Hanif Abdurraqib

Dec 30, 2021

7 min read

83 Favorite Albums Of 2021

The first thing you might notice this time around is that the arbitrary number of albums in this years-old tradition has dropped just a tad bit when compared to 2020 and is closer to 2019, with next year maybe trending back down but still above my 2018 and 2017 numbers. There is a calculated reason for this, which also plays into this year’s disclaimer:

I actually listened to (or, at least started to listen to) more albums this year than I did last year — a byproduct of sharpening the efficiency in my listening practice, knowing when to tap out if an album wasn’t doing it for me, setting up weekly lists of new albums ahead of time and plugging them in on Friday morning. Music discovery has never been hard for me, and it’s something I’m always eager to do. But I challenged myself to be a little more discerning this year with how much time I spent trying to convince myself to enjoy something that simply wasn’t working for me. And, here, I am working to be more discerning with this list. 83 is still a big number, to be clear. But with a number as big as last year, it became significantly more challenging to convince people that the list was not a complete and total representation of every single album I’d liked something on within a year. Last year, the sort of intensity in response (and weirdly rageful emails,etc) led me to want to open this year with the disclaimer that I usually reserve for when I post this on social media. First, it has to be said that I’m not acting as an expert or institution, and I’m not labeling anything as the “best.” I’m just a person sharing albums that I personally enjoyed a lot this year. There was a lot of good music this year, I think. And so there are some albums I liked a lot that aren’t here. There are some albums I maybe didn’t love as much as someone else might have loved them that aren’t here. I think having a musical landscape so vast that we can all find unique pleasures within it is a real gift. And so, if you don’t see an album you liked, I hope that’s ok and I hope you find another one here that you did like. Or, even better, I hope you discover one that you hadn’t heard yet and dive into it. Usually, when people ask “why isn’t (insert album) here?” I don’t have much to say other than “I maybe didn’t enjoy that album as much as you did, and I hope that’s alright.”

Ok, with that out of the way, here we go. As I do every year, I will add links to writing I also enjoyed about the artists when applicable. This year, I’m also going to add bandcamp links for most of the albums. Thanks for skimming.

First, In No Particular Order, Eighteen EPs I Loved:

Paris Texas — Red Hand Akimbo

Mesh — Mesh

Drug Church — Tawny

Future Teens — Deliberately Alive

Mereba — Azeb (“Rider” is one of the great, great singles of the year for me.)

kezia — claire

Soul Glo — DisNigga, Vol. 2

India Jordan — Watch Out!

Militarie Gun — All Roads Lead To The Gun II

Meet Me @ The Altar — Model Citizen

Dawn Richard — Mornin, Streetlights

Dua Saleh — CROSSOVER

Blu & Sirplus — For Sale

Snarls — What About Flowers?

Pronoun — OMG I MADE IT

Spiritual Cramp — Here Comes More Bad News

Pinkshift — Saccharine

Yves Tumor — The Asymptotical World

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

83. Pardoner — Came Down Different

82. The Antlers — Green To Gold

81. Landlady — Landlady

This is a cool piece written by Adam Schatz, who fronts the band.

80. Vince Staples — Vince Staples

79. Hotels On Mars — Grief Museum

78. Lukah — Why Look Up, God’s In The Mirror

Will likely cite Passion Of The Weiss a few times within this list, but here’s a good interview.

77. Spectral Wound — A Diabolic Thirst

76. Solemn Brigham — South Sinner Street

75. Sons Of Kemet — Black To The Future

I really enjoyed reading this piece.

74. Moor Mother — Black Encyclopedia Of The Air

This is a great interview.

73. Armand Hammer & The Alchemist — Haram

72. Mother Nature & Boathouse — SZNZ

71. Stars Hollow — I Want To Live My Life

Loved this interview.

70. Contour — Love Suite

69. Flying Racoon Suit — Afterglow

68. Cleo Sol — Mother

67. Remember Sports — Like A Stone

66. Half Waif — Mythopoetics

A thing I’m kind of really into is digging through zines and campus newspapers for album reviews, and I found this good one on this album, written by Mason Stoutamire.

65. Bicep — hydrostudies

64. Bachelor — Doomin’ Sun

63. Ruth B. — Moments In Between

Really enjoyed this interview.

62. Nov3l — NON-FICTION

61. Taqbir — Victory Belongs To Those Who Fight For A Right Cause

60. Pom Pom Squad — Death Of A Cheerleader

I really enjoyed this profile by Brittany Spanos, AND really loved this cover & shot for shot recreation of Nada Surf’s “Popular” music video.

59. Skyzoo — All The Brilliant Things

Linking to Passion Of The Weiss again, here’s a great interview.

58. Loraine James — Reflection

Dug this lil profile by Claire Shaffer.

57. Maple Glider — To Enjoy Is The Only Thing

I absolutely loved this very quotable interview.

56. Georgia Anne Muldrow — VWETO III

Loved this, by Christine Ochefu.

55. India Shawn — Before We Go

54. Snail Mail — Valentine

Great profile here by Rhian Daly.

53. Adult Mom— Driver

52. model home — both feet en th infinite

51. King Woman — Celestial Blues

I really enjoyed reading about the process/story behind this album. Here are a couple of interviews.

50. BeMyFiasco — Where I Left You

49. Allison Russell — Outside Child

real good interview here.

48. Dry Cleaning — New Long Leg

I enjoyed this piece by (my former editor!) Simon Vozick-Levinson.

47. Arlo Parks — Collapsed In Sunbeams

Enjoyed this piece early in the year by David Peisner, and also this piece by Logan Murdock.

46. illuminati hotties — Let Me Do One More

This piece by Lindsay Zoladz, also dug this profile by Linsey Teggert.

45. Amythyst Kiah — Wary + Strange

44. Fake Fruit — Fake Fruit

I didn’t go to many shows at all this year, and so I found myself craving live reports from the scenes of concerts. I’d especially been excited to hear about Fake Fruit and Dry Cleaning playing together, and appreciated this write-up by Stanley Quiros.

43. Full Of Hell — Garden of Burning Apparitions

42. Joan Armatrading — Consequences

Rarely do I put anything of my own here but I talked to Joan Armatrading on Object Of Sound and it was a real delightful dream come true for me.

41. Wednesday — Twin Plagues

40. Serpentwithfeet — Deacon

I was really into this piece.

39. Adia Victoria — A Southern Gothic

38. Sndtrak — And Then There Was Light

37. Helena Celle’s Haunted Mirror — Forget Me Nots

This is a delightfully strange and fascinating project — this interview is associated with another Helena Celle project from this year, but outlines the work well.

36. Figmore — Jumbo Street

35. Ka — A Martyr’s Reward

Loved this piece by Sheldon Pearce.

34. Parannoul — To See The Next Part Of The Dream

33. Yasmin Williams — Urban Driftwood

Watch the Yasmin Williams Tiny Desk!

32. Fatima Al Qadiri — Medieval Femme

Great interview here.

31. Jazmine Sullivan — Heaux Tales

30. Pink Navel — EPIC

I really enjoyed this review/interview. Pink Navel is an artist I’m really excited to keep an eye on for years to come.

29. The Body — I’ve Seen All I Need To See

28. Julien Baker — Little Oblivions

Good one here.

27. Silver Talon — Decadence And Decay

26. Cities Aviv — The Crashing Sound Of How It Goes

Here is a good interview.

25. Karima Walker — Waking The Dreaming Body

24. The Muslims — Fuck These Fuckin Fascists

A good piece from an online zine I like to consistently drop in on.

23. Sydney Sprague — maybe i will see you at the end of the world

22. Tigers Jaw — I Won’t Care How You Remember Me

Here’s a good track by track breakdown.

21. Lucy Dacus — Home Video

Good interview here.

20. Regional Justice Center — Crime & Punishment

19. Cadence Weapon — Parallel World

Wonderful piece here by Ben Dreith.

18. Hurry Up, Brothers — All Is Beautiful. I’m Okay To Be Alive. I’m Okay To Die.

17. Injury Reserve — By The Time I Get To Phoenix

Really heavy, wonderful interview.

16. Spelling — The Turning Wheel

15. Topaz Jones — Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Mama

Linking to the short film that accompanies the album.

14. Tyler, The Creator & DJ Drama — Call Me If You Get Lost

13. Lingua Ignota — SINNER GET READY

12. Jelani Aryeh — I’ve Got Some Living To Do

11. Emma Ruth Rundle — Engine Of Hell

There was a lot of wonderful writing/press that accompanied this album’s release, but here’s a good start.

10. McKinley Dixon — For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her

Peep this interview.

9. Dave — We’re All Alone In This Together

8. Dijon — Absolutely

7. Irreversible Entanglements — Open The Gates

6. BLACKSTARKIDS — Puppies Forever

5. Kississippi — Mood Ring

(A small personal note is that I went to maybe 4 shows this year, and seeing Kississippi was the most delightful among them.)

4. Turnstile — GLOW ON

3. Tasha — Tell Me What You Miss The Most

Good read here. (& also donate to the Reader if you got it.)

2. Little Simz — Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

  1. Jana Rush — Painful Enlightenment

Until next time.