Top 20 Tracks of 2021 (20-11)

20. Aesop Rock “Long Legged Larry”

Early in the year, Aesop Rock released his one off single, “Long Legged Larry.” The song tells the tale of a high jumping frog who continuously saves the day. Somewhere between a children’s song and an old school hip hop anthem with its catchy chanting chorus of “go Larry, go Larry, go, go, go Larry” and fun animated music video, the song is one of the oddest yet charming addition to Aesop Rock’s catalog. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

19. Angel Olsen “Gloria”

“Gloria”, the first single from Angel Olsen’s Aisles EP, finds the singer-songwriter covering Umberto Tozzi’s 1979 Italo disco hit “Gloria”, a song that would be made popular three years later via Laura Branigan’s English version.
Olsen’s take differs drastically from the song’s origins, however, as the tempo here is slowed down to the point where the splashy synths of the original versions have now morphed into slow motion crashing waves, and the upbeat percussion has become an echoed, devastating pulse. Olsen’s gorgeous vocals emphasize every desperate moment in the life of the song’s namesake, cleverly highlighting the darkness masked by the danceable tone of the composition’s initial unveiling. – Andy Mascola

18. Lael Neale “Every Star Shivers in the Dark”

Using only a 4-track and an Omnichord, LA-based indie folkster Leal Neale’s “Every Star Shivers in the Dark” was one of the poppiest moments from her excellent sophomore full-length, Acquainted With Night. “Making my way through the grocery, talking to the man at the cash machine,” Neale sings sweetly at one point, balancing everyday occurrences with plaintively introspective lines, like, “The shape of your face in the dark pre-dawn, all I want to do is love someone, why can’t I love someone?” “Every Star Shivers in the Dark” is at once beautiful and sad, but most of all, relatable. – Andy Mascola

17. Purple Disco Machine featuring Moss Kena & The Knocks “Fireworks”

If your fourth of July playlist didn’t include Purple Disco Machine‘s “Fireworks” what were you even doing this year? The infectious track features vocals from Moss Kena, a steel drum-filled chorus, and a choir of children. It is the type of grand pop songs that give you goosebumps when you hear it yet is still completely danceable and joyful. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

16. Opposite Sex “Combine Harvester”

“Combine Harvester” is by far the most exciting, anarchic song from Opposite Sex’s latest full-length record, High Drama. As the track begins, notes appear slowly, spaced out, building creepy tension until singer/bassist Lucy Hunter starts singing ever so sweetly about throwing the love of her life into a piece of dangerous farm equipment. Throughout the song, Reg Norris’ guitar screams, rips, and thrashes through, never letting up. In fact, it’s the contrast between Hunter’s deceptively cheery delivery and Norris’ face-melting ax work that makes this song so appealing. A stunning moment from a great album. – Andy Mascola

15. Spoon “The Hardest Cut”

Based on the lead single alone, Spoon‘s upcoming 10th album has to be one of the most anticipated releases of 2022. “The Hardest Cut,” as the title suggests, might be the hardest song the band has released to date. Mixing the casual cool of classic Spoon with the two note guitar spectacular of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”‘s verses and a bluesy rock guitar solo, it is no wonder Britt Daniel’s described it as “the sound of classic rock as written by a guy who never did get Eric Clapton.” – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

14. Bachelor “Back of My Hand”

With a pinch of reverse feedback and the crispest drumming you’ve ever heard, “Back of My Hand” kicks off Bachelor’s debut full-length, Doomin’ Sun. In a voice just above a whisper, Palehound’s Ellen Kempner sings from the perspective of an obsessive fan focused on an unnamed individual to a near stalkerish degree. “Do I wanna be you or be your friend? There is no telling,” Kempner sings at one point, revealing the possible psychology behind the character’s sycophancy. “Back of My Hand” manages to be at once creepy and catchy as all get out. – Andy Mascola

13. La Fine Equipe “Don’t Panik”

French turntablist quartet, La Fine Equipe have been Surviving the Golden Age favorites for over a decade now. Their single “Don’t Panik” from their 2021 EP, Cycles gives us more of what we’ve come to love from the group: quick vocal cuts, dynamic production and booming synth brass. With all that and more packed in to an under four minute package, each multiple listens of the track reveals new layers and new samples missed on previous hearings. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

12. Dinosaur Jr. “I Ain’t”

J Mascis’ trademark disentranced vocals and exceptional lead guitar playing shine on “I Ain’t”, the leadoff track from Dinosaur Jr’s excellent Sweep It Into Space. Building off a two-chord back and forth melody, the composition creates tension at an almost imperceptible rate until the chorus comes around and the band lets loose, breaking into a freewheeling downhill run with bassist/singer Lou Barlow adding backing vocals to enhance the moment. “I Ain’t” is a reminder that after over three decades, Dinosaur Jr. are still creating new classics. – Andy Mascola

11. Smile featuring Robyn “Call My Name”

Nearly anytime Robyn releases a single, it is a contender for end of the year lists. Add the fact that “Call My Name” is the first single from Smile, the side project from Joakim Åhlund and Peter Bjorn & John’s Björn Yttling, and the track solidified its spot. With looping piano arpeggios, echoed guitar stabs and jaunty drums working as the backdrop for Robyn’s emotive vocals, the track has the uplifting and empathetic spirit needed for a year like 2021. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

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