From debut albums from first-time song makers to seasoned vets, the Best of 2021 list is full of great and diverse music and its creators. These are our top picks for Best Albums of 2021.
Southern Avenue, “Be The Love You Want”
Grammy-nominated, blues-adjacent rockers, Southern Avenue return with “Be The Love You Want,” their third studio album. In it, the Memphis-based band tackles major themes of hope, self-love, and personal accountability. The album is empowering and lead singer Tierinii Jackson’s vocals are outstanding and the record has enough funk and groove to get you to the dance floor. There’s just something very cool about Southern Avenue, they make their music seem effortless and fun.
Allison Russell, “Outside Child”
Allison Russell shines in her soulful, thought-provoking opus that’s “Outside Child.” From her ode to Canada in the opening number, “Montreal” to the stand-out track, “Nightflyer,” the album skillfully tackles abuse and trauma and transforms it into triumph and an album of empowerment. Russell, an accomplished poet, has a way with words in the song, “The Runner” she sings, Oh, I had to sing, to sing, to sing/From the western sea/To the old country/Oh, I had to bleed, to bleed, to bleed/’Til his poison left my veins/Left me,” these are the type of thought-provoking lyrics that distinguish the singer-songwriter. Her vocals are stellar and her talent is undeniable.
STYX, “Crash of The Crown”
Legendary hit-makers and rock royalty STYX return triumphantly with their 17th studio album, “Crash of The Crown.” It is the follow up to their critically-acclaimed 2017 release, “The Mission” in “Crash of The Crown” we get an epic-sounding 15-track experience that could be delivered by no other than STYX. How do you describe a STYX album without actually playing it? It’s hard to put into words but the ones that do pop into mind are futuristic, rock-funk with riveting guitars and beautiful harmonies. “Crash of The Crown” is an experience.
Nina Herzog, “Together Away”
Best known for her voice work as animated character Odette of The Swan Princess, Nina Herzog is ready to step into the spotlight. Released in February 2021 “Together Away” is the singer-songwriter’s 6-track debut EP. The album is a delight from start to finish, the vocalist takes us on a lyrical journey that sweetly portrays yearning for love with touching melodies and beautiful arrangements. “Together Away” gives us a glimpse into a promising long career.
Postdata, “Twin Flames”
In early March of 2021, Canadian singer-songwriter, Paul Murphy, performing under the moniker Postdata released “Twin Flames,” a very introspective and personal album full of wonderful ballads like, “Inside Out,” “My Mind Won’t,” and “Yours.” There’s a sweetness and sincerity to his voice paired with carefully crafted lyrics and melodic guitars is a winning combination. “Twin Flames” is a great album from start to finish.
Bandits on The Run, “Now Is The Time”
Our favorite bandits are back and “Now Is The Time” for them to breakthrough. With each member given the ability to shine on two distinct tracks, the album serves as a true testament to their musicianship. From the infectious, upbeat instant classic, “We Battle Giants” to the titled track, “Now Is The Time” the album is diverse but full of delicious harmonies.
ZO, “Dark Hallways”
After a three-year hiatus, frontwoman Gina Zo has regrouped and formed an extension of her alter-ego with the help of bandmates Buddy Mazzenga, Joe McEnany, Andrew Amado, and Tyler Detullelo, named ZO. The 4-track EP is full of melodic and mature-sounding rock tunes, the band comes off like pros. “Dark Hallways” serves as a re-introduction to the gypsy rock n roll sound we’ve grown to love from Gina Zo and now her distinctive and seductive vocals with this collaborative effort there’s no telling what these young rockers can do, they are destined for greatness.
Tony & The Kiki, “Light It Up”
Although released on November 19th I had the distinct pleasure of getting an advanced copy of Tony & The Kiki’s debut EP, “Light It Up” weeks in advance. From the first spin, my mind was made up, this EP was going on the Best of List hands down. From the provocative and sinful opener, “Extra Express” to the titular, “Light It Up” Tony & The Kiki shows us a stellar time with infectious choruses, slick guitars, and the undeniable powerful and soulful vocals of Anthony Alfaro, the Tony of The Kiki. Their androgynous, bilingual, in-your-face rock n roll nature grabs you by the throat but instead of begging for mercy, you will be screaming for more!
Ann Wilson, “Ann Wilson & The Daybreaks EP”
Before forming Heart, Ann Wilson fronted The Daybreakers and in 2021 she revisited 4-tracks originally released in 1969 under Ann Wilson & The Day Breakers. This EP features what would become her signature sound. As a fan of her work, it’s exciting to have some of these vintage tunes digitally.
Kat Von D, “Love Made Me Do It”
Multi-talented and tattoo legend Kat Von D makes her grand debut as a singer-songwriter in her goth-rock-inspired debut LP, “Love Made Me Do It.” The songstress pours her heart out in the 12-track hauntingly beautiful record and enlists the help of rock veterans like Dave Grohl, Linda Perry, and Charo amongst others. From the killer single, “Exorcism” to the emotional, gut-wrenching ballad, “I am Nothing” Kat Von D truly shines and claims a seat at the rock music table.
New York-based trio, Alma displays their harmonious indie-dreamy pop in an epic-sounding collection of songs for their debut album, “Mosaic.” The Brooklyn-based trio’s classical training shines through in tracks like their grand opener, “Fall” and the undeniable hit, “Mornight.” There’s a cinematic element to their pop stylings, their harmonies enhance each track as it truly becomes an immersive experience.
Dot Allison, “Heart-Shaped Scars”
After a 12-year hiatus, Scottish singer-songwriter Dot Allison returns with “Heart-Shaped Scars” a personal and folk-influenced album. The songstress lays into the softness of her voice and transports you into a pop dreamscape you’ll want to float through endlessly. “Heart-Shaped Scars” was worth the 12-year wait.