Presenting Year 14 of Everything Ecstatic’s Albums of the Year list. This list represents my personal top 32 albums of the year and is the synthesis of all of the Year End Album lists I’ve worked on this year for the SF Chronicle and Uproxx.
Some scattered Bandcamp audio and YouTube music video links are below most entries, and as always, feel free to revisit year’s past of EE’s Best Albums of the Year and check out the Spotify playlist of this featured albums here and an extensive playlist of my favorite songs this year at the bottom of the post. Cheers!
— Spinelli (@AGSpinelli)
32. Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
This was truly the year of Japanese Breakfast with a Grammy nom to boot. The album is a big step up and I can’t recommend Michele Zauner’s book, Crying In H Mart, enough, too.
31. Virginia Wing – Private LIFE
Killer deadpanned Britpop from the London trio.
30. SUNDUR – Somewhere There’s Music
A serendipitous collaboration between Bay Area stalwart DJ Platurn and singer Savannah Lancaster, this trip-hop endeavor was created in the thick of the pandemic and it’ll have you thinking of Portishead on prozac.
29. Alfa Mist – Bring Backs
The keyboardist/MC soaks hip-hop sensibility into jazz and is one of the many bright spots in the surging British modern jazz movement.
28. Rodrigo Amarante – Drama
The second solo album from the Brazilian singer-guitarist of Little Joy and Los Hermanos, finds itself at an incredible intersection of Brazilian and American indie.
27. Sam Gendel – Fresh Bread
The eclectic saxophonist is one of the most prolific musicians in LA and among Gendel’s many releases, Fresh Bread’s 52 tracks always gave me something unpredictable to turn to this year.
26. Rostam – Changephobia
I’ve been a big fan of the former Vampire Weekend core member’s production work for other artists since he left the band, and this is an A+ solo effort. “4 Runner” lived in my head all year.
25 and 24. Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime and Altin Gün – Yol
Two of my favorite world music releases. One from Tuareg guitar prodigy Mdou Moctar and the other from Turkish psychedelic funk band Altin Gün. Both are can’t miss stuff.
23. Hiatus Kaiyote – Mood Valiant
Singer Nai Palm beat breast cancer and then went with the group to Brazil to link with storied tropicalia arranger Arthur Verocai for some of the sessions on this splendid future funk release from the Aussies.
22. BadBadNotGood – Talk Memory
Band drama aside, these guys are upper echelon jazz/hip-hop instrumentalists. This is the definition of cinematic music with appearances from Karriem Riggins, Arthur Verocai (absolutely here for the Verocai renaissance btw), Terrace Martin, Laraaji and Brandee Younger.
21. Darkside – Spiral
A comeback after an eight year hiatus from the duo of Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington presents another one-of-a-kind essay on guitar atop electronic production.
20. Aaron Frazer – Introducing…
Call it blue-eyed soul, but the debut solo release from the Durand Jones & The Indications drummer/vocalist was a stellar nod to 50’s and 60’s grooves. Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, this was my standout release from Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound label this year.
19. Televangel & Child Actor – Respawn
One half of now defunct instrumental hip-hop maestros Blue Sky Black Death, Televangel linked with dreamy duo Child Actor for this gorgeous release that might’ve also had my favorite album cover of the year.
18. Lil Nas X – MONTERO
I loved evetything about this outlandish, flamboyant, sex positive and peak 2021 pop release. Lil Nas X is playing music industry 3D chess and it totally rules.
17. Mossy Projects – Side A/Side B
It wasn’t just because I wrote the official bio for the album by my buddy James Two and Pretty Lights co-founder Michael Menert. Their free-flowing sample nerd mash-ups in the style of The Avalanches were on constant rotation for me all year long.
16. The Weather Station – Ignorance
A fully blossomed expression from the Canadian folk singer. Ignorance is the most elegant, textured and expansive version of Tamara Lindeman.
15. GLBL WRMNG – Glbl Wrmng Vol. 1
This was a fantastic regional rap compilation helmed by New Orleans’ Pell, that showcases the regions best up and coming hip-hop talent both on the mic and behind the boards.
14. Sam Evian – Time To Melt
A psychedelic folk release that flew more under the radar than it should. Evian reminds me of AM & Shawn Lee with a touch of Danger Mouse. The arrangements on every song are spot on here, especially the smoky escapism of “Dream Free” with vocalist Hannah Cohen.
13. Jorja Smith – Be Right Back
Queen Jorja is on a roll. The velvet-voiced British R&B/pop singer just keeps making hits and the eight track Be Right Back EP has two massive ones in “Addicted” and “Gone.”
12. Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Mohammed and Gary Bartz – JID006
This was merely one of the handful of releases from this year’s Jazz Is Dead series and it sees Oakland saxophonist and Black music trailblazer Gary Bartz enacting amazing new productions with Younge and Ali Shaheed. Check out other equally notable JID volumes with João Donato (JID007), Brian Jackson (JID008), et al.
11. Alice Phoebe Lou – Glow
The South African singer-songwriter creates incredibly endearing love songs that are so easy to latch on to. Her appearance at SF’s Rickshaw Stop on 02/24/2022 for Noise Pop Festival is one shows next year I’m already most looking forward to.
10. Helado Negro – Far In
The man behind Everything Ecstatic’s #1 album of 2019 did it again with this one. Written in Marfa, Berlin and Brooklyn, it’s a product of the concept of putting your mind and body in different geographical locales to see what it comes up with; a tactic I live by.
9. Lala Lala – I Want The Door To Open
This album had some of the best conversations with oneself I heard all year. It’s like taking a long look in the mirror and seeing every fiber of your soul reflected back at you.
8. Boy Scouts – Wayfinder
Taylor Vick’s music has always been serene and beautiful, but Wayfinder took it to another level. Love her voice, love her songwriting and looooove the video for “Didnt I.”
7. Larry June – Orange Print
My favorite Bay Area hip-hop album of the year showcases the best album yet from the dynamic SF rapper who’s been on a non-stop hustle to finally get his flowers.
6. Floating Points & Pharaoh Sanders – Promises
My go-to evening zen album is this sublime collab between British electronic composer Floating Points, pioneering psych saxophonist Sanders and strings from the London Syymphony Orchestra.
5. Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams
A lovely poet whose lyrics transferred masterfully into song on this Mercury Music Prize winning album.
4. Buck Meek – Two Saviors
The Big Thief member’s latest solo album was the perfect blend of folk, Americana, country and Southern charm.
3. Sons of Kemet – Black To The Future
A powerful, gripping and unpredictable Afrofuturist jazz masterpiece. Saxophonist/composer Shabaka Hutchings proved why he’s among London’s best and Theon Cross’ tuba has never sounded this well-placed and accessible.
2. Charlotte Day Wilson – Alpha
The Canadian singer/producer has been one of my favorite artists over the years and finally put out her proper full length LP. Alpha is the benchmark for exactly what I want to be listening to.
1. Little Simz – Sometimes I Am Introvert
The best album with the year’s best song. Simz’s pointed, vulnerable and devastating hip-hop is propped up by production from the venerable Inflo and multiple appearances from vocalist Cleo Sol. In a way, this felt like an extension of Sault’s Untitled (Black Is) — Everything Ecstatic #1 album of 2020 — but it undoubtedly kept the light on Simz singular talent. There’s a range of standout moments from start to finish here, but it’s the way the British MC bears her deepest emotions over Inflo’s flawless production on “I Love You, I Hate You,” that show what a game-changing talent she is. Little Simz is a new global star and left an indelible mark on 2021.
Peep the Spotify playlist of my favorite songs from this year below and find all of the albums featured on this post here!