Best Albums of 2021, Part 2

11. Arab Strap, As Days Get Dark

The year’s least likely reunion (more so than Kings of Convenience.) Once immortalized in a Belle and Sebastian song, this Scottish duo always sounded much older than they were (thanks to Aidan Moffat’s thick, mucky brogue); it so follows that, now middle-aged and together again after 15 years, their sly observations and spoken-word reveries snugly fit into their eclectic folk-rock like an old brown shoe, albeit one still dodging the occasional spikes of memory, aging and such newfound wonders as being moved to tears when watching The Muppet Movie with your kid.

Standout track: “Here Comes Comus!”

10. Tori Amos, Ocean To Ocean

Having recalibrated her approach a few albums back—i.e., dispensing with the hour-plus running times and overarching concepts, Amos is on a minor late-career streak like 1990s Joni Mitchell. Though her latest isn’t as incendiary or innovative as her own 90s work, it’s suffused with emotion inspired by current events (like her post-9/11 travelogue Scarlet’s Walk), only on a more intimate scale. When she strips back down to just piano and voice (“Flowers Burn To Gold”), it’s so effective and startling one regrets having ever doubting her continued relevancy.

Standout track: “Flowers Burn To Gold”

9. Lord Huron, Long Lost

The fourth album from this roots-rock quartet emanates from the speakers like an unearthed, vintage radio broadcast: brief, spoken interludes weave together country ballads (“I Lied”), rockabilly raves (“Not Dead Yet”) and Technicolor retro-pop (“Mine Forever”) full of sweeping strings, Duane Eddy-style guitar, lots of reverb and a fair amount of extra space to move around and explore within. Not all that dissimilar from the three albums preceding it, but even with its concluding 15-minute ambient drone, it feels more complete.

Standout track: “Not Dead Yet”

8. Field Music, Flat White Moon

Following last year’s Making A New World, an ambitious concept album about the after-effects of World War I that felt a little overcooked, the Brewis Brothers present its near-antithesis—song-oriented, ultra-melodic and stacked with hooks. Truthfully, it could use a few more strange detours like 2018’s Open Here (still their best) but I won’t argue with the likes of “Do Me A Favour” and “No Pressure”, the latter an irresistible, insistent single that also serves as a clever rebuke to a certain Queen/David Bowie tune (not to mention another by Billy Joel.)

Standout track: “No Pressure”

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