It’s unsurprising, but our favourite albums this year have all had a retro edge to them; whether they be elements of psychedelia, jazz or lounge-pop; a clear nod to less complicated times. And yet, there’s been something of a lyrical shift as artists reflect on the price of fame, the pain of love and some their most personal moments.
The FF Awards 2021 nominees: Single of the Year
This contemplative theme is present in every album we’ve nominated for the 2021 Female First Awards’ Album of the Year. And we think you’ll agree our winner is the most candid by far.
Chemtrails over the Country Club – Lana Del Rey
Yet another stellar release from Lana Del Rey, Chemtrails over the Country Club is an experimental Americana record that breaks her out of the pop cage in which her earlier albums encased her. Her haunting vocals are soul penetrating on every single track, and the nostalgic themes are frisson-inducing.
The album marked the singer’s fifth UK number one, but despite its incredible execution, it has been completely snubbed by all major awarding bodies. This nomination is well deserved.
Collapsed in Sunbeams – Arlo Parks
By far our favourite debut album to come out this year, Arlo Parks’ Collapsed in Sunbeams was a worthy winner of the Mercury Prize. It’s also nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the Grammys.
The vulnerability of this record is striking, with heartbreaking yet painfully relatable lyrics and crystal clear vocals. Arlo Parks is an amazing representation of the LGBTQ+ community in music, showing a multitude of talents on her album including a sensational spoken word piece as the titular track.
Happier Than Ever – Billie Eilish
The eagerly anticipated follow-up to When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever is even better than her debut – in almost every respect. Not only does it show a more polished production from her brother Finneas, it’s also a candid exploration of a number of themes from break-ups to sex and fame to abuse that feels like the most honest Billie has ever been.
As much as it is generally a downtempo record, Billie’s vocal talents are reflected in myriad forms on Happier Than Ever, and it’s left us unbelievably excited for what might come next. The album is currently up for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album at the Grammys.
Daddy’s Home – St Vincent
Another Best Alternative Music Album nominee at the Grammys, this is by far St Vincent’s most personal album to date with themes of grief, family issues and love, and the nature of human imperfection.
Daddy’s Home is inspired by her father’s recent release from prison, though only one song actually deals with this issue. The retro vibes are reflected in the lyrical references and the psychedelic lounge-pop sound of the album, which is frequently musically uplifting if lyrically very melancholic. The best thing about it though is the flawless cohesiveness of the tracks as a whole.
Solar Power – Lorde
Certainly the most cheerful sounding album among our nominations, Lorde’s Solar Power is an exploration of all things sunshine and easily transports us back to summer. Looking more deeply into the songs, however, we see references to drugs, the pressures of fame and the shock of growing up.
There’s so much depth to this psychedelic pop album; it brings us joy, sadness and a strong sense of calm. Lorde has one of those voices that is unmatched, and perfectly suits the hazy, warm atmosphere of the hotter seasons.