The Best Albums of 2021 (So Far)
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From indie-folk to experimental hip-hop, 2021 has already proven to be a strong year for music. Though there haven’t been many releases that garnered the level of hype and excitement that some of 2020’s highlights did, there have been a number of extraordinary albums released in the past six months. As we look toward the latter half of the year for even greater projects, here are some of the best albums of 2021.
Benny the Butcher and Harry Fraud - “The Plugs I Met 2”
As the sequel to the duo’s first collaborative project, “The Plugs I Met 2” combines Harry Fraud’s jazz-influenced production with Benny the Butcher’s meticulously-crafted tales of drug-dealing and hustling. Grappling with death, crime, and betrayal in a deeply honest and introspective manner, the lyricism of the project has a much softer edge than a typical trap record. But it is Benny the Butcher’s confidence that conveys these stories through an exciting, energizing, and almost nostalgic lens, making for a nuanced project that outshines any of the rapper’s previous efforts.
Cassandra Jenkins - “An Overview on Phenomenal Nature”
Cassandra Jenkins’s sophomore project is a deeply confessional, conflicted record. “An Overview on Phenomenal Nature” includes a number of casually-recorded monologues that serve to augment Jenkins’s shrewd storytelling. Jenkins’s poetic portrayal of personal growth, insecurity, and rejection is underscored by the simplicity of the instrumentation: muted acoustic instruments accompanied by a saxophone and the occasional synthesizer, allowing the rawness of her voice and the candor of her lyrics to shine through. On the standout track “Michaelangelo,” Jenkins’s use of vivid metaphors to depict personal growth (describing carving herself out of marble and fighting a metaphorical “virus” that is “treatable, not curable,”) reveals enormous depth in the poetry of her songwriting. An understated and deep record, “An Overview on Phenomenal Nature” establishes Jenkins as one of the most underrated songwriters of today.
St. Vincent - “Daddy’s Home”
One of the most anticipated releases of 2021, “Daddy’s Home” follows 2018’s “Masseduction” with a beautiful project that centers around family and the issues that pervade it. The project, a definite highlight in St. Vincent’s discography, calls upon the sounds of ‘70s rock to explore Annie Clark’s fears and conceptions about family, using her parents’ circumstances and relationships to inform her views on marriage and having children. “Daddy’s Home” is a remarkably consistent project that gets at the core of Clark’s perception of her past and future.
Navy Blue - “Songs of Sage: Post Panic!”
In his first project of the year, New York rapper and Earl Sweatshirt affiliate Navy Blue explores the depths of his mind, eloquently and laconically surveying his past experiences, relationships, and mental issues to do so. Over elaborate production, he uses people and occurrences as a means of expressing ongoing issues and themes in his psyche. The subtly captivating beats emphasize the meaning behind each track, providing a very deliberate sonic accompaniment to each story and idea. He followed up “Songs of Sage” with the similarly-impressive “Navy’s Reprise,” solidifying Navy Blue as one of the leading voices in underground rap.