Happy new year, everyone! What that means for this blog is that it’s time for my annual best albums of the year post. Keep in mind while reading that this list is strictly MY opinions, nothing else, so there is no need to be offended that most of these albums are from the same genre. Furthermore, I am by no means a professional music reviewer. I do not have access to every album that is released, & certainly not advanced access to them. I discover new music mostly through the satellite radio in my husband’s vehicle, YouTube, & word of mouth from friends. I’m really old school & don’t even have a Spotify account. Yes, I am crazy & still buy & use actual CDs! One of these days when my car dies, I don’t know what I’m going to do if its replacement doesn’t have a CD player. I literally might pay to have one added to a new car- totally not kidding, y’all!
Anyway, this year, in an effort to diversify my list a bit, I decided to include suggestions from friends on their choices for best albums of the year. You’ll find those at the end of this post, along with a list of my choices for most anticipated albums of 2022.
Also, you’ll notice these are all listed as number 1- that’s because I’m not the most tech savvy blogger & couldn’t figure out how to insert the pictures without the blog automatically restarting my list at number one. Insert massive eye roll.
Best Albums of 2021
- I won’t keep you in suspense. My choice for number one album of the year is Created From Filth & Dust by Lilith Czar. Some of you may know Lilith as Juliet Simms, her legal name, who previously performed under that name, as well as with the band Automatic Loveletter. She was also on the show The Voice years ago. Last but not least she is married to Andy Biersack from Black Veil Brides & they could easily win an award for hottest couple. But more importantly they are both highly intelligent talented people who seem to have a truly mature relationship. Anyway, enough intro- onto the music! This album is truly genius from top to bottom. There isn’t a bad or throwaway song on it. Lilith has always had a gorgeous voice but lyrically & musically she is at her most powerful here- & let me tell you, she kicks some serious ass! My absolute favorite is the anthemic Anarchy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1i9jQw5fjk) which even my 5 year-old daughter loves & requests on a regular basis. Other favorites are the poignant Lola (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9qrW3Zkch0) & Diamonds to Dust (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSoj-W7YriA). It’s downright criminal that songs like these aren’t played on every radio station in the country. A lot of the inspiration behind this album was the sexism that Lilith has faced over the years, being told by record labels “Oh, you need to dress like this & sound like this. Be sexy- but not TOO sexy. Do this- but don’t do that!” etc. Nowhere is this inspiration more evident than on the powerful song King (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vly7rbfHqg). Not only is it lyrically powerful but the bass line is banging. Working with Sumerian Records has clearly given Lilith a freedom she’s never had before & I am so here for it! There is so much more I could say about this album but I’ve got many more to write about, so let me just end it by saying this- LISTEN TO IT! Regardless of what genres you usually like, you will NOT be disappointed.
- See What’s on the Inside by Asking Alexandria– These 5 British guys are like fine wine- they just get better with time. Every album they release tops the last one, & this one is no exception to that rule. From my very first listen of lead single Alone Again (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1G9DU4Rc9c), I was hooked. Lead guitarist Ben Bruce explained that this was the first album the band has made in years where they did it the old-school way: they all got together in one room & just jammed & wrote music. And boy, can you tell! The guitar riffs here are phenomenal & prove that Ben is definitely one of the best guitarists of the modern era. Lyrically & musically this album is a true masterpiece. Perhaps my favorite from this album is Faded Out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j9wWx5dKcs) which includes a supremely catchy guitar lick & lyrics that are so fitting for the depression that Covid has brought on or worsened in so many of us. Other stand-out tracks include Never Gonna Learn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YrmwaDOEPw) & The Grey (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfOamKyv1Lg).
- The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood by Ice Nine Kills– I’ve never been interested in horror movies & probably never will be, but that doesn’t lessen my devotion to this largely horror-inspired band. I’d heard of INK for several years now but had never really listened to them. However, when I saw that they did a track with Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach I was intrigued enough to give it a listen. It’s safe to say I’ve been addicted to the band ever since! I even read the novel American Psycho which was the inspiration behind the track featuring Jacoby called Hip to Be Scared (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozOb5FcnDf4) which is definitely one of my favorites off of this album. Not only does Spencer Charnas have a gorgeous voice (& face), he is obsessed with puns & finds ways, with his bandmates, to craft truly incredible lyrics that can speak to anyone, even those of us who haven’t seen the horror movies that inspired the songs. Be sure to check out Rainy Day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZMlDGdzysk), The Shower Scene (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGUdEZT7sGs), & Ex-Mortis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRNs79tzxUE). My daughter loves the latter one & frequently requests “Way Below,” as she calls it.
- Heart & Soul by Eric Church– This is actually a triple album because Eric Church decided to spend 28 straight days writing music in a cabin in the mountains of NC during the height of Covid lockdowns. At the end of those 4 weeks, he had way too much music for just one album so he split it into 3 albums. The man is a genius, y’all! Eric Church has a good voice of course but that isn’t what makes him special- what makes him special is his lyrical genius & the way he captures emotions in the stories his songs tell. Like so much of his work, these albums get better with every listen. There are so many good tracks here, but I’ll try to simplify it to only my top favorites. Be sure to check out the brash Stick That in Your Country Song where Church addresses everything from inner city violence & gangs to unemployment- not your typical country music fare, which is of course the entire point of the song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAX5XvdKRFk). Russian Roulette (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiSCFjQUwuY), Do Side, & Break it Kind of Guy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPFVMkklguU) are also highlights. It’s worth mentioning that part of what makes this triple album so good is Church’s long-time back-up singer Joanna Cotten. Church has never been afraid to let her shine but that’s never been truer than on this venture- & that’s a good, good thing.
- Ruthless by Gary Allan– Generally speaking I’m not much interested in musicians who don’t write their own songs. But I make an exception for Gary Allan because his voice is just so imperfectly perfect. It has that exquisitely gruff sound that makes it perfect for singing heartbreakingly sad songs- which for some reason I really love. This album got a lot of mixed or even negative reviews but I don’t care what the experts say- I love it. Yes, there are a few lines here & there that are corny & probably could have been better written, but taken as a whole, it’s still a great piece of work. Allan has a knack for choosing songs that make us face some of our less than comfortable emotions, that make us examine the less than perfect parts of ourselves, & that’s a lot of what I like about him. Temptation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI3LTkMqEAs) is just such a track. So is Slide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpuRg7x6YlU). I read a review that said this was a song about a man begging to be allowed to cheat- but that isn’t how I take it at all. I take it as a song that acknowledges that none of us is perfect & if we want to have any kind of long-term relationship (romantic of otherwise), we have to accept that we’re going to fail each other or generally be less than our best selves at times. The Hard Way (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di4EUrcyRcQ) is another great track that gets better with every listen. Lastly I want to mention Waste of a Whiskey Drink (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6fSXGLIP9w) which is actually the first song I heard from this album- & one that I immediately loved. Some have called this a misogynistic song but that isn’t how I see it at all. I see it as a song that calls out the problems with casual hook-ups & generally inauthentic relationships. Gary Allan is a heterosexual male so it only makes sense that he’d sing a song from that perspective, right? Besides, that are TONS of songs out there deriding men & all of their many faults, so let’s let the guys have their turn to air their grievances, ok? Besides, if you need a reminder that women aren’t always innocent victims, check out my previous blog post on toxic femininity. Enough said.
- Dearly Beloved by Daughtry– As I suspect is true for many other folks, I loved Chris Daughtry in high school & early college but hadn’t really listened to him for the past decade. However, as soon as I heard Heavy Is the Crown on Octane (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PPjXHC_NkU) I was hooked. Like many of the other albums here, this is one that I’ve appreciated more every time I’ve listened to it. One of my favorites is Asylum (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRKSb2jjg8Y) which is an incisive look at modern society, particularly in light of Covid- at least that’s how I take it. Another favorite is The Victim (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdMKMv747Qk), a super empowering song that I think we could all use these days. Also be sure to check out Changes Are Coming (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJxsvofC-p0).
- The Phantom Tomorrow by Black Veil Brides– Andy Biersack, being the genius that he is, has created yet another brilliant concept album. Be sure to read up on the back story to the album to fully appreciate it. My favorite tracks are Crimson Skies (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWqULtMh9lg), Scarlett Cross (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2A9Bbjlg84), & Fields of Bone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JR37XyIXqPg). I should also mention that this is the first album with Lonny Eagleton on bass & he has definitely proved to be a more than worthy replacement for former bassist Ashley Purdy.
- 3rd Degree: The Raising by Gemini Syndrome– If ever there has been a band who deserves so much more attention than they get, it’s Gemini Syndrome. Lyrically these guys write some of the most profound songs every created. My favorite from this album is IDK (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wzA14GcM_k) which is a play on the texting abbreviation for I don’t know as well as the words “I decay.” Brilliant, right? Lyrically I swear the band read my mind when they wrote this song. It will probably go down as one of my all-time favorite songs ever. Other stand-out tracks include Die With Me (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_naop2VCKCM) & Abandoned (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE4fGPelTHU).
- In the Court of the Dragon by Trivium– Like AA, Trivium is a band that seems to only get better with time. And like AA these guys are still only in their 30s- & yet this is Trivium’s 10th album!! As if songs like Feast of Fire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mue8XLsKYtQ), The Phalanx (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMoOqlhC-l4), & the title song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybekW8fZHH0) weren’t killer enough, the band also created fantastic music videos to go with them. The latter could actually be called a short film. Brilliant!
- Death By Rock & Roll by The Pretty Reckless– This was a very difficult album for Taylor Momsen & company to make due to the death of their long-time producer & friend Kato Khandwala. However, they still managed to turn out a great album. The title song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX6KILafIS0) is a banger with excellent guitar licks while Twenty-Five (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As03tlODkdw) is a hauntingly beautiful piece with an equally haunting music video that showcases just how much Momsen has grown up over the past few years. Another great track is And So It Went (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W-nlfhh8Uo) which features Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine.
- Servant of the Mind by Volbeat– Danish rockabilly
- Below by Beartooth– American hardcore punk
- You’re Welcome by A Day to Remember– American pop-punk-metalcore hybrid
- Bullet for My Valentine by Bullet for My Valentine– Welsh heavy metal
- You Will Be the Death of Me by Light the Torch– Metalcore super group featuring Howard Jones
- The Ides of March by Myles Kennedy– second solo album from Alter Bridge’s vocalist
- Kostolom by Slaughter to Prevail– A bit heavy for my usual taste but this Russian deathcore band is definitely worth a listen if you like that kind of thing. P.S. The lyrics are in English (the guitarist is actually British).
- Radical by Every Time I Die– Metalcore project out of Buffalo, NY
- The Million Masks of God by Manchester Orchestra– Indie rock band from Atlanta
- Manic by Wage War– Another metalcore band, this one from Florida
- Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish– I can’t say I’ve really gotten into Billie Eilish but I definitely respect her both as an artist & as a person
- Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night by The Bleachers– An Indie pop band from NYC
- Scaled and Icy by Twenty One Pilots- Another pop band that I can’t say I’ve gotten into but that I do actually respect
Most Anticipated Albums of 2022
- Halestorm– If Back From the Dead (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srT0pgC_yto) is any indication, not to mention their 4 previous albums, this forthcoming album is going to ROCK.
- Three Days Grace– I am obsessed with lead single So Called Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ViIny2YZH0). It’s literally been stuck in my head intermittently since the first time I heard it. It’s a banger & I hope the album will be full of similar songs. If there was still any doubt that Matt Walst can carry the band just as well or better than Adam Gontier did in their early days, this song erases it.
- Papa Roach– Between Kill the Noise (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_90GB5T73XI) & Dying to Believe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0s_xIEDnAw), Jacoby & company have already released 2 amazing songs that are both lyrically & musically on point for the world these days. I can’t wait to hear what else they have in store for us.
- Fever Dream by Palaye Royale– I’m convinced that anything these 3 brothers touch turns to gold. They’re just that good. Check out Paranoid (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7J2uP7RRnfQ), Punching Bag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WzprXZGoLs), & No Love in LA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qePhiiz7dtc) for a taste of what’s to come. I cannot wait.
- A Trigger Within– Irishman Jimmy Trigger (ex-fiance of Ashley from New Year’s Day) is the genius behind this up & coming LA band. His EP from a few years ago was brilliant & I can’t wait to see what this handyman (literally- that’s his full-time day job) has in store for us this year in his rock star line of work.
- Slipknot– While I’ll probably always prefer Stone Sour over Slipknot, there is no denying the genius of Corey Taylor’s heavier project.
- It hasn’t yet been confirmed but Swedish geniuses Avatar have released 4 new songs since their 2020 album, so I’m inclined to think they’ve got a new album in the works- I certainly hope so. All of these songs have been innovative & brilliant. Be sure to check out the haunting Going Hunting (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sQvH1LjFCw) with its lilting piano motif & the latest release Cruel & Unusual (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OH_CUc3pr84).
- Motionless in White blessed us with a new single this year so I’m sincerely hoping that means that another album is on its way. Check out Time Bomb which includes a lot more singing from guitarist Ricky Olson (https://youtu.be/49Ln8Suk0p4) as he shares the vocals with lead singer Chris.