Top 10 Albums of 2021

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The new year is well underway, so let’s reflect on the year of music that’s just passed us by. These ten albums were winners, through and through.

10. “To See the Next Part of the Dream” by Parannoul

Shoegaze has made a bit of a comeback in the past year. Whether that be through My Bloody Valentine’s online resurgence or Slowdive’s announcement of a new album, shoegaze is definitely back and stronger than ever. So it’s no surprise that this genre has found international love, with this album “To See the Next Part of the Dream” coming from Korean musician, Parannoul. He combines his dreamy, muddled vocals and tremolos (which have grown to be staples in the cult genre of shoegaze) with new elements from other genres like emo rock. All of this works together to create strong ballads that reek of nostalgia — in the best way. “Youth Rebellion” combines loud ramping up drums to give you this sense of adventure and freedom. “Chicken” feels like a slow pondering, and wistful reminiscing of simpler times. “To See the Next Part of the Dream” is one of the strongest shoegaze albums to come out in recent times, and possibly ever. 

9. “tohellwithit” by PinkPantheress

“When you wipe your tears do you wipe them just for me?”

PinkPantheress found fame on TikTok by posting snippets of songs. She has created these great, short, earworm pop songs that combine drum and bass and bedroom pop, to invoke this feeling that she describes as “new nostalgic.” She is a pioneer in this new little genre she’s created, making short pop songs full of samples, with sweet 2000s vibes that feel like a classy hair flip, and a pop of bubblegum. “Just for Me” is a sweet swirling song that aches for a new romance; it feels like a kiss on the cheek. “Pain” is her most popular song, and for good reason! It’s a cute song about yearning and heartbreak, in which she swoons over a tasty beat that you can’t get out of your head. “Tohellwithit “by PinkPantheress seems like a good indicator of where pop music is heading. 

8. “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” by Little Simz

“Woman to woman, I just wanna see you glow.”

Little Simz made waves when she released her album “GREY Area” in 2019. On “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert,” Little Simz further goes to prove herself with her wickedly intelligent bars and smooth rhythmic beats. “Woman” is a celebration of Black women and you could study this whole song and just learn tons from it. Another track off the album is “Protect My Energy,” which sounds like it would fit perfectly into an ’80s playlist. Little Simz knows what she’s doing on “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” and she knows how to perfectly own it. 

7. “Planet Her” by Doja Cat

“I touch your soul when you hear me say ‘(Boy), let me be your woman”

Doja Cat found fame after her 2018 single, “Mooo!” went viral after the outrageous shock-humor concept. Doja Cat knew what she was doing, though, and she used that attention to continue her career. In 2021, Doja Cat has released this phenomenal album full of frivolous, flirting and a revolving door of different pop songs. “Planet Her” is full of energy and perfect brassy boldness. The opening track “Woman” is a seductive song in which Doja Cat shows her singing chops and how well she can pull off any genre. “Need to Know” is a sassy futuristic miasma of electric sounds and intrinsic attitude where Doja raps and sweetly sings wild things. “Planet Her” is the perfect album to get down and dance to.

6. “Valentine” by Snail Mail

“You and I, like ships forever sailing.”

Lindsay Jordan has been making waves in the indie music scene ever since her LP “Habit,” where she established herself as an indie rock darling. “Valentine” is her latest installment, and it is a grand departure from her previous album, “Lush.” “Valentine” is definitely is a welcome departure, though; where “Lush” felt like a teen dream, “Valentine” feels more like a grim realization that comes when you first reach adulthood. Jordan’s voice rasps hazily along to the glittering indie rock. On “Headlock,” Jordan clamors for someone, whispering and creaking over lonesome, ghostlike guitars. On “Forever (Sailing),” she yearns for her partner, like a desolate heartbroken mourning. “Valentine” is full of ragefully shredded love notes and soliloquy sweet nothings, perfect to stomp in puddles and curse to.

5. “You Know I’m Funny HaHa” by Faye Webster

“You make me wanna cry in a good way”

On Faye Webster’s second album she further contemplates her loneliness through sleepy songs full of swaying guitars and stream-of-conscious lyrics. Webster’s first album, “Atlanta Millionaires Club” was a grand debut, but it did leave listeners feel a little lacking, especially in the lyrics department. Webster definitely makes up for it on this album, she knows when to pack a punch but also when to let it rest. “Cheers” is full of energy and a steady drum beat, whereas “Overslept” is a lackadaisical lullaby. “I Know I’m Funny haha” is a dreamy LP that just makes you want to nap in your bed while you look out the window and watch the rain.

4. SOUR- Olivia Rodrigo

“And I know we weren’t perfect, but I’ve never felt this way for no one.”

Nobody has had a year like Olivia Rodrigo. She has turned her heartbreak into a force to be reckoned with, making her a pop star in her own right. Rodrigo rages on tracks and wistfully sobs over others, showing the full extent of a heartbreak, how you can go from hating your ex one second to missing everything about them. “Brutal” is a song that takes influence from pop punk performers and it sounds like the kind of a song that would come on over a fight montage. On the complete other hand, “deja vu” is a dreamy wistful song that dwells on the sadder parts of a breakup, evoking emotions with lyrics that tell a story like, “Car rides to Malibu / strawberry ice cream, one spoon for two” “SOUR” will immediately suck you back into that first painful teenage breakup.

3. “Home Video” by Lucy Dacus

“When I tell you you were born and you are here for a reason, you are not convinced the reason is a good one.”

On her third album, “Home Video,” Lucy Dacus constructs this world full of nostalgic imagery through lyrics that build vivid images. She sings these complex poetic stories over soft melodies. On “Cartwheel,” Dacus takes us back to her childhood and explores fears she once had, “Holed up in the closet in the hall / scared you wouldn’t live to 45.” She takes us back to a distinct summer night with beautiful reconstructions, “ Firefly juice on your skin / you’re glowing like an atom bomb.” On “VBS,” Dacus explores this idea of Christian childhood, building a complex world of Christian summer camp over a steady drum beat and wistful singing. I love this story that she uniquely conveys with lyrics full of imagery such as, “Locked away like jam jars in the cellar of your heart,” and “Your poetry is so bad, it took a lot to not laugh.” I also love the transition from the soft melody to a Slayer sample that rattles the song. I know I’ve stated it before, but I’m absolutely amazed at the way that Dacus is able to string together words and create scenes with so much life in them. I’d like to conclude this review with honorable mention lyrics. “Drooling on the tile / I’m a starfish on the kitchen floor,” “The sunset threw a tantrum/It wasn’t ready to go just yet.” “Lamplight like parallel suns / Crowding out the early morning stars.”

2. “Call Me if You Get Lost” by Tyler, The Creator

“I could touch the sky, I don’t see any ceilings/And if I fall, there’s always tomorrow”

With every album that Tyler, the Creator puts out, he builds upon his previous work. He has time and time again proven himself to be an influential artist that nobody can touch. He has such a distinct vision and constantly pours all of himself into his art. “Call Me if You Get Lost” feels like a grand amalgamation of all of his previous albums, combining the sick flows of Wolf and the newfound idealisms of IGOR. “Call Me if You Get Lost” is Tyler working at his 110 percent and you can tell that he genuinely loves what he does.

1. “Jubilee” by Japanese Breakfast

“How’s it feel to be at the center of magic? To linger in tones and words?”

Jubilee is Japanese Breakfast’s third EP, coming right after their lead vocalist, Michelle Zauhner, published her widely acclaimed autobiography “Crying in H-Mart.” “Jubilee” is the perfect name for this album, it’s a grand spectacle full of glimmering orchestral arrangements and 80s pop, combined with dreamy noises of shoegaze and head banging indie rock. The opening song, “Paprika,” is a celebration, starting with a slow ramp up that explodes into a grand firework spectacle. “Slide Tackle” is full of saxophone and an oh-so-delightful 808 drum refrain that makes you want to shrug your shoulders on the dance floor and skip frivolously around the neighborhood. Zauhner shows us that she can also dial it down on tracks like “Kokomo, IN” where she escapes into rich confectionery creations that melt in your mouth like a sweet new romance. Jubilee is a joyous celebration that pays tribute to all forms of happiness.

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