Best Albums of 2021 So Far

The Burbs Music Staff came together to provide an update on the albums that have (so far) remained staples in their ever-evolving listening rotations.

VINCE STAPLES by Vince Staples

“Vince Staples is a fully loaded pistol that fires confetti. This self-titled project sees Vince continue his ascension from an intrinsically philosophical bar-dropper to a ghetto-tortured frequent-fun-haver. He exists in a rarified air where scarring storytelling and club-thumping sounds melt into one glorious sundae.”

I wrote that after my first few listens to the album. It sounds great, right? Now, a couple of months later, all I can say is that this remains my favorite project of the year. Even after releases from people I consider gods, like Tyler, the Creator, Isaiah Rashad, and Kanye West, Staples remains atop the pinnacle. It’s the Fousheé feature on “TAKE ME HOME,” and the smile that radiates across my face every time “THE SHINING” comes on shuffle. It feels like a miracle that this project exists. -Ralph James


After a half-decade hiatus, an artist’s return can nearly make or break their career. This is especially true when an artist has to follow-up what many consider to be the best album of their career. We saw it with Tame Impala last year, and artists like Frank Ocean and Rihanna are about to find themselves in the same hole. We saw it unfold this summer, too, with TDE talent Isaiah Rashad, and luckily for us, Zay (more than) redeemed himself with his latest installment.

“Wavy” is the most applicable adjective for The House is Burning. Boasting butter-smooth tracks such as “HB2U,” “RIP Young,” “Headshots,” and “Claymore,” THIB is straight-up soulful. But “soulful” only begins to scratch the surface, as THIB also brings some of Zay’s best bars, magnificent production, and a highly entertaining cast of guests. Though THIB could’ve been a classic without any features (insert a 2014 Forest Hills Drive joke), Lil Uzi Vert, Smino, SZA, 6LACK, Amindi, and many others only helped make the album more memorable.

In my opinion, it’s yet to be seen if THIB is Isaiah’s magnum opus (The Sun’s Tirade and Cilvia Demo are difficult to top), but it doesn’t even matter. THIB is easily his most personal album to date, and he executed it beautifully. And out of a stacked summer of hip-hop, THIB succeeded as one of the highest-quality projects to quench our thirst. -Evan Linden

HAPPIER THAN EVER by Billie Eilish

Billie’s sophomore album is almost as depressing as the album cover itself — but like the album’s sardonic tone, you might not get that right away. The project isn’t the most cohesive LP, both sonically and thematically, but I don’t think that hurts it. This album is best appreciated when you look at it for what it is — a teenager holding onto the last wisps of adolescence, having it ripped away from her by her status as pop’s biggest icon.

These tracks aren’t the bedroom pop we’re used to, because, well, she’s not in her bedroom anymore. She’s in big studios, and she doesn’t have the time to see her friends or her significant others, as she laments on “Halley’s Comet,” a song that sways back and forth like a ballroom dance. I find some of the best parts of this album to be its most subtle, like Billie’s admission that she’s lost some love for the art of making music on the opener, and the closer, where Billie riffs on more teen dread, fearing for herself that this is how she’s “always going to feel.” “NDA,” “GOLDWING,” and “Oxytocin” are all certified bumps in the car, but make sure you’re watching your speed limit when they’re playing. You might just get pulled over — if not from the speed, then from the bass shattering your windows.

All in all, Billie’s sophomore effort gets more personal and more specific, with the same level of head-banging bass and late-night-drivability. A great project that satisfies all my wants in a pop record in 2021. -Sriman Narayanan

DONDA by Kanye West

After being delayed for over a year and being teased in stadiums for over a month, DONDA holds the distinction of being 2021’s most dramatic release — in the best way possible.

One of the earmarks of Kanye’s artistry is his unpredictable approach to rollouts. We’ve witnessed epic rollouts for his masterpieces such as The Life of Pablo and Yeezus, yet DONDA managed to be his most memorable rollout yet. After the numerous changes and improvements to the album — basically seen in real-time — it’s a blessing to finally h