Yep, it’s another “best of” list looking back at the music of 2021. And while there are some perfectly fine lists for 2021, I like to consider this one the most honest.
“Honest, you say?”
YES. Here’s the truth, I didn’t listen to every album released this year. There’s a fair chance one of your favorite releases didn’t make this list.
Here are the great ones that I did hear in 2021.
Amyl And The Sniffers “Comfort To Me”
“Don’t fence me in, I wanna be big,” Amy Taylor sings while leading the charge for the Australian garage punk band on the roaring “Don’t Fence Me In.” Consider it a mission accomplished for Amyl And The Sniffers as “Comfort To Me” grows their reach far beyond their homeland.
Leon Bridges “Gold-Diggers Sound”
Bridges’ talent cannot be denied. While his earlier work toed the line between kitschy nostalgia act and a modern-day R&B revival, “Gold-Diggers Sound” goes deeper as Bridges embraces his inner Frank Ocean.
Lucy Dacus “Home Video”
One of the more aptly-titled albums released in 2021. On “Home Video,” the 26-year-old Dacus looks back at her formative teen years. The coming-of-age indie rock album has Dacus replaying her youthful memories as an adult who also is retracing her steps to figure out how she got here.
Averaging nearly an album a year since 2017 (they took a well-deserved break in 2019), IDLES expand their sound on “Crawler.” And while the Bristol-based rock band continues to push boundaries between genres, they maintain their central message – love each other, erase toxic masculinity and wear your heart on your sleeve.
Japanese Breakfast “Jubilee”
What a year for Michelle Zauner. She not only scored one of the year’s best reads with her memoir “Crying In The H Mart,” but her dream pop outfit, Japanese Breakfast, also checked in with one of the genre’s best releases in recent years.
Olivia Rodrigo “Sour”
The 18-year-old Rodrigo deserves all of the praise she’s received in 2021. Saying she is wise beyond her years, however, is an injustice to the brilliance of “Sour.” Rodrigo’s debut is a snapshot of a mature, thoughtful teen who has no intention of dialing back the angst.
Shelley FKA DRAM “Shelley FKA DRAM”
Rapper DRAM rebrands as an R&B act on this self-titled debut(?) that is chock full of chill slow jams. If you caught DRAM’s captivating 2017 Tiny Desk Concert appearance, you already know what he is capable of in this arena.
Snail Mail “Valentine”
If there was an award for Break-up Album Of The Year, “Valentine” would be the hands-down winner. Lindsey Jordan calmly delivers her lyrics, letting each heart-breaking word set in. “Valentine” is as much comforting as it is a gut punch.
Turnstile “Glow On”
Who knew we needed a band to make hardcore more accessible? Apparently, Turnstile was on to something when they turned out one of the more layered-yet-complex hardcore albums to date with “Glow On.” Not only is the band’s fourth full-length album a new take on the genre, but it also is a well-produced audio gem that is ear candy even for those who would never touch anything labeled “hardcore.”
TV Priest “Uppers”
English rock band serves a hearty helping of what sounds like drunken ramblings on the surface but is actually something much more profound. Sonically, TV Priest plods along at the pace of heavy machinery while leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
Tyler, The Creator “Call Me If You Get Lost”
Tyler, The Creator buys us a ticket for the vacation we all probably needed in 2021. The rapper’s story encounters some turbulence along the way, but “Call Me If You Get Lost” is an extended journey that recovers in time for a smooth landing.
The War On Drugs “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”
Steeped in 80s chill, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” continues charging ahead at a speed that is favorable enough to avoid sounding like 30-year-old schlock. The sound is chill but slightly tinged with some urgency, which is The War On Drugs’ wheelhouse.