Legit Bosses: 2021’s 121 Greatest Songs

You know it’s all about that boom! Legit Bosses, baybay!*

(*yeah, that song isn’t actually included. It’ll be on Legit Bosses 2022 though! I’m just a bit slow with these things…)

So, only 121 this year, a marked decline on 2020’s 125. So was it a notably worse year? Absolutely chuffing not. Despite the 2.928% drop in numbers, the quality on show is outstanding. Never mind the weight, feel the quality. The top maybe twenty songs especially are on some next level shit, and you haven’t seen so many GOATs since you traumatically happened upon Weird Uncle Colin’s problematic porn collection back in 92. I also shaved a few songs last minute, mainly because they were from albums due to be released in 2022 and I decided to make them Next Year Alex’s problem. Also, one or two I realised… weren’t… actually… that… good… So that just means the 121 that made the cut are all of such spectacular quality that you may want to warn the people around you before you start reading this list, as the floor between your legs is about to get soaked.

No, no, hey, maybe it’s you that’s too gross, ever considered that??

Anyway, let the festivities begin, here are the playlists:

Spotify

YouTube

121 Eliza Rickman and Jherek Bischoff: Pretty Good Year

Huh? Huh? Huh? Geddit? It was a pretty good year, yeah?

Well, this gorgeous Tori Amos cover is slightly ironic however you read it. For Eliza and Jherek, it’s referencing a previous twelve months that the ongoing Global Bastard ensured were at least a bit fucking sucky for anyone not already entrenched in the capitalist ruling class, and for me it acts as an intro to a list of the greatest songs of a fucking amazing year. And, yeah, it’s a pretty great song, though Mr Bischoff is a banger machine, and my force feed of it in 2021 was more down to desperately waiting for his proper follow up to 2016’s ‘Cistern‘. Oh, and I honestly didn’t know it was a Tori Amos cover until I just tried searching for it on YouTube.

Yeah, so the first entry on the list is on neither YouTube or Spotify, so it’s a great start for those particular playlists.

120 Dua Saleh: trash snacks

OK, so the list can properly start now, yeah? If songs aren’t on YouTube or Spotify, how are they even meant to be commodified and turned into a cynical algorithm attention farm? Didn’t think about that now, did you Eliza?

Do you not hear it though? Do you not see it? With your brain? And your ears? Dua Saleh remains one of the most interesting, most promising, and most exciting artists in the world, jump on board as soon as possible so that you don’t look like an idiot later. You… you’re not… you’re not an idiot, are you? Good. Get it down you.

119 ANGEL_TECH: *head falls off*

Euuuuuuuuuuuuuugh… Remember Aqua Girl (Elora Driver)? Course you do, I’ve adored her since 2018 and I even sodding interviewed her once. Well between her releasing her previous album and it being named the 21st best album of 2020, she deigned to change her name to Metagirl. That’s cool and all, but I do worry that she isn’t considering the ongoing legitimacy of this blog. Then, in 2021, she teamed up with an equally and near aggressively indie artist named Melodus (Melanie James) and released the fabulous *head falls off* (those asterixis? The fucking bomb) under the agreeable and sensible name of ‘Metagirl and Melodus’. All was well in the world. Everything made sense.

Now, I look for the song and see that this band has since been Christened ‘ANGEL_TECH’, which… yeah… underscore. Pretty dope. But how am I supposed to be able to keep up with all this?! I’m not getting any younger you know??

118 Asian Dub Foundation feat. Stewart Lee: Coming Over Here

Released in December 2020 and part of a campaign to get it to number one when the UK officially exited the European Union in January 2021, which… I think… it did…? Honestly, I have no idea how the charts work these days, and every time I check Ed Sheeren is number one, which suggests that they are under no circumstances to be trusted. It’s simply a very good Stewart Lee stand up routine set to searing music by a band who absolutely made one of the greatest albums of 2001. That’s always going to be good.

Of course, I’m a Communist, and believe that the EU was just another arm of the capitalist, neoliberal state that the UK is better off out off, despite the horrific language that much of the Brexit debate descended into. Do we have time to talk about that? Of course we fucking don’t, Dua Saleh is coming up again soon.

Jesus, even according to that story I linked to, this song was number one in some charts. The official number one was (drum roll) Ed fucking Sheeren.

117 Dua Saleh: Signs

Holy shit, have you even seen that video? With your brain? And with your eyes? Why isn’t Dua headlining the fucking Superbowl halftime show?

116 Son Lux: Apart

Dum, be-be-dum, ba-dum-dum, diddly-um

Christ, the triple album ‘Tomorrows’ was a bit fucking much, wasn’t it? Laudable ambition, overlong and excruciatingly self-indulgent execution. How about dem adjectives, huh? I got ’em. Still, Son Lux are still an astonishingly talented bunch of artists, and the three records’ highlights such as last year’s 56th best song and this gorgeous little gem should hopefully convince the band to better focus their powers next time around.

116 Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Vortex

Considering it covers such an astonishing period of rebirth and musical re-evaluation, ‘B-Sides and Rarities II‘ offers occasionally jarring glimpses into the band’s past that can almost trigger deep nostalgia. Vortex was recorded in 2007, just before the underwhelming ‘Dig, Lazarus Dig!’ record and a few years after the positively overwhelming ‘Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus’ double album, and is… like… a rock song. Just a rock song. Major chords. Verse, chorus, verse, middle eight. That kind of thing. In just a matter of years, the band would seriously outgrow such plebeian concerns, but the quality of Vortex suggests that the band stopped making music like this simply because they found making these sort of absolute bangers far too easy.

114 Ultrasound: I’ll Show You Mine

So this is what it sounds like! Since around 1998, I’ll Show You Mine was always my musical white whale? What’s a musical white whale? Like, rhetorically? Meat Loaf? Too soon. Ultrasound’s Tiny Woods himself?? Too cruel! What, so you’re in perfect fighting shape?? Get fucked! Me? Body like a Greek God sculpted out of sugared butter, mate, don’t you worry about me.

What was I talking about…? Oh yeah: Ultrasound’s I’ll Show You Mine:

It was the stunning and badly timed Gary Glitter tribute Stay Young, released in 1998, that first convinced m to nail my scrotum to the speeding Ultrasound hype train. Then they released another single, which I never heard. Then they released one of the greatest debut albums of the 20th century. Which that single was not on. I fell in love with that album, and would listen to it every chance I got for the next 20+ years. I never heard that lost single until it was included on the 2021 reissue.

Which seems weird to twenty twenties sensibilities. I was a huge Ultrasound fan, there was this big song of theirs that I’d never heard, why didn’t I just… listen to it?

The thing is, this was the late 90s. What was I going to do? I only heard Stay Young because it was included on a CD compilation given away with NME. I’ll Show You Mine wasn’t. I bought almost all of my records in Glossop Woolworths, roughly 10 miles out of Manchester city centre. Even if a special event meant making it to the Manchester Virgin*, HMV or Our Price, they were unlikely to carry a one off single by an odd indie band that was roughly twelve months old by the time their debut album came out. I could listen to the radio, but what possible motivation would there be for them to play an old single that wasn’t included on the band’s album?! I guess I could call Mary Anne Hobbs and request it, but I was a long way off being able to talk to women at that point. That was the 90s, kids. You just had to hope you heard a song by chance. Also, it wasn’t on Spotify until the 2021 reissue. Also, that YouTube video I linked to has been up for thirteen years. But I didn’t know that, alright?

“If you want my body, and you think I’m sexy…”

(*’The Manchester Virgin’ was also my nickname at the time. Yeah, I wasn’t the only virgin, but I just radiated virginity like nobody else)

Well, turns out I’d heard at least some of it already, as they repurposed the intro to begin the album on the (vastly superior) Cross My Heart, and the general sound of the song is far too baseline indie and straightforward to comfortably fit on the explosion of ambition that was ‘Everything Picture’. But there are more than enough flashes of genius to make the song more than a completionist’s oddity. The way the key change slides behind Woods’ delicate yearn of ‘We’re lost at sea/Glowing like embers/Dreams just like tablets/Dissolve’ just – bah gahd! – absolutely ruins your knickers.

113 Abra ft. Playboi Carti: Unlock It

It’s just great to have Abra back, isn’t it? Still waiting for the follow up to her 2016 album, but this masterfully smooth vibe – somehow hung upon a Boys Noize beat consisting of a phone dial tone – is a more than acceptable teaser. Also, seen those shoes she’s wearing on the single cover? Where can I get me some of those?

112 Psalm One feat. Afrokeys: Anxious, Nervous & Imperfect

All my friends are famous and I’m not

That’s okay now

I can’t do no more cocaine just pot

That’s okay now

Loved so many people underserving

That’s okay now

Anxious and I’m nervous and imperfect

That’s the wave now…

And I’m scared of white people

But not enough to be racist

My people so armed and dangerous

I’m scared of us too,

and I’m scared of Me Too

Hashtag your friend is rapey

You ain’t know ya bf is a rapist?

The magnificent Psalm One didn’t quite dominate this year’s Legit Bosses as she did in 2021, with five certified Legit Bosses – though, ho-ho, this won’t be her final entry – but Anxious, Nervous and Imperfect is yet another example of her extraordinary talents, with absolutely every line an endlessly quotable mix of emotional honesty and sick burn that Psalm One excels in.

111 The Allergies feat. Dr Syntax & Skunkadelic: I’m on It

I’ve go a feeling that this song really isn’t cool. I actually first heard it on an ITV advert for football, for goodness sake. But, my goodness, what an absolute bop.

110 serpentwithfeet feat. NAO: Heart Storm

Ah, bollocks, this song is too low, isn’t it? How is it even possible for human beings to create such beauty? Like, this is the same species that made those monkey NFTs, this whole narrative doesn’t make any sense at all, the characters are all over the place. Hey, remember NAO? She did the 47th best song of 2016. Maybe I should pay her more attention…

109 Jane Weaver: Sunset Dreams

#Banger

Yeah, not all of these entries are going to be essays, I do plan on finishing this fucker at some point, y’know?

108 Prince: Jack U Off

Jesus, this is just a spermatozoa flavoured explosion of genius. The way it starts off as a dirty and shuddering electro bass monster before shifting extraordinarily into an unashamedly commercial paean to all the places that Prince pledges to fiddle his partner’s genitals inside. Namely:

  • Thought I’d take u to a movie show/Sittin’ in the back and I’ll jack u off‘. Pretty standard teen fare that, as what are movie theatres but dark confines of early adolescent involutory expressions of pleasure? Doesn’t name the film that Prince planned to jack his lover off to though. The biggest film in the US in 1981 was Raiders of the Lost Arc, so we have to assume that’s what it was.
  •  I can take u to a restaurant/If u’re not hungry/I’ll jack u off‘. OK, this is all well and good, but I can’t be the only one worrying that Prince may be too lost in his libido to consider what damage he’s potentially doing to the restaurant’s food hygiene certificates. You know, Prince, that’s not the reason they leave bread sticks on the table?
  • We gotta do it in your momma’s car/Naked in a Cadillac, I’ll jack u off‘. Oh, Prince, why does it have to be her momma’s car?? That’s just disrespectful! I understand how roughly 80% of Prince songs are either about fucking in a car, fucking a woman that’s like a car, or simply fucking a car, but he has to understand where the lines are.
  • I only do it for a worthy cause/Virginity or menopause/U’ll have an instant heart attack if I jack u off‘. Wow… Where to even…? Well, firstly, that’s not really a place, is it…?
  • If we can’t find no place to go/Girl, I’ll take u to a movie show, we can sit in the back/And I’ll jack u off ‘. Yeah, Prince, you’ve already been there. Also, if the woman’s going through the menopause, I can assure you that she’s old enough to have no time for this shit.
  • If your man ain’t no good/Come on over to my neighbourhood/We can jump in the sack and I’ll jack u off‘. Wait, you mean in bed!? What kind of dull old boomer gets wanked off in a bed! Fucking normie…

107 Jordana feat. Ryan Smith: Doubts of Revival

Jordana may be 2021’s Psalm One – she appears a lot on this year’s list, as 2021 really saw her evolve into an especially notable artist and really hone and beef up her style. Who’s Ryan Woods? No fucking idea, but this song fucks a little, don’t it? Like, at least a slow dry hump, or just the tip.

106 Jordana & TV Girl: Jump the Turnstile

Fucking told you.

105 Billie Eilish: NDA

I have a feeling that ‘Happier than Ever‘ will morph and grow into an absolutely revered album, and Billie Eilish’s artistic bravery to release such a subtle and low key near mood piece will be properly appreciated. I definitely underrated it at #47, but then I listed her game changing debut at number seventy fucking eight, so, seriously, what do I know? I’m pretty sure we all hate Eilish now because, I dunno, she kissed a girl and she liked it or something. But, honestly, if you’re reading this more than a week after it’s published, I can guarantee that’s already been forgotten.

Oh, and that ‘Bought a secret house when I was seventeen’ line? Leona Lewis’s old house, weird fact fans. Of curse, the fact that she’s ‘investing in property’ and is on ‘the housing market’ actually makes her scum and means that now I hate her, but this list is long enough as it is.

Also, she is yet to write a song as good as Bleeding Love, but who has, really?

104 DAWN: Boomerang

‘And your love keeps coming back to me like a boom-boom…’

Get DAWN on that Superbowl halftime show with Dua Saleh, you cowards.

103 Jordana: Decline

Fucking told you!

This could almost be my anthem, except that Jordana (threatening to enter her regal phase) assures the partner she’s with that she’ll decline all calls while she’s with them. I’ll just hit ‘decline’ whatever I’m doing. I’m sorry, a fucking phone call?? What year is this, 1997?? If you’re having a heart attack or being attacked by a rabid dog, send me a WhatsApp message, I’ll get back to you when I’m in the mood.

102 CHVRCHES: Good Girls

Killing your idols is a chore

And it’s such a fucking bore

Cause I don’t need them anymore

So

Maybe if you just got some guts

We’d kill them with a thousand cuts

101 Monaleo: Beating Down Yo Block

Bitch, I’m fine, slim waist, pretty face, he know I’m a dime

Can’t lay up with no nigga ’cause I do not have the time

And I can’t claim a nigga ’cause none of these niggas mine

Don’t ask me ’bout my ex, let’s just pretend that nigga died

Monoleo was one of my absolute favourite discoveries in 2021. She’s a vibe, she’s a scene, she’s a whole thing, she’s a lot. And I love her, though her repeated reminders of being too young to get in a club, this much talent at so young an age obviously makes me feel a but nauseous. I mean, literally all of her songs are braggadocios diss tracks and lyrically pretty much exactly the same, and we’ll see how that translate to her debut album in 2022. But – bah gahd! – the woman is ridiculously great fun, and the doses we’ve been dripped so far have been wonderful.

100 Rico Nasty feat. Don Toliver and Gucci Mane: Don’t Like Me

Of course, Monoleo has a while to go before she can stand alongside Rico Nasty, hip-hop’s premiere younger sister lost to death metal and ketamine that her family hasn’t seen since spring 2015. As much as the eleven year old Monoleo – or indeed anyone on this lit – might try to convince you otherwise, nobody is having as much fun or living as good a life as Rico Nasty.

99 Little Simz: I Love You, I Hate You

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck, am I only just into the top 100?? This is going to take ages!

It’s Little Simz, dude, if you need further explanation why she’s one of the most notable artists of the last decade, you just haven’t been paying attention. There’s such a consistent and flowing quality to ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert‘ that it can be difficult to pick out individual songs from the melange of quality. But, hey, today I’ve picked I Love You, I Hate You, wanna fight about it?

98 Taylor Swift: long story short

Wait, do we all love Taylor at the moment, or do we hate her? It’s honestly impossible to keep up. Whatever, this album is fabulous, and this fabulous song is a fabulous highlight.

97 Shamir: Dsharpg

Everyone says I’m a fooooooooooooooooool, to believe in that…

Did you notice something weird about Necessary Evil 2021? No, not the smell, that’s a medical issue, and I’d rather you didn’t bring attention to it. Sigh, no, not the fact that every post was only made up of detailed instructions on how to make eighty one individual bombs coupled with the home addresses of every Conservative MP. That was satire. No, not the lizards, they were just there to… Listen, I’ll just tell you: for the first time since 2016, there was no Shamir album! Motherfucker released two in 2020! This abnormality will be addressed this year with the amazing ‘Heterosexuality‘, but for now we’ll happily accept his gorgeous contribution to Sharon van Etten’s spectacular ‘Epic Ten‘ project.

96 St Vincent: Pay Your Way In Pain

Pay your way in pain? Pay your way in shame? Darling, I’m a wrestling fan, I’ve more than paid my dues already.

95 Nick Cave: Palaces of Montezuma (Live at Alexandra Palace, 2020)

Psychedelic invocations

Of Mata Hari at the station

I give to you

A Java princess of Hindu birth

A woman of flesh, a child of earth

I give to you

Well, the hanging gardens of Babylon

Miles Davis, the black unicorn

I give to you

The Palaces of Montezuma

And the Gardens of Akbar’s tomb

I give to you

The spider goddess and the needle boy

The slave-dwarves they employ

I give to you

A custard-coloured super dream

Of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen

I give to you…

The epic of Gilgamesh

A pretty little black A-line dress

I give to you

The spinal cord of JFK

Wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligee

I give to you

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck me. Listen, I know it’s a court confirmed musical rip-off of another song, so we can’t sit here and argue that it’s one of Cave’s more original works, but holy Hindu birth, this Grinderman song might be one of Cave’s great overlooked classics. Given a new lease of life and reappraisal via Cave’s Alexandra Hall concert and its appearance on the recent Nick Cave & Warren Ellis gigs, cannily eschewing many of the elements that were cribbed from Rising Signs’ Grey Man. When I saw him, Cave encouraged the audience to sing along, perhaps aware that the ‘Ghosteen‘ heavy set was low on karaoke classics.

And – fuck me dead and bury me pregnant – how can you not??

Come on BAY-bee take me out of the coooold!

And gi-meh, gi-meh, gi-meh your pre-shursh love…

Join in at the back.

94 Tanya Tagaq: Tongues

Hot dang, if it ain’t also marvellous to have potentially my all time favourite Inuit throat singer back. Top five, easily. It’s a stunning introduction to 2022’s album of the same name (spoiler: it’s fucking amazing), a long awaited follow up to 2016’s comparably awesome ‘Retribution‘ that exhibits at least six years worth of evolution in her sound. It’s more focused it’s more fully formed, it’s both electrical and terrifying, and thankfully proves that Tagaq is still one of the most singular and notable artists working today.

93 Manic Street Preachers feat. Mark Lanegan: Blank Diary Entry

Come on, dudes, you’re giving me the Manics and Mark Lanegan. Shameless pandering to me, and it will be suitably rewarded.

Since I first wrote this entry, the world received the devastating news of the early death of Mark Lanegan, and this gorgeous song may have been his final work. One of my all time favourite rock singers, and responsible for so much amazing music over the past 30+ years. He’ll seriously be greatly missed.

92 Illuminati Hotties: Pool Hopping

First off, I feel that is my duty to reveal all possible conflicts of interest and potential biases here, and it could possibly be claimed that my unashamed (well… a little ashamed…) crush on Sarah Tudzin, the Illuminati Hottie herself, might influence my opinions on her music. I would counter this by saying that 95% of the reason I have a crush on her in the first place is because of her music. I don’t know her, for all I know she has a property portfolio, is a loud and emotive supporter of NATO’s attempts to expand into the Ukraine and shake hands with its neo-Nazi leadership (OK, that line hits different than when I first wrote it a couple of weeks ago), maybe she is an uber capitalistic neoliberal shrill who passionately Stans the Democrat party like they’re the 26th of July Movement making moves towards Havana. Maybe she’s just the worst. But, Goddamn, keep feeding me bops as boppy as Pool Hopping and managing to work in the word ‘obtusely’ into the lyrics, and I’m yours.

Yeah, and the smile as well. And the eyes. Jesus Christ, dude, leave me alone! Go back to what you were doing (commenting on Olivia Rodrigo’s Instagram that she looks too thin).

91 Xenia Rubinos: Did My Best

Man, this song’s a bummer, isn’t it?

Like, a good bummer. An intended bummer. A precision bummer shot. Not like, “Dude, did you hear that new Red Hot Chilli Peppers song? It’s such a bummer that they’re still making music”, or “Did you know that Michael Jackson and R Kelly are still on Spotify? It’s a bummer that people are getting so obsessed with a fat old stoner who idiots think is smart“. Nah, this is a legitimate, artistic bummer.

I have always read it as Xenia Warria Pribinos mourning the loss of someone to suicide, and mourning the fact that they truly did everything they thought they could, to no avail. But it’s art, read into it yourself, I might just be projecting. Hey! It’s a good job I made that Xena: Warrior Princess joke, or this paragraph could have been pretty dark!

90 Lorde: Secrets From a Girl (Whose Seen it All)

All the people who don’t rate the recent Lorde album, it’s probably because… erm… patriarchy…? Nah, you’re just all fucking idiots, with fleshy cumrags where your ears should be. I have heard arguments/takes that have suggested the muted response is down to Lorde being so obviously and unashamedly happy, and our society only values female art when the artist is tortured and upset. Female artists have to have terrible things happen to them and the resulting transcriptions of trauma are only then accepted as legitimate. You can be Tori Amos, screaming emotional lacerations about your history of sexual abuse, or you’re practically Lisa Scott-Lee from Steps and you can GTFO.

I don’t think that reading is completely without merit, but personally I think it’s more specific in Lorde’s case: she had been built up in so many critics’ minds as the sad Millennial troubadour crying into her Starbucks latte while scrolling her socials, that any departure from that image, stylistically, felt to some like a betrayal. Obviously, I am speaking about other critics from a slightly (extremely) higher ground here, as I am better than them and was able to see past it. Yes, it is a gift to be able to consume music so objectively, but it is also a curse, as it can be tiring to consistently be so dope as fuck.

89 Sō Percussion, Dawn Upshaw, and Gil Kalish: Narrow Sea Pt.2

Doop dikky-dikky-dick, doop-dikky-dikky-dick. Hmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmm..

And so it goes on.

88 Kid Cudi: Elsie’s Baby Boy (Flashback)

Ooooooooh! It’s River Phoenix and the other Stand By Me kid in the intro! Up until this point, I had always assumed it was a clip from Stranger Things. Because, well, everything’s fucking Stranger Things these days, isn’t it? Also, and I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I pronounced his name ‘Kid Coodi’ for about five years. Hey! It’s not my fault! People don’t say his name out loud a lot in this country!

87 Willow: t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l

Fuck, why am I such a coward? I love this song, I love the song she did with The Anxiety that Toad in the Shadows introduced me to (very late – it will be included in the 2022 Legit Bosses), and -holy mother of Jesus Mary Arliss Loveless – I might seriously be the only human on the planet who seriously rates her brother’s work. Yet, I didn’t just dive right in and listen to the full flipping album. I saw that other critics were sheepishly apologising for allowing their preconceptions to not afford ‘Lately I Feel Everything’ its proper dues on release. But… I’m better than them! How did I also miss it?? I instead put all my attention upon her brother, and exclusively lauded the pretty white girl Olivia Rodrigo for the Zoomer pop-punk revival. Man, those optics don’t look great…

Sigh… But how freaking awesome is t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l though?? Not through any caveats based on Willow’s upbringing and wealth, it’s simply a note perfect pop punk classic, and Willow is an absolute fucking star. Yeah, she may be as rich as balls, but let’s see if Jeff Bezos’s daughter – who, if she exists, I fucking hate, by the way, little cunt – releases music it’s even a small percentage as magical as what Willow has been doing.

86 Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: Lavender Fields

Crow Boi Cave manages to pull that young upstart Jordana back in her box, equalling her three entries with help of his BFF, Fiddling Warren. A gorgeous, sweeping song that may be the most reassuringly traditional sounding on the often expansive and atypical Carnage. It’s possibly about Cave’s son Arthur’s death, but we’re always reaching for these grizzly and morbid Easter eggs, aren’t we? Because we’re a bunch of vulturous ghouls.

85 Ultrasound: Kurt Russel

What.

An absolute.

Bop.

The 1998 b-side is an absolutely perfect Britpop adjacent (musically as well as chronologically) indie anthem that would have gone down a storm at 42’s ‘Fosters £1 a pint’ Thursday nights back in the late 90s.

But… It’s a Britpop adjacent indie anthem…? This was a band who were roughly twelve months away from releasing an astonishingly and even laughably ambitious two hour prog rock epic, with songs as expansive and creative as any music released at the time. Yet here they are, clanging their guitars and bopping their bowl cuts like Rick Witter penned a career best Shed 7 tune*.

“So, you’re saying you’ve been to every single disco, all around?”

(*actually, that’s a pretty big statement to make – Chasing Rainbows is a legitimate classic)

It further shows what a bizarre and special moment in time, lightning in a bottle, stars realigning moment that extraordinary debut album was. Mere months before, they were ‘just’ a notably capable indie rock band capable of genre stompers like Kurt Russel, where the initial hype about them being perhaps the next great indie crossover starts to make sense. Then they blew everyone’s minds with that debut, making people frightened and confused. Then they lost all their money and essentially went back to being an indie band again (after splitting up and reforming). I honestly can’t think of another artist grasping and utilising/exploiting their one small moment in the sun so spectacularly.

Also, b-side to Best Wishes?? Dudes! That song sucks!

I could deny, but I’ll neeeeeeever realiiiise…

84 Olivia Rodrigo: drivers license

Well this song is… pretty damn good, isn’t it? So good that it’s now officially the biggest song ever released by a human being; declared the new national anthem of Mars, Jupiter and The Vatican City; actually inspired humanity to start driving again, which nobody has done since 1978; awoken the haunted crypt of Courtney Love; inspired peace in the Middle East; and becoming Disney’s biggest hit since Song of the South? No. Of course not. The truly huge songs are never huge because of their quality (unless their made by Rihanna, Beyoncé or Walter Hayes), rather they exists as fascinating insights into where the culture and the world was at that point. Am I going to offer my hot take on the subject? Of course not, read that article I linked to you lazy fuck. I’ll just say that drivers license was and is absolutely good enough to be in the right place at the right time, and the crescendo that dissipates around ‘I still fucking love you‘ is magical enough to spark a billion TikTok trends.

83 The Koreatown Oddity: Breastmilk

My girl’s breastmilk is delicious

Me and my daughter benefit from the nutrition

Straight from the source, so you already knowing

What my secret is when you see my skin glowing

You’re looking at me like I’m a strange human

But you drinking cow’s milk; fuck is you doing?

My girl’s breastmilk is delicious

When it all evaporate, I’m really gonna miss it

I wanna make my own eggnog with it

Keep a private stash on tap just for Christmas

OK, Olivia, imma let you finish, but wouldn’t we all prefer to live in a world where this was the biggest hit to come out of the Pandemic?

82 J. Cole feat. Bas: h u n g e r . o n . h i l l s i d e

I just accidentally deleted my post about this J Cole banger, and can’t get it back. I was working on my iPad, and it was a real mess..

Meh, I didn’t say anything that interesting…

(I hope people really read into that to uncover the clever joke I’m making, assuming that, no, he’s far too good a writer to just stupidly delete something, what can it all mean??)

Oh no! I just found it! I’d actually moved it further down the page somehow! OK, so here’s what I said:

J. Cole’s 2021 release, ‘The Off Season’, was… fine. Pretty good, even. Was it even an album? A mixtape? A reach for Spotify streams while he works on his proper follow up to 2018’s spectacular ‘KOD’? What is this you’re giving us?? Whatever, he’s still one of the greatest rappers working today, and sparks of his genius shine through on tracks like h u n g e r . o n . h i l l s i d e (a stylisation he s obviously robbed off Willow Smith).

See? Not really worth saving…

(what can it all mean??)

81 Lava La Rue: Angel

La who? La Rue, that’s who.

There you go, Lava, you can use that lyric in your next smash hit single. Thank me in the sleevenotes.

80 Lonelady: Former Things

Remember when I outlined the criteria to be a Necessary Evil Gold Star Artist? Every single one of your records has t have featured on the Necessary Evil end of year countdown, and you need to have released at least three records. I’ll do a whole official list when I’m really struggling for clicks. Maybe when I finally list the five Manics albums that haven’t been featured yet (Where’s that fucking ‘Know Your Enemy’ reissue?? You fucking promised us!!). Well, you’ll all be thrilled to know that Julie Campbell – after her debut was ranked top three in 2010 and the follow up went top twenty in 2015 – the brilliant (if a little regressive) ‘Former Things’ album means she gains membership to an exclusive club. Took her twelve fucking years. Seriously, Julie, I live near Stockport, and I honestly can’t understand what could possibly be taking up so much of your time.

79 Gemini Cove: Surfing

Boom! Dee-noo-dee-noo-dee-noo-dee-noo…

Holy Point Break, feel the quality and the weight! An amazingly meaty rock standout introduced to me by Z Tapes’ endless stream of previously unearthed gems. Listen, I know I’ve ben going on about Z Tapes for roughly four years now, and I’m not going to demand that you pay to subscribe to them (but I’m… not… saying… don’t… do that…( but, seriously, just grab whatever latest seasonal compilation is currently out and prepare to be amazed by the quality of music you’re introduced to.

78 Black Midi: John L

Absolute, beautiful madness, defying comparison and scoffing at any suggestion of genre. Could I handle a whole album. Absolutely not. Because I’m a fucking coward.

77 Helltown: AOL Chatroom

I’m just a pile of your old clothes

A phone call that you made too long ago

A mixtape that you play when you’re feeling down

Finding comfort in those old sounds.

Fucking sick of repeating how brilliant this guy is…

76 Jazmine Sullivan: Pick Up Your Feelings

There has rarely been a more suitable inclusion on the Legit Bosses, as Jazmine Sullivan is, legitimately, an absolute fucking boss. Pick Up Your Feelings is just one of many examples of her supreme talent on one of 2021’s greatest records, a send of to a useless partner that she’s ‘tryna find a fuck to give for’.

75 Illuminati Hotties: MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA

Love me, fight me, choke me, bite me

The DNC is playing dirty

Text me, touch me, call me “Daddy”

Euuuuuuuuuuuuuuaaaayaya, fuckity balls. Jesus, Sarah, I already told you that you were my celebrity crush (back at #92. What, you weren’t paying attention?), yet here you are with that lyric, on a song whose video contains you getting drenched in mud while wearing little but a sports bra, and expect me just to just handle that?

And then you slag off the Democrat party??

Marry me,

74 Big $ilky: Jesse Got Away

“Wil you be the Jesse Pinkman to my Walter White? Only, we get to fuck and we don’t die in the end? Well, we’ll die, but not by… Nazis. Hopefully”

“Jesse got away…”

Outro

I’m sick of talking about it, it’s too sad. One of the greatest rap talents of her generation blacklisted to such an extent after calling out sexual harassment in the industry that now her work doesn’t even make it to Genius. I imagine her recent domination of the Legit Bosses year end countdown more than makes up for it.

73 Femi Kuti: As We Struggle Everyday

One, two, three, four!

This marvellous album highlight was released as a single and an official video was made, but I’ve had to link to the unedited album version, as I really don’t think the single edit really sells the importance of that drop around 39 seconds in.

I’ll be honest, likely bought this album to impress my wife, a Nigerian national and huge Fela Kuti mark. I played his son and grandson’s record to her, and she liked it, but said that it was so obviously attempting to ape his father, and that actually it’s the other son that’s doing the really interesting stuff, musically. I kind of felt really uncool and out of the loop after that, and lost interest.

Listen, I may have said a lot of things that made my wife out to be an awful person. She really wasn’t. She really isn’t. She’s an almost supernaturally engaging personality, she’s smart enough to debate absolutely anything (and smart enough to call out my frequent bullshit), and – perhaps most importantly- she was extraordinarily cool. So cool that her opinions on the coolness of music (especially music she knew far more about the history and cultural context of) really meant something. We were both miserable in that marriage, and if anything that’s more my fault.

Fuck, can we just get back to the fart jokes and neoliberal slams now? I hope the next song doesn’t inspire such soul searching…

72 Self Esteem: Moody

Sexting you at the mental health talk seems counterproductive

Drinking a bottle instead of a glass is me, I’m a classic

The simplicity of me leaning back, so you see my waist flex

Is a signature move

Don’t think it’s for you, it’s part of the process

Self E-motherfucking-steem, motherfuckers!

It’s hard to think of anyone who had a better 2021 than Rebecca Lucy Taylor. Maybe Jeff Bezos. Or Bill Gates. Or the fetid ghost of Steve Jobs (or whomever it is) that runs Apple. Or any of the vulturous and immoral Capitalist modern landowners who profited so richly off the world’s suffering during the pandemic, sucking every last drop of the delicious blood of the working class’s suffering while refusing to even contribute to the refilling of the poor’s veins. Hey, you know why prices of living are rising? It’s because squillionare corporations don’t want to lose a fucking penny of their vast profits, so make sure that any losses are eaten up by you. The only reason you pay for this is because the people making all the money decided that you should and no government bothers to stop them. Throw bricks through every fucking window.

Elon Musk? He’s an absolute cunt an’ all. Yeah, that’s kinda relevant to what we’re talking about, but I also just really wanted to say it. I’d happily endorse any policy put forward that would have people like him executed.

Ah, balls, we’ve gone way off track here, haven’t we? Self Esteem were just nominated for a freaking Brit Award, for goodness sake! How can I also be in the Cowboy Capitalism timeline but also the timeline when one of my dearest and closest friends becomes one of the countries most notable artists?? Is this the deal, God??

71 Joy Formidable: Sevier

Wear-wear-wear, woo, wear-wear-wear

I’m a big fan of spelling out noises, aren’t I? Gimme a chonker riff or a filthy so and I will happily translate it into scripted onomatopoeia. Yeah, that’s right, ‘onomatopoeia’, for those of you accusing me of not paying attention during GCSE English. Weird. You’d think this habit of mine would be obnoxious, irritating and off-putting, yet I remain one of the most highly respected voices in modern music journalism. Don’t ask me to explain how stardom works.

The fuck is a ‘sevier’ anyway?

Erm, OK. Any other definitions?

OK. Cool. See? This is why you should never look anything up, you’ll only confused yourself even more.

70 Lonelady: The Catcher

God, Julie Campbell’s awesome, isn’t she? ‘Watch myself grow stark as the edge/OF A RAZER (phyeeeow! phyeeeow!/OF A RAZER (phyeeeow!)’. Seriously, all you numpties better get on board with this shit before her next album comes out in 2034.

69 Gruff Rhys: Mausoleum of My Former Self

‘If I were a carpenter/and you were a lady/would you something something/Would you have my baby?’

Absolutely gorgeous stuff. And I don’t care about your ‘high notes’ or your ‘technical abilities’ or your ‘sense of music’, I absolutely and seriously believe that Gruff Rhys has one of the greatest voices in music. Come on, who would yo rather have sit in the corner of your living room, charming you throughout the day and taking requests? Gruff ‘The Gruffter’ Rhys, or Ariana Grande shattering glass with her stage school pierces while licking all your confectionary? Never forget…

68 Lorde: Mood Ring

‘I’m trying to blow bubbles but inside’. Is that a sexual thing? Like, with her vagina? No?? Jesus, mate, open your fucking mind sometime.

Another piece of magic from the wondrous and unfairly maligned (because of misogyny! Maybe…) ‘Solar Power’ album. However, I have to put my foot down at the ‘Let’s fly somewhere Eastern’ line being accompanied with an early Warner Brothers cartoon ‘pling-plingy-plong-plong‘ ‘Oriental’ musical sting. Especially because she’s from New Zealand. If she’ ‘flies somewhere Eastern’ she’s going to eventually hit Chile

67 The Muslims: Fuck These Fucking Fascists

Ah, bollocks. I really fucked up with The Muslims this year. The band, I mean, not the entire religion. We still cool, Muslims, yeah? Fist bump? Yeah, we cool.

The band however, were one of my favourite discoveries of 2021. A self described group of ‘crunchy, kickass punk band of Black + brown queer muzzies’ that wail against singular and racist representation, the crawling normalising of fascism in and outside state services, and weedy ineffectual compromise with stances that should never be close to considered. They also make the most vital and true to its original potential punk music that has been heard in many years. They don’t deal in either the major US brand of performative anger at perceived sexual slights or the more high brow (but no less performative) quasi intellectual utopian socialism that strokes its neckbeard while truly believing they’re educating people about the 1834 Hunslet Moore strikes. The Muslims want a revolutions right fucking now , they don’t even need to educate, just angrily demand people pay some attention, and are happy to break bones to achieve their aims. They’re absolutely thrilling.

But, yeah, I forgot to include their seminal album ‘Fuck These Fucking Fascists‘ on this year’s Necessary Evil. It happens sometimes, I’m a absolute moron. It happened with Arian Grande last year, but, hey, I can get over that (remember when she licked those doughnuts?), whatever. But not featuring one of the most vital new voices in music is an embarrassing dereliction of duty.

The title track is an absolute monster though. And if everyone buys their record (buy it, you cheap petit-bourgeoises scum, don’t just Spotify it!) then maybe the band will forgive me.

Maybe…

66 Prince: Gotta Stop (Messin’ About)

OK, OK, so somewhat a wildcard here. Not actually contained on the pleasantly and surprisingly awesome ‘Controversy‘ album, which I was up to in my potentially decades long journey through His entire discography. Gotta Stop (Messin’ About (seriously, the way He sings the word ‘about’ will have you giving birth to tiny pleasure babies all over your underwear) was Prince’s first standalone single and released only in the UK in 1981. Despite the heaving and groaning bosom of the mythical Vault, it would be His only single release not also on an album until the odd mash-up Purple Medley in 1995. And, as if you’d need convincing, it’s an absolute, certified #banger.

65 Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: Balcony Man

I am the balcony man, I’m Fred Astaire

You think you have a plan until I hit the stairs

I’m two hundred pound bag of blood and bone

Leaking on your favourite chair

The closing emotional heart punch of ‘Carnage‘ is an impossibly beautiful flight of wonder. If you don’t crumble into a quivering wreck when Cave sings ‘This morning is amazing/And so are you’ then you really should contact a physician. I’m pretty sure you’re medically dead.

64 Tommy Genesis: peppermint

I’m the type to take your money, take your soul

I leave no fingerprints, I leave no fingerprints

I’ma lick it really juicy when you ooze

I need a peppermint, I need a peppermint

Brown girl, no it’s not a tan

World Vision was my first then gave birth to twins

Was the shepherd of my flock but graduated to king

Brought crop circles to the earth again

I walk away but can’t escape my shoes

I can bleach my hair but can’t escape my roots

You can love me from afar but can you swallow the truth

It’s a big thick dick coming after you (ah)

Yeah, Tommy Genesis absolutely rules.

63 Hennen: Bothered

Then, let’s take you down, waaaaaaaaaaaaaay down. Wow this list is an absolute emotional rollercoaster, isn’t it? Probably the scientific and mathematic polar opposites of Tommy Genesis’s big thick dick threats, Bothered is an achingly beautiful and debilitatingly sad ode to a relationship slowly but unstoppably crumbling apart. It wouldn’t even look out of place on Sharon van Etten’s sad indie emotional highpoint of ‘Are We There’. And, trust me, for his kind of music that’s pretty much me saying that Jesus would vibe with it.

62 Monaleo: Suck It Up

Ouch! Yeah, sorry about your whiplash as we pivot aggressively once again, with another entry from one of 2021’s least ignorable new acts. Yeah, I know, it’s essentially exactly the same song as the #81 entry Beating Down Yo Block, but fuck it, I still love it. The follow up single marks itself out as superior with little lyrical flourishes like ‘I’m the hottest in my city… factually/I ain’t even want the n****… actually/She got whooped for talking s**t… tragedy/I’m pimping on a daily basis… casually’ really showing wat a talented lyrical performer Monaleo is. Again, there’ no way I’ll be able to take a whole album of such sparkling aggression, but in three minute blasts Monaleo threatens to become an absolute master of her craft.

And if you don’t like it, ‘How you mad at a bitch who can’t get in the club legally?’. I’m pretty sure we’re only allowed to hate on teenage girls if they’re Russian.

61 Spellling: Little Dear

OK, calm down everyone, we’ve had some pretty neck breaking ups and downs recently. How about Spellling soothes us with a little absolute majesty? Yes, that extra ‘L’ in her name stands for ‘LovelyMotherFucker’. All one word.

60 Jordana: I Guess This Is Life

Jordana. Jordana, Jordana, Jordana, Jordana. Her (technically 2020) record ‘Something to Say to You‘ was an outstanding step up, from undeniably proficient but still slight and unobtrusive bedroom pop, to meatily produced and all together far more arresting granite pop anthems. I Guess This Is Life exhibits many of the traits that could soon mark her out as one of the premier communicators of younger Millennial/Zoomer (how old is she?? like, 28? 12? I honestly can’t tell if she’s too young to get in the club or a big thick dick coming after me) life crises, the hard to define ennui of growing up in a decaying capitalist state further complicated by a very post-millennial plague.

She’s just announced a new album for 2022 with a cover that looks dope as fuck. I’m going to ask to interview her on the eve of its release, so if that never happens you now know it’s because Jordana hates me and everyone reading this. Savage. Savage.

59 CHVRCHES: He Said She Said

He said, “You bore me to death”

“I know you heard me the first time” and

“Be sad, but don’t be depressed”

Just think it over, over and

He said, “It’s all in your head”

“But keep an ear to the grapevine” and

“Get drunk, but don’t be a mess”

Keep thinkin’ over, over…

He said, “You need to be fеd”

“But keep an eye on your waistline” and

“Look good, but don’t bе obsessed”

Keep thinkin’ over, over

Yeah, yeah, it’s actually a travesty that Lauren Mayberry isn’t more widely worshipped as the absolute boss that she is, but more importantly I think I might have got this song mixed up with #102 Good Girls. I think that might actually be a far better song. From this point on, know that this whole list is undeniably compromised.

58 Poppy Ackroyd: Seedling

Hey, it’s really difficult to think of many things to say about music that doesn’t contain any lyrics, why don’t I instead write way too much information about my horrendously fragile mental state!?

Me, each time Poppy Ackroyd releases an album

Yeah, I should really stop doing that. But do you have any idea how long you have to wait to get a therapist on the NHS?? Also, my ex-wife actually contacted a friend and threatened to sue me over that review of ‘Pause‘. Really hope that happens. Imagine the content I’d get out of it!?

57 Magdalena Bay: Something for 2

Gorgeous. Why aren’t you already a Magdalena Bay mark?

56 Prince: Sexuality

The ‘Controversy’ album would kinda be the last time that Prince would properly play up to His ambiguous sexuality, soon preferring to concentrate on His overwhelming heterosexuality (but not to lessoning artistic effect). On Sexuality, He calls for a whole damn revolution based upon the tossing off (ahem…) of the shackles and boxes enforced by the binary demands of ‘sexuality’. ‘U don’t need no money/U don’t need no clothes’. Oh and, erm, also, ‘Don’t let your children watch television until they know how 2 read/Or else all they’ll know how 2 do is cuss, fight and breed’.

During His 2006/7 Vegas residency, Prince’s religious reawakening inspired him to change the words to ‘Spirituality is all you’ll ever need’, which is just… eugh… isn’t religion the worst?

55 Shaun Ryder: Mumbo Jumbo

‘I’ve got 100 percent, 75 jellyfish textses’. Absolute lyrical genius. I’m not joking. And no, that’s not a typo. ‘Textses’. I don’t expect someone like you to understand.

54 Waxahatchee: Streets of Philadelphia

Ms Hatchee rereleased her all conquering ‘Saint Cloud’ album in 2021 with an extra three tracks. Two of them were, I dunno, covers of Woody Guthrie songs or some shit. But the third – lordy lou the third – was a gorgeous and heartbreaking swing at Springsteen’s already uber gorgeous and heartbreaking Streets of Philadelphia that simply warms even the most decaying of cockles. You think your cockles are decaying?? I wake up every morning to find that my cockles have shed even more dead skin out through my anus and all over my bedsheets! Seriously, it’s a 45 minute clean up each day.

‘At night I could hear the blood in my veins/It was just as black and whispering as the rain…Ain’t no angel gonna greet me/It’s just you and I, my friend/My clothes don’t fit me no more/I walked a thousand miles/Just to slip this skin’. Fuck, Bruce, ain’t no need to hit that hard.

53 Harley Alexander: Crunching James Bond

I did 120 kicks in the kitchen last night

James Bond used to grab ladies’ butts

And it was pretty fucked up

I was practising my kicks

Getting ready to kick James Bond’s ass

I was practicing my kicks

About to lay the law down

Now to this year’s entrant that I know pretty much absolutely nothing about. Not on YouTube, not on Spotify, but gifted to me on the always reliable Z Tapes’ Spring compilation. Harley, I’ve no idea who you are, but you an absolute hero. Willing to right previous wrongs. By crunching James Bond. In the Thunderdome. *swoons*

52 slowthai feat. A$AP Rocky: MAZZA

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Mazzalean. When he’s pulling up muddy dungarees. Makes the place look like a murder scene. An absolute highlight of the more ‘up’/capitalised highlight of slowthai’s ‘TYRON‘ album. And we’ve somehow seen a lot of ‘featurings’ on this year’s LBs, but WhatsApp Ricky‘s bow here (‘Bling, bling, that’s a barcode/Ring, ring, that’s a smartphone/Beep, beep, there your heart go/slowthai, here your part go’) is one of the year’s best.

51 Tierra Whack: Link

Yeah, I know, the stench of corporate brand extension is all over this song like a fetid mould, but if songs are as fabulous as Tierra’s Lego tie-in then I’m willing to ignore my Communist disgust for two minutes and ten seconds. But no longer!

50 John Grant: Country Fair

Into the top fifty! Have you noticed that most other outlets only list their top 50, or even just the top 40?! Fucking amateurs!

Anyway, I believe this sweepingly gorgeous piece of difficult to define sadness should be scientifically defined as ‘Classic Grant’.

49 Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Steve McQueen

I am God thinking about God thinking about Steve McQueen

It’s for me the sirens and the sylphs do their twilight pining

On Saturday night I walk on someone else’s stomach lining

Up and down the street, call me a cab, call me a cab

No I’m a housefly called God and I don’t give a fuck…

And everyone out here does mean

And everyone out here does pain

But someone’s gotta sing the stars

And someone’s gotta sing the rain…

I’m the atomizer

I’m the vaporizer

I turn everything to crud

I like it here in your flesh and blood

I’m the elevator man don’t you see?

You’re a spine lashed, long legged lovely young thing

Call me a cab, I’ll drive to the top of the Burj Al Arab and fire my guns across your stomach

Because someone’s gotta sing the stars

And someone’s gotta sing the rain

And someone’s gotta sing the blood

And someone’s gotta sing the pain…

God is good, well I wouldn’t go that far

I’m Steve McQueen the atrocity man

With my strap-on blood porn dream

But mostly I curl up inside my typewriter with my housefly and cry

Yeah, I’ll leave the critical reading to you, as there’s a lot to unpack there. Steve McQueen plays a central part in the film One More Time With Feeling, which documents the recording of the ‘Skeleton Tree’ album and Cave and his wife Susie Bick’s immediate response to the death of their son, Arthur, finally seeing an official release this year. It’s at once unintelligibly esoteric and emotionally devastating. And, no, I’m not going to touch it.

48 Jordana feat. Magdalena Bay: Push Me Away

My introduction to both Magdalena Bay and the indisputable star quality of frontwoman Mica Tenenbaum, for which I shall be forever grateful to Jordana for.

47 Spellling: Boys At School

Hmmm, I’m actually not sure you’re ready for this sweeping epic. Kelly, can you handle this? Michelle, can you handle this? Beyoncé, can you handle this? I don’t think they can handle this. More than seven minutes of building genius that immediately justifies whatever money was needed to finance the recording of Spellling’s otherworldly third album. Because this is just what fucking money sounds like, yeah? That extra ‘L’ in her name stands for ‘luscious‘. And ‘long’. And ‘LolCats’. She’s a big fan of those. That electric guitar though!! I thought we all agreed that Prince was dead??

46 Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: Carnage

Genius. Yeah, I know, a less forgiving Proper Musical Critic than myself might call it cheesy, ridiculously dramatic or overwrought, but they’re all hacks who refuse to acknowledge how they broke down in tears at the ‘It’s only love…’ refrain. Or maybe they burst into tears at the story of Nick’s uncle at the chopping block ‘Turning chickens into fountains’. It’s all valid. I’m not here to judge.

45 Little Simz feat. Cleo Sol: Woman

Pfff, when do the men get a song? Double standards, it’s women who are the real sexists. I’ll be featuring on the Joe Rogan experience this coming June, make sure you listen.

44 Jazmine Sullivan: Lost One

Ms Sullivan, against all medical advise, hits one straight in the feels with this ‘Heaux Tales’ standout. A relationship has broken up, she’s tried everything she can to get over them, she’s gone out and fucked ‘different people to cope and ignore all precautions’. If she just had one chance, one way to speak to her former flame, she wold be able to pass on the absolute most important piece of advice: ‘Just don’t have too much fun without me’. Because, seriously, how fucking dare they?!

43 MARINA: Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land

That Glitterband stomp, that unmistakeable swagger, the hint of loopiness as Marina swings into the high pitched chorus of ‘I am not my body not my mind and my brain!’, it was immediately clear with the opening and title track of her latest album that Marina was back and making her best music for a long time.

42 Kid Cudi: The Void

Ah, existential dread, crippling anxiety and mental trauma that you can absolutely bop to. It’s good to have you back, Cudi.

41 Arlo Parks: Black Dog

I’d lick the grief right off your lips

You do your eyes like Robert Smith

Sometimes it seems like you won’t survive this

And honestly it’s terrifying

This song hits me in a quasi/completely narcissistic and self-aggrandising way. I don’t relate to Arlo, or at least the character she’s portraying in the song, but I find myself completely relating to the person she’s aiming the song at, like I am a twelve year old finding solace in the words I believe Louis Tomlinson to be singing directly at me. Except I don’t do my eyes like Robert Smith. What kind of emo stereotype is Arlo dating here? I feel there were red flags all over the place.

It really is otherwise one of the more caring and understanding outside views on mental health struggles (with the ‘black dog’ likely referring to depression) that I’ve ever heard, and illustrates just how damaging having a disease where ‘It’s so cruel what your mind can do for no reason’ can be on those around you as well as yourself. And the threat that you won’t survive it is, unfortunately often a likelihood. Parks is as supportive and as understanding as it’s possible to be but, in all honesty, being close to people like me can be emotionally exhausting. I often think about maybe if I’d played my ex-wife this, would she maybe understand a little more about why I’m such a prick? We’re way past forgiveness, but perhaps a little understanding? Like reading about Hitler being rejected from art school? That kinda thing? Yeah?

40 Kid Cudi feat. Phoebe Bridges: Lovin’ Me

Serious question: was I supposed to pay more attention to Phoebe Bridges? She seems to be quite a big deal, and I guess being responsible for 50% of this stone cold classic definitely counts for something.

39 Low: More

Yeah, Low don’t even get out of bed for a placing lower than the top forty.

You hear that production? Hear how it cuts off all reverb on the final chord of the central riff so it comes to a jolting and invigorating stop? How it shakes your brain and messes with perceived notions of music? Then loops that shit?

Yeah, do something similarly artistically brilliant and maybe you will be the album of the year. You jerks.

38 Self Esteem: The 345

Every year there’s one traditional epic ballad that reigns supreme. The annual answer to 2010’s Battlefield. In 2021, it was Self Esteem proving that her talents were not simply limited to snarkily hilarious and sharply worded feminist takedowns, but she can also write an emotionally stirring ‘traditional’ pop ballad to absolutely bring the house down. Put it all on her back, she’ll carry you.

37 Big $ilky: Britnee Speerz

More Psalm One, more Big $ilky, because this shit is reliable. From obvious experience, they angrily report how the whole industry is ‘Britney Spears toxic, rap ain’t got no conscience/Fuck them and they boys club, TLC, yeah, No scrubs’.

36 Lava La Rue: G.O.Y.D

Lava LaRue is on something of a hot streak at the moment that has continued onto her recent single Vest & Boxers. And as I made clear in my review, I know exactly who the song is about. Tell me it ain’t wishful thinking. Tell me, girl, I’m not wrong.

35 Lorde: Solar Power

Sigh, yeah, I know. Solar Power is either ripping off Come Together or Loaded, depending on what part of the song you catch or what song from Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’ you happen to notice. But, blah blah blah, all art is built upon different realisations of existing influences, blah blah blah, we can only build upon what has gone before, blah blah blah, pretty much every Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin song is a direct rip from an uncredited and un financially recuperated black artist, blah blah blah, her cheeks in high colour, over-ripe peaches, blah blah blah: I don’t care (apart from that peaches part).

So many of the critics criticising (I guess the clue’s in the name) Lorde’s more optimistic and ever so slightly flippant concerns on the album ‘Solar Power’ simply ignores how many of her fans needed this aural therapy in 2021. With late stage capitalism’s wildly gesticulating death throes threatening to take everyone down with it, and COVID-19’s continued horror, maybe people just didn’t want for Lorde to get deep down, deep down.

34 Baby Tate feat. Flo Milli: I Am

Yeah, this finished pretty high didn’t it? Baby Tate doesn’t care though- she is healthy, she is wealthy, she is rich, she is that bitch. She flies high like bees, that’s bzzz, bzzz, bzzz. I Am is an absolute fucking banger.

Isn’t the ‘tate’ that area between your genitals and anus though? So isn’t ‘baby tate’ referring to something criminally disgusting??

33 DAWN: Jacuzzi

Hot like a ja-cu-zee!

Yes indeed, Ms Richards, I would dearly love to drip like you.

What a masterfully, joyfully, artistically amazing piece of work. At once an aggressively electronic cacophony of feuding glitches, and an absolutely gorgeously uplifting summer anthem. The woman’s a fucking geniu.

32 Ultrasound: Suckle

Yeah, yeah, more absolute majesty from an all-time classic album. Listen, you should all thank me, as I’ve tried my very best not to absolutely spam this countdown with tracks from that record – because the entrants could easily run into double figures – and instead limit myself to the most notable handful. The sublime Suckle may have been the song off the album that went up most in my expectation. Maybe simply because I purchased a t-shirt of the lyrics at the ‘life highlight’ gig I attended:

It didn’t come with the cat hairs. That was my personal customization

When the rereleased album became ready to order, the first fifty (or whatever) purchases could request some handwritten lyrics as part of the sixty five pounds special edition that I am obviously a big enough mark to purchase. Obviously, keenly aware of my t-shirt, I requested Suckle:

Lovely jubberly! Only… what’s this…?

‘Full of fire’?? Bullshit! No way do you ever sing that! You’re ruining the legitimacy of my shirt, Ultrasound!

31 Justin Blackburn: Don’t Go to College

‘Let’s change the world!’

The politics and punching direction of Blackburn’s astonishing (and so often intentionally hilarious) primal scream (not in a Lorde way) of an album ‘Unlearning White America’ are unfocused and all over the place. But a large part of his charm (and his real potential) lies in how many swings he’s unafraid to make, how entertaining he consistently is, and how often he hits hard both polemically and musically. Don’t Go to College is his masterpiece (so far!), a peak Kanye styled mini epic about the sad capitalisation and commodification of the education system, where to attempt to educate yourself only means being enveloped by another wing of the state and having to financially enslave yourself for the rest of your life.

Y’know, Justin, proper education of the masses around the unbalanced power structure is kinda one of our big things. By all means educate yourself, and when you’re ready the Communist Party is right there.

30 Billie Eilish: Your Power

Possibly the last song to be added to the list, and one I’m astonished and ashamed that I didn’t fully appreciate earlier. It was released relatively early in the year, and has one hundred and fifteen million YouTube views, for goodness sake. An extremely intelligent but still devastating autopsy of a possibly consensually legally blurred relationship (‘Does it keep you in control?/For you to keep her in a cage?/And you swear you didn’t know/You said you thought she was your age’) and the (oh yes) power dynamics within. Further proof of how we may yet be far too close to ‘Happier Than Ever’ to fully appreciate what a statement it was. Ah well, Eilis is, what, eight years old? It’s astonishing that she’s already at this stage artistically, and we’ve got a lot more to come.

29 Manic Street Preachers: Orwellian

Dumpa, dumpa, dumpa, dumpa, yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeverywhere you look, yeverywhere you turn

Man, the Manics just nail their comeback single every time, don’t they? Even (It’s Not War) Just the End of Love and International Blue were world destroying bops and those albums stunk!

28 Spellling: Turning Wheel

I think the main issue between Spellling and me is that I’m adamant about setting off for the sea (turning wheel) while she rather stubbornly wishes to stay up on the hill. Oh, and all that dancing without moving gets old real quick. That extra ‘L’ in her name stands for ‘LackOfCompromise’. All one word.

27 Miley Cyrus: Midnight Sky

I think the main issue between Cyrus and me is that she was born to run, don’t belong to anyone, whereas I was born in the darkness, moulded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding. Also, I have one rule, and that’s to ask for my permission before you lick my ceramic jaguar. One rule!

Of course, I’m talking euphemistically. She can lick my literal ceramic jaguar as much as she wants. Weird flex, but you do you, Miley.

25 DMX: Ruff Ryder’s Anthem

STOP!

DROP!

SHUT ‘EM DOWN OPEN UP SHOP!

Before I properly listened to his 1998 debut album – his most critically lauded work by far – I had previously considered DMX to be one of the most consistent singles artists of the last 25 years, but with a style of enraged aggression that’s unlikely to carry over to a full album. But now I consider him… one of the most consistent singles artists of the last 25 years, but with a style of enraged aggression that doesn’t really carry over to a full album.

But, dang, those singles though?? Smack, da-smack, da-smack, da-smack…

WHAT?

WHAT?

WHAT?

25 John Grant: The Only Baby

And we’ll shun the ones who do not get the Christian diseases

Like cancer, MS, heart failure, Lou Gehrig’s Codependency and diabetes

First of all, it’s nine minutes and thirty nine seconds long, so I already love it. If you’ve forgotten the rules for some reason: albums should always be shorter, songs should always be longer. There’s an even longer song coming up, because that’s how things should be.

Secondly, the heavily implied link to Donald Trump is entirely misleading. All the things Grant brings up in this epic masterpiece of snarky social commentary – imperialism, capitalistic greed, ecological molestation, slavery, continued financial slavery, racism, abuse of the lower classes, twisted and decaying religion… – aren’t Donald Trump problems. They’re American problems. They’re problems with capitalism. With neoliberalism. Trump may have been rude to celebrities on Twitter, and perhaps may have let his mask slip to show the same racism that he shares with every president, but he was exactly the fucking same as the rest of them. Every US president since Ronald Reagan has just been Ronald Reagan. At time of writing, the great saviour Joe “Dusty Old Bones Full of Green Dust” Biden, is carelessly and recklessly overstating the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, desperate to kill thousands of people just to improve his opinion ratings and to prove the big macho penis of the US’s military is still magnificently tumescent after pathetically being declared losers in Afghanistan. [oops… ignore that… 😳]. It’s bullshit. Fuck your Republican, fuck your Democrats, they’re both the same except one party generally likes wearing cowboy hats more. Organise on the streets, protest this bullshit. Oh, and join the Communist Party. How are you not already a member?? Have you been in a coma these past two years??

As much as I love this song, and as much as I love singing along to its stirring ‘And that’s the only baby that bitch will have’ closing refrain, I don’t entirely know what that means. Is the “bitch” the Statue of Liberty? And the “baby” just the congealed stillbirth that is the results of fetid capitalism and unfiltered colonialism? Jump in any time, these are good topics, you know how I value the discourse/content.

24 Rico Nasty: Own It

The ‘It Factor’ isn’t hard to define at all. Look at that video. Look at that photo. That’s ‘It’ right there.

The way she spits ‘She tryna knock it, but she was just flockin’/You wanna cop it, got seven pairs in my closet, lil’ bitch!’ is just – oof! – love me, fight me, choke me, bite me, text me, touch me, call me “Daddy”…

23 Manic Street Preachers: Complicated Illusions

Oh, I didn’t think we’d get any more Manics songs

Someone who’s never read this blog before

What the band absolutely do better than anyone else in the world – the gorgeous sweeping epic infused with intellectual ennui. But, you see what I meant in my review, right? ‘In the rhythm of your voce/I find space to rejoice’? That… just doesn’t flow, does it? Something’s off with Nicky’s writing on tis record.

By the way, it’s around this point that all the entries are some next level shit.

22 Taylor Swift: ’tis the damn season

The “damn season” to which Ms Swift refers to may well be Christmas. As the fantastic ‘Evermore‘ was released in December 2020. One of the older albums on the ‘best of 2021’ list. It’s now fourteen months old. Life moves slow sometimes.

Listen, can I suggest something? I’m just going to say something about the quality of her work – something like “This song is so gorgeously perfect that I have a complicated mechanical set-up constructed to allow it to peg me aggressively each time it plays” – and just stop there? Like, not accompany it with a think piece on Taylor Swift’s importance to modern popular culture and how she’s a disgusting/inspiring figure that is leading/ruining an entire American generation. Is that possible? Thanks.

21 Ultrasound: Happy Times (Are Coming)

Oooooooooooooooooo-woah-woah-woah-woah-woah-woah-woah-wooooooooooooooooah…

What an absolutely freaking filthily great vocal performance by Tiny Woods on this song – one of the most gorgeous songs of the late 90s. Low on technical ability, but so high in emotion and feeling. If you have a soul, it will destroy you. Then you will sing along, drenching your phone screen with a deluge of salty tears as you scroll through old WhatsApp conversations. The symphony of guitar stabs and synthesiser whahs that starts around four minutes and twenty nine seconds in is one of the most ingeniously beautiful pieces of production I’ve ever heard in a ‘rock’ song.

This was one of the songs they elected that they didn’t have time to play live. I will never forgive them for that. It’s eight and a half minutes that I will always have time for.

20 slowthai: nhs

Jack the lad, only happy when they clap (NHS)

Good with the bad, I’m happy being sad

Say less, why you stressed?

Thinkin’ what’s next gonna make you depressed

All the best shit’s got scratches on the surface

What’s a flight without turbulence?

A life without circumstance? Boxing without another stance?

Country with no coat of arms? Estate with no dogs that bark?

A club with no cunts who laugh at people tryna have a laugh?

What’s life if we all get along? No people tryna do you wrong?

What’s knickers without frilly thongs?

Good music without silly songs?

Abusers with no sober mums?

Screaming, say you’re doing wrong

What’s love without hate and stuff? Loyalty without no trust?

Rick without Morty? Lil Wayne without codeine?

A rapper without jewellery? Real person, surely

What’s health without poorly?

What’s wealth without the poor? Please

The world we’re living in, I’m tryna give you reassurance

From the quieter and lower cased second half of slowthai’s triumphant ‘TYRON’ album, and the first sign that his concerns were now going to be shared with his own internal struggles as well as state of the nation addresses. As good as the album is, he never manages to juggle the two concerns as gorgeously as he does with nhs.

19 Low: Hey

This is it, by the way. This is what I’m fucking talking about. Low aren’t simply working at a higher level than all other musical acts, they’re playing in completely undiscovered genres, in completely singular and superior modes of artistic expression. All the other bands are playing basketball, and when they invite Low for a game they don’t only turn up with a different ball, but with a Large Hadron Collider with additional research on revealing the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th dimension. Oh, and rather than arriving at the court they mistakenly arrive in the NGC 1023 black hole that’s orbiting the sun.

It’s good.

18 Leanne Betasamosake Simpson: Viscosity

At the beach…

We build a fire…


Sit…

in our own silence…


Peel off blue light…


Lie back on frozen waves…


Breath in…

Sharp air…


Warm into each other…


Careful moment…


After…

Careful moment…

This song is an absolute marvel. There’s… nothing here! You’ll happily find yourself singing along, never noticing what a slight and crystal pure weightless gust of air it is. It’s power and its infectiousness comes from how expertly it handles its silences, how it emphasises the power of the stops between subtle notes. A song that so beautifully calls to mind sitting in silence, alone with your thoughts and appreciating the Earth. I mean, that’s fucking impossible, surely??

Also, Bing? Why you always gotta be so Bing?

17 Lucinda Williams: Save Yourself

God damnit, smear ma’ mascara, down ma’ shots, shoot ma’ husband, how motherfucking perfect is this? On the astonishing and admirable ‘Epic Ten‘ reissue – remember, you airy fairy arty idiots: I will only respect your album reissue cash-in if you have all the tracks rerecorded by notable artists. I’m hoping that the long promised ‘Know Your Enemy’ reissue delay is because they’re yet to finalise BTS’s cover of Year of Purification* – Sharon van Etten was cunning and blessed enough to rope in country music legend Ms Williams to draw sparkle all across the already magnificent original with her exquisitely legitimate cooch. She, like, just sits down and drags herself across the track, leaving a shining shimmer like a slug’s trail all over it. Glittering trails, man, y’know? In doing so, she turns a track that was once ‘only’ an alternative rock torch standard into a legitimate country classic.

(*Yeah, I know, pretty sure I’ve already made that exact same joke. But I’m well covered by the fact that nobody in the world would ever read more than one of my posts)

I didn’t need to bring her vagina into it, did I? Nor anybody’s genitals. Looking back, I can recognise that. I am learning and improving.

16 Olivia Rodrigo: Good 4 U

What the fuck…

Is up…

With that?

By which, of course, I am referring to how low this absolute and legitimate Twenties 2.0 classic could end up so relatively low. It speaks so much of how astonishingly burdened 2021 was with absolute all timing GOATs that this perfect and utterly infectious pop punk classic doesn’t even make the top 15. Sure, it’s a little bit plagiaristicy here and there, and it shares absolutely the same lyrical concerns with literally every Rodrigo song (except one: the almost equally banging Brutal), but you’re a scientifically certified grumpy pants if you’re still refusing to be swept up in what could absolutely be referred to as ‘the moment’. Also: Appreciate. Motherfucking. Craft.

That bit where almost all the musical backing is stripped away and we get the chorus again before slamming back into the full song with ‘LIKE A DAMN SOCIOPATH’? That’s all I’m here for. That’s all we’re all here for.

15 Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: Hand of God

Nick, Warren, baby, I have no fucking idea where you’re taking me, but by God I want you to drag me along the floor behind you. Rip off my clothes, pull my naked spasming body across the dirty and cutting floor, let the gravel slice me open and baptise me in my own blood as the rocky road to wherever you’re taking me demolishes me. I don’t care where we go, I don’t care what we do, I don’t care pretty babies, just take me with you.

As expansive and forward as Hand of God is, it’s also the closest to a ‘classic’ Nick Cave song that Cave has written in close to a decade. This crazed preacher, book of revelations, high camp quasi-goth could have been on ‘Tender Prey’ or ‘The First Born is Dead’, it’s Cave reverting back to his original form, like a recovered smack addict falling off the wagon and reminding themselves that – although they know how dark and life-destroying the experience always is – it feels so fricking good.

Not literally, thankfully. You’re doing good, Nicky.

14 Jazmine Sullivan: Put it Down

He live with his momma but I treat him like a king

Yeah, every time he come around, he got me acting like a fiend

When he be asking me for money, I can never tell him no

And when he say he wanna see me, I drop everything and go

I know he makes me look cray

I do whatever he say ya

Tell me the time and the place

He know that I’m on my way

Give him the keys to my car

He bring it back by tomar

I got whatever he need

Long as he give me that D

I can’t help it it’s a shame what he do to me

My girls ask me what it is, I say it’s the D

I start going out my mind when he come around

That’s why he gets all my time ’cause he (Put it down)

I know, right?? This song is totally about me! I also live my momma (I’m guessing the subject of the song is also going through a messy marriage breakup), I also make people ‘cray’, and it’s also because of my ‘D’ (Depression)! Jesus, Jazmine, tell the world, why don’t you?!

Firstly – this absolute stormer wasn’t even a single? The fuck is wrong with you, your people, your record company, and the entire surrounding universe, Jazmine? Secondly – what did we ever do to deserve a song this perfect? Seriously, the human race has, by all accounts, made a pretty shitty go of things over the last four thousand years or so, and yet Ms Sullivan somehow decrees that we deserve this? Seriously, how are we ever supposed to mature as people if you keep rewarding bad behaviour?

Put it Down, even apart from being a stone cold monster, would already be amazing simply due to the novelty of the representation of an embarrassingly common situation. One of the reasons that ‘Heaux Tales‘ is such a universally beloved modern classic is how it adroitly analyses the often sad but incomparably gratifying (often the former due to the latter, often the latter due to the former) politics of modern dating. The subject and trope of ‘gold digging’ frequently comes up, with Sullivan and her guest speakers intelligently breaking down how actually, yes, a man’s financial commodities often do play an important part in the labour exchange of sexual capital.

But then sometimes she’s just like, fuck, I’m pretty sure this utter failure of a human being is just gold digging me, but he fucks the shit out of me. So, y’know, there’s no obvious solution here, lots of discussion points to consider…

13 Self Esteem: I Do This All the Time

Look up, lean back, be strong. You didn’t think you’d live this long. Taylor’s least conventional and more idiosyncratic pop song that she has thus far produced, marrying her usual influences of Britney and Madonna to the spoken word psychological analysis of Arab Strap. It has become perhaps her most widely celebrated song. Where she goes next will be fascinating.

Don’t send those long paragraph texts. Stop it, don’t. Getting married isn’t the biggest day of your life.All the days that you get to have are big

12 Prince: Controversy

I just can’t believe all the things people say

Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?

Controversy is the first Prince song. Sure, it literally isn’t, but the spellbinding opening to his fourth record is the moment it all really came together for the first time, and He finally put all the pieces in place and all His shit together to eventually (‘eventually’. Like, maybe a year) become the most notable musical act of the 1980s, and arguably the 20th century. His first two albums were great showcases of His immense talent, but back then He was merely by far the greatest musical artist working within already created genres. His third album, the still astonishing ‘Dirty Mind‘, is obviously one of the most important and influential records of all time – we all agree on that, yeah? Like, that’s no hot take – and perhaps without its existence popular music today would still be chiefly made up of either aggressively fringed Mormons singing about lollipops or poodle haired rich white boys singing about statutory rape. It didn’t sound like anything else. Including, really, later Prince. For the rest of His career, His songs were rarely that explicit (the incest stuff definitely had to go), the beats were rarely that grimy and dark, the measures rarely that Teutonic. ‘Dirty Mind’ was obviously an incomparably important album for Prince to find His sound and image, but it would be one He quickly moved on from. For all the plaudits it received critically, ‘Dirty Mind’ was still something of an underground album rather than a real mainstream smash. Sure, it may have shared the Velvet Underground’s fate of not many people buying it but everyone who did went on to become a musician, but Prince wanted more. He wanted to translate the artistic evolution onto a wider audience, and also wanted to ensure that the people first turned onto Him with ‘Dirty Mind’ would follow him for life. Imagine…

And Controversy – more specifically than the album ‘Controversy’ – was the moment where it all came together and Prince as we would know Him was born. The sexual ambiguity – which He would make effort to correct later in His career – was still here, and everything else we would later deem essential parts of the Prince sound were melded together properly for the first time. The blending of rock, funk, soul and pop that we would later accept as His trademark was perfected here into a sound and image that He would take over the world with. It would also find Him marrying the world’s of commercial and artistic faced work seamlessly, with the sub four minute perfect pop single being elongated and mutated into a near eight minute avant garde funk/rock jam on the album, incorporating the Lord’s Prayer in full (which is the version included on this list). No mainstream artist would be able to blend critically acclaimed high art with universally adored commercial pop until… well… Prince, with his ‘1999’ album a year later.

But that’s a tale for Necessary Evil 2022! Fuck,how am I going to justify not putting that at number one…?

11 Magdalena Bay: Secrets (Your Fire)

Yeah, I know, Magdalena Bay are a ‘funny’ band, they rarely burst many blood vessels furrowing their brows at the overbearing seriousness of everything, they are – I cannot deny – very active on TikTok. Their sense of humour does not stem from a lack of serious motherfucking talent though. Quite the opposite, really: if you were looking out over the world in 2021 – especially through the prism of online and social media discourse – if you don’t keep your sense of humour intact then you will be moved to kill yourself in record time. Sure, the video for Secrets (Your Fire) is a wonderfully bonkers take on bizarre internet 1.0 trends (their website doubles down on this aesthetic so hard that it might actually blind you), but it’s still a song I’m not sure has many peers in so gorgeously dissecting the reactionary cruelty of so many online relationships. ‘Sickness/I just need to give you everything about me/I don’t need to feed more oxygen to/Your fire’ is an absolute FrechKiss.gif of a line. And this genius didn’t even make the top ten!!

10 Low: Days Like These

I vividly remember the first time I heard the announcement of Low’s follow up to one of the more experimentally perfect albums of the last twenty (hundred?) or so years. I quickly ran/clicked to my local record store/YouTube to purchase/listen to the comeback single, Days Like These.

And it started, and I was like

OK

Bit of a step backwards.

A disappointing step backwards into the sort of soft Americana that they used to peddle in, but if that’s what makes the band happy then who am I to…?

BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMM!!!

Then the feedback kicks in like a mule lost in the K-hole, the song both descends and escalates into a reverb cloaked explosion, then immediately smooths out into an ambient coda that takes up the entire second half of the song.

And I though: “Yeah. Everything gonna be a’right”.

Hey, everyone else, why aren’t you as good as this.

Not you next nine artists. You’re alright.

9 Faye Webster: Cheers

I’ve tried so hard to get into Faye Webster, honestly. I donated so much of my valuable time to ‘Atlanta Millionaires Club‘ back in 2019, chiefly because I loved the cover, but nothing was stirred. And, fuck me dead and bury me pregnant, after hearing the scuzz rock masterpiece Cheers I really fucking tried to spark some connection between my inner being and her 2021 album ‘I Know I’m Funny haha‘. Seriously, I had that record in my hand and was vigorously rattling it around inside my pants for hours at a time, hoping that the friction at least would awaken some deep understanding in my groin. But no. Too often generic and played out alt-country. I’m sorry.

But, holy shit, this song though??

That guitar solo as well. Diddle-ee-dee, diddle-ee-dee, diddle-ee-doo, diddle-ee-dee. Yeah, I know it’s just the central guitar line repeated, but the way it’s exposed and centred upon just makes my nipples shiver.

In a good way.

8 Sharon van Etten & Angel Olsen: Like I Used To

Change address and draw a line

Show my friends the silver line

Call my family just to know they’re there

Sleepin’ in late like I used to

Crossing my fingers like I used to

Waiting inside like I used to

Avoiding big crowds like I used to

Hey, remember when two of the biggest and most critically lauded voices in modern alternative rock got together and out of nowhere released an E-Street Band influenced absolute fucking monster of a perfect single, then just left it at that and never even announced a follow up or collaborative record?

Yeah?

That was weird, wasn’t it?

7 Japanese Breakfast: Be Sweet

Make it up to me you know it’s be-ta-yar-ee-yaaar!

This is it. This is Michelle Zauner grasping those brass rings so hard her palms bleed out and taking full advantage of the increased attention that her widely well received memoir had afforded her by releasing her most perfect pop statement yet (an open goal that’s too often missed on the accompanying album). Did it work? Is she now one of the world’s biggest pop artists?

Honestly, fuck knows, I don’t even understand how this shit works anymore. It reached number seven on the US Adult Alternative Airplay charts. So there’s that.

6 Ultrasound: Floodlit World

Yeah, pull down the shutters guys, it ain’t ever gonna come. When this – one of the most perfect and unashamedly commercial rock torch songs of the latter twentieth century – wasn’t even close to being a hit, the band must have known that it was over.

High-er than aeroplanes, yeah, with lazer eyed

AUTONOMY.

Seriously, general public, fuck the lot of you. People only see what they want to.

5 Kanye West: Jesus Lord Pt.2

Mr West is afflicted with the same curse that infects Taylor Swift, the curse that it has now become impossible to discuss the art without droning on about the cultural importance and supposed understanding of the artist as a human being. The difference being that Ms Swift often seems to be attempting to remove herself from the discourse, while Kanye seems obsessed with both igniting it and dunking his face deep inside it.

Oh, and I guess another difference is that Taylor Swift’s art is really, really good, while Kanye has been pushing out stinkers for a good few years now.

But, let’s leave that all at the door as we take off our shoes. Jesus Lord is absolute genius. A legitimately moving epic that is not only proof that, underneath all the bullshit, Kanye’s genius is not yet fully extinguished, but it’s a work that you could only imagine Kanye pulling off. And on a messy record too often concerned with Kanye’s own narcissism, here is a beautifully crafted call out to so many victims of America’s racist power structures, from mass incarceration to casual imperialism. I especially loved Jay Electronica’s line ‘Earthquakes’ll strike this nation for what Bush did to Rwanda/What the Clintons did to Haiti and Downing Street did to Ghana’, which doesn’t so much excuse Kanye’s confused cuddling up to Trump, but instead reminds the listener that you shouldn’t trust any fucking Western capitalist leader!!

Sigh, but yeah, I haven’t checked but it’s likely most of the guest spots are either homophobes or domestic abusers…

Why did i go for part 2 rather than the original? Dude, it’s even longer!

4 Avalanches feat. Rivers Cuomo, Pink Siifu: Running Red Lights

Aaah fuck, I’ve done this blog for eight years, and collated album of the year lists since 2007, and I’ve done so well at keeping the list 100% free of Weezer and Rivers Cuomo’s adorkable misogyny, but he somehow slips in with Avalanches. To say it’s his greatest song that Cuomo has ever been involved in would be selling this pop masterpiece far too short, and to call it The Avalanches’ greatest song would be… debatable… To call it Pink Siifu’s best song would be I have no idea. But why go to such lengths to place it in historical context? It’s one of the most perfect pop songs you’re ever likely to hear, it’s here, it’s now, just fucking enjoy it.

3 Self Esteem: Prioritise Pleasure

Shave my pussy (that’s just for me)

Unfollow you (that’s just for me)

Keeping busy (that’s just for me)

And sleeping in (that’s just for me)

Fuck where I’ve been (that’s just for me)

My daydreaming (that’s just for me)

Out sexting (that’s just for me)

My freedom (that’s just for me)

It was just before Christmas 2019 when I was buying a t-shirt emblazoned with ‘Squirt Isn’t Pee’ from Rebecca Louise Taylor, running her own merch stand after playing a gig at Manchester’s Pink Room. She more than deserves her rise to prominence since then. Most people would go for #13’s I Do This All the Time as the crowning achievement of her breakthrough second album. And that’s cool. You do you. You’re only ten places out. But the high drama and blitzkrieg pop perfection of the title track was the moment she truly announced herself.

2 CHVRCHES feat. Robert Smith: How Not to Drown

Now this, ladies and gentlemen, really is all about that boom. The boom of that synthesised amalgamation of 80s inspired pop music with near heavy metal power punches; the boom of melodic perfection combined with one of Lauren Mayberry’s greatest and most impassioned vocal performances to date; the boom to your gut, to your feet and to your brain that only CHVRCHES at their absolute best can manage to quite such perfection. This is everything pop music needs to be.

1 serpentwithfeet: Same Size Shoe

Never heard truth come from skinny lips

Never seen fighters with lazy fists

Won’t kiss your son if his heart ain’t big

Can’t love no man ’til I measured his feet

How many steps he take to cross the street?

It ain’t no date if he walk behind me

Chile, I got some good news

Chile, I got some good news

Come here, lemme tell you that news

Me and my boo wear the same size shoe…

My auntie’s right, don’t fuck a man

If his shoes are two times the size of your hand

Now that I’m grown, I understand

Oh? What’s that? You were expecting something big? After the high drama, pounding keys and screamed soul baring of Ultrasound, Kanye West, Avalanches, Self Esteem and CHRVCHES, you were wondering how I was ever going to top it? Well, serpentwithfeet ain’t trying to top anything. They might go low over there, they’re going high right there, but Josiah Wise just refuses to engage. He removes himself from the poisoned discourse, he cuddles up on his sofa with the person he loves, someone responsible for a domestic bliss that temporarily allows him to step away from the harsh soul searching of much of his music, allows him to forget the doubts and confusion that usually crushes him. Same Size Shoe is an impossibly beautiful yet respectfully slight and subtle paean to both true love inner peace that takes top spot simply for making me more consistently happy than any other song released in 2021.

Well, sometimes I debated putting it as low as two or even three, but then I hear Wise call ‘Where, where/Are my trumpet, trumpet?’ and then proceed to make trumpet noises with his voice. And I know that the song is untouchable.

And, yeah, it’s about willy sizes, which is a tragically underdiscussed topic in modern music.

One thought on “Legit Bosses: 2021’s 121 Greatest Songs

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