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Best of 2021: dbizzles edition

In a strange turn of events, 2021 was a more isolated year for me than its predecessor, 2020- you know, the one with the whole pandemic and shut down and quarantines and a generally remarkable period of isolation? Sure, this year, I could do more and see more, but when it came to HEARING more, I buried myself in massive audiobooks like the colossal murder-slathered crime novel 2666 by Roberto Bolano and the dauntingly delightful exploration of all things human presented in Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. When I wanted to listen to music, I spent a lot of time listening ABOUT music, first with Chris Demakes a Podcast, where Less Than Jake's lead guitarist dissects songs with the artists responsible for them. The rest of the time, I spent with with Tyler Mahan Coe's in-depth retelling of the history of 20th Century Country music, Cocaine & Rhinestones, and then with his other podcast, Your Favorite Band Sucks, where he and his co-host explain why your favorite band absolutely sucks. Sprinkle in my steady diet of MMA podcasts (what up, Slip the Jab and OTNO nerds?) with an increased work schedule and I missed more 2021 releases than I care to admit, especially on the back-half. Shiiit, I spent so much time looking through the past. I've heard so much George Jones in the last two months that it is hard to mention. I streamed so much Griselda-adjacent music that I almost became a Bills fan. All of that is to say that this list is going to be a little out of my norm. I'll list all my 4+ ratings that I've logged, per usual, but will focus more on most-played than anything else because I don't feel like arguing with myself about whether what I listened to the most is actually BETTER than everything else with which I fell in love. There will definitely be a lot of quality albums missing because I haven't cataloged them and I call upon you all for recommendations to keep me elite lol. Thank you for being here even when I am not.
21World Peace
Come And See

fake fake pv 4/5

You know in the Looney Tunes when characters get into big ass brawls and it is animated as a moving-dust cloud with random flashes of fists and boots popping out of the quarrel? That's exactly what this 10-minute whirlwind sounds like. Don't believe me? Come and see.
Through The Bongfire

dumb dumb dm 4/5

There is nothing behind the band's name, the song and album titles, the artwork, or general aesthetic that surprised or challenged me as a listener and I don't give a fuck. A lot of the time with modern death metal, what you see is what you get and this is no exception, it just so happens that the replay value of this EP is unreasonably good.
19Ghastly (FIN)
Mercurial Passages

2tru4prog dm 4/5

Death Velour took some time to grow on me, but ultimately ended up being one of my favorite releases of 2018. I was very excited to see what else Ghastly had in store for us and Mercurial Passages does not disappoint. Ghastly returned to the well that made Death Velour so appetizing with as many buckets as they could carry and the result is yet another groovy slab of fun riffs sandwiched between memorable moments.
18The Body
I’ve Seen All I Need To See

thebodycore - 4/5

The formula is simple. If The Body puts out an album, The Body puts out an AOTY candidate. For all of the experimentation and collaborating these guys take part in, sometimes what I want the most is for them to put aside their outside ambitions and look within themselves to push the envelope without any assistance. That is what they've accomplished here, that is what they've accomplished in the past, and that is what they will continue to accomplish. Get on board or get the FOH (;-)).
17Blood Cultures

whistlin' indie 4/5

Well, This is Awkward. One of These Things is Not Like The Others. Et cetera. Blood Cultures doesn't seem to belong with anything else on this list but there's an appeal here that I can't explain. Luno is far from perfect or even just cohesive, but it serves as a delightful sampler platter of indie synthpop that keeps pulling me back.
16An Autumn For Crippled Children
As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes

blackgaze 4/5

With a band name this bad, I always hope this trio puts out a stinker so I don't have to put them on my year-end list. But, for the second year in a row, An Autumn for Crippled Children seem to be reaching their peak, checking off way too many boxes for me and housing the elements in a dramatic spat that I can't seem to resist. Want some wonky ass keyboard tones over an emotionally urgent backdrop? Yeah, I guess I do, and I should have already known that when I heard When the Suns Sleeps for the first time and didn't turn it off. If you like Deafheaven and keyboards, get in here.
Pray For Haiti

artsy fartsy hip hop 4/5

Not that Pray for Haiti is remarkably inaccessible, but I was surprised to see it blow up the way it did on RYM and the rest of the internet even with West's presence all over this thing bringing in that Griselda shine. Mach-Hommy makes it his own at every opportunity repeatedly delivering memorable hooks (see Stellar Ray Theory). I haven't heard the follow-up that just came out, but this release is going to be hard to top.
14Lil Ugly Mane
Volcanic Bird Enemy...

gumby-ass psych trip 4/5

I don't think anyone expected this from Travis, but I also don't think anyone was exactly surprised about it. Over the past few years, I have listened to LUM and LUM-adjacent projects so much I'd say I got obsessed, to the point where the second I saw this surprise drop, you know, right when I was going to bed, I had an immediate change in plans- forget the need to sleep on a week night, there's new LUM. This album isn't remotely what I wanted, but its still a VIBE and unique vibe that only Travis Miller could deliver.
13Dungeon Serpent
World of Sorrows

Dungeon Serpent - World of Sorrows

hardly-melo-melodeath 4/5

Vancouver's Dungeon Serpent hardly reinvent the wheel with their debut album and how could they? After all, we ARE talking about 2021 melodeath, there's not a whole lot left to do. But, that doesn't stop the sometimes-plodding-and-doomy, sometimes blistering-and-thrashy World of Sorrows from standing as one of the best albums of the year and it certainly doesn't quell Immortal Incubation's incessant cries for consideration as one of the best songs of the year.
12Spectral Wound
A Diabolic Thirst

tight-trouser black metal 4/5

While 2018's Infernal Decadence is obviously directly responsible for making this album one of my most anticipated albums of the year, A Diabolical Thirst delivered in ways I did not expect. This is WAY cleaner, tighter, and more accessible than their previous work and usually that's a big red flag for the genre but this fucking works and I'm sorry but if you give me beer references in black metal, I'm going to love it no matter what.
11MouthBreather (USA-MA)
I'm Sorry Mr. Salesman

no-work-shown math 4/5

I was smitten with this band when Pig came out and when Dollmeat came out afterward I figured the debut was just a flash in the pan. Fortunately, I'm Sorry Mr. Salesman- aside from its awful artwork and title- is both a little bit of a left turn and a nice surprise, with a sound remniscent of the better moments of Jesus Piece, Sanction, and Tony Danza (or their apparent heir, Frontierer). MouthBreather has me back on the hype train, full speed ahead.
10Wolves in the Throne Room
Primordial Arcana

treeline bm 4/5

Just when I thought the fog-machine sputtered out with 2017's extremely disappointing Thrice Woven, WITTR return to form with an album so inherently given to the backwoods of atmoblack lore that it's hard to think they ever slipped, but slip they did. Unlike its predecessor, Primordial Arcana has songwriting that isn't devoid of moments; it has an atmosphere lifted from a cauldron cook book; most importantly, it doesn't feel put-on whatsoever. Primordial Arcana is the coming out party that Thrice Woven should have been. Better now than never.
9Ad Nauseam
Imperative Imperceptible Impulse

micro-dose dm 4/5

As long as we can continue receiving alternating Ulcerate and Ad Nauseam releases every few years, I'm cool with having 0 other 'tech-death' bands in my queue. This album may be better than the debut, honestly, and makes the 6 years between releases worth it. This is the kind of band where even if you know what you signed up to experience, they will continue to keep you guessing as to what is next. One of the best sophomore albums in recent history.
Ice Fleet

ghost ship ASMR 4/5

Kauan returns after 3 years to follow up Kaiho with Sorni Nai Light and that's still a compliment. It has the bleak concept, the extremely cold atmosphere, and sounds more like a short film score than an album. Ice Fleet takes a little while to hit it's stride, but when you reach Raivo, the rest of the experience is up there with Kauan's best moments and its another fine addition to their stellar discography.
7Andy Stott
Never the Right Time

dbizz-privilege-4-core 4/5

I have to say I was initially disappointed in this, and then I was sold, and then I was confused, but still found myself coming back again and again. After 8 months with this one, I can't help but wonder what this could have been with more emphasis on flow and a bigger focus on an overall theme. As it stands, Never the Right Time is still loaded with bangers; it just feels a lot more like a collection of songs than it does the artistic statement Andy has led us to expect. Sure, this release isn't exactly at home with the best output of Stott's career, but it definitely holds its own. (Shout to Dove Stone, the best ambient song I heard all year.)
6Benny The Butcher
The Plugs I Met 2

east coast hip hop 4.5/5

Much like Benny's companion, Conway the Machine, the Butcher seems to be capitalizing on the brighter spotlight that Griselda has been catching as of late. As the title would suggest, this is very much in the same vein as Benny's 2019 EP, but it's just a lot better, with a remarkably higher focus on songwriting, less wasted time, and better hooks with the sequel doing its best to leave its predecessor in the dust. Expect this to be appreciated more and more as the years pass.
5Der Weg Einer Freiheit

blackmosphere 4.5/5

When Noktvrn isn't flexing its beautiful, dynamic chops, it just relentlessly delivers Fuck-Yeah moments; the first moment the vocals break will tell you everything you need to know about what is to come. Much like Diabolical Thirst, this album supremely overdelivered, taking a higher step into new ground with tighter mixing and better songwriting. This is the best atmoblack album I've heard in sometime, giving me hope for the rejuvenation of the sub-genre.
4Logistic Slaughter
Lower Forms of Life

new-breed brutal dm 4.5/.5

The expectations for Logistic Slaughter's sophomore album were only tempered because what they achieved with Corrosive Ethics was almost unprecedented for the admittedly shallow sub-genre of brutal death metal. Surely lightning couldn't strike again and to as great an effect five long years after the band's debut, but with Lower Forms of Life, Logistic Slaughter has cemented themselves as merchants of uncompromised violence. The vocal technique first used near the end of Streamline Casualties, reminiscent of Glossectomy, is worth hearing alone- and there's plenty more where that came from.
Famine, Putrid and Fucking Endless

tech-death in disguise 4.5/5

It certainly doesn't hurt to have Colin Marston in your corner, but Atvm already has all the pots to fit the lids. If you want to listen to progressive-style death metal, this is the non-sterile tech paradise of 2021. This is what it's all about. Proficient songwriting and remarkable pedigree, but with actual character and not polished at all. Marston let's the album breathe and the track list fucking HEAVES.
2Boldy James and The Alchemist
Bo Jackson

as-advertised hip hop 4.5/5

The Alchemist and Freddie Gibbs' Alfredo collaboration last year is responsible for my exposure to almost every bit of hip hop on this list. In fact, if it weren't for Benny the Butcher's feature on Frank Lucas I may not have ever explored anything from the Griselda crew. It is fitting then, that the follow-up to The Alchemist and Boldy James' excellent 2020 collaboration, The Price of Tea In China, is sitting near the top of my AOTY list. The Bo Jackson theme and overall flow of the album is masterful and a must-listen to anyone interested in any other the artists I mentioned above. Give Brickmile to Montana or Steel Wool a listen and tell me they don't go hard.
1Conway the Machine
La Maquina

griseldacore hip hop 4.5/5

This led the year for me when it comes to play count. Conway seemed to finally break last year with From a King to a God, but La Maquina made that album seem like a stepping stone in retrospect. The album is so good and covers so many sounds and moods that it has the absolute GALL to make Ludacris (see: Scatter Brain) sound.. good?- to turn a 2 Chainz feature (see: 200 Pies) into an examination into who the fuck I thought he even was. Yeah, do I even need to sell it anymore? Because, if I do, the first three tracks will do it themselves and by the fifth you wonder why this album isn't absolutely E V E R Y W H E R E.
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