Best of the Year: Top 10 Albums of 2021 by Chris

Myles Kennedy
Myles Kennedy performs at Baltimore Soundstage in 2018. (Photo by Chris Smyth)

Where 2020 was mostly a lost year for music, 2021 became a banner year for the industry. While much of the industry is still working to recover from the massive toll that was forced upon them by the pandemic, we fans have been gifted a plethora of music this year. Vaccines got in arms, bands went back on tour, and new albums were released in droves. So many new records came out in 2021 that at times it was hard to keep track of it all. There were multiple times that I was surprised by a new release, or I realized that I had completely missed a new album by and artist I loved. It’s very possible that there are still a few records that I haven’t listened to that I am certain to love.

Here is a list of 10 albums that did make it into heavy rotation for me in 2021. Is it a completely exhaustive list of all the new 2021 records, I doubt it. But these records were getting played regularly on my record player and car stereo over the course of this year, and maybe you will find something new to enjoy heading into 2022.

1 – The Pretty Reckless, Death By Rock And Roll — 2/12/21

This is one of many albums delayed by the pandemic. The Pretty Reckless were originally scheduled to play in DC back in 2020 (RIP U Street Music Hall), and then rescheduled to play 9:30 Club. Neither show happened, but we were blessed with an early 2021 gift of Death By Rock And Roll. I had always been fairly ambivalent to The Pretty Reckless. I liked their music, but nothing ever captured me. That is, until this album. Taylor Momsen’s vocals are fantastic, and the song variety across the album make it an enjoyable listen.

2 – Dirty Honey, Dirty Honey — 4/23/21

After blowing up the rock charts in 2019, there was an excitement to see what would come next for Dirty Honey. The plan was for the band to fly to Australia in early 2020 to get into a studio and start on the next record. Those plans changed when the pandemic caused nations to close their borders to international travel. But the band was able to adapt, and the additional downtime became a benefit as Dirty Honey we able to write and record their first full length record. Released in the spring of 2021, the self titled LP continues where the self titled EP left off, pulling from the classic rock and roll sound that generations grew up with, and advancing it in a way that sounds fresh for a younger generation.

Read more about Dirty Honey and their latest album in our interview with guitarist John Notto and bassist Justinn Smolian from April, 2021.

3 – David Shaw, David Shaw — 5/7/21

I had this album on constantly throughout the summer. The back to back songs of “Something To This Feeling,” and “I’ll Be Your Man,” are summer songs encapsulated. A comfortable beach chair, a cold beer, and this album is a fine way to spend a sunny July afternoon. David Shaw, best known for being the lead singer of The Revivalists, released his first solo record this year, and it’s as enjoyable as any of his more notable band’s records. While it lacks the horns that are featured so prominently on The Revivalists records, it manages to keep that New Orleans groove that makes you want to listen.

Read more about David Shaw in our review of his recent performance at Union Stage.

4 – Myles Kennedy, The Ides of March — 5/14/21

In the midst of the pandemic, Myles Kennedy drove across the country from Washington to Florida to record his second solo record, and we are are all the beneficiaries of his trek. There are elements of Alter Bridge on this album in songs like “Get Along” and “In Stride,” but this is not an Alter Bridge record. It is also different than Year Of The Tiger, Myles’ first solo record. Myles carved out his own style with heavy use of the lap steel throughout the record. He also mixes in a blues heavy closing track in “Worried Mind,” and another gentle song that sounds like it was left off of Year Of The Tiger, “Wanderlust Begins.”

Read more about Myles Kennedy and The Ides of March from our interview with Myles from May, 2021.

5- Ayron Jones, Child Of The State — 5/21/21

This may have been my most anticipated album release this year. My introduction to Ayron Jones came a year prior to the album’s release when I was startled by the opening lines “The day my fucking mom abandoned me, was the day I learned to lie!” in the single “Take Me Away.” The heavy, incessant riff drives this song so hard that it made me excited to hear more, and the wait paid off. Songs like “Mercy,” a song full of lyrics reacting to the social unrest of 2020, show that Ayron has a lot to say, and is ready to use his platform to express himself.

6 – Mammoth WVH, Mammoth WVH — 6/11/21

For those who are unaware, the WVH in Mammoth WVH are the initials of the band’s creator Wolfgang Van Halen. And whether you want to embrace or ignore the last name, what’s clear is that Wolf is ready to chart a legacy all his own. Like Prince and Dave Grohl before him, Wolf wrote every song, played every instrument, and sang every song on this album. That is a tall task for any artist, but especially for one making their debut album, and the offspring of a man forever linked to rock and roll greatness. From the hard rocking “The Big Picture,” and “Don’t Back Down,” to the grungy, Alice In Chains-esqe “Circles” with it’s harmonizing vocals, Wolf took various approaches to the songs on this album, and as a whole, put together an excellent rock record.

7 – Crobot – Rat Child EP — 6/18/21

While this album came out in June, I didn’t discover it until December, but I’m glad I did. Crobot is a band that I’ve seen listed on festival lineups for a while now, but for some reason I never checked out their music. But I saw this 4 song EP one day and decided to give it a listen. Now I have a new band to really dive into in 2022, because this EP got me excited with their prominent featuring of the bass guitar. A guest appearance by Anthrax’s Frank Bello certainly helped in that case, I’m sure. A good balance of deep rough sounding, and soaring vocals, over a groove heavy rock sound give this band a unique sound that captured me immediately.

8 – Tremonti, Marching In Time — 9/24/21

Mark Tremonti just seems to know exactly what I want in my heavy metal- heavy punishing guitar riffs with melody. Mark Tremonti gets plenty of much deserved praise for his guitar playing, but his singing is underrated. The man may not hit the high notes of his Alter Bridge bandmate, Myles Kennedy, but he has a nice tone to his voice, and he knows how to accentuate it in his music. This is by far the metal record of the year that I have played most, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon in 2022.

9 – Volbeat, Servant Of The Mind — 12/3/21

This album was also a long awaited release for me. After releasing two singles, “Dagen For,” and “Wait A Minute My Girl,” which features both a piano and saxophone, over the summer, I was excited to see what direction Volbeat were going to take with their new record. What came forth was a good mix of heavy riffs, and their signature rockabilly metal. The opening riffs on songs like “Becoming,” “The Sacred Stones,” and “Shotgun Blues” make it clear that this is one of Volbeat’s heavier albums in a while.

10 – Tom Morello, The Atlas Underground Flood — 12/3/21

Tom Morello released two albums this year. Following up his 2018 album, The Atlas Underground, Morello released The Atlas Underground Fire in October and then The Atlas Underground Flood in December. On the original Atlas Underground album, Morello worked with numerous artists and took a big dive in to the musical world of EDM. That theme continues into these two albums. The two latest albums are supposed to be companions of each other, with Fire being louder and a bit more aggressive than Flood.

While Tom Morello is famous for his loud, aggressive guitar riffs, it’s the more mellow Flood album that quickly became my favorite of the three in The Atlas Underground series. That’s not to say the riff’s aren’t there on the Flood record, they are found throughout, and guest appearances by guitar gods like Metallica’s Kirk Hammet, assure that. But the overall calmer vibe of the record from song’s like “You’ll Get Yours,” “The Maze,” and “Raising Hell” featuring Ben Harper, make this record stand out from the others.

Leave a Reply