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These are the best albums of 2021

Four critics share their Top 10 lists for the year that’s coming to a close.

Whether you’re looking for suggested listening or want to compare notes, check out these lists of the 10 best albums of 2021, by four music writers at Cult MTL.

Erik Leijon

Allison Russell, Outside Child best albums of 2021
Allison Russell, Outside Child (These are the best albums of 2021)
  • Allison Russell, Outside Child (Birds of Chicago/Fantasy/Concord)
  • D-Track, Hull (Coyote)
  • Wake Island, Born to Leave (Independent)
  • Erika de Casier, Sensational (4AD)
  • Kirai, KayWorld (Blockstar)
  • Backxwash, I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses (Ugly Hag)
  • Kings of Convenience, Peace or Love (EMI)
  • Mach-Hommy, Pray for Haiti (Griselda)
  • Islands, Islomania (Royal Mountain)
  • CFCF, Memoryland (BGM)

My top three albums are about hometowns/countries and how we feel about them. Russell escaped a harrowing situation in Montreal and went on to great success in Nashville, but when it came time to write a solo record, the memories of home, good and bad, came rushing back. For D-Track, he had to leave Hull to gain perspective on it. In his case, Montreal helped him realize what he’d been missing. Now he’s raising his kid back home in Hull. As for Wake Island, they’ve been half a world away, helplessly watching Lebanon suffer.

Darcy MacDonald

Chiiild, Hope for Sale best albums of 2021
Chiiild, Hope for Sale (These are the best albums of 2021)
  • Chiiild, Hope for Sale (Island/Avant Garden)
  • Janette King, What We Lost (Hot Tramp)
  • Cadence Weapon, Parallel World (Independent) 
  • Czarface & MF DOOM, Super What? (Silver Age)
  • Tha God Fahim X Your Old Droog, Tha Wolf on Wall St. (Mongoloid Banks)
  • Madlib (with Four Tet), Sound Ancestors (Madlib Invazion)
  • Backxwash, I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses (UglyHag Records)
  • SG Lewis, Times (Virgin EMI/PMR)
  • Aesop Rock X Blockhead, Garbology (Rhymesayers)
  • Blu, The Color Blu(e) (Nature Sounds)

All global clusterfuckery considered, it was a solid 365 for music this year. What 2021 may have lacked in quantity, release-wise, it made up for with quality, re-listenable projects. This list reflects albums I kept coming back to throughout high and low points alike of this blur of an annus we’ll not soon wipe clean, I suspect. Montreal-adjacent talent made a highly respectable showing, with Chiiild and Janette King having been a kind of yin-and-yang for my ears as a weird winter gave way to a sweltering summer. Even their respective album titles stood in as suitable slogans for how life in the ‘20s is playing out so far. As I peruse the list again, that’s actually somewhat true across the board. Anyway, one more time for your MF’n mind: RIP DOOM.

Dave MacIntyre

CHVRCHES, Screen Violence
CHVRCHES, Screen Violence
  • CHVRCHES, Screen Violence (EMI/Glassnote)
  • Dave, We’re All Alone in This Together (Neighbourhood)
  • Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee (Dead Oceans)
  • Kings of Convenience, Peace or Love (EMI)
  • Little Simz, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (Age 101/AWAL)
  • Porter Robinson, Nurture (Mom + Pop)
  • SG Lewis, times (Virgin EMI/PMR)
  • Shame, Drunk Tank Pink (Dead Oceans)
  • Snail Mail, Valentine (Matador)
  • Tyler, the Creator, Call Me If You Get Lost (Columbia)

This was an incredibly fruitful year for albums in particular, as other LPs from Arlo Parks, BROCKHAMPTON, Adele, Billie Eilish, the War on Drugs and Yebba came close to making my list. But my top choice of 2021 is Nurture, which came after Porter Robinson endured a years-long bout of writer’s block, during which time his brother had cancer. The end result was a remarkable leap forward for him artistically — dude has come a looooooong way from his maximalist, “complextro” EDM days.

Mr. Wavvy

Silk Sonic, An Evening With Silk Sonic
Silk Sonic, An Evening With Silk Sonic
  • Silk Sonic, An Evening With Silk Sonic (Aftermath)
  • Adele, 30 (Columbia)
  • Snoh Aalegra, Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies (Roc Nation)
  • Etienne Dufresne, Excalibur (Chivi Chivi)
  • Charlotte Day Wilson, Alpha (Stone Woman)
  • John Lisi, I Hope this Feels Good (Independent)
  • Slowthai, Tryon (AWGE)
  • Olivia Rodrigo, Sour (Geffen)
  • Charlotte Cardin, Phoenix (Cult Nation)
  • Foushee, Time Machine (RCA)

Never in my eight-year career have I given an album a perfect 10/10 rating…until now. An Evening With Silk Sonic is a perfect soul album. The combination of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak is as smooth as taking a butter-filled jacuzzi. The nine-track project is a love letter to the sounds of the ’70s and blends seamlessly with any Quiet Storm playlist. If there was ever a public service announcement on the benefits of cocaine, the sensational Silk Sonic twosome should be its spokesmen.

For our list of the Top 52 Montreal Songs of 2021, please click here.

For more music coverage, please visit the Music section.