Three notable albums you may have missed in 2021



It’s hard to deny that 2021 was a fantastic year for popular music. 

Billie Eilish defeated the sophomore slump with “Happier Than Ever,” a somber reflection on newfound success. “Call Me If You Get Lost,” Tyler, The Creator’s newest release, is an enthralling mix of hip-hop, pop, funk, and even jazz. Doja Cat’s “Planet Her,” one of the year’s most straight-up fun albums, has maintained an iron grip on TikTok audios for nearly six months. Long-established titans like Adele and Kanye West gave us some of the most highly anticipated (albeit messy, in the latter case) projects in a long time, each artist charting fascinating new territory. And of course, Olivia Rodrigo made an extraordinary debut with “Sour,” a teen-angst record for the ages. Drake also released an album.

But don’t be quick to write off some of 2021’s more unsung musical offerings. Here are three more albums, each thoughtful and unique, that you might have overlooked this year.

Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

Think cottagecore meets indie rock. Orchestral swells ebb and flow, underscoring the melancholy that tinges each of Jubilee’s tracks. Michelle Zauner’s ethereal voice explores the dichotomies between joy and grief, longing and aversion, anger and forgiveness. The connections we make with each other are all that truly matter in the world, or so you might be led to believe. But the dangers of infatuation become clear as Jubilee progresses: eventually, objects of affection end up dead on operating tables or trapped in bunkers at the hands of hypercapitalist partners. All the while, though, you’re sung to like a lullaby. How delicate can our deepest desires be?

The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore

An album for the lost, or perhaps those who might be a little too sure of their place in the world. “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” plays like a soundtrack for limbo, with hazy guitars providing a backdrop for meditations on what it means to not only be alive, but to experience life. Maybe it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or who you’ve been, if we all end up in the same place anyway. Vague but resonant, its lyrics invite the listener to wonder about the future while looking back on the past. Listen to “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” at night under the stars, placing all your doubts, worries, and existential crises within the infinite context of the universe.

Magdalena Bay – Mercurial World

Loosely set within the apocalypse, futuristic soundscapes dominate from opening track “The End” to closer “The Beginning” (you read that right). Through all of its sonic distortions, Mercurial World ponders the intricacies and laughs at the absurdities of the human condition. Time is merely another element to be toyed with; one song might stretch a single moment out into a four-minute daze, while the next compresses years into a few seconds of hysteria. But Magdalena Bay is at their best when they zoom in on our most mysterious relationships— contemplating an old friend, fascination over a new partner, or dealing with yourself after failure. It revels in its insanity: sometimes welcoming, sometimes taunting, but always intriguing.