The 10 best albums of 2021, where Turnstile reigns

One thing about pandemics: you think you’re going to make some great albums out of them. Not because artists write about PCR tests and toilet paper shortages. There wasn’t much of that, I heard at least.

The pandemic gave artists time to dream and reflect, followed by enough studio time to bring the work to life.

Many of my favorite albums this year have blurred the lines of genre, keeping us on the lookout for what’s to come.

1. Tourniquet, “Glow On”: If Jane’s Addiction had emerged 30 years later, it might have sounded like this third album from the aptly named Baltimore band that is sweeping through hardcore punk, metal, and electronics with equal urgency. You never know what will follow through the turnstile and while it can sometimes be a recipe for disaster, Turnstile and producer Mike Elizondo keep it exciting and cohesive.

2. Saint-Vincent, “Daddy’s Home”: The Texas art-rock sensation describes her sixth album as “the sound of being in downtown New York, 1973”. It is the music that she listened to with her father, whose release from prison (for white collar financial crimes) has all the more pushed the confessional tone of the disc. With coloring pages of Bowie, Pink Floyd, the Velvets and Steely Dan, she portrays a woman struggling with societal pressures.

3. Dry cleaning, “New long leg”: This London post-rock group has no singer. It has a narrator, visual artist Florence Shaw, who auditioned for the group while reading Michael Bernard Loggins’ book “Fears Of Your Life”. The result is a lot like those moments when Kim Gordon seductively talks about the grinding and whirlwind of Sonic Youth guitars, but in this case, it lasts 42 minutes. Pieces and fragments spring up, both dark and comical, but it’s so fascinating, what she says hardly matters. It is the sound equivalent of an exhibition at the Warhol Museum. (Bonus points: If you google ‘dry cleaning’, you’ll find the stores closest to your area.)

Tyler, the creator, attends the 2021 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 27, 2021 in Los Angeles.

4. Tyler, the creator, “CALL ME IF YOU LOSE YOURSELF”: The Odd Future Oddball follows his Grammy-winning rap album “Igor” by pushing the boundaries again with this dense mixtape tribute that moves through hip-hop, R&B, funk and synth-pop with DJ Drama, Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi Vert, Pharrell Williams, Jamie xx and his own mom among those who get started. Tyler, adopting the pseudonym of Tyler Baudelaire, a nod to the French poet, addresses his own celebrity and controversy, before revealing everything about a dubious affair on “Wilshire”, the most revealing song on the album, where he offers, “I’m a bad person / I didn’t have bad intentions though.” As he says, “It’s just another chapter of the book.” Sometimes I got lost, but the Creator did not respond.

5. Little Simz, “Sometimes I Could Be An Introvert”: For the sometimes introvert, Little Simz takes some bold moves, like starting this fourth album with what feels like an orchestral Bond theme. From there, the Mercury Prize-nominated Anglo-Nigerian rapper’s fourth album with the twisted pun maintains the sonic sensations for most of its 19-song, 65-minute span. Warm analog instrumentation, changing styles, and playful self-exploration make this a journey worth taking.

6. Japanese breakfast, “Jubilee”: Korean-American independent rocker Michelle Zauner’s third album is a complement to “Crying in H Mart”, her best-selling memoir mourning the death of her mother. It’s hard not to think of Harriet Wheeler, of The Sundays, when you hear the airy voice of the artist from Philly and his percolating melodies counterbalanced by his introspective writing.

7. Olivia Rodrigo, “Sour”: Beginning with her escape, “Driver’s License,” the 18-year-old Disney star of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” took over the role of Lorde as the spokesperson for Teenage Angst. Drawing on influences such as No Doubt and the White Stripes, she turns into a raging debut pop-punk that crackles with energy.

8. Silk Sonic, “An Evening with Silk Sonic”: “Ladies, don’t be afraid to take the stage,” Bootsy Collins tells us, “the blaster of the universe” in the intro. Indeed. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak are about to give you some grooves. The duo are bringing together substantial talent for this Valentine’s Day in old-school 70s R&B, capturing the magic of Motown and Philadelphia soul. “We make music to make women feel good and people to dance, and that’s it,” Paak told Rolling Stone (citing Mars). I will never hear.

9. Valerie June, “The moon and the stars: prescriptions for dreamers”: “Seductive” is the word that comes up over and over again to describe the otherworldly voice of this Brooklyn byway-of-Memphis singer who is unlike anyone else. After working with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and Matt Marinelli (Norah Jones) on previous albums, she now joins forces with Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, Alicia Keys) for this heavenly soul journey that keeps the title’s promise.

10. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Grange”: Neil, in his Colorado barn, with Old Black, the Crazy Horse boys, and no pressing agenda. All they have to do is plug in and rip. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes it’s sublime. Either way, it’s hard to believe that this creature comfort is still available to us all these decades later.