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Old 12-29-2021, 08:40 PM
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elle elle is offline
Addicted Ledgie
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Default LB album on bunch of best of 2021 lists

these keep popping up and i'm tired of starting a new thread every time, so starting all-encompassing thread.

Dec 29, 2021,09:15am EST
Japanese Breakfast, Mickey Guyton, Brandi Carlile, St. Vincent Lead Some Of 2021’s Notable Albums
David Chiu
Hollywood & Entertainment

Some of the notable albums of 2021.

As live music gradually got back into some normal rhythm in 2021 following the pandemic lockdown (although that appears to be in jeopardy again amid the surging Omicron variant), sales of recorded music still thrived. The year brought out a number of blockbuster releases from the usual A-listers like Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Adele, Lorde, Olivia Rodrigo and Ed Sheeran. But amid the high-profile records by those aforementioned acts, there was also new music in 2021 that garnered critical acclaim while others may have been overlooked and deserved to be heard. And whether intentional or not, some of the music from those records encapsulated the feelings and emotions of what we are going through in the age of COVID while also providing some form of escape.

Here, in no particular order, are some of my choices for this year's notable albums.

Cover art of 'Daddy's Home' by St. Vincent.
St. Vincent

Daddy's Home

On her seventh studio album, singer/guitarist Annie Clark (a.k.a., St. Vincent) recreates the vibe of 1970s New York City once inhabited by Warhol superstars, Times Square porno theaters, and the punk and disco scenes. The result, Daddy's Home, could be considered Clark's version of David Bowie's 'plastic soul' period a la Young Americans: the retro-styled R&B music is slinky, gritty and funky (i.e., “Pay Your Way in Pain”), but it still carries that distinct futuristic and innovative edge that St. Vincent has been renowned for throughout her career.

Cover art of 'Soberish' by Liz Phair.
Liz Phair


Liz Phair's first new record in 10 years, Soberish is an excellent summation of her career at this point. Musically, Soberish fires on all cylinders highlighting the different sounds and eras represented on Phair’s previous studio albums: pioneering, brash indie rock; mature, accessible pop music; and moments of musical experimentation. What hasn't changed, however, is Phair's point of view on relationships, as indicated on the track “Spanish Doors” and “The Game.” Soberish is the indie rock goddess/bedroom pop pioneer's strongest effort so far.

Cover art of 'Future Past' by Duran Duran.
Duran Duran

Future Past

The legendary British rock band continues on their creative momentum that began with their brilliant 2011 return-to-form record All You Need Is Now. Released in the same year as the 40th anniversary of the band's self-titled debut LP, Future Past has all the sonic elements of classic Duran Duran: cutting-edge futurism and an irresistible dance groove. Aided by a stellar cast of collaborators (among them Errol Alkan, Giorgio Moroder, Graham Coxon, CHAI and Mike Garson), and several killer cuts (including the celebratory “Anniversary,” the driving rock stomper “Invisible,” and the sweeping title song), the band continues to display the sonic trademarks that first made them superstars while keeping their feet firmly in the present and beyond.

Cover of 'Toy' by David Bowie.
David Bowie


The late British rock icon’s long-lost studio album was finally released after more than two decades on the shelf. Recorded after his triumphant performance at Glastonbury in 2000, Toy is a collection of reinterpreted Bowie songs from 1964 to 1971 (among them “Can't Help Thinking About Me,” “The London Boys,” “I Dig Everything”) previously written and recorded prior to the singer's breakthrough with “Space Oddity” and the Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust albums. Why Toy never saw the light of day is truly puzzling, as it really captures Bowie and his ace band at the peak of their powers and puts the spotlight on some of his overlooked older material.

Cover art of 'INSOLO' by Gary Kemp.
Gary Kemp


The former Spandau Ballet guitarist and songwriter released only his second solo record album after a 25-year-hiatus since his debut Little Bruises. Beautifully arranged and produced, INSOLO is awash with gorgeously crafted pop music while its introspective lyrics that find Kemp reconciling with the past and present (the title song and “Waiting for the Band” among them)—all of which are quite fitting during the pandemic times. Meanwhile, the irresistible “Ahead of the Game,” heavily wears its radio-friendly 1970s influences on its sleeve and is one of Kemp's finest compositions in the tradition of Spandau's “True” and “Through the Barricades.”

Cover image of 'Gold Diggers Sound' by Leon Bridges.
Leon Bridges

Gold Diggers Sound

As proven by Gold Diggers Sound, singer Leon Bridges has gradually shifted from the '60s retro-soul sound of his debut breakthrough LP, 2015's Coming Home, and towards a more eclectic and contemporary sound: among the genres tackled on his most recent album are Neo-soul, jazz, hip-hop and funk—the only constant being Bridges’ smooth, romantic vocals. And just like the music, the lyrics on Gold Diggers Sound are wide ranging in its subject matter: from romance and relationships (“Why Don't You Touch Me,” “Motorbike”) through spirituality (“Born Again”), and to social protest (“Sweeter,” previously released in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd).

Cover of 'King Boy Vandals' by Slinky Vagabond.
Slinky Vagabond

King Boy Vandals

A collaboration between British singer/songwriter Keanan Duffty and Italian musician/producer Fabio Fabbri, Slinky Vagabond's second album is a wonderful throwback to '70s glam, '80s post-punk, and ‘90s electronic-laced alt-rock with a New York-London sensibility (Duffty, who is best known as a fashion designer, lived through those eras with first-hand experience). Featuring a cast of veteran guest players such as Midge Ure, Richard Fortus and Tony Bowers, King Boy Vandals balances both retro and contemporary sounds in the form of rockers (“Prima Donna,” “Old Boy”) and ballads (“The Beauty in You”).

Cover art of 'Remember Her Name' by Mickey Guyton.
Mickey Guyton

Remember Her Name

Country singer Mickey Guyton had been signed to a major record label for 10 years, and yet her debut full-length album, Remember Her Name, was finally released this year. It reveals what we already knew about her talent and promise from a year ago when she put out the devastating protest single “Black Like Me,” which addressed racial inequality. Showcasing the artist's powerful and versatile singing, Remember Her Name deftly blends accessible country-pop-R&B with lyrics about romance and compassion (“Dancing in the Living Room,” “Lay It On Me”), social commentary (“What Are You Gonna Tell Her,” “All American”), and self-belief and empowerment (”Different,” “Better Than You Left Me”).

Cover art of 'Jubilee' by Japanese Breakfast.
Japanese Breakfast


If there was an artist who had a spectacular 2021, it's Michelle Zauner, who goes under the stage name of Japanese Breakfast. In addition to her acclaimed, best-selling memoir Crying in H Mart, the indie pop musician released the breakthrough Jubilee, which explores joy after her previous two albums dealt with grief and healing following the death of her mother. Living up to its title, Zauner's third record features a number of electronic-laced pop in the form of the exuberant “Be Sweet” and “Posing in Bondage,” as well as the gorgeous Serge Gainsbourg-like ballad “Kokomo, IN” and the dramatic and epic album closer “Posing for Cars.” Like the book, Jubilee heightened Zauner’s profile (she was recently nominated for two Grammys) and endeared her to a wider audience this year.

Cover of 'Outsider' by Roger Taylor.
Roger Taylor


The legendary Queen drummer found himself making his eighth solo album during last year’s lockdown after his band's tour was interrupted. The result, Outsider, positioned Taylor as a one-man band who played nearly all of the instruments in addition to singing, drumming, writing and producing. Somewhat reflective compared to his previous solo works, Outsider poignantly serves as a mirror for the current times (“We're All Just Trying to Get By,” “Isolation”) and touches on the theme of mortality (“Journey's End,” “Tides”). While certainly introspective and subdued at times, Outsider shows flickers of Taylor rocking out in his trademark style, particularly on the tracks “Gangsters Are Running This World” and “More Kicks.”

Cover art of 'Home Video' by Lucy Dacus.
Lucy Dacus

Home Video

The third Lucy Dacus album may be her best so far. Sonically Home Video is more expansive and ambitious sounding since the indie singer/songwriter’s debut album No Burden, but her insightful, literary style of songwriting remains singular. Sung in her exquisite alto, Dacus' observations of the complicated nature of relationships and personal self-discovery really cut to the bone, whether in the form of aggressive indie rock or stark ballads; Home Video’s standouts include “Brando,” “Triple Dog Dare,” “Hot and Heavy” and especially “Thumbs.”

Cover of 'Blue Jay' by the Mysteries of Life.
The Mysteries of Life

Blue Jay

Blue Jay is the first new album in 15 years by the Mysteries of Life—led by the husband-and-wife duo of Jake Smith and Freda Love Smith. The LP was made during the pandemic lockdown, but it sounds as if no time had passed since the band’s 1996 debut release Keep a Secret. Full of the band’s melodic and familiar alt-rock, Blue Jay boasts a number of outstanding tracks—including the title cut, the uptempo “Jupiter and Saturn,” and the sublime “Wintery May”; it also features guest appearances by Juliana Hatfield (Freda's bandmate from Blake Babies) and Kenny Childers. Blue Jay marks a much belated but welcomed return by the band.

Cover art of 'Lindsey Buckingham' by Lindsey Buckingham.
Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey Buckingham

Following his emergency heart surgery in 2019 and a period of recovery from that experience, the former Fleetwood Mac guitarist remerged this year with his self-titled solo record, his seventh overall. Like his previous records, Lindsey Buckingham showcases his wizardry as a versatile one-man-band as he played all of the instruments in addition to his ripping guitar. In addition to serving as a vehicle for Buckingham’s observations on relationships, the record throws a refreshing sonic curveball by incorporating some electronic dance elements (“Power Down,” “Swan Song”). Given the circumstances following his departure from his erstwhile band and his personal health situation, Lindsey Buckingham shows the musician hadn't lost a step when it came to creating experimental and minimalist yet ruthlessly catchy tunes (“I Don't Mind,” “On the Wrong Side”).

Cover art of 'Magic Mirror' by Pearl Charles.
Pearl Charles

Magic Mirror

Kicking off with the sparkling ABBA-esque “Only for Tonight,” Charles' sophisticated sophomore album Magic Mirror shines in its homage to '60s and '70s music pop with a 21st-century indie sensibility: an engaging amalgam of baroque psychedelia (“All the Way”), country (“Slipping Away,” “That's What I Need”), rhythm and blues (“Imposter,” “As Long as You're Mine”), and a bit of gospel (the sublime and introspective title ballad). Charles' sophisticated, mature-beyond-her-youth singing evokes such legends as Linda Ronstadt, Maria Muldaur and Olivia Newton-John from that ‘70s pop era. Magic Mirror casts a hypnotic and charming spell that’s hard to overcome.

Cover of 'Sling' by Clairo.


Building off the success of her 2019 debut Immunity, the musician Claire Cottrill, a.k.a. Clairo, follows that up with Sling. Working with uber producer Jack Antonoff (Bleachers, St. Vincent, Lorde), Clairo turns in a collection of infectious and intimate bedroom pop-sounding songs. Despite the charming hooks, sophisticated arrangements and Clairo's whispery vocals, there's more to the gorgeous melodies on Sling: a number of its songs deal with serious subject matter, whether it's the singer's expressing some ambivalence towards her newfound popularity in the soulful “Bambi”; tackling mental health issues in the lush-sounding “Just for Today”; and addressing over-sexualization within the music industry via “Blouse” (with backing vocals from Lorde). Records don't get as divine and heavenly as Sling.

Cover art of 'Born at the Disco' by Jennifer O'Connor.
Jennifer O'Connor

Born at the Disco

Those familiar with the New York-based indie musician Jennifer O'Connor might have been surprised upon hearing her seventh album Born at the Disco. As its title hints, her latest record brings electronic elements to the fore (“Pretty Girls,” “You're Job Is Gone”), certainly a homage to 1970s and 1980s pop and dance music; the title track unabashedly echoes Giorgio Moroder’s famed works, for instance. But despite the flourishes, the singer hasn't gone entirely techno-happy as her indie folk rock and lyrics tackle introspective subject matter—the results from the album are quite poignant and emotional (among the standouts include “Crimes,” “Carrying You,” and “Lucky Life”). The use of electronics on Born at the Disco won’t alienate O'Connor's longtime fans—rather, they add a new wrinkle to her sound.

Cover of 'In These Silent Days' by Brandi Carlile.
Brandi Carlile

In These Silent Days

To follow up an acclaimed breakthrough album like 2017's By the Way, I Forgive You may have seemed like a gargantuan task for Brandi Carlile. But as demonstrated by In These Silent Days, the singer-songwriter ably rose to that challenge and more. Conceived during lockdown, In These Silent Days is a continuation of the personal themes of its predecessor: “Right on Time” evokes the epic majesty of “The Joke”; the acoustic folk number “This Time Tomorrow” conveys a message hope, one of the predominant themes of the entire record; and “Broken Horses” (which is also the name of her recent memoir) truly electrifies. Meanwhile, the country-pop-soul love song “You and Me on the Rock” certainly conjures up the influence of her hero Joni Mitchell, while the dramatic “Sinners, Saints and Fools” partly pays homage to the early music of Elton John. As referenced in its title, In These Silent Days is a powerful snapshot of today’s uncertain times as well as personal obstacles but augmented by optimism and resilience.

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David Chiu

"kind of weird: a tribute to the dearly departed from a band that can treat its living like trash"
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Old 12-29-2021, 08:44 PM
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in contrast, stale nostalgia money-grabbing acts like some we know are repeating same ole well worn lines to justify their tours:

There Won't Be New Music From The Eagles, According To Vince Gill

"kind of weird: a tribute to the dearly departed from a band that can treat its living like trash"
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Old 12-29-2021, 08:49 PM
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Default Uncut best of 2021 list

Lindsey Buckingham

Delayed by health problems, a global pandemic and more, the guitarist and singer’s first solo album in a decade didn’t disappoint when it finally arrived this autumn. These 10 compact songs were pure distilled Buckingham, written, produced and played entirely on his own, including surprises on the loop-based “Swan Song” and drifting, quasi-ambient closer “Dancing”, plus some modern classics such as REM-ish first single “I Don’t Mind”.

"kind of weird: a tribute to the dearly departed from a band that can treat its living like trash"
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Old 12-29-2021, 08:59 PM
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Ultimate Classic Rock Staff
Updated: December 21, 2021

The first half of 2021 had little to offer as far as new music arrivals. The release schedule was slow, but as the pandemic pushed on, more artists unveiled what they had been up to over the course of lockdown, making for an influx of new material during the back half of the year.

For some artists, 2021 was a year of firsts: KK's Priest, Mammoth WVH and Dirty Honey released debut albums. Others dug into others' catalogs, with artists such as Chrissie Hynde, Peter Frampton, the Black Keys and Jason Isbell releasing albums of cover songs. Some - like Iron Maiden, Yes and the esteemed duo of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - released their first new work in years, much to the delight of eagerly waiting fans.

Another highlight of the year arrived in the form of collaborative endeavors: Paul McCartney's 2020 release McCartney III was refashioned as McCartney III Imagined, which featured reworked cover versions of the album's songs. Metallica indulged in a similar project, inviting younger artists like Weezer, St. Vincent, Phoebe Bridgers and dozens more to cover their favorite songs from the band's classic Black Album.

Elton John also teamed up with friends - including Stevie Nicks, Dua Lipa and Eddie Vedder - for an album whose title, The Lockdown Sessions, perhaps most accurately described the working reality of 2021 for most artists.

While the pandemic may have thwarted most touring plans and ended up reworking how records were made, there was a lot to listen to this past year, as you'll see in the below list of the Top 40 Rock Albums of 2021.

Top 40 Rock Albums of 2021
In spite of the ongoing pandemic, music soldiered on.
Gallery Credit: UCR Staff


40. Elvis Costello, 'Spanish Model'
Spanish Model, Elvis Costello's new spin on his landmark 1978 album, This Year's Model, utilized tapes from the original sessions, but stripped away Costello's vocals and replaced them with contemporary Latin American artists including Juanes, Luis Fonsi and others. Costello's own newly recorded and slightly sneering voice can be heard from time to time on the record, but the spotlight here is on the Spanish singers as they offer sharp and snappy renditions of these classic songs. The album's original track listing is rearranged, too, resulting in a work that sounds brand new. - Allison Rapp

39. Ringo Starr, 'Zoom In'
No one would have blamed Ringo Starr for spending quarantine like we all did: moping around in bedclothes while eating snacks directly out of the bag. Instead, Starr crafted one of his most joyously upbeat recordings – that, of course, is saying something – but in a bite-sized five-song format. A suitably impressive number of famous friends phoned in, both here and on the subsequent Change the World EP, but Starr remains the ever-affable center of attention. The results, in another time and another place, might have felt at best corny and at worst insufferably cheery. But in this time and this place, let's face it, we needed all of the corny cheeriness we could get. – Nick DeRiso
Ipecac Recordings

38. Tomahawk, 'Tonic Immobility'
At first blush, Tonic Immobility, the first Tomahawk album since 2013’s Oddfellows, almost sounds downright normal. The Mike Patton-led supergroup opens its fifth LP with a triumvirate of hooky, muscular alt-metal gems, full of chunky riffs by Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison and powerhouse grooves from ex-Helmet drummer John Stanier and Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn. But Tonic Immobility quickly shifts gears, cycling through knotty prog-metal, gut-busting thrash, sprawling post-rock and an eerie, spoken-word lounge act — often within the same song. Patton’s vocal acrobatics are predictably astounding, as he barks, croons, howls, taunts and cackles his way through these dozen tracks. “Got a birthing coach with a COVID smile / We labor alone today,” he purrs on the evergreen “Doomsday Fatigue.” It’s not quite easy listening — but why would Patton fans ever want that? - Bryan Rolli

InsideOut / Sony

37. Yes, 'The Quest'
Would anyone fault Yes if The Quest sucked? Not many bands, even one that’s cycled through musicians so frequently, can sustain the creative juices over 22 albums. And they faced new challenges here: working during a pandemic — and for the first time without co-founding bassist Chris Squire, who died in 2015. It isn’t perfect — too much of the album sags with sleepy balladry. But with its more robust production and unobtrusive orchestral backing, The Quest is a surprisingly ambitious rebound from 2014’s Heaven & Earth, approaching their classic grandeur on epic cuts like “Leave Well Alone” and “Dare to Know.” - Ryan Reed
Blackend Recordings

36. Various Artists, 'The Metallica Blacklist'
There’s no questioning the importance of Metallica’s 1991 self-titled album, known to the world as the Black Album. For its 30th anniversary, the band released a sprawling set called The Metallica Blacklist featuring a vast array of artists reimagining the Black Album’s tracks. The sheer scope of the project is daunting, with more than 50 artists contributing to the set. While the album's size is part of its appeal, it’s also its downfall. Six versions of “Enter Sandman,” seven interpretations of “Sad but True,” another seven of “The Unforgiven,” 12 versions of “Nothing Else Matters” - at some point, it all becomes repetition, regardless of how good the material is. Whittled down to the very best cuts, The Metallica Blacklist would probably rank higher on our list. Even in its bloated form, the project is more than worthy of a spot here. - Corey Irwin
Crush Music / Atlantic Records

35. Weezer, 'Van Weezer'
Van Weezer was never going to boast the seedy danger of '80s glam metal, no matter the title and album-cover treatment. Asking that from Weezer is to misunderstand the group, certainly at this late date. Sure, this is their rockingest project since 2002’s Maladroit, perhaps the band's best post-reunion LP. But Van Weezer is really – like so much of their music – about sweet nostalgia, something Rivers Cuomo totally cops to in "I Need Some of That" when he longs for a place where he can "press rewind and go back to a simpler place." His apparently eternal boyishness ensures that Van Weezer is too hooky, too happy and at times maybe too damned cute to have emerged from the Sunset Strip. (More like Saved by the Bell.) In the end, however, this isn't a problem. In fact, it's a strength. Call Van Weezer a guilty pleasure, if you must, but that's not always a bad thing. – DeRiso

Napalm Records

34. Monster Magnet, 'A Better Dystopia'
Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf noted in the news release for A Better Dystopia that he didn't want to spend his quarantine "panhandling on the internet, hawking masks and Zoom-rocking practice sessions." So the band instead hunkered down in a small New Jersey recording studio and let loose on covers of obscure late-'60s and early-'70s psychedelic and garage-rock gems. A Better Dystopia's 13 songs are perfectly chosen and delivered with high skill and wild abandon. These 48 minutes fly by, with strong takes on the Scientists' "Solid Gold Hell" and the Table Scraps' "Motorcycle (Straight to Hell)" getting especially high marks. The result is one hell of a fun ride that also helps to illustrate exactly where Wyndorf got his unique sensibility. — Matthew Wilkening

33. Melvins, 'Working With God'
Melvins brought back members of the "Melvins 1983" lineup for their 24th studio album, as original drummer Mike Dillard returned to his post for the first time since 2013's Tres Cabrones. (Longtime current drummer Dale Crover, who wasn't in the band in 1983, moved over to bass.) Dillard's approach is far more direct than Crover's nuanced wizardry, and the shift once again seems to have brought out the delightfully primal side of singer-guitarist Buzz Osborne's playing. Humorous and profane takes on the Beach Boys' "I Get Around" and Harry Nilsson's "You're Breaking My Heart" might grab your attention at first, but the more lasting thrills can be found on original propulsive rockers such as "Bouncing Rick" and "The Great Good Place." — Wilkening

32. Various Artists, 'I'll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico'
Another reminder of the Velvet Underground's unending influence arrived in the form of I'll Be Your Mirror, a tribute album comprised of covers from the band's debut album. Iggy Pop, Michael Stipe, Courtney Barnett, Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent, Andrew Bird and others lend their signature styles while adhering to the outre appeal of the LP. Also of note is the number of women singer-songwriters included here - a testament to the original album's influence (in addition to singer Nico, the Velvets' drummer was a woman). I'll Be Your Mirror ends up a tribute to both the 1967 classic and the artists its influenced over the decades. - Rapp

Frontiers Music SRL

31. L.A. Guns, 'Checkered Past'
Thirty-five years of hard living and band-name-usage lawsuits have done nothing to dilute L.A. Guns’ raunch-rock racket. Checkered Past, the band’s third consecutive album to feature a reunited Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis, opens like a freight train with the raucous “Cannonball,” full of Guns’ clobbering riffs and Lewis’ raspy shrieks. From there, L.A. Guns churn high-speed punk-metal (“Dog,” “Better Than You”) and sleazy arena rock (“Bad Luck Charm,” “Living Right Now”) with all the swagger and intensity of a veteran club act tearing through a sweaty set. Even the ballads mercifully avoid weepy nostalgia: “Get Along” is a loose-limbed acoustic jam, while “Let You Down” is a doom-laden epic and master class in dynamics. - Rolli

30. Mastodon, 'Hushed and Grim'
As with many bands that straddle the line between metal and progressive rock, Mastodon seem to divide hardcore fans with each album — some crave the raw heaviness of 2004’s Leviathan, while others relish the cosmic chaos of 2009’s Crack the Skye. In that sense, the band’s eighth LP is like a “best of” in all but name, twisting and turning over 86 minutes between brutal intensity (“Pushing the Tides”) and arena-sized prog epics (“Peace and Tranquility”). There are also unexpected flourishes: the shuffling drum groove on “The Beast,” the climactic strings on closer “Gigantium,” the various French horns and Indian string instruments and added synthesizers. Hushed and Grim pulls off a tricky balance: looking through the windshield and the rear-view mirror simultaneously. - Reed
Ex1 Records

29. KK's Priest, 'Sermons of the Sinner'
After his attempts to return to Judas Priest were rejected, guitarist K.K. Downing shifted to a backup plan: writing an album’s worth of songs that sounded like vintage Priest. Downing even recruited onetime bandmate Tim "Ripper" Owens for vocals. The results sound like Priest's 1990 album Painkiller. It's a fitting reunion with Owens, who recorded two records with Judas Priest, as well as one of the best metal albums of the year. - Matt Wardlaw

Crush Music / Atlantic

28. Weezer, 'OK Human'
The first of two Weezer albums released in the first half of 2021 is the less-gimmicky one, concept-free and the better record because of that. Unlike the hair-metal tribute Van Weezer that came out four months later, OK Human riffs on Radiohead (see: that title) by turning things around with a totally analogue recording rooted in the chamber-pop music from the mid '60s through early '70s. With an orchestra aiding the band without getting in the way, it's the most organic-sounding Weezer album and one of their best, with tracks like "All My Favorite Songs" finding a sweet spot between melancholy and joy. — Michael Gallucci

27. Black Label Society, 'Doom Crew Inc.'
The title of Black Label Society’s 11th studio album is not a misnomer. Zakk Wylde and his motley crew deliver an onslaught of bluesy, sludgy riffs that the bandleader gleefully admits he picked up at the “Lord Iommi swap meet.” The longtime Ozzy Osbourne consigliere pays homage to “Children of the Grave” on the swinging “Destroy & Conquer,” and he flexes his knack for melancholy hooks and hypnotic vocal harmonies on mid-tempo stompers “Set You Free” and “End of Days.” As always, Wylde’s dizzying, wah-drenched solos are nothing short of spectacular, and his twin-lead interplay with guitarist Dario Lorina adds some extra zest to Black Label Society’s tried-and-true sonic brew. - Rolli
Cooking Vinyl

26. The Darkness, 'Motorheart'
The Darkness don’t reinvent the wheel on their insanely fun seventh LP — big-guitar frivolity has always been their MO (Pause for a second and consider just how unsettling a serious Darkness album would be.) Motorheart is everything these guys have always done well: heavy riffs and solos, detailed but unfussy arrangements, comically over-the-top lyrics, falsetto hooks that aim straight for the pleasure zone. The centerpiece is the title track: Over a wild, palm-muted riff, frontman Justin Hawkins sings about a romance — and eventual falling-out — with a sex robot. It’s a song so hilarious and cinematic that no other band (except maybe Tenacious D) could pull it off. - Reed


25. Dirty Honey, 'Dirty Honey'
Dirty Honey abide by retro-rock’s Golden Rule: You’ve got to steal from more than one source. The Los Angeles foursome’s eponymous debut full-length incorporates Led Zeppelin’s thunder-god riffing, the Black Crowes’ barroom boogie and Aerosmith’s streetwise snarl, all topped with an air of Sunset Strip hedonism. Singer Marc LaBelle and guitarist John Notto ape the archetypal frontman-guitarist duos of yesteryear; hear the skyscraping howls on “The Morning” and the slash-and-burn solos on “Gypsy.” Dirty Honey may not do anything new here, but the bluesy, album-closing ballad “Another Last Time” signals more ambitious and grandiose material on LP2. - Rolli

24. Royal Blood, 'Typhoons'
Across their seven-year existence, Royal Blood had already proven they knew how to get loud. On their third album, 2021’s Typhoons, they show they also know how to get down. Opening song “Trouble’s Coming” is an infectious dance-floor jam, while the title track boasts a soaring, fist-pump-inducing chorus. Though the duo of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher may have found their inner disco ball, they didn’t lose any of the frenzied energy and fierce riffs that made Royal Blood one of the most promising acts of the past decade. It’s rare to find an album that can incite both a mosh pit and a dance party. Typhoons is one such release. - Irwin

23. Peter Frampton, 'Frampton Forgets the Words'
That Peter Frampton can play with such subtle fluidity may come as a surprise to anyone who last checked in during the Comes Alive era. But this smartly titled instrumental project isn't Frampton's initial foray into lyric-less brilliance: He won a Grammy for his first one, 2006's excellent Fingerprints. Forgets the Words is in some ways rangier, as his new set of covers draws deft lines between R&B (Sly and the Family Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay," Marvin Gaye's "One More Heartache"), pop (Roxy Music's "Avalon"), Americana (Alison Krauss' "Maybe"), jazz (Jaco Pastorius' "Dreamland") and – of course – rock (George Harrison's "Isn't It a Pity," Radiohead's "Reckoner," David Bowie's "Loving the Alien"). In the end, however, Forgets the Words makes the same case: There's far more to Peter Frampton than his open-shirted talk-box heyday. — DeRiso


22. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, 'Georgia Blue'
“If Biden wins Georgia, I’m gonna make a charity covers album of my favorite Georgia songs,” Jason Isbell pledged in November 2020. The singer-songwriter kept his word, turning out Georgia Blue, which honors some of the Peach State's most acclaimed artists. R.E.M. are represented by a version of “Driver 8,” while Isbell and his band collaborate with former Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman for a take on that group’s “Sometimes Salvation.” One can hope Isbell will continue to offer challenges that result in albums like this one. - Wardlaw
Mom + Pop

21. Sleater-Kinney, 'Path of Wellness'
Path of Wellness, Sleater-Kinney's first album without drummer Janet Weiss since 1996, as well as their first self-produced record in the history of their nearly 30-year career, marks another departure from the band's original unflinching style. Their previous album, 2019's The Center Won't Hold, kept things slick, sexy and polished; Path of Wellness gladly incorporates more grit, experimentation and organized chaos. Recorded over during summer 2020 in Oregon, in the midst of nationwide protests and encroaching wildfires, an ironic sense of confidence and acceptance permeates the LP. Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker aren't trying to replicate what they had with Weiss but instead discover a new direction in which to take their music. - Rapp

20. Kings of Leon, 'When You See Yourself
Kings of Leon made their hoped-for destiny real by becoming mainstream rock stars, playing bigger and bigger songs before bigger and bigger audiences. Somewhere along the way, however, they started to take the process – and then, it seems, themselves – far too seriously. Their music lost its agency, its free-wheeling vibe. Once seen as saviors of Southern rock, Kings of Leon became a bit of a drag. The intriguing thing about how they've come back from the brink is that the Followills started taking things even more seriously. But rather than trying (and trying) to write the Next Anthem, they began peering inward. Wholly unexpected, that introspection provides the emotional foundation for darker, yet far more authentic new successes on When You See Yourself. Maybe Kings of Leon will never be huge stars again (in fact, this album's shadowy soundscapes likely ensure it), but at least they've broken out of the gilded arena-rock cage they built for themselves. – DeRiso

Double J

19. Jerry Cantrell, 'Brighten'
Jerry Cantrell pulls out all the stops on Brighten, recruiting an all-star backing band including Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, Paul McCartney drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato. Yet there’s never any question who’s running the show on the guitarist’s first solo LP in 19 years. Brighten sounds more California than Seattle, full of bucolic folk tunes and outlaw country anthems that are speckled with pedal steel guitar and smoky Hammond organ. “Atone” and “Had to Know” tread familiar territory with crunchy riffs and menacing hooks, but Cantrell goes full singer-songwriter on album highlight “Black Hearts and Evil Done,” a breezy acoustic number that finds the Alice in Chains riffmaster taking stock of a broken world but stopping just short of offering solutions. - Rolli
Inside Recordings

18. Jackson Browne, 'Downhill From Everywhere'
There’s a pandemic-appropriate sense of doomy resignation surrounding Downhill From Everywhere, but it was written before COVID stopped the world from spinning. Besides, Jackson Browne has always been pretty resigned and very much doomy. So, what he's given us here after six years away is actually textbook Browne – a sometimes tricky blend of the personal and political. He’s walked that line for decades, and when Browne keeps his balance, there's been no one better. (See this LP’s poignant, finely drawn song “The Dreamer,” which puts a human face on the immigration crisis.) The difference here is a feeling that time, for Browne, is running short – a theme that shapes “My Cleveland Heart” and “Minutes to Downtown,” but echoes throughout. – DeRiso

17. Elton John, 'The Lockdown Sessions'
Elton John didn't just stare at his ceiling during quarantine. He put the downtime to good use by recruiting some old and new friends to record an album. Most of The Lockdown Sessions' tracks were made remotely and during the COVID era (though a handful were recorded under different circumstances), and the result is a record that spans generations and genres. Dua Lipa and Rina Sawayama's pop songs are highlights, but Eddie Vedder and Stevie Nicks are here, too, joining the global, genre-crossing party that only someone of John's stature could host. - Gallucci
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16. Greta Van Fleet, 'The Battle at Garden's Gate'
These Michigan retro-rock revivalists saw your “Led Zeppelin cosplay” jokes and raised you some strings. Everything about Greta Van Fleet’s second full-length is more expansive: the instrumentation, the song lengths, the budget, the fantasy-realm absurdity, the physical range of Josh Kiszka’s Valhalla-seeking shriek. Working with top-drawer producer Greg Kurstin (Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Adele), Greta Van Fleet leaned into their proggiest, heaviest instincts — jettisoning the dopey folk-rock detours (“You’re the One”) that bogged down stretches of their 2018 debut, Anthem of the Peaceful Army. They sound more natural in this cinematic space, allowing guitarist Jake Kiszka to orchestrate riffs on a bigger scale (like on epics “Age of Machine” and “The Weight of Dreams”). Sure, nothing about The Battle of Garden’s Gate is particularly original — but who cares? Few bands recycle the past with such flair and finesse. — Reed

15. Chrissie Hynde, 'Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan'
Chrissie Hynde is no stranger to Bob Dylan tunes. She's joined him on stage, regularly sung "Forever Young" with the Pretenders, and utterly owned "I Shall Be Released" at his 30th anniversary concert. Still, a quarantine project devoted to covering this vast catalog – sparked by the surprise arrival of a new Dylan song, "Murder Most Foul," in the early days of lockdown last year – would have to somehow claim its own narrative voice. Hynde finds unlikely purchase by returning to early-'80s Dylan fare. Songs like "In the Summertime," "Sweetheart Like You" and "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight" are typically, and sometimes rightly, overlooked in a discography stuffed with era-defining classics. But they're also unexamined enough to give Hynde plenty of interpretive space, opening our ears to her tough vulnerability before she returns to the perhaps more-expected "Love Minus Zero / No Limit" and "Every Grain of Sand." Well named, this album's title track is its triumph. She has a sigh that's worth a million words. – DeRiso
3 Legged Records

14. Blackberry Smoke, 'You Hear Georgia'
There's always been a steady stream of strong rock bands out of Atlanta, Ga., Blackberry Smoke among them. Their seventh studio album, You Hear Georgia, marks the group's 20th anniversary, and Blackberry Smoke aimed to emphasize that deeply rooted connection with their Southern roots. Working with fellow Georgian producer Dave Cobb and special guests including Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes, the Black Bettys and Jamey Johnson, You Hear Georgia is a hardy combination of driving rock tracks and slower, more relaxed country folk-esque tunes recorded at Nashville's famed RCA Studios. The result is an honorable homage to their home state. — Rapp


13. Duran Duran, 'Future Past'
Duran Duran burst onto the scene 40 years ago like harbingers of a sleek synth-pop future, so it’s only fitting that they would evoke their glittery mid-‘80s heyday to cut an exciting path forward on Future Past. Songs like “Beautiful Lies” and “Anniversary” recall smash hits like “The Reflex” and “Notorious,” combining glistening synths with funky bass lines and throbbing, club-ready beats. But Duran Duran also stretch their musical muscles on Future Past, incorporating languid surf-rock guitars and head-spinning sonics on “Nothing Less” and jazzy piano chords on mesmerizing album closer “Falling.” Simon Le Bon exudes lust, longing and unadulterated joy in equal measure, imploring on the majestic title track, “Don't you cry for what will never last.” On Future Past, Duran Duran sound ready and willing for whatever comes next. - Rolli

12. Cheap Trick, 'In Another World'
To paraphrase Cheap Trick themselves, “Everything works if you let it.” So when it came to In Another World, their 20th studio album, they didn’t veer from the usual playbook. But Cheap Trick are hardly just churning out tired retreads of their glory years: If anything, they’re adding vital chapters, with new music that’s as tightly constructed and energetically rockin’ as their most celebrated albums. One can argue that drummer Daxx Nielsen has given the group a much-needed shot in the arm on the records they’ve made since his 2010 arrival. “The Summer Looks Good on You” oozes with attitude paired with a glorious vocal snarl from Robin Zander, while “Boys & Girls & Rock N Roll” has a delightful Bowie-esque tint. “Light Up the Fire” is a rowdy, psychedelic crusher that features some choice guitar shredding from the ever-colorful Rick Nielsen, and the album closer of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” is another worthy addition to their Beatles-related songbook. In Another World is arguably the best album Cheap Trick has put forth in the past decade. — Wardlaw

11. Alice Cooper, 'Detroit Stories'
Alice Cooper has certainly built himself a brand. His 21st studio album, Detroit Stories, is instantly recognizable as being his. Working with his tried-and-true band of musicians, along with longtime producer Bob Ezrin, Cooper incorporated the usual drama and embellishment, but this time he offered another theme for fans to follow: nostalgia. Born in Detroit, Cooper moved away when he was young and attempted, as many young rock bands of the time did, to launch a musical career out of L.A. with the Alice Cooper Band. He eventually made his way back to Detroit, where the group found mainstream success being themselves. This was the unconventional, gritty community that Cooper paid tribute to on Detroit Stories, which features numerous fellow Detroit names like Wayne Kramer from MC5 and Johnny “Bee” Badanjek from Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. On his cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Cooper even shifts lyrics that look back on New York to focus on Detroit. For many fans, part of the appeal of Cooper is that he's always looking forward, but on Detroit Stories, he proves that looking back can be just as much fun. — Rapp


10. Billy F. Gibbons, 'Hardware'
On his third studio album, Hardware, Billy Gibbons brought the heat. The legendary ZZ Top guitarist actually set up shop in the California desert when crafting this record, and that proved to be the perfect location to crank the volume. “You’re surrounded with a lot of sand, rocks and cactus – maybe a few rattlesnakes thrown in for good measure," Gibbons said. “But that was really the environment that served as a very creative outlet to make some loud noise.” Hardware was made with only a small handful of people working by Gibbons' side (including drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Austin Hanks), but there was another person Gibbons wanted to honor with a scorching record like this one: his longtime producer Joe Hardy, who worked with Gibbons on his two previous solo albums, and for whom he named Hardware. Between the LP's opening track, the bluesy "My Lucky Card," the special guest appearance from Southern rock sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe on "Stackin' Bones," and the psychedelic spoken word of the final song "Desert High," Gibbons lets rip as only he can. — Rapp

9. Paul McCartney, 'McCartney III Imagined'
Last year’s McCartney III was already a triumph. The former Beatle recorded a one-man-band effort during peak COVID times yet somehow found a way to make the LP both experimental and fun. Then he doubled down on the project, releasing McCartney III Imagined in 2021. Unlike the original, this retooled version features plenty of collaborators: Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age shows up on "Lavatory Lil,” while indie-rock darling Phoebe Bridgers guests on "Seize the Day." St. Vincent, Damon Albarn and Anderson .Paak are here, too, but the crown jewel of the album is a funked-out rendition of "Find My Way" featuring Beck. With McCartney III Imagined, McCartney shows that while he can have a good time alone, the trip is much more enjoyable with friends. - Irwin

8. Iron Maiden, 'Senjutsu'
Since 2003’s Dance of Death, Iron Maiden’s albums have been getting progressively longer, peaking with 2015’s The Book of Souls, which clocked in at more than an hour and a half. Senjutsu is almost as long and marks their second double album in a row, with three of the album's last four tracks stretching past the 10-minute mark. The band always gives fans plenty to unpack, and they serve an engaging opus here that should keep the faithful busy for years to come. - Wardlaw

EX1 Records

7. Mammoth WVH, 'Mammoth WVH'
Wolfgang Van Halen had to thread quite a narrow needle while launching his solo career: establishing a musical identity separate from his father Eddie's massive shadow while still living up to his family's high standards, just months after the guitar legend's death. No pressure, right? But he pulls it off with seeming ease on Mammoth WVH, acting as a one-man band on an impressively sharp and hook-filled collection of songs that draw from a completely different set of influences than Van Halen. You won't find any of David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar's cocky vocal swagger or winking sexual foreplay here. But there's a big dose of pop smarts along with plenty of clever, complex instrumental bits to reward repeated listens. Best of all, the disciplined focus on structure, hooks and melodies never wavers. No wonder Eddie couldn't stop raving about this record. — Wilkening
RCA / Roswell

6. Foo Fighters, 'Medicine at Midnight'
Foo Fighters will never escape that middle-of-the-road, '90s-meets-the-'00s rock 'n' roll thing they do, so calling their 10th album, Medicine at Midnight, a shift in style really means they've added a few new detours. It's pretty much what you expect from a Foo Fighters album: fist-raising anthems and arena-shaking rock songs sprinkled with a dash of introspection. What's new here are the dance and pop elements Dave Grohl drops into songs like "Shame Shame" and "Waiting on a War." Medicine at Midnight won't change the way you think about Foo Fighters, but it does offer some insight into what they're capable of when they switch lanes. — Gallucci
Three Blind Mice / BMG

5. David Crosby, 'For Free'
David Crosby has been on a creative tear the past decade, releasing five albums since 2014. Boasting collaborations with Michael McDonald and Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Crosby enters his 80th year with some of his strongest solo songs ever. And For Free is one of his most accessible albums to boot, reflecting on getting older, losing friends, social issues and more. With records like this, Crosby stages a late-career rebirth that hopefully will yield similar results for years to come. - Wardlaw

Easy Eye Sound / Nonesuch

4. The Black Keys, 'Delta Kream'
The Black Keys have spent the past several years proving they're capable of more than just replicating the hill country blues that helped launch their career two decades ago. But on their 10th album, they swivel back to the sound for their least-fussy and rawest record since 2010's Brothers made them new-century rock 'n' roll saviors. Covering songs by R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and others (and also employing sidemen who've played with the late bluesmen), Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are back in their element on Delta Kream, pounding out garage-rock stompers like "Poor Boy a Long Way From Home" and John Lee Hooker's oft-covered "Crawling Kingsnake" that are injected with a bit of back-road history and lots of grit. — Gallucci

3. Neil Young, 'Barn'
For decades, you put on a new Neil Young record wondering if it featured Tenderhearted Neil or Amp-Melting Neil. Thanks to a key change in the Crazy Horse lineup, Barn gives us both. Stalwart guitarist Frank “Poncho" Sampedro left after 2012’s scorching Psychedelic Pill, replaced by Nils Lofgren – a pre-E Street Band collaborator in Crazy Horse. Lofgren is perfectly capable of burning down said barn in a two-guitar duel, as on “Canerican” or “Human Race." But he also brings more complex multi-instrumentalist textures to the project, adding lonesome accordion to “Song of the Seasons” and a fun honky-tonk turn on the piano for “Heading West.” That seems to have given Young an uncommon focus, as Barn became the best showcase for his ever-roving muse in many, many years. – DeRiso

2. Lindsey Buckingham, 'Lindsey Buckingham'
Lindsey Buckingham's first solo album in 10 years is also his first since splitting with Fleetwood Mac, separating from his wife and undergoing heart surgery. Although Lindsey Buckingham was self-recorded before all of those life-altering events, the record sounds like a breakup album bathed in a sunny pop glow. Make no mistake, relationship discord runs throughout the songs - which can be deceivingly upbeat, thanks to Buckingham's melodic smarts - driving an undercurrent of hurt that's at the heart of the record. - Gallucci


1. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, 'Raise the Roof'
Like 2007's Grammy-winning Raising Sand, this follow-up album from former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and bluegrass star Alison Krauss feels like a warm, comforting blanket amid a storm of turmoil. T Bone Burnett's often dry and leathered production bathes the excellent choice of covers the singers take on here, finding the middle ground between Plant's lived-in growl and Krauss' piercing twang. Raise the Roof blends their voices until a singular, honeyed tone glides into the landscape and covers the surroundings with the sound of nuanced and texturized Americana. - Gallucci

Read More: Top 40 Rock Albums of 2021 |

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"kind of weird: a tribute to the dearly departed from a band that can treat its living like trash"
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DECEMBER 21, 2021 10:00AM ET

Rob Sheffield’s Top 20 Albums of 2021
From Adele to Adult Mom, and Bachelor to Lindsey Buckingham

Rob Sheffield's picks for the best albums of 2021 included the latest from Rauw Alejandro, Adele, Lucy Dacus, and Japanese Breakfast (clockwise from top left).
90th Shooter*; Simon Emmett*; Peter Ash Lee*; Ebru Yildiz*

As a great woman once sang: It’s supposed to be fun, turning 2021. But these were the albums that lifted me up and spun me around and kept me moving, in an amazing year for music. They’re from all over the music map, from pop to rap to post-punk guitars to post-reggaeton disco. Some come from new TikTok kids, others from old-school legends, one is by Lindsey Buckingham. Some look out at the world; others look deep into the heart. But they were all reasons to celebrate in 2021. Here’s to next year.

Olivia Rodrigo Sour
Olivia Rodrigo, 'Sour'
Stand firm in your refusal to enjoy your youth, Olivia. You have the rest of your damn life to learn to parallel park, but you only get one chance to brutalize all the rules of stardom and make sociopaths cry and visit the White House in Clueless drag and sum up everything that makes right now such a glorious time to be a pop-music fan. “I’m so sick of 17/Where’s my ****ing teenage dream?” are fighting words, yet Olivia Rodrigo lived up to them all year long. She declared war on everything boring about 2021 before the year was a week old, dropping “Driver’s License” in January as her teen-spirit debut. With Sour, she made a flat-out classic on her first try, with each hit another chapter in her ongoing story. “Drivers License” treats cruising past your ex’s house like an epic quest, and when Olivia’s behind the wheel, it is. “Deja Vu” drags a name-three-songs dude over who was the first to get into Billy Joel. I love the way she hears pop music above all else: Just like her idol Taylor Swift, she’ll pillage ideas from anywhere, always writing herself (and her audience) into the story. That’s why any random 30-second stretch of Sour is an unrelentless kick. Stay brutal, O.

taylor swift red
Taylor Swift, 'Red (Taylor's Version)'
You can’t get rid of it, because you remember it. We’re not talking about her remake of the original album, which was already perfect in 2012, but the hour of songs so great it’s hard to believe she left them lying in a drawer until now. Hey, why settle for a sad girl autumn when you could crown the Sad Girl Century? “All Too Well” used to be Taylor’s best song, except now it’s twice as long and twice as intense, not to mention history’s first 10-minute Number One hit. And she did this to a world already reeling from Evermore. (Help, I’m still in the restaurant from “Right Where You Left Me.”) Taylor redoing her albums isn’t just a power move that breaks every music-biz rule — it’s her all-out assault on the space-time continuum. This is a genius so in love with the future, she’ll tear up her own masterpiece to create something new. The Queen of Never Looking Down, forever.

Lucy Dacus Home Video
Lucy Dacus, 'Home Video'
If you ever wondered if Lucy Dacus could stretch the emotional intensity of “Night Shift” into a whole album, be careful what you wish for, because Home Video is a heartache and a half. She revisits her lonely teen self, growing up queer in the Virginia suburbs. “VBS” got the most attention, a summer of thwarted hormones with a Slayer-loving boyfriend at Bible camp. But it’s “Triple Dog Dare” that takes me out, with compassion for the confused kid she used to be. She even finds some empathy for the confused adults who got in her way and made the dark feel darker than before.

Adele 30
Adele, '30'
“I don’t want to live in chaos” — Adele, have you met yourself? She wouldn’t last a weekend anywhere else. Like Adele, I hate learning and growing, and like Adele, I constantly congratulate myself on resolving crises I have merely put off for another three minutes, because like Adele, I foolishly turn to music to fix all my issues. So I relate to every inch of this album. The harder she tries to sound simple and plain, the more she speaks in riddles and codes. The harder she tries to sound mature, the more she reveals the neediness of her exhausting heart. She’s a voice I love to zone in and focus on for an hour, along with millions of other fans, but I don’t think any of us really understand how Adele’s heart works, and neither does she. That’s probably why we keep listening. When she finally uncorks the 15-minute “I Drink Wine,” expect our planet’s vineyards to explode into the sun.

Pink Pantheress To Hell With It
PinkPantheress, 'To Hell With It'
Of all the year’s many Nineties time-travel trips, nothing hits weirder than Gen Z’s crush on drum and bass, but here we are. PinkPantheress came out of nowhere to blow up into a TikTok star, singing her diary entries (“Did you ever want me? No worries if not”) over snippets of U.K. garage, 2-step, or jungle. In “Last Valentines,” she fantasizes about an erotically charged car crash over a freaking Linkin Park sample. Barely out of her teens, PinkPantheress adores beats from the pop edge of drum and bass (Sweet Female Attitude, Adam F.), but they’re obscurities in the U.S. of A., where the genre never had a pop edge. Her music is full of sleek, shiny surfaces that sparkle for 80 or 90 seconds and then fizzle out, but that’s long enough for her to light the burnt match and stick a flag on it. And nobody knows her real name, which is awesome. Something about this musical language has turned out to be so fresh and perfect for right now. As with Joni Mitchell or Kate Bush or Arthur Russell, the kids hear something in drum and bass that previous generations missed — turns out it was PinkPantheress.

Bachelor Doomin Sun
Bachelor, 'Doomin' Sun'
The indie-rock superhero duo of the year, starring two of the sharpest songwriters around, Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner. The guitars slither in Elliott Smith–Mary Timony mode, while both women whisper and growl about twisted love. They know this emotional turf, as they proved on Palehound’s Black Friday or Jay Som’s Everybody Works. Best of all: “Sand Angel,” where you dream about somebody you miss, then grind your teeth all night, knowing you won’t fall back to sleep.

Jazmine Sullivan Heaux Tales
Jazmine Sullivan, 'Heaux Tales'
Breakup songs that draw blood. Jazmine always holds off until she’s got a whole album of keepers, and it was worth the wait for the soul testimony of Heaux Tales. In “Lost Ones,” she consoles an ex she did wrong, guiding him through his grief and begging him, “Try not to love no one.” But in “Pick Up Your Feelings,” she just gets him off the lease and throws him out.

Adult Mom Driver
Adult Mom, 'Driver'
Adult Mom’s Stevie Knipe has been out here for years as one of indie rock’s great bedroom storytellers, with gems like Sometimes Bad Happens and Momentary Lapse of Happily. But Driver is a real breakthrough. As an obsessive fan of both R.E.M. and Taylor Swift, Knipe combines the best of both, as if hearing “Nightswimming” and “You Belong With Me” as part of the same queer-punk underdog story. The songs are full of tenderness and rage, even in lines like “The only thing I’ve done this month is drink beer and masturbate and ignore phone calls from you.” “Dancing” has the perfect credo for marching into next year with your head held high: “I’m dancing to the song I crashed my car to.”

The Hold Steady Open Door Policy
The Hold Steady, 'Open Door Policy'
A new peak for God’s favorite Brooklyn bar band: Open Door Policy is not only the Hold Steady’s first album to debut in the Top 10 (watch out, BTS!), but it’s also their best in 15 years, full of hard-boiled rock & roll noirs. Craig Finn sings about loners, losers, Kiss fans turned crust punks, the nurse in rehab who has “Eruption” as her ring tone. But there’s wild humor in the grooves of “Heavy Covenant,” “Lanyards,” and “Unpleasant Breakfast,” as he confesses, “I no longer see romance in these ghosts/This coffee’s cold, this toast is gross.” Pick hit: “Hanover Camera,” the year’s nastiest Steely Dan song.

Mdou Moctar Afrique Victime
Mdou Moctar, 'Afrique Victim'
The late, great Greg Tate described his band Burnt Sugar as “drowning the room in the music of African ascent.” Mdou Moctar is all about that ascent, a Tuareg guitar hero from Niger with a psychedelic twist on the Saharan desert rock style of assouf. The year’s most exhilarating guitar-jam album, infused by both traditional desert music and Eddie Van Halen fandom — when the band hits a groove four minutes into “Afrique Victime,” and then speeds up, you know Moctar isn’t bringing it in for a landing any time soon. The politically charged lyrics are in the Tamashek language, yet the rage translates.

Billie Eilish Happier Than Ever
Billie Eilish, 'Happier Than Ever'
Billie leaves a few of her past selves behind — some go quietly, others have to get kicked downstairs. Most people would have been content if she’d just stayed in the role of America’s wacky, green-haired kid sister. But instead, Billie fights to grow up on her own terms. The sophomore album she evokes, in a weird way, is Sade’s Promise — another artist who rode in with a ready-made style that would have been easy to repeat, but came back with a sequel that refused to go for the obvious and reached deeper. Even in a year full of tough breakup talk, “Happier Than Ever” stands out, especially when she yells, “I’d never treat me this ****ty/ You made me hate this city!”

Polo G Hall of Fame
Polo G, 'Hall of Fame'
The Chicago rap kingpin hit the top with Hall of Fame, going Number One with “Rapstar,” counting his money over a ukulele hook. He tries to cope with fame and riches, drowning his sorrows in his Rolls-Royce Wraith — “because that’s where stars cope” — but he’s all alone. (“Only bitch I give a conversation to is Siri” — good one.) The peak: “Broken Guitars,” where he flaunts a rock-star fantasy (“I got bands on me like Aerosmith, that’s why I walk this way”) with headbanger power chords.

Magdalena Bay Mercurial World
Magdalena Bay, 'Mercurial World'
This bizarro L.A. electro-pop duo deliver the perfect recipe for this year: dysfunctional gadgets, zany artistic concepts, retro video games, shameless paranoia. Magdalena Bay made a splash with a stream of TikToks and videos, culminating in Mercurial World. Mica Tenenbaum whispers like a lovesick robot blowing her fuses, while Matt Lewin cranks the distorted synths. They’ll try anything once, even sincerity — “Chaeri” is a bittersweet regret for a messy human friendship, where she tells herself, “Better crucified than alone.”

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, 'Carnage'
Nick Cave calls on his trusty sidekick Warren Ellis to respond to the “communal catastrophe” of the past couple years — give Nick Cave a catastrophe and he’ll give you a song. Carnage is quieter than the dark knight’s cathartic trilogy of Push the Sky Away, The Skeleton Tree, and Ghosteen. He steps into the avalanche of 2021 like a man who’s seen too many apocalypses to take them personally, but chooses to feel the world’s pain anyway. The best line is one of the simplest: “Everything is ordinary until it’s not.” Ellis had a fruitful year — he cut She Walks in Beauty, playing behind Marianne Faithfull while she recites Romantic poetry (Keats’ “To Autumn” FTW). He also wrote the excellent Nina Simone’s Gum, an entire book about treasuring a sacred piece of gum that Miss Simone once chewed.

Duran Duran Future Past
Duran Duran, 'Future Past'
If you can name another 1980s band who made a goddamn 15th album anywhere near this great, I’ll eat my “Save a Prayer” 12-inch picture disc. Duran Duran make a ferociously forward-facing statement on Future Past, 40 years after they seduced the planet with their art-glam punk-disco eyeliner agenda. The original New Romantics rampage all over the music world, with cameos from Giorgio Moroder, Tove Lo, Mark Ronson, Blur guitar god Graham Coxon, Japanese punks Chai, and London rapper Ivorian Doll. “Hammerhead” is a synth-funk showdown with an emotional crisis, cleverly disguised as an ode to shark sex. The surprise highlight: “Falling,” with Bowie piano man Mike Garson. DD ace the Pretend It’s a Debut test — if Future Past were the first shot from some new pop upstarts, people would hail it as the sound of tomorrow. And rightly. Wild boys always shine.

Laura Stevenson Laura Stevenson
Laura Stevenson, 'Laura Stevenson'
Laura Stevenson has already written a slew of great tunes, but her 30-something guitar journal is on a whole new level: the indie-rock equivalent of a road trip with a slight acquaintance who turns into an awkwardly close friend within an hour. She does for the Spinanes what Silk Sonic do for the Spinners. The clincher: “Don’t Think About Me,” a slice of Softies-worthy sad-core about how it feels to live haunted by memories you share with the wrong person. “The kettle cools? That’s just the thing we repeat when we can’t sleep, because we hope it’s true.” But the album is full of kettles that never cool down.

Rauw Alejandro Vice Versa
Rauw Alejandro, 'Vice Versa'
I took a solemn blood oath many years ago to never, ever use the word “reinvention,” but I gotta admit I’m slightly tempted. Because Rauw Alejandro makes this whole party bounce with a joyfully experimental spirit, doing a 180 from the straight-up reggaeton of his debut Afrodisiaco. Every song hits the “What the hell is going on here?” button, from the drum-and-bass breaks of “¿Cuando Fue?” to the New Order–worthy goth beats of “Desenfacao.” Rip it up and start again.

japanese breakfast jubilee
Japanese Breakfast, 'Jubilee'
Michelle Zauner has always been an eloquent poet of grief, with Psychopomp and Soft Sounds From Another Planet, not to mention her memoir about her mother’s death, Crying in H-Mart. But Jubilee cranks the synth glitz for her most upbeat music yet, with the droid lust of “Sit” (“Hear my name in your mouth and I’m done for”) and the Steve Reich electronics of “Posing in Bondage.”

Turnstile Glow On
Turnstile, 'Glow On'
Punk rock — what a concept. These Baltimore hardcore troupers deliver a guilelessly uplifting album of giant-hearted rockness. Given the state of our musical and other conditions, it’s natural to brace yourself for the part where the Turnstile boys hedge their bets on the “I believe in holding on to life” thing, but they never flinch. Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes sounds right at home, as do the go-go beats and Sly Stone chants. If you give Glow On 35 minutes of your day, the emotional return-on-investment is off the charts: proof positive that whoever you are, you’re not the only one.

Lindsey Buckingham Lindsey Buckingham
Lindsey Buckingham, 'Lindsey Buckingham'
One of my favorite things to happen in this here year of 2021: Lindsey Buckingham celebrates his excellent new album with an online “Ask Me Anything” interlude. For the first time, he meets his rabid new audience of Gen Z fans who know his whole musical history as expertly as he does. So he requests a translation. “I appreciate you all calling me bestie, but I’m curious, where does it come from?” Something about that dialogue just sparks joy. Pop devotion has never been so cross-tribal, so multi-generational, so free from stylistic or cultural or historical strictures. In a way, that’s what Lindsey’s career is all about, and you can hear that in the cracked glory of a song like “On the Wrong Side.” It has the sublimely nervous twitch of Go Insane or his Tusk solo tracks (“I Know I’m Not Wrong” forever), with the same simulated Christine-and-Stevie back-up femme-vox of yesteryear, even though the fact that they’re not here is kinda the point, and even with 72 years of rock & roll madness in his heart, all this man asks for is one sweet song to lay him down in the tall grass and let him do his stuff. So true, bestie.

In This Article: Adele, Adult Mom, Billie Eilish, Duran Duran, Japanese Breakfast, Jazmine Sullivan, Lindsey Buckingham, Lucy Dacus, Mdou Moctar, Nick Cave, Olivia Rodrigo, PinkPantheress, Polo G, Rauw Alejandro, Taylor Swift, The Hold Steady, Turnstile

"kind of weird: a tribute to the dearly departed from a band that can treat its living like trash"
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Old 12-29-2021, 10:19 PM
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The 21 Best Albums Of 2021 (Part One)
From Silk Sonic to Taylor Swift and everything in between

Amit Vaidya Dec 29, 2021

While the power of the album has seemingly lost its charm in recent years, there is hope. 2021 saw a myriad of album releases and many of them felt more thought-out, structured and with a specific narrative in mind. Part of me believes this uptick in creativity has been a result of the growing vinyl movement where music is heard without interruption and in the sequence intended by the artist. The result of going back to LPs may just be the wakeup call artists needed to think less about endless singles and more about the art.

With that said, we’ve highlighted the 21 albums of impact in 2021 – and here is Part 1 (in no particular order).

Best “Retro Sound” Album
An Evening With Silk Sonic – Silk Sonic

Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak came together this year to create Silk Sonic – a retro soul band like no other. While both artists have dabbled in nostalgic sounds (Mars more so), their collaboration proved to be just what we needed to get us through the creative dip we’ve been experiencing in the R&B genre as of late. The sound took us back to the Sixties and Seventies but the production and lyrics kept the music current. While the Number One hit “Leave The Door Open” proved to be the best “baby-making” track of the year, current single “Smokin Out The Window” is ablaze with wit and sarcasm making for an album that truly feels like the perfect record to experience like its title – An Evening With Silk Sonic.

Best Jazz Album
Songwrights Apothecary Lab – Esperanza Spalding

Since her surprise win at the Grammys for Best New Artist (remember, she won against Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & The Machine and Mumford & Sons!), Spalding has become a mainstay in the jazz and jazz fusion genres. Her ability to weave these styles and take it to a more eclectic space, be it bossa nova or neo-soul, has been instrumental in modernizing the entire jazz scene. While she may not get mainstream attention, there’s no two doubts that the artist is a monumental talent. Her latest album is an experiment between music and healing, something that is bold, inventive and much needed in these unprecedented times.

Also See Why Is There So Much 'Sexy' On The Charts?
Best Disco Album
MagicStillExists – Agnes

While the world got one of the most unexpected surprises this year with the release of ABBA’s Voyager, perhaps MagicStillExists by Agnes actually proved to be the better ABBA album. The Swedish powerhouse singer took a sabbatical the last few years and her return was most welcomed by her country. If there is any justice in the music world, hopefully by the rest welcome her too in the year to come. With tracks like “Love & Appreciation” and “24 Hours,” Agnes proves that disco is still alive and well and no, you don’t need to add a rapper to the track to make it sound fresh.

Best Concept Album
If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power – Halsey

Halsey has been the one of the most interesting artist cases of the last few years. Her commercial viability has a proven track record but she continues to get snubbed in terms of recognition for her work. If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power was a bold concept album by the young singer who details the joys and challenges of pregnancy and childbirth. Produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, the album pushes the musician creatively to a space where she is able to finally flourish and be seen more seriously as an artist. With the album, Halsey has guaranteed us that she’s just getting started and has a very long genre-bending career ahead.

Best Country Album
Remember Her Name – Mickey Guyton

Mickey Guyton seemingly came out of nowhere last year, especially after her single “Black Like Me” struck a chord with so many during the Black Lives Matter movement. The success of that single resulted in a fantastic debut album Remember Her Name. While perhaps not the most traditional country album (there aren’t many left!), to hear a black woman’s near-decade of experience showcased on a Nashville album (that also incorporates elements of gospel, soul and pop), is something truly American about her music. It makes for some of the best kind of country music. She may still have some roadblocks in terms of getting the airplay her white and male counterparts receive, but Guyton has changed the game and we’re here for it.

Also See This Is My Music: Zaeden

Best “Yesteryear Star” Album
Lindsey Buckingham – Lindsey Buckingham

A lot of yesteryear artists continue to release new recordings without fail, year in year out. But sadly, with time and with a slew of new releases every week, many seem to fall by the wayside, leaving very little room for timeless artists to score big with newer releases. While “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac became a runaway hit all over again in 2020 thanks to TikTok, its former member Lindsey Buckingham finally released his seventh solo album that he’d actually finished all the way back in 2018. The delay didn’t matter at all as the recordings are timeless. The famed guitarist keeps the music sonically pop, but by incorporating sounds like electronic drum loops and more, the album sounds current. It’s a shame we continue to relegate older artists to subgenres and they don’t get a chance at Top 40 radio, Lindsey Buckingham would have fit right in.

Best “Deluxe/Bonus/Special Edition” Album
Red (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift

While the majority of Bonus, Deluxe and Special Editions often feel gimmicky and just another marketing tool to extend the shelf life of an album era for an artist, there was one that continued to challenge the norm, bucking every pre-existing rule for how a career is supposed to develop and sustain. While up until now most of the Taylor’s Versions have seemed like just a way for Swift to regain control of her catalog, her new Red became the first to perhaps build on the original rather than just replace it. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” is probably most responsible for this as Swift released the track for the first time from the vault and with the corresponding music video, she perfected what many critics consider the best song from her total discography. With timeless storytelling, beautiful haunting melodies and a message that had everyone talking about that scarf, it’s no small feat for a re-released album to produce a new Number One single! But then again, that’s the power and gift of Taylor Swift.

"kind of weird: a tribute to the dearly departed from a band that can treat its living like trash"
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Old 01-01-2022, 01:07 AM
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And on my list!

#TheNineWorthies - 9 Best Albums of 2021
iTunes Playlist:

1.Donda (Kanye West)
2.Latest Record Project, Vol. 1 (Van Morrison)
3.Lindsey Buckingham (Lindsey Buckingham)
4.Voyage (ABBA)
5.Thank You (Diana Ross)
6.Welcome 2 America (Prince)
7.The Close / le reveil (Josef Salvat)
8.Here Comes Trouble (Charlotte OC)
9.In Another World (Cheap Trick)
"They love each other so much, they think they hate each other."

Imagine paying $1000 to hear "Don't Dream It's Over" instead of "Go Your Own Way"

Fleetwood Mac helped me through a time of heartbreak. 12 years later, they broke my heart.
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Old 01-06-2022, 08:47 PM
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The 2021 AllMusic Readers' Poll
By AllMusic Staff · Jan. 6, 2022

Our 2021 year-end coverage ends with the top 10 albums of the year as voted on by the AllMusic community. Respondents from all around the world made their choices, and we're excited to share the top 10 results as voted by you, the AllMusic reader. Thanks again for reading and supporting AllMusic in 2021, and we look forward to bringing you more reviews and feature stories throughout 2022.

Bob Dylan - Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16, 1980-1985
"Springtime in New York was curated and produced by Jeff Rosen and Steve Berkowitz. They went beyond the call of duty in sonic clarity, warmth, and selection; further, Damien Love's liner notes are detailed, authoritative, and wonderfully enthusiastic. Whether Shot of Love warrants deeper appreciation now is debatable, but this box set wonderfully showcases Dylan's lengthy, complex creative journey that only got rockier as the decade wore on." (Read the review)

The Weather Station - Ignorance
"Musically and emotionally, there's so much going on that it's sometimes hard to keep up, but Ignorance is a major statement that never feels oversimplified. While she's growing so much with each album that it seems risky to call this Lindeman's best, it's safe to say this is another outstanding achievement from the Weather Station." (Read the review)

Lindsey Buckingham - Lindsey Buckingham
"It's a lot of ground to cover in a swift 36 minutes but the nice thing about Lindsey Buckingham is that it feels as vibrant as it is controlled. It's the work of an expert craftsman who relies on his skills as composer, arranger, producer, vocalist, and guitarist to sculpt songs that comfort without succumbing to nostalgia." (Read the review)

Wolf Alice - Blue Weekend
"...Blue Weekend never feels overwrought despite its ambition and lengthy creative process -- instead, it's the kind of big, unabashedly emotional album that people make memories to, and some of Wolf Alice's most confident and fully realized music." (Read the review)

Los Lobos - Native Sons
"Native Sons is a tribute that manages to be more than a set of covers -- it shows what the group learned from these songs, as well as showing us where their long musical journey has taken them. It's essential listening from one of America's greatest bands." (Read the review)

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
"There is greater sense of spontaneous energy in Carnage than in much of Cave's music of this period, and that doesn't blunt the craft of this album. It's the work of two collaborative artists who are in the midst of a later-period renaissance that has spawned powerful, evocative music that speaks to its time without being confined to the crises that sparked its creation." (Read the review)

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & the London Symphony Orchestra - Promises
"Sam Shepherd (aka Floating Points) gets top billing for having composed this 46-minute suite. The keyboardist and electronic music producer met with tenor sax demigod Pharoah Sanders in 2019, and completed the recording in 2020 with the violins, violas, cellos, and double basses of the London Symphony Orchestra. This cross-generational collaboration is more natural than it might seem; some of Shepherd's previous electric piano work has evinced an appreciation for the tranquility and restraint in Lonnie Liston Smith's use of the Fender Rhodes, heard first on Sanders' Thembi." (Read the review)

St. Vincent - Daddy's Home
"Like the albums of the era it was inspired by, Daddy's Home takes time to unfold in listeners' imaginations. It's much more of a mood than anything else in her body of work, but its hazy reconciliation of the good and bad of the past makes it as an uncompromising statement from her as ever." (Read the review)

The War on Drugs - I Don't Live Here Anymore
"I Don't Live Here Anymore is a warmer, friendlier reading of the sound that could feel impenetrable on the War on Drugs' last album. On top of the more accessible production, this record also boasts some of Granduciel's most immediate songs, making it some of the best work from a band with a near-spotless track record." (Read the review)

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant - Raise the Roof
"...Raise the Roof is something of a wonder: a record that proves lightning sometimes does strike twice. If the slow, murky crawl of Raising Sand came as a soft shock in 2007, the surprise of Raise the Roof is that Plant and Krauss can reconnect with that spirit without pandering or replication." (Read the review)

"kind of weird: a tribute to the dearly departed from a band that can treat its living like trash"
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Old 01-07-2022, 04:31 AM
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He can’t figure out the derivation of “bestie”? He sounds insane. I guess if I called him my BFF his head would explodes. Actually, he’s BAE.
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