[You can read all of the Mercury’s “Top Stories of 2021” here.—eds]

It was another weird year for music as an industry, with concert tours still being postponed or all-out canceled left and right. But music as an art form still flourished, and these seven albums beloved by Mercury culture writers proves it. Here are our favorite albums of 2021—by no means an exhaustive list.

to hell with it by PinkPantheress

This year, along came another musical wunderkind that made you wonder just what the hell you were doing as a teenager. PinkPantheress blew up on TikTok, but not being a regular user of that particular timesuck, I was fortunate to hear her catchy track “Just For Me” on BBC Radio 1. Clocking in at a succinct 18 and a half minutes, her debut mixtape to hell with it walks the line between feeling like a familiar throwback and altogether fresh. Wispy vocals (which remind me of FKA Twigs, if Twigs had more of a pop-y sound) tangle with drum’n’bass beats which you’ll quickly find taking up a welcome residence in your brain. — JANEY WONG

Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice

It’s always a lovely feeling when one of your favorite bands releases new music that, while distinct from their past albums, still captures the same level of love you’ve had for their previous work. I’ve always been constantly enraptured by the London alternative rock band Wolf Alice ever since I first heard them hellp bring to life the vibrant emotions in the iconic film Trainspotting. With their new album Blue Weekend, the group has somehow outdone themselves to make what may be their best album yet. I’ve had it on repeat for ages. — CHASE HUTCHINSON

Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast

From the Mercury’s previous piece on Jubilee:
Jubilee feels less literally autobiographical than Japanese Breakfast’s earlier work, and considerably more danceable, flirting with synthy pop while still heavy on poetic lyrics, as in the track ‘Posing in Bondage’: ‘When the world divides into two people/ Those who have felt pain and those who have yet to/ And I can't unsee it, although I would like to.’ Those lyrics, nestled in the middle of such a purposefully joyful album, make Jubilee feel all the more perfect for our times. Zauner’s been through some shit, she’s felt pain, and she knows she can’t unfeel it. She’s not ignoring it, but through some processing, she’s found a way to live with it, and be joyful anyway. — BLAIR STENVICK

Screen Violence by Chvrches

I discovered Chvrches via their somewhat notorious (and now hard to find) 2013 cover of Prince's "I Would Die For U", and it's fair to say that ever since they've straddled a line between sensitive aughts power pop and lyrically fraught 80s vaporwave anthems. 2018's Love is Dead put their progressive politics admirably forward, but it's 2021's Screen Violence that truly fuses the band's waring cultural influences through the flickering lens of classic horror movies. Everything from Hitchcock's bottle blondes to John Carpenter's final girls get smart, danceable deconstructions, and the band's never sounded sweeter spitting acid. — BEN COLEMAN

Nine by SAULT

British neo-soul-ish group SAULT’s third album, Nine is a relentlessly steady flow of “Cool”. It was impossible for me to guess what I’d get from track to track before just letting go of expectations and letting the album consume me. This album pulled off the complex trick of capturing a beautiful melancholy that I hadn’t experienced since I was a kid first hearing “So Tonight That I Might See” by Mazzy Star, while stylistically fierce with its unapologetic layers of instrumentation and messages of Black Pride. A track like “London Gangs” is a stunning example of their ability to express societal trauma the way other artists can concerning personal suffering. [Editor’s note: Nine isn’t currently available to stream.] — RAY GILL, JR.

Home Video by Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus demands your attention. The indie singer-songwriter has always had a knack for dynamic sounds, but Home Video is full of moments where I found myself leaning towards the stereo to catch every note and then jumping up and dancing moments later, the speakers exploding with sound. Her lyrics tell stories of young queer crushes after Christian camp, a friend’s absent father who does little to remain in their life, and loss, so much loss. From the 8’s synth keyboards, the 90s indie rock guitar, and the stories settled firmly in the past, Home Video is full of deep nostalgic vibes, something a lot of us need when the future can look so bleak. — EMME LUND

DEACON by serpentwithfeet

“So glad the soil has yielded something more than bad luck” begins DEACON, the second LP and fourth chapter in the unapologetically queer love saga of Josiah Wise, better known as serpentwithfeet, setting the stage for his most uplifting testament to Black, gay love, while alluding to the more troubled romance of 2018's soil. Wise then goes on to reveal “Distant men ain’t fine as they used to be,” before chronicling a series of transformative love affairs, described in the closing track “Fellowship” as “the blessing of [his] thirties […] spending less time worrying, and more time recounting the love.” — MX. DAHLIA BELLE