Best in Music: 2021

Best Album

Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

This year saw two artists abandon their more downtrodden sounds and embrace a happier tone. Lorde had a more straightforward pop album in “Solar Power,” meanwhile the Michelle Zauner led Japanese Breakfast explored the facets of joy and happiness for one of her most personal and experiential records to date. It’s an album you can sit and envelope yourself in, or just have on in the background of a nice dinner, but it’s never disposable noise. It was certainly one of the top albums I had on repeat this year.

Best Debut Album

Olivia Rodrigo – Sour

My wife explained the backstory behind “driver’s license.” Then I saw the SNL skit having a bit of fun at adult men digging the song. But then I really listened to the song. And then the album. It’s very fair to draw comparisons to early Taylor Swift, one Olivia would happily embrace. But Olivia takes the “Sad Teen Girl” trope beyond the schtick and creates an album that is both deeply personal to the artist and universal to any audience. It’s a fascinating record from a fascinating young artist.

Best of the Rest

The rest of the year’s music that really got me moving is presented in no particular order. Just a bunch of albums for you to check out. Every artist/album title links you to the album on Spotify.

Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed

Adele – 30

Silk Sonic – An Evening with Silk Sonic

Tyler, the Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost

Courtney Barnett – Things Take Time, Take Time

Vince Staples – Vince Staples

Samantha Fish – Faster

Dirty Honey – Dirty Honey

Lorde – Solar Power

Foo Fighters – Medicine at Midnight

Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad of Dood & Juanita

Doja Cat – Planet Her

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Carnage

Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

Greta Van Fleet – The Battle at Garden’s Gate

Sierra Ferrell – Long Time Coming

Lucy Dacus – Home Video

Larry Fleet – Stack of Records

Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – The Future


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