Well, top 10 + 10 actually.
Well, another shitty year has gone for concert addicts like myself -even if I was able to get a small dose. 2022 is not looking that huge but I hope we can have a normal festival season at least. I take this occasion to thank and support all of those who’ve tried to organize concerts during those fucked up times. Do not despair, things will improve eventually. I need you. We need you. Stay strong!
But even without delayed concerts, I must say I am a bit tired. I listened to a lot of music in 2021, but not that much NEW music. I was not very curious. I did not have the appetite. I stayed on known ground. That being said, I did not have a lot of WOW albums this year. There were quite a few good, or very good albums, but selecting who should feature in the top was not as much of a pain as it was last year. But maybe I’m just tired. Anyway, without further ado, here’s my top 10 + 10.
10. Sei Still – El Refugio
My favorite Mexico-german are back with a second album (review & interview here). They leave krautrock behind for a new wave / post punk album with a lot of qualities and some great songs but that did not hook me as much as their first one, because I’m a kraut man. Still quite a good album, the scanded Spanish lyrics make quite the effect, the instrumentation is still badass, and I wish them a long and fruitful career!
For those who went from hope to despair between 2020 and 2021
9. Comet Control – Inside The Sun
Comet Control is the heritage band of Quest For Fire, one of my favorite psychedelic rock bands ever. And their latest album was in 2016 so I’ve had time to wait. They keep the singular voice that I love and play a little faster. Well, more than a little faster. As fast as a band like OSees. It’s sometimes quite frenzied, to be honest. A great melange of psych and garage stoner.
For fast psych
8. Earthless – Live in the Mojave Desert
Earthless. The Californian desert. This should suffice, really. But I’ll go the extra mile, tell you a little more. The album was played and recorded in the middle of the desert, and Earthless give the full extent of their talent. 3 songs, 75 minutes. Only classics: Violence of the Red Sea, Sonic Prayer, and a 40 minutes version of Lost in the Cold Sun. Sheer madness. Endless riffs. Earthless is best appreciated live. Note this is a part of 5 live albums that were recorded by the California Desert Wizards Association, the other artists being Nebula, Mountain Tamer, Spirit Mother, and Stöner.
For desert medication
7. Kanaan – Earthbound
I love Kanaan, their jammy psychedelic music is well, music to my ears, and they’ve made my top last year too. They come back with a different proposal though, having added speed, massive heaviness and vibrating fuzz to their traditional cocktail, for our stonerhead’s pleasure! Furiously jammy, energetic, it will be a surprise to those who were expecting continuity, but a good one, I hope.
For thoe who can’t decide between regular psych and stoner pysch. Yeah, like me.
6. Samsara Blues Experiment – End of Forever
I’ve listened to Samsara Blues Experiment so much, I owe them so much in my (musical, but not lonely) life that not putting their last album in my top would have been an insult to them and to myself. So this is a very sentimental choice. This album is not the best they’ve done, but it is still Samsara Blues Experiment, one of the best bands on the stoner scene, and their legacy cannot be overstated.
For a grand exit.
5. delving – Hirschbrunnen
A solo side-project bi Nick DiSalvo, from Elder, much closer to the psychedelic vibe felt in the Gold & Silver Sessions (in my humble opinion the most exciting of Elder’s latest works). There’s still an Elder vibe of course but it is more personal. And all composed and recorded by himself, which is an accomplishment in its own right. In the words of Mr. Fuzz, who made it N°1 this year, “as smooth and subtle as a leaf falling slowly on a calm lake, and the many ripples it creates on the surface of the water would be all the layers of the sound and emotions you find in Hirschbrunnen.”
For one-man bands
4. King Buffalo – Acheron
I wasn’t blown away by the first King Buffalo release in 2021 (which you’ll still find in my 10 contenders) but that one… Wow. Recorded in a natural cave, Acheron is literally underground music, a tribute to Hades’ realm, with long, repetitive, very progressive songs, much more to my taste and what I’ve learned to love from the Americans. I didn’t really fall in love with the album as I have with other ones, but we can now say with confidence that King Buffalo has now marked the history of fuzz, and maybe of rock music. An album for the ages.
For those who enjoyed playing Hades
3. Eldovar – A Story of Darkness & Light
This was a complete surprise to me. We’ve known for a while that Elder and Kadavar were working on an album together, but I really didn’t know what to expect. Elder has been a favorite of mine for a long time but was on the descending path, Kadavar I’ve always found enjoyable but not much more, what could the addition of both result in? Well, in a great album, that doesn’t sound like one or the other band, but something completely different. It often felt like a tribute to Pink Floyd of sorts (El Matador, for example). Not really a stoner album, more of a prog rock album, really. Beautiful.
For a Pink Floyd fuzzy variation
2. Jack Harlon & the Dead Crows – The Magnetic Ridge
I’ve never heard of this Australian band before this album, which is their second LP. I stumbled upon it, it immediately stuck, and has been my companion since its release in February 2021. The bluesy style, the ambient, varying from laid back to aggressive, it resonated with me, and I followed the adventures of Jack Harlon (imaginary cowboy) with pleasure. I just fell for it. So should you. And that artwork…
For outback cowboys
1. SLIFT – Levitation Sessions
UMMON was n°3 on my list for 2021. If you like fuzzed-out space rock, you liked it too. But this Levitation Session (for which we did a short interview), recorded in a metal bowl usually used for science, takes SLIFT to the next level. The reverb, the fuzz, the sound is tremendous. One can only wonder how it was even possible to record it. Earth-Shattering. Galaxies were born and died to these frequencies. All the tracks are from UMMON, all slightly reworked, longer and jammier. The ultimate fuzzy space trip rock album.
For overwhelming reverberation
11-20 in alphabetical order
Each of them could be 11th or 20th depending on the time you ask me. Maybe they’re all equally good, maybe I suck at ranking, who cares, it’s good stuff anyway.
10 000 Russos – SuperInertia
The most motorik Portuguese band in the world is back: lovers of repetitive, meditative, trance-inducing music, go get your dose, and beware of the comedown.
For minimal lovers
Giobia & The Cosmic Dead – The Intergalactic Connection
A great split between two very different bands, Giobia from Italy dwelling more in dream rock and The Cosmic Dead, the most anarchist stoner band from Scotland, with a much more aggressive fuzz rock. A trip of its own. Contains a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Julia Dream”
King Buffalo – The Burden of Restlessness
Here it comes – the other King Buffalo album. They tried something else, and it did not work on me. Darker, shorter songs, I prefer them when they take their time, have a more progressive approach.
For those who like their songs short
Motrik – MOON: The Cosmics Electrics of MOTRIK
This one speaks for itself, I guess. Pure motorik krautrock with a lot of keyboards, I haven’t heard of them before this album which I discovered by chance, and I am happy I did!
For a trip to the moon and back on the Authoban
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – SHYGA! The Sunlight Mound
The Australian most festive psychedelic rock band comes back with another exciting album, in the continuity of their past works and bands such as OhSees, Fuzz, King Gizzard, etc… but with an extra party touch.
For your rights to party
Squid – Bright Green Field
Alert, non-stoner album! We’ve seen a lot of weird English post punk stuff these last few years (starting with Idles, then black midi, Dry Cleaning…) but in 2021 if I had one to select it would be the first album from Squid. Pure, unleashed madness. If HP Lovecraft was asked to describe their sound, he would probably say unfathomable. There’s a bit of everything, really, and it goes in many, many directions, all at once. Great surprise. Quite whacky.
Stone from the Sky – Songs from the Deepwater
An album that resonates with what the world feels right now – anguish, discontent, doubt. Not a light listen. But maybe it’s just me. I also appreciate the variety, French bands have a lot of talent when it comes to mixing influences.
For a bit of bleakness and a bit of rage
Sunnata – Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth
Polish stoner priests Sunnata are back with a great album, even more incantatory than their previous one. Great songs, heaviness all around, chanted lyrics, all you need for your next black mass.
For atheists who still like a good mass from time to time
Tremor Ama – Beneath
I could not leave Tremor Ama out of my yearly recommendations, after all, I interviewed them for the album release. The French’s auto-produced first album is to be listened to. Like their compatriots Stone from the Sky, they mix various influences in a unique way, but the result is very different, catchier, less dark, less heavy, but still more than worth your time.
Yawning Sons – Sky Island
Instrumental rock band Sons of Alpha Centauri + veterans of the Californian desert rock stage (mostly from Yawning Man as you guessed), second collaboration 12 years after the first one. If you like cool, aerial, post-rock vibes with a heavier touch, you’ve got it.
For a peaceful flight
Favorite Gigs 2021:
Well it was great to go back to DesertFest Antwerp which had a very qualitative line-up despite the numerous travel restrictions (no bands from the US, Japan, even UK was complicated…)
Sei Still at Supersonic, Paris, for their first concert in France.
A big thanks to the Supersonic / Trabendo alliance in Paris that allowed us to go to concerts throughout the summer.