My favorite musical discoveries of 2021


Last year, I decided to share
half-a-dozen of my favorite new-to-me music that year. My tastes are
certainly not mainstream, but I hope they jangled your curiosity strings and
maybe even led to some enjoyable discoveries. So here’s another batch for
this year.

You can listen to most of these on Bandcamp, I’ve linked to the albums
and sample tracks for that. In addition Pɾἶყმղƙ Jօհɾἶ made a playlist on spotify.

Jazz violin usually tends to lead people to think of the Grapelli gypsy
jazz style, but Johanna Burnheart takes more influence from the clubs of
modern-day Berlin. She describes her music as existing “at the point where
modal jazz and techno meet”. This kind of music has been one my most
favorite areas to explore in recent years. This year also saw me
exploring the music of Mammal Hands and enjoy
two new albums by Portico Quartet: my gateway to this genre.

As soon as the percussion gets roaring soon after the start of X.
Adjuah [I Own the Night]
, I knew I’d run into a special artist.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s trumpet has a stark, pure tone contrasting
to the rich layers of percussion and rhythm. This produces a sound that feels
like it could be one the places Miles Davis might have ended up on the
path from his work in the early 70’s. I’ve explored a bunch of his albums this
year, and can’t really pick out a favorite, so I picked where I started, a
live album recorded just before New York closed down in March 2020.

Stari Most by Stefano Saletti, Piccola Banda Ikona

Stefano Saletti plays music rooted in the Mediterranean, not
necessarily of a particular country, but of the traffic and travels of
that sea. Many of his songs are sung in the forgotten language Sabir, a
lingua franca used by sailors and merchants in Mediterranean ports. I’ve
been drawn to much of his music over the years, either under his own name,
or that of Piccola Banda Ikona

Sound the People by Red Baraat

sample track: Next Level

Anyone who enjoys interesting rhythms will naturally turn their ears to
India. Sunny Jain’s Red Baraat takes Indian influences and blends them
with “hip-hop, jazz, and raw punk energy”. I’m not a dancer, but it’s hard
to resist the energy and beats of this band. There’s a lot of imagination
in modern Indian music, and I like seeing it influencing western music scenes.

My Finest Work Yet by Andrew Bird

sample track: olympians

About as close as I get to mainstream these days, Andrew Bird slides
between American folk and indie rock with the help of some distinctive
violin loops and a remarkable whistle.

There’s long been a fruitful cross-pollination between Latin American
and African music. Guillo Cros brought together musicians from
Columbia and West Africa to make a band that lives with this cross
current. Latin American melodies and rhythms overlaid with delightful
soukous mi-solo from guitarist Simba Daniel Evousa.

I hope these suggestions have given you some new music to enjoy. If so,
please toss out a tweet and tell me what you liked. That way I’ll know to keep
sharing these in future years. As such I’ll shout out my appreciation to my
best sources: Dave Sumner’s monthly columns on best jazz on Bandcamp Daily, and James Catchpole’s
OK Jazz podcasts from the gritty
streets of Yokohama.

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