Top 10 Albums (and Songs) of 2021
In 2021, the musicians and artists that I adored continued their trend of pronouncing doom on the age. This, I do not blame them for. For those who have seen Don’t Look Up, the Netflix film, and then have seen Death to 2021, you would perfectly understand that the human conscience is very afraid. Our better instincts are telling us to run for the hills and this thought is echoed by the finest of musicians we have on the planet.
So in my top 10 for the year 2021, you would witness this panic in a variety of ways. Marina sings a line, “Mother nature’s dying…I don’t wanna live in a man’s world anymore,” and for Elder Island’s Sacred, they poke fun at businessmen waving chemical waivers that allow them to pollute the Earth. Shall we countdown to the music;
10. Blue Weekend, Wolf Alice
Honestly, this album is only making it to this list because they were the 10th most listened-to band in the year. I worked my way through Wolf Alice’s discography and frankly, I think they have made better stuff. It could be the inside music of the pandemic, it could be that the sound did not age well because of the pandemic. Blue Weekend is not a bad album by any measure. It is quite sonically pleasant and would allow new listeners to fall in love with __ pleasant voice. However, take it back to My Love Is Cool and witness the greatness of Wolf Alice.
Notable Track: The Last Man On Earth
9. Changeophobia, Rostam
The roster of tracks on this album has me convinced that Rostam strode back into his archives, dusted unfinished notes, and fleshed out the ideas. It is music that feels like it has been stewing for over half a decade, only to be refreshed by the lemon juice of the new decade. Changeophobia is good. I did not see any of his recent interviews so I do not have anything to say. However, my favorite in this album is Back of the Cab. When Rostam Batmanglij sings about love, it is quite surreal.
Notable Track: From The Back of The Cab
8. Sand, Balthazar
This Belgian band has finally achieved their potential on this record. Their earlier work had shown promise. One left Thin Walls wondering if the record could be better. Sand asks you to say no more. If there is a new indie era, Balthazar have positioned themselves as one ofthe new gods. With strong vocal performances and jaunty grooves that have not been recalled for decades, Maarten and the gang may have cracked what Indie Pop is supposed to sound like in the 2020s. I am certain this band is underrated.
Notable Track: On A Roll
7. Tomorrows III, Son Lux
Till date, I still do not know what the shape of this album is. Characteristic of Son Lux’s experimental nature, Tomorrows III is both loud and quiet and begged me to ask what was going on and why I like it so much. Sonically masterful, grand sounds here and there, the essence of the album is exemplified in Vacancy, a duet that topped my charts for the year. Son Lux retains their deeply spiritual mood through the album and that is all that I can say.
Notable Track: Vacancy
6. Californian Soil, London Grammar
On first listen, I was a little bit disappointed. Californian Soil does make one long for the old London Grammar but that is if you have forgotten that London grammar is an indie-pop band. As they have achieved popularity, the band has incorporated more mainstream influences into their compositions. The tempo is faster and there is the unmistakable millennial whoop. Californian Soil is not without its gems though. Baby, It’s You. Lose your Head retains some of that old Hannah spice. Overall, the album is a smooth transition into the mainstream scene. This band only goes way up from here.
Notable Track: Baby, It’s You
5. As Love Continues, Mogwai
As Mogwai continues to bless us with post-rock gems that can never be forgotten. Shall they continue to live long? Yes, yes, please. That is all that should be said for this album. The fire is still burning and the band continues to guard it so.
Notable Track: Dry Fantasy
4. Refuge, Devendra Barnhart and Noah Georgeson
Barnhart's transition to Ambient/Post-Rock has to be one of the greatest surprises in 2021. It tells of a musician who has lived through the noisy scenes of Post-Modernism, survived the Post-Truth world, and has chosen the path of the hermits. It is not wrong to imagine that Barnhart and Georgeson have shaved their heads and holed up in a mountain somewhere. Refuge feels like some sort of rebellion against the system. It is empty. There is none of Barnhart's vocal trickery or the weird magic he has constantly deployed against us. I find this album fascinating and peaceful. I often came here to rest through the year.
Notable Track: Into Clouds
3. Monument, Portico Quartet
This quartet does what they do best and Monument is where musical instruments speak to each other. Fusing electronic music with classically flavored post-rock, yet again, Portico Quartet succeeds in capturing and demystifying the anxiety of our time. It surely does bring the message of hope, direly needed.
Notable Track: Impressions
2. Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land, Marina
She has often been unafraid of stating the serious facts pop music often plays off for laughs. I have often seen Marina as a popstar that decided that she had something to say whether the genre liked it or not and with a talent like hers, there was simply no stopping her. Her theatrics, her dramatics, and her honest to God responses in interviews often lend weight to her projects. This is her boldest project yet and I like it. Ancient Dreams in Modern Land simply reports on our current events. She is not afraid to evangelize the divine feminine and tell us how we’re getting wrong from her pulpit.
Notable Track: Flowers
- Swimming Static, Elder Island
They may not be the best of songwriters, but Elder Island is a band that gives as much as they can give on every song. Industrial rock is surely a niche that is still developing but this band gets it right. From the Omnitone Collection, these band members of Bristol have been defining their sound and we hear their vision clearer in this 2021 offering. With powerful rhythms, instrumentation bending the knee to Katy’s enveloping vocals, one enjoys a new kind of rock, house-inflected with some folk going on. The band is still a work in progress and indubitably, would go on to do amazing music.
Notable Track: Small Plastic Heart
Here is a playlist containing 10 songs from each album.