COOL ALBUMS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED IN 2021
As the year comes to a close, we wanted to highlight some of the top-notch pop full-lengths that may have been overlooked but are worthy of any Best of 2021 round-up. Some of these artists are veterans, some are just getting started, but they all added something singular and special to this year's pop world. Dive in below!
ALESSIA CARA | IN THE MEANTIME
"Wish I knew what I’m becoming,” Alessia Cara sings on "In The Meantime," an album that forces the 25-year-old former best new artist Grammy winner to prod at her sense of self after millions of streams and multiple hits. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more vulnerable pop album in 2021, and Cara treats the layer-shedding process with professional curiosity and personal hopefulness.
BLEACHERS | TAKE THE SADNESS OUT OF SATURDAY NIGHT
In between contributing to projects by Taylor Swift, Clairo, Lorde, St. Vincent and Lana Del Rey this year, Jack Antonoff released his most fully realized Bleachers album to date, a project confident in its most personal moments and unabashedly buoyed by the multi-hyphenate’s heroes, as Bruce Springsteen and Zadie Smith both appear on "Take The Sadness Out of Saturday Night."
CHLOE MORIONDO | BLOOD BUNNY
Chloe Moriondo’s "Blood Bunny" was a pleasant surprise adjacent to the pop-punk revival of 2021, a complete portrait of a unique teenage identity that has emerged as a recording artist after a series of ukulele covers on YouTube. “I Eat Boys,” and its Jennifer’s Body-inspired music video remains a flashpoint, but across 13 songs, Moriondo beautifully renders angst and self-assessment over buzzing guitars.
CLAUD | SUPER MONSTER
Plenty of artists made records about the euphoria and frustration of teenage romance this year; few, if any, made one as accomplished as Claud’s "Super Monster." Songs like “Soft Spot” and “Guard Down” beguile immediately while others take longer to sink into, but Claud’s songwriting and point of view never fail to reward on repeat listens.
GRIFF | ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER
Although technically billed as her debut mixtape, Griff’s "One Foot In Front of The Other" carried enough spectacular pop moments to rival any 2021 full-length. Self-produced by the rising British star in her bedroom, the seven-song project tossed out both immaculate hook construction (“Black Hole”) as well as warm, woozy production (“Shade of Yellow”) with an effortlessness most pop artists would love to possess.
YEBBA | DAWN
Wondering why Drake bequeathed the spotlight to Yebba on the song “Yebba’s Heartbreak” from his "Certified Lover Boy" album? One listen to "Dawn," the Arkansas singer-songwriter’s long-awaited debut album, should clear up any questions: the soulful vocals and poetic lyricism on the full-length, along with well-placed guest spots from A$AP Rocky and Smino, suggest a recording star in the making.
DREW SYCAMORE | SYCAMORE
Coming from a small town in Denmark’s countryside, Drew Sycamore makes pop that sounds like it wants to swallow the entire planet and then search for parties across the cosmos. "Sycamore," which desperately needs a more significant North American audience, is both relentless — even the down-tempo songs are stuffed with hooks — and effervescent, a perfectly executed attempt to inject joy into the listener.
BRANDI CARLILE | IN THESE SILENT DAYS
Again and again, Carlile’s purity – as a singer, a songwriter, a musician, an artist – is its magnetic element, an intangible soulfulness that burrows its way into your heart. A student of ‘70s songcraft – her affection for Joni Mitchell and Elton John is well documented. From the moment she utters the opening lines of the poignant piano ballad, “Right on Time” prepares for an intensely emotional journey.
JULIA MICHAELS | NOT IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
The gifted singer-songwriter finally got the chance to present a full-length statement after a series of EPs, and "Not In Chronological Order' boasts some of Julia Michaels’ most singular pop moments yet, from the tense bounce of “Lie Like This” to the devil-may-care guitar ripcord “All Your Exes.” The album caps off a breathtaking five-year run from Michaels, and now, she can do anything she wants.
ALY & AJ | A TOUCH OF THE BEAT GETS YOU UP ON YOUR FEET GET YOU OUT INTO THE SUN
Aly and AJ Michalka, former Disney stars who showed plenty of bright flashes during the 14 years between proper Aly & AJ full-lengths, finally released the dizzyingly fun adult album that longtime fans knew they had in them, as "A Touch of the Beat…" sounds like both a retro pop-rock pastiche and a reassuring check-in with where the sisters are today.
PALE WAVES | WHO AM I?
The title of Pale Waves’ sophomore LP, "Who I Am," is deceptive — the British quartet both asks and answers questions about their identities on the follow-up to 2018’s "My Mind Makes Noises" and figures out a streamlined pop-rock sound that suits them well. The group’s X factor remains Heather Baron-Gracie, a risk-taking leader who never flinches when addressing her sexuality or the sordid state of the world.
LAURA MVULA | PINK NOISE
The first words Laura Mvula sings on "Pink Noise" are “I will give you all of my soul, for your pleasure / I will give you everything that I own, for good measure.” The British artist isn’t singing to her audience, but she may as well be: Mvula has spent a decade working up to the groove, starry-eyed tunes on display here, fulfilling her early promise by pouring her soul into her first album in five years.