AF 2021 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums & Singles of The Year

If you went into 2021 with high expectations, you weren’t alone. Even if it was hard to feel optimistic this time last year, it certainly seemed as if things could get no worse. Live music did return, after all – though with the appearance of Delta, and now Omicron, the joyful noise comes with a caveat. After sixteen months of having to livestream shows (fun, but not the same) little could stop me from attending shows in person; wearing a mask as an extra precaution felt like no big deal, even if no one else was doing it. But luck (and vaccines) feel like the real reason I emerged unscathed from dozens of risky experiences, and with performances on the horizon canceled once again, maybe it’s wise to enter 2022 with slightly lower expectations.

There’s always recorded music, anyhow. Maybe the tumult of the year just has me personally feeling a bit unfocused, but it seems as though I barely scaled the mountain of this year’s musical offerings without getting a bit buried in the avalanche of releases – ones that had been pushed back, ones that were created in lockdown. I’ll be playing catch up well into the new year, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t gems I connected with almost immediately, and very deeply. And that’s what I’ve heard across the board, from those in the industry as well as casual music fans – is that our favorites this year stayed on heavy rotation, as we latched onto music that accurately reflected our moods, which evolved moment to moment and of course happened to be different for all of us at any given time. What does that mean for year-end lists? Audiofemme has always compiled an eclectic list, including favorites from each of our contributors without overall rank – consider any repeats to be the best of the best. But this year, the list seems even more diverse, meaning there’s a wealth of weird and wonderful music below to discover, dear reader. Thanks for sticking with us through another wild year.


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) PinkPantheress – to hell with it
      2) Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime
      3) Low – Hey What
      4) Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
      5) Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
      6) Dawn Richard – Second Line: An Electro Revival
      7) Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take
      8) aya – im hole
      9) Flock of Dimes – Head of Roses
      10) Tyler, the Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
    • Top 5 Singles:
      1) Japanese Breakfast – “Be Sweet”
      2) Loraine James (feat. Eden Samara) – “Running Like That”
      3) Hand Habits – “More Than Love”
      4) Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – “Like I Used To”
      5) Julien Baker – “Faith Healer (Half Waif Remix)”

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Low – Hey What
      2) Tirzah – Colourgrade
      3) Nana Yamato – Before Sunrise
      4) Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine of Hell
      5) Jane Weaver – Flock
      6) Tonstartssbandht – Petunia
      7) Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
      8) Squirrel Flower – Planet (i)
      9) Veik – Surrounding Structures
      10) Cassandra Jenkins – An Overview on Phenomenal Nature
    • Top 10 Singles:
      1) Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – “Like I Used To”
      2) Special Interest – “All Tomorrow’s Carry”
      3) Squid – “G.S.K.”
      4) Julien Baker – “Bloodshot”
      5) Mandy, Indiana – “Bottle Episode”
      6) Remember Sports – “Pinky Ring”
      7) Cedric Noel – “Comuu”
      8) Gustaf – “Mine”
      9) June Jones – “Therapy”
      10) MAN ON MAN – “Stohner”

  • Mandy Brownholtz (Marketing Director)
    • Top 5 Albums (in no particular order):
      Spellling – The Turning Wheel
      King Woman – Celestial Blues
      Macy Rodman – Unbelievable Animals
      Marissa Nadler – The Path of the Clouds
      Kinlaw – The Tipping Scale
    • Top 3 Singles (in no particular order):
      Often – “Deep Sleep”
      Mannequin Pussy – “Control”
      Spice – “A Better Treatment”


  • Alexa Peters (Playing Seattle)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Wye Oak – Cut All The Wires: 2009-2011
      2) Dori Freeman – Ten Thousand Roses
      3) Isaiah Rashad – The House Is Burning
      4) Fawn Wood – Kåkike
      5) Carmen Q. Rothwell – Don’t Get Comfy / Nowhere
    • Honorable Mention: Mike Gebhart – Co-Pilot 
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Doja Cat (feat. SZA) – “Kiss Me More”
      2) Mitski – “Working for the Knife”
      3) DoNormaal – “Baby May”

  • Cat Woods (Playing Melbourne)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Deap Vally – Marriage
      2) Mod Con – Modern Condition
      3) Laura Stevenson – Laura Stevenson
      4) Joan As Police Woman – The Solution is Restless
      5) Black Country, New Road – For the first time
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Black Country, New Road – “Sunglasses”
      2) Lana Del Rey – “Dealer”
      3) jennylee – “Tickles”

  • Liz Ohanesian (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Hackedepicciotto — The Silver Threshold
      2) Saint Etienne — I’ve Been Trying to Tell You
      3) L’impératrice — Take Tsubo
      4) Pearl and the Oysters— Flowerland
      5) Nuovo Testamento — New Earth
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Midnight Magic – “Beam Me Up” 
      2) Jessie Ware – “Please”
      3) Gabriels – “Love and Hate in a Different Time (Kerri Chandler Remix)”  

  • Gillian G. Gaar (Musique Boutique)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Dolphin Midwives — Body of Water
      2) Sarah McQuaid — The St. Buryan Sessions
      3) Low — Hey What 
      4) Witch Camp — I’ve Forgotten Now Who I Used to Be 
      5) Full Bush — Movie Night
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Maggie Herron — “Sweet Lullaby”
      2) Sleater-Kinney — “High in the Grass”
      3) ONETWOTHREE — “Give Paw” 

  • Jason Scott (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Jetty Bones – Push Back
      2) M.A.G.S. – Say Things That Matter
      3) Lyndsay Ellyn – Queen of Nothing
      4) Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
      5) Christian Lopez – The Other Side
    • Top 5 Singles:
      1) Hayes Carll – “Help Me Remember”
      2) Jake Wesley Rogers – “Middle of Love”
      3) Adele – “To Be Loved”
      4) Carly Pearce – “What He Didn’t Do”
      5) Kacey Musgraves – “what doesn’t kill me”

  • Michelle Rose (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Alex Orange Drink – Everything Is Broken, Maybe That’s O​.​K.
      2) Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
      3) Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
      4) Magdalena Bay – Mercurial World
      5) Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Blonder – “Ice Cream Girl” 
      2) Mitski – “The Only Heartbreaker”
      3) Kristiane – “Better On Your Own”  

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Polo G – Hall of Fame
      2) Benny the Butcher & Harry Fraud – The Plugs I Met 2
      3) Megan Thee Stallion – Something For Thee Hotties
      4) Pooh Shiesty – Shiesty Sessions
      5) blackbear – misery lake
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Benny the Butcher & Harry Fraud – “Thanksgiving”
      2) Lil Nas X (feat. Jack Harlow)  – “INDUSTRY BABY”
      3) 24kGoldn (feat. Future) – “Company”

  • Jamila Aboushaca (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
      2) Snoh Aalegra – Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies 
      3) Lil Nas X – Montero
      4) Darkside – Spiral
      5) Blu DeTiger – How Did We Get Here EP
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Kaytranada (feat. H.E.R.) – “Intimidated”
      2) Kacey Musgraves – “simple times”
      3) Snoh Aalegra – “In Your Eyes”

  • Sophia Vaccaro (Playing the Bay)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Aly & AJ – A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun
      2) Julia Wolf – Girls in Purgatory (Full Moon Edition)
      3) Megan Thee Stallion – Something For Thee Hotties
      4) Lil Mariko – Lil Mariko
      5) Destroy Boys – Open Mouth, Open Heart
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) daine – “dainecore”
      2) Julia Wolf – “Villain”
      3) Doja Cat – “Need To Know”

  • Sam Weisenthal (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take
      2) Katy Kirby – Cool Dry Place
      3) Mega Bog – Life, and Another
      4) Ada Lea – one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden
      5) Olivia Kaplan – Tonight Turns to Nothing
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Charlotte Cornfield – “Drunk For You” 
      2) Dora Jar – “Multiply”
      3) Joe Taylor Sutkowski, Dirt Buyer – “What Luck, Goodbye”  

  • Sara Barron (Playing Detroit)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) PinkPantheress – to hell with it
      2) Summer Walker – Still Over It
      3) Erika de Casier – Sensational
      4) Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
      5) Adele – 30
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Lana Del Rey – “Dealer”
      2) Liv.e – “Bout It”
      3) SZA – “I Hate U”

  • Eleanor Forrest (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
      2) CL – ALPHA
      3) My Life As Ali Thomas – Peppermint Town
      4) Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
      5) Remember Sports – Like a Stone
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) FKA twigs (feat. Central Cee) – “Measure of a Man”
      2) Sabriel – “Pulse”
      3) Lexie Liu – “有吗炒面 ALGTR”

Sacramento’s Destroy Boys Confront Adulthood with Latest Singles

Destroy Boys by Kai Mosley

Destroy Boys by Kai Mosley
Photo Credit: Kai Mosley

“At school, when we would have to write an essay prompt, I would write a big essay. ‘Cause I have a lot to say,” says Alexia Roditis, lead singer of Sacramento band Destroy Boys. It would be easy (and sloppy) to take a band with a name like Destroy Boys and just slap them with the label of modern “girl band,” who play-act at old-school punk, flip tables, spit in boys’ faces, etc. But even though the band’s name had its origin in band guitarist Vi Mayugba’s scribbled missive on a chalk wall, Roditis, Mayuba, and drummer Narsai Malik then and now would never deign to reduce it to something that simple.

Last week, the band released their newest track, “Honey I’m Home,” which is, as Roditis puts it, “a really sweet and melancholy song.” That is, of course, except for the part about the brick. “I won’t answer your phone calls/ I’m not your home any more/ I’ll throw a brick though your window/ I’m not your home any more!” Roditis sings during the song’s bridge, letting their delivery of the last word land like a slap in the face.

This is one of many strong bridges or breaks in the band’s repertoire, many examples of which can be found on their 2018 sophomore album, Make Room. With a cover festooned in a collage of red-rimmed eyes, the LP is nothing if not an oracle of what was to come: pure rock ‘n’ roll, firmly rooted in place, but from a distinctly young and female point of view (though it should be noted that Roditis uses both she and they pronouns; they have been used interchangeably in this article).

Women, have, of course, always been drivers of rock ’n’ roll, but female-fronted bands are frequently referred to as being part of “the fringes,” as if being likened to the bargain bin at Joann Fabrics is some kind of complement.

“Why don’t you think about why you’re listening?” Roditis asks. “If you like this music, you should care about where I come from and what I think.” It’s a good rule of thumb; while some musicians seem to inhabit some unreachable plane of existence, more often than not, they’re trying to eke out some semblance of peace and security on a day-by day basis just like the rest of us.

Beyond catharsis, her songwriting goal is to be a kind of sonic lifeboat for anyone who has experienced what she has. Or not. “I don’t think it’s good to isolate people if they think differently,” Roditis explains. “I think it’s important for people to have conversations. That’s how you gain an understanding of something instead of just ignoring it.” Like a surprising amount of Playing the Bay alums, it was Roditis’s adolescent experience with isolation that fueled her songwriting and made her look more closely at her relationships with the people around her. After a move, Roditis went from “a really close-knit Latino community to a super white community [in Sacramento]. That gave me a perspective on class and race and immigrant status.”

So too, has the inherent complexities of moving beyond high school and into the “adult” world. With “Honey I’m Home” and the single that preceded it, “Fences,” Destroy Boys evolve toward an older, more mature sound. One of Make Room’s stand-out tracks, “Nerve,” is a compact tale of chaotic sexual tension. The chorus is simple, but incredibly catchy, and Roditis’s rich voice delivers the verses with memorable inflection, dragging out words as they are wont to do, like rock ’n’ roll-specific vocal fry. “I’m writing songs about us/your velvet voice lingers/slip through each other’s fingers,” they sing in one of the album’s sweeter moments. While there are hints that they know the person in question may not be great for them, “Fences” brings us to the aftermath of the worst case scenario version any romantic entanglement.

“Not that [Make Room] wasn’t deep or anything. It’s just that, for me, I was writing about high school and about boys, and I would write about stuff that bothered me, but it wasn’t as traumatic as what ‘Fences’ was written about.”

“Did you say ‘traumatic’ or ‘dramatic?’” I ask.

“Both. Both work,” Roditis replies. The song is, in part, about “non-consensual [sexual] experiences that are hard to process. Just like sex not being for me, too. That’s something I did for a long time. And I just don’t know why,” Roditis says. Despite some heavy subject material, Roditis howls her way through “Fences” with not-so-reckless abandon, asking if she is forever stuck in some kind of toxic relationship time loop. “I like my pit,” she sings, sounding resigned, “I want to stay/that way I can’t fall back in again.”

“So many women – especially black women, indigenous women of color, queer women, trans women – just don’t get justice. People who don’t even know the harm that they caused stay ignorant. And it’s so infuriating. It’s like… I have to live with the thing you did and you don’t?” Roditis asks, sighing heavily. The backstories to some of Destroy Boys’ newest works make listeners sit with these uncomfortable truths. But as Roditis already knows, bringing things to the light may be the best way to help yourself — and possibly someone else — take that first step out of the pit.

Follow Destroy Boys on Instagram for ongoing updates.