We did this once before. This isolation, this watching through the windows as life carried on, sometimes without us. For some of us it was a big year. Others don’t have anything to show for another 365 restless nights and wary days. I find myself in the latter camp. I vow to not let myself be afraid in 2022, to be pro-active and productive, to take my writing seriously, but not let the distractions cripple me. I vow to complete something important to me.
Other than another list of my favorite 101 songs from the year that was 2021. I seem to be able to check that box every year. Here’s every year: 2020 / 2019 / 2018 / 2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011
On second thought, there was that #365Songs project that I helped shepherd to completion as a tertiary supplier of words and sonic epiphanies. That was one hell of a ride. Preacher Boy, BSidesNarrative, and I picked one song per day for the entire year. The playlist is long (365 songs worth, obviously), but it’s a wonderful melding of the minds. We are very different humans, and it was fun to watch us slip in and out of our respective culture zones. The project is housed at Medium.com through Preacher’s “No Wrong Notes” portal. Please go check it out. This post put a cap on the whole project and you can work backwards from there… if you feel so inclined. Here’s the Spotify playlist to which you can subscribe and listen for days.
Now, with all those links and rigamarole out of the way, this is the reason you clicked a link or happened across this page in a search. Some self-absorbed arbitrary picked his favorite songs from 2021 and you hope that you might discover something new. Or you came here to argue. Who can tell the difference anymore? Everyone seems like they have a bone to pick on the Internet, even when they’re agreeing with you. As I said, I have a culture zone. Sometimes a song sneaks in from outside that zone, but largely this list is as me, unfettered, as any list ought to be.
In 2021 I deepened my love of CHVRCHES, grooved to Taylor Swift (WUT) because my wife played it over and over again until I latched onto something, found some contemporary rap that had a backbone, and I still can’t figure out if I love or hate Bruiser Wolf. You’ll find all of this internal conflict below with one sentence of perfect clarity describing my Top 25 tracks.
Full Spotify playlist linked below.
30Hz Top 25 Best Songs of 2021 mini-blurbages:
“The Limit” – DARKSIDE.
DARKSIDE finds a groove, a wavelength, a place inside the mind, and hammers the fuck out of that pleasure center.
“Pleura” – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
These Aussie rockers wipe their guitar sweat on your forehead and then lick it off, just to see if it’s sweet enough.
“All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” – Taylor Swift
It’s not the first time I’ve loved a Taylor Swift song (Ryan Adams sang the other one) and I almost don’t care if you know it. Screw that Jake Gyllenhaal, man. Screw him.
“A Song About Fishing” – Genesis Owusu
A beguiling Australian that defies genre and taps into something weighty and universal in our particular, peculiar moment.
“Static” – Still Corners
Sonic wallpaper for the fragile mind.
“Hysterical Us” – Magdalena Bay”
In today’s Groundhog Day moment, this #20 slot was occupied by another bippy-boppy-doo-woppy-electro-rococo-jam from this Mag Bay duo last year.
“Michele Pfeiffer” – Ethel Cain (feat. lil aaron)
I’m a sucker for songs named after famous people that have no obvious connections, lyrically or otherwise, to said famous person — and this dirge comes off as hot as the steam between Batman and Catwoman.
“The Look On Your Face” – Hyd
Synth-pop made specifically specifically for me… except everyone else that heard this song that was made specifically for me. For real though, this lost a few points for being too damn perfect.
“Ballroom Dance Scene” – Horsegirl
I didn’t like this song… and then I loved this song, which says a lot about my willingness to admit I was wrong… and my inherent weakness when it comes to hoarsey-piped female singer songwriters.
“Cry / TALK ABOUT IT” – push baby
I don’t even know where or how I heard this song… one day it was just on my long hits list and I couldn’t deny its ability to trigger euphoria and I refused to learn more about this artist, fearing it might break the spell. They’re called push baby after all. Lower p lower b. push baby.
“Thumbs” – Lucy Dacus
Awaiting a full album of Lucy Dacus body-part songs like I’m awaiting Sufjan Stevens’ 50 records about 50 states. Time’s ticking, Sufjan.
“Polly” – Dora Jar
There’s a moment when Dora Jar sing/raps “I’ma rip my face off and I’ma dance for you / Looking at the feeling of an empty room / I wanna do everything I gotta do / So I’m invincible” and no song has more perfectly captured that yearning to escape your own skin and be a better/different human.
“Right on Time” – Brandi Carlile
Repeat after me… Brandi is not Belinda, is not related to Belinda… and while I love me some Belinda, Brandi is a badass folker who makes me melt inside, just a little.
“Pain Without a Touch” – Sweeping Promises
Kansas rockers plant their flag on a grungy beat and a clever hook and in a year without too many of those, I choose to celebrate the few songs that make me happy.
“I’ll Call You Mine” – girl in red
You might have picked “seratonin” for your list… but you’d be wrong. I’m sorry.
“Tried to Tell You” – The Weather Station
Harmonic, time-out ballad for mental health and strong feelings. This is how I imagine it feels to get blissfully lost in the Canadian wilderness.
“LUMBERJACK” – Tyler, The Creator
What does boffo mean? Removed from any meaning, boffo sounds like a good thing and I feel like I could call Tyler’s flow in “LUMBERJACK” boffo. That false start on this track = trademark Tyler.
“Bottle Episode” – Mandy, Indiana
I need a shower. Violent and moody, this slice of self-aware 21st-century goth rock uses the snare as a call to arms and the French-language lyrics as a machete.
“The Last Man on Earth” – Wolf Alice
London’s Wolf Alice vocals lift this spacey track into the ethereal plane where it will become a Bill & Ted-like anthem to unite the varied peoples behind a single piece of music.
“Phoenix” – Big Red Machine, feat. Fleet Foxes, Anais Mitchell
I want to dislike this song, but I can’t… it seizes control of rational thought and makes me groove like a white guy who didn’t just recommend Tyler, The Creator’s “boffo” flow.
“Wet Dream” – Wet Leg
Rhian Teasdale wrote “Wet Dream” after an ex told her that he thought of her when he masturbated and this is, guaranteed, the hookiest song ever written about a pick-up line hinging on masturbation.
“Be Sweet” – Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast became the artist we all needed most in 2021.
“Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head” – Torres
If I had a better grasp on “Yasss” cultural cache, I’d say that Torres “Yassed up” this head-nodder with a fragile narrator, passive-aggressive warning to an on-again-off-again suitor he better put a ring on it. But I don’t have any idea how to use Yassification, so I won’t.
“I Don’t Live Here Anymore” – The War on Drugs, feat. Lucius
My 12yo said this song is everything I ever wanted out of an individual song and she’s not wrong. Synth and Mark Knopflerized Springsteen.
“How Not To Drown” – CHVRCHES, feat. Robert Smith
If you’ve followed me on Twitter or read past countdowns, this pick will surprise absolutely no one. I am the CHVRCHES fanboy. Robert Smith is responsible for one of my Desert Island 5. I never stood a chance. BSidesNarrative sent this to me the morning it was released, knowing it’d shatter me.
It shattered me.