Topher’s Top 100 Tracks of 2021

100. VOLA – These Black Claws (featuring SHAHMEN)

99. WALK THE MOON – Can You Handle My Love??

98. Miguel – So I Lie

97. Colony House – O Ya

96. Ed Sheeran – Bad Habits

95. Jaialai – For Today

94. Citizen – Blue Sunday

93. Of Monsters and Men – Destroyer

92. BROCKHAMPTON – DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY

91. Royal Blood – Typhoons

90. Lizzo – Rumors (featuring Cardi B)

89. Zao – Croatoan

88. Twelve Foot Ninja – Start the Fire

87. Wolf Alice – Smile

86. Middle KidsQuestions

85. ’68 – The Knife, The Knife, The Knife

84. Noah Gundersen – Atlantis (featuring Phoebe Bridgers)

83. Hayley Kiyoko – Found My Friends

82. Nick Jonas – This Is Heaven

81. Saba – Ziplock

80. Scarypoolparty – Paradise

79. Manchester Orchestra – Keel Timing

78. HalfNoise – The Naked Eye

77. Sam Ryder – July

76. STARSET – DEVOLUTION

75. Public Universal Friend – Firestarter

74. The Blue Stones – L.A. Afterlife

73. Cautious Clay – Karma & Friends

72. Assertion – Supervised Suffering

71. Thrice – Robot Soft Exorcism

70. Aly & AJListen!!!

69. Liily – TV or Not TV

68. Joshua Powell – Hole Mesa Fangs

67. Huckleberry Funk – Stuck

66. Aaron Frazer – Can’t Leave It Alone

65. Billie Eilish – NDA

64. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – The Last Dance

63. twenty one pilots – Saturday

62. Halsey – Easier Than Lying

61. Bad Suns – Peachy

60. The Maine – Sticky

59. Royal Blood – Boilermaker

58. 81355 – Capstone

57. Durand Jones & The Indications – Love Will Work It Out

56. No Rome – Spinning (with Charli XCX & The 1975)

55. Forstory – Save Me

54. Liily – I Am Who I Think You Think I Am

53. Olivia Rodrigo – good 4 u

52. Hembree – It’s a Dream!

51. Bad Suns – Heaven Is A Place in My Head

50. PVRIS – My Way

49. FINNEAS – A Concert Six Months from Now

48. cleopatrick – THE DRAKE

47. Lil Nas X – DEAD RIGHT NOW

46. Vended – Asylum

45. Manchester Orchestra – Bed Head

44. Black Country, New Road – Track X

43. Nothing But Thieves – Futureproof

42. Michigander – Better

41. Vetusta Morla – No Seré Yo

40. DON BROCO – One True Prince

39. Death Therapy – Tension

38. BAYEM – Rush

37. IDLES – Crawl!

36. Poppy – Her

35. BTS – Butter

34. Andrew Belle – My Poor Heart

33. Dead Poet Society – .loveyoulikethat.

32. Foals – Wake Me Up

31. Silk Sonic – Leave The Door Open

30. Quicksand – Missile Command

29. Ben Howard – Crowhurst’s Meme

28. Lorde – Mood Ring

27. FINNEAS – The Kids Are All Dying

26. Radiohead – If You Say The Word

25. Lil Nas X – THATS WHAT I WANT

The second of three Lil Nas X songs to be included in my top 100, “THATS WHAT I WANT” is a powerfully catchy yet painfully brief pop tune: right as you’re really starting to get into the groove, it comes to an abrupt close. As frustrating as this is, it’s a trend relatively rampant throughout much of the Atlanta-based phenom’s full-length debut MONTERO, with over a third of the album’s 15 tracks lasting less than two and a half minutes.

24. Anberlin – Two Graves

2021 marked the full-blown comeback of long-time alternative rockers Anberlin, who released their first new song in over seven years. “Two Graves” serves as presumably the lead single from their forthcoming LP, boasting instrumentation sure to get the blood pumping, as well as one of the more memorable one-liners from the year on the song’s bridge: “if you want revenge, then you should dig two graves.”

23. Aly & AJ – Don’t Need Nothing

Speaking of comebacks, 2021 also gifted us with Aly & AJ’s first studio album in fourteen years. Heavily influenced by music of the 1960s and 1970s, A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun feels like the perfect summer record, and no track better embodies this than the fun, warm tune from which the record derives its title.

22. Durand Jones & The Indications – Witchoo

Known for straddling the line between funk and soul underneath the high-low harmonies of co-vocalists Aaron Frazer and Durand Jones, Bloomington’s best kept secret returned this year with their third full-length Private Space, and right from its lead single you can tell they have expanded on their unique soundscapes. With nodes of ‘70s-era disco and hints of ‘90s- and ‘10s-era electronica thrown in as well, “Witchoo” is like a soulful Jamiroquai on steroids.

21. Alice Merton – Vertigo

Alice Merton made waves in the world of indie pop back in 2019 with her debut studio album Mint. This year yielded a couple of tracks from her forthcoming sophomore LP, although the lead single marked a significant departure from Mint. With a booming backbeat throughout and a syncopated vocal cadence particularly prominent on the song’s chorus, “Vertigo” is this driving rock tune that packs enough punch to fill an entire arena.

20. Bonelang – Where the Chefs Eat

They may not have gifted us with a full-length like they did with SAINTMAKER last year or Sunny, Sonny. the year before that, but 2021 was still a banner year for Bonelang. The prolific pioneering pair spent it starting an exclusive subscription service, dropping a live EP, and unleashing a remix of the SAINTMAKER track “American Playboy,” all while still somehow managing to release as many singles throughout the year (12) as were tracks on either of their LP’s. When was the last time you knew of an artist who accomplished that much in a year? And they achieve all this without compromising in quality: just listen to the fast-paced, funky “Where the Chefs Eat” and you’ll see what I mean.

19. Julien Baker – Bloodshot

Julien Baker has succeeded in winning over the hearts of bloggers for years, but her latest studio effort Little Oblivions is without a doubt her strongest and most mature. The powerful “Bloodshot” closes out the album’s front side, while also serving as one of its most memorable moments. The dark musical background perfectly complements Baker’s poignant lines, especially near the song’s end: “there is no glory in love; only the gore of our hearts.”

18. Switchfoot – i need you (to be wrong)

There is a distinctly haunting vibe to the strings on the profound “i need you (to be wrong),” in a way not entirely unlike some of frontman Jon Foreman’s solo stuff. The result is perhaps one of the weirdest lead singles we’ve ever heard from Switchfoot, a band who just continues to stick around and evolve, even a quarter of a century after first coming together.

17. Lil Nas X – MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)

The smash lead single which also functions as the opening cut and title track from his full-length debut, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” helps set things off even further for the “Old Town Road” singer. The brief upbeat singalong sets the tone for much of the album, in addition to proving that Lil Nas X is no one hit wonder.

16. IDLES – The New Sensation

A musical tug of war between rumble and roar, “The New Sensation” tackles the jeopardization of the arts in today’s society over a simple yet infectious drum groove. The CRAWLER track even borders ever so slightly on chaotic leanings, making it an easy pick as one of the album’s highlights.

15. Bonelang – Satan’s Daughter in the Casino

On their strongest song of the twelve released over of the course of the year, Chicago-based alternative duo Bonelang rely on tight rhythms and this monstrous bassline throughout. “Satan’s Daughter in the Casino” is a mid-tempo banger that somehow feels far too short, in spite of its nearly four minute runtime. I blame the gliding chorus, along with the key-to-key modulation on the song’s outstanding outro.

14. Scarypoolparty – Holy Rejection

The year was incredibly fruitful for singer-songwriter Alejandro Aranda, also known as Scarypoolparty: several singles, an EP, and a massive double album later, the California native has my full attention. His nastiest song of the year though is actually a deep cut buried near the end of his 21-track double album. A lament on much of what we see in the world today, “Holy Rejection” is heavy both musically and lyrically.

13. The Wldlfe – Nightmare

Indianapolis-based indie pop group The Wldlfe, now a trio, released their first album in nearly 3 years this year after repackaging their back catalogue and rebranding their image. Repaint My Mind is a collection of 8 solid new tunes, including some of the strongest they’ve written yet. Among them is instant standout “Nightmare,” a chill, ethereal chart that I immediately fell in love with, thanks to the smooth lounge-like beat, the flamenco-based guitar cadence, and the reflective yet melancholic lyrics.

12. Mastodon – Pushing the Tides

Known for their signature blend of sludge and progressive metal, Mastodon only continue this trend on their magnificent double album Hushed and Grim. Some of the Atlanta-based quartet’s brightest offerings though come when they tap into a more accessible sensibility, and what better example of that than the album’s lead single. “Pushing the Tides” splits vocal duties between bassist Troy Sanders’ gruff roars on the song’s verses and drummer Brann Dailor’s anthemic choruses, which, combined, result in this driving, radio-ready rocker.  

11. Royal Blood – Limbo

On Typhoons, Royal Blood takes the sound they’ve cultivated over their previous two full-lengths and turns that on its head ever-so-slightly, and this feels most prominent on the album highlight “Limbo.” With tinges of industrial music throughout and an extensive, eerie echoing effect to end the song, the duo use both their minimal instrumentation and frontman Mike Kerr’s lyrics to make you feel quite literally “stuck in limbo.”

10. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

Billie Eilish somehow found a way to top her widely-lauded debut studio effort this year with its follow-up Happier Than Ever. Although the entire record is phenomenal, its pinnacle comes on the penultimate title track, which boasts major Phoebe Bridgers “I Know The End” energy: the 5-minute rock opera starts out as this soft, acoustic ballad before transitioning into an intense, fiery rocker halfway through. Meanwhile, Eilish airs her grievances all throughout with pointed lines depicting a past relationship and proclaiming why she truly is “Happier Than Ever.”

9. Superlaser – MDMA

While another year has come and gone without an album from Superlaser, it feels like the Alicante natives are closer than ever now, having released three new singles since April, including the most recent, “MDMA,” which is easily the best song we’ve heard from them since their debut “Interestelar.” Much like “Interestelar” before it, “MDMA” is both dynamic and futuristic: a soaring, ethereal space rocker that features this constant rise and fall.

8. Joshua Powell – White Lodge (Fire)

“White Lodge (Fire)” is the second song here that could qualify both as a rock opera and as possessing big Bridgers energy, so it’s no surprise that the trumpet-infused closer serves as the highlight from Joshua Powell’s Skeleton Party. I’m not sure why artists keep going this route, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. What really sets “White Lodge (Fire)” apart from those others though is the part-flamenco, part-mariachi vibe early on, followed by the vicious drum stomp to end the song.   

7. Liily – The Suit That Sold Itself

There is something intensely satisfying about “The Suit That Sold Itself,” but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Maybe it’s the roaring back-and-forth between guitar and saxophone; or perhaps it is the emphatic, syncopated cries from frontman Dylan Nash; or it could be the spastic start-and-stop nature that features a false ending (the latter being one of my favorite characteristics in music). Whatever pushes this TV or Not TV track over the edge, I’m grateful for all of it, because it all rules.

6. Hembree – Operators (featuring Bodye)

“Maybe this time we’ll open our eyes:” what a line to open a song with. Hembree frontman Isaac Flynn is no stranger to using brutal honesty in his lyrics, as I noted on the band’s debut LP in 2019, and while this still holds true (perhaps more so than ever before), “Operators” is also their most political song to date. Flynn described it as “almost cartoonishly villainous,” reflected in both the lyrics and in the “dark, dance heavy groove,” a groove which owes a lot of credit to the bouncy baritone saxophone lines from Bodye.

5. Julien Baker – Hardline

There are so many different quotable one-liners packed into this four-minute song that I could write a whole article just about “Hardline” and its lyrical significance. It is easily Julien Baker at her best, as the Tennessean singer-songwriter passes up traditional song structure in favor of just two verses with sparse, expansive instrumental breaks. Yes, Julien, we can definitely bang our heads to this one.

4. Thrice – Scavengers

“Scavengers” is a song I was immediately blown away by, and when I say immediately, I mean literally from the opening riff zero seconds in, the very first time I heard it. Each recurrence of the uplifting, euphoric chorus is slightly different from the last. It is, hands down, the best Thrice song in a decade, and without a doubt the highlight from their latest effort Horizons / East.

3. IDLES – The Beachland Ballroom

The crown jewel on IDLES’ recently-released fourth studio album, “The Beachland Ballroom” epitomizes CRAWLER both instrumentally and thematically. Like the record itself, the lead single is both noisy and melodic, both intense and beautiful. Frontman Joe Talbot barks about coming back from trauma and hardship, a theme which manifests itself throughout CRAWLER in several different forms.

2. Foo Fighters – Waiting on a War

Released as a single on Foo frontman Dave Grohl’s 52nd birthday back in January, “Waiting on a War” looks back on a time of global uncertainty in Grohl’s youth in the 1980s, while simultaneously looking ahead at a similar time happening right now in the world. And while the “war” in today’s case is more of a metaphorical one, it is a moving message nonetheless. This is matched with the song’s composition, which starts off slow and simplistic, before a steady build-up eventually culminates in an explosion of fast-paced rock fury by the end.

1. Olivia Rodrigo – drivers license

Olivia Rodrigo took the entire world by storm in January with her debut single “drivers license” so quickly that it felt almost overnight. Her meteoric rise to global superstardom can be attributed in part to all of the hype (thanks TikTok), but it also has quite a bit to do with just how good the song is. Written out of a heartbreak, “drivers license” is an atmospheric, cathartic power ballad with easily the best bridge from the entire year. It is quite possibly the most perfect pop song written in the last several years, and certainly in the last year. No other track comes close, not even any of the other songs from Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR. It’s a shoe-in for song of the year and I don’t even care if that sounds basic or generic; all that matters is it’s true.

Listen to all of the songs below on my Spotify playlist:

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