It’s been almost a year since the Coronavirus pandemic shut down the entire world, and in that year, a lot of things in the music industry have changed. In-person concerts are a distant memory (I shiver thinking about standing that close to so many people at once), and music festivals have been postponed again and again (catch me singing my heart out at the CMA Fest 2022). Luckily, this unexpected free time has given some of my favorite musicians extra free time to release some new music. We’re only three months into 2021, but I’ve already found so many new albums that I’ll be listening to on repeat for the next nine months. Here are my five favorites (so far!).
- ‘Change of Scenery II‘ by Quinn XCII
Quinn XCII’s newest album, Change of Scenery II, was released last Friday, March 5, and talks a lot about change, which makes sense for an album made in under two weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic. With tracks featuring frequent collaborators Jeremy Zucker, ayokay, Chelsea Cutler, and Alexander 23, Change of Scenery II is a lot calmer than Quinn XCII’s previous albums. My personal favorite moment on the album is the transition between the first two songs, “We Made This Album in Newport” and “Distracted Youth,” which sounds exactly like the moment at the beginning of a concert when the band starts playing in darkness before the spotlights flip on, the bass drops, and the music truly begins.
- ‘Country Again‘ by Thomas Rhett
Like the title implies, Thomas Rhett’s newest three-song album is classic country music with a slow love song, a lamentation on growing up, and an upbeat made-for-radio jam. With his signature personal lyrics mentioning his adorable family, Rhett’s mini album has a country song for any situation.
- “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo
One of the biggest hits of 2021 is “drivers license,” and I—like everyone else—have been completely obsessed with Olivia Rodrigo’s Taylor Swift-inspired storytelling and stunning vocals. I can’t wait for Rodrigo’s full debut album, but in the meantime, I’ll be listening to “drivers license” and the High School Musical: The Musical: The Series soundtrack on repeat.
- ‘brent ii‘ by Chelsea Cutler and Jeremy Zucker
I first heard Chelsea Cutler and Jeremy Zucker collaborate on “you were good to me,” and I’ve been loving their songs together ever since. Their voices just sound better together, so I was so excited when they released their second joint album this February. Fair warning: “parent song” makes me tear up every time I listen to it.
- “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift
This list would not be complete without “Love Story (Taylor’s Version).” After a long, public battle for the rights to her own music, Taylor Swift’s re-recorded song from the Fearless album combines her early heartfelt lyrics with her new, more-mature voice. Thirteen years after the original “Love Story” was released, I’ve found myself listening to the same familiar lyrics on repeat once again.