So. Album of 2021 time! 2021… where do you start? Given we’ve all spoken enough about the misery this year has subjected us to, let’s not go any further into it. A big positive was that there was a ton of great albums released. We’ve deliberated long and hard and picked our top 21 albums of the year. A list so hard to compile any of these could have taken the top spot.
Before we get started with our AOTY countdown we, at Beats To The Bar, would like to say thank you very much to everyone who has read, shared and liked our articles over the past year. It means a lot to us.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s our countdown to our album of 2021:
21. Qlowski – Quale Futuro?
20. Wurld Series – What’s Growing
19. Nervous Twitch – Nervous Twitch
Post punk drawing in elements of Ought, Omni and The Cure.
What we said: There’s a lot to like about Qlowski. Their proficient post punk, gothic edge and characterful vocals set them apart. ‘Quale Futuro’ is one of the most accomplished debut albums we’ll probably hear this year.
A great whimsical indie rock record, reminiscent of Pavement, Savage Mansion and early Weezer.
What we said: With a widely more subtle approach on “What’s Growing” Wurld Series have grown up. Thankfully they’ve also kept enough of the scuzz that gained them fans on their earlier work.
A brilliant indie punk record that will satisfy fans of Molar, The Raincoats and Primo.
What we said: If you’ve not yet invested time in Nervous Twitch this self titled album is a great place to start. Sometimes there is just no need to reinvent the wheel. Nervous Twitch seem to know that very well. This is absolutely recommended for any punk or indie pop fan.
18. Posuposu Otani – Posuposu Otani 2021
This is unlike anything we’ve heard before. A self-released album from left-field.
What we said: The ten tracks of ‘Posuposu Otani 2021’ take in very little by way of instrumentation, little more than an electric guitar and vocals… The result here is something quite mesmerising.
17. Haq123 – More…
Noise rock’s enfants terribles produced their best effort yet, which may appeal to fans of Boris, Lightning Bolt and Sunn 0))).
What we said: Simply every track on ‘More…’ is a banger. Haq123 are growing up fast and, for my money, this is their most focussed, consistent and best album yet.
16. Slant – 1집
Amid the worldwide explosion of K-Pop a Korean Hardcore band made one of the year’s most exciting punk records.
What we said: You don’t hear of many punk bands coming out of Korea (I’m sure plenty of people could prove me wrong) but Slant are the real deal. Full on, relentless and furious. This might be the best hardcore album we’ll hear all year. Hugely recommended.
15. Jack Ellister – Lichtpyramide II
Part 2 of his Kosmiche odyssey is another level up from the first Lichtpyramide album.
What we said: It’s easy to lose all sense of time when listening to ‘Lichtpyramide II’… Jack Ellister has added further nuance to his colourful electronic, retro-futurist soundscapes.
14. Print Head – Happy Happy & Hardcore Pop
A crazed lo-fi no wave/post punk album out of Canada that will appeal to fans of Devo, Buffet Lunch and Sex Hands.
What we said: Print Head’s is the sort of music that always sounds better rough around the edges, full of peaking and tape hiss. It’s almost a no-wave punk Troutmask Replica.
13. Shrapnel – Alasitas
An old school hippy sounding band who injected a little labyrinthine sunshine into 2021. Retro pop for fans of Of Montreal, Order Of The Toad and The Byrds.
What we said: Shrapnel are a sublimely talented band with creativity in abundance. ‘Alasitas’ packs in so many ideas and twists in it’s intricate vivid pop that it can become dizzying! A fascinating record.
12. Clémentine March – Songs Of Resilience
A much more stripped down and subtle follow up to her glorious debut album. An album of resilience and hope.
What we said: “Songs Of Resilience” is a warm, inviting, subtle and extremely enjoyable second album from Clémentine March, that really highlights her melodic talents. What a great way to begin our musical discoveries this year.
11. Giulio Erasmus – Re-Adjustment
The former DUDs frontman and Handle bassist returned solo with an exceptionally esoteric lo-fi offering.
What we said: With ‘Re-Adjustment’ Giulio Erasmus has produced one of the most gloriously peculiar albums you will hear this year.
10. Robert Sotelo – Celebrant
Another bold pop album from this exceptionally gifted solo artist. This time he lost the guitars and went fully electronic.
What we said: As big fans of ‘Infinite Sprawling’ it was hard not to be taken aback by the new sounds on show but when allowed to sink into the skin ‘Celebrant’ is something really, really special. It truly stands out on its own.
9. Buffet Lunch – The Power Of Rocks
Mixing Post punk, Indie rock and a dash of Krautrock this album offers a lot for fans of Kaputt, Broadcast and Talking Heads.
What we said: They have expanded their sound on their debut album, embracing space and melody to great effect, and it really works for them.With such an abundance of talent they can go anywhere from here.
8. Jodi – Blue Heron
A subtle and stirring debut solo album of stripped back folk rock for fans of Mount Eerie, Will Oldham and Neil Young.
What we said: Whilst the album is very much all about subtlety and quiet, the spaces in-between being just as important as the notes played, it’s all very carefully considered… ‘Blue Heron’ is a quietly staggering, introspective debut solo album.
7. Richard Dawson & Circle – Henki
Another fine release from one of the UK’s most inventive solo artists, teaming up with a Finnish metal band with sometimes fascinating results.
What we said: A collaboration that surprises in both its subtlety and wide ranging explorations.
6. Bertie Marshall – Exhibit
This is a collection of old recordings but one so good we just had to feature it here. This could delight Scott Walker and Tom Waits fans.
What we said: ‘Exhibit’ is an intense, ethereal and challenging collection that is at times darkly comedic, impassioned and wild. An incredible introduction to a fascinating cult character.
5. FACS – Present Tense
The Chicago based band really turned up the intensity on this album. They also upped the ante with their songwriting on the whole.
What we said: This sounds like nothing else… it’s paranoid, claustrophobic and constantly on edge.
4. Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
One of our big favourites rocked up with their debut album and it didn’t disappoint. Already picked up Rough Trade’s album of the year.
What we said: It’s not always as instantly catchy as the two EPs but ‘New Long Leg’ is a slightly different beast. The songs are more expansive, the production is slicker. It’s still the Dry Cleaning we love, just with a newly tailored suit.
3. Lean Logic – Lean Logic
Rose Keeler Schäffeler (Keel Her) and Nick Carlisle (Bamboo, Katy & Nick, Peepholes) teamed up to stunning effect on this synth pop gem.
What we said: ‘The Last Mirage’ is carefully constructed, with a dreamy flow throughout. Lean Logic have created an album both subtle and powerful at the same time. There’s a massive heart behind the icy landscapes and funk tinged licks. An essential synth pop album for 2021.
2. Ed Dowie – The Obvious I
One of the most unique and hypnotic albums released in recent times, packed with gorgeous melodies and beautifully constructed atmospherics. There’s an absolute abundance of creativity. This is one hell of a record.
What we said: ’The Obvious I’ is, quite simply, a sensational record. A masterclass in atmospherics and melody. A sound world to repeatedly explore and get lost in.
Album Of 2021
1. Nightshift – Zöe
With members of heavy hitting cult indie artists Order Of The Toad, I’m Being Good and Spinning Coin in their ranks this was always going to be good. However, that they had never even gigged together when this was released, and managed to collaborate remotely to make this groove heavy, Krautrock-inspired Post Punk delight, makes it all the more impressive.
What we said: Knowing that this was all achieved in lockdown is remarkable. Throughout Zöe the band sound completely in tune with each other… an absolute must! Our pick for album of 2021.