Enough Is Enough: Looking Back On 2021

by Ray Finlayson

At the end of every year I seem to ask myself the same question: how the hell did everyone else find time to listen to so much?! I read through my fellow writers’ end of year lists and, as is inevitable, I compared them to mine and winced at how little I seem to have consumed over these past twelve months. I see familiar names and album titles, and think of how I meant to actually get around to listening to that particular record. Time being that ever-valuable but finite resource that it is though, the minutes I didn’t ever find for all this music.

But chances are I was busy listening to something else, either that I was reviewing, potentially reviewing, or just good old fashioned listening pleasure. But as I reflect, I realize that this is good: if everyone on our staff was listening to the same albums and tracks, then our range on the site would narrow and our content wouldn’t be nearly as varied and exciting as it is. Though I am slightly bewildered by how my colleagues here keep on top of all the releases, without them I probably wouldn’t get around to listening to any K-pop, rap, death metal, or other assorted curiosities that might otherwise have passed me by. Indeed, had our beloved Reviews Editor Rob not championed Self Esteem’s music and consequently piqued my interest, I would probably have never stumbled across what is my absolute favourite song of the year (and BPM’s 7th best song of the year).

And even if I didn’t listen to as much music as I wanted to, I listened to as much as I could. For that i’m grateful. I genuinely enjoy spending time with records that might not end up getting a super high numerical score (though that may be down to me being something of a stingy marker, I reckon), but have an undeniable inviting quality to them. Merpire’s Simulation Ride was full of hits that still bring delight, ME REX’s Megabear was genuinely one of the most inventive releases i’ve come across in years, and though Grapell’s The Answer is a little too long, I still enjoy getting wrapped up in its unabashed world of professed love.

And I would be amiss to myself for not mentioning it: like many others out there, this year I became all too enraptured by Bo Burnham’s Inside. While the Netflix special certainly hit me hard, I don’t feel like it affected me as deeply as it did others. I love it for sure, but what I love most is the songs. Those twenty tracks – a mix of self-referential piano-led jaunts, buzzy electro R&B, soft folksy impressions of the world, and various skits and interludes – were probably among my most replayed tracks of the year (which I don’t need Spotify to tell me, thank you very much; I know my own indulgences). Musical comedy has always had a place in my heart, and at the very least I appreciate how difficult it is to make a song that makes people laugh but also sticks in their head. Burnham, for whatever faults you may lay upon him, does a fantastic job on Inside, making songs that have been circling in my head for months, become Tik Tok memes, and what feel like deeply lived-in cultural references for my friends and I. Needless to say, Inside left an impression.

Looking back on the content I made for the site though (“But look, I made you some content!”), amidst all the reviews of albums and tracks I almost forgot that this year I finally finished a piece of writing that had been weighing on my mind for years. In April my piece about my personal struggles with depression and loneliness and how I found solace in a strangely specific piece of music by Spencer Krug finally came out into the world. This piece (which I originally wrote for no reason other than some sort of catharsis and distraction from my disheveled mental state) had been on my mind for a while. My therapist suggested I try to get it published somewhere, but the specific nature of it meant I had no idea where it would fit in the world. But the heart of it is about music and connection to it, and looking back, it made sense to go on BPM, a place that has always felt like a home for thoughts on music of all sorts. I can only thank my incredibly supportive colleagues here who allowed me to write such a peculiar, extensive piece and let it be published. It feels like it happened a million years ago, but whenever I think about it, I still feel that weight lifted off my shoulders now it’s out there in the world.

Like when I got engrossed by Spencer Krug’s percussive world of Greek mythological characters, sometimes we just get stuck on something that resonates. Repeatedly listening to bask in the bliss the music brings, or just to try to scratch out some meaning that is always just out of reach. We listen to what we listen to, and so long as you find music you like, then that’s enough.