My Favorite Albums of the Year

by Levi Dayan






[originally published November 2021]

 

In the past few years, and especially the past couple, opening any year-end retrospective with “[insert thing here] kept us going through yet another tumultuous year” has become as universal of a cliche as opening an essay with “since the beginning of time.” It doesn’t make sense that I seemingly read the obligatory “things are, in fact, not all fine” disclaimer attached to every year end list only one time of the year, as it feels like it’s become yet another thing sucked into the all-consuming blob that is the minutiae of post-pandemic life. But in the process of making this list I kept thinking of people who seem to genuinely believe that music “isn’t as good as it used to be”—a line of thinking that one would expect to be exclusive to boomers but is shockingly prevalent amongst younger, more connected people—must lead the most miserable lives imaginable. There’s certainly a degree to which even broad generalizations about “the state of music” are fair, as I definitely believe that Spotify has granted some of the most boring, middle of the road musicians an unwarranted degree of attention. But amazing music still comes out every day, because of course it fucking does. You may have to know where to find it—the algorithm certainly isn’t it—but it’s there, because as long as people continue to improvise and adapt with the constantly shifting specter of change, brilliant, creative art will come out of it. In short, I’m reminded of something I mentioned in a previous article about seeing a group lead by percussionist Michael TA Thompson in New York just prior to the start of this semester. Thompson said at the end of his set (which I’m paraphrasing here): “People say everything in the world is crazy, but it can’t all be crazy because we’re all here sharing this music.”



  • Keith Rowe - Absence

  • Vijay Iyer / Linda May Han Oh / Tyshawn Sorey - Uneasy

  • Kuzu - The Glass Delusion

  • Lea Bertucci - A Visible Length of Light

  • Floating Points / The London Symphony Orchestra / Pharoah Sanders - Promises

  • Eiko Ishibashi - For McCoy

  • James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quartet - Jesup Wagon

  • Roscoe Mitchell / Mike Reed - The Ritual and the Dance

  • Fred Frith / Ikue Mori - A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall

  • Ustad Saami - east Pakistan sky

  • Bill Orcutt / Chris Corsano - Made Out of Sound

  • Natural Information Society - descension (out of our constrictions)

  • Lisa Cameron / Sandy Ewen - See Creatures Too

  • Judith Hamann - Hinterhof

  • Will Guthrie / James Rushford - Real Real World

  • L’Rain - Fatigue

  • Fire! - Defeat

  • Jim O’Rourke / Eiko Ishibashi - Live in Hokutoshi

  • Toshimaru Nakamura - Culvert (No-Input Mixing Board 10)

  • Anne Guthrie - Gyropedie

  • Rodrigo Amado This is Our Language Quartet - Let the Free Be Men

  • Ahmed - nights on saturn (communication)

  • Beatriz Ferreyra / Natasha Barrett - Souvenirs Cachés / Innermost

  • Julius Eastman - Femenine (performed by Wind Up)

  • Cristián Alvear / Cyril Bondi - Sigh (carried away) [comp. d’incise] / grado de potencia #2 [comp. Santiago Astaburuaga]

  • George Lewis - The Recombinant Trilogy (performed by Claire Chase, Seth Parker Woods & Dana Jessen)

  • Artifacts - ….and then there’s this

  • Aaron Dilloway / Lucrecia Dalt - Lucy & Aaron

  • Makaya McCraven - Deciphering the Message

  • Toshimaru Nakamura / Tetuzi Akiyama - Idiomatic Expressionism

  • William Parker - Mayan Space Station

  • Ken Ikeda / Rie Nakajima - Signal and Signaless

  • Strictly Missionary - Heisse Scheisse

  • Wadada Leo Smith, Douglas Ewart & Mike Reed - Sun Beans of Shimmering Light

  • Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble - Now

  • Susan Alcorn / Leila Bourdreuil / Ingrid Laubrock - Bird Meets Wire

  • Ben Lamar Gay - Open Arms to Open Us

  • Senyawa - Alkisah