Jason Tate’s Top Albums of 2021

Best of 2021

I once again find myself writing a best of the year list. Just like I have done so many times before. But this year is interesting because 2021 signaled a music renaissance of sorts in my life. I’ve always listened to a lot of music, but about mid-way through the year, I found a fire lit inside of me that re-sparked the passion. I started seeking out new music like I hadn’t in years; I started returning to old favorites and keeping them on repeat; I revisited albums and bands that never clicked for me to see if I had missed something. And now I am faced with the impossible task of trying to put all of that in a tidy little list. I’ve done my best and, like usual, included my entertainment rankings as well.

You can subscribe to my newsletter if you’re interested in a weekly rundown of the music and other entertainment I consume, and the staff compiled best of 2021 list can be found here.

Favorite Albums of 2021

  1. Turnstile – Glow On
  2. Every Time I Die – Radical
  3. Hayley Williams – Flowers for Vases / Descansos
  4. Noah Gundersen – A Pillar of Salt
  5. KennyHoopla – Survivors Guilt
  6. Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks of God
  7. The Night Game – Dog Years
  8. Pale Waves – Who Am I?
  9. Joystick! – I Can’t Take it Anymore
  10. Thrice – Horizons/East
  11. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue
  12. Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
  13. The Killers – Pressure Machine
  14. The Maine – XOXO: From Love and Anxiety in Real Time
  15. M.A.G.S – Say Things That Matter
  16. Kacy Hill – Simple, Sweet, and Smiling
  17. Foxing – Draw Down the Moon
  18. The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore
  19. Citizen – Life in Your Glass World
  20. Chaser – Dreamer
  21. Chvrches – Screen Violence
  22. Electric Century – Electric Century
  23. Lil Nas X – Montero
  24. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
  25. Ben Platt – Reverie
  26. Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders – Promises (feat. London Symphony Orchestra)
  27. Brian Fallon – Night Devine
  28. While She Sleeps – Sleeps Society
  29. Shad – Taos
  30. Blackstarkids – Puppies Forever

Here in my middle-age, I’ve tried to build my end-of-the-year lists in a way that best captures my year in music. I am specifically trying to showcase what I listened to and felt a connection to most over the year. Gone are the days where I tried to make my list a little too clever, a little too hip, or worried what someone might say about it. I write a relatively obscure little blog over here about music, and the whole point is to write about what I like, what I love, and what moves me. And these are the albums that moved me the most this year, and it all starts with Turnstile. It’s the album that rekindled my love for music like an electrode straight to the heart. It reminded me of the first time I heard Blink-182 all those years ago as a teenager and when my obsession for music was born. It’s an album that stayed on repeat for months. An album that in one year became one of my most played albums, probably ever, and once again lit a fire in me to seek out new music. It was the catalyst for the second half of my year seeing a dramatic increase in the number of hours I was listening to music each day. It’s a holistically special album that makes me ecstatic about life and grateful for the power of the song.

There were other albums I loved this year, and it’s a year that saw my tastes move a little more toward harder music at times, but in the end … it was not even close what my favorite album of the year was.

The rest of my list is filled with some longtime staples (Noah, Every Time I Die, Thrice, Manchester), as well as some newcomers (Joyride!, Chaser, Spiritbox, M.A.G.S), but the underlying theme is that all of these albums meant something to me this year. Ranking them was difficult, often like choosing between a favorite child, but the end is a collection that reflects my 2021 in music. It’s me, and it walks my musical journey throughout the year. I hope there’s something new here for you to discover and fall in love with as well.

The Stats: I listened to over 7,341 songs this year (13,291 scrobbles), 713 different artists, and 1,333 different albums. My most played album, and it’s not even close to surprising, was Turnstile’s Glow On. It had almost 100 more plays than second place. My word did I become obsessed with that album like only I can. And my most listened-to artist for the year? Well, well, well … it’s the old friend Blink-182 (with MxPx coming in second). Listening to these bands this year was like rediscovering old friends and finding comfort in the songs. It felt like being transported back in time, but with the gift of hindsight. To reconnect with the music of my youth through the lens of today.

Thank you to everyone that read this website this year, it’s because of you, and especially those of you that support the website, that we exist. Also, if you want to hear more from me throughout the year, specifically once a week as I write about music and entertainment I find interesting, sign up for my newsletter.

To make it easy to check out music from everyone on this list, I put together a playlist containing a song from each of these albums on Apple Music and Spotify. (And each of the albums link to their streaming pages.)

Honorable Mentions

  • Adele – 30
  • AFI – Bodies
  • Andrew Belle – Nightshade
  • Angels and Airwaves – Lifeforms
  • Angels Du$t – YAK: A Collection of Truck Songs
  • Authority Zero – Ollie Ollie Oxen Free
  • Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
  • Catbite – Nice One
  • Charli Adams – Bullseye
  • Coldplay – Music of the Spheres
  • Converge – Bloodmoon: I
  • Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
  • Dream Job – Dream Job
  • Ed Sheeran – =
  • Five Iron Frenzy – Until This Shakes Apart
  • Foo Fighters – Medicine at Midnight
  • Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
  • Hovvdy – True Love
  • Illuminati Hotties – Let Me Do One More
  • Isaiah Rashad – The House is Burning
  • Jail Socks – Coming Down
  • Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
  • Jetty Bones – Push Back
  • Jimmy Eat World – Phoenix Sessions
  • John Mayer – Sob Rock
  • Joy Oladokun – In Defense of My Own Happiness
  • Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
  • KA – A Martyr’s Reward
  • Kississippi – Mood Ring
  • Lucy Dacus – Home Video
  • MxPx – Southbound to San Antonio
  • Nothing, Nowhere – Trauma Factory
  • NVM – With a Rotting Heart
  • Oh Wonder – 22 Break
  • One Step Closer – This Place You Know
  • Origami Angel – Gami Gang
  • Poorstacy – Party at the Cemetery
  • Poppy – Flux
  • Porter Robinson – Nurture
  • Rise Against – Nowhere Generation
  • Silk Sonic – An Evening With Silk Sonic
  • Sir Sly – The Rise and Fall of Loverboy
  • Super American – Sup
  • Taylor Swift – Red (Taylor’s Version)
  • The Armed – Ultrapop
  • The Band Camino – The Band Camino
  • The Dirty Nil – Fuck Art
  • The Offspring – Let the Bad Times Role
  • The Sonder Bombs – Clothbound
  • The Starting Line – Live at Studio 4
  • This Wild Life – Ever Blossom
  • TWIABP – Illusory Walls
  • Waterparks – Greatest Hits
  • We Are the Union – Ordinary Life
  • Webbed Wing – What’s So Fucking Funny?
  • Wiki – Half God
  • You, Me, and Everyone We Know – Something Heavy

As I said … I listened to and enjoyed more music this year than I have in a long time. And that means there were a whole bunch of albums I really liked that just couldn’t make the top 30 cut. Here’s a whole grip of stuff I liked, in alphabetical order, that I just felt weird not including somewhere in this article. These articles are a snapshot of my year, of what I was drawn to, and when I look back at 2021 a few years from now, I’ll want to remember all these honorable mentions.

Favorite EPs of 2021

  • Action/Adventure – Pulling Focus
  • Against the Current – Fever
  • Circa Survive – A Dream About Love
  • Gatlin – To Remind Me of Home
  • Glaswing – Like Water on a Glass Table
  • Hot Mulligan – I Won’t Reach Out to You
  • John the Ghost – I Only Want to Live Once
  • Knocked Loose – A Tear in the Fabric of Life
  • Laura Jane Grace – At War With the Silverfish
  • Meet Me @ the Altar – Model Citizen
  • New Found Glory – Forever and Ever X Infinity .. and Beyond
  • The Options – (A)typical Challenges
  • USERx – USERx

If an EP, or something EP length, gets an extraordinary amount of listens from me in a year, I have no problems putting it in my main list, but often I find myself just not returning to singles and/or EPs as often as I do full-length albums. These are the EPs released this year that I liked the most and are definitely worth your attention.

Movies I Enjoyed in 2021

  • Another Round
  • Bo Burnham: Inside
  • Derek DelGaudio’s In & of Itself
  • Dune
  • Freaky
  • Friends: The Reunion
  • Jimmy Eat World: Phenix Sessions
  • Last Night in Soho
  • LUCA
  • Minari
  • No Time to Die
  • Nobody
  • Riders of Justice
  • Shiva Baby
  • Sound of Metal
  • Spencer
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Summerland
  • The Mitchells vs The Machines
  • The Painter and the Thief
  • The Vast of Night
  • Venom: Let There Be Carnage

I watched over 111 films in 2021, and this list contains the movies I saw for the first time in 2021 that I liked the most. I think Bo Burnham: Inside ended up being the piece of art that stayed with me the most this year; I still think about it all the time. And Dune was probably my favorite film of the year; I still can’t believe they pulled that off. You can find more of my movie watching habits and ratings on Letterboxd.

TV Shows in Enjoyed in 2021

  • Below Deck
  • Blindspotting
  • Dickinson
  • Elite
  • Euphoria
  • Generation 56K
  • Girls 5 Eva
  • Harley Quinn
  • Hawkeye
  • I Think You Should Leave
  • Invincible
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Julie and the Phantoms
  • Loki
  • Mandalorian
  • Masters of the Universe: Revelation
  • Midnight Mass
  • Pen15
  • Shadow and Bone
  • Superman & Lois
  • Ted Lasso
  • The Bureau
  • The Head
  • The Other Two
  • The Wilds
  • Wandavision
  • White Lotus

According to Trakt, I watched over 772 episodes of TV in 2021 and 67 different TV shows. My most-watched show was The Simpsons, which makes sense cause I watched like five seasons of that show randomly in the middle of the year. I think the second season of Ted Lasso ended up being my favorite show of the year, but Invincible and Blindspotting could both make a good case. You can find more of my TV watching habits and ratings on Trakt.

Books I Enjoyed in 2021

I read more in 2020 than I had in a very long time, but this year my book reading slipped. When the pandemic first started I was cranking through books at a huge clip, but as things sort of settled in over the past year, I ended up not finding as many books that were pulling me in. I read a lot more comics and articles this year, but hopefully, I can find more time in 2022 to add books back in as a regular habit. You can find more of my book reading habits and rating on Goodreads.

Apps I Discovered and Enjoyed in 2021

Replacing the built-in Apple Music app on my iOS devices with Marvis and customizing the app to fit my needs made it my favorite new find of 2021. I finally have the music listening experience I want, plus Last.fm scrobbling, on my iPhone and iPad. It’s glorious.

My Favorite Articles of 2021

And, with that, we put a bow on 2021. As always, thank you for reading and spending yet another year with me.

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