End of year lists 2021

Another year has flown by; here are some of the things that I enjoyed immensely in 2021.

My favourite music of 2021, like in years prior, was a mixture of music released in 2021 and music released earlier which I only discovered or really got around to listening to this year. While I feel 2020 was primarily a year of songs, 2021 was a year of songs and albums; as such, a list for both the best songs I (re)discovered in 2021 and the albums I enjoyed most this year. Two notes of interest: two Bad Gyal songs (despite my usual and entirely arbitrary rule to feature each artist only once), one a recent official release, one a brilliant older track only to be found on YouTube; somehow, despite certainly having listened to A Promise before, Apistat Commander didn’t really hit home until this year, but then it really, really did, and as such made it to the list as a new discovery (something somewhat similar happened to The Microphones’ II. Solar System). The full list – in a somewhat lazily construed alphabetical order – is below.

Bad Gyal – Slim Thick
Caroline Polacheck – Hit Me Where It Hurts
Clipping. – ’96 Neve Campbell
Crying – A Sudden Gust
Elysia Crampton – Petrichrist
Full Of Hell – Armory Of Obsidian Glass
Himera – It’s U (Pearl Version)

Hitsujibungaku – ghost
Liturgy – HAJJ
Luna Kaguya – NEW ERA
Nick Hook, Mi$$il, Lao – Tardes de Verano
Patricia Taxxon – Brightest
Rakky Ripper – Coyote
Seiko Oomori – 私は面白い絶対面白いたぶん
Slayyyter – Over This!

TECH GRL – Mejor Sin Ti
The Microphones – II. Solar System
The Mountain Goats – The Slow Parts On Death Metal Albums
TUYU – Compared Child
Utada Hikaru – 誰にも言わない
Wasuta – 雨のキモチ
Xiu Xiu – Apistat Commander

Of the albums listed below, some have an album track featured as one of my favourite tracks above; for others, however, my enjoyment of the album has been an immersive experience in which I found a selection of any favourite track impossible – hence not necessarily full overlap between the artists featured on the list of songs and those featured on the list of albums. With some semblance of order imposed, the list is posted below.

Liturgy – H.A.Q.Q.
Clipping. – Visions Of Bodies Being Burned
Crying – Beyond The Fleeting Gales
放射性Hi5 – 9.0水面下Megathrust
Full Of Hell – Weeping Choir
Code Orange – Underneath
Otoboke Beaver – Itekoma Hits
Utada Hikaru – 初恋
Sintel – Top Ten most Epic fish of all time
DJ Hardvore – Princess Lumina’s Dance Party (Starring Barbie as Princess Lumina)
Elysia Crampton – American Drift
Luna Kaguya – ×××
Giant Claw – Mirror Guide
Bad Gyal – Warm Up
Sueuga Kamau – Como El Viento, Vuelo

Some other musical things of note: Stickerbush Symphony, a track that that garnered fame as a checkpoint on YouTube, really resonated with me this year despite not having any nostalgia for it (I’ve never played the game) and was ambient tapestry for plenty of work days; the Bad Gyal YouTube nightcore rabbit hole is absolutely worth getting lost in; pawning off physicals as soon as they appear on Spotify bit me in the ass, because they can disappear again, too (Palace’s Arise Therefore, specifically, I had sold last year, and so I found myself having to buy it again this year); there wasn’t much in K-pop that excited me, but I found a lot of little gems in J-pop.

For reading, 2021 was definitely a good year, shattering last year’s record 55 books by this year’s neat 100 (I am currently 500 pages into Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 but don’t expect to finish the last 400 pages today) – and a diverse bunch of it, with some hefty tomes being part of those. Needless to say, not everything was equally brilliant, though I managed to drag myself through even those works I found less exciting (even the absolutely soul-crushingly boring The Light Garden of The Angel King by Peter Levi – beautiful title, horrible book) save but one – about halfway through The Book Of Disquiet, I shelved this collection of writings that despite all their supposed brilliance came off as little more than writings one might have encountered mid 00s on some teen’s MySpace. Perhaps, of course, this lack of appreciation is not so much The Book Of Disquiet’s fault but rather my own; equally, the way in which I attempted to read it – cover to cover – was perhaps also not best suited to it. However, I’ve not looked back and am currently not particularly keen to, either.

Fortunately, there was a lot of beauty to be found, too, both among the fiction and non-fiction works I read. The novels that left a most lasting impression this year were David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Paul Auster’s The Music Of Chance and Sayaka Murata’s two translated novels, Convenience Store Woman and, especially, Earthlings. I also read through the entirety of Matt Haig’s fiction oeuvre and found The Humans and The Midnight Library in particular to be pleasant, enjoyable reads.

The non-fiction I read was diverse, and much of it fantastic. I delved into North-Korea, reading a host of defector’s memoirs, as well as Barbara Demick’s excellent Nothing To Envy, the equally fascinating The Great Successor by Anna Fifield and the great and insightful The Real North Korea by Andrei Lankov.. I also started exploring the oeuvre of Svetlana Alexievich, truly an amazing voice (or, rather, multitude of voices) in her niche. Chernobyl Prayer was perhaps my favourite of her works I’ve read so far; devastatingly beautiful and absolutely harrowing at the same time. I also read more Kapuscinski, whose The Shadow Of The Sun I found especially captivating this year (and whose The Emperor reminded me of Alexievich). Other non-fiction works I found particularly impressive this year were bell hooks’ Ain’t I A Woman, Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons Of Math Destruction, Meredith Broussard’s Artificial Unintelligence, Angela Y. Davis’ Women, Race and Class, Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father, Christopher McDougall’s Born To Run, David Foster Wallace’s Consider The Lobster, and, last but not least, Michael Pollan’s amazing Cooked, which I found, in addition to a wonderful book about food and cooking, to be inspirational and instructive regarding life in general. Without further ado, the full list:

  1. Margaret Morris – Left To Our Own Devices
  2. Gabrielle Jackson – Pain And Prejudice
  3. Ryszard Kapuściński – The Shadow Of The Sun
  4. Emily Nagoski – Come As You Are
  5. Iris Bohnet – What Works
  6. Peter Levi – The Light Garden Of The Angel King
  7. danah boyd – It’s Complicated
  8. James A. Moore – Chaos Bleeds
  9. Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein – Data Feminism
  10. Aaron Michael Kerner and Jonathan L. Knapp – Extreme Cinema: Affective Strategies In Transnational Media
  11. Mark Adams – Meet Me In Atlantis
  12. Frans de Waard – This Is Supposed To Be A Record Label
  13. Sara Wachter-Boettcher – Technically Wrong
  14. Christopher Golden – Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide
  15. Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri – Ghost Work
  16. Cathy O’Neil – Weapons Of Math Destruction
  17. Monisha Rajesh – Around The World In 80 Trains
  18. Zeynep Tufekci – Twitter And Tear Gas
  19. Meredith Broussard – Artificial Unintelligence
  20. Modes Of Criticism 4: Radical Pedagogy
  21. Angela Y. Davis – Women, Race And Class
  22. Virginia Eubanks – Automating Inequality
  23. Dr Paul Julien – Kampvuren Langs De Evenaar
  24. Angela Y. Davis – Are Prisons Obsolete?
  25. Barbara Demick – Nothing To Envy
  26. Kanae Minato – Penance
  27. Yeonmi Park – In Order To Live
  28. Kanae Minato – Confessions
  29. Hisham D. Aidi – Rebel Music
  30. Paul Theroux – Deep South
  31. Matt Haig – The Midnight Library
  32. Matt Haig – The Humans
  1. Anna Fifield – The Great Successor
  2. Hannah Bervoets – Wat Wij Zagen
  3. Kang Chol-Hwan – The Aquariums Of Pyongyang
  4. Matt Haig – How To Stop Time
  5. Lola Olufemi – Feminism, Interrupted
  6. Matt Haig – The Dead Fathers Club
  7. David Foster Wallace – Infinite Jest
  8. Matt Haig – The Possession Of Mr Cave
  9. Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian
  10. Eunsun Kim – A Thousand Miles To Freedom
  11. Matt Haig – The Last Family In England
  12. Hyeonseo Lee – The Girl With Seven Names
  13. Zahra Hankir (ed.) – Our Women On The Ground
  14. Frantz Fanon – Black Skin, White Masks
  15. Matt Haig – The Radleys
  16. Darcy Lockman – All The Rage
  17. bell hooks – Ain’t I A Woman
  18. Thomas Pynchon – Against The Day
  19. Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club
  20. Michael Pollan – Cooked
  21. Thomas Pynchon  – The Crying Of Lot 49
  22. Ryszard Kapuściński – The Emperor
  23. Svetlana Alexievich – Chernobyl Prayer
  24. Masaji Ishikawa – A River In Darkness
  25. Arata Kanoh – The Place Promised In Our Early Days
  26. Lieve Joris – Op De Vleugels Van De Draak
  27. Nick Hornby – Fever Pitch
  28. Kenzaburo Oë – Voetballen In 1860
  29. Svetlana Alexievich – Last Witnesses
  30. Irene Vallejo – Papyrus
  31. Sayaka Murata – Convenience Store Woman
  32. Sayaka Murata – Earthlings
  33. Ryszard Kapuściński – Travels With Herodotus
  34. Raymond Queneau – Exercises In Style
  35. Hannah Arendt – The Freedom To Be Free
  36. Leslie T. Chang – Factory Girls
  1. Thomas Pynchon – Bleeding Edge
  2. James Joyce – Dubliners
  3. Herman Melville – Moby Dick
  4. Ryszard Kapuściński – Nobody Leaves
  5. David Foster Wallace – Consider The Lobster
  6. Jennifer Wallis (ed.) – Fight Your Own War
  7. Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell – The Disaster Artist
  8. S.D. Perry – Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
  9. S.D. Perry – Resident Evil: Caliban Cove
  10. Christopher McDougall – Born To Run
  11. Thomas Pynchon – Mason & Dixon
  12. Stuart Stevens – Malaria Dreams
  13. Jang Jin-Sung – Dear Leader
  14. bell hooks – Teaching To Transgress
  15. Carson McCullers – The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
  16. Dennis Cooper – God Jr.
  17. Svetlana Alexievich – The Unwomanly Face Of War
  18. Samrat Upadhyay – Arresting God In Kathmandu
  19. Chuck Palahniuk – Rant
  20. Koji Suzuki – Ring
  21. Koji Suzuki – Birthday
  22. James Baldwin – The Fire Next Time
  23. Junichiro Tanizaki – Het Geheim Van De Heer Van Musashi
  24. Andrei Lankov – The Real North Korea
  25. Makoto Shinkai / Asahi Akisaka – 5 Centimeters Per Second + Children Who Chase Lost Voices
  26. Paul Auster – The Invention Of Solitude
  27. Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
  28. Paul Auster – The Music Of Chance
  29. Christina Figueres & Tom Rivett-Carnac – The Future We Choose
  30. David Spiegelhalter – The Art Of Statistics
  31. Sherwood Anderson – Winesburg, Ohio
  32. Loung Ung – First They Killed My Father

Finally, here is an overview of the works I released this year, with particular thanks to the people who worked hard to release those beautiful physicals: Petar, K., Thomas and Eric.

  • Aisha Kandisha – This Blood Drenched Succubus, She Possesses The Black Waters, Haunts The Shadows, Eats The Skin Of Men (digital, Santuario De Sangre)
  • Demon Cabal – Through The Halls Of Eternity (digital, Santuario De Sangre)
  • Opaque – Black Duvetica Diadema (bizcard, self-released)
  • Opaque – Black Moncler Hudson II (C40, Field Strike)
  • Opaque – Duvetica Heze Yellow Hooded Puffer Jacket (bizcard, self-released)
  • Opaque – Ienki Ienki Michlin Arctic Blue Foil Jacket (C40, Fall Into Void Records)
  • Opaque – Moncler Armoise Volume I (bizcard, self-released)
  • Opaque – Moncler Armoise Volume II (bizcard, self-released)
  • Opaque – Moncler Armoise Volume III (bizcard, self-released)
  • Opaque – Moncler Armoise Volume IV (bizcard, self-released)
  • Opaque – Moncler Doas Iridescent hooded quilted shell down jacket (bizcard, self-released)
  • Opaque – MONCLER WORSHIP VOLUME 29 (digital, self-released)
  • Opaque – Pink Duvetica Diadema Nylon Down Jacket (C45, Veil Tapes)
  • Opaque – Vanessa Hong In Black Moncler (bizcard, self-released)
  • Opaque/Scarlet Diva – Split (C20, Summer Interlude Records)
  • Outerstellar: Music For The Mirror Image Of This Universe (digital, Absent Erratum)
  • Sven Kay – Patricia Taxxon’s Brightest Sunrise Dembow Flip (digital, self-released)
  • Sven Kay – Post-Perreo 5 (digital, self-released)
  • 𝘸𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘱𝘵.𝘸𝘢𝘷 – i’m not alive, i’m an echo (digital, Absent Erratum)
  • 공중부양 – The Humming Of Stones (digital, Absent Erratum)
  • 屋上のスキマ 白いソラ – 003 on Various Artists – Red Cheeks (digital, Aquatic Boy Band)
  • 斎藤 裕 · 長澤 まさみ · 西山 清 – Legend Of Ereganzia 「エレガンジアの伝説」 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK (digital, Absent Erratum)

See you next year!

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