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LOUDER FEATURES: Louder's Albums of the Year 2021

Yet again, 2021 is filled with stellar albums and making an all-encompassing list on a small music blog may be near impossible. However, each of our team have selected their top albums of the year to celebrate some of the best we've heard!

Charlotte Claber, Founder/Editor-In-Chief:

Every year, I'm hit with more and more stellar records, it's enthralling and has me wanting more from so many artists but then it gets to this point of year where we're picking an album that represents the year for us or stood out as a record that set a bar for the future of that artist. Special mentions go to Echo by Of Mice & Men and Within Each Lies The Other by As Everything Unfolds. This year though was truly owned (at least for me) by Holding Absence, a sophomore album that set the record straight and told us that Holding Absence are truly one of the best bands live and on record that the UK alternative scene has right now. The Greatest Mistake Of My Life is a record full of every emotion, the cathartic opening Awake into Celebration Song is an unforgettable opener. A simple celebration of life that has you knowing where you belong and live? this song hits even harder. There's so many layers to this record, mystifying songwriting and musicianship on all levels.

There's a decidedly atmospheric undertone throughout the record, emotionally charged lyrics will have you feeling every single part of the songs. Tracks like Beyond Belief are a chance to recharge energy, the tempo and beats are infectious. If you're into all things emo, melodic and more, there's no way this album hasn't pricked your ears in 2021 but just incase you've been living under a rock, this truly is the record that will make you realise that the Welsh rock scene is thriving to the highest extent.

Charlotte Hardman, Senior Editor:

While this may technically be an EP as opposed to an album, I can’t help but feel like it is even more of an accolade when a band can say a lot with just a little – and with American Noir, Creeper have absolutely knocked that assignment out of the park. Dense, moody, with enough atmosphere to absorb you completely into their mystical dark underworld, these eight tracks have just as much gravitas to them as the fifteen that appeared on their 2020 record, Sex, Death, and the Infinite Void. Nestled in amongst the haunting poetic interludes is the sparkling lead single Midnight, which has one of the most indulgent, grandiose choruses that can be found anywhere across the band’s discography.

The definitive highlight, however, is when keys player and backing vocalist Hannah steps into the spotlight, oozing raw power from every line on Ghosts Over Cavalry. It is true that seeing Creeper absolutely steal the show at the Download Festival Pilot in July, my first proper return to live music since the start of the pandemic, may well have added to my infatuation with this record more than it would have in regular circumstances – but, if you are lucky enough to hear any of these songs live on their UK tour in December, I am more than confident that you will be fully in agreement with me by the end of their set!

Naomi Sanders, Deputy Editor:

It’s very rare for a debut album to kick the door down and completely floor everyone on the first listen, especially one that came out early in the year, and then to become a favourite when choice cuts come around at the end of the year. It happens, not often, but when it does, it shows the testament that the band have pulled out all the stops on this first outing. None more fitting of this than the self-titled record from New York’s Lovehoney, launching into heavy and beautiful blues/psychedelic rock that is stunning and soothing to hear. The loud and fierce moments are just that, as well as punchy and gritty when need be, whilst the softer moments are tranquil and gets the listener to drift off with the vibe and feeling in the lyrics. Dare it be said, this is a perfect album! Despite how small of a name they are currently, this band have created a perfect album and given rock the kick up the butt it needs. This year, the discussion of the “new wave of classic rock” came into conversation, but let it be said that this quartet are the ones leading the charge and will be sure to exude their amazing talent across the world. Today, New York; tomorrow the world, and Lovehoney with this record, are sure to take over it in the coming years.

Nathan Lagden, contributor:

Environmentalist progressive death metal from rural France is not the kind of thing expected to be on many AOTY lists; yet Fortitude, Gojira’s seventh studio record, has gained even more widespread acclaim than their previous highly-rated outing Magma. What’s more, while Magma eschewed the brutality of the band’s previous efforts for slower tempos and atmospheric builds, Fortitude has managed to beautifully marry the aggressive forwardness of records like From Mars to Sirius with these elements, culminating in something that sounds like the endpoint of the band’s evolutionary process.

The opening track Born for One Thing lays down an immediate marker of the band’s intention with Fortitude, as the track eases the listener in gently before unleashing a wave of pummelling sonic fury. The album’s stand-out track for me is Amazonia, which combines stunning musicianship with an urgent conservation message and killer riffs. On the other hand, Another World gives frontman Joe Duplantier the opportunity to demonstrate his vocal dexterity and for Gojira to integrate the atmospheric themes explored on Magma into a huge anthem. Meanwhile, tracks such as Sphinx and Into the Storm provide more thunderous examples of the band’s trademark heaviness reimagined for this new phase of their career, while The Chant integrates tribal sounds into an uplifting melody. Through blending these disparate styles, with Fortitude Gojira have been able to craft something that has been loved by old-school fans and newcomers alike, boosting their already stellar reputation and cementing their name as one of modern metal’s true greats.

Alex Swift, Contributor:

“Are my sacrifice’s not extravagant” Kristin Hater screams on I Who Bend the Tall Grasses - a piece which if we are to take the song by its literal interpretation see’s our front-woman begging, nay, pleading God to kill for her. See, while her third album as Lingua Ignota sees her dialling back raw aggression for a more subdued and haunting affair, the albums given a spine-tingling and intense quality by strings, organs, and chorale like vocals, making songs like Order of the Spiritual Virgins or Repent Now, Confess Now harrowing, albeit beautiful pieces to sit through.

The album itself and Hayter’s delivery gives the impression of a deranged sermon except rather than being here to spread the gospel, she’s here to expose the sin and debauchery within religion, cutting into concepts of morality and accepted wisdom in doing so. Her words and melodies descend like fire on those who call on their lord to punish those who they deem undeserving of a kingdom called paradise. So committed was she to this concept that in making the record she moved from California to a rural community near communities who follow the deeply fundamentalist and god-fearing interpretation of Christianity, owing to the absolutely arresting post-metal ballad of Pennsylvania Furnace. One of the most moving moments in any artists musical career happened recently when Hayter had to have critical spinal surgery, which she couldn’t afford amid a time when no artist was allowed to tour. In response, fans came forward on mass to donate. That’s not to mention the community of fans she’s amassed through her intense yet real stories of abuse and, vitally, survival. By writing an album which chastises the darkest desires of those who preach hate, while casting sympathy of those searching for meaning only to find that in the wrong place, Hayter has made an album which as well as being socially poignant, is also introspective and relevant to the lives of many. It’s an absolute triumph of storytelling and emotion.

Sean Hubbard, Contributor:

Radical by Every Time I Die is an absolute masterpiece of an album. Most bands would struggle to even equal something like 2016’s Low Teens, but ETID have pulled it out of the bag again, innovating even on their 9th studio album. Keith Buckley’s lyrics are again the centrepiece of the record, and opening the first song Dark Distance with the line “spare only the ones I love, kill the rest,” sets the tone for the rest of the record.

Once most bands reach their 9th record they tend to start playing things safe, but not the Buffalo hardcore gang, who instead write one of the most breath-taking songs of the year in Thing With Feathers, featuring a beautiful appearance by Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull. The fact that it comes after one of the heaviest songs on the record (All This And War), which features current ’68 and ex The Chariot frontman Josh Scogin is only the more impressive, as every feels like it flows.

Despite ostensibly being an album about one of the most turbulent times of Keith Buckley’s life, Radical still retains that signature ETID party sound, which many other bands have tried to emulate but none have succeeded. And whilst things may have appeared tumultuous in the ETID camp in recent weeks, even if this is their last album then they have left a legacy of excellence that few (if any) can live up to. But like every ETID album, it feels like there’s still more to come.

Sadie Maude, Contributor:

My album of the year has to be Sydney based pop-punk band With Confidence’s self-titled release. Despite the three-year break since their last album, and the oh so very original title, this was the comeback we all needed, and it was in true With Confidence style.

The album is warmly familiar and presents banger after banger. Even though it doesn’t necessarily stop you in your tracks or show a different musical pathway for the band, it is exactly what you would expect of them, and sometimes you just need that.

With Confidence are known for their classic hits that really stick with you over the years like Voldemort and That Something. In this album they really add to that eclectic mix with tracks like ‘What You Make It’ and cheesy hit Big Cat Judgement Day. With Confidence are here to keep pop-punk alive while also creating meaningful songs that live up to their message.

Play mostly any With Confidence song and you’re likely to be smacked in the face with an instrument filled chorus absolutely oozing with pure serotonin, something which this album more than delivers on. With Confidence is all about growth, after overcoming a pretty significant obstacle as a band, they’ve come out the other side of it better than ever, creating a collection of songs that demand being blasted on full volume, after all, is there any other way of listening to them?