Highlights from a year packed with new music releases

By Jacob Tate 12/13/21 3:03 PM

The 2021 album releases started out as little more than a trickle – the result of artists withholding albums for a post-COVID world they could turn in. But once the dam started to crack, it burst open. I felt like Bi-Weekly was a massive album event, a reminder of the power to take down multiple songs at once despite the past decade of proclamations that the album has been dead. Here are some of my favorite albums from last year:

20. “30” by Adèle

Is there something to say? Adele and a stellar production team wield masterful control over the relationship between music and emotion.

19. “Heaux Tales” by Jazmine Sullivan

Both devious and empathetic, Jazmine Sullivan’s first album in six years traces the relationships between sex, power, race and gender.

18. “An Evening with Silk Sonic” by Silk Sonic

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen such a universally adored album across all demographic divisions, but I’m not even surprised.

17. “Unlimited ammunition” by Namasenda

Between Namasenda’s phenomenal vocal performance and her choice of collaborators, it shows the sonic and emotional range of hyperpop.

16. Bad Gyal’s “Warm-up”

Short and crisp, this album finalizes Bad Gyal’s transition from PC Music’s teenage clubber to Spain’s boastful reggaeton queen.

15. “Solar energy” by Lorde

Remember that a bad Lorde album remains a good album, “Solar Power” gives languid reflections and gives the impression of philosophizing in the summer heat of 5pm.

14. “We’re all alone in this set” by Dave

In a year full of long albums, Dave’s stood out for his speed, keeping listeners engaged through changes in sound and subject.

13. L’Rain’s “Fatigue”

Bewitching, textured, shocking, beautiful, stunning, awe-inspiring, enchanting. The descriptors of L’Rain’s album cascade like his own sonic palette.

12. “3” by Axolotes Mexicanos

Shameless and sweet plunging into a rock influenced by chiptunes, the Axolotes Mexicanos bring intelligent synth riffs and melodic sensibilities for children.

11. Before I Die – Park Hye Jin

It’s sad, it’s exciting, it’s sad and exciting. Park Hye Jin pushes his trap-house fusion punctuated with simple phrases and complex musical accents.

10. “World Famous Tour” by Wavedash

Wavedash’s debut album shows an ironic knowledge of the internet combined with a deep dedication to hard-hitting drops, genres be damned. Mostly avoiding words, World Famous Tour excels at letting drums and synths do the talking for it – there’s a lot of sense in the drums handled on “Dummo Loop” or the tense arpeggios on “Void; Reciprocate; Love”. “. The main consistency is an effort towards the waist – the drop of the album “Stallions” sounds gloriously massive and most of the other songs are impressive close to its reach.

9. “West Fuqua Kids” by BuddieRoe

In a culture where genuine emotion can pass for pretentious pretension, there is a minefield of potential missteps when creating a “conscious” rap album. BuddieRoe, from Houston, manages to avoid these potential mistakes through the sheer conviction he puts behind his words. Throughout, this album is a story both literally and figuratively that deserves your attention.

8. “CALL ME IF YOU LOSE YOURSELF” by Tyler, the creator

For anyone who remembers hearing “Gangsta Grillz” scream on DatPiff downloads, “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” is a brilliant tribute and development to the classic DJ Drama formula. This album sees both Tyler breaking out of bars but, more importantly, engaging in his role as a director. He gets all-time guest performances on “WUSYANAME” and “HOT WINDS BLOWS” and puts together a brilliant setlist that resolves into the brilliant and heartbreaking “WILSHIRE”. It’s a complex, layered album that is probably his most impressive work to date.

7. “Ignorance” by the weather station

This album sits somewhere between the pure folk of Adrianne Lenker and the sad girl swagger of Phoebe Bridgers. It’s equally expansive and claustrophobic, depressing and uplifting, thoughtful and visceral. “Ignorance” is a study of contradictions, from the slow grooves of “Parking Lot” to the high falsetto of “Separated”. Yet it is in “Loss” that the album finds its enlightening thesis: at some point, you have to live as if the truth were true.

6. “SCREENSAVERS VOL 1” by Anonymous Club

A mysterious New York collective dedicated to their eerie menacing aesthetic, Anonymous Club has assembled one of the most beautifully puzzling albums of the year. I have listened to a lot of music in my life and I can’t remember another album that always pulled the rug out from under me but made me enjoy the fall. “Ketamean” is one of the best songs of the year, and I have a similar love for the “Pavement” and “Backdoor” bass players. In addition to complex arrangements, a row of a murderer’s collaborators – LEECH, Hook, Pretty Sick, Tamma Gucci – sound the best they’ve ever had.

5. Big Jade’s “Pressure”

“Pressure” is a Houston rapper’s best debut album since Paul Wall. Big Jade exerts a Midas twist you’d expect from a much more seasoned rapper, effortlessly switching from Houston’s twerking anthem “Dem Girlz” to straight bars on “No Hook.” Along with Jade and producer Beatking, Texas rappers like OMB Bloodbath and Queendom Come bring their A-game to “Pressed” and “Respectfully”. In a big year for the Houston rappers, Big Jade carried the torch.

4. “Sometimes I Could Be an Introvert” by Little Simz

There are certain albums that you want to drown in, and there are others that you drown in. Little Simz’s new album is the latter, a virtuoso dance of full and wide rhythms and timely rap. The opening of the album “Introvert” demonstrates Simz’s ability to anchor a song for six minutes on her own, a shocking feat for any artist. From “I Love You, I Hate You” to “Fear No Man,” Little Simz raps with newcomer hunger, but British rap skill is the mainstay that it is.

3. “Jubilee” by Japanese breakfast

Michelle Zauner’s record-breaking year crowning, “Jubilee” demonstrates the continued reach and appeal of indie rock, swapping between jams like “Be Sweet” and paranoid slow-motion like “Posing in Bondage”. In a year defined by bloated album releases, by the time I get to the cacophonous outro of “Posing For Cars”, I need more. The snooze button is still there!

2. “THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD” by Maxo Kream

Maxo Kream is arguably the most consistent creative rapper in the country, releasing a stream of remarkable projects that always seem to fall a little short of legend. “WEIGHT OF THE WORLD”, however, ranks number one in the iconic “# Maxo187” by excelling in creating the music for which Maxo Kream is best known. After the death of a brother and expecting a baby girl, Kream finds himself most insightful on tracks like “CRIPSTIAN”, “THEY SAY” and “MAMA’s PURSE”. As bangers like “BIG PERSONA” and “CEE CEE” expertly celebrate the finer things in life, Maxo thrives when his songs turn into conversations between him and his life, meticulous descriptions of trauma, loss. and mourning. Yet despite the heaviness of the subject matter, the album never crumbles under its own weight, thanks to Kream’s ability to hold up even in the most difficult situations.

1. “Nurture” by Porter Robinson

It’s one of the greatest albums of all time. After more than half a decade of battling deep depression and writer’s block, Porter Robinson returns with an album that happily celebrates life while acknowledging the difficulty of doing so. Nurture is a journey, going from the playful instrumentation of “Lifelike” to the explosive “Look At The Sky” and culminating with the cathartic “Unfold”. Even the experimental and sometimes creaking tracks bring a joie de vivre which becomes all the more evident in the anthemic choruses which punctuate this disc. It’s the album that offers hope that listeners can do something good with their lives.