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Five Best Albums of 2021: A Year in Review

By: Cameron Rogers

Everyone but the kitchen sink is listing out their favourite album picks of 2021. It’s easy to see why - 2021 has been one of the best years for music in recent memory, particularly for hip-hop. The creative valves were loosened for musicians after a year of storing up ideas. Rather than indulging in a conceited rambling on my top albums of the year and why they are so fantastic, I have decided to instead list my top five favourite picks, but keep the descriptions brief. I will also mention my favourite track on the album underneath each description, if you want somewhere to start with them. Without further ado, here are my top five albums from 2021.

5. Black Midi - Cavalcade

It is refreshing to know that there is still some excellent progressive rock out there that sounds original. Cavalcade is an album that excels in ethereal sounding prog rock as well as King Crimson-influenced dissonance. That being said, the majority of the project is quite intense and therefore may only be palatable to a select few. Fun fact: the track below was my most played song of 2021 according to my Spotify Wrapped.

Favourite track: John L

4. Kanye West - DONDA (original release)

This album received mixed reviews, however I will happily admit I absolutely loved it. It’s not West’s finest work but it has some absolute killer tracks on it with some brilliant features. It also appears to be a living album much in the same way that The Life of Pablo is, an encouraging sign. The aforementioned album was improved upon significantly after it’s official release, so here’s hoping the same thing occurs with DONDA.

Favourite track: Jesus Lord (part 1) feat. Jay Electronica

3. Lingua Ignota - Sinner Get Ready

This is the most difficult album in this list. Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota) writes yet another album about her experiences as a domestic abuse survivor, except compared to her previous records, this album contains more elements of melancholia and despair as opposed to blind fury (although this is still present). The album also features evangelical Christian and Catholicism references aplenty. The record has many incredible tracks however ‘Pennsylvania Furnace’ is in my opinion the best song released this year by a country mile. It is a heartbreaking song that is somewhat uplifting despite its misery. I cry everytime I hear it.

Favourite track: Pennsylvania Furnace

2. Injury Reserve - By The Time I Get To Phoenix

One of my favourite bands dropped what many consider their magnum opus this year. Although I respectfully disagree with this view, I can still admit this album is incredible. The experimental rap group take the ‘experimental’ side of their music to the nth degree on BTTIGTP, with much of this project being abrasive noise and soundscapes. However, the premature passing of band member Stepa J. Groggs makes this an emotional listen, especially considering the amount of tracks about mourning and sorrow on the record. The below song is a great example of those themes.

Favourite track: Knees

1 JPEGMAFIA - LP! (Bandcamp/offline version)

What an incredible year Barrington Hendricks (JPEGMAFIA) has had, releasing one of the best EPs of the year and in my opinion hands down the best album of 2021. JPEGMAFIA has become the most prolific and consistent experimental rapper since MF DOOM. The album has two releases, a streaming service release and an ‘offline’ version available on JPEGMAFIA’s Youtube, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp (due to sample clearing issues). Whilst the Spotify release is excellent, the offline version is one of the most versatile and exciting hip-hop albums to ever be released. Quite simply, this is Hendrick’s best work to date.

Favourite track (offline version): Hazard Duty Pay

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