The Best Music Of 2021: NPR Staff Picks

What caught my ear and held it in 2021? There’s no coherent formula to the dozen albums that constitute this answer — except that they all came from a place of fierce and abiding commitment. You can hear it plain and clear on Jesup Wagon, which I flagged as a best-album contender the first time I encountered it. You can hear it resonating at a quieter, sadder frequency on KIMBROUGH, which beautifully memorializes a loss from around this time last year. And you can feel it just as palpably in the songs I’ve compiled from 12 other noteworthy albums, most of which could be swapped in above with little objection (at least, not from me). We’re living in trying times, and what I hear in this music is exhortation — a reminder that we’re not alone, and a nudge to keep moving forward.


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