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Class of 2021 – The 100 Greatest Songs of the Year!

12 Dec, 2021

Playlist on Spotify at the bottom of each page.

#100-#81 | #80-#61 | #60-#41 | #40-#21 | #20-#11 | #10-#2 |#1


citattecken “Vanishing’ is the end of the world through the passing of inanimate, human made objects juxtaposed with the very real natural disasters…”

60. Circuit des Yeux “Vanishing”
(from -io)

“I wrote ‘Vanishing’ prior to the pandemic as a means of coping with climate change. The slow reticent turn of society toward the health of our planet has left me frustrated for most of my adult life. ‘Vanishing’ is the end of the world through the passing of inanimate, human made objects juxtaposed with the very real natural disasters that will topple us all.

Musically, I wanted the string arrangements to match the lyrical progression of the song. The verses of ‘Vanishing’ are terse, unnerving, and relentless, whereas the chorus section is chaotic, ungrounded, and heightened. As the subjects in which I am saying goodbye shift from inorganic to the more spirited (memories, mothers, etc.), the string arrangement also grows toward the celestial, reaching up and up and up until the song’s final resolution. ‘Vanishing’ was written on my guitar and in a strange tuning: – Bb, F, C#, F#, Bb, Eb. The very low tuning grade was hard to keep on a guitar due to the lack of tension in the strings. This led me to utilize guitar only on the chorus and to rely more heavily on the chugging cellos you hear in the song.

We recorded ‘Vanishing’ at Electrical Audio. I remember that none of Steve Albini‘s guitars could hold the tuning of ‘Vanishing’. After trying many axes, I ended up reverting back to Boom, my acoustic Gibson D-12, and running her through effects. I love that tid-bit. I named her ‘Boom’ because of her ability to sing through dark and heavy tones, and on ‘Vanishing’ she shines.”

– Haley Fohr

citattecken “I remember trying to be very quiet so my neighbors didn’t get upset. I was going through a breakup then and having a really hard time…”

59. Constant Smiles “The Things I Miss”
(from Paragons)

“I remember writing ‘The Things I Miss’ in the middle of the night and recording it right away when it was fresh in my mind. I remember trying to be very quiet so my neighbors didn’t get upset. I was going through a breakup then and having a really hard time, so I was writing and recording pretty frantically in order to try and process everything that was happening.

The lyrics pretty much say it all, in terms of how I was feeling when I wrote it. I remember I was listening to Yo La Tengo‘s ‘And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out’ a lot. I liked the song but I didn’t think too much about it when I wrote it. Then later, during the mixing process on the studio version, it really took on a whole new life. I remember being so impressed with what Ben Greenberg and everyone in the band did on that one. Especially Nicky‘s [Wetherell] cello part! It ended up being my favorite song on the record.”

– Ben Jones

58. Adult Mom “Sober”
(from Driver)

57. Elohim “Little Idiot”
(from Journey To The Center Of Myself, Vol. 3 EP)

56. Sam Evian “Never Know”
(from Time To Melt)

citattecken “‘American Honey’ is a song about delusion. The sweet satisfactions we chase every day that eventually become our gospel…”

55. Current Joys “American Honey”
(from Voyager)

“‘American Honey’ is a song about delusion. The sweet satisfactions we chase every day that eventually become our gospel. In time we are destroyed by these illusions because they only satisfy temporary needs. Fantasies of the capitalist dream which we only fall into a deeper sleep. For we have weaved no catcher.”

– Nick Rattigan

citattecken “…my good buddy Jolan Lewis said ‘The Let Down’ HAD to be the final song. Listening in context it was clear he was right…”

54. Francis Lung “The Let Down”
(from Miracle)

”’The Let Down’ was written on the piano, originally with a much more conventional vocal melody. I started half-speaking/half-singing the vocal instead and suddenly different words came, words that sounded a bit like my conscience speaking to me – ‘If you don’t wanna be here no more, then you don’t have to be here no more.’ At the time it was just another song, but after the album was finished and I was asking friends for help with tracklisting, my good buddy Jolan Lewis (The Foetals, Aldous RH) said ‘The Let Down’ HAD to be the final song.

Listening in context it was clear he was right, Miracle deals with so much personal stuff throughout and ‘The Let Down’ just seemed to provide a conclusion, like your conscience saying ‘Ok you’ve dealt with all these emotions, now what are you gonna do? Are you where you want to be? Are you waiting patiently? Stop waiting.’

– Tom McClung

53. Cold Cave “Promised Land”
(from Fate In Seven Lessons)

citattecken “Thankfully my mom is in remission now, but it’s still emotional for me to perform the piece, and particularly the song ‘Blue Heron’…”

52. Sarah Jarosz “Blue Heron”
(from Blue Heron Suite)

“The song ‘Blue Heron’ is the culmination of the entire Blue Heron Suite. Everything builds towards this moment. It was one of the first pieces of music I wrote for the song cycle but once the other musical ideas started coming into place I knew it had to be the resolution.

Blue Heron Suite was largely inspired by my mother, who at the time that I wrote the piece in 2017, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. My family has been traveling to the Gulf Coast of Texas since I was a baby, and we would always spot the Great Blue Herons along the shore. My mom always says it’s a good omen to see one, so I zeroed in on that hopeful symbol during that difficult time.

Thankfully she is in remission now, but it’s still emotional for me to perform the piece, and particularly the song ‘Blue Heron’. The second to last line ‘we never know if there’ll be more’ really signifies that we don’t always know what life’s going to throw at us, but we can try to face it with grace and strength.”

– Sarah Jarosz

citattecken “Often it can feel more comforting to stay in that situation, even when at its heart, it’s only resulting in feelings of misery. Love is complicated…”

51. Hurry “Where You Go, I Go”
(from Fake Ideas)

“When I was writing ‘Where You Go, I Go,’ I was considering the feeling of attachment and unconditional love. The way that our dynamic with a person, and how we’ve become accustomed to being with someone can morph over time, and become unhealthy without anyone necessarily realizing it. Often it can feel more comforting to stay in that situation, even when at its heart, it’s only resulting in feelings of misery.

Love is complicated. And while I don’t believe every relationship is destined for a future of complacency, and I think there is real beauty in a long term partnership, it’s really easy to find yourself trapped in a cage of your own design, too scared to be alone.”

– Matt Scottoline

citattecken “The image of them wistfully confiding in a streetlamp is meant to be a bit comical in sort of a stage play kind of way…”

50. Black Marble “Streetlights”
(from Fast Idol)

“‘Streetlight’ is about the feeling of loneness that can occur when you’re in close quarters with another person too long. The story is based around someone who takes walks around the neighborhood to clear their head after arguments and winds up having passing conversations in their head with a particular streetlamp they always see, mostly because they have no one else to talk to. We’ve all been in that place at one time or another when we start to lose our grip on whether or not our feelings or behavior is valid or justified because we don’t have perspective on the situation. So this is a person who is floundering a bit and looking for someone to talk to in an effort to find some sense of equilibrium or some validation one way or another. The image of them wistfully confiding in a streetlamp is meant to be a bit comical in sort of a stage play kind of way and convey the sense that this person is a bit off or is being driven a bit mad by the situation.

I write and arrange everything in a bunch of steps over time so that it can be hard to take apart how I originally put something together but I do remember coming up with the drums and the baseline and from there having this odd feeling like a waltz but the song is in 4/4. There’s a strange build to the 1 which stops and starts over and over like a car turning over that never gets going but yet it still feels like it rolls along. There was a sense of comedy to it. When I put the melody in there it had a sense of sadness. I think these two ideas, the comedy and the sadness put me in a sort of stage play state of mind. A lot of broad comedic touches and irony and big showy gestures and imagery. This fit with some of the ways I’m trying to experiment with the direction of synth pop or whatever you want to call it. So from there I think I built out the idea of this character singing to a streetlight, like Fiddler On The Roof or Singing In The Rain or something like that. It’s meant to be a bit of like a dark sense of humor and I know it’s sort of oblique but I’m not that concerned with how clearly it comes across. Someone commented on the Youtube channel ‘this is weird’ which I took as a compliment.

I recorded and rerecorded the outro to the song many times. I was trying to get across kind of a mystical feeling as if the person in the song took off and flew over the land where they were having all this trouble and gained some sense of perspective. So I was trying to get across a sense of wonder and mystery and also timelessness, which it took many takes to get across this feeling.

This was my favorite song from the LP and I was hoping it might be one of the singles but overall the team I work with thought there were other better choices for those purposes. But since then I’ve had a few people come up to me at shows and say it was their favorite song off the album. I’ve also had some people say it’s the worst, haha!”

– Chris Stewart

citattecken “The line about Mona Lisa was something we wrote and had scrapped right until the end when I said ‘I really miss this idea…‘

49. Yumi Zouma “Mona Lisa”
(Single)

“We started that song in maybe 2018 or something. Christie and I started it in New Zealand. It was one that she really fought for, because it was at a point of time where Charlie and I questioned ‘Is that song really good and should we work on it?’, but she was adamant. I really credit her as the architect of that song.

I think it’s interesting that some decisions were made that made it all make sense. You know, Christie sings in quite a low register compared to her normal voice. That made it a little darker. With the live drums and horns and stuff, for me it was almost a Bruce Springsteen-meets-Phil Spector element to it. It’s always funny, that sat in the folder for so long and we said ‘nah, it’s not good’ while Christie said ‘We’ve got to finish this one’. So I’m glad we did.

The line about Mona Lisa was something we wrote and had scrapped right until the end when I said ‘I really miss this idea of referencing Mona Lisa’, because in many ways it’s so simple and so silly because it’s the most famous thing in the world! But sometimes the too-easy option is the best option. You can overthink it sometimes and then you come back and think ‘Hmm, there’s something nice about Mona Lisa’.”

– Josh Burgess

48. The War On Drugs “Change”
(from I Don’t Live Here Anymore)

47. Pom Pom Squad “Head Cheerleader”
(from Death Of A Cheerleader)

46. Erika de Casier “Busy”
(from Sensational)

45. William Doyle “Semi-bionic”
(from Great Spans Of Muddy Time)

citattecken “…there was a lot of death, I happened to lose friends. You come to a certain age where people have lived fast and hard…”

44. Jesse Malin “Before You Go”
(from Sad And Beautiful World)

“The song is a co-write with the producer of the album, Derek Cruz, and the way it came about was just in my kitchen. We had the pandemic and still parts of that affecting our lives being home a lot more instead of being on the road, so there was a chance to get really creative. I was doing live streams from home as a way of staying connected to the audience. Music spoke to me at a young age saying ‘you’re not alone, there’s a lot of people going through this shit, you can be weird and different’.

I had been listening a lot to The Jam’s later period; songs like ‘That’s Entertainment’ from Sound Affects and ‘Carnation’ from The Gift. I was getting into this breezier, more space kind of thing with a lot of different imagery. I write alone a lot, but when I write with Derek I don’t play my guitar, I just kind of free form melody. He plays the guitar or keyboard and we’re guiding each other. I came up with all the melodies in parts and some of the lyrics. Cinematic things that we’re inundated with on a daily basis.

The lyric gets misunderstood, but it’s asking ‘Are they looking out for you and me? Or are the media, the government or the people in your educational system selling us something to blow us up?’ Here, there was a lot of doubt from living in a time of the death of George Floyd, really questioning what’s happening, people not being on the same page, wondering ‘What’s best for me and my family?’. It doesn’t have to be a pandemic thing. I don’t want to write a pandemic record. It’s more a feeling. Each line is a different thing, maybe similar to ‘That’s Entertainment’ which is a lot of imagery.

The title refers to being in this moment. What are you going to do? Everything we do leaves a footprint behind. Also, I had gone through a break-up, so there was this other thing. I’m singing to somebody pulling away, there’s more singing to this person that I thought when I wrote the lines.

The last couple of years there was a lot of death, I happened to lose friends. You come to a certain age where people have lived fast and hard with drugs and alcohol, it caught up with them early. I never went down that path as much as a lot of dear friends and family did but I realised we’re alive right now. Whatever’s going on in 2021: deal with it. Wake up and smell the roses. There’s still time.”

– Jesse Malin

citattecken “We knew we really liked the song but it took a while to figure it out. Jenny Lee also really liked it from the early stages so we got her involved…”

43. Goldensuns “Pick Up Your Phone (feat. jennylee)”
(Single)

“The song was written about being in a sort of toxic relationship and you don’t want to admit it to yourself to avoid having to deal. The chorus saying ‘leaving won’t change a thing, I’ll be your lover and pretend you’re not the salt in my cut. Leaving might change some things, I’ll be a stranger and pretend you’re not the salt of my soul’. Admitting that you’re stuck and can’t find the right move to make. As the song developed we came up with a lot of different meanings that we can personally relate to. It resolves in letting go and finally being over the mental turmoil that those situations can bring. It’s a song about something that I think most people could probably relate to.

The recording process started in our LA apartment a few years ago. We knew we really liked the song but it took a while to figure it out. Jenny Lee [Lindberg] also really liked the song from the early stages so we got her involved. We left LA and headed back to our home town Salt Lake City where we finally were able to settle with a recording from our home studio. A lot of the layers that were originally recorded in our apartment over 3 years ago are still in the song which I think is pretty cool. The song as a whole is sort of a time capsule.”

– Jantzen Meier

citattecken “The song is about learning to put yourself first in a relationship and realizing that it’s necessary to value taking care of yourself…”

42. The Aquadolls “Disappearing Girl”
(Single)

“We wrote the demo for ‘Disappearing Girl’ in January 2020 and recorded the studio version with Fat Mike of NOFX February 2020, right before we went on tour with White Reaper. We held onto it for a while, waiting for the right moment that shows might possibly come back, and then released it July 2021, a week before we played Lollapalooza. We also had just signed to Enci Records that month and that’s our first single with them, so it’s really special for us!

The song is about learning to put yourself first in a relationship and realizing that it’s necessary to value taking care of yourself. Self-love is so important and sometimes that means leaving a toxic environment to better yourself, hence, the disappearing girl. Sonically, this song has more of a dancier feel with the drums, however, the brooding guitar riff looping throughout the song is a constant reminder of somberness within it. This song can be upbeat or dark depending on however you want to look at it.”

– Melissa Brooks

citattecken “After the release of Honey Moon Drips, I realized that I had a group of songs that I had learned to love as time moved on….”

41. The Chain Gang Of 1974 “Distorted (By You)”
(from Besides EP)

“It’s always an interesting process to begin writing for what will hopefully become an album someday. My process has always been the same since I started this project back in 2006: I write until something feels right. ‘Distorted (By You)’ was written at the very early stage of my mind beginning to conceive the idea of my fifth album Honey Moon Drips. At the time, I was entertaining the idea of making a new record that leaned more towards the sounds of bands like The Horrors, School of Seven Bells and Garbage.

Though I feel I had accomplished that, I knew in my heart that the direction I was thinking of going wasn’t the right one. After the release of HMD, I realized that I had a group of songs that I had learned to love as time moved on. ‘Distorted (By You)’ was one of those tracks, so I figured why not release a b-sides EP. The song was co-written and produced by Nathaniel Motte of the band 3OH!3.”

– Kamtin Mohager

#100-#81 | #80-#61 | #60-#41 | #40-#21 | #20-#11 | #10-#2 |#1

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