Best Of Music

Best Songs of 2021

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: 20202019 / 20182017201620152014201320122011

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 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.

FULL 2021 Playlist:

31 Days of Horror Cinema

Viy (1967): 31 Days of Horror 2021

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Severin Blu-ray

Hooptober ’21 Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Asian Cinema
Country: Russia

Viy Elevator Pitch

Three wild nights with sexy witch shenanigans and a “vampire” payoff.

Idle Viy Musings

Three seminary students get lost at night, stumble upon a farmhouse and ask the old lady for shelter. She agrees, on the condition that they sleep in different parts of her barn. She comes to one, Khoma, in the middle of the night and attempts to seduce him. He refuses — because she’s an old bag. Instead she puts a spell on him, climbs on his back and rides him around the countryside like a horse — a flying horse! When they land, he snaps out of the spell and beats the woman with a stick. As she’s dying to transforms into a beautiful young woman. He runs off to seek solace from his Rector who informs him that a rich merchant has a dying daughter — the woman he beat — and he’s asked for him by name to pray for her soul over the course of three nights. Else unstated severe punishment brought down from above.

There’s a lush and fertile weirdness running throughout Viy, directed by Konstantin Yershov and Georgi Kropachyov, that feels uniquely Russian — paced and rendered in a way that feels entirely other to our Western sensibilities. The specific color palette (assuming proper color timing on this disc) and the special effects by Aleksandr Ptushko, reserved for the film’s grand finale, surprised and delighted, a festive gathering of low-fi practical effects and rubber-suited weirdness.

Richard Stanley’s well-informed history of the vampire and the Russian concept of vampirism is an essential companion extra. The 22-minute interview with Stanley explains the folklore and deepens the film’s impact. Highly recommended viewing. Viy will also appear on the upcoming Severin folk horror box set.

Final Thoughts

Viy just became an early front-runner in my favorite Hooptober 21 first-watch. A wicked/sexy witch, three-crazy nights, and delightful practical effects made this simple story a weird and wonderful exercise in restrained horror showmanship.

I watched Viy on a Severin Blu-ray.

2021 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Gamera, the Giant Monster (1965) / #2. The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) / #3. Bewitched (1981) / #4. Viy (1967)

James David Patrick currently writes for DVD Netflix. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add whatever this is to that list. Follow his blog at and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

31 Days of Horror Cinema

Bewitched (1981): 31 Days of Horror 2021

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched 88 Films Blu-ray

Hooptober ’21 Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Asian Cinema
Country: Hong Kong


Shaw Bros. sponsored PSA about the dangers of casual sex. Complete with super-earnest post-movie title card. But really gooey.


This one doesn’t make a lot of sense, so I won’t spend much time trying to make sense out of any of it. It opens with a guy defending himself against the charge that he killed his daughter. His excuse? She was possessed by evil spirits and had to hammer a spike into her head to end her suffering and save his own life. You see, he traveled to Thailand, hooked up with a long-lashed honey and contracted a mad case of Gong Tauuuuuu! He’s been cursed and evil things happen all around him. His daughter trying to kill him just happened to be one of those evil things.

The mad wizard monk of Bewitched performs one of his many rituals.

Our protagonist, a very lazy detective, heads off to Thailand to investigate the man’s claims where he also contracts a mean case of Gong Tauuuuuuu! Gong Tau is less a hex and more of a voodoo monk that pulls the strings from a safe, unnamed location that cost very few of the Shaw Bros. precious dollars to secure for long days of filming this wizard monk voodoo guy relishing the pronunciation of various hexes like “Hairy chest!” and “Strangling spell” with Chyron generated titles beneath.

Things get really wacky when the detective finds a good crazy voodoo monk to do battle with the evil monk. For 90% of this 45-minute battle they’re not even in the same room and they can’t even troll each other on the Internet. They’re squaring off remotely with mind powers and incantations. It’s not until they confront each other (with one extra wandering through the airport like she got lost on the way to craft services) that they come face-to-face.

Elsewhere you’ve got worm vomiting, maggot eating, pregnant demon ladies with goopy yellow snot, bursting bubble blisters… the list goes on and on. Thankfully this ooze and goo and GONG TAU! fest clocks in 101 minutes. Any more and GONG TAUUUUUU! might have worn out its welcome.


While I can’t say that Bewitched bewitched me (sorry about that), it did lead me to Kuei Chih-Hung’s follow up feature, The Boxer’s Omen (1983), which amplifies all the crazy I enjoyed in Bewitched. Maybe I’ll even write about it. Until then, stay out of Thailand and if you must go to Thailand, please keep it in your pants… because GONG TAU.

88 Films Bewitched Blu-ray

I watched Bewitched on an 88 Films Blu-ray.

2021 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Gamera, the Giant Monster (1965) / #2. The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) / #3. Bewitched (1981)

James David Patrick currently writes for DVD Netflix. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add whatever this is to that list. Follow his blog at and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.