My “Now” page is where I share stuff I’ve enjoyed recently, in the hopes that you’ll find something you’ll enjoy too.
Goin’ big in this category to close out the year! Here are my 30 favorite records of 2021, with a one-sentence review of each.
A stripped-down outing from this reliable purveyor of clever lyrics and alternative songcraft.
Space-rock as filtered through Fleetwood Mac, maybe?
In the ’80s, the Bush Tetras were responsible for several of the best post-punk singles of all time (“You Can’t Be Funky,” “Too Many Creeps,” “Snakes Crawl”).
Punchy Melbourne punk.
Wry post-punk; could be the offspring of Courtney Barnett and Wire.
Haunting ambient soundtrack that leans on (what sounds like) samples of hundred-year-old records.
Surf-rock girl-group harmonies that wouldn’t sound out of place in an early Tarantino.
A return to form for the Bristol “angry band”; a little slower, more coiled, more tense.
I find Johnson’s synthesizer-and-pedal-steel-based ambience enormously comforting.
Loscil has long been growing his own branch on Eno’s ambient tree, and this is another excellent offering.
This Chicago sound engineer & man-about-town turns hits a range of styles in this thoroughly enjoyable pop/rock jaunt.
I’ve rarely been this excited by a band’s early work; it’s as if early Yeah Yeah Yeahs had pushed the edges rather further.
Aimee Mann, Queens of the Summer Hotel
Aimee is one of the best songwriters we have, and anything she creates is worth your time.
This recalls some favorite sounds of about two decades ago, like Air (but less spacey), Groove Armada (but more song-based).
Bedroom pop meets spacey beats; I could listen to the loop that closes “Colours/Heavy Load” for hours.
Tasteful, quietly experimental art-pop from a group that’s been at it for decades.
Osees (formerly Thee Oh Sees) filter prog, punk and early metal through the garage, and there’s no other band like them.
Yes, a second live album by the Osees on this list; if the opening 1-2 punch of “Rogue Planet” and “I Can’t Pay You to Disappear” doesn’t do it for you, I can’t help you.
There’s hope for rock if this is where it’s headed; Parquet Courts fearlessly blends influences and rarely misses the mark.
A perfectly sequenced indie-pop masterpiece and my favorite record of the year.
The indie-pop home-run hitters stretch their legs a bit on this EP.
A mellower outing from the punk legends, and a bit of a return to form.
The first ambient album I loved this year.
Andy Stott, Never the Right Time
Stott remains committed to plundering the less-commercial corners of dubstep, to great effect.
Characteristically excellent songcraft from the Galaxie 500 & Luna singer.
Ambient with a soul, grounded in piano and strings.
Friends, it appears we have a 20-year-old pop savant in our midst.
Zakè is one of the more reliable purveyors of modern ambient, and there are more than a few moments of aching beauty in these loops of orchestral strings.
Decades-spanning compilation from this reliable Copenhagen dub-techno label.
The 22nd volume in Kompakt Record’s “state of the ambient union” compilation, and I am now purchasing them unheard.
(I link to Bandcamp whenever possible, since it’s the platform that returns the most money to the artists.)
You’ll find my list of top reads in 2021 here:
We celebrated my wife’s birthday in Cannon Beach and McMinnville, OR, over the first week of December.
In Cannon Beach, we returned to the Stephanie Inn and can’t wait to go again. It checks all the boxes: A professional and friendly staff, an outstanding kitchen (including a complementary breakfast buffet), a complementary evening happy hour, and, of course, a gorgeous beach to ponder from your balcony.
Our agenda for our three days here was “whatever we damn well please,” whether that was walking on the beach, reading by the fireplace or on the balcony, drinking wine or grabbing a late-afternoon meal at the Wayfarer (featured on a recent season of Top Chef).
From there, we moved on to McMinnville, a perfect base of operations in Willamette Valley wine country.
We stayed at the Atticus Hotel, a boutique in an ideal location just steps from the tasting rooms and restaurants on Third Street. Terrific staff here too (shout-out to Hannah & Rae at the front desk!).
Also: Pizza Capo is some of the best pizza I’ve had (and I’ve had a lot).
I’ll share our favorite wineries from this trip below, under “Beverages.”
Coming up: Maui, HI.
A friend took us to Gilt Bar for a delightful meal and a been-too-long catch-up session. No pictures from this outing, but I can sing the praises of the burrata, the swordfish, the steak tartare and the spicy rigatoni. The skillet cookie with two kinds of ice cream was more than we needed, but it was that kind of night.
As with any concept from Hogsalt hospitality group, Gilt Bar hits all the right notes of cuisine, service & ambience.
Favorite Oregon wineries from our December visit:
Brooks – We returned for the third time, and this time we were smart enough to enjoy some oysters and seasoned popcorn for a light lunch. In addition to pinot noirs, you’ll find rieslings in a range of styles. On a clear day, you’ll have a view of four peaks from the tasting room. (Don’t ask me to name them all – I was drinking wine! – but one of them is Mt. Hood.)
Bethel Heights – This was our first visit here, and we ended up shipping a mixed case home. In addition to the above-average range of pinot noir, the Justice Vineyard Chardonnay is one of the very best I’ve had – notes of grapefruit, peach, salted almond (!) and no butter at all despite spending some time in oak.
Elizabeth Chambers – Rosé, pinot gris, pinot noir… everything “Betty Chambers” does is done very well. Also, one of the most delightful tasting rooms you’ll find, in the former McMinnville power plant.
If you’ve ever been to Napa, you know that when a host in a tasting room says, “You should try Winery X,” that’s usually code for “Here’s another winery in our portfolio.” There’s none of that in Willamette; they’ll say things like, “You should try Winery Z because my friend Bob is doing interesting things with pinot gris” or “my former roommate pours there; drop my name and she’ll treat you well.” This can’t last forever, so if you’re curious, I encourage you to get to Willamette soon, before the corporations swoop in and mess it up.
At this writing (Dec. 28), I’ve exercised 336 of 362 days this year. Though I’ve had some issues with Peloton’s decision-making, and I really miss being able to do hot yoga, I can’t deny that having the bike in the home makes a difference.
We have a new addition to our family as of the middle of November: Meet McTavish, the Scottish fold. He is 80% adorable angel and 20% demon on cocaine.
He’s 13 weeks old now, but in this picture, he was only 6 weeks old, and already terrifyingly confident in his own amount of game.
Questions on any of the above? Got something to share of your own? Drop me a line: matthew(at)threedeuce(dot)com.