BEST ALBUMS OF 2021 (RUNNER'S UP)
Hello this is an unranked list of certain albums / EP's released in the year 2021 that I really liked. These are ones that I liked a lot but didn't LOVE. Next I'll post my arbitrary top 40 of the year :)
Please check out my 'Honourable Mentions' list for extra cool stuff.
GOOD ALBUMS from the year of 2021
No Buses - No Buses
Japanese band No Buses is named after an Arctic Monkeys song and the Arctic Monkeys were inspired by The Strokes AND No Buses (the band) sound like The Strokes. It all makes sense! This self-titled album is a good listen if you want '00s indie-rock with a math-rock tinge to itself.
Fax Gang - Aethernet
Genre: Electronic, Hip-hop
Genuinely novel production and rapping that's so crushed and distorted it's more of a beat choice than lyrics you're actively listening for, make Fax Gang a interesting group in both the space of hip-hop and electronic music. This debut album has a lot of cool things going for it and does sound pretty much unlike anything else out recently, so props.
HARD FEELINGS - HARD FEELINGS
Sounds like some fresh vintage dance music! Is that an oxymoron? NOT AT ALL, if you listen to this you may indeed see that the pairing of Hot Chip's Joe Goddard and vocalist Amy Douglas is a particularly strong one. Dance music that borrows from the past tastefully while still not resorting to being a pastiche or a repeat of greatest hits. Sounds very classy and is generally a fantastic pairing of a powerful voice and great production.
underscores - fishmonger
"It's the new wave of the future!" declares underscores, a solo indie-pop, genre-defying project from a member of the extremely in your face dubstep / production flexing group six impala. This is a breakout album which features a fun mix of indie pop, pop punk and all sorts. With genuine lyricism and all sorts of fun production flourishes, this is a fresh and exciting album. Less silly than six impala's output, but also retaining a very offbeat charm.
Charles - Let's Start a Family Tonight
Genre: Dream Pop
Interesting set of dream-pop songs that features involvement from Ariel Pink, so it sounds a lot like Ariel Pink. Also apparently this was a weird project that was in development for years but now has a bunch of its tracks missing because of disputes or something I dunno, what a mystery. It's an offbeat dream pop record that's got some charming vocal performances though and all sorts of warped production choices that make this an interesting album.
Nite Jewel - No Sun
Genre: Ambient Pop
Ambient pop? Yeah, ok.. what kinda made up genre is that? Actually it's this, a very deceptively quiet pop record that also has some subtly brilliant production and the lyrics and vocal performances are also great. Really excellent synth-work which aims to please with a 'less is more' approach and that approach works really well! This was the first album by Nite Jewel I have checked out and I will for sure be backtracking her discography after enjoying this one so much.
Bladee - The Fool
Genre: Cloud Rap
Bladee released three projects in 2020 and here he returned with another album for 2021. We're truly spoiled! This album is one of his most accessible, leaning into poppier styles but also it's still a Bladee album so it's kind of bonkers and bizarre and of course, always a pleasure to listen to. Thank-you Bladee :)
Sadness - April Sunset
Genre: Black Metal
The noisy catharsis combined with blissful ambience of the work of metal artists Sadness could be considered a one trick pony, but honestly it's one hell of an appealing trick to me. This was his lone album of the year amongst a series of EP's as well, and while this album doesn't have quite as distinct as aesthetic of, for example. his Rain Chamber EP, it's still offering pretty much everything I want from this artist. Pure blissul noise combined with peaceful ambience.
girl in red - if i could make it go quiet
Wow cool all lower case aesthetic I can't wait to listen to this exciting new indie-pop singer who's been propped up by Taylor Swift of all people,,, oh wait actually this is pretty cool! I like that this often captures the overwhelming feelings of emotions that you get coming of age as a young adult, through a assured vocal performance and a lot of fun production quirks.
The World is a Beautiful Place and I am Not Afraid to Die - Illusory Walls
Genre: Emo Rock
This album is primarily exciting for how it feels like (possibly) the logical endpoint for the band, after twists and turns, albums and songs that seemed to double back a bit on their life-affirming band name, this album offers another very good album of emo rock, but it's the final two track punch which is of album length in itself which makes this a special album of the year! The final two tracks in series are actually longer than the previous 9! It's quite a bold structural choice but one that leads to an absolute killer finish and even if some of the album's deep cuts aren't among the bands best, this finale really makes it worth it regardless!
Ada Lea - one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden
Ada Lea is excellent at painting vivid pictures through her song-writing and her reluctance to use percussion except in very particular moments makes for a very theatrical feeling album, a tale of fantasies that occasionally is brought right back down to Earth with such honest lyricism. A blend of fantasy and reality makes this a very personal and admirable album.
Faye Webster - I Know I'm Funny haha
Good album title and she isn't lying, she's funny (haha) and writes very well crafted indie-folk. But also this has some genuinely heartfelt and sad songs too. Proper heart on sleeve songwriting that is very strong and very enjoyable. Thumbs up! 👍
LIL SOFT TENNIS - Bedroom Rockstar Confused
I can't even remember how I found this, but it's really cool Japanese emo rap (?). I dunno, it's very silly and very fun though. It's kinda fun and noisy, but also poppy enough that it's not likely to put off the sort of people who would click on an album featuring a song titled NEW ORGY anyways. It's not too long over 20 minutes either so it hardly overstays its welcome and has some decent variety among the track listing.
Joy Orbison - still slippin, vol. 1
Cool UK dance music that has a heartfelt connective tissue through the use of family conversations used as intros, outros and interludes. Really well produced, a range of styles on display and some interesting feature choices to make this a very good collection of electronic music.
Death's Dynamic Shroud - Faith in Persona
I still think vaporwave is really cool. This album in particular is like the uncanny valley for music, it sounds more than a little bit off, but that makes it kinda awesome!? This album from the group is one of their very best for sure and also one of their more accessible.
Sweet Trip - A Tiny House, In Secret Speeches, Polar Equals
Genre: Dream Pop
Sweet Trip are cult legends and this third album from them is pretty great! While mainly exploring a different side of dream-pop than their previous albums, there are still nods to the glitchy pop experiments of their cult classic debut and generally this is so well produced and varied with layers upon layers of ideas that it's hard not to appreciate!
Origami Angel - GAMI GANG
Genre: Emo Rock
New emo for a new generation! An ambitious double album for the emo twosome is probably their best work yet, it's funny, heartfelt and rocks pretty hard! Beyond everything though there's a sense of sincerity in their exploration of adolescent nostalgia and struggles to adapt to a new life after coming of age. While often having a comical sense of cynicism, there's a life-affirming heartfelt core to the record that outshines that asepct to make for a very exciting emo rock record and one that's pointing towards a bright future for the band whatever path they choose to go on next.
NANORAY - ZAPPER
NANORAY produces serotonin inducing breakbeat that sound like the music you'd hear coming from a Sega arcade machine, but on speed. It's really cool. This sort of music particularly scratches an itch on my brain and unlike other takes on the blossoming internet-era genre, this one is pretty dancey and fun, not really any ambient interludes or so on. It's like the coolest soundtrack to a videogame that doesn't exist.
evaboy - ...jook 'til I die
I don’t fully understand the levels of irony and in-jokes piled onto this album by an alias of producer Branden Lowe, but it's a lot of fun. A collection of addicting drum n bass, juke and nightcore remixes, as well as some original compositions. Featuring joyful bootlegs of songs from Drake, Jeremih and Lil Dicky (among others) as well as bizarre track titles, what could be seen as a joke album is kept alive throughout over an hour of runtime due to a fun variety, nice surprises and just very good production on all tracks. It’s danceable and silly, a lighter breakbeat album than most others on the market right now. It's available at 'name your price' on bandcamp:
RYOKO2000 - Travel Guide
This is actually an EP not an album but I didn’t discover it until after I already wrote my top 10 EP’s so now it’s here on this list because it’s really good. The Japanese producer gives a sublime walkthrough of a mix of electronic genres, with great twists and turns. There’s enough going on here that I don’t even care if it’s an EP and only 16 minutes long, it’s now an album of the year. It strikes a fine line between atmosphere and danceability, much like a lot of the best electronic acts do. Not sure this artist or project has gained much traction but this is so good and shows amazing potential for something even grander.