All Our Picks: Best of 2021 Staff Picks! Published: Dec 21, 2021 11:04AM
Well....we did it. 2021 may have been a suck-y year for many, many things but at least the music was pretty great. We had a lot of fun putting these year-end lists together and are glad to share them with you! We've even put together a playlist of all our favorite tracks to share with you. Whether you're reminded of an album that you forgot came out this year or get to discover something new, we are so lucky and thankful to be part of a music community with y'all.
Stay safe and warm out there and we'll see you next year!
Josh, Andrea, Kayla, and Victoria
I don't know what it says about me that 5 of my top 10 picks of the year are titled in all caps.
Rosie Tucker - Sucker Supreme
Fav Track: For Sale: Ford Pinto
I don't think another album grabbed me as much as this one did. It's just perfect.
Tyler the Creator - CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
Fav Track: LEMONHEAD
In 2020, Tyler the Creator accepted his first Grammy with a conflicted response. He won "Best Rap Album", but felt that his music wasn't rap and that he's tired of people lumping Black artists under rap and "urban" categories. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST seems like a direct response to this. It feels like a middle finger to the Grammys, screaming, "You want a rap album? Here's a rap album." And he absolutely destroyed every other rap album this year.
Origami Angel - GAMI GANG
Fav Track: Tom Holland Oates
I didn't think Gami would be able to surpass Somewhere City, but they did. It is beyond insanity to me that these 2 guys can write such incredibly catchy music without producers or cowriters or anything else. This album was my top played album of the year, and for good reason. Also, the album received the highest praise from Bob Nanna and I'm here for that.
Harmony Woods - GRACEFUL RAGE
Fav Track: Easy
I've never felt as much pain while listening to an album as this one. Sophia's lyrics just cut right to the bone. This album is beautiful, sad, and angry.
Turnstile - GLOW ON
Fav Track: HOLIDAY
This album takes me back to Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come. It doesn't feel new, in fact it feels like a rehash of so many sounds we've already heard... But it's gathered in a way that just feels monumental. I think this album is going to stay with us for years to come.
The World Is A Beautiful Place - Illusory Walls
Fav Track: Infinite Josh
I've admittedly not spent enough time with this album yet, but the time I've spent with it has been wonderful. TWIABP really levels up on this one, somehow capturing the essence of their whole career into a single album. This album takes me back to Whenever, If Ever, while carving out it's own place in TWIABP's universe.
Home Is Where - I Became Birds
Fav Track: Long Distance Conjoined Twins
I didn't get the appeal of this album on the first few listens. I was shocked to see all the praise coming from press outlets. Admittedly, the 5th Wave Emo nonsense biased me for a bit. But I kept coming back for more. And more. And more. It's short and flawless from start to finish, and brings back an era of music that deserves a second round.
Jail Socks - Coming Down
Fav Track: Pale Blue Light
North Carolina's best emo band kills it again with their new album. This sounds like something that we should be singing along to on big stages and major festivals for the 15th or 20th anniversary tour right now.
Virginity - POPMORTEM
Fav Track: You Can't Stop the Machine
You can't stop Virginity. Not even a shattered knee cap at FEST can stop them.
Fiddlehead - Between the Richness
Fav Track: Get My Mind Right
Half of my top albums are albums that would fit right at home 15-20 years ago. Fiddlehead was no exception. This album would fit at home on No Idea Records, circa 2001.
I'm dialing it up to eleven with a special mention...
Camp Trash - Downtiming
Fav Track: Weird Carolina
The only reason this didn't make the top 10 is because it's just 4 songs. Camp Trash is a real band and I'm in it.
Tricot - 上出来
Fav Track: The Curse of Spring (Track 3)
This song is heavier than other tricot songs. They talked about how this was the only song they had to sing to a click track for. Tricot also states "this is a powerful song that can blow away any curse - a good way to ward off evil."
Kississippi - Mood Ring
Fav Track: We're So in Tune
A dreamy song you can play on repeat on long drives. The music video is the cherry on top for this banger.
Origami Angel - GAMI GANG
Fav Track: Kno U or Bossa Nova Corps
Kno U is the song I scream in my car and Bossa Nova Corps is the first song I show my mom when trying to show her Origami Angel.
Just Friends - JF Crew, Vol. 3
Fav Track: Sunflower
This chorus is always stuck in my head, I'll catch myself singing it to my cats when I'm holding them.
Teamonade - Borderline
Fav Track: Impulse
The lyrics and flow of this song instantly made me look up the words so I could sing along to this the first time I heard it. Osi, TJ, and Ryan are musical geniuses who create melodies my brain really enjoys. The artwork is chef kisses, Osi has so many talents it blows my mind!
Learning Curve - Centerpiece
Fav Track: Crack a Smile
Usually the first song that comes on in the car when my phone connects, amazing to listen to any time of the day. It has a different feel at 7am fog than it does at 11pm and I love that! It's like the perfect intro and outro song to a movie.
Shelter Pup. - Pack Your Bags
Fav Track: Overcast
This whole EP is accompanied by a short film featuring all of the songs. It's a great watch and listen. I greatly appreciate projects that have multiple parts and showcase creativity in unconventional ways, you can feel how much hard work went into this.
Johnny Football Hero - Complacency
Fav Track: Cap'n Oblivious
Feel good, a ~classic~! The song I want to see live the most right now.
Superdestroyer - Such Joy
Fav Track: When it Comes to Croquet
The song that is cued up to grocery shop to.
Hey, ily - Internet Breath
Fav Track: DigitalLung.Exe
Living my 8bit fantasy when walking around listening to this, I suddenly see everything in a video game. Always a tasty ear snack.
Carol - Soiled
Fav Track: Spill
Maybe one of the most underrated records this year, if you listen to one thing on this list it would be this song. I love when folk records aren't afraid to go this hard and loud and this song is a masterpiece.
Home is Where - I Became Birds
Fav Track: Assisted Harakiri
You don't have to know anything about the discourse of fifth wave emo to like this breakthrough record. I'm constantly floored by Brandon MacDonald's lyrics and her vocal delivery.
Katy Kirby - Cool Dry Place
Fav Track: Traffic!
This is my favorite record I discovered when I was interning at Terrorbird Media this past winter. Katy's lyrics are conversational, yet wise and the auto-tune on this song is undeniably fun.
Lainey Gonzales - Don't Make Me Worry
Fav Track: I Love You a Lot (Marty's Interlude)or In The Meantime
Self-described once as "Death Cab for Country," this record is so down-to-earth even as its production is so in-the-clouds. I've had "Banana Bread" and "Dating in Your 20s" on repeat, but these two gems are really something special.
Parannoul - To See the Next Part of the Dream
Fav Track: Beautiful World
There's so much lore on who's behind this Korean bedroom-emo project to unpack that went viral on its own. Regardless, it's so inspiring to know you can actually make cool shit on MIDI.
Pink Navel - EPIC
Fav Track: GRATEFUL BARD
My GOSH what a record. Each track flows so perfectly into one another and Dev's references go so deep, you'll need a pen and paper to take notes. I have nothing to say but I'm such a huge fan and you should be too.
Sharrell Bryant - Turn Me into a Diamond
Fav Track: Gold
The most recent release on my list, this EP is most reflective of where I'm at right now. Sharrell's music feels like Michelle Branch meets Phoebe Bridgers meets something even more country than that. This is the perfect record to drive home to.
Squirrel Flower - Planet (i)
Fav Track: Night
I promise this rec is by no means biased. In all seriousness, Ella really outdid herself with this record and I am just proud to know her. Of all the songs I was bummed about not playing live, this was the one I missed most.
Wednesday - Twin Plagues
Fav Track: Three Sisters
The winner for "Best Visual Representation of An Album." It's sludgy and overwhelming and crushing like a junkyard piled sky-high with compacted cars.
Swim Camp - Fishing in a Small Boat
Fav Track: Race Track
One of my favorite things about my friendship with Tom is him sending me demos to send to my boyfriend because his favorite band is Swim Camp now. This album feels like a spoon of honey dripping into a cup of tea: patient, warm, and cozy.
Bo Burnham - Inside
Fav Track: All Eyes on Me
I've been a Bo Burnham fan since the I'm Bo Yo days, and this album/special blew me away. Throughout Inside is the comedy that one employs to cope with the harsh realities of life. It's gallows humor, vulnerability, and honest, raw emotion broken up by peeks of the jaunty Bo we all know and love. It feels like something private, something no one was meant to see. Admittedly, I listened to/watched Inside over and over, the way I used to do with songs/albums that made me feel “seen” as a teenager.
Rosie Tucker - Sucker Supreme
Fav Track: Ambrosia
I'd never heard Rosie Tucker until Sucker Supreme (I know, I know), but this album, a solid listen from the first to last song, has me hooked. My first listen of this album was full of internal exclamations in response to her whip-smart lyrics and exquisite instrumentation that matches the vibe of each song perfectly.
Origami Angel - GAMI GANG
Fav Track: Caught in the Moment
Somehow GAMI GANG feels nostalgic and new at the same time, a wild ride in my favorite flavor of Emo. GAMI GANG is an energetic melange of power chords, tippy taps, and twinkly math-y bits expertly paired with a sprinkling of teenage woe, a generous helping of nostalgia, a dash of angst and cynicism, and cheerful humor peppered throughout.
Cheekface - Emphatically, No
Fav Track: Best Life
Anxious? Depressed? Fed up with usual platitudes like “Live your best life” and “Be positive”? Cheekface has the perfect album for you! It brought me out of more than one funk by letting me lean into my feels and reminding me to not take things so seriously all the time. “Don't want instructions but don't know what to do. Man, I'll be in the corner, bring me water and food.”
Biitchseat - I'll become kind.
Fav Track: Bad Vibes Hoarder
The lyricism, the instrumentation, the subject matter, what's not to like with “I'll become kind.”? This EP checks all kinds of boxes for me. “I'll become kind.” confronts struggles we have with ourselves and the world around us and leaves you feeling seen, connected, and empowered.
PONY - TV Baby
Fav Track: Sunny D
The TV Baby sound is bubbly, garage-y, and reminiscent of the 90s. Despite the cheery sound, the lyrics have a delicious relatability, at least for me, a newly 30 year-old affected by a seemingly generational malaise and trying to find a balance between work and play while nursing an unrelenting existential crisis.
Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee
Fav Track: Be Sweet
Jubilee has this cotton candy, dreamy vibe that I really enjoy. It's the kind of album I'd listen to on a day where I get out of bed glad to greet the day. One where depression doesn't weigh so heavy, and I actually feel like living. The sun is shining, the day is full, and I feel alive.
Lucy Dacus - Home Video
Fav Track: Thumbs
You know when you're reading a novel and something about it makes you feel like you're in some kind of immersive theater? You can see and hear the characters clearly, and you can feel the weather like you're there, either as an invisible spectre or, perhaps, the separation between yourself and a particular character dissolves while your eyes glide over the words, unable to put the book down and return to the real world. Most of Home Video evokes a similar feeling.
Hit Like A Girl - Heart Racer
Fav Track: Hate Myself For It
Heart Racer kind of feels like a hazy day dream, remembering past relationships, interactions, and whirls of emotion, then realizing that these feelings and experiences can be more than what they seem, that they're all a part of the journey towards self-actualization.
Jesca Hoop - The Deconstruction of Jack's House
Fav Track: Hospital (Win Your Love) [DOJH]
I love Jesca's vocals on the album, folky and a bit haunting. Drums are scarcely used, but the sound is still full and driving, and there's a sort of energetic plucking throughout that offers quiet joviality that contrasts nicely with the lyrics.