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 second part of our ‘Albums of 2021’ list below, highlights the best albums of the year, from #40 to #31.
40. Martha Wainwright – Love Will Be Reborn
Coming from a musical family, you can really tell music flows in Martha Wainwright’s blood. After a five year hiatus, she is back with her seventh studio album Love Will Be Reborn.
2021 seems to be a bit of a year of divorce albums with Adele, Kasey Musgraves and now also Wainwright wearing her heart on her sleeve for everyone to see even more than ever, after her separation from her husband of 10 years.
Assuming she would be alone post-seperation, she uses captivating vocals, moments full of eerie harmonies and honest lyricism to explore heartbreak, loneliness and separation, but also rediscover the want and hope for love.
39. Turnstile – Glow On
After releasing an EP Turnstile Love Connection in the first half of the year, Turnstile definitely didn’t go idle. Exactly two months later, the Baltimore hardcore band came back strong with their third studio album Glow On.
Although known as a hardcore band, the group wasn’t afraid to pull from musical genres all around. From catchy indie pop hooks on “Underwater Boi” through guitar solos accompanied by bongos on “Don’t Play” to emotional piano intros turning into moshpit-inducing contemplated chaos on “Fly Again”, Glow On is a borders blurring record deserving of our attention.
38. Leon Bridges – Gold-Diggers Sound
Leon Bridges spent two years in a hotel studio in Hollywood, experimenting with new musical horizons and enriching his skillset. This year, he served us with the same-named album Gold-Diggers Sound to depict the flourishing of his unique personality following his fine past work Good Thing.
The musician has loosened up his instrumentation just enough to touch the pop R&B sphere, but stays faithful to his keenness to jazz melodies and soulful vocals. He has teamed up once again with producers Nate Mercereau and Ricky Reed. Their forces result in a retrospective contemporary project, interlocking prestigious classicisms with innovative modernisms.
37. Jungle – Loving In Stereo
Growing up together in the streets of London, the British pop sound has grown into the skins of Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland. The duo behind Jungle commenced their music journey in 2013 and have been dropping gems since their globally recognized debut album in 2014, which earned them a spot in the Mercury Prize nominations.
Loving In Stereo is a highly energetic record with zestful hooks and bright transitions. No wonder why, the band chooses to film breakdance crews when producing their video clips. Through the lenses of disco, rock ‘n’ roll and funk, the listeners are invited into their own dance soundsystem, which is interrupted by spatial backdrops and exciting whoops.
36. Chloe Moriondo – Blood Bunny
The young musician Chloe Moriondo stands among the front runners of the recently emerged pop-punk movement. Hailing from Michigan, the newcomer was discovered on the Youtube platform for her ukulele playing in covers of popular songs from Billie Eilish to Radiohead. Not much later, she is helmed by label Fueled by Ramen, alongside Paramore and Twenty One Pilots.
In her album Blood Bunny, Chloe has wriggled out of her past soft self, and radiates confidence in powerful lyrics. Despite the prominence of the 00s old school vibe, especially due to the principal boy-girl love theme, the additions of speedy drums and new age sound effects place this album in the Generation Z playlist.
35. Mogwai – As The Love Continues
As The Love Continues started getting built in 2019 and was released at the start of 2021, spotting it as one more epic album that was made during the Covid era, with its counterparts collaborating from different corners of the globe. Recording from England, the universally esteemed band Mogwai teamed up again with producer David Fridmann from America, to deliver a state-of-the-art post rock piece.
It has been 25 years since the band’s first release and the band has evolved their harmonies into the novelties the 2021 soundscape has to offer. In that sense, their musical identity is not absent, especially tapping into their signature minutes-long atmospheric guitar solos. The record’s luminous tracklist turns into a hopeful gaze to infinite possibilities.
34. Saint Etienne – I’ve Been Trying To Tell You
Thirty years into their career, the British electro pop trio Saint Etienne released their tenth studio album named I’ve Been Trying To Tell You.
This concept album was different from any other one they’ve created before as they recorded all of it remotely. Drawing from the past, they used a large amount of samples and sounds from the late 90’s-early 00‘s period to represent their memories and feelings from those times.
Melancholic vibes are present throughout the record, being able to find a balance between sadness and hope as well as between nostalgic and futuristic sound. With none of the 8 songs on the album lasting under four minutes, each track has an undeniable ability to pull you in for an ethereal listen.
33. Billie Marten – Flora Fauna
Gaining her first fans at the age of 12, the British singer-songwriter Billie Martin has been in the music world for over ten years. In 2021, she released her third album named Flora Fauna.
Connecting with nature, she uses it to understand other aspects of life. Partly moving on from the world of acoustic guitar, Marten brings in bass to help her share her thoughts on what is her most matured, adventurous and experimental work so far.
32. Clairo – Sling
Two years after her album Immunity, Clairo has returned with the sublime Sling. In her 22 years of age, the singer is projecting herself in the future event of becoming a mother. By drawing inspiration from her family and dog Joanie, she lays down her perception of raising another person in the world as well as the beautiful, the worrying and the surprising perks of it.
In her lofi character she has presented a list of intimate songs with pure guitar harmonies and melodic piano. Grammy-awarded producer Jack Antonoff helps bring her warm vocals to the front while surrounded by finely crafted rich instrumentations. Several relaxing and sentimental moments distinguish the work from the pop mainstream.
31. L’Rain – Fatigue
Fatigue opens up with two minutes of chaotic police sirens and marching noises leading up to the question “What have you done to change?” asked by Quinton Brook. The powerful intro summarizes succinctly everything that follows. Taja Cheek, named L’Rain, is talking about her exhaustion in the constant fight for change.
Similar to her debut album, the artist is not holding her inner thoughts and emotions. The album exudes feelings of joy, panic and overwhelmingness in fluorescent tracks. With the participation of almost thirteen musicians in some tracks, the orchestrations are intriguingly complex. However, the blissful nature of her singing soothes the listening experience.
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