Another month done and another excellent batch of tracks for your listening pleasure. Everything from metal to hip hop from drum ‘n’ bass to pop made it in this time giving us our most diverse list of the year so far.
Let’s dive on in…
30. Otis Wongsam – Koala (Koala – Single)
Debut single from this Birmingham based emerging artist/producer. Gaining experience from the West Midlands collective OG Horse, this first taste of his solo output is a great way to start. Not quite rap, not quite pop, it’s amalgamation of woozy electronics and beats give this a real future feel and sets it apart from much of what is currently coming out of the UK scene. One to watch out for over the course of the next 12 months for certain.
29. Noah Roche – Not Quite (Not Quite – Single)
Second single from this up and coming South West England artist following his debut EP, Our Burning Sky. His first release hinted at the talent he possesses but was a little tentative in its execution. This track is a big step forward, a fuller sound allowing for a more confident and controlled vocal performance coupled to his already impressive guitar playing. The use of layered backing vocals are the real standout aspect of the whole thing, especially in the songs final third, building to a soaring climax before dropping away to allow a snatch of beautifully harmonised voices to shine through, carrying us to the songs end. Great stuff and another example of the exciting prospects coming out of the UK currently.
28. Islands – Set The Fairlight (Set The Fairlight – Single)
Great slice of indie pop/rock from these Canadian veterans. Releasing quality material since 2006, this song is a taster for their forthcoming eighth full length. Bright and upbeat with some electronic flourishes giving the production a pop sheen, driven along with an shiny acoustic feel, this track is a joy to listen to from start to finish. The new album drops on June 11th and should be worth seeking out.
27. Ed Thomas – Empty Love (Empty Love – Single)
Beautifully sparse but vocally rich pop ballad from this brilliant UK singer/songwriter. Having lent his superb vocal talents to a number of electronic/dance music artists including Chase & Status, it’s now time for him to emerge as a star on his own terms. Combining his lush, controlled but powerful voice to a haunting backing of vocal melodies, synths and finger clicks, this is pure class. After only releasing five singles since 2014, hopefully 2021 sees an increased output as the year goes on.
26. Franky Rizardo & Joe Goddard – No Judgement (Kolsch Remix) (No Judgement – Single)
Another great remix from Danish producer Kolsch (last years remix of ‘Baby It’s You’ by London Grammar was one of my faves for 2020), he takes this already great chilled out house track and makes it even better. Building a blissed out but dancey vibe onto the layers of the original, with the soulful vocal sample getting a chance to really shine, this has an almost Moby-esque feel to it. Both Franky Rizardo and Joe Goddard (Hot Chip) have a plethora of quality electronic/dance nuggets in their respective back catalogues that are well worth checking out.
25. ZillaKami – BADASS (feat. Lil Uzi Vert) (BADASS – Single)
Oh yeah!! Check out the riff on this hip hop banger. There seems to be a bit of a resurgence in the Nu:Metal sound over the last couple of years (which I am digging) but this time with actual people who can rap!! ZillaKami is a member of hip hop collective City Morgue who specialise in a combination of trap and metal with a dark, in-your-face style and on his second solo single he continues this but with a bit more accessibility. This is mosh pit ready hip hop and will be sure to get your head nodding if not fully banging.
24. Pote – Young Lies (feat. Damon Albarn) (Young Lies – Single)
Brilliant single that has an interesting sound to it combining elements of dance, world music and pop. It could be almost described as Gorillaz-esque, which is apt seeing as Damon Albarn makes a guest appearance. Pote is a native of St. Lucia who now calls London home and is preparing to release his debut album this year, the first thing to come out on OUTLIER, the new record label by electronic music pioneer Bonobo.
23. Remi Wolf – Rufufus (Sylvan Esso Remix) (Rufufus (Remix) – Single)
Dance/pop beauty but with the added weirdness of Sylvan Esso keeping it far from conventional. Transforming the experimental funk pop of the original 2019 released single into a dancefloor ready pearl, this combines the out there aspects of both sets of artists keeping it exciting and edgy enough to give it real character. If you like this then definitely check out the Free Love (2020) album from Sylvan Esso which is chockfull of this kind of goodness.
22. Makoto – Spread Love (feat. Pete Simpson) (Spread Love – Single)
Awesome soulful drum’n’bass banger that is sure to get you moving and put a smile on your face. Combining a wicked mix of jungle rhythms, an energetic bassline, the powerful soul vocal of Pete Simpson and the angelic choir of gospel voices that back him throughout, this one will get you in a summery mood. Makoto is a Japanese producer who has been releasing quality electronic music since 2008. Recently signing to legendary label Hospital Records, 2021 should see even more great stuff to come.
21. What So Not – The Change (feat. DMA’s) (The Change – Single)
What So Not is the project of Australian DJ/producer Chris Emerson. Releasing a strong collection of electronic pop for the past ten years, this continues in the same vein, this time with the added vocal talent of the DMA’s. This track builds as it goes, adding layers of electronic pulses and beats to a great bassline until it all melds together for a release of emotion in the songs final moments. This is dance music that sounds equally as good on a set of headphones as it does on a sweaty dancefloor, either way allowing you to get lost in the moment.
20. Tkay Maidza – Syrup (Syrup – Single)
This is all about the bass!! It’s huge!! This hip hop banger from Zimbabwean born, Australian based rapper Tkay Maidza is dirty sounding in all the right ways. An absolute banger, this deserves to be played at the loudest volume possible. Releasing her only album so far in 2017, she’s been honing her craft in the proceeding years through single/EP releases, culminating in this single which is her best song to date.
19. Shy FX & Breakage & Break – I Got You (feat. Tyler Daley) (I Got You – Single)
Still releasing quality electronic bangers nearly thirty years into his career, this track is no exception. Featuring the talents of UK dance scene stalwarts Breakage and Break and the slick, soulful vocals of Tyler Daley, this starts slowly before setting it’s sights on getting the dancefloor moving. Great bassline, crisp drums and swirling synths and keyboards make this a winner and keep up the unbelievably consistent material being produced by Shy FX year after year.
18. While She Sleeps – SYSTEMATIC (SLEEPS SOCIETY – Album)
Like their fellow Sheffield brethren Bring Me The Horizon, these guys have expanded upon their more extreme metal leaning beginnings to expand their sound. Retaining the heaviness whilst adding more melody, electronic elements and (dare I say it) pop structure, they are maturing, alongside the aforementioned BMTH and Architects, into one of the figureheads of the UK rock scene. This song is massive, full of power and anger and housing huge riffs, swaths of keyboard and distorted vocals backed with gang chants, this is guaranteed to get a pit started when they return to the live arena.
17. Jaguar Jonze – TESSELLATIONS (ANTIHERO – EP)
Australian singer songwriter Jaguar Jonze (Deena Lynch) really comes into her own on this opening track to her latest EP. It has an almost Bond theme feel to it, the guitar and the rising synths and keyboards giving it an epic, widescreen sheen. This allows her impassioned vocals to soar and deliver one of the best choruses of the month, containing a melody that will get lodged in your head for days.
16. Gojira – Into The Storm (Fortitude – Album)
French metallers Gojira have been releasing critically acclaimed albums since 2001 but if I’m being honest I’ve always found them a little bit difficult to warm to. That’s no longer the case with their new album, which had a string of great singles preceding it, including this almighty metal banger. Epic in scope, huge guitars and drums and an anthemic chorus all combine to create the best metal track of the year so far. This is much more accessible than much of their earlier releases and all the better for it.
15. Alice Merton – Vertigo (Vertigo – Single)
Excellent pop/rock track from this German born, Canada/UK based artist, this has a chorus to die for. It gives off a Black Keys vibe before that chorus kicks in and is an instant earworm. Strong vocal melodies (especially when she employs a double time flow), big drums and a pounding but funky bassline give the whole thing a glam stomp. She’s already released a full length in 2019 (MINT) but judging by this, the best is yet to come.
14. Olivia Rodrigo – deja vu (deja vu – Single)
I wasn’t overly enamoured by ‘drivers license’ but this is much more like it. A great pop song with an alternative 90s feel coupled to her lived-in, real life lyrics, this is a far better fit for her undoubted talents. It’s nice to hear someone from the Disney background (she’s an actress on the shows Bizaardvark and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series) being able to come out and release the style of music they want, not just manufactured watered down pop. Only two singles in and already one of the biggest stars in the world, if she keeps releasing songs of this quality then I’m all in.
13. Max Bloom – Pedestrian (Pedestrian – Single)
This is such a beautiful song, beginning with just vocals and piano before adding layers as the track progresses (including a terrific trumpet solo). It has an element of sadness to it but the vocal melodies keep it bright and when they are layered and backed up by the keyboards in the second half the song truly shines. This UK artist has one full length album to his name (Perfume (2020)) and is currently working on the follow up, which should be a sumptuous listen on the basis of this brilliant track.
12. 42 Dugg – 4 Da Gang (feat. Roddy Ricch) (4 Da Gang – Single)
We’ve had Nu:Metal influenced hip hop on the list so here’s some Old:Metal influence!! Based on a sample of Scorpions’ ‘No One Like You’ from their 1982 Blackout album, this is an awesome hip hop banger. Containing a brilliant guest verse from Roddy Ricch, this is forward thinking rap but with one foot in the past. As is the stupidity of the hip hop scene, whilst filming the video for this track, rapper OMB Peezy came to the set and started shooting. Luckily anyone injured survived and Peezy was arrested and charged but it’s another example of how alongside the drug use, the hip hop game is a dangerous one to be in right now.
11. Morray – Trenches (Street Sermons – Album)
Hip hop influenced soul/pop, this has great production and a tremendous vocal performance from Morray. He has a smooth voice but with just enough of a rasp to give him an edge that suits the big bass and crisp beats of the music. His style reminds me a little of CeeLo Green in his Goodie Mob days. Coupled to a positive message of love and putting in work, this is an artist with something to say other than the guns/girls/cars (delete as appropriate) talk that makes up a large percentage of the rap/r&b scene today.
10. Bru-C – Streetside (feat. Bou) (Streetside – Single)
Shout out to Mayday for introducing me to this UK rap/dance artist, this is the kind of track that deserves to be blasted from your speakers all summer. Combining a hip hop flavour to drum’n’bass beats and an early 90s dance vibe this is a guaranteed floorfiller. Bru-C has been releasing stuff since 2014 and as someone who is new to me I’m enjoying working through his back catalogue (check out ‘You & I’ from 2019 as well – that’s a tune).
9. Polo G – RAPSTAR (RAPSTAR – Single)
At the moment, alongside Roddy Ricch, Lil Baby and DaBaby, this is a guy who seemingly can do no wrong in the hip hop scene. Another huge worldwide hit, this doesn’t stray too far from his usual style but the incorporation of ukulele into the production by Synco gives it something a little different. The rap/sing vocals are really catchy and flow so smoothly over the slower paced beat. If this is a taster of what’s to come from his Hall Of Fame album, which should be arriving this year, then he’s on for one of the biggest releases of 2021.
8. Dave – Mercury (feat. Kamal.) (Titanium/Mercury – Single)
As is always the case, it’s the lyrics that make any Dave release something you need to hear. This is fantastic and coupled with an atmospheric production and the beautifully fragile vocals of Kamal., it’s another in a long list of incredible tracks by the leading light of the UK hip hop scene. Released as part of a double a-side single, alongside the also great ‘Titanium’, if this is a track that isn’t good enough to make it onto his next album (which he aludes to at the end of the song), then, when it drops, that record will be something truly special.
7. Central Cee – Ruby (Wild West – Album)
More Old:Metal (well, rock really), this is based upon a sample of ‘Cold As Ice’ by Foreigner (memorably used by M.O.P. on their 2000 hit of the same name). Taken from his debut mixtape, this guy has all the tools to be the next big UK hip hop star. This showcases his relaxed flow over trap bass and crisp beats and never lets that all too familiar sample overshadow things. He’s rapidly gaining attention so be sure to get onboard now, his next release is sure to take him to the next level.
6. Kings Of Leon – A Wave (When You See Yourself – Album)
As a fan of all the singles that the band released on the way to the albums’ release in March, it was a pleasant surprise that the standout song was in fact an album track. This does all the things that the band does so well – anthemic emotional rock, with passionate vocals and brilliant bass playing but it’s the little additions that set this apart for me. The use of keyboards (in particular the little motif that reoccurs at various points) really flesh out the sound and give it an atmosphere that makes the release you know is coming all the more impactful when it hits. Still capable of building on their sound even at this stage of their career, this is proof that they’re not done yet.
5. The Snuts – Glasgow (W.L. – Album)
I wasn’t sure that I would like these guys. I didn’t like the band name and just had them pegged as another indie band in thrall to better bands that had come before them. I am happy to say I was wrong. Whilst not reinventing the wheel, sometimes you don’t need that – a strong, festival ready, crowd pleasing indie rock anthem will do just fine!! You can hear their influences but this young Scottish band have managed to craft a debut album that is mature beyond their years whilst maintaining youthful exuberance and most importantly is a damn good listen. This is the standout track and will be stuck in your head for days like only the very best (and quite often the absolute worst!!) songs can do.
4. Krakota – Take Me There (Take Me There – Single)
Oh yeah, now we can dance!! This is an absolute dancefloor beast, drum’n’bass with the emphasis most definitely on the bass!! A part of the Hospital Records roster since 2014, this is the kind of quality electronic track you expect (and most of the time you get) from someone on that imprint. It masterfully manages the atmospheric intro before layering in the drums and then dropping an almighty throbbing bassline. Absolutely guaranteed to get you jumping up and down or throwing some shapes, this is dance music of the highest order.
3. Martin Ikin & Biscits – Ready 2 Dance (feat. Anelisa Lamola) (Ready 2 Dance – Single)
Talking of quality dance music – holy shit!! This transported me right back to the early 90s and instantly reminded of a number of tracks that my sister and I used to rinse from our Now Dance 92 double cassette. This is just pure fun and has one thing on it’s mind – making you strut yo’ funky stuff. Both Martin Ikin and Biscits have been producing this kind of goodness since 2015 and just have the knack for making you dance with a huge smile on your face. Plus, as my wife pointed out, it’s basically ‘The Key, The Secret’ by Urban Cookie Collective but updated – therefore it’s already touching legendary status!!
2. Ethel Cain – God’s Country (feat. Wicca Phase Springs Eternal) (Inbred – EP)
An absolute thing of beauty, this unfurls across just over eight minutes of restrained, majestic alternative pop/country/rock. Vocally fragile and ethereal with lush harmonies throughout, set to a soundtrack of woozy, atmospheric keyboards and synths, this is something really special. Written, performed and produced by Ethel Cain herself (with a guest verse by Wicca Phase Springs Eternal), this is the kind of song you can just get lost in. Put on a pair of headphones and just immerse yourself in it’s encapsulating soundscape and be prepared to want to listen to it all over again once the final notes have faded.
1. Little Simz – Introvert (Introvert – Single)
This was a strong month for quality releases and the number one spot changed a few times but as soon as I heard this it was game over!! On first listen I knew this was something special and I played it a few times in a row (which is a rarity for me; when you listen to as much music as I do you don’t always have the time for repeats!!). it’s the production on this record that really sets it apart. Like a 1970s soul soundtrack composed by Isaac Hayes but with a hip hop edge and thought provoking, pertinent lyrics, this feels like the moment Little Simz has been building towards for the past seven years. Huge sounding string and horn sections, gospel backing vocals, pounding drums – this is going to sound absolutely killer when she gets to perform this live. Her new album is due for release in September and if it contains anything even half as good as this then it might be game over for album of the year as well.
Here’s the full list on Spotify –
Here’s the full list on Apple Music –