10. “Still Over It” (Summer Walker)
Following up the immense success of Summer Walker’s debut album “Over It” (2019) was difficult enough. To return with an even greater collection of songs is impressive, and Walker accomplished just that.
9. “Montero” (Lil Nas X)
With his debut album release, Lil Nas X asserts that he is no one-hit-wonder. The growing pop-rap titan showed off his strength as a lyricist and performer with his eclectic, self-titled “Montero.”
8. “Happier Than Ever” (Billie Eilish)
Eilish returns to the music landscape with her second album “Happier Than Ever.” The title track is Eilish’s best song to date and highlights the maturity and growth of the 19-year-old artist.
7. “Star-Crossed” (Kacey Musgraves)
Musgraves turns to sadness and redemption as her inspiration for her divorce-influenced album. Musgraves turns pain into progress within the gut-wrenching tracks “Simple Times” and “Camera Roll.”
6. “Sour” (Olivia Rodrigo)
There’s no world in which Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” could not be included on this list. With breakup anthems such as “Drivers License” and “Traitor,” Rodrigo proves she’s going to hang around on the music scene.
5. “Red (Taylor’s Version)” (Taylor Swift)
There are not many artists who can rerelease a nine-year-old album and have it land on a best albums list, but Taylor Swift can. Strengthened by the 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” Swift highlights her musical prowess.
4. “Planet Her” (Doja Cat)
With a lead single like “Kiss Me More” with SZA, there was no doubt a great album would ensue. Doja Cat pulls out all the stops for her best album to date.
3. “Sling” (Clairo)
Aided by Jack Antonoff, Clairo released her sophomore LP dripping with intrigue. As she moves away from the bedroom-pop that her audience is familiar with, Clairo redefines her artistry. These softer, more intimate tracks tackle subjects of introspection. Highlights from the album include “Amoeba” and “Harbor.”
2. “Solar Power” (Lorde)
The stripped down, 2000s-reminiscent album that is “Solar Power” is incredible. Lorde crafted a well-thought-out piece centering on the plights she observes in wellness culture, climate change and fame. Because of this, Lorde has been able to create art in what she finds important.
Lana Del Rey may be no stranger to controversy, but she’s even more familiar with crafting stunning albums. Her second release of the year after “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” (2021), Del Rey waited until October to put out one of her greatest works to date. A culmination of tracks spanning over a decade in her career, this work goes to demonstrate the artistic strength Del Rey has at piecing together a body of work. With tracks such as “Dealer,” “Thunder” and “Living Legend” aboard, this album set a course for success upon release.
Honorable Mentions: “Star-Crossed” by Kacey Musgraves, “Sueños de Dalí” by Paloma Mami, “Sour” by Olivia Rodrigo, “Call Me If You Get Lost” by Tyler, the Creator and “Home Video” by Lucy Dacus.
10. “Cavalcade” (Black Midi)
The British band Black Midi invokes dissonance and raging tranquility interspersed with heavy, explosive guitar riffs. It’s definitely one of the most interesting albums of 2021, but one which embraces the balance between chaos and calm.
9. “Las Leyendas Nunca Mueren” (Anuel AA)
Anuel AA doesn’t do anything revolutionary on his newest album, but it is still one to note. “Exit” and “Súbelo” are solid tracks that serve as a reminder of Anuel’s talent and matchless cadence, but his impressively large ego dampens the rest of the album just a little too much.
8. “If I Could Make It Go Quiet” (Girl in Red)
Girl in Red’s debut album proved that she can write more than just bedroom pop about queer romance. It’s a tender album with stronger tracks in “You Stupid B*tch” and “Did You Come?” that couple beautifully with the softer tones of “Apartment 402” and “Midnight Love.”
7. “TWOPOINTFIVE” (Aminé)
Aminé’s recent album, despite its brevity, was probably one of the most fun albums of 2021. “Neo” and “Charmander” are quickly gaining popularity for their upbeat charisma, but “Dididumduhduh” is one of the true gems from the track list. Aminé doesn’t really offer anything new, but “TWOPOINTFIVE” is still a danceable, quirky album that fans will love.
6. “Sling” (Clairo)
Though it can’t quite compare to “Immunity” (2019), “Sling” is still a wonderful collection of music that explores a more mature side to Clairo. Tracks like “Reaper” and “Management” really tie the album together and remind us why we fell in love with Clairo to begin with.
5. “Daddy’s Home” (St. Vincent)
St. Vincent is back with “Daddy’s Home,” and we couldn’t have been happier. It combines all of the alternative singer’s spirit with her usual profundity, and it was certainly an album to remember, especially with tracks like “Pay Your Way in Pain” and “…At the Holiday Party.”
4. “Planet Her” (Doja Cat)
It’s almost painful that this album couldn’t be placed higher on this list. “Planet Her” was impressive to say the least. Doja Cat proved that she has more to say and to offer. “Get Into It (Yuh)” and “Woman” are playful and depict Doja Cat’s signature style beautifully. However, tracks like “Ain’t Sh*t” and “Options (feat. JID)” really cemented this album as one of the best of the year.
3. “30” (Adele)
Likely one of the most touching albums of 2021, “30” was almost certainly everything fans hoped it would be. While sticking to her usual ballad style with tracks like “Easy On Me” and “To Be Loved,” Adele also gave us hints of something fresh. “Cry Your Heart Out” is notably upbeat while “Strangers By Nature” and “Love Is A Game” explored classic ‘50s pop motifs. Adele opened up on “30” like never before, and the album benefits greatly from her vulnerability.
2. “Montero” (Lil Nas X)
Another monumental album, “Montero” highlights Lil Nas X’s story-telling ability and flair for the dramatic. It’s a truly sensational album — moving from touching tracks like “Sun Goes Down” to smash hits like “Industry Baby,” “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Thats What I Want.” This album solidified Lil Nas X as more than a controversial figure: an incredibly talented musician.
1. “An Evening With Silk Sonic” (Silk Sonic)
With all the charm, charisma and musical genius of Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars, their collaborative ‘70s-inspired album is truly masterful. With songs like “Leave The Door Open” and “Smokin Out The Window” quickly going viral for their unique groove, the album was more than a smash success. It encompassed ‘70s nostalgia but went a step further, adding a bit of flavor entirely unique to Silk Sonic.
Honorable Mentions: “Smiling With No Teeth” by Genesis Owusu, “Mercurial World” by Magdalena Bay, “Call Me If You Get Lost” by Tyler, the Creator and “Half God” by Wiki.
10. “Donda” (Kanye West)
Clean, focused and jam-packed with guest features, “Donda” serves as one of Kanye’s most monumental moments throughout his entire career.
9. “Gami Gang” (Origami Angel)
One of emo rock/pop punk’s most exciting bands brings another collection of bangers. Don’t judge a book by its cover; this genre-blending record is full of fun emotions and atmospheres.
8. “USee4Yourself” (IDK)
IDK’s potential is fully fledged on “USee4Yourself”. From the introspective and vulnerable, to the bold and energy-radiating, this record shows IDK’s unique talent as a rapper and producer.
7. “Jubilee” (Japanese Breakfast)
The bright and beautiful soundscapes on this record are enough to suck anyone in. A swirl of catchy pop-rock tunes and gorgeous chamber pop arrangements, “Jubilee” stands out as one of the best composed albums of the year.
6. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” (Injury Reserve)
This record causes indescribable emotions in its attempt to musically represent them. Pain, longing and mental instability are lyrical pivots for one of the most thrilling and experimental records so far in this century.
5. “Sinner Get Ready” (Lingua Ignota)
No record is able to balance horror and beauty like “Sinner Get Ready” does. The Providence-based singer and composer’s emotional journey over the past two years is translated into a record of anguish and self-searching over elegant compositions.
4. “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” (Little Simz)
One of the best rappers alive dropped another gem this year. This mix of exquisite beats sets the scene for Little Simz to rap in a more elegant and vulnerable way, while preserving the swagger that’s so strongly become a part of her identity.
3. “An Evening With Silk Sonic” (Silk Sonic)
Featuring two of R&B’s best singers/songwriters, narrated by Bootsy Collins, no one was surprised nor disappointed by this admirable and groovy album. Future R&B artists will strive to be as good as Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak.
2. “For the first time” (Black Country, New Road)
The UK seven-piece’s debut record is one of poetic perfection. An outlier in modern music, this record is driven purely by unprecedented lyrical vehemence and genius compositions. “For the first time” is one of the most mesmerizing albums in years.
1. “Nurture” (Porter Robinson)
The 29-year-old producer is admired by millions of people, and “Nurture” just goes to show how much beauty and solace his listeners find in Porter Robinson’s music. Heart-melting lyrics combined with his bright vocal and instrumental reworks will make any listener feel at peace. The amount of talent required to make an album this inspiring is something only Porter Robinson could possess.