THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2021
Yes, music lovers, it’s that time of year again. Music publications from all over posting their 2021 best-of lists. While it has been quite the up and down year elsewhere, well mostly down. I can assuredly say the return to music has been healing. Which has created one of the most incredible years for music and the industry as a whole creatively, keyword creatively. Alas, with what has been careful consideration these are The Reclusive Blogger’s Top Ten Albums Of 2021. It was quite hard to narrow it down to only ten. I’ve also included a few other releases that I had to share with you because they were great as well. I hope you enjoy this list…
Here are my Top Ten Albums of 2021…
1. LIL NAS X // MONTERO
When it’s just as easy to fade away after a massive hit, Lil Nas X did the opposite. The pressures of being successful even after releasing a solid ep are massive. Lil Nas X successfully accomplished that with his mellifluous debut Montero. What I can the year of the Gen Z, 22-year-old Lil Nas X led the charge and ruled the year. Montero was not only a fascinating piece of oeuvre, starting off with the title single. The man who started on “The Old Town Road” was finally free to fully create. Now he was creating some of the most vibrant, brazen, entertaining, and catchy genreless music for the digital age. Montero was a profound statement it was openly loud, proud, and Queer. It was ultimately a statement about anyone learning to accept themselves as they are & giving that same courtesy to others. It wound up being one of my most played records this year.
2. OLIVIA RODRIGO // SOUR
Another Gen Z that ruled this year was Olivia Rodrigo, a true breakout star of 2021. Her debut “Sour” was an effervescent slice of pop and pop culture innuendo. Told through the lens of young heartbreak. It was clever at times, embittered others, but at the core, it was the frank testimony of a young woman. An album filled with pop bops, indie heartbreak anthems, and pop-punk rockers. It’s the nostalgia and utter catchiness of the music that most importantly makes it’s enjoyable as hell.
3. HALSEY // IF I CAN’T HAVE LOVE, I WANT POWER
This album finds sees Halsey firmly in her power as an artist. “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” ups the ante as she commands like never before. Halsey teams up with a host of heavy hitters too to amp up sound in all aspects. Lindsay Buckingham makes a gorgeous appearance on “Darling”. Yet most notable is a collaboration with producers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. What seems like an odd pairing brings out the best in Halsey and at times her darkest. It’s what also takes many of the topics she’s either dabbled in previous works more forthright and earnest. Also, take on a much more sinister tone. Halsey takes us on a tour de force on this concept album on childbirth, women in society, the patriarchy, & death. It proves to be her most captivating work lyrically but instrumentally as well.
4. THE MARIAS // CINEMA
The Los Angeles-based duo of María Zardoya and Josh Conway creates quite the smoldering musical palette with this album. It’s also the bands’ debut fusing many genres including pop, jazz, alternative, and movies. The influence of movies, soundtracks, film noir genre, and one of María’s favorite directors Pedro Almodovar is ever-present. Hence the album’s name, its Cinema, or film is quite evident on the opener “Just A Feeling”. Or on tracks like the jazzy “Little By Little” which is also bilingual or standout “Hush”. Which feels like it should be in a Bond film, it’s sexy and smoldering highlighting the duos’ vocal interplay. The Marías coalesce here creating their own dreamy and beautiful cinematic world within the pop music landscape. The results make for an exciting world for the listener to get lost in.
5. ARLO PARKS // COLLAPSED IN SUNBEAMS
Fusing many different sounds, worlds, textures, and vibes British bedroom pop singer-songwriter Arlo Parks became the Indie “It Girl” in what seemed like overnight. Her debut record “Collapsed In Sunbeams” lays out an emotional earnestness and vulnerability. As she captures stories and vignettes of life and love we fall into her world. At the heart of it, all Parks is a storyteller, her lyrics easily guide the listener through each journey. Her vocals are euphonious to the ear and bring the record full circle.
6. FRED AGAIN // ‘ACTUAL LIFE (APRIL 14-DECEMBER 17 2020)’
The artist known as Fred Again fuses eclectic and experimental sounds on this exciting album. Molding dance, EDM, experimental, hip-hop, and ultimately pop music by way of found sounds. The artist whose real name Fred Gibson takes those found sounds are usually random speaking clips of friends and others. His skills as a songwriter and producer turn these odd slices of life into highly enjoyable songs. They also etch out a separate moment and emotion from 2020. In what began a very rough year and ended on a slightly hopeful note.
7. SELENA GOMEZ // REVELACIÓN – EP
For Selena Gomez‘s fourth EP she officially ventured into Spanish language music and created what feels like a sacred space even for those who don’t fully understand the language. Her often breathy vocals feel fully suited here taking on a much more rounded quality. To listen to this album is to hear Selena in her most self-assured form as an artist. A surprise favorite for me but a gorgeously crafted one. It was the first release from Gomez that highlighted all her strengths. It was drenched in heartbreak, melancholia, vulnerability, and a soft romanticism that made for a bewitching soundscape to disappear into.
8. ADELE // “30”
After taking more than five years away powerhouse pop balladeer returns with her most captivating volume of work yet. “30” magnificently captures Adele in her most earnest and vulnerable voice yet. It also captures her truest strength as an artist. This was a major transition period in her life where she was moving on to a new season. This is also happened to be a rather difficult time as well, following several major events in her life. An album buoyed by emotion and anchored by Adele‘s trademark vocals, it features only elemental instrumentation. It was the comfort and familiarity that many of us needed in what has been a rough few years.
9. SELF ESTEEM // PRIORITISE PLEASURE
The music project of Rebecca Lucy Taylor, Self Esteem finds the artist at her most raw and rebellious combing through the tedious nature of self-acceptance. Most importantly that self-acceptance being a woman in society & the music industry when won’t fit into a neat little box. Nor want to. Self Esteem in what has been one of the most deliciously surprising pieces of music this year and subversive. Challenges your thought process on dealing with sexism, misogyny, and pleasure. With lyrics ranging in tone from the sardonic to seductive, all driven by Lucy Taylor‘s almost operatic-like vocal tonality, set against experimental dance-pop tunes. It’s a record where you don’t know whether to cry, dance, or make out. I’d guess all three… possibly more?? It’s raw and refreshing in its honesty and it’s what pop music should sound like in 2021. Like this and many of the others on this list. Artists like these are ones that will truly push and advance this genre.
10. MARINA // ANCIENT DREAMS IN A MODERN LAND
Who told Marina she could go, full-out badass philosophical witch in this era? In what is her most personal, political, societal, and outward leaning record to date. Marina finds a beautiful balance between luscious dance-pop and spunky power-pop with a statement. Marina is back fully owning what it means to be a woman in the industry and in pop. Her new era is quite possibly the most exciting one she’s had. It’s the perfect mix of her greatest eras, signature whimsical aesthetic, and cleverly twisted songwriting that hit where it hurts.
Other albums I adored:
Check out my top 50 songs of 2021 list here!
I hope you enjoyed my Top Ten Albums of 2021 list.