Our Favorite Albums, 2021
Our favorite albums of the year, as voted on by Tone Glow's writers
Let’s agree there is such a thing as inner freedom. Then I would say that art has a role of building or enlarging various senses of inner freedom, in opposition to various senses of tyranny. For if there are other senses of freedom than the usual political sense, there are other senses of tyranny or oppression or totalitarianism than the kind exemplified by secret police and gulags and lagers, and the imperial takeovers of small countries. There is also the tyranny of inanity. There is also the tyranny of shallowness. There is also the tyranny of mindlessness. There is also the tyranny of a culture that makes people ashamed of being serious—that severs the links between their consciousness and their lives, which makes seriousness possible. This suggests another oppositional role for culture, another way that the arts can defend human dignity.
—Susan Sontag in conversation with Vytautas Landsbergis, Nam June Paik, and Jonas Mekas, 1994
When I began Tone Glow’s Substack iteration, it was out of a desire to see music writing in the way I envisioned it: lively, communal, shining a light on the obscure. The ultimate goal was to be instructive: I wanted people to recognize the infinitude of all art, that no piece of music could be wholly understood. Interviews were presented more or less raw to reveal the richness of an artist’s life, influences, thoughts, and practice, and how all that could be seen in the resulting music. It was of utmost importance, though, that multiple opinions be present in a single space, if only to combat notions of a singular consensus—there is, in my mind, no clearer sign of an unhealthy critical commentariat than all year end lists looking the same (he says, on a year-end-list post).
While Tone Glow’s hiatus has been deeply important for my mental health, reading through our writers’ individual lists and reflections reminds me of how enriching all this is. While readers may not feel it so deeply, I see so much of every writer and who they are in both their lists and reflections. In a painful year such as our 2021, it’s nice to sense a bit of humanity in something as simple as a thoughtful selection of albums. As I revisited people’s favorite records, I kept respective writers in mind, and felt myself learning more about the artist, the album, and the writer all at once. List-making as lens-making—it feels like a miracle.
Below, you’ll find our collective list—20 albums that appeared in at least 2 of our lists. You’ll also find individual lists and reflections from contributors spread across two parts. As always, thanks for reading. Here’s to another year. —Joshua Minsoo Kim
Tone Glow’s Favorite Albums of 2021
The below list is Tone Glow’s Favorite Albums of 2021 as determined by our contributors’ individual lists. Every album below received at least 2 votes.
Received Five Votes:
Michael Pisaro-Liu - Revolution Shuffle (Erstwhile)
Received Four Votes:
Yvette Janine Jackson - Freedom (Fridman Gallery)
Wild Up - Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine (New Amsterdam)
Received Three Votes:
DJ Sprinkles - Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits: 1998-2017 12-Inches & One-Offs (Comatonse)
Éliane Radigue - Occam Ocean 3 (shiiin)
Jana Rush - Painful Enlightenment (Planet Mu)
Received Two Votes:
Dean Blunt - Black Metal 2 (Rough Trade)
Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt - Made Out of Sound (Palilalia)
Haptic - Weird Undying Annihilation (Notice Recordings)
Injury Reserve - By the Time I Get to Phoenix (self-released)
L’Rain - Fatigue (Mexican Summer)
Lucy Liyou - Practice (Full Spectrum)
Juçara Marçal - Delta Estácio Blues (Mais Um / QTV)
MIKE - Disco! (10k)
Lucia Nimcová & Sholto Dobie - DILO (Mappa)
William Parker – Migration of Silence into and Out of the Tone World (Volumes 1–10) (Centering Records)
RP Boo - Established! (Planet Mu)
RXK Nephew - Slitherman Activated (Towhead Recordings)
ThouxanBanFauni - Time of My Life (self-released)
Richard Youngs - CXXI (Black Truffle)