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Year in Review: 30 Records We Had on Heavy Rotation in 2021

As much as we would like to say 2021 was an improvement from 2020, we all know that wouldn't be entirely true. Yet, one clear benefit of dark and trying times is the increased depth of emotions and artistry that come as a result. We're happy to say that in our minds, 2021 was a killer year for music. Countless artists used the pandemic and isolation to turn their focus inwards and craft some of the best releases of their careers.

Here are our favorite releases from the past year, highlighting full-length albums and EPs. For this post we aren't going to cover re-issues or singles because there was plenty of new material released that soundtracked our year over at Discover Vinyl.

Featuring Koyo, Corbin, One Step Closer, SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Turnstile, Knocked Loose, Ridgeway, Modern Color, Zillakami, Skullcrusher and others whose boundless creativity inspired us throughout another hectic and trying year. Just as the best music can't be boxed in to a specific genre, we didn't restrict our list to any genres specifically with releases spanning the full range of hardcore, metal, emo, punk, alternative, all the way to indie folk and even lofi. In no particular order, here are our picks for Album (or EP) of the Year, let us know what your top releases were in the comments below and help other record collectors out by showing them their next favorite record to be in heavy rotation. If you're into any of the below releases, we included streaming links and direct links to the artists/labels webstore to grab a copy of the vinyl if it's still available.

Stream the curated playlist featuring songs from each of the below releases HERE.

Discover Vinyl's Top 20 Albums

One Step Closer // This Place You Know

Label: Run For Cover Records

Release Date: September 24, 2021

One Step Closer is one of those bands who after teasing a two song EP in 2020 titled "Promo 2020" we were dying to hear more of. Much to our satisfaction, they released a ripper of an album via Run For Cover Records titled "This Place You Know". It's an emotively driven, high energy, and fast paced modern hardcore record that is perfect for skating, running, and decompressing from a shit day just as much as just sitting down, putting the record on, and letting the tracks sink into you. After our first couple spins of this record, it instantly became a repeat listen.


SeeYouSpaceCowboy // The Romance of Affliction

Label: Pure Noise Records

Release Date: November 5, 2021

SeeYouSpaceCowboy has been unstoppable lately, ever since their breakout year in 2019 with dual releases of "Songs For The Firing Squad" and "The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds", they have been among our top bands and extremely high on our list to see live. Their recent full length "The Romance of Affliction" is a dizzying blend of Hardcore, Emo, Metal, and their own special blend. For us, there isn't a single skippable song on this record making it a perfect record to add to your collection. It's equal parts vulnerable and vicious, ambitious and self-detrimental. If you're looking for a complex record with plenty of depth and layers to unpack, look no further. Even more so they released two EPs this year, which we also can't get out of our heads.


cursetheknife // Thank You For Being Here

Label: New Mortality Zine

Release Date: May 28, 2021

cursetheknife is a perfect example of a relatively newer band who sound as if they've been around for years. Their sound is perfectly curated, and a unique blend of alternative, shoegaze, slowcore, and more. Signed to the immaculate label New Mortality Zine, who in our opinion can do no wrong, "Thank You For Being Here" is a fresh cut of songs that leave you wanting more. Lucky for us, the full length includes a series of demo cuts from the album giving us alternative versions of the songs to dive into. For those unfamiliar with this release, our personal favorite tracks are "In Dreams" and "Low". The first of which features a trance inducing loop reminiscent of a fever dream.


Trade Wind // The Day You Got What You Deserved

Label: Other People Records

Release Date: May 21, 2021

Trade Wind is a gem to music, as the musical child of veterans of the industry and a fresh break from their hardcore mainstay bands, "The Day You Got What You Deserved" is a departure from the sound on their previous records. While you think you may know Trade Wind, this record questions those beliefs, and offers a prize for those who give in to it. Highlights of the album for us range from "Don't Rush" a bass heavy track with electronic undertones, layered vocals and hypnotically mellow guitars to lo-fi laced "Weather Eyes" and the addictingly lyrical heady track "Bishop". The backing tracks provide heavy undertones to the album and as always Jesse Barnett never fails to impress. Keep an eye out for Other People Records, as not only do they show up multiple times on this list, they are one of our favorite independent labels.


Ridgeway // Marlo

Label: Honey Pit

Release Date: August 27, 2021

Vinyl: N/A

"Marlo" is the sophomore full length release from alternative / shoegaze esque group Ridgeway. Their debut full length release "Give" was one those albums where just a couple minutes into the album, we hit the internet to find where we could buy a copy of the vinyl. "Marlo" was no different, it's a refreshing set of tracks that is a perfect soundtrack to wake up to, throw on while you have some friends over, winding down after a long day, or hell just about any time. Just as with their prior record, "Marlo" was released through the independent label Honey Pit. Even more so the album art was designed in-house in true DIY fashion.


Can't Swim // Change of Plans

Label: Pure Noise Records

Release Date: October 22, 2021

"Change of Plans" is a different Can't Swim than previous records while still maintaining elements that had us fall in love with them in the first place. Showcasing a darker side of Can't Swim, "Change of Plans" is heavily melodic and a more gothic/post punk laced record than there past albums. Their songs evolve midway through with haunting bridges, phrases that get stuck in your head, and shift from light to dark in a moments notice. Can't Swim have always had a benefit at being able to place their finger directly on a tempo that is missing from records being released around the same time and this is a perfect example of that. There is something to this album that lingers, making you return to it over and over. Grab "Change of Plans" if you are looking for an atmospheric cut of songs that is perfect for a drive through a windy road in thick and dark woods.


Kaonashi // Dear Lemon House, You Ruined Me: Senior Year

Label: Equal Vision Records

Release Date: May 21, 2021

Kaonashi rips, their tracks are layered in personal experience, time-shifts, and complexities that take multiple listens to digest. The record is full of easter eggs that keep you on your toes. "Dear Lemon House, You Ruined Me: Senior Year" has a few things in common with your favorite horror movie. Once it starts, it's hard to turn away, the characters in the album draw you and are relatable in the best and worst ways, and the mood shifts from being at the other end of a knife to being melancholy and blue. Our words can't do this album a justice, just spin it and decide for yourself.


Corbin // Ghost With Skin

Label: Corbin

Release Date: October 31, 2021

Vinyl: N/A

Corbin's is leagues different from other creatives. Soft spoken, he's an artist who is avid about avoiding the spotlight and any excessive attention. Since his 2017 release "Mourn", anyone who had listened to the album was left with two thoughts; one - how is his music so emotionally deep and draining to the point where you can feel his wounds, and two - will he ever drop more music. On Halloween, of this year the second thought was answered with the release of his sophomore full length "Ghost With Skin". Despite have absolutely no pre-promotion campaigns, when the record dropped the internet was instantly buzzing about. Us included, we consumed the album back-to-back over multiple sessions, and still do. When Corbin releases music he doesn't miss, and Ghost With Skin in our opinion is his best material to date. If you're unfamiliar with Corbin we recommend checking out "Waco", "Yes or No", and "Tell Me" as jumping in points for the record, you won't be disappointed. We can only hope this record gets pressed on wax in the near future.


Dying Wish // Fragments of a Bitter Memory

Label: SharpTone Records

Release Date: October 1, 2021

Dying Wish are a brutal strain of metallic hardcore that dig to the deeper parts of human cognition and shine a light on areas we try hard to block out. The album is aggressive and lacerates it's way through the airwaves when you spin it. From start to finish the record is a non-stop onslaught of hardcore that is definitely one of the heaviest on this list. Grab a record from SharpTone Records and see for yourself why people love Dying Wish and also why violence is a byproduct of the music.


Hail The Sun // New Age Filth

Label: Equal Vision Records

Release Date: April 16, 2021

Opening with what sounds like the theme music from a demented carnival "New Age Filth" is another thought heavy album that is full of multiple themes running throughout. As with any Hail The Sun release, it's instrumentally insane with each member beautifully constructing songs that are anything from repetitive. Donovan Melero's melodies intertwine with guitar licks and drum fills that coil and spiral like sidewinder missiles. New Age Filth unfolds one track at a time with each song building on the prior, even more fitting is it's instantly recognizable as a HTS record. From the album art created by Adam Melero, to the sounds of the record, it's a record that is a perfect follow up to its predecessor releases from the band.


Ice Nine Kills // The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood

Label: Fearless Records

Release Date: October 15, 2021

While we would typically think that bands writing a horror themed album would be "gimmicky" that's definitely not the case with Ice Nine Kills. "The Silver Scream 2" Welcome to Horrorworld" is a perfect mix of storytelling, metalcore, and thrills. There is plenty of gore and kills in this record to rival some of your favorite slasher movie. When you're looking for an alternative to binge watching horror movies, throw on this Ice Nine Kills record and enjoy. It's an added bonus that every member of this band is extremely talented, the record is crisp and a satisfying cut of metalcore songs, with various stories laid out within.


Various Artists (Pure Noise Records) // Lofi Vol 1 & Lofi Vol 2

Label: Pure Noise Records

Release Date: June 22, 2021 & October 7, 2021

Vinyl: N/A

While "Lofi Vol. 1" and "Lofi Vol. 2" are technically two records, we added them together into this list because they are perfect continuations of each other, almost like Vol. 1 is Side A & Side B, and Vol. 2 is Side C & Side D of the record. Again against normal protocol, this record isn't by one artist, but various artists. Released through Pure Noise Records, the album is lofi renditions of some of your favorite Pure Noise Records cuts new and old. From hardcore and metalcore to pop punk, these songs are perfect for relaxing, meditating, soundtracking your workday, and when you need a break from your regular tracks but still can't get enough of them.


Fats'e // staring at the ceiling

Label: youngbarial

Release Date: August 13, 2021

Vinyl: N/A

"staring at the ceiling" by Fats'e wasn't an album we were expecting to love as much as we did. Yet once it was released, we kept returning to it to throw the songs on inbetween other records and over time it started getting played more and more. This record may not be on vinyl, but were hoping that changes soon. The record is nostalgic of late 2000's to early 2010's when Emo artists starting experimenting more with their sound and blending their instrumentals into pop and hip-hop styled loops and beats. The difference is this record isn't full of repetitive loops but more like Math Rock meets Emo similar to the sound of American Football. While it may not be for everyone, it's definitely for us. If you're looking for a place to start check out "notworthit" or "ghost in my room".


WristMeetRazor // Replica Of A Strange Love

Label: Prosthetic Records

Release Date: June 11, 2021

"Replica Of A Strange Love" by WristMeetRazor is a blood drenched love ballad, with elements of punk, metalcore, goth, and screamo it's release worthy of a listen to understand it's true beauty. Released through Prosthetic Records, the album cuts through leaving you aware of the artists scars with an impression that they are your own. It's deeply personal and full of painful and lovely experiences that make for an intriguing listen. Adding to each track are the blistering instrumentals somewhere between thrash and hardcore, with the layered vocals that shift from shattering screaming to poetic spoken word.


Nothing, Nowhere. // Trauma Factory

Label: Fueled By Ramen

Release Date: February 19, 2021


"Trauma Factory" was one of the earlier releases on this list, and has stayed in constant rotation making it a well earned spot on this list for us. With this release Nothing, Nowhere. continues to evolve from past releases. The album is perfect for isolation in a cabin in the woods just as much as while enjoying time with friends. The album doesn't stick to one genre blending Alternative, Emo, Pop Punk, Electronic, and Punk. Just as Nothing, Nowhere defies being put in a box, "Trauma Factory" does too. It opens with a monologue comparing life to a human trauma factory, and if 2021 told us anything, it was that. Once you spin this record, were confident it won't be the first time for you.


Zillakami // DOG BOY

Label: Republic Records

Release Date: September 17, 2021

Vinyl: N/A

"DOG BOY" is the debut solo full length from revered underground artist Zillakami, who makes up half of City Morgue. Don't be fooled though, "DOG BOY" isn't a City Morgue record, it still features his distinct voice and attitude to life that makes you feel like getting into a fist fight for the fun of it, but it's shows a deeper side to Zilla. "DOG BOY" is equal parts insightful as it is instinct driven. It's clear Zillakami is influenced by punk and metal scenes as evident through the backtracks on the record, yet each track showcases his own take on the genre allowing us to see life through his eyes. This is another record that isn't on vinyl yet and we are hoping changes as he continues to gain more and more traction in the underground and through City Morgue.


Turnstile // Glow On

Label: Roadrunner Records

Release Date: August 27, 2021


At just under 35 minutes "Glow On" is at the depth level of a novel, while it looks short on the surface, there are numerous layers to unpack, enjoy, and dissect that only gets better with each listen. That isn't to say that just because the album is short in run length means that the tracks are similar. While you'll find a lot of what makes Turnstile themselves, you also find a more experimental side of the band. "Glow On" is what you get when you take a hardcore punk band and let their outside musical preferences bleed into the tracks, its explorative but not in a way of being messy or chaotic. Turnstile's ability to flip the atmosphere and be as much of a shoegaze band as they are a hardcore band without losing sight of themselves is applaudable. When you spin "Glow On" you are giving your attention to Turnstile and allowing them to take you on a journey through their perspective. The record is infectious.


Citizen // Life In Your Glass World

Label: Run For Cover Records

Release Date: March 26, 2021

Citizen has continued to refine their sound in each of their releases and "Life In Your Glass World" is a prime example of that. The record features an ambitious vision that they effortlessly by aiming to appeal to a wider audience across a variety of audience. While past releases made them an instant favorite for underground alternative and indie fans, "Life In Your Glass World" showcases an side to their songwriting that has boundless potential. From their ability sell-out headline tours across the country to re-invent their sound even in slight subtleties, this record is a perfect spin if you are looking for a fresh take on a oversaturated genre.


Spiritbox // Eternal Blue

Label: Pale Chord Music in partnership with Rise Records

Release Date: September 17, 2021

"Eternal Blue" took the metal community by storm, while we don't completely understand why as Spiritbox have always been amazing in our minds. It's great to see the greater metal community take on them as well as they have. From touring with Limp Bizkit to drawing massive crowds to a pop-up in Los Angeles and dominating air waves, Spiritbox have proven they are here to stay and that we're only just seeing some of the potential they have in terms of their musical abilities.


Bones // Burden

Label: TeamSESH / EMPIRE

Release Date: January 29, 2021

Vinyl: N/A

Bones catalog casts shadows over countless other artists. Releasing music on his own terms, "Burden" is another catalog of songs that creeped their way into our regular rotation. While this wasn't his only release of 2021, this was definitely our favorite. It's heavily atmospheric and a record that compliments the rest of the his catalog. It's no wonder why TeamSESH and Bones have built a cult following from the ground up.


Now that we've given you our take on our favorite full-length releases from 2021, here are our favorite EPs from 2021. Rather than give you our thoughts on each release, we thought this was a perfect time to introduce these releases with no introduction allowing you to make your own first impressions on the remainder of our favorite records from the year.

Discover Vinyl's Top 10 EPs of 2021

Koyo // Drives Out East

Label: Triple B Records

Release Date: July 6, 2021


If I Die First x SeeYouSpaceCowboy // A Sure Disaster (Split EP)

Label: Pure Noise Records / Velocity Records

Release Date: May 14, 2021


Modern Color // Now, Life is Living You

Label: Other People Records

Release Date: September 24, 2021

Soul Blind // Third Chain

Label: Other People Records

Release Date: September 16, 2021

The Devil Wears Prada // ZII (Zombie II)

Label: Solid State Records

Release Date: May 21, 2021


Knocked Loose // A Tear In The Fabric Of Life

Label: Pure Noise Records

Release Date: October 13, 2021

Circa Survive // A Dream About Love

Label: Rise Records

Release Date: October 22, 2021


Glaive // All Dogs Go To Heaven

Label: Interscope

Release Date: August 6, 2021

Vinyl: N/A

Oliver Francis // Oli.FM

Label: Wild Halo in partnership with Hopeless Records

Release Date: October 1, 2021

Vinyl: N/A

Skullcrusher // Storm in Summer

Label: Secretly Canadian

Release Date: April 9, 2021

Vinyl: Coming Soon



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