The 20 best guitar albums of 2021

[L-R] John Mayer, Samantha Fish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and Joe Duplantier
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here we have it, the top 20 guitar albums of 2021, as chosen by you, and you didn’t disappoint. You could glue all of these album covers to a whiteboard and it could well be a mood board taken from the editorial prow of the good ship Guitar World.

There are some evergreen choices here, with guitar players who always find themselves in the guitar-playing community’s good graces. But even among them, no two are strictly alike, with blues-rock titans sharing space with grunge trailblazers and pioneers of shred.


EDITOR'S PICK: Wolf Alice - Blue Weekend
Are Wolf Alice immune to making a bad album? Blue Weekend would certainly suggest so. The four-piece’s third studio album and first in four years, the 11-track offering is arguably their finest to date, and easily one of the best records of the year. Simply put, it’s an inspirational pick ‘n’ mix of sounds, ranging from the throaty fuzzes of Smile to the serene acoustics of the Fleetwood Mac-esque Safe From Heartbreak. As a guitar album, Blue Weekend is a well-stocked emporium of luscious tones. As a collection of music, it’s a work of art. – Matt Owen


EDITOR'S PICK: The Pretty Reckless – Death by Rock and Roll
TPR’s fourth album Death by Rock and Roll is steeped in tragedy, and the subject material contained within is expectedly raw. The untimely passings of Chris Cornell, one of frontwoman Taylor Momsen’s mentors, and the band’s longtime producer and studio guitarist Kato Khandwala threw the band off course, and nearly led them to call it quits entirely. DBRAR shows a band back from the brink, channeling their grief and loss – with help from the likes of Tom Morello and Kim Thayil – and paying a hard-rocking, riff-heavy and heartfelt tribute to their late friends. – Sam Roche


EDITOR'S PICK: Tash Sultana – Terra Firma
The staggering, multitasking loop performances were already the stuff of YouTube legend, but 2021 was the year the name Tash Sultana spread through mainstream guitar circles like wildfire. With a debut Fender signature Strat in tow, Sultana dropped Terra Firma, an album that captured their gargantuan live sound on record and demonstrated why they’re one of today’s bona fide guitar heroes, via an awe-inspiring showcase of new-age wigouts, Mayer-infused neo-soul and jagged harmonized leads. – Michael Astley-Brown


EDITOR'S PICK: Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime
Mdou Moctar’s Afrique Victime is a wondrous thing – a record whose songs of heartbreak, political upheaval and the evils of the Scramble for Africa crackle with life. Powering it all is Moctar’s guitar playing – a breathtaking, wholly original mix of the hypnotic, pulsating drones of the assouf (“desert blues”) he grew up with, the emotive, piercing cries of American blues, the boundary-shattering spirit of Hendrix, and the lightspeed eruptions of Van Halen.  – Jackson Maxwell

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.