A Closer Look at Laura Lorson's Top 3 Albums of 2021
2021 was kind of a strange, disconnected year for a lot of us. I came in to the radio station every day as a designated "essential" employee, so didn't have the isolation problems that a lot of people did, but the entire feel and tenor of the year was, frankly, strange. It simultaneously emphasized our loneliness and the ways we never quite registered how deeply we are all still connected. I think musical artists encapsulated this strange balance of the collective and the individual in the work they released.
I found myself really enjoying Jason Moran's album The Sound Will Tell You (Yes Records). He told various interviewers how much he was inspired by Toni Morrison for this record. Some other pieces on this album were written for the Ta-Nehisi Coates HBO Special "Between the World and Me." It's an introspective, almost melancholy set of songs, and they seemed to fit the times, this year.
I like experimental music and pop, and Grouper...the name of the project musician Liz Harris operates...put out a record I found myself listening to frequently. Shade (Kranky/Bandcamp) is a complex work, and difficult to describe well, but I suppose I'd say it's a kind of blend of ambient, folk and pop styles. It's quiet, and dark, and fit my mood this year. She's a remarkable synthesizer of musical styles and references.
My third most-listened-to record this year is New Long Leg by the band Dry Cleaning (4AD). This is a London art-rock band that's also difficult to classify. Vocalist Florence Shaw does a sort of long-form narration of lyrics...think Tom Waits, sort of, but more disconnected. The lyrics are surreal, but vivid, and haunting. It evokes the simultaneous sense of isolation and connection that I was talking about earlier. I suppose this is an acquired taste, but I found myself coming back to it again and again.