KEXP is counting down the best records of the year with our annual Top 90.3 Countdown. Ahead of the countdown, KEXP staff make the case for some of their favorite albums from 2021. Make sure to vote for your favorites by December 10 at 6 PM PT and tune in to hear what makes the list on December 17.
I am an extrovert. Which means 2021 has not been my favorite year. Beyond just missing friends and the human interactions in the day-to-day, I also had a baby last year. I don’t think we talk enough about what that does to you body, your mental health, your relationships, your job, etc. etc. etc. All to say, it’s been a hard year for me on multiple fronts.
I produce Drive Time with Kevin Cole, which means I field all the messages that come in during the show. (Side Note: This is a true joy for me—getting to connect with you this way.) Halfway through this year, a listener wrote in and said, “2021 is just 2020 with a hat on.” I hated to admit it, but she felt so right. What we had all hoped would be the triumphant phoenix-year rising out of the ashes of 2020 was actually this sad animal made of Delta variants and anti-vaxxers and—for me—weird arguments with a one-year-old. But we pressed on—both together and individually.
To stave off depression, to better my relationship with my body, and to feel the literal movement of going forward; I started running again. This introvert activity had been something I did in years past to disconnect from the hustle and connect with myself. This year, I didn’t know why I was running again, but I did know what I was listening to.
British-Nigerian rapper Little Simz’s fourth album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a concept album. (Fight me.) It is supposed to be listened to from beginning to end. The whole thing is a journey that explores self-discovery, insecurity, womanhood, and growth. Simbi Abisola Abiola Ajikawo (Little Simz) is only 27, but her lyrics speak to lifetimes of being a woman—being a human—figuring it out.
The first track “Introvert” ends with the lines:
“You’re alone, but not lonely … As you embark on a journey of what it takes to be a woman.”
As it goes straight into the track “Woman.” On the trail, on my runs, it was on. Hearing Simbi tell me, “I love when you go from zero to one-hundred” and “woman to woman, I just want to see you glow” is the empowerment you want on a run and, well, in life.
Clocking in at an hour and five minutes, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is perfect for the escape you need. Whether it’s a drive, a walk, a sit, a couple drinks, or one slow run. The latter is how I listened to this album the most.
The album flows through bangers (“I Love You, I Hate You”) to ballad-backed slow jams (“How Did You Get Here”) to needed pep-talks (“Never Make Promises – Interlude”). The sum of all of these songs is much greater than its parts. (Don’t get me wrong, I still lose my mind in excitement when I hear a song from this album on KEXP.) But Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, as a whole, has peaks and valleys and a heartbeat through it all—the perfect pace for a run, a year, a season, a life.
“Take your time. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Do you want 15 years or 15 minutes. Do not tire yourself out.”
– “Gems - Interlude”, Little Simz, 'Sometimes I Might Be Introvert'
I don’t know if I would say that running was “fun” for me this time around. There were so many runs that I didn’t know if I could finish this year. I went into them a little bit scared and avoidant. This is how I went into 2021. But with this album, I had that introspective time to think about who I am as a woman, a human, a mom, a fighter with ambition. By the time I got to the end of my runs, the end of this album, the end of this year, something happened.
“Trust your intuition, but get out of your head … It’s a kindness to let people in … Be your best friend and now your worst enemy … You were never brought here to fit in.”
– “The Garden - Interlude”, Little Simz, 'Sometimes I Might Be Introvert'
I feel better at the end of it all. The end of the album, the run, this year. I am somehow higher than where I started, looking back on it all. And while “How Did You get Here” plays, I ponder the question and know that the answer is those hard miles and hard days got me here and it’s actually beautiful up here.
“How did you get here?
(But I have to think back and remind myself of the journey)
(It's been a beautiful one, yes)
Sometimes I sit and I wonder
I'm the version of me I always imagined when I was younger”
When the last track (“Miss Understood”) plays, I still agree with that Drive Time listener. Yes, 2021 might just be 2020 with a hat on. But it’s a fucking fabulous hat… and I think it looks pretty good on me.
So take it from an extrovert who dabbles in introverted activities Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a journey for all of the highs, lows, extroversion, and introversion of life.
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