Top 10’s of 2021

Top 10’s of 2021

Every year, we ask our community for highlights from the year – favorite albums, songs, artists, shows, and other musical or cultural moments. It’s true that many of us returned to the comfort of albums from days past during this pandemic, but peeking through everyone’s lists for 2021, there were some standouts of the year that couldn’t be ignored. And FYI – listmaking is a serious business, so this post will change and grow as more contributions come in from those who are still mulling over what even happened in the last 12 months (we get it!).

Feel free to leave us your faves in the comments section! And scroll ALL the way down to listen to a very special episode of Surf’s Up! reflecting on everyone’s fave live music moments of the year.

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WATSON MEYER (Pry, Bug Bath)
– Spirit of the Beehive – ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH (album)
– black midi – John L (song)
– Turnstile – Glow On (album)
– Elleanor Burke – GIRL TOY (album)
– Militarie Gun – All Roads Lead To The Gun I & II
– Zulu/Scowl/Bug Bath/Ego Trip (show)
– Drug Church – Millions of Miles of Fun (EP)
– Slate – Listerine (song)
– Holland Halloween (show)
– J.R.C.G – Ajo Sunshine (album)

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ALBERTO GARCIA RODRIGUEZ (Curator, HP Galleries Manager)

Top 10 albums of 2021
1. Friends That Break Your Heart – James Blake
2. Sling – Clairo
3. KICK ii, KicK iii, & kiCK iiii – ARCA (Three new albums, dropped back-to-back)
5. Certified Lover Boy – Drake
6. Vulture Prince – Arooj Aftab 
7. Talk Memory – BADBADNOTGOOD
8. I Know I’m Funny haha – Faye Webster 
9. Still Over It – Summer Walker
10. Dawn Of Chromatica – Lady Gaga 

Top 5 singles of 2021
1. I Hate U – SZA
2. Lo Siento BB :/ (with Bad Bunny & Julieta Venegas) – Bad Bunny 
3. Fuck Him All Night – Azealia Banks 
4. Break It Off – PinkPantheress
5. 22 (Remix) – Lil Candy Paint, Bhad Bhabie 

Top 4 albums on rotation, but not released in 2021 
1. D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L – Panchiko (2000)
2. What’s Your Pleasure? – Jessie Ware (2020)
3. But You Caint Use My Phone (Mixtape) – Erykah Badu (2015)
4. You Are the Quarry – Morrissey (2004)

Honorable Mention 2021
Donda – Kanye West  

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TARA TRAN (Maggot)

Favorite Albums of the Year (ranking not definitive)
1. Golden Boy – I NEVER MEANT FOR THIS TO HAPPEN: One of the best breakcore releases I’ve ever heard. Brainbreaking breakbeats, ground quaking gabber and cool jungle moments will have you shaking your head like your adrenaline gland short circuited. A perfect mix of freaky and refined. Rest in peace Paris, thank you so much. For fans of: wearing sneakers to the function because you came there to dance all night long, thinking you probably could take down like 5 bad guys in a fight if you had to, drinking a bang, having a good time.

2. Lingua Ignota – SINNER GET READY:  A holy and unholy spell of mourning, retribution, resignation, and power. Archaic, often sparse instrumentals, heart churning vocal harmonies and the audible silence of a large empty church. For fans of: leeches, church organs, self flagellation.

3. The Body – I’ve Seen All I Need To See:  The sound of begging for help, when you know no help will come. Struggling to be heard beneath a spiteful and oppressive waterfall of noise. So heavy you struggle to stand beneath its unforgiving weight, so nihilistic you’d rather be consumed. For fans of: sticking your head in the speaker at shows, drums that sound like death itself is marching towards you.

4. Xiu Xiu – OH NO: Kind and complete acknowledgement of constant melancholy, well fitting for an album of duets made in isolation. Features some of Xiu Xiu’s least abrasive instrumentation while still barring no holds in their quest to capture the breadth of what it is to feel human. Some moments take my breath away, some tracks don’t land, that’s feelin human for ya. For fans of: tears that sit heavy behind your eyes but never fall as you allow all those simmering feelings to flood your mind.

5. Pan Daijing – Jade: Unsettling, otherworldly and coaxing. I wouldn’t really call this an “album” full of “songs”. It’s maybe more like a place full of sounds?  Be not afraid, and listen with the best audio quality available.  For fans of: relinquishing control of your mind to the unknown, throbbing gristle.

6. Worm – Foreverglade: A festering stew of death, black and doom metal seasoned with ritualistic choirs and atmospheric synths.  Refreshing dynamism, classic execution. For fans of: raising the dead, vile cavern air thick with an unspeakable curse.

7. Black Country, New Road – For the first time: With seven members, these instrumentals could easily get out of hand, but each part works together with reservation and purpose to create captivating ebb and flow. The vocalist may sound deeply tired, but this much needed fresh breath of post punk air is anything but. For fans of: writing sad things in your journal, Slint.

8. Ayver – Ayver: This dreamy instrumental album sits mostly somewhere between neo-classical and dark ambient, but is unafraid to wander. Delicate piano, wavering violin, reverb drenched guitar, gentle electronica, and more. Nostalgic, emotional, beautiful. For fans of: fondly remembering a time you can never get back.

9. Deerhoof – Actually, You Can: Full of twists, turns, pleasant pop-ish melodies, jazzy drums, groovy bass lines, and super noisy riffs. Sweet and supremely playful. For fans of: riding your bike on a sunny day, gentle overstimulation

10. JPEGMAFIA- LP!: Defiant, clever lyricism and thoughtful production that manages to stay so collected despite its boundless chaos. Jam packed in its intention, it’s his show and we’re all just peeping in. P.S. Listen to the bandcamp version. For fans of: walking through the city at night, britney spears, the kind of production you could pick apart for hours.

– King Woman – Celestial Blues
– Casper Mcfadden – medicalmechanica
– Sano Ex Machina – Osaka Emoviolence Generation

(If you have or want music recommendations based on this list please reach out! ig: @arachnocommunist/

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SCOTT BATES (Elephant Rifle)
– Midnite Snacks – Contact Contamination 7″
– Screamers – Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977 12″ep
– PLOSIVS – Hit the Breaks single
– SLANT – 1집 LP
– Grand Invincible – Demolition Strictly LP
– J.R.C.G. – Ajo Sunshine LP
– The Hamiltones – Dracula Invitational 1791 LP
– Traeger Method Podcast – Episode 50 with Ian Mackaye (Lots of good Reno nuggets in this one)
– Toy Machine – Scorched Earth video

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JULIEN NICOLOSI (Stomach+, Clarko, DALE)
Most of what I listened to this year either came out in 2019, 2020 or around 2013 so you only get 7 out of me…

7. Brutus VIII – Beyond
6. Vegyn – Like a Good Old Friend
3. Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
2. Palberta – Palberta5000

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JOYCE BARROS (Indie Latin Beats on KWNK Community Radio)
This list goes out to the girls, gays, and theys that love pop and punk rock. 

This year I entered my female joker era after breaking up from a long-term (and long-distance) relationship. I regretted how much time and energy I wasted on what felt like such a dead end outcome. I quickly became consumed by rage that could only be soothed by the genre of my teenage angst, punk rock. I vowed to never listen to music made by a man again (that’s actually a joke but I just realized that all these albums spotlight female and non-binary artists… that wasn’t intentional at all lol)  

There’s something so comforting about women expressing rage. So many times I’ve been beaten down and told that I’m being “overdramatic” and that what I’m upset about “isn’t a big deal” so why not “just get over it!”. Hm. I wonder if it’s really that easy or maybe I just hate listening to people belittle my feelings. 

With that said, not all of these albums are punk rock. That would be too boring and I’m a multidimensional human with many interests. Those interests are mainstream and Latinx media. The albums listed fall into pop, indie, lo-fi hip hop, and Latin music. Ok. Let’s get into it. 

1. Lady Jesus – UPSAHL: The ultimate punk rock album to get you feeling like a badass. Listen to it when you’re happy, sad, spiteful, it’s perfect. A great album for those of us who are people-pleasers and need to let go of caring about what other people think. Fav song: Lady Jesus 

2. Open Mouth, Open Heart – Destroy Boys: Thank you Holland Project for introducing me to this legendary band! I constantly relive the night of their show. This album has a very diverse discography addressing several topics like standing up for yourself and dismantling oppressive systems of power (take a guess what that means). The lyrics are clever and catchy with guitar riffs that stay stuck in your head all day. Some songs are even sung in Spanish which is super cool because it shows how Latinx communities integrate cultures of our parents and our own. Fav songs: Locker Room Bully, Drink

3. Death of a Cheerleader – Pom Pom Squad: This album is if Olivia Rodrigo based her album only off of Brutal and Good For You. It channels into the teenage angst of high school while also glamourizing that iconic high school aesthetic only seen in movies. Fav songs: Head Cheerleader, Be Good

4. C-Girl – City Girl: This cute album combines lo-fi hip hop and video games! It’s centered around unrequited love, falling in love, and long distance relationships. Fav song: WII DATE

5. COR – ANAVITORIA: Brazilian indie pop queens ANAVORITA are back with another album! I love this pop and latin fusion that reminds me of my (Americanized) Brazilian heritage. Fav song: Te amar e massa demais 

6. GRACINHA – Manu Gavassi: I should know what this album’s intended purpose is but I actually don’t. I’ve interpreted it as an overall criticism of traditional music in Brazil. Older generations gatekeep bossa nova and reminisce about the old times but refuse to accept that the younger generations are changing Brazilian music with funk, pop, and other “controversial” genres. I love the sass too. Kinda a “stick it to them” message. Fav Song: Bossa Nossa 

7. If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power – Halsey: I was obsessed with Halsey in high school and then she went to be a pop girlie which I didn’t really like but this album reignited my admiration for her music. This album is about the beauty and brutality of motherhood which I know absolutely nothing about. To me, this album is about being an angry homosexual. Fav songs: Easier than Lying, honey

8. CINEMA – The Marias: Their first album! After teasing us with glorious EP’s they finally gave us a full album! Perfect fusion of soft pop and latin. Fav songs: Un Million, Calling U Back

9. Planet Her – Doja Cat: Iconic album. So many TikTok viral songs and this album launched Doja Cat further to stardom. This is the pop album of 2021. Fav song: Get Into It (Yuh)

10. Sour – Olivia Rodrigo: I think after 2020 we were all feeling collectively angry and it reflects in the music that was released in 2021. This album was the start of this year’s rock rebirth. It’s last on the list because it’s too mainstream and the other songs make me too sad. Fav song: Brutal

Honorable Mention: Arcane League of Legends (Soundtrack from the Animated Series) Watch this TV show. You won’t regret it. It’s so f*cking good. The music from the show is just another reason you should watch. this. show. Fav song: Enemy – Imagine Dragons 

That’s my top 10! I hope you check some of these albums or songs out. Thank you Holland Project for having me a part of your Top 10! Have a Happy Holidays and New Year!

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New Song and Bands 2021
Stoner Rock: Slomosa – In My Minds Desert
Hip Hop: Aesop Rock – Long Legged Larry
Punk Anthem: The RumJacks – Light in My Shadow

Shows 2021
Holland Halloween Bash!! 💣
Rotary Club
Joan and the Rivers
Social Distortion

Top Websites 2021
Resident Advisor DJ tips

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MATT GRIMM (Music Booker + Listener)
1. L’Rain – Fatigue
2. Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
3.Current Joys – Voyager
4. Lost Girls – Menneskekollektivet
5. Dollhouse – First Day of Spring
6. Lucretia Dalt / Aaron Dilloway – Lucy & Aaron
7. Iceage – Seek Shelter
8. Hüstler – Hüstler
9. Mega Bog – Life, and Another
10. Nag – Observer

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TUCKER RASH (DALE, Plain Oatmeal)

10 – Буерак – Танцы По Расчёту 2 (Essential Tracks: Танцы без расчёта, Не интеллигент) Russian bands continue to create the greatest post-punk anyone has ever heard. Let Buerak open your mind. 

9 – Slowthai – TYRON (Essential Tracks: 45 SMOKE, MAZZA) This album gave me some bouncy, upbeat joy early in the year. 

8 – King Krule – You Heat Me Up, You Cool Me Down (Essential Tracks: Perfecto Miserable, Alone Omen 3) He holds a special place in my heart. This collection of live songs adds some dimension to his heartfelt songs with some of that naturally vulnerable live feel. 

7 – Knocked Loose – A Tear in the Fabric of Life (Essential Tracks: Where Light Divides The Holler, God Knows) This band is a huge guilty pleasure for me. I go down their rabbit hole every so often and always enjoy it. This latest album is no exception. 

6 – Armand Hammer x Earl Sweatshirt – Falling Out The Sky (Single) One of the most mesmerizing beats I have ever heard. This song put me in a blissful trance for days. 

5 – Black Midi – Cavalcade (Essential Track: John L) Been following these dudes since their first album came out a couple years ago. They are making some of the most creative, chaotic, and unique music you can find right now. 

4 – Pinty – Tomorrow’s Where I’m Dub (Essential Track: Off – DJJDSPORTS Dub) I don’t know what Pinty was thinking when he released these dub remixes of his album from this year. The original songs pale in comparison to these remixes. It all goes hard but you have got to listen to the dub versions. 

3 – Eartheater – Joyride (Single) Too lustful for its own good. You’ll have this on repeat for days. 

2 – Lucy – The Music Industry Is Poisonous (Essential Tracks: The Rock, Like A Weakness) This album is simple, heartfelt fun. Lucy’s nursery rhyme flow, GarageBand beats, and purely innocent aesthetic make him one of the most entertaining underground musicians out there.

1 – Plain Oatmeal – Self Titled (Essential Tracks: Spit In My Mouth, Drug Lust, Paper Bag) I don’t mean to put my own band’s album as number one in a self-aggrandizing way. To be honest I’m not that proud of the majority of these smoked out recordings. This album is my number one though because of how much I love being in a band with my best friends and how proud I am of our progression this year. Obsessively honing our musicianship and writing heavier and heavier songs over the last few months has been one of the most fun and fulfilling things I’ve done in recent memory. I can’t wait for you to hear what we’ve been working on or see one of our upcoming shows. Also, I love my bandmates, Joey and Gus.

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CLINTON WALLACE (Elephant Rifle, Humaniterrorist Records)

– Aeon Station – “Observatory”: 3/4 of the band The Wrens putting together an album that sounds like the long promised (and likely never coming) new Wrens record. Sad music for a sad time. Probably my album of the year. 

– Alison Krauss & Robert Plant – “Raise the Roof”: Two voices of their respective genres and generations strumming through low-key jammers and dusty stompers produced by T Bone Burnett and backed by Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot.  On paper this seems like it should kick butt, and guess what: it does. Bonus points for covering one of the best Calexico songs.

– Black Midi – “Cavalcade”: Man, this shit is bonkers. Like if Beefheart was was a 22-year-old kid from London who was was into xbxrx and Yes.

– FACS – “Present Tense”: My other nod for potential AOTY. Dense, paranoid soundscapes and noisy psychedelic madness (the drugs, not the genre.) Would fit nicely between Sonic Youth and Haunted Horses. I listened to this more than any other new record this year.

– J. R. G. C. – “Ajo Sunshine”: If you’re here reading this, then you probably know about Dreamdecay, which means you know they’re the best band in America and also means you know how much this rules. Carry on. 

– Low – “Hey What”: Here we are entering the 4th decade of Low, and they just keep getting better. Other than maybe Wire has any band been more consistently great over a longer period? From a structural standpoint, these songs aren’t that different from what Low do best: slow, sad, gorgeous repetitive melodies. It’s the dressing of these melodies in harsh noise and aggressive volume that gives this beauty fangs and makes it something truly unique.

– Pino Palladino and Blake Mills – “Notes with Attachments”: Two studio wizards coming together to create a damn-near perfect statement. Jazzy, chill, emotional, grooving, minuscule and massive. This record covers a lot of ground and is clearly made by masters of their craft crafting masterfully. 

– Radiohead – “Kid Amnesia”: A bit of a cheat to rerelease two of your best albums, but what gets this release on the list is the third album of mostly unreleased tracks from those sessions. What could have been just a clearing house of ideas actually works remarkably well as a stand-alone record, and when played in context with the other two opens up whole new frontiers to well-trodden ground. It’s like finding new rooms you didn’t know existed in a house you’ve lived in for years. 

– Shame – “Drunk Tank Pink”: Look, Idles are fine, but I feel like they’re a little overrated. They’re good, I get it. But if you’re looking for that particular brand of obnoxious, self-aggrandizing angular post-punk, my money is on Shame. Energetic, bold, precise and rocking. Brad says they sound like Art Brut, but I was never into those guys either, so I don’t know. But this record rips.

– Spirit of the Beehive – “Entertainment, Death”: Is sound-salad a thing? Like, where you mix every sound you’ve ever heard together and they somehow turn into songs? Audio stew? Tonal goulash? Anyway, this record is great and messy and doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve heard in a long time.

You can tune into KWNK 97.7FM for new episodes of our collaborative radio show of new music, local bands, and more every week! To celebrate the end of 2021 ~ the year live music returned ~ we released a special episode that asked community members to reflect on their favorite shows! Use the player below to listen and learn more about community radio at