Top 20 Albums of 2021 (10-01)

10. Opposite Sex: High Drama

2021 saw Opposite Sex, a post-punk trio from New Zealand, release High Drama, their third and best full-length album to date. The band rip and tear their way through nine angry songs that largely take aim at those who hurt them. Whether swaggering through a slow, bluesy number regarding toxic masculinity or driving hard and fast through a noisy, psychobilly-inspired number about throwing a lover into a piece of dangerous farming equipment, Opposite Sex never abandon their signature sound, which always includes a deliciously vicious guitar alongside lyrics about getting revenge and demanding respect. – Andy Mascola

09. Courtney Barnett: Things Take Time, Take Time

Written in isolation during 2020 in a Melbourne apartment, Things Take Time, Take Time is a bit more solemn than Courtney Barnett‘s previous output. Even at her mopiest, Barnett sprinkles in little witticism like “Don’t stick that knife in the toaster/Baby, life is like a rollercoaster” amongst more earnest lyrics like “I’m looking forward to the next letter that I’m gonna get from you.” It is the full range of emotion we all have collectively experienced over the last two year but done in an artful and often catchy way. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

08. Dinosaur Jr.: Sweep It Into Space

Dinosaur Jr.‘s original lineup of J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph prove, once again, the success they’ve had since reuniting is no fluke. On Sweep It Into Space, the Amherst, Massachusetts indie vets don’t fix what ain’t broken, dropping ten new Mascis-sung songs along with two Barlow-sung numbers. What’s left to say that hasn’t already been said? If you’re a fan of outstanding guitar work, caveman-like drumming, and indie rock earnestness, you can’t lose. If you haven’t checked in with Dinosaur since before 2007, you’ve got some catching up to do. Sweep It Into Space, the band’s fifth full-length album since reuniting, is a solid set that adds more than a couple new favorites to the Dinosaur Jr. song catalog. – Andy Mascola

07. Cola Boyy: Prosthetic Boombox

Following his breakout performance on The Avalanches‘ “We Go On,” Cola Boyy cashes in with his debut full-length, Prosthetic Boombox. Featuring collaborations with the Avalanches and MGMT among others, the album looks like a who’s who of indie disco stars but make no mistake the album is quintessentially Cola Boyy. The album details his struggles with spina bifida and scoliosis along with growing up in a multi-ethnic community ravaged by late stage capitalism. Instead of being a sob story, the album is about the power of friendship, community, and disco. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

06. Tyler, the Creator: Call Me If You Get Lost

Call Me If You Get Lost is Tyler, the Creator’s best album to date. On the California artist’s sixth full-length, Tyler delivers his valentine to hip hop. With narration throughout by DJ Drama and features from Lil Wayne, Pharrell Williams, Lil Uzi Vert, and others, Tyler flexes and celebrates his material success while bemoaning his, at times, tumultuous love life. In addition to being his finest full-length, Call Me If You Get Lost is also the Creator’s most personal LP, one that includes a recording of his mother proudly detailing the lengths at which she went to protect her son. “Corso”, “Lumberjack”, “WusYaName”, you’d be hard-pressed to identify a single dull moment amongst the sixteen songs presented here. Call Me If You Get Lost was far and away the greatest rap record of 2021. – Andy Mascola

05. Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Both Metacritic and AlbumoftheYear calculate that Little Simz‘ fourth album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert had the highest average ranking on critics end of the year lists with 13 first place votes (for reference our album of the year only got three first place votes). Listening to the album, it is no surprise why. The album’s mix of skillful rapping with a cinematic scope for storytelling is reminiscent of achievements like Kanye West‘s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Deltron 3030‘s self-titled debut. Unlike those albums, Little Simz has become hip hop’s most critically acclaimed rapper while being a woman which is still a huge feat in the genre. Not to mention she recently tweeted “1st female in history to headline and sell out 3 nights at Brixton. Can’t believe this.” It is easy to believe that and a lot more from the North London emcee. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

04. The Avalanches: We Will Always Love You

Like many publications, our end of the year lists are submitted to editors before December even hits. That means while album’s like Taylor Swift‘s Folklore and Phoebe BridgersPunisher easily made last year’s list, The AvalanchesWe Will Always Love You was in no man’s land being released on December 11th. After having almost a full 12 months to digest, The Avalanches’ third album still stands out as one of the very best releases from December 2020 through November 2021. The conceptually tight album takes the listener from this life to the next, from this planet to the stars, and it doesn’t spare any of the pain or euphoria that goes along with those journeys. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

03. Snail Mail: Valentine

Lindsey Jordan’s songwriting on 2018’s Lush felt wise beyond her age, just 18 while writing the album. Valentine continues the evolution of not only Jordan’s words but also Snail Mail‘s music. There are still are song that have blazing guitar solos (looking at you “Glory”) but they are mixed in with synthy masterpieces like “Ben Franklin” which have next to no guitar. The expansion of the band’s sound let’s Jordan’s diary-esque songwriting shine in new, interesting, and most importantly successful ways. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

02. Lala Lala: I Want the Door to Open

I Want the Door to Open, the stunning third full-length studio album from Chicago musician Lillie West who performs as Lala Lala, brought us twelve introspective pop songs that find the songwriter broadening her sound to include brass, subtle electronics, and dynamic percussion. Along with co-producer Yoni Wolf from Why?, I Want the Door to Open features many musician friends who helped to flesh-out the record’s production, including: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Ben Gibbard, and OHHME, among others. Third albums can often be difficult. Lala Lala’s I Want the Door to Open avoids the third record curse by integrating themes of personal growth and self-exploration into her songs, creating an optimistic, forward-thinking collection that made life in 2021 a little brighter. – Andy Mascola

01. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg

Identifying specifically what makes Dry Cleaning’s debut LP, New Long Leg, work well enough to be considered our best album of 2021 may not be immediately evident to first time listeners of this London post-punk band. Admittedly, we didn’t get it initially. What needs to be understood going into this record is that what the band’s frontperson, Florence Shaw, does isn’t so much “sing” but express her universally relatable, drily funny ennui and irritability toward life in general. In her own uniquely idiosyncratic, poetic way, Shaw orates her dissatisfaction and acutely private feelings toward herself and those around her. “It’ll be okay, I just need to hide for a bit and eat an old sandwich from my bag,” Shaw says at one point during “Scratchcard Lanyard”. Who hasn’t been here at some point? Of course, none of this would work without the band. The trio that back Shaw create ten contemplative compositions that include a cracking rhythm section and angular lead guitar riffs that remind one of classic post-punk acts such as The Fall and Joy Division. Would New Long Leg have been as well received had it not been delivered into a world emotionally dragged down due to a seemingly never-ending pandemic? It’s hard to say. Regardless, Dry Cleaning’s New Long Leg distinguishes itself by being an album very of its time and our favorite record of 2021. – Andy Mascola