Top 20 Tracks of 2021 (10-01)

10. Tyler, the Creator “Corso”

“I might buy a boat,” Tyler, the Creator threatens just after the beat drops on “Corso”, the second track from his critically lauded sixth studio album, Call Me If You Get Lost. In between hype man taunts provided by none other than the Gangsta Grillz mixtape maestro himself, DJ Drama, Tyler tries to pump himself up by flexing his wealth and clout before admitting he unsuccessfully tried to steal another man’s girl. “Corso” builds tension with a plaintively played piano as frenetic synths, a choir, and an eventual string section join the mix. In under two and a half minutes, Tyler bares his soul, cagily revealing the uselessness of material extravagances when love goes unrequited. – Andy Mascola

09. Sleigh Bells “Locust Laced”

Noise-pop duo, Sleigh Bells, returned in 2021 with their first album in four years, Texis. The album’s lead single, “Locust Laced” was the grand entrance fanfare. While it doesn’t break a lot of new ground for the band, it is apparent how not many band’s have carried on Sleigh Bells unique blend of break beats, childlike vocals, and sparkling keys. There are still noise rock bands, there are still hyperpop artists, but no one has yet bested Sleigh Bells. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

08. Wet Leg “Chaise Longue”

Is Wet Leg’s “Chaise Longue” catchy post-punk disguised as a novelty song, or a novelty song disguised as catchy post-punk? Does it really matter when a song is this fun and infectious? If you’ve yet to experience Wet Leg’s debut single, all you need to know is that during the choruses, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers chant lines about spending all day on the chaise longue, and during the track’s verses, the pair drop cheeky innuendo over a drum break. Don’t be afraid. We promise, you’ll be singing along before the end arrives. Of course, it does help to have a healthy sense of humor … as well as a healthy sense of rhythm. A great song from a promising new British duo. – Andy Mascola

07. ABBA “I Still Have Faith In You”

2021 should be remembered as the grand return of ABBA. Granted a few other things happened this year that might be more memorable but the lead single from Voyage, “I Still Have Faith In You” was a perfect song for the year. “I Still Have Faith In You” is ostensible about Anni-Frid Lyngstad singing about herself and ABBA as a whole still having the ability to make music in their advanced age but for people who have been on edge for two years or more, it sounds like a hopeful power ballad about keeping the faith that world can and will be a better place. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

06. Dry Cleaning “Scratchcard Lanyard”

The tension built up between Florence Shaw and her Dry Cleaning bandmate’s during “Scratchcard Lanyard’s” initial spoken verse may lead someone unfamiliar with the group to assume this song about indifference garnered while globetrotting and trying new things is leading to an explosive conclusion. Instead, however, Shaw punctuates every verse with the line, “Do everything and feel nothing.” The “Dry” part of the band’s name is no accident. Shaw’s skill is in displaying emotional neutrality whilst delivering her wryly humorous, whip-smart poetry. “Scratchcard Lanyard’s” lyrics are at once funny, true, and bleak. – Andy Mascola

05. The Avalanches featuring Cola Boyy and Mick Jones “We Go On”

The Avalanches put out one of the best albums of 2020 just a little too late to make it on to most outlet’s best of 2020 lists. “We Go On,” the seventh single from We Will Always Love You, is based around a sample of the Carpenters’ “Hurting Each Other.” With Karen Carpenter’s looping vocals, guest vocalist Cola Boyy throws in some of his patented anti-capitalist shade (“Why am I fighting to stay on this payroll?”) while still not stopping the party feel. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

04. Japanese Breakfast “Be Sweet”

The lead single from Japanese Breakfast‘s third album, Jubilee, was the joyous “Be Sweet.” Ushering in a new era for Michelle Zauner, the track is a bright disco-infused banger with thumping bass and big 80s synths. The turn from the more mournful Soft Sounds from Another Planet is stark but exactly what was needed for 2021. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

03. Lala Lala “DIVER”

Lala Lala‘s third album, I Want the Door to Open was announced by the release of “DIVER.” The track followed a series of successful one off singles throughout 2019 and 2020. “DIVER” finds Lillie West mixing moody verses with a joyous chorus. Although the chorus is dark in its own way with the lyrics hidden behind building drums and trumpet flourishes. The song ends up sounding like Kate Bush after reading The Awakening with lyrics like “Swimming out towards my new life/dragged in by the undertow” and concluding with “The salt, the spit, the magic/to last, to be romantic.” – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

02. Wale featuring Yella Breezy & Maxo Kream “Down South”

With an infectious chorus cribbed directly from New Orleans rapper Fiend’s 1998 single “Slangin’” and a sped-up sample pulled from Texas rapper Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin’”, DC native Wale pays tribute to southern rap with “Down South”, the second single from his seventh studio album Folarin II. Featured rappers Yella Breezy and Maxo Cream help Wale paint a picture of the violent, drug-fueled, take no prisoners world of southern trap culture. “Down South” is a banger that serves as a reminder that modern hip hop depicting life in the dirty south can showcase a gritty lifestyle and credibility without sacrificing song structure and lyricism. – Andy Mascola

01. Hamish Hawk “The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973”

With its unwieldy title and jangly Smithsian heart, it would be difficult to imagine “The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973” achieving any significant mainstream success amidst a Billboard landscape littered with flash in the pan sultry chanteuses and mumble rap one hit wonders. In addition to the invocation of 17th century British architect Christopher Wren and acknowledgment of a sonic debt to Pulp’s “Common People”, Hawk’s stentorian vocals deliver drily comedic lines about wanting a car with nice curves and a wife with a perfect serve. As the song’s Jim character repeatedly calls out, “Isn’t this living?” the ghostly response whispers back, “Jim, dear, it’s living the dream,” reminding us that this life may be as good as it gets. Hamish Hawk’s “The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973” was not only the greatest existential Scottish chamber pop moment of the year but, hands down, our favorite song of 2021. – Andy Mascola