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Hazel Cills

Brent McKeever
Courtesy of Elektra Records

Much of the music I admired in 2021 came from artists working unapologetically on their own terms. I reached frequently for risk-takers — blown-out pop-punk makeovers from unexpected voices, a New Age composer returning to music after stepping away for decades, a bedroom pop producer reworking UK garage samples into two-minute bites of brilliance. All were a welcome reminder that music has no rules, and that you can't sit around waiting for someone to give you permission to create what you want, how you want to.

Top 10 Albums of 2021


• Illuminati Hotties, Let Me Do One More
• Indigo De Souza, Any Shape You Take
• L'Rain, Fatigue
• Eris Drew, Quivering in Time
• PinkPantheress, to hell with it
• Pauline Anna Strom, Angel Tears in Sunlight
• SPELLLING, The Turning Wheel
• Yu Su, Yellow River Blue
• Circuit des Yeux, -io
• WILLOW, lately I feel EVERYTHING

Top 10 Songs of 2021


• Indigo De Souza, "Way Out"
• Illuminati Hotties, "Pool Hopping"
• Sofia Kourtesis, "La Perla"
• PinkPantheress, "Just for me"
• Caribou, "You Can Do It"
• Cassandra Jenkins, "Hard Drive"
• L'Rain, "Two Face"
• Faye Webster, "Both All the Time"
• WILLOW feat. Avril Lavigne, "G R O W"
• Circuit des Yeux, "Dogma"

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Hazel Cills is an editor at NPR Music, where she edits breaking music news, reviews, essays and interviews. Before coming to NPR in 2021, Hazel was a culture reporter at Jezebel, where she wrote about music and popular culture. She was also a writer for MTV News and a founding staff writer for the teen publication Rookie magazine.