Dad’s Top 20 Discs of 2021

December 27, 2021

Looking back at this entry from a year ago, I thought 2021 was going to kick off the new “Roaring 20’s.” Instead the year was hammered by Delta and Omicron variants, record inflation, and a broken supply chain. There was still a ton of great music that slipped out, and a return of live music. (Favorite show: The Monkee’s Mickey Dolenz and Mike Nesmith shortly before Nesmith’s sad death on December 10.)

Most of my musical consumption this year came from making playlists on Spotify, especially when I was laid low by COVID in August. (The fever sent me on a Steely Dan bender for some reason.) Spotify gave me a great musical project source thanks to my University of Oregon students. As an extra credit assignment, I created a “Race & Ethnicity Mix Tape” playlist. They submitted songs of racial consciousness and healing and we ended up with 229 tunes. Thanks to my Gen Z students, several artists were new to me. (Joey Bada$$ was popular in the mix.)

The musical highlight of the year was definitely the long-awaited release of Peter Jackson’s 8-hour Beatle documentary, Get Back, airing on Disney+ over the Thanksgiving holiday. Insight into the Beatles’ process and a chance to re-write the Let It Be record made it endlessly engrossing. Filmed the same year, 1969, Summer of Soul (on Netflix) gave a brilliant look at a Harlem black music festival that was overlooked by history as Woodstock hogged the limelight.

This year’s top album pics are not necessarily the best selling or most critically-acclaimed releases of 2021. I’m sure Tyler, The Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost is amazing and I’ll dive into Adele’s 30 and Kasey Musgraves’ Star-Crossed when I’m not quite as melancholy (i.e., living it). These are the albums that brought me joy and repeated listenings in ’21. I recognize that three of these artists, Wanda Jackson, Charles Lloyd, and Ringo Starr, are in their 80s. Paul McCartney turns 80 in June and Tony Allen would be 80 but died last year at 79. They demonstrate the longevity of creativity, and are balanced out by teenagers Olivia Rodrigo and Young Thug (who recently turned 20).

The top spot is reserved for The Beatles (surprise, surprise). The 5-disc “Super Deluxe” release of 1970’s Let It Be (remixed by Beatles producer George Martin’s son Giles) provided endless moments of Beatle discovery from the vaults, including a Fab Four version of George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” The packaging was stellar and stood as likely the last gift of unheard Beatle music for fans. The “in the room” outtakes served as a perfect soundtrack to the Get Back film.

  1. The Beatles – Let It Be Super Deluxe Edition
  2. Aida Victoria – A Southern Gothic
  3. Tony Allen – There Is No End
  4. Oliva Rodrigo – Sour
  5. Lana Del Rey – Blue Bannisters
  6. Paul McCartney – McCartney III Imagined
  7. Jason Isbell – Georgia Blue
  8. Young Thug – Punk
  9. Susanna Hoffs – Bright Lights
  10. Charles Loyd & the Marvels – Tone Poem
  11. Sleater-Kinney – Path of Wellness
  12. Neil Young – Barn
  13. Halsey – If Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
  14. Illuminati Hotties – Let Me Do One More
  15. Jasmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
  16. Cheap Trick – In Another World
  17. Bomba Estéreo – Deja
  18. Ringo Starr – Zoom In/Change the World EPs
  19. Various Artists – PDX Pop Now Vol. 18
  20. Wanda Jackson – Encore

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