is basically a solo performance with a few Greg Massi guitars thrown in, and you've got something to marvel at
6Japanese Breakfast
Jubilee


#6
Indie pop

You see one Jubilee, I see TWO Jubilees: there's the whole-album, as everyone has heard, and then there's the superb teary-smiling final three tracks, which are easily my most listened stretch on any 2021 release and, I guess, kinda exist in my head as the Jubilee EP at this point.

If I'm real, the album as a while is great but the Jubilee EP is without the main reason it got this far - three of the best cuts of the year, each cathartic and bittersweet and sagely reassuring, with a load of solid (skippable) cuts in advance. Nothing wrong with being a little lopsided
5Iosonouncane
IRA


#5
Post[-rock-]industrial / ambient

I will never blurb this album again unless someone deblurs that marvellous Italian sausage.
4Skee Mask
Pool


#4
IDM

104 minutes of beautifully integrated breaks/dub/ambient whatever mmm baby. This album's logistics alone put it in a different ballpark to practically everything else here - I don't have an office job, lonely shifts or any of the usual long timesinks that pair nicely with ambient techno, and my apartment is too full of everything-right-now!! energy to compensate. This does not matter, partially because this tranquil-but-sometimes-a-lil-tense atmosphere is so easy to get lost in, but mainly because these tracks are just very bloody good, versatile, patiently and cogently developed and often individually memorable.

Whenever you buy into an album this huge, you're practically making a choice against like 3 other regular-sized records - but Pool gets more and more rewarding the more hours I sacrifice to it and I do not care. Best late-game discovery for me, thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take the trip
3Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
Carnage


#3
Ambient singer/songwriter / Cave/Ellis

Gosh, it's been a year. I am tired and not sure what to do with a new one, especially given the upcoming tumult of moving back to the ever-plagued UK. Now is a good time to think of Carnage - just as when it dropped in Feburary, this record is a salve to unrest, quiet resolve in the face of chaos, a nudge and a wink in humourless times. I don't think any artist this year has inspired such craftful solace as Nick Cave.

Similarly to Ghosteen (though far more of our world and less of Cave's private one), this is not an album that demands frequent revisitations; it's not one to check into lightly, but I feel the weight of its sincerity and the fatigued warmth of its perspective and humanity as close to my heart as I'm comfortable with every time. Perhaps the most ~necessary record of my year.
2Trophy Scars
Astral Pariah


#2
Rocking murder blues

Trophy Scars hone their songwriting skills into something intimidating and serrated that moves too fast to clamp eyes on, all while holding true to their inimitable knack for bombast. They are now masters of tasteful band-things as well as distasteful crass ones. Astral Pariah takes anything from 5 to 10 listens to really pin down - hell, how else do you deal with an hour's worth of ideas in half that time - but it cuts with more precision and (maybe) depth than all but their most defining past output.

Not quite on the level of Holy Vacants, but enough to convince me they can and will raise their game even higher in future; stick at it boys.
1Arab Strap
As Days Get Dark


#1
Indie rock / indie pop / slowcore

As Days Get Dark is my favourite record of the year beause it is the best record, and the funniest, and the best written, and the most memorable, and the most enduring, and the most engaging, and the best at being mature and immature and self-aware and candid in equal measure. Its songs are the best songs; I love most of them.

It's my only true 4.5 of the year - usually I'd hope for 3 or 4 records on that tier, but this one is so good that I'll settle. It reminds me that music is a good thing that can be felt and drawn from and channeled into and savoured, and not just dumb names on a screen from the dumb internet.

See my blurb for the righteously high placement it earned on the staff list if you want something more switched-on; the year is over and so is my brain. See you next time, happy hunting in 2022 :]
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