My Favorite Album of 2021

Content Warning: Brief mention of self-harm and general talk about anxiety, depression, self-doubt

If there’s one artistic medium I love about as much (if not more) than video games, it’s music. I’ve been an avid listener of all types of genres and artists since I was a kid, and that was mostly due to my mom also being an avid music listener. I started out liking mostly the same stuff – she was all about the 80s and acts like Duran Duran and The Police – and eventually started developing my own tastes, though anything with a parental advisory was off limits (even though I definitely snuck those in any chance I had).

Eventually, once we had a stable high speed internet connection, I completely cut loose. I downloaded so much music and sampled everything from every genre I could find, and from that point on I was officially a music fanatic and to this day I’m seeking out new experiences every chance I get.

So, why this preamble? Well, this is my first post about music on my website so I figured I’d give you some brief backstory to provide context for this post. Also: I’m not so good at analyzing music. I’m not a musician myself; I can just barely noodle around on a keyboard or a drum set and I could probably make a basic lo-fi beat to study to if I took the time to familiarize myself with a DAW, but that’s as far as I can go on the technical side of things. What I can do, however, is talk about the more emotional aspects of music. I can gush for days about an album’s impact on me and what moments or lyrics affected me the most. And that’s what I intend to do here!

So, with all of that being said, allow me to talk about Nurture by Porter Robinson.

Although Nurture released in April 2021, Porter had released three singles the year before: “Get Your Wish”, “Something Comforting”, and “Mirror”. To be completely honest, I didn’t pay much attention to them initially because I wasn’t a huge fan of his previous album, Worlds. I had just assumed it would be more of the EDM-type stuff that I wasn’t super into, but eventually I heard a snippet of “Get Your Wish” and was completely taken aback by the gorgeous production and pitched up vocals. I immediately gave all three singles a listen and suddenly I was in full hype mode for Nurture. A couple more singles would follow and I loved those even more, but I’ll save that for later.

Eventually, Nurture would drop on April 23rd, and I would proceed to completely obsess over it, pouring over every little detail from the production to the lyrics. It just…clicked in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I knew I’d love the album, but I didn’t think it would become my album of the year and stay at the top for the rest of 2021. 

What drew me in initially was the music itself. Porter pulls from so many different genres and influences but he manages to make it all sound like a cohesive experience from start to finish. It’s an electronic pop album at its core but it also incorporates ambient music, folk, shoegaze, and some of his old EDM tricks to concoct some truly beautiful soundscapes. This album is just easy to throw on and listen to! It’s supremely catchy and forward-thinking in its production, but that’s not what exclusively made this my favorite album of the year.

2021 was rough. On a personal level, it wasn’t the worst year I’ve had. I made some big strides and improved aspects of my life and the bonds I have with the ones I love the most feel stronger than ever. It was also a year in which I experienced some seriously low points in terms of my mental health. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, frequent creative blocks, and just general feelings of worthlessness. I mentioned this briefly in my post about Chicory: A Colorful Tale, but it’s a lot sometimes. The end of 2021 in particular was the lowest I’ve felt in a long time. I genuinely didn’t know if I had the capacity to keep going, and I very nearly hurt myself to get out of a stressful situation so that I didn’t have to deal with it anymore. I think I cried more and had more panic attacks in one month than I did the rest of the year. 

(Side note: I just want to say that I’m currently in a better headspace and I’m getting help soon to make sure this doesn’t happen again.)

Once I actually started paying closer attention to the lyrics on Nurture, this album became something really special to me. “Something Comforting” is an affecting song about pushing through creative blocks and making something new. Then there’s “Mirror” which is one of my favorite tracks of all time now and a lot of it has to do with its lyrical content. It’s a song about the costs of being too hard on yourself and pushing back against that self-doubt, featuring a narrator offering encouraging words throughout. I think about the ending to this track a lot where the narrator states: 

“Sometimes, the inner voice is encouraging
Calling for you to run those final few yards
You’re nearly there, keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going
It will all be okay in the end”

It’s so simple, but the emotional potency of the song really helps deliver the message in this instance. Nurture as a whole feels like the aftermath of a creative low point and the ensuing rush that comes from finally overcoming those worries and just making whatever makes you feel happy. The track “Musician” encapsulates this feeling the best and the big catchy hooks of this one drive that point home even harder. I also love the positive outlook of “Look At The Sky”, especially the line “I can make something good” which has really stuck with me as I continue to find my way back to my love of writing.

It’s such a beautiful, life-affirming album and I could stop here, but Nurture goes beyond that with tracks like “Sweet Time” and “Blossom”. “Sweet Time” is about, to quote Porter himself, “being so in love with someone that, for the first time in your life, you’re scared of dying”. The lyrics to this track are poignant and definitely get me emotional, but it’s nothing compared to “Blossom”, a song Porter wrote for his girlfriend. The grandiosity and maximalism takes a step back in favor of a simple guitar instrumental (being emulated by a keyboard) and Porter’s vocals. It’s an incredibly sweet moment on the album, and I genuinely cannot listen to it without tearing up. This verse in particular wrecks me every time:

“But then you said
“Don’t think of the time that’s left
You’re spending it in your head
I just want you laughing”
I’m sorry for crying
I just want you happy”

As someone who spends a lot of time in their own head about…well, everything, this verse destroyed me on the first listen. It’s ultimately a song about well-wishing and imagining someone you love being as happy as they can be, and I cannot properly express how beautiful that is. It makes me think of my wife, and how wonderful she is and how she’s always been there for me during some of the lowest points in my life. 

The rest of the album is great. I love the choppy pianos on “Wind Tempos” that give way to a beautiful vocal loop in the second half. I love the playfulness of “do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do” and the abstract leanings of “dullscythe”. Nurture sometimes feels like it’s all over the place, but it’s all over the place in a very giddy and exciting way. The pacing of this album is still excellent too, clocking in at just under an hour but feeling like half that length.

The albums closer, “Trying To Feel Alive”, is the perfect way to end this journey. It was the last song Porter wrote for Nurture and it represents how finishing the album wasn’t the true goal; it’s the excitement of making more music in the future. It’s something I can relate to in the goals I set for myself and my own creative endeavors. It feels like an epiphany, and a perfect closer for an album that’s all about finding your purpose in life.

To say that this album helped me through some really bad times would be an understatement. Of course, I have my wife, my friends, and my family to lean on in times of hardship and ultimately they are the ones that helped me the most during my lowest points (especially my wife, god I love her so much ❤) , but sometimes a piece of art can help too, and Nurture reached out to me in a way that few albums have. Although it’s a very personal album for Porter as these were his own struggles and triumphs, the lyrics and themes really spoke to me. It gave me hope that I too could make something good. And I hope I can keep doing that for a long time.

You’re never alone, and there’s always help.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s