2021 was the year we embraced body of works again. After a turbulent 2020, artists found themselves having time to have deep moments of introspection, and from those reflections came some of their most honest and vulnerable pieces of art. For so long it’s been a single dominated market, and TikTok has reinforced that, but this year albums really came through strong and had us feeling ALL of the emotions.
Looking back at the year that was, here is ThomasBleach.com’s Top 20 albums of 2021. Check the list out BELOW;
20. Lorde – Solar Power
In the moments leading up to ‘Solar Power’ we thought we knew what to expect from Lorde, but in the end she proved us completely wrong. Re-approaching her soundscape and vivid songwriting, ‘Solar Power’ was a love letter to nature and the personal grounding she has with the Earth. It’s a record that belongs in the summer atmosphere with the radiating sun playing background to this soundtrack. And it’s officially summer now in Australia, so if you didn’t find yourself falling in love with this album during the year then retry now under this seasonal glow as you may find a different perspective.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Mood Ring’, ‘California’, ‘Secrets From A Girl (Who’s Seen It All)’
19. Halsey – If I Cant Have Love, I Want Power
Commemorating her experience with pregnancy, Halsey teamed up with Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross from Nine Inch Nails for a very important concept album. ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’ is an immersive and celebratory exploration of the joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth. Sonically the album drifts between cinematically scored pop, and heavier rock-punk influences that will give you whiplash in the best way possible. It’s stunningly beautiful, and was creatively a huge risk that undoubtedly paid off for her as she turned her darkest emotions into something unforgettable.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Easier Than Lying’, ‘Honey’, I Am Not A Woman, I Am A God’, ‘Ya’aburnee’
18. UPSAHL – Lady Jesus
Not only did UPSAHL cement herself as one of the most exciting rising breakthrough acts of 2021, but she also cemented herself as Lady Jesus with the release of her fiery debut album. From start to finish this album doesn’t hold back one bit in serving you a whole lot of attitude and giving you the euphoric release you deserve from any toxic relationship you’ve been in. Incorporating heavy guitars, big drums and intoxicating beats, this record was an experimentation into her artistry and has laid the foundations for a lot more explosive moments to come.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Time Of My Life’, ‘Lunatic’, ‘IDFW Feelings’, ‘Thriving’
17. The Jungle Giants – Love Signs
The Jungle Giants are four albums into their discography, and in 2021 they served their bounciest collection yet with ‘Love Signs’. Led by the hit singles ‘Heavy Hearted’, ‘Treat You Right’, ‘In Her Eyes’ and ‘Sending Me Ur Loving’, this album has so much energy and euphoric hooks behind it that you’re already going to be on cloud nine when listening to it. But then you have the previously unreleased tracks which are just as strong as the singles that will have you ready to be in the mosh pit at their future live shows. It’s an album made for dancing. It’s an album made for festivals. And it’s an album made to get sweaty to.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Love Signs’, ‘Heartless’, ‘Heavy Hearted’
16. Lil Nas X – MONTERO
‘MONTERO’ cements that Lil Nas X is the artist for a whole new generation. He’s the queer representation I wish I had in 2008 when I started questioning my identity. Stepping away from the virility of ‘Old Town Road’, this record embraces a bold confidence that sonically drifts from hip-hop, to pop, to also some punk-pop references. It’s an immersive collection of tracks that encourages listeners to dive into the world of ‘MONTERO’ and learn more about who Lil Nas X is as a singer, songwriter and rapper beyond the gimmicky headlines you may read. By collaborating with high profile names like, Doja Cat, Elton John, Megan Thee Stallion, Jack Harlow, and Miley Cyrus, they bring some of the record’s most obvious buzz worthy moments. But where he really shines is when he just takes up space and isn’t afraid to just give you lyrical serves.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘THATS WHAT I WANT, ‘LOST IN THE CITADEL’, ‘DEAD RIGHT NOW’
15. Iggy Azalea – End Of An Era
Iggy Azalea was NOT mucking around with her third studio album. ‘End Of An Era’ is her strongest and most cohesive body of work yet that heard her revisiting the playful and energetic bounciness of her early mixtapes. From the very first listen she welcomes you into this brash and eccentric world of colour and attitude that will have you heavily engaged. It’s an album that feels totally fresh while also being a little nostalgically layered. It’s also just banger central.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Iam The Stripclub’, ‘Emo Club Anthem’, ‘Sirens’
14. Odette – Herald
I would have to say that ‘Herald’ is one of the most important albums of 2021, and it might surprise you to hear that because it genuinely surprised me. Odette’s sophomore studio album heard her exploring her recent BPD diagnosis and gave listeners an insight into the array of emotions felt over this period of her life. Opening with the title track, she immediately draws you into this world of introspection and melodrama with the cinematic and theatrical soundscapes feeling quite ethereal within their delivery. However the innovative production has a very natural selection within its foundations with vocal samples being pulled from nature with insect and magpie noises integrated and looped into beats that give it the appropriate grounding it needed to embody.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘What I Know Is Not Enough’, ‘I Miss You, I’m Sorry’, ‘Why Can’t I Let The Sun Set?’, ‘Amends’
13. Gretta Ray – Begin To Look Around
‘Begin To Look Around’ is more than just a debut album for Gretta Ray, it’s also a soundtrack to the romanticism of coming of age introspection. The Melbourne based singer-songwriter uses a lot of visual references that immediately takes you to the fresh air of Brunswick in Melbourne, to the streets of London, and the polarising romanticised emotions of Paris. Each song has a very distinct visual identity embedded that immediately transports the listener to be standing right next to her as she unravels her vulnerability in a very confident and reassuring way. Sonically finding a contrast between the youthful coming-of-age themes and a confident new found maturity, this country-pop record feels like the love child of Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ and Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Golden Hour’.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘The Cure’, ‘Love Me Right’, ‘The Brink’
12. Aly & AJ – a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun
Over the last couple of years Aly & AJ have been reintroducing themselves to listeners while simultaneously finding their sound and vision as independent artists. Their new album may have a very unnecessarily long title, but the album itself is genuinely a lush slice of pop summery heaven. Led by guitars, light drums, breezy harmonies and catchy hooks, they captivate you with this calming overarching knowledge and maturity they’ve discovered. It genuinely feels like this is the album they were always destined to make.
Must Listen Tracks: ’Slow Dancing’, ‘Don’t Need Nothing’, ‘Paradise’
11. Kacey Musgraves – Star-Crossed
Kacey Musgraves’ long awaited follow up to ‘Golden Hour’ was always going to have a lot of pressure surrounding it due to the high expectation. She cleverly opted for a minimalist release with only two singles in the weeks leading up to the album release which allowed listeners to immerse themselves within the storyline from listening to it from start to finish, the way it was made to be heard. This beautiful record captured the raw and intimate heartbreak rooted within her divorce as well as the confidence and self-love that followed. It was a very theatrical take on something so vulnerable and personal, which was a beautiful contrast from her previous record.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘camera roll’, ‘simple times’, ‘there is a light’
10. Justin Bieber – Justice
I feel like we have all collectively forgotten that Justin Bieber ever released ‘Changes’, and that’s probably for the best. ‘Justice’ was the Canadian singer-songwriters triumph return to the top of the charts and back into the hearts of Belieber’s and radio listeners alike. The record felt like a sequel to ‘Purpose’ with its sonical and lyrical exploration, and you couldn’t help but get immediately drawn into the smooth hooks and big heart behind the songs. This was the Justin Bieber album I was hoping we would get when ‘Changes’ dropped, and I am very glad that we have finally got it.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Anyone’, ‘Peaches’, ‘Somebody’
9. Adele – 30
’30’ was easily the most anticipated album of the year, and it quickly became apparent that it was more than just a divorce record. It was a reclamation of strength and confidence in the wake of trauma and heartbreak, the navigation of anxiety and mental health issues, and the the undying love for her son. It’s the most transparent and unfiltered we’ve heard Adele yet, and it’s also the most experimental she’s been sonically as she steps out of the box and pushes her explorations of references and soundscapes. From the cinematically scored and Judy Garland inspired opening track ‘Strangers By Nature’, to the reggae influenced ‘Cry Your Heart Out’, and the Amy Winehouse meets Beyonce inspired ‘All Night Parking’, the range is distinguishably varied. It’s a record that is designed to be listened to from start to finish, and it will take you a few listens to completely digest it because it is so palatably different to her previous records. But it is still effortlessly brilliant.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘I Drink Wine’, ‘My Little Love’, ‘To Be Loved’
8. Julia Michaels – Not In Chronological Order
Julia Michaels is THE pop songwriting queen, and she proved why on her debut album ‘Not In Chronological Order’. Pushing herself to write an album about love instead of heartbreak and anxiety, she captured a hopefulness that she didn’t even realise she had inside of her. The 10 track collection is purposefully set not in chronological order and gives you a whiplash of feelings from the moment she opens with the angsty anthem ‘All Your Exes’ right through to the candid reflection of closing track ‘That’s The Kind Of Woman’. It’s a complete overview of the many different feelings that life delivers, with a real sense of hope embedded deep into the songwriting.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘All Your Exes’, ‘Wrapped Around’, ‘History’
7. Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak – An Evening With Silk Sonic
I don’t think anyone expected Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak to join forces and create an album together, and I don’t even know why because this collaboration is genuinely and ultimately perfect. The smooth and funk driven collection of tracks is short and sweet while also delivering a big punch. With the accompaniment of a big band this record transports you into a jazz and RNB lounge. It’s a record that is designed to be listened to from start to finish, and you will find yourself immediately hooked and ready to re-enter the club as soon as it finishes.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Leave The Door Open’, ‘Blast Off’, ‘Fly As Me’
6. Chelsea Cutler – When I Close My Eyes
It’s only been nearly 2 years since the release of her debut album ‘How To Be Human’ but Chelsea Cutler has already learnt so much about who she is and found a shift in her outlook of life. Thematically sitting in a lighter and hopeful soundscape, her sophomore record ‘When I Close my Eyes’ hears her exploring the gratitude and patience time has taught her during the pandemic. Finding herself in a happy place within her relationship with her girlfriend and with touring beginning to open up, this album is a reflective accumulation of emotions. From the immediately breezy production behind ‘Forever’ and ‘Calling All Angels’, you will feel the radiating happiness. But there are still the emotionally heavy tracks like the break-up anthem ‘Walking Away’ and the mental health awareness of ‘Devil On My Shoulder’ that will comfort listeners who are needing to feel understood and not alone.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Forever’, ‘Without You’, ‘Walking Away’
5. Holy Holy – Hello My Beautiful World
Layered in a contrast of experimentation and vulnerability, Holy Holy’s fourth studio album ‘Hello My Beautiful World’ is their boldest and most immersive body of work yet. Written as a commentary on the state of the world and the complications and beauty of the inter-personal relationships we have, it’s a record that finds the right balance of heaviness with a palatable lightness. With strong pop hooks and dance beats filtered through their already distinct indie-rock sound, it feels ultimately anthemic and ready for the live stage. Taking the experimentation even further they intertwine beautiful strings throughout the tracks which adds a cinematic flair, and this is boldly represented on the album’s “coda tracks”. Continuing the sonical exploration on ‘The Aftergone’, ‘So Tired’ and ‘I.C.U’, they show listeners exactly where a musical idea could go if they weren’t restricted to a time restraint for radio or trying to make something punchy. An idea that I would love to see so many more artists adapt.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘How You Been’, ‘Port Rd’, ‘ICU’
4. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
Billie Eilish’s sophomore studio album ‘Happier Than Ever’ is so much more than just a coming-of-age collection of tracks. It’s a moment of reclamation for the 19 year old singer-songwriter following a toxic relationship in her personal life, as well as her turbulent relationship with the media that has become quite damaging to her mental health. It hears her taking control and speaking her truth with her most directed lyrical approach yet that shies away from imaginative imagery and instead relishes on the raw emotion of it all. From start to finish it will captivate you with it’s brutal honest and sincere vulnerability. It’s intended to be a record that you listen to from start to finish and immerse yourself in the dreamy soundscapes that Billie Eilish and FINNEAS have dreamt together. It showcases an impressive mature growth since ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?’ with her songwriting becoming a lot more direct.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Happier Than Ever’, ‘Getting Older’ ‘Male Fantasy’, ‘NDA’
3. Genesis Owusu – Smiling With No Teeth
Genesis Owusu won the Aria Award for album of the year for his debut record ‘Smiling With No Teeth’, and rightfully so. This bold, powerful and incredibly impactful body of work captivates the listeners whole heartedly from the opening moments of ‘On The Movel’, right through to the poignantly titled and glitchy ‘Bye Bye’. Singles ‘Don’t Need You’, ‘The Other Black Dog’, ‘I am’, and ‘Whip Cracker’ provide some big anthemic moments, but those moments don’t just end there. ‘Waitin’ On Ya’, ‘Drown’, ‘Gold Chains’ and ‘I Don’t See Colour’ will leave you speechless and have you so captivated and in awe of this Canberra based artist. It’s an immersive record that will have you pressing replay over and over again as you peel back all the layers and get to know him and his artistry explicitly.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Don’t Need You’, ‘Drown’, ‘Gold Chains’
2. Maisie Peters – You Signed Up For This
Maisie Peters has boldly entered the pop arena with her debut album ‘You Signed Up For This’, and it’s a record that is the ultimate soundtrack of the coming of age experience. I genuinely wish I had this album in my late teens. I wish I had her honest storytelling to find solace in and remind myself that is okay to feel as deeply as I do about things. Because what she’s done is created a safe space within her music for listeners to reflect on their feelings and really own their emotions without a sense of judgement. This record is a special body of work that feels like a time capsule of supercuts from her life. From heartbreak, to young love, to sisterhood, and growing up, she opens her heart and her diary pages to the world to give everyone her own unique perspective. With a good dose of wit intertwined with some of the heartbreakingly vulnerable moments, it does feel like an emotional rollercoaster ride that you may just need to have.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘I’m Trying (Not Friends)’, ‘Psycho’, Love Him I Don’t’
1. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
Olivia Rodrigo is the voice of a new generation trying to vocalise their emotions. ‘Sour’ is in an impressive debut album that feels like an immediate classic. From the opening angst of ‘brutal’ where she tackles her coming of age dilemmas, right through to the empathetic LGBTQI+ anthem ‘hope ur ok’, she provides a snapshot of grief, hope and understanding. With a major break-up focus, the storyline that plays a prominent feature is “I can’t believe you moved on without me so quickly” and it may seem a little melodramatic, but it is, and we love that energy from her.
The emotionally charged record is a rollercoaster of feelings from the moment you press play. But it’s a ride that you won’t want to get off. Whether you’re going through the coming age moments in life with her, or reminiscing on that first heartbreak that stung a little too much, you will find a special place within this album.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘jealously jealousy’, ‘traitor’, ’happier’, ‘good 4 u’