Best Music Of 2021

author PP date 09/01/22

As is customary each year, music magazines across the globe gather around and form an arbitrary ranking of the best music released that year. Since music is largely a matter of taste, no magazine typically agrees, not necessarily even internally on what is the best album, the second best album, and so forth.

So here at Rockfreaks.net we have always taken a different approach: we think it's far more important to try to capture all relevant albums from a given year of release that will have some significance a few years down the line. That is to say: if you look back at the albums we've picked three years down the line, will you still remember them and go: "oh yeah, that IS a good release", even if you hadn't listened to it for a while.

So our writers were given the usual task: pick and mix your favorite records from 2021 and combine them into an ordered list of sorts. No particular minimum or maximum limit for each list. The only catch? They had to be releases you'd reflect back on three to five years from now, thinking along the lines of "damn, that album was good", or ones that you'd keep returning to as they pass the test of time, thus cementing their place among the highlights in their given genre when we look back at the decade gone by at some point in the future.

Thus whatever you take interest in from below, you can rest assured that we have listened to it many times over and ultimately found that these records satisfy from the first track to the last. And usually, the ones in top three or top five are typically assumed to become classics in their respective genres as time passes by. PP

Petteri ‘PP’ Pertola

I'm primarily covering punk, hardcore, and related genres with occasional ventures into other genres as well. With between one and two hundred album reviews a year for more than a decade straight, you can be sure that if an album is on this list, it's still worth a listen a few years down the line. 2021 in particular has been a fantastic year for music, where I'd wager that each album in the top 13 on my list (if not more of them) are outright classics in their respective genres. Great to see NOFX still releasing an album this good this late in their career, and newcomers like Talk Show Host, Parting and Good Sleepy delivering incredible records in their own right.

Honorable Mentions:

Aleksi ‘AP’ Pertola

While artists have had trouble touring due to the fluid situation around pandemic restrictions, it seems like most of them put their downtime to good use and hit the studio, delivering one of the best record years in memory as far as my taste is concerned. But let’s still hope they can do both in 2022... With nearly two decades invested into this webzine now, most readers should have a pretty good idea about the kind of music that speaks to me, but let it be said once again: just as the list of my favourites releases of 2021 goes to show below, genre is of no importance to me as long as there is ambition, a desire to experiment or innovate, or simply just unparalleled technical prowess on display, I am probably going to like the record. Judge for yourself:

Kristoffer ‘KW’ Witt

This list has been one of the most difficult to compile in quite some years. Except for maybe the top 4 entries, my favourites constantly shifted but in the end I decided on this top 10 and a bunch of honorable mentions in no particular order that I believe anyone should check out - many of them could have just as well broken the top 10. As somewhat of a prog-head, some of the biggest releases and comebacks in the genre saw the light of day in 2021, whether it be the nigh impossible task of following up the classic Between The Buried And Me masterpiece, “Colors”, with another masterpiece in the form of “Colors II” or Vildhjarta returning with their first full-length in 10 years (with over 80 minutes of new music). But also my ever-growing love for black metal saw some fantastic releases and on the core front Every Time I Die released one of the best hardcore releases of the decade while Devil Sold His Soul conjured up their career best and an emotional gut punch which became my second 10/10 for an album since I started writing for RF.net. Here’s to a, hopefully, just as awesome 2022 on the album front even though it’s going to be difficult to top this year!

Honorable Mentions:

  • ERRA - ERRA (progressive metalcore)
  • Leprous - Aphelion (progressive rock)
  • Chevelle - NIRATIAS (alternative rock)
  • MØL - Diorama (blackgaze)
  • Spiritbox - Eternal Blue (metalcore)
  • Spectral Wound - A Diabolic Thirst (black metal)
  • Teenage Wrist - Earth Is A Black Hole (alternative rock / emo)
  • Pupil Slicer - Mirrors (mathcore)
  • Turnstile - GLOW ON (hardcore / indie)
  • VOLA - Witness (progressive metal)
  • Archspire - Bleed the Future (technical death metal)
  • Ethereal Shroud - Trisagion (atmospheric black metal)
  • Dödsrit - Mortal Coil (atmospheric black metal)
  • Biffy Clyro - The Myth of a Happily Ever After (alternative rock)
  • Frontierer - Oxidized (mathcore / noise)
  • CHVRCHES - Screen Violence (pop rock)
  • Holding Absence - The Greatest Mistake of My Life (post-hardcore)
  • Mastodon - Hushed and Grim (progressive sludge metal)
  • IOTUNN - Access All Worlds (progressive metal)
  • Violet Cold - Empire of Love (blackgaze)
  • Siamese - Home (pop metal)
  • Hail The Sun - New Age Filth (post-hardcore)
  • Trna - Istok (atmospheric black metal)
  • Lantlos - Wildhund (alternative rock / shoegaze)

Rune ‘RUB’ Bøgelund

Pretty much continuing where 2020 left off, 2021 has been yet another absolutely mind-blowingly awesome year in regards to new music released (and that’s basically the only positive thing to say about it…). Luckily, countless bands have utilized their time to the fullest extent and powered through yet another year without much touring, writing new material in hopes of live music hopefully soon becoming a possibility again. Personally, I can count the concerts I’ve attended this past year with a single hand, and although there have been other factors in play besides the pandemic, I at least got to see the magnificent Misþyrming in a live setting for the very first time - a gig I’m sure would be placed in the upper echelons of gigs, had 2021 been a completely normal year. In case you’re not familiar with my reviews, I can sum it up in a single word: extremity. With that in mind, I don’t really care much for genres in general, as long as it’s intense, aggressive and brutal - with the added elements of atmosphere, progression and technicality - and my list consists of all of that, plus even a few quirky picks here and there (although black metal definitely has been my go-to genre this time around). Enjoy!

Best albums:

Honorable mentions:

YOUR TURN

And with that note, dear readers, we invite you to list your favorite records of the year below in the comments section. Feel free to argue, praise, or defame if you so wish, but please do provide your own 'best of' list that consists primarily of records you know you'll be listening to in years to come as well.

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