Top 20 Albums of 2021

Top 20 Albums of 2021

Despite everything that happened in 2020, the year of 2021 delivered a massive slew of releases which positively overcompensated for the musical void brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Great music from a wide variety of genres that include pop, rock, alternative, indie, soul, R&B, hip-hop, and even soundtracks were released this year, which is why we'll be sharing our picks for the Top 20 albums of this year!

Our team at Acetate Music decided to double down this time around by sharing 20 albums instead of the usual 10 in honor of our second year doing this, but also because there are honestly too many strong contenders which deserve proper recognition. Check out our 20 picks below!


#20: Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish


Billie Eilish's Happier Than Ever stands as a strong sophomore effort, especially with how willing the 19 year old artist is to experiment with a range of genres and production styles this time around. With her musing on topics like fame, mental health, and maturity, we've come to adore this as much as her debut record–which is why we can say it definitely lives up to the hype.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Oxytocin, Happier Than Ever, Goldwing, Billie Bossa Nova


#19: Tako Tsubo by L'Imperatrice


Cleverly incepting social awareness with French disco tracks made for the club, L'Imperatrice's Tako Tsubo is a rewarding listen that's an absolute blast to get your groove to. This synth funk record is a definite example of retrofuturism for the ages, which is why we're honestly pretty sure that it will go down as a cult classic in the near future.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Peur des Filles, Anomalies Bleue, Submarine, Voodoo?


#18: An Evening with Silk Sonic by Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars & Anderson Paak)


Despite it's 9 track runtime, the entirety of An Evening with Silk Sonic is an absolute blast to experience. With it's vibrant exuberance of nostalgia, 70's groove and soul, plus the insane chemistry between Bruno Mars & Anderson Paak, anyone would wish that there would be more to chew on as it leaves us wanting more.

Favorite Tracks: Smokin' Out The Window, Skate, Leave The Door Open, After Last Night


#17: Valentine by Snail Mail


Lindsey Jordan's Valentine is a fantastic record which demonstrates an evolution in her sound, one which is bigger, and more mature this time around. Jordan's lyricism and signature shoegaze 90's influence hasn't disappeared, as it's further heightened with how bold the entire project actually is. It's opening title track is an instant hook to listeners, which why it caught us on right away.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Forever (Sailing), Mia, Valentine, Glory


#16: Private Space by Durand Jones & The Indications


Durand Jones & The Indications Private Space makes for a fantastic entry point in going back to the world of 70's disco/funk. Slick, sexy, and fitting to the glory days of Earth Wind & Fire in almost every track would make you think that this is in fact a lost album from the 70's, but that's what ultimately adds to the charm of listening to this one!

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Private Space, The Way That I Do, Witchoo, Ride or Die


#15: Blue Banisters by Lana Del Rey


Lana Del Rey's Blue Banisters is her second album from this year, yet it stands as the superior one at that. What makes Blue Banisters different isn't merely a difference in sound from NFR nor Chemtrails, rather it's the nature of how the record is one of her most personal works to date. As usual, Del Rey proves that with songwriting is one of her largest strengths in this one.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Dealer, Sweet Carolina, Blue Banisters, Cherry Blossom


#14: A Beginner's Mind by Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine


Making a soundtrack inspired by classic films, Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine have created a beautiful masterpiece that’s full of depth with A Beginner’s Mind. The erratic songwriting, swapping verses, the tossing of chords and lyrics make for a shared experience refined to bring out the best of the two collaborators on this album.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Back to Oz, Beginner's Mind, Olympus, Lost in the World


#13: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature by Cassandra Jenkins


With Jenkins' songwriting talent and ability to balance exploration and poignancy in her craft, An Overview On Phenomenal Nature is truly worthy of all the acclaim it's been given. Tackling the themes of loss & healing in an alternative folk type of style, it makes for a stunning sophomore album that’s worth discovering if you haven't given it a shot.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Hard Drive, Crosshairs, Michelangelo


#12: 30 by Adele 


Initially described as a divorce album, the end product of 30 ended up becoming so much more than that. Experimenting with different genres this time around, 30 is her most creative record to date and has been rightly recognized by audiences as her best album overall. Every aspect of 30 got to deliver on the massive hype that stood on it's shoulders, further solidifying the argument that Adele is one of the most notable musicians of our time.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: To Be Loved, Love is a Game, I Drink Wine, Oh My God


#11: Vulture Prince by Arooj Aftab


Arooj Aftab's Vulture Prince is a gorgeous piece of work—one which was released quietly earlier this year, yet has garnered traction throughout these past few months for how sublime the listening experience is. Aftab's vocals are both haunting and hypnotic at the same time, which is definitely what makes her one of the most intriguing artists we've laid our ears to this 2021.

Favorite Tracks: Mohabbat, Last Night, Baghon Main


#10: If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power by Halsey


Halsey's concept album If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power marked a stark difference when compared to the rest of their discography, as her collaboration with Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross became one of the most well produced records we've heard for the year. If you're thinking Halsey's work with The Chainsmokers as the sound she's known for, throw that notion out and immerse yourselves into the 90's industrial rock sound she's built with this fantastic album.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Easier Than Lying, I am not a woman I'm a God, Girl is a Gun, You asked for this, 


#9: Far In by Helado Negro


Helado Negro's first release under 4AD Records, Far In, is a deep cut well worth diving into. Roberto Carlos Lange's playful, synth-folk record is reminiscent of the styles of Twin Shadow, yet Lange manages to build his own cosmic world worth diving into. It's chill yet incredibly immersive at the same time, which is why it makes for a fantastic listen for those looking to experience music on a separate plane.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: There Must Be A Song Like You, Gemini and Leo, Aureole, Wake Up Tomorrow


#8: The Turning Wheel by Spellling


Spellling's The Turning Wheel is a progressive pop masterpiece which definitely deserves more recognition. As a mix of jazzy, folk, lounge, and chamber pop sounds, it features haunting vocals with a combination of lush production, and well-written lyrics that are akin to poetry. Numerous listeners have put The Turning Wheel in comparison to some of Kate Bush’s work, or even as a bizarre Disney musical that sticks to one’s head even after one listen.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Little Deer, Always, Turning Wheel, Revolution


#7: Sour by Olivia Rodrigo


There's no doubt that 2021 was definitely the year of Olivia Rodrigo, as her debut album Sour broke the internet almost immediately upon it's release. Rodrigo's perfect balance of accurately capturing the heartbreak & angst of the teen experience made for a relatable listening experience to a universal audience, especially with the heart-wrenching anthems like "Traitor" and "Happier". It's honestly one of our most spun releases from the year, considering how easy it is to get hooked to almost every track!

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: deja vu, happier, brutal, jealousy jealousy


#6: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz


Little Simz’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert elevates the stakes as a hiphop record that experiments a variety of genres—while still showcasing a self-awareness and sense of bravado throughout the record. The confessional nature of the record feels highly personal and intimate, but the beats & cinematic aspects make this an absolutely thrilling listen from start to finish. With all the 19 tracks, it never feels exhausting as Simz’s ambition delivers on all fronts from this one.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Introvert, I Love You I Hate You, Woman, Point and Kill


#5: Call Me If You Get Lost by Tyler, the Creator


With every album that Tyler, The Creator creates, he’s always set the bar even higher—which is why the end product of Call Me If You Get Lost proves that Tyler is an ever changing face in the hiphop genre. Taking the identity of Tyler Baudelaire this time around, there’s so much to enjoy on such a fascinating journey like this, it's honestly an absolute breeze to savor the stellar production & guest features on this one. What makes Call Me If You Get Lost truly a standout in his discography so far is it's refusal to be caged within a certain genre or set of sounds, as Tyler's creativity embraces a sense of freedom that results in a dynamic record.

Purchase it here.



#4: Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast


The latest album from Michelle Zauner & co. sees the group heading towards a much more exultant and upbeat sound in Jubilee—where nearly all 10 tracks of the project are capsules of joyous perfection. With the very rich storytelling demonstrated in tracks like "Kokomo, IN" and "Tactics", the entire record is a highly emotive journey which leaves listeners with a warm & fuzzy feeling after a complete listen. At it’s core, Jubilee is happiness personified, and Michelle Zauner’s celebration of such is everything that we need & wanted it to be all together.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Kokomo, IN, Tactics, Slide Tackle, Posing in Bondage, Paprika


#3: Sling by Clairo


With how much we loved Clairo's debut album Immunity, it it was a really difficult feat to top a record like that in our opinion yet we were definitely proven wrong with her stellar sophomore release, Sling. Tackling themes of parenthood this time around, the album demonstrates a show of maturity with Claire's songwriting wherein she harnesses her sharp wit alongside her soft yet dreamy vocals to make something so signature to her. With how different the sound is this time around, it serves as an excellent showcase of how well she can honor the influence of her idols Elliot Smith & Joni Mitchell, making it one of the best vintage pop + modern folk records we've heard in recent years.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Amoeba, Little Changes, Just For Today, Bambi, Zinnias


#2: Promises by Floating Points & Pharaoh Sanders


The unexpected, yet ultimately astounding collaboration between the legendary Jazz figure Pharaoh Sanders and electronic maestro Floating Points in Promises has resulted in an album that goes beyond the traditional notions of what music can achieve, both in sound and spirit. Words aren't enough to describe the experience this record delivers, but this ambient record is a one-of-a-kind conversation between jazz, classical, and electronic music.

Divided into 9 movements, Promises makes for a record best listened to from start to finish—as doing so makes for an immersive and highly emotive listen. The entirety of the album makes for a cinematic experience, while also bridging the past & present with Sanders & Shepherd's masterful work put together.

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Movements 1-9


#1: Daddy's Home by St. Vincent


As we mentioned in our earlier review, St. Vincent's Daddy’s Home is a perfect homage to the sleazy, yet silky music of the 1970’s. Taking influence from the works of Steely Dan, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder, Annie Clark proves to the world once more that she is a masterclass in adopting an entirely new persona + sound with every era of her music.

Although they've worked together on numerous occasions, it's also in this record wherein Jack Antonoff's production stands out, as the duo's work on the album perfectly captured the era of 70's in NYC in both sound & soul. With almost every genre Clark has dipped her toes in, we never expected the psychedelic rock + lounge-pop sound combo to be some of the very best she's done. The Pink Floyd inspired track "Live in The Dream" stands out as the best demonstration of this, which is why is deservedly gets our pick for the best song of 2021. Highest of recommendations and applause for this!

Purchase it here.

Favorite Tracks: Live in the Dream, My Baby Wants a Baby, At The Holiday Party, The Melting of the Sun, Pay Your Way in Pain


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