The Best of 2021

It’s that time of year where we look back, take stock of everything that occurred during the year and try to make sense of it. I’m looking back on a year of loss–my mother died during the summer and my grandparents’ old house where I spent much of my childhood was destroyed in a fire. As if that weren’t enough, I lost two teeth (!) in 2021. Like 2020, though, music was a particularly bright spot in an otherwise challenging year.

As for my choices for the best of 2021, I made three lists. The first a Mixcloud compilation of some of the best tracks of 2021, followed by a list (in no particular order) of some of the best albums of 2021, and finally some singles and EPs that I managed to list in alphabetical order.

Last year I also posted a list of notable reissues but I didn’t try to keep up on all the reissues that were released in 2021. I was just happy to finally have The Beatles Let It Be box set, and to finally see the Peter Jackson documentary, Get Back. Really fun to watch.

 I’d just like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the artists for providing the world with such wonderful music. My picks for the best tracks of 2021:

00:00 Turn Me On Dead Man – Intro
00:29 The Dharma Chain – So You Wanna Be A Spaceman?
07:03 Mt. Mountain – Aplomb
11:31 Meatbodies – Reach For The Sun
16:22 The Mountain Movers – I Wanna See The Sun
19:21 Thee U.F.O. – Putrefied Block
22:28 Dope Smoker – NASDAQ
27:09 Grinding Eyes – When The Night Falls
31:01 The Holy Family – Inward Turning Suns
37:05 The Myrrs – Buggy Chawnker
39:11 The Slow Voyage – Expansion
43:14 Magic Castles – Sunburst
46:29 Chainsaw Rainbow – blonde with dark roots
50:05 Mantras – Sunlight Swell
53:54 Ogua – Iyan
59:17 Swan Faucet – Wandering
1:05:48 Raw Optics – Aqua Mundo
1:08:04 The Sonic Splits – Like the Steady Flowing of a Stream
1:12:42 Cheval Sombre – Althea
1:20:22 Hooveriii – Shooting Star
1:24:24 Firefriend – Poison Tree
1:29:41 Comet Control – Secret Life
1:36:37 Shirese – The Glue Murder
1:38:54 Broken Sky – California
1:41:41 Goat – Queen of the Underground
1:47:36 Chino Burga – Meditación

My picks for the best albums of 2021:

My picks for the best EPs and singles of 2021:

My picks for the best EPs/singles of 2021:

Podcast 2021.26 One Foot in the Grave

As we enter the season of advent, Reality Sandwich outlines the shamanic origins of Christmas. One type of mushroom, Amanita muscaria, has some interesting similarities to Christmas imagery. In our times mushrooms are “finally having a moment,” according to Lucy Jones in The Guardian, and illustrator Brian Blomerth celebrates the history of mushroom lore in a new book.

In the past couple of episodes of Turn Me On, Dead Man, I’ve mentioned that the use of psychedelics has been a topic of conversation for Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and their son, Jaden Smith. It may or may not have been because of their candid discussion of taking psychedelics, but recently a petition has been circulating online to “stop interviewing Will and Jada Smith“. Writing in Psychedelic Spotlight, Emily Jarvie asks the question, “Celebrities: Are They Helping or Harming the Psychedelic Movement?

A number of states (Florida and California among them), as well as the city of Toronto, are discussing or moving forward with legislation to decriminalize psychedelics. The website MDLinx cites “breaking the psychedelic ceiling” as one of the top medical breakthroughs of 2021. Discussions at the Wonderland psychedelic conference were optimistic that psychedelics are to be the next big development in mental health treatment, and the Australian ABC podcast All in the Mind devoted a recent episode to “Psychedelics for mental illness.” Even though barriers against using psychedelics for treating mental health disorders are still substantial, the market for these drugs could be huge. Some worry, however, that if legal psychedelics are dominated by big pharma, it could enrich large corporations rather than a broader community benefitting from these developments.

The music in this episode ranges from psychfolk to lo-fi garage to experimental psych and concludes with an extended jam by Wizard Beast. One of my standard questions for the artists is “What record changed your life?” I’ve been impressed with the wide range of influences the artists cite, but The Velvet Underground and Nico gets mentioned quite often. Here it takes on new meaning through the lens of “Cold Equations”.

00:00 Turn Me On Dead Man – Intro
00:38 Thee U.F.O. – Putrefied Block
03:46 Pancho and the Wizards – Dog With two Masters
07:02 Meatbodies – Reach For The Sun
13:33 Cheval Sombre – Althea
21:14 The Yellow Blackness – Gift of Illusion
24:37 Constant Smiles – Run To Stay
27:07 Sons of Zoku – Lovers Trance
34:40 Anti-Corn League – Let Me Begin
37:25 Alice Tambourine Lover – Forse Non Sei Tu
41:54 Wizard Beast – Pathways of the Magical Mind part 1

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Podcast 2021.25 Years of Lightning, Day of Drums

It’s interesting to reflect on how the renewed interest in psychedelics started. In the 1990s researchers at Johns Hopkins wanted to study the mental health benefits of psilocybin. Psychedelics were so stigmatized at that point, however, that they weren’t sure the FDA or even their own institution would approve the research. They managed to get approval for their research efforts and published their positive results in 2006, and the “psychedelic renaissance” has gained momentum since then.

A growing number of studies have shown the mental health benefits of psychedelics, and this has become an area of intense interest. Veterans are a group that has shown great interest in these studies, as psychedelics have been demonstrated to be effective in treating PTSD. Among others, veterans have been given new hope by these developments, and the New York Times points out that “Veterans Have Become Unlikely Lobbyists in Push to Legalize Psychedelic Drugs”. Some health insurance providers are starting to cover psychedelic mental health treatments, and private companies are now competing to develop treatment regimens to tap into this potentially huge market.

One interesting note emerged from a recent study where some attendees of an ayahuasca retreat were given placebos. The people who took placebos reported benefits, such as lower anxiety and depression, and using the measures devised by the researchers, these benefits were statistically similar to the attendees who actually took ayahuasca. The researchers acknowledged that there may have been mitigating factors in their study, but it remains a subject for future research.

The optimism about psychedelics is being felt in a variety of unlikely places. Benzinga writes about parenting aided by microdosing psychedelics in the article “Moms on mushrooms“. House Beautiful suggests that the popularity of decorating home decor items with mushrooms is “a side effect of—or even a sly wink to—the recent legalization of magic mushrooms in some parts of the world.” Big Think discusses research showing that psychedelics can change how users see the universe, leading individuals to adopt a more transcendental outlook.

More celebrities continue to make public their psychedelic experiences. I mentioned Will Smith in my previous podcast, but this time around more members of the family join in the discussion. Jada Pinkett Smith and their son, Jaden Smith, shared their psychedelic stories on Jada’s talk show, Red Table Talk. Mike Tyson has become a rather unlikely advocate for psychedelics, as he has been open about his life-changing experiences with 5-MeO-DMT, which is the venom of the Bufo Alvarius toad. L.A. Weekly is calling him the “New Face of Psychedelic Healing.”

While the music in this episode of Turn Me On, Dead Man is psychedelic, the theme is not. Today is November 22, 2021, which is the 59th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A couple of days ago I made my regular trip to Joe’s Record Paradise and found a still-sealed LP copy of Years of Lightning, Day of Drums, a celebration of JFK’s life as a counter to the shock of his assassination. You can draw a direct line from the JFK assassination to our current polarized and conspiracy-theory-driven political environment, but I’ll leave that there for the time being. Right now I just want to enjoy the breadth and depth of current psychedelia.

00:20 Dope Smoker – NASDAQ
05:17 Electric Eye – Den Atmosfaeriske Elven
11:12 Bard’s Flying Vessel – Cut In Half
15:57 The Violet Mindfield – Stranger In The Mirror
18:50 Exnovios – Un Nuevo Día
22:10 Dead Horse One – Nevermore
25:22 Dead Otter – Eye Elevator
31:34 Yokujitsu – Yawarakai Tejou
37:27 Hanford Flyover – Golden
42:10 Kuunatic – Para Bennyà
48:28 Some Pills For Ayala – Space Octopus

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Podcast 2021.23 The View

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about decriminalization or legalization of various kinds of drugs, including psychedelics. The podcast “The Argument” held a panel discussion on this topic in the episode “The World’s View on Drugs Is Changing. Which Side Are You On?” Oregon was among the first to experiment with decriminalization of drugs, but according to the website Governing, this has not resulted in connecting people with treatment. They point out, however, that COVID-19 may have impeded these efforts.

For the first time in the last 50 years, the federal government is funding a research study on the use of psychedelics to treat addiction. Three universities (Johns Hopkins, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and New York University) will be studying psilocybin to break addiction to tobacco. Psilocybin is also being studied as a treatment for chronic pain, and Psilocybin and MDMA are also being studied for treatment of mental illness. One study found that psilocybin improves major depressive disorder in cancer patients. Reality Sandwich warns, however, that psychedelics are being commodified in a way that diminishes their cultural value.

The biggest news in psychedelic music is that Earthless has announced that they will be touring this winter. Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest) will take place this week in Austin. And this episode of Turn Me On, Dead Man features several new psychedelic tracks, starting with the Altered Hours. The Irish Times praised their latest album, stating that they “inject doomed Irish romanticism into psychedelic rock.”

00:00 Turn Me On Dead Man – Intro
00:28 The Altered Hours – Radiant Wound
04:23 Strawberry Sleepover – For Tomorrow
08:05 Halo Noose – Journey to the Sun
12:15 Turn Me On Dead Man – Break
14:19 Chainsaw Rainbow – blonde with dark roots
17:57 Sly Fungi – Panspermia
23:12 The Squarevoyants – Motor Psychos (Ride)
25:02 The Wizard – The Wicked Messenger
27:52 American Cream Band – New Gods FM
31:47 Wah Wah Wah – Wormhole
36:10 Speck – The Metz Sessions

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Podcast 2021.20 Stereophonic Sound Spectacular

We are living in a time where we’re rethinking “forever wars” and that includes the war on drugs. Legalization/decriminalization drives, particularly for psychedelics, are underway in several cities and states across the US. Psychedelics are also under serious study for their mental health benefits. Alongside these developments is a resurgence of psychedelic music. The music featured in this episode comes from the US, Europe (Fairyport Convent from Poland and The Spacelords from Germany) and Latin America (Los Tabanos Experience from Chile and Khan Khan from Mexico). This episode opens with the Burning Balloons, a collaboration between Ben Bachman (High Tiny Hairs, Fuck Knights) from Minnesota and Raul Romero (The Flashback V, Psiconautes, Lola) from Barcelona.

04:22 The Burning Balloons – Drained
10:49 Fairyport Convent – Partizan Underground
17:09 Dark Fog – Floor Ceiling
22:53 Babe Ruthless – Aqua Cola
22:53 Los Tabanos Experience – The Wooden Curse
41:03 Evolfo – Zuma Loop
27:19 Khan Khan – Nubes de Mayo
27:19 Reality Cult – Close My Doors
41:03 The Electric Myrrs – Salvation (4 Miles)
41:03 The Spacelords – Liquid Sun remix

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Podcast 2021.17 Burned To The Ground

A lot of people have experienced loss in the last year. Sometimes music can help in difficult times–old favorites and new favorites. In this episode I’m going to focus on new tracks by some of the leading voices of current psychedelia (and garage rock, too) released on some of the most prominent indie labels. This episode more than most demonstrates how we’re in a psychedelic renaissance.

01:18 Meatbodies – Reach For The Sunn
06:09 Night Beats – Shadow
09:04 Goat – Queen of the Underground
14:59 New Candys – Begin Again
20:00 Ty Segall – Pictures
24:32 Acid Mothers Temple – Free Your Infinity Desire
32:09 Cosmic Dead – Crater Creator
36:25 King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Butterfly 3000
39:12 Darkside – Narrow Road
43:41 Wavves – Hideaway
47:31 Six Organs of Admittance – All That They Left You
53:51 King Buffalo – Burning

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Podcast 2021.16 Joy Ride: Reissues Released in 2021

A look at some of the reissues that have come out recently. The tracks in this episode come from every decade since the 1970s, but have been reissued in some form this year. Breaks come from the wonderfully awful 1976 short film Joy Ride about the dangers of trying to be a “hot shot” by stealing cars and trying to outrun the police. It’s all innocent fun until the inevitable crash.

00:00 Turn Me On Dead Man – Intro
01:25 Dead Meadow – I’m Gone
05:21 Goat – Alarms
08:25 Blair1523 – Fantasy of Folk
11:25 The Mushroom Club – Heroin Picnic
17:53 Lilys – Ginger
23:12 Foot – Rupert Turdoch
26:55 Views – Say It!
31:18 Black Rainbows – Hawkdope
40:21 Acid Reich – Revenge of Tim Boo Ba
48:29 Brant Bjork – Low Desert Punk
53:12 Guru Guru – Stone In

Podcast 2021.12 After The Crash

This episode of Turn Me On, Dead Man features several recent psychedelic releases. All released in 2021 except Davi Rodriguez di Lima’s Fantasma, which is from 2020. The breaks in this episode come from the educational (maybe?) film What’s The Big Hurry? This 1974 short film was the sort of car crash gore movie they used to show in driver’s ed, only in this film the accidents are audio only. The visuals in What’s The Big Hurry? show the process of dismantling wrecked cars in a salvage yard–an interesting process but lacking the visceral impact of the human carnage-driven fare favored by driver’s ed teachers. The really interesting thing about this film nine-minute film is the electronic music score by Louis Barron. The cover is a nod to Zen Arcade.

00:00 Turn Me On Dead Man – Intro
01:12 Shirese – The Glue Murder
03:50 Cult of Dom Keller – Cage The Masters
09:21 Some Pills For Ayala – Some Weed For This Samaritan
13:56 Davi Rodriguez di Lima – Fantasma
18:16 Pseudo Mind Hive – Holy River
23:27 The Silk Railroad – A Caustic Rhythm
29:10 Dark Fog – The Statue
33:21 Mdou Moctar – Chismiten
38:04 Long Slow Dissolve – Sour Bush
43:49 Andrew Thomas Jacobs – Love and LSD in the USA
48:58 Mythic Sunship – Maelstrom

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Podcast 2021.11 Cosmic Hum

Voyager 1, launched in 1977, has traveled out of the solar system but it’s still sending back data. It detected a hum in deep space–a sort of constant background noise caused by plasma waves. Voyager 1 also contains the Voyager Golden Record, which is an analog disc and it contains a broad selection of music and representative sounds from Earth. Quite a challenge for a single disc. This episode isn’t quite that ambitious. Here you will find a playlist of recent psychedelia. 

00:00 Turn Me On Dead Man – Intro
01:29 Thee U.F.O. – Having Faith In And Outside
04:03 Diagonal – Anticipation
08:36 Acid Rooster – Stereofuzz
13:54 Codex Serafini – Time, Change & Become
17:27 The Myriad Dharma – Love Town Singalong
20:43 Technicolor Blood – Last Night
24:55 Modern Stars – She Comes Now
27:54 MK8ULTRA – Rhythm Inside
31:27 Free Machine – Cursive Moon
35:24 Smoke Monolith – Embracing The Tide
38:51 La Otracina – Woke On Waves

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Podcast 2021.10 The Day Called X

Earlier this week I saw a playlist of songs that were inspired by the Doomsday Clock and I thought of The Day Called X, a 1957 documentary about Portland Oregon’s evacuation plan in the event of a nuclear attack. Not that the tracks in this episode have anything to do with nuclear war or Portland, but it just seemed to fit, although only one of the bands featured in this episode, Plankton Wat, is from Portland.

00:00 Turn Me On Dead Man – Intro
01:30 Raw Optics – Aqua Mundo
04:08 The Dharmas – 1000Miles
08:27 Acid Buzz – The Mind
13:22 Babe Ruthless – The Witch King (It’s Alright)
16:18 Blakdog – Lucifer Rising
20:21 Switch Ghost – St. Arrival
24:18 Massacre at Two Pines – 6 Months (Before The Breaking Of My Heart)
28:30 Spiral Wave Nomads – Radiant Drifter
33:10 Fog Lifter – V
35:15 Plankton Wat – Modern Ruins
41:25 Papir – 20.01.2020 #3

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