The idea of revisiting the mercifully concluded year of 2021 ranks after activities such as “getting a face tattoo” or “spending the day at the DMV,” but this should be less painful. But as I look at my favorite albums of 2021, there is a distinct lack of rock-ness, to say nothing of the absence of electric guitars. With that in mind, here are 5 rock albums from last year that might be worth considering a second spin.
Maybe it’s the late-seventies/early-eighties vibe of the production. Or the fact that my 180º opinion of John Mayer began when I saw him more than capably fill the substantial shoes of Jerry Garcia in the touring Dead. But probably more than anything, it’s “The Nice Price” faux sticker on Mayer’s latest Sob Rock that gave me a new found appreciation for an artist who has taken one of the oddest paths to success and legitimacy out there today. The sound of this album screams of a hazy recording studio on Sunset Blvd, filled with dudes wearing sunglasses indoors, collars popped, extra button open to share a tuft of chest hair enveloping a gold chain with a cross or chai above the heart. The songs all swing with a corresponding familiarity, even if you’re hearing them for the first time. Mayer happens to be an excellent guitarist, and that tasteful playing is all over Sob Rock. To that point, he called the album Sob Rock for chrissakes. Dude has a sense of humor about himself.
6 Word Review: 2021 Nice Price Modern Yacht Rock
My Morning Jacket (self titled)
If Mayer’s “The Nice Price” immediately tips off the music experience the listener is about to embark on, the trippy artwork on MMJ’s latest release evokes an era when being a “jam band” could be a viable career path on wax, as well as on the road. “Lucky To Be Alive” addresses this perspective unironically. The band stretches out, unafraid for extended guitar solos. God bless em. The first time I listened to this self titled release, it felt a bit long and out of place, lacking the common tactics to appeal to distracted music listeners these days. But it actually rolls deep – I’d probably skip tracks 1 (never a good sign to want to skip the lead off track, but “Regularly Scheduled Programming” is a clunky start) and 7 to tighten up the affair, but otherwise there is a lot to enjoy, and rock out to, on this album.
6 Word Review: Love Love Love to Jam On
The War On Drugs, I Don’t Live Here Anymore
If I went to my doctor with the Modern Rock Blues, she’d probably prescribe The War On Drugs. They’re just a band I should like. Yet for whatever reason, while I certainly dig them and have enjoyed all of their output, TWOD hasn’t crossed over to the exalted status for me like other indie bands like, say, Wilco or Vampire Weekend or Spoon. They just seem to have mastered a feeling, a vibe, without really saying much. I’m not the first person to suggest this. That being said, when there was a brief crack in the pandemic and concert tours started going on sale, I snatched a pair of tickets to see The Drugs (can I call them The Drugs?) when they come through next month. I’m irrationally excited for it.
6 Word Review: Dancing To Desolation Row, Rock On
Kings Of Leon, When You See Yourself
I find the less popular/commercial Kings Of Leon work to be much more compelling than stripper pole rock like “Sex On Fire”. They’ve undoubtedly been influenced by U2, to the point that when I listen to this album I imagine it being an actual U2 album. Fairly sure that if it was, Rolling Stone would give it a 4.5 star review and proclaim it to be U2’s best since All That You Can’t Leave Behind, though to be fair they’ve been doing that with each of U2’s albums that has come out in the last twenty years. Warning from firsthand experience: if the “you do” hook from “100,000 People” earworms itself into your head and you start singing it around the house, anyone you live with will likely threaten to kick your ass, or at least tell you to shut the fuck up.
6 Word Review: You Do, You Do, You Do
Foo Fighters, Medicine At Midnight
If rock & roll is dead, no one has bothered to tell the Foo Fighters. They seem to be the last men standing to carry the torch of guitar based rock that is palatable to the masses. I don’t go out of my way to listen to the Foos, though their eponymous debut, with Dave Grohl playing all the instruments, is one of my favorites from the mid 90s, an absolutely underrated album. A few years ago, I went to a school fundraiser that featured a performance by the Foo Fighters. Grohl quipped that they were making the rounds that night, playing at their kids’ school fundraisers around LA, pretty funny. I expected them to do something “unplugged” for the tender ears of middle aged parents looking for a chill night out, but they cranked it up to eleven and kicked ass. Respect. I’d probably skip Medicine At Midnight and check out the Kurstin x Grohl Hanukkah Sessions, a fun tribute to Jewish musicians.
6 Word Review: It’s fine, Hanukkah doesn’t come early
What are you listening to these days?