Year In Review: The Indiependent’s Best Albums of 2021


We’ve collated ten of our writers favourite albums from 2021. No science. No stats. Just opinion.

Sixty years ago, Canadian writer Marshall McLuhan said that the world was getting smaller… rapidly morphing into a “global village”, where a man from Beijing could follow French football as if it was played in his back garden. Of course, he was referring to the media, and how interconnected we’d all soon become. 

Fast forward to a pandemic-chained 2020 and anyone residing in the creative universe became acquainted with a digital life in the global village. For a whole year, art was hidden behind script and screen, shared alongside CC’s and subject lines. The film industry that relies so heavily on big budget bonanzas and limitless locations, had a steep hill to climb. But what about music? Without the distraction of live shows and festival hype, each artist cooped up in their studio and went back to basics. As a result, 2021 has delivered one of the best years music has seen for a while – a diverse palette of intimacy and imagination.

This year, we’ve also gone back to basics. Publications can become obsessive with their year end lists and while its fun to wade through mountains of pretentious picks and aggregated scores, occasionally we need to cut the shackles loose. 

Ten of our committed contributors have chosen their favourite albums of the year and we’ve given them the freedom to tell YOU exactly why.

Words by W.P Millar

Take The Sadness Out of Saturday Night // Bleachers

Fresh from duty as a prolific producer, Jack Antonoff returns to his Bleachers project with the release of their third studio LP, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night. Blending the East Coast vibe of The Killers, Talking Heads and Bruce Springsteen, the album is a ticket to a retro Jersey-Shore gig. Amidst the foot-stomping mayhem, Antonoff still finds time for introspective acoustic reflection. From the summery Bossa nova beat of ‘Chinatown’ to the battling guitars and horns of ‘How Dare You Want More’, Sadness is the party album to fuel our post lockdown stupor… a piece that taps into the heart of rock and roll.

Read our review here

Words by Andrew Butcher

Planet Her // Doja Cat

Doja Cat‘s ‘Planet Her’ is a vibrant mix of pop, rap and R&B. The album was an immediate success – debuting at number two on the Billboard top 100 charts. From star-studded features like Ariana Grande and The Weeknd, to Tik-Tok trendsetters like ‘Need to Know’, it is clear that this is one of the most influential albums of the year. It is full of hits, all of which showcase her fantastic vocal ability, as well as elements of her personality. The tracks are playful, energetic, and soothing – making it the perfect feel-good album. 

Listen to the album here

Words by Connie Burke

Visions of Light // Ishmael Ensemble

Dear defenders of so-called ‘elevator music’, denouncing that it “all sounds the same”; to those who know the truth – that there is nothing boring about jazz. Here is a game-changing addition to your arsenal. Use it to convert your adversaries and shatter their defences. No one can claim that music needs words when the instruments belt like Ishmael Ensemble’s.

Labelling Visions Of Light jazz criminally undersells its gorgeous multi-genre complexity. The Bristolian quintet layer electronica, trip-hop, and psychedelic dub to create an invigorating sound, placing them miles ahead of their contemporaries. Each listen reveals a new fixation and like an addict on the hunt for undiscovered sounds, you can’t help but play it over and over and over… 

If you were worried the British jazz explosion was fizzling out, fear not. Ishmael Ensemble has decided it’s only just getting started.

Listen to the album here

Words by Elina Ganatra

Blue Weekend // Wolf Alice

After a four year hiatus, Wolf Alice are back, better than ever, with their third studio LP, Blue Weekend. The slow and triumphant opener, ‘The Beach’, has a haunting yet captivating feel, giving the album a magnificent start. There is a song here for everyone, whether you enjoy instant rock classics like ‘Lipstick on the Glass’, angry and melancholic ballads like ‘Safe from Heartbreak’, or catchy, angelic-sounding pieces, ‘The Last Man on Earth’. Blue Weekend is an incredible, genre-bending masterpiece, filled with passionate, vulnerable tracks. Many of these songs will become instant favourites.  

Read our review here

Words By Emily Nutbean

Voyage // ABBA

After a 40-year hiatus, ABBA have returned with new album, Voyage. The album is incredibly diverse in terms of genre. Pop anthems such as ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’ and ‘Keep An Eye On Dan’ contrast beautifully with softer songs such as ‘Little Things’ and ‘I Can Be That Woman’. Voyage retains the emotional sentiment that made ABBA famous and is also not afraid to address important issues like climate change, displayed on the song ‘Bumblebee’. Overall, Voyage is a beautifully arranged record that will satisfy all fans of the iconic Swedish quartet. 

Read our review here

Words By Ester Scott

Screen Violence // CHVRCHES

CHVRCHES’ fourth album, Screen Violence, might just be their best yet. It is a concept album, exploring the underlying theme of horror films through a concise and cohesive ten tracks. The focus is particularly on the role of female characters within the genre, striking comparison between their portrayal and the negative experiences of real-life women in modern society. The album never strays from its underlying cinematic concept, whilst also remaining closely relevant to the present day. As a fellow woman who has spent this year trying to process the stream of terrifying new stories surrounding female safety, such as the tragedy of Sarah Everard, this album proves to be a relevant and relatable listen. 

Read our review here

Words by Gemma Cockrell

Written & Directed // Black Honey

Oozing with pop culture references and reminiscent of summer days, Black Honey’s Written & Directed has to be in the running for one of the top albums of 2021. An ode to all things cinema, the Brighten Rockers sophomore album was a personal favourite throughout the year, maintaining a firm grip within my top plays. Written & Directed is the perfect blend of grunge and surf-rock, creating an atmosphere of excitement with a heavy spoonful of female empowerment. Vocalist Izzy B. Phillips stuns through her lyrical performance and positions every listener as the protagonist of their own motion picture.

Listen to the album here

Words By Katie Evans

Typhoons // Royal Blood

Typhoons by Royal Blood is my outstanding choice for album of the year. Overall, it’s riff-tastic, full of guts, and has a bold feel to it. It starts off with the hit single, ‘Trouble’s Coming’, which is one of my favourite songs of all time. It has a catchy, repetitive and memorable riff, indebted to its straightforward songwriting. The other track that stands out is ‘Oblivion’. This song is about something terrible, yet paradoxically, it is full of energy. This is an album I can rely on to pick up my energy levels… much like a good friend. ‘Typhoons’ is an amazing album – more like this please, Royal Blood!

Read our review here

Words by Laurence Scott

If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power // Halsey

On their Grammy-nominated fourth LP, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, Halsey explores the implications of pregnancy and motherhood while Producers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, of Nine Inch Nails fame, push the epic music as far as it can go. The album is filled with NIN’s industrial darkness, distortion, and Reznor’s unmistakable piano.

Mental turmoil and sexuality have always been at the core of Halsey’s lyricism but now their words hit even deeper. The 27-year-old has accepted their responsibility to grow up, but tracks like “Honey” and “Lilith” remind us of their wilder side – the side many would expect Halsey to repress now they are a mum. The more intense and loaded songs co-exist in harmony with tender ballad. Meanwhile, the homonymous IMAX film propels the album to a world of its own. “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” is Halsey’s creative pinnacle — a bold and daring masterpiece deserving of both. 

Listen to the album here

Words by Maria Oleinik

SOUR // Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo shot to superstardom in 2021, smashing ‘thank u, next’s sensational streaming title. Her debut album, SOUR, amassed an impressive 385 million streams in its opening week. SOUR virtually cemented its place as my favourite album of 2021 when the third single, ‘good 4 u’, dropped. The angst-filled, noughties-inspired anthem brought me straight back to my Paramore-obsessed adolescence. The brilliance of SOUR does not end there. While the album’s core tenet is heartbreak, it is anything but one-note. From punchy, wry opener ‘brutal’ and the melancholic ‘traitor’, to the pure pop excellence of ‘déjà vu’. The Disney star left no stone unturned.

Read our review here

Words by Nia Thomas


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