With the pandemic still at large, 2021 was another tough and unusual year for the music industry. With live music coming back slowly, this year saw some incredibly new indie albums. Some of those got pushed back while others were directly influenced by the experience of lockdowns and isolation.
Not only did 2021 see great debut releases by the likes of Girl In Red, The Lathums or Dry Cleaning, it also saw amazing follow up records by the likes of Shame or IDER, while one of the most anticipated sophomore efforts arrived in the form of Sam Fender’s Seventeen Going Under. Here is our top 10 list of the best indie album 2021.
10. Shame – Drunk Tank Pink
With their second studio album Drunk Tank Pink, Shame have truly found their voice. While they were already one of the hotly tipped post punk bands when they released their debut album Songs Of Praise in 2017, their new album takes things to a whole new level.
Our verdict: “With Drunk Tank Pink, Shame have channeled their frustrations and used unhealthy energies to create a new album which will excite and surprise fans in equal measure. It’s an album that gives us an interesting glimpse into the bands realities, opening a window to a new dimension.”
9. Girl In Red – If I Could Make It Go Quiet
It is only fair to call Norway’s girl in red a sensation. The 22 year old bedroom pop artist has been captivating listeners with her honest lyrics about mental health and romance since the release of her first EP in 2018. Since then, Marie Ulven Ringheim has become a queer icon through songs like Two Queens in a King Sized Bed or You Stupid Bitch. Her debut album, If I Could Make It Go Quiet, features some of her best work today and leaves us desperate for more.
8. Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
Dry Cleaning are arguably one of the most exciting post punk bands at the moment. Their signature style is the delivery of clever, introspective lyrics along the route of spoken word poetry. Their debut album New Long Leg is only going to cement their status.
Our verdict: “Unlike myself when listening to ‘New Long Leg’, their work is acerbic, sarcastic, rarely pleased, occasionally animating in an up-front manner. It’s not even a matter of fault-finding; the narratives are simply amused by being, and that’s the charm of Dry Cleaning, and that’s the charm of ‘New Long Leg’; a gnashing debut.”
7. The Joy Formidable – Into The Blue
With life coming to a halt in 2020, Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable, like many others, found themselves stuck in one place for months on end rather than touring the world. It may be for that reason that their latest effort Into The Blue is not only one of their most coherent but also also one of the best of their more than 10 year career.
Our verdict: “Those absences of noise will have you missing it, though such a foray is a rarity on Into the Blue. Many of those content with The Joy Formidable’s tenure wouldn’t have expected such an exclamation mark, but the band’s latest goes hard, leading any reviewer to overuse the word ‘noise’.”
6. The Lathums – How Beautiful Life Can Be
One of the most exciting debut albums in 2021 comes from indie rockers The Lathums. Having been likened to The Smiths, The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys by avid journalists, the young quartet have given us an album well beyond their years.
Our verdict: ” Age is just a number, after all. Yet, it still feels pertinent to mention here, given how incredibly well-formed How Beautiful Life Can Be, their debut album, sounds. This record could convincingly be attributed to a band two, three, four albums into their career.”
5. Snail Mail – Valentine
Having only arrived this November, Snail Mail’s sophomore album Valentine more than deserves a spot on the best albums of 2021 shortlist. Following on from her debut album Lush, written at only 17 years of age, the record takes you through the romance and heartbreak, the blood and tears that now 22-year-old Lindsey Jordan has experienced since.
Our verdict: “In Valentine, Jordan has crafted a story of heartbreak, with a dramatic rise and fall played out by a remarkable voice and vulnerable lyrics. We should consider ourselves lucky to have Snail Mail walk us through a red-hot pain with this much grace.”
4. Alfie Templeman – Forever Isn’t Long Enough
At merely 18 years, Alfie Templeman is one of the most exciting indie pop artists coming out of the UK at the moment. After an array of singles, this May has seen the Bedfordshire teenager release an 8-track mini album which contains some of his most substantial work to date. Taking inspiration from the likes of Fleetwood Mac or Tame Impala, Forever Isn’t Long Enough is an unashamed pop record that leaves the listener craving for Templeman’s debut album proper.
3. Ider – Shame
London duo IDER released their sophomore album Shame earlier this year. The record follows on from their 2019 debut Emotional Education. For Shame, Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville were able to work without the formalities of a label or the limitations of the industry and it shows.
Our verdict: “Each and every device utilised by IDER – powerful vocal interplay, juxtaposition of musical identity that reads like the much-used black house/pink house meme – is impactful on a human level. Shame is the album that means the world to IDER, and it shows.”
2. Sam Fender – Seventeen Going Under
It is safe to say that Sam Fender’s sophomore album Seventeen Going Under deserves a spot on this shortlist. The Geordie Springsteen is easily one of, if not the, most exciting rock artist coming out of the UK at the moment. His second full length will cement this status further.
Our verdict: “Sam Fender’s album Seventeen Going Under is a beautiful followup to his debut. It battles with anger, pain and anxiety which is mirrored through the constant contrast of explosive guitars and gentle pianos.”
1. Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
It is no surprise that Wolf Alice’s third album Blue Weekend was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize 2021. Loved by fans and critics alike, the album is not only their best yet but also one of the best indie rock albums in recent years.
Our verdict: “There are albums you recommend, and there are albums that you recommend. This one is the latter. If you have had any interest in Wolf Alice, you must listen to this album. Then show your family. Then show your friends. Music this good deserves to be shouted from the rooftops. Wolf Alice have created a masterclass in their own kind of music on Blue Weekend, and who are we to ask for anything more.”