At the end of August I managed a post on my favourite music of the year to date, intending to round it out in December. Before Christmas I was scouring the usual lists of the best albums of 2021 to see what I’d missed, which led me to at least three that would make my own: Arlo Parks’s summery Collapsed in Sunbeams, Halsey’s Reznor-produced If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, and the Glaswegian techno of Chvrches, who had never quite clicked for me before, with Screen Violence.

But I’d managed to hear a few more worthy albums in between. In September I became as obsessed with Andrew W. K.’s God Is Partying as I had been with 2018’s You’re Not Alone; together they’ve made him one of my favourite acts of recent years, which I never would have guessed; I didn’t pay much attention to I Get Wet in the early 2000s, let alone his albums in between. Something about his blend of Steinman-esque theatrical rock, motivational speaking, and straight-up heavy metal hits me right in the middle-aged heart. It helps, too, that it’s great for singing along to in the car.

In October I did a deep dive into a band I’d first heard years ago but had never properly explored, probably because of their reputation for tweeness. As a long-time fan of another band that gets dismissed as twee, I should have known better. Suffice to say that I’m now a fan of Belle & Sebastian, and 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress was my not-of-last-year album of last year.

Also that month I caught up with Garbage’s No Gods No Masters, released a few months earlier. It reminded me of everything that was so exciting about their first two albums, and might well be their best work since those; it also prompted me to introduce my son to the joys of “Vow” and their other ’90s hits, which he immediately added to his Spotify playlist.

ABBA’s long-awaited Voyage contained plenty that brought to mind past glories, with some genuinely excellent songs (“Just a Notion” was my favourite) and others that reminded you that there were some pretty ordinary tracks on even their best albums. It isn’t on my list of the year’s best, but I’m glad they made it.

As well as new ABBA, November brought new Elbow, a band I’ve loved without reservation for almost twenty years. In the 2020s they’re none more dad rock, but with two kids aged 10 to 15, I’m none more dad. “Six Words” and “What Am I Without You” are guaranteed middle-aged tearjerkers, the Field of Dreams of 2021 UK indie, and Flying Dream 1 is a worthy addition to their catalogue.

In December, again belatedly, I was listening to Lana Del Rey’s Blue Banisters, her second release of the year and to my ears the better one. She’s another artist who had never really got her hooks into me before, apart from one or two songs, but this time certainly did.

Here, then, were my favourite albums of 2021.

12. Halsey, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
11. Chvrches, Screen Violence
10. Arlo Parks, Collapsed in Sunbeams
9. Lana Del Rey, Blue Banisters
8. Kings of Convenience, Peace or Love
7. Garbage, No Gods No Masters
6. Olivia Rodrigo, Sour
5. Elbow, Flying Dream 1
4. Killers, Pressure Machine
3. Wolf Alice, Blue Weekend
2. Andrew W.K., God is Partying
1. My son’s unreleased album of January–March

1 April 2022 · Music