10 Albums You Probably Slept On In 2021
Don't Start 2022 on The Back Foot
Right now, everyone's doing the traditional "best of" lists. That's all well and good, but to be honest? I hate them.
The thing about music is that it's subjective. Not only is what I think the best album of the year probably not what you think - but "best of" is an open-ended statement anyway.
Not only is there the obvious "best of what genre?" But also for what purpose? Best when you're having a bad day? Best when you want to bask in your latest existential crisis, or best to clean the kitchen by? These are all valid criteria - and each one gets a different answer!
At some point, deciding what's the "best of" seems like such a meaningless task that only takes away from art. It becomes apples and oranges comparisons of something you can't assign an arbitrary numeric value to. And why are we, anyway?
Instead, I find it much more enjoyable to present my own list - a list of albums you might have completely missed in 2021. To be on the list, I used a few simple criteria.
Independent albums produced without the assistance or budget of mainstream music labels (that's probably why you missed it).
Available on Bandcamp (this was really just for ease of linking the reader to it, and Bandcamp is becoming the most popular streaming for many independent artists).
Didn't get as many streams or reviews as it deserved (aka, my opinion that this was a banging album and I don't know where y'all were for it.)
1. Ducks Ltd. Modern Fiction.
A self-described "jangle-pop duo," Ducks Ltd. brings us their debut LP with Modern Fiction. The album is chock full of hits, and it's truly amazing to realize this polished sound is one of their first attempts.
Musical composition and songwriting are rarely a miss, through all 10 songs. Mostly, the music puts bright and breezy instrumentals against melancholic lyrics. The pairing keeps both elements grounded, for an overall enjoyable experience.
This would be a good album by anyone's standards - but for a fairly new band, I'd imagine it can only be going up from here. If I had to name one stand-out "big things are coming" band for 2021, it would be Ducks Ltd.
2. illuminati hotties. Let Me Do One More.
Sarah Tudzin is, as always, a force to be reckoned with on this album. She's brash and unrepentant, she's moody, then she's surprisingly sensitive and tender. The music swings wildly, from playful and hyperactive to poignant displays of regret and longing.
The energy is only matched by the emotional intensity. Tudzin takes some fearless risks on this album, and the end result is an impressive power pop showcase.
3. Foxing. Draw Down The Moon.
This album is a fresh, engaging take that's so refined you'll forget it isn't mainstream. Hook after hook pulls you along for a ride that's fun, furious, and over before you know it. It's catchy and addictive. Like surprisingly serious and emotional pop lyrics delivered over flippant instrumentals? Fan of music like Portugal. The Man? Give this a try.
4. Bachelor - Doomin' Sun
This feels a bit like a female version of Silversun Pickups. There's a very late-90s pop-punk vibe here - it also reminds me vaguely of Splendora (who performed the Daria theme song.)
The lyrics are creative and heartfelt. The music never overwhelms the storytelling, which is the primary focus here. The duo has chemistry you can sense, and it carries the poignancy of their songs.
5. Pom Pom Squad. Death Of A Cheerleader.
Frontwoman Mia Berrin notes that she wrote her music while "realizing the gaze of the male patriarchy." The music reflects these serious issues - there's a lot of heartfelt sentiment wrapped in cathartic punk campiness here.
It's got an alt-rock vibe that reminds me of a few 90's bands like Veruca Salt, especially with "Shame Reactions." It's a confident explosion of guitar strings and emotions (namely, anger).
6. Kiwi Jr. Cooler Returns.
This album is a tribute to just how many hooks you can cram into 13 tracks. Soaring melodies, chord progressions, infectious riffs - it just gains momentum the whole way through, and finally steamrolls itself into a spectacular conclusion.
7. Broken Baby. Late Stage Optimism.
Edgy punk, disco glam, this album is a little bit of everything. It's fun, snarky, and non-stop. Amber Bollinger brings a high-octane, high-energy show that's an absolute delight. She's a strong, fun lead, backed up by the music (and mixing) of Alex Dezen, formerly of The Damnwells.
8. Porches. All Day Gentle Hold!
Catchy and engaging, this album is fun, punchy, and avoids taking itself too seriously. The lighthearted lyrics and playful vibe complement the synth pop-rock style. You won't walk away with any Big Thoughts or New Knowledge, but it's an entertaining and brief ride.
9. Guided By Voices. It's Not Them. It Couldn't Be Them. It Is Them!
This album has an almost old-school rock feel to it. There's not a lot of fluff or flair here. The horns add excitement, but that's about as "fancy" as it gets. In a world where the majority of music is mixed till it's hard to recognize, it's almost an auditory relief to hear something so organic. It helps that the guitar work is on spot, too.
10. Virginity. POPMORTEM.
If you're a millennial who likes punk music, don't let the claims that "Gen Z reinvented punk" scare you away. Check out Virginity, a band of 30-somethings that bring that pop-punk flair, high energy, and clever, cutting lyrics.
It deep dives into some Big Thoughts on relationships, our disconnect from those around us, on growing apart from friends, and the general ennui and existential crisis that we're all pretending we don't feel. If you're still into the DIY music scene, but want some fresh material told through the lens of maturity, this is your album.
So there you have it, my 10 recommendations of albums you probably didn't hear - and should have. Give them a listen, and you might find your favorite of 2021 (it still counts).
Jamie Dixon is a contributing writer here at The Pyrrhic. She's a content writer by profession, but this is more fun. She's also working on her first novel in her spare time.
Find her on Twitter @onegirloneblog
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