Global Garage’s Favorite Records of 2021

2021. What a year, am I right? Good thing there was a lot of fantastic music to keep us relatively sane or help us at least channel some of our insanity.

Below are 50 records that really caught our ear and stuck with us over the past year; a good portion of which are debut full-length records which was super exciting to see. This is, of course, by no means a comprehensive list of music that moved us in some way. So, thank you to all who released music this year and reached out to us here at Global Garage. We couldn’t do this show without you.

Region: Africa

Francis Bebey – Dibiye [Reissue] (Cameroon)
One of the greatest musical luminaries to emerge from Douala, much of Bebey’s written and musical works have provided inspiration to psych songwriters the world over for 50 years. Originally released in 1996 and now reissued two decades after Bebey’s passing, Dibiye provides a sense of wisdom and lightness – a salve to difficult times, and a testament to a lifetime of dedication to the craft. – Chris

Les Filles de Illighadad – At Pioneer Works (Niger)
Would it be cool if I called Les Filles de Illighadad the Dixie Chicks of the Sahara? I truly mean it as the highest compliment to make the comparisons: proficiency in the genre (irresistible Tuareg guitar riffs) transfixing group vocals, and the fact that they defy norms simply by existing in a male-dominated arena – and telling their own story. At Pioneer Works showcases the feeling of community– using the space beyond the studio and boundaries of a typical full-length to their advantage. – Chris

Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime (Niger)
Mdou Moctar continues to soar, surpassing the already fantastic Ilana: The Creator. Though I do not speak or understand the Tamasheq language, the vocals are so full of expression that the mood, message, and intent is communicated over thumping, danceable jams and hypnotic Tuarag guitar styling. Also, as a bassist myself, I feel like I must specifically call out Mikey Coltun’s playing because those high energy runs are so fucking groovy it almost makes me angry at how good they are. – Ryan

Montparnasse Musique – S/T (Algeria)
The lead track “Panter” from the debut EP from MP kicks off with a pretty unique guitar loop – and the kind of bass hit that might make one think, “oh yeah this is just some really good Johannesburg afrohouse.” Yet if you delve further into these tracks, you may discover that this isn’t just a bunch of samples slapped together: alongside trendy gqom and electro you’ll find acoustic instrumentation and vocal contributions from Congolese artists like Basokin and Kasai All-Stars. That a record like this can even exist is a testament to the constant collaboration of the ever-innovating global electronic scene. – Chris

Vaudou Game – Noussin (Togo)
Would someone just extract the afrofunk stylings of Noussin, the latest from of Aného-Glidji’s very own Vaudou Game, and inject that feeling straight into my veins. My body needs to move. I require more of these good vibes. Please and thank you. – Chris

Wau Wau Collectif – Yaral Sa Doom (Senegal)
Yaral Sa Doom(“educate the young”) is the Wolof clarion call on Wau Wau’s first album – more than twenty musicians banding together to produce 10 tracks – partially created through the web. Swedish production acts merely as an ambient backdrop rather than translator – bringing the group’s rhythmic and melodic structure to the forefront. A wide array of instrumentation provides variation for each track and narrative – sometimes solemn and introspective, but other times soulful and hopeful. – Chris

Region: Americas

Aurat – Khaar (United States, CA)
This LA-based quartet brings us kickass coldwave all sung in Urdu. As we begin to reach peak electro-goth (ie; Ploho, Depresión Sonora) Aurat’s Khaar sets them apart from the crowd, delving into the industrial bounds of kosmische – yet managing to retain their signature sound and intrigue. – Chris

Blackwater Holylight – Silence/Motion (United States, OR)
On Silence/Motion, Blackwater Holylight prove that they are more than a doom band of riff-lords as they toy with melodic atmospherics and proggy psychedelia. It’s beautiful, dark, spacious, comforting, and genre-defying in the absolute best ways. This is a record that doesn’t have any stand-out singles; rather it should just be listened to from start to finish. – Ryan

Cosmic Reaper – S/T (United States, NC)
With monolithic riffs and escalating motifs, it’s easy to make the comparison to genre greats Electric Wizard. This record takes me to space; not in a silly billionaire spacerace kind of way, but in an “oh shit I’m on a rickety spacecraft and there is a meteor headed straight for us, the sun is about to explode, and if these riffs get any heavier the ship is going to fall apart and I’m going to be sucked into the vacuum of space just like I’m sucked into these nasty grooves” kind of way. The soundtrack to interstellar death as the Cosmic Reaper tears me away. – Ryan

Jerusalem In My Heart – Qalaq (Canada)
Electroacoustic project pushes the boundaries of 21st-century avant-garde Arabic music. Arabic for “deep worry,” Qalaq is an urgent and vital response to the continued destabilization and violence in Lebanon and across the Levant. – Paul

La Era de Acuario – S/T (Mexico)
Fusing Indian and Latin musical themes, La Era de Acuario’s full-length debut goes on a fuzzed out psychedelic journey. While the organ and reverse reverb echo the glory days of 60s and 70s psychedelic music, the chugging riffs keep La Era de Acuario firmly planted in the modern heavy psych scene. – Ryan

Las Hiedras – Contradicciones (Argentina)
High-energy punk rock with prominent saxophone is a quick way to end up on my list of favorites. It’s groovy, it’s catchy, and it’s generally just super fun. I have only one serious complaint about this Argentinian band’s debut record: It’s not long enough! This is easily fixed, though, by just listening to Contradicciones again (and again). – Ryan

The Muslims – Fuck These Fuckin Fascists (United States, NC)
The Muslims have put out a record every year for the last four years and, for the fourth time in a row, have also made one of my favorite records of the year. I’m just glad they were able to get signed to Epitaph for this one and are successfully pissing off all of the right people. – Ryan

The Narcotix – Mommy Issues (United States, NY)
On Mommy Issues The Narcotix explore new ground both in guitar-oriented prog and folk/soul. Listeners are guided through ever-expanding worlds of echoing vocals and soundscapes. – Chris

Night Battles – Year Of No Days (United States, NC)
Night Battles expertly channel doomy atmospherics on this pounding post-punk full-length debut as the band honed-in and doubled-down on their thunderous, brooding sound. – Ryan

Panopticon – …And Again Into The Light (United States, MN)
This record was stuck in my head for a good portion of this year. While the fusion of Appalachian folk and black metal has always been an integral part of Panopticon’s sonic identity, …And Again Into The Light finds the disparate genres becoming whole, as opposed to fits of waring contrast and reprieve. The swells of folk stylings build cinematically into blast beats and tear-it-to-shreds guitar. Easily the most beautiful record I’ve heard all year. – Ryan

The Peacers – Blexxed Rec (United States, CA)
Sunburnt psychedelic pop from Mike Donovan (nee Sic Alps) and crew. – Paul

Lee “Scratch” Perry, New Age Doom – Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Guide to the Universe (Jamaica & Canada)
What is it with prolific musicians dying the same year they release some of the darkest, catalog-defying music of their career? Bowie, Cohen, now Lee “Scratch” Perry with an incredibly unexpected collaboration with New Age Doom. The record is dark, brooding, mysterious, weird, heavy, psychedelic, and absolutely entrancing. – Ryan

Ploho – Phantom Feelings (Russia)
In previous years, Ploho may have been riding the draft of their fellow darkwave trio and once-collaborators Molchat Doma – but with their sixth full length release, Phantom Feelings, Novosibirsk’s fastest rising techno doomers demonstrate that they’ve carved out their own space in a increasingly crowded genre – the low end on this one goes deep. – Chris

Rostro Del Sol – S/T (Mexico)
I’ve made it well known on the show that I love the music of Frank Zappa; especially the ’70s Hot Rats-era records. The strong debut from this CDMX band expertly taps into the tone and composition of that era with jazzy structuring, cerebral guitar motifs, grooving brass, and squealing organ. Many a band have tried to tap into that Hot Rats Zappa magic, but few have landed in the Goldilocks zone; Rostro Del Sol nailed it and I can’t wait to hear what they do next. – Ryan

Sgt. Papers – SGTP (Mexico)
Super fun garage punk; perfect for roadtripping with friends on a sunny day. – Ryan

TEKE::TEKE – Shirushi (Canada)
Montreal-based TEKE::TEKE put out their first full-length record this year, and as expected it’s chock-full of Japanese psych/experimental absolute bangers. Across its 40 minute duration, Shirushi explores a wide range of traditional genres and instruments, expertly infusing them into a modern rock and roll format. – Chris

White Canyon & The 5th Dimension – Spectral Illusion (Brazil)
Building on the stunning self-titled debut, White Canyon & the 5th Dimension was an early favorite this year. Woozy, surfy psychedelic bliss radiates from this Brazilian duo as they curate a sensory-enveloping sonic trip. Close your eyes and float downstream. – Ryan

Witchtit – Intoxicating Lethargy (United States, NC)
This heavily theatrical, haunting debut full-length from this occult Raleigh quintet packs a punch full of grimey riffs, providing the soundtrack to an apocalyptic reckoning. – Ryan

Region: Asia

Acid Maso Temple – Metatermination (Japan)
Unearthed archival treasure of a 2007 live recording from this AMT-adjacent project, featuring Yamazaki Maso (aka. Masonna), a founder member of Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O., Suhara Keizo, and drummer Sakamoto Aiko. – Paul

Miminokoto – Mayoiga (Japan)
A beautiful and compelling jazz-tinged garage ballads that, at times, leans into Crazy Horse territory, further solidifying Japan as one of the top countries for turning out quality psychedelic rock’n’roll. – Ryan

MONO – Pilgrimage of the Soul (Japan)
It’s been 20 years and 10 full-length releases since MONO’s first album. You’d think that by now, MONO would be well beyond rock, but given that they’ve rejected the “post-rock” description, you’d instead have to call the group beyond description. So instead of analyzing MONO, I’ll simply say that their Albini-recorded 11th release, Pilgrimage of the Soul is an hour-long odyssey to their roots – utilizing orchestral and ambient elements to broaden the reach and aspirations of the core quartet. As a huge fan of Jon Hopkins’ recent work, I’m inclined to cite records like Singularity as influence for the softer or pulsing electronic elements which bridge inevitable epic rock-out moments. – Chris

Senyawa – Alkisah (Indonesia)
Experimental duo achieves new levels of ferocity on their latest album, melding traditional musics of Southeast Asia with avant-garde punk and industrial doom stylings. – Paul

Slant – 1집 (South Korea)
This South Korean band’s powerhouse of a full-length debut is hardcore at its absolute best. – Ryan

Sundancer – Suvenir (Indonesia)
Sundancer’s out, surf’s up: in just 24 minutes, the garage duo from Mataram will transport you to a spaghetti western on the waves. Instead of asking high tide or high noon… why not both? – Chris

Region: Europe

Altın Gün – Yol (Netherlands)
If there were ever any doubt, the third album from these perennial Global Garage favorites sees the Turkish psych folk group shedding the baggage of pure “revivalism” once and for all. This time around, the group’s songs venture into stranger cosmic territories that reflect the weird collapse of inner/outer space (when our screens became our portals back to the realm of human contact) that is but one of the many symptoms of our current moment. – Paul

Balimaya Project – Wolo So (United Kingdom)
Over the past several years, a scene of jazz/afrobeat influenced artists has blossomed in the most obvious place one would associate west African music with: London. Lead by groups like KOKOROKO and SEED Project, the trend has reached a new peak in 2021 with the release of Balimaya Project’s Wolo So. This title refers to the essence of kinship in the Maninka language of the Mandé people of West Africa, and speaks to the spirit of the record: of a 16-member found-family that could only be united by a love for music. – Chris

Beautify Junkyards – Cosmorama (Portugal)
When I felt at my most isolated during lockdown, this haunting dream pop/psych folk outfit provided the outer space excursion I needed. – Paul

black midi – Cavalcade (United Kingdom)
In just the first 10 minutes of Cavalcade, listeners experience an extreme shift from slapstick mockery of cultism (John L) to tenderly waltzing with the ghost of a storied antifascist (“Marlene Dietrich”). Comedy, Romance, brass, dynamism, beautiful purpose, “Hogwash and Balderdash,” it’s all here. – Chris

Depresión Sonora – Historias Tristes para Dormir Bien (Spain)
Marcos Crespo promises good sleep and sad histories with his latest album under his Depresión Sonora moniker. And hey, what more can we ask for? Seriously, get ready to get sad and go to bed. You deserve it. – Chris

Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg (United Kingdom)
Any band that reminds me of Life Without Buildings automatically earns a spot in my rotation, but Dry Cleaning have much more to recommend them than that surface comparison. Vocalist Florence Shaw’s droll delivery and biting lyrics recall the height of the post-punk era, a time when the wool had been pulled from our eyes but it still felt like music was all that could save the world. Maybe it still is. – Paul

Fuzzy Lights – Burials (United Kingdom)
Crushing grooves built on top of dark, English folk wimsey that is equal parts haunting and soothing. – Ryan

Goat – Headsoup (Sweden)
This is more than a compilation album of B-Sides – it’s a collection of some of the best tracks that Goat has put out so far in one package. Gettin’ weird, practicing some voodoo, and jamming out in Korpilombolo, what could be better? – Chris

Iceage – Seek Shelter (Denmark)
Classic rock and gospel influences abound on the latest release from the ever-surprising Danish punk outfit. Can’t wait to catch them at Motorco in March. – Paul

KOIKOI – Pozivi u stranu (Serbia)
I think what I like most about this album is how hard it is to really pin down the sound. This full-length debut is packed with entrancing, melodic post-punk that changes sonic flavors slightly with, and even within, each song. It’s a fresh, unique, and compelling listen. – Ryan

Mandy, Indiana – … EP (United Kingdom)
The moral of the story here is: combine fat bass, harsh noise, and a drumset mic’d from the back of the warehouse and you can’t lose. Maybe I’m just a sucker for that snare in an oil barrel sound, but the full minute of jangling triplets that kicks off “Bottle Episode” managed to fully reel me into Mandy, Indiana’s debut 3-song EP. Suddenly, a pulsing electro-bass drop. But wait it gets better: toms come in and it’s Tyondai-Braxton era Battles for 2021, pure catharsis. – Chris

Mythic Sunship – Wildfire (Denmark)
If Another Shape of Psychedelic Music was the album Mythic Sunship really dug in and found their sound, Wildfire is the natural progression of finetuning and distilling that sonic energy. – Ryan

Nick Drunken Broken Arms & His False Dylan-Cobb – Everybody’s Trying To Fuck, I Just Want To Make Love (France)
Everybody’s Trying To Fuck, I Just Want To Make Love captures the angst in my soul that built up over the past year of frustration and isolation & leaves me feeling cozy, nostalgic, and fulfilled. Thank you, Nick & co, 2021 needed this record. – Ryan

Nightshift – Zöe (United Kingdom)
Post-punk rarely feels as warm as it does here while still maintaining its icy edge. Written within certain “poetic restraints” and taking inspiration from Eno’s Oblique Strategies and Rosi Bradiotti’s “The Posthuman,” this is an immersive and frequently surprising sophomore release that marks another leading light in Glasgow’s current indie scene. – Paul

Pavel Milyakov & Bendik Giske – Untitled (Germany)
Oslo sax meets Moscow synths in one of the most fascinating experimental electronic collaborations of the year. – Chris

Rata Negra – Una Vida Vulgar (Spain)
Madrid’s own Black Rats are back with a third record — and every track is a bop, folks. On Vida Vulgar you’ll find Rata’s irreverent surf and garage influenced take on pop punk with some new development in the vocals and tightening of the rhythm section. Seriously, 100% bangers. – Chris

Squid – Bright Green Field (United Kingdom)
Frazzled art rock odyssey through the contradictions of modernity. The J.G. Ballard-inspired opener “G.S.K.” is an outlier in terms of length (with many of the tracks here stretching past the 5-minute mark) but also a perfect summation of the group’s inclusive, edgy ethos. – Paul

Vanishing Twin – Ookii Gekkou (United Kingdom)
In the follow-up to 2019’s fantastic The Age of Immunology, Vanishing Twin brings us tunes that feel like a future promised and withheld. Not “we could have had jetpacks and flying cars” kind of dreaming — but a more nuanced and curious imagination. On certain tracks, if you put these in headphones you might feel like a funky secret agent in space. – Chris

Region: Oceania

Amyl & The Sniffers – Comfort To Me (Australia)
A strong, refined follow-up to their self-titled debut. We, admittedly, don’t have much representation from Oceania this year, but Comfort To Me takes up enough rock’n’roll real estate for ten albums so I’m not really worried about it. – Ryan

Wurld Series – What’s Growing (New Zealand)
If I was still in charge of programming for a college rock station, What’s Growing would be in heavy rotation as it sounds like a classic release from Elephant6 at its peak. With their second record, Wurld Series have firmly placed themselves on the list of amazing music coming out of Christchurch, past and present. – Ryan


Ryan first discovered his love of radio at WSOE FM, where he spent all 4 years of college as a DJ, 2 as program director, and 1 as general manager. While his musical tastes are fairly broad, he has a big nerdy spot in his heart for prog rock.