It’s not 100 best songs of 2021, nor 50 best albums of the year. Who has time for it? So instead, it is a precise selection of what made my heart and ears deep-dive through 2021.
Best Album – LOVING IN STEREO, Jungle
West London band Jungle released their third album, “Loving in Stereo”, full of dancehall bangers and sick beats. Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland left their first label and established Caiola Records. Having full ownership of music and vision might be tough, but as the band expressed in one of the interviews, this album finally sounds the way they always wanted. The album is upbeat, fun, careless, a perfect soundtrack to forget the world and immerse into positivity.
Best Orchestral Version – LORD IT’S A FEELING, London Grammar
I am inquisitive about what else could be done with the newly released song. It might be an acoustic version or remix, but orchestral arrangements excite me the most. Single “Lord is a feeling” by London Grammar is from the new album “Californian Soul.” The record is about cheating and a toxic relationship the woman is trying to save. You can feel anger and disappointment in the lead singer’s Hannah Reid voice. In the orchestrated version, strings sound like a gentle crying, and the brass section with the drums adds more rage. This is a musically so perfectly built song shivering through your body.
Best Comeback – PEACE OR LOVE, Kings of Convenience
Scandinavian duo Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe is like a favorite warm blanket. You want to listen to band records when you need comfort and songs you know by heart. “Peace or Love” is the band’s first record in 12 years. They explain that making music sound simple is challenging, so it took so long. To make this comeback even more pleasant for two tracks, Canadian singer Feist is joining. Together with a new album, a documentary was released about the journey of a new album release. You will be surprised how absurdly different and yet so perfect together duo can bring the best things to the table and create music loved by everyone. I just hope we don’t have to wait 12 more years to hear new music again.
Best Collaboration – COMING BACK, James Blake feat. SZA
James Blake released a very traditional James Blake album, “Friends that will break your heart”. The new release is highlighted by the smoothing appearance of R&B singer SZA in the song “Coming back”. Two spectacular voices sound heavenly together, telling the story about returning to a past love.
The One To Watch – Olivia Dean
This year, London-based twenty-something songwriter and singer released the long-awaited EP “Growth”. She promoted new material doing shows straight from the truck and two intimate performances at the Jazz Cafe, a legendary venue in London. This show is already on Youtube, with you will hear “Slowly”, “Hardest Part”, her leading singles. Olivia is inspired by Amy Winehouse, working with Lianne La Havas, producer, supported by the Amazon Music breakthrough program, already done a show on the Boiler Room is really the one to watch and, definitely, to listen to.
Best Bridge – DRIVERS LICENCE, Olivia Rodrigo
The song Drivers Licence was released in early 2021 and broke all the listening records on the first day. Many believe, because of the bridge. The late-arriving breakdown section offers some new elements in the song. Olivia revealed that she wrote this part of the song, thinking how listeners will use it on TikTok, and the rest is already history. We have an iconic bridge. As Kate McKinnon says in the SNL episode: “Boys, open your hearts and listen. We are about to get the bridge of our lives.”
Best Podcast – THE FADER UNCOVERED, host Mark Ronson
As the synopsis presents, this is “a series of in-depth conversations with the world’s most impactful musicians”, interviewed by Mark Ronson, the Grammy-winning producer. The podcast always starts with the memories from the first artist interview for “Fader” the host reads a few fragments, and stories begin. Easygoing interview-style feels like sitting in the room with all A-listers and hearing them talking about past, present, and future. Mark is uncovering stories from The Haim, Pharell, Damon Albarn, Tame Impala, David Byrne, and others.
Best Album Cover Design – TALK MEMORY, Badbadnotgood
The cover for the band’s latest LP, “Talk Memory”, is designed by Virgil Abloh-led design firm Alaska-Alaska™, a typeface created by Elias Hanzer from Dinamo studio, based in Switzerland. Eye candy for minimalism and aesthetics lovers.
Best Movie – TICK, TICK…BOOM, director Lin-Manuel Miranda
“Tick, tick…BOOM” is a heartwarming and heartbreaking story about music composer Jonathan Larson who gave the world the fantastic musical RENT and sadly passed away on a premier day. He was often not accepted and not understood by the public or professionals as he wrote about unfavorable topics like HIV, homophobia, addiction, cultural differences, etc. All his life, he was rewriting the rules and inspired hundreds of future composers and musicians.
Lin-Manuel Miranda was one of them, and he directed the film-musical “Tick, tick…BOOM” to celebrate the life and legacy of Jonathan Larson. You will enjoy this film as this is an excellent story performed by Andrew Garfield, Vanessa Hudgens, and others. Musicals are another dimension of magic.
Best Book – CRYING IN H MART, Michelle Zauner
You might be familiar with Michelle Zauner, a lead singer in the band “Japanese Breakfast”. In 2021 she had two premiers – critically well-acclaimed album “Jubilee”, the book “Crying in H Mart” it’s already in all tops of 2021. A touching memoir about grief, food, family, and music.
Michelle was working hard to kick off her career in the music scene when a private tragedy happened in her family. While she was losing her mother, she tried to save her Korean roots, soaking in her mum’s know-how about traditions, food, and life, in general. Raw, beautiful, and emotional story.
Fingers crossed, we will meet each other at the festivals, concerts, and dance floors. So let’s fill 2022 with music.
Stay safe and sound, folks!