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Hunty Bear

REYCISM: Hunty Bear's 2021 Year-End

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Hi uglies! I know I haven't posted in a while, but maintaining this tradition is something that I've found indispensable for the past few years so I want to keep it going at least once more lol. 

This is the seventh installment of a tradition that four of us long-time Lana stans ( @Lachlan, @Andres, and @Americunt) had upheld over the past seven years, honoring our favorite musical releases of the year. Since we now have a year-end section, I'll be posting my own here (and it'll just be me I'm pretty sure lmao).

I'll be listing my top 20 albums of the year, released in chronological order, with few honorable mentions bookending the list. I'll be posting these a couple at a time over the next few days — stay tuned (or not, do what you what)!

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2015 / 2016 / 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "MAZZA", "PLAY WITH FIRE", "feel away", "i tried", "focus"
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British rapper and renegade slowthai has long had his career refracted into dualities; whereas his volatile and brash sensibilities put him on the map with the voltaic Nothing Great About Britain, those same traits nearly lead to his downfall with his NME Awards humiliation — a drunken fiasco that elicited winces across the nation. That duplexity is baked into the anatomy of TYRON, his introspective and contemplative follow-up to Nothing Great About Britain that is cleaved into a bashful front-half and a more mellow comedown. Whereas Nothing Great About Britain looked outward at the issues afflicting "slowthai the citizen," TYRON takes a turn inward, confronting the demons torment the persona behind "slowthai the person." The first leg of the album — with its titles stylized in a “haughty” all-caps display — is invigorating and explosive, bursting at the seams with a cacophony of trap beats, synthesizers, and fiery rap performances that chemically cohere into highlights such as “MAZZA” and “DEAD.” However, the real magic stems from the album’s more pensive half, which transmits slowthai’s interiority onto some of the most gorgeous and cavernous trap instrumentals I have ever heard. Pillars such as the ruminative “feel away’ and the self-destructive “i tried” are unquestionably some of the most beautifully anguished reflections on mental health I have sunken my teeth into this year. Though one half of TYRON possesses more depth than the other, you can't embrace slowthai's palatable exterior without accepting the grittier underbelly of his music. Thankfully, both halves of TYRON have equally compelling stories to tell.

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 Nothing Great About Britain (2019)

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "White Dress", "Chemtrails Over the Country Club", "Dark But Just A Game", "Breaking Up Slowly", "Tulsa Jesus Freak"
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A mere glimpse into the pastoral, greyscale, and meticulously-curated world of Lana Del Rey would make one truth apparent: these past few years have been incredibly weird for the character of — and the persona behind — Lana Del Rey. After plunging her foot in her mouth one (“question for the culture”), two (“I dated rappers”), three (“I’ve always been inclusive without trying to be”) too many times, the already-lofty expectations set for her follow-up to 2019’s masterful Norman Fucking Rockwell! were launched into the stratosphere. When you’re at your peak, the only way you can go is…backwards? Chemtrails Over the Country Club doesn’t necessarily expand the lore of Lana Del Rey — Americana pastiche and all — and retreats to a more familiar landscape, the same humble stylings that christened her pre-Born To Die “self-titled” debut. This doesn’t mean that Chemtrails is stripped of her usual grandeur — decadent and indulgent imagery fashions songs like the featherweight title track, a restrained idyllic meditation on all things typical of the Lana Del Rey schema. But Chemtrails turns the page back further, receding back to the Arcadian folk that spiritually accords with her pre-fame likeness ("Blue Ribbon Sparkler Trailer Heaven" — subtitle to track 4 on her 2010 self-titled — divined the eventual aesthetic of Chemtrails). She doesn’t let us in all the way, but if you peek through the gaps in the walls that fence this album, we gain answers to the questions that have eluded us for her entire career — who is Lana Del Rey and where is she from? The raspy, halcyon “White Dress” intimately muses on these questions, consummating in one of her most beguiling, vulnerable, and strongest tracks to date. Though the rest of the album assumes a more cryptic demeanor, Chemtrails stands as one of the most perplexing and alluring albums in her catalog — reeling you in as much as it pushes you away. It's a more aloof bookend to its eventual follow-up, but a necessary precursor nonetheless.

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Blue Banisters (2021)
Norman Fucking Rockwell! (2019)
Lust For Life (2017)
Honeymoon (2015)

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "CHAIN ON", "COUNT ON ME", "I'LL TAKE YOU ON', "WHEN I BALL", "BANKROLL"
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It doesn’t take a stan to tell that BROCKHAMPTON has been through one hell of a trajectory over the past few years; that’s why there’s something so heartening about seeing a band undergo so much turmoil and anguish and still reassure us that “the light was worth the wait.” This motif — light, levity, and transcendence — animates ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE, their vibrant and spirited return to form after the doleful melancholy that enshrouded their past two albums. If GINGER was just a taste of their recovered chemistry, ROADRUNNER is the most dazzling and voltaic display of their multi-level synergy since the SATURATION saga. These songs are teeming with life, such as the sun-kissed “COUNT ON ME” and the syrupy “I’LL TAKE YOU ON,” lively cuts that contour the album’s more introspective moments (“THE LIGHT” I and II) quite nicely. Welcoming collaborators into the fold of the album helped breathe life into a formula that was seemingly running static. These flashpoints, such as JPEGMAFIA’s blitz on the looping “CHAIN ON” and A$AP Rocky’s buttery-smooth accents on both “COUNT ON ME” and “BANKROLL,” imbue ROADRUNNER with color that was sorely missed from their music. BROCKHAMPTON urgently needed to exorcise their demons with the anarchic iridescence and the subdued GINGER, but their convalescence back to their most exuberant selves on ROADRUNNER is what was truly needed the most from me — and it was worth the wait. 

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 GINGER (2019)
iridescence (2018)

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "Nobody Knows We Are Fun", "ACTION", "Maybe Chocolate Chips", "END", "In Pink"
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After spending over a year in the darkness of lockdown, the Japanese four-piece CHAI wanted to make something that felt intentional, homely, and life-affirming. Thus came WINK — their pivot towards socially and spiritually conscious synthpop with a thematic coating of self-love and contagious positivity. Buoyed by its snappy rhythms, chirpy production, and generally feel-good attitude, WINK was one of the most valuable and exuberant listens of the year for me, a calming reminder to center myself when I felt most sprawling. With the malaise of the pandemic being slated to dampen another year of our lives, WINK stands as a dazzling beacon in a field of despondence. 

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "Be Sweet", "Paprika", "Kokomo, IN", "Slide Tackle", "Posing In Bondage", "Tactics", "Savage Good Boy", "Posing For Cars"
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As a longtime follower of Michelle Zauner, known by her musical moniker Japanese Breakfast (even truncated to “Jbrekkie” by some), I had never realized how much her music has reflected my range of experiences, emotions, and identities until last year; ruminating on her pensive and spatial discography made me realize how much Psychopomp and Soft Sounds From Another Planet grew with me over time, offering homespun meditations on grief, fidelity, and trauma through a first-generation perspective that mirrored my own. After years of contouring her grief into her music, Zauner wanted to mold something brighter, more vibrant, and more “whole” from the stardust that remained; thus Jubilee was born, her “bombastic” embrace of feeling and life, touchstoned by the most life-affirming stories and arrangements of her career.

If I could define 2021 with one album, it would be Jubilee. Released on the cusp of summer, Jubilee emerged as a musical oasis for me to laze in, a sunkissed pocket of warmth and reprieve in a two-year window that wasn’t kind to many of us. Despite being billed as a celebration of joy, Jubilee doesn’t conceal the malaise that dwells beneath the surface; rather, she avails her broadened toolset and expanded color palette to paint something that embraces feeling in all its forms. From the warm chords that open the evocative and whimsical “Paprika” to the heady denouement of the pillowy “Posing For Cars,” Jubilee is color-graded to perfection, an album that assumes undeniable dreamlike qualities that are anchored by an indelible dimension of nostalgia. Zauner promised to pull out all the stops with this album and she did; nothing preserved my spirits more than the saccharine yet intractable 80s jive of “Be Sweet,” my favorite song in a long time and her most bombastic song to date. In fact, this album maintains a lot of superlatives for me: nothing had me nostalgically longing more than the pastoral “Kokomo, IN”; nothing kept me brooding more than the wistful coming-of-age soundtrack “Posing In Bondage”; nothing kept me motivated more than the soaring and vigorous “Slide Tackle” (you get the gist, I could go on).

Psychopomp, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, and last year's Pop Songs 2020 EP emerged as support pillars to guide me during the darkest hours of the pandemic; on the other hand, Jubilee was the crystallization of the bouts of euphoria that illuminated 2021 for me. This album is the “everything” from the artist who promised “everything” and still managed to deliver in every way.

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Pop Songs 2020 (2020)

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "Better Distractions", "Sometimes", "Cheers", "A Dream With A Baseball Player", "I Know I'm Funny haha"
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Two years after rocking my anemic little world with 2019's idiosyncratically elegant Atlanta Millionaires Club, singer-songwriter Faye Webster showed out with her breezy follow-up: I Know I’m Funny haha. It may seem a little listless and lackadaisical at first, but there’s so much spunk, humor, and sweetness to each of these eleven songs — a depth that’s concealed under the album’s balmy surface, quirky title, and Faye’s signature self-deprecating charm. I Know I’m Funny haha’s unconcerned sensibilities always felt emblematic of a since-pandemic reality, the musical equivalent of showing up in loose sweats and a cozy hoodie. Faye makes mountains out of the most minute thoughts: pondering who loved who first; guessing if her and her partner weigh the same; lamenting how preoccupied her friends are with their two jobs, cats and babies. Despite its pretenses of free-association, Faye's lyricism is always intentional and insular, reeling you in with her bashful humor before sobering you with her piercing honesty.  Sometimes it's tough to differentiate if she's paging through her inner monologue or yours — perhaps she's just reading 'both all the time.'

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Atlanta Millionaires Club (2019)

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "WUSYANAME", "LUMBERJACK", "HOT WIND BLOWS", "SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE", "RISE!"
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For as prolific and influential of a career that cultural juggernaut Tyler, the Creator has had, I think he’s entitled to a bit of a victory lap. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is a kaleidoscope of some of Tyler’s finest work to date, one that strides forward while reflecting on the many touchstones that paved his way to the top. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is pretty much an hour-long flex, a braggadocious display of Tyler in top-form, scored by hip-hop legend DJ Drama (!) and parlayed by some of his most lavish and exquisite production to date. No more wallowing in queer heartbreak — CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST dances on the ashes of his past iterations and rolls a velvet carpet over it, setting the stage for a decidedly less consuming narrative, unfazed by the lofty expectations for his follow-up to 2019's incredible IGOR. Weaved together by a loose narrative where Tyler plays the role of the homewrecker, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is a bold portrait of the complicated rapper and a meditation on how he has navigated his superstardom and cultural ubiquity (wiping his tears with his bands basically). Is it his deepest album? By no means, but it’s his third consecutive smash hit in a series of paradigm-shifting releases that have defined the past half-decade in hip-hop.

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 IGOR (2019)
Flower Boy (2017)

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "Find It", "Blame Me", "Two Face", "Suck Teeth", "I V"
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Fatigue, the enveloping sophomore album by Brooklyn producer L’Rain, sounds like nothing I have ever heard before. There are no words adequate enough to describe the rich, dense, and swirling soundscape of this album: mystical? ethereal? psychedelic? Fatigue is defiant of all structures and conventions, cohering into a sweeping and heady wall of sound that is still punctured by a painterly dedication to detail. Undergirded by a hazy through line narrative of trauma and recovery, L’Rain pages through her grief in one of the most emotionally potent and dramatic ways that I’ve seen all year, plunging you into a cascade of sounds that overwhelms all senses. Despite its abstract sensibilities, her choice to reinscribe her trauma-healing journey through a web of sounds, samples, and voice-notes is incredibly salient, and she manages to strike every nerve with intensity. This album’s cathartic nature clearly possessed residual impacts; for as urgently needed as this album was for her, I found this album incredibly therapeutic and healing as well, a beacon of sorts whenever I needed to center my emotions.

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "IN YOUR EYES", "JUST LIKE THAT", "ON MY MIND"
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As a longtime follower of the enchanting songstress, my first listen of Snoh Aalegra’s TEMPORARY HIGHS IN THE VIOLET SKIES gave the impression that she was punching below her weight. Successive listens dispelled that concern; TEMPORARY HIGHS is a fascinating, lustrous, and heady addition to the carefully cultivated universe of Snoh Aalegra. Forgoing the lush, nu-jazz stylings of her back catalog for a more synthetic soundscape, Snoh’s music has never felt as agleam and spacey as it does across these 45 minutes. Festering under the elegant veneer of the glossy production, however, is a wistful sorrow that grounds the project’s aloofness before it glides into the stratosphere. The album teeters on being overly mechanical — especially on the jittering “NEON PEACH” and anguished “INDECISIVE” — but its whimsical and languid highlights demonstrate why Snoh continues to reign as my queen of slow-burning neo-soul.

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 -Ugh, those feels again (2019)
FEELS (2017)
Don't Explain (2015)

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "Don't Go Puttin Wishes In My Head", "Hug From A Dinosaur", "Kiss The Corners"
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TORRES’ colossal fifth record Thirstier towers as of the most impassioned, anthemic, and idiosyncratic pop-rock albums of the year. Skewed by TORRES’ quirky sensibilities and spirited by tales of queer embrace, Thirstier’s rugged charms are what gives it life. It has the vigor of an arena rock record (found on the soaring lead “Don’t Go Puttin Wishes In My Head”) but with the off-kilter and homespun appeal of an indie record (highlighted on the eclectic and warbling “Hug From A Dinosaur”); these narratives converge into a scattered yet bold declaration of queer love, as fragmented and chaotic as the best queer stories. For as underrated and undocumented as this album seems to have been, Thirstier's heartening and bombastic highlights make it a necessary listen.

 

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4 hours ago, Hunty Bear said:

okay that's about half! I'll prob finish up tomorrow or whenever I have time jj2 gonna tag @Urbi even tho idk if they're still even active lmao

Oh, I’m here! Let me quickly check oprah15 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "Bouncin", "Unconditional", "X", "Undo (Back to My Heart)", "SHY GUY"
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After years of only itching at the threshold of the mainstream, Tinashe finally said “fuck it” with 333, spurring her newfound creative independence into her most ambitious, heady, and elastic album to date. 333 is a buoyant consolidation of the off-kilter detours that skewed her past projects into truly innovative territory, cohering into something sprawling and whimsical even if not totally cohesive. Deep cuts like “Unconditional” and the title track are boundless and shapeshifting, mutating into nebulous shapes that continue to elude me despite their fleeting runtimes. This isn’t to say that 333 is completely intangible; junctures such as the pulsing “Bouncin” and skittering “X” shine as beacons that are as ethereal as they are anchoring. 333 skirts the line of collapsing under its colossal ambitions at times but even as it errs here and there, it always swerves back into something that you can keep your foot on. 333 is the music that Tinashe has always been making — ever since her pre-Aquarius, "DIY" bedroom pop days — but finally cast onto a widescreen for everyone to indulge in.

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 Songs For You (2019)

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "Hold U", "Kill Me", "Darker Than Death", "Real Pain", "Bad Dream"
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Few singers are as arresting as singer-songwriter Indigo De Souza, whose voice coils, winds, and strains like a 90s rockstar; even fewer make albums as morbidly alluring as her beguiling sophomore record, Any Shape You Take. Guided by motifs of light and death (as visualized on the intricate album cover), Indigo De Souza seeks out beauty in the helms of darkness, finding warmth in solitude and being absorbed in one’s abyssal (and occasionally self-destructive) thoughts. This doesn’t mean that she’s a hermit; Indigo De Souza champions queer embrace and euphoria and some of the most life-affirming anthems I’ve heard all year, including the cathartic album centerpiece “Hold U” and the torch-song finale “Kill Me” — two songs that swept me off my feet this year. Indigo De Souza doesn’t conceal the pain that lurks in her psyche but she doesn’t wallow in it — instead she combs out all of the glitter, debris, and pure "feeling" that ultimately shape the tracklist of the album. Any Shape You Take is a messy and complicated tribute to love, life, death, and darkness, a knotty listening experience whose beautiful imperfections made it a highlight of my year.

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "Space 1", "Space 2", "Space 8"
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With the release of her enveloping debut Space 1.8, musical prodigy and composer Nala Sinephro has planted her feet on the vanguard of contemporary jazz. Merging the acoustic finesse of some of the UK’s finest musicians with the synthetic stylings of digital ambient, Nala Sinephro has cultivated an ethereal listening experience that lives up to its cosmic name. After resisting a tumor in her early 20s (Sinephro made this showstopper at only 22!), Sinephro wanted to engineer something that was “medicinal” and “therapeutic”; Space 1.8 embodies those healing qualities, a gentle, mystifying, and cathartic shedding of her old skin and a transcendence into a new plane of existence. Sure, it’s great for passive listening, but playing an idle ear to it prevents you from truly immersing yourself in the nebula that Sinephro threads together from suite to suite.

 

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laIGQVp.png?1 "Introvert", "Woman", "Two Worlds Apart", "I Love You, I Hate You", "Protect My Energy", "Point and Kill", "Standing Ovation", "I See You"
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After the incisive and obstinate arm-flex that was 2019’s GREY Area, it already seemed like British rapper and poet Little Simz was sparring at top form. After taunting us with last year’s floaty and fleeting Drop 6 teaser, Simz took the big leap and planted her feet in the star fields. Towering over all expectations with her monumental, mighty, and extravagant magnum opus Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Little Simz finally unleashed the masterpiece that we all knew resided in her. Backronym-ing to “SIMBI,” her chosen nickname, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a confessional and introspective reading of Little Simz’s expansive inner monologue, a whimsical listening experience that pivots, whirls, and turns on its head with each scene change. Few albums are as world-building and kaleidoscopic as this while still being fortified by dexterous flows, grandiose narrations, and a commanding presence that clasps you in a headlock for its entire hour-long runtime. Simz stands at the podium and wrings every last expository drop out of her mental diary — waxing lyrical on her intersectional experiences as a black woman ("Woman", "Introvert") with generational trauma ("Little Q, Pt. 1" & "2", "I Love You, I Hate You") and — obviously — introverted tendencies ("Protect My Energy"), painting a grounded portrait of herself that awakens into its own mystical monolith. There’s so much that can be said about the album (some of which have already been documented in other year-end write-ups) and yet there’s so much left untouched in the inner-linings of the album. Few artists have the capacity to aim the stars and still manage to totally deliver on such an ambitious concept; even fewer manage to anchor themselves into the musical canon in the way that Simz did with SIMBI.  With SIMBI — above all else —  Simz has indelibly inscribed her own stories into the plot of this album and solidified her spot in the pantheon of greats.

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 GREY Area (2019)

 

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