Best Songs of 2021

10. ”You Forever” by Self Esteem

Pure bliss pop out of the UK, come on chant along with me.

Best moment of the song: 2:54, when the music quiets a bit and you feel like you’re in the midst of an audience, shouting the words out in unison.

9. “Look at the Sky” by Porter Robinson

Throughout the darkest moments of the year Robinson’s music was a bastion of hope. This song best portrays the feeling of latching onto the glimpse that there’s something better to come.

Best moment of the song: 2:37, a guest vocalist comes in to quietly deliver the lines from the chorus: “look at the sky, I’m still here / I’ll be alive next year / I can make something good”.

8. ”Quirk” by Really From

Really From picked up the mantle of 90s second wave emo bands, offering sweeping guitars and the occasional horn section over angsty but quietly expressed feelings. Here, they examine what parents pass on to their children: “quirks”, pains, and all.

Best moment of the song: 2:18, the song quiets with a simple electric strum then builds with a trumpet before both vocalists (who are siblings) overlap and the vocalist’s voice cracks and rapid horn playing takes over.

7. ”For Sale: Ford Pinto” by Rosie Tucker

Rosie Tucker uses the uglier realities and experiences of our world (Ford Pintos, licking your fingers of Dorito dust) to explain a relationship that is falling apart.

Best moment of the song: 1:48, Tucker ends the song by repeating “you tell me to…” before finishing her sentence with “to breathe likes it’s easy, like it’s something I’ve been doing for years” — a perfectly wry descriptor for the struggle of daily living.

6. ”Rubberband” by Show Me the Body

Pulsing and noisy; “Rubberband” shocks your body into gearing up for the fight that Show Me the Body is prepping you for. Their thesis is that it’s “no longer enough to survive”, this song will make you want to rise up.

Best moment of the song: 2:20, the music slows and over an ominous bass line Julian Cashwan Pratt half-growls “who’s supposed to live who’s supposed to die” before the guitars begin chugging once again.

5. ”Be Sweet” by Japanese Breakfast

Michelle Zauner opted to keep this song to herself rather than passing it along to other pop artists. The result is the catchiest pop song of the year.

Best moment of the song: 2:24, when she repeats saying “believe” and extends the second one out to “belieeeeeve”.

4. ”Kill Me” by Indigo de Souza

The closer to an excellent album, “Kill Me” offers what is perhaps the best look at Indigo de Souza’s range. She can craft earworms and somber ditties, as well as ratching up heavy and screeching emotions to express her point of view. “Kill Me” provides all of this.

Best moment of the song: 3:16, another example of a song slowing down and then building up to layered versions of de Souza screaming out “tell them I wasn’t having much fun”.

3. ”Days Like These” by Low

We’re certainly living in “Days Like These” and Low take a sort of meta view on this, singing about how we talk about these times we live in. The song works because its beautifully sung melodies are obliterated by blown out instrumentation that nears on a discomfortable listening experience. Doesn’t that represent the year though?

Best moment of the song: 1:18, the melody is bombarded by blow out your speakers static.

2. “Fellowship” by serpentwithfeet

The past two years have really put into focus the things that are truly important. Losing normalcy for so long is so wearying and strips away the facades that are false foundations. So what then are we left with? serpentwithfeet ends an album mostly made up of love songs with an ode to friendships that cut to my core. Keep your friends close, you never know when a reality altering pandemic may upend your world. Those who care for you are so important.

Best moment of the song: 0:53, “Maybe it’s the blessing of my thirties / I’m spending less time worrying and more time recounting the love.”

  1. “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo

This was my favorite song of the year from the first time I heard it on an impulse listen from a list of newly released songs on Apple Music. It’s an instant entry into the canon of teenage heartbreak, wallowing in such specificity that it brings you back to the moments in your own life where you felt desperately broken. I think it’s bad (maybe even dangerous) to live your life obsessed with what you liked when you were young, but this song is so good that it transcends all of that.

Best moment of the song: 2:18, “because you said forever now I drive alone past your street.” This is one of the best dealing with heartache lines in music history.

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