My Favorite Albums of 2021
This was a year that was quite interesting for music. Many artists broke new ground and ventured into unknown territory, some interesting new artists broke onto the scene, and most importantly we got the privilege of hearing some of our favorite artists' new work.
In this list, I talk about some of my favorite albums from this year. These are 5 albums from this year (and an honorable mention) that resonated with me and stuck with me the most. There may be albums that came out this year that I would consider better than some on this list, but these are the albums I found the most memorable and that I will come back to the most in 2022.
Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over the Country Club
Lana Del Rey showcases her songwriting ability as well as her vocal prowess on this Jack Antanoff produced record. In the last few years, it seems that Lana Del Rey has come into her own as an artist especially with the release of the two albums prior to this one, Lust For Life and Norman F***ing Rockwell. This is a relatively brief and subdued album, much less extravagant than her previous work but it includes some of Lana’s strongest songs. Her voice shines on this record and is used in creative ways on tracks such as White Dress which is one of her best ever, in my opinion. Aside from a track or two that are not up to par, this album is a solid singer-songwriter project from beginning to end and finishes on a strong note with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s For Free, a tribute to one of the greats in the field.
Favorite Tracks: White Dress, Tulsa Jesus Freak, Yosemite
5. Playboi Carti - Whole Lotta Red
This is an album that has kept hip-hop fans divided for over a year now, and in my opinion, when that occurs it means you are doing something right. This album is unique, to say the least. The production takes elements of trap, synth-pop, and horror movie soundtracks to create a soundscape that can only be described as Whole Lotta Red. Paired with this, is Playboi Carti’s passionate performances in which he showcases the versatility of his unconventional voice. Carti’s voice is part of what draws me to this album because he truly uses it to express his emotion, especially on tracks like Stop Breathing, Go2DaMoon, and, F33l Lyk3 Dyin. Additionally, the songs one this album manage to be different enough from each other to stay interesting (something his previous records failed to achieve) while staying consistent aesthetically, largely in part due to the recurring motifs (such as vampires) that Carti included in this project. There are love songs, like the aforementioned F33l Lyk3 Dyin, introspective and self aware tracks like ILoveUIHateU, and fun anthemic trap bangers like Sky, all of which manage to effortlessly coexist on this album. I think this is a project that the majority of people will remain divided on, but if you want to listen to something left field with mainstream appeal then this is the perfect album for you.
Favorite Tracks: Sky, Go2DaMoon, F33l Lyk3 Dyin, ILoveUIHateU, Stop Breathing, Control, M3tamorphosis
4. Kanye West - Donda
This is an album I have a lot to say about but I will try to keep it brief. I was scared to listen to this album when it came out. After hearing the disaster that was Jesus Is King, I did not know what we could expect from Kanye West moving forward. Prepared for disappointment, I avoided the Donda live streams and when the album came out I did not listen to it until a couple of weeks after. When I did eventually listen to the arguably excessively long album, I was pleasantly surprised. The album opens on a strong note with Jail featuring none other than Jay-Z. The album is pretty solid all the way through after that with the exception of a few duds like Tell the Vision, a song that would have been better if left on the cutting room floor. At the end of the album there are some “Pt. 2”’s that are just remixes of songs that were already on the album but with an additional feature. I like the idea of the album being structured like a concert with encores and more guests at the end, but I think that some of the extra songs could have just been combined with the original or omitted entirely. As is, the album is really good and includes some of Ye’s best work, but if you were to trim some of the fat, you would have a near-perfect album.
Favorite Tracks: Off the Grid, Jail, Believe What I Say, Praise God, Ok Ok, Junya Pt. 2
3. Tyler, the Creator - Call Me If You Get Lost
For a lot of people, this was a do-or-die/make-or-break situation for Tyler, the Creator. His previous two projects Scum F*** Flower Boy and IGOR impressed a lot of people, but many were not sure if Tyler could pull it off three times in a row. Personally, I feel that his last two albums, especially IGOR, were enough for Tyler to prove himself as an artist and that Call Me If You Get Lost is simply an opportunity for the listener to catch up with the artist and see what he has been up to and how he is feeling. And it does that very well and is, quite simply, a fantastic album, just solid work from Tyler. It’s a cohesive project with songs that are thematically and aesthetically similar to one another and DJ Drama hosting the tape really brings it together as a whole body of work. There aren’t many negative things that could be said about this album, it’s just a collection of really good Tyler, the Creator rap songs that work well together. It is not the groundbreaking and genre-bending masterpiece that IGOR is, it’s just a solid album and that is exactly what I wanted from Tyler. Call Me If You Get Lost is a project that is perfect for what it is. That does not mean it is perfect by any means, but the album knows what it is and Tyler does what he is trying to do to the best of his abilities which leads to the pleasant listening experience that is this album.
Favorite Tracks: Corso, Wusyaname, Hot Wind Blows, Juggernaut, Manifesto
2. Clairo - Sling
Although Clairo made a name for herself with the bedroom pop sound that seemingly dominated a certain segment of the music industry since 2017, her newest album deviates quite a bit from that style. Sling takes heavy inspiration from artists such as Joni Mitchell and Elliott Smith which is evident from Clairo’s introspective and often dark songwriting complimented by Jack Antanoff’s production. Thematically and lyrically this album is a step up, maturity-wise, from Clairo’s older work. If her first studio album Immunity was her finding her footing as an artist, this is her finding herself as a person. Sling is sincere, raw, and brutally honest with songs such as Amoeba and Reaper which delve deeply into Clairo’s psyche and personal life. This is not to say that Immunity did not have those qualities, however, I believe that the overall execution is better on Sling and I look forward to Clairo’s next venture.
Favorite Tracks: Amoeba, Zinnias, Reaper, Management, Little Changes, Harbor
1. JPEGMAFIA - LP!
LP! by JPEGMAFIA, is the best album I listened to this year by a wide margin. I was not quite sure what to expect with this album following the release of EP! and EP! 2 which stylistically were quite different from one another. However, Peggy followed those two projects up perfectly with LP!. The album includes elements of industrial hip-hip, pop, and R&B blended together to make something innovative, enticing, and very JPEGMAFIA. With each release Peggy’s music seems to improve and it is evident that he continues to grow as an artist the more he creates. There is not much more I can say about this album because it truly speaks for itself, but I will say there is something special about it. LP! (and JPEGMAFIA) should be on everyone's radar.
Favorite Tracks: all of them