Here it is! My favourite albums of 2021 (fashionably late as always). This was such a hard list to narrow down. The amount of stellar albums that dropped last year is insane (and I feel like I still haven’t listened to half the records from the year that I wanted to). If you like lists don’t forget to check out my favourite tracks of 2021 and my least favourite tracks of 2021 too.
20. Glow – Alice Phoebe Lou
Made up of fluttering vocals and jazzy chords, this intimate heartbreak album from South African nu-folk singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou is stunningly gorgeous.
Favourite tracks: ‘Dirty Mouth’, ‘Lonely Crowd’
19. The House Is Burning – Isaiah Rashad
Chattanooga rapper Isaiah Rashad delivers this hypnotic hip hop album made up of soulful production and lethargic-but-nimble rapping. The hooks are really catchy too!
Favourite tracks: ‘Headshot (4r Da Locals)’, ‘Hey Mista’
18. The Off Season – J Cole
J Cole continues deliver impressive flows and witty rhymes, this time with more playful punchlines. It’s one of the rapper’s most fun records in years.
Favourite tracks: ‘Let Go My Hand’, ‘The Climb Back’
17. Friends That Break Your Heart – James Blake
UK alternative R&B artist James Blake delivers this unique breakup album about breaking up with friends. The vocal performances are powerfully emotive and the production is really creative.
Favourite tracks: ‘Famous Last Words’, ‘Say What You Will’
16. Donda – Kanye West
Although slightly bloated and scatterbrained, this new album from Ye (previously Kanye) is full of fun, inventive and even emotional moments that make it one of the rapper’s most thrilling albums.
Favourite tracks: ‘Jesus Lord’, ‘Come To Life’
15. Cavalcade – black midi
Experimental rock band black midi continue to develop their kooky chaotic sound, this time with a few more softer jazzy detours, showing off the range of their musical talent.
Favourite tracks: ‘John L’, ‘Slow’
14. Mood Valiant – Hiatus Kaiyote
Melbourne neo-soul band Hiatus Kaiyote return from their hiatus with a much more streamlined sound. Nai Palm’s vocals are heavenly and the instrumentation is rich and infectiously groovy.
Favourite tracks: ‘Chivalry is not Dead’, ‘Red Room’
13. Happier Than Ever – Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish’s not-so-happy new album Happier Than Ever sees her continuing to deliver captivatingly intimate and minimal pop songs - this time confronting the struggles of fame.
Favourite tracks: ‘my future’, ‘Happier than Ever’
12. Call Me If You Get Lost – Tyler, the Creator
Call Me If You Get Lost sees the eccentric rapper/singer/producer delivering his most stylistically diverse album. It’s got everything from fun trap rap bangers to deeply personal songs about unrequited love.
Favourite tracks: ‘Massa’, ‘Wilshire’
11. Bright Green Field – Squid
Loopy Brighton post-punk band Squid deliver this exciting debut album made up of unhinged vocals and frenetic guitars. The wild twists and turns keep you constantly hooked.
Favourite tracks: ‘Narrator’, ‘Boy Racers’
10. Fortitude – Gojira
Fortitude matches brutal lyrics about climate change with brutal riffs and percussion. It’s not just an epic metal album, but a poignant rally cry to save the planet.
Favourite tracks: ‘Amazonia’, ‘Another World’, ‘New Found’
9. By The Time I Get To Phoenix – Injury Reserve
With its glitchy avant-garde beats and occasionally abstract lyrics, BTIGTP is an uncompromisingly challenging but excitingly forward-thinking hip hop album – and a moving tribute to late member Stepa J Groggs.
Favourite tracks: ‘Superman That’, ‘Smoke Don’t Clear’, ‘Knees’
8. On All Fours – Goat Girl
Goat Girl take their moody post-punk sound in a poppier and equally weirder direction. While every song is infectious, there are lots of sonic quirks that stop each song from being predictable.
Favourite tracks: ‘Badibaba’, ‘P.T.S.Tea’, ‘Sad Cowboy’
7. LP! – JPEGMAFIA
Experimental hip hop artist JPEGMAFIA fine-tunes his unique sound, continuing to offer wild confrontational bars, while opting for equally wild beat choices.
Favourite tracks: ‘Hazard Duty Pay!’, ‘What Kind Of Rapping Is This?’, ‘OG!’
6. For The First Time – Black Country, New Road
Wacky UK seven-piece band Black Country, New Road deliver their exciting debut album - a mix of post-punk, math rock, jazz and klezmer topped with suspenseful vocals that play out like someone having a mental breakdown.
Favourite tracks: ‘Science Fair’, ‘Sunglasses’, ‘Opus’
5. Crawler – Idles
UK rock band Idles reinvent themselves with a less sociopolitical and more personal album centred around addiction. It features some of their softest tracks and also some of their noisiest tracks.
Favourite tracks: ‘MTT 420 RR’, ‘Car Crash’, ‘Progress’
4. Ultrapop – The Armed
Anonymous post-hardcore collective The Armed deliver this raw and intense record that combines flavours of indie, shoegaze, grindcore, electronic and noise. It’s utterly cacophonous at points, but also uniquely uplifting.
Favourite tracks: ‘Masunaga Vapors’, ‘Average Death’, ‘Real Folk Blues’
3. Daddy’s Home – St Vincent
St Vincent’s serving of 70s psychedelic sleaze somehow manages to feel excitingly fresh. This largely due to the fact that the songwriting is so intricate - each track is woven out of so many instrumental layers. The lyrics about parental abandonment and finding acceptance for being childfree also feel very radical and very personal.
Favourite tracks: 'Pay Your Way In Pain', ‘Live In The Dream’, ‘The Melting of The Sun’
2. Drunk Tank Pink – Shame
While perhaps not as experimental as their contemporaries Squid, black mid and BCNR, UK post-punk band Shame have the edge in terms of songwriting. Unusual but catchy guitar melodies are paired with monstrous drumming and topped with deranged vocals. The album is more frenzied than their debut and the energy is relentless, and yet they’re able to pack in a lot of dynamics – there’s not a single lull on the record.
Favourite tracks: ‘March Day’, ‘Water In The Well’, ‘Snow Day’
1. Glow On – Turnstile
Baltimore band Turnstile deliver this unique blend of hardcore and dreampop. Every track is utterly thrilling – the guitars and vocals are so catchy, while there are plenty creative sonic details thrown in from samba-like percussion to loopy Tom-Morello-esque solos. The album is also incredibly well-paced – the twinkly dream-pop flavoured tracks provide breathers between the mosh anthems, while still managing to be enjoyable songs in their own right. It’s an all-round phenomenal album.
Favourite tracks: ‘Blackout’, ‘Underwater Boi’, ‘Holiday’