In a year notable for its challenges, new original albums emerged to save the day. Our writers listened, loved and listed
In some ways, 2021 has felt like the deluxe/platinum/guestlist edition of 2020.
So many albums released last year had their promotional tours postponed repeatedly, curtailed or entirely pulled. For those of us who connect with music in a live setting, and with horror everywhere else in our lives, this was tough to take. So many deluxe/platinum/guestlist editions of albums we loved in 2020 subsequently appeared this year (with Róisín Murphy‘s Crooked Machine and Jessie Ware‘s extended What’s Your Pleasure leading the charge), reminding us that just because pleasures were postponed, they were not extinguished.
But in amongst the chaos, extended campaigns and stop-start touring, new albums continued to emerge: so many that keeping track of them was something of a sisyphean struggle. It’s certain that some excellent work was missed. But many labels and agencies have again been excellent at helping us to spread the word about their artists’ works. And it is these new original albums that we celebrate with the 2021 edition of our annual Top 50 Albums list.
So much stunning music has reached our ears this year, yet with such a tiny band of writers* whose music interests vary widely, compiling a communal voice out of their choices has not been straightforward. But in the voting tallies, the top two albums were so far ahead of the rest as to be inevitable. Two very different albums, Low‘s Hey What and Self Esteem‘s Prioritise Pleasure are masterpieces in their own worlds. (It’s also the second time Low have topped our end-of-year list, having also scored the #1 in 2018 with Double Negative.) Given the ongoing challenges artists and the whole music industry have had to endure, they and the rest of this list stand as testament to talent that will endure. Click the album links to read the reviews, if you’re minded to.
Thank you to all our contributors, our colleagues and friends at labels and agencies, the artists and – not least – you, our readers, for sticking with us in such singularly weird times. Whatever 2022 holds, we know music will be there for us in its many and ever varied forms. We’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a peaceful and healthy Christmas, and all the best for the New Year.
• musicOMH’s Top 50 Albums of 2021 was compiled with contributions from Bekki Bemrose, Nikki Bonnett, Matt Cotsell, Ben Devlin, Ben Hogwood, Michael Hubbard, Steven Johnson, Tim Lee, Graeme Marsh, John Murphy, Sam Shepherd, Ian Wade, Sam Walker-Smart, Chris White
• New original albums released in 2021 were eligible for this list, which did not include extended editions, EPs, compilations, reissues or unreviewed albums.
• If you’d like to contribute to musicOMH, please contact us. We are actively seeking writers across our coverage, including album reviews, live reviews, interviews and in our classical section.