List, Music

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


16.) Bleachers – Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night


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

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