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The Best Recordings of 2021 (Part One of My Honorable Mention List)
My top 100 is coming soon, but in the meantime here are 100 additional albums of exceptional merit—all styles, all genres
Today I’m publishing my honorable mention list of 2021 recordings in two installments. (It’s simply too large to fit on one email for my newsletter subscribers.) Below is part one—for part two, click here.
This is the honorable mention list, not my top 100—I’ll share that with paid subscribers in a few days. But there are so many outstanding recordings I can’t fit on that list, yet still deserve recognition. So I publish an honorable mention list each year, and put as much care into it as for my top 100.
Each of the 100 artists featured below is well worth your attention and support. And, sad to say, many of these albums, are little-known indie or self-produced projects you could easily miss. I’ve included a link with each title—it will take you to a Bandcamp, YouTube, or other webpage where you can get a taste of the music.
I listened to more than one thousand new releases in 2021—this is my most time-consuming project each year, but also a labor of love. As always, this is a list without boundaries, encompassing all musical styles and genres.
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The 100 Best Recordings of 2021: Honorable Mention List (in alphabetical order) John Luther Adams Arctic Dreams Landscape Music Composed for 4 Vocalists, 4 String Players, and 3 Layers of Digital Delay Akropolis Reed Quintet Ghost Light Detroit Horn Ensemble Features New Works from 5 Composers Franco Ambrosetti (with John Scofield and Jack DeJohnette) Lost Within You Jazz Balkan Taksim Žali Zare Balkan Dance Music with a Bit of Grunge Leonard Becker Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Guitar Quintet 20th Century Chamber Music for Guitar Jakob Bro Uma Elmo Atmospheric Jazz for Guitar, Trumpet, and Drums Amalie Bryde Lay Down Contemporary Soul Music with a Pop Spin Sarah Cahill/Gamelan Galak Tika/Evan Ziporyn/Jody Diamond Lou Harrison: Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan Cross-Cultural Concerto Christopher Cerrone The Arching Path Contemporary Classical Music Don Cherry Cherry Jam Previously Unreleased Jazz Concert from Copenhagen 1965 Chór Czarownic (The Witches Choir) Twoja Władza! Punkish Polish Witches Choir Alice Coltrane Kirtan: Turiya Sings Devotional Music / Meditation Music from Genre-Crossing Jazz Innovator Mirian Conti Tangorama: An Anthology of 20th Century Tango, Vol. 1 Piano Renditions of Classic Tangos Chick Corea Akoustic Band Live Posthumous Jazz Trio Release from Chick Corea Graham Costello Second Lives Energy Jazz from Glasgow Drummer Lucas Debargue, Gideon Kremer, and Kremerata Baltica Zal: The Music of Miłosz Magin Compositions of Polish Concert Pianist Miłosz Magin (1929-1999) Deepkapz Ensaio Sobre Você Maximalist Brazilian R&B Jamie Dupuis The Last Crossing Slide Guitar Instrumentals Earthly Angels & Kajsa Dahlbäck La Rêveuse French Vocal Music of the 17th and 18th Centuries Taylor Eigsti Tree Falls First Leader Date in a Decade from a Leading Jazz Pianist Kurt Elling (with Charlie Hunter) SuperBlue Jazz Vocals with a Heavy Dose of Soul and Funk Ryan El-Solh Music of the Years Gone By Jazz Standards Performed as Contemporary Dream Pop Instrumentals Ensemble Domus Artis & Johannes Keller Madrigali al Tavolino Radically Chromatic Madrigals of Michelangelo Rossi (1601-1656) Ensemble Merian Bernard Herrmann / Miklós Rózsa: Music for String Quartet Chamber Music by Two Leading Hollywood Composers Fair Oriana Two Voices Music for Two Soprano Voices (Mostly Renaissance) Les Filles de Illighadad Les Filles de Illighadad at Pioneer Works First All-Female Tuareg Desert Blues Band Live in Concert La Fonte Musica / Michele Pasotti Zacara da Teramo: Enigma Fortuna (Complete Works) First Complete Recording of the Music of Eccentric Renaissance Composer Paolo Fresu Musica da Lettura Intimate Chamber Jazz for a Library Rodrigo Gallardo Indómita Chilean Trance Music Garage a Trois (Stanton Moore, Charlie Hunter, Skerik) Calm Down Cologne Garage Jam Band Funk Peter Garland Three Dawns and Bush Radio Calling Contemporary Classical Music for Piano Ehsan Gelsi Ephemera Contemporary Australian Music for Grand Organ, Synthesizer, Electronics, Drums and Percussion Golden Hornet String Quartet Smackdown VII Finalists in a NCAA-Style Bracketed Tournament Style Competition for String Quartets Jean-Philippe Goude/Ensemble Celadon Hieros Medieval and Contemporary Music for Three Voices H.K. Gruber / Colin Currie Percussion Concertos Contemporary Music for Percussion and Orchestra Steven Harlos / Dick Hyman The Piano Music of Dick Hyman Performed by Steven Harlos Piano Music of Generation-Spanning Jazz Artist Dick Hyman Joel Harrison (with Guests) Guitar Talk Guitarist Records Duets with 6 Leading Jazz Artists Irena & Vojtěch Havlovi Melodies in the Sand Survey of the Work of Czech Experimental Classical Artists Miho Hazama & the Danish Radio Big Band Imaginary Visions Contemporary Big Band Jazz Patrick Hemmerlé Maurice Emmanuel: 6 Sonatines Forward-Looking Piano Music of the 1920s (Drawing on Folk Sounds, Birdsong, Non-Western Motifs, etc.) Dave Holland Another Land Jazz Trio Calum Huggan American Music for Marimba Contemporary Music for Solo Marimba Charlie Hunter and Lucy Woodward I'm a Stranger Here Blues/Rock/Pop Susie Ibarra Talking Gong Pointillistic Percussion-Driven Soundscapes Justina Jaruseviciute Silhouettes Contemporary Chamber Music from a Berlin-Based Lithuanian Composer Jaubi Nafs at Peace Expansive Jazz from Lahore, Pakistan Norah Jones Til We Meet Again Live Recordings from 2017-2019 of Vocalist Norah Jones The Judgment of Paris Goddesses 21st Century Australian Music for Recorder Quartet Karass Music for 18 Magicians Incantatory Rock from Tacoma Femi Kuti & Made Kuti Legacy Son and Grandson of Afrobeat Innovator Fela Kuti Update His Legacy in Music and Activism For part 2 of this list, click here.
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