NPR
The Best Music Of 2021: NPR Staff Picks

Tom Huizenga

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Arlene Acevedo, Aline Vasquez, Alexis Carter and Tiahna Sterling of Recap.
Innova Recordings

Arlene Acevedo, Aline Vasquez, Alexis Carter and Tiahna Sterling of Recap.

A continuing pandemic, an attempted coup d'etat at our Capitol and further racial injustice — just a few things on my mind this year. In perilous times, music often comes to my rescue, and I leaned hard on music again in 2021. Thankfully, musicians hunkered down in studios with robust results. The thrill of discovering Emily D'Angelo's plush voice was a highlight this year, as was facing the staggering symphonic force of the 90-year-old composer Sofia Gubaidulina and delighting in the debut album by a quartet of teenage percussionists. These are among my rays of hope shining through another embattled year.

Top 10 Albums of 2021

▶ LISTEN ON SPOTIFY

• Wild Up, Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine
• Arooj Aftab, Vulture Prince
• Emily D'Angelo, enargeia
• Toumani Diabaté & London Symphony Orchestra, Kôrôlén
• Anna B Savage, A Common Turn
• Recap, Count to Five
• Lucy Dacus, Home Video
• Žibuoklė Martinaitytė, Saudade
• Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Andris Nelsons, Sofia Gubaidulina: Orchestral works
• Lucas Debargue / Gidon Kremer / Kremerata Baltica, Zal The Music of Miłosz Magin

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Top 10 Songs of 2021

▶ LISTEN ON SPOTIFY

• Toumani Diabaté & London Symphony Orchestra, "Elyne Road"
• Anna B Savage, "Baby Grand"
• Arooj Aftab, "Baghon Main"
• Tyshawn Sorey & Alarm Will Sound, "For George Lewis"
• Lucy Dacus, "Thumbs"
• Recap, "Hedera"
• Baby Rose, "Go"
• Will Liverman, "Two Black Churches: No. 2, The Rain"
• Morgen Wurde, "Weiht"
• Max Richter & Baltic Sea Philharmonic, "Flowers of Herself"

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