MMM Staff Picks: Douglas Dahlström’s Top Ten Favorite Albums of 2021
*Honorable Mentions*: Lord Huron– ‘Long Lost’ // The Weather Station– ‘Ignorance’ // IDLES –‘CRAWLER’ // Arlo Parks – ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams‘ // Genesis Owusu – ‘Smiling With No Teeth’ // Mdou Moctar – ‘Afrique Victime‘ // Billie Eilish – ‘Happier Than Ever‘ & Doja Cat – ‘Planet Her‘
#10. Silk Sonic – ‘An Evening with Silk Sonic’
Even though Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak constantly dances their way through this album on a thin line between cringe and charming, the sheer professionalism of the finished product is nothing other than impressive. 2021’s most anticipated release is not only a passionate tribute to the ‘70s soul scene; with songs as good as “Skate”, “Leave the Door Open”, “Put on a Smile”, and “Smokin’ Out the Window” it is also one of the best classic soul records since longer than most people can remember.
#9. Lana Del Rey – ‘Blue Banisters’
Where Chemtrails Over the Country Club felt like a collection of leftovers from Lana’s 2019 magnum opus Norman F*cking Rockwell, her second release of 2021 is a more complex album, moving away from the apocalyptic Californian sunburn towards that good ol’ John Deere in Oklahoma. Blue Banisters is probably the closest we’ve come to Elizabeth Grant’s personal life so far, and if you still don’t like her music, you can always just enjoy her singing, because few other vocalists can wrench as much emotion from a single world as Lana. And on Blue Banisters, it feels more genuine than ever before.
#8. Olivia Rodrigo – ‘SOUR’
As always when a new star appears in the sky, it feels as if it would have appeared from nowhere. What did Olivia do in her last days before everyone knew her name? Well, apart from acting in Disney teenage shows, she was probably busy writing breakup songs. “I literally wrote breakup songs before I ever held a boy’s hand,” she told People Magazine, which explains why she can express feelings only a 17-year-old heartbroken girl can think of, but everyone can relate to better than anyone else.
#7. Japanese Breakfast – ‘Jubilee’
What a year it has been for Michelle Zauner, a.k.a. Japanese Breakfast. First, her novel Crying at H Mart about the loss of her mother became a New York Times Bestseller and later, her third studio album under her stage name became one of the most well-received indie records of the year. And deservedly so, with songs such as the stunningly longing “Kokomo, IN”, the sarcastic “Savage Good Boy”, or the disco-shimmering “Be Sweet”, Jubilee is great indeed. But for me, the opening “Paprika” about artistic inspiration won me over immediately, a kaleidoscope of sounds and instruments, unlike anything I’ve heard before.
#6. Amyl & The Sniffers – ‘Comfort To Me’
When I heard these Australian punk-rockers self-titled debut back in 2019, I fell so much in love that I ranked it the third-best album of the year. Amyl Taylor and her group don’t seem to be the kind of people who worries about making a sophomore slump. They’re way too talented for that. Their new album is even more menacing and rowdy than before, but the music is tighter and Amyl’s singing more powerful. Do I dare to say that she’s probably the greatest frontwoman in punk of all time?
#5. St. Vincent – ‘Daddy’s Home’
If anyone were to ever interpret David Bowie’s plastic soul successfully, it was always going to be Annie Clark. The opening “Pay Your Way in Pain” has Bowie’s “Fame” written all over it, and her crooning on the following “Down and Out Downtown” follows in the same footsteps, as the record perfectly manages to sound as much as a nostalgic throwback as it sounds like a modern piece of art-rock. My favorite is “My Baby Wants a Baby”, a hilarious yet thoughtful 21st-century take on Sheen Easton’s campy “Morning Train” about voluntary childlessness.
#4. Viagra Boys – ‘Welfare Jazz’
“Oh, trust me, honey, a-you don’t want me,” Sebastian Murphy sings on “Ain’t Nice”, the opening track of the Swedish post-punk rocker’s second studio album. “I start a-screamin’ if you look at me funny.” It’s an honest introduction to a ravaged life, depredated by bad decisions, junk food, and shrimps (the bad kind), and what follows is mesmerizing mayhem penetrated by the saxophone’s violent jazz-playing. But it’s the four final songs that really make Welfare Jazz special, with Murphy desperately trying to figure a way out of his misery, ending it all with a John Prine cover. Never knew post-punk-country was that great.
#3. Tyler, The Creator – ‘CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST’
That’s three great album releases in a row for Tyler, The Creator and CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST might even be the best one. Combining the aggression of his earlier records with the emotiveness of his later work results in a full-scale overview of Tyler’s uninhibited talents, as he skilfully inserts brief but dynamic breezes of soul balladry, jazz, and pop music in his soundscapes. And if it might be hard to separate any stand-out tracks such as “See You Again” or “EARFQUAKE”, it is only because CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is the perfect example of an album which is more than just the sum of its parts.
#2. Little Simz – ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’
You know you’re about to witness a statement when a record opens with something as enormous as “Introvert.” “Simz the artist of Simbi the person? // To you I’m smiling but really, I’m hurting,” she sings as she invites us to this highly personal magnum opus which transforms Little Simz from a promising talent to one of the greatest rappers in the world right now. And if the quality of the lyrics wouldn’t be enough to convince anyone of this record’s undeniable greatness, then the music will – especially when she’s paying tribute to Fela Kuti with the wonderful grooves of “Point and Kill” and “Fear No Man.”
#1. Faye Webster – ‘I Know I’m Funny haha’
Faye and I were born in the same year, we have grown up with the same musical influences, we are both convinced that the pedal steel is an amazing instrument, and I connect with everything she has to say about being sad, being happy, and just being. Which is quite a lot. At first-listen, the Atlanta-born singer’s country-twisted, laid-back, unsettled indie-folk might not shake your universe. Some would even call it boring. That’s until you truly start listening and hear how “Cheers” is not only the hardest-rocking song here but also the sweetest love song, and how it turns out that she’s my very own Ronald Acuña Jr. after all, haha.
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