The 50 Best Albums of 2021 So Far: Staff Picks – Billboard

0607 Midyear Albums List 2021 billboard 1500 1623080501 compressed ProxyEgg The 50 Best Albums of 2021 So Far: Staff Picks - Billboard

For emo and indie fans who grow up equally enraptured by Jeff Mangum and Jeff Rosenstock, no release this year has been more thrilling than Florida quartet Home Is Where’s latest LP. A sprawling opus even at just six tracks and 19 minutes, I Became Birds is bursting with vitality in every corner, enthralling and surprising and curious and funny as s–t. Call it folk-punk and you’re about halfway there, but you’re probably safer just calling it “rock,” since it’s the only thing the album does consistently throughout its many unexpected turns. It might make you injure yourself stage diving off your living room sofa; it might make you recognize parts of yourself you’d never quite identified before, it might make you finally buy that damn harmonica. — A.U.

J. Cole, The Off Season

On J. Cole’s highly anticipated sixth album, the rapper distances from his expected formula, centering a handful of features and taking a more playful approach to his lyricism, while maintaining his impeccably unique rhyme schemes. Album standouts like “my.life” and “pride.is.the.devil” recruit both emerging and established rap favorites — 21 Savage, Morray and Lil Baby — who introduce equilibrium for Cole’s solo cuts, making The Off-Season exciting for both day-one Cole fans and newcomers. At the time of his release, Cole also delved into another ambitious endeavor — professional basketball — giving extra meaning to the album’s title. — NEENA ROUHANI

Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert & Jon Randall, The Marfa Tapes

These three Texas songwriters retreated to the remote high desert town of Marfa (population 1,831, give or take) to record this stripped-down, harmony-drenched, just-keep-the-tape-rolling, 15-song set whose undeniable lo-fi charms led it to debut at No. 1 on the Americana/Folk Albums chart. Replete with between-song chatter and can’t-miss song titles like “Am I Right or Amarillo,” the album also contains an unvarnished take on “Tin Man,” the original version of which won Lambert song of the year honors at the 2018 ACM Awards. — THOM DUFFY

Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee

It seems like Jubilee is just what the doctor ordered after an isolating, year-long pandemic. When writing her third studio album, indie rock singer-songwriter Japanese Breakfast (a.k.a. Michelle Zauner) revealed, “I’ve said everything I needed to say about loss and grief, and I was excited to take on a new part of the human experience.” Jubilee is a thematic departure from 2016’s Psychopomp, 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet, and even Zauner’s best-selling memoir Crying in H Mart. The sparkling LP  sets an optimistic tone from lead track “Paprika,” in which Zauner sings: “How’s it feel to be at the center of magic?” — alluding to the alt star’s long-overdue return to joy. — MIA NAZARENO

Source of this news: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/list/9583295/best-albums-2021-so-far/

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