50ish Favorite Albums 2021

As last year came to a close, I said we said it was a challenging year as if the turning of a calendar page makes a difference in regards to the challenges we face. I don’t have to tell you they’ve persisted and have even taken new forms (variants, if you will). Hell, this season this past week has thrown enough snow and ice at the west coast to remind us that many more messes are still to come. But what’re the holidays if not a time to hold onto silly traditions in spite of, well, everything else?

For over a decade now, I’ve made a habit of compiling, ranking, and sharing the music at the end of a given year, and the ritual has helped to make these last two increments of “troubling times” feel a little bit more tidy. Just a little bit. Recently I’ve gotten away from the ranking portion. However, I still made a top ten. (If High Fidelity taught us anything, then it was that ranking is both the most fun and obnoxious part of music nerdom.) For the remaining albums—which are still very good and if the mood struck different, could easily creep into the top ten—I tried to let the list come to me associatively. Instead of making a “best of” list, I sequenced the albums like a playlist, trying to think of how all this music might connect rather than one-up.

There’s no easy way to apply the neat bow of narrative onto a 2021 that will spill messily into the coming year(s). No, I’ll let one album I enjoyed remind me of yet another that helped make this mess manageable, and hope that thread provides something harmonious with which I can enter the coming year. I hope you’ll follow this thread with me in search of tunes we can grasp onto together.

The Top Ten

Spotify Playlist – TOP TEN 2021

1. Turnstile – Glow On

2. Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales 

3. Tyler the Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost

4. Pharaoh Sanders / Floating Points / The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises 

                                                      5. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert 

6. Dijon – Absolutely

7. The Armed – Ultrapop

8. Sons of Kemet – Black to the Future

9. Julien Baker – Little Oblivions

10. Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams

The Rest (listed somewhat associatively)

Spotify Playlist – FAVORITES OF 2021: A THREAD

Armand Hammer – Haram

Mach-Hommy – Pray for Haiti

Wiki – Half God

Genesis Owusu – Smiling with No Teeth

L’Rain – Fatigue

Mykki Blanco – Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep

L’Orange + Namir Blade – Imaginary Everything

Caroline Shaw – Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part

Cassandra Jenkins – An Overview on Phenomenal Nature

skirts – Great Big Wild Oak

Chad VanGaalen – World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener

Curtis Harding – If Words Were Flowers

Leon Bridges – Gold-Diggers Sound

Flock of Dimes – Head of Roses

Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

Black Country, New Road – For the first time

Illuminati Hotties – Let Me Do One More

Hiatus Kaiyote – Mood Valiant

Bobby Sessions – Manifest 

Magdalena Bay – Mercurial World

Maxo Kream – Weight of the World

Boldy James + The Alchemist – Bo Jackson

The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore

Wednesday – Twin Plagues


Mick Jenkins – Elephant in the Room

Isiah Rashad – The House Is Burning

Rosegarden Funeral Party – In the Wake of Fire

Yasmin Williams – Urban Driftwood

Ka – A Martyr’s Reward

Vijay Iyer – Uneasy

black midi – Calvacade

Iceage – Seek Shelter

Injury Reserve – By the Time I Get to Phoenix

TORRES – Thirstier

Syndey Sprauge – maybe i will see you at the end of the world

Irreversible Entanglements – Open the Gates

Madlib – Sound Ancestors                                      

Sam Gendel + Sam Wilkes – Music for Saxofone & Bass Guitar

MIKE – Disco!                                                            

JPEGmafia – LP!                                                       

Pink Siifu – GUMBO!                                               

Topaz Jones – Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Mama   


  McKinley Dixon – For My Mama and Anybody Who Like Her

Mdou Moctar  – Afrique Victime

Helado Negro – Far In

Erika de Casier – Sensational

Tirzah – Colourgrade

         serpentwithteeth – Deacon

R.A.P. Ferreira – the Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures

Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take

Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine – A Beginner’s Mind

The Weather Station – Ignorance                                                    

Favorite Songs (mostly random)

Spotify Playlist – Favorite Songs 2021

The War on Drugs ft. Lucius – “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”

Jazmine Sullivan – “Pick Up Your Feelings”

serpentwithfeet – “Fellowship”

Silk Sonic – “777”

Medium Build – “Rabbit”

Caroline Polachek – “Bunny Is a Rider”

SZA – “Good Days”

Kacey Musgraves – “there is a light”

Vince Staples – “ARE YOU WITH THAT?”


Noname – “Rainforest”

Sharon Van Etten + Angel Olsen – “Like I Used To”

Upsetting – “In November on Normal Street”

Lucy Dacus – “VBS”

Snail Mail – “Valentine”

Benny the Butcher ft. Che Noir, Klass Murda – “Love Left”

Baby Keem ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Family Ties”

Quinn Christopherson – “Good Boy”

Earl Sweatshirt – “2010”

The Body + BIG|BRAVE – “Oh Sinner”

Ross Gay w/  Sam Gendel – “Sorrow Is Not My Name”

Yves Tumor – The Asymptomatical World EP (all of it)

Bobby Sessions – “Triple Deity” (mainly for this video which makes me wanna rep Dallas)