2021 Music Report

5 January 2022  •  Filed under ,

Last year was uneven in so many ways. You would think that being on lockdown for much of the last two years would have resulted in more music consumption than usual, but it turns out I was on track to listen to less music during this pandemic than at any other time over the last 17 years (that’s how long I’ve been tracking my listening activity with Last.fm). I’d blame the unprecedented onslaught of Zoom meetings, but my listening time had already been in slow decline for years; lockdown just accelerated the trend. I also escaped into gaming a whole lot in 2020, and a bit into 2021. So, it was really only in the last three months of 2021 that the floodgates opened back up, and I started listening to music again with mucho gusto.

(I’ve written at length about some of this music. Look for the star ★ symbols if you’re interested in reading more.)


Top Artists

1

Pale Waves

🎵 3,810 songs played

2

Softcult

🎵 747 songs played

3

CHVRCHES

🎵 491 songs played

4

The Cure

🎵 215 songs played

5

Metric

🎵 208 songs played

Pale Waves

No surprise here. Pale Waves are my most meaningful musical discovery in recent memory, and I have played them like there’s no tomorrow. I guess I’m emo now.

Softcult

Softcult released their first music in 2021 and continue to impress me with every new song they put out. My excitement over this band has only grown since I originally wrote about them, and I can’t wait for their next EP to drop in February.

CHVRCHES

I’m a sucker for good synthpop, and CHVRCHES did not disappoint this year. Screen Violence is so good, and it got me listening to their whole back catalog again.

The Cure

I played The Cure a lot last year because so much of the other music I listened to seemed to emphatically point me back to them. I’m not at all surprised that they continue to inspire artists more than 40 years later, but I am delighted.

Metric

Metric didn’t release anything new last year, but I’m still enjoying 2018’s Art of Doubt quite a bit.


Top Albums

1

My Mind Makes Noises

Pale Waves

🎵 2,429 songs played

2

Who Am I?

Pale Waves

🎵 733 songs played

3

ALL THE THINGS I NEVER SAID

Pale Waves

🎵 602 songs played

4

Year Of The Rat

Softcult

🎵 432 songs played

5

Screen Violence

CHVRCHES

🎵 290 songs played

Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises

Pale Waves’ My Mind Makes Noises is the album that burned through the haze and reignited my love of music last year. What a shimmering, effusive, emotionally unguarded, 80s-inspired coming-of-age pop-rock revival. It’s not only my most played album of the year, but possibly my most played album of all time.

Pale Waves – Who Am I?

As much as I like Pale Waves, I have a complicated relationship with their second album. They went in a very different direction on Who Am I?, changing influences from the likes of The Cure and The Primitives to early-2000s pop-punk and singer/songwriters like Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch. Talk about stylistic whiplash. Still, thanks to some irresistible songs, this album ended up having enough appeal to push it to the top of my listening this year.

Pale Waves – ALL THE THINGS I NEVER SAID

YEAH, IT’S PALE WAVES AGAIN. 🕶 I discovered their 2018 EP ALL THE THINGS I NEVER SAID this year, too, and I’m tempted to call it their best work overall. It’s just a bit more bright and plucky than the darker pop rock of My Mind Makes Noises, and a clear predecessor to bangers like “Television Romance” and “There’s A Honey”. I defy you to listen to “The Tide” without bopping your head at least a little bit. So freakin’ catchy.

Softcult – Year Of The Rat

Softcult’s Year Of The Rat was my second most exciting discovery of the year, and my favorite music released in 2021. This tight EP packs up all the best parts of 90s shoegaze, alt rock, and dream pop and pairs the music with socially conscious themes. I love this so much.

CHVRCHESScreen Violence

Huh, I wonder if I’m super into mid-80s to mid-90s new wave revivalist music. CHVRCHES often gush over Depeche Mode, The Cure, and New Order (and justifiably so; those bands are awesome), but I think Screen Violence is the first album where those influences are so plainly and literally present (e.g. Robert Smith’s guest vocals on “How Not To Drown”). I love hearing more guitar and real drums find their way into this band’s songs. It’s a really pleasant evolution of their sound, and probably their strongest album to date. Plus, drawing a line between horror films and all the trauma pushed through our screens over the last few years is pretty genius, if you ask me. It’s a very 2021 album.


Top Tracks

1

Kiss

Pale Waves

🎵 223 plays

2

Television Romance

Pale Waves

🎵 219 plays

3

Black

Pale Waves

🎵 204 plays

4

Red

Pale Waves

🎵 201 plays

5

Drive

Pale Waves

🎵 193 plays

I was am clearly obsessed with this album. “Kiss” is the best song The Cure never wrote.


Notables

Some of last year’s musical discoveries didn’t make my top fives, but are still worth mentioning:

BAND-MAID

The whole Japanese music scene is incredibly interesting to me right now, and this band is one of the best. I didn’t do them justice when I shared their live performance of “onset” with just a pithy blurb. I may write more later, but for now I’ll just add that watching this band’s live videos has—as the kids say—given me life. Unfortunately, a lot of their best live performances have been DMCA-ed off of YouTube, but some of them have survived as reaction videos. It’s worth enduring the reactions, though, to witness how tight and talented this band is.

Courage My Love – SPECTRA

This is the previous band from Softcult’s Arn-Horn sisters. A lot of their earlier music was squarely in the pop-punk genre, but their last two albums—Synesthesia and SPECTRA—shifted to synth-pop. SPECTRA in particular is quite good, though both albums start to hint at the sounds and themes that would eventually become Softcult.

The Joy Formidable – AAARTH

The Big Roar is one of my all-time favorite albums, so I eagerly awaited what came next for The Joy Formidable. Wolf’s Law, was pretty good, but Hitch just didn’t land for me at all. As result, I kind of stopped paying attention. Whoops. Last year, I caught a wild hare to listen to the band’s whole catalog, and AAARTH really stood out this time around. I hear a lot of the same sort of heavy, weird, experimental choices that I loved in The Big Roar, and it’s become my second favorite The Joy Formidable album.

HANABIE. – Girl’s Reform Manifest

Can metal be fun? This metal sounds fun. It’s also super heavy. I shared the music video for the song “We love sweets” recently, and since then I’ve listened to the whole album multiple times. Nothing else quite captures the magic of “We love sweets”, but this record still roars. “L.C.G – 2019mix” and “Reiwa dating apps generation” are a couple more fan favorites, if you’re interested.

Fickle Friends

I forget how I ran across Fickle Friends—the last 3 months was kind of a blur of music—but this band is delightful. They’ve written some of the strongest pop hooks in recent memory and have a tight-as-a-drum production sound right up there with Now, Now and HAIM. “Glue”, “Love You To Death”, and “Midnight” are absolute earworms. Really looking forward to their next album coming out this month.


Listening Highlights

Total Time Listened

667 Hours

Longest Listening Streak

89 Days in a row

Artists Played

550

Albums Played

917

Total Tracks Played

10,781

Unique Songs Played

3,079

Average Plays Per Day

30


New Music

New Artists

182 (33%)

New Albums

440 (48%)

New Tracks

1,324 (43%)


Vibes

  • Indie Pop (30%)
  • Indie (20%)
  • Synthpop (20%)
  • Pop (15%)
  • Shoegaze (15%)

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