Before we list down our final picks for the Top 20 Albums of 2021, our team at Acetate Music would like to mention our selected honorable mentions of albums that didn't make the final cut. Each of these albums are records we love dearly, but there were just too many strong competitors who took up the top spots––but this doesn't mean you shouldn't check these out!
Alongside these picks would be other special recognitions for other categories, which take note of our picks for the best compilation albums, scores, reissues, and new artists of the year. Scroll through them below!
Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice
Noted by numerous publications as one of the best albums of the year, Wolf Alice's mesmerizing Blue Weekend is a blast from start to finish. Crossing a variety of genres which include punk, shoe-gaze, and alternative, it excels in all of them which is what makes the group even more promising to look out for in the future––no matter which direction we'll see them in for their next output.
Favorite Track: How Can I Make It Ok?
Home Video by Lucy Dacus
With the amount of poignancy, heart, and truthful emotion in Home Video, it makes for an oddly comforting listen for listeners to revel in Dacus' vulnerability. Both relatable and engrossing, the record features the brutal honesty of the coming-of-age experience–which is what definitely solidifies this as Dacus' best project to date.
Favorite Track: Thumbs
Solar Power by Lorde
Despite mixed reception from both critics and fans alike, Lorde's Solar Power still delivers on it's promise of being her "weed album" that's perfect for the beach. It's definitely a more laid back approach than what we're used to, but the introspective nature of the lyrics and commentary make this a strong album in our opinion!
Favorite Track: Fallen Fruit
Skin by Joy Crookes
Finally releasing her debut album, Joy Crookes' Skin is an R&B/Soul combination that hits in both social relevance, subject matter, production, and vocal performance. It's a vibrant listen that showcases a candid, soulful exploration of identity, which makes her one of the most promising young British artists to look out for in the future.
Favorite Track: Power
Mood Valiant by Hiatus Kiayote
Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote have crafted one of 2021’s funkiest albums with Mood Valiant—a neo-soul fantasia that is bizarre & hypnotic due to it's kaleidoscopic compositions that ring true in all 12 tracks of the record. It’s an addition to their discography which only appears to reach new heights, making them a quartet to look out for in the future.
Favorite Track: Stone or Lavender
Loving in Stereo by Jungle
Jungle’s third studio output Loving in Stereo is honestly their best work yet––with upbeat and dance-worthy anthems perfect for both the turntable & dance floor. Even with great features from Bas & Priya Ragu, Jungle doesn’t lose their voice and even use these guest features to highlight their musical strengths as a duo.
Favorite Track: Keep Moving
Long Lost by Lord Huron
Lord Huron’s fourth studio album Long Lost is an emotionally immersive record that works perfectly due to it’s elements of nostalgia folk. Every track feels intriguing, expansive yet also introspective as the group takes you back to a certain period of time that feels romantic to any listener. Despite having an already stellar discography, we can definitely say that Long Lost is the group's best & most cinematic record to date.
Favorite Track: Love Me Like You Used To
Yellow by Emma Jean-Thackrey
Largely overlooked due to the number of higher-profile releases this 2021, the debut album from jazz-funk artist Emma Jean Thackrey, Yellow is a fantastic fusion of jazz from the past, present, and future. The influences from the likes of Alice Coltrane & Sun Ra ring true with such sincerity, it's one of the most a refreshing listens we've had all year!
Favorite Track: Sun
Best New Artist
With the release of her third album Vulture Prince this 2021, Arooj Aftab made a whole lot of waves across the music industry these past few months despite beginning her career over 7 years ago. As an independent artist & film score composer, Aftab's unique style of music goes around the genres of jazz & Hindustani classical––invoking a serene and thought-provoking listen to her listeners. Having recently signed with Verve Records of UMG just late this month, it marks the beginning of a brighter and more prominent future for a talent like herself.
Listen to Vulture Prince here.
In less than one year, the 18 year old former Disney alumnus, Olivia Rodrigo, took the world by storm with the release of her debut album Sour. Despite her young age, Rodrigo has proven to the world that she's more than your regular pop-star by demonstrating her strong vocal abilities, proficiency with a variety of musical instruments, and ability to craft heartfelt songs that resonate with audiences of all ages. As it is, just one viewing of Rodrigo's NPR Tiny Desk performance already showcases the insane amount of promise that this star-in-the-making holds for the future.
Listen to Sour here.
Kid A Mnesia by Radiohead
Reissuing their classic albums Kid A & Amnesiac together with never before released content, the final result of Kid A Mnesia is one that was well-worth the years of build up. The grandness of the sounds from both records has managed to age better with time, especially with how the content from each album + the bonus material further enriches the other. Even after 21 years from the original's release, this reissue is an absolute win in Radiohead's discography––a record which has definitely cemented the group's place in music.
Red (Taylor's Version) by Taylor Swift
Already one of Taylor Swift's best albums, the original version of Red captured the raw feelings of heartbreak on a much more personal level than the innocent feelings from her prior works. Taking full ownership this time, the Taylor's Version reissue even manages to surpass the quality of the original one with the addition of songs from the vault, and the expanded, enriched, and more layered rendition of her sleeper hit All Too Well. As it is, this record stands as the greatest work of Swift in her entire discography so far!
Best Original Score
Dune (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer
Considered as one of the most prominent composers of our generation, the movie maestro Hans Zimmer has crafted a number of scores which are some of the best in recent years. With Denis Villanueve's Dune, Zimmer developed three albums for the film––and all of them are absolutely amazing. Utilizing heavy percussion, female choirs, and hybrid instruments to compose the scores, the sounds from Dune are perhaps Zimmer's most unorthodox and experimental yet due to the otherworldly nature of it's sound.
Spencer (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Jonny Greenwood
It's definitely the year of Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood this 2021, as he's composed three fantastic scores for some of the year's best films. However, the one that definitely stood out most to us was that of Pablo Larrain's Spencer. With the use of baroque stylings to craft a sinister and moody atmosphere, the end result is one which is memorable yet ultimately unnerving to even the most oblivious of listeners. Every crafted piece for the film fits perfectly with what we see on screen, which is definitely what makes this a standout.
Best Original Soundtrack
Last Night in Soho (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Various Artists
Like with all of his previous films, Edgar Wright has created a masterful mixtape that compiles the very best songs we rarely hear––but this time, listeners are transported back to the era of 1960's Soho. The soundtrack to Last Night in Soho is perhaps his best one yet, acting as it's own character in the film while also propelling the narrative of the film forward. It isn't just 60's goodness however, as we also have a suite by composer Steven Price, alongside some covers of 60's gems by the lovely star, Anya Taylor-Joy.
Licorice Pizza (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Various Artists
Paul Thomas Anderson's Licorice Pizza is a gorgeous film in many aspects, but it's charming compilation of 70's tracks makes one of the strongest impressions in the film. It's difficult to even classify what genres the tracks in this soundtrack even utilize, as they spread out from rock, funk, jazz, and so much more––coming from artists like David Bowie, Nina Simone, and Paul McCartney and Wings, Donovan, Sonny & Cher, Gordon Lightfoot, etc. It's one mixtape worth listening from start to finish that's for sure!