Best listens to bring into the new year


Graphic by Maliah White

A new year doesn’t mean we have to forget all of the great things we discovered in the past year. Ian Young, staff writer, lists his five favorite albums he discovered in 2021 that he thinks you should be in 2022.

Ian Young, Staff Writer

Time spent indoors due to COVID-19 really exposed me to the deep rabbit hole of music. 2021 had some objectively amazing music, but I would like to take the time to appreciate my personal favorite albums and music projects I  listened to last year.

This is a subjective list based off of all of the albums I listened to in 2021, no matter the year it was released. If you wish to see the best music released in 2021, I have made that list as well.

With that out of the way, here are the top five best albums I listened to in 2021 that you should listen to in 2022.

  1. “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd

“Wish You Were Here” defines the sound of progressive rock while being an emotionally moving tribute to their former band member.

What can I say that has not already been said? Pink Floyd is a master at creating atmospheric and psychedelic music that tells stories without much being said at all. The wonderful thing about Pink Floyd is that they let the instrumentation take the lead and only sing when they have to, not when they want to.

“Wish You Were Here” is no exception. It consists of 5 tracks that span almost 45 minutes, each relating to their former front man Syd Barrett. Every song on this record feels as if the band is getting closer with and making a connection to Barrett that they never found when he was in the band. Each song has a very somber and detached feeling but are deeply personal and express longing for a better future.

No other song highlights this better than the 9 part behemoth song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” Combined, this is a 26 minute track that is mostly atmospheric instrumentals, but the lyrics and vocals stand out. In them, the band wishes Barrett well in his future endeavors and calls back to the man he once was before drugs ruined his life.

“Wish You Were Here” is exactly what you think it is. An excellent progressive rock record by one of the most influential and iconic bands of all time paying an emotional tribute to the man who started the band in the first place.

My favorite tracks are “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 1-9” and “Wish You Were Here.”

  1. “From Mars to Sirius” by Gojira

“From Mars to Sirius” is a technical death metal record that tells a compelling and passionate story about the current state of the environment.

Gojira is one of the most influential modern metal bands. With chugging guitar riffs, tapping, clean bass and some of the best drumming in any band period, Gojira is as influential as they are heavy. 

Paired with this is their most prominent song topic, environmental issues. “From Mars to Sirius” is a concept album that tells the story of the inhabitants of one planet leaving to find another after they  destroy their planet due to greed and other selfish actions. As they travel to the other planet, they discover it is already destroyed, making the decision to come back and vow to fix the damage they have caused, no matter how long it takes.

The final track, “Global Warming,” is a perfect example of the themes the album presents. It is one of the few tracks on the album that have clean vocals and express the idea of hope and dedication for the future, but is mixed in with heavy growls and screams that express the anger and disgust of the situation they are in to begin with. To top it all off, the 3 minute outro has some of the most gut wrenching lyrics I have ever heard out of any album this year. 

Not only do Gojira present excellent instrumentation on “From Mars to Sirius,” but tell one of the most compelling and deep concepts in metal without sounding pretentious or preachy.

My favorite tracks are “The Heaviest Matter In the Universe,” “Flying Whales,” “In the Wilderness” and “Global Warming.”

  1. “Blackwater Park” by Opeth

“Blackwater Park” is an album that expertly mixes folk, jazz, and death metal into a record that truly pushes what is possible with music.

Opeth is what is considered a progressive, death metal band. They have the aspects of death metal with chugging guitar riffs, double bass with blast beats and harsh growling vocals. However, Opeth stands out from the crowd by mixing other genres in with this heavy sound. Within the same song, the band will go from an extreme, heavy section into calmer ones with acoustic guitars, jazz style drumming, and beautiful clean vocals.

This back and forth of stylesbrings so much variety in sound and the band masters every single one. The two most notable aspects are the vocals and guitar riffs by front man Mikael Åkerfeldt. There are no wasted guitar riffs on this album, whether they are heavy, headbaging riffs or beautiful acoustic riffs. 

To go along with this, Åkerfeldt’s vocals are just astounding. His clean singing is just beautiful with his lows and highs never cracking or ruining the atmosphere of the song. His death metal growls are some of the best you will ever hear, with deep gutturals and high shrieks that sent goosebumps up my spine. His range is just excellent and as of writing this, Mikael Åkerfeldt is my favorite vocalist of all time.

“Blackwater Park” is a rare case in which a band presents its ability to be a jack of all trades, while still mastering every aspect of  their music.

My favorite tracks are “Bleak,” “The Drapery Falls,” “Dirge for November” and “Blackwater Park.”

  1. “Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory” by Dream Theater

“Scenes from a Memory” is nothing short of a musical and storytelling masterpiece.

Dream Theater is to progressive metal as Pink Floyd is to progressive rock. Not only did Dream Theater invent the genre. They continue to push the bar for both progressive metal and all of music. In my eyes, “Scenes from a Memory” is their best work not only from a musical standpoint, but from a storytelling one as well.

It tells the story of Nicholas, a man who has begun to see a woman in his dreams and everyday life. He recognizes her, but knows he has never met her before in his real life. He proceeds to go to hypnotherapy and discovers that he is the reincarnation of the woman he has been seeing and finds out that she had been murdered. The album follows Nicholas as he discover how and why the woman was murdered and learns more about himself in the process.

As the album tells its story, the instrumentals take charge in leading the emotional journey the album tells. The band is constantly experimenting with odd time signatures and instruments to compliment the out of body experience the protagonist is experiencing during his journey.

“Home” is an example of the band throwing so much into a song and all of it working so well regardless. The song is led by a sitar and bass riff and slowly leads into the rest of the band joining in with the main guitar riff sounding almost detached. It goes along with the storytelling as we follow a new character and not the protagonist.

As of writing this, “Scenes from a Memory” is not only one of my favorite listens this year, but it is also my personal favorite album, ever.

I highly encourage listening to the album all the way through, but some of my favorite songs are “Overture 1928,” “Home,” “The Dance of Eternity,” “The Spirit Carries On” and “Finally Free.”

  1. “Everywhere at the End of Time” by the Caretaker

“Everywhere at the End of Time” is art in its purest form.

This six and a half hour music project is an artistic expression of dementia. There are six records that coincide with the seven stages a dementia patient goes through, but all six are meant to be listened to in one sitting.

The entire project was made electronically, but the first three stages of the record was made intentionally to sound like 40’s ballroom music to help the listeners set themselves in the shoes of an actual dementia patient. As the music goes on, it goes from the ballroom music and very slowly gets swallowed up by reverb, white noise, and record player crackling. Stage 4 really is where the music gets swallowed up by all of the noise and becomes some of the most horrifying noise and drone music I have ever heard. It is so hard to listen to, but at the same time, so hard to stop listening to it.

And the final track, on the final album, the last five minutes, is some of the most heartbreaking music I have ever heard in my life. It represents the last memory saved from dementia, before being swallowed up by the static and cutting off, signifying the loss of the memory and, as the track says, the place in the world just fades away.

“Everywhere at the End of Time” sets out to make a disease that is so hard to understand to the average person comprehensible. While it is not some standout musical set piece, nor does it tell some gripping story like the other albums in this list, it is a passionate work of art that disturbs the comforted, and comforts the disturbed, resulting in this being my favorite musical project I have listened to this year.