Rock & Roll Globe’s 40 Best Albums of 2021 

Aggression takes center stage as a means of coping with the second dumpster fire of a year

Halsey If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power, Capitol 2021

It’s not easy putting these lists together, man.

But if there’s a trend taking one’s Albums Of The Year piece in an intriguing direction, well, that makes the job infinitely easier.

Yet while the choice of this year’s top title was a real boondoggle, it was quite easy to spot which genre was top loaded with innovative ideas in 2021. New releases in the sister worlds of hardcore and heavy metal comprise some prime real estate on this year’s list which, if you were listening closely enough should come as no surprise.

 

 

Whether it was Iron Maiden achieving a late career high with their double-length samurai epic Senjutsu, Turnstile pinpointing the precise line of balance between Cave-In and The Cure on the brilliant “Glow On”, the anonymous dreamcore of The Armed’s second LP Ultrapop or the reinvention of Buffalo metalcore mavens Every Time I Die on their brilliant ninth LP Radical, creativity through aggression was cathartic way to survive this dumpster fire year. 

The angst wasn’t reserved for strictly the naturally loud crowd either, as commercial pop continued to surprise and enthrall in the form of Olivia Rodrigo and Halsey, who took a cement brick to the glass ceiling by recruiting Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to produce her incredible 3rd or 4th album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. That’s why it’s at the top of our list below, because if we are living in a time when Trent Reznor is gonna make it a habit of producing pop albums with multiplatinum artists, we are indeed living in remarkable times. -Ed.

 

1. Halsey If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (Capitol)

Where most of her pop peers churn out steady streams of unabashedly uncut id, pleasure for its own sake, Halsey has steadily moved in the other direction – a trek that’s culminated in this alternately brooding and self-judgmental masterwork of pure super-ego. If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power got an initial burst of attention because of Halsey’s surprising decision to team with producer (and occasional co-writer Trent Reznor, who displays a welcome restraint when it comes to imposing his vision on this darkly personal collection. Yes, Halsey dips into the industrial guru’s bag of tricks here and there – most notably on the brutal, broken “Easier Than Lying,” a spiritual descendent of The Downward Spiral – but he album is at its best, though, when things are at their most hushed.  The meditative “Lilith,” with its insistent refrain of “I just fuck things up, if you noticed. Have you noticed? Tell me have you noticed?” is redolent of conversations with self that can only occur in a quiet bedroom in the wee hours of the morning. Halsey has a lot to say – on tracks like “You Asked For it,” her words tumble out in torrents that are both bleak and beautiful, like waves crashing on a Nordic cliff.  But for all its hints of desperation and self-sabotage (a phrase she uses more than once), If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power paints a picture of a woman who has found a way to seize exactly what she wants. – Deb Sprague

 

VIDEO: Halsey, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross talk about If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power with Billboard 

 

2. Weezer OK Human (Crush Music)

For their best album since the Green one, the band ditches electric guitars in favor of piano and strings, punching up the genius of Rivers Cuomo as a master of melody. I got a lot of heat for wanting OK Human on this entire list let alone in the Top 5. But when he is truly true to his heart, I believe Rivers Cuomo is a transcendent pop songwriter and composer when he is in the right headspace. We have seen Weezer emerging from its creative post-Maladroit rut in recent years with such impressive fare as Everything Will Be Alright In The End and the White album (even the Teal album is a fun listen, TBH). But not since Green have we heard a Weezer album that fully lives up to the promise they delivered with their classic first two LPs.

Van Weezer, on the other hand… -Ron Hart

 

VIDEO: Weezer “All My Favorite Songs”

 

3. L’Rain Fatigue (Mexican Summer)

Taja Cheek, Brooklyn music royalty, makes R&B from a 6th dimension. And Fatigue brings together a balance of introspection and improvisation that blur the lines between Solange Knowles and Sun Ra even more deeply. – Hart

 

VIDEO: L’Rain “Find It”

 

4. Aimee Mann Queens of the Summer Hotel (SuperEgo Records)

Mann’s feeling reflective in 2021, and, while that’s nothing new, there is a certain elevated level of lucidity in her complex tales–and the intricately elegant song titles. In the spirit of Hissing of Summer Lawns-era Joni, Aimee weaves tapestries of songs capturing moments of staring at Vermeer or of the capricious nature of moments when love or hope fades, occasionally revives, but mostly lands somewhere in between. It ain’t cheerful, but in her hands and with her trademark lightly lush, often jazzy piano and strings arrangements, her thoughts on darker topics like suicide become famiiar and gentle and ultimately welcome. – Jason Thurston

 

VIDEO: Aimee Mann “Suicide is Murder”

 

5. Garbage No Gods, No Masters (Infectious Music)

During the pandemic and geopolitical situations of recent years, some acts looked inward. Not Garbage. They returned after five years, pissed off and with a lot to say. Their most political work, they haven’t sounded this invigorated since the days of the debut and Version 2.0. Anger mingles with hope. Self-doubt mixes with clarity. Even when the album deals with weightier topics, Shirley Manson intertwines the personal with the political and Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker have her back with music that switches things up throughout in the ways that Garbage does so well. – Kara Tucker

 

VIDEO: Garbage “No Gods No Masters”

 

6. Iron Maiden Senjutsu (UMe)

Throughout his 45 years of existence, we have seen Eddie larp as a Killer, a Blade Runner, a Pharoah, an outlaw, a fighter pilot and a tree. But seeing the iconic Iron Maiden mascot in full samurai regalia on the artwork to their late period epic Senjutsu somehow trumps them all. But even if the cover was just a blank slate, the complex ambition of this 17th Maiden LP–two discs’ worth of epic material like “The Writing On The Wall,” “The Parchment” and “Hell On Earth”–will remind you once again of the full-fledged might of these British metal masters. – Hart

 

VIDEO: Iron Maiden “The Writing on the Wall”

 

7. Armand Hammer and The Alchemist Haram (Backwoodz Studioz)

The proverbial sons of new Brooklyn grime teams a West Coast beat giant and continues to secure the dominance of billy woods and Euclid as the true lions of East Coast rap in 2021.– Hart 

 

VIDEO: Armand Hammer & The Alchemist “Robert Moses/God’s Feet”

 

8. Olivia Rodrigo Sour (Interscope)

The fact this former co-star of High School Musical aped a famous Elvis Costello lick for her boffo single “Brutal” (sounds more Wire-ish to me, tho) means she is listening. And the Top 40 is a better landscape for it. – Hart

 

VIDEO: Olivia Rodrigo “Brutal”

 

9. Turnstile Glow On (Roadrunner Records)

At times the Pro Tooled riffage feels quantized, or hell, formulaic. And Brendan Yates is a one-note barker in the classic tradition of Zack de la Rocha or Cedric Bixler-Zavala, which is explained away by the word “hardcore,” which you’ll find in any Turnstile write-up, not just as a pedigree — they earned their Hate5six showcase. But you can’t blame all of music media for pinning their rock hopes on these boys, who so prioritize their shit-in-the-pit energy that they make Pro Tools move anyway. Blood Orange helps massage in quirks (which tend towards Latin percussion and plastic soul) that don’t just distinguish their music but assist it, and it doesn’t take too long to tell the songs apart, from the inspired “Mystery” to the minor-versed/major-chorused “Holiday” to the winningly titled “T.L.C. (Turnstile Love Connection),” which actually is pretty hardcore. All that’s missing is a touch of the personal, but when the communal is this effervescent, the whole world opens up a circle pit. — Ted Miller

 

VIDEO: Turnstile Love Connection

 

10. The Armed Ultrapop (Sargent House)

Unmasked but nevertheless anonymous, this fourth LP from the mysterious Detroit group walks a fine line between anarchy and euphoria on the challenging and magnificent Ultrapop. There’s no need for individual affiliations in this outfit because The Armed operate like one giant octopus with the ability to destroy everything in its path while connecting to our souls simultaneously. – Hart

 

VIDEO: The Armed “Average Death”

 

11. Too Much Joy Mistakes Were Made (People Suck Music)

What makes this triumphant comeback from these unsung legends of early alt rock all the more sweeter was the realization of how Too Much Joy has served as a secret template for some of the best new power pop of the last 20 years. – Hart

 

VIDEO: Too Much Joy “Blinding Light of Love”

 

12. Mach-Hommy Pray for Haiti (Griselda)

From the moment “The 26th Letter”’s lone drunk NOLA sax keynotes the best album to ever come out of the Griselda (or any 2021 rap) orbit, you know this fever dream is your jam. Westside Gunn is one of those jester-voiced characters like Flavor Flav you’re happy to hear rapping, ad-libbing or in this case producing, and committed unknown Mach (try Googling his Wikipedia page) unlooses bars tighter and harder than his own impressionistic library of references. From the gleaming piano swirls of “No Blood No Sweat” to the diced soul of “Kriminel” that owes No I.D. to the warped Blaxploitation score “Blockchain,” Neither Ghostface nor RZA has been this evocative or psychedelic in years, and “Ten Boxes – Sin Eater” would not have been the weakest track on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. This month’s Balens Cho is an equally worthy and somehow poppier and even more Haiti-forward addendum. – Miller

 

VIDEO: Mach-Hommy  “No Blood, No Sweat”

 

13. Billie Eilish Happier Than Ever (Interscope)

Your mileage may vary in re: “boring,” which some Phoebe Bridgers and Lana Del Rey fans found this unusually quiet item of pop merchandising. I call it as subtle and entrancing and shaded as classic Portishead or PJ Harvey’s Is This Desire, with a lot more to say, wearing its brains and heart on its sleeve because the most nuanced sound architect in Top 40 also just turned 20. Her brother Finneas turned down the aural novelty factor for these productions so they’d come off like the great lost xx album if Eilish wasn’t so much more Nellie McKay in her jazz-smoked confidence and puzzle-piece wit, from “Things I once enjoyed / Just keep me employed now” to “At least I gave him something he could cry about / I thought about my future and I want it now.” McKay was pretty young when she burst onto the scene as an audacious polymath herself. Now imagine her humanity and sanity in a person ten times richer, fielding maybe 50 times more gross inquiries on her body. Her valentine to a post-Trump world: “Try not to abuse your power.” And the young white person knows she’s including Grammy voters. – Miller

 

VIDEO: Billie Eilish “Happier Than Ever”

 

14. Converge Bloodmoon: 1 (Epitaph)

Now in their 30th year together, Converge refuse to burn out or fade away. And where Pitchfork might see the debut release of their expanded lineup featuring Gothic singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe and Cave-In’s Stephen Brodsky as “exhausting and predictable, a ceaseless barrage of the banal,” the fact of the matter is that Bloodmoon I is on more than one AOTY list because its anything but, actually. In fact, Bloodmoon: 1 is the sound of a re-energized institution of Massachusetts metalcore pushing the genre they helped pioneer into some of its most creative new directions yet, adding elements of complexity and romance to its rage that transcends its own fury with inexplicable beauty. – Hart

 

VIDEO: Converge “Blood Moon”

 

15. Tyler the Creator Call Me If You Get Lost (Columbia)

Look, some of us don’t think he’s been legible/funny/striking enough since Goblin, back when he and his cohort made sport of being casually offensive. Now we know three of the four most important alumni of Odd Future identify as queer, and Tyler’s music in particular became denser, subtler, and more expansive while outselling Syd, Earl, and probably even Frank. So it’s about time his affinities for Stereolab, Al Green, Pharrell, et al. all melded in the service of something greater. But his best album in a decade sounds more like a classic DJ Drama mixtape through an Instagram filter, which wasn’t lost on the guy who hired Drama himself to emcee. It’s no less messy than the Grammy- and chart-approved Igor or the not-bad Flower Boy, but it shows its stuff at a more frenetic pace, and most crucially, the two tracks that weigh in at a combined 18 minutes are the two best (not least because they sustain long enough for your hum reflex to kick in). He’s still obsessed with vintage soul, so flute is a given. But is that an oboe?  – Miller

 

VIDEO: globe-trotter by le FLEUR

 

16. Taylor Swift Red (Taylor’s Version) (Taylor Swift) 

This generation’s finest songwriter, Taylor Swift reclaims Red, her career-defining set which saw the then-21-year-old defy expectation and reach across the aisle to pop music. The set’s original 16 tracks detailed crushing heartache, celebrating youth, and navigating rising tide waters of human pain in its purest form. With Red (Taylor’s Version), as with the previous Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the storyteller outfits the original compositions (first forged with industry stalwarts Max Martin and Shellback) with updated vocal performances and more meticulous arrangements, the instruments feeling warmer and more human. When the drums crash into the ears with “State of Grace,” crinkling like bowling pins scattered into the gutter, a sensational tingle ripples down the spine. – Jason Scott 

 

VIDEO: Taylor Swift “All Too Well”

 

17. Madlib/Four Tet Sound Ancestors (Stones Throw) 

Like a millennial hip-hop version of King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry coming together for a soundclash, this union between Otis Jackson, Jr. and Kieran Hebden is even better than you imagined. It’s the sound of the two men most responsible for the advancement of modern beat science in the 21st century exchanging ideas to build a better tomorrow. – Hart

 

AUDIO: Sound Ancestors (full album)

 

18. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be An Introvert (101 Music)

Like an expert plate-spinner, Little Simz keeps a variety of styles and ideas going (including interludes that serve the songs). She’s able to look inward and outward in equally incisive fashion. Little Simz opens herself up more than before and turns in a masterpiece both cinematic and introspective. An absolute killer that should finally wake up the wider audiences that have slept on her work before (which they shouldn’t after 2019’s The Grey Area, but that’s on the audience, not her). – Tucker

 

VIDEO: Little Simz feat. Cleo Sol “Woman”

 

19. Duran Duran Future Past (BMG)

Forty years in, the band is both comfortable in knowing who they are and what they do well and still eager enough to throw in enough tweaks to keep things interesting. It can be a fine line to walk between connecting to the past without rehashing it by rote. With a host of well-chosen collaborators (proucers Erol Akin and Giorgio Moroder, guitarist Graham Coxon), Duran Duran delivers its best album in a recent run of solid work, once again proving there’s more life, creativity and craft in these guys than their detractors thought back when they were MTV stars. – Tucker

 

VIDEO: Duran Duran “INVISIBLE”

 

20. Goat Girl, On All Fours (Rough Trade)

It’s tough, if not downright impossible, for a band to be genuinely surprising in the 2020s, but this alternately loopy and pushy London quartet has found a way to pull the rug out from under the listener – and make them like it. That has a lot to do with the raggedly enticing melodies conjured up by guitarist L.E.D, who has a spiritual kinship with My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, although her sonic layers are considerably more brittle and cutting. That shades-of-grey backdrop is a perfect match for frontwoman Clottie Cream’s panic-attack-in-a-bottle tales of drunkenness, cruelty and desperation. Perhaps the most intriguing blast of uneasy listening to emerge this year. – Sprague

 

VIDEO: Goat Girl “Sad Cowboy”

 

21. Mdou Moctar, ‘Afrique Victime’ (Matador)

Tuareg guitar blues enters the Houses of the Holy on this uncompromisingly heavy and soulful album, the Niger-based songwriter’s first on Matador. Few folks can rip on the electric guitar like Mdou in 2021.  – Hart

 

VIDEO: Mdou Moctar Live at the Niger River

 

22. SAULT Nine (Forever Living Originals)

This mysterious London outfit remains as productive as they are elusive as they continue to skip the evens with NINE, their most accessible work yet. But just because SAULT might sound more radio friendly doesn’t mean they are no less serious than they’ve been in the wake of the collective global trauma from which they have risen. – Hart

 

VIDEO: SAULT “Bitter Streets”

 

23. Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber Angels Over Oakanda (Self-Released)

If there hasn’t been and never will be enough ink spilled about Greg Tate’s genius as an all-time wrangler of the English language, into analysis so kaleidoscopic and word-drunk and bursting with color and dexterity it’s often outshined his subjects themselves (see his Californication review in Rolling Stone, 1999), you know 20-30 odd years of his music will never get enough shine. The fact he’s no longer with us only makes Burnt Sugar’s obscurity to those outside the know a sadder thing. The ensemble’s roiling, amorphous funk-rock-jazz-hip-hop fusion of sometime collaborator Vernon Reid’s dreams was once earmarked by unforgettable Funkadelic titles like If You Can’t Dazzle Them With Your Brilliance, Then Baffle Them With Your Blisluth. But Tate’s sendoff has atmospheric electric Miles in mind for its 18-minute “opener,” patterned with undertones of Fela, the Arkestra of their namesake, warehouses of woodwinds, and a coda that evokes the funkiest bits of New Amerykah-era Badu. All that’s missing is sitar. And the man of the hour. — Miller

 

VIDEO: Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber “Conduction No. 5”

 

24. Juliana Hatfield Blood (American Laundromat) 

Juliana continues to assert her dominance as the hardest working woman of her generation with her incredible ninth solo LP. And it’s her darkest work yet, channeling her feelings about the age of Trumpism with horror film imagery and lyrical viscera that cuts to the core of the critical fracture in the American psyche. – Hart

 

VIDEO: Juliana Hatfield performs “Mouthful of Blood” on Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

 

25. Kiwi JR Cooler Returns (Sub Pop)

Melding Sloan’s northern cheeriness with Pavement’s (or maybe Vampire Weekend’s) love of obtusely delightful poetic word salads that might just mean something, Kiwi Jr. hypnotize with their sophomore record. There is incredible efficiency in the brief slices of the Toronto foursome’s peppy pop songcraft–more than half clock in under three minutes–with enticing hooks and odd references from Tomb Raider to the 2020 Super Bowl. There’s moments that almost touch on politics–a song titled “Undecided Voters” and the subtle hints at Bernie Sanders in “Omaha,” but its more with a bemused eye. – Thurston

 

VIDEO: Kiwi Jr. “Waiting In Line”

 

26. Amyl & The Sniffers, Comfort to Me (Rough Trade)

Their self-titled 2019 debut was a refreshing blast, this follow-up is even more bracing. Put together through multiple lockdowns, the band has grown its chops and with sharper production put them to use on an even better batch of songs. Lead singer and lyricist Amy Taylor is a charismatic force.. More than here to not just put up with your shit, Taylor expresses vulnerability, understandable dread, desires for love and honesty about still figuring out who she is and her place in the world. A band that’s grown, but you still play it loud and check your speakers to see if the sweat, beer, spit and trace amounts of blood came through. – Tucker

 

VIDEO: Amyl and the Sniffers “Hertz”

 

27. Hiatus Kaiyote Mood Valiant (Brainfeeder)

“When you think your life is going to be taken away from you, it makes you think about who you are,” stated Nai Palm, lead singer of Australian future soul collective Hiatus Kaiyote in a press release announcing their Brainfeeder debut. “I guess after the breast cancer scare I decided that I needed to prove to life that the offering I have is genuine. My only wish is to live and offer my experience of time and beauty.” Mood Valiant, the band’s third LP, is a testament to the human spirit that not only finds the Kaiyote in collaboration with renowned Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai on the cut “Get Sun,” they elevate his psychedelic vision into a new realm where digital and analog are intertwined beyond the point of untangling. – Hart

 

VIDEO: Hiatus Kaiyote “And We Go Gentle”

 

28. Wiki, Half God (Wikset Enterprise)

An inspired pairing with producer Navy Blue (who supplies a series of well-chosen beats and loops) Wiki delivers with the greatest degrees of confidence and clarity he has to date. A quintessential New York album for current times, Wiki transcends insularity both in showing his personal growth and in his universality of concerns for the changing neighborhoods around him (common in cities across the country). As he raps in “The Business”, “What I can’t understand or get through to me is/After all the schooling you did, don’t know what community is?” — Tucker

 

VIDEO: Wiki “Roof”

 

29. Ellen Foley, Fighting Words (Urban Noise)

Working with everybody from Ian Hunter and The Clash to Ellie Greenwich, Ellen Foley released a trilogy of albums in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s that achieved a cultish renown, but then she moved on to theater, TV, and film work. She re-emerged as a recording artist with 2013’s spare, rootsy About Time, buoyed by songwriter Paul Foglino. Overdue follow-up Fighting Words finds Foglino’s tunes reigniting Foley’s rock ‘n’ roll fire, and her ageless, bigger-than-life pipes are more than up to the task. Being backed by the cream of NYC rock stalwarts doesn’t hurt either. – Allen

 

VIDEO: Ellen Foley “Are You Good Enough”

 

30. Every Time I Die Radical (Epitaph) 

Buffalo, NY’s Every Time I Die is another keen example of a veteran metalcore band transitioning graciously into middle age not so much by toning down the aggression, but channeling it in ways that showcase this band’s deft musicianship. And five years after 2016’s Low Teens, the Trapper Keeper-evoking Radical showcases a tremendous level of growth in the ETID formula, exploring new moods on songs like “White Void” and “Thing With Feathers” (featuring guest vocals from Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull) while maintaining their razor-sharp brutality on standouts like “Heavy Wreck” and “Planet Shit.” – Hart

 

VIDEO: Every Time I Die “Thing With Feathers”

 

31. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Barn (Reprise)

You can’t really praise Neil Young for stepping out of his comfort zone with this latest Crazy Horse offering – because the man has spent a half-century demonstrating that he doesn’t really have a comfort zone. With Barn, Young and the band – with Nils Lofgren stepping in to fill the heavy boots of the retired Frank Sampedro – dig into a set of sparse-yet-meaty tunes, wielding minor chords like marrow forks. But unlike many of the band’s earlier albums, there are numerous moments of lightness, both sonically and spiritually. So, the airy, piano-driven “Tumblin’ Thru The Years” and the unabashedly romantic “Shape of You” (absolutely no relation to the Ed Sheeran song of the same name) offer some breathing room between the bludgeons of “Heading West” and “Human Race.” This isn’t your father’s Crazy Horse, but it’s still a magnificent ride through the wilds of Neil Young’s America. – Sprague

 

VIDEO: Neil Young & Crazy Horse “Tumblin’ Thru The Years”

 

32. Information Society ODDfellows (Negative Attack)

No synthpop group in the 80s thumped quite like Minneapolis’s own Information Society.  And that ability to bring the boom was undoubtedly what made this group the only male, white non-rap act signed to Tommy Boy at the time. ODDfellows, their fourth album since reuniting in 2006, finds the classic lineup of InSoc throwing it back to those classic first three albums when their music was heard in clubs like The Latin Quarter and Limelight on any given Saturday Night, making it easily their best work since 1990’s underrated Hack. – Hart

 

AUDIO: Information Society “World Enough”

 

33. Wanda Jackson, Encore, (Big Machine / Blackheart) 

One of the last of her generation still standing, the rock pioneer delivered a fitting coda to her 60-plus year career. Joan Jett, the latest name to step into the producer’s chair for Jackson’s late-career run (following Jack White and the late Justin Townes Earle) lets Jackson combine rock-and-roll attitude and country heart. Jackson, with supple musical backing from Jett and the Blackhearts, can still put across the feistiness she did in her teens and twenties in tracks like “Big Baby” and “Two Shots” and finishes with the earned sentiment of “That’s What Love Is.” If this indeed is her final album, she goes out a winner. – Tucker

 

VIDEO: Wanda Jackson ft. Elle King and Joan Jett “Two Shots”

 

34. Bachelor, Doomin’ Sun (Polyvinyl)

The decision of friends Melina Duterte (Jay Som) and Ellen Kempner (Palehound) to record together was a good one. Unabashedly queer and utterly engaging, the album, recorded over two weeks at an AirBnB in Topanga, deliver tales of yearning, loneliness and anxiety. As much as the album is full of realistic, utterly non-romantic songs as far removed from the heteronormative scripted fantasies of the “reality” show where the indie superduo chose the name from, what pulls it together is the palpable joy that two queer friends have in putting their complimentary strengths together. – Tucker

 

VIDEO: Bachelor perform “Doomin’ Sun” at Doomin’ Sun Fest

 

35. Kalie Shorr I Got Here by Accident [EP]

“He wasn’t over me when you were under him” and “dancing to the beat of a broken heart” are worth recycling. But the rest are her own, and not all of her razored-lasered lyrical devices are the words themselves: The title “I Heard You Got a Girl” chose to leave off a parenthetical “Pregnant” so it can sucker-punch you with it in the chorus. “I Hate the Way This Feels” follows suit by unpacking into the full “I hate the way I love the way this feels.” The blissful “Alibi” explodes into equally addictive Carly Rae mall-pop, and “Amy” sharpens the blade until every dig and diss is beyond perfect. That leaves only the EP of the year’s astonishing “Love Child,” in which an overachieving Swiftie-with-pointier-teeth crowns her rock move with an origin story that IDs Woodstock, Nirvana, and most heartbreakingly, “Where I heard ‘Rhiannon’ for the first time / My sister singing along for the last / Now she lives in the sky with the radio waves / Comes down when I play Fleetwood Mac.” Wow. — Miller

 

VIDEO: Kalie Shorr “Love Child”

 

36. Cimafunk, El Alimento (Terapia Productions)

Afro-Cuban rhythms, funky hip-hop and a few dashes of rock and the result is a non-stop groove in the hands of the Cuban Cimafunk, producer Jack Splash and a passel of guest stars (George Clinton, Lupe Fiasco and a whole host of talents from throughout Cuba and the rest of Latin America). It’s a statement and celebration of Black Cuban empowerment that connects, even in its quieter moments. It’s also a hell of a dance party album, no silken sonics required. – Tucker

 

VIDEO: Cimafunk ft. Lupe Fiasco “Rompelo”

 

37. Mastodon, Hushed and Grim (Reprise)

Their first album since the 2018 death of longtime friend and manager Nick John, the result of the band working through their grief is a showcase for the band’s strengths.. If it weren’t so clearly unified in purpose, it would play like a compilation, as it shows everything they’ve brought to the table – proggy dexterity, stoner sludge and the more rockish accessibility of recent efforts – and then some.. Make no mistake, though, this is still a heavy album that packs a wallop, emotionally and musically. Their most personal work, it’s a massively cathartic, fitting tribute to 20-years of interplay as a band and to a friend who meant so much to them – Tucker

 

VIDEO:Mastodon “Teardrinker” 

 

38. Makthaverskan, För Allting (Run For Cover)
Textbook shimmering shoegaze and dreampop from Sweden. With enough reverb to echo throughout the fjords, It’s an utterly lush, transportive showcase for the textured, widescreen soundscapes the band creates as well as for vocalist Maja Milner. It’s also a reminder that being able to play “Spot the Influence” isn’t a hindrance when a band finds inspiration in the sources its inspirations found rather than treating it all as cosplay material. – Tucker

 

VIDEO: Makthaverskan “This Time”

 

39. La Luz, La Luz (Hardly Art)
La Luz started out in Seattle, blending surf and garage-rock influences with a moody neo-psych vibe. These days they make their home in L.A. and over time they’ve accentuated the spooky, impressionistic side of their sound. With composer Adrian Younge as producer, their self-titled fourth album leans the band more in that direction than ever, bringing out La Luz’s inner Stereolab (or maybe United States of America, if you want to trace it all the way back to the source). The result is something hazy, haunting, and a hell of a lot of fun – Allen

 

VIDEO: La Luz Live on KEXP

 

40. Dry Cleaning New Long Leg (4AD)

After building buzz, South London post-punk foursome Dry Cleaning let out a debut album as relevant now just as it would have in NYC’s Lower East Side circa 1982. Lead singer Florence Shaw unrolls her dark, scabrous spoken wordscapes in a dryly curious (but ever weary) semi-montone, redolent of Mark E. Smith and Kim Gordon–with maybe a touch of Laurie Anderson-esque bewildered brashness. It’s the inner monologue of a fevered mind flickering back and forth between mundanity (“will there be a hairdryer in my room?”) and deep discovery. Adding to the aura, Lewis Maynard lays down an insistent somber bass as Tom Dowse’s wandering guitar teases at near hooks. – Thurston

 

VIDEO: Dry Cleaning “Oblivion (Grimes)”

 

 

 

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