The Best Albums Of 2021 (So Far)



Half of 2021 is gone and there has been no shortage of fantastic albums to get us through inside while outside remains, well, insane. While some of these might not be in the year's final list, it's a good time to stop and indulge these treats once again. Some haven't come off the turntable at all, some have made frequent visits, but all are doing their bit to keep us entertained and indulging escapism, intense realism, mood lifters and the odd downer. One thing is for sure, music is life.


If the second half is as creatively rich as the first, we're in for one hell of a year. Here are all our favourites so far. Have we missed anything?


WOLF ALICE -

BLUE WEEKEND

The ambitious Wolf Alice has aimed for the stars on their third LP and, well, they've touched the moon. Leaping from punk to pop to sexy shoegaze to Radiohead-esque piano ballads, Blue Weekend is reveals an already-killer band at their finest with songwriter and front person Ellie Rowsell showing epic leaps in her fronting fearlessness and her songwriting prowess. The band have delivered one of the year's finest and one hell of a career high.

- Ben Preece


THE WEATHER STATION - IGNORANCE

A deliberate shift away from her former folk leanings, Tamara Lindeman's songs are now rhythmic and danceable, jazz-flecked soft rock with, quite simply, gorgeous melodies from a truly wonderful voice. Diving deep into heartbreak while underpinning a concept of the climate crisis is one fantastic song after the next, not only rich in orchestration and texture, but also immense depth and dark beauty.

- Rose Hunt



MIDDLE KIDS - TODAY WE'RE THE GREATEST

What does an already good band do when they want to dodge sophomore slump? Simple, they get even better. Today We're The Greatest is undoubtedly Middle Kids finest collection of songs to date. Incorporating new elements of instrumentation, the album finds Hannah Joy in peak form, both vocally and lyrically while sounding completely calm and entirely ambitious all at once.

- Christopher Tracey


FLOATING POINTS, PHAROAH SANDERS & THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The unlikely pairing of electro-giant Floating Points and free-jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders is one of the most astonishing collaborations in a long time. Throw in cinematic swells from the London Symphony Orchestra LSO and you have one continuous wordless composition, gradually unfurling into something of a timeless masterpiece. - Ben Preece


serpentwithfeet - DEACON

Depicting black, queer romance since inception, the choir-trained experimental artist from Baltimore delivers a striking change on his second LP. He's in love, he's committed and he's celebrating the joy and simple glories of everyday life. His rich and unsurpassable harmonies are interwoven in modern R&B production sensibilities and light pop hooks. Deacon is poignant and strong, soft and playful and I can't begin to describe the sense of calm I achieve when listening to it. - Ben Preece


GENESIS OWUSU - SMILING WITH NO TEETH

Another effortless genre-jumper, Genesis Owusu gets more done in half a record than many do in an entire career. Careening from hip hop to old school R&B to rock and punk to soul, pop and jazz, Genesis puts everything he's got on the table and it all works. His ambition is well on display and his talents are dangerous feel like they're just getting started. Our answer to Prince living in Australia in 2021?!? We shall see.- Christopher Tracey



ARLO PARKS - COLLAPSED IN SUNBEAMS

The sizable hyperbole surrounding Arlo Parks up to and including the release of her debut album was well-justified. Her gift for soulful pop hooks atop jazz-infused R&B is the winning formula alright, but her lyrical compassion and ability to deliver a heart wrenching story of love, loss, empowerment and is second to no one out there currently. She's going to be around for a very long time

- Rose Hunt.



NICK CAVE & WARREN ELLIS - CARNAGE

Following a trio of stunning Bad Seeds' releases that dwelled more in stillness than savage, Nick Cave and bandmate Warren Ellis have created a cinematic work defined by its schizophrenic flip from brutal to surreal and romantic. Its first half recalls David Lynch while its esoteric second is an extended comedown. Cave's strobe of images and emotion feels wonderfully wild and unhinged, it's been sometime since he's threatened us with violence. - Rose Hunt


ST. VINCENT - DADDY'S HOME

On one of her most deeply personal records to date, St. Vincent adopts a 70's soft rock approach to her fifth record, occasionally dabbling in something a little glitzier. like the opening 'Pay Your Way In Pain'. Containing a loose, unsettling concept revolving around her father who went to jail for a decade for stock manipulation, the album isn't short of sitar sounds, gorgeous finger-picked guitar and lots of Pink Floyd prof-stylings. - Ben Preece

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JAPANESE BREAKFAST - JUBILEE

Joy replaces grief on Japanese Breakfast’s stylish and eclectic third album, ‘Jubilee’. It’s a leap in accessibility from 2017’s excellent ‘Soft Sounds From Another Planet’ and not quite expected. It’s still steeped in indie-pop sensibilities and buoyant brass and sweeping strings fill out the songs beautifully, making for chamber pop leanings that is a much more interesting take on the pop zeitgeist than anything else out there currently.

- Ben Preece


GIRL IN RED - IF I COULD MAKE IT GO QUIET

There's not much quiet about the Norwegian singer/songwriter's debut album. For fans of Billie and Benee, but somewhat louder, rawer and more honest, she hits themes of adolescent depression, queerness and anxiety while her self-examination and candor with production presented as a little more widescreen than her previous output.

The Billie similarities are justified, GiR has a distinctly short credits list with only herself co-producing with Matias Téllez and, funnily enough, the leading single ‘Serotonin’ is produced by none other than Finneas.

- Rose Hunt



GARBAGE -

NO GODS NO MASTERS

The seventh album from Garbage is the modern protest album you didn’t know you were waiting for - it's easily their best record since Version 2.0. Garbage’s trademark crunching guitars and layered beats will have your head bobbing, while Shirley Manson’s vocals hit with just enough Gen X rage to get you thinking. It’s a brilliant, angry and loud middle finger to the men who rule the world, and it’s brilliant.

- Ron Wade


J. COLE - THE OFF-SEASON

There are no overarching themes here on Cole's sixth record, just him laying down flat out bars where he spits, shouts and croons through complex rhyme schemes and a bunch of satisfying melodies with undeniable acumen as a lyricist. It's much-needed break from the preachiness that anchored previous efforts and sees Cole, someone who has confessed to not reading, focus on what he knows best - his own life - and being one of the best rappers around.

- Ben Preece



SLOWTHAI - TYRON

Inspiring a kind of mosh-pit energy gravely wasted in our current climate of social distancing and closed venues, Slowthai offers introspection and self-discovery in something that appears to be reckoning with a punk-inspired brashness. The front half is in all-caps and the back end is lower case, visually representing both the high-octane energy fans are used to and juxtaposing it with honest new territory, slower and genuine.

- Christopher Tracey


BLACK MIDI - CAVALCADE

The glorious second album from the adventurous UK rockers places stakes even higher this time around. They pull no punches, enhancing and fine tuning every aspect of their assets - the heavy bits are bigger and heavier, the pretty bits are prettier, the rhythms are more elaborately complicated and the execution crazier. Their dazzling musical expressiveness is something else and on Cavalcade, they are reaching beyond everything they've ever done and thrillingly pull it off! - Rose Hunt


CROWDED HOUSE - DREAMERS ARE WAITING

Crowded House's first album since 2010 and the band has expanded to a full-blown family affair, featuring drummer Elroy alongside Liam who is now a full-time multi-instrumentalist. Don't go looking fro the big hits that defined the band's past, instead these songs are more detailed, subtle and take repeated spins to truly reveal themselves. But Neil Finn is still penning perfect pop which retains the intimacy of the outfit's legacy.

- Christopher Tracey


JULIEN BAKER - LITTLE OBLIVIONS

Expanding her canvas on album number three, Julien Baker opted for more of a full band sound as the foundation for her songs of self-depreciation and heartbreak that she's already so known for. Her growth as a songwriter and lyricist is well on display, particularly on those piano ballads. It's sad girl rock at its finest - Rose Hunt.



HIATUS KAIYOTE - MOOD VALIANT

Somewhat more conventionally approached than previous albums, Hiatus Kaiyote's first album in six years follows a world of pressure and hardships for the band's leading lady Nai Palm. Given the events of this time, you'd be thinking this album wouldn't contain such hope that it does. Its beauty lies in its introspection and the bombast comes with delicious brass. An uplifting listen from one of Aus' most remarkable outfits.

- Ben Preece


BIG SCARY - DAISY

A particular favourite around these parts, Big Scary really brought it on album number four. This is their lockdown record, the sound of two friends, locked up in the studio making music that sounds like it's for themselves and themselves alone. I guess that makes us, the listener, the eavesdropper on Daisy, It's equally difficult to find comparisons - it's just Big Scary and it's stunning, it's ominous, it's hooky and it's another perfect piece of their flawless catalogue.

- Ben Preece


SHAME - DRUNK TANK PINK

Belting out of the gate on Jan 8, Shame propped the world up for a great year of music from the get-go. The London post-punk band's second LP is bigger, louder and more detailed than their debut. It's fueled by anxiety as frontman Charlie Steen details the awkward and uneasy gap between youth and a