A Year Without An Album
Updated: Dec 19, 2021
February 21st, 2020.
That is the last time a great album has been released.
Actually making a good album meant to be listened to end-to-end is hard and there are dozens of great artists who have never made a complete album:
Led Zeppelin The Who The Beach Boys The Talking Heads Joni Mitchell Muddy Waters Johnny Cash Fleetwood Mac Elvis Presley Buddy Holly Eric Clapton Grateful Dead Janis Joplin James Brown Billy Joel Anyone classified as "Yacht Rock" Devo Tears for Fears Blondie Elvis Costello Buffalo Springfield Prince Billy Idol Elton John Queen Metallica Black Sabbath (with Ozzy) Pink Floyd Guns N Roses Madonna Any band classified as "Funk" The B-52s Michael Jackson Sam Cooke The Yardbirds Eric Clapton Neil Young/Diamond The Bee-Gees Any band classified as "Hair Metal" Stevie Wonder Buffalo Springfield Dire Straits Black Sabbath (with Dio) Nirvana Whitney Houston The Smashing Pumpkins The Doors Snoop Dogg Daft Punk Gorillaz Boys II Men The Strokes REM Nelly The Shins Bright Eyes Pearl Jam MGMT
The list simply goes on.
Since the re-invention of music circa 2011 we have slowly seen year after year the number of quality albums depreciate. Most likely peaking between 2012-2014, we saw the revitalization of electronic music with Purity Ring's Shrines, Grime's Oblivion, Flume's self-titled debut (with the exception of track #5), and Tokimonsta's Half-Shadows, with honorable mentions to James Blake's Overgrown, CC's III, and Tokimonsta's Desiderium. Witch House was being broken open by Balam Acab and Holy Other, with Wander/Wonder, and With You / Held. A number of great entries into pop (MØ's No Mythologies to Follow and Janelle Monet's The Electric Lady), alt-punk (Our House on the Hill by the Babies), acoustic (Jessica Pratt's self-titled and Blue Rider by Zachary Cale), ambient rock (Mazzy Star's Seasons of Your Day), alt-acoustic (Angel Olsen's Burn Your Fire For No Witness), progressive metal (Sorrow & Extinction and Altered State, two albums I waxed eloquent on in last month's article), and Afro-Futurism (Goldenheart by Dawn Richard and awE naturalE by THEEsatisfaction).
Over the next few years, great albums would continue to be produced, such as Radiohead's Moon Shaped Pool, a few metal albums, Melody's Echo Chamber, King Gizzard's Fishing for Fishies (I was as surprised as anyone), finally ending with the release of Miss Anthropocene in early 2021, slightly before the breakout of the pandemic, which I dont think is a coincidence. While there was some early (and erroneous) speculation that somehow artists being "locked in" would lead to outbursts of creativity and innovation, the albums produced during the pandemic have so far been a colossal bust.
Of course I haven't listened to every supposedly great album that has come out in the last 18 months, but I have listened to enough and hear the rave reviews for what have amounted to completely uninspiring productions. I was planning to close this year without hearing a singular album. But when I went over to the indie music sub on reddit to make fun of another laughable year-end attempt to find meaning in their mediocre music tastes, I was struck. It just so happened, that the day I came to the sub, Thursday, December 2nd, was the day they were reviewing an album that I was not aware had been released: ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH by SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE. Apparently released in April of this year, it flew under the radar with only one track breaking 1 million listen (and just barely at that). While I am only familiar with a singular song by this band, I realized that if there was a possibility of someone creating a worthwhile full length album in 2021 this was it.
So I gave it a listen.