In another difficult year for so many of us, we have at least had the salvation of a veritable feast of new music to focus on. It’s been hard to narrow it down to ten songs, but here’s my attempt to do just that, in reverse order to heighten the sense of excitement, of course! And in this great two-for-the-price-of-one feature, I will again include my 12 year old son Brandon’s own carefully curated list of ten favourites to compare and contrast.
10. The Go! Team – World Remember Me Now
Brighton’s topper most purveyors of quality pop launched their sixth album, Get Up Sequences Part 1 (I wonder if there will be a part 2?) in the Summer, wit this lolloping piece of perfection serving as prior warning.
9. Hatchie – This Enchanted
September saw the release of this extraordinary piece of dream-pop which married the smart melodic sensibilities of someone like Annie with a wall of sound that could have come directly from 1991-era Slowdive. That something like this doesn’t even vaguely trouble the chart compilers should be a cause of national disgrace.
8. Du Blonde featuring Ezra Furman – I’m Glad That We Broke Up
Irresistible from first listen, Beth Jeans Houghton’s collaboration with the ever-wonderful Ezra Furman had grown adults dancing around their kitchens in the Springtime. Well this one, anyway.
7. Mallin – Off My Mind
I stumbled upon this track on BBC Radio WM one Saturday night, which was pretty lucky as the radio was only tuned to that station as I had been listening to the football show earlier! No disrespect to my local BBC station, but I wasn’t expecting it to throw out one of my favourite songs of the year that night, by the mysterious Mallin, whose house track is built around a single line of vocal (it isn’t clear whether it’s a sample or not) with an atmospheric sax floating in and out. Like nothing else I have heard this year, and everyone I have played it to thinks it’s great.
6. Dummy – Final Weapon
Another nice surprise this year was happening upon the debut full-length album from Los Angeles’ Dummy. Mandatory Enjoyment is not only the best album title of the year, (or maybe of all time), but it happily contains twelve wonderful Stereolab-flavoured nuggets, one of which is ‘Final Weapon’.
5. Japanese Breakfast – Be Sweet
After the relative commercial breakthrough of 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet, Michelle Zauner AKA Japanese Breakfast released the mighty Jubilee album this year, from which the elastic bass-driven ‘Be Sweet’ comes. This sounds like a Number 1 record to me. Sadly, it stopped a few places short.
4. Bloxx – Magnet
I don’t want to be patronising enough to say that Bloxx are ‘one to watch’ for 2022 or something like that, as the band already have a dedicated fan base which turns out to watch them in large numbers and hangs on the every word of their brilliant front person Ophelia (‘Fee’) Booth – but I will be astonished if they don’t have some serious crossover success soon, with the sheer brilliance of their catalogue so far. After a handful of mighty singles, the band issued their debut album Lie Out Loud into the pandemic stricken 2020, but were able to finally tour the album this Autumn after also releasing the excellent Pop Culture Radio E.P. from where this gem hails.
3. Coach Party – Everybody Hates Me
Part of the much-vaunted (and unexpected) 2021 Isle Of Wight scene with Wet Leg, ‘Everybody Hates Me’ got some Radio 1 airplay and at one time would have probably flown into the Top 40, before such bands were effectively ruled out of such a thing. It’s a brilliant track that won’t leave your head once it enters.
2. Beach House – Once Twice Melody
A late entrant into the running that could have easily ended up as my favourite of the year, Beach House’s return (the new album is out in 2022) is a reason for celebration indeed. Few bands or artists can so completely envelope you in their world, to say they are the closest thing we have this century to Cocteau Twins is meant as a huge compliment. ‘Once Twice Melody’ is utterly compelling and will stand repeat listens – you can easily lose half an hour to this one track alone. The album should be very special.
1. Silk Sonic – Leave The Door Open
My Number 1 of 2021 is this charming single from Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak which manages to sound like something from the 1970s and 2020s all at once. The video has had a mere 464 million more views than some others on my list, becoming a USA Number 1 and a UK Top 20 hit along the way. I have never been a Bruno Mars fan but this band is genius, the two complementing each other perfectly on this wonderful track which has been a staple in our house since it arrived in the Spring.
I would like to take this opportunity to list my son Brandon’s favourite 10 songs of the year too – his method more meticulous than my ‘throw hundreds of songs onto a playlist and whittle them down to ten on New Year’s Eve’ arrangement.
Brandon’s T0p 10:
10. Daði Freyr – Something Magical
Remi Wolf & Dominic Fike – Photo ID
KSI (feat. YUNGBLUD and Polo G) – Patience
The Weeknd – Take My Breath
Silk Sonic – Smokin’ Out The Window
KSI – Holiday
Lil Nas X – That’s What I Want
Silk Sonic – Fly As Me
Lil Nas X – Sun Goes Down
Silk Sonic – Leave The Door Open