Jark's 2021 in Music (1 Viewer)

"Yosemite" may compete for my #1 of the year next to "White Dress", perhaps. The guitar, the BONGOS, the 70s folk teas, one of her most breathtaking melodies ever, The Beatles wish they could.

I love "Need to Know" as well. She's only given us max pop tracks since "Say So" and I'm really interested in what she has in store for the next album.

I should put more of an effort into Lorde's album. I really only go back to "The Path" and occasionally "California".
to be honest half of my top 20 could've been Lana, but I had to distribute the love a little. Yosemite is an 11, make no mistake.

although at this current festive juncture I'm more into the WARMTH of several BB tracks.
speaking of which...

10. Wolf Alice - Blue Weekend

not even having heard of Wolf Alice prior to this year feels like one of the bigger gaps in my musical education. Blue Weekend proved to be the dream introduction. Ellie's rich, elastic voice swoops from a powerful belt to an intimate whisper to a demented punk scream from one song to the next, the glue holding together this eclectic set of songs. I like them best in rousing midtempo mode, but the quieter moments also pack a big emotional punch—see the slow, patient build and eventual euphoric pay-off of The Last Man on Earth, a choir-assisted Christmassy ballad that lands like an instant classic. this album endured beautifully all year long and I'm so stoked to see where they go next. (AND I REALLY NEED TO SEE THEM LIVE BECAUSE I WILL FOR SURE LOSE MY SHIT!)

best tracks: Delicious Things, The Last Man on Earth, How Can I Make It OK, The Beach II

09. Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over the Country Club

I always like to root for the underdog, so trust me to ride super hard for Chemtrails, Lana's first album of the year, even when noted diehards like @Jingle POP! found themselves a little over the rootsy, stripped-back sound she was leaning into. at just 11 tracks including a Joni cover, Chemtrails undeniably has the slight feel of a b-sides and rarities collection—which is no shade, because Lana's rarities are as killer as what does make it onto her albums. still, I think this is a really important record in her oeuvre. it feels like the beginnings of a move into more freeform territory, where the melodies are looser and more meandering, the music less polished. maybe the biggest shift is lyrically—when she talks "coverin' Joni and dancin' with Joan" on Dance Till We Die, it feels like an artist staking her claim in the hall of fame.

best tracks: Yosemite, Not All Who Wander Are Lost, Let Me Love You Like a Woman, Wild at Heart, Dance Till We Die

we're down to top 40 so let's take a quick pause to get into the...


16. Lorde - Solar Power

spare a thought for poor Lorde. four years of feverish anticipation from the gays for the follow-up to Melodrama, and the moment it drops they disown her. :D to be fair, it's not like she courted any kind of success with this record. she seems entirely happy to do her own thing, commercial success and even fanbase adoration be damned. and Solar Power is not a bad album—I spent plenty of time with it. it's just one of those albums with three or four highlights, a few more decent tracks, and a little too much filler. it could comfortably have been an EP.

best tracks: The Path, Solar Power, Mood Ring

15. CHVRCHES - Screen Violence

CHVRCHES came back with a very solid record after the bratty misfire of Love is Dead. I haven't spent as much time with Screen Violence as I should, but it's testament to its front-to-back quality that an entirely different set of singles could've been chosen without losing anything. Final Girl in particular was absolutely screaming for a release—don't wanna find your daughter in a body bag is a wonderful lyric that cuts straight to the album's central themes of body horror and the male gaze, while Better If You Don't is a lovely closer that showcases something new for the band sonically.

best tracks: Final Girl, Lullabies, How Not to Drown

14. Doja Cat - Planet Her

like any gay worth his salt I queened out over Say So, but Doja Cat the artiste had never really grabbed me until her second album dropped. Planet Her is a fairly tight collections of tracks that combine eclectic production with consistently strong lyricism and the super versatile vocal/rap delivery skills that separate Doja from the female rap crowd. the first half of the album is particularly strong, with the Janet/Damita Jo-esque Payday and the etheral Love to Dream serving as highlights (plus the killer singles, naturellement).

best tracks: Need to Know, Love to Dream, Payday, Kiss Me More, Woman

13. Little Simz - Sometimes I Might be Introvert

Little Simz won a ton of praise and well deserved hype for her second proper album Sometimes I Might be Introvert (although "Best New Artists" at the BRITS seems like a stretch). the album has a gorgeously smooth and soulful flow, only disturbed by a handful of very bizarre interludes that don't quite land. even when she's rapping about losing contact with family members, Simbi tends to sound relaxed and in control, so it's no surprise that the album breezes by beautifully, and the synthy bounce of Protect My Energy feels like a radio-ready breakout moment.

best tracks: Woman, Protect My Energy, Rollin Stone, Miss Understood

12. Agnes - Magic Still Exists

Agnes should've been higher in this list—it's not like this album, which fires on all cylinders at all times, disappoints on any level. all it would've taken is a couple more full-length bangers. as it is, the over-reliance on interludes and long outros can give Magic Still Exists the feel of an EP. still, we were spoiled for both singles and quality album tracks; 24 Hours remains the dark disco banger from heaven, and both Love and Appreciation and Selfmade go deliriously hard. next time, a few more days in the studio please, queen.

best tracks: 24 Hours, Here Comes the Night, Selfmade, Love and Appreciation

11. Purple Disco Machine - Exotica

file this one under the major surprises of 2021. obviously like any house music queen I've always enjoyed a good Purple Disco Machine remix, but those can be a little samey, and I had no clue they were gearing up to release an album this varied and high-quality. while the pop singles like Hypnotized (which is ageing beautifully—a surefire future classic) are serving a whole coterie of impossibly catchy hooks, there are also Daft Punk-channeling nu-disco floorfillers alongside calmer, more elegant moments that throw it back to earlier periods of dance music history. we stan a vers queen.

best tracks: Can't Get Enough, Dopamine, Hypnotized, I Remember, Fireworks

The Agnes and Chvrches albums are up there with my favourites from this year, and the PDM is pretty wonderful too.

They really should have made more of Final Girl, it is just so good.
08. Kacey Musgraves - star-crossed

I really wasn't on the Kacey train during Golden Hour, so when she came back with star-crossed this year I had the pleasure of discovering both albums at once—which is perfect, because they make ideal companion pieces. Golden Hour has more blockbuster songs, whereas star-crossed keeps things a little more low-key but is almost filler-free. the songs across the board are defined by relaxed melodies, quietly adventurous production (that flute riff on There is a Light!) and almost nonchalant post-divorce lyrics—at times she feels almost more like a witness than a bruised participant in the marriage-turned-tragedy, but then camera roll comes around and it's clear there's still hurt. my absolute favourite is probably cherry blossom, which offers gorgeous hints of hope. even on her divorce record, Kacey is nothing if not able to find the beauty in things.

best tracks: justified, cherry blossom, easier said, hookup scene, angel

07. Marina - Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land

in absolute contrast to Kacey's album, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land takes a hard 180 vs. its predecessor, the highly divisive Love + Fear. Marina sounds like there's a fire under her for the first time in a while, which makes sense when you hear some of the details of her relationship gone wrong sprinkled across this album. the rough divide between bangers with social commentary and piano ballads featuring more personal lyrics works pretty well, and at ten tracks with nothing sub-par, Ancient Dreams feels like her tightest work. the singles were fantastic, and the deliciously scathing New America could've had its moment too (fucked with the food chain, fucked with the farming too :disco: Marina for Minister of Agriculture!), but it's the stunning closer Goodbye (her best ballad ever?) that really feels like a potential turning point in the fascinating career of a popstar who's constantly in the process of discovering herself.

best tracks: Purge the Poison, Goodbye, Ancient Dreams, Man's World, New America

06. Majid Jordan - Wildest Dreams

my CANADIAN KINGS Majid Jordan didn't release an album for four years, but Wildest Dreams was so worth the wait. each of the four singles teased a different sound, all shades of great—but all of the other seven tracks on this short and sweet set feel essential too. although a little less R&B than their previous work, Wildest Dreams still packs sultry gems as well as more pop-focused bops, all held together by Jordan's pristine production and Majid's swoon-worthy vocals. faves change day to day, but the smooth disco of Dancing On a Dream and the funk-pop boppery of Been Through That remain serial givers of life.

best tracks: Been Through That, Summer Rain, Forget About the Party, Dancing On a Dream, Waves of Blue
05. Adele - 30

I love it when an album comes along from somebody I was generally ambivalent about and then I end up stanning. like the rest of the world I was kind of excited about Adele coming back, but mostly just curious to see if she'd go WARM DISCO or something. but Legendele resists current trends on 30, mostly working with her trusted collaborator Greg Kurstin, plus a few others, to cook up a set of songs that expand her artistry and go in subtly surprising directions. for my money the album's first half (including "the bopz" section) is its strongest—the run from Cry Your Heart Out to All Night Parking is wall-to-wall brilliance.

Oh My God is her most left-field single in forever, and Max Martin came through with the unlikely Oasis vibes on Can I Get It (I'm a slut for a whistle hook). her voice sounds in fine form, nowhere moreso than on the classic soul-leaning tracks like I Drink Wine and Love is a Game, which sometimes deliver little hints of Adele's hero, Amy. 30 is comfortably Adele's best work and a much-needed shot of artistry for the last of the big-voiced divas.

best tracks: Easy On Me, Can I Get It, Oh My God, All Night Parking, Love is a Game

=04. Billie Eilish - Happier Than Ever

if I was ambivalent about Adele, I didn't care at all about Billie. I mean she wasn't even on my radar. clearly I'm a flop. probably thought she was too gen Z or something. anyway, Happier Than Ever is a stunning work front to back that bitchslaps anyone who wasn't already on the Billie train firmly into submission. the most striking thing about Billie across this record is her confidence. she's so in control, not just vocally (although her tendency to minimise her vox almost to a whisper means that when she goes for it, like on the title track, you feel physically SHOOK), but in terms of what parts of herself she's willing to give to the world. Not My Responsibility pairs a teasing, spoken-word lecture about body image and ownership with a trippy, sexy beat that recalls early '90s Janet or Madonna, and in many ways Billie feels like their natural successor in the pop world.

why was the gorgeous Billie Bossa Nova not a single? how many wigs have been destroyed by the scathing middle 8 of OverHeated? and just how legendary will this woman go on to become, if her output at the age of 19 is this good? these questions are not rhetorical.

best tracks: Billie Bossa Nova, OverHeated, Happier Than Ever, My Future, Therefore I Am

=04. Lana Del Rey - Blue Banisters

the second of Lana's two albums this year is the one that really feels like an album, not just a collection of (mostly fantastic) songs. much like Honeymoon and NFR!, Blue Banisters is cohesive and entirely immersive, a set of songs that lean harder into the personal details of her life than ever before; as such, it feels intimate and lived-in (although casual mentions of masks and Black Lives Matter make clear that much of it was recorded very recently).

the key instrument across the album is the piano, every song bar a couple opening with a few bare-bones chords and then blossoming into something more interesting or emotional with the addition of some brassy flourishes, a few strings or a light smattering of percussion. Jack Antonoff is OUT (@POP! rejoice!), for now anyway, and the result is a less perfectionist approach to production that allows Lana's voice to act as the ribbon tying everything together. and she's never sounded better, freer, or more able to transform a song from warmth to tragedy with a singular vocal note (see the phenomenal title track). the mid-album highlight Dealer with an uncredited Miles Kane, which should have had a proper push, breaks up the sea of downtempos with a mad banshee vocal and an immediately iconic lyric that might just sum up the uselessness of men in Lana's world since day one: why can't you be good for somethin'? NOT ONE SHIRT OFF YOUR BACK! :disco: entering a new decade, the voice of the last decade continues to make a case for herself as our most relevant and creatively fired-up living artist.

best tracks: Blue Banisters, Violets for Roses, Dealer, Sweet Carolina, Black Bathing Suit

03. London Grammar - Californian Soil

I did a lot of back and forth on whether this is really a better album than Billie's or Lana's. London Grammar's third record is less ambitious than those two, but of the 3 I think Californian Soil is the most consistently enjoyable front to back. above all, it feels like a crystallisation of their sound after two mixed bag albums that showed a lot of promise but hadn't quite figured out how to keep things interesting over 12 songs. it's true that I'm a sucker for Hannah Reid's voice, which sounds angelic in its heavy register and world-weary at the other end. her vocals have never had more gravity, but here she's also playful, not just cerebral, in a way she hasn't been before.

it's hard to pick out individual tracks when almost everything here is a highlight, but the album is a notable shift into a more accessible, poppier sound. there are songs that start out quiet storm and build into a tsunami of electronic sounds, like the euphoric Lose Your Heard and the sensational lead single Baby It's You; there's the hypnotic trip-hop of the title track and the radio-tailored boppery of How Does It Feel. songs like Missing have lyrics so absurd they're hardly worth trying to decipher; and anyway, that feels like missing the point. they're not detailed storytellers, but on this record London Grammar have become masters of communicating a feeling and absorbing you in it, whole.

best tracks: Baby It's You, Californian Soil, All My Love, I Need the Night, Lose Your Head

ps. check out the incredible free show they did for YouTube with the album launch. it's a whole slay, honey.

back on it with the singles and resuming with a collection of (largely) BRAINLESS BOPS! (paging @The Pipogues)


40. Bebe Rexha - Sacrifice
39. Lorde - The Path
38. Ava Max - Everytime I Cry
37. Wolf Alice - The Beach II
36. Regard, Troye Sivan & Tate McRae - You

God only knows what the future holds for Bebe Rexha after the brutal flop of her 2nd album this year, but if nothing else it did spawn the ultimate megabop Sacrifice, which has to be the song of her career to date. in the wake of Ava Max's My Head & My Heart it felt like Eurobops were firmly back IN, and Sacrifice goes all the way. the degree to which this song pops off is actually borderline rude. I hope one day while completely trashed I'll have a moment with it at a provincial gay club :disco:

The Path, the opener to Solar Power, emerged as the best song on the whole thing. like the metaphorical route of the title, it goes here and there, never quite committing to a chorus or normal song structure, but all of its hooks have a dreamy, ethereal quality which is underscored by Lorde's hopeful vocal performance. if the path's destination is uncertain, this song makes an excellent case for just going with it.

it's been a quiet year for future queen of pop Ms. Amanda Ava Max Koci, twenty-seven, but she did bless us with this frenetic banger that bleeped and blooped its way into my affections. Every time I cry I get a little bit stronger may be the most basic sentiment and a little been-there-done-that, but you will not find a popstar less opposed to basic sentiments than Ms Max, and her typically stellar vocal performance sells the living shit out of this highly addictive tune. gimme a dancefloor, stat!

there's something a bit Pure Shores about The Beach II—it captures that same sense of oceanic calm, and what higher compliment is there? the closing track to Wolf Alice's third record feels like an encore designed to strip away all the theatrics that came before, leaving behind just a quiet emotional core. girls on the beach, my girls on the beach is a hook never not on replay in my brain. I wish this one had an extra minute or so to really soak you in its delicate beauty.

You is an outrageously good song for a Regard single—it could be Troye's own lead single and it would be right up there with his best. this synth-driven, not particularly bright or breezy but highly relistenable banger has immense replay value and a brilliant feature from Tate McRae (who?!) that comes dangerously close to upstaging Troye. as it is, their vocals compliment each other nicely, and the drama ramps up until if I give you a call don't hang up the line! begins to sound like looking someone in the eye and begging them to love you. it may not be dignified, but what a song.


35. Billie Eilish - Billie Bossa Nova
34. Pale Waves - Easy
33. Baby Queen - Dover Beach
32. Lana Del Rey - Sweet Carolina
31. Marina - Purge the Poison

did someone call for a sultry gem? Billie Bossa Nova is basically an ode to a hotel hook-up; Billie demands her date's full attention (you better lock your phone...) and makes a sexy game out of sneaking through the lobby incognito. cleverly touching on different themes common to the album, from her sexuality to the paparazzi attention that comes with being Billie Eilish, Billie Bossa Nova feels like it could/should have been a single over a couple of tracks that actually were. me and my housemate always text each other lyrics from this song. maybe I should get a (secret) boyfriend for that instead.

the rock-pop renaissance has taken over mainstream pop to become maybe the defining sound of 2021, and while this track from the vaguely emo UK quartet Pale Waves didn't exactly set the charts on fire, I do believe it's the best song on the album and one of their best to date. the crunchy chorus simply cannot be denied—it soars, and Heather's vocals fly effortlessly above the sun-drenched verses. all in all, Easy is a feel-good banger and in my head it was actually one of the biggest #1s of the year.

Baby Queen was a late-in-the-year discoveries for me, and I think this track could probably have been a little higher if it had been given the chance to dominate my summer. there's something really magical about Dover Beach—it's not just that it taps squarely into my synthpop sweet spot; it's the slow build of the verses, the giddy release of the chorus, the sheer euphoria of the middle 8 being layered over the final chorus when she's firing on 110%. also, the storytelling; some of the lyrical imagery is really vivid. consider: I should push him off the cliffside, 'cos he's colouring my insides ocean blue, and I scream at you in poetry, you stole the view of Dover Beach. the melodrama is sun-soaked and delicious. credit to @ebenezer krang for beginning my journey with Baby Queen; I'm really excited by her.

it's getting tough now. I love and stan this song very much. as the closer of Blue Banisters, Sweet Carolina feels like an airy palette-cleanser; silly but sincere, emotional and irreverent. the iphone 11 and crypto forever! verse is always quoted, but feels to me like a great example of Lana infusing her music with little real-life details that render everything more vivid. this song essentially being a love letter to her sister is adorable; its best lyric (I'll always be right here, closer to you than your next breath my dear) a gorgeous ode to a love that's unconditional.

as the second taste of Marina's new album, Purge the Poison definitely feels like a statement of intent from the Welsh-Greek chanteuse; it says, I'm back, bitches. at this point I think Marina is divisive enough that some will find anything to complain about; I happen to love her clumsy, out-there lyricism, and this song has nothing but! quarantined all alone, Mother Nature's on the phone indeed. :eyes: I hope she's saying "well done on your chorus", 'cos those double-time handclaps go off! Purge the Poison is relentless, a banger with a more-is-more mentality. sometimes when it's over I feel like I need a lie down; more often, I hit repeat.

i must admit i never gave the billie and marina albums a proper chance... i really should. i quite like this remix of bbn:

dover beach is obviously one of my favourite songs of the year *.*

30. Doja Cat ft. SZA - Kiss Me More
29. Kacey Musgraves - Cherry Blossom
28. Bad Sounds ft. BROODS - Move Into Me
27. Marina - Goodbye
26. Jessie Ware - Hot N Heavy

To kick off the Planet Her era, Doja Cat came through with one of the songs of the summer and also the song of her career to date. I can't say I had any expectations, but this breezy smash positioned Doja as one of the new generation of big pop girls. the hooks come thick and fast as the song pulls you into its hazy hypnosis, but the highlight is the final verse, when Doja generously allows SZA to steal the entire song: Fantasy and whip appeal is all I can give you! this is one to roller skate to, which makes me sad that I don't own any. I'm stoked to see what's next.

cherry blossom, the endlessly lovely highlight of star-crossed, pretty much sounds like taking a walk through Tokyo while the trees are in bloom and the petals are pink. it's an airy tonic of a song sung from the perspective of someone who's deep in it and doesn't seem to realise it's all about to end—ignorance, as they say, is bliss. the lyric I hope you haven't forgotten Tokyo wasn't built in a day could almost be too on-the-nose, but Kacey's matter-of-fact delivery keeps it sweet and cheeky. this one's up there with the very best of Golden Hour.

Move Into Me came out in january I think, but sounds as soothing as we begin the descent into another cold winter as it did twelve months ago. Georgia BROODS' vocal envelops you like a big, warm hug, and the understated, shimmery electronica of Bad Sounds' production ramps up beautifully into something psychedelic and vaguely trippy. in other words, it's a stoner stunner.

Marina saved the best track on her album for last. Goodbye's jaunty piano plays a little like a throwback to the theatrics of the Family Jewels era, but a decade on her songwriting feels way more assured. the song, like many of Marina's more personal efforts, feels like self-therapy and sees her bidding farewell to the girl I used to be, but also to the other half of a relationship that ran its course. the most emotionally affecting moment comes near the end: nobody can take our love down, it's safe inside our memories—and I won't forget how you healed me. a few ethereal adlibs and isolated piano keys play us out, and point the compass toward another new start for Ms. Diamandis.

a year ago, the idea of Jessie Ware teaming up with SG Lewis for a balls-out disco banger would've seemed like homo stan fantasy. how reassuring that dreams do come true :disco: Hot N Heavy is a breathless, panting ode to lust at first sight on the dancefloor that comes suitably laced with all manner of exquisitely ridiculous metaphors: how do I get my hands on your perfect design? is a fucking outrageous lyric, but nothing tops the climactic ecstasy of the chorus. ooh-aah-ahh-ha-ha indeed. everybody I've played this song to stans it hard, and rightly so; Hot N Heavy is basically a victory lap for the gay icon of our times.

Discovering so many new traxx in this thread ("Sacrifice, " Every Time I Cry", the Kacey album). Surprised "Kiss Me More" isn't in your top ten tbh.

I love "Sweet Carolina" of course - particularly the lyric you mentioned and the middle eight.

Pink slippers all on the floor and woven nets over the door
It's as close as we'll get to the dream that they had
In the one night sixties

Jason is out in the lawn
And he power-washes every time things go wrong
If you're stressed out, just know you can dance to your song
Cause we got you

I know "Blue Banisters" isn't the official opening track but that and "Sweet Carolina" make such perfect bookends to the album thematically.
I'm never doing this again. too much WORK! although @POP! I am very happy you're finding new stuff to love 🥰


25. Adele - Easy On Me
24. Peggy Gou - I Go
23. Majid Jordan - Been Through That
22. Olivia Rodrigo - deja vu
21. Purple Disco Machine - I Remember

only a couple of months have passed since Adele decided to feed the world with Easy On Me, but the generally indifferent reaction it was met with at the time (on here and elsewhere) feels pretty funny now that the song has bedded in. in truth, Easy On Me already feels like a classic. it's timeless, it's sincere, it's Adele doing what she does best. that last minute where she's just cruising through her upper register is an absolute delight for the senses. I had good intentions, and the highest hopes... but I know right now, that probably doesn't even show... *millions of wigs swirl in orbit*. this is as classy as it gets.

Korean house legend and high-fashion globetrotter Peggy Gou (whose Instagram is a total must-follow btw) blessed us with two new tracks in '21—generous, by her standards—and it's the second of those, I Go, which immediately staked its claim as her biggest banger to date. if Starry Eyed is an evergreen anthem, I Go takes that start-of-the-night energy and runs it out toward the dancefloor, channeling the ping-pongy, kitchen-sink dance sounds of the '90s to the most delicious effect. I have no clue what she's singing, but I Go is the kind of song that demands a singalong anyway, and forces the creaky knee joints into action, as if to say: GET MOVING, BITCHES.

I've already covered Majid Jordan's album and touched on this track—Been Through That got slightly lost as a single, but this is a truly rock solid song that radiates warmth and uplifting energy. to me it calls to mind Jungle a little, and moves Majid Jordan out of their R&B box and into other textures. by the time the addictive slide with it, slide with it outro shimmies around, it's hard to believe the song is already over. all that's left to do is smash that repeat button.

I'm not an Olivia Rodrigo stan per se, but I do think she's wildly talented and charismatic—and deja vu easily feels like the most accomplished track on her debut. big replay appeal with this one—she said in a making-of video that she wanted the (slightly demented) bridge (strawberry ice cream in Malibu! don't act like we didn't do that shit too!) to echo the energy of Taylor's Getaway Car, which totally comes off. when you break down the lyrics, she's actually being kinda petty and unreasonable here. it's very melodramatic to insist that your ex's new girlfriend should be aware that some of their adventures are recycled. :D but then, she's a teenager, and deja vu packs more than a hint of tongue-in-cheek. in summary: big tune.

the Purple Disco Machine album is almost wall-to-wall bangers, but this elegant, spacey midtempo, which takes its sweet time unravelling at almost 7 minutes long, feels like the apex of the whole thing. Elderbrook's vocal gives the track an emotional edge, but beneath it PDM's production keeps things from getting too deep, sliding into a rich and slinky disco groove; toward the end, everything falls away and then builds back up beautifully for one final explosion of nostalgia. vocoder-drenched BVs give the whole thing a slight air of Daft Punk, and like their best work this song pulls you right into its ethereal orbit and refuses to let go until the party's over.

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