So I’m going to be honest: I thought I’d be able to look back at 2021 very differently than how I am now. On one hand, some great things happened – yay, vaccines! – but this pandemic has stretched further than I ever thought it would. I naively thought vaccines would pretty much eradicate COVID, and it did for a bit, only for this latest variant (at the time of writing) to rage harder than ever.
And yet, I found myself getting excited about putting together my top albums list here. This time, I’ve started thinking a lot about WHY. Why do I get so excited about going through the albums I’ve listened to and putting them in some arbitrary ranking? I think I’ve realized it’s because I don’t really do big year-end retrospectives where I take stock of what I did in my life, the goals I accomplished, the ones I missed, etc. At least not in the traditional way. Instead, all of my reviewing of the year comes from revisiting the new albums I listened to. And it’s because each album is tied to a portion of time within the past year, tied to friends and people I spent time with. Tied to memories. This realization hammered home why music is so important to me and why I have such a deep connection to it. Why it’s able to make me cry and why I can get goosebumps, EVERY TIME, from listening to certain songs.
It reminds me of this great quote I heard recently: “If art is how we decorate space, music is how we decorate time”. The concept itself is not groundbreaking, sure, but it’s a great way of phrasing it, I think. My days, weeks, and years are tethered to certain albums. When I listen to the latest Lucy Dacus, it puts me back to the time I listened to it on the way to a close friend’s house. When I hear the newest Modest Mouse record, it reminds me of heading back home from a funeral, stuck at an airport after a grueling weekend, but finding comfort by the presence of my wife, knowing that I wasn’t alone. Or even blasting the new Royal Blood album while driving to grab dinner on a Friday night. Big moments, little moments – they’re all tied together to this art form.
A lot happened in my personal life this year; some good, some bad, and some absolutely devastating. But I’m so thankful that music existed during all of those times. The highs wouldn’t have been as high without it. And even some of the year’s worst moments were helped by these albums.
So here they are – my 40 favorite albums of 2021.
40.) St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home
39.) Animal Collective – Bridge to Quiet
38.) Beach Bunny – Blame Game
37.) Real Estate – Half a Human
36.) Weezer – OK Human
35.) Arooj Aftab – Vulture Prince
34.) Snail Mail – Valentine
33.) J. Cole – The Off-Season
32.) Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
31.) Altin Gün – Yol
30.) Navy Blue – Song of Sage- Post Panic!
29.) The Weather Station – Ignorance
28.) José González – Local Valley
27.) Hiatus Kaiyote – Mood Valiant
26.) Gojira – Fortitude
25.) CZARFACE – Super What
24.) Porter Robinson – Nurture
23.) Olivia Rodrigo – SOUR
22.) Iceage – Seek Shelter
21.) Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
20.) Turnstile – GLOW ON
19.) Arca – KicK iii
18.) Doja Cat – Planet Her
17.) SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE – ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH
16.) Bleachers – Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night
15.) KUNZITE – VISUALS
14.) King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – L.W
13.) Gaspard Augé – Escapades
12.) Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
11.) Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
10.) Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
09.) Tyler, The Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
08.) Modest Mouse – The Golden Casket
07.) Low – Hey What
06.) Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime
05.) The Armed – ULTRAPOP
04.) Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
03.) Royal Blood – Typhoons
02.) The War On Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore
01.) Lucy Dacus – Home Video