Another year passed in an atmosphere of chaos, intimidation, and ubiquitous uncertainty for all of us. Incompetent leaders have created for us a dystopian reality. Under these circumstances, the life of an artist is much more difficult. Canceled live shows, worldwide paranoia, and difficulties in traveling had a profound impact on us all. The only, although doubtful, advantage of the whole situation is the widespread increase in creativity and a large number of premieres. It was impossible to listen to everything. That is why I do not dare to summarize the year or make a ranking list. Instead, I’ll introduce you to a few albums that were my favorite in the passing year.
For the past nineteen (sic) years, Jerry Cantrell was focused on Alice in Chains rather than his solo career. Because of that, I was very excited for “Brighten”, which was released in October this year. The rock icon recorded over 40 minutes of pure rock music. The singles “Brighten” and “Atone” are one of my favs songs of this year. I also think that Jerry Cantrell recorded an “optimistic” album, contrary to what he experienced throughout the years. For me, “Brighten” is one of the best albums of the passing year.
Amid a flood of folk music ensembles, Wardruna is the one project that, in my opinion, the rest are trying to match. Einar Selvik‘s project has delighted us with its music for over a decade, transporting us in time and space. The band’s latest release, “Kvitravn” is a gem in Wardruna‘s discography. And an absolute classic in its genre. The title track and the delightful “Skugge” are some of the best songs that Selvik has recorded. The honesty and minimalism of this music touch the heart. I’ll be listening to “Kvitravn” many times in the coming years.
Nashville, the world’s country music capital, is hardly associated with grindcore and sludge metal. Yautja is going to change that. They’re not debutants, they released their first album in 2014, but the new album “The Lurch” solidifies them as a band and a force to be reckoned with. Spiritual sons of Black Flag with a “lost son” of Henry Rollins in the line-up (we’re talking about you, Shibby Poole) combine punk, crust, metal, hard rock. Listen to “The Weight”. You’ll know what I mean.
I haven’t listened to much black metal this year. And although I know what happened on the stage in 2021 because I follow the genre anyway, no one made such an impression on me as Wolves in the Throne Room. They’re no newcomers. Maybe it’s not the most popular black band in Poland, but their last output, “Primordial Arcana”, is something you have to reach for. The dense atmosphere of this album is simplyh mesmerizing.
Swedish stoner metallers from Maha Sohona have been playing for a few years, but it was only through YouTube that I found their album “Endless Searcher”. There are no weak moments here. The whole thing is played, sung, and produced so good, that I listened to this disc for several days almost continuously. I like to come back to it. Johan Bernhardtson’s vocals are one of the reasons why I come back to this album at least once a week.
I knew the British band Dvne before. They debuted some time ago with a well-received, stoner/sludge record with progressive elements. I still reach for “Asheran” from time to time. But this is the second album, “Etamen AEnka”, which blew me away. Long by today’s standards, the material steals almost 70 minutes of life and asks to be played again. For me, Dvne is one of the best young bands working with this genre. Despite the pandemic, they toured Europe this year. We will hear more from them soon.
If you don’t know who Bill Fisher is, you will associate him when I tell you that he is the frontman of Church of the Cosmic Skull. If this still doesn’t ring a bell, reach for “Hallucinations of a Higher Truth”. Fisher is the living incarnation of a musician from the turn of the ’60s and ’70s. Great compositions, strong vocals, and the second bottom in his music make you soak in completely.
Tommy Guerrero, a professional skateboarder who swapped a skateboard for a guitar, regularly releases new albums. This year “Sunshine Radio” was released. The next step in his musical career. His music is a mixture of rock, trip-hop, and jazz, with elements of soul and funk. The fifty-five-year-old Guerrero plays with the ease of a youngster and has a lot of fun doing it. He’s one of those artists that I listen to very often.
Finally, the album that’s my favorite from 2021, “Lost Themes III: Alive After Death”, by John Carpenter. Supported during recordings and on stage by his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davis, John has shown that he is an absolute master of the genre and an unrivaled role model. Both for me and other musicians who draw inspiration from the electronic music of the ’80s. We can record whatever we want, but the king is still one. His name is John Carpenter.
I could do this all day, writing about what I was listening to in 2021. I listened to Perturbator, Einherjer, Mastodon, Converge, and a few others. But this article is already too long. Apart from my favorite records of 2021, I also want to mention (I don’t care if I should or not) that I recorded and released for the first time an electronic/dark jazz album under my name entitled “Vertigo”. It was a landmark event for me. I also played two exciting shows with Doctor Visor. As many of you, I rarely attended any gigs, but my highlights for this year would be Siksa in Gdańsk during Soundrive Festival and black metal horde Sznur in Opole.
Some of you know that there were some pretty big changes in my private life, especially the one that happend during Cyberpunch event in Wrocław, but I will not discuss it here. This content is probably suitable for another type of magazine… 😉
Anyway, this year was a rough one and felt like 2020 all over again. It had some pretty nice ups, but the amount of lows was too big. Hope 2022 will be better. For us all!
And please, do look up!