Home Read Features Rewinding 2021 | Tinnitist’s Top Albums

Rewinding 2021 | Tinnitist’s Top Albums

This list gets harder to make every year. This one ain't perfect, but it will have to do.

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The older I get, the harder it is to put together these year-end lists. But not because I’m getting more musically discriminating in my dotage. Quite the opposite; every year, I come across countless new (and old) artists and albums and genres to add to my ever-expanding playlist. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult to narrow down my annual choices to anything approaching a reasonable number. The post below is as close as I could get this year — 16 winners and another 80-some contenders that could just as easily have been at the top on any other day. Admittedly, it’s far from perfect, but it’s honestly the best I can do. (NOTES: 1 | I could have included all the top picks and honourable mentions from the other lists here in the interest of completeness, but that would have been redundant. 2 | To read more about these albums, please use the search box at the top of the page. 3 | For even more, check out the Tinnitst TV page, where I interviewed several of the acts below.) That’s it. Phew. See you in 2022.

 


TINNITIST’S PICKS (In Alphabetical Order)

Amyl And The Sniffers
Comfort to Me

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Comfort To Me is the second album from Amyl And The Sniffers, the Melbourne, Australia rock band fronted by Amy Taylor. She and her bandmates — guitarist Dec Martens, bassist Gus Romer and drummer Bryce Wilson — wrote the followup to their 2019 debut during the pandemic while quarantining in the same house together, spending more time refining the songs than they had previously. “The nihilistic, live-in-the-moment positivity and panel-beater rock-meets-shed show punk was still there, but it was better,” says Taylor. “The whole thing was less spontaneous and more darkly considered.”


Clockwise On Fire
Clockwise On Fire

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Sound flows freely like conversation. It unfurls in real-time, moving and changing with each subsequent statement and reply. Similarly, Clockwise On Fire mold a living and breathing hybrid of psychedelic rock, progressive, funk, and alternative, shapeshifting with each key change. The musical union of longtime friends and collaborators Tim Arnold (Good Old War) and Brian Lynch consistently surprises as it blurs the lines between eloquent songcraft and instrumental fluidity, sitting still only long enough to incite chase. The Philadelphia duo channel a spirit of unbridled freedom on their 2021 independent self-titled debut album. “Our process is simply free,” observes Arnold. “There are no wrong notes. There’s no pressure. There’s no negativity. There’s no template. It’s just such an expressive environment where anything goes. Lynch agrees. “We’ve always had chemistry, but we never hunkered down, focused, and done something original together until now. It’s happening organically after all of these years as friends. We’re pretty hyped about it.”


Steve Conte
Bronx Cheer

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “New York City guitarist, singer and songwriter Steve Conte has found the way back to center stage with his first solo album in five years. The attitude-infused Bronx Cheer is brimming with the spirit of New York both past and present. Long known for his memorable guitar work as a member of The New York Dolls, as well as former Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe’s band (with whom he still performs), Steve found international fame in recent years via his collaborations with Japanese composer and artist Yoko Kanno on the soundtracks to several hit anime series, including Cowboy Bebop.”


Endless Boogie
Admonitions

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Endless Boogie’s fifth proper studio album contains and is called Admonitions. The double LP has seven tracks of unrefined wisdom, mostly put to tape in improvised fashion with little to no warning. It was recorded over two years and two sessions — one at the pastoral tranquility of the Stockholm inland archipelago in 2018 (at the studio founded by Jacob Sjöholm), and another in the dank, cramped basement of a Brooklyn studio in February 2020. The album clocks in with a run time of 83 minutes, and starts with The Offender, perhaps the best 22-minute opener in the history of 22-minute openers.”


The Felice Brothers
From Dreams To Dust

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Ruminating on the risks of taking things for granted in our daily lives, Ian Felice, the lead singer/songwriter of The Felice Brothers, expresses how meaningful the experience of playing music with his band has been after long months of social distancing. In From Dreams To Dust, their eighth and most recent studio album, the band’s exuberance to be together doing what they do so well is palpable. Characteristic of The Felice Brothers, the new tracks are a mixture of somber tunes with ones that are musically upbeat, all the while carrying messages that beg listeners to think deeply about the environment, humanity, legacy, and death. Many of the songs depict the passage of time, nostalgia, transience and getting older. For Felice, there must also always be a current of hope in the music.”


God Damn
Raw Coward

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “In 2020, Black Country mainstays God Damn were reborn with the release of their uncompromising self-titled third album, one that truly felt like they’d shed all preconceptions and were fully dedicated to a sound and delivery that they’d long denied themselves. Now, with a new lease on life, the band have penned their brutal and unapologetic LP Raw Coward. February 2020 saw God Damn disrupt the quiet before the storm with a blistering U.K. tour that shook the walls of some of the country’s favourite grassroots venues, showcasing their new material to hordes of sweaty bodies, but the incoming pandemic put a stop to the promo train and subsequently plunged them back into the shadows just when they were at their most amped. You can feel the pent-up aggression in every fibre of Raw Coward, from its opening riff to its final feedback educed fadeout, it brims with an abrasive heaviness that threatens to buckle under its own weight at any time. Ambitious and cynical, it lashes out in all directions, taking wild swings at nationalism, Catholicism, the music industry and the capitalist machine.”


Idles
Crawler

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:IdlesCrawler is an album of reflection and healing amid a worldwide pandemic that stretched the planet’s collective mental and physical health to the breaking point. Frontman Joe Talbot says, “We want people who’ve gone through trauma, heartbreak, and loss to feel like they’re not alone, and also how it is possible to reclaim joy from those experiences.” Idles albums have always been anchored by these overarching themes, but the ability of the band to juxtapose beauty and rage with humor and drama has never felt more satisfying than on Crawler. These stories are vividly brought to life through Idles’ most soul-stirring music to date, recorded with co-producers Kenny Beats (Vince Staples, Freddie Gibbs) and Idles guitarist Mark Bowen. There are, of course, numerous moments that will inspire absolute mayhem in a packed concert venue, but there are also fresh textures and experiments that push Idles into thrilling new territory.”


Illuminati Hotties
Let Me Do One More

Everybody gets knocked down. It’s how you get back up that counts. Case in point: Sarah Tudzin, the singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer at the heart of L.A.’s Illuminati Hotties. Between a death in her immediate family, the pandemic and plenty of the usual music-biz bullshit, her 2020 probably sucked even worse than yours and mine. But she has not only weathered the storm — she’s bounced back with her best work to date. Let Me Do One More, her third full-length, is an addictively enjoyable and unquestionably brilliant album that showcases Tudzin’s many talents. Her melodies are punchy and hooky as all-get-out; her lyrics are wickedly clever and work on multiple levels; her arrangements throw more than enough curve balls to keep you on your toes; her production is dynamic, distinctive and never derivative; and the whole damn disc manages to be fun and upbeat without ever feeling like fluff. I’ve been playing (and singing) Pool Hopping and MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA incessantly since I got the album. If you don’t find them stuck in your head pretty much instantly, get your hearing checked.


Kills Birds
Married

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “More than any young American rock band, Kills Birds approach their songs with an intensity that’s so tangible it feels like the stakes are near life and death. Fronted by Nina Ljeti, a Bosnian-Canadian filmmaker who has been called ‘L.A.’s most electrifying new rock singer,’ their performances are visceral and cathartic, fuelled by guitarist Jacob Loeb’s blistering riffs and Fielder Thomas’s pummeling basslines. While 2019’s Kills Birds was a debut that captured the promise of their grunge-inspired sound and Ljeti’s unflinching lyrics, their followup Married is a triumphant representation of everything that makes them so thrilling. It’s a document of a band pushing their musical chemistry to new heights.”


Low
Hey What

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Focusing on their craft, staying out of the fray, and holding fast their faith to find new ways to express the discord and delight of being alive, to turn the duality of existence into hymns we can share, Low present Hey What. These 10 pieces — each built around their own instantaneous, undeniable hook — are turbocharged by the vivid textures that surround them.The ineffable, familiar harmonies of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker break through the chaos like a life raft. Layers of distorted sound accrete with each new verse — building, breaking, colossal then restrained, a solemn vow only whispered. There will be time to unravel and attribute meaning to the music and art of these times, but the creative moment looks forward, with teeth. Hey What is Low’s 13th full length release in 27 years, and their third with producer BJ Burton.”


Todd Snider
First Agnostic Church Of Hope And Wonder

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Todd Snider has described the First Agnostic Church of Hope And Wonder — the namesake for his remarkable 19th studio album — as a house of worship presided over by “a preacher who’s full of shit, and when everyone starts to realize it, he asks God to help and God does, proving once and for all that God is hilarious.” With this premise, the groundwork is laid for Todd’s one-of-a-kind writing style to thrive — irreverent humor, somehow seamlessly woven with intricate and poignant storytelling. In the case of the First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder (a concept derived from Todd’s Sunday livestreams throughout the pandemic), much of that profundity comes in the form of remembering friends and mentors lost too soon.”


TV Priest
Uppers

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “It’s tempting to think that you have all the answers, screaming your gospel every day with certainty and anger. Life isn’t quite like that though, and the debut album from London four-piece TV Priest instead embraces the beautiful and terrifying unknowns that exist personally, politically, and culturally. Posing as many questions as it answers, Uppers is a thunderous opening statement that continues the U.K.’s recent resurgence of grubby, furious post-punk music. It says something very different though — something completely its own. Four childhood friends who made music together as teenagers before drifting apart and then, somewhat inevitably, back together late in 2019, TV Priest were borne out of a need to create together once again, and brings with it a wealth of experience and exhaustion picked up in the band’s years of pursuing “real life” and “real jobs,” something those teenagers never had. “The process of making music had always been very cathartic for us,” they say, “and we probably didn’t realise that until we stopped doing it for a while and realised what was missing.”


Viagra Boys
Welfare Jazz

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “We wrote these songs at a time when I had been in a long-term relationship, taking drugs every day, and being an asshole,” Viagra Boys’ American-born frontman Sebastian Murphy explains. “I didn’t really realise what an asshole I was until it was too late, and a lot of the record has to do with coming to terms with the fact that I’d set the wrong goals for myself … I kept having this recurring nightmare where my mom was crying and my friends were all pissed off at me.” The band’s new album, Welfare Jazz, doesn’t bargain with the anxiety in that defeated feeling, but rather a boiling certainty that nothing and no one is absolute. To a greater degree than ever before, Welfare Jazz lays bare the band’s increasing concern with urgent contemporary issues; among them racism, classism, toxic masculinity and misogyny.”


The War On Drugs
I Don’t Live Here Anymore

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Over the last 15 years, The War On Drugs have steadily emerged as one of this century’s great rock ’n’ roll synthesists, removing the gaps between the underground and the mainstream, between the obtuse and the anthemic, making records that wrestle a fractured past into a unified and engrossing present. The War On Drugs have never done that as well as they do with their fifth album I Don’t Live Here Anymore, an uncommon album about one of our most common but daunting processes — resilience in the face of despair.”


The Wildhearts
21st Century Love Songs

Don’t let that title fool ya. Ginger and The Wildhearts’ 10th studio album — and their second outing since officially burying the hatchet and reuniting a few years ago — isn’t some set of contemporary romantic ballads. Unless, of course, you get weak in the knees at the sound of distorted punk-rock riffs, aggresively and relentlessly driving rhythms, massively soaring melodies, anthemic choruses, raggedly rugged vocals and songs with titles like Sort Your Fucking Shit Out and My Head Wants Me Dead. In that case, Love is truly a many-splendored thing. If you’re already hip to these criminally under-rated Brits, crank this sucker up and enjoy the latest chapter in one of the finest comeback stories in contemporary rock. If you still aren’t on the bandwagon, this is pretty good place to climb aboard.”


William Loveday Intention
The Bearded Lady Also Sells The Candy Floss

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The group’s name comes from my grandmother Ivy Loveday. When registering my birth it was mistakenly recorded as William Ivy Loveday, William being my great-grandfather’s name.The beginning of The William Loveday Intention group was ‘the intention’ to revisit some songs from the past that I had imagined could be orchestrated. (I’ve wanted to do something like this since Thee Headcoats with pieces like This Wondrous Day.) About 20 years ago I was approached with the idea of touring these songs with a small orchestra, an idea I was up for but never happened. In lockdown however it just came to my mind as something to follow through on. As is quite normal for me I booked the studio and under that pressure wrote two or three songs the night before — and on a few occasions, at eight in the morning just before I left for the studio. As usual there where no rehearsals and, due to the lockdown conditions, a few of the tracks are just me and Jim Riley (engineer) doing everything: drums, guitar, bass, organ etc. — because no one else would brave the plague and come into the studio. Those tracks sit hidden within the actual group recordings, and sound the same as if recorded by the group.”


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Tony Allen | There Is No End
Arab Strap | As Days Get Dark
The Armed | Ultrapop
Backxwash | I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses
Bad Waitress | No Taste
Courtney Barnett | Things Take Time, Take Time
Art Bergmann | Late Stage Empire Dementia
The Bevis Frond | Little Eden
Black Country, New Road | For The First Time
Black Midi | Cavalcade
Bomba Estéreo | Deja
Boy Golden | Church of Better Daze
Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes | Sticky
Wild Billy Childish & CTMF | Where the Wild Purple Iris Grows
Chubby and the Gang | The Mutt’s Nuts
Cleopatrick | Bummer
Turner Cody & The Soldiers Of Love | Friends In High Places
John Coltrane | A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle
Elvis Costello & The Attractions | Spanish Model
David Crosby | For Free
The Cutthroat Brothers and Mike Watt | Devil In Berlin
The Datsuns | Eye To Eye
Benjamin Lazar Davis | Benjamin Lazar Davis
Deep Purple | Turning To Crime
DeWolff | Wolffpack
Dinosaur Jr. | Sweep It Into Space
Dion | Stomping Ground
Divine Horsemen | Hot Rise Of An Ice Cream Phoenix
John Dwyer, Ryan Sawyer, Greg Coates, Wilder Zoby + Andres Renteria | Gong Splat
John Dwyer, Ryan Sawyer, Greg Coates, Wilder Zoby + Andres Renteria | Moon Drenched
Steve Earle | J.T.
Ett Dödens Maskineri | Det Svenska Hatet
Foo Fighters | Medicine At Midnight
Neal Francis | In Plain Sight
Geese | Projector
Gloo | How Not To Be Happy
Godcaster | Saltergasp
Laura Jane Grace | At War With The Silverfish
Guided By Voices | Earth Man Blues
Guided By Voices | It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them!
John Hiatt with The Jerry Douglas Band | Leftover Feelings
The Hold Steady | Open Door Policy
Houndmouth | Good For You
Tom Jones | Surrounded by Time
Femi Kuti / Made Kuti | Legacy +: Stop The Hate / For(e)ward
Pokey LaFarge | In The Blossom of Their Shade
Amythyst Kiah | Wary + Strange
Kid Kapichi | This Time Next Year
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard | L.W.
Kira | Kira
Legendary Shack Shakers | Cockadoodledeux
Los Lobos | Native Sons
The Lords Of Altamont | Tune In, Turn On, Electrify!
Jesse Malin | Sad & Beautiful World
Mastodon | Hushed And Grim
Melvins | Working With God
Mdou Moctar | Afrique Victime
Gurf Morlix | The Tightening Of The Screws
Modest Mouse | The Golden Casket
The Mountain Goats | Dark in Here
Old Time Relijun | Musicking
Bones Owens | Bones Owens
Parquet Courts | Sympathy For Life
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss | Raise The Roof
Quicksand | Distant Populations
Daniel Romano’s Outfit | Cobra Poems
Shaun Ryder | Visits From Future Technology
Dan Sartain
| Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise!
Ty Segall | Harmonizer
’68 | Give One Take One
The Shadracks | From Human Like Forms
Snail Mail | Valentine
Sons of Kemet | Black To The Future
Eddie Spaghetti & Frank Meyer | Motherfuckin’ Rock ’n’ Roll
Matthew Sweet | Catspaw
Swerve | Ruin Your Day
Tindersticks | Distractions
Tomahawk | Tonic Immobility
The Tragically Hip | Saskadelphia
Tunic | Quitter
Turnstile | Glow On
Unpinnable Butterflies | Radio Ocean
Alan Vega | Alan Vega After Dark
Alan Vega | Mutator
The Velveteers | Nightmare Daydream
Nick Vivid | No More Secrets
Nick Waterhouse | Promenade Blue
Matthew E. White & Lonnie Holley | Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection
Wine Lips | Mushroom Death Sex Bummer Party
Wreche | All My Dreams Came True