Throughout the course of 2021, we documented all things music: from the good, to the bad, to the ugly. We prefer to focus on what we love here at AboveTheBridge though, and with that we present to you our ten favorite songs of 2021. In this list compiled by head writers Vincenzo Pellegrino, and Ian Parish, and AboveTheBridge founder Dante Pellegrino, we recount ten songs from this year that are certainly worth a listen (or two or three or four). Here's to another year of making music matter!
#10: "Friendly Fire" - Holly Humberstone
Holly’s latest EP, and general output this year, has made her more than just a pop artist to watch. She feels like the latest quality product of the post Lorde alternative pop scene and her success seems inevitble. The final track on her six song EP from the last half of 2021 presents an inward view of a romantic relationship from the perspective of the one unsatisfied. Holly waxes poetically about her dying love and her dwindling feelings, as she questions how she is supposed to admit this to her partner. The final product is a painfully heartbreaking but awfully powerful song.
#9: "Where U Goin’ Tonight?" - Mac Ayres
From the minute the muffled, ascending bass line becomes audible, you are entranced in the undeniably groovy head banger that is Mac Ayres’ “Where U Goin’ Tonight?”. Magic 8Ball presents many tracks with strong lyrical feats or memorable instrumental moments, but “Where U Goin’ Tonight?” has it all. A J Dilla-esque drum and bass groove, warm synths, a thick clap on beats 2 and 4, spacey guitar comping, and perfectly layered harmonized vocals are paired with lyrics to paint the picture of pursuing a flirtatious girl around a cold and bustling New York City night.
#8: "Science Fair" - Black Country, New Road
Black Country, New Road’s debut album is a sprawling narrative of anxiety and social terrors, and “Science Fair'' is the centerpiece. The incredibly detailed narrative of this track hones in every single narrative theme of the record and turns them up to the max, making for one of the most mind-bending tracks of the year. The tense instrumentals reinforce the themes of the track with a fervor, especially the searing guitar solo towards the midpoint, and they all lead up to the absolutely harrowing and chaotic crescendo at the end of the track. “Science Fair” is an intense highlight in a record full of masterful songs, making it easily one of the best and most creative songs of the year.
#7: "Narrator" - Squid
In a year as full of great post-punk as 2021, it may have been hard for a new emerging band to stand out amongst the relentlessly innovative acts making waves. However, Squid did so with vengeance on their debut, and “Narrator” is easily the best post-punk highlight of 2021. The track is filled with tense instrumentals, twinkling guitars, and erratic vocal performances from singer Ollie Judge where he waxes poetically on the feeling of being in control of your own life. The calls of “I am my own narrator!” are one of the most memorable musical moments of 2021, not to mention the absolutely euphoric and explosive crescendo towards the end of the track, where guest vocalist Martha Skye Murphy lets out a series of hellish screams over the best post-punk instrumental of the year. “Narrator” is a home run, and shows nothing but promise from one of Britain’s newest and most budding post-punk acts.
#6: "After Last Night (feat. Thundercat and Bootsy Collins)" - Silk Sonic
It’s no secret that Anderson.Paak and Bruno Mars’ collaboration as Silk Sonic this year was absolutely electric. From the initial release of the lead single “Leave the Door Open”, anticipation for the full record was through the roof. The album came out a fantastic employment of 70’s funk and soul sounds; and “After Last Night” is one of the best examples of that. Not only is this track fantastic sonically, with the funky and lush bassline from Thundercat and the stunning vocals from Bruno Mars, but the appearance of the legendary Bootsy Collins is all someone should need to be instantly intrigued enough to give this track a fair shot. The verses are suave, the instrumental is funky, and the chorus is so damn euphoric that it’s enough to make this collaboration legendary.
#5: "Charmander" - Amine
In 2021, the authentically “fun” hip hop song is somewhat of a rarity. Amine’s “Charmander” breaks this trend. From the outlandish music video, to the song’s hyper pop influence, to Amine’s incredible rhyme schemes and flow, this song is more fire than the fire type pokemon that its name portrays.
#4: "Get Sun (feat. Arthur Verocai)" - Hiatus Kaiyote
What do you get when you mix Brazilian samba techniques with intense neo soul/R&B qualities? You get a perfect way for Hiatus Kaiyote to announce their new album. The collective alongside Brazilian master Arthur Verocai released “Get Sun (feat. Arthur Verocai)” three months prior to Mood Valiant’s release, and it really was the best way to introduce their newfound maturity and sound. Tight horn lines, beautiful strings, energetic keyboard comping, and an almost drunk sounding bass and drum groove all work to back Nai Palm’s incredibly strong, harmonized vocal points throughout the track, making for a thrilling experience.
#3: "HAZARD DUTY PAY" - JPEGMAFIA
Have you ever heard a beat drop so hard that it physically affects you more than it sonically affects you? Do you know what that means? Have you ever heard a sample of “Ain’t No Need to Worry '' by The Winnas? Would you believe me if I told you that this song is only available on Youtube? Would you believe me if I told you that this song has less than one million views? Have you ever heard “HAZARD DUTY PAY” by JPEGMAFIA?
#2: "In a Sentimental Mood" - Shai Maestro
We all know the classic rendition of “In A Sentimental Mood” played by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. However, pianist Shai Maestro and his quartet re-executed this jazz standard in an electrifying way. Playing insanely difficult bass and melodic lines all over a deceivingly hard snare and bass drum groove, the group is locked in, as they feed and build off of each other’s ideas. It makes for a jaw-dropping listen, at the end alluding to the Ellington/Coltrane version to pay homage to the musicians that ultimately shaped the way Maestro and the rest play.
#1: "Skate" - Silk Sonic
Lots of the songs off of An Evening with Silk Sonic harness the essence of groove, but none do the job finer than “Skate”. Through its weaving passages, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak prove themselves to be some of the greatest songwriters in modern music. Not a second goes by in this track’s three minute runtime where the instrumental detail isn’t impressive. From the bongo embellishments in the songs first moments, to the bouncing baseline, to the grandiose cascade of orchestral bits that align the song’s hook; “Skate” is wall-to-wall funk at its most premier.