The 50 best albums of 2021: 50-41 | Culture

This record is drawn from votes by Guardian music critics – every critic votes for his or her Prime 20 albums, with factors allotted for every putting. Verify in each weekday to see our subsequent picks, and please share your individual favorite albums of 2021 within the feedback under.


Agnes – Magic Nonetheless Exists

The Swedish pop star’s long-delayed fifth album embodies the platonic ideally suited of pop disco, steeped in Gaga (invigoratingly stern vocals about releasing one’s thoughts and physique), Abba (piano stomps and trills), Donna Summer season (the thumping 24 Hours) and Queen (melodramatic balladry). It transcends pastiche on the energy of her songwriting (you might swap virtually something right here on to Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia) and the going-for-broke depth of all of it. LS


MØL – Diorama

Faith no more ... cult survivor-singer Kim Song Sternkopf (centre) with band MØL.
Religion no extra … cult survivor-singer Kim Track Sternkopf (centre) with band MØL. {Photograph}: Sebastian Apel

Mixing the blast beats and acid-gargling glottal mayhem of black steel with the uplifting, even sentimental guitar dynamics of shoegaze, “blackgaze” has turn into a vibrant nook of heavy music – and Danish quintet MØL grew to become one of its best exponents with their second album. The moody breakdowns permit the explosive choruses to land all of the extra righteously, with vocalist Kim Track Sternkopf – a survivor of religion cults as a toddler – venting majestically into the mic. Tracks resembling Serf usher in a groove steel sensibility to assist all of it swing. BBT


Some of the 12 months’s best musical storytelling lived within the Virginia songwriter’s third report, her writing newly amplified by refined hints of pop propulsion and grit that evoked how Elliott Smith expanded his sound. Dacus displays on her teenage years – of church and bible camp, of budding queer need amid a tradition of disgrace and damnation, of the fantasies that allow her escape these limitations – with such tender curiosity that these vignettes really feel much less like mounted recollections than forensic crime scene reconstructions. Learn the complete evaluate. LS



Chai – WINK

The really confident hardly ever make a noise about it, and so it’s with the third album by Japanese woman group Chai. To blissed-out, dreamy synth-pop that buoys you alongside like a lazy river – often spiked by traditional rap throwbacks and arcade-game electro – the four-piece dreamily hymn the fun of meals, self-acceptance and protest, nurturing their very own laid-back tackle pleasure activism. LS


Stephen Fretwell – Busy Man


Melody maker ... Scunthorpe singer-songwriter Stephen Fretwell.
Melody maker … Scunthorpe singer-songwriter Stephen Fretwell. {Photograph}: David Levene/The Guardian

A songwriters’ songwriter beloved of Elbow and Arctic Monkeys, Stephen Fretwell was washing pots in a Wetherspoon’s pub, his music profession having flatlined amid fatherhood. He hauled himself up and gave music one other shot, apparently on the value of his marriage. So these songs are the work of a really inveterate musician, and it exhibits – Fretwell has such a pure facility for an affecting flip of melody, his easy fingerpicked guitar made eerie by the refined ambient tones that sit behind it. BBT


For These I Love – For These I Love

Poignant recollections appear to elongate and soften as we age, however this album is a reminder of how a lot jagged heft they’ve if you’re wanting again after just some years or months. David Balfe, 30, displays on a lifeless best good friend, poverty, trauma and the extraordinary vibrancy of younger friendships and creativity, in lengthy recitations set to music that reaches in the direction of techno and home. “You’re advised it is advisable to develop chilly to develop previous,” Balfe says, however he stays charged up with human heat on these songs. Learn the complete evaluate. BBT


Black Nation, New Street – For the First Time

‘Timeless tenderness’ ... Black Country, New Road.
‘Timeless tenderness’ … Black Nation, New Street. {Photograph}: Max Grainger

You don’t are inclined to get many Prime 5 charting albums from bands who mix klezmer, post-punk, jazz and prog with lyrics about failed romance at a science truthful, however Black Nation, New Street managed it. That success is testomony to how specific and contemporary their sound is amid the peculiar boys of British indie, additional helped by a very arresting frontman, Isaac Wooden. Whether or not it’s actually him or a persona, he’s haughty, simply damage, lustful, clumsy and incurably romantic – a beautiful, flawed character. Learn the complete evaluate. BBT


Chris Corsano and Invoice Orcutt – Made Out of Sound

For this album, made remotely final 12 months, guitarist Orcutt improvised to Corsano’s drum tracks, observing the waveforms as he recorded “so I may see when a crescendo was coming or when to convey it down”, he stated. It’s reminiscent of a surfer’s mentality, and Made Out of Sound feels thrillingly just like the trusty unpredictability of broaching the ocean: absurdist guitar begets quieter contemplation; burnished riffs harden and soften, then collapse. All through, the open-ended sense of magnificence is undimmed. LS


Gojira – Fortitude

Steel’s potential for thunderous anger makes it probably the most naturally expressive music to vent the worry, confusion and even disgrace of the local weather disaster. “The biggest miracle is burning to the bottom,” laments Joe Duplantier with bafflement and urgency, singing concerning the Amazon however maybe additionally the whole planet. Different songs are direct rallying cries to save lots of Earth (Into the Storm, Sphinx); One other World turns jaded and escapist, however is offset by The Chant, whose hearty refrain is the type of factor a post-apocalyptic band of survivors would sing whereas rowing throughout a flooded metropolis. Fortitude is an album that surveys humanity’s idiocy, but additionally its tenacity. BBT


The joyous ecclesiastical power of home enriches your soul on listening to this full-length from the US producer, which additionally chimes with the will for optimism and gregariousness amid the waning pandemic. Like lots of the best underground dance artists lately (Skee Masks, Anz and so on), she firmly embraces the breakbeat-driven sound of the early 90s – Trip Free even has the identical Peter Fonda pattern as Primal Scream’s Loaded – and additional enriches these busy, cymbal-heavy rhythms with zesty detailing: rave melodies, declarative vocal samples, penetrating bass notes. Learn the complete evaluate. BBT

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