Whoever said artists should have to suffer for their art? Presumably, someone who never had to suffer much. Musicians, like writers, are still too often tagged with this bizarre assumption that creating their art should require an arduous grappling with their muse, borne of pain or sadness. Unfortunately, the past six months have brought with them a surfeit of suffering; it’s still hard to talk about almost anything without referring back at some point to the hardships many of us have dealt with this past year, courtesy of COVID-19. But thanks to a miracle of medical science and the vast majority of people sane enough to understand the need to get vaccinated, things are feeling a lot more hopeful than they have been in a long time.
So let’s officially agree to give coronavirus talk a break for a moment—and fill that new silence with some of the best music you’ll hear this year. Some of these albums were created pre-COVID; some were pulled from the day-to-day experience of the pandemic. But they all share one trait: An ability to transcend the situations that gave rise to them. A timelessness, in other words, of the sort that the best music always possesses, and that grabs the listener and transports them somewhere new. The following records can do just that; hopefully, you’ll find something on this list that speaks to you in such a way.
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