Basic Folk: Cindy & Lizzie’s Best of 2021

Thanks for checking out our best of lists! This is a place where we can gather all the songs and albums that resonated with us this year. Yes, we are your favorite folk podcast, but we are multifaceted music consumers. These playlists allow us to stretch outside that “folk” boundary. You’ll find R&B, rock, jazz, rap and other non-folky sounds on here that you might enjoy (or not!), but give yourself a chance to get into it! ON WITH THE SHOW!

BEST OF 2021: Cindy Howes, host of Basic Folk

2021 was the first year that I have been fully immersed in listening to new music as my main job. My work at Folk Alley allows me the opportunity to be on top of the latest music releases (major ones and indie alike). I don’t have all the time to listen to everything that gets sent (since I’m listening for songs that would fit on Folk Alley). My process of discovery is that if I see a name in my inbox that I recognize (from whatever), or get an email from a publicist/radio promoter that I respect, I’ll throw that song on a monthly playlist. Then, when I’m working out twice a week, I’ll listen to that non-folk playlist list to absorb and really figure out what I like. This has allowed me to enjoy some of my favorite non-folk bands like Middle Kids and War on Drugs and make cool discoveries like Tayla Parx and Wale. I could go on and on about this list, like my first draft of this playlist was NINE HOURS long! It was a struggle to get it down to four! I hope you enjoy and maybe hear something you really love. Please comment on this post or email me if you find something new on here.

BEST OF 2021: Lizzie No, guest host of Basic Folk

Not to brag, but I have been making a favorites-of-the-year playlist since before Spotify playlists existed. For years, listing my favorite songs was a part of my journaling practice. it was a way of scrapbooking the year sonically. and I always thought of it as a gift to my future self: “remember what mattered to you in 2014!” a lot of end-of-year lists rank songs or albums and pick the best ones which i think is silly, because we are talking about music, not a track meet.

I made a playlist of the songs I liked the most that came out in 2021. Many of them hit me on a pure pleasure level, like Turnstile‘s “MYSTERY” or Joshua James‘ “darkness is near me” and others made me envious as a songwriter, like Madi Diaz‘s “resentment.” Another exciting theme I noticed in great songs this year was fun-as-hell political songs. I would put Darryl Rahn‘s “Spirit Halloween,” Hayes Carll‘s “nice things,” Lula Wiles‘ “Oh My God,” and Chris Pierce‘s “Chain Gang Fourth of July” in that category.

One thread that runs through many of the songs I loved this year is getting to the point. It takes courage to write or perform a song that says exactly what you mean without much adornment. And when it’s done elegantly, it’s unforgettable. Think about Amythyst Kiah‘s “Wild Turkey” or Summer Walker‘s “You Don’t Know Me” or Dori Freeman‘s “I Am.” We spend so much of our adulthoods talking around the truth for the sake of politeness or survival or keeping the peace, so it’s intoxicating to see someone say THE THING with their whole chest. [On that note, good luck listening to Jazmine Sullivan‘s “Lost One” without feeling some feelings.]

Please enjoy my time capsule of a fast, painful, miraculous year.

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