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The AllMusic 2021

Year In Review

The end of 2021 is in sight, so it's time to devote ourselves to the daunting task of attempting to summarize the musical output of an entire year. Over the next four weeks we're going to present the best releases of a few dozen genres and formats, whether it's metal or jazz, hip-hop or Americana. We're starting with our editors' overall best-of list, then we'll narrow our focus to individual genres.



Triumphant fourth LP that takes the high road of growth, acceptance, and ownership after a difficult divorce.

Aimee Mann

Queens of the Summer Hotel

Songs written for a musical adaptation of Girl, Interrupted.

Alison Krauss / Robert Plant

Raise the Roof

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss manage to capture lightning in a bottle a second time on this joyful sequel to Raising Sand.

Allison Russell

Outside Child

The Canadian roots veteran's solo debut is a remarkable meditation on past traumas that feels more defiant than devastating.

Amyl and the Sniffers

Comfort to Me

The thrilling sophomore LP from the Aussie punks adds maturity and focus to the mix without sacrificing their rabid, defiant sound.


Talk Memory

The Canadian jazz group return to their instrumental roots on their fifth album, which features guests such as Arthur Verocai and Laraaji.

Ben LaMar Gay

Open Arms to Open Us

A kaleidoscopic, boundary-pushing album from the Chicago artist, rife with indie, avant-garde, and global influences.

Billie Eilish

Happier Than Ever

Delivering on the promise of her debut, the pop chameleon matures with confidence and grace atop subtle, powerful, and genre-blurring production.

Billy Gibbons


Gibbons' third solo album finds him drawing upon his time-tested strengths while adding elements of dusty desert splendor.

Bo Burnham

Inside (The Songs)

The comedian/actor/ writer/director offers an acerbic and anthemic 20-song snapshot of pandemic life with his fourth comedy album.

Bomba Estéreo


On album number six the Colombians invite a host of international guest artists to deliver their lushest, most elegantly detailed set to date.

Brandi Carlile

In These Silent Days

A bold, brawny, and smart record that proves Brandi Carlile is one of the best singer/songwriters of her generation.

C. Tangana

El Madrileño

Shaped through travel and collaboration, the vocalist's sixth set weaves traditional Hispanic and Latin styles into his complex, forward-thinking material.

Cadence Weapon

Parallel World

Rollie Pemberton's most politically charged album addresses gentrification, structural racism, and surveillance over grime, drill, and trap beats.

Cassandra Jenkins

An Overview on Phenomenal Nature

The New Yorker delivers a stunning sophomore outing of poignant, impressionistic dream folk.

Chelsea Carmichael

The River Doesn't Like Strangers

The English saxophonist and her quartet offer a new direction that emerges from the roots of the Caribbean diaspora as it meets modern jazz.


Screen Violence

The trio’s fourth album taps into everything that makes them so special among the legions of bands reinventing synth pop in the 2020s.


Playground in a Lake

The producer/composer's Deutsche Grammophon debut combines folk, orchestral, and electronic elements into a haunting meditation on climate change.

Cleo Sol


Expansive yet concentrated second solo album from the singer/songwriter, supported again by Sault partner Inflo.

Cola Boyy

Prosthetic Boombox

Shimmering neo-disco jams and laid-back soft rock ballads coalesce into something meaningful and magical in Matthew Urango's hands.


The Tunnel and the Clearing

Dramatic life changes shaped the journey of growth and acceptance on the producer/multi-instrumentalist's starlit, quietly stunning seventh album.

Converge / Chelsea Wolfe

Bloodmoon: I

A potent collaboration that pairs bracing hardcore with expansive symphonic and post-metal.

Curtis Harding

If Words Were Flowers

The vocalist and songwriter once again mines R&B's past and present for a set of songs offering love to a world in need.

Damon Albarn

The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows

An elegiac, shape-shifting ode to Damon Albarn's adopted homeland of Iceland.

Dry Cleaning

New Long Leg

The band's surreally witty, poignant debut album brings fresh energy to post-punk with its combination of deadpan vocals and fired-up playing.

Edward Dowie

The Obvious I

A radiant album of exultant synth pop, frosty post-punk, and choral-driven classical minimalism.

Eivind Aarset / Eivind Aarset 4-Tet

Phantasmagoria or a Different Kind of Journey

This dynamic, immersive release marks the experimental guitarist's long-awaited return to using his instrument in a conventional manner.

Eric Bibb

Dear America

The artist offers a tender, poignant manifesto of love and empathy to a land, history, and people that haven't always loved him back.

Field Music

Flat White Moon

The British sibling duo's ninth album is a poetic production full of warm prog rock and AOR influences.

Foo Fighters

Medicine at Midnight

Foo Fighters loosen up and dance on this self-styled "party album."

Geoffrey O'Connor

For as Long as I Can Remember

Joined by some of the best female vocalists Australia has to offer, the veteran pop craftsman offers up a moving set of sleek heartbreak duets.



Gathering 15 years' worth of unreleased songs, Shade reflects all the different nuances of Grouper's beauty.


If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power

Triumphant artistic showcase that pairs the pop star with producers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Helado Negro

Far In

Roberto Carlos Lange follows the critically acclaimed This Is How You Smile with a gently ambitious album that puts joy first.

Helsinki Chamber Choir / Nils Schweckendiek

Pärt: Passio

An expressive rather than coolly mystical performance of Pärt's minimalist masterpiece.

Hiatus Kaiyote

Mood Valiant

Six years after earning their second Grammy nomination, the Australian avant-soul band delivers a taut and stirring third album.

Jack Ingram / Miranda Lambert / Jon Randall

The Marfa Tapes

The trio of Texas troubadours capture the spare, dusty beauty of West Texas on this rough-hewn gem.

James McMurtry

The Horses and the Hounds

The great Texas singer/songwriter makes an album where the music is as powerful and exciting as his outstanding songs.

Japanese Breakfast


Michelle Zauner follows the success of her memoir, Crying in H Mart, with her thoughtfully sophisticated third album.

Jazzmeia Horn

Dear Love

A transcendent big band album from the Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist, songwriter, and arranger.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet

Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 9

An especially exuberant item in Bavouzet's superb Haydn sonata cycle.

Jerry Cantrell


Jerry Cantrell's first new set in decades dials back the dimly lit ruminations of past efforts for something that hews dangerously close to hope.

John Carroll Kirby


Subtly dazzling jazz date from the Stones Throw keyboardist/composer following his mostly solitary 2020 solo recordings.

Jon Batiste

We Are

The Late Night bandleader crafts an uplifting album of genre-bending soul and R&B.

Jorge Elbrecht

Presentable Corpse 002

Wonderfully lush and jangly retro-psych-pop that juxtaposes lush melodies with lyrics that revolve around the horrors of the Vietnam War.

Karol G


On her third long-player, the visionary artist blends urbano's margins into the pop multiverse, making them heel under her authority.

Kenneth Whalum

Broken Land 2

Tranquilizing ballads from a singer, songwriter, and producer known for his extensive resumé as a tenor saxophonist.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

Butterfly 3000

The Gizz add synth loops and breezy warmth to their tool kit; the result is hooky choruses, helium-light vocals, and songs perfect for a summer afternoon.

Klenke-Quartett / Nicola Jürgensen / Stephan Katte

Mozart: Clarinet Quintet; Horn Quintet

A lovely, perfectly balanced performance of these quintets on historical-style instruments.



Taja Cheek's stunning, genre-blurring second album reflects on personal loss and coping with change.

Laura Mvula

Pink Noise

The wounded if defiant return from the two-time Mercury Prize nominee draws from vintage high-tech R&B and art pop.

Lil Nas X


Genre-blurring debut from the pop-rap firebrand that boldly places sexuality and vulnerability at the fore.

Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey Buckingham

The former Fleetwood Mac vocalist/guitarist makes the most Fleetwood Mac-sounding solo album of his career.

Little Simz

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

A deeply ambitious, soulful master class in modern songwriting from the acclaimed British rapper.

Liz Phair


Liz Phair reunites with co-producer Brad Wood for an album that exists a space between past and present, mainstream and fringe.


Former Things

The producer and singer/songwriter's riveting third album adds bustling textures and plenty of hooks to her taut blend of post-punk and dance.

Los Lobos

Native Sons

The great East L.A. band cover a dozen songs from their hometown and show how much they've learned and how far they've grown.


For Allting

The band's fourth album buries their dark indie pop angst under buckets of reverb and arrives at a more tuneful, more emotionally powerful sound.

Manfred Honeck / Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

A fresh, kinetic, and thrilling Beethoven's Ninth from Honeck and his increasingly well-drilled Pittsburghers.

Marisa Monte


On her first studio outing in a decade, the Brazilian singer/songwriter confronts disease, death, disaster, and loneliness with militant hope.

Marissa Nadler

The Path of the Clouds

Inspired by binging Unsolved Mysteries during lockdown, the Gothic folk artist's wired ninth LP features members of Cocteau Twins, Midlake, and more.


Hushed and Grim

The Atlanta power quartet chart the stages of grief, and the journey of a soul on their most musically varied -- and focused -- set to date.

Matthias Goerne / Seong-Jin Cho

Im Abendrot: Wagner, Pfitzner, Strauss

A glorious, burnished example of the mature Goerne voice: a lieder album to treasure.

Mdou Moctar

Afrique Victime

The Tuareg guitar hero's sixth album is a diverse and deeply satisfying amalgam of desert blues and Western flair.


Overtones for the Omniverse

An enchanting mini-opus of breezy, yet complex chamber music from the talented Canadian producer/composer.


As the Love Continues

The venerable Scottish post-rockers celebrate their 25th anniversary with some of their most fun and immediate music.

Mouse on Mars


The tirelessly creative duo synthesize the soul of artificial intelligence, challenging conventions of authenticity and emotion in the process.

Nala Sinephro

Space 1.8

The London-based composer and multi-instrumentalist intertwines spiritual jazz and ambient music on her meditative debut release.

Olivia Rodrigo


The singer/songwriter builds on her blockbuster debut single "Driver's License" with more barbed ballads and surprisingly fierce rock.

Olivier Latry

Liszt: Inspirations

An extraordinary realization of Liszt's rather neglected organ works on the new instrument at the Philharmonie de Paris.


To Hell With It

Exhilarating debut mixtape from the viral pop sensation, whose urgent, sincere tunes craftily draw from U.K. garage and drum'n'bass.

Playboi Carti

Whole Lotta Red

The second studio album from this already slightly experimental Atlanta rapper pushes into a new phase of artistry with risky, aggressive production and chaotic delivery.

Polo & Pan


The Parisian electronic duo's sophomore set is a cinematic wonder of exotic, bouncy pop with heaps of class.

René Jacobs / Berlin RIAS Chamber Choir / Freiburger Barockorchester / Polina Pastirchak

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

An often revelatory Missa Solemnis gives a sense of Beethoven's wrestling with the text.

Robert Finley

Sharecropper's Son

The Louisiana singer renews his partnership with producer Dan Auerbach in a searingly honest, emotionally powerful set of originals.

Rochelle Jordan

Play With the Changes

Assisted by KLSH, Jimmy Edgar, and Machinedrum, the progressive electronic R&B specialist hits her stride by integrating house, garage, and drum'n'bass.

Roxana Amed


A vibrant, globally cross-pollinated album from the Miami-based Argentine jazz vocalist.

Saint Etienne

I've Been Trying to Tell You

The long-running group abandon song structures in favor of impressionistic, sample-based pieces that sound like dub versions of imagined late-'90s pop ballads.

Smile Machine

Bye for Now

Debut effort from drummer/vocalist Jordyn Blakely's solo project updates the over-utilized shoegaze template with distant lo-fi production choices.

Sons of Kemet

Black to the Future

On this almost uncategorizable musical milestone, the band and guests move across Black history and create an already present future.


Bright Green Field

The U.K. band's invigorating debut is an energetic shouting match of new wave, Krautrock, and post-punk.

Steve Gunn

Other You

Gunn's marvelous sixth outing is an airy, sun-dappled delight of relaxed songwriting and accomplished playing.



Beginning with Japanese instrumental rock and folding in a wealth of other influences, this is an eclectic and ambitious delight.

Terrace Martin


The likes of Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Kamasi Washington join the Grammy-nominated musician/producer on his first proper LP in five years.

The Armed


The Detroit art-punk collective delivers a barrage of sounds and styles that show no delineation between discomfort, reassurance, pain, or pleasure.

The Coral

Coral Island

Inspired by faded seaside resorts, the group explore pre-Beatles pop, psychedelia, folk-rock and more on a brilliant double-record that's both expansive and focused.

The Hold Steady

Open Door Policy

A self-styled cinematic album populated with vivid characters captured with bold colors and nuance.

The Mountain Goats

Dark in Here

The third album in 14 months from John Darnielle and friends is a smart, masterful study in constructive paranoia.

The Reds, Pinks & Purples

Uncommon Weather

Beautifully melancholy, world-weary, and hook-filled Sarah Records-inspired indie pop that displays a total mastery of the form.

The Weather Station


Tamara Lindeman's brilliant fifth album examines environmental and emotional crises with dazzling yet heartfelt words and music.

The William Loveday Intention

The Dept. of Discontinued Lines

England's godfather of garage punk changes things up with a four-volume set informed by '60s pop and classic Bob Dylan.

Theo Croker

Blk2Life/A Future Past

The trumpeter crafts another uplifting blend of funky jazz, hip-hop, and R&B.



Singer/songwriter Mackenzie Scott turns up the volume -- and the happiness -- on some of her catchiest and most confident songs.


Glow On

The Baltimore punk outift's third long-player rolls in like a violent, late-summer storm and pummels the power grid but mercifully leaves the lights on.

Tyler, The Creator


The rapper's sixth LP is a cosmopolitan embrace of his hip-hop roots, fusing the pure rap abilities of his early years with the complex subjects of his recent works.

Valerie June

The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers

A rare gem of heartfelt expression and celestial liminality, June's dreamy fifth album mixes folk, soul, and light psychedelia.

Viktoria Mullova / Alasdair Beatson

Beethoven: Sonatas 4, 5 & 7

Extraordinary Beethoven violin sonatas, animated not only by deep, pandemic-era reflections but by a new edition of the music.

Wolf Alice

Blue Weekend

The band's ambitious, unabashedly emotional third album balances intimacy and majesty with cinematic skill.

Yasmin Williams

Urban Driftwood

A delight of winsome melodies and meticulous, yet soulful execution from the young guitarist.


Stand for Myself

The Nashville-based Brit delivers a sophomore set that is as inviting as it is powerful.

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Cola Boyy