3 Songs That Got Us Through 2021

Submissions are presented in the order they were received.
Click here to see last year’s songs. Click here for a YouTube playlist of this year’s songs.

Camilla Peeters

Tears For Fears – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
Announcing rebirth! One of those pieces of music that keeps finding its way back to me, meaning something slightly different in every iteration. An eternal recurrence of being “so glad we’ve almost made it.” Because where to even start with the lyrics, whose iconic nature will surely transcend many times and spaces even if “nothing ever lasts forever”? 

SALEM – “withoutu”
An unreleased gem from witch house pioneers SALEM, featuring the haunting vocals of singer Heather Marlatt, pre-dating the band’s internal disputes. Controversy aside, after SALEM’s recent comeback, the release of a harrowing, yet stunning documentary on the band amidst the recent covid and cold-related angst creeping into our lives, I’ll repeat what I stubbornly say at the end of nearly every year: next year will be the year of witch house. 

溶けない名前 (Tokenai Namae) – “ダブル・プラトニツク・スウイサイド”
Sometimes all you need is perfectly executed Japanese shoegaze. 

Yoana Pavlova

For the Heart: Bon Entendeur vs Charles Dumont “Maria”

For the Vibe: масло черного тмина – “неведомый мир”


For the Feet: Ivo Dimchev – “Kaji kako”


Dennis Brown – “Let Me Down Easy” 
Huge gratitude to filmmaker Mandy Marcus for introducing me to the song I listened to more than any other this year (and I heard it for the first time in July)!

illuminati hotties – “Pool Hopping”
Because I didn’t expect to hear the lyric “You’re twisted like an ampersand” in such an energetic piece of pop punk, and it has brought me much joy.

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glocca morra – “the void”/Nate Dionne – “Love is Always Worth It”
The next time you break my cigarette
You’ll run at break-neck speed, I’ll fucking break your neck

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Love is always worth it, even if the whole world goes to shit.
It may be a dying planet but love is always worth it. 

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Ioannis Andronikidis

1. Pipilotti Rist, Anders Guggisberg, I’m a Victim of This Song
First comes winter and Swiss visual artist Pipilotti Rist who reinterpreted Chris Isaak’s hit single Wicked Game using sung and screamed versions of the original lyrics. “The world was on fire,” Rist sets an all too familiar tone – desire, love, and loss take the lead, making us all victims of this song.

From its installation in Votivkirche (2014):

2.      Corona, The Rhythm of the Night
Then, a short summer in Syros with Galoup (Denis Lavant) elaborating explosive dance movements in the closing sequence of Claire Denis’ Beau travail (1999) – bringing some joy upon our faces.

Closing sequence, Beau travail:

3.      Jenny Vanou, Άσε με να φύγω [Let me go]
And then, Jenny Vanou with a song resurfacing in a new context – Jacqueline Lentzou’s feature debut Moon, 66 Questions (2020), whose poetic subtitle “a film about flow, movement and love (and lack of them)” defines a year full of surprises, mood swings, “flight[s]”.

Jefferson Everest Crawford

samuel barber – “adagio for strings”

kanye west – “jesus lord”

rose betts – “song to the siren”

Noah Rosenberg

1. Sarah Davachi – “Magdalena
Sarah Davachi, all of her music, instantly focuses me. It’s what I listen to when I create, or need to think, reflect.

2. Michael Chapman – “You Say”
I discovered this Michael Chapman song not too long ago, learnt it on guitar, and have been playing it non stop. There is a timelessness to the lyrics and melody of the insatiable traveling folk singer, who is heartbroken. However, in this song his muse calls him out for it and his privilege, “you say that nothing ever touches me at all, and I don’t know what it is, to be broken”. This adds a layer of depth, a layer of tragedy. 

3. Al Green – “Belle”
The soul of Al Green hits me in the back corners of my shoulders, in the bottom of my stomach, and trickles all throughout my body. This song is called ‘belle’ – one syllable for beauty, for love – perhaps for god? – and it’s all you need to say. It’s a complete world of a word, and it is the last song on his album, The Belle Album (1977). Al Green takes this word, this album, and moves with the spirit, towards an unnamable form. 

Savina Petkova

Todd Rundgren – “Healing Pt. 1 – 2015 Remaster”
as heard in Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World

Céline Dion – “On Ne Change Pas”
as heard in Xavier Dolan’s Mommy

The Kills – “Doing It To Death”
as heard in Julia Ducournau’s Titane

Ejla Kovačević

Killing Joke – “Tomorrow’s World” (Killing Joke LP, 1980)
This rediscovered post-punk jewel from Killing Joke’s debut album infused me with an odd sense of balance and tranquillity when the world outside was falling apart. Its tight, repetitive beats accompanied by Jaz Coleman’s controlled screams embodied the kind of constrained anger, the paralysis, the status quo I felt at the beginning of the year. But if you listen closely, you will notice miniature rays of hope and agency emerging from the distant echoes. And it’s those subtle moments that kept me going. 

schtum – “Surge” (FEED, 2019)
Surge, a composition manufactured by Austrian experimental duo schtum, is made of a multitude of very sexy, upbeat, RAW, distorted, beefy soundscapes that were played loudest whenever I needed to get my low blood pleasure in order. Or just put myself in order. It fueled me with energy and let’s-fucking-do-it attitude. The hypnotic visual transposition of the sounds by veteran experimental filmmakers Billy Roisz & Dieter Kovačić only enhanced this experience. 

Unbite – “Empty Head” (Fang LP,  2020)
Finally, the phenomenal German noise rock trio Unbite, whose gig I spontaneously went to see in Zagreb and… well… It was love at first sound. As the noise rock scene is notorious for its male dominance, Unbite is a refreshingly female-led band with simple, often feminist lyrics depicting the anguish and absurdities of everyday post-post modern life. “Empty Head” is just one of numerous intense, heavy, discordant tunes from their fantastic debut album Fang, issued in 2020, perfect for sing-alongs — or, if you prefer, scream-alongs — when you’re driving alone towards a nocturnal abyss. 

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Felix Rodriguez

Darkside – “Lawmaker”
Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington found some truly special groove with this song. Jaar’s percussion and textural sounds are impeccable and gigantic and Harrington’s guitar work is sublime. Also I found this incredible fan-made music video featuring footage from David Lynch’s Dune

Dijon – “Big Mike’s”
This song (and live performance) captures the magic of making music with friends in real time. What I wouldn’t give to jam at this table.

Hiatus Kaiyote – “Get Sun (feat. Arthur Verocai)”
Nai Palm rips, Arthur Verocai rips. End of review. 

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Nel Dahl

Roger Roger “Le Viol Du Vampire”
Putting on old film scores is the quickest way to help me focus in chaotic times, and I particularly like this piece from an early Jean Rollin film.

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Spellling “My Other Voice” (Sparks cover)
Spellling (who released one of 2021’s best albums) couldn’t be more perfect to cover this playfully eerie song from Sparks.

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Helado Negro “Gemini and Leo”

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Alex Tripp

Model Home – “3D Printed Quinoa”
This one feels like watching someone marching confidently on top of spinning plates. There are stacks of vocals that come out of the mouth already warped, but then there’s a whole other dimension of effects on top of that. And it all feels completely locked in with the odd turns taken by the electronics underneath. I’ve had to go back to this one many times just to be sure of what I witnessed.

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Felinto – “Norma”
The Felinto album’s got all sorts of great trippy dub, but the final track leaves me feeling particularly refreshed. It has a very satisfying way of snapping into focus in the middle, without betraying the amorphous sense of time that it opens with.

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Temporal Marauder – “The Lives In You”
Something that fits very nicely alongside The United States Of America’s “Cloud Song” or Broadcast’s “According To No Plan”. No music has brought me more peace in 2021 than this.

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Ruairí McCann

3 songs for my loved ones and for the pigeon coop around the corner:

Louis Moholo Octet – “You Ain’t Gonna Know Me ‘Cos You Think You Know Me”

Bulgarian Voices ‘Angelite’ & Huun-Huur-Tu – “Wave”

Blue Gene Tyranny – “A Letter From Home”

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“Hey Blue Gene
As I sit here writing you this letter I’m listening to the sound of the midnight train as it moves and changes across the hills. It reminds me of you as it travels to the back of my mind. Now that’s a pretty weird idea. I don’t know why it should remind me of you. Sometimes I just listen and it doesn’t remind me of anything. It seems to create the space and time in which it moves. It comes from nowhere. Anyway, I’m getting off the subject, I really wrote to tell you the bar we used to play at has changed hands again. Do you remember how everyone got together and danced until dawn? Just like a religion. It took an hour to get the tunes out of your head. Then we got stoned and in that presence we’d talk about our crazy ideas. I remember you said that a child growing up, the growth of the feeling of being inside yourself, and a sound changing over space and time were similar experiences. Their motions had the same shape. Oh boy!”

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