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The Top 50 Albums of 2021

There were a whole lot of great albums released in 2021. Actually there are a whole lot of great albums released every year, so one could argue that 2021 wasn’t particularly unique in that aspect. But compared to 2020, which was a little lighter than usual on releases due to the pandemic and artists generally holding back until they could tour again, this year seemed much more normal. A lot of records came out from a number of big names, and things like touring and music festivals returned this past summer. It felt good to get back to basics! At the same time, things were still slightly off. Along with those big names and big albums came a lot of disappointment. Adele fared well, but Lorde did not. Kanye and Drake gave us new LPs, but the general reactions to them weren’t much more than a shrug. It provided the perfect opportunity for some artists to step up and make a real impact with fresh, exciting, and groundbreaking records. Many delivered, even if they didn’t always reach the widest audiences or establish a broad consensus to help certify their brilliance. The lack of a crystal clear frontrunner for the #1 album of 2021 among music websites and publications might imply that nothing was quite good enough to make a massive critical impact, but I would argue such a diversity of opinions is a huge positive. It gives a wider array of artists more of a chance to shine. A Jazmine Sullivan or Indigo De Souza or Arooj Aftab may now be on your radar when they might not have been otherwise in a more “standard” year. So embrace that difference, and dig into some music that challenges and inspires you. My Top 50 Albums of 2021 has no shortage of that. I’ve even included another 10 “Honorable Mentions” of records I genuinely loved that just barely missed the cut. In all sincerity, everything listed below is absolutely wonderful and worthy of your time to listen through at least once. Give them a shot if you haven’t already – I’m certain you’ll find something new to love.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
Amyl and the Sniffers – Comfort to Me
The Armed – ULTRAPOP
Dave – We’re All Alone in This Together
Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
Hand Habits – Fun House
Home Is Where – I Became Birds
Iceage – Seek Shelter
Lost Girls – Menneskekollektivet
Rosie Lowe & Duval Timothy – Son
SPELLLING – The Turning Wheel

The Top 100 Songs of 2021

If you listen to enough new music in any given year, it becomes exceptionally difficult to pick your favorites once December arrives. Much of it blends together into one beautiful blur, and there’s so much to remember that sometimes you end up forgetting tracks that are truly great. Then on occasion you’ll also discover a song on somebody else’s year-end “best of” list and want to include it on your own, but it’ll either be too late to add it or you’ll be unsure of how much weight to give it because there’s no real way to tell if it hold up against something else you’ve loved for the past six months. So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that any “Best Songs of 2021” list, no matter how long or short, is imperfect. We’re all just doing the best we can with our personal tastes and fractured memories. The list below could have easily extended to more than 250 songs. It would have been many hours long and vast to the point where you’d get lost after a while and just give up on trying to listen to everything. Narrowing all of 2021 down to 100 songs may not fully encapsulate all of the music that made this year great, but at the very least it gives a nice snapshot of some amazing tracks you can enjoy and revisit whenever the mood should strike you. The best of the best. All killer, no filler. Just a whole lot of bangers, even when they’re ballads and sad folk songs. Before we begin, let me quickly run through the “rules” behind the creation of this list. First, no artist may be included on the list more than once. This is in an effort to showcase a more diverse collection of artists instead of having, say, three songs from the latest Japanese Breakfast album taking up slots that could have gone to others. Second, all songs on this list must have been released on a 2021 album/EP or as a standalone single. That’s why you won’t see any Mitski, Spoon, Charli XCX, Amber Mark, Beach House, or Big Thief on this list, even though they’ve already put out tracks from full length LPs due in 2022. Don’t worry, given their past histories I can almost guarantee they’ll end up on next year’s “best of”. And that’s it! Not sure what else I can say about this collection of songs other than I sincerely hope you enjoy them. Some may trigger fond memories, and others may introduce you to something incredible and inspiring that you’ve never heard before. It’s all pretty fantastic. One of the broader themes from my favorite tracks this year is that of healing and recovery. We’ve all been forced to face so many challenges these last few years, and it’s often felt overwhelming and detrimental to our overall health and well-being. Portions of 2021 managed to restore some semblances of normalcy, and that (often temporary) reprieve from suffering gave just enough leeway to allow some light back into our lives. So please feel free to use this list as you try to put your heart back together. Close your eyes, I’ll count to 100. Take a deep breath. Count with me. Let’s begin.

Pick Your Poison: Monday 12-20-21

24kGoldn – More Than Friends

6LACK – Rent Free

San Fermin – Nothingness (ft. The Districts)

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 12-16-21

DEVO – Praying Hands

Earl Sweatshirt – Tabula Rasa (ft. Armand Hammer)

Jhen茅 Aiko – Wrap Me Up

Pick Your Poison: Monday 12-6-21

070 Shake – Lose My Cool (ft. NLE Choppa)

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Neu Butterfly 3000 (Peaches Remix)

Monster Rally – Island Hopping

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 12-2-21

Grimes – Player of Games

mazie – people don’t change

The Regrettes – You’re So Fucking Pretty

Pick Your Poison: Monday 11-29-21

Anand Wilder – I Don’t Want Our Love To Become Routine

San Holo – Mean It (ft. Nick Lopez)

Vic Mensa – “What You Taught Us”

Pick Your Poison: Monday 11-22-21

Earl Sweatshirt – 2010

FKA twigs – Measure of a Man (ft. Central Cee)

Freddie Gibbs – Black Illuminati (ft. Jadakiss)

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 11-18-21

M脴 – Brad Pitt

NLE Choppa – I.Y.B.

Post Malone & The Weeknd – One Right Now

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 11-11-21

Gang of Youths – tend the garden

iann dior – let you

Rosalia – LA FAMA (ft. The Weeknd)

Pick Your Poison: Monday 11-8-21

Baby Queen – Wannabe

Nilufer Yanya – stabilise

NNAMD脧 – Backseat

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 11-4-21

Foals – Wake Me Up

Frances Forever – Certified Fool

Omar Apollo – Bad Life (ft. Kali Uchis)

Pick Your Poison: Monday 11-1-21

A$AP Ferg – Green Juice (ft. Pharrell Williams & The Neptunes)

Makaya McCraven – Black Rhythm Happening

YG – Sign Language

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 10-28-21

Amin茅 – Charmander

BENEE – Doesn’t Matter

SALES – Can’t Be Yours Forever

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 10-21-21

Cannons – Ruthless

The Ramona Flowers – Up All Night (ft. Nile Rodgers)

Surfbort – Happy Happy Halloween

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