End of Year 2021: Favorite Listening

While we are a community focused on games and how they intersect with our lives, we’ve never shied away from exploring and discussing other media critically and enthusiastically. It only seems appropriate, then, that our End of Year event offer up a space for us to share our own “Waypoints” from 2021.

This topic is dedicated to anything that you listened to. That means both podcasts and music are welcome in this thread! Have a new favorite podcast, or a podcast that covers really important subjects? Got a new favorite album, full of bangers or full of ballads? As long as it delighted your ears, it’s welcome here!

After yelling at the YouTube algorithm until it hid all of the Fascism 101 videos, eventually it started spitting out some gems. Please feast your ears on the peerless Ms. Riyoko Takagi

I also discovered that Rob Zacny and I have a favorite group in common:

I live in a state of constant flux between being mainly into punk and being mainly into metal. This year, I was mainly into metal. :metal: So four-ish of my top five for the year are metal, apologies.

Heavy Temple’s Lupi Amoris is a bit of witchy, 70s throwback that I can vibe with just about anytime.

Khemis’ Deceiver goes from hard rock to doom metal within the same songs, and I love the mix.

I said four out of five would be metal, and here’s the one outlier: 2 Mello’s Sounds of Tokyo-To Future. Excellent Jet Set Radio Future-style tracks, a mix of hip hop and punky ska and electronic music. With the added bonus of being made by someone cool, and not Hideki Naganuma.

Nixil’s All Knots Untied is just solid black metal, and like all black metal I’ve liked for the past few years, it’s also a bit antifascist. A perfect combination.

So, my favourite album of the year… I don’t really know how to explain this one. It’s called Henki, a collaboration between Richard Dawson (an English folk singer) and Circle (a Finnish experimental rock/heavy metal band). The result is kind of King Crimson-y, I love it.

Honorable Mentions: Montero was my favorite song that was actually popular with people who don’t just browse bandcamp all day; IDLES’ Beachland Ballroom, pt. 2 just has a fun music video; also, as mentioned in Favorite Watching, the OP for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean is good as hell.

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Wolf Alice released a new album and I might like it more than their first, which is a high bar.
I feel like a second album is often the real proving ground for new artists. Especially if their first album was great. Do they get what they did right the first time? Can they build on that without it just feeling like a redo or otherwise feeling same?
Blue Weekend feels like Wolf Alice confidently strutted into the room and in unison went “We got this.” And they did indeed got this.

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I don’t listen to nearly enough new music. This year I spent a lot of time on RYM and got irresponsibly into Peter Gabriel and Genesis. PG3 is an all-timer.

My favorite album that came out in 2021 that I’ve heard so far was Promises, the collaboration between Pharaoh Sanders and Floating Points with the London Symphony Orchestra. Very ethereal, moody, and lovely, returning to this same little melodic question mark. There seems to be a slow revival of Third Stream occurring, and I’m here for it.

I will also add a shout-out to Nala Sinephro’s Spaces 1.8, a kind of ambient jazz record. Soft, understated, with some surprising textures.

Other than that, I am continually on my shit, and I think the new TMBG record, BOOK, was a really solid addition to their catalog. I thought Yeti Season by El Michels Affair was also cool.

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I’m not as big an album person anymore as I usually stick on mixes and live by the tunes I find and the algorithm but two really stuck out for me:

Joy Orbison - still slipping vol. 1

Sega Bodega - Romeo

A common criticism of dance music (and more generally electronic music) is that it doesn’t have the same emotional resonance as other types of music but I would point to these two as examples of how that isn’t true. Joy O’s debut manages to feel really personal to him by marrying the sounds that he helped pioneer (albeit more downbeat than his past singles and EPs) with lots of snippets of his family and friends peppering the tracks. It’s funny to hear his mum talk about why she likes one of his tunes or a family member saying “well once you call it a mixtape everyone immediately loses interest”. Very nice tunes. Also as the clubs and bars have reopened right as Better released I’ve heard it everywhere and I associate it with some feeling of normality and seeing friends again.

Sega Bodega’s a much more recent record and while I think it might be recency bias I keep coming back to it. It’s a very beautiful, sad, and romantic album about Salvador Navarette falling in love with an imaginary woman of pure light. I love the autotune crooning, the sad little beats and it hits especially hard towards the end in Um Um, his dedication to SOPHIE. I miss SOPHIE so much and another horrible facet of the pandemic has been that there’s never been a public opportunity to mourn one of the greatest producers of the 21st century. It’s hard to pick a song I love the most but Only Seeing God When I Come is a very silly song name that’s very nice to listen to maybe as I discovered it right as I met my current girlfriend.

Music is good!

One of my favorite new podcasts this year has been Queerly Natural, a queer ecology podcast about the diversity of sexuality, sex, and gender in the natural world. It’s been a lot of fun, I just wish there were more episodes!

A friend also introduced me to the album Tender Buttons by Broadcast and it’s been on heavy rotation the past few weeks.

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As with everything else, I’m usually a few years behind on music. I did listen to a few new albums this year, but probably most people on here have heard of Porter Robinson and Snail Mail. I’ll drop the vid to the best vid on Porter Robinson’s album, Nurture, though, because I just noticed it’s nicely animated:

If you want something you maybe haven’t heard before, check out Papaya by Standards. Chill math rock that is simultaneously extremely difficult to play. Some of the most pleasant stuff I listen to:

Honorable mentions to the Soccer Mommy and Beach Bunny EPs from this year. I’ve been blasting Soccer Mommy a lot of late. I’ll allow myself to share one more video because it’s Nintendo Mii themed and that’s funny as hell and this is a game site**(there is some flashing imagery here)**:

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JPEGMAFIA was my most-listened artist of the year, and that was before he dropped LP!. This album feels like a culmination of everything he’s done since Veteran. It’s a victory lap; he knows he’s one of the greatest at what he does and isn’t afraid to show you why that is. Truly incredible moments. HAZARD DUTY PAY! is unstoppable.

Similarly, Bob’s Son by R.A.P. Ferreira (formerly known as milo) feels like a showcase of what has made him a standout rapper and producer throughout his whole career. Abstract beats and absolutely KILLER lyrics. It took some time to grow on me, but some of these songs have wormed their way deep into my brain. https://afrolab9000.bandcamp.com/album/bobs-son-r-a-p-ferreira-in-the-garden-level-cafe-of-the-scallops-hotel

This album is technically from last year, but I was lucky enough to see Ichiko Aoba perform Windswept Adan earlier this year and it was pure bliss. Meditative joy and beautifully fragile sounds. https://ichikoaoba.bandcamp.com/album/windswept-adan-concert-at-bunkamura-orchard-hall-live

Honorable Mentions (aka only listened to them within the past couple months but haven’t been able to stop):
Vince Staples - Vince Staples ft. Vince Staples
SINNER GET READY - Lingua Ignota
A Beginner’s Mind - Sufjan Stevens/Angelo De Augustine

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I have friends who extensively catalogue and update a year end list/top albums of all times list, but my brain just doesn’t work that way so I’m just going to shout out the albums that I’ve listened to a lot this year with no ranking in mind and my favorite track off each one.

Katy Kirby - Cool Dry Place Track: Juniper
The Ophelias - Crocus Track: Sacrificial Lamb
Adult Mom - Driver Track: Berlin
Antonioni - S/T Track: Mouth Breather
Arthhur - Occult Fractures Track: Doom Journalism
Blossom Hall - Pyre Track: Parasols

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Black MIDI! I love me some jazz punk nonsense, and this gives me the same vibes as Nation of Ulysses, Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, or The Blood Brothers. Definitely a favorite of the year:black midi - John L - YouTube

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There are only two songs from this year that really stole my heart. Japanese Breakfast had the album of the year, and the main single, Be Sweet, is a total banger. And the music video is a shout-out to X-Files and is adorable.

And since I’m a total Taylor-stan, so have to shout out her much improved and more impactful version of All Too Well, 10 Minutes now:

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Normally I’m a hardcore kind of guy. It shaped my life and I still go to shows, most of my friends are from hardcore, and it’s just who I am. I love other stuff (ska, jazz, city pop, etc.), but generally my preferences lean toward hardcore punk.

Well THIS year I got really into metal. I had listened to a lot of American black metal (the uhhh… anti nazi stuff like Panopticon and Falls of Rauros. Gotta be careful with bm), but not much metal outside of that. However, I fell in love with Death this year. Like, head over heels, became a metalhead because of this band. I saw the video linked (with a timestamp for my favorite song) and was astounded. It was brutal with amazing musicianship that most hardcore just doesn’t have. The drums? Out of this world. The guitar was immaculate, and he was doing it while screaming. And the guitarist/vocalist Chuck just had a presence in the video that was undeniably that of a rock star.

Also, thank you @ricotta for good metal recs!

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2021 was a good year for new music.

My top album of the year is probably Glow On by Turnstile. These dudes are not for everyone, as some of my old friends from the punk scene have told me time and time again. They are pushing the genre and that should always be celebrated.

Another band that put out a ripper this year is Drug Church. I actually missed their show last week due to COVID, which really bummed me out. Luckily they’re rolling back through in March.

Jeff Rosenstock’s Ska Dream is so much fun. Just doing ska covers of his 2020 album. I played this album so much during the summer. Just always puts a smile on my face,

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Shit, Heavy Temple…haven’t thought about them in years. I actually worked with their original drummer at a bar while I was in undergrad. Glad to see that they’re still going (and seem to be garnering quite a following).

For the past few years I’ve tried to split my time revisiting old favorite artists and discovering new ones.

Top revisits: Radiohead and The Weakerthans.

I approached The Weakerthans with some hesitancy because a LOT of the music I listened to from that era has proven to be super misogynistic upon revisiting, but I came away appreciating this group more than ever. The Weakerthans music is seeped in the everyday, in stories of class, and stories of just getting through the day. They are profoundly adept at describing the moments, those both exact and vague, when a routine breaks, when the familiar and safe slips into the unknown, when a chapter ends. Between making several moves, hospital stays, and months long lockdowns their grounded and empathetic music from the threshold of the everyday and the unknown meant a lot to me. (Also I’ll always be a sucker for a Hopper reference)

Radiohead I think I went back to for pretty much the same reasons. The creeping dread and isolation of thier work speaks to the darker moments of the past few years in a way that’s extremely cathartic

Top new artists: Kero Kero Bonito and Japanese Breakfast

The best part of KKB is that there’s an album for any mood you may be feeling. They are one of the only bands I know that can completely switch up styles between albums and yet still feel like the same group. This years Civilization is a short but incredible take on the apocalypse that ends on this track that ties all thier previous work together (this song would absolutely play in the Zion temple rave in 2021)

A bunch of people have rightly brought up Japanese Breakfast already because holy shit Jubilee is an incredible album so I’ll just add that ‘I’m just the empty space inside the room’ is the best sung lyric of the year and personal fav track is:

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I’ve really been enjoying the new Bizarre Podcast: Dogs Must Die podcast from Chip and Ironicus, going through the catalogue of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure anime.

In a similar vein, I picked up the Just King Things podcast after a recommendation from Waypoint and have been fascinated to go through the chronological history of Stephen King, who I’ve read/seen several things from but didn’t have a full picture of.

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