My top tracks of 2021

My top tracks of 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, I’ve picked out my top tracks from throughout the year.

Gigs came back in the latter half of the year so I actually managed to see some of these acts live, which gives you another perspective.

Yes, there are a lot of american bands on here, that’s still my bread and butter and unfortunately, they haven’t really been touring over here yet.But, there’s a lot of homegrown acts too.

I was lucky enough to go to Wide Awake Festival in September and some of these acts, including Squid, got to play to huge audiences for the first time.


  1. IDLES – Crawl
  2. Yard Act – Fixer Upper
  3. Mogwai – Ceiling Granny
  4. Squid – Narrator
  5. Damon Albarn – Royal Morning Blue
  6. Bleach Lab – Old Ways
  7. NewDad – Drown
  8. Manchester Orchestra – Dinosaur
  9. Thrice – Robot Soft Exorcism
  10. Foxing – Bialystok
  11. Hot Mulligan – Featuring Mark Hoppus
  12. shame – Snow Day
  13. Bicep – Apricots
  14. For Those I Love – I Have A Love
  15. Little Simz – Woman
  16. Wet Leg – Chaise Longue
  17. Public Service Broadcasting – Im Licht


Idles – Crawl

IDLES returned with their fourth album in as many years in 2021 and ‘headlined’ Wide Awake, albeit as a 1pm headline slot. Crawl stands out for me so far but I think the album will be a grower through 2022.

Yard Act – Fixer Upper

Yet to release a full length album, which will drop in 2022, when I heard Fixer Upper repeatedly on 6 Music, I thought it was Sleaford Mods, and that is a compliment in my mind. The jerky, angular riffs of Fixer Upper are encapsulating and the layers of vocals are infectious.

Mogwai – Ceiling Granny

Mogwai returned in 2021 with As The Love Continues and released some huge singles. They headlined Green Man festival too and are on my list of bands I need to see live. Ceiling Granny just edged it over Ritchie Sacramento for me.

Squid – Narrator

I didn’t know what to expect when I saw Squid at Wide Awake festival. They benefited greatly from IDLES performing their headline slot before them, which meant they played to a huge audience on the main stage and they didn’t disappoint.

Damon Albarn – Royal Morning Blue

Even with the impending release and tour for Gorillaz, Damon Albarn still finds time to write and record solo albums too. Royal Morning Blue had a lot of rotation on 6 Music but I’m still to explore the rest of the album fully. Hopefully it’s as good as this single.

Bleach Lab – Old Ways

Bleach Lab and NewDad were new discoveries for me in 2021. I do have a soft spot for this type of shoe gaze soft rock for it’s atmospheric guitars. Old Ways was released as a single early in 2021 and I’m anticipating an album next year.

NewDad – Drown

NewDad, like Bleach Lab, create sonic soundscapes that I was lucky enough to experience at The Lexington in November. The Waves EP was released midway through 2021 and the opener Drown sets the scene for the rest of the EP.

Manchester Orchestra – Dinosaur

Entering into the american bands now, the latest album from Manchester Orchestra was highly anticipated and it didn’t disappoint at all. I haven’t picked out any of the singles though, I’ve opted for this slow-moving, crescendo-building album track Dinosaur.

Thrice – Robot Soft Exorcism

Thrice are a sleeping giant for me. I first listened to them way back in 2003 with The Artist in the Ambulance when you could say they were well and truly an emo/metal band. Since then, they’ve branched out and this album track from Horizons / East reminds me of In-Rainbows era Radiohead, so it’s made my list.

Foxing – Bialystok

Another band I couldn’t see in 2021 but have managed to see live before is Foxing. Again, I’ve picked an album track rather than a single and this track is an upbeat tune that’s great for driving to.

Hot Mulligan – Featuring Mark Hoppus

Hot Mulligan, or Hot Mully, are literally my favourite band of the past couple of years and I can’t wait to see them live twice in 2022 (as long as festivals and gigs still go ahead). They released an EP this year with the intelligently named Featuring Mark Hoppus, which does not feature Mark Hoppus.

shame – Snow Day

Moving away from american bands now, I’m repping my South London hood by including Brixton boys shame. Again, I’ve veered away from singles to opt for album tracks and I think the angular guitars of Snow Day show their personality.

Bicep – Apricots

A January release, this album was the soundtrack to my running for months. Another album track but Apricots is the stand out for me and I can’t wait to see them at Wide Awake 2022.

For Those I Love – I Have A Love

This was a really intriguing album for me. I only heard about For Those I Love when my team interviewed him on the red carpet at the Ivor Novello awards. It sparked my interest to look into the back story and the concept for the album. I Have A Love is the opening track and the last line sets the scene for the album.

Little Simz – Woman

Another homegrown talent who must surely go interstellar in 2022. She could well and truly storm America and has already appeared on Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. The future is bright for Little Simz

Wet Leg – Chaise Longue

No ‘Tracks of 2021’ list will be complete without Chaise Longue by Wet Leg. Again, this band will rule 2022 and as long as festivals go ahead, will be watched by millions of people. I don’t think anyone else could get away with the lyric ‘Do you want me to assign someone to butter your muffin’.

Public Service Broadcasting – Im Licht

Finishing the playlist on an uplifting high note is Public Service Broadcasting with Im Licht. I managed to see them at Brixton Academy, my first time there in years since the pandemic struck in spring 2020 so let’s look ahead to a more positive 2022 with this boost of light in the darkness.

About Andrew Smallwood

Experienced digital strategist with a foundation in web development and analytics. Leads multi-disciplinary teams in content creation and digital marketing ensuring data is at the core of decision making.