2021, like all other years, was a huge 12 month window for music. The Armed, MØL, Zao, Genghis Tron, Julien Baker, Lingua Ignota, Thrice, Pupil Slicer, Ice Nine Kills, SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Silk Sonic, Frontierer – the esteemed list goes on. So many great releases across a wide spectrum of artists and styles, positioning 2022 as a very hard year to top. (I cannot fathom the unhinged opinion that there WEREN’T any great releases this year, even when ignoring the bigger heavy hitters.)
Within this time frame, I also made a big personal choice, based upon multiple factors, arriving at the end of my tenure at Kill Your Stereo. In short, I was happy with it and felt I had taken it as far as I could. Now I know how artists feel when they quit or leave a band, feeling like they’d done all they could and wanted to. KYS was a place my name became synonymous with, a place where I had dished reviews and opinions out since 2014, had been its editor since June 2016, and owner since mid 2018. I’m proud of that.
From there, fade away into the night I will not, as like all of us, I love music – yes, even when I’m being a critical prick about it – and like the rest of WoS, I love writing about it. So I’m still at it, right here, over at New Fury Media, as well as Everything Is Noise. Which finally brings me to this here snapshot of what 2021 looked like for yours truly – my top 21 songs and albums of 2021 (can’t resist a good pun, I’m only human), plus my favourite artworks and music videos, followed by various visions of what the following 365 days will bring. See you there.
21 Albums for the year that was 2021:
#21 – The Plot In You – Swan Song
#20 – Silk Sonic – An Evening With Silk Sonic
#19 – Trade Wind – The Day We Got What We Deserved
#18 – Violet Cold – Pride
#17 – Converge/Chelsea Wolfe/Stephen Brodsky – Bloodmoon: I
#16 – Frontierer – Oxidized
#15 – Blindfolded And Lead To The Woods – Nightmare Withdrawals
#14 – Dying Wish – Fragments Of A Bitter Memory
#13 – Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
#12 – Knocked Loose – A Tear In The Fabric Of Life
#11 – SeeYouSpaceCowboy – The Romance Of Affliction
#10 – Pupil Slicer – Mirrors
#9 – Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
#8 – Ice Nine Kills – Welcome To Horrorwood
#7 – Thrice – Horizons / East
#6 – Hail The Sun – New Age Filth
#5 – Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready
#4 – Zao – The Crimson Corridor
#3 – MØL – Diorama
#2 – Genghis Tron – Dream Weapon
#1 – The Armed – Ultrapop
21 Songs for the year that was 2021:
#21 – Strawberry Girls & Andrés – ‘Crazy’
#20 – Health – ‘Dead Flowers’
#19 – Touché Amoré – ‘Hard To Explain’ (Strokes cover)
#18 – Silk Sonic – ‘Smokin Out The Window’
#17 – Trade Wind – ‘Burning The Iron Age’
#16 – Citizen – ‘I Want To Kill You’
#15 – Brockhampton – ‘Buzzcut’
#14 – Violet Cold – ‘Pride’
#13 – The Midnight – ‘Ghost In Your Stereo’
#12 – Gates – ‘Where To Begin’
#11 – Genesis Owusu – ‘Don’t Need You’
#10 –JPEGMAFIA – ‘Hazard Duty Pay’
#9 – Paledusk – ‘Wind Back’
#8 – Senses Fail – Lush Rimbaugh
7 – Turnstile – ‘Holiday’
6 – Johnny Booth – ‘Crowd Control’
5 – Rolo Tomassi – ‘Cloaked’
4 – Hail The Sun – ‘Parasitic Cleanse’
3 – Every Time I Die – ‘Planet Shit’
2 – Lingua Ignota – ‘Pennsylvanian Furnace’
1 – The Armed – ‘Bad Selection’ (5:30-9:23 below, but watch the whole video because its four of the best songs from Ultrapop.)
THE BEST ALBUM ARTWORK OF 2021
Trivium’s In The Court Of The Dragon had such epic renaissance artwork that was superior to the actual music. Trade Wind using a small portion of Jan Weenix’s 17th century hunting-game piece perfectly summarized the themes of The Day We Got What We Deserved and looked sweet. Maybeshewill’s comeback record, No Feeling Is Final, implemented a simple landscape photo that better communicated more about environmentalist politics than any cringe In Hearts Wake have put forward. Nightmare Withdrawals by New Zealand’s Blindfolded And Led To The Woods captured the mental health crux of their new LP so well. Also just looked sinister as fuck! Architects’ For Those That Wish To Exist is a great album cover wasted on a bad album. Oh, and any band that coughed up the licensing money for any surreal Mariusz Lewandowski paintings this year.
BEST MUSIC VIDEO OF 2021:
Most music videos are awful. We get it, you loved those generic golden, orange and blue movie posters from the last seven or so years and wanted the Lucius Fox room from The Dark Knight. There’s also too many interpretive dance music videos in lieu of something with substance. So I guess I’ll pick Pennsylvanian Furnace by The Saddest Mom, Kristin Hayter, AKA Lingua Ignota. It’s a video she shot, directed and edited by herself in order to meet a deadline, capturing that essence of working under the limitations of Covid-19 restrictions. The visuals – filmed in Pennsylvania where she now lives – are just as isolating as the song itself. Lazy eyes and ears would find it to be a “Christian” faith piece, but the video and track (and larger album) are extremely anti-religious. Knowing what she’s been through and what she’s talked about before in her art, the self-baptism scene at the end is intense.
FIRST GIG YOU HAVE LINED UP POST-COVID?
I would say My Chemical Romance but I was that excited about the new dates added to their next Aussie tour that I didn’t even notice it was for 2023 and not next year. Rip. So it’ll be Northlane at The Forum with Plini and Sleep Token in June, followed by Loathe at the Corner Hotel in July. (Technically, that’s a While She Sleeps headliner but I haven’t cared for their music since Brainwashed.) Honestly, I’m just fucking stoked at the prospect of experiencing live music again.
WHAT BAND GOT YOU THROUGH THESE PAST TWO YEARS?
Too many to mention but one that I can happily, confidently, mention in this regard is Health. Already one of my all-time favourites, especially off the back of 2015’s Death Magic LP, but during the last two years, I’ve connected even harder with this L.A. band’s incredible brand of equally aggressive, catchy and atmospheric noise-electronica-rock. Incredibly prolific group, have worked with everyone from Nine Inch Nails, JPEGMAFIA, Ghostemane, to Perturbator and, as per the below video, Poppy. If you liked Dead Flowers, then listen to these other songs of theirs in this order: Stonefist, Psychonaut, Body/Prison, Cyberpunk 2020, Goth Star and then Euphoria.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT YOU GOING INTO NEXT YEAR?
Becoming a father, for sure. That’s going to be a whole new experience for me, and I can’t wait for it. Not long to go now. Next year, I’ll be operating on Dad Time so be sure to cut me some slack.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2022?
Can I say my kid again? For music, the new Rolo Tomassi album, Where Myth Becomes Memory, a follow-up to what was the best album of the 2010s. Film? Scream 5, Across The Spider-Verse, The Northman, Moonfall, Doctor Strange 2, and The Batman. If either or all of these turn out bad I’m going to die a little inside. As for games: Dying Light 2, Sifu, and Horizon: Forbidden West, but also definitely Elden Ring. From Software’s games have meant more to me than most other whole forms of media, and now that they’re taking that already engaging and acclaimed Souls-Borne combat mechanics into a Breath Of The Wild-esque open-world, one that looks like it came straight out of the Berserk manga, I’m extremely excited. So do not message me on February 25th, I will ignore you.
Written by Daddy Alex Sievers