2021 was a great year for music, in our opinion. From amazing debut bands like In The Mourning and nightlife to debut albums from musicians like The Band Camino and Olivia Rodrigo to returns from bands like Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! and The Summer Set, this was a very notable year.
This year also marked the return of live shows for a handful of musicians. We were able to feature so many musicians on our site this year including Niki Demar, COIN, Yam Haus, Action/Adventure, Rise Against, The Aces, and The Word Alive. If you are interested in viewing these photo galleries by our wonderful team of photographers, you can do so by clicking here.
The For The Punks team put together a list of some of their favorite music of 2021. From favorite albums, singles, debuts, music videos, album artwork, live performances, and more, this is the list to best represent the variety of For The Punks.
This is For The Punks Best of 2021: Music Edition.
Our writer Sean Mulligan’s favorite album of the year is Adele’s November album 30. His three favorite tracks from the album are “Oh My God,” “Cry Your Heart Out,” and “I Drink Wine.”
Sean picked this release as his album of the year because, “Adele opened up so many artistic avenues on this album. “Oh My God” is one of her most danceable songs ever. “Cry Your Heart Out” reconnected her to the jazz roots that played so heavily on her debut album, 19. “I Drink Wine” is Adele’s classic songwriting sound with a really interesting story and message. I think the album hit so many notes so well. It’s really a testament to Adele’s versatility.”
Along with Adele’s release, Sean really enjoyed the music video for WILLOW’s song “transparentsoul.” This song is on WILLOW’s album Lately I Feel Everything that was released in July.
Sean says, “Willow pushed culture with this song and overall release. She had such a cool narrative that fans could follow, from performing a tribute to her mom’s former metal band to this beautifully grunge visual and the eventual album. I love the fish eye shots and the wardrobe is fantastic.”
His favorite live performance was Jazmine Sullivan’s Tiny Desk because it is, “Just a masterclass in vocals and class.” Watch it here.
Janet’s favorite album of the year was Wolf Alice’s Blue Weekend. She recommends listening to “The Last Man on Earth,” “Smile,” and “The Beach.” Janet says, “Gritty, vulnerable and beautiful all the way through. Blue Weekend takes the traits of a classic Wolf Alice record and elevates them to new levels. With their strongest lyrics yet, Blue Weekend takes us to deeper emotional places than we’ve seen from them before.”
Along with Wolf Alice’s June 2021 album, Janet enjoyed the “As I Try Not to Fall Apart,” the newest single from White Lies. This single is from their next album set to release in 2022.
Watch the music video for Wolf Alice’s song “Smile” here:
Jasmine’s favorite album of the year is Red (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift. She recommends listening to the songs “Come Back…Be Here,” “The Very First Night,” and “I Bet You Think About Me.”
Jasmine says, “I love Taylor’s storytelling and the way she’s able to combine nostalgia with new beginnings. Each of these songs offers a unique perspective on love and relationships, while also sonically exploring different avenues.”
Along with Taylor Swift’s Red release, Jasmine enjoyed watching Taylor perform “All Too Well” on SNL. Jasmine says, “she [Taylor] was able to convey so much raw emotion and story through that performance.” Watch the performance here:
Her favorite music video of the year is “Don’t Go Yet” by Camila Cabello because it combined storytelling, fun, and so many elements of family and heritage. Jasmine says, “I love the way she implemented choreography and her family values while making something uplifting and catchy.” Watch the video here.
Some other 2021 releases that Jasmine enjoyed include releases from Gracie Abrams, Cate Canning, Silk Sonic, Ashe, and James Arthur.
Jasmine’s favorite album artwork of 2021 was the artwork for the album Groupie by Cate Canning. This artwork was done by Emily Hoang.
Kailyn’s favorite album of 2021 is When Facing the Things We Turn Away From by Luke Hemmings. She says, “I’m a little biased because I’m already a 5 Seconds of Summer fan, but this album showcased Luke’s individual talents so well. Because it was a solo project, he was able to tap into much stronger, more personal emotions.”
She recommends listening to “Starting Line,” “Mum,” and “Comedown.” Kailyn shares, “The three songs I chose had (in my opinion) the strongest lyrics and composition. They were the most vulnerable, therefore, being the most powerful.”
Kailyn’s favorite music video of 2021 is Lana Del Rey’s video for “Chemtrails Over the Country Club.” Kailyn shares, “Lana’s music videos always nail aesthetic and visuals. This one was honestly kinda odd at times, but in a way that wasn’t out of the ordinary for Lana. It felt like watching a short film.”
Kailyn also enjoyed the debut album from Olivia Rodrigo, SOUR.
When it comes to favorite album artwork, Kailyn loves what Lucas Garrido worked on with Halsey for their August album If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power.
When it comes to live performances, Kailyn loved watching videos of Harry Styles live, specifically performing his song “Fine Line.” Kailyn says, “I’d include every performance/the full show if I could.”
Kailyn would also like to add, “I don’t know how much it counts as a new release, but this year Taylor Swift started releasing her re-recordings which is SUPER exciting!! The vault tracks have not disappointed and I’ve loved revisiting old favorites.”
Karalyn’s favorite album of the year was Glow On by Turnstile. She recommends listening to “Mystery,” “Holiday,” and “T.L.C. (Turnstile Love Connection).”
Karalyn says, “This album is a new direction for Turnstile. It didn’t fail. Turnstile was my top artist on Spotify this year because of this album. It’s hard to explain, it’s just really good and filled with a variety of sounds. Along with the album release, they’re one of the first hardcore punk bands, if not the first one, I’ve seen perform on television. They were featured on Seth Meyer’s late night show. That’s one of my top performances of the year.”
She also wants to add, “Along with their performance on Seth Meyers, I’ve enjoyed watching the videos that Hate5Six publishes to his account. There are so many videos to explore and I recommend it. I also enjoyed watching Mannequin Pussy, Pinkshift, and Meet Me @ The Altar perform for the first time this year.”
Other favorites of Karalyn’s include FallFiftyFeet, Fiddlehead, Scowl, One Step Closer, Mini Trees, Japanese Breakfast, Dying Wish, Angel Du$t, GILT, We Are The Union, Snail Mail, Save Face, Lil Nas X, Easy Life, Alien Boy, Meet Me @ The Altar, Pinkshift, and Silent Planet.
Karalyn’s favorite music video is “Ocean View” by Easy Life. She says, “Ocean View” by Easy Life is probably one of the best music videos I watched this year for a number of reasons. It’s a little weird though, don’t get me wrong. One of the biggest reasons I love it though is because it connects to their other music videos. It’s clear that that worked closely as a team for multiple videos to keep a consistent and thoughtful story. That’s inspiring to me not only as a music fan, but as a photographer who works with bands.”
On top of all of these wonderful releases, artworks, and performances, Karalyn thinks that two of the most notable things in the alternative/punk/core scene this year are the return of Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! and The Summer Set. She also loved and is inspired by the debuts of the bands nightlife and In The Mourning.
The Band Camino released their self-titled debut album this year. It is Kirsten Newbrough’s favorite release of 2021. She says, “Their debut album was long overdue and they did not disappoint.”
Kirsten recommends listening to the songs “I Think I Like You,” “Know It All,” and “1 Last Cigarette.”
Along with The Band Camino, Kirsten also enjoyed The Wldlfe’s album Repaint My Mind and The Summer Set’s single “Street Lightning” (yes, The Summer Set are back!).
Em Violet’s favorite album of 2021 was Wolf Alice’s June album Blue Weekend. Em says, “Wolf Alice are an incredible band whose music really speaks to me. This whole album blew my mind – from the instrumentals that make you feel something to the lyrics that really stick with you. This album will forever be on repeat.”
If you are looking for three songs to listen to from the album, Em suggests “Delicious Things,” “The Beach II,” and “Smile.”
Em doesn’t have a favorite music video of the year but would still love to share that, “I definitely don’t have a favourite as all of them are different in their own ways but connect deeply to the album – it’s simply art.”
Liza’s favorite release of 2021 is Cleopatrick’s album Bummer. She says, “The album just always puts me in a good mood and it reminds me a lot of the rock music I grew up with.”
If you are looking for three songs to listen to from Bummer, Liza recommends “The Drake,” “Family Van,” and “Good Grief.”
Along with that, Liza enjoys Kacey Musgraves’ music video for “justified” along with the album artwork for Spiritbox’s album Eternal Blue.
Liza also thought that it was cool to see Nine Inch Nails working with Halsey.
You can watch Kacey Musgraves’ video here:
Challen Carter’s favorite album of the year was Stand For Myself by Yola. She recommends listening to “Stand For Myself,” “If I Had to Do It All Again,” and “Barely Alive.” About the album, Challen says, “Yola is a great combination of country, blue grass, and R&B. Her use of vocals brings a lot of soul and grit while describing everyday people, for richer or for poorer.”
Along with this album release, Challen really enjoys the music video Yula created for the song “Stand For Myself.” You can watch the video here:
Precious’ favorite album of 2021 was How Flowers Grow by Scowl. From the album, she recommends listening to “Bloodhound,” “Seeds to Sow,” and “Four Walls.”
Precious says about the album, “Bloodhound is the first song of Scowl’s I’ve ever heard and it was the first song they performed live at Promcore 2021. It felt like a massive butterfly effect. Their music video reminds me of all the times I would get in trouble for talking in the library as a kid, hahaha! They’re officially my heroes for breaking that rule on camera with Go-Go Boots and Dr. Martens.
Vocalist and lead, Kat Moss, told Brooklyn Vegan’s Andrew Sacher about how Seeds to Sow happened by accident. It was originally supposed to be an instrumental prelude, but instead Kat just kind of went for it. I adore Scowl’s entire artistic approach in terms of not overthinking anything, and trusting themselves along with their ideas.
Four Walls is a brilliant depiction of how claustrophobic the mind can be. It’s an honest hymn about dissatisfaction. I’m personally obsessed with the song’s continuous I to III chord progression, as well as Scowl’s signature chromatics throughout the entire album.”
Along with Scowl’s release, Precious’ favorite music video of 2021 was Zulu’s “Straight From Da Tribe of Tha Moon.” Precious says, “It’s a Los Angeles classic. It’s illmatic on all levels, from Tyler Bradberry’s cinematography to Anaiah Lei’s Hello Kitty T-shirt. The song and music video kickstarted my entire hardcore awakening, and I’ve yet to come down from the high. I’ll forever marvel. The powerviolence quintet is headlining a renaissance.”
Precious also enjoyed listening to bedroom pop princess, Shak SYrn. She made her debut this year with three dazzling singles, “Ambiance,” “Vanilla Skies,” and “Best Friend Betrayal.” Precious says, “It’s the perfect background music for roller skating on Saturn’s rings and joining twist contests at Jack Rabbit Slims. The moon is her disco ball. When it comes to friendships, relationships, and/or letting go, Shak understands. It’s stunning how her music synchronizes with her own enlightenment and personal revelations.”
Precious’ favorite album artwork of 2021 is from Moki Kawaguchi, musically known as Lionmilk. He does all of his own artwork. Earlier this spring, he shared with Kexp’s Dusty Henry that after crafting his album, I Hope You Are Well, he hand-delivered his hand-dubbed cassettes to the mailboxes of friends and family he thought might be struggling with depression or anxiety during the pandemic. Dusty Henry also wrote that the album was later given an official release in January 2021 with L.A.-based label, Leaving Records, who also re-released Lionmilk’s 2018 album, A Real Rain Will Come.
“I can’t stop thinking about Omerta’s Promcore 2021 performance,” Precious says. “It’s live on the Scoped Exposure YouTube channel, and Spencer Pries did a FANTASTIC job capturing the experience. When the film premiered, I had to keep pausing it every thirty seconds because the crimson lighting, the Marilyn Manson speech, and the chaotic nostalgia were all too exhilarating to handle at once. The rhapsody Omerta inspires is indescribable. I can’t wait to (hopefully) photograph them again in OKC this coming February. It’s going to be an amazing birthday.”
Watch Omerta’s performance here:
Let’s be honest, we cannot include every single piece of music we listened to on this list. It would go on forever! There were so many releases that amazed us this year.
We received thousands of emails this year so we are sure we missed some as well. Thanks to all of the amazing bands, managers, publicists, etc., that reached out to us this year. If you’re looking to submit your music to us in 2022, please use the email firstname.lastname@example.org
We truly hope that you can find something new and inspiring in our list to take into 2022 with you. Let us know who you discovered in the comments!
Along with this written list, we took the time to put together a playlist for you to listen to. Check out the complete Spotify playlist here: