Best Albums of 2021, Part 1

15. Arlo Parks, Collapsed In Sunbeams

This 21-year-old British singer/songwriter’s debut LP is already the recipient of the kind of hype few young artists can claim, including this year’s Mercury Prize. Although far from the first to attempt an indie folk/R&B with poetry leanings (hello, Corinne Bailey Rae), her beautifully languid voice and reflective tone remain constants, complementing a dozen songs that resemble handcrafted, well-worn vignettes. Best opening couplet: “I’d lick the grief right off your lips / You do your eyes like Robert Smith.”

Standout track: “Black Dog”

14. Kings Of Convenience, Peace Or Love

A dozen years after their last album and this Norwegian duo haven’t changed one iota—thankfully so, for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach serves them well. Whether continuing to put their singular harmonies and nylon-string guitars at the forefront or welcoming guest appearances from Feist as if it were still 2004, KON remains a timeless proposition. Not as essential as those earlier albums, mind you, but after six months of spins, almost as durable.

Standout track: “Fever”

13. Gruff Rhys, Seeking New Gods

An LP written from the point-of-view of a volcano on the China/North Korea border does not seem nearly as outlandish coming from this enduring Welsh weirdo as opposed to anyone else. The real surprise is how hooky and accessible the music is, some of Rhys’ most accomplished since his band Super Furry Animals recorded their last LP over a decade ago. On that note, leadoff track “Mausoleum of My Former Self” is the year’s most hummable song with the least likely title.

Standout track: “Mausoleum of My Former Self”

12. Lindsey Buckingham, S/T

When an artist puts out a self-titled album decades into their career, it’s usually a statement, and this might be LB’s most cohesive collection since Out of the Cradle (if not Tusk.) It kicks off with three instant classics (“I love it when you scream,” he sings on the opener), but it’s a near-perfect ten track album, folding in such unlikely flourishes as trap beats and synth-bass on some tracks and a return to his folk-rock roots on others.

Standout track: “On The Wrong Side”

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