The Best Non-Jazz Albums of 2021

Initial draft collected on Nov. 7, 2021. The file will be updated as additional worthy records are found (although updating may lag behind the official 2021 list). Last year's list was never frozen (OK, let's say it was frozen on Nov. 7, 2021). There also exists a parallel list of The Best Jazz of 2021.

Note: numbering of lists (aside from A/A-) is only temporary, to make it easier for me to tally up stats. I've made no effort to order (other than alphaetical by artist) anything in grades below A-.

[*] indicates that I reviewed this on the basis of an advance, often a CDR copy (a good thing, I might add, for vinyl-only releases). [**] identifies a record that I've only heard via download or through a streaming service like Napster.

For all lists, I've included a few 2020 (and possibly earlier) records that I discovered after last year's freeze date, but I've only included such records if they were released on or after Dec. 1, 2020, or were so little known that they received no mention in the 2020 metacritic file. These are marked, e.g., -20, after the label.

New Music

1. Anthony Joseph: The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives (Heavenly Sweetness)
Poet, novelist (The African Origins of UFOs, Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon), singer-songwriter, born in Trinidad in 1966, moved to UK in 1989, eighth album since 2007. Six pieces stretch out, the pointed poems have much to say ("how long do you have to live in a place before you can call it home?"), and the band, which starts jazzy but swings and powers up like Mingus, needs room to breathe. Credits list four saxophonists. Together they're formidable, but the monster solos I'd guess to be the work of Shabaka Hutchings. **

2. Gift of Gab: Finding Inspiration Somehow (Nature Sounds)
Blackalicious rapper Timothy Jerome Parker, died in June at 50, fourth solo album. Good taste in underground beats and flow, one of the fastest, most literate rappers ever, scores some important political points, but the most poignant piece was on how he kept writing through dialysis, contemplating an end he wasn't ready for, because he had so much more to do. **

3. Nathan Bell: Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn't Happen Here) (Need to Know)
Singer-songwriter, from Iowa, looks like he has ten or so albums going back to 2007 (In Tune, On Time, Not Dead). Sings about prison and guns and money and Jesus and his father, and most of all about an America that's making it rougher and tougher than anyone deserves. Patty Griffin helps out.

4. Maria Muldaur With Tuba Skinny: Let's Get Happy Together (Stony Plain)
Trad jazz band from New Orleans, Todd Burdick plays the tuba, but Shaye Cohn (cornet) usually gets first mention, backed by trombone, banjo, clarinet, two guitars, and washboard. They have close to a dozen albums since 2009, usually with Erika Lewis singing. Muldaur, who started in Jim Kweskin's Jug Band, is perfectly at home here. **

5. Todd Snider: First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder (Aimless)
I never read those "most anticipated albums" pieces, but if I had to write one, this would lead. Given that, this feels a bit slight, but I can't complain about the tributes to dead homies -- he's always been a "reality-based" bard, and that's to be expected after 2020. I will complain a bit about the "agnostic" shtick: if you can't believe, why not let it go? I reckon his answer is "hope and wonder," but why presuppose a cause beyond oneself? Main innovation here is in the rhythm, where he breaks from folk tradition, probably for good. **

6. Olivia Rodrigo: Sour (Geffen)
Teenage (18) pop singer-songwriter from Temecula, California; great-grandfather from Philippines. Started taking acting and singing classes at age 6, got a film role at 12, a Disney+ series at 16, and is beginning to sound like a grizzled veteran -- even more so on the expertly paced ballads than on the opening anthem, "Brutal." **

7. No-No Boy: 1975 (Smithsonian Folkways)
Julian Saporiti, Vietnamese-American born in Nashville, based in Portland, second album, steeped in Asian-American history, group named for John Okada's 1957 novel ("perceived as disloyal to the US but not fully Japanese"), title for the year Saigon fell. **

8. Arlo Parks: Collapsed Into Sunbeams (Transgressive)
Semi-pop singer-songwriter from London, given name Anas Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, ancestors from Nigeria, Chad, and France, first album after two EPs. I, for one, find "Hope" remarkably reassuring, and less for the lyrics than for the music, something few others have been able to do (Stevie Wonder, I guess). I wouldn't have held it for the sixth single, but it wouldn't have been my first pick either. **

9. Carsie Blanton: Love & Rage (So Ferocious)
Singer-songwriter, based in New Orleans, albums since 2005, breakthrough was her 2019 album Buck Up. Eleven more first rate songs. Easy enough: to stay off her "Shit List," just "Be Good." **

10. Steve Earle & the Dukes: J.T. (New West)
Ten songs written by Earle's son, Justin Townes Earle, who died of a drug overdose last year. The younger Earle recorded nine albums 2007-19. I've heard the last six, thought he was a decent songwriter -- I warmed most to his last, The Saint of Lost Causes -- but not nearly as good as his father. This offers the best of both: cherry-picked songs, performed adroitly by a much better singer and a first-rate band. **

11. L'Orange & Namir Blade: Imaginary Everything (Mello Music Group)
Producer and rapper/lyricist, Blade, from Nashville, released his debut album last year, so some further research is in order. L'Orange has a real knack for putting tracks together, but he also picks interesting collaborators. **

12. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg (4AD)
English post-punk band led by singer Florence Shaw, first album after EPs and singles, dry talk over measured guitar riffs and choppy beats. Reminds some of Gang of Four. Less political, or maybe just more discreet about it. **

13. Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough (Legacy)
Fourth album since 2016 produced by John Carter Cash, all including sessions from 2007 plus later songs. I don't know the mix, but she's 88 now, and had a stroke in 2017 which delayed the release of Wouldn't It Be Great. So it's surprising she sounds so steady all the way through this one. Helps that it's short (35:09), mostly built arounnd new versions of her classics, padded out with three gospel pieces (including the creepy "I Don't Feel at Home Anymore." Still, happy to hear her singing so strong. **

14. Rico Nasty: Nightmare Vacation (Sugar Trap/Atlantic -20)
Rapper Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly, first studio album after a half-dozen mixtapes (first in 2014, when she was 17). Can't say much about lyrics, but titles run like "STFU," "OHFR?," and "Pussy Poppin," so I figure attitude and beats. Ends with her "breakout" 2018 single "Smack a Bitch," preceded by a remix of same, driving the whole thing home. **

15. Jaubi: Nafs at Peace (Astigmatic)
Pakistani instrumental quartet, exploring "eastern mysticism and the spiritual self [Nafs]." Starts calmly, not unlike Orj Gven's Ocean of Remembrance, but doesn't stay in that groove as they move from Lahore to Oslo and pick up a couple of ringers, notably on towering saxophone. **

16. Czarface/MF Doom: Super What? (Silver Age, EP)
Hip-hop supergroup (7L, Esoteric, Inspectah Deck) teams up with rapper Daniel Dumile for a short album (10 tracks, 26:44), a follow up to their 2018 Czarface Meets Metal Face. Originally slated for April 2020, held back due to lockdown, finally appearing after Doom's death in October. **

17. DJ Black Low: Uwami (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
South African DJ, Sam Austin Radebe, various featured rappers. Love the beats here. Don't know much more. **

18. Penelope Scott: Public Void (Tesla's Pigeon, EP -20)
Twenty-year-old singer-songwriter, DIY electronics, song "Rt" has over a million YouTube views, a story of nerd love and disillusionment ("I bit the apple 'cause I trusted you, it tastes like Thomas Malthus, you proposal is immodest and insane . . . you promised you would be Tesla, but you're just another Edison"). Initially released as a 6-cut download, then reissued a month later with a 7th song (total 26:06). **

19. Garbage: No Gods No Masters (Infectious Music)
Seventh album since 1995, one every 4-7 years since 2001. Home base for drummer/producer Butch Vig, fronted by Shirley Manson. Starts strong and true: "The men who rule the world/ have made a fucking mess." "Deluxe Edition" adds a second disc, starting with their impressive 2017 "No Horses" single, ending with the best song here ("Time Will Destroy Everything"), with some pleasing covers for filler. **

20. Hayes Carll: You Get It All (Dualtone)
Country singer-songwriter from Arkansas, albums since 2002, most real good. This comes close, both for sharp observations and basic form, and gets deeper as it sinks in. **

21. Navy Blue: Song of Sage: Post Panic! (Freedom Sounds -20)
Brooklyn rapper Sage Elsesser, professional skateboarder, fashion model, visual artist, second album. Speaks over nondescript synths, conscious, at one point explains, "this is therapeutic." **

22. Skee Mask: Pool (Ilian Tape)
German DJ/producer Bryan Mller, singles since 2014, third album. Long, available digital and 3-LP but would fit comfortably on 2-CD (18 tracks, 103:14). Love the stutter rhyths with odd embellishments, the slower ones only a bit less. **

23. Dave: We're All Alone in This Together (Neighbourhood)
British rapper David Omoregie, born in Brixton, parents Nigerian, second album. His stardom leaves him alone but constantly connected to the binds of race and class, the common condition that informs his brilliant title. **

24. James McMurtry: The Horses and the Hounds (New West)
Singer-songwriter from Texas, father was noveist Larry McMurtry, 10th album since 1989. Counts as Americana, with a feel for language and an eye for detail, over guitar which carries you along gently. I wasn't as quickly taken by this one as by his recent albums, but it delivers in the end. **

25. Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever (Interscope)
Second album, still a teenager (though I'm not sure she ever was), produced by her brother Finneas O'Connell, reducing her budget to slack DIY beats. Nothing here grabs me like her debut, but lots of things hint at her appeal, not to say genius, even if her charms are decidedly cerebral. **

26. Dua Saleh: Crossover (Against Giants, EP)
Born in Sudan, left at age 5 and wound up in Minnesota, makes a point of being non-binary, hip-hop but sings more than raps, third EP (7 songs, 22:56). Diverse songs, each with its own unique allure. **

27. John Hiatt With the Jerry Douglas Band: Leftover Feelings (New West)
Singer-songwriter from Indianapolis -- I remember seeing him play solo in a bar there -- settled in Nashville, with 24 albums since 1974. Douglas is a bluegrass guy, and his band swings gently, getting by without a drummer. The unrushed atmosphere suits Hiatt, whose voice has moderated without losing its distinctness. Also, the songs are full of memorable images and turns of phrase. [PS: Didn't check, but found at least one leftover song: "All the Lilacs in Ohio," from The Tiki Bar Is Open -- best song there, and one of the better ones here.] **

28. Iggy Azalea: The End of an Era (Bad Dreams/Empire)
Australian rapper Amethyst Amelia Kelly, moved to US at 16 and picked up a local accent, had a big hit with her 2014 debut. Third and "final" album, supposedly a throwback to her "mixtape roots." Having survived my self-destructive impulses, I'm feeling kind of weird liking a song where the refrain is "I love drugs," or another explaining "You need a good girl/ I'm just a good time." I suppose I could blame the beats. **

29. Carly Pearce: 29: Written in Stone (Big Machine)
Singer-songwriter from Kentucky, moved to Nashville at 19 to seek her fortune, and got a (not very good) album released at 27. At 31, this is her third album, a 15-song expansion on a 7-song February EP. Title song reflects back: "29 is the year that I got married and divorced/ . . . the year I was going to live it up, now I'm never gonna let it down." All songs have co-writers, with Brandy Clark contributing to the first one that stands out ("Dear Miss Loretta"), but after two plays they're all fitting in. **

30. OneTwoThree: OneTwoThree (Kill Rock Stars)
Three Swiss women -- Klaudia Schifferle, Madlaina Peer, Sara Schr, the former of limited Kleenex/Liliput fame -- sing in stripped down English over stripped down bass riffs, reminds me of B-52s as much as Liliput. **

31. Homeboy Sandman: Anjelitu (Mello Music Group, EP)
New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, debut 2007, prefers EPs to albums but often blurs the line. This one's 6 tracks, 18:44, produced by Aesop Rock, who joins in on the closer, "Lice Team, Baby" (after the duo's Lice albums). Leads off with "Go Hard," and keeps with it. All six songs are powerful, prickly, even if I'm not even considering swearing off beef, or drinking cow's milk. **

32. The Mountain Goats: Dark in Here (Merge)
It's getting harder and harder for me to get a grip on mainstream rock records -- I'm not retaining the words, the melodies all sink into sameness, nothing stands out. I should probably give up on trying to review them. But this does seem special, even if I can't quite put my finger on why. Maybe the brightness of his voice against the dark of recent history? **

33. Lost Girls: Menneskekollektivet (Smalltown Supersound)
Norwegian duo, Jenny Hval voice and lyrics spoken over guitar-tinged electronica by Hval and Hvard Holden. Five tracks, two run to 12:10 and 15:30, consciousness rising out of mesmerizing depths. **

34. Asleep at the Wheel: Half a Hundred Years (Home)
Founded in West Virginia in 1970, they soon moved to California, then to Austin in 1974, trading in their bluegrass roots for Western swing. Some of their best records since then have been Bob Wills tributes (Ridin' With Bob in 1999 and Still the King in 2015), although they've also done well with Willie Nelson (Willie and the Wheel, from 2009). A plethora of guests pitch in and help out, but fifty years provide the perspective. **

35. Ruth Weiss: We Are Sparks in the Universe to Our Own Fire (Edgetone)
Beat poet, born 1928 in Berlin, died 2020. She grew up in Vienna, managed to keep one step ahead of the Nazis, moving to Amsterdam in 1938, then to America, eventually San Francisco. She has some twenty books of poetry since 1958, and several jazz albums. Fairly minimal backing, with synth, bass, wooden log, and tasty squibbles of Rent Romus sax and flute -- puts this record over the top. By the way, Romus credits George Russell with introducing him to Weiss (in 2013).

36. Marina: Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land (Atlantic)
Singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis, from Wales (Welsh mother, Greek father), four previous albums as Marina and the Diamonds, first with her name shortened. Her consciousness is more deeply personal, and more militantly feminist. **

37. John R. Miller: Depreciated (Rounder)
Nashville singer-songwriter, from West Virginia, has a couple previous albums. Makes himself comfortable, settling into a nice groove and telling stories about people you must have known, or just bumped into. **

38. Megan Thee Stallion: Something for Thee Hotties: From Thee Archives (300 Entertainment)
Rapper Megan Pete, considers this a compilation, consisting of "previously-released YouTube freestyles, as well as previously unreleased archival songs," which sounds to me like it qualifies as a new release. Hard, fast, short pieces, 21 of them, adding up to 44:38. Brash, very much in control. **

39. Thomas Anderson: Ladies and Germs (Out There)
Singer-songwriter, debut 1988, ten albums since, nice unfancy melodies, clever words that mature into stories. Christgau considers this his best since that debut. I'm not so sure, but this is another good one, getting better as I try to write. **

40. Illuminati Hotties: Let Me Do One More (Snack Shack Tracks/Hopeless)
Indie pop band from Los Angeles, principally Sarah Tudzin, second album. Several fast ones are terrific, slow ones less immediately appealing. **

41. Trak Trak: Sur Sur (Ciclismo -20)
Argentinian singer-songwriter Romina Schenone and a band that looks suspiciously German, play intense dance music that draws on cumbia and reggaeton. A vigorous workout, very catchy. **

42. Kalie Shorr: I Got Here by Accident (Tmwrk, EP)
Nashville singer-songwriter, originally from Maine, self-released an impressive debut album in 2019, then re-released it in 2020 on this label. Big, punchy sound, produced by Butch Walker. Five songs, all substantial, 15:02. **

43. Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime (Matador)
Tuareg guitar god, from Niger, sixth studio album since 2008, first on a rock label, resulting is some amusing hype: this album supposedly evolves from ZZ Top/Black Sabbath to Van Halen/Black Flag/Black Uhuru. I hear none of that, but fine with me if you want to try Ravi Shankar reaching for Jimi Hendrix's sky. Still, not just guitar. He/they sing in Tamasheq, "with poetic meditations on love, religion, women's rights, inequality, and Western Africa's exploitation at the hands of colonial powers." **

44. Sacred Soul of North Carolina (Bible & Tire)
Various gospel artists, including some who have been in business for considerable years, but recorded at the same time (11 groups in 8 days in February 2020). The band is presumably the same for all, and they rock. No guarantee I won't grow tired of this much holy rolling, but damn impressive for what it is. **

45. Emily Duff: Razor Blade Smile (Mr. Mudshow Music)
Singer-songwriter from New York, fourth album since 2017, surprised to find she doesn't have a Wikipedia page, also that producer Eric Ambel has both a personal one and a separate discography page (as well as the expected pages for his groups, the Yayhoos and the Del-Lords). **

46. Thomas Fehlmann: Bser Herbst (Kompakt)
Swiss electronica producer, based in Berlin, been doing it since the 1980s, not a huge number of albums (Discogs lists 13). Title translates as: bad (or evil) autumn. Written as soundtrack for a documentary, related to Babylon Berlin (previous alsum was 1929: Das Jahr Babylon). Ambient in tone, but never fades into background. **

Also added the following 2020 albums after freezing the 2020 year-end file:

1. Sa-Roc: The Sharecropper's Daughter (Rhymesayers)
Rapper Assata Perkins, originally from DC, studied at Howard, based in Atlanta, father sharecropped tobacco in Virginia. Races through 15 songs, sharp and urgent. Features include Saul Williams and Black Thought. **

2. Naeem: Startisha (37d03d)
Baltimore rapper Naeem Juwan, previously dba Spank Rock. Don't know what to say about this, but gets catchier and more intriguing with each play. **

Honorable Mention

Additional non-jazz rated B+(***), listed alphabetically.

  1. The Anchoress: The Art of Losing (Kscope) **
  2. Baby Queen: The Yearbook (Polydor) **
  3. BaianaSystem: OXEAXEEXU (Maquina De Louco) **
  4. Bktherula: Love Black (Warner) **
  5. Darrin Bradbury: Artvertisement (Anti-) **
  6. Hayes Carll: You Get It All (Dualtone) **
  7. The Chills: Scatterbrain (Fire) **
  8. Chvrches: Screen Violence (Glassnote) **
  9. Charley Crockett: Music City USA (Son of Davy) **
  10. Rodney Crowell: Triage (RC1) **
  11. Lana Del Rey: Blue Bannisters (Polydor/Interscope) **
  12. McKinley Dixon: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her (Spacebomb) **
  13. DMX Krew: Loose Gears (Hypercolour) **
  14. Nahawa Doumbia: Kanawa (Awesome Tapes From Africa) **
  15. Eminem: Music to Be Murdered By: Side B (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope -20) **
  16. Ensemble O/Aum Grand Ensemble: Julius Eastman: Femenine (Sub Rosa) **
  17. Noga Erez: Kids (City Slang) **
  18. Joe Fahey: February on Ice (Rough Fish) **
  19. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob's Son: R.A.P. Ferreira in the Garden Level Cafe of the Scallops Hotel (Ruby Yacht) **
  20. Robert Finley: Sharecropper's Son (Easy Eye Sound) **
  21. Fire in Little Africa (Motown) **
  22. The Flatlanders: Treasure of Love (Rack 'Em) **
  23. For Those I Love: For Those I Love (September) **
  24. Rhiannon Giddens With Francesco Turrisi: They're Calling Me Home (Nonesuch) **
  25. Girl in Red: If I Could Make It Go Quiet (AWAL) **
  26. The Go! Team: Get Up Sequences Part One (Memphis Industries) **
  27. Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever (300 Entertainment/Atlantic) **
  28. Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name (Capitol Nashville) **
  29. The Halluci Nation: One More Saturday Night (Radicalized) **
  30. Halsey: If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power (Capitol) **
  31. Idles: Crawler (Partisan) **
  32. Jack Ingram/Miranda Lambert/Jon Randall: The Marfa Tapes (RCA Nashville) **
  33. Alan Jackson: Where Have You Gone (EMI Nashville) **
  34. Arushi Jain: Under the Lilac Sky (Leaving) **
  35. Japanese Breakfast: Jubilee (Dead Oceans) **
  36. Rochelle Jordan: Play With the Changes (Young Art) **
  37. Jupiter & Okwess: Na Kozonga (Everloving) **
  38. Ka: A Martyr's Reward (Iron Works) **
  39. Kasai Allstars: Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound (Crammed Discs) **
  40. Kiwi Jr.: Cooler Returns (Sub Pop) **
  41. John Kruth: Love Letters From the Lazaretto (self-released) **
  42. The Linda Lindas: The Linda Lindas (self-released, EP -20) **
  43. Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (Age 101) **
  44. Low Cut Connie: Tough Cookies: The Best of the Quarantine Broadcasts (Contender) **
  45. Mach-Hommy: Pray for Haiti (Griselda) **
  46. Mereba: Azeb (Interscope, EP) **
  47. Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (Invada, EP -20) **
  48. Genesis Owusu: Smiling With No Teeth (Ourness/House Anxiety) **
  49. Parquet Courts: Sympathy for Life (Rough Trade) **
  50. Carly Pearce: 29 (Big Machine, EP) **
  51. Liz Phair: Soberish (Chrysalis) **
  52. RaeLynn: Baytown (Round Here) **
  53. Dawn Richard: Second Line (Merge) **
  54. Riders Against the Storm: Flowers for the Living (Divide and Conjure) **
  55. Sault: Nine (Forever Living Legends) **
  56. Sleaford Mods: Spare Ribs (Rough Trade) **
  57. Cleo Sol: Mother (Forever Living Originals) **
  58. Pauline Anna Strom: Angel Tears in Sunlight (RVNG Intl.) **
  59. Taylor Swift: Evermore (Republic -20) **
  60. Taylor Swift: Fearless (Taylor's Version) (Republic) **
  61. Taylor Swift: Red (Taylor's Version) (Republic) **
  62. Tele Novella: Merlynn Belle (Kill Rock Stars) **
  63. Tinashe: 333 (Tinashe Music) **
  64. Tyler, the Creator: Call Me if You Get Lost (Columbia) **
  65. Wild Up: Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine (New Amsterdam) **
  66. Lainey Wilson: Sayin' What I'm Thinkin' (Broken Bow) **
  67. Remi Wolf: Juno (Island) **
  68. Young Stoner Life/Young Thug/Gunna: Slime Language 2 (YSL/300 Entertainment) **

Also added the following 2020 albums after freezing the 2020 year-end file:

Reissues/Historic Music

The standard for historic music is a record where everything was recorded 10+ years ago, regardless of whether it's ever been in print before. Some past lists may have treated previously unreleased music as new (regardless of actual age), but I've never been able to manage that distinction consistently. This category also includes compilations of previously released music, including straight reissues, although my selection is very erratic.

1. What Goes On: The Songs of Lou Reed (1967-2019, Ace)
I know all of these songs intimately, but I've rarely heard anyone but Reed play them. The selection ranges widely, yet familiarity binds them together, one pleasant surprise after another. Makes me finally recognize that Reed's songs aren't just for him. They're for all of us. **

2. 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (Island)
Does "That" make any sense here? Subtitle feels like an anagram where you can shift words around endlessly without settling on a satisfactory result. No doubt the music was changing, as was the world, but subject and object are harder to grasp. Maybe it was dialectical? The documentary series runs eight episodes, about 6 hours, and contained enough music for a 4-CD box, so a single CD is bound to disappoint. As a synopsis, sure isn't bad, especially starting with "Imagine" and "What's Going On." But David Bowie, who probably gets more screen time than anyone, and "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," which is heavily featured as the year's most striking song, are missing here, as are Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, Joni Mitchell, and Sly & the Family Stone. On the other hand, there are songs and artists here that I don't recall in the videos (like Rod Stewart, the Beach Boys, Edwin Starr's "Ball of Confusion," and the Temptations' "Just My Imagination"). I'm not inclined to complain about any of those last four -- even the piece from the otherwise lame Surf's Up (although John Martyn and Nick Drake do seem a little parochial, even in England). No doubt licensing has something to do with it, even though Universal, which owns Island, owns damn near everything. Makes me wonder if Sony can do an answer record (which should get us Bowie, Scott-Heron, and Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side"). **

3. Joseph Spence: Encore: Unheard Recordings of Bahamian Guitar and Singing (1965, Smithsonian/Folkways)
One of the few major artists from the Bahamas (1910-84), folk singer, guitarist, his 1958 Folkways recordings the standard this offers an encore to. Off-kilter, redeemed by gospel spirit. **

4. Cold Wave #2 (2015-20, Soul Jazz)
Opens with three pretty good cuts, but Job Sifre's "At Least We Try" raises the level, and everything else rises with it. First volume took the chill too seriously. This reminds you that lots of interesting electronica has been happening in obscure corners, but sometimes it helps to mix it up a bit. **

5. Khaira Arby: Live in New York 2010 (Clermont Music)
Singer from Timbuktu in Mali (1959-2018), touted as the first Malian woman to start a musical career under her own name (1992). Credited with two albums (at least internationally), the first coincident with her 2010-11 tour of the US and Canada, whence this set from Bard College. Tremendous energy here. **

Also added the following 2020 (or earlier) albums after freezing the 2020 year-end file:

Honorable Mention

Additional non-jazz rated B+(***), listed alphabetically.

  1. Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975 (Mute, 2CD) **
  2. Marianne Faithfull: The Montreux Years (1995-2009, BMG) **
  3. Emmylou Harris and the Hot Band: Hot Night in Roslyn: 1976 Radio Broadcast Recording (Hobo) **
  4. The J Ann C Trio: At Tan-Tar-A (1966, Modern Harmonic/Sundazed) **
  5. Alan Lomax's American Patchwork (1978-83, Mississippi) **
  6. Hailu Mergia & the Walias Band: Tezeta (1975, Awesome Tapes From Africa) **
  7. Now That's What I Call Music! Outlaw Country (1968-2015, NOW) **
  8. Lee Scratch Perry: The Specialist: The Pama Years (1969-71, Pama) **
  9. Shem Tupe/Justo Osala/Enos Okola: Guitar Music of Western Kenya: 45s From the Archive of Shem Tupe (Mississippi) **
  10. Wallahi Le Zein! (Mississippi) **

Also added the following 2020 albums after freezing the 2020 year-end file:

  1. Aaron Neville: Tell It Like It Is: The Sansu Years (1968-75, HHO) **
  2. The White Stripes: My Sister Thanks You and I Thank You: Greatest Hits (1998-2007, Third Man/Columbia) **


Additional new non-jazz records rated B+(**) or below (listed alphabetically by artist).

  1. Snoh Aalegra: Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies (ARTium/Roc Nation) ** [B+(*)]
  2. ABBA: Voyage (Polar) ** [B-]
  3. Ada Lea: One Hand on the Steering Wheel the Other Sewing a Garden (Saddle Creek) ** [B+(**)]
  4. Adult Mom: Driver (Epitaph) ** [B+(**)]
  5. Aesop Rock X Blockhead: Garbology (Rhymesayers Entertainment) ** [B+(**)]
  6. Arooj Aftab: Vulture Prince (New Amsterdam) ** [B+(*)]
  7. Fatima Al Qadiri: Medieval Femme (Hyperdub) ** [B-]
  8. Lauren Alaina: Sitting Pretty on Top of the World (Mercury Nashville) ** [B-]
  9. Gary Allan: Ruthless (EMI Nashville) ** [B+(*)]
  10. Altin Gn: Yol (ATO) ** [B+(**)]
  11. Aly & AJ: A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun (Aly & AJ Music) ** [B+(*)]
  12. Anika: Change (Sacred Bones) ** [B+(**)]
  13. Tamar Aphek: All Bets Are Off (Kill Rock Stars) ** [B+(**)]
  14. Arab Strap: As Days Get Dark (Rock Action) ** [B+(**)]
  15. Armand Hammer & the Alchemist: Haram (Backwoodz Studioz) ** [B+(**)]
  16. The Armed: Ultrapop (Sargent House) ** [B]
  17. Ashnikko: Demidevil (Parlophone, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  18. Atmosphere: Word? (Rhymesayers Entertainment) ** [B+(*)]
  19. Aya: Im Hole (Hyperdub) ** [B+(**)]
  20. Backxwash: I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and My Dress (Ugly Hag) ** [B+(*)]
  21. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions (Matador) ** [B+(*)]
  22. Mandy Barnett: Every Star Above (BMG) ** [B]
  23. Jon Batiste: We Are (Verve) ** [B+(**)]
  24. Benny the Butcher: The Plugs I Met 2 (Black Soprano Family, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  25. Benny the Butcher: Pyrex Picasso (Rare Scrilla/BSF, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  26. Bfb Da Packman: Fat Niggas Need Love Too (The Lunch Crew) ** [B+(**)]
  27. Eric Bibb: Dear America (Provogue) ** [B+(**)]
  28. Bicep: Isles (Ninja Tune) ** [B+(**)]
  29. The Black Keys: Delta Kream (Nonesuch) ** [B+(**)]
  30. Black Midi: Cavalcade (Rough Trade) ** [B]
  31. Namir Blade: Namir Blade Presents Aphelion's Traveling Circus (Mello Music Group -20) ** [B+(*)]
  32. Bleachers: Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night (RCA) ** [B+(*)]
  33. Black Country, New Road: For the First Time (Ninja Tune) ** [B+(**)]
  34. Blu: The Color Blu(e) (Nature Sounds) ** [B+(*)]
  35. Bomba Estreo: Deja (Sony Music Latin) ** [B+(**)]
  36. Bridge of Flowers: A Soft Day's Night (ESP-Disk) * [B+(*)]
  37. Brockhampton: Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine (Question Everything/RCA) ** [B+(**)]
  38. The Bug: Fire (Ninja Tune) ** [B+(*)]
  39. Burial: Chemz/Dolphin (Hyperdub, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  40. Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying (Single Lock) ** [B+(**)]
  41. Cabaret Voltaire: Dekadrone (Mute) ** [B+(*)]
  42. Matt Caflisch: Runaway (Fat Oak -20) ** [B+(*)]
  43. Playboi Carti: Whole Lotta Red (AWGE/Interscope -20) ** [B+(**)]
  44. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: Carnage (AWAL) ** [B]
  45. Sarah Mary Chadwick: Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby (Ba Da Bing!) ** [B+(**)]
  46. Chai: Wink (Sub Pop) ** [B+(**)]
  47. Chubby and the Gang: The Mutt's Nuts (Partisan) ** [B+(**)]
  48. Eric Church: Heart (EMI Nashville) ** [B+(**)]
  49. Eric Church: Soul (EMI Nashville) ** [B+(*)]
  50. Clairo: Sling (Fader/Republic) ** [B+(*)]
  51. Cloud Nothings: The Shadow I Remember (Carpark) ** [B+(**)]
  52. J. Cole: The Off-Season (Dreamville/Roc Nation) ** [B+(*)]
  53. Contour: Love Suite (Good Question, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  54. The Contraptionists: Working Man's Dread (self-released) ** [B]
  55. Elvis Costello & the Attractions: Spanish Model (UMe) ** [B+(**)]
  56. Charley Crockett: 10 for Slim: Charley Crockett Sings James Hand (Son of Davy) ** [B+(**)]
  57. Lucy Dacus: Home Video (Matador) ** [B+(**)]
  58. Dan Ex Machina: Bail Shag EP (self-released, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  59. Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club (Polydor/Interscope) ** [B+(**)]
  60. Ani DiFranco: Revolutionary Love (Righteous Babe) ** [B+(**)]
  61. Doja Cat: Planet Her (Kemosabe/RCA) ** [B+(*)]
  62. Dos Santos: City of Mirrors (International Anthem) ** [B+(*)]
  63. Elkka: Euphoric Melodies (Technicolour, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  64. Erin Enderlin: Barroom Mirrors EP (Black Crow Productions, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  65. Marianne Faithfull With Warren Ellis: She Walks in Beauty (BMG) ** [B+(**)]
  66. Jared Feinman: Love Is an Obstacle (West of Philly) * [B+(*)]
  67. The Felice Brothers: From Dreams to Dust (Yep Roc) ** [B+(**)]
  68. Ghetts: Conflict of Interest (Warner) ** [B+(*)]
  69. The Goon Sax: Mirror II (Matador) ** [B+(**)]
  70. Julia Govor: Winter Mute (Jujuka, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  71. Danny L Harle: Harlecore (Mad Decent) ** [B+(**)]
  72. Walker Hayes: Country Stuff (Monument, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  73. Natalie Hemby: Pins and Needles (Fantasy) ** [B+(*)]
  74. Hiatus Kaiyote: Mood Valiant (Brainfeeder) ** [B+(*)]
  75. Dylan Hicks: Accidental Birds (Soft Launch) ** [B+(**)]
  76. Hiss Golden Messenger: Quietly Blowing It (Merge) ** [B+(*)]
  77. The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy (Positive Jams) ** [B+(**)]
  78. Jon Hopkins: Music for Psychedelic Therapy (Domino) ** [B]
  79. Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan (BMG) ** [B+(**)]
  80. Iceage: Seek Shelter (Mexican Summer) ** [B]
  81. Injury Reserve: By the Time I Get to Phoenix (self-released) ** [B+(*)]
  82. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Georgia Blue (Southeastern) ** [B]
  83. Wanda Jackson: Encore (Big Machine, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  84. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom (Fridman Gallery) ** [B+(*)]
  85. Loraine James: Reflection (Hyperdub) ** [B+(*)]
  86. Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature (Ba Da Bing) ** [B+(**)]
  87. India Jordan: Watch Out! (Ninja Tune, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  88. JPEGMafia: LP! (Republic) **
  89. Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange (Rounder) ** [B+(*)]
  90. Khrysis: The Hour of Khrysis (Jamla) ** [B+(**)]
  91. Kid Cudi: Man on the Moon III: The Chosen (Republic -20) ** [B+(**)]
  92. Anglique Kidjo: Mother Nature (Decca) ** [B]
  93. La Femme: Paradigmes (Disque Pointu) ** [B+(**)]
  94. Lady Gaga: Dawn of Chromatica (Interscope) ** [B+(*)]
  95. Langhorne Slim: Strawberry Mansion (Dualtone) ** [B+(**)]
  96. Les Filles De Illighadad: At Pioneer Works (Sahel Sounds) ** [B+(**)]
  97. Lil Nas X: Montero (Columbia) ** [B+(*)]
  98. LoneLady: Former Things (Warp) ** [B+(**)]
  99. Lord Huron: Long Lost (Republic) ** [B]
  100. Lorde: Solar Power (Universal) ** [B+(**)]
  101. Los Lobos: Native Sons (New West) ** [B+(*)]
  102. Low: Hey What (Sub Pop) ** [C]
  103. Andy Fairweather Low & the Low Riders: Lockdown Live (Secret) ** [B+(*)]
  104. L'Rain: Fatigue (Mexican Summer) ** [B+(*)]
  105. LSDXOXO: Dedicated 2 Disrespect (XL, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  106. Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You (Raw Materials) ** [B+(**)]
  107. Madlib: Sound Ancestors (Madlib Invazion) ** [B+(*)]
  108. Charlie Marie: Ramble On (self-released) ** [B+(**)]
  109. Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane: Ihubo Labomdabu (Unlocked Keys) ** [B+(*)]
  110. Vic Mensa: I Tape (Roc Nation, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  111. MIKE: Disco! (10k) ** [B+(**)]
  112. Modest Mouse: The Golden Casket (Epic) ** [B+(**)]
  113. Ashley Monroe: Rosegold (Mountainrose Sparrow) ** [B]
  114. Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air (Anti-) ** [B+(*)]
  115. Van Morrison: Latest Record Project: Volume 1 (BMG/Exile, 2CD) ** [B]
  116. Risn Murphy: Crooked Machine (Skint) ** [B+(*)]
  117. Kacey Musgraves: Star-Crossed (MCA Nashville) ** [B+(**)]
  118. Laura Mvula: Pink Noise (Atlantic) ** [B+(*)]
  119. Nas: King's Disease II (Mass Appeal) ** [B+(*)]
  120. Nelly: Heartland (Columbia, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  121. Willie Nelson: That's Life (Legacy) ** [B]
  122. Willie Nelson: The Willie Nelson Family (Legacy) ** [B]
  123. Nervous Dater: Call in the Mess (Counter Intuitive) ** [B+(**)]
  124. Palberta: Palberta 5000 (Wharf Cat) ** [B+(*)]
  125. Park Hye Jin: Before I Die (Ninja Tune) ** [B+(**)]
  126. Caroline Parke: Pause and Pine (self-released) ** [B+(*)]
  127. Part Chimp: Drool (Wrong Speed) ** [B]
  128. Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Dissatisfaction) (Dark Entries) ** [B+(**)]
  129. Pink Siifu: Gumbo'! (Field-Left) ** [B+(**)]
  130. PinkPantheress: To Hell With It (Parlophone, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  131. Polo G: Hall of Fame (Columbia/Only Dreamers Achieve) ** [B+(*)]
  132. Pom Pom Squad: Death of a Cheerleader (City Slang) ** [B+(**)]
  133. Jason Ringenberg: Rhinestoned (Courageous Chicken) ** [B+(**)]
  134. Jeff Rosenstock: Ska Dream (Polyvinyl) ** [B+(*)]
  135. Claire Rousay: A Softer Focus (American Dreams) ** [B]
  136. Saint Etienne: I've Been Trying to Tell You (Heavenly) ** [B+(**)]
  137. Penelope Scott: Hazards (Many Hats, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  138. Senyawa: Alkisah (Burning Ambulance) ** [B]
  139. Self Esteem: Prioritise Pleasure (Fiction) ** [B+(**)]
  140. Serengeti: KDxMPC (self-released, EP -20) ** [B+(*)]
  141. Serengeti: Curse of the Polo (self-released) ** [B+(*)]
  142. Serpentwithfeet: Deacon (Secretly Canadian) ** [B+(*)]
  143. Silk Sonic [Bruno Mars/Anderson .Paak]: An Evening With Silk Sonic (Aftermath/Atlantic) ** [B-]
  144. Sturgill Simpson: The Ballad of Dood & Juanita (High Top Mountain, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  145. Nala Sinephro: Space 1.8 (Warp) ** [B+(*)]
  146. Sir Babygirl: Golden Bday; The Mixtape (self-released) ** [B+(**)]
  147. Skyzoo: All the Brilliant Things (Mello Music Group) ** [B+(**)]
  148. Slayyyter: Troubled Paradise (Fader Label) ** [B+(*)]
  149. Sleater-Kinney: Path of Wellness (Mom + Pop) ** [B+(*)]
  150. Slowthai: Tyron (Method) ** [B+(*)]
  151. Snail Mail: Valentine (Matador) ** [B+(**)]
  152. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Life After (Distorted Muse/Fontana North) ** [B+(**)]
  153. Space Afrika: Honest Labour (Dais) ** [B+(*)]
  154. Spirit of the Beehive: Entertainment, Death (Saddle Creek) ** [B]
  155. St. Vincent: Daddy's Home (Loma Vista) ** [B+(**)]
  156. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel's 20th Century in 100 Songs (Louisiana Red Hot) ** [B+(**)]
  157. Vince Staples: Vince Staples (Blacksmith/Motown, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  158. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales (RCA) ** [B+(*)]
  159. Alfie Templeman: Forever Isn't Long Enough (Chess Club) ** [B+(**)]
  160. Tirzah: Colourgrade (Domino) ** [B+(*)]
  161. Too Much Joy: Mistakes Were Made (People Suck Music) ** [B+(**)]
  162. TRS: Home Wrecked (self-released, EP) ** [B]
  163. Trees Speak: PostHuman (Soul Jazz) ** [B+(*)]
  164. Tropical Fuck Storm: Deep States (Joyful Noise) ** [B+(*)]
  165. Tune-Yards: Sketchy (4AD) ** [B]
  166. Turnstile: Glow On (Roadrunner) ** [B+(*)]
  167. U-Roy: Solid Gold (Trojan) ** [B+(*)]
  168. Pabllo Vittar: Batidao Tropical (Sony) ** [B+(*)]
  169. Leon Vynehall: Rare, Forever (Ninja Tune) ** [B]
  170. Summer Walker: Still Over It (LVRN/Interscope) ** [B+(*)]
  171. Dean Wareham: I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. (Double Feature) ** [B+(**)]
  172. Waterparks: Greatest Hits (300 Entertainment) ** [B+(*)]
  173. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom (Sahel Sounds) ** [B]
  174. We Are the Union: Ordinary Life (Bad Time) ** [B+(*)]
  175. The Weather Station: Ignorance (Fat Possum) ** [B+(**)]
  176. Jane Weaver: Flock (Fire) ** [B+(**)]
  177. Faye Webster: I Know I'm Funny Haha (Secretly Canadian) ** [B+(*)]
  178. Westside Gunn: Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerely, Adolf (Griselda/Empire) ** [B]
  179. Westside Gunn: Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Side B (Griselda/Empire) ** [B]
  180. Wiki: Half God (Wikset Enterprise) ** [B+(**)]
  181. Remi Wolf: We Love Dogs! (Island) ** [B+(**)]
  182. Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend (Dirty Hit) ** [B+(**)]

Additional reissued/archival non-jazz records rated B+(**) or below (listed alphabetically by artist).

  1. Alex Chilton and Hi Rhythm Section: Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street (Omnivore) ** [B+(*)]
  2. Cold Wave #1 (2017-20, Soul Jazz) ** [B+(**)]
  3. Marshall Crenshaw: The Wild, Exciting Sounds of Marshall Crenshaw: Live in the 20th and 21st Century (Sunset Blvd.) ** [B+(*)]
  4. The Cucumbers: The Desk Drawer Tapes (1988-2005, Life Force) ** [B+(**)]
  5. Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1 (1980-85, Analog Africa) ** [B+(**)]
  6. Eyedea: Thirty Nine Lines (Crushkill -20) ** [B+(**)]
  7. Allen Ginsberg's The Fall of America: A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute (Ginsberg) ** [B+(**)]
  8. He's Bad! 11 Bands Decimate the Beats of Bo Diddley (Slovenly) ** [B]
  9. John Hiatt: The Confidence Man in Canada (1989, Hobo) ** [B+(*)]
  10. Kid Creole and the Coconuts: Nothin' Left but the Rest (1996, 2C2C) ** [B+(**)]
  11. La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983-1990 (Bongo Joe) ** [B+(*)]
  12. Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets: Walkabout (2013-19, Yep Roc -20) ** [B]
  13. Gary Lucas: The Essential Gary Lucas (Knitting Factory, 2CD) ** [B+(*)]
  14. New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers: Volume 2 (2007, Stony Plain) ** [B+(**)]
  15. Nermin Niazi and Feisal Mosleh: Disco Se Aagay (1984, Discostan) ** [B+(**)]
  16. Prince: Welcome 2 America (2010, NPG/Legacy) ** [B+(*)]
  17. Rare.wavs (Vol. 1) (Foreign Family Collective) ** [B+(**)]
  18. Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977 (Super Viaduct, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  19. Billy Joe Shaver & Kinky Friedman: Live Down Under (2002, Omnivore) ** [B+(**)]
  20. Nancy Sinatra: Start Walkin' 1965-1976 (Light in the Attic) ** [B+(**)]
  21. Joe Strummer: Assembly (1986-2002, Dark Horse) ** [B+(**)]
  22. The Trojan Story (1961-71, Trojan, 3CD) ** [B+(**)]
  23. Neil Young: Young Shakespeare (1971, Reprise) ** [B+(**)]
  24. Neil Young With Crazy Horse: Way Down in the Rust Bucket (1990, Reprise, 2CD) ** [B+(**)]

New non-jazz records I haven't heard estimated to have a 2% (or better) chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them (++ indicates light sampling grade; nothing less will appear here):

Reissued non-jazz records I haven't heard estimated to have a 2% (or better) chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them: