Drum Roll Please. This Is… We Plug Good Music’s Best Albums of 2021
The closing credits of 2021 have started to roll and it is time to bow down before each other in respect of all our achievements.The year before had many obstacles, but everyone managed to stand still again. The human kind showcased strength, kindness, consistency and novelty. Our daily lives may have changed in various ways, but we have remained genuine at heart and never gave up on hope.
We had a good one and we are getting even more excited for what 2022 has got in the making for us. Our Christmas wishes for you are to keep on chasing your dreams and never stop believing in the gifts you have to offer to the world. Moreover, do not neglect your health and take care of the people you adore around you.
Now getting deeper in our stuff, the music scene experienced several twists. The charts welcomed more diverse genres in the mainstream. It has been a rich year of finely crafted rock, pop and hip hop records from every corner of the world. Countries such as Italy, Spain, South Korea and the continent of Africa served us with some of their greatest locals.
What is more, the industry’s relationship with online platforms got even tighter. Tik Tok has become the main trendsetter not only for viral videos but for uprising artists and hitmakers. Spotify saw the first round of earnings, since it started its operations and we are still trying to figure out what Grimes did with NFTs. Also, we have been observing the construction of the hybrid live streaming of shows and exploring its options.
Undoubtedly, the past 12 months were incredibly generous when it comes to phenomenal releases. Lil Nas X gracefully broke the rules, Billie Eilish exposed her vulnerable side and Adele hyped every ballad enthusiast out there. Of course, Kanye West demonstrated his skill set with the powerful Donda and we may not want to cause any trouble here but Taylor Swift did it, too.
Additionally, the level of inclusivity has been amazing this year with many power women leading the way. Dua Lipa, Megan Thee Stallion, Olivia Rodrigo and SZA are just a few names that kept the media talking. It is, also, important to mention the forthcoming modern jazz soul wave of talented musicians such as Jungle and Leon Bridges, which have seized many numbers in our list.
Once more Tereza Bittnerova and Zoe Eskitzopoulou have backed up our list with all the information needed to hook you up and listen to your favorites. While you can revisit the list so far here, the last part of our ‘Albums of 2021’ list highlights the best albums of the year, from #10 to #1.
10. SAULT – Nine
The cryptic band SAULT moved contrarily to the rest of the music industry and made one of the greatest statements against it with the album NINE. Except for their socially concerned thematics, they took a step forward in expressing their aversion towards the operational systems of the current scene and the speedy, almost transient way art is consumed.
In the age of social media and online music platforms, Cleo Sol, Michael Kiwunuka, Inflo, Little Simz, Laurette Josiah and Kid Sister decided to keep the work uploaded just for 99 days. Indeed the album is nowhere to be found at this moment in the attempt to invite fans in getting inventive on engaging with the members. In their uncanny soundscape, the ensemble is using sleek humor and revealing sorrow on public matters, police violence and black people struggles.
9. Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
Michelle Zauner, the brain and voice behind Japanese Breakfast has decided it’s time for a change. After two previous albums, New York Times best-selling memoir and years of working on grief through her music, she was ready for something new and gave us her third record called Jubilee.
The difference from her previous work is astonishing. Joyful pop melodies full of synths, horns and strings guide the journey to find happiness. Sit explores lust and loyalty, “Savage Good Boy” tell a story of a billionaire in an apocalyptic world, while “Slide Tackle” acknowledges that people sometimes have to find their minds to feel the joy.
Towards the end of the album, we can find beautiful sad songs like “In Hell or Tactics”, but overall, Jubilee is a gleeful celebration of life and feelings.
8. Adele – 30
There is no need for an introduction for Adele. She made a name for herself with songs like “Rolling In the Deep”, “Someone Like You” or “Hello”. On 30, she proves once again that extraordinary belting, wide range and soulful story-telling are strong weapons in her arsenal.
A six year break following her massively successful album 25 meant many changes for Adele, not only in her career with live music being put on hold for many months, but also in her personal life as she went through separation and divorce. Channeling her feelings of guilt, self-loathing and other hardships, she shows vulnerability but also learns about herself and gives hold to jazz, gospel and blues.
7. Laura Mvula – Pink Noise
The Birmingham-born songwriter Laura Mvula is reclaiming her space in the music scene with her release of Pink Noise. Being known as a serious artist, the classically trained Mercury prize nominee has decided that on her third album she wants to be sexy and fun.
She opens the album with “Safe Passage”, bringing the nostalgia into the present time, discovers hip hop elements on “Conditional” or invites her family to collaborate on “Magical”. With “Golden Ashes”, she moves away from the general mood of the album for a bit and gives hold to everyone who may be suffering in silence.
Drawing her inspiration from Michael Jackson, Prince or Whitney Houston, she delivers an 80’s influenced pop album that won’t let you stay away from the dance floor.
6. Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
Three can be a magic number. It absolutely applies for Wolf Alice and their third and newest album Blue Weekend. Going for a cinematic vibe, the female-lead alternative group played their demos over muted movie scenes and trailers to make sure they captured what they wanted in their music.
They waste no time, with their opening track “The Beach” and the closer “The Beach II” proving they masterfully accomplished what they set out to do. Although each song tells its own story, the guitar-led album is intertwined through the theme of relationships, whether that is being in love with your partner, friendships or the way people treat themselves.
5. Dave – We’re All Alone In This Together
After the thriving Psychodrama, which received the British awards trilogy including Ivor Novello, BRIT Awards and Mercury Prize, Dave has returned two years later with an impeccable comeback.
Balancing in-between masterful rapping and brilliantly constructed instrumentation, We’re All Alone In This Together is a rare piece of work. Every single track constitutes the artist’s sincere reflection on common issues.
The album walks through diverse backgrounds. Classical orchestrations, probably inspired by the rapper’s recent collaboration with Hans Zimmer, accompany most personal parts, while afrobeats pay tribute to his roots. Furthermore, the variety expands with an array of contributors as James Blake and Snoh Alegra apart from the UK Rap royalty, Stormzy.
4. Self Esteem – Prioritise Pleasure
Self Esteem, an experimental pop project by the British musician Rebecca Taylor, delivered a record bigger and more bombastic than anything she has ever been a part of before.
Prioritise Pleasure, the second album under the Self Esteem project, has it all. Pop songs that could be leading the charts, emotional spoken words and even loud rock guitars. The theme of the album is clear. Working through her anger towards society, patriarchy and men.
Reflecting the changes in her life on thirteen tracks, Self Esteem shows the world she is over being polite at the expense of her self-worth and learns to stand up for herself, take what’s rightfully hers and have fun in the meantime.
3. Tyler, The Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost
Remembering the blast of IGOR in 2019, it could be assumed that Tyler, The Creator had taken a turn into progressive pop fields, but that is definitely not the case. It was June, when the trailblazer introduced a fresh persona called Sir Baudelaire and brought his built up expertise of eight years to the front. His speech defies his judges and unifies his inner circle.
The album Call Me If You Get Lost welcomes a series of staggering musicians. From the OGs like Lil Wayne and Ty Dolla Sign to current showstoppers Brent Faiyaz and Lil Uzi Vert, Tyler is balancing the grown landscape with resourceful inventiveness. His delicate additions of funk, disco and reggae pave the way for exquisite cultural blending and melody mingling.
2. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
The thrill of surprise one gets when Sometimes I Might Be Introvert starts playing is inexplicable. The unexpected orchestra of violins forms the setting for the stargazing tracklist which will follow. In nineteen pieces, there are moments of paralyzing lyrical statements and cinematic musical arrangements consisting of calming flute, smooth guitar hooks and striking beats.
Born in a Nigerian family and raised in London, Little Simz is a proud advocate of her race and gender. Regarding her artistic backstory as well as side project SAULT, she showcases confidence when referring to politics. The keenness to Afro jazz influences is apparent in the recordings where it interconnects suitably with her robust rapping style.
1. Ghetts – Conflict Of Interest
The UK rap and grime icon Ghetts is counting two decades in the local scene which lead up to his coronation as the artist with the most notable record of the year. Conflict Of Interest is harsh, vulnerable and rudimentary. In a proficient manner, the rapper is revealing memoirs of his turbulent life in East London, his friends, his partners and his family.
Backed by The Movement, the album involves Dave and Hamzaa among others of the inner circle. What is more, Ed Sheeran and Emeli Sandé stretch out Justin Clarke’s ability to incorporate contrasting genres in his steadfast grime fashion.
His openness is, also, manifested in addressing the stigma of mental health in the industry and exposing his battle with ADHD. The countdown has reached an ending with a crystalline stunning work that demonstrates the quality of the new-age soundsystem.
Click HERE for a full list of our Top 50 Albums of 2021!
Words by Tereza Bittnerova and Zoe Eskitzopoulou // List curated by Ayo Adepoju