HeadCount’s Top 10 Albums of 2021

As expected, HeadCount is full of music lovers of all different tastes and genre preferences. Yes, in case you were wondering, we do have a “musicvibez” channel on Slack and are constantly sharing music with each other, and discovering new favorites along the way. So, to celebrate the end of 2021, here are Top 10 essential albums from our staff — in no particular order:

  1. Planet Her — Doja Cat (submitted by Katrina Vassallo, Field Operations Manager & Artist Liaison)
    • Planet Her is Doja Cat’s third studio album, released on June 25, 2021. There’s no surprise that Katrina decided on this album for her submission, as it spent 4 weeks at number 2 on the Billboard 200 Chart AND broke the record for the biggest opening day for an album by a female rapper on Spotify. The album features Young Thug, Ariana Grande, SZA, The Weeknd, to name a few, proving Doja Cat’s versatility and talent for nailing various genres and incorporating elements of reggaeton, disco, and afrobeat. Doja Cat has been nominated for several GRAMMYs, including “Kiss Me More” for Record Of The Year, Plant Her for Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album, among others. 
  2. A Few Stars Apart — Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (submitted by Sophie Webb, Events & Partnership Manager)
    • Lukas Nelson and his band Promise of the Real released A Few Stars Apart on June 11, 2021. Nelson has described this album as a “testament to finding a human connection: between close family and friends, as well as one’s own heart. These 11 songs reveal what it means to come home again, to be still, and to find community—and yourself.” Like many of us, the beginning of the pandemic felt strange and still for Nelson, and was the first time Lukas Nelson hit pause. He spent the beginning of the pandemic with his parents, Annie and Willie Nelson, as well as his brother, Micah in Austin, TX. “As terrible as the pandemic has been in so many ways, for my inner peace, I was able to take a lot of good from this time. I was able to pause and reflect.” Here’s to carrying on the peace and stillness with us into 2022. 
  3. The Hands of Time — Weedie Braimah (submitted by Sam D’Arcangelo, Director of Cannabis Voter Project)
    • Released on September 24, 2021 through Stretch Music, The Hands of Time is an hour and 9 minutes and explores the African diaspora as its central theme. Weedie Braimah was born in Ghana and raised in East Saint Louis, IL — is a master of the djembe, a West African drum with a hollow wood body and animal skin stretched over the top. Braimah effortlessly blends the beat of the djembe with spoken word, rap, funk, and synthesizers to give us The Hands of Time.
  4. SEIS — Mon Laferte (submitted by Lee Van Put, Director of Digital)
    • Chilean singer/songwriter, Mon Laferte, released her sixth studio album, appropriately titled SEIS, on April 8, 2021. Living in Tepoztlán, Mexico for the last 2 years, this album is heavily influenced by Laferte’s life in Mexico; celebrating the culture in Laferte’s unique way. Of the album, the singer says “With this album, if I had anything, it was time. I had time to really listen to the songs, to rewrite, and that’s something I could never do.”
  5. Screen Violence — CHVRCHES (submitted by Chris Reed, Regional Coordinator - DC, KY, MD, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV)
    • Scottish trio CHVRCHES released their 4th studio album, Screen Violence, in August of this year. Just like most of us using Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Meet to stay in touch with family and friends, CHVRCHES began the album by sharing ideas through video calls. As the name suggests, the album explores themes of loneliness and fear “on screen, by screens and through screens.”
  6. SOUR — Olivia Rodrigo (submitted by Aziza Genglik, Social Media Marketing Manager)
    • Who doesn’t remember their first heartbreak? Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album explores various genres like pop-punk, alternative pop, and bedroom pop ballads and takes the listener through a journey of angst, heartbreak, jealousy, and everything in between. Rodrigo is able to seamlessly blend sounds that remind us of 2000s punk and 2010s pop and has secured her spot as fan and critics favorite. SOUR has been named the best album of 2021 by Billboard and Rolling Stone and has been nominated for many GRAMMYs including Album of the Year and “Drivers License” for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Rodrigo herself is nominated for Best New Artist. 
  7. TEMPORARY HIGHS IN THE VIOLET SKIES — Snoh Aalegra (submitted by Kellen Edmondson, Field Director)
    • Los Angeles-based Swedish singer Snoh Aalegra released her third studio album, TEMPORARY HIGHS IN THE VIOLET SKIES, in July of 2021. Mentored by Prince himself and inspired by Whisten Houston to become a musician, it’s clear that Aalegra has taken lessons from Prince very seriously. This album is dreamy yet loud, and the blend of Aalegra’s voice with features from Tyler, the Creator creates an unmatched listening experience. This is a name worth remembering, and the album was nominated for Best R&B Album at the 64th Annual GRAMMYs.
  8. Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal (submitted by Sarah Weill, Administrative & Finance Manager)
    • Various artists like Marcus King, Billy Strings, Bob Weir, and many, many more came together to record a 3 hour and 16 minute album, covering Neal Casal’s work. It’s clear how many lives Neal touched in his 30+ years as a musician, and his talent has led him to becoming a member of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and bands like Circles Around the Sun, and Hard Working Americans, to name a few. Proceeds from the album benefit The Neal Casal Music Foundation, which provides music education to children in New Jersey (Casal’s home state), as well as connects musicians with mental health services. 
  9. Far In — Helado Negro (submitted by Briana Boyd, Artist Relations Manager)
    • Roberto Carlos Lange, better known as Helado Negro, released Far In as a follow up to 2019’s critically aclaimed album, This Is How You Smile. Clocking in at an hour and 8 minutes, Far In takes the listener through a steady and comforting listening experience. The singer’s gentle voice and soft-focus disco groove reminds us of sunshine and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.
  10. Be Here Instead — Parker Millsap (submitted by Whitt Bell, Director of Partnerships & Events)
    • Singer/songwriter Parker Millsap blends blues, Americana, country, and rock effortlessly in Be Here Instead. Named one of Americana Music Association’s emerging artists of the year in 2014, Millsap hasn’t stopped reaching new heights. When Rolling Stone asked Millsap what he’s discovered about himself with the album, he responds “the importance of being gentle and open.” Be Here Instead takes us through surprising beats, folk stomps and hollers, and the message of “stop looking ahead / be here instead”.