Last modified 26.12.02021

Our 10 favourite albums of 2021

Delightful debuts, captivating concepts, and other alliteration

By Rachael Davis, Marcus Lawrence, Frederick O'Brien, and André Dack

This is the end, beautiful friend. Of the year that is. Which means it’s time for us to rank our favourite albums. It has felt like an exceptionally good 12 months of music, with just the right mix of old favourites and new blood. Narrowing it down to ten has been challenging, but there are worse problems to have right?

10. 1 // Drongo

Album artwork of ‘1’ by Drongo


In at number ten, it’s 1. A novel consequence of this website growing over the years is that people have started sending us their music in the hope that we’ll review it. Although we try to listen to everything we recieve, there is only so much we can cover - we do still do this as a hobby, after all. However, one band we heard from - a Norwegian krautrock eight-piece called Drongo - had us hooked from the outset. On the strength of one track we decided to review it, and boy are we glad we did.

Their debut record, 1, is one of the tightest, driven, and memorable projects I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing in the seven or so years we’ve been doing Audioxide. Most importantly, it’s really bloody good. Blending krautrock with all manner of other genres, the band chug through the six tracks with almost businesslike efficiency. The thunderous “Neshorn” remains the standout track for me, though each offers a unique flavour. All these months later each listen thorugh is still like going on a new musical safari. What a buzz. Roll on 2.

Read our full review of 1

9. Skin // Joy Crookes

Album artwork of ‘Skin’ by Joy Crookes


The British music scene is oozing with incredible young talent at the moment, and Joy Crookes is absolutely a prime example. It’s hard to believe that she’s just 23 and that Skin is her debut. The album is so considered and mature, but also full of youthful energy and soulfulness that breathes a new life into the all-but-forgotten genres it transcends. I came to this album late, checking it out only as I was compiling my year-end list, but I loved it so much it got into my top 10 after a single listen.

Skin blends soul, R&B, jazz, blues, Motown, and reggae, laced with a bit of trip-hop and pop, to create an album that’s utterly entrancing. Crookes’ husky, vivacious vocals are more than just a vehicle for her thoughtful and biting lyrics, though the way the album jumps between themes from politics to sexual assault, mental health to the city Crookes calls home is nothing short of masterful.

Standout cuts for me are “19th Floor”, a reminiscent love letter to the London of Crookes’ Bangladeshi-Irish upbringing ‘raised by the river’, and the reggae-tinged Trouble, about a frustratingly constant family argument where the fights are ‘like tsunami’ and Crookes’ tackles the conflict that ‘you’re all that I need, but we break every time.’

My favourite track from Skin is actually one of its singles — “When You Were Mine”. Starting off with a jazzy brass section punctuated with R&B drums, you can almost feel the sticky South London summer heat that sees Crookes and her man ‘hand in hand [on] Coldwater Lane / Never tak[ing] it easy on the PDA.’ Sublime.

My only criticism is that the album peters off a little towards the end: I’d like to see the slower, more soulful tracks like “Power” and “Skin” interspersed with some of the more upbeat cuts to finish the album with a bang rather than a ballad. But that’s really just me being picky — the final notes on “Theek Ache” are as haunting and entrancing as the rest of the album, and Crookes’ voice is like honey on the eardrums. It’s testament to what an incredible year for music 2021 has been that Skin didn’t rank higher on this year-end list — it’s an almost flawless album from one of the UK’s most exciting new artists.

Read our full review of Skin

8. To See the Next Part of the Dream // Parannoul

Album artwork of ‘To See the Next Part of the Dream’ by Parannoul


The internet can be disheartening much of the time, but this lo-fi shoegaze album by Seoul musician Parannoul serves as a reminder of how valuable the web can be for creative industries. To See the Next Part of the Dream is an alluring gem, and I’m so thankful to have been exposed to it this year. The music is mostly bedroom pop-rock, with fuzzy guitars and saturated drums overpowering the mix. Vocals are often faint, and sit just high enough to be heard - a typical texture of shoegaze. The performances aren’t particularly dazzling, but that’s really besides the point. This is all about feeling.

Listening to To See the Next Part of the Dream is quite literally like reliving a dream, or recollecting memories and experiences that had been forgotten since adolescence. Some of them joyous, others more regretful. Immersing myself in these songs, I find myself emotionally paralyzed. It’s a sensation that can’t be replicated with all the money and resources in the world. This is what is so special about Parannoul’s work. Someone who, according to their bandcamp, is ‘below average in height and appearance and everything’, and has ‘fucking awful’ singing skills. That’s the sort of self-deprecation many of us can relate to. They sign off by hoping that ‘there will be more active losers like me in the world.’ I’ve no doubt that this remarkable record will be an inspiration to people across the globe. Especially losers like me.

7. Animal // LUMP

Album artwork of ‘Animal’ by Lump


I’m frankly staggered that this has sailed under so many radars. Fresh off her monumentally well-received Song for Our Daughter, Laura Marling returns to LUMP, her collaborative project with folktronica producer Mike Lindsay, for an album that suffers no shortage of potent lyricism, bold ideas, and hauntingly beautiful vocals.

Armed with textures of ’70s and ’80s pop, whiffs of Hot Chip-esque jams, and baroque stylings that elevate it all with intricate composition that stops short of pretentiousness, Lindsay’s production perfectly captures and enhances the best qualities of Marling’s voice and writing. There’s a broad yet well-contained range of moods on display here, shifting between energetic pop, sober ballads, and austere folk with easy grace. It’s never lacking for imagination, gliding from idea to idea without running out of steam or lingering in one place for too long. In all, its subtleties can, depending on your position during that particular listen, either raise a mood or comfort a low one. It’s something to be fun with, something to be sad with, and something that always rewards you for taking a closer look.

I don’t think there’s any greater indication of how much I love Animal than this: I’ve found myself sitting with it for hours on end, letting it loop over and over, equally satisfied with floating beside it and eagerly exploring it.

6. Blue Weekend // Wolf Alice

Album artwork of ‘Blue Weekend’ by Wolf Alice


To date only two new releases have made it into the 27+ Club - To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar and Visions of a Life by Wolf Alice. As simpering British alt rock fans we fell especially hard for the latter. It was astonishing to hear a group reach such heights so quickly, though it begged the question: where on earth do they go from here?

The answer was obvious once we heard it. If Blue Weekend isn’t as good as Visions of a Life it’s still bloody close, which is a feat in itself given how much the band shook things up. The lush, dreamy offerings of tracks like “The Last Man on Earth” and “How Can I Make It OK?” had us reaching for comparisons with the likes of Kate Bush, while the wall of noise at the end of “Feeling Myself” is mighty in ways the band hadn’t achieved before. Even Ellie Rowsell’s vocals managed to hit new heights. The harmonies on “Lipstick on the Glass” are spine-tinglingly good.

It’s surreal to think Wolf Alice are only three albums in. They’ve covered so much ground and already seem so at ease with themselves and their sound. Blue Weekend was further evidence - if it was needed - that they’re a cut above just about every other band around at the moment. It does beg the question, though: where on earth do they go from here?

Read our full review of Blue Weekend

5. Sinner Get Ready // Lingua Ignota

Album artwork of ‘Sinner Get Ready’ by Lingua Ignota


Few albums affect me like SINNER GET READY. At the time of its release, I wrote that I was ‘unsure if it will go down as one of my very favourite records of the year.’ Whilst there are other works in 2021 that I have spent more time with, it’s Lingua Ignota’s masterpiece that sticks with me the most. I say with no hesitation that this will go down as an all-time gothic classic. Every listen leaves me speechless and stunned.

Recent statements from Kristin Hayter herself have given SINNER GET READY further poignancy, but the record is extraordinary even without context. It plays out like a literal exorcism. The music contains sounds and harmonies typically heard in religious spaces, but used in a way that is more avant garde and repellent. The result is horrifying, yet beautiful. Moments of respite, such as the breathtaking “Pennsylvania Furnace”, inject a degree of serenity to the album, but it’s a genuinely harrowing experience from beginning to end. To quote the great Milhouse Van Houten: ‘I fear to watch, yet I cannot turn away.’

The most striking aspect, of course, is Hayter’s voice. An instrument like no other. I don’t think I’ve ever been more frightened of the mere delivery of words in my lifetime of listening to music. Her portrayal of Christianity is brutal, and in my own twisted way, I adore it. Experiencing SINNER GET READY is like a ritual; being cleansed of sin. Many of my favourite records display artistic triumph in the midst of personal devastation, so it’s no wonder that I’m so attached to this. I urge anyone with a passion for music to listen, at least just once. There’s a chance that you’ll come away horrified, and an even better chance that you’ll return.

Is this morbid curiosity in sonic form? In any case, we are utterly blessed to have Lingua Ignota with us. A deeply special soul who is creating some of the most challenging and excellent music of the 21st century.

Read our full review of Sinner Get Ready


Album artwork of ‘CRAWLER’ by IDLES


Less a reinvention and more a change of pace, CRAWLER sees IDLES swap anthemic thrashers for a project that’s slower, darker, and more introspective than anything they’ve released since their debut LP. Thematically, IDLES have never explored the idiosyncrasies of traditional masculinity quite like they’ve done here.

In the past, they’ve made plenty of assertions that it’s okay for men to cry, that they should work harder to understand their emotions, and that plenty of typically masculine qualities are masochistic, but a lot of this has felt surface-level more often than not. On CRAWLER, they pulled back the curtain to show the beating heart behind it all, exploring vulnerability and regret in a way that feels genuine and weighty. Here they are, a set of thinking and feeling blokes who aren’t ashamed to admit as much, or to turn and face themselves with honesty and compassion.

Of course, it helps that it all sounds so fucking great. Where so much of their energy has previously been found between injustice and rebellion, here they often go somewhere else for it. In the face of so much despair, they uncover a spiritual rallying cry that only the most inexorably defiant bands can, and it’s always such a rush.

Read our full review of CRAWLER

3. Daddy’s Home // St. Vincent

Album artwork of‘Daddy’s Home’ by St. Vincent


Some people think I am madly in love in Annie Clark. These people are wrong. I am perfectly sanely in love with Annie Clark. The funny thing about that is with each album I find myself falling sanely in love with someone completely different. She has a Bowie-esque gift for conjuring strange new worlds around even stranger new personas, with each record serving as a window into her own personal twilight zone.

The world St. Vincent crafts in Daddy’s Home my be my favourite so far. Sleazy yet soulful, the record listens like a love letter to the ’70s from a fan you'd probably get a restraining order against. Alghough there is plenty of kitsch on show (in the title track, for example) it adorns a project which at its core is often disarmingly tender and earnest. Tracks like “Down and Out Downtown” and “The Melting of the Sun” show that. By the time you get to the gentler takes of “…At the Holiday Party” you feel like you're coming down from a decade-long party. And ready to go again.

Read our full review of Daddy’s Home

2. For the first time // Black Country, New Road

Album artwork of ‘For the first time’ by Black Country, New Road


If you’d have told me this time last year that one of my favourite albums of 2021 would be a blend of art rock and klezmer music with sad vocals backed by an orchestra, I’d have told you to do one. But then Black Country, New Road’s stunning debut For the first time came along, and I was instantly under its spell.

On paper, this album really shouldn’t work as well as it does. Post-rock, post-punk, jazz, klezmer, prog and math rock sounds like it should be a migraine-inducing combination, and while there are parts of the album that are discordant and dizzying, somehow the bizarre experiment really pays off.

The way For the first time goes from feeling like an electric shock directly to the brain on “Science Fair” to hauntingly beautiful and romantic on “Track X” is nothing short of spectacular. It also means that, despite the album’s mere 40 minute runtime spanning just six tracks, it really feels like a journey through a series of sonically-told stories where lyrics take a back seat.

Every detail on every track feels thought-through and deliberate; from the shrill strings on “Track X” that keep you from becoming too entranced by the wistful vocals, to the juxtaposition of the resonant crooning and waltzing strings on “Opus” which transition into an eclectic brass section you’d sooner hear at a bar mitzvah than on a commercially successful post-rock record. I’ve gone from feeling warmed, to unsettled, to pitying, to wanting to dance at various points on every listen — I can never really pin down the energy of this record, which makes it exciting and fresh every single time.

BC,NR’s second album is scheduled for release in February of 2022, almost a year to the day after their debut, and it’s set to include what vocalist Isaac Wood describes as ‘the best song [they have] ever written.’ For the first time’s a tough act to follow, but God, they’ve got the talent to pull it off.

Read our full review of For the first time

1. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST // Tyler, the Creator

Album artwork of ‘Call Me If You Get Lost’ by Tyler, the Creator


Tyler, the Creator has now topped our year-end album rankings twice - the other time being IGOR in 2019. The most surreal thing about this fact is that it doesn’t even feel like he’s broken sweat in the process. When some artists release brilliant albums it feels like a momentous occassion, the culmination of years of hard work and exploration. With Tyler it’s just… normal. Like, of course he’d release the best album of the year. Who else?

CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is a more understated record than IGOR, but over time I’ve found that just makes it more ingratiating. It’s comfortable, chummy even, sauntering through genres with the confidence of a man who knows damn well what he's doing - and loves it. I said at the time that CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST was ‘like sinking into an improbably soft and colourful velvet sofa.’ It still is, I’m still there, and I won’t be getting up any time soon.


There can no longer be any doubt - Tyler, The Creator is one of the greatest artists of his generation. The 30 year-old rapper already has seven albums to his name that span hip-hop, R&B, jazz and neo soul. Half of these records have notable flaws, but his transition from 2009’s Bastard to 2019’s IGOR is an artistic achievement in itself. On CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, Tyler is brims with confidence, and it’s a sheer joy to experience. He’s truly on the top of his game.

Tyler’s insecurity has been a striking feature of his writing throughtout his career. CALL ME is the first time that he’s been able to power through the self-doubt without referencing back to it. He has never sounded so assured, and that belief beams brilliantly through the music. When he does get personal, like on “MASSA” and “WILSHIRE”, Tyler raps with real clarity. This is a welcome distinction to the early days of Odd Future. He’s still trying to figure out some stuff, of course. But fucking hell, who isn’t?

Though it hasn’t made the same impact as Flower Boy and IGOR, CALL ME is possibly my favourite Tyler album to date. Moody rap? Soulful RnB ballads? Synth-swept funk? It’s all there, and a hell of a lot more. Halfway through “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE”, a reggae section suddenly slots into place. I’m not well versed in the genre, yet this unexpected shift in style manages to be one of my fondest moments on any Tyler record. I think that pretty much sums up CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST. Confidence breeds audaciousness, which often creates magic. Who knows what he’ll do next?

Read our full review of CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST