Garrett Lemons’ Top Albums of 2021

Best of 2021

Well, we’re two years into a pandemic and art remains more important than ever in helping us cope with our daily lives. Earlier this year I got to attend Furnace Fest and it reminded me more than ever how much live music means to me and how much I used to love heavier music. In fact, as you can see by the top end of my list below, it drove me to really rekindle the fire. And with Underoath’s new album kicking off 2022 and my ticket for Furnace Fest 22 pre-ordered already, I don’t see that dying any time soon.

My big personal news this year is that I ran my first marathon after two major postponements, a minor leg injury, and over 1100 miles run. Through this training, I was able to read well over 100 audiobooks. I can’t recommend getting lost in a book while working out more to escape your brain and the world around you for a bit. I’ve already signed up for a 5K in January and a half-marathon in March, but after C19 and Delta postponed the first attempts, I’m eyeing Omicron with a bit of hesitation.

I didn’t do as much writing for Chorus this year as I wanted to. I had the chance to write a fifteen-year retrospective for Underoath’s Define The Great Line and about my Furnace Fest experience. I meant to also tackle a retrospective on Copeland’s massively important Eat, Sleep, Repeat and mewithoutYou’s Brother, Sister as well for the same year landmark, but time and my brain got away from me. I also wrote a review for Kali Masi’s new release, [laughs].

To no one’s surprise, the only other writing that I did this year for the site were our retrospective/reviews of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version) alongside Craig and Anna and Happier Than Ever with Adam, Aaron, and Mary. In the interest of full disclosure, these are far and away the most listened to albums of mine this year, but I docked the two Taylor albums ranking points from being 1 and 2 on my list for the simple nature of the project. Only a few albums since 2012 have impacted me like Red has, and none of them were released in 2021.

So, without much more preamble, here are my favorite albums of the year. If an album has one of my favorite tracks of the year, I’ve included in below instead of creating a separate list.

Top Albums of 2021

  1. Silent Planet – Iridescent

2. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue

3. Common Hymnal – Praise and Protest
4. The Undertaking! – Funeral Psalms

5. Turnstile – Glow On
6. Every Time I Die – Radical
7. Noah Gundersen – A Pillar of Salt
8. Taylor Swift – Red (Taylor’s Version)

This should’ve been the default ten minute version and I will die on that hill.

9. Taylor Swift – Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

10. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Illusory Walls
11. Silk Sonic – An Evening with Silk Sonic
12. The Killers – Pressure Machine
13. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

14. Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks of God
15. ’68 – Give One Take One
16. Origami Angel – Gami Gang
17. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour

18. Chvrches – Screen Violence
19. Thrice – Horizons/East
20. Coldplay – Music of the Spheres
21. Trophy Scars – Astral Pariah
22. Thomas Rhett – Country Again: Side A
23. Kali Masi – [laughs]
24. The Maine – XOXO: From Love and Anxiety in Real Time
25. Kacey Musgraves – Star-Crossed
26. Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
27. SeeYouSpaceCowboy – The Romance of Affliction
28. Leon Bridges – Gold-Diggers Sound
29. nothing,nowhere. – Trauma Factory

30. Rise Against – Nowhere Generation

Movies: When it comes to other media, it’s a bit more difficult to really nail down a more concrete list. So here are ten movies I really enjoyed this year in no particular order, knowing that my consumption of movies was extremely down this year due to the pandemic (and most movies just not seeming very appealing; I don’t want drama and despair in a world filled with enough of that already). For the second year in a row, I’m expecting to not see more than one or two of the Best Picture nominees… and I’m okay with that because Nomadland sucked.

Spider-Man: No Way Home, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Black Widow, Don’t Look Up, No Time To Die, Ron’s Gone Wrong, Luca, Godzilla vs. Kong, and The Mitchells vs the Machines.

None of those ten are going to be classics or win awards, but they were highly enjoyable and fun. I’m really trying to emphasize fun in my art lately. I also like watching hot people do cool things and big monsters fight. Sue me.

The Matrix: Resurrections and The King’s Man were “fine” at best, and justify their creation in the canon of their series, but I consider both let downs at this point. In compiling this list, I realized that somehow I never got around to seeing F9 after binging the whole series for the first time during the pandemic. Venom: Let There Be Carnage was trash, but very fun trash and I’m a sucker for Tom Hardy and cinnamon queen chickens (I have 8), and this film had both. Raya and the Last Dragon and Encanto were both beautifully animated, but couldn’t quite reach the heights of similar films for me. I also watched a lot of streaming trash films (Red Notice, The Tomorrow War, Army of the Dead, Without Remorse, etc.) because lighthearted and bad got me through a lot of the pandemic.


My second favorite book series of all time, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan became an Amazon Prime Original this year and while it’s not a particularly faithful adaptation plot-wise, the casting is wonderful and I’m greatly enjoying seeing some of my favorite characters ever written faithfully conveyed to the screen. It’s a beautiful show, and overall objectively good, but I’m really hopeful that they can level up into the great territory with the next season. I can’t recommend the books enough.

Other shows/seasons I loved this year: For All Mankind (season two), Ted Lasso (season two), Invincible, Succession (season three), Squid Game, Superstore (season six), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (season eight), Locke & Key (season two), Elite (season four), Station Eleven, Hawkeye, WandaVision, Arcane, Shadow and Bone, and Bob’s Burgers (always).

I ended up not liking the Y: The Last Man adaptation very much at all. Good Girls, You, and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist all had their ups and downs, but ended up not being anything I loved. Katla made next to no sense, but I’m Iceland-obsessed so I powered through. Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki were enjoyable, but not my favorites. The Mandalorian’s quality is so all over the place I have no idea what to think of it. What If…? had a few fun episodes and a few boring ones. The Mighty Ducks reboot was a blast, but in the same way McDonald’s fries are: you know exactly what you’re getting and why you want it. Invasion started out extremely not good and ended extremely interesting. I gave up on Foundation and wish I’d given up on The White Lotus. Gossip Girl reboot is horrible and I don’t know why I watched all twelve episodes. I still don’t know how to feel about The Nevers.

I read 140 books this year, so here are my favorite reads (not guaranteeing they were even released this millennium) of the year. And because it’s my list, I’m grouping series/trilogies together and you can’t stop me:

Andy Weird – Project Hail Mary
Fonda Lee – The Green Bone Saga
Mark Lawrence – Book of the Ancestor Trilogy
Beth Macy – Dopesick
Heather Morris – The Tattoist of Auschwitz/Cilka’s Journey
Emily Henry – People We Meet On Vacation
Nic Stone – Dear Martin/Dear Justyce
Neal Stephenson – reaMdE
Melissa Erin Jackson – Diabolical Sword
Nicholas Eames – Kings of the Wyld/Bloody Rose

So yeah. Happy New Year! May you find lots of art that you love and enriches your life.