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Our Favorite Albums of 2021

Our favorite albums of 2021 are an eclectic mix of jazz, country, movie soundtracks, and R&B to get you through the holidays.

Our Favorite Albums 2021

Live music is definitely back but we saw less than a handful of shows in 2021 including Air Supply, Smashing Pumpkins, and some local acts on RSD 2021. Our bank accounts are feeling slightly depleted after 3 RSD 2021 events and a lot of online orders. We’ve also spent a lot of time on Qobuz, TIDAL, Apple Music, and Spotify to pass the time during the pandemic lockdowns and have some spirited differences of opinion when it comes to our favorite albums of 2021.

Eric Pye

Favorite RSD Albums

Thelonious Monk – Palo Alto (The Custodian’s Mix)

I’m not a huge Monk fan, but bought this on a whim, thinking a high school performance would be more accessible than his other stuff. I was right, and the sound quality, considering it was recorded by the school janitor, is excellent.

Kenny Dorham – Quiet Kenny (Riverside/Craft Recordings)

Some controversy over this release as so few copies (3900 worldwide) were pressed. An exquisite record, beautifully remastered by Kevin Gray, and one I feel lucky to own. Story here.

Favorite Audiophile Vinyl Reissue

Paul Chambers Quartet – Bass On Top (Blue Note Tone Poet)

This fanboy loves everything from the Tone Poet series, but from the opening bowed bass notes of Yesterdays, you just know this one’s going to be extra special, and it does not disappoint. Another stellar release from the hands of Kevin Gray and Joe Harley.

Shoji Yokouchi (Three Blind Mice/Impex)

When audiophiles speak of reference albums to show off an audio system, they’ll typically have one album for highs, another for mids, another for bass, for soundstage, for atmospherics…This one shows off everything in one. Remarkable recording from TBM, mastering by Chris Bellman, and pressing by RTI make this Impex release a must have.

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Favorite New Jazz Album

Curtis Amy – Katanga (Blue Note Tone Poet)

The Easter egg of the Tone Poets? This one came out of nowhere, but is a firm favourite amongst serious series collectors. The synergy in this sextet of virtual unknowns and interplay between Amyand co-leader DuPree Bolton is remarkable. Kudos to Joe Harley for selecting this one and bringing it some deserved attention.

Ryo Fukui – 1977 Live At Vidro

Previously unknown live performance recorded shortly before Fukui entered the studio for his second album, Mellow Dream. Fun to hear variations on tunes from his first, Scenery, and gestational musings on those laid down a few months later on Mellow Dream. Quickly became my favourite Fukui release.

Favorite New Artist

Lady Blackbird – Black Acid Soul

Not yet released in North America, but coming in early 2022. This one is going to be huge. Lady Blackbird has a million-dollar voice – soulful, passionate, raw – and the songs are all crackers. If you love the Black Pumas, this is right up your alley.

Ian White

Favorite Albums

Pokey LaFarge: In the Blossom of Their Shade

Durand Jones & The Indications: Private Space

Favorite RSD Albums

Ella Fitzgerald: Ella in Berlin

Favorite New Jazz Albums

Veronica Swift – This Bitter Earth

Christian McBride & Inside Straight: Live At The Village Vanguard

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Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders/The London Symphony Orchestra: Promises

Favorite Jazz Reissues

Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder (Blue Note Classic Vinyl)

Herbie Hancock: Inventions and Dimensions (Blue Note Classic Vinyl)

Favorite Movie Soundtrack

Judas and the Black Messiah: Music by Mark Isham & Craig Harris

Favorite New Artist

Yasmin Williams: Urban Driftwood

Lauren Halliday

Favorite RSD Album

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Soundtrack

Seventeen years after its original release, the soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou finally got a vinyl release this Record Store Day Black Friday. Pressed as a double LP on blue vinyl, the mix of David Bowie and Seu Jorge with Mark Mothersbaugh originals is as delightful now as ever. 

Favorite New Jazz Album

Julian Lage – Squint

Julian Lage makes a triumphant debut on Blue Note Records alongside his dynamic trio with Jorge Roeder and Dave King.

Favorite New Rock Album

The Sheepdogs – No Simple Thing 

Though technically an EP, the latest release from Saskatchewan’s The Sheepdogs shows the band continuing to deliver their effortless style of classic, guitar-centric rock with songs that are guaranteed to stick around in your head for days.

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Favorite New Artist

Sierra Ferrell

Sierra Ferrell released her debut record, Long Time Coming, on Rounder Records in August and has developed a strong following among country and bluegrass fans. Ferrell’s striking voice coupled with a knack for writing timeless tunes results in one of the best albums of the year of any genre.

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