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The Best Music of 2021
As told to you by a random so and so
Playboi Carti - Whole Lotta Red
While it’s true Whole Lotta Red came out in late December of last year, no album set off 2021 from a vibe standpoint better than Carti’s long-awaited release. And no album since has equaled it in terms of style, inventiveness, weirdness, and controversy. It’s all you can ask for in a record that pushes music forward instead of just making more of the same.
Home Is Where - I Became Birds
The last couple years have been a great run for what’s been billed as fifth wave emo. The new era of punk talent all have their own particular charm, but the best of them to me are Home Is Where: a shredding, screeching joyous ball of irreverent jokes and earnest vulnerability. I Became Birds was some of the most fun I’ve had listening to a project; it’s witty, personable, and affecting.
Boldy James & Alchemist - Bo Jackson
The number of super-talented, prolific producers in hip-hop is bigger than ever in 2021, but Alchemist somehow persists as maybe the best working in the moment. His collaborations with a number of rap’s biggest underground and lyrical darlings are all evocative and hypnotic in their own ways, but it’s this tape with Boldy James that stands out as the best of them.
Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales
People are finally catching up to Jazmine Sullivan and I guess it’s better now than never. The only real negative with the Heaux Tales EP is how much it leaves you wanting more, which is as good a problem to have as any. This tape brings Sullivan’s traditional musical training and powerful voice and adapts it into something hip, a smooth record full of passion and insight.
Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders - Promises
2021 will be forever known to me as the year I stopped fighting it and just finally embraced Jazz. It helps that (for specific reasons) I had to develop an actual structured writing and reading routine, and listening to Jazz and film scores sure gets you in the mood to do both things. It’s not so much that I hated it as that I just didn’t really think anything about it, but this year it started to unlock in my brain and Promises played a big part in that happening. The dreamlike symphony was an incredibly moving and gorgeous thing to experience.
Yeat - Up 2 Me
The post-Carti/post-Uzi influence in rap is already bearing fruit all over the place. The best of them is probably Pierre Bourne’s solo output and Yeat’s Up 2 Me. The latter is a perfectly charming, fun record that became a great one to keep revisiting throughout the year.
TWIABP - Illusory Walls
Despite the strong showing from the fifth wave kids, the fourth wave of emo that emerged in the late aughts/early 10s we’re still able to release some of the best music of the year. My favorite of them came from The World Is A Beautiful Place and etc. etc.. Watching a band push past their early sound into something bigger, grander, expertly realized is still exciting no matter how dead rock is.
Summer Walker - Still Over It
See my review of Summer Walker’s best album here.
Mach-Hommy - Pray For Haiti
The international man of mystery dropped two great albums this year, but it’s Pray For Haiti that’s been the standout, largely hailed as 2021’s best record. It’s ver good for sure and Mach is a deep, thoughtful MC, probably the most sophisticated of the Griselda mob. Westside Gunn’s harsh, east coast production works especially well in Mach’s hands.
Parannoul - To See The Next Part of The Dream
Nothing like some South Korean shoegaze to take over your brain for a couple hours. Parannoul is part My Bloody Valentine, part Jimmy Eat World. They play gorgeous, heartbreaking, passionate rock music and To See The Next Part of The Dream truly unfolds like an intense dream. Very easily the best discovery of this year.