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Steven Grady writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2021: Steven Grady

CHIRP Radio Best of 2021

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





#1 Power Trio by Danko Jones (Sonic Unyon)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Danko Jones Power TrioHard rock Canadian bands are best when they come in threes. Power Trio is as good as any album this Toronto high-volume combo has put out in recent memory and is light years better than any record released in the past twelve months.

Eleven concise get-in, get-out gems, each better than the previous, with plenty of gorgeous hedonistic riffs by ringleader Jones and no shortage of lyrical content that smacks of bravado and sexual innuendo. Danko Jones celebrates its 25th year of existence proving they’ve still got it, and they still flaunt it.





#2 DiG by The Grip Weeds (Jem)

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The Grip Weeds DiGThe quartet from Highland Park, New Jersey has redefined its American power pop-psyche dominance with a spectacular collection of ‘60s covers that is matched only by their brilliant execution of them.

Sonically crafted from their home studio, House of Vibes, the Reil brothers & Co. aptly describe DiG as “a musical excavation of their roots.”






#3 October 1993 by Harry Dean Stanton with The Cheap Dates (Omnivore)

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Harry Dean Stanton with The Cheap Dates 10/1/1993The best time travel record of 2021 is also one of the top records from this year, period. The only thing more successful than the idea of the late, great character actor Harry Dean Stanton fronting a band of rock and roll heavyweights consisting of Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (Steely Dan/Doobie Brothers), Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats), Tony Sales (David Bowie) and Jamie James (The King Bees) is the audio documentation of that idea.

October 1993 chronicles this collaboration with four studio tracks and five cut live at Doug Weston’s Troubadour, featuring classic covers of Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Ben E. King, Jimmy Reed, and more.





#4 Spirit Flows by Don Markese (Don Markese Productions)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Don Markese Spirit FlowsVeteran multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Don Markese’s Spirit Flows is a powerful aural autobiography of sorts. The Midwestern-bred musician recently returned “home” to his pastoral family farm from Los Angeles, where he spent the majority of his adult life as a professional musician. Spirit Flows is a diary of instantly memorable heartfelt selections reflecting Markese’s present domicile, which reflects a Native American presence.

Markese dedicated Spirit Flows to his late friend, Steve O’Donnell, who hand-crafted the very native-American flutes that Markese expertly plays on this wonderful album.





#5 Fantasy Weekend by Good Looking Son (Feel It)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Good Looking Son Fantasy WeekendFantasy Weekend is a superb collection of six melodically-charged tracks, ranging from scuzzy punk to '60s British Invasion to romantic post-punk.

Good Looking Son is a side-project of The Cowboys’ singer/songwriter Keith Harman of Bloomington, Indiana and their first effort has nary a clunker in the bunch.






#6 Strength by Unto Others (Roadrunner)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Unto Others StrengthExcellent sophomore effort courtesy of this goth-metal band from Portland, Oregon. Strength distinguishes itself on clean production, clear guitars, and decipherable vocals.

Unto Others juxtaposes doom and gloom with upbeat tempos on many well-executed tracks, thanks to singer/songwriter/guitar player Gabriel Blanco.






#7 Daggers by Jim Ward (Dine Alone)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Jim Ward DaggersPost-hardcore At the Drive-in co-founder and longtime Sparta front man and rhythm guitar player Jim Ward presents his first solo effort in years, Daggers, with the help of Incubus bassist Ben Kenney and Thursday drummer Tucker Rule.

Much of the music here lives up to the album's title, sharp and deadly, with a vocal sonic element that and production that, at times, sounds unapologetically like that really famous Irish rock band, but Edge-ier and with a heavier and a delightfully less polished rhythm section. Ward does not waste his exceptional vocal and guitar talent on any of the ten tracks.





#8 Isometry by Emily Jane Powers (self-released)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Emily Jane Powers IsometryOn Isometry, Chicago's prolific singer/songwriter Emily Jane Powers demonstrates both her ability to sing with her brilliant guitar playing and play her voice as a versatile musical instrument.

Emily's accomplished musicianship steals the show, but one might argue that this is in direct competition with her seasoned and variant use of these genuinely emotive vocals. A stand out release.





#9 Stock Exchange by Haviah Mighty (self-released)

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Haviah Mighty Stock ExchangeToronto's Haviah Mighty's Stock Exchange is her first longplayer since 2019's Polaris Music Prize-winner 19th Floor. Stock Exchange is a solid mixtape of rap that departs from any one theme, evident in her earlier works, but touches upon all topics relatable and essential in 21st Century North America: Marked racism; self-motivation and reliance; and potential romance.

Co-produced during the pandemic with her brother, PrynceX, Stock Exchange features guest artists from all over the planet, including U.S. rapper Old Man Saxon, Toronto’s TOB, Spain’s Mala Rodríguez, and Brampton’s Astrokidjay.





#10 ULTRAMARINE by Wesley Joseph (EEVILTWINN/Transgressive)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Wesley Joseph ULTRAMARINELondon-based singer/songwriter/producer/filmmaker Wesley Joseph’s impressive debut project features a little help from his friends, courtesy of collaborations with Leon Vynehall, Dave Okumu, and Jorja Smith.

Joseph co-produced the record with Lexxx (Jai Paul) and Mike Bozzi (Kendrick Lamar; Tyler, the Creator). Several tracks effectively intersperse ethereal backing vocals both during and between Joseph's verses.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2021

Next entry: CHIRP Radio Best of 2021: Eric Wiersema

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