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Listen: Tracks of the Year 2021

2021 has been a mixed bag. From coping with another lockdown, getting used to working alongside real people again, to getting back to venues for full blooded, full capacity shows. As we reflect, the one thing that keeps 2021 looking like any other year, is the release of incredible recorded music.

Every year, we ask our community of writers to select their favourite songs of the year. Be it, the one’s that dominated the self-isolation playlist, the one’s on repeat as we walked back to the office for the first time, or the one’s that prepared you for your first time back at a gig. These are the songs that made us feel something in 2021 and for that we are very grateful.

In no particular order, here are the So Young Tracks of the Year 2021…

Geese – Disco

The standout track from one of the albums of the year, their debut “Projector”.  The New York group seem to fall into the uncanny valley of sounding a little bit like every great band of the last thirty years, but are so themselves you find yourself unable to pinpoint an influence. Near-enough seven minutes in length, Disco is an odyssey of the reigniting joys of guitar music.” Dan Pare

Amyl and The Sniffers

Amyl & The Sniffers can do no wrong and their third studio full-length ‘Comfort To Me’, is a riotous example of my aforementioned bold-claim. I was lucky enough to catch the Aussie Punk-philosophers at The Electric Ballroom just before their tour was unfortunately cut short, and it was EVERYTHING that hopes and dreams are made of. Amyl & The Sniffers have seriously upped their game this time around and nothing says ‘the real-deal’ more, than Amy Taylor.” Al Mills

Rosie Alena – The Light

2021 saw the return of one of the finest new artists around in Rosie Alena and the cinematic sun-drenched serenade that is ’The Light’. Musically interweaving between baroque pop and jazz-esque akin to the late, great Margo Guryan. Rosie Alena’s elegant vocals are so sublime that it feels like a one person orchestra, ‘The Light’ in a way, is the James Bond theme that never was.” Brad Sked

Lynks – This is the Hit (Ft. Charlie Steen)

“The collaboration we never knew we needed. Performance artist and icon Lynks meets Shame’s Charlie Steen, fusing the world of outlandish pop with disruptive punk. It’s more than pop punk and it’s a left field go-to for any DJ wanting to pull out a hidden gem. Drunk Tank Pink was good too.” Poppy Richler

Joskstrap – 50/50

“You couldn’t blame Georgia Ellery if her penchant for musical experimentation would be fully redeemed through her role in Black Country, New Road’s ever expanding sonic universe. However, that’s not the case. After last year’s excellent ‘Wicked City’ EP, ‘50/50′ is an enthralling new chapter for Jockstrap, her project with electronic producer Taylor Skye. From Georgia’s ethereal vocals to the completely bonkers break that rips the song to shreds at the one-minute mark, ‘50/50′ sounds like what we imagine putting your fingers in a socket feels like. This would no doubt make Kendall Roy’s playlist on Succession: all bangers all the time.” Dirk Baart

John Myrtle – Get Her Off My Mind

“With lockdown this and life will never be the same again that, it was rather a bleak start to the year to say the least. Thankfully for our ever-sinking spirits, the muso gods of February granted us a beacon of sonic hope in the form of ‘Get Her Off My Mind’, by baroque-popper John Myrtle. A pleasing ride of bright-eyed guitars and infectious hooks, blink and you’d miss the tortured undertones to this foot-tapping love song. With all the easy-breezy charm of a Beach Boys number, this bop is one sure-fire away to put a Cheshire Cat grin back on your pandemic-torn faces.” Laura Pegler

As if Sad Club Records hadn’t already been on a hot streak of releases for the past couple of years, signee John Myrtle threw his hat into the ring with his effortlessly charming debut album Myrtle Soup this June. The opening track – the nostalgia-soaked ‘Get Her Off My Mind’ – is possibly the finest introduction to the often-psychedelic world of John, expressing a sound that yearns for years gone by and yet still manages to feel refreshing in a contemporary way with its gorgeously crafted melodies.” Reuben Cross

Wu-Lu – South

A track with a sinister rumble throughout that explodes into fits of pure carnage at the most unexpected moments, Wu-Lu’s early offering for the year delved into lo-fi punk in a way that could not be matched by anyone after. Lamenting the fall of the area of London he grew up in, the guttural howls of Miles Romans-Hopcraft will ring in the ears long after the song is finished. Powerful, powerful stuff.” Reuben Cross

““I used to live in South London / There’s not much of it left”. In that line alone, Wu-Lu capture a shot of the cultural zeitgeist with such precision it could be displayed in museums in years to come. The specifics of the track may deal with South London but that feeling of walls closing in, vibrancy and creativity devolving into the endless tide of glass, concrete and estate agents could be a case study of anywhere in the UK right now. Drop syringes, keep Foxtons away.” Dan Pare

Black Country, New Road – Chaos Space Marine

“While tempted to write about one of the album tracks, BCNR’s October single, ‘Chaos Space Marine’, expresses their potential for excellence. The song exudes confidence most likely assumed from their debut. It seamlessly blends folk, post-rock and baroque pop to make a counter-culture composition not to be reckoned with. Utilizing a wide array of musician, the introduction builds like 70s piano ballad before building into an anthem for the disaffected. Imaginative melodies don’t overcomplicate anything and this track only shows BCNR’s capability for humour and gentility, but also force and assertion.” Callum Gray

The Lounge Society – Cain’s Heresy

“A chuntering juggernaut of megalithic countenance, a Rickenbacker-shaped edict of uprising, a proud middle finger to the Tory Scum everywhere – the choice pick from the bombastic ‘Silk for the Starving’ EP evidenced, more than anything,  the riotous powers held at The Lounge Society’s calloused fingertips . ‘Cain’s Heresy’, with virtuoustic dexterity, flits from rocket-fuelled punk to bong-grade mind-fucking stoner jams,  revelling, joyously, in the atavistic thrills of gut-punching rock ‘n’ roll.” Elvis Thirlwell

Wet Leg – Chaise Longue 

“I’m not sure I even need to write anything about this song, as everyone will have picked it. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, the Isle of Wight band emerged immediately onto a national stage with the track, and with it produced perhaps the catchiest singalong anthem of all time. It has defined the year. [I actually prefer ‘Wet Dream’, but it’s impossible not to include this track]. What a band.” Dan Pare

Lime Garden – Clockwork

Brighton’s Lime Garden have been doing absolute bits this year and if anything, the streak is set to continue well through 2022. ‘Clockwork’ is the cooler, perhaps slightly more cynical older sibling to the quartet’s previous releases, and boy does it know it. This is a timeless anthem for anyone who distrusts change, but wishes to stay as far away from the past as possible. Great track, great visuals, great band.” Al Mills

black midi – Slow

black midi really outdid themselves this time around. If the unbridled chaos of Schlagenheim wasn’t either dishevelling or edge-of-your-seat-thrilling enough for you, then perhaps something akin to ‘Slow’ would do it for you. Now armed with demonic sax and piano, these proggy upstarts really captured the essence of the track’s subject matter – slowly waiting for the world to end and climaxing in an onslaught of apocalyptic noise. A tough listen it might be, but you’ll be finding hard not to be picking your jaw up off the floor after it.” Reuben Cross

Folly Group –  Fashionista

This writer’s breakout group of ‘21, Folly Group’s debut single Fashionista is a sneering, drawled masterpiece of simplicity. Slanting basslines and edgingly climactic guitar work gives the track the feeling of stumbling over oneself and almost falling, but percussive ingenuity throughout transforms any proverbial slip instead into an innovatively choreographed dance movement.” Dan Pare

Wunderhorse – Poppy

The third of Wunderhorse’s elusive releases, ‘Poppy’ combines the softly heart-wrenching tones of ‘Teal’ and ‘One For The Pigeons’ with a psychedelic guitar bridge that calls upon both The Beatles’ sitar phase and Jeff Buckley’s croons. That said, the track is entirely modern and represents the wholly original sound of Wunderhorse which is truly magnetic and has both a beauty and darkness that makes you stop in your tracks.” Poppy Richler

Writer, Laura Pegler selected ‘Teal’ and here’s what she said…

When we look back on 2021 in many a year to come, it wouldn’t surprise me if ‘Wunderhorse’ was the first word on everyone’s lips. Stopping us in our tracks with his flourishing debut, ‘Teal’ is a gritty exploit of heart-wrenching lyricism. Industrial in sound yet sensitive in nature, the single is a sincere outburst of jaw-dropping musicianship. The brainchild of art-rocker Jacob Slater, the frontman is also set to star as Sex Pistol, Paul Cook, in Danny Boyle’s forthcoming series biopic. A glimmer of what is quite clearly big things to come, ‘Teal’ is a track that deserves your full attention.”

Dry Cleaning – Unsmart Lady

“Everything Dry Cleaning do seems effortless, and intentionally so. Sometimes it’s almost like they’re rubbing it in our faces with how cool they are. On ‘Unsmart Lady’, vocalist Florence Shaw delivers her usual banal non-sequiturs one after another against a backdrop of pummelling drums and a wall of noise guitar line to thrilling effect, staking a claim for both lyrics and riff of the year. It’s hardly surprising that a band that encapsulates anxiety and tenseness within a song has had a barnstormer of year is 2021, and this might just be the high point of their output so far.” Reuben Cross

Island of Love – Songs of Love

“Following the accidental release of their ‘Promo Tape’ EP earlier this year, ‘Songs of Love’ was the intentional fire stoker. If the perfect blend of fuzz and melody exists then this is it. A band to be very excited for and ‘Songs of Love’ is the best introduction to said band.” Sam Ford

VLURE – Shattered Faith

If you haven’t seen VLURE live perhaps this is the song that best represents what can only be described as sound to blow the doors off any venue. The Glasgow-based 5-piece merge rave music with deeply emotional lyricism, establishing them as the most brave, daring and downright awesome band around.” Poppy Richler

Eades – Reno 

“In a year full of anxiety, sources of joy are there to be cherished. Eades’ recent cut ‘Reno’, released through Heist or Hit, most certainly was one. Sure, there’s nothing too idiosyncratic going on here when it comes to peculiar key or time signatures. This is the type of track that reinstates one’s faith in a straightforward rock-‘n-roll song. Of course the Leeds quintet aren’t miles away from your typical cynical Sprechgesang post-punk, but this anthem definitely proves their first and foremost doing whatever gives them a good time” Dirk Baart

Mandrake Handshake – Monolith

“‘Monolith’ seems an apt ballad for frolicking in the pasturelands around the flora whilst one’s consciousness transcends to a higher state. The prismatic psychedelia-meets-acid-folk rainbow ride is a spiritual odyssey that’s not just for the spring and summer, but has also been a much-needed vitamin D boost during these brisk winter times.” Brad Sked

The Umlauts – Boiler Suits and Combat Boots

“The Umlauts released their EP ‘Ü’ in June, they’ve had support slots with Shame, and it’s tracks that this that really show why. With Neue Deutsch Welle angularity blended with contemporary techno they retrospectively create a missing link between the genres. With a vacuum like synth-squiggle punctuating the bars, the repetitive beat slowly adds layers, keeping the hook driving throughout. Pulsing bass occasionally splits into the mix. It’s playful and it shows off the band’s promising potential. With the right song at the right moment, they could be set for takeoff.” Callum Gray

The Goa Express – Second Time

“The Manchester bands debut release on London’s Ra Ra Rok and a statement of intent. One of those songs that’s likely to stay with me forever. It’s got it all, infectious melody, nostalgia trips and for a track with no distinct chorus, its verses are catchier than many a pop favourite. Put simply, a banger.” Sam Ford

Warmduscher – Wild Flowers

“The band’s first release since signing to Bella union, Wild Flowers is the least radio friendly single to have dominated the airwaves this year. Danceable and filthy, it is everything we’ve come to love from the group – a welcome dose of brilliant, unhinged sleaze in a world that feels more serious by the day.” Dan Pare.

The new issue of So Young is out now. In Issue Thirty-Five we speak to Yard Act, Just Mustard, Warmduscher, Surfbort, VLURE, Pozi, Henry Carlyle, M(h)aol, Porchlight, Automotion and Los Bitchos. Order your copy here or read the digital edition below.

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