Another year, another year-end album list. It’s about damn time, isn’t it? We know you missed it, and we missed you too (or at least missed telling you what we’re listening to).
Here’s a rundown of the albums that your comrades at .WAV thought were particularly great from yet another hazy year. We made it lengthy knowing some of you (like myself) are bedridden and have nothing better to do than read this until your eyes hurt. So please, get comfortable and give this a long look. And if your favorite album didn’t make the cut, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Not from us though, we don’t have any money for you.
I Know I’m Funny haha – Faye Webster
Faye Webster’s fourth studio album “I Know I’m Funny haha” was the most delightfully soft, heart-wrenching, and self-aware album to grace 2021. One minute it’s a dreamscape, taking you to a warmly-lit past filled with the nuance of new love, and the next it’s painfully realistic, trapping you between the dichotomy of lonely and lonesome. Although the album’s subjects are weighty, Webster’s sweet, twangy guitar lines and sing-song melodies ease you through the experience. It’s something to kick back and relax to, whether the song is about crushing on a baseball player, bad-mouthing landlords, or the inability to cope with change. In this way, Webster reminds us to approach love and loss with a sense of humor, letting us claim ownership over our emotional failures of 2021.
Delaney Faherty, Editor-in-Chief
For the First Time – Black Country New Road
It’s not really fair to categorize this album as “post-punk” because of all the different genres it pulls from and embodies — consider the elements of jazz, post-rock, and noise rock that are littered across this project. This thing sounds grand and monstrous despite its short tracklist of six songs; emotional highs on the gloomy “Track X” are just as palpable as the thundering, distorted guitar on “Sunglasses”. The horns and trumpets across nearly every song on this album are pretty special, too. For the First Time is an astounding first listen in every sense; it’s a heartfelt, energetic, freaky amalgamation of thoughtfully crafted horns, guitar, and drums, all with a vocal delivery somewhat reminiscent of David Byrne.
Robbie Baker, Content Director
Butterfly 3000 – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
King Gizz finally made something that is digestible for any music fan that still demonstrates the complexity and intentionality of King Gizz song writing. The merchandise release, packaging, themes, and motifs let anyone interpret the album in a healthy and whole way – it also slaps. “Shanghai” is so good.
John Lindberg, General Manager
This is the anthem of my summer. King Gizz has so much range in their sound and this is probably one of their best albums. The lyrics are so fucking weird and the synths are so sweet. Will be blasting this foreva.
Renee Kao, General Manager
This album is an embodiment of my summer in SLO. Every time it comes on, those bouncy synths and syncopated drums make me do that stank face and teleport me back into my shit box of a car, chasing a warm, red, summer sunset. Check this out if you want to trick yourself into thinking it’s June or if you are trying to get into King Gizz. “Shanghai”, “Dreams”, and “Catching Smoke” are my no-brainer bangers for this release.
Connor Ellis, Operations Manager
This album is truly chef’s kiss and cures all ailments in life on goddddddd. I love how King Gizz always be serving something different from their previous albums. The release aligned perfectly with the season of life I was in at the time, and it ascended me into a realm beyond mankind.
Amy Uthenpong, Production Assistant
Tako Tsubo – L’impératrice
When we look back at the sound of the ‘20s, this album will hold true for what part of music and society was shifting to in this decade. Combining a multitude of genres into their disco-electro-funk-pop sound, the Parisian band finds a perfect balance between mixing synthesizers and electronic elements into a traditional band set-up. Language barrier aside, this album is guaranteed to have you grooving and wondering to yourself why you hadn’t checked out french music sooner. Tako Tsubo presents a sense of ‘80s nostalgia in a fresh way to a world continuously becoming more technologically embedded. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Brian Mendez, Promotions Director
Voyage to Mars – MUNYA
If you are an artist trying to get my attention, having sick album art is the way to do it. While MUNYA’s album cover for Voyage to Mars did just that, it was her calming voice and dreamy instrumentals that really grabbed my attention as not only a great album, but my AOTY. I have to admit I don’t know what kind of music I was expecting upon first seeing the album art, but a mix of French and English indie-pop wasn’t my first guess. Voyage to Mars plays like a late-night drive along the coast just as well as it plays like soothing study tunes-smoothly.
Cooper Pendergast, Marketing Director
In Praise Of Shadows – Puma Blue
In Praise Of Shadows was Puma Blue’s debut album released in February of this year. Since the release of the album I have played it on repeat walking to class, in the shower, and crying in bed — it is truly an album for any occasion. The lo-fi synths combined with guitar, hip-hop, and soft vocals provide a really interesting and complex sound that reflects emotions only properly presented in the form of music.
Veronica House, Playlisting Manager
The House is Burning – Isaiah Rashad
This album is soo good. With songs featuring SZA, Lil Uzi Vert, 4r Da Locals, and Smino, each track tickles your brain just right. These features paired with Isaiah Rashad’s lyrical and musical genius makes The House is Burning is a truly unique album and definitely one of my favorites this year.
Grace Therriault, Art Director
9 – Pond
Two years ago, the zany Perth rockers known as Pond polished their psych-rock style with the release of “Tasmania.” Instead of further refining their sound leaving it void of any fresh ideas or urges, they “[did] something completely fucked.” 9 is a stimulating brew that compels novice Ponderers and familiar fans to gulp it down. Frontman Nick Allbrook captures the anxieties and wishes you’d expect to find in a post-2020 album. Essential songs include: “America’s Cup,” “Take Me Avalon I’m Young,” “Rambo” and “Toast.”
Evan Gattuso, Editorial
Flux – Poppy
In Flux, Poppy once again delivers the divine feminine rage I am ever-searching for but this time, alongside lyrical themes of acceptance and reflection. Unlike I Disagree and EAT, Flux is tempered by a more central, melodic electric guitar that Poppy interacts with rather than responds to. There’s less screaming, but Poppy is still disagreeing and definitely not running out of steam. Surrounded by arpeggio turbulence, Flux feels like the eye of a storm that I don’t wanna leave.
Sarah Chayet, Editorial
Eyes Didn’t Let Me Open – Stennes
Eyes Didn’t Let Me Open is the twisted childhood storybook that you never understood until now. Nebraska-based producer Stennes, released his debut album Eyes Didn’t Let Me Open earlier this year taking influence from sampledelia and plunderphonics genres. The songs on the album are intoxicating and feel alive. By mixing hundreds of samples and crafting a transcending flow, Stennes has created an album unlike one I have ever listened to. The samples are both funky and elegant, and use voices that speak to you while also narrating the story. The album leads you on a journey centered around yourself and allows for a new tale to unfold every time you tune in.
Layla Bakhshandeh, Editorial + Video
Elephant in the Room – Mick Jenkins
This album was a beautiful combination of introspective bars, innovative sound, and relaxing vibes. It walks a line between illuminating the problems of this country and providing ethereal, hypnotizing, production. To me, this album sounds as much like a love letter to old school storytellers (think Slum Village and Black Star) as it sounds like an authentic diversion from what’s on the radio today. You can either kick back and listen to the smooth sounds of Mick spitting over jazzy beats or zone out and relax to a uniquely beautiful album.
Jake Goldman, Playlisting
Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3 – Tkay Maidza
This album goes through an impressive range of styles, genres, moods, etc, while still remaining whole and cohesive as its own project. It all works and fits together so beautifully, while still surprising you at any corner. The beats are incredibly well produced and have so much artistic flair and small differences in them throughout the album. Tkay can hit us with an unmatched rap flow, and sing beautiful melodies to guide us through the hook. This is a new look at pop music, making something everyone can enjoy while keeping true to her weird edge.
Toby Darci-Maher, Art
Promises — Pharoah Sanders, Floating Points, London Symphony Orchestra
It’s rare —and so desirable— that a piece of music bleeds into and interlaces with the mind effortlessly and simultaneously takes your breath away. In 2020, 80-year-old highly revered American jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders recorded his first full-length album in nearly two decades. The album titled Promises, released in 2021, came in collaboration with contemporary electronic music producer Floating Points (Sam Shepherd) and the London Symphony Orchestra. It stopped me dead in my tracks from the first listen. The glorious, highly emotionally strung, sweeping 46 minutes will be something I come back to time and time again.
Sam Duncan-Doroff, Editorial
Talk Memory – BADBADNOTGOOD
I’ve been talking about this band nonstop since the start of Fall Quarter and it’s because of this album. Songs like “Unfolding Momentum”, “City of Mirrors”, and “Love Proceeding” have given me new takes on music that I otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. The entire album hosts a variety of songs where you end up in a different place than you started. Structured almost like short stories, tension is continuously building throughout each song. Listening to them feels as if you’re walking up an endless flight of stairs and your calves are burning but you don’t really mind because the burn feels kind of nice except it also really hurts so you’re feeling conflicted and all of these emotions are brewing until something shifts and the staircase ends. Everything is suddenly released and all that’s left for you to do is relish in the beautiful artistry that is BADBADNOTGOOD.
Kelsey Amann, Editorial
Buds – Ovlov
This album blends together a mix of indie and garage rock, with some post punk emo vibes. Buds has all of the blown-out, reverb-filled, fuzzy riffs that you’d expect from Ovlov’s music, yet this album is a little more poppy than some of their older stuff. In a good way though, like makes you wanna get out of bed and go on a walk or something? I don’t know. These songs have more melody driven riffs than other albums by Ovlov that stay with you, making this their most memorable album yet. Check it out.
Jeff West, Editorial
Sound Ancestors – Madlib
Madlib and Four Tet are some of the most legendary producers ever and I’ve been listening to them both all my life. This project somehow continues to redefine and push the boundaries of instrumental hip-hop. I like the title that reflects the exploration of how black musicians have sonically innovated throughout time. Also it’s a really good album to throw on in a lot of different settings, even my dad really likes it.
Riley, Playlisting Team
Cookbook – John Andrews & The Yawns
John Andrews & The Yawn’s third release Cookbook is a turntable classic that I have not been able to turn off. I was first introduced to the New Jersey native John Andrews by my friend on our drive back from Yosemite. Andrews’s songs, inspired by mid-century love songs, are uncomplicated and thoughtful. With straightforward, gentle vocals and fuzzy piano compositions, the album Cookbook cruises through my head every time, and it will continue to be on my regular rotation as we enter the New Year.
Aiden Greengard, Playlisting
CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST – Tyler, The Creator
This album combines so many of the sounds and musical styles Tyler incorporated into his earlier discography. He is vulnerable with his lyrics and inventive with his mixing, making it easy to listen to over and over again. Tyler continues to surprise his fans with the direction of his work and I love to see how it changes with each new release.
Cristina, Photo + Video
Panzerfaust – Darkthrone
The album is super heavy but slow, which doesn’t make it too hectic. The guitar tone has a natural feeling to it and the vocals aren’t too out of the ordinary. Singing along, or yelling along, with the vocals is easy and makes me feel powerful.
Xaetia, Photo + Video
Sad Night Dynamite – Sad Night Dynamite
Incredible switch ups and heavy beats throughout the whole album. Listening to it makes you feel like you’re in some other dimension. Just flowy, dance tracks.
Lauren, Graphic Arts
Favorites from the Editorial Staff
Here are some picks that especially stood out to our editorial staff. Maybe it’s pretentious bullshit, but you’re gonna eat it up anyway, right?
LP! – JPEGMAFIA
Possibly JPEGMAFIA’s best work so far; it’s rare that production as experimental as this can simultaneously be so catchy. “HAZARD DUTY PAY” is a contender for best rap song of the year & it’s a shame he couldn’t get the sample cleared on Spotify.
To See the Next Part of the Dream – Parannoul
A must-listen for any fans of shoegaze music. It’s not anything super new, but it’s certainly a fantastic Japanese shoegaze album. Highlights include “Analog Sentimentalism” & “Beautiful World”.
Bright Green Field – Squid
The debut album from the English post-punk (sorta?) band that’s been making waves on Bandcamp over the last two years. The whole thing is weird, quirky, and downright catchy. An essential listen when it comes to Bristol’s contemporary post-punk scene.
GLOW ON – Turnstile
There’s a lot to say about this album. It’s loud, different, smooth, and different than a lot of “hardcore” stuff you’ll hear in the punk-ish scene today. It’s hard-hitting and brutal when it wants to be, but fun and silky at other times. Listen to this if you were disappointed in the IDLES album from this year…
Sinner Get Ready – Lingua Ignota
Yes, a lot has been said already about this album. It’s been lumped into several different genres, too. What I’ll say about this album is that is an extremely strange, dense listen — yet, in all its weirdness, it is certainly one of the most emotional projects I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a lot to process & hardly an album for casual listening, but there is something special about it.
Juno – Remi Wolf
The most fun album of 2021. Nothing but catchiness and funk can be found exuding from pretty much every song on the whole project. Bonus points if you listen while driving.
This Thing of Ours – Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist
I’m aware — this might be more of an EP because it’s short, but this was too good not to include. Every song is smooth and serene with some of The Alchemist’s best production to date.
Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern – Lil Ugly Mane
Ugly takes somewhat of a left turn on this album, splitting from his notorious Memphis style of rap and creating something entirely new. It’s as experimental and strange as ever, but has those same moments of emotional vulnerability found on his old Bedwetter projects or on Uneven Compromise. Ugly floats on most of these serene, out-there beats; highlights include “Benadryl Submarine” and “Porcelain Slightly”.
This list is a compilation of the .WAV staff’s favorite albums from last year
This article was compiled by Delaney Faherty .WAV’s Editor-in-Chief and Robbie Baker, .WAV’s Content Director. Renee Kao is .WAV’s Creative Director, she created the graphic.