ohothers ! We came back – some hesitantly, others jumbled up – outside last spring. Although summer and fall 2021 often felt like a cautious return to normalish (terms and conditions very enforced), the amps were dusted off, the guitar techs tuned, and the Portaloos couldn’t be hired for love or money as the audience and performers met IRL again to trade CO2 .
For each summer festival that took place, however, it appeared that two had been canceled. The live music industry has demanded government-backed insurance plans; these arrived very late in the day. Glastonbury went online, but encountered a problem; Kano, Idles and Thom Yorke’s new project, The Smile, nonetheless made some memories. The interior sites have reopened; the practice of being politely searched for your Covid status has become just another part of getting out.
The future continued to arrive at a steady pace: Popular during lockdown, live broadcasts have remained an evolving element, with many reinventing the live spectacle as they go. Probably BTS K-pop Superstars monopolized the most eyeballs, but in a crowded field, three more stood out: Kingdom of Shadows; Biceps retinal melting graphic introduction to He is from the Saatchi Gallery in London; and sumptuous St Vincent’s, sepia Down and down to the city center. Non-fungible tokens has become a trending search term: somewhere between a digital work of art and bet on crypto, NFTs have generated cash for some forward-looking artists (Grimes and Kings of Leon among them); for small names, not so much.
There was, however, some encouraging news for the average height artist. Hopes that the streaming model – under which artists are currently paid a pittance – could be reformed, at least in the UK, has been sparked by a large multi-party investigation by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media media and sport calling for a “full resetOf the streaming remuneration economy. Almost as important as the streaming platforms themselves, as a showcase for music, was TIC Tac, where memes, dance crazes, and creative fan-generated repurchases made fame on a daily basis (like PinkPantheress in the UK) and turned out old tunes (Little Simz’s Venom, say, or Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue’s What a man) new leases.
Hand in hand with novelty, the explosions of the past have come. To recover was a groundbreaking documentary that lifted the veil on the Beatles’ final weeks in 1969, exposing their creative process and their interrelationships. Summer of the soul, Questlove’s equally staple documentary about the Harlem Culture Festival in 1969, also used extraordinary arching imagery and featured electrifying performances from everyone from Nina Simone to Sly and the Family Stone.
As the pop continued to unleash new sensations – welcome to Olivia Rodrigo, adjacent pop-punk singer from teenage heartache, which topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic – the old-fashioned album could still change its dial. Abba came back in fantastic voice after almost 40 years. Force majeure Adele, meanwhile, came back with 30, a full-throated, adult disc on female misfortune and its remedies. Her desire not to be content with a life of quiet desperation was taken up in the independent sphere by Rebecca Lucy Taylor second album just as powerful like self-esteem. And behind the scenes, a shy on-camera talent took hold: Adele’s was one of many records this year in which grim but tireless London producer Dean Josiah Cover, aka Inflo, played a role (Sault’s New and Little Simz Sometimes I could be introverted were the other two headlines, not to mention Cleo Sol‘s Mother).
A few 21st century American artists have proven that they are more than lightning bolts in the pan. Touching and inspiring albums have come from the makeover Gen-Z mermaid Billie Eilish and gender killer, LGBTQ + mischief maker Lil nas x. Davethe second album of the pandemic, referencing, self-review We are all alone in this set, kept the bar high for his prime.
Whether it’s going deaf in public with friends once again, or the self-generating communities on TikTok, friendliness has proven to be a powerful weapon this year. An example: Britney Spears’ tutorship ended, with fan activism strengthened widely credited as the overwhelming force that drove over the immovable legal object.
The 10 best albums of 2021
Tamara Lindeman’s oblique and elliptical break between humanity and planet album was as beautiful as it was desperate.
2. Focus on pleasure
Reclaiming people’s pleasure Rebecca Lucy Taylor channeled her considerable spirit and frustration into this liberating dance-pop opus.
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the LSO
An electronic producer, a great jazzman and an orchestra ebb and flow in a breathtaking way.
4. Space 1.8
Spiritual jazz for the moment, the first medicinal album of the London harpist of Belgian origin Sinephro was the panacea demanded by a wounded world.
Sault’s 2020 albums touched on the brutality of American law enforcement; This year New are coupled with the London roots of the collective, their pain and their joy.
6. Sometimes I could be introverted
The fledgling fame took rapper Little Simz to battle her own demons, celebrate black brotherhood, and breathe compassion and rage.
seven. He is
Frequently labeled as’ 90s rave revivalists, the North Irish duo’s second album transcended their sources with a host of touching digital bangers.
8. For the first time
Black country, new road
Guitar music for the 21st century: klezmer hooks, saxophone hits and captivating lyrics on sertraline. Unavoidable.
Terrific guests and glimpses of Jason Williamson’s childhood raised the bilious sixth Mod record alongside the sublime beats of Andrew Fearne.
This ninja-level Oregon troubadour’s contemporary country debut had it all: dangerous rivers, broken hearts, and a nostalgia for “all the wine in the world.”
Over publicized and confused, West’s 10th album was not a fitting tribute to the late Dr. Donda West.