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I'm not a huge end-of-year list kind of person. While I do keep records of all the board games I've played, movies I've watched, etc. they're not easily sorted by date, nor do I really want that.
I'm also not huge on discovering new music. I mostly listen to music that I own, ripped from a CD or bought from the internet, using iTunes or my iPod that I keep in my car. I don't have a Spotify account and I don't seek out new music, even from artists I know and love, very frequently.
However, one of the default iTunes playlists sorts your music by newest, and it was very easy to cut it off at January 1st 2021 and see what I had permanently added to my library in that time. I thought the list was interesting enough, so here you are: a sneak peek into my new music from the last year.
Artistic Hair, by Steve Goodman
Steve Goodman was a folk singer from Chicago. I first listened to this album while staying at the home of an older woman one summer, and was impressed by Elvis Imitators in particular. Much much later, I came to find out that he was such a huge Cubs fan that he recorded the Go Cubs Go song that they play at Cubs games. Life has these weird connections sometimes. Anyway, the album is very fun to listen to. It's all live, including some live singing along, and is pretty funny.
Labour of Love; Promises and Lies, both by UB40
I originally misheard the lyrics to Red Red Wine as "ring ring rhyme". In my defense, I was a lot younger then. I picked up both of these CDs from a family member and have really enjoyed listening to them. Reggae music (including Reggae Music) deserves a bigger spot in my library, especially for the times when I want something lighter and more relaxing on.
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, by Iron Butterfly
The title track here, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, is the reason for the album -- it's surprisingly hard to (legitimately) buy just the title track and not the entire album. The single edit, which is less than 3 minutes long, is certainly not worth it. I need all seventeen minutes to truly enjoy it!
I'm not actually sure if I've listened to side A all the way through. Side B is just the title track and it's everything you could ever want in late 60s psych rock/pre-metal, drunken slurred lyrics and all.
The Road from Memphis, by Booker T. Jones
I'd heard of Booker T. Jones due to Booker T. and the M.G.'s (see Green Onions or their Beatles cover album, McLemore Avenue), and took a chance on this relatively modern album. It's good. I haven't listened enough times to know it all fully, but I do really like Down In Memphis.
Obviously, by Lake Street Dive
What's this? New music?!
Fans of the show know that I love Lake Street Dive. They're a pop rock band that really seems to have the chops to mess with other genres in a meaningful way. I'm a sucker for backup vocalists—the band backs up Rachel Price on almost every song. I'm a sucker for instrumental variety in my rock songs—most songs feature trumpet (although McDuck left the band this year) and many feature a keyboard. They're also one of the couple dozen bands I've seen live.
This album is not my favorite Lake Street Dive album, but it is nonetheless fun from the top almost all the way to the bottom. Hypotheticals, the first song, is great, and Being a Woman and Making Do hit hard, but my favorite of the bunch is the off-kilter Hush Money.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair soundtrack, by David Wise, Grant Kirkhope, Dan Murdoch, and Matt Griffin
You're not here for video game reviews, but Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a very good 2D platforming game—far better than its predecessor at paying homage to classic Rare titles without simply repeating them. Every level has two different states, normal and altered; the altered state might be "all the water is frozen" or "the level is upside down" or "the gears are no longer turning", which opens up alternative paths and an alternate, but connected, background track.
David Wise composed for a lot of old Rare games, most notably Donkey Kong Country. Grant Kirkhope also composed for a lot of old Rare games, most notably their N64 titles (GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64). Dan and Matt don't appear to have that kind of history behind them, but their tracks for this game were perfectly good on their own. This soundtrack is excellent and one of the highlights of a fun game.
Hades soundtrack, by Darren Korb
Look, I like video game soundtracks. Darren Korb's soundtracks are consistently best in class for me. Bastion's OST is one of my favorite video game soundtracks ever, and Pyre isn't far behind. I think the Hades soundtrack suffers slightly outside of the game it was written for... the game turns a static soundtrack into a dynamic one that switches between battle and calm sections of the same piece seamlessly. The static soundtrack isn't quite as interesting in that way, but it is very good regardless, still groovy after hours and hours of playing.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion soundtrack, by Jeremy Soule
I replayed Oblivion this year. It's a 15-year-old game and so it is showing its age, in graphics and some of the gameplay, but the music definitely holds up. The entire soundtrack is a huge wave of nostalgia for me, as I spent hours and hours playing the PS3 version of the game when I was much younger. The combat sounds are good, but what really makes the OST for me are the relaxing exploration songs. So, I made a custom playlist with just the exploration music (replicated here on YouTube if you want to try it), which I listen to while working.
You can't ever really have enough Elton John. You can't fit all his hits onto a single CD, or even two. I added a random Greatest Hits disc to my collection so I could have I'm Still Standing and I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues, but the rest are all good songs in their own right.
Sometimes I add an entire album to my collection at once, because I have access to the CD or the album is cheap to buy or what have you. Sometimes I unabashedly buy the most famous songs individually from the internet and call it a day. That's what I did with Don Henley, buying The Boys of Summer, All She Wants To Do Is Dance, and Dirty Laundry. Classic rock radio hits.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Went for the best-of-the-best approach here. Wrap It Up is my Christmas gift wrapping theme song (this is a joke). Tuff Enuff is the theme song for the rest of my life (this is also a joke).
Ain't nothing gonna break my stride, nobody gonna slow me down, oh no, I've got to keep on moving!
Venus was covered by a lot of artists, most famously Bananarama, but I really do prefer the original on this one. It's catchy!
The history of Soft Cell's Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go? extended mix is a little interesting. Both are old Motown songs, the first originally recorded by Gloria Jones, the second recorded by the Supremes. I didn't know this until relatively recently, though: I heard the Soft Cell versions on 80s radio growing up, and never thought much of it. I'm not sure how much to worry about the pattern of white artists re-recording songs from black artists and getting just as popular. I don't know if this particular example, or any example, is truly problematic. I don't have the answers and I don't have a consistent view on it either way, so I'll just say: the Soft Cell versions sound good, but don't be afraid to learn more about where covers come from.
I think I first heard Frankie as a riff inside a rapid-fire mashup of disco songs, the kind of thing that blends recognizable hooks together into an enormous track. The Frankie part was memorable enough for me to go look it up. I really could use more disco/pop/whatever genre this is in my life.