Top 20 Albums of 2021 (20-11)

20. Selena Gomez: Revelación

On her first Spanish-language EP, Revelación, Selena Gomez keeps the confidence that she found on 2020’s Rare while making something completely different. The EP isn’t just Gomez’ sleek pop in Spanish, she fully embraces her Mexican heritage. Mixing elements of Latin trap, reggaeton, EDM, and pop, the EP shows an unexpected versatility. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

19. Boris & Merzbow: 2R0I2P0

Released in December of last year, 2R0I2P0 is already one year old. The album, a literal death knell to the rough year that was 2020, was hard to forget…largely because we played it throughout an almost equally tumultuous 2021. Clocking in at just under an hour and twenty minutes, Boris and Merzbow’s eighth collaborative full-length sways between moments of surprisingly gentle percussive and rhythmic atmospherics and screeching, grinding industrial noise made by punishing, dynamic guitars and electronics. From track to track, the ebb and flow from tranquility to chaos was not unlike a year in which brief moments of peace were upended by unforgiving strife. – Andy Mascola

18. Virginia Wing: private LIFE

In 2021, Manchester, UK’s experimental pop trio Virginia Wing built on their already excellent discography with their sublime fourth full-length, private LIFE. The addition of saxophonist Christopher Duffin didn’t completely reconfigure the band’s sound stylistically but instead enhanced it, adding splashes of jazzy color to an already vivid palette. Singer Alice Merida Richards’ sing-speak vocal delivery carried with it some of her most thoughtful and introspective lyrics. The production throughout private LIFE beautifully balanced the idiosyncratic charm of Virginia Wing’s odd experimentalism and pop inclinations. – Andy Mascola

17. The Go! Team: Get Up Sequences Part One

In many ways, Get Up Sequences Part One is a return to form for The Go! Team who haven’t sounded quite the same since Ninja departed after 2011’s Rolling Blackouts. It is no surprise that Ninja is back in a big way on Get Up Sequences Part One. The music is noisy and dense, the lyrics are hopeful and reassuring, and everything sounds as crisp and energetic as the first time you heard Thunder, Lightning, Strike. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

16. Ergo Phizmiz featuring Depresstival: Plaza Centraal

Plaza Centraal was one of (at least) three full-length albums released by the prolific plunderphonic pirate Ergo Phizmiz in 2021. With the help of songwriter, pianist, filmmaker, and multimedia artist Depresstival, Phizmiz utilizes electro, folk, avant-garde jazz, yodeling, pop, and a hefty amount of sampling (sometimes all in the same song) to create a sonic playland in which internet and popular culture are skewered for the world’s amusement. What Phizmiz does isn’t like anything else, but if you’ve been at all inundated with the mainstream pablum of the last quarter century, and if you have a healthy sense of humor, you’ll appreciate Ergo’s eccentric art and this wonderful, one-of-a-kind release. – Andy Mascola

15. ABBA: Voyage

One of the useless facts that is bandied about my brain is that ABBA holds the record for being offered the most amount of money to reunite. It is reported that in 2000, the band was offered a cool billion dollars to reunite for 250 shows. The band turned down the offer but 21 years later, the band reunited to release Voyage. While you will not confuse the album for ABBA Gold, it does offer many comforts of classic ABBA while introducing new aesthetics. “I Still Have Faith in You” is a reassuring power ballad about belief in one’s self while “Keep an Eye on Dan” might be the catchiest song about having joint custody of a child. While they might miss their billion dollar payoff, the reunion feels perfectly timed. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

14. BRNDA: Do You Like Salt?

Washington, D.C. art punk weirdos BRNDA (so named because “Brenda” was taken) brought a healthy helping of humorous food references and herky jerky grooves to their ultra-catchy and highly danceable latest LP, Do You Like Salt? Bookended by field recordings of a busy street–which were made by hanging a microphone out the window of the band members’ home on Florida Avenue–the record at times carries with it a party vibe, not unlike the one you’d get from a B-52’s album. Drummer/singer Leah Gage and guitarist/singer Dave Lesser, the two only consistent members of BRNDA, hit the sweet spot with Do You Like Salt?, a fun album chock-full of whimsical, delightfully quirky moments. – Andy Mascola

13. Sleigh Bells: Texis

Eleven years ago, Sleigh Bells released their debut album, Treats. It hasn’t been until the band’s fifth album, Texis that it feels like their debut got a proper predecessor. Bouncing between clipping guitar heaviness and shimmery synth goodness, Alexis Krauss’ sweetly sung vocals helm the ship with a manic euphoria. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

12. Weezer: OK Human

Recorded with analog equipment and a 38-piece orchestra, Weezer’s fourteenth studio album (one of two they released in 2021), warmed our hearts this year with songs about the times we’re all living through. OK Human delivered twelve songs in a tight thirty minutes. The baroque pop of Cuomo and company’s quarantine album offered up instantly relatable lyrics about everything from loving sad songs and audiobooks to Zoom interviews and letting our personal hygiene go. The songwriting throughout is spectacular, and the band is in top form here. Doubters take note: Weezer albums may still be hit or miss but with OK Human, the band nailed it. – Andy Mascola

11. Aesop Rock & Blockhead: Garbology

In 2001, Aesop Rock and producer, Blockhead made pure magic with Labor Days–Aes’ much loved Definitive Jux debut. Twenty years later, the two team up again for Garbology. While Aes’ collaboration with Tobacco, Malibu Ken was a blending of two distinct styles where it felt like they at times stepped on each other’s feet, Blockhead is humble enough to step back and let Aes’ rhyme shine as the rapper grapples with our dystopian present while still throwing in little jokes that seem like the kind only two old friends truly understand. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

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