Chorus.fm’s Top 30 Albums of 2021

Best of 2021

We find ourselves once again at the end of a year. And once again it was a year that found us, as a society, facing new challenges in a world reshaped by a pandemic. As we close the door on 2021, I wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone who read this website this year. We all went through this together, and I’m as appreciative as ever for having an outlet to write about things I’m passionate about and share with likeminded readers.

Ok, pleasantries dispensed … let’s rank things.

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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.

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Adam Grundy’s Top Albums of 2021

Best of 2021

This year was overwhelming in a lot of ways, right? Overwhelming with the possibility of another full year of dealing with a never-ending pandemic, and the overwhelming amount of content (in all mediums) that came out this year that helped us get through another crazy year. The music was fantastic, the TV shows that were being released were equally thrilling on various streaming platforms (as the networks quickly caught on to everyone “cutting the cord” of cable), the movies coming out were being simultaneously released at home as they were hitting theaters while they re-captured our imaginations, as well as several great books were released rekindling my love for the glory days of our scene. This year really had a lot of everything to it, and since this year was so unique, I expanded my year-end blog this year to cover a lot of those mediums that I don’t usually have enough time to talk about (besides a quick plug in the Chorus.FM forums). 

On top of my favorite 30 albums from this year, I’ve also dedicated key sections of this blog to an “honorable mention” category, my Top 10 EPs, my Top 10 Interviews I conducted, as well as my Top 5 Books, TV Shows, and Movies I really enjoyed during this year. Thanks again for all of the kind words you have shared about my writing, and I hope I have helped you discover new bands, and/or revisit records from a past life, as it makes contributing to this site such a labor of love. I wish everyone a very Happy New Year as we look ahead to more great content ahead.

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Drew Beringer’s Top Albums of 2021

Best of 2021

unfortunately 2021 felt a lot like 2020, huh? we’re fighting another wave of covid as I type this, our government is still putzing around, 40% of the country refuses to listen to science, etc. so that’s a major bummer but thankfully I’m vaxxed and boosted and if you are too, thank you. for me personally, the past 12 months were a whirlwind. my wife and I bought our first house this fall and a month ago we welcomed our first child into the hell world, a beautiful baby boy. so I can’t be anything but thankful for that. hopefully 2022 brings better things for all of us. anyways, below are the albums and EPs I liked the most – thanks for reading as always.

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Craig Manning’s Top Albums of 2021

A year ago, I wrote about how 2020 forced me to lean on music in a way that I hadn’t since my tumultuous coming-of-age years. All the fear and heartbreak and uncertainty of last year caused me to turn to songs and albums for solace and comfort like I was a teenager again, looking for answers in his headphones. In the midst of so many dark days, music felt like one of the few things that kept me sane and kept me hopeful.

2021 was different. Where almost every day of 2020 – at least, every day after about March 13 – felt like it brought some scrap of very bad news – this year was more about the ups and downs. The music I listened to and fell in love with reflects that roller coaster. In the albums and songs discussed below, there are dizzying, euphoric highs and deep, dejected lows. Some days, I could listen to a song in the car with the windows down and feel like life was normal again. Some days, life was normal again. From crossing the finish line at the end of my first half marathon to watching one of my best friends from college tie the knot, 2021 reminded me again and again how sweet the world can taste on the good days. But there were the heartbreaking days, too: being there for my wife and her family as we said goodbye to both of her grandparents, less than six months apart; watching COVID come back with a vengeance; seeing my small town land in the national news for one of the most appalling reasons imaginable.

And so, again, music proved to be something I needed desperately in 2021. After experiencing a waning level of engagement and excitement over new albums in 2018 and 2019, I now feel as ecstatic about music discovery as I ever have. I spent this year pushing beyond my comfort zone, both in terms of the new albums I was finding my way toward and the many older records I listened to for the first time in the past 365 days. The result is probably the most surprised I’ve ever been at the year-end list I made. That’s not to say there aren’t old favorites of mine represented here – including at the very top of the list. But there are also artists who I learned about for the first time, or veteran bands who I’d largely written off. There are pop superstars and under-the-radar up-and-comers. Maybe most notably, there’s a contingent of young women who are reigniting rock music within the pop mainstream in a way that I find extremely exciting.

You never know which music years or end-of-the-year lists or individual albums are going to end up “standing the test of time.” Who knows if these records will still mean much to me in a year, or five years, or come 2029 when it’s time to compile another end-of-the-decade list. All I can do for now is look back at the last 12 months and survey the music that defined the moments that filled them. To the best of my ability, these are the albums that tell my 2021 story.

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Trevor Graham’s Top Albums of 2021

Best of 2021

2021 was a year, and like most years, some music came out. Most of it was good! Just not Clairo. I did a little top 50 countdown on Instagram, so this year I’m just gonna pull those blurbs for my personal Chorus blog. Most of it was written off the cuff, so there’s a loose feel — don’t expect Hemingway, y’know? Had to keep things short. Catch me around the forums to tell me how bad my taste is, I will laugh for a few minutes before blocking you. Just kidding. Maybe. I dunno, fuck around and find out I guess.

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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.

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Brett Bodner’s Top Albums of 2021

Best of 2021

Farewell 2021. While the year was yet another weird/scary one, we had the return of concerts and were given plenty of great music to power us all through the highs and lows of 2021. Turnstile dropped GLOW ON, which proved heavy guitar driven music is far from dead, Olivia Rodrigo burst onto the scene with SOUR, Weezer released two good albums in the same year with OK Human and Van Weezer, and we had the return of both Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, who both put out excellent new records.

2021 was a year where we continued to navigate our way through the pandemic, but it was also a year where I became a homeowner for the first time, got a new job and my wife and I became proud puppy parents. Throughout the many moments of joys and challenges, I was fortunate to have many great albums to guide me through. With so many great releases, it was tough to narrow the best-of list down to 30 but I did my best. As we turn the page onto what I hope is a better 2022 for everyone, here are my top 30 albums of 2021: 

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Aaron Mook’s Top Albums of 2021

Best of 2021

or the past five years, if I’ve mustered up the energy to write anything accompanying my EOTY list, it was usually some kind of negative reflection on how tough the year was, how tough every year has been, and how things don’t seem to be getting much better. While this is generally the case for 2021 (I will not be rehashing why), I am also happy to report that this past year, moving into 2022, was the year I finally started to really try to take care of myself, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I mean, what else can you do during a time like this? My anxiety about the future is not going anywhere, so I learned to live with it, to ground myself, to care for myself, and to be confident in the face of conflict.

And as silly as it is, I owe a lot of that to pop culture. If you’re on this site, you probably do too. From quarantine watches of the Sopranos to consciously discovering more hip-hop artists and broadening my media intake in general, I was sometimes able to get to a place that made me forget about all of the things I can’t control, if only for a moment. Of course, it helped that I started recording a really, really special record with my friends in Crooner as well.

I suppose this blog should probably talk more about my end of the year list, but by now, if you’re reading this, you probably know me and the kinds of things I like. So instead, I’d just like to take this opportunity to tell you that even if things don’t get better, they can get easier. Take care of yourselves and I hope we all have a much easier 2022.

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Chorus.fm’s Top 30 Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

Um. So, that was quite a year.

We’ve been publishing some version of our favorite albums of the year since at least 2005, and the past twelve months have been unlike anything I’ve ever been through. It’s a year that will leave an indelible mark on all who experienced it, and I worry it will be years before we will be able to best understand and cope with the collective mass trauma. It was a year of uncertainty, a year of isolation, and a year of reshaping even the little routines that make up our lives. Tasks as simple as a trip to the grocery store are now measured risks, and going outside includes masks and a social construct with those around us to keep a safe distance. And I don’t know about you, but I found it very comforting to have music to turn to this year. It’s been such a constant in my life, and I often found myself reaching for it like a comfort blanket. As a way to regain a shred of normalcy, or as a way to connect with others across the internet as we shared a moment or discussion about a new song.

Before we reflect on the music that was released last year, I wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone who read this website this year. We all went through this together, and I’m as appreciative as ever for having an outlet to write about things I’m passionate about and share with likeminded readers. Thank you.

Now let’s rank things.

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Jason Tate’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

I don’t know how historians will write about 2020, but there’s a good chance future generations just flat out don’t believe the truth. I just lived through it and can barely believe everything that happened over the last twelve months. I know one day in the future, I’ll be scrolling through my phone and will come upon photos of my wife and I in masks and be like, “Oh, yeah, remember that whole thing?” It’s virtually impossible for me to wrap my head around this past year and everything that’s happened. So, deep breath, let’s put the head down and keep powering through.

The staff compiled best of 2020 list can be found here.

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Adam Grundy’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

What a year, huh? Luckily for us, the music that came out of this hellish year was nothing short of remarkable. From the exponential growth of female artists taking the lead in 2020, to some interesting emo and pop-punk bands making their landmark artistic statements with their latest albums, this year had a little bit of everything. Also, being the shameless self-promoter, I hyperlinked to the reviews I contributed to this site this year. These are the 30 albums that I enjoyed the most over the course of this year.

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Garrett Lemons’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

I wanted to call this piece, “On The Surprise Joy of Raising Chickens and the Importance of the Small Things,” but that would really bury the lede that this is an End of the Year celebration list. Because, somehow, in the myriad of catastrophes, pandemics, elections, family feuds, break-ups, loss of friendships, and everything in between, 2020 still managed to deliver some immensely great music.

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Brett Bodner’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

Good riddance 2020. We’re finally saying good-bye to one of the worst years on record and are hoping for a much better 2021. While 2020 was a turd wrapped in burnt hair, it did give us some fantastic music for our ears and souls to enjoy over these many months spent social distancing. Phoebe Bridgers’ blessed us with Punisher, her highly anticipated follow-up to Stranger in the Alps, and a few EPs to help end the year right. This was also the year Taylor Swift’s music won me over for the first time in my life thanks to her two impressive albums folklore and evermore. We also got a killer Spanish Love Songs album to start the year, Touche Amore somehow found a way to follow up Stage Four with their epic new record Lament, a long awaited new full length from The Front Bottoms and a powerful debut solo album from Hayley Williams. I could go on-and-on with all the new music I enjoyed this year, but it’s best I let the records on my list below speak for themselves.

This was my first year writing for Chorus and it’s been such an honor writing alongside everyone on the website. Through contributors here, I discovered artists I probably wouldn’t have given a chance or found on my own, but I’m glad I did. The result of all these discoveries is what’s probably my most diverse end-of-year album list yet. I never thought I’d have pop records from Taylor Swift or Dua Lipa on my list, but here we are. I’m excited for the new music to come in 2021 and to continue to write about it here at Chorus.fm.

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Mary Varvaris’s Best Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

2020, the year that was: I have stared at numerous blank documents, attempting to summarize how music shaped a truly terrible, often traumatic period in our lives. In 2019, we could have never imagined that by March 2020, life as we knew it would change irrevocably due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We said goodbye to movie theaters, concert halls, cafes and restaurants, wedding receptions; anniversaries, birthdays, and further celebrations. We said goodbye to travel and to see our loved ones on the regular. We had no choice but to adapt – we said hello to virtual meetings on Zoom, frequent takeaway meals, taking up baking and meditation, and live-streamed concerts, with a welcoming embrace. We binge-watched The Queen’s Gambit. For MasterChef Australia viewers, we were treated to the best season yet, thanks to a new round of judges and familiar favorites as the contestants. And, my god, some of the food was simply to-die-for.

It was the little things that kept me going in the year that was – finding comfort in being at home and bonding further with my family and my beautiful Labrador x Kelpie, Dane (I acknowledge my privilege here, I lost work for four months but as I live at home with my family, I never went without anything. Millions of Australians and millions more around the globe can’t say the same, and that’s a ringing indictment on lack of leadership), Netflix and other streaming services, reading magazines, doom-scrolling Twitter (yep, seriously), and of course, music.

It’s difficult to explain why the albums I have chosen as my favorite albums of the year have been ranked where they are, stayed with me for months or weeks, or overshadowed equally great releases. I found myself drawn to more guitar-based music than I have in years – rock music was a safety blanket in 2020, after all, it’s music that I have known and loved since childhood – and that’s OK. Here’s hoping that while I don’t hold much optimism for the year that’s just beginning, that a) 2021 is better than I expect, and b) that we all get to attend some concerts this year. Here are my personal favorite albums of 2020:

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