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The POP Stream's Top 10 Vinyl LP's of 2021

Updated: Oct 26, 2023


The honesty and authenticity of these songs gives the album its emotional resonance, but Claud has the bona fide pop ear to back it up – it’s little wonder they were the first signing to Phoebe Bridgers’ new label, Saddest Factory last year. From the evocative melodies to the impenetrable production, there’s a real precision; every vibe is deeply and deliberately measured. The four song run that starts with ‘Ana’ and ends with ‘Jordan’ is a masterclass in melancholy, pulling on the heartstrings in a way that feels intensely genuine.

Instrumentally and stylistically, ‘Super Monster’ is true to the all-embracing ethos of bedroom pop, with Claud pulling from a wide arsenal of sounds to flit between genre boundaries: some hints of funk-pop and blog rock on ‘Gold’, Latin vibes on ‘In or In Between’ and pop punk on ‘That’s Mr Bitch To You’. At this point, this approach to pop is so widespread that it almost isn’t notable. This is Gen Z; genre tribalism is over, if you want it. But again, it’s the naturalness in how Claud pulls it off that makes ‘Super Monster’ feel so exceptional. Dance, cry, think about someone in particular, fall in love with it overnight. -NME by Mia Hughes


“Inside” is a concept album meant to be listened to from beginning to end. For instance, songs like “Two” and “Until it Doesn’t Hurt” are excellent, but they are more impactful when heard in the context of the rest of the album. The idea of the outside — as juxtaposed to the alienated inner-worlds of the narrators — is immediately introduced via city noises integrated into the opening song “Seven.” Those same sounds of honking cars and construction work close out the album at the end of the last song, aptly titled “Inside.”


This is yet another timeless entry into the annals of indie rock concept albums. Mother Mother skillfully plays upon a number of classic influences to create a work which weaves nostalgia into its fabric while still managing to stand strongly on its own. The narrative simultaneously feels relatable and larger-than-life. Ultimately, “Inside” pairs a ghostly sound with dramatic storytelling that will haunt the listener in the best way.


Long Lost feels like it’s meant to be heard in sequence during a single sitting, although at an hour long, that’s unlikely to happen often. Short interstitial skits that seem to be taken from an old 60s TV show, or crafted to imply that, also punctuate the flow. The opening ‘Mine Forever’ establishes the mood with its smooth countrypolitan groove and twangy Duane Eddy guitar. There’s a clear sense that Schneider is referencing an earlier era in country pop although refracted through a slightly askew prism. Lyrics about longing, lost love and redemptive or dissolving relationships are secondary to the often audacious production and sound. Early single ‘Not Dead Yet’ takes doo-wop, meshes it with rockabilly and Roy Orbison to create something undeniably catchy, yet dreamlike, in its combination of genres.


Relish in this sumptuous look back into an Americana that may have never existed other than in the mind of Schneider, an auteur who crafts this delightful, sometimes challenging conceptual piece without a hint of pretentiousness or affectation. It’s a major work from an important band, one that hopefully doesn’t get Long Lost in the hectic music industry shuffle.


Throughout ‘When You See Yourself’, the frontman strains his voice less than on past records – which would sometimes muddle lyrics, but cut through any instrument with prickly tension – though it’s still incomparable: tender and filled with tragedy one moment, electric and fearless the next. We’re unlikely to be totally rid of guitars on a Kings Of Leon album any time soon, but there are more daring rhythms and more sophisticated production here. It might be thanks to the band’s super-producer Markus Dravs, returning for a second record after ‘WALLS’, but importantly it’s perhaps a result of Kings Of Leon being more curious and energized in themselves.


If there was a hump between 2011’s dreary ‘Come Around Sundown’ and 2016’s poppy ‘WALLS’, they’re long past it now. We’ll be seeing the Kings for a long time to come – and if every next album is like this one, that’s a cause for celebration. -NME by Ella Kemp


Today We’re the Greatest is full of bangers. A stretch of several songs in the middle of the album find Middle Kids pushing and pulling on their own boundaries, whether that means rolling out electronic squiggles and galloping horns (“Questions”), building an achingly beautiful power ballad atop the modest chop of a banjo (“Lost in Los Angeles”), making a sparse arrangement somehow feel warm and lush (“Golden Star”), or using the heartbeat—recorded from a sonogram—of Joy and bandmate Tim Fitz’s baby boy as a rhythmic element (“Run With You”). Every step of the way, Middle Kids sound like they know where they want to go and how to get there.

That’s a place most bands never experience, especially so early in their run. Middle Kids would do well to let a seam show here and there as they continue to grow and change, but on Today We’re the Greatest, they make great music sound effortless.


With her undeniable talent and the immediacy of her lyrics, Marie Ulven obviously has already garnered mainstream recognition. Despite her early success, she takes risks on the album that show she’s not one for complacency.

Ulven is an artist with so much to say. Love, pain and mental health are by no means new songwriting subjects, but her unwavering candor with which she discusses them makes it difficult to turn away. On the final track “it would feel like this,” Ulven succeeds in making it go quiet with an entirely instrumental track of spare piano and dramatic strings. These daring instincts are what elevate girl in red’s music beyond her status as the wunderkind of the moment. If Ulven continues to match the bravery of her lyrics with aural courage, then there’s no telling how far she’ll go. -Paste Magazine by Clare Martin


Sven Gamsky a.k.a. 'Still Woozy" releases his sentiments through this album, giving listeners an opportunity to do the same through hearing and, more importantly, feeling the music. Gamsky is able to successfully fuse his “bedroom pop” style with the sounds of his other favorite genres, without losing the integrity of his usual motifs: echoing vocals, light background instrumentals, and flowing tempos. With the release of If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is Gamsky is able to tell a longer story than his previous singles and EP allowed, and listeners can relish in his admittance of and sarcasm towards mental health struggles. This debut album’s lyrical prowess and diverse production does not disappoint, and hopefully fans won’t have to wait another four years to see what Still Woozy combines with his signature light-hearted sound next. -Taste Makers Magazine by Amy Oh


Tracks from the hit 2019 album Fuzzybrain are a common staple in every indie pop fan’s playlist. And also appeared in The POP Stream's Top 10 Vinyl Albums of 2020 With viral hits “Can I Call You Tonight?,” “Hot Rod,” and “False Direction,” this collection quickly became a fan favorite.


However, 21 year-old Sloan Struble, more commonly known as Dayglow, brings an 80s-inspired take on bedroom pop with his sophomore album Harmony House. Though each track brings something different to the collection, a few stand out in captivating the listener’s attention.


Though each track in Harmony House stands out on its own, they are cohesively tied together with vintage influences and an upbeat vibe. Harmony House successfully outperforms Struble’s hit debut album, illustrating noteworthy maturation and growth in the artist’s songwriting and production. - The Gateway by Areeha Mahal


As the somewhat blase title of Benny Sings’ 8th LP suggests, this ten-song collection is very much business as usual. Smooth cuts of slow jams indebted to R&B, neo soul and synth pop shimmer in the light of Benny’s slick production and knack for melody. One of the most satisfying elements of Benny’s sound is its restraint, layers are minimal with every instrument earning its spot leaving zero clutter - ‘Music’ is clean listening at its finest. The formula works well but that doesn’t mean the LP is lacking in surprises. Strings flourish beautifully in the closing bars of ‘Sunny Afternoon’, multiple vocals flicker playfully in and out across the piano-led strut of ‘Lost Again’ and a glorious sax solo bursts through the mid-section of ‘Run Right Back’. The varied guest spots bring different dimensions to the world of ‘Music’ - a pitch-shifted Mac DeMarco graces highlight ‘Rolled Up’ while rapper/singer KYLE offers up a blissful vocal on the sweet ‘Kids’. While the phrase ‘business as usual’ can often carry a negative sentiment, in Benny’s case it’s a wonderful thing. -DIY Magazine by Sean Kerwick


Lucy Dacus examines places of isolation and despondency, it’s comforting to know she’s not making her journey alone. Her boygenius bandmates Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker make welcome contributions, providing gentle backing vocals in two songs. If the long list of collaborators credited on Home Video is any indication, Dacus belongs to a strong, supportive community of artists who’ve sharpened her arrows and strengthened her storytelling. Home Video is a bold statement, a powerful post-adolescent text in its own right. Dacus looks to her past without judgment of her younger self, exploring years of rigidity and repression with empathy and care. Though she’s unsparing in her depiction of disturbing memories, she’s never caught in cycles of sorrow and regret. She gives her listeners permission to shake loose the beliefs they held as children and dive headfirst into the clean, cool waters of the future. Write your own moral code, she suggests; write your own worldly music. -Pitchfork by Peyton Thomas


NOTABLE MENTIONS:

AN EVENING WITH SILK SONIC by Silk Sonic

If this had been released on vinyl it would have been ranked very near the top of this list.


THE WALLS ARE WAY TOO THIN (EP) by Holly Humberstone

This short collection of 6 songs is very powerful and full of emotion. Had it have been a full LP it would most likely have appeared on this list.



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