Just kidding, it’s the same as everyone else’s! Sorry, no bestie slang from us.
This week kicks off ~Best of 2021 List~ season in earnest, and we’re off to the races to see whose narrative of the year is the least WTF. This is the second year of Best Ofs in a world where we all still mostly listened at home, with music editors putting together lists of tracks that were rarely experienced by people in the same room together.
The resulting weirdness and isolation is reflected in the lack of consensus for top records - there are a few shared names across lists (Jazmine Sullivan, Olivia Rodrigo, Japanese Breakfast), but the story of what happened in 2021 feels as scattered as our group chats. I’m collecting all the 2021 lists as they launch here, in case you want to check them out.
On to the READS and boy are they good:
Vulture gets at most important part of “Get Back” - ranking the FITS
I love all of Tom Breihan’s Number Ones, but his writeup and research on EMF’s Unbelievable lives up to the song’s name
I can’t not share this Jeremy Strong profile where it reveals he almost bankrupted a community theater group just to meet Al Pacino. Not music related! Don’t care!
This isn’t new, but tis the season to recollect the weird circumstances around how Vince Guaraldi recorded the GOAT Christmas record - did you know A Charlie Brown Christmas was originally Coca-Cola #sponcon?
THE UNSKIPPABLES #18
Sweeping Promises - Pain Without a Touch
I’m a few weeks behind on this one, but it’s great hearing one of the best new post-punk bands in recent memory deliver on their first official track since their truly excellent debut record Hunger For A Way Out last year. Singer Lira Mondal’s voice is Sweeping Promises’ crucial, searing instrument, and she anchors the sweet-yet-bracing track’s nervous groove, finding the exact pocket to turn the title phrase into a driving, shoutalong chorus.
Mach Hommy - WOODEN NICKELS
I missed Mach-Hommy’s first LP of 2021, Pray For Haiti, but this track, from his 2nd album of the year Balens Cho, pulled me in with his metered flow and the record’s creaky, sampled palette. The end of “WOODEN NICKELS” is anchored by a sax solo that spirals out into a single sputtering note, care of rising jazzer Sam Gendel. The solo sounds like it was recorded on an iPhone (in a good way!), complete with valve creaks and boxy room tones, giving the track a lived-in outro that stretches out but never overstays its welcome.
Grimes - Player of Games
I know it’s a silly Elon Musk breakup song, but this is honestly the first song I’ve enjoyed from Grimes since Visions. The searching pre-chorus, the faux Neuromancer vibes, gunmetal grey reverb, her weird vocal fry? I’m in.
Kaytranada feat. Thundercat - Be Careful
I slept on this EP for a few weeks but I kept returning to this track with Thundercat on vocals. The week before Intimidated dropped, I kept hearing Kaytranada in every bar, club, and restaurant I went to, my Shazam continually surprising me that it was the same artist everywhere. The roller rink pleasures of this single are sure to haunt me in public places over the next year, with the song’s easy groove and Thundercat’s cooed hooks destined for spring-into-summer playlists.
Blawan - Under Belly
This song from UK techno producer Blawan is both heavy and playful, the main synth sounding like a choir of giant dogs barking a melody lifted from Basement Jaxx. A reverbed, dischordant break stares down a giant well before returning to the crunchy bounce of the main groove. If only all techno workouts could be this colorful.
Dolly Parton - Peace Train (Junior’s Arena Anthem With Reprise)
This deeply bizarre piece of music came to me via Gabriel Herrera’s Twitter, and yes it IS a house remix of a Dolly Parton cover of a Cat Stevens song and YES it makes your brain feel deeply broken and YES it’s delightful. The best things in life don’t always make sense.
That’s all for this week - thanks for listening!