The Spotify playlist above counts down the Top 40 tracks of 2021, starting with #40 and progressing to #1. Note it does skip #32 as Swansea Sound refuse to be a part of the Spotify scam.
This year we're going to count down my favorite songs Casey Kasem style -- that's the top 40 for the kids out there. Because numbers are fun looks like I added 392 new albums and singles to my library, with 77 of those being digital only releases (stupid supply chain issues). From those releases 1604 songs were on new releases eligible to make the list. Forty did. As always this list could change every day, but here is a good ranking of songs that I loved, want to hear again, and mean the most to me. And also I've kept the tradition of reporting 3 tracks that didn't make the list last year only because I didn't hear them in time.
Top 40 Songs of 2021:
A delightful indie shuffle with nice harmonies, smart guitar leads, and more venom than an entire Decide album.
Where did this band come from?! This song incorporates the best ideas from all of my favorite bands and outdoes a few of them.
Did your coach ever tell you to give 110%? Turns out Telethon figured out how to do it. This song has everything, and it works perfectly.
This one just washes over me. It's also the best indie pop song of the year about being in love despite what they lyrics may say.
"Twee" might be a dirty word where you come from, but it's music to my ears. This song is simple, beautiful, and has a perfect backbeat.
Surrender to the motorik beat and point your starship toward the rising sun. We're going on a trip.
John gives us all the urgency and chaos of his early material but surrounds it with proggy elements that only he knew we needed to hear.
This one has all freewheelin' qualities you'd want in a pop rock song and his backing Outfit build the tune up to glorious New Pornographer heights.
Everything about this song -- from arrangement to lyrics -- is crystal clear and reflects the experience of veteran songwriters and wonderful humans. You should let it happen.
A triumphant return from a band that knows how to write elevating and soaring songs. Ascend with this artful tune.
Are digital-only singles even eligible for my list? Maybe in 2021 we let it slide. Especially for this fantastic mod-revival band that knows my soul and has written this song just for me.
Maybe the longest song I've ever had in my best of list? This one is anchored by the motorik beat and stretches into the heart of space. Take me with you!
This one is just amazing jangle pop that belongs on the pantheon right next to the bands that it may or may borrow from.
Just amazing production that grows a repetitive acoustic strum into a glorious expanse of light. Simply breathtaking.
This twitchy and quirky indie tune owns the zeitgeist. How did they figure it out and how can we learn at their feet?
The jangle gods smiled on us this year giving us this strummed masterpiece that takes me to all the sunny happy places and doing it with the windows down.
If you built a time machine in a garage, it would take you to this song. Love the juxtaposition of the adventurous arrangement and the low-fi presentation. If you're not dancing to this one, you've no soul.
Apart from genre and time we have this insistent tune that just fills my heart with joy. All hail Gruff Rhys and his Solina synth.
Sometimes I need a song to scream/cry along to when I'm driving at night. Lucy devastates me regularly, but his one is a real high point.
A brilliantly written and performed indie pop shuffle with all the harmonies and cello that you can fit in 2:24. Listening to this for the next 24 hours wouldn't be waste.
Where did this come from? Some slinky Berlin discotheque in 1974? Nope, but this is going to take you there, a stranger is going to grind up against you, and you're going to stay until the sun comes up.
Do old indie rockers dance? They do to this one when the chorus hits. And then we bounce like the early 90s before our Docs and cement floors hurt our knees.
The accompaniment ebbs and flows as this allegorical composition unfolds. How a band that started so sparse has returned as this juggernaut should be studied. I intend to do just that.
The Ex Bats build perfection effortlessly as if everything were as low-stakes as the relationship this song proposes. It's sunny, clumsy garage rock and I'm in love.
Let this pop song transport you to the Wigan where you'll dance to songs written in the Brill Building and choreographed by Busby Berkeley. You're gonna wanna dance the night away.
So much leather jacket sneer and black eyeliner in this garage rock stomper. Tough girls are the best girls.
Do you hear that guitar? That tambourine? Are you in love with that jangle? I am and I want to play this two-minute long song 100 more times.
Feel that snapping snare, that winding guitar lead, and just delight in this whip smart indie pop gem.
Just a devastatingly simple pop song that could have been written 70 years ago and yet the lyrics feel like the most now joy possible. How? And also Thank You.
Sunny and flirty and fun and I just want to be part of this indie pop party. I'm going to listen again and pretend I'm cool enough to get the invite.
This Bartleby-ian celebration of slackerdom and contrarianism warms my Gen X heart. Play it loud and shout along your objections.
When I heard this song back in Jan I knew I'd be writing about it in Dec. The opening couplet is my everything and 11 months later it still has me bouncing off the walls & playing air guitar.
Some of my fav people writing one of my fav indie pop songs of the year. Adorable call and response lyrics about realizing young and cool can be limiting. And also about that horn refrain.
Plenty of the band's effortless charm, its namedrops and callbacks to past musicians, & a spooky vibe? This has it all & I pledge to haunt any record store that doesn't have this as a staff pick.
Florence Shaw's spoken delivery drips post-punk cool while the rest of the band darts around skillfully. This is the sound of now and I'm so happy about it that I could shout Yabba!
A two-minute guitar pop blast that connects me to another time and place. Come take the trip w/ me as I hit play for the 450th time this year.
A Spector-esque pop song that steps back from R&B and right into my sweet spot. The lyrics tell of redemption and love and a new life. If you know Sean's demons or have your own, this song is 100%.
Power-pop that explodes right out of the gate. How big do you like your guitars and how fast do you like your muscle cars? Well then meet me at the mall parking lot after you get off.
To call "Sleeper" literary is an understatement. This song is transportive and atmospheric and I watch it as much as listen to it. Lose yourself in Moffat's journey or find yourself in your own.
An evolving and revealing indie pop song assembled perfectly and with a lyrical chorus so hooky I've thought about it every day since June. This is my favorite song of the year.
And because I was too slow, these from 2020:
What a delightful surprise to come across this! It's bright, bouncy, and that chorus is catchy AF.
With pulsing keys and the gall to have a integral sax solo, this might be the first twee yacht rock song and I'm here for it.
The Armoires masquerade as a folk punk band and then prove they can do it as well as the genre's giants. All the right notes and those lyrics are 100% accurate.
And there we go. Are your favorite songs on my list? If not, let me know and maybe they'll make the addendum to my 2022 list.
You can hear me talk about tracks #7 through #1 on Too Much Rock Podcast #586.