New music has been the main and so very necessary solace of our year! This is a homage to the best songs released last year that we didn't have posted about.

In this odd year that has challenged us in so many ways, we managed to keep giving you great tracks regardless of the genre, and always trying to focus on very new artists and musicians. Still, we missed a few that we wanted to write about – as expected – leading to this beautiful collection of tracks released in 2021, that we think are deserving of special attention. Yes, you may call this a best-of-list. Because when it comes to best-of lists they are all about what or which songs moved us the most. And these ones moved us throughout the year. And will continue to. We are sure of that.
Don’t expect your already favorite songs to be on this list though. Expect, however, to be surprised with great songs you never heard before that you might include in your favorites list.

ABC Dialect – Feels Right

Feels Right” was the final single released by ABC Dialect in what was their debut self-titled album to be released this year. The track is a gentle mix of retro dream pop, modern RnB and indie electronic feels that sound quite relaxed and sexy. Co-produced by Daniel Nentwig (Whitest Boy Alive) the smooth single feels expansive even though with subtle variations, and the sultry vocals are perfect balanced until they offer us a great chorus time and time again. Compared with acts such as Benny Sings and Phoenix, and comprised of two Argentinian songwriters – Luca Oliva Knight and Tomas Susevich – these young beatmakers are making original new songs with an organic feel that feels good for a Friday afternoon and a gentle night in. It makes a whole lot of sense to say that this really feels right.

Desmond Myers – Playing With Fire

When you first listen to Desmond Myers is impossible to ignore his vocals. Going for a genre between indie-pop and commercial pop where the biggest stars are probably James Blake and Sam Smith, his “Playing With Fire” released in early 2021, is a pop banger that already made a mark for him with Rolling Stones calling it “a sultry ballad led by a powerful voice“. There are RnB and soul nuances and sensual instrumental paced elements that keep the listener hooked, and the vocals are always surprising and sounding impressive. There is a clear romantic vibe in the track and a clear commercial inclination due to the impressive production that takes nothing away from the raw spirit of the track. Simple in structure but very rich in the way it’s sung and interpreted, this is a track that the radios should have played on repeat all year long.

Einsam – At Eye Level

With a sonority that instantly reminded us of acts like LCD Soundsystem or Talking Heads, “At Eye Level” was of Einsam releases in 2021 and part of their four-track EP “Samantics” released last year. The Bristol-born producer and songwriter who is the one man multi-doer behind the project wrote and created the tracks for the last four years when living in Vienna. The first thing that hooked us were the distinct and powerful effortless vocals that go from fully melodic to spoken word. Clever, emerging and always feeling on the verge of exploding at any given time. In the track, those vocals are accompanied by an ever-evolving instrumental sonority that feels electric, intense and epic. Produced by Cecil (PJ Harvey) in London, and also influenced by acts like Massive Attack, Four Tet and Gorillaz, the track talks about the way we view the world and the way we appear to others. It’s very hard to detach from the powerful hooking words “How do I Look? How do I see? What do I mean? At Eye Level”. But it’s even harder to detach from the Foal-like powerful instrumental apotheose. A stunner.

ELD – Transformation is necessary

Featuring elements that remind us of Bon Iver in more than in one way – the track features saxophone elements courtesy of Danish musician Lars Greve who is actually a touring member for the project – “Transformation is necessary” is a dark electronic-infused track that mixes electro with pop and which takes the best out of exaggerated vocal modifications. The ambience feels powerful every time while still giving the right space for the listener to feel it lyrically and sing along. There is a pounding beat that accompanies the track the entire time, there is a tribal-like feeling to it all, and there is a notion of explosion and build up. Hailing for Gothenburg, and after many years being a major presence in the underground club scene this was ELD first track since 2018, and incredible anticipation for what is coming up.

Ellur – Burn It All Down

The drops in “Burn It All Down” are impressive from the start. And so are Ellur deep pop vocals. The 20-year-old indie-pop artist mixes the perfection of 80’s synths and contagious electronic elements with clear and clean pop vibes of the modern days. There is a simplicity that focuses on her vocal capacity and in the capacity of making engaging and catchy melodies, which is just disarming. The track talks about wanting to run away from turbulent relationships and coming out stronger on the other side. There is evidence of acts like London Grammar, Lorde and Florence & The Machine in this track produced by Lee Smith (Holly Humberstone, Easy Life) but there is no sense of lacking originality. The first time we listened to it we felt the Drive OST type of vibe and for sure Lorde type of intensity. But Ellur capacity to sound crystal clear while rich also sounds original. And the sick (and yet also simple) drum machine elements are just keeping us hooked into it every single time. And it does not take a lot for us to sing it along. Pop music is alive and kicking with this.

Fetch Tiger – Brand New

Indie duo. Much melancholiathis is how Fetch Tiger describe themselves. Formed in London in 2020, the band is formed by Lorenzo Montali and Tanner Davis who together do an airy and relaxed melancholic track where the electric guitar and the mellow vocals never sound dull. “Brand New” is one of four tracks released in their 2021, and one that brings us the vibes of a Mac DeMarco that decided to go more pop without forgetting the grooves and the positivity. Very easy to like, also because of their whole range of nuances and capacity to keep reinventing a track, it’s in the unique sonority that the brilliance lies for us. The track was produced by the great Grace Banks (Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay) and “follows a serendipitous encounter between the narrator and his former crush at their high school reunion”. It sings about transformation and the capacity to change for someone we love, and is also very lyrical, with a natural capacity to make the story shine for the listener while grooving him/her into it.

Glass Echoes – Past The Sundown

Glass Echoes are Ben Noble and Chris Bartels and a band we’ve written about already in 2021. Still, the album they’ve released entitled “Breathe” had several highlights and incredible folk tracks that deserve to be stand out. “Past The Sundown” was the first track we heard about from the duet. When it starts we remember Coldplay roots, when it progresses we feel a light genius vibe around it. There is so few instruments on it that it feels surreal how many things it makes us feel. From a child lullaby we were sung in bed, from a Bon Iver atmospheric, to an epic post-rock explosive sound. Everything about it sounds incredible and hard to describe. There are subtle variations after subtle variations, and the vocals are always heartfelt and sensible. The track talks about how breathing is this fundamental part of our existence that can help center us. Ben said: “My whole vision for the bridge/instrumental section was taking the music to the moon; there’s definitely some sort of ethereal/mystery to the song“. While Chris said: “At first, we just had the mellow verses and super intimate chorus. I remember suggesting to Ben to come up with some big, epic, synthy, ambient bridge, and he came up with that idea – ‘taking it to the moon.’”.

There are casset tape loops, rough piano bits which were sampled and looped, there is a banjo worked like a percussion instrument, and drum machines. Everything sounds surreal and so, so, good.

HALLI – Your Love (My Way)

With references like St. Vincent, FKA Twigs and Angel Olsen, HALLI hails for indie electronic sonorities without hiding the central focus on her vocals. “Your Love (My Way)” was released about 10 months ago and truly honours those references showcasing a great and very unusual alt-pop vibe.  Described by BBC Introducing as “a phenomenal new talent”, for us it’s in the capacity to do and go to the unexpected melodies where HALLI’s geniousity lies. There are also arrangements that remind us of James Blake in the way she uses subtle vocal modifications to multiply her voice into several layers and quirky surprises. The track also emerges on its confessional lyrics that deal with the giving and taking of heartbreak, talking about selfish love, born from the delusions of expectation: “the energy is both desperate and unrestrained, as the music and words spiral from self pity, towards a place of self reflection”.

Indi Faulkner – SOAR

Indi Faulkner is a San-Francisco based singer-songwriter with a natural capacity to blend pop, indie rock and modern jazz. Her warm voice and natural ability to go up and down on notes make everything feel effortless. That capacity allied with her composition creativity results in great complex tracks that feel natural when evolving throughout as they also feel rich with layers and layers of instruments. “SOAR” was her second track to be released in 2021 and the third track so far, and continues to explore feelings of longing, waiting and hoping for change. Her natural rich voice makes the track a hopeful track and a track the listener can dive into many times and ever feel different and notice different elements. The gorgeous piano easily stands out as also do the jazzy arrangements without ever leaving the pop vibe and a very recent sonority.

Katie Toupin – Astronaut

Astronaut” by Katie Toupin sounds like a track our fathers used to listen when they were our age. That’s probably the best way to put it. It has the capacity to sound timeless, but also has the capacity to touch any person of any age. Surf Rock in its essence it talks about wanting to be an astronaut when we grow up and sings about impossible dreams or the notion of all things being possible. In Katie words “It’s about connecting with your inner child: the hopefulness, bravery, innocence, everything you came intact with. The song felt like shedding a layer and the video really completed the picture with my niece“. Released in March 2021, it’s one of the songs we’ve been listening for so long that we did not realize that have never written about it. Produced by Jeremy Ferguson (Cage the Elephant) the track feels like a brave light in our way and always lights up our day, every single time we listen to it. The chorus is of an immense power and timeless feel, and it actually reaches very soon in the track too. The guitar in the back always provides the gorgeous vocal-less spaces with musical joy, and the growth of the song’s spirit never stops to grow until the very end.

Marian Hill ft. Yung Baby Tate – oOo that’s my type

It seems so long ago that we discovered Marian Hill (about 6 years ago) and that’s how we know that time really flies by. Well for the duo, time must feel different. Keeping their original sonority and featuring Yung Baby Tate they made one of most underrated tracks of the year. Entitled “oOo that’s my type” this is an alt-electronic track with a lot of sexy and pop-explosive moments where both vocals feel catchy and with a lot of personality, and where – like they do it so well – the synth-bass melodies are explored in their greatest repetition value without ever sounding too much. The fact that the track also worked as a comeback for them is the icing on the top: “Before the pandemic, we’d gotten a bit jaded, the excitement of a career in music had worn off, and there were moments when we thought about walking away. Then, of course, something that had never happened before happened. When everything stops, you really take stock of what you have. Marian Hill gave both of us the lives we’d always dreamed of, and kept us going during the darkest times yet. In a year when Samantha found herself turning 30 in her childhood bedroom and Jeremy suffered a traumatic injury to both of his wrists, the music we made for Marian Hill gave us something to feel good about in a world full of uncertainty. For a few moments each day, we could get lost in a song, and pretend we were playing it for you. And we made our favorite album yet.”

mehro – green felt

mehro released his first song “perfume” in 2020 and has since been slowly building into a phenomenon. From Elliot Smith to Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, the comparisons have been drawn several times and for a good purpose: mehro’s innovative (but still quite retro-sounding) songwriting and sonority. In 2021 mehro released several great tracks, and perhaps my (José) biggest mistake was not to write about his debut album “SKY ON FIRE“. He also released the staggering single “green felt” where he sings about how we are all hypocrites in our essence. The track that could be described as an indie-rock meets indie-folk and indie-pop song, feels everything but any of those genres. Is that sense of uniqueness allied with an incredible sensibility in the way he places his vocals into the gorgeous layers of melodies, that dazzles us as listeners. Tranquil percussion behind the acoustic guitar provides the main two-layered gem where his generosity as a singer-songwriter makes it easy for even bigger comparisons like Sufjan Stevens or Bright Eyes. “We’re all hypocrites…that’s why I forgive so easily” is probably the most catchy and heartfelt piece of music we’ve listened to last year. And we are still listening to it almost every day in 2022.

mokina feat. carbeau – waiting by the window

On the last day of 2022, mokina and carbeau released the track “waiting by the window” a lo-fi dazzle that feels warm and right. After two years of writing and recording remotely from two different countries, the duo finally met in Paris and wrote and recorded the single in its entirety on their first day back together. Inspired by the Brazilian track by Gilberto Gil “esperando na janela” their idea was to give it a complete reworking. The tune keeps the duo’s familiar lofied south American soundscape, something from a dream filled with celebratory percussions, guitars and keyboards; with both artists singing and making the track sound modern but still nostalgically chilled and good vibed.

Sam Pearce – Dad’s New ’92 Acura

This song is dedicated to, and exists because of, my younger brother, Harry. The first verse is about hanging out with my dad on his birthday in Toms River, NJ, and me (one for the driving) driving him and Harry (two for the dreaming) in his new, used ’92 Acura Legend 200 miles to his hometown in Baltimore County, because he’s fallen asleep at the early end of a great day. The second verse is about my mom being our hero and making us into good people (“rings of summer she turned into the two of us”). The third verse is about Harry and I, at 17 and 19, playing basketball to escape the harder parts of our reality at the high school in the headlights of the car“. We know great tracks are about great memories and tell great stories. Sam Pearce’s track “Dad New ’92 Acura” must be the best example of how a track can tell a story about humanity and about memories. Like a Red House Painters track both in the storytelling vibe and in the folk meets Americana sonoric melancholic vibe.

The track where Sam plays the steel string guitar, bass, trumpet and vocals, and where the entire composition is from himself, dignates his pass and truly feels amazingly honest and gorgeous all around. It sounds raw, like the story it portrays and also imaginative and unique. Like only the greatest songs can.

Oh He Dead – Bottle It Up

Bottle It Up” tries to bottle up the bubblegum thrill, addictiveness, and nervous excitement of a new love that you know isn’t going to last, but you want to access that feeling forever. “In the throes of a new puppy love, our singer Andy caught himself jamming to happy pop tunes that he normally disliked. While in the shower, he started humming a catchy new melody. Like magic, the chorus lyrics spilled out of his mouth. Not wanting to forget, he jumped out of the shower soaking wet, didn’t bother to dry off, grabbed his phone, opened Voice Memos, and recorded the hook“. With an album already in the bag released in 2019, Oh He Dead latest track released at the end of 2021 is a gorgeous funky pop energetic track that gently slides into our head. There are obvious vibes of some of the most successful 2021 vibes that they managed to make work in their favour. The track that was recorded in 2019 during the pandemic start was produced in the notable Red Giraffe Studio, and the sound quality is for sure one of its highlights. Just grab your best headphones for this:

The Sadderdays – Under the Stars

Lead singer and guitarist, Hayley Kempsell, formed The Sadderdays in 2017 after moving to Nashville, TN with the hopes of creating a band that would help cultivate the sounds she’d been dreaming up on her own. She quickly found four musicians who saw in their songwriting all she could expect and together formed The Sadderdays. As the name of the bad inpersonates, these are tracks that feel quite sad and melancholic. They find in folk roots and indie rock nuances the capacity to transpose their feelings and the result are touching tracks impossible not to love to death. “Under the Stars” is our favourite song so far. If the vocals are sensible but with a lot of power, the complexity and the level of intrinsic love for the track feel it’s very easy to feel as a listener. There are gorgeous guitar melodies that accompany vocal stretches, there are subtle hooks and almost empty spaces where the sensible elements are left echoing on purpose. And the hearfelt lyrics always feel front-end to the track. Like an open heart.

Windser – Trouble In Paradise

Jordan Topf is Windser. Based in the rural Northern California mountains, he kick-started his career in 2020 with his strong and honest tracks about heartbreak and loneliness. “Trouble In Paradise” was one of five tracks released last year, and is an emotional track with some very catchy melodies based on simplicity and intensity. The track anticipates the EP to be released this year and his own words is a “song about LA. About my experience moving to Los Angeles from New York, playing music here, meeting new people, and feeling overwhelmed by how beautiful everything can be when bad things happen. Sometimes this city can feel completely isolating, but I often find that time spent alone allows me to be more honest”. Honesty is the word and probably the main reason why the track speaks so easily to us. The other reasons are the gorgeous vocals and the acoustic guitar that so perfectly soundscapes everything.

Yr Familiar – Breathe

Art-rock, Synthwave and Shoegaze combined. Yr Familiar is a band of unique sound. Vocal wise it reminds us of Stevie Nicks at a first moment. There is a sense of retro sonority in their incredible 10-month-old “Breathe“. A track that sounds dark but hopeful and with a very indie sounding back of layers that sound both like rock and electronic at the same time. The vocals expand when we expect the less, and the track evolves continuously keeping that same chorus-like melody where the sonority sounds nostalgic and less hopeful just for it to evolve to an almost Madonna like approach. The first track written by Yr Familiar and one of two singles released in 2021 (you should also experience “Lavender Gold” in all its glory) talks about grief and the need to move forward. There is a lot of inpersonating the sense of being lost and running away from problems, but the sonority makes us mostly want to face the pain and act bravely. And the greatest thing about it is that you never heard anything like it before.