As in 2020, my ears have enjoyed themselves throughout 2021. Lots of new and exciting albums released, artists have come out of hibernation, at least partly, and we have seen new releases from old favourites like Adele, Ed Sheeran and ABBA, to name three that I have not added to this year’s list, as I suspect your are listening to them anyway.
Before I give you my favourite top 10 list, out of the 130 (!) albums I have introduced you to during 2021, let me mention an additional 15 wonderful albums I have had a special pleasure of reviewing and listening to this year (in alphabetical order).
I have also added each album’s Metacritic score, if there is one. Metacritic adds up all reviews of an album, and gives each album a score from 0-100. Any score above 70 is considered a very good one. It is also interesting/sad to see how many albums that I have picked that haven’t been properly and broadly reviewed. It is so hard for most artists to get the necessary attention these days, if their names are not Adele, Ed Sheeran or ABBA. One of the main purposes of this list is to draw attention to artists that many of you never would have listened to if it weren’t for you listening to my recommended albums. Thank you for that, and for spreading the word. Word-of-mouth is so important for lesser known artists.
Although the group of readers/listeners regularly reading my blog is not particularly large (a few hundred lovely souls), this year I have passed 20 000 visits to the blog since it was initiated! Hurrah!!! I am particularily pleased that many of the artists reviewed also have become readers.
So, on with the show. Click on the album cover, and you will be taken directly to the whole album on Spotify.
Then on to my special favourites. Albums that stood out and that I enjoyed more than anything else I have listened to this year.
So, these are my top ten choices of 2021. (Some of the albums were released in 2020, but reviewed by me in 2021. ) You’ll find a link to the individual albums by clicking on the cover. If you want to listen to all of them, I have made a separate list.
I never thought I would even review an album of accordion music. But I have fallen in love with the beauty of Richard Galliano’s sensitive playing. This album takes me back to a place I have never been, to Paris in the 40s and 50s, to Parisian dance halls and bars with live music.
Whenever I need peace of mind I put on pianist Andreas Ihlebæk’s quiet and oh-so-melodic «I Will Build You a House». There are many pianists out there operating in the genre area between classical and jazz. Ihlebæk is one of the very best.
Kacey Musgraves went through a divorce and used it to make genuine and true pop music. In a way she goes back to her roots, creating pop and country music with a slightly off look at life and how we live it. Yes, it is sweet, but very genuine.
Comedian Bo Burnham has created what probably is the ultimate representation of what this pandemic has done and can continue to do to us. His one-man show is so brilliantly written and performed, so poignant and poisenous, so funny and recognizable. The album works best when you have seen the show, but even if you haven’t, listen anyway.
One of the most pleasant surprises for me this year has been Irish singer-songwriter Orla Gartland. This collection of song introduces an artist who adds freshness, cleverness and a bit of naughtiness, not only to her lyrics, but to the arrangements and the songwriting. So tough and yet so soft.
This Australian pop group manages to give us some of the best and catchy pop music of the year, just pure joy. The sophistication lies in the clever songwriting turns. A truly mood-enhancing album.
I just can’t believe this album hasn’t been widely recognized. Yebba is truly a new star, and yes, she has already won a Grammy (for a collaborative album). Still, most people haven’t had a chance to listen to her stunning voice and her broad and surprising repertoire. If you’re among them, go listen.
Peggy Seeger is an old lady and she doesn’t pretend otherwise. With «First Farewell» she brings us valuable insight about growing older, about looking back to learn, but also about living here and now. It is such a life-affirming album, so full of wisdom and joy, it makes me want to grow old like her.
Rorschach Test is such a joy to listen to. The suggestive and addictive rhythm that is always there, Jay-Jay Johanson’s calming crooner voice, the simple, slightly melancholic melodies that sticks in my mind but I just don’t grow tired of.
I have to put Celeste’s album, «Not Your Muse» on top, even though it is slightly ridiculous to rate the top 4 albums in any particular order, they are all that good. Still, Celeste offers such a wide variety of music on this album, and all of it with pizazz and style. Some of the songs can bring me to tears, others just want me to move, others again makes me listen to what she has to say. What an incredible new artist.
And as a little treat at the end, here is last year’s John Lewis Christmas commercial, with Celeste singing «A Little Love» – and bringing us all a little love at the end of one more pandemic year.
Happy new year, everyone, please come back in January 2022 for the first new picks.