The Best Albums of 2021: 30 – 21

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 third part of our ‘Albums of 2021’ list below, highlights the best albums of the year, from #30 to #21.

30. Isaiah Rashad – The House Is Burning

Skipping the masters Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q, Isaiah Rashad represents Top Dawg Entertainment gracefully in the hip hop salons. In shimmering textures that go beyond traditional techniques, he is assembling a genial atmosphere and welcomes progressive R&B sounds with hazy embellishments.

The album The House Is Burning came just after Isaiah’s rehab time. The fights with his demons constitute his main sources of inspiration lyrically. He is exorcizing them by throwing glimpses of his life story and asking retrospective rhetorical questions. References to his family, neighborhood and music fellows demonstrate his appreciation to the support system he has been gifted with.

29. Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales

American R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan is back after a six year break with her fourth studio album Heaux Tales. Starting the album with an inner monologue “Bodies”, she introduces the topic and tales of sex and relationships.

Featuring Ari Lennox, Anderson .Paak and H.E.R., Jazmine Sullivan uses her great vocal abilities to give us 32-minute of exploring internet dating, one night-stands and pleasure. She empowers being whatever you want to be, whether that is a stereotype or not, while sharing her intimate story as a Black woman.

28. Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams

Regarding her path in the last two years, Arlo Parks is the rare bird in the uprising generation of artists. She was longlisted in the BBC Sound Of 2020, and won the Breakthrough Artist award at this year’s BRIT Awards, while also hopping in studios and onto stages with stellar musicians such as Easy Life and Glass Animals.

After a series of well-received single releases as well as a critically acclaimed EP under her belt, the 20-year-old released the splendid jazz pop album Collapsed In Sunbeams curated by the established independent label Transgressive Records.

Despite the numerous achievements and mature tone she maintains, the West Londoner with roots from Nigeria, Chad and France reminds the audiences that she is still a troubled youngster. By touching the topics of sexuality and mental health, Parks gently encourages whoever is concerned and sings soulful comforting words.

27. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour

If there is a name to remember from this year, it’s definitely Olivia Rodrigo. After starting her career on Disney Channel, she signed a record deal at 18 years old and her debut album Sour arrived one year after.

The album is a raw look inside a heartbroken teenage girl’s mind. It seems to have a perfect balanced between angry anthems such as “good 4 u” or “brutal”, about the lie that is her teenage dream while being caught up in other people’s opinions and emotional ballads such as the hit song “driver’s licence” – the most streamed song on Spotify for the year – or “traitor”, about the feelings of betrayal after a break up.

Olivia Rodrigo is definitely not afraid of being vulnerable and describing and showing her chaotic moments and weaknesses to the world, which ultimately becomes her strength.

26. Silk Sonic – An Evening With Silk Sonic

The record An Evening With Silk Sonic is what happens when two present-day music moguls decide to combine their charisma and form a band. If not obvious, the word is for Silk Sonic, where Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak showcase their endless appreciation for retro luminescence and smoky 1970s R&B.

The nostalgic ambiance welcomes ethereal strings, rhythmic percussions, flashing piano and synths. Inside the context of the golden era’s notable elements, they serve grande vocals both to the front and back.

Right from the release of the enchanting “Leave The Door Open”, listeners expected that something huge was in the making. However, this album surpassed expectations, with 9 standalone tracks, each one distinguishably fascinating for its reasons.

25. Vince Staples – Vince Staples

California rapper Vince Staples and a member of the hip hop trio Cutthroat Boyz has stated that his 2021 self-titled album is more personal than any of his previous work. Despite only lasting 22 minutes, Vince Staples is an album that gives you a good and honest look into Staples’s mind and life.

Being born in Compton and growing up in Long Beach, he touches on topics of violence, gang activity, poverty and his troubled childhood on songs such as “Are You With That” or “Take Me Home”. As a bit of an outsider, said in the best way possible, he delicately walks the line between the mainstream world and the underground scene.

24. Sons Of Kemet – Black To The Future

Black To The Future is the fourth studio album from the British jazz formation Sons of Kemet. Addressing the issues of the past few years, Black To The Future confronts the behaviour of society and its oppression towards Black people.

The opening track “Field Negus” was written while the BLM protests were happening in London, wanting to keep the conversation going, while songs like “In Remembrance of Those Fallen”, “Throughout the Madness” and “Stay Strong” tell similar stories. The instrumental side of the record shines through on “Pick Up Your Burning Cross” with horns and woodwinds added to a great bass line.

We have to say that with this record, the group has gone beyond the border of jazz and created what seems to be some of their best and most timeless work yet.

23. Hiatus Kaiyote – Mood Valiant

In three challenging years it was made, Mood Valiant is representative of the bravery and consistency of its makers, the band Hiatus Kaiyote.

During the fabrication of the record, first was the diagnosing of their frontwoman Nai Palm with breast cancer, which she successfully beat by the end of 2019. Second, came the global pause of Covid-19, leading up to 2021 to release this nu jazz masterpiece.

Under the freshly acquired appreciation of the triumphant independent label, Brainfeeder, the Australian four-membered ensemble took a long six years from their last project to this new recod. No complaints from us though, especially when we experience their imaginative soundscape which combines intricate, fuzzy backdrops with knocking drumming beats and brilliant, hearty vocals.

22. Marissa Nadler – The Path Of The Clouds

For more than fifteen years, Marissa Nadler has showcased her knack for experimentation with several instruments and in-depth speculation of the folk genre. Her latest work touches the ideal balance between indie haziness and rock magnetism. Accompanied by dexterous musicians like the harpist Matty Lattimore and Cocteau Twins’ Simon Raymonde, she has served a delicate multidimensional album.

Garnering inspiration from the Unsolved Mysteries series, The Path Of The Clouds steadily reveals tales of ghosts and gone people. As natural as her musicality is, Marissa utilizes glistening acoustic guitars and ethereal vocals, occasionally interrupted by distorted riffs and sparkling effects.

Her collaboration with the progressive Sacred Bones and Bella Union, has enabled her to express her thoughts in unlimited ways, as is evident on this album, The Path Of The Clouds.

21. Lil Nas X – Montero

Everyone can go viral these days, but not everyone can build and expand on the fame gained from the brief period. However, Lil Nas X was definitely able to do so with his viral “Old Town Road” TikTok moment. After several successful singles in the past few years, he finally released his highly anticipated debut album Montero in 2021.

With this album, he proves his talents span far beyond posting memes and funny tweets. Being unapologetically himself, he lets the world know that he knows who he is and where he wants to be in life, saying things that needed to be said no matter how painful or uncomfortable they may feel.

Musically, he touches on several genres, including emo rap, grunge, indie pop and even pop punk with the help of such names as Doja Cat, Miley Cyrus, Megan Thee Stallion and Elton John.

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

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