Hello, GORGEOUS people. It’s time to study our list of 2021’s BEST albums and EPs. Once you’ve done that, crank the playlist up loud and get ready to take your literary analysis to a whole new level!

Sound of Pen’s Top 10 Albums of 2021

10. Our Hollow, Our Home, Burn In The Flood
9. Maggie Lindemann, PARANOIA
8. To Kill Achilles, Something To Remember Me By
7. Olivia Rodrigo, SOUR
6. For Those I Love, For Those I Love
5. Self Esteem, Prioritise Pleasure
4. The Pretty Reckless, Death by Rock and Roll
3. Against The Current, fever
2. YONAKA, Mixtape
1. Holding Absence, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life

To (extensively) quote Shakespeare Comic Books:

“Shakespeare’s world was exploding in all directions. England’s population was rising rapidly, London was booming, New Worlds were being discovered, religion and politics were in ferment (again), science was beginning to be scientific, capital becoming capitalistic and at least according to John Donne, the new philosophy was calling all in doubt. As if this wasn’t enough, Guy Fawkes tried to explode the Houses of Parliament on November 5 1605.”

“Given all these explosions, metaphorical and near literal, it’s not surprising there should have been a similar explosion of words. New things require new words to describe them, or at least new meanings ascribed to old words. Shakespeare alone is credited with over 2000 neologisms. This sounds like a heroic quantity, though it has to be said that many were not particularly exciting and mostly seemed to involve adding a prefix or suffix to an existing word. He turned ‘lone’ into ‘lonely’ and ‘gloom’ into ‘gloomy’, for example, which at least widened vocabulary for those of melancholy disposition everywhere… We may not know with certainty when a word first entered the language, or who coined it, but we can be sure that English was expanding at an astounding rate in the late Tudor and early Jacobean period. Shakespeare’s work reflects this.”

It’s suggested elsewhere that: “Shakespeare invented (or changed the meaning of) over 1700 words that we use today. Although the words would have seemed strange then, nowadays most are used commonly. He did this to get his script past the Master of the Revels who checked the script to make sure it was not offensive to religion or the king. Since Shakespeare’s plays were very controversial he had to disguise the meaning in made up words.”

David Crystal has also written intoxicatingly about Shakespeare’s neologisms: “The verb neologisms in the plays are some of Shakespeare’s most powerful linguistic creations – and it is worth noting that large numbers of them started out in life as nouns. Indeed, this method of coining new verbs is so frequent, it’s almost as if he saw every noun as having a potential verb lurking inside it.”

Also worth noting is this from Richard J. Rosenthal and Suzanne B. Faris: “Elizabethan playwrights such as Shakespeare were keenly aware of the demand for displays of classical learning as the Renaissance came to England in the latter part of the sixteenth century. Most if not all of them had a solid grounding in Latin, and a few had university degrees… Audiences for their plays… included nobility and urban poor, university-educated scholars and the illiterate, and, of course, the sophisticated, aristocratic and royal patrons who financed their productions… In order to adapt the classics for such a diverse audience, Shakespeare strategically deployed Latin derivatives such as ‘addict’ and ‘addiction,’ while rendering them easily recognizable… Given the power and allure of the theatre for Elizabethan audiences, it would be very surprising if attentive playgoers did not ‘pick up on’ such memorable language, even if they had not previously been familiar with it. Moreover, given the competitive nature of Elizabethan society, it is also likely that theatre-goers integrated it into their own speech, as a means of impressing others with their erudition.”

In writing very short reviews of our favourite 10 albums of 2021, we have made use of 10 neologisms that, yes, signify the shifts occurring within Shakespeare’s own universe, but also hint at something important about our own time.


Read the reviews. Consider what each neologism (in bold) says about the time Shakespeare was living in. Make notes. It will help you enormously to read the extracts above – and even to do some further research of your own.


Find 5 neologisms within the Shakespeare text that you’re studying. Consider what each neologism says about the time Shakespeare was living in. Make notes.


Do any of your other course writers make use of neologisms? Quite possibly! If you find any, consider what each neologism says about the time in which the text was written. Make notes.


What are your favourite albums? List them out and concoct some reviews. Or just pick one to write about. Make sure to use one of Shakespeare’s neologisms in each review. You could start by looking at a list of words here.

1. Holding Absence, ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’

Absolutely unencumbered by fashion or fad, ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ might just mark a sea change (The Tempest) within a scene that spent a little too much of 2021 going round in circles. Holding Absence have set a new standard and we can’t even imagine where the greatest band in the world will go next.

2. YONAKA, ‘Seize The Power’

Nobody could accuse YONAKA of being cold-blooded (‘The Life and Death of King John’). Their ‘Seize The Power’ mixtape is both evocative and empathetic – and singing along to each of its seven tracks really proved to be one of the year’s great unifying experiences.

3. Against The Current, ‘fever’

‘fever’ is the sound of Against The Current finding themselves. A cause for celebration perhaps, but don’t expect rainbows and balloons. Turns out the band’s reality is pretty darn uncomfortable (‘Romeo and Juliet’) what with all the monsters in their head and everything. Hopefully listening to their own brilliant EP offered Chrissy Costanza and crew as much solace as it offered us.

Death By Rock and Roll - The Pretty Reckless

4. The Pretty Reckless, ‘Death By Rock and Roll’

If we were allowed to send one record into a scuffle (Antony and Cleopatra) on our behalf, we’d choose ‘Death by Rock and Roll’. A thunderous album that absolutely set 2021 on fire.

5. Self Esteem, ‘Prioritise Pleasure’

In a world so full of swagger (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), listening to ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ proved such a huge relief from the world’s hollering. The most refreshing record of 2021.

6. For Those I Love, ‘For Those I Love’

‘For Those I Love’ sparked a zillion happy memories. At the same time, it left us feeling as lonely (Coriolanus) as an abandoned puppy. Poetic, poignant and paradoxical, there was no other record like it in 2021.

7. Olivia Rodrigo, ‘SOUR’

Olivia Rodrigo may dream of being embayed (‘Othello’) in a happy, lasting relationship, and maybe it’s weird to find such joy in someone else’s agony, but this document of failed love and deep despair filled us with joy. Never has the darkness been so full of light.

8. To Kill Achilles, ‘Something To Remember Me By’

As glorious as it is gloomy (King Henry VI, Part 1), ‘Something To Remember Me By’ certainly packed a punch. Ten months after its release we’re still reeling from it.

9. Maggie Lindemann, ‘PARANOIA’

When you become encaved (‘Othello’) in your own mind, life can get pretty frightening. Lindemann’s EP is unnerving, infectious evidence of that. Thankfully, PARANOIA is a friend as much as a record; as a reminder that we’re not alone, it was gratefully received.

10. Our Hollow, Our Home, ‘Burn In The Flood’

The sound of OHOH trying to elbow (King Lear) their hurt out of the way is seriously affecting. A mammoth effort from a mammothly underrated band.

To finish, it might be worth considering that Shakespeare’s position as the king of neologisms has been somewhat challenged in recent years by the writing team behind The Simpsons. Just because the art we interact with now is modern and accessible – and ‘easier to understand’ than the work more traditionally understood as part of the canon – that does NOT make it any less significant. Start by listening to Holding Absence’s ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ if you need proof!

Once you’re done, you can send your work in. We want to publish the most exciting writing and offer advice if you have any specific questions.

Now, have a listen to the top 50 songs of the year and take another step towards finetuning your analytical skills and contextual understanding,