Sourhouse’s Tunes of the Year 2021
Music for warped times.
A word from the editor:
2021 has been a year skewed by its erraticness, its extreme peaks and troughs melting our perspective on everything. The low lows of those dark, winter lockdown months are something I never want to return to, whilst the British government has plunged to new depths through the looking glass. But the highs have been high – Reddit taking on Wall Street, England at the Euros, Emma Raducanu reinventing British tennis, festivals returning, a slew of incredible films. The world is never going back to where it was before this decade started, and the threat of the C-word remains unfortunately prevalent.
All of which makes this list of the 30 best songs released this year all the more remarkable. This is not music made more amazing by the fact it was released during the times we’re living through. Far from it – 2021 has been one of the best years for music in a long, long time, and narrowing down this final selection has been an emotional process. Don’t even get me started on how many times the top 10 has changed.
This year, the likes of Charli XCX, Idles, Disclosure, Amyl and The Sniffers and Little Simz are included. Eligibility is based on any single release or individual track that’s had radio airtime released since 1st December 2020, to ensure everything has had a chance to reach my speakers. Without further ado, let’s count down the 30 best cuts of the year.
-Munro Page, writer of Sourhouse Music
THE SURFING MAGAZINES – SPORTS BAR
Humming along with a rustic sixties twang and a ton of charm, ‘Sports Bar’ depicts working serving pints with quaint honesty. The friends you make, the management style and dreariness of so many hospitality workplaces are brought to life within hip-shaking rhythms that the band deliver, neatly mixing tongue-in-cheek with underlying melancholia. Not only is it perfect sing-a-long material, it hits right on the money for anyone who’s done their time behind a bar.
SELECTA J-MAN, SUKU – COUPLE GUINNESS
As if it couldn’t get more British than a heady DnB cut doing the rounds on bluetooth speakers at UK festivals this summer, Selecta’s dedication to the humble mix of weed and Guinness celebrates this country’s culture better than almost anything else released this year. The chorus is catchy, the drop is disgusting, and Suku’s vocals are appallingly cool. In being so rakishly simple, ‘Couple Of Guinness’s appeal is instant and evokes intoxicated summer nights every time.
JUNGLE – ALL OF THE TIME
Riding high on a wave of brilliant releases this year, Jungle’s penchant for groovy indie rock fun is at an all time high on ‘All Of The Time’. Mixing a Dancing In The Moonlight-esque glockenspiel riff with a Funk beat and airy vocals makes for a cut with tons of replayability. Not to mention how addictive this thing is; my flatmates and I have been humming that chorus non-stop since we first heard it.
SUB FOCUS – ROCK IT (WILKINSON REMIX)
Part of me is perhaps too protective over the EDM emo phase I had around the start of the 2010s, meaning that someone suggesting they remix the work of Sub Focus a decade worried me. That was until I heard it; Wilkinson has taken the iconic ruthlessness of ‘Rock It’ and modernised it with the utmost tastefulness. Far from going out of his way to put his own spin on the 2009 original, it’s the subtle tweaks he’s made and the way he’s run it through some updated production that gives the DnB classic a new lease of life.
THE BUG, FLOWDAN – PRESSURE
‘Pressure’ sounds like it walked straight out of a megarave from the year 2100, dripping in concrete-grey dystopia. Despite the vastness, it still manages to feel precise and targeted in its militant aggression. Flowdan’s vocals are omnipotent in their presence, whilst the room-filling instrumentation behind him mixes Ragga with Industrial to create humid, apprehensive dance vibes.
LIZZO, CARDI B – RUMORS
I’m always here for an Arabic-tinged RnB/Hip Hop hit, and Lizzo and Cardi B’s collab has something of an instantly iconic quality about it. Both of their talents for vocalising the female experience in the modern music industry come together in triumphant fashion here, and its rewarding to hear them on a less intense track to their usual material. Good news though, neither lose any of their charisma with that change, and god damn is that campy brass chorus fun.
LORDE – SOLAR POWER
Lorde’s descriptions of friends dancing on a New Zealand beach under a sun beaming down happiness offers a bountiful moment of joy. ‘Solar Power’ radiates the gorgeous singer-songwriter energy found on much of her album of the same name, but it’s the sheer positivity of those gentle guitars and the way those drums kick in on the third act that give it something of a truly special feel. A track born to be played on blazing hot summer days.
AMAARAE, KALI UCHIS, MOLIY – SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY
Regulars to Sourhouse will know how much of a sucker I am for Afrobeats, and on ‘Sad Girlz Luv Money’, those influences are hyper-strained through a digitised, TikTok-ified filter. The original is a beautifully, deliberately artificial cut that delivers plastic sex fantasy, but with the addition of Kali Uchis’s sensual touch, it’s elevated to an altogether more tropical world. Amaare and Co deliver modern, evocative sexual validation, transporting you to a club on some far-flung desert island whenever this thing plays.
THE BUG CLUB – IF MY MOTHER THINKS I’M HAPPY
With the UK’s indie and alternative scene having been raggling with the horrendous state of things for years now, it’s had a habit of sometimes being too on the nose. Not so with The Bug Club, as their release scathes with self-depreciating cynicism. The talent in their command of irony is especially noteworthy; not only is ‘If My Mother’ extremely catchy, it’s an amazingly accurate anthem for the strained parent-child relationships that define so many peoples’ 20s.
CHARLI XCX – GOOD ONES
Nothing that Charli touches fails to be exciting, energetic and catchy. Taking an almost piss-taking route to recreating eighties hedonistic pop, ‘Good Ones’ charges ahead with full-bodied synthwave spirit, demanding head-bobbing wherever you happen to be listening to it. Charli signals her venture away from the hyperatic nature of her recent releases by going towards something deliberately cynical; the joke is, as always, fully in her control, and all the better for it.