You’ve already seen our lists with favorite albums – here‘s Niek’s list and there‘s mine – but also many shorter format releases were wantlist worthy. Below you can listen to an overview of the Top 50 singles and EPs that I thought were the best from 2021. I’ve excluded releases with songs that also appear on my album list. Links point to Discogs or Bandcamp (the headings), and to previously posted reviews (in the body text) – add to your wantlist (or collection) what you like!
1. Noah C Lekas || Sounds From The Shadow Factory
[Beat Poetry, US || Blind Owl] To be honest I haven’t been able to give this one as much attention as I would have liked. Not only because I mainly spent my time on full-length albums, but also for practical reasons: only two songs are shared on Bandcamp, YouTube, Soundcloud and Spotify, and unfortunately a physical copy wasn’t available in Europe (and sold out quickly in the US). Still, I didn’t doubt for a moment whether this should be at the top, simply because this was the most impressive release of the past year in all respects. Poems and rock music form a great combination here: “It’s jazz for the mind // It’s blues for the soul.” It’s Art!
2. Wild Billy Childish & CTMF / The Chatham Singers || Bob Dylan’s Got A Lot To Answer For / Chatham MTB
[Garage Blues Rock, UK || Damaged Goods] The always prolific Billy Childish has released a bizarre amount of music again in 2021, under different monikers, all pretty good. Much of his work this year has been influenced by Bob Dylan (he did a great cover version of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, among others), yet he believes the Nobel Prize winner has got a lot to answer for, so he wrote him an excellent complementary tune. The blues instrumental on the B side is also worth checking out.
3. Los Yesterdays || Nobody’s Clown
[Soul, US || Penrose] Awesome soul 45, fantastic video. I love this so much!
4. Melin Melyn || Blomonj
[Psychedelic Country Pop, UK || Bingo Records] The Welsh six-piece blurs the line between folk, rock, pop, surf, psych, and jazz, singing about weird tales of colorful characters and magical worlds in both English and Welsh. Extraordinary, light-hearted and fun.
5. The Thunderbeats || Fuzz Hooligans
[Garage Rock, Russia || Otitis Media Records] Killer rhythm & blues tracks with awesome hooks and enjoyable vocal harmonies.
6. Surf Cassette || Non Così Diversi
[Garage Rock, Italy || Self-Released] Summery tracks that fans of Bee Bee Sea, Together Pangea, and The Rokes will appreciate.
7. Harlis Sweetwater || Diesel Dirt & Spit Volume 1
[Power Blues Rock, US || Self-Released] This is boogie woogie all night long, although chances are the vocals and guitar solos of the Californian singer / guitarist will blow your speakers.
8. The Cracks || Oliver’s Bath
[Alternative Rock, US || Self-Released] Energetic rock with great hooks and a Stones feel, which makes me dance by myself.
9. Eades || Abstract Education
[Indie Rock, UK || Heist or Hit] Rock-solid songs that capture the raw energy of their live set. I’m a fan of the drummer: more cowbell!
10. Floodlights || The More I Am / Overflowing Cup
[Jangle Rock, Australia || Tiny Town Records] The debut LP from the Melbourne four-piece was my favorite album of 2020, and with the first with the follow-up 7″, they prove that they can maintain that high level.
11. Acantha Lang || Sugar Woman
[Bluesy Soul, UK || Self-Released] The New Orleans, Louisiana born singer/songwriter introduces herself and her talents on this funky debut EP that fans of Aretha Franklin and Mavis Staples can purchase without hesitation.
12. Thee Sacred Souls || Will I See You Again?
[Soul, US || Penrose] Two wonderful sides of sweet soul music, with vocals that go straight to your heart.
13. Monsieur Paul & Les Solutions || Dance Mon Monde
[Garage Rock, France || Self Released] All 4 tracks here are very entertaining, but Plagier Dutronc is extraordinary, not least because of the great lyrics that honor the heroes of the past: “Our goal is to follow suit to The Limiñanas // But for psyche rock, on the French side / / You have to plagiarize Dutronc, that’s good!”
14. Los Traiciones || Express
[Power Pop, Argentina || Self-Released] Guitar-driven hits with a lot of who-oh’s that you can sing along to right away, even if you don’t speak the language.
15. April March & Olivia Jean || Palladium
[Garage Rock / Yé-yé, US || Third Man Records] Two of the coolest musicians in the scene separately recorded 3 renditions each of the same tune, with April March (yes, you know her from Chick Habit) singing them in French and Olivia Jean (she made it to my AOTY list of 2019) in English – 1 song, 6 fun versions.
16. The Bomboras || The Return Of The Up Up Sound
[Surf Rock, US || MuSick Recordings] Awesome instrumentals, as good as the classics from the ’60s, but new and original. A glorious comeback after 20 years.
17. Grandmas House || Always Happy / Small Talk
[Indie Punk, UK || Brace Yourself Records] Heavy guitars, pounding drums, and growling vocals that continuously leaves you balancing between smiles and awe. I choose to list the single with my favorite track from the trio so far, although they also released a great EP.
18. Mujeres || Rock y Amistad
[Indie Rock, Spain || Sonido Muchacho] Under the motto “rock & friendship”, the trio from Barcelona has asked some musical friends – Carolina Durante, Cariño, Los Punsetes, and Nueva Vulcano – to record a song together. In 2015 I saw both Mujeres and Los Punsetes live at the Primavera Sound festival, and I’ve been a fan of both bands ever since. That alone is a good reason to want this EP, but actually I like all 4 tracks.
19. Veps || Open the Door
[Indie Pop, Norway || Kanine Records] Strong debut by this quartet of 17 year old best friends, who display a remarkably mature sound. Their first 6 songs are diverse, authentic and convincing, with beautiful lyrics.
20. Vinny and The Hooligans || You’re Never Too Far Away
[Punk Rock, US || Self-Released] Some good old rock ‘n’ roll rock from New York, New York. Shout along: “Whoa oh oh oh ohh!”
21. The Shang Hi Los || “Kick It Like A Wicked Bad Habit”
[Garage Pop, US || Rum Bar Records] Catchy 3-minute sing-along songs with a combination of two good voices, doo-wop harmonies, cheerful guitar riffs, and a boosting drumbeat. The 60’s were still very much alive in 2021.
22. Linnea’s Garden || Nowhere Friday Nights
[Power Pop, US || Red on Red Records] The band fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarist Linnea Herzog is dancing on the shoulders of Blondie, The Go-Gos, and The Ronettes, and they do it well.
23. Camp Trash || Downtiming
[Indie Rock, US || Count Your Lucky Stars] Successful debut 7″ with 4 songs rooted in 90s / 2000s college rock, with great vocals and driving rhythms.
24. The Mocks || Not Ready / See That Girl
[Nederbeat, The Netherlands || Bickerton Records] The sound and style of the 60s executed to perfection.
25. GospelbeacH || Jam Jam EP
[Pscych Glam, US || Curation Records] The folk rockers take a different turn here, with 5 covers of late 60s / 70s bubblegum and glam lost classics.
26. Stephen’s Shore || Brisbane Radio
[Jangle Pop, Sweden || Meritorio Records] The band members share a love for jangly guitars and moody pop songs, and they really know how to turn that love into moody pop songs with jangly guitars.
27. TOLEDO || Jockeys Of Love
[Bedroom Folk, US || Telefono] Music that is atmospheric and enchanting – beautiful and dreamy songs for a much-needed break from all the noise.
28. Hemi Hemingway || The Lonely Hunter
[Baroque Pop, UK || PNKSLM Recordings] A beautiful ode to the sound of 50’s doo-wop and 60’s girl groups that fans of Shannon Shaw’s Shannon in Nashville or RF Shannon’s Trickster Blues will appreciate. Melancholic, cinematic, and poetic.
29. Malford Milligan || Days of Old
[Soul, US || Reconcile Records] A multi-award winning vocalist, a great band, and two delicious new songs that should become classics.
30. Hoodna Orchestra || Alem Alem
[Afrobeat, Israel || Agogo Records] Five swinging instrumental funk tracks by a great group of skilled musicians.
31. Off Judy || Grow Up
[Garage Rock, Australia || Self-Released] These two friends don’t want to grow up at all, as evidenced by the 4 catchy, melodic songs that will give fans of Black Lips, The Molochs, and Jacuzzi Boys a good time.
32. Childish Tones || Country Girl
[Garage Rock, Japan || KiliKiliVilla] A catchy Primal Scream cover, played on toy instruments – it sounds better than you’d expect based on this description.
33. Uni Boys || Long Time No See
[Power Pop, US || Curation Records] Cool rock ‘n’ roll hits.
34. Courting || Grand National
[Post-Punk, UK || Nice Swan Records] Powerful guitar songs with sharp lyrics, more melodic and less serious than usual in this genre – tight and entertaining.
35. Baby Strange || Land Of Nothing
[Post-Punk, UK || Icons Creating Evil Art] More driving guitars and talk-singing, and this one is pretty melodic too. We want More! More! More!
36. ọRIọNE || Astral Paramnesia
[Garage Psych, Italy || Self-Released] Trippy improvisations and untamed energy that you really should experience live.
37. Vera Bloom || Vera Bloom
[Alternative Rock, US || Self-Released] Powerhouse rock that is very rewarding.
38. The Telephone Numbers || Leviathan
[Jangle Pop, US || Fruits & Flowers] This single contains 2 heartfelt songs with dreamy guitar pop. The band also released a nice full-length album this year, but these tracks are missing.
39. Sanya N’Kanta || These Are The Days
[Indie Pop, US || Self Released] The 6 tracks on this eclectic EP combine influences from rock, soul, and R&B, to name a few. I skip the part where too many modern production techniques are used, but if the Jamaican born artist / producer keeps it raw and pure, this hits hard.
40. Thee Baby Cuffs || You’re My Reason
[Soul, US || Timmion Records] A beautiful 7″ featuring classic Chicano Soul, with dynamic vocals, bilingual lyrics, harmony and a skilled rhythm section. A release that soon will become more pricey.
41. The Dround Hounds || All My Choices
[Roots Rock, US || Self-Released] Husband and wife duo plays 6 bluesy alt-country songs with intense vocals.
42. Fresh || The Summer I Got Good At Guitar
[Pop Punk, UK || Dead Broke / Specialist Subject] These are 5 convincing, empowering songs, which live up to the expectations set by the title.
43. Oracle Sisters || Paris II
[Dream Pop, France || 22TWENTY] Relaxed music with dreamlike stories and a light Mac De Marco vibe, very satisfying.
44. Lacuna Common || It’s All Talk
[Indie Rock, UK || Self-Released] The band members share what it was like growing up in their hometown; on the 6 songs here they manage to express that quite captivating.
45. The Dune Flowers || I Don’t Mind It
[Garage Country, US || Groove Family Records] Fans of The Growlers and Natural Child should not skip this one, because this is just such a successful, unpolished mix of rock, country, and blues.
46. The Uglies || Big and Ugly
[Indie Pop, UK || Fatigue Records] Based on the band name and title you would expect loud punk, but the debut single of this London 5-piece contains 2 well-constructed guitar songs that remind more of Pulp than of Misfits.
47. Ruffin Harris || I Dig You / Bright As The Sun
[Soul, US || Diddy Wah Records] Cool rhythm & blues for fans of Wilson Pickett and Sam & Dave, on Reno Bo’s new label.
48. The Far Outs || Last Night
[Garage Rock, Australia || Self-Released] A great, fuzzy garage banger on the A-side, a great Easybeats cover on the B-side. Classic.
49. The Memories || Beautiful Sunrise
[Garage Pop, US || Gnar Tapes] It’s always nice when Rikky Gage (White Fang, Free Weed) and his bandmates come up with new work. Not something to take seriously, but if you’re looking for entertainment…
50. The Leonites || Medizin nach Noten
[Surf Aerobics, Germany || Self-Released] As far as I know this song has not been officially released as a single – only available on YouTube. But I like both the vibe of this instrumental and the video too much not to include here.
From 45 of these 50 singles or EP’s you’ll find 1 track in this Spotify playlist.
Niek will publish his list next week.
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