Ground Control Year in Review 2021

Ground Control Year in Review 2021

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Thursday, 30 December 2021
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Hello, dear reader. We thought we were out of the woods with this whole pandemic thing, huh? Looks like we have to hunker down for a while longer. We’re prouder than ever this year to bring you our take on the best this year had to offer. We’d like to consider ourselves mostly a music site, but there were some undeniably great movies and TV shows as well. Lists like these are all over the internet, but remember that, as always, we’re the only ones who have the right entries, especially as far as music is concerned. Enjoy, and stay safe out there.

Best Music of 2021:

  1. Czarface & MF Doom – Super What?

I’m very proud of this release. Proud that it’s from our local boys here in Boston and proud of how surgically sharp its rhymes are and how much better it gets with every listen. This is probably not the last we’ve heard of MF Doom, but Super What? shows just how much his presence shines when it’s part of a strong collaboration. This album is short and oh-so sweet from the first to the hundredth listen. It’s yet another example that rap is alive and well, just not in the mainstream. 

  1. Death From Above 1979 – Is 4 Lovers

Who knew that a band that broke up after creating so much buzz would keep making such quality music 5 albums into their career. Is 4 Lovers is the most abrasive and aggro DFA has ever sounded with all the hooks and high-school diary lyrics of their albums. It’s threatening while still being undeniably catchy. It’s weird in the best way possible.

  1. The Hold Steady – Open Door Policy

It only took two listens of Open Door Policy to realize I was in good hands. Open Door Policy has some of the least rocking songs of The Hold Steady’s career, but it’s got heart in spades. And isn’t that what we love about this band? This album is a slow build to an ass-kicking in the end. And make sure you get the bonus track which is unmissable and might very well be the best song of this whole session.

  1. Mac McCaughan – The Sound of Yourself

You know you’ve got a great album in your hands when you carve out special uninterrupted time just to listen to it. The Sound of Yourself spans the gamut of ambient, ballad and rock. Coupled with McCaughan distinct vocals, this album manages to put together songs that you wouldn’t think would fit together.

  1. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Carnage

It’s scary to think that Nick Cave is making some of the best music at this point in his life, after having experienced so much pain, but that’s how it is. Their first project credited as a duo, Carnage is a haunting, brutal, and sweet album, layered with noises and full of emotion. It’s a product that only Nick Cave and Warren Ellis could pull off.

  1. Billy Bragg – A Million Things That Never Happened

Billy Bragg is now comfortably in the genre of easy listening. There’s nothing weird or scary or threatening about A Million Things That Never Happened, but isn’t that what’s made Billy Bragg so accessible from the beginning. These are straight up pop songs that also happen to be politically charged, and that’s the secret weapon.

  1. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – KG/LW

It takes a certain kind of musical genius to be so prolific and good at the same time. In this double album, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard build a tapestry of psychedelic sounds with some middle eastern and prog rock elements as a foundation. It’s complex and super accessible and impresses every single time.

  1. Fiddlehead – Between the Richness

This is the grower of the year. Maybe I’m biased with Western Mass bands, but I gave Fiddlehead more of a chance than I would otherwise, and it really paid off. After enough listens I was able to appreciate the subtlety of Between the Richness, how it packs a powerful message underneath its post-hardcore sound. Now, I can’t stop thinking about it.

  1. Sleaford Mods – Spare Ribs

Sleaford Mods deserve an award for being their own genre. It’s rap, but also lo-fi, and punk. It’s more like a lecture on the struggles of the working class… with a beat. Also these guys are super British in the best way possible. There’s really nothing like it, and it makes quite an impression.

  1. Scott Reynolds – Chihuahua in Buffalo

Scott Reynolds is the unsung hero of the music world. The man has fronted some of the greatest bands of all time (ALL, Pavers) and his style of songwriting is so endearing, engaging, catchy, witty, and unique. I would never in my life listen to this kind of music (with scatting? what!?), but Reynolds makes it sound cool. Chihuahua in Buffalo is an acoustic version of newer songs with some others from his past peppered in. It’s simple and powerful and shows that the man is one of the strongest songwriters around.

Best of the Rest (in no particular order):

Jeff Rosenstock – Ska Dream

Bat Fangs – Queen of My World

Former Member – Manageable Scratches

Neighborhood Brats – Confines of Life

Down by Law – Lonely Town

The Bronx – VI

Predator – Spiral Unfolds

Mikey Erg – Selftitled 

Descendents – 9th and Walnut

Dinosaur Jr – Sweep It Into Space

Best EP:

Mannequin Pussy – Perfect

Mannequin Pussy the live band and the studio band are two different animals. This short follow-up to their excellent full length Patience is simply a continuation of that style. In 15 minutes it goes from raging to angelic. It gets you excited about what they’re going to do next.

Best Compilation:

Joe Strummer – Assembly

Everyone familiar with Joe Strummer’s solo career has their own mix of favorite songs. The goal of Assembly is to make the listener familiar with what kind of music Joe was making after the Clash. Of course, there are songs I wish were included, but I’m very pleased with what’s here, and it paints a very accurate picture. Assembly has some of the best, most familiar cuts of his solo career, and includes some live Clash “covers.” Because, again, that’s what he was doing in his career post-Clash. This collection of songs is a wonderful tribute to the man and just makes me miss him more.

The “Hold Your Horses” Award:


NOFX – Single Album

Look, I don’t mind NOFX. I grew on their early stuff and still LOVE those albums. Their last 3 albums have been mediocre but I’m always hopeful they’ll get out of their slump. Single Album is lauded by some as their best record since So Long, which is just crazy. While the music is great, the lyrics and themes are sloppy, predictable, awkward, idiotic, poorly-executed and funny only if you’re 13 years old. It’s clear that Fat Mike is in need of a good producer or friend. One who doesn’t gush over him and can help guide his songwriting. This album just makes me sad.

Best of Last Year (I didn’t hear till this year):

Less Than Jake – Silver Linings


Vicious Dreams – Selftitled

Rocci & Ramirez – Tha Playa$ Manual

Where Have You Been All My Life?:

The Sparks – Kimono My House

Are we in a Sparks craze? I don’t know, but this album is full of bangers. It’s prog, disco, and glam all wrapped into one. It’s clever, silly, and super super catchy. It’s inspired me to delve more into their catalog, and I’m excited for what’s in store. 


Best Book:

Jonathan Franzen – Crossroads

I didn’t read many new books this year. I didn’t read that much at all. But Crossroads is the book I can’t stop talking about with friends. Franzen can switch narrators expertly and makes you care about the characters so much that he elevates the interactions and events when they happen. It’s a book that’s taught me a lot about a type of upbringing I’m ignorant about and I’m honestly sad I don’t get to spend more time with these characters. Is that what good writing is?

Best Movies:

Dune

It doesn’t matter that this is a bloated sci-fi movie. I’ve been anticipating this movie as soon as it was announced, after watching Jodorowsky’s Dune, watching the David Lynch movie, reading the book and keeping up with the production. After stepping into a theater again (expecting the worst), and experiencing this on a big screen, I can truly say I was very very pleased. More than I can say I’ve been for a movie in years. The scale and detail are unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time. The fact that this such a commercial success is equally outrageous. Dune gives me hope for mainstream movies.

French Dispatch

Unfortunately, Wes Anderson has fallen for the Hollywood trope of casting big name actors for tiny roles in their movies. The French Dispatch is definitely an ensemble cast, but fortunately is able to succeed in spite of it. Combining three short stories, Anderson has made his fastest paced movie, full of interesting characters, and with the neatness and attention to detail that makes his movies stand out.

Listening to Kenny G

There’s nothing like a movie that shakes the foundation of your beliefs. Kenny G sucks, right? Hasn’t he always? Well, it turns out that Kenny G knows that and doesn’t care. He’s self aware. He’s also aware that he’s an incredibly popular artist whose music has transcended age, genres, and class. Listening to Kenny G is a charming and heartwarming documentary on a very misunderstood artist. Go in with an open mind, and you might find new appreciation for the man.

Best TV Shows:

Joe Pera Talks With You

Joe Pera Talks With You has matured as a TV show. It went from odd and compelling, to quirky and good, and by its third season it’s blossomed into greatness. Each episode’s simple premise serves as a metaphor for a much more complex issue that’s unraveling. As always, Pera handles it with his mild-mannered, even-tempered, and lovable tone. It’s a show that’s oddly inviting.

Komi Can’t Communicate

Sorry, mainstream live action TV shows, but once again, it’s the animated shows that have really managed to be interesting this year. What Komi Can’t Communicate has going for it is not just amazing animation, and a lovable main cast, and hilarious storytelling, but also a main character who’s genuinely trying to change and do better. While some shows prefer to argue that we can’t rise above our sicknesses (like Bojack Horseman), this show cheers us on to try and become what we want to be. That’s a powerful message.

ODDTAXI

More like ODDANIME, amirite? No, but seriously, ODDTAXI’s world is filled with deep and compelling characters in what seems like unrelated settings, but as the mystery of the show unfolds, you find out everyone is interconnected somehow. ODDTAXI benefits from great dialogue and sharp writing and gives the viewer a chance to figure out what’s going on. That’s rare for a TV show these days. Things keep building and you’re kept on the edge of your seat for what turns out to be quite the payoff.

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