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In Search Of The Best Albums Of 2021

best albums of 2021
Tyler’s album is featured among the best albums of 2021

When the end of the year approaches, people make lists, best of the year lists, and once again, most best albums of the year lists have left me clueless. I barely know any of these artists. We all tend to stay with the musicians we are familiar with and it’s a lot of work to get interested in all these releases. Who has the time, the energy, and the will to listen to hundreds of albums from artists you know nothing about? If I had to mention the new music I have listened to this year, it would be Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s “Carnage,” St Vincent’s “Daddy’s Home,” Valerie June’s “The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers,” Lord Huron’s “Long Lost,” probably IDLES (although I have barely listened to their new one, “Crawler”) and Courtney Barnett’s “Things Take Time, Take Time,” although I don’t think this new album will have the same impact than her 2015 “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.” I also really enjoyed several songs from Genesis Owusu’s “Smiling with No Teeth” and hopefully, I will see him live in January if the virus allows it.

But did I pay attention to all the albums featured on this year’s lists? Whether it was compiled by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork or Billboard? Not really, I am just familiar with some of them. I have streamed several songs from Japanese Breakfast’s “Jubilee,” Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour,” Arlo Parks’s “Collapsed in Sunbeams,” and I am aware that Adele dropped “30,” but would any of these albums be on my best of 2021? Probably not although they were on many lists. I have also sampled Turnstile’s “Glow On” but they sounded a bit like some metal Foo Fighters whereas I suppose you have to be in the right mood to truly appreciate Low’s “Hey What.” I also found the new War on Drugs (“I Don’t Live Here Anymore”) fine,  just fine.

To get in touch with the current trends, I decided to look at five lists proposed by Rolling Stone, Billboard (supposedly more representative of the mainstream culture), Pitchfork (still regarded as hipster), Paste, and Stereogum (both more indie, whatever this still means). They all have proposed lists of the 50 best albums of 2021 and I have only considered the albums that were featured on at least 3 lists. Then, I calculated each album’s score by adding their respective positions on each list. For example, Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” got 168 – the album is twice #1 on the lists of Rolling Stone and Billboard (so that’s 50+ 50) but it didn’t get any point from Paste because it is not on their list. Based on this simple calculation, here are the 20 best albums of 2021 and their scores.

#20 Spirit of the Beehive: ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH (89)

#19 Arlo Parks: Collapsed in Sunbeams (97)

#18 Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (103)

#17 Lucy Dacus: Home Video (105)

#15-16 Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime (108)

#15-16 The War on Drugs: I Don’t Live Here Anymore (108)

#14 Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature (109)

#13 Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg (112)

#12 Mach-Hommy: Pray for Haiti (114)

#11 Adele: 30 (115)

#10 Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (116)

#9 Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra: Promises (136)

#8 The Weather Station: Ignorance (159)

#7 Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales (162)

#6 Low: HEY WHAT (167)

#5 Olivia Rodrigo, ‘Sour’ (168)

#4 Snail Mail: Valentine (176)

#3 Japanese Breakfast: Jubilee (205)

#2 TURNSTILE: GLOW ON (209)

#1 Tyler, the Creator: Call Me If You Get Lost (224)

It’s interesting to note that Tyler easily wins this competition, although his album is not ranked #1 on any list. Then, the diversity of this list is quite surprising, what about a jazz album ranking so high (“Promises”)? This is obviously a eclectic compromise between diverse opinions, a blend of the obscure with the very popular: an impossible list of the best albums of 2021.

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