Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Top 10 Folk / Country Albums of 2021

Feeling depressed? Need a soundtrack to sitting outside by yourself? This year's current crop of folk albums provided that. As with years past I sort through the genre lists before making the overall top ten of the year list. The fact these artists made it on the list speaks to how great these albums are, so it's not a slight that the number 8 album is above the 9th album, there is something that just gives it an edge that makes me want to listen to it more. After all we can try to look cool and pick the hippest bands for a list, but at the end of the day what makes an album the best is that it makes you want more, you look forward to listening to it again. Sure, you can bitch and complain about your favorite band not being on the list. However, I listen to five new albums a day so yes, I heard your favorite album and was not impressed. No, I do not care what you think about it. I do hope you can find your next favorite on this list and have included links to reviews of these albums if you want to check out audio on these guys. Anyways here are the top 10 folk and country albums of 2021

10-Harmony Woods - "Graceful Rage"

I was going to write if you wanted to hear what Dashboard Confessional would sound like if fronted by a girl, but I think we have already crossed that line with him. There is more of an honest folk feel to the songs penned with clever lyrics that do not get too bogged down in girl power. 

Abysmal Hymns: Harmony Woods : "Graceful Rage"

9- Emma Ruth Rundle - "Engine of Hell" 

After her collaborations with Thou it makes sense that she would need to strip things down to simpler terms and just record more introspective songs with a piano and guitar. The guitar-oriented songs are the stronger of the two, as the piano ones are too delicate for her own good, but even this exercise in getting back to basics is better than most can do. 

Abysmal Hymns: Emma Ruth Rundle : " Engine of Hell"


8-Lana Del Rey - " Chemtrails Over the Country Club

Mood wise this album makes me think she has been paying attention to Taylor Swift's quarantine output. Sure, there are some familiar sounds though these are piano based ballads that shine most when they find their dreamy grooves that have been dialed back through a filter of Xanax.

Abysmal Hymns: Lana Del Rey : "Chemtrails Over of the Country Club"

7- Sturgill Simpson - "the Ballad of Dood & Juanita" 

Oddly not the only bluegrass concept album on the list this year. Banjo plays a big role as Simpson digs in with a more back hills melody. At times he picks and grins his way into more traditional commercial country if we are talking about the 60s and 70s thought with less cross over radio aspirations. The story is about a guy named Dood is not clear, but the songwriting holds up to the bar Simpson has set for himself..


6- Wardruna - "Kvitravn" 

A folk album so entrenched in ancient tribalism it would be easy to get lost in the ritualistic nature of the sounds and not be aware of the songs. That is not the case here. They have taken a page from Dead Can Dance in this regard. There is a sense of movement that creates a primal groove and layers added to create dynamics. This is the band's first album on a major label, Columbia Records. This is no way has caused them to try to make music more accessible to western audiences.

Abysmal Hymns: Wardruna : "Kvitravn"

5-the Killers - "Pressure Machine" 

 This is an interesting time in their career to check them out as they peaked popularity wise so that gives them more room to play around with what they do. It seems here on their 7th album they have decided to do just that write a folk-rock album about Flower's childhood in the heartland. Harmonica driven ballads is not what they are known for so imagine my surprise finding this out. I do have a thing for artists and their weird phases like disco Kiss and new wave Alice Cooper, so add country Killers to the list.                

Abysmal Hymns: the Killers : "Pressure Machine"

4-Dust Mountain -"Hymns For Wilderness" 

This is darker folk rock with a 60s vibe and understated female vocals. A side project of Toni from Oranssi Pazuzu that creates organically hypnotic sonics not unlike places Swans tapped into. The vocals are being handled by his sister and even the drummer from Hex Vessel is behind the kit for this project, it is so. hypnotic that while left to play the songs glide by rather easy on your ears,

 Abysmal Hymns: Dust Mountain - "Hymns For Wilderness"

3-Bridge City Sinners - "Unholy Hymns" 

There is a great deal of maturation in the evolution of this band on many levels. Production wise to songwriting. This doesn't sound like a bunch of train hopping punks with banjos. What has been sacrificed in terms of the raw grit they once had has been replaced by a lusher sound and wider range of influences. Namely this vaudevillian jazz that gives these songs more of a swing.

Abysmal Hymns: Bridge City Sinners : "Unholy Hymns"

2-Rome - "Parlez-vous Hate"

 Long time fans might feel the neo folk project is selling out by not making the kind of bleakly obtuse that put them in line for Death in June's throne. It does seem like these songs were written with breaking through in the America. There is even a song that kind of parodies Bruce Springteen's "Born in the USA" But all the above works for me as it is very hooky and concisely written songs.

Abysmal Hymns: Rome : "Parlez-vous Hate"

1-Amigo the Devil -"Born Against"

After "Everything's Fine" the bar is pretty high going into this one. There is a bigger slicker production sometimes bringing more of a rock dynamic sometimes sounding like a drunk romp arounds the streets of New Orleans. His singing is more dynamic, and lyrics refined his sense of storytelling to bring fresh wallop to the punch of his songs here and worth many repeat listens. 

Abysmal Hymns: Amigo the Devil : "Born Against"

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