From breakouts to anticipated homecomings, 2021 offered nothing short of a few exciting albums for us to sink our teeth into. Through the tumultuous chaos, the projects on this list made us laugh, cry, and think throughout the world-changing and ever-historic year that was 2021. In this list compiled by head writers Vincenzo Pellegrino, and Ian Parish, and AboveTheBridge founder Dante Pellegrino, we recount ten albums from this year that are more than worth your time. Next year will bring more music, and more coverage from AboveTheBridge. This is only the beginning. Here's to a beautiful, memorable, and prosperous 2022! Make Music Matter!
#10: OK Human - Weezer
With an output that has nearly sprawled across three decades, the prospect of a 2021 Weezer album did not excite many. Yet, as diehard fans of the 90’s pop rock legends predicted, the quartet dropped not just one but two of this year’s greatest albums. OK Human is fun beyond its years, Rivers and the band discuss fatherhood, aging, and a plethora of other unavoidable topics in a manner that feels self aware but not cynical. OK Human could have easily been a case of “OK Boomer”, thankfully it wasn’t. The guys still got it.
#9: Daddy's Home - St. Vincent
St. Vincent is a veteran to the rock world by now. She’s been making fantastic albums since the early 2000’s, and unlike many artists entering their late period, she is still continuing to put out her best material with Daddy’s Home. The record is a magnificent homage to the sounds of the 50’s and 60’s, with suave guitars and sexy-smooth vocals creating an undeniably seductive masterwork. On Daddy’s Home, St. Vincent proves that you can be years into a lucrative career and still continue to be one of the most exciting and enigmatic artists in the industry.
#8: ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE - BROCKHAMPTON
BROCKHAMPTON has never really missed, but their output post their departure with founding member Ameer Van has always felt a little tainted. On their 2021 release, they fail to return the magical and influential sound that they pioneered in the SATURATION era, but that doesn’t really seem to be their goal. ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE is the sound of BROCKHAMPTON growing up and trying to reconcile with the demons that are beginning to haunt them. With Joba acting as an anchoring rally horse, the band delivers what is easily their most emotionally potent album to date.
#7: Human - Shai Maestro
With one of the most brilliant discographies on the scene, pianist Shai Maestro consistently proves why he belongs to the ECM record label. Human not only presents his incredible vocabulary, split-brain playing, and compositions, but also the relationship he has with his highly-communicative band, including trumpeter Philip Dizack, bassist Jorge Roeder, and drummer Ofri Henemya. This quartet takes the music to a level of atmospheric exploration, communicative fluency, and emotional maturity not seen from many jazz artists today, and given Maestro’s track record, the only way to go from here is forward.
#6: Bright Green Field - Squid
With the 2021 renaissance of British post-punk, Squid is easily the most understated in terms of musical invention, but the sheer potency of this record makes up for any lack of originality in spades. The theatrical vocals, the magnificently creative use of synthesizers across the record, and the incredibly groovy and infectious songwriting pull together into the tightest, most unwaveringly fun bout of post-punk in 2021. With a debut this strong, Squid have solidified themselves as one of Britain’s most promising new bands.
#5: Magic 8Ball - Mac Ayres
In terms of projects made during quarantine, this one takes the cake. Mac Ayres utilized his outstanding multi-instrumentalism, talented arranging, and crystal-clear production to create a project chalked full of tender moments, groovy regions,and repeatable points. Moreover, every track on Magic 8Ball is a testimony to independence, proving to listeners and independent artists alike that the only setback in making music independently is not having the confidence to do it. Ultimately, Ayres’s joy in making music speaks plenty of volume to his artistry and determination, resulting in a highly replayable, groove-centric project.
#4: Mood Valiant - Hiatus Kaiyote
On their most focused and sophisticated release thus far, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote tapped into a transformed “neo soul” sound; one that is much more programmatic and evolved, but still rich in groove, pocket, and feeling. Unlike previous projects, Mood Valiant sees the quartet finding the perfect blend and balance between leader Nai Palm’s expansive vocal range and the heavy, layered instrumentals supporting her, making the album’s overall beauty and complex feel warranted and natural. With the direction Mood Valiant put them on, Hiatus Kaiyote will continue to mature their sound and bring us projects unlike anything we’ve heard.
#3: Smiling With No Teeth - Genesis Owusu
Australia boasts few acts as exciting as the experimental hip hop wild card that is Genesis Owusu. His debut record sounds beyond its years. He doesn’t limit himself to rap, rock, pop, or electronica, and instead embraces them all, with swagger and style to boot. If the young musician sounds this polished at twenty-three and one album in, we can’t wait to see what he does next.
#2: For the first time - Black Country, New Road
Anxiety is scary. Millions of people every year are plagued by overthinking, the mental demons running circles around them until they are nothing but a tired mess. For anyone who may not suffer from anxiety though, it may be difficult for them to fully understand the lengths that it can go to for certain people, and that is where art comes in. Black Country, New Road’s debut is a magnificently scary album about the throes of anxiety and depression from the perspective of a generation that is chronically online and connected. Whether it be the naivete of overstating your invincibility on “Sunglasses” or describing how massive a small social interaction can feel on “Science Fair”, the band comes through with a musically flawless and a conceptually sound exploration of how deep the issues of mental illness can go. It is a bit off-putting, maybe even scary to some, but for those who look for raw emotion permeating in their music, For the first time is the best thing you will hear in 2021.
#1: An Evening With Silk Sonic - Silk Sonic
As hyped up as Silk Sonic was, there is no denying how unbelievable this album truly is. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak studied the various Black American music styles and genres of the ‘70’s to forge an album so perfectly tailored to the ears of “old soul” listeners in the 21st century. An Evening With Silk Sonic has musicality, emotion, raw energy, and a pure intention that is immeasurable and indescribable; ultimately, it proves the sheer enjoyment in making music, heard from first “1, 2, 3, 4” in “Silk Sonic Intro” to the final “Ooo yeah” in “Blast Off.”