Top Five Albums of 2021 – Nikhil’s List

31 Dec

Above all else in 2021, there are two disappointments that naturally loom heavy. I can’t say that they don’t put a damper on wrap-up lists like this or that I don’t personally wish they were better, but to focus on them is to lose sight of a year that has had some particularly bright moments for music. We had a stellar debut album, some top-notch jazz and the consolidation of a rapper who has unquestionably found himself.

5. Tyler, The Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST

It’s still a little novel to see a mature Tyler. There was never any question when he started out that he was not only immensely talented but also a very intelligent and very sensitive young man, but did need to squint to see it through all the antics. Now, you would have to be blind to miss it.

Pairing with DJ Drama was a good start. The two feed off each other, each bringing out more fun, chaotic energy from the other and the occasional guest spot builds further upon that. It’s when he gets to telling stories though that the album is at its best though. His narrative of his friend’s girlfriend in “WILSHIRE” is one of the strongest stories that rap has ever dropped and the kind of thing that only Tyler could make. If you only listen to a single song from 2021, make it this one.

Read our full review here.

4. Low – HEY WHAT

I tend to see slowcore as soundscapes. They feel like murals, not miniatures. It’s music that you can see with unfocused eyes. HEY WHAT is music of that scale and yet intricate in its detail. There are thousands of thoughts, each expressed in tiny spaces. It’s very clever and very understated and somehow willing to reward you no matter how you approach it.

Read our full review here.

3. Olivia Rodrigo – SOUR

I’m not young anymore. I haven’t even felt young in a long time. SOUR wears its youth on its sleeve. This is about coming of age, of throwing yourself at a boy who doesn’t treat you right and of feeling your feelings. Olivia Rodrigo goes from heartbroken to honest to gloriously petty with the speed and the intensity that only teenagers can bring to bear and she does it all with startlingly clever lyrics and undeniable music. SOUR is nothing short of a phenomenon.

Read our full review here.

2. Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh, Tyshawn Sorey- Uneasy

You just can never really get a handle on Uneasy. This is an album that always stays just a little out of reach, that always keeps you just enough off balance that you cannot quite find your feet. It’s exhilarating in the way of an off-kilter roundabout and just as quick to leave you dizzy.

Jazz is at its best when it holds to its political roots and Uneasy does just that. It takes all of the disorientation that it builds with such intelligence and skill and uses that to remind you how unsettling the present day is and that icy water to the face is what makes this album truly excellent.

Read our full reveiw here.

1. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, London Symphony Orchestra – Promises

I’m honestly still a little surprised that this collaboration happened, but it’s not at all surprising that the pieces all fit together so well. This style of nature-infused, spiritual music has offshoots in all of the styles of music represented here. However, it’s still magical to see it all come together.

It’s evocative and yet fully detailed. You can feel the forest and every living being all at once and yet the austerity of nature gets tempered by a wonderfully human saxophone and so the whole lifts you further and further to the point where even the silence after the album finishes is suffused with its glow.

Read our full review here.

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