Our Favorite Records of 2021

We have completed yet another trip around the sun. While there were certainly some patches of optimism (remember how great the early summer felt, pre-Delta?), 2021, like 2020 before it, was a tough one. Thankfully, the music helped get us across the finish line. There seemed to be a ton of new releases this past year, likely a byproduct of artists being home-bound for so much of 2020. We asked our DJs to recommend some of their favorites. The list below not only provides an excellent time-capsule for year, but also illustrates the wide variety of musical styles and genres played on WXNA.

Presented for you in alphabetical order by DJ, our favorite records of 2021:

DJ Cajun Mitch – Sounds of the Bayou, Mondays 7pm-8pm

Dumpstaphunk, Where Do We Go from Here? – The funkiest release of 2021!
Sean Ardoin & Kreole Rock & Soul, Live in New Orleans! – Live zydeco from one of today’s best zydeco acts!
Also! Revisited a lot of great music from 1991, inspired in part by The Metallica Blacklist. Also revisited Live Aid 1985.

Laurel Creech – All About Nashville, Fridays Noon-1pm

LadyCouch, The Future Looks Fine – some of Nashville’s most talented musicians performing live like they’re throwing a party!!
Melissa Carper, Daddy’s Country Gold – She has an amazing voice & lovely personality.
Also! Anything by the Eels. Love them- quirky, eccentric & everything that makes you ponder life.

DJubilee – Greetings From Nashville, Thursdays 6am-7am, Ear to the Ground, Tuesdays 6am-7am

Darrin Bradbury, Artvertisement – Very original. At times punk, clever, poignant. Sometimes all at once.
Favorite non-Nashville: Ritual Cloak & Autumn Juvenile, A Human Being is the Best Disguise. Electronic band from Wales collaborating with a spoken word artist.

DJ Ed – Eighties/Schmeighties, Fridays 10am-noon

Late Night Tales, Version Excursion – Selected By Don Letts
Guided by Voices, It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them!
The Upsetters, Return of the Super Ape

DJ Erica – Soul of the City, Thursdays 4pm-6pm

Zo! & Tall Black Guy, Abstractions – Zo!, band leader for the group The Foreign Exchange, and producer Tall Black Guy put out an amazing album featuring an array of neo-soul singers such as Black Milk, Sy Smith, and Omar. Laid back and innovative, it’s a great album that explores ranges of neo-soul and r&b.
Kindred the Family Soul, Auntie and Unc – Auntie & Unc Atlanta musicians and husband/wife duo Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon brought their love and observations of blackness in this album. Not heavy, mellow, and celebratory. Favorites from the album include “Break it Down” and “Rejoice, Renew, and Repair”

Leslie Hermsdorfer – Sound Decisions, Mondays 5pm-7pm

Jane Weaver, Flock – This record is a perfect reflection of a multi-instrumentalist expressing her entire artistic capabilities with influences at the prime of her life.
Pearl & The Oysters, Flowerland – Their music is always interesting, cheerful, and fun!

“Hound Dog” Hoover – Goin Down South, Mondays Noon-3pm

Jason Isbell, Georgia Blue – Cool covers, great guests, and a campaign promise kept!

DJ Juan – International Echo, Thursdays 3pm-4pm

Xenia Rubinos, Una Rosa – The New York-based singer returns with a bang with a poignant album about loss and doubt amidst the pandemic.
Also! Bob Dylan’s Street Legal

Dawn Kote – Yum Yum Eat Em Up, Wednesdays 1pm-1:30pm

Maggie Rose, Have A Seat – Love the soulful sound of her voice & the songs she wrote reflect the year we have all had!

Nick Lindeman

black midi, Cavalcade
Also! Low, HEY WHAT, Matt Sweeney & Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Superwolves, Mogwai, As The Love Continues, and Ty Seagall, Harmonizer

Mike Mannix – Psych Out!, Wednesdays 7pm-9pm

Jantar, Sempronia – This album offers nods in a variety of musical directions, most notably the UK’s Canterbury scene of the late 60s / early 70s. This is not to say that Jantar sounds like Gong or Soft Machine, for they don’t. Instead, they take the progressive sensibilities of folks like Daevid Allen and Robert Wyatt and set them in modern context and project them outwards and into the future. A unique approach to say the least. It’s a marvelous journey of mystical folk meanderings, heady forays, and astral inspired diversions.
Styrofoam Winows, STYROFOAM WINOS “S​/​T”
Also! Demola Adepoju, Olufe-Mi. Adepoju played steel guitar for Nigerian legend King Sunny Ade in the 1980s. This is his solo album from 1985. It’s wild and wonderful. I’m trying to track him down (apparently, he is living in Washington DC), so let me know if you run into him!

Anne McCue Songs on the Wire, Tuesdays 10am-11:30am; Nashville Express, Tuesdays 11:30am-Noon

Chris Wilson, Live at the Continental – Australian legend Chris Wilson passed away in 2019. This recording is a re-release of a live concert in Melbourne in the 90s at The Continental. He was one of the most powerful performers I have ever seen. I just wish he would have played in America and Europe. He would have blown the socks off Americanafest etc.

Adam McDole – Body to Body, Fridays 7pm-9pm

Deafheaven, Infinite Granite – A change in style for Deafheaven but still retains what makes them great. Beautiful, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful.
Lingua Ignota, Sinner Get Ready

Leanne Merritt – X-Posure, Wednesdays 1:30pm-4pm

Yasmin Williams, Urban Driftwood – I enjoyed so many incredible records throughout 2021 that it’s tough to choose a favorite one. There were many releases that I loved, but Yasmin’s second album of unique and unusual instrumental guitar music really came to be a special one for me during such an intense year. She creates the perfect music to zone out to, and just a few weeks after losing my Dad to CoVid, I was lucky enough to be in tiny group of only about 15 people who showed up to see Yasmin perform a sublime set during Americanafest. It was exactly what I needed. I felt as if it there were rainbows and kittens coming out of her guitar.
Liam Kazar, Due North – The multi-instrumentalist and sideman to Jeff Tweedy and Steve Gunn released his debut solo album that has the kind of quirky vintage vibes I adore ala 60’s and 70’s. It’s got synth and steel and always puts me in a great mood. It was a great surprise of 2021.
Also! The Blaze Velluto Collection We Are Sunshine on Dare to Care Records. I missed this album in 2020, but luckily stumbled on the band’s second full length release in 2021. The band, led by singer Blaze Velluto, is based in Quebec and includes 15 different musicians. Their sound is sunny psych folk and retro pop that will take you for a ride on a magic bus. You can’t listen to them and not turn up the volume to sing along.

Josh Mock – Sad Songs for Happy People, Sundays 10pm-11pm

Arooj Aftab, Vulture Prince
Walt McClements, A Hole In the Fence
Also! Chamber, Cost of Sacrifice

Nexus – Musical Mysticism, Wednesdays 4pm-5pm

Valerie June, The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers
Also! TOKiMONSTA, Oasis Nocturno; Ben Chasny {a.k.a. Six Organs of Admittance}, The Intimate Landscape; Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Superwolves; Nightmares On Wax, Shout Out! To Freedom…; King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Butterfly 3000; Sons of Kemet, Black to the Future; Curtis Harding, If Words Were Flowers; Adrian Younge, The American Negro (Jazz Is Dead); John Tejada, Year of the Living Dead

Chris Nochowicz – Future of Jazz, Saturdays 8am-10am, The Indie Hangover, Wednesdays 6am-7am

Richard Elliot, Authentic Life
Dan Siegel, Faraway Place
From the rock side of things: Deafheaven, Infinite Granite; Nation of Language, A Way Forward

Rick Pecoraro

Cheekface, Emphatically No. – A record that sounds like the idle thoughts of 2021, but y’know, with hooks!

Laura Pochodylo – Runout Numbers, Sundays 8am-10am

Connie Smith, The Cry of the Heart – Fantastic album of new material from a legacy artist who sounds as great as she ever has, not every day you get that!
The Weather Station, Ignorance – cool and groovy pop rock from Canada.
Also! I discovered the 2019 reissue of Jim Sullivan’s 1972 self-titled album this year and was hooked on it, great introspective singer-songwriter folk rock.

DJ rhatfink – The Continental, Thursdays 7am-9am, Bedazzled Paradigm Jukebox, Sundays 7am-8am

Tommy Guerrero, Sunshine Radio – Mix equal parts reverb guitar, pulsing organ and exotica rhythms and pour into an all instrumental glass. Chill and serve.
Goat Girl, On All Fours – Post punk group that uses sci-fi synthesizers, off-beat chord progressions, diverse vocal styles, and distinct, gritty guitars to explore global, humanitarian, environmental, and mindful wellbeing.
Also! Melenas, Dias Raros (Trouble In Mind); Spanish garage rock crossed with arty post-punk by way of Stereolab. Groovy!

Michael Scatter – Scattershot, Wednesdays 10am-Noon

Sgt. Papers, SGTP – It’s catchy, it’s psychedelic, it’s rockin’, and it bear repeat listening.
The other 20 from 2021: Sprints, Manifesto EP; Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek, DOST 1; Contento, En Lancha Pal Futuro; Juleah, Stoked On Planet Summer; Psychic Graveyard, Veins Feel Strange; IDLES CRAWLER; María en Drogas, El Malviaje de José; Lunar Funeral, Sex on a Grave; It Thing, Syrup; Meridian Brothers / Conjunto Media Luna, Paz En La Tierra; Son de Huesos, Occult Cumbia; Wine Lips, Mushroom Death Sex Bummer Party; Alien Nosejob, Paint It Clear; Mdou Moctar, Afrique Victime; The Llamps, The Llamps; The Mardi Kings, The Mardi Kings Season 2; Communicant Sun Goes Out; Cosey Mueller, Interior Escapes; Dry Cleaning, New Long Leg; Combo Lulo, Neotropic Dream
Also! Tülay Nedret Baran, Zühtü and Baligh Hamdi, Instrumental Modal Pop of 1970’s Egypt

Drew Wilson – LOUD LOVE, Sunday Nights Midnight-1am

Turnstyle, Glow On
Silicone Prairie, My Life on the Silicone Prairie
Also! Finally got our hands on a vinyl box set of Velvet Underground, The Complete Matrix Tapes. Rivals the Quine Tapes for our top Velvets recording. Quines have the perfect take of Heroin, Matrix has the perfect take of Pale Blue Eyes.
For a more recent pick, Jeff Rosenstock, Thanks, Sorry! live album has been everything we’ve wanted to listen to while slowly getting back into the pits at live punk shows.

Zach Worm – t a p e w o r m s, Wednesday Mornings Midnight-2am

Home Is Where, I Became Birds
Turnstyle, Glow On
Also! Spirit of the Beehive, Entertainment, Death; Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee; Foxing, Draw Down the Moon