The MLB lockout is probably going to be very monotonous, and writing about it and discussing it daily will feel just as tedious.
I’m keeping all of my lockout thoughts in First Pitch. However, I’ve been thinking of ways where First Pitch can have alternate themes, for those who are tired of lockout talk on any given day. These themes will stray from baseball into entertainment.
To start this idea, I’m going to dedicate the Friday night/Saturday morning First Pitch each week to music discussion, after a quick Lockout update.
The biggest actual update I saw today was this from Jayson Stark.
Pitch clocks!…Shift bans!…Robot umps!…The Double Hook!
They won't be coming to a bargaining table near you – because, in a surprise move, MLB has taken rule changes off that table.
I looked into why – and how it could endanger the chances of a dealhttps://t.co/63a0E7uX6D
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 3, 2021
I spent a lot of time this year listening to Spotify. In fact, more than 98% of other users.
— Tim Williams (@TimWilliamsPGH) December 1, 2021
According to my Spotify 2021 Wrap, I listened to over 1,500 artists and 117 different genres this year. I used the service to hunt for new music, though I definitely also used the service to play the same artists and songs on repeat.
My 2021 wrap came up very heavy on John Mayer, Run the Jewels, and some of my favorite albums that were released in the first half of 2021. In summary of that wrap, if you’re looking for some new music, here are my suggestions based on what I listened to constantly this year.
New Albums in 2021
Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
The first song on this album (“Paprika”) and the last song on the album (“Posing For Cars”) are two of my favorite new songs of the year. There’s not a bad track on the entire album, which is loaded with horns, strings, and an incredible guitar solo at the end of “Posing For Cars”. I first heard Japanese Breakfast, aka, Michelle Zauner, earlier this year with a track off an earlier album called “Everybody Wants to Love You.” She’s been busy this year, with the release of “Jubilee”, a best selling book (Crying in H-Mart), and the soundtrack to the PC video game Sable.
Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
This is another album I’ve listened to on repeat this year. One of my favorite albums of 2020 was “Punisher” by Phoebe Bridgers. That album led me to discover the group “boygenius” which is made up of Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker. Baker and Dacus both released new albums this year, and while both were outstanding, I trended towards Baker’s work. The album is raw emotion, dealing with struggles of relationships, mental health, and addiction. Julien Baker’s amazing voice is on full display, especially at the end of the song “Highlight Reel” and throughout “Ringside.”
The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You
Technically this album was released in 2020. However, it was released in December, less than 365 days ago, and I listened to it a lot this year, so I’m counting it. I had never heard of The Avalanches before this year. Their newest album, “We Will Always Love You” has guest appearances from MGMT, Leon Bridges, Denzel Curry, Rivers Cuomo, and more. Each song blends in perfectly together, and the album is broken up with periodical transmissions of an answering machine message being transmitted through space. Smoke a joint, hit play at the start of the album, and enjoy the ride.
St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home
St. Vincent’s guitar skills are incredible, and her new 70s themed album “Daddy’s Home” provides sounds that any fans of Pink Floyd would find familiar. The song “Live in the Dream” is reminiscent of that Pink Floyd sound that you would imagine plays as you transcend the space between two different realities, with each pluck of the guitar extending just a little bit longer than it would if life were moving at normal speed. The song transitions into the next track with sounds very similar to Floyd’s “Money”. St. Vincent’s album was written about dealing with her father’s prison sentence over the last decade.
John Mayer – Sob Rock
It’s probably no surprise to regular readers of First Pitch that John Mayer was my top artist this year. In fact, I was in the top .01% of listeners on Spotify for John Mayer’s work. He’s one of my favorite artists, but I never got into his dive into bluegrass and folk until the end of last year. That got me back into his music throughout the year, and he released a new album in July with an 80s vibe that calls on Toto, Clapton, and others of the easy listening variety in that era. The best tracks off the album are “Last Train Home”, “New Light”, and “Carry Me Away”.
Madlib – Sound Ancestors
I’ll be doing another “Best Albums of 2021” next week, looking through my vinyl record purchases. This album by Madlib would be one of my favorites on either side. I’ve listened to it a lot of weekends this year, and some of the beats end up on my regular Spotify daily mixes. “Two For 2 – For Dilla” and “The Call” are my favorites off the album. The last 6-7 songs hit a stride that you’ll get lost in, with so many different sounds blended perfectly together.
New Old Songs
My top 100 songs were dominated by albums that I listened to on repeat, but a few older songs made it through with regular plays. Here’s a mix of those songs:
Caroline Rose – More of the Same
This song is so catchy. The album, “Loner”, was released in 2018.
El-P – Tougher Colder Killer
Killer Mike and El-P together before RTJ. This is just a high speed rap battle that will leave you out of breath in less than four minutes.
MF DOOM – Red & Gold
Of all the DOOM personas, King Geedorah is my favorite. I was listening to this classic off Operation: DOOMSDAY a lot after DOOM’s passing was announced.
The Japanese House – Dionne
If I’m honest, it was a bit confusing at first to have new music by Japanese Breakfast and The Japanese House. This song is off a four-song EP that was released last year, and this song features Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon.
CZARFACE, MF DOOM, Open Mike Eagle – Phantoms
Another DOOM appearance. I hadn’t listened to CZARFACE before DOOM’s passing, but was hooked to the latest comic book references from Inspectah Deck. This song off the 2018 CZARFACE/MF DOOM album features Open Mike Eagle, who absolutely kills it with two legends on the track.
Phoebe Bridgers – Chinese Satellite
“Punisher” was one of my favorite albums in 2020, and this has emerged as one of my favorite songs from that album. I even wrote an article surrounding this song earlier in the year.
John Mayer – Love on the Weekend
I read someone speculating this song is written about the relationship between Mayer, the artist, and the fans who consume his work to unwind at the end of the week. Ever since reading that, this has been on my writing playlist.
Killer Mike – Willie Burke Sherwood
This 2012 album, R.A.P. Music, is outstanding from start to finish. Killer Mike, one half of RTJ, did this album with El-P, the other half of RTJ, producing. They followed this project by forming Run the Jewels the next year. This particular album is one of my favorite pre-2021 albums I’ve listened to this year.
Run the Jewels – A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters
This was my most listened to song in 2021, reserved for workouts, or even getting worked up for big projects. I hadn’t listened to RTJ prior to their fourth album released in 2020. Before that, I had only heard of Killer Mike from his work with Outkast. RTJ4 was one of my favorite albums of 2020, and a life changing album for me in a way that I’ll write about one of these days, as it ties into the skull you see on The 2022 Guide and all over this site. This year I went back and listened to RTJ 1-3. The third one is my favorite, and this song that finishes the album is damn-near perfect, including an appearance by Rage Against the Machine’s Zack De La Rocha. “Sea Legs” off their first album was my second favorite RTJ song this year, and my anthem as I got back into the habit of writing here on a regular basis.
Share your favorite albums from this year in the comments below, and have a great Saturday!