I wasn’t sure I would do a best of list, but here I am, compiling it now. These are always a little tricky, as the moment I hit “Publish” something inevitably changes. It drives the perfectionist in me nuts. Alas, what can you do? I present to you my Best of 2021 list. Here are my top 10 albums of 2021.
Wanna watch my countdown instead? I’ve started filming the content that I’m bringing to you in written form as well. You can check it out on my YouTube Page (don’t forget to subscribe)! Here’s the video:
Alright. You don’t have to watch that (though I’d appreciate more subscribers as the channel is “new”). Here’s what I wrote about the albums, including song and video embeds, links to buy, etc.
10. Radiohead: Kid A Mnesia
I’ve purposefully stayed away from reissues on this list, as I view reissues as the next vinyl surge and it seems like there were more in 2021 than ever before, especially packaged as limited edition pressings. Enter Radiohead and Kid A Mnesia. The quintessential band takes a different approach, packaging a double reissue as more of a box set and including a “third album” within that has never been released before. Another artist did something similar this year: Wye Oak with their 10th Anniversary reissue of Civilian, which included Cut The Wires: 2009-2011.
Given the unreleased album housed within and the powerhouse and influence Kid A and Amnesia had on my early 20s, I’m including it here (but just).
Here’s “If You Say the Word” from the collection of new Radiohead tunes on the album’s third LP:
Would you consider Kid A Mnesia a NEW release or a REISSUE?
9. Ty Segall: Harmonizer
There was a stretch where Ty Segall dominated with a top 3 spot in my best of the year lists. Frankly, this may have reached those heights as well had it not taken so long for me to pick it up. Harmonizer is quality stuff, and one of indie music’s most prolific artists continues to impress. Here again is an album packed with winners, filled with catchy tunes that will get stuck in your head, a cohesive work that stands alone yet fits nicely in Segall’s extensive library of work.
Here’s the official video for the Harmonizer title track:
What’s your favorite album by Ty Segall? Let me know in the comments!
8. Chad VanGaalen: World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener
I went on a little bit of a binge with Chad VanGaalen in the last few months of the year, snagging not only his 2021 LP World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener but also finally grabbing my favorite of his, 2008’s Soft Airplane. Chad VanGaalen has always had a very unique sound and songwriting style, and his vocals are unlike any others I’ve heard. But on World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener, VanGaalen goes above and beyond. This is perhaps his most psychedelic album yet!
The art he creates for his videos paints worlds of strange humanoid creatures and weaves in vividly interesting (and sometimes even heartbreaking) stories. Case in point, here’s the video he created for “Starlight”
What’s your favorite Chad VanGaalen video? My vote goes to “Molten Light.”
7. Saint Etienne: I’ve Been Trying to Tell You
I’ve been a fan of Saint Etienne longer than any other artist covered here with sole exception of Radiohead. I covet the original pressing of Foxbase Alpha I snagged for a cool $8 at Easy Street Records in lower Queen Anne (RIP) back in the early to mid 00s. This album sees the band diverting from decades in the realm of 90s euro pop and electronic and foraying into the decade that followed. It’s a bit different, but I like it!
Here’s “Pond House” off I’ve Been Trying to Tell You.
What’s your favorite Saint Etienne album, and how does this one stack up?
6. La Luz: La Luz
I’ve watched La Luz grow over the years, and I’ve always enjoyed their music. However, their 2021 album stands far above the others. I was a fan the moment they pushed the first few tunes to Amazon Music. There are so many good tunes on La Luz that I’m shocked the indie exclusive orange-ish “golden poppy” hasn’t sold out yet. “In the Country,” “Watching Cartoons,” and “Oh Blue” are just three favorites in an album full of songs worthy of that title.
Here’s “In the Country,” the opening track to La Luz.
In your opinion, how does La Luz stack up to the band’s previous releases?
5. Beachy Head: Beachy Head
Featuring members of Slowdive and Flaming Lips, Beachy Head leans more toward the deep shoegaze sounds of the former. Drenched in dreamy reverberated guitar noise, Beachy Head was a pleasant surprise for me in 2021 as I circled around and dove into yet another shoegaze obsession.
Weird name, right? Not if you’re from the UK. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:
Beachy Head is located within the administrative area of Eastbourne Borough Council which owns the land, forming part of the Eastbourne Downland Estate. The cliff is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162 metres (531 ft) above sea level. The peak allows views of the south east coast towards Dungeness in the east, and to the Isle of Wight in the west. Its height has made it a notable suicide spot.Wikipedia on “Beachy Head”
Listen to “Destroy Us” above.
4. Damien Jurado: The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania
The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania was a bit of a surprise, but then again, Damien Jurado has always been a bit of a sleeper artist for me. I covered the announcement of the album back in April 2021 after he gave us the second track from the release, and this LP also found a comfortable home on my Top Record Spins of 2021 list. You can read more of my words on it on those pages.
Here’s “Jennifer” off the B-side of this LP:
What’s your favorite Damien Jurado album and/or song? Caught in the Trees would be the album I’d pick, but I’ll be bold and say “Jennifer” from this album as the song.
3. The Mountain Goats: Dark in Here
Dark in Here finds The Mountain Goats at perhaps their best and their most mature from what I’ve checked out. Infused within John Darnielle’s signature pointed folk sound are elements of jazz of the likes I have not heard before from him (granted, until Dark in Here, I haven’t dived into The Mountain Goats post 2012 albums, so I’m far from an expert. This album, though, makes me want to change that.
Here’s the title track off Dark in Here.
Between 2012’s Transcendental Youth and last year’s Dark in Here, which album would you recommend I pick up first?
2. Arab Strap: As Days Get Dark
I have to credit my friend Laura for finally getting me to give Arab Strap a listen back in 2018, and I quickly became a fan (while also feeling dismay for taking so long to dig into their back catalog). I’ve added a few pieces since, including this superb 12″ single for “Cherub.” As Days Get Dark is the first new material we’ve heard from Arab Strap in quite some time, and it was well worth the wait. This album is more than worthy of its #2 spot on my list.
1. Low: Hey What
I’m about to go on a bike ride later today, and my tendency is to binge one of the handful of podcasts I follow on my personal growth journey or dig into an audiobook of the same vein while I ride. And I ride a lot, having covered just shy of 2,250 miles in 2021. More often than not toward the end of the year, if I ditched the self improvement stuff for tunes, I’d turn to Hey What by Low. And each time it would blow me away once more. It’s their best work. It’s their best produced. And it’s the perfect album for my coveted #1 Album of 2021 spot.
Here’s the video for “More,” my favorite track on the album.
And here’s the album as a whole, thanks to Spotify.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram. It’s not 100% records, but there are plenty in the feed!
What was your #1 album of 2021? I’d love to know!