Epigram Music's 100 best songs of 2021

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By Epigram Music

In our greatest feat yet, Epigram Music brings you our top 100 songs of 2021, as chosen and reviewed by our writers. We humbly present the soundtrack to another strange year (in no particular order as we don't believe in pitting great artists against each other):

100. April fool – Hana Vu

Credit: Ghostly International

By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor

Firstly, shoutout to Vu’s album cover that looks like the picture I sent to student health when I had tonsilitis. Secondly, shoutout to Vu for making one of the best album debuts of this year. ‘April Fool’ is the opening track from ‘Public Storage’, and Vu starts how she means to go on. Her cutting lyrics are hard to swallow (tonsillitis again), and you can hear her forming every word. If you’ll forgive me for being a cringey English student for a second, it sounds sort of like when you’re driving at night and it’s raining and the traffic lights glisten through the raindrops on the windows. In other words, ‘April Fool’ is just perfect.

99. Assumptions – Sam Gellaitry

Credit: Parlophone Records

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

I’ve been trying to gatekeep Sam Gellaitry for years now; I wholeheartedly believe he is one of the most talented people in electronic music, with his glowing discography compelling evidence of this. With the release of ‘Assumptions’ perhaps it’s time I let go; the Stirling-born producer has really outdone himself on this track, using his own vocals for the first time to resounding success. The gorgeous, synth-driven track is irresistibly groovy and skilfully demonstrates the diversity in Gellaitry’s sound. So let this be the end of my gatekeeping, I implore you to listen to Sam Gellaitry – he deserves all the continued success he will inevitably get, and at just 24 years old, there’s plenty more of that to come.

98. Blackout – Turnstile

Credit: Roadrunner Records

By James Peppercorn, MA English Literature

Manic, frantic, chaotic, bombastic, biblical. These are only a few words to describe each and every track on Turnstiles breakthrough ‘Glow On’. Each song manages to fit in a ridiculous amount of ideas into each song. The two and a bit minutes of single ‘Blackout’ is enough for Turnstile to go from classic hardcore, to drum machine throbbing rhythms, back to stadium choruses and peak with a pure moshpit breakdown and tribal drum tympani solo. This is pure groove, it makes you feel alive, and you don’t even need to ‘see it live to get it’, as the band would say.

97. ALYGAYTR – Kasabian

Credit: Sony Music Entertainment UK

By Joseph Morrison, Third Year Philosophy and Theology

The Leicester band came back from nearly 4 years without a release with ‘ALYGATYR’; their first single without Tom Meighan. But the track is still classic Kasabian. It's fast paced, loud, and in your face. Promoted frontman Serge Pizzorno dominates with his lead vocals and this track marks the new era of Kasabian whilst completely continuing from where they left off.

96. Andrew - Pom Poko

Credit: Bella Union

By Rohan Jobanputra, Third Year Physics and Philosophy

From Norwegian band Pom Poko’s sophomore album ‘Cheater’, ‘Andrew’ is a noisy, punky, and above all else, beautifully angular track that makes full use of the band’s clearly evident musical training. Martin Tonne’s crunchy guitar lines meld magnificently with Ola Djupvik’s percussion which is metronomically tight but never boring, and Jonas Krøvel’s smooth bass ties together the rhythm section that supports Ragnhild Jamtveit’s bright, clear voice. ‘Andrew’ is an exemplary noise pop track from a band that seem unable to put a foot wrong.

95. The Last Man on Earth – Wolf Alice

Credit: Dirty Hit

By Jake Paterson, First Year English

In the way of lead singles, it’s hard not to compare ‘The Last Man on Earth’ to ‘Yuk Foo’ from previous album Visions of a Life. Wolf Alice effortlessly construct the emotion of emergence: in contrast to Yuk Foo’s immediacy, ‘The Last Man on Earth’ is a piano ballad that rises from the darkness of a February lockdown. It moves towards a picture of swirling climaxes of strings and guitar, and reflections on self-awareness and dystopian landscapes. Its composition is nothing short of a work of art.

94. Blowin Steam (Open Up Your Mind) – Mr Jukes, Barney Artist

Credit: Locket Records

By Theo Kent, Music Editor

Mr Jukes (AKA Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club) has collaborated with British rapper Barney Artist this year with their album The Locket. ‘Blowin Steam (Open Up Your Mind)’ was released as a single before the album dropped, and it’s easy to see why. Steadman’s Jazz influences come into play with production which is reminiscent of J Dilla’s rap beat mastery. Even some classic scratching is heard in the choruses which bridge Barney Artist’s flowy verses. The rapper’s voice perfectly suits the old-school east coast production style, and the track allows him to show-off his easy-going rhythmic flare.

93. Criminal – Mercy's Cartel

Credit: Mercy Sotire

By Angela Ugarte, Third Year Liberal Arts

In between Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘September’, you find Mercy’s Cartel tune ‘Criminal’. It’s almost insulting not to at least head bop along to its 80s drum kicks and basslines. The breathing samples build up the nightclub aura of the song: it’s hot, it’s heavy, and you’re looking good. Mercy’s vocal range gives her lyrics a ‘voice in your head’ element, which prompts you to take the leap; you’ve spotted someone sexy and if you don’t act upon it, you might actually die. Thanks to fairy godmother Mercy, you shall.

92. Bunny Is A Rider – Caroline Polachek

Credit: Perpetual Novice

By Ginny Darke, Third Year English

Polacheck, formerly of the indie group Chairlift, was far more associated with her juvenile soft lyrics of her early work, until 2019 with her sharp debut album Pang. Following on from this was no mean feat, but recent single ‘Bunny is a Rider’ did the job and became the song of summer 2021. Polacheck creates the alter ego of Bunny in the track, a sexy but unavailable and illusive figure who can’t be tracked down. There’s a real strong sense of self esteem and confidence in Bunny which is certainly refreshing.

91. The Seldom Seen Kid – Elbow

Credit: Polydor Records

By Milan Perera, Second Year English Literature and Community Engagement

Recorded during lockdown, the ninth studio album of the Bury-based Indie rock giants brought their most reflective and nostalgic sound to date. Elbow consciously veered away from writing any foot-tapping, sing-along arena anthems which they are renowned for. ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ is a tribute to Guy Garvey’s late musician-friend Brian Glancy. The sustained notes on bass clarinet elegantly accompany the opening of the track, ‘The roses are heavy with rain and for ages/They'll have to veil’.

90. Mando Calrissian – CZARFACE, MF DOOM

Credit: Silver Age

By Lucas Riley, Third Year Maths

The first project released since the news of DOOM’s tragic passing in October last year, Super What? carried a lot of anticipation, and certainly had a lot of commendable moments. True to the styles of both masked characters, Mando Calrissian contains a plethora of cartoon and pop culture references which are interspersed around the more laid-back verses from DOOM, Esoteric and Inspectah Deck. Despite not coming off quite as villainous on this track, DOOM’s flow is as immaculate as always. ‘Mando Calrissian’ stands alongside ‘Break In The Action’ as a highlight of the first posthumous MF DOOM album.

89. the angel of 8th ave. – Gang of Youths

Credit: Warner Music UK

By Gabrielle Jackson, Third Year English

If you need a new song to shout off-key at full volume in your car, this is the one. The almost unintelligible lyrics (I had to look them up despite it making its way into my top five songs of 2021) are perfect for the glorious emotional outburst of personal car concerts, of screaming yourself hoarse within private confines, a triumphant smile on your face.

88. Rookery – Ben Howard

Credit: Island Records

By Kate McGrath, Third Year Music with Innovation

Ben Howard’s voice is so unique it can completely capture you. I never get bored of it, even though ‘Rookery’ is literally just him and a guitar. When he gets to the third verse and goes up to his higher range, it is just so undeniably good. His lyrics are also beautiful: always so visual in a way that not many people can achieve.

87. When You Were Mine – Joy Crookes

Credit: Insanity Records, Sony Music Entertainment UK

By Catrin Rees, Third Year Social Policy and Sociology

In 2021 we were finally graced with Joy Crookes’ highly anticipated debut album – and the singer seriously delivered. While any of the album’s tracks could have made it onto this list, it’s impossible not to be immediately charmed by this song’s serotonin-infused brass arrangement. A special mention has to go to the song’s music video shot around Brixton, depicting Crookes’ love for her community as well as her creativity. Crookes is an artist who knows her way around storytelling, and I can see ‘When You Were Mine’ becoming a staple post-break-up anthem.

86. R&B – English Teacher

Credit: Nice Swan Recordings

By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor

English Teacher do some great teaching on ‘R&B’. The band aren’t ones to shy away from awkward conversations – here frontwoman Lily Fontaine lilts about defying expectations as a frontwoman of colour: ‘Despite appearances, I haven’t got the voice for R&B/Even though I’ve seen more Colors Shows than KEXPs’. ‘R&B’ is suave and confident, Fontaine proving that she’s made for indie, leading a loud rallying cry through swanky guitar riffs for those on the side lines. Oh, and there’s plenty of cowbell thrown in for good measure.

85. Falling – The Sherlocks

Credit: Teddyboy Records

By Joseph Morrison, Third Year Philosophy and Theology

The Sherlocks first single from their highly anticipated third album World I Understand was met with a great reception this year. The four-piece from Bolton-upon-Dearne have recently been nominated for Radio X’s #RecordOfTheYear and has received relatively large commercial success with numerous plays across multiple radio stations for the UK indie band.

84. In The Fire – Dave

Credit: Neighbourhood Recordings

By Jedrzej Borkowski, First Year Politics and International Relations

You simply can’t go wrong with a posse featuring Fredo, Meekz, Ghetts, Giggs and Dave. Each artist describes their life experiences, really bringing out the theme of being ‘tried in the fire’ - only emphasized by the great Florida Mass Choir sample. The beautiful gospel production and the rappers bringing out what’s best in them truly makes for a phenomenal track.

83. Broken Chandeliers – Kofi Stone, Jacob Banks

Credit: Tru Community

By Lydia Titcombe, Third Year Psychology in Education

Kofi Stone loves a collaboration. Having worked with the likes of Loyle Carner, Maverick Sabre and Eerf Evil, he has demonstrated his ability to have perfect synergy with just about anyone. ‘Broken Chandeliers’ sees the Birmingham-based rapper come together with vocalist Jacob Banks with glorious success. The two complement each other effortlessly, with Stone in his feels rapping about the emotions surrounding relationships, affection and attraction whilst Banks provides a soulful yet infectious chorus in between. Kofi Stone is a man on the rise and ‘Broken Chandeliers’ is yet more evidence of this.

82. 13th Floor – Gabriel Gifford

Credit: Charlatan Jazz

By Angela Ugarte, Third Year Liberal Arts

For all the night cats that sway their tails on dumpsters outside rundown Jazz clubs, ‘13th Floor’ is an ode to your existence. With it’s almost ambiental introduction, the song turns you on your head very quickly with its woodwind entourage taking the main stage. In one word, it enchants. The changing pace of the saxophone holds your attention very steadily and as it moves out of the spotlight to let the flute have a say, you realise that there is not a single vocalist in the whole song — it’s not needed, the conversation held in the song is more than enough.

81. Signal from the Noise – BADBADNOTGOOD

Credit: XL Recordings Ltd / Innovative Leisure

By James Peppercorn, MA English Literature

This may be the most jazz BADBADNOTGOOD have ever sounded. Despite always being a ‘jazz band’ per se, they have never been locked down by that mode. With their latest record, ‘Talk Memory’, and especially the album’s astonishing single ‘Signal From the Noise’, the jazz outfit have fully embraced their Miles Davis Electric phase. ‘Signal..’ with its slow, mesmeric and haunting build blows up to an all out freakout with some of the wildest bass playing this side of Jaco Pastorius. By accepting their true calling, BADBADNOTGOOD have reached a pinnacle.

80. Life of the Party (with André 3000) – Kanye West, André 3000

Credit: IDJ

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

Oh Kanye, you’ve done it again. Or has he? Let it be no secret, I think Kanye is a genius – one of the greatest and most influential artists of all time, and despite its flaws, DONDA was a good album. However, it’s André 3000 that steals the show here and provides easily the best moment on the deluxe version of the project. He provides a gorgeous verse, beguiling in its beauty, tackling challenging themes of faith and loss – perhaps one of the most sincere and introspective verses we’ve ever heard from the Outkast rapper. That’s not to downplay West’s contribution to the track; his adroit production combined with some snappy bars make this track all-time classic Kanye.

79. Red RoomHiatus Kaiyote

Credit: Brainfeeder

By Lucas Riley, Third Year Maths

The lead single from the Melbourne group’s latest effort Mood Valiant showcases the full range of singer Nai Palm’s vocal ability. The intricate bass and guitar motifs are accompanied by haunting keys and jazzy piano outbursts from a band that are maybe at their most harmonious point, following a five year ‘hiatus.’ Red Room is lyrically repetitive but with a strong sense of imagery, and the composition achieves a warm yet simultaneously chilling aura. An incredibly enjoyable listen.

78. Side Tackle – Japanese Breakfast

Credit: Dead Oceans

By Katie Coxall, Third Year Art History

Japanese Breakfast's third album Jubilee blends tragic ballads with high octane pop seamlessly, continuously blending the heartache of her previous records with a newfound sense of joy. 'Slide Tackle', the fourth track on the album, is a kick of something sweet and tangy, full of hope and optimism, acting as a triumphant declaration of self belief amongst brief moments of doubt. JP uses this song as a list of affirmations, a manifestation of her desires and an acknowledgment of her reality. A summer song packed full of hope and heart, 'Slide Tackle' is a groovy nostalgic banger and a perfect representative of bittersweet pop music.

77. Hertz – Amyl and the Sniffers

Credit: Rough Trade Records

By Bonnie Dowler, Second Year English and Philosophy

2021 saw the release of Amyl and the sniffers’ brusque third album ‘Comfort To Me’. The album is embodied by its fifth track, ‘Hertz:’ a desperate plea for liberation from all things mundane. During a press release, frontwoman Amy Taylor described her pub-rock masterpiece as ‘a daydream about being repulsed by confinement and frustrated over being stuck in one place’. Taylor’s vexation is aptly channelled in the opening riff: sharp, like a repeated kick in the gut. Paired with Taylor’s gritty and visceral vocals, the track condenses the frustration we all garnered during lockdown.

76. Airhead – Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum

Credit: Morpho Music

By Milan Perera, Second Year English Literature and Community Engagement

Michael C Hall, who received cult status for his portrayal of Dexter Morgan in the hit TV series Dexter, is the lead singer of indie rock band Princess goes to the Butterfly Museum. The band deftly taps into various music genres, and in February issued their debut studio album, THANKS FOR COMING. Track ‘Airhead’ is an unmistakable nod to David Bowie, with an expanding hook which serves as a fine example of Hall’s unmatched vocal prowess. This dystopian track is further embellished with a synth pop chorus.

75. Happy Now? – FINNEAS

Credit: OYOY

By Kate McGrath, Third Year Music with Innovation

The vibe change between the intro and first verse that then builds up to the chorus and doesn’t quit in 'Happy Now?' is fantastic. I was surprised how much I liked this song at first, but now when it comes on I can’t help but want to show off some great dance moves. FINNEAS is known for his production skills, but this song focuses on his vocal control and great writing in a refreshingly new way.

74. Poem To My Child, If Ever You Shall Be – Ross Gay, Gia Margaret

Credit: Jagjaguwar

By Jake Paterson, First Year English

As a birthday release for the legendary indie label Jagjaguwar, the spoken word poet Ross Gay collaborated with some of the label’s best artists, and here delivers a letter to a fictional child that ultimately reminds us to be human. The line that we have ‘Four teeth that are so sharp’ has forced me countless times over to ground myself in the physical presence of my body, all the way down to the final heartbeat that stretches onwards at the close of the song that makes the listener pick themselves up.

73. I Get A Kick Out Of You – Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga

Credit: Columbia Records

By Chezelle Bingham, Music Subeditor

Following up on their first project with even more glitz and glamour, the iconic duo of Bennett and Gaga shine on the lead single to their 2021 EP Love for Sale. On their rendition of the Cole Porter classic, the two iconic artists again showcase their chemistry in the jazz genre. The track, which has rightly been nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys, is one that will, as all jazz does, bring a certain almost festive warmth to your soul and will honestly make you feel like you’ve been transported back to a 1920s speakeasy.

72. Yum Yum – Snazzback, China Bowls

Credit: Worm Discs

By Rohan Jobanputra, Third Year Physics and Philosophy

‘Yum Yum’ is a 7 minute 24 second odyssey through a sea of exquisite jazz instrumentation, with the sublime vocals of China Bowls as guide. Snazzback are incredibly tight and cohesive, yet somehow manage to retain the loose, chaotic feel that is so integral to good jazz. The Bristol-based septet push and pull with their instruments, ebbing and flowing around Bowls’ voice, and manage to pack variety into the track without it feeling disjointed. At 3:30, most of the instrumentation drops out, to leave just a trumpet and China Bowls scatting in harmony, as the rest of the band build back in to produce a euphoric, thick sound.

71. Kiss Me More (feat. SZA) – Doja Cat, SZA

Credit: Kemosabe Records/RCA Records

By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor

Every Doja Cat song is good, but there’s something really special about ‘Kiss Me More’. It revels in simplicity, capturing the playfulness of smooching with one of the most irresistible hooks of the year. Doja and SZA are a match made in pop heaven – their chemistry is sweet, but not too sickly. Most importantly, the little twinkling ‘ding!’ that comes around the 2:30 mark is hands down the greatest musical moment of the year.

70. Summer's Over – Jordana, TV Girl

Credit: Summer's Over

By Catrin Rees, Third Year Social Policy and Sociology

Despite my first listen being in October, ‘Summer’s Over’ made it into my 100 listened to songs of the entire year. The perfect accompaniment to summer fading into autumn, the lyrics tell the tale of a summer romance coming to an end as the seasons change, with the singer finding comfort in the familiarity of life’s transitions. The song provides smooth bass and soft vocals that make romanticising your walk home from uni in the dark much easier.

69. All I see is Poop – Hobo Johnson, Silk Animus

Credit: Professional Corporate Records

By George Benson, Third Year Liberal Arts

The second of two Hobo Johnson albums to come out in 2021, ‘Hobo Johnson Alienates His Fanbase’ possesses some of the erratic fervour of a teenager who recently discovered Marx, and has started to wear a Castro-style patrol cap to sixth form. My favourite song is ‘All I See is Poop’; as the melody is fairly minimal, the true genius lies in the lyrics. He questions the futility of morality when forced to engage with a system hooked on the relentless pursuit of profit, disregarding anything else, including its own longevity. And he says poop a lot.

68. Honest – Jeremy Zucker

Credit: Republic Records

By Kate McGrath, Third Year Music with Innovation

The production on those drums! It’s all in the detail with this guy - I hear something new in this song every time I listen, there’s so many wacky sounds in there. That chorus though? Smooth vocals that simultaneously feel like he’s spitting out every syllable. And the layering of the vocals are even more beautiful. Zucker does seem to have some weird obsession with trucks though (‘You're a runaway truck, I'm a guy on a bike’).

67. Mid 90s Melody – The Scatterbees

Credit: Thirteen Lion Studios

By Angela Ugarte, Third Year Liberal Arts

Mid 90s Melody is a vulnerable moment. The lone guitar sets the tone; we are bittersweetly alone. Lisa’s bare boned vocals and the simple drumline come in and with them the glimpses of a past love. Her vocals remind us of a lonely barmaid in a cheesy Western film whose ruminations are parallel to those of heartbroken cowboy Hugo. The grit in his voice adds a layer of poignancy to the story, their harmonies a nod to each other’s pain. The guitar breaks in again, echoing Led Zeppelin heaviness, it feels like a final yell of pain into the starlit desert night. It’s truly over, this is a kiss goodbye.

66. You Can Do It – Caribou

Credit: City Slang

By Theo Kent, Music Editor

Following Caribou’s 2020 album Suddenly, Dan Snaith returned this year with ‘You Can Do It’ – a motivational, feel good, synth-led track. This tune is packed with classic Caribou signature: a hypnotic (dare I say repetitive?) refrain accompanied by stunning electronic production. Snaith has a real mastery over the dynamics of his music, and uses this to create a gradual explosion of a climax in ‘You Can Do It’. Yes, the only lyrics are ‘you can do it’, but this just means you can tell your mates that you know all the words to this song. Plus, the music video is exclusively slo-mo shots of dogs chasing frisbees. Who wouldn’t like that?

65. We're All Just Trying To Get By – Roger Taylor, KT Tunstall

Credit: Nightjar Productions

By Milan Perera, Second Year English Literature and Community Engagement

Taylor was one quarter of the iconic Rock ensemble Queen, which revolutionised the genre of Arena rock. His sixth solo album is a sharp departure from his previous material for both Queen and his own solo projects. Conceived during the height of lockdown, the resplendent ‘We’re All Just Trying To Get By’ resonates with a pragmatic worldview in the post-pandemic era. The result of this collaboration does not disappoint as Taylor’s acrid, raspy voice blends with Tunstall’s supple alto voice like vinegar and olive oil.

64. i tried – Slowthai

Credit: Method Records

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

‘Stuck in Sunday League but I’m on levels with Ronaldo’ – same Slowthai, same. The Northampton-born rapper’s 2021 effort TYRON saw some of the most pensive and sincere reflections of his life yet, a sentiment perfectly demonstrated by ‘i tried’. It’s a track of cogitation, with Ty contemplating his past mistakes and the struggles he’s encountered in reaching his success – he’s not perfect and he knows it, but upon a little introspection, he believes he can become who he wants to be. Sampling the brilliant Trey Gruber’s track of which the song shares its name, the intricately crafted instrumental complements Ty’s lyricism beautifully as he contemplates just where he belongs in this world.

63. Bby – Overmono

Credit: XL Recordings

By Ginny Darke, Third Year English

B-side track ‘Bby’ marks a change in Overmono’s musical career. The track came as a result of moving out of their studio of four years. ‘Bby’ was produced in the last two weeks of their time there, and seems to sum up their recent work to a tee, with a real sense of nostalgia mixed in. As  put by Overmono themselves: ‘Packing down the studio was left till the very last night and we spent the rest of the time making one last tune there. The chords in ‘Bby’ are those ink stains. Woozy and morphing, feeling like they might swallow you up’.

62. Saigon – Luke Hemmings

Credit: Sony Music Entertainment Australia

By Kate McGrath, Third Year Music with Innovation

The instrumental and vocal tracks are all pretty simple, but they still hit. Hemmings’ vocal control, especially on the higher harmonies, is really enviable. The lyrics are obviously quarantine influenced, which is sometimes what you need - I like to be reminded that COVID has sucked everywhere, even Australia. The production sound is nothing amazingly unique, but he honestly doesn’t need it - his voice is so elevated that it carries the song to another level.

61. SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE – Tyler, The Creator, Brent Faiyaz, Fana Hues

Credit: Columbia Records

By Jedrzej Borkowski, First Year Politics and International Relations

It’s no secret that if a Tyler, The Creator song is split into two parts it will be great. ‘SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE’ is no different. The song's focus on love is reflected by its mellow production, topped with smooth synths and jazzy elements. In the second part the track switches up, turning into a Reggaeton ‘Lover’s Rock’ vibe, which pushes the listener into Tyler’s colorful world. You simply can’t stand still when listening to this song.

60. Space 4 – Nala Sinephro

Credit: Warp Records

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

At just 22 years old, London-based Nala Sinephro released her debut album Space 1.8 earlier this year, but even at such a young age she is producing music on par with some of jazz’s most capable composers. The project is majestic and spiritual, perfectly striking a balance between jazz and ambient, crafting a project that is impressively powerful in its minimalism. Leaving you reminiscent of some of the jazz legends that preceded her, such as Alice Coltrane or Pharaoh Sanders, ‘Space 4’ presents a captivating musical journey, one with energetic sax-infused heights and calming piano-based lows. An absolute must-listen.

59. Bottle Episode – Mandy Indiana

Credit: Fire Talk

By Rohan Jobanputra, Third Year Physics and Philosophy

Mandy, Indiana’s ‘…’ EP opens with driving, military drums that grip your ears and don’t let go. Over the vital percussion are introduced Valentine Caulfield’s cold, ethereal vocals. ‘Bottle Episode’ is a hypnotic, ghostly song about the unique, almost slow-motion terror of war. Caulfield says ‘The lyrics talk of men waiting, moving forward; war is never mentioned, yet it is obvious that the men are waiting for death. The song ends with the men almost dancing as the bullets hit them’. The band achieve the controlled crescendo they are aiming for, drawing the listener in until they find themselves in the middle of a chaotic sonic battlefield.

58. Great Mass of Color – Deafheaven

Credit: Sargent House

By James Peppercorn, MA English Literature

Not ones to stray away from dramatic shifts, Deafheaven came roaring back with a complete 180. All of sudden, they changed from being our favourite post-metal outfit to becoming a bonafide shoegaze machine. The band has always dabbled in these lighter textures, however ‘Great Mass of Color’ pushes those elements to the forefront. Long past are the days of screaming and noise, now we have lead singer George Clarke showing off his melodic chops, only to tease us with the full-frontal roar at the very end of the song. Despite the change, Deafheaven feel as powerful as ever, and this song defines a new era for the band.

57. Road Of The Lonely Ones – Madlib

Credit: Madlib Invazion

By Lucas Riley, Third Year Maths

Although technically released as a single in December 2020, Road of the Lonely Ones is the stunning high point of Madlib’s January 2021 album Sound Ancestors. Built around the soulful samples of the 1960’s Philadelphia-based band The Ethics, the powerful falsetto vocals, luscious harmonies, delicate guitars and punchy drum rhythms come together to create one of the simplest yet most moving tracks I’ve heard. FourTet’s arrangement could not be more suited to Madlib’s vision – the two have come together to create one of the best releases of the year. Here’s hoping there’s more to come from this collaboration.

56. Comedy – Bo Burnham

Credit: Bo Burnham

By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor

No one else picked Bo Burnham for this list, so naturally the mantle fell to me. ‘Inside’ came at a time when we all needed it most (when we were all miserable), and ‘Comedy’ remains a firm stand-out. The track is a grand performance, lurching from mellow piano to distorted vocals and sneering laugh tracks, to 80s synths and thumping electro-pop. Painfully introspective and claustrophobic, Burnham delivers the perfect commentary on feeling downright useless. His irony is summed up: this isn’t really comedy, it’s bleak, but boy does it sound sweet (‘if you start to smell burning toast you’re having a stroke or overcooking your toast’).

55. LEMONHEAD – Tyler, The Creator (Feat. 42 Dugg)

Credit: Columbia Records

By George Benson, Third Year Liberal Arts

Like many of the best Tyler, the Creator songs, ‘Lemonhead’ has a great mix of menacing intensity and slower, almost wistful moments of tuneful melody. The explosion of energy endures for most of the song but is grounded towards the end by a cool transition into a steadier tempo. We are treated to an entertaining stream of consciousness from Tyler, with the mantra of the album ‘call me if you get lost’ echoing in the background.

54. Don't Get Hit by a Car – Cheekface

Credit: New Professor Music

By Flora Pick, Deputy Digital Editor

‘Of course I relate to Lena Dunham, I relate to every annoying genius’ states Greg Katz on Cheekface’s ska-cum-dismemberment-plan-cover-band number which should A. not work, B. be unbearable. Yet somehow, Cheekface, a band that trades in Twitter neologisms combined with some kind of throwback 90s millennial ennui, have provided exactly the angst music required for a mid/late(?!) COVID haze. They’re right — everything IS boring now! Everytime I hear one of their blue check witticisms and want to roll my eyes I am instead hit with the same intense beam of being understood that listening to crappy pop punk provided at 13.

53. Pelota (Cut a Rug Remix) – Khruangbin, Quantic

Credit: Dead Oceans

By Theo Kent, Music Editor

It’s not often that remixes garner as much attention as their original tunes, but in this case, the Quantic remix of Khruangbin’s ‘Pelota’ deservedly does so. Following the release of Khruangbin’s album Mordechai (2020) – on which ‘Pelota’ features – the Houston three piece released a remix collection this year. The infectiously tight drums, minimal but punchy bass-lines, and choppy guitar licks of the Khruangbin original work perfectly with Quantic’s additions. The British producer gives his remix a deep funk/House feel which makes it abundantly danceable, and incredibly catchy.

52. Wild Side – Laurel

Credit: Communion Group Ltd

By Chezelle Bingham, Music Subeditor

If Southampton born singer-songwriter Laurel wasn’t on your radar already, after the release of her two most recent EPs, she sure should be. On ‘Wild Side’, the fourth track on her latest EP Limbo Cherry, Laurel provides us with a disco-pop influence that is relatively new for her, yet somehow does so successfully. Endearing, uplifting and simply just a lot of fun, Laurel invites us to her wild side not only metaphorically but also physically, with the track’s electric synths and redesigned aesthetic providing us with a certain wildness that is unlike Laurel but equally as impressive.

51. Tu Me Dejaste de Querer – C Tangana

Credit: Sony Music Entertainment España

By Angela Ugarte, Third Year Liberal Arts

Little Spanish man C Tangana nods to flamenco once again in ‘Tu Me Dejaste de Querer’: it will undoubtedly make you wiggle your toes. The singers sampled throughout the song give you a taste of what a melodrama in the streets of Madrid would be like: it’s a gentle, sexy punch in the stomach. The constant clapping in the background keeps a constant rhythmicality which complements Tangana’s switches in tempo throughout his rap verses immaculately. The title translates to ‘You’ve Stopped Loving Me’, but the heart wrench was clear enough from the vocal tones themselves. Make sure to *cry in Spanish* when you press play.

50. Walk of Shame – Darren Criss

Credit: Mighty Monkey

By Kate McGrath, Third Year Music with Innovation

Yes, he’s the guy from glee and A Very Potter Musical. His whole Masquerade EP has such fun vibes, and although the single trackf*kn around’ is great, I particularly enjoy ‘walk of shame’. It’s not trying too hard to be something that it’s not. It’s just easy stuff, showing off his vocal skills and CJ Baran’s production style. Perhaps unlikely to be loved by many, but I’m certainly a fan.

49. Selfish Lover – Walt Disco

Credit: Lucky Number Music

By Natasha Srinivas, Third Year English

Bad b**** x gay rights! This song is an anthem. The bouncy chorus hook masks lyrics that are painfully scathing - if someone wrote this about me, I would never recover. The song is unapologetically flamboyant, mixing together post-punk and classic pop to create the perfect hybrid. I’m obsessed with the lead singer’s voice and his iconic vibrato. The rest of the band are also just incredible: champions of both blasé queer self-expression and ‘ ok boomer’ mockery. Walt Disco are undoubtedly my favourite artist of the year, and I can only aspire to be this nonchalantly camp.

48. Grand National – Courting

Credit: Nice Swan Records

By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor

‘Grand, Grand National, Grand, Grand National, Grand, Grand National, Grand, Grand National, Grand, Grand National, Grand, Grand National’ is lyrical genius, and I’m not willing to argue. The sweaty pulse that runs through Courting’s ‘Grand National’ is an assured chaos – wobbly but refined. It’s a song about horse racing, but also about animal cruelty and classism. The band’s power lies in spinning grand metaphors from the mundane and setting them to the most hysterical guitar shreds - and this formula is yet to fail.

47. Shanghai – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Credit: KGLW

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

With one of the best names in music (only beaten by Del the Funky Homosapien in my eyes, sorry guys) King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard returned this year, releasing their highly anticipated 18th album: Butterfly 3000. Ditching their progressive-rock roots in favour of summery synth-pop ‘Shanghai’ represents perhaps the best track in the album’s electronic oasis of sound. Accompanied by a beautifully animated music video, the track has a curious set of lyrics that makes you wonder how much the band actually knows about butterflies. They may know very little, but what they do know is exactly how to continuously surprise listeners with their striking ability to stretch their sound into new horizons.

46. CLOUDS – Park Hye Jin

Credit: Ninja Tune

By Ginny Darke, Third Year English

2021 has been an incredible year for multidisciplinary musician Park Hye Jin. From dropping singles with Blood Orange to her acclaimed album ‘Before I Die’, the single ‘CLOUDS’, in collaboration with Nosaj Things, is a true stand out. ‘CLOUDS’ is recognisably a Park Hye Jin track, with her understated yet rich vocals. Combined with the gorgeous meditative and mindful beats of the track, it is an absolute highlight of the year.

45. Promises Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders

Credit: Luaka Bop

By James Peppercorn, MA English Literature

This may be a little bit of a cheat code, but really there is no other way to take in and soak up the majesty of Floating Points and Pharaoh Sanders’ album Promises than listening to it as one long movement. The extraordinary piece with its repeated electronic refrain manages to grow and expand to the point of pure euphoria, a release of everything beautiful about music. This is an auteur and a jazz legend working at the top of their game. Not just one of the best tracks of the year, but possibly the best album as well.

44. F*** Ur Landlord Grove

Credit: Memorials of Distinction x Spinny Nights

By Rohan Jobanputra, Third Year Physics and Philosophy

Grove has clearly had experience renting in Bristol. This song, from their Queer + Black EP, is a Maoist anthem that any student who has dealt with certain unnamed letting agencies can get behind, and even without its impeccable politics, this song would still be one of the best of the year. Grove’s vocals are sublime, hypnotic in the verses and euphorically aggressive in the chorus. All of this is layered over a very chunky bassline, and complex, pulsating percussion, which come together to create an energetic and urgent track. No Bristol student’s uni experience is complete unless they have been in a dark sweaty room with Grove, yelling ‘Off, off off, off with their heads’.

43. This is Gonna Hurt – Larkins

Credit: Good Soldier Records

By Joseph Morrison, Third Year Philosophy and Theology

One of the singles off of their brand-new album JCOY, Larkins excel within their own sound with this song. Their use of both instrumentation and a unique production style creates a very individual sound similar only to bands such as The 1975. Songs like these are, at one point or another, destined to propel them to wider national success.

42. Hard Drive – Cassandra Jenkins

Credit: Ba Da Bing Records

By Jake Paterson, First Year English

‘Hard Drive’ is a guided meditation of jazz, slowcore and indie folk that is so effortless it commands you to look up and back down at yourself, and the exact amount of time that we give to artists in listening to their music. That exchange has been so pertinent through 2021 with the re-emergence of the live show, and I’ll never look at this song any other way after catching Jenkins at The Lousiana just weeks ago.

41. Break in the Action – CZARFACE, MF DOOM

Credit: Silver Age

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

Perhaps my biggest red flag: I’m a total MF DOOM fanboy; he’s on the walls of my room, I own many of his albums on vinyl and even wear his iconic mask on a ring almost daily. With this in mind, news of his posthumous album Super What? with CZARFACE had me worried for his legacy – oh boy how wrong I was to doubt them. ‘Break in the Action’ sees the supervillain at the peak of his powers, with sharp flows, carefully crafted rhyme schemes and the witty lyricism we’ve all come to adore. Over an 8-bit-esque instrumental, ‘Break in the Action’ is indeed a curious track, but certainly one that won’t be forgotten any time soon.

40. Huricane – Kanye West

Credit: IDJ

By Jedrzej Borkowski, First Year Politics and International Relations


There’s a reason why ‘Hurricane’ became so popular: it lets everyone involved shine. Lil Baby, as always, delivers an amazing feature verse and The Weeknd’s beautiful voice fits the darker vibe of the song perfectly. Ye reflects on his past and looks into the future as he raps about the more difficult aspects of his life, which stem from his fame and its profound effect on his marriage and psyche.

39. Therapist – Jeremy Zucker

Credit: Republic Records

By Kate McGrath, Third Year Music with Innovation

I’m in love with the instrumental tracks in this song: all the different guitars are fantastic throughout. Zucker adds counter melodies behind and between nearly every vocal section, and they all fit together so well despite being so different. The release in the chorus is just so satisfying, especially paired with really cathartic lyrics.

38. I Know I'm Funny haha – Faye Webster

Credit: Secretly Canadian

By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor

Faye Webster is that girl who’s just annoyingly, effortlessly cool. Her latest album saw her at the top of her game: the country twangs louder, her voice even more self-deprecating. It’s a vulnerable comedy, a one-woman show that sees Webster laughing right in life’s face. Title track ‘I Know I’m funny haha’ is a particular stand-out, bursting with her signature melancholy jangle and Southern charm. It’s confident without being cocky, the throwaway ‘haha’ serious but sarcastic.

37. Tulsa Jesus Freak – Lana Del Rey

Credit: Universal Music Operations

By Chezelle Bingham, Music Subeditor

With Lana Del Rey having released two breath-taking albums this year, Chemtrails Over The Country Club and Blue Banisters, it was hard to decide just which track deserved a place on the top 100, but ‘Tulsa Jesus Freak’s haunting, almost delirious resonance partnered with Lana’s tranquilising, spiritual lyrics certainly earn the track a spot. Constantly maintaining Lana’s dark sensual memorability despite acting in elegant, dreamy contrast to the rest of her discography, ‘Tulsa Jesus Freak’ really is ‘white hot forever’. Amen.

36. 24-7 – Nubiyan Twist, Ego Ella May

Credit: Brainfeeder

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

Nubiyan Twist have been making waves in the UK jazz scene for years now, but with their latest effort, Freedom Fables, the ten-piece group may have just cemented their position at its pinnacle. Never afraid to twist (sorry) the boundaries of genre, often taking influence from neo-soul or R&B, ’24-7’ represents perhaps the peak of their artistic flair, making jazz more accessible to the average listener whilst maintaining its beauty and sophistication. Teaming up with the brilliant Ego Ella May, the track is smooth, soulful and a real joy to listen to.

35. 2FS – Kojey Radical

Credit: Atlantic Records

By Theo Kent, Music Editor

By Kojey Radical’s own admission in ‘2FS’, he’s ‘still the greatest undiscovered’. With almost a million monthly listeners on spotify, he’s not exactly unheard of, but still, his talents make him one of the most underrated artists in grime currently. In ‘2FS’, he makes use of these talents in this ambitious track. Kojey’s verses are punchy and musical, and they are accompanied by a beat which pays homage to classic grime production, but with a more modern, polished sheen.

34. The Walls Are Way Too Thin – Holly Humberstone

Credit: Universal Music Operations

By Joseph Morrison, Third Year Philosophy and Theology

The Lincolnshire-based singer has had a breakout year in 2021. This has even been appreciated by the Brits - humberstone dubbed  ‘Rising Star’; an award previously won by the likes of Adele, Sam Smith, and Sam Fender to name a few. The leading single from ‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’ EP has had much success this year and has been championed by many Radio 1 DJs. The heartfelt lyrics can be appreciated by all and is classic UK indie-pop.

33. Heyshaw – KEG

Credit: BMG Rights Management

By Rohan Jobanputra, Third Year Physics and Philosophy

KEG are everything you want in a punk band. Among their seven members is a lead singer who moves around the stage like David Byrne, a guitarist who’s a hip-hop producer, and what for me is the band’s crowning glory, a jazz trombone player who occasionally puts down his brass instrument to pick up a conch shell. ‘Heyshaw’ is a track about lead singer Albert Waddenham’s mother’s military childhood, moving around the world before finally settling on a farm called Heyshaw in the Yorkshire Dales. This track is chaotic, aggressive and manic in the best way it could possibly be, and its call and response chorus just adds to the unfettered fun of seeing it performed live.

32. HOT WINDS BLOWS – Tyler, The Creator, Lil Wayne

Credit: Columbia Records

By Lucas Riley, Third Year Maths

‘SMUCKERS’, ‘Droppin’ Seeds’ and now ‘HOT WIND BLOWS’ – Lil Wayne appearances on Tyler tracks never fail to deliver. The flute-driven sample of Penny Goodwin’s ‘Slow Hot Wind’ is the centrepiece of a gorgeous beat that wouldn’t be out of place on 2017’s Flower Boy. The verses from both Tyler and Lil Wayne absolutely do it justice too, and DJ Drama’s introduction sets the scene for a summer banger that will be replayed again and again for years to come. Some of Tyler’s best work yet.

31. Dear August – PJ Harding, Noah Cyrus

Credit: LLC/RCA Records

By Kate McGrath, Third Year Music with Innovation

This whole EP really satisfies my guilty-pleasure: country cravings. PJ Harding and Noah Cyrus’ voices go together so beautifully, and they make great use of all the classic country harmonies. This track is perfect to listen to when you can see the stars - especially if you can get fully into character and wear a cowboy hat.

30. Bambi – Clairo

Credit: Clairo Records

By Lydia Titcombe, Third Year Psychology in Education

Clairo’s 2021 project, Sling, was undoubtedly her most mature yet; sometimes it’s difficult to remember she’s just 23 years old. The opening track, ‘Bambi’, provides perhaps the highlight of this latest effort. The gorgeous arrangement of piano, guitar and horns provide the perfect vessel for Clairo’s ethereal vocals as she majestically sings of her self-doubts and uncertainties on her position in the music industry. One thing is for certain: if she keeps creating songs as smooth and as elegant as ‘Bambi’, her position will remain cemented for a long time to come.

29. Free – Parcels

Credit: Because Music

By Theo Kent, Music Editor

Parcels returned this year with new music after their 2018 studio debut. Their long-awaited album Day/Night is packed with certified bangers including my favourite, ‘Free’. This gorgeously infectious track returns to the Australian five-piece’s signature tone: It wouldn’t be Parcels without the Nile Rogers-esque guitar chops, funky bass lines, and tight vocal harmonies. ‘Free’ is incredibly optimistic and joyous, and really captures the liberating feeling of escaping lockdowns. Not to mention, listening to this track once will leave a falsetto cry of ‘freeeeee’ in your head for days, which could never be a bad thing.

28. Smoking Out The Window – Silk Sonic

Credit: Aftermath Entertainment

By Jedrzej Borkowski, First Year Politics and International Relations


The long awaited Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak album was everything we expected and more, and this song proves it. The smooth RnB soul-funk sound makes you feel like a million dollars; the chemistry between Mars and .Paak shines through as they sing about splurging money on luxury items for the approval of their love interest. The sound of organic drums, and the live performance feel, makes this track stand out from other releases this year.

27. Los Pollos Hermanos – Knucks

Credit: NODAYSOFF CC LIMITED

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

Named after a fictional chicken shop from Breaking Bad, ‘Los Pollos Hermanos’ sees North London-born rapper Knucks cook up a banger. The track is just over a minute long, yet still packs a punch, with Knucks’ distinctive flow incorporated effortlessly over an infectiously jazzy Latin-inspired beat. Rapping about the hit TV show, fashion and UK rapper Kano, Knucks’ bars are as flippant and playful as ever, offering just a snippet of the rapper’s immense talent, but one that is highly memorable nonetheless.

26. Easy on Me – Adele

Credit: Melted Stone

By Milan Perera, Second Year English Literature and Community Engagement

Widely dubbed by fans and the music press as the ‘divorce album’, Adele’s ‘30’ was indeed written in the aftermath of her much-publicised divorce from ex-husband Simon Konecki. Lead single ‘Easy on me’ starts as a gentle piano ballad accompanied with bass drum beats and then soars into a quintessential Adele-esque power ballad, where she tries to explain to her nine-year old son her separation from his father, pleading for him to ‘go easy’ on her. A real treat for Adele’s loyal fanbase.

25. Woman – Doja Cat

Credit: Kemosabe Records/RCA Records

By Ella Regan, Third Year Law

The divine feminine infuses every line of ‘Woman’. Afrobeats dominate the rhythm, making it impossible not to dance. Paired with smooth lyricism and spunky steel drums, this is clearly the work of a woman who knows her way around a pop masterpiece. What makes this song so special is the rap verse; Doja exhibits the heights of her talent for writing and performing. Witty lines such as ‘I could be the CEO just like I’m Robyn Fenty’ and ‘Mother Earth, Mother Mary rise to the top’ stick in your memory and mean Woman can be played on loop without ever feeling old. Her genius wordplay envies rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, The Creator and Megan Thee Stallion - Doja has definitely secured her place in pop and RnB royalty.

24. Feels Like – Gracie Abrams

Interscope Records

By Harini Ratnayake, Third Year Dentistry

‘Feels Like’ saw me through the whole month of October. I’d play it on loop whenever I needed to walk to work or uni, when I wanted to de-stress, or while I was getting ready to go out. I could dance around my room to it, belting out the lyrics, or lie on the floor and let it play from my phone next to me. I like how soft and innocent the song feels, and how much it reminds me of autumn, and the colours, and the cold and the love I felt during that month. It’s a song that changes with how I’m feeling, and feels fresh every time I hear it.

23. SPACE – Violet Jones

Credit: Z-A

By Angela Ugarte, Third Year Liberal Arts

It’s difficult to believe that all the vocals in ‘SPACE’ are performed only by the heavenly Violet Jones. Produced by Ava Zarate, this song is a Bristol born and bred creation that we should all be mega proud of. There’s so much happening in the background of this song that it will catch you by surprise every time. I’ve never felt more in tune with clouds than when listening to this song. Make sure to note the gentle guitar picking throughout — it reminds me of crispy lemon water that perfectly compliments the airy feel of the song.

22. Polite – Erika de Casier

Credit: 4AD LTD

By Ginny Darke, Third Year English

Casier interpolates 2Pac's ‘Ambitionz Az A Ridah’ into third single ‘Polite’ from her sophomore album ‘Sensational’. Her rendition however, though equally as confident, is far more subdued. The track is a polite rebuffle to men’s smarmy approaches in a night club. Mura Masa also hopped on the single for a remix which is also well worth a listen, reworking its minimal groove for something with more of a House feel.

21. Security – Amyl and the Sniffers

Credit: Rough Trade Records

By Rohan Jobanputra, Third Year Physics and Philosophy

Amyl and the Sniffers are incredibly, unapologetically Aussie. Amy Taylor half sings half shouts in her antipodean accent over thrashing drums and a very crunchy guitar line. The track is immediately funny, opening with the line ‘Security won’t you let me in your pub, I’m not looking for trouble, I’m looking for love’. The unrelenting drums never give way, even for a spectacular, old fashioned guitar solo which wails over the chaos. The Melbourne band have a clear, brash, stompy mission, and they really fulfil it with this track.

20. Pain – PinkPantheress

Credit: Parlophone Records

By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor

2021 was the year of PinkPantheress. Where other TikTok songs quickly became insufferable, PinkPantheress managed to keep the hits coming. ‘Pain’ was the first track to have us all in a chokehold, an earworm marked by Y2K beats and a nostalgia for something we've all experienced but can't quite put our finger on. There's a joke that if you turned up 15 minutes late to a Pinkpantheress gig you would have missed the whole thing. This may be true, but ‘Pain’ needn't be any longer – it achieves everything it sets out to do and more.

19. Be Sweet – Japanese Breakfast

Credit: Dead Oceans

By Natasha Srinivas, Third Year English

Be Sweet feels like an 80s revival complete with synths, twangy basslines and sweet (sorry), but simple lyrics that pack a punch. I would even go so far to say that this song feels like the indie-fication of Madonna, with Michelle Zauner’s voice holding an uncanny resemblance to the Queen of Pop herself. Every-time I hear it, this song unfailingly delivers, and I am yet to get bored of it, despite the line ‘be sweet to me baby’ constantly running through my mind. I also have a little soft spot for the little whispered ‘be sweet’ running in the background.

18. People Watching – Conan Gray

Credit: Republic Records

By Gabrielle Jackson, Third Year English

Ever our late-night host (ha!), Conan channels the loneliness of watching your friends couple up and be happy while you stand drenched and alone, staring at an overcast sky, caught in the wrong coat. The hope for and restraint away from love is inextricable from the lyrics and the construction of the song, with its insistent piano demanding sincerity. It’s the kind of song that you listen to on repeat while you sit on a park bench in the dark while deleting and redownloading tinder for the umpteenth time.

17. Chaise Longue – Wet Leg

Credit: Domino Recording Co

By Catrin Rees, Third Year Social Policy and Sociology

Turns out you don’t forget the first time you hear the lyric ‘would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?’ over the radio. The car ride to a family camping trip was what introduced me to one of my favourite songs of the year; with their debut single ‘Chaise Longue’, Wet Leg found the balance of cool and actually-kind-of-amusing that’s ever-sought after by indie bands. The bassline grabs you straight away, and nonchalant vocals that you just know belong to coolgirls™️ keep you listening until you know all the words.

16. That Funny Feeling – Phoebe Bridgers

Credit: Dead Oceans

By George Benson, Third Year Liberal Arts

Bo Burnham’s ‘That Funny Feeling’, from his newest comedy special ‘Inside’, demonstrates that comedy and tragedy are not just two sides of the same coin, but are often the same side of the same coin. Enter Phoebe to bridge that gap further, transforming a comedy song into a beautiful but excruciating vision of an absurd and alienating existence, in a world which feels increasingly like a bad joke.

15. Turning Wheel – Spellling

Credit: Sacred Bones Records

By Charlotte McNab, Third Year Medicine

The (almost) title track on Spellling’s ‘The Turning Wheel’ has proved itself to be one of the stand out tracks that has been released this year. Chrystia Cabal’s unique and experimental album is a tremendous listen which is hard to describe, but words like ‘whimsical’ and ‘twee’ spring to mind. There’s a clear inspiration drawn from fairy tales, made even more impressive by the fact each player’s parts were recorded remotely. ‘Turning Wheel’ is my personal favourite from the album – a chills-inducing ensemble which will one day surely establish itself as a definitive staple in the world of experimental pop.

14. Time Escaping – Big Thief

Credit: 4AD 

By James Peppercorn, MA English Literature

There is no denying, Big Thief have become, well, big. They’re simply everywhere. What was there left for the band to do to prove themselves, not that there was really anything left to prove. When you thought there were no more roads left for the band to take, they throw us ‘Time Escaping’. It’s what Radiohead would do if they were a folk band. The strange, striking beat and rhythm of guitar plucks and noises build together to make a stunning soundscape of loose beauty. If this is any sign of what is to come, Big Thief are to remain indie darlings for a very, very long time.

13. No Hard Feelings – Wolf Alice

Credit: Dirty Hit

By Bonnie Dowler, Second Year English and Philosophy

If ‘Visions of a Life’ was a testament to the triumph of romance (featuring love-sick ballad ‘Don’t delete the kisses’), then ‘Blue Weekend’ is a gentle acceptance of love’s inevitable end. ‘No hard feelings’ embodies a tender acceptance of what ceases to be. Ellie Rowsell’s tender vocals paired with the angelic choral harmonies that appear nestled between verses establishes a tear-jerking tone. Opening lines ‘No hard feelings honey/ They’ll be no bad blood/ Losing your love has been hard enough’ tells listeners there’s peace and beauty in letting go and moving on without resenting someone you once loved.

12. Boing Beat – Danny L Harle, MC Boing

Credit: Mad Decent

By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor

I don’t drink coffee; I listen to Boing Beat. This collab from hyperpop father Danny L Harle and fictional son-who-takes-after-the-crazy-frog MC Boing is completely unhinged, doing exactly what it says on the tin. It’s bouncy, fun and hard to keep up with: a love letter to 00s dance music obviously written by the king of PC Music. The beat unlocks something so tangibly feral, but the lyrics are oddly touching: ‘MC Boing is bouncing all night/Everyone here is safe and nice/Makes me wanna have a great life’. If a doctor told me I only had 1 minute and 32 seconds left to live, I’d listen to Boing Beat. And I think I’d live.

11. All The Words We Don't Say – Hiatus Kaiyote

Credit: Brainfeeder

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

Their 2021 effort, Mood Valiant, saw Hiatus Kaiyote delve into unexplored sonic domains; ‘All the Words We Don’t Say’ is undoubtedly the highlight of this. The track is nothing short of gorgeous, exploring themes of connection and attraction over an adventurous instrumental. Much like the title of their album, lead-singer Nai Palm’s vocals are downright valiant on this track, working in perfect harmony with the instrumental to unleash a chorus so powerful yet simultaneously so introspective in its simplistic lyricism. This song is a masterpiece.

10. Running Away – VANO 3000, BADBADNOTGOOD

Credit: Innovative Leisure

By Lucas Riley, Third Year Maths

A frenetic remix of BADBADNOTGOOD’s 2016 track ‘Time Moves Slow’ (featuring Samuel T. Herring), Running Away gained attraction the world over after becoming part of the Adult Swim trend on TikTok. This accelerated & pitch-shifted version packs a lot of energy into its 2-minute run time, but maintains the jazzy chordal guitar sounds of the original with an added percussive punch. A rare TikTok trend that didn’t become tedious and unbearable after the first week of its lifespan, I welcome any more remixes of this sort.

9. Habanero – Rosie Tucker

Credit: Epitaph

By Flora Pick, Deputy Digital Editor

Going to level with you here: I think Rosie Tucker is a genius and am unwilling to be cool/chill about it. Habanero being on this list is more a formality than anything: it functions as a distillation of what makes Sucker Supreme so good. There is a strange lexicon of insects and burned meat and car crashes, put to pretty guitar. Indie music that doesn’t sound like Phoebe Bridgers-lite. Hallelujah.

8. Fear No Man – Little Simz

Credit: AGE 101 MUSIC

By Lydia Titcombe, Third Year Psychology in Education

What a year it’s been for Little Simz; her latest project Sometimes I Might Be Introvert has been touted by many as the album of the year. ‘Fear No Man’ offers one of the most fun tracks on the project. Over a bouncy instrumental, Simz is unapologetic, affirming that she fears nothing and nobody in the heavily male-dominated rap industry. She wants everybody to know: she’s here to stay and she deserves her success – I’d strongly agree.

7. Breadwinner – Kacey Musgraves

Credit: Interscope Records

By Chezelle Bingham, Music Subeditor

There’s always something fun about Kacey Musgraves, even when she’s singing about the tragedy of a failed relationship. On ‘breadwinner’, Musgraves blends her glittery country twang with her always catchy melodies to flip the roles of your average ‘breadwinner’ to something a little more personal. Listen to ‘breadwinner’ and I guarantee you won’t be able to stop belting ‘I wish somebody would’ve told me the truth’ in Musgraves’ southern accent for at least a week.

6. Chaos Space Marine – Black Country, New Road

Credit: Ninja Tune

By Catrin Rees, Third Year Social Policy and Sociology

Every time I listen to this song, it feels like I’m hearing it for the first time. Featuring a whole host of instruments including some truly awesome sax and violin, ‘Chaos Space Marine’ has an orchestral gravitas that is pleasantly overstimulating and keeps the listener on their toes. I recommend playing this song to your friends and just watching them react to the 3 minute 37 second saga that it is.

5. All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault) – Taylor Swift

Credit: Taylor Swift

By Han Morgan, Third Year Politics and Social Policy

Without exaggerating, ‘All Too Well (10 minute version)’ has changed my life and will change yours too. I don’t measure time in minutes any more, only in All Too Wells. Taylor’s version gives us dozens of gorgeous lines including ‘You kept me like a secret/But I kept you like an oath’. Gorgeous. It’s ambient and rich like the original, but there’s even more to love. We’ve kept the classic Taylor storytelling and detail ‘You were handing me the car key/F*** the patriarchy’, and even a tiktok-worthy sound in ‘that baby wants to die’. It has everything. Thank you Taylor, we don’t deserve it.

4. Track X – Black Country, New Road

Credit: Ninja Tune

By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor

I’m not one to often bestow hyperboles, but ‘Track X’ is the very definition of perfection. Diverging from their usual jazz-infused post-punk style, offering a more mellow approach, the track is a long stretch from the eccentric instrumental frenzies seen on the rest of their 2021 effort For the First Time. Yet, this is what makes it so perfect, showing the versatility the band have in their locker. Not only do the group create an instrumental so glorious, creating an atmosphere that is somehow simultaneously melancholic yet heartening, but the intricately crafted storytelling of lead-singer Isaac Wood leaves you feeling nostalgic for a life you’ve never even lived.

3. LaLaLa It's The Good Life – audiobooks

Credit: Heavenly Recordings

By Rohan Jobanputra, Third Year Physics and Philosophy

audiobooks are weird. ‘Astro Tough’, their 2021 album, is an exciting journey into the odd brains of David Wrench and Evangeline Ling. Speaking about this track, they said ‘When we had nearly finished the album, we figured that what it needed to complete it was some fun party music. So out came the box of percussion and a tropical tequila-drenched backing track was laid down’. And they really do achieve what they set out to do - ‘LaLaLa It’s The Good Life’ is a fun, accessible, summery track that doesn’t lose the fundamental oddity at the centre of the audiobooks sound.

2. Somethinggreater – Parcels

Credit: Because Music

By James Peppercorn, MA English Literature

Daft Punk comparisons aside, Parcels don’t seem to get the critical love they deserve. The Berlin based Aussies have been around for a while, creating summer melodies for sangria afternoons and diamond eyed soirees. On their new monolithic double album Day/Night, they have expanded that sound to an all encompassing rollercoaster. ‘Somethinggreater’ may be their greatest amalgamation yet. A near perfect ear worm, blasted with stabbing guitars and a darker world view in comparison to their previous songs, Parcels have created what could be the most concise and gorgeous pop song of the year.

1. The 345 – Self Esteem

Credit: Universal Music Operations

By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor

I know I said this list was in No Particular Order, but I couldn't not put this song first (and no one could stop me!). Rebecca Lucy Taylor, aka Self Esteem, has topped every other best music roundup list of this year. And for good reason – her sophomore Prioritise Pleasure is intimate and honest, reaching a particular high with ‘The 345’. It sounds almost like Kendrick’s ‘LOVE’: familiar, but refreshing. The track is a pop-song-turned-sweeping-orchestral-movement, punctuated by triumphant choral harmonies and a voice note that’s more wise and reassuring than annoying. And the lyrics only cut deeper when you realise ‘The 345’ is a love song from Taylor to herself. At 34, Taylor stands tall in an industry that usually throws women away once they hit their mid-twenties.

Featured image: Mia Smith


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