Aaron Lee Tasjan, BPM Collective, Brent Seavers, Bruce Moody, Chris Church, Daryl Bean, Doublepluspop, Drew Beskin, Dropkick, Fishboy, Greg Townson, Henry Chadwick, James Henry, Ken Sharp, Lane Steinberg, Lo Talker, Lolas, Matthew Milia, Mike Browning, Nicholas Altobelli, Rich Arithmetic, Rich Mattson and the North Stars, Richard Turgeon, Richie Mayer, Robert Ellis Orrall, Ruen Brothers, Rumble Strip, Sorrows, Spygenius, Steve Robinson, Steve Rosenbaum, The Armoires, The Blendours, The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness, The Brothers Steve, The Cudas, The Friends of Cesar Romero, The Speedways, The Unswept, Tommy Ray, Underwater Sunshine
In our social media-saturated universe it seems that your 15 minutes of fame has been reduced to just 15 seconds. Who going to give up the time to listen to a whole album, let alone gaze longingly at the cover (like we used to do) while it plays? That means today’s albums have really got to have something special going on, like great tunes, engaging styles, and hooks that seem to improve with repeated listenings. Those are the standards we applied to the 2021 album releases we encountered this past year, resulting in a list of 25 must-have LPs we think you should get to know. But wait, that’s not all. We’ve also helpfully culled the racks for top EPs, covers albums, and long lost albums that finally saw the light of day in 2021. Forget the Columbia House Record Club, we’ve got all the long-players you need and then some. Hyperlinks take you to the original review.
So let’s get the show rolling with Poprock Record’s 25 must-have LPs for 2021:
1. James Henry Pluck
2. Brent Seavers BS Stands For
3. The Boys with The Perpetual Nervousness Songs from Another Life
4. Lane Steinberg The Invisible Monster
5. Ruen Brothers Ultramodern
6. Aaron Lee Tasjan Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!
7. Greg Townson Off and Running
8. Rich Arithmetic Shiftingears
9. Richie Mayer The Inn of Temporary Happiness
10. Drew Beskin Problematic for the People
11. Rob Ellis Orrall 467 Surf and Gun Club
12. Nicholas Altobelli Technicolor Hearts
13. The Friends of Cesar Romero War Party Favors
14. Steve Robinson Swallowing the Sun
15. The Brothers Steve Dose
16. Lolas All Rise
17. Lo Talker A Comedy of Errors
18. The Armoires Incognito
19. Tommy Ray! Handful of Hits
20. Chris Church Game Dirt
21. Matthew Milia Keego Harbor
22. Henry Chadwick We All Start Again
23. Rich Mattson and the Northstars Skylights
24. Ken Sharp Miniatures
25. Fishboy Waitsgiving
Putting James Henry as my number 1 album choice for 2021 might surprise a few blog watchers but frankly I don’t know why Pluck isn’t topping all the indie charts. Maybe it’s the subdued cover art or perhaps the album just falls between the genre cracks, I don’t know. But if you love those highly listenable 1980s Squeeze or Crowded House albums, this guy is for you. Each song should be stamped ‘earworm warning’ as a positive public health measure. Take it from me, Pluck is a relentless hook machine. 5 stars for sure. Other choices – Brent Seavers, The Brothers Steve, Lolas, Chris Church – are perhaps more predictable. Hey, they’ve delivered before and here they deliver again. Genre-wise, Lane Steinberg and Fishboy undoubtedly raise boundary issues but damn they are fine albums with subtly hooky tunes. And the rest? Well they’re all defined by content that is mucho killer, nada filler.
Next up, Poprock Record’s top five EPs for 2021:
1. Daryl Bean Mr. Strangelove
2. The Blendours Go On Vacation
3. BPM Collective Catastrophe Girl
4. The Cudas Alien Vacation
5. Rumble Strip Let’s Roll
Can’t spare the time for a full album experience? These extended play releases will meet your need for more than a single but not quite a long-player. But fair warning, these concentrated blasts of melodic goodness may leave you wanting for more. They’re that good.
Then, there’s Poprock Record’s top five covers albums for 2021:
1. Richard Turgeon 10 Covers Volume Two
2. Mike Browning Class Act
3. The Speedways Borrowed and Blue
4. The Unswept Power Pop for all the People
5. Spygenius Blow Their Covers
The pandemic moved just about everyone to put out an album of covers. But they’re actually pretty hard to nail, ranging in quality from elevated karoke to the unrecognizable. The trick is to rework the unique creative spark in the song, making it both recognizable and different at the same time. Turgeon’s a master of song reinvention, taking up tunes others wouldn’t dare to try (from the likes of The Monkees, The Mamas and Papas, and the Bryds, among others) and succeeding. Browning applies his own distinctive poprock chops to material from the sixties to the eighties that lets you fall for the classics all over again. Ditto 3, 4, and 5 – they love the songs and it shows.
And finally, Poprock Record’s 5 best long lost albums of 2021:
1. Sorrows Love Too Late … the real album
2. Steve Rosenbaum Have a Cool Summer
3. Bruce Moody Forever Fresh!
4. Doublepluspop Too Loud, Too Fast, Too Much
5. Underwater Sunshine Suckertree
The idea that a band could put all the work into writing, playing and recording an album and then not have it released almost seems like a crime in my book. Numbers 4 and 5 had their work ‘misplaced,’ only to accidently resurface recently and get released. Numbers 2 and 3 were indie artists whose various DIY and professional recordings never got gathered together for a proper release, until the rise of recent niche music markets made it viable. And number 1 is a remarkable story of a band that wouldn’t let their record company/producer’s mangled version of their album stand. So instead they rerecorded it, this time getting it right. That the Sorrows could make their rerecording of Love Too Late sound so 1981 is a testament to their talent and sheer doggedness.
Ok, one last category, Poprock Record’s best ‘best of’ album of 2021:
Dropkick The Best of Dropkick
Sometimes greatest hits collections really hit the mark. The Best of Dropkick is one of them. It’s a comprehensive overview of this great band’s career, packaged with attractive artwork, and at a very nice price.
Well we stretched the 25 album limit but it really was the only way to be fair to all these super LPs and EPs. I think this post demonstrates that while classic era of the album may be over, there’s still lots of tremendous long-playing records out there. If you love them, support them, whether its live or Memorex.
Lego records graphic courtesy art/design student _Regn.