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Timmy Awards

Timmy Awards- The Best Albums of 2021

You can get videos for them all in this YouTube playlist. If you click "play all," it will play them from 50 right on down to #1.

Here's an additional playlist of concerts and extras, from 50 on down to 1 whenever available.

Here's a Spotify playlist of three tracks from each entry, with the exception of #6 which was only available streaming for a limited time.

Hannah Peel

50. Hannah Peel - Fir Wave: Female electronic artists are doing a lot of intersting things lately, including this collection based on samples of composer Delia Derbyshire's library music from the early 70's. Delia is responsible for the Dr. Who theme and you can hear that in some tracks, wher it is more ambient in other places, with hints of climate change in titles such as "Carbon Cycle".

Blunt Bangs

49. Blunt Bangs - Proper Smoker: Athens, GA's Blunt Bangs brings a crave case of power pop, with some rough garage-rock edges here and there.

Brandi Carlile

48. Brandi Carlile - In These Silent Days: Brandi's first time on the Timmys on possibly not the last. The songwriting is top notch and the music avoids falling into the over-produced trap that makes most modern country unappealing to me.


47. Langkamer - West Country: Bristol, UK's Langkamer takes indie rock and alt country and grinds them up into a mix that has moments of Dinosaur, Jr., Pavement and Meat Puppets.   

Elizabeth and the Catapult

46. Elizabeth & The Catapult - sincerely, e: I've been doing the Timmys fot 20 plus years so it's exciting for me to discover an artist who has been around for a while. This is Elizabeth's 5th album, recorded during the pandemic but sparkling with some beautiful folk rock that reminds me of Aimee Mann, Regina Spektor and maybe even a little Fiona Apple. Time to go listen to the previous four albums.

Ducks Ltd.

45. Ducks Ltd. - Modern Fiction: Jangly guitars and hooks for days, a total throwback to UK and New Zealand indie rock of the 80's. 

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

44. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - This is a Mindfulness Drill: A Reimagining of Richard Youngs' 'Sapphie': OK, high concept alert, bear with me. In celebration of the label Jagjaguwar's 25th year, the record label did a few special releases, including this album. Richard Young did a 3 track, 37 minute album of trance-like acoustic guitar and plaintive vocals called Sapphie and released it in 1998. I had never heard of Young until this reworking by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, who I know more for New Orleans-style brass band funk. With the help of Moses Sumney, Pefume Genius and Sharon Van Etten on vocals, the brass ensemble creates a beautiful, meditative journey through these songs.

The Muckers

43. The Muckers - Endeavor: This Brooklyn-based quartet goes all in with psychedlic guitar solos and even reminds me of trippier Stone Roses moments here and there. Psych pop for the 21st century.

Teen Creeps

42. Teen Creeps - Forever: When you think of Belgium, hook-laden, punky, alt-rock is likely not one of the first 100 things that would come to mind. This is Teen Creeps second album and there are hints of Hüsker Dü, The Replacements and Pavement in this batch of catchy songs.  


41. Deafheaven - Infinite Granite: I first discovered Deafheaven on their 2013 album Sunbather, which seemed mostly-metal with some post-rock influences. Three albums later, the metal takes a backseat and shoegaze is the most predominent genre at play here. It's not a genre I'm particularly attrached to, but the metal undertones (I've seen it referred to as "blackgaze" - black metal + shoegaze) give these songs more impact and keep them from floating away.


40. Lorde - Solar Power: Lorde made #4 on my 2017 list and she's back. Her career has been intersting to watch, she seems to be growing up in front of everyone. This time out, she is older and mellower, taking on a hippie-ish vibe more often than not. The songs are still solid and her voice is in good form. The title track's guitar riff reminds me of George Michael's "Freedom '90" and the line "I'm kinda like a prettier Jesus" may be one of my favorite lyrics of the year. 

Bob Vylan

40. Bob Vylan - We Live Here (Deluxe): Great band name - and this UK duo takes Body Count style riffs and adds socially concious raps on top. The chorus of the title track is a poignant response to people who told the singer to go back to his own country "We didn't appear out thin air/we live here".

Sons Of Kmet

38. Sons of Kmet - Black To The Future: Funky, jazzy, afrocentric, two drummers/sax/tuba and some excellent guest vocalists. Somewhere between Sun Ra, Coltrane, P-Funk and rap, a great afrofuturist record.     

Parquet Courts

37. Parquet Courts - Sympathy Fo Life: Not the leap forward I expected after 2018's Wide Awke!, but less than prefect Parquet Courts is still darn good. A little more polished, a little more funky, but the songs don't seem as strong. Maybe next time they will really blow up.  

Sleaford Mods

36. Sleaford Mods - : Another repeat artist in the Timmys, the Mods are as British as ever and a few guest vocalists help to mix things up. I don't always understand what they are talking/shouting about, but it's great to listen to and the beats are solid.

Dry Cleaning

35. Dry Cleaning - New Long Leg: And another very British group - post-punk with dry spoken word vocals. A really strong debut album.   

Emma-Jean Thackeray

34. Emma-Jean Thackeray - Yellow: Spiritual jazz funk from a UK guitarist/vocalist - and yes, there is more tuba!


33. Waltzer - Time Traveler: Time Traveler is a good title for this debut, where Chicago singer Sophie Sputnik brings doo-wop, soul, blues and garage rock together in a blend that wouldn't be out of place on a David Lynch soundtrack.


32. Squid - Bright Green Field: I read a lot about this band before I got to hear them, and they lived up to the hype. Uncut magazine called it "post-punk kraut-jazz" - I don't think I can top that description.   


31. Ex:Re - Ex:Re with 12 Ensemble: I had listened to and enjoyed this album several times over before I found out that this was a rerecording of Elena Tonra's debut album, done with 12 Ensemble, a 12-piece string ensemble. Beautiful, haunting and the songs work both in this format, as well as on the original, which was totally new to me.  

Black Country, New Road

30. Black Country, New Road - For The First Time: Like a more-focused Squid, this UK post-rock ensemble is experimental and still very listenable, a hard balance to reach. 


29. Mogwai - Did I say post-rock? Mogwai is one of the pioneers of that genre, as this is their 10th album and the first to make the Timmys. Loud and melodic, largely instrumental, I think I need to dig into their back catalog a little more.

Ryley Walker

28. Ryley Walker - Course In Fable: Ryley's guitar work has always leaned heavily towards the folk side of music, but now there seems to be a big prog-rock influence. Far out, man.

Japanese Breakfast

27. Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee: Super catchy alt-pop with great songs and arrangements. A real step foward from earlier efforts and it seems like the sky is the limit now.

Wurld Series

26. Wurld Series - What's Growing: To say Wurld Series sounds like Pavement would be an understatement. Some of these songs sound like long-lost tracks from the first few Pavement albums. But then there's a song like "Grey Men", which could be a Guided By Voices track. The influences are great, lets see if this New Zealand band can mix them up and keep moving forward.  

Lost Girls

25. Lost Girls - Menneskekollektivet: Electronic, artsy, dark, experimental - not what you throw on at a party, but an interesting album that really struck me.

No-No Boy

24. No-No Boy - 1975: Upon listening to N0-No Boy, it should come as no suprise that I first heard him on NPR and his album was released by Smithsonian Folkways, as this almost a history lesson. "The Best God Damn Band In Wymoning" is a true story about a swing band based out of Japanese internment camps which included No-No Boy's grandmother on vocals. The album also use field recordings to tell stories of asian immigration in the U.S. The songs themselves keep this from becoming to heavy-handed of an exercise.    

Adult Books

23. Adult Books - Grecian Urn: Post-punk, indie rock, alt rock? It feels like I have heard this sound before...but where? More melodic than most post rock, maybe that's because these guys are from L.A.? Good stuff.  

Writhing Squares

22. Withing Squares - Chart For The Solution: I didn't know I needed a band that sounded like apunky Devo with sax solos, but I guess I do. 

Ben Lamar Gay

21. Ben Lamar Gay - Open Arms to Open Us: There's already been two albums on this list from new London jazz artists, how about one from the other major jazz hotbed these days - Chicago! Ben's previous album was #4 on the 2018 Timmys, ans this is another great collection of songs - jazzy for sure, but you'll hear influences from world music, Tom Waits, prince, funk and probably a few dozen other things. I think BLG may make the Timmys any time he releases an album...

Kiwi Jr.

20. Kiwi Jr. - Cooler Returns: Hookier than all get-out, Toronto's Kiwi Jr. has a little power pop, a little Vampire Weekend and maybe even a little Pavement (yep, them again). Fun, energetic and catchy.  


19. Rostam - Changephobia (Deluxe): Speaking of Vampire Weekend, former member Rostam is back with his second solo album. A breezy collection of summery alt-pop that could almost be a brother album to Lorde's Solar Power. I specifically mention the deluxe edition as it adds his cover of The Clash's "Train In Vain", which is a nice breezy take on the original. 


18. Rosali - No Medium: This is singer/songwriter Rosali's third album and the first I have heard of her. This is a great album of country-tinged alt rock. "Pour Over Ice" is the type of song I'd like to hear Liz Phair putting out these days, and there's an early Neil Young vibe there as well. At other times, Rosali's voice reminds me of Aimee Mann.  


17. John (TIMESTWO) - Nocturnal Manoeuvres: Is it punk? Metal? Post-Punk? It's loud, it's noisy. it's angry. Reminds me of IDLES in some spots. It's really good.  

St. Lenox

16. St. Lenox - Ten Songs Of Worship And Praise For Our Tumultous Times: This album sounds like none other in the Top 50 this year, and it's probably a love-it or hate -it kind of deal. St. Lenox is Andrew Choi, this is his fourth album and the title is no joke - there is a lot of talk of religion on these 10 tunes and than one with organ music. His vocal style can be off-putting at first, but it grew on me and these songs contemplating God, faith, starting a family and so much more kept me coming back.

Cool Ghouls

15. Cool Ghouls - At George's Zoo: San Fancisco's Cool Ghouls are garage rock to the bone, with hints of Big Star, early Cheap Trick, The Beach Boys and some psych rock here and there.    

Rochelle Jordan

14. Rochelle Jordan - Play With The Changes: I'm surprised I like this as much as I did, as dancy, diva-ish R&B isn't really in my wheelhouse. But her voice is great, the sound keeps switching up and the beats are strong. A pleasant surprise.

Matthew E. White

13. Matthew E. White - K bay: On his third album, White throws a little bit from the past 40 so years of pop & R &B into a blender and comes out with a wonderfully sloppy mess of songs. He manages to take a little bit from dozens of artists and make his own sound .    

Steve Gunn

12. Steve Gunn - Other You: Afte his last album, 2017's The Unseen In Between, the folk leaning Gunn released an all-acoustic version of that album. He continues in that style here - it's not all acoustic but it definitely leans towards the gentler side of folk rock It gets really pretty at points.

Snapped Ankles

11. Snapped Ankles - Forest Of Your Problems: Snapped Ankles' third album and their third time in my Top 20 (#10 in 2017, #9 in 2019). The quirky electronics and driving grooves remain. Nothing totally different than their previous albums, but they have found their own unique sound and are running with it.


10. Madlib - Sound Ancestors: Arranged by UK electronic artist Four Tet, L.A. producer/sampler/musical curator Madlib's latest dives deep into the history of black music to create an album that guides instrumental hip hop towards the future.


9. IDLES - CRAWLER: #11 in 2017, #1 in 2018 and then IDLES fell just outside the top 50 in 2020 (but were really close). At the risk of sounding like a cliche, I like their earlier stuff better, but there is still plenty to enjoy here. They still have plenty to say and are still one of the more interesting bands out there.

W.H. Lung

8. W.H. Lung - Vanities: Another Timmys repeat - their debut was #6 in 2019. They really amp up the synths and dance rhythms this time out. In 2019 I compared them to Joy Division, The Cure and Arcade Fire - this time out they sound more like Hot Chip (especially "Somebody Like" - Hot Chip could sue if they wanted to) or maybe even The Human League. I can't wait to see what they do next.     

Bill Callahan & Bonnie

7. Bill Callahan & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Blind Date Party: While some were mastering sourdough or learning all things Tiger King-related, left-field alternative singer/songwiters Callahan and BPB found friends from their label's roster and pilled together a whopping collection of 19 covers. There's a woozy take on Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues", a gentle reading of Leonard Cohen's "The Night of Santiago" and a feedback laden run through of Silver Jews' "The Wild Kindness" - and a sleepy version of Air Supply's "Lost In Love". This sound like it was fun to make, and I'd be up for a second volume. Let's hope it doesn't require a second pandemic to make one.   


6. SAULT - Nine: The mysterious UK collective Sault only had this album available streaming for 99 days, but there are still ways to check it out online. Like their previous efforts, this is a top- notch survey of black musical styles with socially aware lyrics.

Gift of Gab

5. Gift of Gab - Finding Inspiration Somehow: Rapper Gift of Gab past away from natural causes in June of 2021 at the age 50 (less than 2 years after a double kidney transplan), and this posthumous album is a nice tribute to his talent. Some tracks seem a little unfinished, as if there was still a verse or two to be added, but on tracks like "Slaughtah Dem (Godly)", he still shows that he was one of the fastest rappers around.

Howlin Rain

4. Howlin' Rain - The Dharma Wheel: Ethan Miller is in several bands, and this is the sixts Howlin' Rain album and it's a good one. It's like a long lost 70's classic rock album in the same zone as Skynyrd/Foghat/Boston and at times, the Grateful Dead. Classic rock for the 21st Century. 

Big Red Machine

3. Big Red Machine - How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?: If the NPR music editors cam up with a supergroup, it might look a lot like Big red Machine. The second effort from The National's Aaron Dessner, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and several of their closest friends (Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes, Hadestown writer Anaïs Mitchell. Tayor Swift(!) put together a set of songs that go great with a winter sunset - beautiful and introspective.

TV Priest

2. TV Priest - Earlier in this list I proclaimed my love of the earlier albums from IDLES and here I prove it, as TV Priest's debut could easier be mistaken for early IDLES - with more than a bit of The Fall thrown in for good measure.   


1. Turnstile - GLOW ON: Another band I was unaware of until this year, and this is their third album. Deeply rooted in hardcore punk, Turnstile takes that genre to new places Singer Brendon Yates co=produced with Mike Elizondo, who has worked with 50 Cent, Twenty One Pilots, Carrie Underwood and many others, so he knows a little something about making records - even though this sounds nothing like any of those artists. Maybe he's responsible for the occasional keyboards, horns, extra percussion - or maybe he just helped the band get their vision on tape. Regardless, this is a solid record from start to finish and reminds me a little of when I first heard Nirvana's Nevermind - an album that's easy to listen to all the way through and sounds like things I've heard before but is somehow also really fresh and new. I know 54 year-old dads aren't their target audience, but this one really digs this album.



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