Every year I tell myself, “I hope there are ten (new) albums I enjoy enough to reflect on at the end of the year”.
And at the end of every year, I tell myself, “There were so many albums that brought so many memories and emotions, I am not sure I can slim down ten of them for a Top 10 Albums of This Year list”.
A good problem to have! Let’s rip the band-aid off, nice and early.
My top 10 albums of 2021 are:
- Genghis Tron, Dream Weapon
I was not too familiar with Genghis Tron when this album fell in my lap early on in the year. I want to say that I had watched the original Tron movie around the time I found this album, and I felt it was a continuation of how the movie made me feel. Like I was pulled from Earth and plopped into a foreign planet. I fell in love with the duality of the subdued instrumentals and the aggressive wave of sound that filled my headphones. This album is a journey and I was ready for it, every time.
- The Armed, Ultrapop
A friend of mine (hey Sean!) told me about this band sometime around April or May. All I knew about them was the guitarist (and architect) of Converge, Kurt Ballou was somehow involved with this project and you could tell he was. That, along with the endorsement of my buddy Sean was all I needed to dive headfirst into Ultrapop. To put it as concisely as I can: this album was like the kind of deep breath you take when you are in complete isolation and reach the top of a mountain in a deeply forested area. Every time I thought I could pin down what they were going for, they would surprise me. It is a heavy, chaotic, catchy, synthy, and poppy masterpiece and I am so glad it came into my life this year.
- Porter Robinson, Nurture
This was a total no-brainer for me. Porter’s debut album, Worlds, was highly revered in my friend group; therefore, I developed an admiration of his production and style pretty quickly. I will admit, during his hiatus (between 2016-2019?) I did forget about his music from time-to-time. The cave I was living in must have been really off of the grid because it took me far too long to realize that he released Nurture this year. I think I saw a single on a Spotify playlist and uncontrollably uttered holy shit. That holy shit held up. This album felt like an escape for me, while simultaneously bringing me into the present in a magnified way. Everything wrapped up in this album is magic, the hooks, the production, the lyrics, everything. What are you still doing here? Go listen!
- Vince Staples, Self-titled
This was long overdue, right? I will admit, up until this year I was mere a causal listener of Vince’s. This year completely blew the roof off of that. You may say, what could a 22 minute album offer? To be completely honest, this album takes you by the hand from the very beginning. Time is secondary when you are listening to it. The production of this album paired with Vince’s lyrical caliber and delivery stand alone on the top of a mountain, let’s call it Mt Vince. Also - the storytelling in these songs ya’ll. In a genre filled to the brim with material gloating, and clout chasing Vince brings a refreshing authenticity into frame. Try to stop yourself after listening to this album once through.
- Deafheaven, Infinite Granite
Real quick, let’s get the that one hipster black metal poser band that went new wave haters filtered out. Often times, when a band really takes a step outside of the norm creatively they are met with a lot of hate and entitlement and that is a bummer. Not only did Deafheaven take a chance here, they did what they wanted to do as artists and I admire the shit out of that. Deafheaven kept the traits that make their music so special and amplified it on this release.
- Fiddlehead, Between the Richness
Another album with a short runtime; however, Fiddlehead make every measure count. How did they make each song so heartfelt while also making it so catchy and easy to sing-along with? I am not sure but I love it. It is hard to listen to this one and not feel refreshed in an unexplainable way. Also, the singer was the front man of Have Heart in the 2000s? That is super cool that he is still releasing music. You have to admire staying true to what you want to produce.
- Mogwai, As the Love Continues
Let’s face it. Soundscapes and moody instrumentals are Mogwai’s bread and butter. If you are familiar with Mogwai’s catalog, it should not surprise you that this album oozes traditional Mogwai while exhibiting their trait of continuing to push the walls around their creative bubble. I listened to this one a lot more in the fall, who can blame me? Fall in Colorado is beautiful, dreary at times, and most importantly, colorful. That is the best way I can sum up this album, colorful.
- Knocked Loose, A Tear in the Fabric of Life
I turned 31 this year, so I will admit it does feel a little strange singing along to angsty music. But you know what? Knocked Loose has always made me not care about that. They have their unique characteristics that are stitched into every release, and in a genre that is full of copy-cats and unoriginal execution, Knocked Loose not only continually raises the bar, but surpasses it and sets new heights for other artists. This album was also the first concept album for the band, how cool is that? Gotta love those.
- Portrayal of Guilt, Christfucker
I discovered this band a few years ago thanks to the YouTube algorithm. I think the first video I saw of theirs was an Audiotree performance and holy shit. I still don’t know what gripped me first: the intensity, the chaos, the delivery, or the fact that they pulled all of these elements off as a three piece. I have come to expect every Portrayal of Guilt release to feel like the fastest, scariest ride at an amusement park. There are no delusions of what you are in for, and you can not help but walk towards it to experience it. Once you are done, you can’t help but go back for more.
- Gatecreeper, An Unexpected Reality
Of all genres of music I listen to on a regular basis, black metal is the one I am least familiar with. I was introduced to Gatecreeper a few years ago by a friend (hey Mike!) and was immediately hooked. What struck me first was the lack of gimmicks the band had. For them, it felt like they just genuinely cared about releasing music that they liked themselves. I love that honesty. Ironically I think that is the best way for people to enjoy music you release, to be stripped of flash, glam, and gimmicks. If the music can carry the weight, that is what most people care about. So whether you want to go on a scorpion smashing spree in the Arizona desert, hit up the local skate park, or take your kid to school, this is the soundtrack for you, metal-dad fans (like myself).