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CHIRP Radio Best of 2021

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2021. Our next list is from DJ Danielle Sines.

What was 2021 to me? The thrill of vaccination. The first show back in a sweaty Lincoln Hall singing DRAMA, just as I hoped for last year on my end the year list. I got to play live music again with my band, Impulsive Hearts - and our first show back was opening for fellow CHIRP volunteer & Outreach Director Marites Velasquez of Ovef Ow at the Beat Kitchen. <3 
I hosted an open mic event in my backyard with Girls Rock! Chicago which was fun, and so beautiful that I met new friends and cried. My A-Z record challenge is coming along; I end this year on “T” of “The Tallest Man on Earth.” I hope that 2022 continues to bring us new music that we can share, connect with and become obsessed with.







#1 Emphatically No. by Cheekface (New Professor)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Cheekface Emphatically No.In another year that months seem to blend into the next with no real delineation between 2020 or 2021; Cheekface’s witty, sarcastic and honest songwriting delivered a punch in the face I needed to wake me from the malaise. The sarcasm oddly put me in a good mood, screaming, “yes, someone finally gets it!” Admittedly, I became pretty obsessed with this record, when they rolled through town in October, I was first in line to get tickets, but was slightly nervous. Not because of Covid, mind you, but rather because I was so obsessed, possibly built them up to be too great, and perhaps also because I was mentally prepared for the lead singer to be a jerk?! I’ve dated people like this before - heck even have been in bands with them - cool, sly, funny guys who actually are sociopaths. But to my delight, the band sounded great and lead singer Greg Katz was charming, grateful and even made space for bassist and vocalist Amanda Tannen; sharing that she co-writes songs and that the band wouldn’t be a band without her friendship and musicianship. This feels especially personal to me, because her sing-song lyrics and coos remind me sooo much of a version of myself when I played in a band with aforementioned sociopath. If you don’t like talk singing akin to Lou Reed or British post-punk bands like The Fall, and proto-indie bands like Minutemen, you probably will hate it. But that’s fine - coz everything is fine, everything is fine.







#2 Super Monster by Claud (Saddest Factory)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Claud Super MonsterThe debut album from the Brooklyn singer-songwriter Claud Mintz, who originally hails from Chicago’s North Shore is packed with catchy bedroom pop and tender emotions. This is the first release signed to Phoebe Bridgers’s new imprint, Saddest Factory. The album title comes from a sketch that Daniel Johnston drew in 2014 that said, ‘Claud the Super Monster’ on it. Claud was able to view the sketch while recording at Electric Lady and decided to name the record after the artwork. The record is wonderful from start to finish and catchy vibes and wonderful lyrics like “That’s Mr. Bitch to you!!!” stayed in my head throughout the year.







#3 Geist by Shannon Lay (Sub Pop)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Shannon Lay GeistShannon Lay’s 4th record is full of slumbering, sweeping acoustic ballads similar to folk singers Vashti Bunyan, or Nick Drake, perfect for restful, quiet moments. Lay creates gentle folk songs with intricate acoustic finger work and lush but hushed vocals. Taking a transatlantic collaborative recording in the pandemic approach, Lay tracked vocals and guitar and then sent the demos out to various music industry multi-instrumentalists, trusting their musical instincts and intuition on the songs. On track “Awaken and Allow” Lay does a singing mantra similar to early Sinead O’Connor that leaves me with chills every time. Epic!







#4 Secondd Line by Dawn Richard (Merge)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Dawn Richard Second LineDawn Richard’s sixth album combines a wide array of dance styles (footwork, house, bounce) with New Orleans R&B. The results create bright, dancy, unapologetic beats with Richard’s confident voice. The record is catchy and fun non-stop dance party. The entirety of the album reminds me of Janelle Monae’s ArchAndroid, in both style and storytelling. Fun fact: Richard is an artist! She designed the cover art, depicting a Black empowered female anime character - lethal and tender-hearted - reminiscent of her recent animation work with Adult Swim.







#5 Doomin' Sun by Bachelor (Polyvinyl)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Bachelor Doomin' SunBachelor is the project of Melina Duterte (Jay Som), and Ellen Kempner (Palehound). The duo met on tour in 2017 and immediately bonded over tv and fast food. The name “Bachelor” is based on Duterte’s love for the reality show and the irony of two queer women performing under this name. Before the pandemic hit, they rented a California house to work on this record together over 2 weeks. Bachelor’s sound combines the best elements each of their project to create a lo-fi, dreamy, power-pop, grunge sound. My favorite track is “Stay in the Car” mostly because I love when people run errands for me and I can stay in the car, and this song encapsulates the joy of that feeling with best-line lyrics, “stay in the car, I’ll grab what you want. oh!”







#6 Comfort to Me by Amyl & the Sniffers (ATO)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Amyl & the Sniffers Comfort to MeThe second LP from the hard-rocking quartet from Melbourne, Australia, is packed with endless energy and spirit courtesy of front woman Amy Taylor’s snarling, jovial vocals. If you’re in a bad mood, put on track “Guided By Angels” to set you straight with upbeat lyrics, “I’ve got plenty of energy. It’s my currency - I spend, protect my energy, currency.” The band, founded by housemates, get the name from Aussie slang for amyl nitrite, also known as poppers. There’s plenty of Aussie AC/DC energy with dance-punk styling, ripping guitar solos and gut punching vocals. If you’re looking for new workout music, put this on to run further and faster than ever before.







#7 Let Me Do One More by illuminati hotties (Snack Shack Tracks/Hopeless)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

illuminati hotties Let Me Do One MoreAfter her latest mixtape “FREE I.H…” was released to fulfill the obligations of her exit agreement with label Tiny Engines, Sarah Tudzin, aka Illuminati hotties, is back with “Let Me Do One More”- an album packed with hooky-as-hell rippers. The record is indie-pop at it's finest - catchy and intimate with dream pop meets mania stylings. Try 
“MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA” if you dare! The cutesy sing-song melodies become wonderfully manic cheer-chants with fun to sing along to lyrics, “Love me, fight me, choke me, bite me/The DNC is playing dirty/Text me, touch me, call me daddy/ I’m so sad I can’t do laundry!” It’s the perfect line to sum up 2021.







#8 Heaux Tales by Jazmine Sullivan (RCA)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Jazmine Sullivan Heaux Tales12 time R&B Grammy nominee Jazmine Sullivan is back with her 4th album which weaves conversations with her friends about sex and love with big, catchy songs that invokes a dream collaboration of Missy Elliot and Lizzo’s styles. The entire record is packed with lyrics that are sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, and always intelligent. Single and stadium banger, “Pick Up Your Feelings” is so good, reminiscent of a Mary J. Blige breakup song. Sullivan said, “I wrote Heaux Tales to give a voice to every woman. We’re deserving of respect whether we work as a CEO of a company or we stripping. It’s about unity. It’s about boldness. It’s about women writing their own imperfect stories. Unashamed.”







#9 Cool Dry Place by Katy Kirby (Keeled Scales)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Katy Kirby Cool Dry PlaceKaty Kirby debut record is filled with sweet soft-spoken melodies from the Texas based singer-songwriter. This record’s infectious indie pop meets folk stylings lingered with me throughout the year - especially title track “Cool Dry Place,” a slow folk song with a great cooing chorus asking her listener, “Can I come over? Is it too late? Would you keep me in a cool dry place?” Well, would you?







#10 Everything by Bnny (Fire Talk)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Bnny EverythingDeep down, I am a sad person who craves sad music made by other sad people. Or, I appreciate the honesty, intensity, and intimacy of genuine emotion expressed in music. Either way, the debut album from this Chicago four-piece has it in spades. Bnny is the centered around frontwoman Jess Viscius. The record serves as her emotional process around the loss of partner Trey Gruber who tragically died at age 26 after a years-long battle with alcohol and heroin addiction. Viscius allows herself to explore a wide-range of emotions; and create biting lines about relationships, betrayal and death. The sound Bnny creates is retro akin to The Velvet Underground, with hushed vocals like Mazzy Star. The last song, a voice memo of a short duet is the stab in the heart that makes this record seem like a classic.







Honorable Mentions

Other Records I enjoyed in 2021:
Sun June - Somewhere
Jorja Smith - Be Right Back
Lucy Dacus - Home Video
Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee
Faye Webster - I Know I'm Funny haha
Rochelle Jordan - Play With The Changes
Wednesday - Twin Plagues
Tasha - Tell Me What You Miss The Most
Dry Cleaning - New Long Leg
Fauvely - Beautiful Places
Mia Joy - Spirit Tamer
Adult Mom - Driver

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2021

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