BY: JOEY REAMS
Half of 2021 has gone by, and artists from all different genres have been released already. Thankfully for you, we only care about the indie and alternative rock albums. To help you find your next favorite band, we’ve found some of the best albums of 2021’s first half. These are just a few of our choices. Let us know if there’s any that we missed!
Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks of God
To kick off this list, we have Manchester Orchestra’s sixth studio album, The Million Masks of God. This is the Atlanta-based indie band’s follow-up to their 2017 A Black Mile to the Surface, and it did not disappoint. The band previously released three songs from this album before its official released at the end of April, including “Bed Head,” “Keel Timing,” and “Telepath.” Many critics had positive reviews for the album, saying it was a complimentary extension of their last album.
“The Million Masks of God is an outstanding album that matches, if not marginally outdoes, its predecessor,” said Jordan Blum at Consequence of Sound. “It’s not only Manchester Orchestra’s crowning achievement but also one of the finest amalgamations of indie rock/Americana/indie folk in years. Every aspect is written and performed impeccably, with track sequencing that highlights both the variety of the material and the wisdom of its concepts. True to its intentions, then, The Million Masks of God is a gorgeously tuneful and thought-provoking gem.”
Best Songs from the Album: “Bed Head,” “Telepath,” and “Angel of Death”
Sir Sly – The Rise and Fall of Loverboy
We liked Sir Sly’s The Rise and Fall of Loverboy so much that we reviewed it ourselves! The Orange County Indie trio used their time in quarantine to try and recreate the magic they made with “High,” their hit single from their 2017 sophomore album, Don’t You Worry, Honey. The album went through the ebbs and flows of a relationship, and every song represented a different stage of Loverboy’s life. Although the album didn’t land on any major charts, the band went on tour with lovelytheband.
“Sir Sly’s third studio album takes the listener on a rollercoaster of emotions that closely resemble a relationship, as one would guess from the title,” we said about the album. “From the start of the album, the listener is submerged in the feelings of a new relationship, something fresh, risky, and exciting. A few songs later, the listener starts to feel the first few bumps, eventually leading to a rocky decline and a satisfying conclusion that left listeners feeling they’ve grown with the album.
Best songs from the album: “Are We Having Any Fun?” “I.M.G.,” and B!!!rds.”
Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
Julien Baker’s Little Oblivions makes it on our list once again simply for its brilliance and intimacy, and we don’t want you to miss this one. Little Oblivions is an intimate third album from Baker, oftentimes speaking about her own struggles with sobriety and mental health. Baker struggled with substance abuse in the past but found support in the straight-edge punk scene in Memphis. Bakers has grown to fame through both her solo career and as a member of the indie rock band Boygenius, alongside Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.
“After two critically lauded albums of raw, powerful alt-folk — as well as a rapturously received collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus as boygenius — Memphis-based singer-songwriter Julien Baker has burst forth with a third effort that’s so fully formed and viscerally human, it might as well have its own pulse,” said Adam Feibel of Exclaim!
Best Songs from the Album: “Hardline,” “Faith Healer,” “Bloodshot,” and Song in E.”
St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home
St. Vincent released her long-awaited sixth studio album, Daddy’s Home, via Loma Vista just last month and it’s already widely considered a fan favorite. The Dallas-based singer has previously shared a few singles from the album, including “The Melting of the Sun,” “Pay Your Way in Pain,” and “Down.” The first was co-produced with Jack Antonoff, lead singer of indie-pop band Bleachers, who also provided various instrumentations for the song. Fans were also treated to a Saturday Night Live performance from St. Vincent on April 3rd of this year. Virtually every critic has given this album rave reviews of four stars or beyond.
“It’s masterful stuff: a full conceptual realisation, filled with great melodies, deep grooves, colourful characterisations and sonic detail that reveals itself over repeated plays,” said Tom Doyle of Mojo. “Even if its heart is in the ’70s, Daddy’s Home is a keeper for the decades to come.”
Best Songs from the Album: “Pay Your Way in Pain,” “Down,” and “The Melting of the Sun”
Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
Last but not least, we have Wold Alice’s Blue Weekend, which was just released this month. The group promised new material was on the way back in November of 2019, then in January of 2020, the head of their record label ‘Dirty Hit’ announced that the group would spend the first half of the year working on new music. Now that it’s released, the long-awaited album has hit No. 1 on UK’s and Scotland’s charts and top 10 in Australia and Ireland. So it’s safe to say this is another hit album for the band, which has released two other previous records.
“A bittersweet, transitory snapshot, and yet timeless: much like Wolf Alice’s work, which deals in both kinds of emotion with great skill,” said Kate French-Morris of Thefortyfive. “‘Blue Weekend’ is a ballsy idyll of feeling: the sound of a band satisfying themselves rather than proving themselves, and completely filling the space they’ve carved out over the years.”
Best Songs from the Album: “The Last Man on Earth,” “No Hard Feelings,” and “How Can I Make It OK?”