Way back in 2011 I attended the grand opening of Darkside Records in Poughkeepsie, NY. Since then, they moved to a new, larger location in Poughkeepsie, added tons of new products to their selection, host loads of events, and just overall have become everything good about music retail. Obviously, I follow them on social media, and each January the staff share their top albums of the previous year. They also encourage their customers to share their top picks and then they share them on Darkside’s social media accounts.
For the past few years I’ve wanted to participate, but when I sit down to consider the best albums of the previous year, I realize I hadn’t even listened to 10 new albums, let alone enough new music to proclaim some of them my favorites. So, when 2021 started, I vowed to make listening to new albums a priority and it worked. I listened to 25 new albums in 2021, and picked my favorite ten. And here they are in no particular order:
Stunna Girl – Stunna This, Stunna That – Essential Track – “Still Smoke”
As soon as I heard “Still Smoke” I was hooked. I still listen to this song nearly daily. “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer/”Rockit” by Herbie Hancock has never sounded so bad ass.
Dropkick Murphys – Turn Up That Dial – Essential Track – “Queen of Suffolk County”
I’m not going to claim that the Dropkick Murphys did something revolutionary on Turn Up That Dial, however if you like what they do, their 2021 album keeps it going.
Weezer – Van Weezer – Essential Track – “Hero”
Can Weezer ever top their debut album? It’s been a much-debated topic in coffee houses everywhere, or at least where I get coffee. The fact is, Weezer is at their best when they keep the touchstone of their debut sound with fun tweaks. The Van Weezer album does that. No, it still isn’t better than the blue album.
Paul Weller – Fat Pop Vol. 1 – Essential Track – “Shades of Blue”
If you’ve never heard of Paul Weller, get on it. He has a prestigious legacy as being a man who can write a song.
St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home – Essential Track – “Pay Your Way in Pain”
St. Vincent is a talented and versatile artist. Her 2021 album Daddy’s Home continues her catalog of wickedly impressive work.
Ashnikko – Demidevil – Essential Track – “Daisy”
I wish I had saved the tweet to share because shortly after Demidevil released someone on Twitter said they loved how Ashnikko basically released an album saying she wanted to get laid, and um, no lies detected. The album is a trip, and although “Daisy” is what roped me in, I would remiss if I didn’t mention her biting, reimaging of Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi” as “L8r Boi” or her humorous ode to men not being able to locate a clitoris with “Clitoris! The Musical.”
Liz Phair – Sobberish – Essential Track – “The Game”
Real talk people, I didn’t anticipate enjoying Liz Phair’s latest album, but damn if I didn’t listen to it repeatedly after taking it for a spin. If you want to recapture the Lilith Fair vibe without feeling dated, this is the album to check out.
Richard Thompson – Live from London – Essential Track “Turning of the Tide”
Richard Thompson is a legend and to be fully transparent I should tell you that he could probably release an album of him singing tax codes and I would rate it as a top album. If you know, you know.
Sleigh Bells – Texis – Essential Track – “Locust Laced”
I cannot articulate how much I loved the Sleigh Bells 2010 album Treats, other than to say, a lot. Every album they’ve released since then never really recaptured that magic I felt from their debut album, until Texis. And although I’ll readily admit that it isn’t as good as Treats, the fact that it’s closer than the others makes it a noteworthy release to me.
Lil’ Nas X – Montero – Essential Track – “Montero (Call Me By Your Name”)
I suspect Montero will be on a lot of top albums of 2021 lists, and it’s not because of his courage for being an openly gay man in hip-hop, and not because of his amazing music videos, it’s because Montero is just a really good album.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring to your attention a few artists I’ve fallen in love with in 2021 who didn’t release full albums, but did drop great singles.
Carolesdaughter – “Please Put Me in a Medically Induced Coma” – they also released a great cover of “Creep” and a super catchy tune called “Trailer Trash”.
Ki Storii – “Whole ‘Nother Level”
CupcaKKe – “Huhhhhh”
Also, check out Darkside Records!
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