I’m aware there is still a portion of time left this year for a new song to arrive, sweep me off my feet and install itself as number one. However, I’m not much of a Christmas song kind of guy so I’m ploughing ahead regardless. I’ve got mixed emotions about 2021 – on one hand, it was brilliant getting back gigging, laughing, sporting and communicating again – on the other hand, it bloody flew by.
So much music came through the blog this year and it’s always a tough job assembling these end of year lists. After quite a substantial amount of time deliberating and toggling, it’s ready. Here are the top twenty songs of 2021 – as chosen by The Sound Sniffer.
A multi-genre countdown.
No. 20 | Sfven – Sipping on Tea
Quite a late addition to this 2021 countdown is Sfven‘s December release ‘Sipping on Tea‘. The title of resonates so much as this was a year where tea became my staple drink whilst out and about. Having given up alcohol in 2020, ‘sipping on tea’ and getting slated by friends for doing so was a common fixture through the year within my social engagements. The song itself here is a top notch indie effort and certainly makes the list on musical merit as well as sentiment.
No. 19 | Constant Follower – The Merry Dancers on TV
Something a little bit lovely from experimental Scottish folk band Constant Follower. Fronted by Stephan McAll, the band came to my attention earlier in the year and I’m delighted they did. The Merry Dancers on TV and the endearing music video that goes alongside it had me in a state of tranquility and zen at various stages this year. Soft and pure – with harmonies and synth tones to sooth on a stressful day. This is a top shelf piece of music from a top shelf band. In love with it.
No. 18 | Anonymous Depressed Dogs Club – Horse +
What’s this you say? Well, it’s the workings of two friends from Finland who are living in Berlin and releasing music under the best moniker I’ve ever seen. That’s what it is. Horse + is one of their earliest singles and it’s a belter. Melancholic, smartly constructed and very shoe-gaze friendly. A Wholly underrated 2021 release this one. So glad Sienna spotting this band.
No. 17 | Ross From Friends – The Daisy
I had a bit of a Ross From Friends homage during the year. I raised the point that his ‘Family Portraits‘ is one of the all-time great electronic albums. I stand by this statement. Fittingly – the man himself released another top shelf album this year. Here’s a track from it called The Daisy, its top twenty matierial. Good man Felix – what a producer.
No. 16 | Flo Perlin – Blue is the Colour
London based folk songwriter Flo Perlin‘s soft track Blue is the Colour finds it’s way into the list. This stripped-back single has become my favourite track from Perlin’s second album Characters – an album with many endearing moments. A class act.
No. 15 | heka – (a) Mask
Italian born, London based songwriter heka is a huge talent whose music is filled with experimental creeks and atmospheric drones. (a) Mask was a track from an EP she put out earlier in the year and it’s a sweet one. It’s a little odd. It’s wonderful.
No. 14 | Neev – A Mother Knows
Scottish singer Neev released her most impressive EP this year. The collection titled ‘Currants‘ has been received very well and A Mother Knows was the first single to surface from it earlier this year. She is steadily rising in the London folk scene (where she is now based) and 2022 will be an important year. An ever maturing sound.
No. 13 | M. Byrd – Morning Sun
M.Byrd‘s debut EP ‘Orion’, surfaced this year and it’s a fantastic indie/rock/mellow journey. Featuring strong early singles ‘Morning Sun‘ and ‘Mountain‘ alongside two other strong releases, it’s a brilliant collection for those who are partial to a bit of War on Drugs or Arcade Fire. Barth and his band are going to be hovering around the top of the music scene for years to come. You can read more about M.Byrd here.
No. 12 | Adriano Koch – I Love You Sadness
Swiss composer and experimental producer, Adriano Koch, created one of the most breathtaking releases of 2021 with ‘I Love You Sadness‘. As a music blog that’s received over sixteen-thousand music submissions since its incorporation in 2019, it’s not often a track ticks all the boxes for me. Unique – Check, Brave – Check, Original – Check, Creative – Check, Skilled – Check, Stand-Out – Check….. you get the gist.
No. 11 | Joakim Daal – Shelter
Joakim Daal is a New Yorker living in Helsinki who is making extremely high-brow tunes. Shelter is his debut single which surfaced a couple of months ago. I was obsessed with it for quite a number of weeks and sometimes come back to it when I’m in the mood for something off-beat and experimental. Joakim is one to watch and this is a delicate and thought provoking debut for him.
No. 10 | Griffith James – Market & Black (ft. Tennis)
Griffith James has lived a uniquely exuberant and wild life so far. His life story begins with a childhood full of travel and uncertainty as the son of two religious missionaries and winds its way to the point where he stands today, following the release of a successful debut album in his late twenties. This is no ordinary journey, this is no ordinary music either – his sound is high grade and infectious. Market & Black is certainly one of my personal favourites of the year.
Griffith James is a name worth keeping an eye on; his story is one well worth reading. Read it here.
No. 9 | Eden Rain – Being Human
Eden Rain is a new one on the UK circuit and she’s quality. Leeds born but London based now, this talented newcomer is going to be doing big things in the coming months. The sound is polished and all the correct elements are found in the correct places. Reminds me of the high standard output of Genevieve Stokes and Nia Wynn. One to watch and I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye here. Top early signs.
No. 8 | Mo Kle – The One
Let me introduce you to Mo Klé (otherwise known as René Grünenfelder), a Swiss singer-songwriter whose fundamental understanding of simplicity delivers only the most bare and beautiful tunes. He works solely with guitar, basic percussion, and his voice alone – utilising the negative space in music to create such truth and honesty within his work; and we’re talking the chills-down-your-spine type. The One was released this year and it is tremendous.
No. 7 | Boogrov – Unost
Russian producer Boogrov and his Unost single, which is ripped from his 2021 matrosova tape is a special piece of music. High tariff production – intricate melodies – unique sounds – atmospheric breakdowns. For me, electronic music cannot get too much better than this.
It’s quite rare for a hair-raisingly brilliant and clever submission to come in an totally blow my mind. My mind is totally blown. Unost is pure and I’m sure others will agree with me. It brings me back to my days of listening to Weekend Wolves, my hipster left-field electronic days. If you like this song, get in touch with me – we should chat.
No. 6 | Stella Emmett – Can You
Stella Emmett is a songwriter from New York who makes deliciously LoFi and gravelly indie electronic treats. Can You is a slow burn but as soon as the song develops into a flurry of experimental instrumental pitter patters, I was completely transfixed. Such a smart song, it’s got it’s own unique thing going on which is refreshing to find. Her voice is lush too. I’ll be coming back to it again and again – I tip my hat to it.
No. 5 | Sad Night Dynamite – Krunk
Sad Night Dynamite are a blend of a couple of artist styles rolled into one. SND were discovered on the back of a recommendation by warner case a few months ago. Just an energetic song from a pretty impressive self-titled album they released in the early stages of the year. Not my usual style of choice which is a testament to the quality of it.
No. 4 | Manyelo Defro – Ladon (FKA Mash Re-Glitch)
Quite simply the sound of the summer 2021 for me. South African producer FKA Mash‘s spin on Manyelo Defro‘s 2020 hit Ladon got the juices flowing and the body swaying. This synth-heavy track has all of those tasty traits to make you feel happy and euphoric. As soon as I discovered this track back in August, it was going into this end of year list. Feel good. So good.
No. 3 | Jorge – Dragon, fly
Dragon, Fly was the first single from Jorge and it’s feckin’ amazing. There’s since been another song uploaded to Spotify but it didn’t quite hit as hard for me – which is understandable as Dragon, fly comes in at number three on my songs of 2021 list. What a tune that is.
No. 2 | Vilde – Hazel
One of the coolest acts I’ve come across in the few years I’ve been blogging is Australian Lo-Fi, Indie Electronic sensation Vilde and his enchanting artistry. I remember back in 2018, when this blog was just getting going, finding this guy and thinking to myself, This is what it’s all about you know. Sniffer may not have the reach of, lets say, a 2009 BIRP or Indie Shuffle – but hopefully our musical choices are just as well curated. Interesting artists like Vilde tick all the right boxes in terms of originality and vibrancy. What’s not to like – if your mind is open to eclectic sounds.
No. 1 | John Francis Flynn – My Son Tim
John Francis Flynn has been a name on the lips of many traditional Irish music fans in Dublin for years and years. I remember when I was in college going down to The Cobblestone in Smithfield and people would talk about him as if he was some mythical figure around those parts – he was/is doted upon in that scene. Although hearing a lot about his talents, I never had the privilege of seeing him play live in the end. Fast forward ten years and he is now about to embark on a full UK tour, he’s been signed by a subsidiary label of Rough Trade and his debut album I Would Not Live Always was released this year.
A song called My Son Tim (alongside it’s bizarrely amazing video) from that album gets the nod as my top song of 2021. Raw stuff. Breathtaking music.
Honourable mentions : Counted Up to 40: 21: Felix Dreiser – Keanu | 22: Sofia Kourtesis – La Perla | 23: warner case – feel it yah | 24: Fake Turins – Afterwards | 25: Finnegan Tui – Once I’m Gone | 26: Ollie Chanin – Rooms | 27: Will Pope – Stormy Seas | 28: maxime. – telephone wires | 29: Son Lux – Vacancy | 30: Sophia Kennedy – Orange Tic Tac | 31: Wassailer – Song for Elsa | 32: Maguire – Come Down | 33: Stephan Babcock: Bukowski | 34: Maple Glider – Good Thing | 35: Max RM – Emerald | 36: Retro Kid – The Room | 37: JW Francis – John, Take Me With You | 38: KYTES – bumblin | 39: Quinn Christopherson – Bubblegum | 40: KALI – I Just Wanna
About ‘The Sound Sniffer’
The Sound Sniffer is a music blog that’s still only a baby – Founded in early 2019 by Kevin Coakley, a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ also runs gigs and showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists found in the blog’s submission inbox.
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A fascinating and eclectic list! I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about today’s music – though I’m certain I’ve heard only a fraction of the songs and albums released in 2021 – but I’m not familiar with any of the artists or songs in your Top 20. My tastes run more mainstream, however I do like a lot of indie/unsigned artists & bands with small local followings, many of whom I’ve featured on my blog. It all goes to show the astonishing number of talented artists making music today, and it really pisses me off when people say “there’s no good music being made anymore”.
I’ve listened to several of your selections, and in particular like Jorge’s “Dragon, Fly”, FKA Mash‘s “Ladon”, Mo Klé’s “The One”, Eden Rain’s “Being Human” and Adriano Koch’s “I Love You Sadness”.
So happy you checked out the list. Yes yes, there is so much amazing music out there – it’s just so hard to discover it sometimes. I try and support independents especially as it’s so tough for them to break through without an official Spotify play-listing. Articles like these can help them gain that support 🙂
Thanks for getting in touch, what’s been your favourite track of 2021 ?
My favorite song of 2021 is “Fire” by Two Feet, my favorite artist right now. https://youtu.be/HiBxdACoXYY
Hadn’t heard that song until now – it’s a fabulous one! Certainly can see why it’s your number one!
Glad you like it!