Last month I gave you a list of albums that held my attention in 2021.  This time, let’s look at some great music websites and their best of 2021 lists that reach across the musical spectrum.  I rely on some of these websites for their good musical judgement year-round, 

I love discovering new music.  Some sites I ignore because the music they push just isn’t my thing or they’re repetitive and stale– they are unable to get out of the music holes they have dug for themselves.  Here are some music places on the Internet that I recommend, including a star rating of one to four, bad to great.

Downbeat Magazine–It’s been around since 1934, and today Downbeat is still a powerhouse information source for all things Jazz and progressive music.  If you are a musician and have your recording reviewed in Downbeat, it’s a pretty big deal.  If you get a five-star review in Downbeat, that is a career achievement.  the magazine has a popular Listeners Poll every year with a wide range of categories, and in late December they release a Best of List for the year.  My high school band teacher loved Downbeat, but I wonder if he would enjoy some if this year’s best, which reflects the ever-expanding musical reach of the Downbeat editors.  I’m happy that a couple of the albums I paid attention to this year made the top list, including Jim Snidero’s Live at the Deer Head Inn, and Kenny Garrett’s latest, Sounds from the Ancestors.  I recommend checking in the Downbeat on a regular basis to find out what’s new and hot.  More at downbeat.com . 4 Stars at downbeat.com .

JazzWise–If you are into Jazz like I am, Jazzwise is a great place to click into.  Their 2021 Best of list included some of my picks for the year, and the other recordings easily could have been on my list.  The also site includes regularly updated news, reviews, and a helpful “The 100 Jazz Albums that Shook the World” list, which is a fine introduction to jazz music for you Newbs out there. Check it out at jazzwise.com.  4 stars.  

Pitchfork is one of the top music blogs out there, and they have a solid set of annual lists that cover pop, rock, jazz, electronic, a reader’s poll, and best underrated albums.  The editors ensure that the selections are a variety of new artists, obscure bands, and groups that are way out there–I like that.  I discovered the band Spirit of the Beehive on Pitchfork, and their new album ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH is a real humdinger.  These lists will keep you busy for weeks as you scroll through and plays the bands on Spotify .  4 stars at pitchfork.com .

Spotify Playlists–I like to go grassroots and hear what ordinary music lovers are listening to.  I just type best of 2021 into the Spotify search box, and a ton of listener made playlists come up, enough to keep your ears busy for a year.  The amount of music on Spotify is staggering, and listening to these playlists can rapidly broaden your musical palate–it doesn’t get better than this. 4 stars at spotify.com .

The New York Times–I look forward every year to the NYT best of lists and their music reviews year-round.  For their best of lists, they ask several critics across genres to give you their picks, and they provide a fine diversity of music for you to choose from.  This year is no different; you could spend a couple of weekends going through the Spotify playlists their people create to supplement their lists.  Start with this one:    www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/arts/music/best-jazz-albums.html .  31/2 stars.

Metal Injection is a great site to visit when you want it loud.  While they didn’t not have a 2021 wrap up, the site has a huge variety of recent album reviews, some of which are pretty darn good.  You’ll hear bands like Doom Crew Inc., and Lock Up, both best listened to after five cups of triple caffeinated Italian roast.  More seriously, for metal fans, this is a fun site with enough music to keep your ears pounding for weeks.  Turn it up at metalinjection.net  3 stars.

Guardian Music–This UK newspaper is a must visit for a wide range of music coverage.  They have an excellent annual rollup of the best albums of the year over a number of genres including pop, contemporary, jazz and folk, and  they also have great reviews year-round.  Check out their lists at https://www.theguardian.com/music/series/best-music-of-2021. 3 stars.

NPR Music– One of the more disappointing annual wrap-ups for me is the NPR All Songs Considered Best of 2021 lists.  The NPR music crew has been reviewing and promoting music for many years now, and yes, they can get it right occasionally.  But most of the time for my ears, the selections they discuss and play are limited to the niche of hipster indy pop that has little long-term value other than they all sound the same.  I mean, how much Death Cab for Cutie, WetLeg, Toth, or Palehound can we take?   Bottom line, every time All Songs Considered music critic Bob Boilan has a review on Morning Edition, it’s time to put on Sirius XM…enough already, Bob.  But there are bright lights at NPR, the sublime Tiny Desk Concert Series and their Jazz coverage, which is pretty solid as they rely on some smart critics such as the former NY Times and now NPR Jazz critic Nate Chinen to guide you through the year.  Head over the NPR music at https://www.npr.org/sections/the-best-music-of-2021-staff-picks , if you think your ears can take it.  Tiny Desk-4 stars, NPR Jazz-3.5 stars, All Songs Considered-2 stars.

Steve Chase is playing mandolin around the woodstove in Unison.

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