This year, in so many ways, seems like an extension of the last. 2020 was a bummer but the music was great. So much that I had to drop a ton of “new” songs from this countdown because they actually came out last year. Before we get to listing, let us pour one out for some of the in-betweeners who didn’t make it but should have:
- Glass Animals – Your Love (Déjà Vu)
- Bartees Strange – Boomer
- Glass Animals – Heatwave
- Future Islands – For Sure
- The Voidz – Alien Crime Lord
- Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight featuring Sharon Van Etten
- PawPaw Rod – Hit Em Where it Hurts).
The culling of so many songs is probably why this list is about 18 days later than I planned. In addition to that, I had the joy of experiencing so much more new stuff thanks to inheriting a weekly new music radio show: 101X’s Xposure. Point being, I am sorry it took so long but alas, I have my list!
Behind the List
Since 2002 I would make a monthly playlist and burn CDs for friends. At the end of the year, I like to list my top according to play count, culture and my gut (well, ears).
So many genres so little time. I stick to what I know best which is indie, alternative and electronica. Well, I probably know Wu-Tang and Townes Van Zandt better but this isn’t the time for a hipster pissing match.
My primary decision when it comes to putting one song on top of another is usually based in emotion. Why was I so attached to that song versus another? There are also excel sheets, drugs, and loud listening parties.
Once I get close to 75ish I start organizing them in order of weighted play count and emotional importance. The last step is really just “massaging the playlist“ so it has a nice flow.
Is this a Recipe Blog?
No and good point. You want the list not a pile of poor grammar word salad aimed at search engine optimization. Enough ego typing and let us get to my ego listing!
50) Justus Bennetts – Real Life Sux
Yup. Another perfect song to start a list and capture the current mood of another crap year in a pointless existence in a society that doesn’t care.
49) Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen – Like I Used Too
Sorry to start off as a bummer but this song just captures the light we thought we saw at the end of the tunnel this year.
48) Arlo Parks – Porta 400
Another gem from the amazing album Collapsed in Sunbeems
47) Beach House – Once Twice Melody
The song that inspired the forthcoming album from Beach House. Dreamy, light and easy to escape into.
46) Bachelor – Anything At All
Just a good ear worm to wiggle away with!
45) Cherry Glazer – Soft Drink
Not sure if Rabbit Hole made my list last year but it should of. Hopefully this rectifies that?
44) Waaves – Sinking Feeling
This one just stuck with me in the background since I first played it on Xposure.
43) PawPaw Rod – Glass House
Love it. Try not to get this one stuck in your head.
42) Frances Forever – space girl
From TikTok to superstar, this hit helped launch the wonderful Frances Forever.
41) Modest Mouse – We Are Between
Back with another big radio hit! Also enjoyed talking with Isaac backstage at ACL Fest.
40) girl in red – I’ll Call You Mine
Sure, Serotonin was the big hit but this one was one of my favs (the other being midnight love – which I think came out last year thus not on the list).
39) Chicano Batman – Dark Star
Missed them during Levitation Fest. Hopefully won’t make that mistake the next time they return to Austin!
38) Wet Leg – Chaise Longue
I am guessing this one topped a lot of lists. I liked it at first, then it annoyed me, know I like it again. Full circle!
37) St. Vincent – The Melting of the Sun
Annie Clark is such a delight and so is the latest St. Vincent album!
36) Snail Mail – Valentine
Speaking of great albums, Snail Mail’s Valentine is full of hits. Too bad their visit to ACL Live was postponed due to laryngitis.
35) Cola – Blank Curtain
From the ashes of Ought come a new band and a new single.
34) Gold & Youth – Blush
Enjoy this song which is very reminiscent of my favorite from Gold & Youth, Time to Kill.
33) ACTORS – Strange
Goth sounding and cool.
32) Deafheaven – The Gnashing
Another incredible album from 2021, this being my favorite song from Infinite Granite.
31) Small Black – Post Card
Spacey and chill tune from Small Black.
30) Sleigh Bells – Locust Laced
Not sure if I like the song or the music video more. Both are worth your time!
29) Blood Cultures – Set it On Fire
Is this a happy or sad tune? I don’t know but it seems motivational?
28) HEALTH, Nine Inch Nails – ISN’T EVERYONE
Boy am I a fan of HEALTH and love this collaboration with Reznor.
27) KALI – I Just Wanna
How many times have I written the term “ear-worm” so far? Well, this fits.
26) Billie Eilish – NDA
First caught a preview of this on Instagram and can’t get enough of the drop. Damn it’s so good!
25) Jungle – All of the Time
Wow this is just such a good mood tune. Would probably be up higher if I discovered it sooner.
24) Low – Days Like These
This epic piece just fits with 2021 and would also be higher on the list had I heard it before November.
23) Caroline Polachek – Bunny is a Rider
Ear-worm alert (is that three or four now?)!
22) Typhoon – Empire Builder
Chill and full of all the twang you need for a West Texas road trip.
21) Yves Tumor – Jackie
Not quite as powerful as last year’s list topping Gospel for a New Century but damn close!
20) Gorillaz, AJ Tracey – Jimmy Jimmy
Why am I not hearing this song everywhere? Am I the only one who really likes it??
19) Fruit Bats – The Balcony
I am sure “quaint” isn’t a word any artist wants used to describe their songs but the term fits for this.
18) Low – White Horses
Weird, loud and full of distortion. My kind of song!
17) Horsegirl – Ballroom Dance Scene
I think this song was composed by Horsegirl when they were all still in high school. Didn’t get as much indie buzz as Wet Leg’s Chaise Longue but it should have.
16) Goth Babe – Canary Islands
A good mood tune from a good mood dude.
15) Molly Burch feat. Wild Nothing
Yes to everything about this song and collab.
14) Aeon Station – Queens
Discovered this one while digging for songs to play on Xposure. Needless to say, it got a lot of air-play.
13) The Marias – Hush
This wonderful song came to me from space! Well, kinda… satellite radio.
12) IDLES – The Beachland Ballroom
Another damn live show I really wanted to see and missed.
11) Jenny Lewis, Serengeti
Not sure what part of this song hooked me. So many good chunks but I think it’s the “beep beep” part followed by the twangy reset.
Here we go! To the top ten. The best, most played and emotionally attached to songs of my 2021.
10) Japanese Breakfast – Be Sweet
This one is just so sweet and fun. Makes one want to be sweet!
09) Nation of Language – In Manhattan
Their entire album, A Way Forward, transports me to what I imagine the 80’s were like.
08) Goth Babe – End Summer
Somehow, someway Goth Babe snuck up as one of my most played artists of 2021. Well done ya sneak!
07) Near Tears – Head Gonna Hurt
Good and catchy plus we’ve all been there.
06) Iceage – The Holding Hand
Sure, it takes a minute or so for you to “get it” but keep listening and you will!
05) DARKSIDE – Liberty Bell
Nicolás Jaar and Dave Harrington return with DARKSIDE’s sophomore album and it has several good ones. My favorite being Liberty Bell which reminds me of the Game of Thrones episode “The Bells”.
04) London Grammar – Lose Your Head
This stood atop my list for a long time but did not crack the top three. Still, a great listen from London Grammar.
03) New Constellations – Hot Blooded
This came out in January but I didn’t discover it until later in the year. Ever since it has been played on repeat.
02) The War on Drugs feat. Lucius – I Don’t Want to Live Here Anymore
I did not like this song. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of The War on Drugs to the point of dragging my girlfriend to plenty of shows, buying merch and blasting them regularly. This song, however, just didn’t do it for me. Then, while listening to my very own radio station on the way home it caught me. Caught to the point in which I find myself playing it again and again. Is it my favorite of TWOD song? No, but top three. Maybe.
01) Phoebe Bridgers – I Know the End
I know, I know, I know.
I started this entire countdown discussing how I had to delete so many great songs because they came out in 2020. So what have I done? Broke my most sacred listing rule and place a song from the year earlier – not just in – at the top of my list? Yup. To me, this song is so much more 2021 even thought Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher came out in 2020.
Why? How? The SNL guitar smash performance controversy… ACL Fest cutting this song off right at the peak… Kyoto initially outshining it… the apocalyptic nature of the song and 2021??? I don’t know how to justify my decision other than just go with my gut and name the best song of 2021 a song from 2020.