Top 20 Albums of 2021:
20.) CONVERGE & CHELSEA WOLFE: BLOODMOON
What happens when metal core heroes Converge
decide to create an album that's unflinchingly heavy but with the somber,
chilling accompanying vocals of Chelsea Wolfe as an extra feature? The answer,
otherwise known as Bloodmoon, captures the versatility of the band,
while engaging in a sort of gothic presentation as Wolfes's dark, ominous voice
attempts to overcome the surrounding darkness. Maybe not one of the band's
best, but the experimentation and the degree difficulty make it definitely
worth a listen.
19.) PARCELS: DAY/NIGHT
For a band from Australia, Parcels sure does
sound like they could be European descent, especially when you factor in the
connection they have to Daft Punk. Regardless, on the band's new second album Parcels,
they find themselves embracing even more the worlds of funk, R&B, and even
disco leanings into a stylish yet long album. It's 82 minutes long, yet each
track is so well sequenced and produced that you feel like you've just stepped
into a band that's made up of multiple different sounding bands, all rolled
18.) GASPARD AUGE: ESCAPADES
As part of Justice, Gaspard Auge became one of
the leading electronic musicians over the last 15 years. With his proper self-titled
debut, Escapades, Auge took the skills learned and refined over the
years and developed an album that sounds like Justice, but with a bit more soul
from Auge, who conceptually was alone in the making of this record.
Essentially, if you like Justice, I'd be surprised if you don't find something
worthwhile on this record
17.) ORLA GARLAND: WOMEN ON THE LOOSE
With her debut album, folk pop upstart Orla Garland
has crafted a sincere, even at times too sincere, and blunted wrapping her
frustrations in delicate instrumentation that gives her soft voice room to grow.
From the opening of "Things That I've Learned" all the way to the oddly upbeat
finale of "Bloodline/ Difficuot Things," you learn so much about the world
Garland is living in, and it's exhilarating to experience.
16.) NATION OF LANGUAGE: A WAY FORWARD
With only two albums under their belt, Nation
of Language, helming from Brooklyn, seems destined at this point to be the next
big indie infused pop band. The music isn't really pop, but it's not entirely
indie either. Instead, the three piece decide to blur the lines between the
dark dingy atmosphere of a dive bar and the illuminating brightness of a courts
15.) VALERIE JUNE: THE MOON AND STARS
I talk to plenty of people about music,
obviously, but Valerie June and her Moon & Stars record doesn't make
it into as many conversations as I'd like. With her natural, laid-back
approach, the Memphis late bloomer (this is her sixth album) seems finally
poised to get the attention she should've been getting for years now. Her voice
is smooth, often reminiscent of gliding air through a vivid garden, and over
the course of a 14-song record June shares a musical knowledge and understanding
that's more lustrous and beautiful than any garden.
14.) SHANNON & THE CLAMS: YEAR OF THE
In this current era, we've seen more than a
few musicians take the most slog route in their instrumentations and music, but
there's very few who do it as well as the Shannon Shaw led Shannon & the
Clams. Their sixth record Year of the Spider glitters with olden sounds,
at points experimental, trippy, or just down right groovy and seductive. Shaw's
voice has that smoky charm of old school legends like Joplin, but with the fine
tune and an actually good voice. At 38 minutes, it's not a long commitment, but
every minute is worth it.
13.) THE JOY FORMIDABLE: INTO THE BLUE
I think what I like most about the Joy
Formidable, other than their rhythm section, is how they've matured in their
music and presentation of that same art. Into The Blue opens with the
roaring titles track, while other songs like "I Gotta Feed My Dog" have drums
that accompany Rhiannon "Ritzy" Bryan's vocals in a haze of synth
effect that make the track and album so enticing.
12.) ZAHARA: PUTA
In all the years of writing these lists, I don't
think I've ever been so moved by an album from a totally non-English speaking
creator as I was the excellent Puta from Zahara. This artist has been
making records for nearly two decades overseas, where he's apparently very well
known, but I never really heard the name until this year. Which is a shame because
the beats far overpower the need for understanding of the language. You can
tell it's sincere and emotional, and sometimes that's really all you need when
an album is this good.
11.) GOJIRA: FORTITUDE
EVERYONE WATCH OUT! ITS GOJIRA! FROM… France? Yeah,
you read that right. One of the best metal bands of the last two decades is
named after a terrifying Japanese creation. Even so, Fortitude is
another in a long line of great, relentlessly melodic metal the band has been
steadily releasing for 20 years. They've opened and played for enormous crowds,
and like their predecessors, Fortitude had area anthems ready to be
blasted, like "Grind" for instance. If you like metal and don't know about
Gojira, then you probably like metal less than you think.
10.) LIL NAS X: MONTERO
In literally two years, Lil Nas X has
traversed the world of country and appropriately made them more woke and in
line with the current world, while also captivating the world of pop music in a
major win for music but also acceptance. Montero captures X's latest two
years in a burst of music so energizing, it's hard, nearly impossible, to
avoid. It's positive in a way that few newer entertainers can match. The music
is also better than most rap or pop music currently being made. I wasn't a fan
two years ago, but I honestly can't wait to see where Lil Nas X goes next.
9.) JUNGLE: LOVING IN STEREO
On their third album as Jungle, lead
guitarist/ vocalist Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland on lead bass and vocals
have redefined what modern funk and soul should sound like. This is probably
the best album they've made, and frankly, it fills me with warm feelings as the
gentle instrumentations whirl amid a sea of optimism and soul.
8.) YOLA: STAND FOR MYSELF
Mixing country with soul, and then slathering
a thick, lustrous voice on top of that warm goodness, Yola dominates the 46
minutes of Stand for Myself with ease that would make Adele blush. I really
fell in love with her vocals from the first listen, and the more I delved into
the world of Yola and her addictive voice, the more in love I fell with her.
This is a record perfect for early mornings, the park on a gorgeous day, or
just something to blend into the background.
7.) LUCY DACUS: HOME VIDEO
Oh, to be young, naïve, and to learn the hard
way. When listening to the sublime new record from Lucy Dacus, those are the
thoughts creeping through my mind most often. Her soft, vulnerable voice
beckons out over the mix as her guitar gently strums, only adding to the
tension permeating from Home Video. Songs like album opener "Hot &
Heavy" welcome you to Dacus' universe, while "Brando" stands up against the
best modern anthems regarding growing up and facing the real, often viscous
6.) BLACK MIDI: CAVALCADE
For a band that exploded onto the indie scene
not even three years prior, Black Midi have already released two earth
shatteringly loud, raucous records. The opening moments of "John L" crash like
chaos, while many of the other songs, such as the foreboding uneasiness of
"Diamond Stuff," show you just what they can do when pushed to perfection.
Probably the best new band of the last 10 years, with two sublimely good albums
under their belt.
5.) NICK CAVE & WARREN ELLIS: CARNAGE
For the last five or so years, Cave and Ellis,
often alongside the rest of the Bad Seeds, have been making some of the most moving,
somber music over ever heard. This time around, it's only Cave and Ellis, yet
it feels very much like an official NC&TBS record. It's wildly imaginative
with how the vocals are mixed and sung, while the unique instruments presented
offer a very dark but ornate collection of music. The best moments for me are
the three sections of "White Elephant," "Albuquerque," and finally "Lavender
Fields." All three are slower tracks with varying degrees of emotional turmoil,
but Cave's voice almost always is able to make a person feel a certain way. Another
raw album from this prolific living legend.
4.) PINK SWEAT$: PINK PLANET
The last of the R&B stylings to make this
list, it's also the best. I never really enjoy these types of records, but
David Bowden and his record "Pink Planet" is way more in the vein of Prince
than any other artist I can think of. He's not totally comparable to the great
one, but this album is well mixed with the sound, backing tracks are spot on,
and the overall message is one people should hear more often. Bowden's voice is
elegant, purposeful, and full of heart and soul in a way most singers not named
Frank Ocean are capable of doing these days. If you want a record for quiet,
romantic evening with someone, I'd stop looking. I found it for you.
3.) HALSEY: IF I CAN'T HAVE LOVE, I WANT
For most, the name Halsey is enough to warrant
a desire to listen. For me, a near 40-year-old music snob, my interest became
existent with the addition of Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, currently known
for Nine Inch Nails and multiple excellent created film scores. With the pair's
help, Halsey imagined an album muddied on pop music as heavier industrial beats
fight to change the scenery. A few of the songs are slower, more intricately
built, while others, such as "Easier Than Lying" and "I Am Not a Woman, I'm a God,"
soar with industrial tinges and Halsey's signature sultry, indie icy voice.
2.) CHVRCHES: SCREEN VIOLENCE
Since the early days of their first album, all
the way until now, Glasgow's own CHVRCHES have rarely stumbled, with the
limited exception of 2018's Love is Dead. Instead, they've continued to
make strong electro pop, but there's something different this time around.
Lauren Mayberry and her vocals, as well as her lyrical content, are far more
open and stronger than she already was previously, but Screen Violence
finds the vocalist battling with the well-known beauty standards of the word,
her mistakes, her wins, and all the things she's learned not to do as she
navigates the brutal world of the music industry. Even with the help of legends
like a Robert Smith in the track "How Not to Drown," the band doesn't really do
much wrong on Screen Violence, which lands at number two.
1.) POND: 9
Another one from Australia, Perth's own Pond
began as a side project for Tame Impala members, but on 9, the band's
ninth album, Pond create a world free of hassle and full of inspired dance
rock. Songs like "America's Cup" were made for dance floors, while more mid-tempo
tracks like "Take Me Avalon I'm Young," bring the energy down a notch while
focusing more on vocal performance. "Human Touch" is another one meant to get
sweaty too as well. There's plenty to unpack and get lost in during 9's 39
minutes, which is perhaps the most obvious reason it takes the number 1 slot
for the Top 20 Albums of 2021.
BRUNO MARS & ANDERSON. PAAK: AN EVENING
WITH SILK SONIC
ROB ZOMBIE: THE LUNAR INJECTION KOOL AID
MAXO KREAM: WEIGHT OF THE WORLD
WAR ON DRUGS: I DON'T WANT TO
FLOATING POINTS: PROMISES