Arlo Parks and Gabriels are behind KCRW’s top songs and albums of 2021

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

Much of the music released in 2021 “has been honestly nothing short of brilliant and intricate and thoughtful, with a lot of hope,” says Anne Litt, who directs KCRW’s music programming. Photo by Shutterstock.

Every year, KCRW’s DJs tally up their favorite songs and albums, and music programming director Anne Litt gives a rundown of this year’s picks as part of KCRW's Best of 2021

“I was really curious to see what kind of music emerged as artists dealt with and lived through 2020, which was a pretty tough year for a lot of people. And so I remember saying at the beginning of the pandemic on the air, ‘Gosh, I wonder what will be created during this time,’” Litt tells Press Play. “Obviously, we didn't know we would last for this long, but the music that has come from this collective experience that we have all had has been honestly nothing short of brilliant and intricate and thoughtful.”  

KCRW’s 2021 breakthrough artist: Gabriels

“The thing about Gabriels is that if you were able to separate out each of [their] tracks, there are elements of soul and of course gospel, but R&B and electronic music [and] classical music. As KCRW’s Travis Holcombe said, it makes them both timely and timeless.” 

KCRW’s top album of 2021: “Collapsed in Sunbeams” by Arlo Parks

“It was such a throughline in music of this year. I felt hope. … You feel the feels all the way down to your toes. And just across the board, she crushed us with her musicianship [and] her poetry. Her music was a literary salve.”

“Chaise Longue” by Wet Leg

“That song is just bursting with personality. This band doesn't even have an album out yet. Their debut is probably the most eagerly anticipated debut of 2022. For a while, all we had heard was this song, and we had it on repeat.”

“Picture Frame” by Hector Morlet 

“Hector Morlet was one of the artists that came to us through [KCRW’s] Global Beat: Australia. And everybody has loved him so much. He's been in our top 30 for a few weeks, and this is some of our DJs’ favorite songs of the year.”

“Agosto” by Helado Negro

“The word I would use to describe Heladro Negro is effortless. And Novena [Carmel] wrote about him for the website, and she said the voice of beauty speaks softly. … It's in English and in Spanish, and it's warm and cozy like a sweater. A great one to listen to over the holidays for sure.”

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