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Rob Vera's favorite albums of 2021

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Carlos Jaramillo / provided
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Deafheaven

Turn of the Century host Rob Vera shares his 12 favorite albums of 2021.


12. Glowing in the Dark by Django Django

The London art rock, electronic rock, prog rock, hard-to-classify rock band returns with another stellar collection of songs that can’t be easily put into a box. The sound of a band balancing unfettered creative license with songs sure to hook you.

11. GLOW ON by Turnstile

A 2021 album that touches some 90s punk and hardcore happy places. An album full of hard charging hooks, a few quick left turns into the quiet and contemplative, and just enough rage to transport you back in time to a more primal and—dare, I say—FUN era of guitar rock gratification.

10. TEMPORARY HIGHS IN THE VIOLET SKIES by Snoh Alegra

A thoroughly modern soul and R&B album which expertly integrates all the stylistic touchstones of her 90s and 2000s predecessors—the Swedish songstress delivers a set of songs filled with deeply personal yet highly relatable lyrics with a style whose steadiness is rooted in the confident mastery of her craft. This album grooves right into your headspace and takes up residence.

9. The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings by The Besnard Lakes

Few bands have ever been more ambitious about naming their albums—but the Canadian space and psych rock vets deliver an album unafraid to go deep and stretch out. Every single song aims to soar into the stratosphere, and the listener is rewarded with multiple listens to the otherworldly results found within.

8. The Internet by Glüme

The self-proclaimed “Wal-Mart Marilyn” has a both a provocative and evocative aesthetic that fits in line with this succinct description—but her real power lies within the songs found on this album alone. The somewhat mysterious artist uses her image to both disarm and pounce—with a sleek and stylish set of songs with lyrical wit and a healthy dose of introspection. She may be examining herself—but make no mistake, she’s got her eye on you and is nobody’s fool. An oddly addictive listen.

7. Butterfly 3000 by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

The ultra-prolific Australian rockers—with each passing release—refuse to be pigeonholed, genre-wise. On one album, they’re full psych. On another, they delve into metal. This time out, you’ll wonder if you’re hearing classic Tame Impala with a dash of Kid A/Amnesiac-era Radiohead. Butterfly 3000 is ambitious, but never stops its pursuit of listener stimulation. The album shimmer and shakes, and you’ll want to be along for the ride.

6. Dream Weapon by Genghis Tron

An absolutely dazzling journey through the fusion of synth metal and electronic music, Dream Weapon’s intensity never pushes you over the edge—even if it wants to get you right to it. Instead, it uses its power to guide the listener into uncharted territory with a fire and fury that always feels expertly directed. A sonically adventurous experience and one of the true revelations of 2021.

5. I Don’t Live Here Anymore by The War On Drugs

A band that seems only interested in making albums if they have a chance to reach classic status, the Adam Granduciel-led band delivers yet again with an incredibly well-crafted—albeit largely more succinct set of classic rock gems. The heavy themes around mortality and relationship persist, but the collection here ventures a bit more outside of the sonic box of their previous two albums. The War On Drugs is highly aware that the lyrics are going to force a look inward—but the music never takes a back seat. A combination that remains as powerful and potent as ever.

4. Private Sunshine by Lou Hayter

Former New Young Pony Club member Lou Hayter drops a solo debut that feels like a time machine back to one of my favorite places in music history—the electronic and hook-driven dance pop of the mid to late 80s. Every song on this album feels refreshingly new and yet somehow like time spent with old friends. The beats are so addictive and yet never overpower the magic of songs that feel like they’ll be part of your rotation for years to come. Maybe that makes the album timeless. It definitely makes it worth your time.

3. Mercurial World by Magdalena Bay

A late party crasher to this list, the enigmatic Miami duo have delivered one of the most sugary-perfect sets of electro-pop songs I’ve ever found on a single album. One of those LPs that feels like a greatest hits collection, Magadalena Bay evoke that “breath of fresh air” feeling on the first play that I probably last felt with an electronically-driven album back in 2011 when M83 released the game-changing Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. This album is an absolute joy from start to finish.

2. A Way Forward by Nation of Language

Only a year after delivering my 2020 album of the year, the Brooklyn synth-rock trio follows that up with yet another album that feels like it would be a hit in any era. Their sophomore effort delivers an equally (if not more) assured set of songs that would feel just as at home in 1981 as it does in 2021. And while the tangible feel of tried and true synth rock elements helps these songs to go down easy, it’s the lyrics’ exploration of the pursuit of meaning in an increasingly disjointed world that make this album hum.

1. Infinite Granite by Deafheaven

One of this era’s most acclaimed metal bands did nothing short of pivoting into making one of the finest shoegaze albums of all time with Infinite Granite. Trading in their trademark screams for a more digestible, yet equally powerful vocal style, Deafheaven create an album full of songs with emotive power coupled with the guitar-driven ambition of Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream. And yet, the parallels that many have drawn to the best works of bands like Slowdive and the early work of The Verve (namely A Storm in Heaven) are impossible for this listener to ignore. The songs expand but never meander. They always have their eye on some epic prize aimed at making you feel something fiercely. I haven’t stopped spinning this album since I came upon it, and each time I hear it, I find myself wanting to go back for more.


Hear Turn of the Century's Albums of 2021 Special below:

Or, stream all of Rob's favorites on Spotify:

Rob has hosted Turn of the Century on The Spy and KOSU since 2016.
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