Top 10 Albums 2021

December 29, 2021

Another year of working mostly from home means another year of a 40-hour-a-week music consumption habit uninhibited by the considerations of others. I listened to lots of things this year! Spotify says 82,030 minutes which comes out to over 26 hours a week. Over 50 new albums. Neat. When it all came down to it there were maybe 20 that I would have liked to give a spot on this list. But while Inflation is impacting many parts of the economy, this list remains at 0% y/y growth in length… we’re sticking to a top 10.

Some stats:

  • Newcomers to the list: 8/10
  • Debut Releases: 2/10
  • Non Male Artists: 7/10

This year’s top 3 is not as strong as the Top 3 in 2020, but it does have my 3 favorite genres represented: Indie Rock/Pop, Rap & Boygenius. The writing about these albums may be lacking this year, even compared to my previous poor efforts. That said, let’s dive in:

10. Claud – Super Monster

Listen on Spotify

The full-length debut from indie-pop artist Claud! The first full-length release on Phoebe Bridgers’ record label Saddest Factory! This came out in February and really stuck with me throughout the year as something I kept coming back to. It doesn’t sound at all like Phoebe Bridgers, except for being kind of sad.

9. Olivia Rodrigo – SOUR

Listen on Spotify

I hadn’t heard of Olivia Rodrigo until this album came out and my twitter timeline was full of jokes about it making millennials feel old. When I saw these jokes, I was expecting music I didn’t understand the appeal of bc I’m old & out of touch (see: Billie Eilish) BUT instead it was just some cool songs about the perils of being a teenager. This isn’t immediately relatable to my current life experience, but it is very good!

There’s a diverse range of genres & song-writing styles, but Rodrigo pulls it all together. It’s good. Listen to it.

8. Snail Mail – Valentine

Listen on Spotify

3 artists into our Top 10, 22 year old Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail is the oldest artist to appear so far (But the youngest of the top 8, I think). Her sophomore album is as strong or better than her 2018 debut… which was also my 8th favorite album of that year.

Valentine has a much broader sound without giving up the intimacy of Lush.

7. Adult Mom – Driver

Listen on Spotify

I guess this album came out in March but I didn’t get into it until later in the year. Ended up being one of my favorites. Enjoyable storytelling, hooks, etc.

6. Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

Listen on Spotify

I’ve listened to a lot of Japanese Breakfast albums but this is the first one that’s really stuck with me. It’s fun, triumphant, expansive indie pop.

5. Islands – Islomania

Listen on Spotify

Making their 4th appearance on this list since since 2006, Islands is Back with their first album in 5 years! Islomania is the least complicated, most purely fun release ever from the band I think. Their whole catalog is enjoyable but this is perhaps in contention for my 2nd favorite release of theirs.

Fun, energetic, catchy, straight-foward pop. Great stuff.

4. Cassandra Jenkins – An overview on Phenomenal Nature

Listen on Spotify

This is traditionally not my thing, and I don’t know why it caught me so strongly. It’s only 7 tracks long. The most listened to track on Spotify is mostly a spoken-word type thing. It has some smooth jazz vibes.

BUT it’s… phenomenal! When I was typing that first paragraph, I was like “maybe I should drop this further down the list” but then I listened to the first few seconds of every track, and they are all great.

3. Lucy Dacus – Home Video

Listen on Spotify

Lucy Dacus’s Home Video marks the last member of the supergroup Boygenius to release an album since that group’s impeccable 2018 EP. Before the Boygenius EP came out, Lucy was the only member of the group I was particularly familiar with as her earlier-in-2018 sophomore album Historian was my 3rd favorite album of that year.

Home Video draws on Dacus’s crystal clear recollections from earlier in her life. Stories of Vacation Bible School camp, Friends’ subpar boyfriends & fathers, complicated relationships with boys & girls. Each one told with the detail of clarity like it happened yesterday, but with the perspective of someone with distance.

While I still slightly prefer Historian, this is a very enjoyable followup.

2. Tyler the Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST

Listen on Spotify

Remember rap in the late aughts? Tyler the Creator remembers. Rappers at the height of their game rapping on other people’s beats with DJs confusingly shouting thing during tracks. It was the best of times, it was the most obnoxious of times.

CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is Tyler’s homage to this style & time, and he brings the mixtape king, DJ Drama along for the ride. This is from start to finish the most traditional & accessible “rap” album. But it still has the bombastic & creative beats that Tyler’s known for.

This is easily my favorite Tyler album ever and it’s one of my favorite rap releases in recent memory.

1. Kiwi Jr. – Cooler Returns

Listen on Spotify

I enjoyed Kiwi Jr.’s 2020 Debut “Football Money” a good bit, but I don’t think it was really in contention for my top 10 last year. I don’t know what made this album different but it was in heavy rotation from January 22 when it came out!

The lyrics are biting, the hooks are big, the guitars are jangly. I really enjoy the whole vibe of the thing.

It was also one of my 4 year old Julia’s favorites. When we’re riding in the car together, it’s about 50/50 on who gets to pick the tunes. She generally gravitates towards Frozen & Moana soundtracks. But one day in the car she said “Dad, can we listen to Kiwi Jr.?” and I’m not going to lie, this made me feel great.

So, here we are. Julia and I’s favorite album of the year.

Get Your Mix!

If you want a little taste of everything here + 20 or so songs from my other favorite releases of the year, you can grab the mix here:


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