The Honorable Mentions
This week, the guys elaborate on the albums that just barely missed our Album of the Year list.
Last week on the podcast, we unveiled our 15 Albums of the Year! The list included mainstream standouts like Happier Than Ever, Sour and Call Me If You Get Lost, but also included more niche releases like Tems’ If Orange Was A Place, Navy Blue’s Navy’s Reprise and Japanese Breakfast’s Jubilee.
We had a great time making our Top 15, but naturally there were several *great* albums that didn’t make the cut…Which brings us to this week’s newsletter!
We’re talking all about our honorable mentions — the albums that may not have been our favorites of the year, but still deserve some praise!
Check out the list below!
Also — Happy New Year! We really appreciate everyone who has read the newsletter this year and can’t wait to show you what we have in store for 2022!
Year in Review: Albums of the Year
AOTY: The Honorable Mentions
Friends That Break Your Heart - James Blake
Released: October 18
Standout Track: “Say What You Will”
James Blake masterfully created the soundtrack to autumn. His fifth-studio album feels moody and introspective, perfect for grey skies, cool temperatures and wistful souls. Equally dreamy and melancholic, Friends That Break Your Heart articulates lessons learned from relationships platonic and romantic. The first and final tracks on the album, “Famous Last Words” and “If I’m Insecure,” offer reflective views of a man begrudgingly clinging onto damaging friendships and toxic relationships. But in between the two, Blake offers rose-colored optimism with “Foot Forward,” interweaves his signature vocals with the fast-spitting flow of JID on “Frozen,” and soulfully croons about fighting through his insecurities on “Say What You Will.” Frankly, Adele’s last minute release of 30, which delivered a similar concept that feels more well-rounded, just barely pushed FTBYH out of my top 5. But Blake’s album is still undoubtedly a highlight of the year.
OK Human - Weezer
Released: January 19
Standout Track: “All My Favorite Songs”
There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe how happy I am that Weezer released a good album in the year 2021. In a project that was born out of the pandemic, and featured fewer guitars than any of their previous albums, they released their best project since 2016. Who would have thought! This album shows that Weezer still has some creativity in the tank, from songs about audiobooks in “Grapes of Wrath”, to missing things that were once mundane on “Aloo Gobi”, to actually sad songs like “Dead Roses.” It has the occasional stinker, like “Screens,” where Rivers sounds like a boomer, but nonetheless, this album makes me very excited for the future of Weezer.
Half God - Wiki
Released: October 1
Standout Track: “Wik Da God”
The veteran Queens rapper has put out solid music since his days as part of the hip-hop group Ratking. But on Half God, he put out his most realized, focused, descriptive and visual bars of his career. Fully produced by Navy Blue, the production here is soulful and minimalistic and gives Wiki the space to be as witty and detailed as he wants to be. He shows off his story-telling skills on “Drug Supplier,” he’s reflective and emotional on “Never Fall Off,” and on songs like “Can’t Do This Alone,” “Wik Da God,” “Ego Death,” “New Truths,” and “Grape Soda” he just raps his ass off.
Donda - Kanye West
Released: August 29
Standout Track: “Jail”
Donda is a chaotic mess that works. Over the course of a sprawling hour and forty-five minutes, Kanye delivers a full course thematic experience – complete with hymns and chants, stadium-shaking anthems, introspective ballads and genre-bending production. Standout tracks like “Jail,” “Heaven and Hell” and “Moon” exemplify Kanye’s penchant for leading innovation within rap; pairing simple but effective lyrics with ethereal but boomin beats. “Off the Grid,” “Hurricane” and “Junya” highlight Ye’s willingness to embrace, and compete with, members of rap’s new guard like Fivio Foreign, Lil Baby and Playboi Carti. While the album’s length, or more so Kanye’s inability to refine, disqualified it from my personal top 5, its overall appeal more than justifies an honorable mention.
An Evening With Silk Sonic - Silk Sonic
Released: November 12
Standout Track: “Smokin’ Out The Window”
Anderson Paak. and Bruno Mars teamed up this year to make one of the most fun times I had listening to an album this year. With Bruno playing the more smooth-talking player and Anderson singing as the crasser of the two, they create a love letter to ‘70s soul and R&B. It is short and fairly concise, and I may have hoped to hear a little more sonic variation from this duo. However, I hope that the two of them make more music together in the future because by pulling together some of the best elements of both of their styles, they create beautiful harmonies here.
Haram - Armand Hammer & The Alchemist
Released: March 26
Standout Track: “Roaches Don’t Fly”
What can The Alchemist not do? You give him a rapper to work with, he’s going to give them dope beats, plain and simple. But what I found out about Billy Woods and Eulicid who make up the rap duo Armand Hammer is that these MCs are some of the most lyrical and precise rappers I’ve ever heard. Haram is just reflective of their already impressive skills. First of all, the cover of the album is eerie and creepy, which is reflective of the music. The intro track, “Sir Benni Miles,” sets the menacing tone of this album and every word said on it feels dark as hell, almost like a Batman villain wrote the lyrics. At the end of the second track, “Roaches Don’t Fly,” you literally hear roaches buzzing around, it’s scary as hell. The first time I listened I thought there were roaches in my ear, but it just embraces the darkness of this album and it carries throughout the whole project.
The Off-Season - J. Cole
Released: May 14
Standout Track: “Let Go My Hand”
The opening line of J. Cole’s sixth-studio album sums up the theme of the entire project: “This shit’s too easy for me now.” Cole over the course of the last decade has solidified his spot as one of the leading rappers of a generation. And though he’s often relegated to third behind Drake and Kendrick Lamar, the confidence he exudes throughout The Off-Season suggests he doesn't care. “.95 South,” “My Life” and “Pride is the Devil” prove that Cole still may be one of the top lyricists of our time. But its songs like “Let Go My Hand” and “Hunger on the Hillside” that highlight Cole’s biggest strength – his ability to tell detailed stories under the guise of a rap song. The sole critique I have with the album harkens back to it’s opening line: it felt too easy. Cole never really strays from his comfort zone. At this level of his career, the Fayetteville rapper can afford to take risks – I’d like to see him do so.
Super Monster - Claud
Released: February 12
Standout Track: “That’s Mr. Bitch To You”
It took everything in me to not include this in my top 5 albums of the year, just based on how much I listened to it. It is pretty typical bedroom pop, with some fun and relatable lyrics to anyone who was even a little rebellious as a teen or young adult. It’s very much for the suburban kid who wants to leave their town, which is exemplified in the song “This Town,” but it is through the lens of a queer indie rocker, which is such a fascinating perspective on life.
Alpha - Charlotte Day Wilson
Released: July 9
Standout Track: “Changes”
On her debut album, Alpha, Charlotte Day Wilson draws from gospel, folk, jazz and adult-contemporary to make an R&B album that is open and emotional. While Wilson’s voice is not booming, it is powerful and is the star of the show on every song. When you’re listening to your voice it feels like you're floating on clouds. On songs like “I Can Only Whisper,” Wilson just floats on the minimalist drums and her voice blends perfectly with the background vocals. On “Mountains,” Wilson’s talent as a songwriter and singer is shown off the most, it’s a beautiful showcase of her vocal range and personal songwriting. “Changes” is just a beautiful and reflective song about the changes in her life and the tone of her voice makes it feel like she was learning new things about herself as she was creating this album, plus the song is just great. She staked her claim as a mainstay in R&B.
Now on the 97 Demo Mix:
Songs from: Hiatus Kaiyote, Japanese Breakfast, Tyler, the Creator and more!
Ep. 74: Year in Review: Albums of the Year
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