Wasn’t “music to reflect a pandemic” the theme for last year’s end-of-year-lists? 2021 finds us really thick in music that was made in the pandemic. My self-care regimen involves not wishing away the formless, endless present (my band is still in its ambient phase) and supporting art during economically and politically brutal times (another year of Bandcamp Fridays). These were the highlights I heard in new music.


Mia Doi Todd – Music Life 

Music Life restored my faith in art. A musical lifer herself, Todd knocked me out with her open-hearted soft rock.


L’Rain – Fatigue 

Debut of the year. Her art-pop makes emotional turns and formal gestures I didn’t see coming.


Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders & The London Symphony – Promises

Restorative, mystical electronic music featuring the spiritual jazz elder.


Genghis Tron – Dream Weapon 

The cyber-grind trio reformed as a “real” metal band with new means to realize their expanded horizons.


Jane Weaver – Flock

The reliably great British musician took her “men of Discogs”-approved (who asked them?) electronic psychedelia in a poppier direction.


Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg

The postpunk spoken-word vocal movement gains steam!


Olivia Rodriguo – Sour

Blame my 12-year-old son — he broke down my resistance. Same for Lil Nas X.


Dawn – Second Line

Truth be told, this futuristic R&B dazzler had me at the album cover.


Matt Evans – Touchless

It all felt “ambient” to me in 2021, but this was my ambient album of the year.


The Weather Station – Ignorance

Under her art-folk moniker, Tamara Lindman delivered a probing meditation on climate change and personal complicity.


Casper Klausen – Better Way

I’m a sucker for Steve Reich-inspired electronica, but this album’s emotionally unguarded quality was a special treat.


Quivers – Golden Doubt

This Australian band pressed buttons I forgot I had since the Go-Betweens’ 16 Lovers Lane.


Low – Hey What

On my own time, I check in with Low for about every other album. This time around, I was very glad to discover they embarked on their next phase.


Jarvis Cocker – Tip-Top: Chansons d’Ennui

Eventually I’ll see Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch; its soundtrack, the French language debut of Paris-residing Jarvis Cocker, is a hoot.


Geese – Projector

I find it comforting how NYC keeps churning out young New York guitar bands.


Sufjan Stevens – Convocations

Though I dip in and out of Stevens’ discography, this year I was in for his 50-track new age electronic collection (on the condition I get to shuffle tracks).