In all the years I’ve been listing my favorite songs and albums, this is probably the first year that I’ve had a better handle on the albums. That’s mainly due to my lack of radio listening compared to earlier eras in my life. Nowadays, my most frequent music consumption habit is one album at a time on Spotify.

Here are all the releases that pleased my ears (and my feet and brain, and all the rest of me) the most in 2021, including a number one that I’ve been obsessively re-listening to over and over in a way I didn’t realize was still possible.

18. Prince, Welcome 2 America: One of the most significant American musicians of all time left behind some interesting tracks.
17. Sting, The Bridge: I’m happy to join Mr. Sumner on his spiritual musical journey.
16. Courtney Barnett, Things Take Time, Take Time: Courtney keeps her guitar grooving along, and her singing sounds like a friend helping you to keep at it.
15. The Pretty Reckless, Death by Rock and Roll: Look to Taylor Momsen and her crew if you want to know where hard rock is thriving.
14. Lil Nas X, Montero: A lovely mix of colorful vibes and styles.
13. Andrew W.K., God Is Partying: When the “Party Hard” claims that the Almighty Father himself is partying, you believe it.
12. Damon Albarn, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows: The Blurry Gorilla guy makes some music that’s perfect for looking out at the ocean while standing on the edge of a cliff.
11. Chvrches, Screen Violence: Scottish pop-rock crew is still hitting the right notes.
10. Halsey, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power: Halsey teams up with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and it’s a good decision.
9. Rostam, Changephobia: Some chillax soundscapes from one of the Vampire Weekend guys.
8. Weezer, Van Weezer: Look out! The Weezer boys have gone full metal!
7. Annette Soundtrack: An operatic, bombastic collection of songs written for the screen by the Sparks brothers.
6. Olivia Rodrigo, SOUR: The singing-songwriting Ms. Rodrigo speaks to her generation and wears her influences proudly.
5. Adele, 30: Ms. Adkins goes heavy on the jazz and spoken word interludes, and they’re just as wonderful as her powerful booming voice.
4. Julien Baker, Little Oblivions: One-third of the boygenius trio keeps it mellow and introspective.
3. Modest Mouse, The Golden Casket: This longtime alterna-rock crew from Washington State is still keeping it fresh.
2. tUnE-yArDs, sketchy.: Indie pop that makes you want to scream with quirky joy.
1. Royal Blood, Typhoons: English rock duo craft their most danceable collection yet.