Top Eleven Songs of 2021:
Listen to Best of 2021 on Spotify
Wolf Alice - Blue Weekend
"Did you think I was a puppet on strings? / Wind her up and this honey bee sings."
This London-based alternative quartet followed up their 2018 Mercury Prize with a fantastic album that sounds like a shoegaze mix of The Breeders and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Snail Mail - Valentine
"You won't believe what just two months will do / I'm older now, believe me, I adore you."
Matador Records continues its win streak with this Indie Rock solo project by Lindsey Jordan. Alternative rock really isn't dead after all.
Goat Girl - On All Fours
"Take my hand, let me show you 'round / It's the same old place to the streets we're bound."
Another terrific female-led band rounds out the podium for 2021. This South London-based post-punk group makes Bandersnatch-style electronic sit alongside infectious guitar riffs.
Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams
"I had a dream, we kissed / And it was all amethyst."
Four albums into the EOY list, and it's women who are driving the top picks. At number four, this twenty-one year-old won the 2021 Mercury Prize with her debut album. It's the biggest album that too few in America even know about.
Turnstile - Glow On
"Boi has got a long way to go."
2021 might have been the year of the woman for music, but it wasn't without it's share of dudes: this hardcore punk band from Baltimore scored a consensus hit by blending punk, emo, and even a little samba.
Dry Cleaning - New Long Leg
"A woman in aviators firing a bazooka."
Vocalist Florence Shaw drew her lyrics primarily from writing exercises, sounding clearly less formulaic than Rivers Cuomo and someone far cooler than Michael Stipe. The subjects may be as trivial as Instagram lenses, yet feel like you're listening to the coolest person in the room.
Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
"Angel said, 'Don't let you ego be a disturbance' / Inner demon said, 'Motherfucker, you earned this'."
This female rapper from London seems like the ying to Michael Kiwauka's yang.
Courtney Barnett - Things Take Time, Take Time
"Sit beside me / Watch the world burn."
2015 AOY and 2018 runner-up scores another hit, with a little help from Warpaint-drummer Stella Mozgawa.
Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee
"Projеcting your visions to strangers / Who feel it, who listen to linger on еvery word."
Experimental pop band that can't help but remind me of Banarama. But in a good way.
The War on Drugs - I Don't Live Here Anymore
"I need some time, I need control, I need your love / I wanna find out everything I need to know."
Adam Granduciel and company have channeled plenty of mash-up styles before. This album sounds like what would've happened if Mark Knopfler locked Robbie Robertson out of big pink and Dire Straits backed Dylan.
Dave - We're All Alone in This Together
"Stick him up with a stick-stick, he drew the shorter one."
2020 Mercury Prize winner scored another hit with this follow-up to Psychodrama.
Tyler, the Creator - Call Me If You Get Lost
"It's different! It's really different!"
It seems criminal to rate this album so low, but it did land my SOY for 2021.
Julien Baker - Little Oblivions
"Until then, I'll split the difference / Between medicine and poison."
Another great album from the boygenius trio. Released early in 2021 and somehow got left off a lot of EOY lists.
Parquet Courts - Sympathy for Life
"Return the smile on an unmasked friend / As we take streets I don't walk down 'cause I want to avoid / Fighting temptation, walk at a downtown pace / And treasure the crowds that once made me act so annoyed."
Loved this album, especially for its quintessential pandemic song. Found out song was written before COVID. Still love it anyway.
Mogwai - As The Love Continues
"Promises of a memory / Your own ghost running away with the past."
Glaswegian band released a fantastic post-rock album that will likely be appreciated by music lovers in 18+ states. 😉
Viagra Boys - Welfare Jazz
"All I need is a little shrimp money."
No guilty pleasure this year ... but what a great way to wrap Cuckoo's Eleven than with a post-punk band who described process to record the album as: "We wrote these songs at a time when I had been in a long-term relationship, taking drugs every day, and being an asshole. I didn't really realise what an asshole I was until it was too late, and a lot of the record has to do with coming to terms with the fact that I'd set the wrong goals for myself." Alrighty, then.