While we helplessly look out of our windows and watch the world falling to pieces from our homes, one form of relief shared by many has been the music of this year. Some has been topical, some emotional and some transcendental. Below are the first of my 50 favourite songs released this year (with a one song per artist rule), and here’s to the hope that we might experience them live, up-close and personally next year. (Photo Jenn Five/NME).
50. Harold – Blanketman
A euphoric hit of autobiographical post-punk from the Manchester-based group, who are one of the hottest prospects of 2021 with their EP National Trust coming out in March.
49. Helios – Rival Consoles
Gently effervescent and warm, ‘Helios’ is a number of subtle vibrancy and growth which develops astutely over its five-minute stay.
48. If I Had My Way – Osees
Hedonism rules the waves on this buoyant number, which was the second single from their acclaimed album Protean Threat.
47. Figure It Out – Anna Shoemaker
A lovely track from the Brooklyn vocalist’s EP Everything is Embarrassing that calls upon the mellow-pop sounds of Haim to achieve an empowered sound.
46. Grit – Phoebe Green
Green’s EP I Can’t Cry For You saw her delve into darker atmospherics, with ‘Grit’ leading this evolution.
45. Most Modern Painting – Sinead O’Brien
In a prolific year for the Irish punk-poet, ‘Most Modern Painting’ found the perfect blend between instrumental tunefulness and vocal discord.
44. Another Lover – Little Dragon
New Me, Same Us exhibited a more introspective side to Little Dragon’s work, spearheaded by the softness of ‘Another Lover’.
43. LAUNDRY – R.A.P. Ferreira
An excellent combination of subtly combative sounds led by Ferreira’s muted vocals and a piano-led beat.
42. About Minerals – The Leaf Library
Bubbling, floaty ambience at its most assured, layered with enticingly mysterious voices and brought to life by ascendant synths.
41. Take Me Shopping – Tricky
A simple but effective composition which provides an arresting backing for the tender quietness of Marta’s singing.
40. CUTIE PIE! – JPEGMAFIA
An illustrious piece that effortlessly showcases the artistic growth of JPEGMAFIA in less than two-and-a-half minutes.
39. Song For Our Daughter – Laura Marling
Laura Marling in her absolute element. Beautiful acoustic bliss awaits, supported by sweet harmonies and even sweeter strings.
38. I’m Not Your Dog – Baxter Dury
The opening track of Baxter Dury’s album The Night Chancers set in stone his move into classier realms of sound and delivery, and is an infectious listen.
37. Leaves Against The Sky – Actress
Anchored by a forceful pulse, Actress revitalises IDM of the late nineties to give it a fresh buzz and presence.
36. Summertime The Gershwin Version – Lana Del Rey
If ever there was evidence for the stylistic confidence of Lana Del Rey, look no further. A staggeringly gorgeous track.
35. Cactused – Wire
Further proof of Wire’s ability to swing between challenging and accessible listens with utter ease, even forty years after their hey-day.
34. Sleek Form – PVA
Synth takes charge on a path of oppressive force, complimented by powerful percussion and seductive vocals.
33. Four American Dollars – U.S. Girls
Grooving anti-capitalist messaging taking influence from 1970s funky-soul sounds at peak danceability. Get moving.
32. Black Dog – Arlo Parks
A guitar-led song of grace from, arguably, 2020’s most consistent artist. Tracks like this make you yearn for an album next year.
31. Dorothea – Taylor Swift
Tonally, a more upbeat track than its company, ‘Dorothea’ is a charming track from Swift’s second album of the year, Evermore.