KCRW Music Announcement

KCRW Reveals Best of 2021

KCRW Reveals Best of 2021
The albums, songs and artists that shaped the musical landscape of the past year

Santa Monica, CA (December 21, 2021) – KCRW has revealed its Best of 2021, the coveted list of the year’s best albums, songs, and artists. The annual Best Of recognizes the music that caught KCRW’s attention throughout the year. From ineffable gospel to astral punk, iconoclast jazz to bedroom pop, these are the sounds, words, and tastes that kept us moving, thinking, and inspired in 2021. 

I was so curious to see what music emerged in 2021 as artists everywhere lived, like we did, through a challenging year. The music that has come from this collective experience has been nothing short of brilliant, with intricacies and longing that reflect this particular time in history. What struck me most is that the music of 2021 has helped express the need to take care of not only ourselves, but each other. I and all of the KCRW DJs, as well as our fantastic music team, have shared our perspectives on the artists, albums and songs that moved and inspired us during the year. It is our honor to present you with KCRW’s Best of 2021.

Anne Litt, Program Director of Music

KCRW’s Best 21 Albums of 2021

Rarely does our team of opinionated, passionate KCRW DJs agree collectively on anything musically, let alone the #1 Album in any given year. This year is different.. The piece of art that across the board crushed us with its poetry, elegance, warmth, depth and precision is the debut from UK newcomer Arlo Parks “Collapsed in Sunbeams.” Congratulations to Arlo Parks and all of the artists that made it into the Best 21 Albums of 2021.

  1. Arlo Parks – “Collapsed in Sunbeams”
  2. Little Simz – “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”
  3. Cleo Sol – “Mother”
  4. Helado Negro – “Far In”
  5. Brittany Howard – “Jaime Reimagined”
  6. The Marías – “CINEMA”
  7. Tyler, the Creator – “Call Me If You Get Lost”
  8. St. Vincent – “Daddy’s Home” 
  9. Black Country, New Road – “For the first time”
  10. Dry Cleaning – “New Long Leg”
  11. Nation of Language – “A Way Forward”
  12. La Femme – “Paradigmes”
  13. Floating Points / Pharoah Sanders / The London Symphony Orchestra  – “Promises”
  14. DARKSIDE – “Spiral”
  15. Vijay Iyer with Tyshawn Sorey and Linda May Han Oh – “Uneasy”
  16. Arooj Aftab – “Vulture Prince”
  17. Sons of Kemet – “Black to the Future”
  18. Genesis Owusu – “Smiling with No Teeth”
  19. Meskerem Mees – “Julius”
  20. Clairo – ”Sling”
  21. Idles – “Crawler”

KCRW’s Best Emerging Artist – Gabriels

It’s hard to conjure suitable words to describe the feeling of being immersed in Gabriels’ music for the first time without sounding hyperbolic — “magnificent,” “breathtaking,” and “transcendent” come to mind — but these words exist to describe extraordinary things, and in the case of soul-R&B trio Gabriels, hyperbolic praise is appropriate.

Travis Holcombe, KCRW DJ and host of Freaks Only

As KCRW’s 2021 pick for Best Emerging Artist, Gabriels joins the distinguished list of artists who have received this endorsement in recent years which include: St. Panther, Black Pumas, Rosalía, Anderson .Paak, and Tom Misch.

KCRW’s Best 21 Songs of 2021 (listed alphabetically by artist)

  • Amber Mark – “Worth It”
  • Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar – “family ties”
  • Bo Burnham – “That Funny Feeling”
  • Dua Saleh – “fitt”
  • duendita – “bio”
  • Esperanza Spalding – “Formwela 2”
  • Gabriels – “Blame”
  • Hector Morlet – “Picture Frame”
  • James Blake – “Life Is Not The Same”
  • Julia Kwamya – “Wonderhow”
  • La Dame Blanche – “Veneno”
  • Lady Blackbird – “Beware the Stranger”
  • Lakou Mizik & Joseph Ray – “Ogou (Pran Ka Mwen)”
  • The Lazy Eyes – “Where’s My Brain???”
  • Lips – “Not Today”
  • Melanie Charles – “Woman of the Ghetto (Reimagined)”
  • Petey – “Lean Into Life”
  • Qrion – “Proud”
  • Serpentwithfeet – “Fellowship”
  • Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – “A Dream I Have”
  • Wet Leg – “Chaise Longue”

Be sure to tune in tomorrow, Wednesday, December 22, at 9:00AM, to KCRW’s flagship music program Morning Becomes Eclectic, co-hosted by Novena Carmel and Anthony Valadez for a three-hour special show highlighting KCRW’s favorite artists, albums and songs of the year. Personal picks from each individual KCRW DJ, as well as Michael Silverblatt’s Best Books of the year will also be revealed tomorrow morning, online at the Best of 2021 website.


For more information please contact:
Laura Cohen, LC Media, lcmediapr@gmail.com

About KCRW Music
KCRW’s hand-picked music programming is thoughtfully curated by actual people, not algorithms. It encourages real music discovery and delivers a truly eclectic listening experience. KCRW Music is helmed by Program Director of Music, industry veteran Anne Litt and a team of influential tastemaker DJs – Anthony Valadez, Chris Douridas, Dan Wilcox, Francesca Harding, Henry Rollins, Jason Bentley, Jason Kramer, Jeremy Sole, John Moses, José Galván, LeRoy Downs, Nassir Nassirzadeh, Novena Carmel, Raul Campos, Ro “Wyldeflower” Contreras, Scott Dallavo, SiLVA, Travis Holcombe, Tyler Boudreaux, and Valida. KCRW DJs are given one directive: “play what you love.” KCRW has hosted radio debuts and album celebrations for countless artists. Now household names, KCRW has been influential in helping launch the careers of such luminaries as Adele, Alabama Shakes, Anderson Paak, Angel Olsen, Beck, Billie Eilish, Brett Dennen, Coldplay, Eels, Fiona Apple, Gabriel Garzon Montano, Garbage, Gillian Welch, Janelle Monae, Jenny Lewis, Juana Molina, Kamasi Washington, Mac DeMarco, Natalia Lafourcade, Ray LaMontagne, Sofi Tukker, and Tame Impala, among many others. KCRW Music offers a robust array of music programming and content including nearly 100 hours of on-air music every week and a continuous curated stream of music, Eclectic24.

About KCRW
KCRW creates and curates a unique mix of content centered around music discovery, NPR news, cultural exploration and informed public affairs. KCRW is driven by the spirit of LA and delivers in innovative ways – on the radio, digitally and in-person – to diverse, curious communities around the corner and around the world. A community service of Santa Monica College, KCRW can be found on the air in L.A., Santa Barbara, Ventura, Mojave, Palm Springs, San Luis Obispo, and worldwide via the KCRW app or online at kcrw.com.

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