2021 Listening

November 28, 2021
3 min read
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At the end of last year I posted a list of books and music I had listened to over the course of the year. Even though we’ve still got a month left in 2021, I had time last week to go through our collection and note down all of the records we bought this year.

We’ve been consistently buying about $30 worth of records each month for the past year, and I love that we’re getting to support artists we like and also building a physical collection. I feel like I’ve noted this many times on here before, but it’s been a lot of fun listening to music with our kids and having tangible pieces of art and music in our home. I’ve also been tracking everything on Discogs—it has been an amazing resource for liner notes, release dates, and nerding out on the details. It's like McMaster-Carr for records. I still marvel at the technology of the record as an art medium—its ability to be such a (mostly) affordable and (mostly) accessible form. The experience of sitting down to listen to a record alone or with friends and family is such a blessing in our hurried culture.

This year with a budget of about $30 per month (except in June when we bought a bunch of stuff on Record Store Day…), we ended up buying about 35 albums. Some of those were cheaper flea market finds, like Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, Glen Campbell’s By the Time I get to Phoenix, or Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years. I picked up a few great jazz records like Jimmy Smith’s Greatest Hits, Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert, Jeff Parker’s Suite for Max Brown, Miles Davis’s Miles in the Sky, and Spencer Zahn’s Sunday Painter. A couple other favorites we picked up were a reissue of Beach Boys Pet Sounds and the new 2xLP set Feel Flows, Felbm’s Tape 1/Tape 2, Fleet Foxes Shore, Real Estate’s The Main Thing, and Leon Bridges Coming Home. There are quite a few more we purchased, sometimes for a few bucks and sometimes for $30. Probably my favorite record that was released this year and which we own is Promises by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra, and released on David Byrne’s label Luaka Bop.

I read a book earlier this year called Vinyl Age: A Guide to Record Collecting Now by Max Brzezinski, and he describes multiple ways of thinking about record collecting. For example, you might be interested in collecting whole discographies of an artist, finding a specific sub-genre you collect within, or trying to hone in a curated collection of your favorite albums. I think that’s where our collection tends to fall. Genre-wise, we have a pretty wide range, from some classic Laurel Canyon records by Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Mamas & Papas, The Byrds, or CSN&Y, to indie folk/rock stuff like Real Estate, Julia Holter, Kacey Johansing, Dirty Projectors, Vetiver, or Devendra Banhart. I’ve been hoping to add in more jazz records over the next couple of years, so I’ll report back on that.

Lastly, there were a bunch of records I listened to and loved this year, but haven’t purchased yet. These weren’t all necessarily released in 2021, but were albums I heard for the first time and found myself replaying over and over (in no particular order):

In a Silent Way, 1969, Miles Davis
Miles in the Sky, 1968, Miles Davis
Amethyst: New Sounds from Moon Glyph Records, 2021
Scissortail EP, 2021, James McAlister
Tape 1/Tape 2, 2018, Felbm
Promises, 2021, Pharoah Sanders, Floating Points, and London Symphony Orchestra
Kite Symphony, 2020, Roberto Carlos Lange
Far In, 2021, Helado Negro
Paul Simon, 1972, Paul Simon
Conflict, 2020, John Carroll Kirby
Space 1.8, 2021, Nala Sinephro
Memory Streams, 2019, Portico Quartet
The Elements, 1973, Joe Henderson & Alice Coltrane
When the World Was One, Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra

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