The best albums, and the best singles. Period.
So.. I think we all hoped differently for 2021.
But, this is where we are, and hey- why not spend the next inevitable lockdown listening to some great tunes?
This is a list of the best stuff I managed to listen to over the last year, what was yours? Let me know!
(Experimental Hip Hop.)
LP! is the fourth full-length album from alt-hip hop artist JPEGMAFIA, or Peggy, the terminally online, incredibly quirky rapper adored by alternative and hip hop fans alike.
Peggy has been on quite the roll since his musical debut in 2016 with black ben carson, with standout tracks titled "drake era", "ALL CAPS NO SPACES", "digital blackface", and simply "cuck". I mean, his 2019 album was literally called All My Heroes Are Cornballs, featuring the opening track, "Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot".
An artist known for their individuality, silliness, and out-of-the-box songwriting only has so many options before they run the risk of repeating themselves- but I'm happy to report that Peggy continues to stand out as a rapper truly carving his own path.
I honestly can't say anything bad about the record. It's energetic, every track has a unique style and beat, and it's just as much fun as a JPEGMAFIA album should be- chock full of total bangers and hilarious bars. Check it out.
Fave songs: "TRUST!", "BALD!", "THOT'S PRAYER!", "DAM! DAM! DAM!", "REBOUND", "SICK, NERVOUS & BROKE!", "CUTIE PIE!", "BALD REMIX!".
Least fave songs: Can't find one! 🤷🏽♀️
Happier Than Ever
(R&B, Hip Hop, Electro-Pop.)
Billie Eilish, the teenage hip hop/pop songwriter absolutely dominating the charts since her major blow-up in 2019 with her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?, returns in 2021 with her sophomore project, Happier Than Ever, feeling brighter, lighter, and trying out a variety of different styles.
Immediately, Eilish and producer/brother Finneas are toying with new sounds, like the jazz/pop fusion of "Billie Bossa Nova", ballads like "Halley's Comet", and even dubstep on "NDA". Although I think it's a great idea for the young singer-songwriter to be branching out, Happier Than Ever is definitely less focused than its predecessor. It lacks cohesion, which leads me to believing the majority of the project will be left behind with time.
One track I HAVE TO mention is the title track, Happier Than Ever. Honestly, I think it's the best song she's ever written, and is definitely my personal favourite. Its dramatic, angry, and calls out an ex for treating her like crap- it's brilliant and therapeutic, acting as a major catharsis for the musician. Plus, the music video is great, with belting in the rain and everything!
Even though Happier Than Ever didn't live up to Eilish's previous project, it still ended up being one of my most played albums of the year, and I really look forward to Eilish's future.
Fave tracks: "Getting Older", "I Didn't Change My Number", "Billie Bossa Nova", "Therefore I Am", "Happier Than Ever".
Least fave tracks: "Not My Responsibility", "OverHeated", "Everybody Dies".
Call Me If You Get Lost
Tyler, The Creator
(Hip Hop, R&B, Pop.)
Following the chart topping success of IGOR is not a feat I'd expect Tyler to take lightly, so instead of copying and pasting the sounds, styles, and narrative direction of the brilliant breakup album, the artist instead reached back into his past and grabbing styles from his Odd Future days- but executing it with the hindsight and maturity he's gained in the years since.
Call Me If You Get Lost is luxurious, braggadocious, and, for the majority of the album, lighthearted- plus with the themes of vacation and travel, the project provides some fantastic escapism during a year where for many media is our only break from the stressors of work and life.
The whole thing is so Wes Anderson chic, and absolutely perfect for advertising new Golf Wang drops. It's a total vanity project, which was most likely vital to keeping his sanity after the devastating IGOR, but it's a fun one.
Fave tracks: "WUSYANAME", "LUMBERJACK", "SIR BAUDELAIRE", "MANIFESTO", "HOT WIND BLOWS", "MASSA", "LEMONHEAD", "SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE".
Least fave tracks: "WILSHIRE". (Could've been trimmed down a bit.)
Lil Nas X
(Hip Hop, Pop.)
If you didn't know Lil Nas X from the TikTok viral "Industry Baby", and still didn't know him from "Montero", the subsequent music video that sent conservatives/homophobes clutching their pearls + the Nike shoe controversy, then you have to know the superstar musician from "Old Town Road", which ran at number one on the US Hot 100 for the longest in the chart's history.
The witty, internet-savvy queer icon is huge not only in chart successes, but also on Instagram and TikTok- whose major successes are a direct result of not only obvious talent, but of his sharp sense of humour. From ridiculous music videos, to skits promoting his new music, to the content of his songs themselves, Lil Nas is hilarious. Montero is an unashamed embrace of his queer identity as a gay man, an album where the rapper speaks just as openly about feeling lonely without love as he does about lustful hookups.
"I don't fuck bitches, I'm queer."
My personal favourite songs of Nas's are his hip hop focused ones, but the majority of the pop tracks on Montero are also pretty strong. Features from superstars like Elton John, Doja Cat, Jack Harlow, Megan Thee Stallion and Miley Cyrus set up the 22 year-old musician for a bright career ahead.
Fave tracks: "MONTERO", "INDUSTRY BABY", "THATS WHAT I WANT", "SCOOP", "ONE OF ME".
Least fave tracks: "LOST IN THE CITADEL".
One of the first artists to be signed to indie darling Phoebe Bridger's label Saddest Factory, the bedroom-pop singer-songwriter Claud Mintz (known as just Claud) dropped their debut album earlier this year.
Colourful, soft, and gloomy just as often as it's summer-y, Super Monster is a true pure indie-pop record. Describing the ups and downs of relationships and love in your early 20s, the 22 year-old's first full-length project hints at an artist who should be kept a close eye on.
If you're in the mood for some sunshine-y indie, this is the record for you. Especially nowadays- boost up that serotonin ya'll!
Fave tracks: "Overnight", "Soft Spot", "Ana ft. Nick Hakim", "Cuff Your Jeans", "This Town".
Least fave tracks: "Pepsi".
Something For Thee Hotties
Megan Thee Stallion
(Hip Hop, Freestyles.)
In need of a pick-me-up? Meg's got you.
The Texan rapper Megan Thee Stallion hasn't missed a beat since 2017, releasing six albums in a span of four years. She's one of the largest rappers in the game currently, collaborating with just about every chart-topper you can think of.
Something For Thee Hotties was an unexpected drop after her 2021 album Good News. Its full-length LP made up of freestyles and unreleased singles, where Megan refuses to hold back, rapping about sex, money, fame, and demanding exactly what she wants.
From the iconic video behind "Thot Shit", to the TikTok famous "Megan's Piano", Something For Thee Hotties is full of bangers and unapologetic Megan-isms. This is pure hot girl shit.
Fave tracks: "Tuned In Freestyle", "Megan Monday Freestyle", "Megan's Piano", "Eat It", "Kitty Kat", "Pipe Up", "Thot Shit",
Least fave tracks: "Let Me See It".
ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE
(Hip Hop, Pop, R&B.)
So, turns out this is BROCKHAMPTON's last album. The news was announced via the boy band's Instagram on January 14th, 2021 that the band will be cancelling upcoming shows and disbanding immediately.
It's a depressing time to be a BROCKHAMPTON stan, especially for those who have stuck by the hip hop boyband through all eight years. Although the group's coming to an end, it's important to reflect on the band's long life, their incredibly fast rise to fame, and their iconic discography- finishing off with ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE.
Thankfully, BROCKHAMPTON left us with a project littered with classics.
While the boys may never live up to the icon status of their original Saturation trilogy, their 2021 album focuses on what the boyband does best- crafting catchy, upbeat bangers alongside heart-breakingly vulnerable tracks about love, loss, and identity. ROADRUNNER is nearly perfect, in my opinion, and a must listen.
Fave tracks: "BUZZCUT (feat. Danny Brown)", "CHAIN ON (feat. JPEGMAFIA)", "COUNT ON ME", "THE LIGHT", "WHAT'S THE OCCASION?", "WHEN I BALL", "DON'T SHOOT UP THE PARTY", "DEAR LORD",
Least fave tracks: Literally none, they're all fantastic.
(Indie-Rock, Alt-Pop, Indie-Pop.)
The dream-pop indie star Michelle Zauner, or Japanese Breakfast, released her third full-length studio album Jubilee in 2021 after her initial rise to indie fame with her 2017 album Soft Sounds from Another Planet.
Opening on the almost Kate Bush-ian fairy-tale-like single "Paprika", Jubilee is more often light and energizing than it is heavy and guitar-based compared to her previous work, symbolizing Michelle's ability to discover joy again after the passing of her mom: a re-occurring theme across her discography.
Jubilee is a project littered with 80s revivalist synths, magical strings and a softer approach to the indie genre that deals with leftover grief and the search for happiness with optimism and a sharp sense of humour.
Japanese Breakfast's rebranding is like a summer-y, refreshing glass of water- and although at times Michelle digs into grief, loneliness, and heartbreak on Jubilee, it's an overall upbeat listen, which I've found myself gravitating towards more over the last year.
Fave tracks: "Paprika", "Be Sweet", "Posing In Bondage", "Savage Good Boy", "Posing For Cars".
Least fave tracks: "Sit".
By the Time I Get to Phoenix
(Hip Hop, Glitch-Hop.)
Injury Reserve are terribly underrated.
When I discovered the hip hop group back in 2017 when I found their single "See You Sweat", I couldn't believe these guys weren't blowing up. It's about time they get the recognition they deserve, which'll hopefully come as a result of their fifth studio album By the Time I Get to Phoenix, one of their strongest projects to date.
Eclectic and experimental, the group's fifth full-length LP is oftentimes unnerving, with dark, electronic beats and a general sense of foreboding- but the themes don't take away from the album's listenability, as it's been heavy on my 2021 rotation.
Anyone out there interested in some dark, experimental hip hop- Injury Reserve is a must.
Fave tracks: "Outside", "Superman That", "SS San Francisco (feat. Zeelooperz)", "Footwork in a Forest Fire", Smoke Don't Clear", "Top Picks for You", "Knees".
Least fave tracks: "Ground Zero".