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FanPost Friday: Music of the Year 2021 Open Thread

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“pop off only on occasions, brother.”

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers
i dunno, i could see kendrick as a high-leverage reliever in a different life
Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Hello and welcome back to FanPost Friday! Today we’re once again dusting off the ol’ Friday Open Music Thread for another BEST OF edition, which I straight up did not remember that I wrote last year until I Google searched for the previous music posts while writing this, but what is time anyways? Also, sharing this bit again just for context for any newcomers:

“There’s an old, occasional tradition around LL known as the “Friday Morning/Afternoon Music Thread,” which is a sort of b-side to the usual Off-topic open threads. I believe it was started by Jeff Sullivan just as a way to share links to whatever music people felt like spreading about. It’s been a good way to find out about bands and artists you might not otherwise hear. LLers are nothing if not eclectic as a whole.”

All right, let’s chop this up. There’s no baseball news to discuss anyways, right? THANKS, MANFRED. 2021 was another not great year for the planet at large. In the words of George Civeris, “Nothing felt right, and everything was pissing me off!”

What a strange year of ups and downs, stops and starts, and trying to make sense of life during an unending pandemic which is now primed to surge yet again. Hey hey hey, don’t spiral out on me, stay with me here! Look! There’s fun new music to listen to! And I want to hear what the LL community has been listening to. Just like in 2020, seeking out new music to listen to and finding new favorites was every bit of an important lifeline for me as ever. I’m sure many folks out there feel the same way. You have to have something to fill the hours when baseball isn’t being played, right?

Okay, onto the prompts! Please drop one (or all) of the following into the comments:

  • Your top 5 albums that came out in 2021
  • Your favorite 3 songs that came out in 2021
  • Post your Spotify/Apple Music/etc most played charts into a comment
  • Most importantly, share at least one tune via a YouTube link that you think others might enjoy, or just one that you’re really into from this year

But, I can’t let you go without sharing MY FAVORITES, too! So here ya have it.

Eric’s Top 3 Songs of 2021

Japanese Breakfast - Be Sweet (“Jubilee,” Label: Dead Oceans)

Let’s lead things off with something fun, light, and featuring an X-Files-themed music video, shall we? I think “Jubilee” by Japanese Breakfast will end up being my favorite record of the year overall and I could choose just about any track to feature here, but “Be Sweet” is just such an infectious and enduring jam. Songwriter/lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Michelle Zauner’s motif for Japanese Breakfast is mostly centered around how people deal with grief, as the death of her mother has been the common lyrical and thematic thread tying together the band’s three LPs and various singles. “Jubilee” continues that thread, but is more focused on how, when we’re ready, we can choose joy in the face of all we’ve lost and how righteous and healing that can feel. “Be Sweet” simply explores what we all want at the end of the day and at the end of our lives—someone to just be sweet to us.

Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar - family ties (“The Melodic Blue,” Label: pgLang/Columbia)

Okay, if you’re at all familiar with Kendrick Lamar and you haven’t heard this yet, strap in. You’re in for a treat. After that, go listen to this song from the same Baby Keem record. If you’ve never heard of any of this, Kendrick Lamar is a Pulitzer Prize winning rapper and one of the finest lyricists of his (or any) generation. His major label debut, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” (produced by Dr. Dre), blew up in 2012 and he had an incredible run of releases through 2018 when he collaborated and wrote several songs for the “Black Panther” soundtrack. Then he went mostly quiet until showing up this year on two absolutely blazing tracks on his younger cousin Baby Keem’s record, “The Melodic Blue.” Baby Keem already has 3 LPs to his name at the age of 21 and overall “The Melodic Blue” is an solid rap record front to back, but the 2 tracks featuring cousin Kendrick are some of the best rap songs of least the last 5 years and should go down as some of most defining songs of the genre for whatever we’re calling this current decade we’re in. Anyways, when the beat switches for Kendrick’s verse in “family ties,” the first time you hear it feels like a tidal wave looming before you. You are powerless to stop it.

Arlo Parks - Hurt (“Collapsed in Sunbeams,” Label: Transgressive)

Time to bring it down a notch. British singer/songwriter Arlo Parks dropped an incredible collection of lo-fi soul/dreamy alt-pop songs with “Collapsed in Sunbeams” back in January. At 21, Parks sings and tells stories with the wisdom and grace of someone two or three times her age. The song “Hurt” really hit home for me a lot this year, as it tells the story of a friend who is struggling with depression and grief. It’s honest, sad, empathetic, and subtly uplifting all at once. The chorus of “I know you can’t let go of anything at the moment, just know it won’t hurt so much forever” just works so well as both an acknowledgment and an affirmation that doesn’t simply sweep aside the hurt. Highly recommend listening following a tough Mariners loss or just anytime you’re in your feelings. Also, here’s more Arlo on an excellent KEXP at Home performance.

Finally, I’ll share a thread of some Best of 2021 Apple Music playlists I’ve been steadily compiling the last month or so. Enjoy and let’s hear your recommendations in the comments!