I listen to a lot of music.
It’s been that way my whole life.
In middle school, I used to hang out at a local radio station, where my dad would serve as a guest DJ from time to time for his friend who owned the station. I’d go frequently and explore the equipment and there was no shortage of free music to grab.
In high school, half of my day was dedicated to music classes. It’s not that this was a focus of mine for career aspirations. It’s just that by that point I was way ahead on my normal classes, and music was easy and fun.
In college, I worked in a movie theater listening to music in the projection booth 40 hours a week.
In my professional career, I’ve listened to “Call Me Maybe” hundreds of times at stadiums.
It’s no surprise then that I spend half my day now listening to music.
A few years ago, I took that to a new level, starting my vinyl record collection. The first album I picked up was “Pray For the Wicked” by Panic! At the Disco. If you haven’t been into vinyl records lately, the huge trend now is colored vinyl, with all sorts of crazy, limited designs. This one in particular was grey with black splattered throughout.
I was hooked by this concept. Over the next few years I studied up on the vinyl record market, bought a few bulk orders at wholesale, started selling records online last year, and now I’ve got over 500 records and a side business meant to make my vinyl purchases a zero-sum game, if not profitable.
There are so many reasons why I love records. The new trend of colorways and limited pressings adds a new level of sensory experience to an experience that is already sensory.
Ultimately, the practice of listening to records is about music discovery. There’s no skipping around to only play the popular tracks. You drop the needle and you’re on a journey through the whole album. You might even find a surprise song you like along the way.
There’s also the aspect of the album cover, which is maximized on vinyl. Album covers can be iconic (think “Nevermind” by Nirvana), but are lost in a way with streaming dominating the music industry. And if you’re shopping for vinyl, those album covers are often the main thing you’ve got to go on, outside of the few songs you’ve heard.
My dive into records has yielded a lot of new artists that I wouldn’t have otherwise listened to. Last Saturday I looked at my favorite artists of 2021, based off my Spotify Wrap. This week I’m going to focus on my favorite albums based on my vinyl record purchases.
Hopefully you find something you like. Leave a comment with some of your favorite new music from 2021.
New Album in 2021
Pearl Charles – Magic Mirror: This album has a very strong ABBA vibe to it, especially the song “Only For Tonight.” The title track is one of my favorites on the album, showing off her vocal range with a nice piano medley. Pearl Charles has two other albums, though I haven’t heard anything outside of the latest release.
CZARFACE: They had two releases this year. One was a team-up with MF DOOM that was recorded before his untimely passing at the end of 2020. The other was an instrumental album called CZARNOIR. Wu-Tang fans will love Inspectah Deck, and underground hip-hop fans will love everything about CZARFACE. I didn’t find out about CZARFACE until finding their first team-up with DOOM, which is one of my favorite album discoveries this year.
Aaron Frazier – Introducing…: One of the first releases I listened to in 2021. This album is fun, and has an Ocean’s Eleven type of feel to the quick beat and Frazier’s falsetto signing. I hadn’t heard of Frazier before, and granted this is his debut solo album, but he’s also the drummer for the next band.
Durand Jones and the Indications – Private Space: I can’t remember if I heard of Durand Jones first, or Aaron Frazier. I do know that I took more interest in this group after Frazier’s album dropped. I liked their self-titled 2016 debut, then was pleasantly surprised when they dropped a new album in August, following up on Frazier’s release to start the year. They’ve got a great soul/R&B sound that complements Frazier’s album.
St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home: I hadn’t listened to St. Vincent before this year, other than her tribute to Nirvana, and Amazon accidentally sending me a copy of her 2017 Masseducation album in 2020, which I decided to keep, but didn’t listen to until this year. I’ve written about her newest album before, noting I love the Pink Floyd sound at times. I got into her older stuff this year, and so far her 2014 self-titled album is my favorite. I’ve yet to listen to her collab with David Byrne.
Black Pumas: This has been one of my favorite albums of the year. Their 2019 self-titled debut is one of the best albums I’ve heard in recent years, with a sound that feels like it was plucked out of the 70s, yet somehow completely unique. I’m hoping there will be a second album coming soon.
Spiritualized: I picked up a few Spiritualized albums this year, after last year getting into their 1997 album “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.” Their debut album, “Lazer Guided Melodies” is right up there, if you like trippy space themed rock. I definitely recommend a blunt or some beers for this group.
DVSN – Sept. 5th: This 2016 album was released this summer on Record Store Day. I hadn’t heard of it until that day, gave it a listen, and spent the rest of the day trying to hunt a copy down. It’s a bass-heavy relationship R&B album that bottoms out the bass at the very end with the slow jam “The Line.” The beat shift and slowdown on “Try / Effortless” is one of my favorite parts of the album. “Hallucinations” might be one of my favorite songs this year. I haven’t listened to their 2021 album yet, titled “A Muse in Her Feelings.” I’m not done with this one.
Dawes – Good Luck With Whatever: This isn’t really a vinyl find, but it kind of is a vinyl find. I saw Dawes in concert a few years ago, opening for one of my favorite bands, Kings of Leon. They were good, but obviously not the memorable thing for me that night. This album came out in 2020, and I slept on it, mostly because I hadn’t listened to them at all since that show. This summer I finally got around to listening to it, and spent the second half of the year trying to track it down in local record stores.
R.A.P. Ferreira – Purple Moonlight Pages: I heard the song “CYCLES” from this album in a Spotify playlist. Not long after I saw a limited copy of this album go on sale. R.A.P. Ferreira is busy, releasing this in 2020, and two more albums this year. This was my introduction to his work, and the smooth, spoken-word poetry rap was so good that it had me paying a premium to buy this on vinyl.