2021 was a great year for music! The one positive from COVID was all of the great music that resulted from that dark time. Here are the best releases of the year, according to me (in no particular order).
HALSEY – IF I CAN’T HAVE LOVE, I WANT POWER
Produced by Trent Reznor, this is Halsey exploring her darker side and sounds in an incredible way. Best album of hers since “Badlands”.
SPIRITBOX – ETERNAL BLUE
Spiritbox put out the best all-around metalcore album in years. Vocals and arrangements are absolutely perfect. They do it better than anyone else here.
TRASH BOAT – DON’T YOU FEEL AMAZING?
Trash Boat changed up their sound on this album from their punk/pop-punk past and went in a heavier direction for an absolute win. Catchy, heavy, and fun to listen to from beginning to end. They have really improved as songwriters.
EVERY TIME I DIE – RADICAL
ETID continue to improve and expand their sound every single album they release and “Radical” tops what has been an un-toppable career of releases as hardcore’s kings. Lyrics are back to great tongue-in-cheek wittiness from Keith Buckley and the riffing is harder than ever.
DON BROCO – AMAZING THINGS
This album had a lot of hype to live up to for me – absolutely love these guys and their unique sound they put out on their last album “Technology” – and yet, they’ve done it. The only thing to know going in is every song has it’s own special sound and message. These guys deserve to be absolutely massive and it’s a crime they aren’t.
HAIL THE SUN – NEW AGE FILTH
Hail The Sun has always been a band that I’ve really liked, but not loved…until this album. Their previous albums have always had some really good songs but across the entire album, the songs got a little messy for me and didn’t stay consistently great. Not so with “New Age Filth”. It is the best version of Hail The Sun – complex, heavy-ish, and incredible individual performances. This is who Hail The Sun was meant to be.
THE PLOT IN YOU – SWAN SONG
I grew to love The Plot in You after “DISPOSE” came out and “Swan Song” picks up where DISPOSE leaves off. Great songwriting, great vocals, and catchy as hell for heavier music. Best album they have done, hands-down. Landon Tewers is a genius.
SLEEP TOKEN – THIS PLACE WILL BECOME YOUR TOMB
Sleep Token (the band shrouded in mystery from the UK) absolutely hit it out of the park on this album. I fell in love with Sleep Token in 2021 – the musicianship, the beautiful vocals by Vessel (best clean vocalist in the game right now), the overall feeling – they became one of my favorite bands between this and their previous album “Sundowning”. Here’s another band that deserves to be absolutely massive.
VOLUMES – HAPPIER?
Volumes has always been a band I thought was fine, but nothing special. That changed with this album. The groove, the heaviness, the great vocals – they all come together on this album. The djent masters perfect their sound on this album with catchy songs, catchy vocals, and great production.
THE KILLERS – PRESSURE MACHINE
This was the absolute surprise for me this year. I have NEVER liked The Killers, even though I respected the songwriting and success. This album sounds completely different from all other albums they have ever released and is about growing up in Nephi, Utah (not too far from me here) and is a beautiful album, complete with Nephi locals sharing what makes that small little town unique. Very minimal, very folky, but excellent songwriting and lyrics. It likely meant a lot more to me having grown up not too far from the town the record is about and as a Mormon, which was how I was raised (though no longer identify as such). Ignore the name and just give it a chance.
EIDOLA – THE ARCHITECT
Another local connection for me! Eidola is a super-talented band from right down the street from myself that has slowly been growing and improving their sound over the years. I saw them at a show years back with a friend’s band where they had a scarecrow playing the keyboards and thought they were strange (which they are) but their sound really came together on this album. Incredible vocal performances, incredible musicianship – I hope this record catapults this band forward in a huge way.
THRICE – HORIZONS / EAST
Another surprise for me. I loved Thrice growing up on their earlier albums but hadn’t totally been into their mellower stuff they have been putting out lately. This album is just so well-written though that I can ignore the fact that I want drop-tuning and heavy parts from the band. It took a little time to grow on me, but if you can get past the fact that you want it to be heavy, there is a lot to appreciate here.
TURNSTILE – GLOW ON
Turnstile has been a darling of the hardcore scene for some time now, and deservedly so. I loved the last album and didn’t know what to expect for this other than a hope for it to be as good, and at first, I didn’t like it. Spacey, odd, and strange eventually grew on me (especially after seeing them live at Furnace Fest) and fell in love with the strangeness. It’s hardcore slammed together with dream pop in a fantastical way.
CAPSTAN – SEPARATE
Likely a band you haven’t heard much about, Capstan is a newer band that signed to Fearless Records and has had a sound like A Day to Remember but not quite as heavy…until now. Amazing guitar work, catchy vocals, and much better songwriting catapults the band into a new stratosphere. Give this one a chance if you like easycore or punk. Very good.
THE UNDERTAKING! – FUNERAL PSALMS
Guarantee you haven’t heard of these guys! Newly signed to Solid State Records, The Undertaking! is a throwback to early Norma Jean and The Chariot where dissonance is everything. For a debut album, they absolutely hit it out of the park with songwriting – these songs are a lot of fun.
TILIAN – FACTORY RESET
Tilian, of Dance Gavin Dance fame, killed it on this solo album. I thought his other albums to this point have been fine, but nothing special, and he completely stepped it up on this record. 90s throwbacks, incredible vocal melodies – just fun rock songs to rock out to. Tilian is a superstar and he shows it here.
KENNYHOOPLA – SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE
kennyhoopla has been a favorite of mine since his first ep and he picks up where that left off. Produced with Travis Barker, this brings in a lot of pop-punk influences which is super trendy right now but the strong songwriting and knack for melody still shines brightest here. I listened to this so much this year! Hip-hop, rap, pop-punk – it’s all here!
BEST EPs OF 2021
KNOCKED LOOSE – A TEAR IN THE FABRIC OF LIFE
The masters of heavy breakdown hardcore/metalcore absolutely destroy with this one. You will fuck shit up when listening to this ep.
CIRCA SURVIVE – A DREAM ABOUT LOVE
The first Circa release since “On Letting Go” that I love from front to back. That is all you need to know. Completely wonderful. They are back.
LORNA SHORE – …AND I RETURN TO NOTHINGNESS
You’ve likely seen the video for “To The Hellfire” if you are a metal fan at all. If you haven’t, go look it up now. Will Ramos is an absolute beast. I love the blackened deathcore Lorna is doing right now.
LIKE MOTHS TO FLAMES – PURE LIKE PORCELAIN
This band has been killing it for years without much attention, and that needs to change. This ep is perfectly heavy with great vocals and groovy breakdowns. Blow these guys up!