As we are coming up on almost 2 years of being in a worldwide pandemic, this has been another interesting year in music. Live concerts have started returning as the vaccinated ticket holders feel safer in attending live shows with 20,000 other fans in the same venue. As for new music released this year, there were many new albums – mostly newer and independent artists that I heard one or two songs from, but not entire albums. I need to be better at expanding my listening next year [I say that every year]. But for this year, some of my long time favorite bands had new music that I liked and listened to a lot.
All of these albums on this year’s list are from my iTunes library. While I did stream some of these albums via YouTube Music, I have all of the albums in digital format that I can sync to my phone or iPods [yes, I still use these classic devices for the car and portable speakers not of the Google Nest variety].
So here we are: I present my list of the top 10 albums released in 2021.
Weezer “Van Weezer”
– Weezer released two albums this year [the other was “OK Human” which didn’t make this list] and this is more of the rocking of the two. “Hero”, “I Need Some of That” and “All The Good Ones” are my favorite tracks. I would like to hear these songs live one day, having seen Weezer live several times over the years, I image they will come off great in a stadium.
Halsey “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power”
– I’m not all that familiar with Halsey’s music, but I am very familiar with the albums’ producers: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. They took these pop songs and added their signature sound to them and we end up with very listenable tracks like “Bells in Santa Fe”, “You asked for this” and “honey” This is great new fan exposure for Halsey, who already had a loyal following.
– Josh Todd is the only original member of this band left. Over the years, the instrumental members have come and gone. But their sound and song construction has stayed mostly the same, which to this long time fan is a good thing. Songs like “Here I Come”, “So Hott” and the title track are rockers, tried and true. The one ballad “The Way” is really quite good as well.
The Killers “Pressure Machine”
– This is the most somber Killers album in their entire seven album catalog. It is considered a concept album, following lead singer Brandon Flowers life growing up in Nephi UT [about 80 miles south of Salt Lake City] as a Mormon boy in rural town. The theme of what he saw and experienced growing up in Nephi are lyrically prominent in the first three songs “West Hills”, “Quiet Town” and “Terrible Thing”. The most upbeat song is “In The Car Outside” which sounds the most like previous Killers songs and hits, with an appreciated New Order-like sound. I have all of their albums and still go back 17 years to their debut “Hot Fuss” but their sound has progressed a lot with each of their next six albums. If you are ok with many of the songs starting off with a spoken history of Brandon’s life, then it’s worth the listen.
Duran Duran “Future Past”
– It’s been 6 years since “Paper Gods” their 14th studio album was released and we have an aptly named new album that is a simple description for each of these 15 songs. I have the deluxe album – the standard release omits the songs “Velvet Newton”, “Laughing Boy” and “Invocation”. As for the songs that I embraced on the first few listens, “More Joy!” ended up being my favorite. “All Of You” is the best new song that sounds like something this band released in the early 90’s. And “Invisible” starts off as the first track of the album and completely follows the Future Past standard.
Billy Idol “The Roadside [EP]”
– This EP only has 4 songs and each one is really well done and instantly let’s you know you are listening to a Billy Idol album. “Bitter Taste” is the one song that broke into heavy radio play. It has country vibes that I really like and I have heard this song a good 50 times and it has easily grown on me as one of my favorites of 2021. The album starts off with “Rita Hayworth” a hard rocking tribute to the actress. “U Don’t Have To Kiss Me Like That” straddles the Generation X/Billy Idol construction so well, it’s a nice throw back – sound wise. And “U Don’t Have To Kiss Me Like That” is a faster ballad-like song with some of that country sound borrowed on “Bitter Taste” that ends to the EP. And a shout out to Steve Stevens on guitar who has collaborated with Billy throughout most of his solo career.
Mammoth WVH “Mammoth WVH”
– For those of you that have no idea who WVH is, it is Wolfgang Van Halen, the son of the late guitarist Eddie Van Halen. This entire album is a love letter to his father and his band Van Halen, taking the Mammoth name from 1974 in the pre-Van Halen/David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony demo days. Sadly, Eddie died before this album came out. I’m sure Eddie heard many of the demos that became the 14 songs, which are so well constructed. Wolfie is a multi-instrumentalist here on this album, playing everything. The album evolved from being a solo effort after Van Halen disbanded. Songs like “You’re To Blame”, “Don’t Back Down” and “Mammoth” are rockers all the way. But it’s that album closer “Distance” which gets me all teared up, which is an homage to Eddie.
– This album would have landed into my top 3 if any one of the albums that did make it were not released this year.
CHVRCHES “Screen Violence”
– This is the fourth studio album by this Glasgow modern snyth band lead by lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry. I was not all that fond of their first album, but with each new album, their sound and songs got better. This latest album is their best, in my opinion, with songs like the first single “He Said She Said”, the opening track “Asking For A Friend” and “How Not To Drown” which I think is the best song on the album, featuring vocals by Robert Smith of The Cure. For a mellower side of this band, listen to “Lullabies” and “Nightmares” The lyrical content of this album is all about ended relationships and various struggles in life. I was sad their show in Salt Lake City was cancelled earlier this month, due to a heavy snow storm that hit the night before. I have seen them live in 2014 and hope to see them live once again in 2022.
Iron Maiden “Senjutsu”
– 10 Songs. 2 CDs. The longest song is “The Parchment” clocking in at 12:39. The first single was “The Writing On The Wall” followed by “Stratego”. The entire album was put together in 2019 before the pandemic hit the world. Their last album “The Book Of Souls” came out six years ago and made it to number 4 on my top albums for 2015. This new album is better than their last album – hands down. That is not to diminish the last double album. It’s just this new album – their 17th studio release – excels in every part. The details and stories told in each song and the guitars, drums and vocals are pristine. Bruce, Dave, Steve, Nicko, Janick and Adrian collaborate so well. This Iron Maiden fan is very pleased with this new release – and so are many other blogs and publications where it landed on their best of 2021 lists. I look forward to seeing them live in September 2022 as they return to Utah after a nine year absence. Up The Irons!!
Foo Fighters “Medicine At Midnight”
– Alright. Let’s cut to the chase. All of my regular readers know what a big Foo Fighters fan I am. Dave Grohl can do no wrong. And this 10th studio album, which just so happens to be the bands’ shortest with a running time of 36:32 over nine songs, is a welcome surprise for a band that was taking a hiatus after their last tour. Guess it didn’t last long as this album was started in August 2019 and completely finished in February 2020. Grohl and bandmates waited another year to release it, for obvious COVID-19 affected reasons. My review of this album earlier this year praised it. So has it held up 10 months later? A resounding YES!!!! Songs like “Shame Shame” [the off beat ends up being catchy] and “Medicine At Midnight” [that David Bowie like sound rocks] are a welcome experiment for the catalog of Foo Fighters songs they join over the years. And while we are talking about experimental songs, don’t skip “Chasing Birds” for it’s hilarious lyrics and easy going guitar strums. My favorite song on this album is “Waiting On A War” – a building song that has so much going on that never gets old on repeated listens.
– This band is the definition of rock and roll. If you’ve seen them live [5 times for me, with a sixth coming up here in Utah for summer 2020], you know the 3 hours of music, banter, covers, guests and energy they put into the live set. Having watched a few streaming concerts this year, I look forward to experiencing these songs live and in person in a venue with 15,000+ fans.
And now, for my top choice of album that came out in 2021….
Lana Del Rey: Double Or Nothing
Weezer were not the only band I have listened to this year that released two albums. Lana Del Rey released both “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” and “Blue Banisters” I liked both albums, but I have such an admiration for “Norman Fucking Rockwell” released in 2019 [and making it on the list of top albums that year] that these two new albums didn’t quite hold up as well. They are both pretty mellow and more laid back and do not have any pop edge to their sound. Worth checking out on the streaming services.
And sometime my album choices don’t always match what my readers like (I’m lucky to get a couple of matches), so if you have something to add, speak up below in the comments below. Give me a shout out on anything you like on my list. What I might have missed this year, I can always go listen to see if it would have made my list.