While I was away, Spotify released its annual “Top Songs of the year” list. I quite appreciate this feature from Spotify. Music, at least for me, reflects one’s state of mind, and the list gives you a window into your inner self. My musical tastes were biased towards jazz, blues, and electronica in the past. However, this year, my top songs list is dominated by what one would call “ambient music.” 

An unusually large number of pianists feature on this list, along with the likes of Mary Lattimore and Roger Eno. My top artist of the year is a Japanese musician (saxophonist and pianist) Akira Uchida, and other favorites include Rose Riebl, Nils Frahm, and Brambles. Uchida has 114 listeners on Spotify, which is such a shame. 

Why ambient? And why these artists? And what do they say about the year that was? After a challenging 2020, I thought of 2021 as a year of contemplation, paring down and stripping down life, ambition, and outcomes to bare essentials. Just as in winter, you let a field lay fallow; this is all in preparation for whatever is the next chapter in life for me. 

This continuous elimination of excess — whether it is superfluous ideas, possessions, words, or choices is reflected in my photography and writing (which has become more private and inward-looking.) The musical choices of 2021 created the soundtrack for this contemplation and this discovery process. 

Many of the artists I preferred in 2021 are “minimalists” and allow a handful of instruments to speak in a manner that conveys the feelings. I am grateful they created the music that helped my soul searching so pleasant. 

If you are interested, I created a playlist for your enjoyment