2020 was a tough year to debut but 2021 wasn’t much better. The albums on this list represent all of the experiences on the spectrum, from those being carried on a wave bigger than they could imagine, to those taking a calculated risk, to those throwing caution to the wind and just hoping for the best. Some of these albums will cast long shadows, thresholds that will be hard to meet or surpass in the future (Olivia Rodrigo), while others fell just slightly short of the mark but hint at enormous potential (CHUNG HA). But the most important and horrifying thing all of these albums did was show how relentlessly time moves forward, a steady stream of novelty that (thankfully, sometimes regretfully) refuses to ebb.
Noriko Shibasaki: Follow my heart // Maggie Lindemann: PARANOIA
Pink Sweat$: PINK PLANET // SG Lewis: times
Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR // Jay Diggs: Jams
BALLISTIK BOYZ from EXILE TRIBE: Pass The Mic // Kazaki Morinaka: Gekokujou
Silk Sonic: An Evening with Silk Sonic // MIRAE: KILLA
CHUNG HA: QUERENCIA
Spiritbox: Eternal Blue