thu 11/08/2022

Albums of the Year 2021: Greta Van Fleet - The Battle at Garden's Gate | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2021: Greta Van Fleet - The Battle at Garden's Gate

Albums of the Year 2021: Greta Van Fleet - The Battle at Garden's Gate

The Led Zep-lovin' boys from Michigan blew away the Covid cobwebs

GVF: Cosmic

Is there anything more comforting to men of a certain vintage than the crunching guitars and wailing vocals of classic rock?

Not for me. This year, the genre transported me back to a musical era of sheer joy and wild, creative spirit; a time when musicians were as interested in letting the good times roll as saving the world. A time of bands like classic rock revivalists, Greta Van Fleet. 

Throughout 2021, GVF's mixture of exhilarating energy and exquisite silliness was my antidote to the litany of misery on the news. I found myself lifted by Josh Kiszka's quicksilver voice and thrilled by his brothers' nimble guitar work. Above all, it was their cosmically-proportioned compositions that brought out my inner 16-year-old.  

Not everyone was as convinced. Criticism centred around the midwestern foursomes' rather obvious influences. Some called them a jumped-up Led Zep tribute band.

It may have been true that their first LP was very Zeppelin-heavy, but this time the Page/Plantisms were served up with a slice of Boston, a generous helping of Rush, and a pinch of Slade; a mixture that made the whole thing sound like a long-lost Seventies classic. The first few songs were just spine-tinglingly magnificent. 

Some genuine Seventies rock survivors were also active this year. Billy Gibbons' (ZZ Top) album was the pick of the crop. Hardware was a down-and-dirty blues-rocker that blended the sound of Seventies and Eighties ZZ Top. Gibbons' decision to put out a solo LP was given added poignancy when his long-bearded, partner-in-crime Dusty Hill suddenly and unexpectedly died in July.  

A much subtler album was The Killers' excellent Pressure Machine. Stripped of their trademark Vegas-bright sound, the album was a study of small-town life. The gentle melodies and roughly-blown harmonica echoed Springsteen's classic Nebraska, and it moved critics and fans alike.  

Away from the world of rock, I was very taken with Twenty One Pilots' Scaled and Icy. Some considered parts of it, too light and upbeat; but that, for me, was exactly what worked best. The album's middle section seemed to boil down to a message of "there might be trouble ahead, but just keep doing what you can and you'll be alright". All very refreshingly uncomplicated and positive.

 

Two More Essential Albums from 2021

Billy Gibbons - Hardware

The Killers - Pressure Machine

 

Musical Experiences of the Year

I didn't go gigging in 2021. Instead, I spent many hours disappearing down YouTube "rabbit holes", discovering gems like Brian Johnson singing "Nutbush City Limits" (apparently the song he sang at his AC/DC audition). 

 

Track of the Year

 The Killers - Quiet Town

GVF's mixture of exhilarating energy and exquisite silliness was my antidote to the litany of misery on the news

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