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The Best Albums of 2021

It’s been a huge year for new music, so we’ve put together a list of the best albums of 2021.

This year, we’ve been gifted with raucous albums like Turnstile’s Glow On, IDLES’ CRAWLER, and The Dirty Nil’s Fuck Art. Artists like Charlotte Day Wilson, Cadence Weapon, Japanese Breakfast, and Tyler, The Creator really made waves with their new collections this year.

A list of the best albums of 2021 wouldn’t be complete without some catchy, dance-worthy pop albums. The pop queens have been busy in 2021, with fresh records from Adele, Billie Eilish, Doja Cat, Lorde, and more.

Check out the best albums of 2021 (in alphabetical order) below.

Adele – 30

Adele’s latest album, 30, is her most personal record to date. The album is inspired by her recent “divorce, babe, divorce,” as Adele sings of restructuring your family and trying to love again. Adele mourns her past relationships through grand piano ballads and tender recordings. On “My Little Love,” she even uses recordings of her bedtime conversations with her son Angelo as they adjusted to the divorce. With poignant, vulnerable lyricism and heartbreaking hooks, 30 is Adele’s most relatable, refined album to date. “I Drink Wine” is definitely a fan favourite, serving as a barroom-style singalong. – Chelsea Brimstin

Alessia Cara – In The Meantime

Canadian pop artist Alessia Cara really cemented her signature sound on her mature new album, In The Meantime. Cara leans in to finding her sound in between genres, as she grapples with love and heartbreak across the album’s 18 tracks. From tending to herself after a breakup to being afraid of getting older, this album sees Cara tackling a much different subject matter than that of her previous albums. Throughout the record, Cara looks inward, as she delivers lush harmonies atop shimmering melodies. Ultimately, In The Meantime is a buoyant collection of tracks that sees Cara leaning into a newfound sense of clarity. – Chelsea

Arkells – Blink Once

Arkells made their return this year with their new album, Blink Once. The album sees Arkells cementing their sound, while continuing to push it to new heights. “Blink Once is about resilience,” frontman Max Kerman explains. “It’s about grieving with loss and fall outs and finding your way back. The making of the album began before the pandemic, but the material seems to hit harder after everything we’ve been through over the past 18 months. These songs are about finding comfort in your family, community and music.” – Chelsea

Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams

Arlo Parks’ highly anticipated debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, opens with a sort of diaristic spoken word. The 12-track collection sees the British bedroom pop artist embracing vulnerability as she sings of mental health, queer intimacy, and self-love. The genre-bending record truly blurs the lines between folk, indie, R&B, and jazz. “My album is a series of vignettes and intimate portraits surrounding my adolescence and the people that shaped it,” Parks explains. “It is rooted in storytelling and nostalgia – I want it to feel both universal and hyper specific.” – Chelsea


BADBADNOTGOOD’s fifth studio album, Talk Memory, marks the Canadian band’s first release on XL Recordings. Spanning nine tracks, Talk Memory was written to show gratitude for their community and the music they’ve made. The album features appearances from Arthur Verocai, Karriem Riggins, Terrace Martin, Laraaji, and harpist Brandee Younger. “It took a year or two of just living life to get to the place where the creative process was exciting again,” BADBADNOTGOOD explain. “Once we actually went into the studio it was the most concise recording and writing process we’ve ever had. We hope that the improvised studio performances bring the listener closer to our live experience.” – Chelsea

Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

Billie Eilish’s sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, serves as the follow-up to When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. The opening track, “Getting Older,” will fill you with a sort of nostalgic melancholy. Eilish delivers stunning melodies that are beautiful in their restraint. She then launches into a grittier, smoother sound that feels more reminiscent of her first album on “I Didn’t Change My Number.” Channeling her quintessential smooth vocal delivery, Eilish croons atop a pulsing instrumental. Happier Than Ever is all about debunking happily-ever-after. Eilish is standing against the idea of a pop fairytale, subverting Hollywood glamour throughout 16 tracks. – Chelsea

Born Ruffians – PULP

Born Ruffians shared PULP, the final LP of their trilogy series, in April. The album is short and sweet, as the Toronto indie rockers rip through tracks like “Checkin’ Out” and “Ring Finger.” “We didn’t set out to write a trilogy,” frontman Luke Lalonde explains of releasing three albums in just 12 months. “We just wrote a lot of songs that we liked and it seemed a shame to bury any of them. So, early on in our recording process we looked at this great big list of all the songs and said ‘let’s break this up into three record: JUICE, SQUEEZE and PULP.” – Chelsea

Cadence Weapon – Parallel World

The third time proved to be the charm for Toronto-based, by way of Edmonton, rapper Cadence Weapon. Rollie Pemberton’s fifth full-length studio album was awarded the Polaris Music Prize, marking the third time the artist was nominated for the award. Parallel World showcases Pemberton’s clever writing abilities, while also tackling issues like systemic racism, urban gentrification, and provincial politics. – Scott Lewis



Charlotte Cardin – Phoenix

Charlotte Cardin released her long-awaited and highly-anticipated debut album, Phoenix, this year. Opening with the R&B-influenced sounds on the album’s title track, Cardin sets the tone for her album. She weaves in and out of her chest and head voice as she sings lines like, “Take a second to show me/ How to burn and to rise/ I could swear I’m changing.” From the catchy alt-pop anthem “Passive Aggressive” to the wailing, explosive ballad “Meaningless,” Cardin’s debut album doesn’t feel like a debut at all. It’s far more finessed and nuanced than a first album. – Chelsea

Charlotte Day Wilson – ALPHA

Toronto R&B artist Charlotte Day Wilson shared her highly anticipated debut album, ALPHA, in July via her own imprint, Stone Woman Music. The 11-track album is a vulnerable collection of Day Wilson’s inner struggles. The genre-bending album sees her singing of love, growing, and breaking. ALPHA is self-produced, allowing Wilson to truly lean into and establish her own sound. The stunning record never wavers. The album is a “journey of metaphor and earnest declarations, recollecting Charlotte’s inner struggles of love, growing, and breaking that she’s finally speaking to in a greater way,” according to a press release. – Chelsea

Clairo – Sling

Claire Cottrill returned with her sophomore album as Clairo, Sling. While her debut channeled a bedroom pop sound, Clairo has moved into a new sonic territory completely. With lush instrumentals, Sling finds Clairo at her most vulnerable. Clairo is ready to be totally transparent on this new record. Immunity closed with “I Wouldn’t Ask You,” which is about how Cottrill felt helpless as her partner took care of her while she struggled with rheumatoid arthritis. Now, Clairo is ready to be a caregiver. The record was inspired by Cottrill’s time at home in Atlanta during the pandemic. During that time, she spoke with her mother and found herself reconsidering her own future with motherhood. In December, she adopted her dog Joanie, and she has found herself discovering hope in domesticity. – Chelsea

Dijon – Absolutely

Dijon’s debut album Absolutely sees him finding his groove, offering up a new sense of purpose with his heartbreak anthems. The raspy vocals truly take the lead on the album, as Dijon goes from soft coos to emotional wails with ease. Lyrically, Dijon doesn’t put it all on the table. Instead, he leaves room for the listener to craft their own story. Absolutely thrives in that omission, as Dijon delivers the album’s emotion through its melodies and instrumentals instead of its words. “Rodeo Clown” is definitely a standout on the album. Throughout the track, Dijon’s vocal finesse reaches an all time high, as he cries lines like, “So what are you so afraid of?/ You’re missin’ out/ On good, good lovin’.” – Chelsea

Dinosaur Jr. – Sweep It Into Space

Dinosaur Jr. returned with their first new album in five years, Sweep It Into Space. After defining ’90s alt-rock, J Mascis and co. delivered one of their best albums with 2012’s I Bet on Sky, and offered up some riff-heavy grunge anthems on 2016’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. Now, Dinosaur Jr. have shared their breeziest album yet with Sweep It Into Space, which was created with co-producer Kurt Vile and then completed by Mascis during last year’s quarantine. The trio deliver everything from power-pop anthems on “And Me” to their quintessential fiery solos on “I Met the Stones” and “Hide Another Round,” while still exploring some new sonic territory with Vile offering his own sound to the mix. Get ready for 12 guitar-powered tracks that weave in and out of grungy, sludgy lines and jangly riffs.– Chelsea

Doja Cat – Planet Her

Let’s face the facts: Doja Cat’s Planet Her is all bops. Planet Her is a versatile, eclectic collection of pop anthems. Each and every song is uniquely Doja Cat’s, but they’re all sure to get you dancing. From TikTok hits to hypnotizing vocals, this album is stacked with explosive singles. The pop queen’s sweet vocal melodies truly shine, from her stunning falsettos on “Love to Dream” to the catchy flow of “Woman.” The record is actually a concept album, “based on a fictional planet self-originated by Doja Cat on which all species and races of space exist in harmony.” – Chelsea

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

Halsey’s new album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, is produced by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power boasts some huge names like Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham. The album also features contributions from legendary bassist Pino Palladino, drummer Karriem Riggins and more. Upon its release, Halsey explained: “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, it’s like this is a girl power album,’ and I’m like, ‘No, it’s not.’ Also, not for nothing, but the lead single is ‘I Am Not a Woman, I’m a God’ — it’s not a girl power album. From the jump, I’m like, ‘I’m not a woman.’ I’m not saying any of that.” – Chelsea

Helado Negro – Far In

Roberto Carlos Lange is back with his new album as Helado Negro, Far In. The dreamy new album revolves around lush instrumentals and introspective lyrics. Far In comes packed with perfectly calculated textures and sunny, bright melodies. The record sees Lange truly at ease, trading the need to make big artistic moves for leaning into his signature sound. The opening line of the album sets the tone for the 15 track collection, as he just wants to “Wake up tomorrow.” “Escape is never out there, you have to go inward,” Lange explains of the new album. – Chelsea


Bristol punks IDLES’ latest album CRAWLER serves as the follow-up to 2020’s Ultra Mono. Where on previous albums Talbot was vulnerable in his societal reflections, this one sees him looking inwardly. Across the tracks, frontman Joe Talbot shares stories about his struggles with addiction. “Ultra Mono was a caricature of who we were, and we wrote that caricature intentionally to kill it,” Talbot told NME. Now, on CRAWLER, IDLES have gotten a fresh start. IDLES are known for their brash, gritty sound, but on this album, the tracks are more accessible. Casual listeners can dive right into CRAWLER, but the band still maintains their core sound. – Chelsea

James Blake – Friends That Break Your Heart

James Blake’s fifth studio album, Friends That Break Your Heart, is a self-described “concept” album. It features guest appearances from SZA, JID, SwaVay, and Monica Marti. In fact, Blake’s girlfriend Jameela Jamil even has songwriting credits on three singles. Those credits appear on “Famous Last Words,” Blake’s SZA collab, “Coming Back,” and “I’m So Blessed You’re Mine.” While Blake usually sings of romantic troubles, this album sees him looking at his platonic relationships instead. Blake sought out writing material from other facets of his life, but maintained a sense of cohesiveness. While previous albums like Assume Form and The Color In Anything primarily revolve around romance, this new album still calls upon similar themes. Friends That Break Your Heart looks at the different stages of fraying friendships. – Chelsea

Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

Japanese Breakfast has returned with her third studio album, Jubilee. Opening with the absolutely exuberant “Paprika,” which comes packed with Beirut-esque instrumentals, Japanese Breakfast is ready to start a new chapter, and this time it’s all about creating pure joy. While previously release singles “Be Sweet,” “Posing In Bondage,” and “Savage Good Boy” lean in to a sort of deeper groove, this album features a perfect balance of explosive anthems, sentimental ballads, and euphoric hooks. From prioritizing happiness amidst a toxic relationship with her father on “Tactics” to the the melancholic closer “Posing For Cars,” Jubilee sees Japanese Breakfast exploring new sounds and themes, finding optimism even in the darkest of times. – Chelsea

Jorja Smith – Be Right Back

Jorja Smith’s new project, Be Right Back, expands on the velvety, neo-soul sounds of her debut, Lost & Found. Smith has developed into a nuanced, explorative artist, refining her sound with lush instrumentals and finessed lyrics. Honing in on her sugary vocals, Smith weaves in and out of dance-worthy hooks and emotive, vulnerable subject matter. Opening with the catchy, drum-laden “Addicted,” Smith sets the tone of the collection with a sort of new-found allure. From the previously released “Gone” to the jazz-driven sounds of “Burn,” Be Right Back is a cohesive, yet diverse collection of genre-bending tracks. – Chelsea

Julien Baker – Little Oblivions

Julien Baker’s third studio album, Little Oblivions, was recorded in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. While the new collection stays true to the devastating, introspective lyricism of 2015’s Sprained Ankle and 2017’s Turn Out the Lights, Little Oblivions sees Baker exploring new sonic textures by layering bass, drums, synthesizers, banjo, and mandolin atop her usual guitar and piano lines. Baker is able to take her heartwrenching storytelling to a new level on Little Oblivions, delivering melancholic lines like, “I’ll wrap Orion’s belt around my neck and kick the chair out” and “Beat myself till I’m bloody, and I’ll give you a ringside seat.” – Chelsea

Kacey Musgraves – Star-Crossed

Kacey Musgraves is back with her highly anticipated new album, star-crossed. When talking with Rolling Stone, Musgraves explains that star-crossed was inspired by Greek tragedies. Drawing from her divorce with her ex-husband Ruston Kelly, this new record sees Musgraves at her most vulnerable. “This last chapter of my life and this whole last year and chapter for our country – at its most simple form, it’s a tragedy,” Musgraves says. “And then I started looking into why portraying a tragedy is actually therapeutic and why it is a form of art that has lasted for centuries. It’s because you set the scene, the audience rises to the climax of the problem with you, and then there’s resolve. There’s a feeling of resolution at the end. I was inspired by that.” – Chelsea

Leon Bridges – Gold-Diggers Sound

Texan singer Leon Bridges’ third studio album, Gold-Diggers Sound, is eleven tracks of smooth soul and R&B. The album, a tribute to Gold Diggers Studio in East Hollywood where it was created, was two years in the making. He posted a note to his Instagram writing, “It was birthed from late nights at the Los Angeles studio, hotel and bar of the same name where I lived, worked and drank over the course of two years. It was such a profound experience, I named the album in its honor. I walked into this complex two years ago and I’ve come out the other side an evolved person.” – Chelsea

Lil Nas X – Montero

Lil Nas X’s debut album, MONTERO, sees the gay pop-rap star weaving in and out of genres with ease. The 22-year-old gave us all a lesson in marketing with the rollout of MONTERO. The record was made on Lil Nas X’s terms, from giving Satan a lapdance in the video for the title track to the iconic clip for “Industry Baby,” Nas really knows how to make waves. “The idea of ‘He’s a cool gay person; he’s an acceptable gay person,’ I used to see things like that as a compliment, but it’s not,” Lil Nas X explained to Variety. “I wanted to be even more authentic in my music and let people into my life.” MONTERO sees him doing just that. – Chelsea

Lorde – Solar Power

Lorde really said let there be light with her new album, Solar Power. The bright new 12-track album sees the New Zealand pop queen singing of sun salutations and meditations. Lorde told the New York Times she tried to channel the “turn-of-the-century beachside optimism” of artists like S Club 7 and Natalie Imbruglia. Produced by Jack Antonoff, the new record sees Lorde singing of young adulthood and fame. Moving from the gloomy, melancholic sounds of her previous releases, Lorde is ready to embrace the sun. Instrumentally, the new album revolves around warm, plucked acoustic guitars and soft percussion. – Chelsea

Lucy Dacus – Home Video

Lucy Dacus’ most recent album, Home Video, is a nostalgic coming-of-age record. The 11-track album marks her third full-length record. Overall, the album is inspired by Dacus’ coming-of-age in Richmond, Virginia. The new album serves as the follow-up to 2018’s Historian. Taking on the format of a memoir, Dacus offers snapshots of specific moments of her growing up, as she was learning about the complexity of emotions and relationships. Throughout the album, Lucy Dacus reflects on growing up as a queer Christian youth in the 2000s. – Chelsea

Modest Mouse – The Golden Casket

Modest Mouse are back with a brand new album The Golden Casket. In a press release, the album was described as “the liminal space between raw punk power and experimental studio science … frontman Isaac Brooks explores themes ranging from the degradation of our psychic landscapes and invisible technology, to fatherhood.” The new album proves that they have the ability to remain on top of the indie-rock landscape. Their journey has been long but nothing short of great. – Meg Subic

Mother Mother – Inside

Mother Mother have returned with their riveting new album, Inside. The album weaves in and out of genres with ease, leaning into a darker indie rock sound than their past releases. “The world stopped, and all the sudden I had a lot more alone-time on my hands, which isn’t necessarily conducive to song writing,” Mother Mother’s Ryan Guldemond explains of INSIDE. “Usually, I like to venture out and find guidance from an external, interactive narrative – travelling, people, serendipities, etc. I love that process – it’s almost like you’re in collaboration with the world. But since that wasn’t an option, I set about a different kind of travel, one more inward and personal, exploring different types of therapies, meditation, and journaling as a means to unearth songs from a deeper, interior place.” – Chelsea

Mogwai – As The Love Continues


Proving they’ve still got plenty of gas in the tank, Scottish post-rock legends Mogwai released one of the best records in their catalog this year with As The Love Continues. Their tenth studio album since their formation in 1995, the band topped the UK charts for the first time in their 25-year career, an experience they called “totally surreal.” The record also earned them their first ever Mercury Prize nomination, as well as the Scottish Album of the Year Award. – Dave Kennedy

Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs – Real One

Toronto’s Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs shared their bold new record Real One back in March. Their ambitious third studio album is a triumphant collection about finding your place in the world. Real One is a larger-than-life, anthemic collection of rock and roll tracks. With an earthy rock grit, the album sees Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs balancing their huge sound with some really tender, vulnerable moments. “It’s a really triumphant, victorious record,” Coffey explains of the album. “I always thought I wasn’t where I should be, but now I feel like I am.” – Chelsea

Snail Mail – Valentine

Lindsey Jordan’s new album as Snail Mail, Valentine, was co-produced by Jordan and Brad Cook. It follows 2018’s melancholic collection, Lush. This record, on the other hand has moments of melancholy and of pure joy. The record explores themes of romance, heartbreak, blood, sweat, and tears. Snail Mail perfectly balances melodrama and camp on the 10-track collection. “I wanted to take as much time as possible with this record to make sure I was happy with every detail before unleashing it unto y’all,” Jordan explains. “Referring to the process as the deepest level of catharsis and therapy I have ever experienced would be a huge understatement. Valentine is my child!” – Chelsea

The Dirty Nil – Fuck Art

Just four days in to 2021, Dundas, Ontario power trio The Dirty Nil shared their raucous record, Fuck Art. The collection, which marks the follow-up to 2018’s Master Volume, is a perfect blend of arena rock and DIY punk. The Dirty Nil plea with listeners to smash your phone and say “fuck it.” From the thrashing, metal-influenced single “Doom Boy” to the gritty, understated catchiness of “Hang Yer Moon,” get ready to blast the album at full volume and headbang along to some killer anthemic tunes. – Chelsea

The Tragically Hip – Saskadelphia

Canadian legends the Tragically Hip surprise released their new album Saskadelphia this year. The new record marks their first full-length release since frontman Gord Downie passed away in 2017. It’s made up of previously unreleased material from the 1990s. While five of the tracks were recorded in New Orleans during the recording sessions for Road Apple, the other tune is a live recording dating back to 2000. “We didn’t know what was there, so this meant baking them and listening to them as they were being transferred,” drummer Johnny Fay says. “Hearing them for the first time in 30 years was crazy.” – Chelsea

The War On Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore

The War On Drugs shared their first release in four years, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, in October. I Don’t Live Here Anymore is a perfect blend of the band’s rock roots with a bit of an ’80s tinge to it. From huge arena jams to intimate, homey ballads, this 10-track album has got a bit of everything. “I keep coming back to it as a record of movement, of pushing forward, of trying to realize that version of our most fulfilled life,” frontman Adam Granduciel explains. “In spite of forces at every turn pushing down and trying to break you.” – Chelsea

The Weather Station – Ignorance

Tamara Lindeman’s fifth album as The Weather Station, Ignorance, sees her adding a disco flare to her folk-pop sound. The dynamic, complex 10-track album opens with a simple, yet compelling hissing hi hat and stuttering drum beat. It expands and morphs for a full minute before Lindeman delivers her first line, “I never believed in the robber.” “Robber” the stage for the explorative album, as Ignorance sees Lindeman playing with jagged instrumentals and conflicting, yet cohesive melodies. Lindeman has truly refined herself as a songwriter on this collection. As the listener makes their way through the ebb and flow of the album, they hear Lindeman’s vocals weaving between dense, heavy melodies before exploding to pure moments of pop-influenced ecstasy. – Chelsea

Turnstile – GLOW ON

In the hardcore crossover event of the year, Baltimore, Maryland-based five piece Turnstile delivered one of the year’s best. Never diverting from their hardcore origins, the group offers mosh pit ragers with thrashing guitar and explosive energy. However, the record sees Turnstile crafting complex creative experimentation with bold piano-led intros, dreamy synth sequences and lush, soaring vocals. – Scott

Ty Segall – Harmonizer

The thirteenth studio effort from garage rock god Ty Segall lands in familiar territory without delving too far into the singer/songwriter’s mucky fuzzed-out side nor his glossier classic rock-leaning range. Crisp melodies and Segall’s trademark guitar chops on standouts such as “Whisper” and the album’s title track elevate Harmonizer into the upper tier of his catalogue. – Scott

Tyler, The Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost

Tyler, the Creator returned this year with his new mixtape, Call Me If You Get Lost. The nostalgic format leaves Tyler with the ability to play with tone. Hosted by DJ Drama, Call Me If You Get lost ranges between heavy, gritty cuts and shimmering pop. Throughout the collection, Tyler, The Creator constantly references travel, from material flexes to personal transformation. Tyler is at his most playful on the album, offering up everything from unreleased material to freestyles to radio singles. He’s also at his most vulnerable, and his ability to get in touch with himself allows the non-linear lyricism to truly thrive. – Chelsea

Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

UK rockers Wolf Alice released their explosive, emotional third album, Blue Weekend this year. The alt-rock collection sees frontwoman Ellie Rowsell singing of vices, insecurities, and misogyny. Across the album’s 11 tracks, Wolf Alice weave in and out of genres, moving from glitzy anthems to dreamy, shoegaze singles to anthemic big tent rockers with ease. This record is truly a masterpiece, as the British outfit hone in on their craft in an artful and ambitious way. The cinematic collection opens with “The Beach” and ends with “The Beach II,” weaving a breakup story in between. The episodic record feels grander than that though, with the two songs serving as bookends to a roller coaster of stunning, nuanced tracks. – Chelsea

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