The best albums of 2021 — part 3

A couple of these selections hit Pitchforkian notes which the other two foiled, I trust.

12. Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

From its Day-Glo sleeve colors to its genre flitting, this English foursome’s third album commits itself to, in the words of its punkiest tune, playing the greatest hits. Ellie Rowsell’s accounts of erotic misery don’t bore because she and her mates don’t know from sodden (exception: “Feeling Myself”). And their sense of histrionics is unfailing: “The Beach” opens with a quote from the first scene in Macbeth and proceeds to heat up to a fever pitch.


12. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

Happier Than Ever brims with the assurance of an artist who understands what she can get away with; that’s why she’s happy! The self-descriptive “Billie’s Bossa Nova” and “Oxytocin,” the euphoric weirdo manifesto “Lost Cause,” the primer in Cartesian ontology “Therefore I Am” — every one boasts a fillip to remember it by. Superior to her debut, or perhaps she taught me how to listen to her.


10. Carly Pearce: 29: Written in Stone

Credit: Allister Ann

With Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally helping with the tunes, she can’t lose, but this Kentuckian has a firm delivery matching the anatomical rigor of the writing. Here’s a woman, a miss-to-missus-and-back-again according to one lyric, figuring out an adulthood she assumed would come sooner but accepting her folly.


9. Playboi Carti – Whole Lotta Red

In an interview with Michaelangelo Matos about his book , Eric Harvey praises Ice Cube’s Death Certificate for “carv[ing] out a space for reality rappers to explore not just the sensationalistic and tabloid aspects of American racism, but the day-to-day realities of life in the ‘hood.” An Expressionist product of social media obsessives’ absorption of info, this Georgian abjures intelligibility for the sake of aerosolized sprays of phonemes that may or may not harden into words. Full sentences like Ice’s don’t interest him. So why does his second album, released about a year ago, work? Its old school video games beeps and Simon Says whooshes complement Playboi’s intermittent observations (“When I go to sleep I dream about murder”) that in other contexts might frighten white people as much as Death Certificate‘s “Bird in Hand” did.

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