The Best Songs of 2021

As in years before, I wanted to round off 2021 with a quick look at some of the best individual songs that I heard during 2021.

As with my recent Top 30 series, this is a list of my personal favourite songs. They might not be the most technical, clever, or complicated songs of the year, or they might be. But it doesn’t matter. These are the ten songs that I could happily listen to time and time again, and which stood out to me the most. It may be a beautiful melody, an irresistible groove, or something unique and compelling. Whatever it is, these tracks gave me goosebumps for all the right reasons.

If you have arrived at this post without reading my Album of the Year 2020 Top 30 Countdown, feel free to check it out right here.

But now, on with the main event. In no particular order whatsoever, here goes:

Omnium Gatherum

“Reckoning”

Whilst it’s true that there’s no order to these songs, I have to jump off the fence and declare that ‘Reckoning’ might just be THE song of 2021 for me. For so many personal reasons, and because I just love the blend of beautiful melodies with the spiky aggression…take a bow, Gentlemen, this is just wonderful.

What I wrote in my review:

“The synth and electronics-heavy intro to ‘Reckoning’ has me grinning from the very first few notes. I make no secret of my love of proper 80s music, be it metal, rock, or occasionally pop. And this song encapsulates that feeling brilliantly. It has been, and continues to be, one of my very favourite Omnium Gatherum tracks, not just on this album, but overall. Strong words, but well earned, because the way in which double-pedal drumming and Pelkonen’s harsh vocals blends seamlessly with the most beautiful lead guitar melodies and rich 80s-inspired synths is exhilarating. It may not be as heavy as past endeavours but I love it, I absolutely love it.”

–MoMM–

Ghosts Of Atlantis

“Curse Of Man”

There were a couple of other contenders, but on an album that came out of nowhere to knock me sideways, this is my personal favourite. The power and aggression is one thing, but the cinematic grandiosity and the central melodies are another altogether. This remains a shining highlight of 2021 for me.

What I wrote in my review:

“There’s no other word for it, ‘The Curse Of Man’ is anthemic. The most melodic of all eight tracks, it is also my favourite currently without doubt. Bursts of frenetic pace mean that Ghosts Of Atlantis don’t abandon their more extreme tendencies but the chorus is a thing of real dark beauty. Lush melodies, driven by a duo of vocals and elegant lead guitar notes are enhanced by clever symphonics and short bursts of drum blasts, a combination that I find irresistible. The juxtaposition between the savage and the beauty is not dissimilar to Cradle at their very best and it’s an intoxicating recipe from which I simply cannot escape. It’s a stunning track, one of the best that the year has delivered to date.”

–MoMM–

Evergrey

“Stories”

A list like this wouldn’t be complete without featuring an Evergrey song. But when their songs are this good, how could I possibly ignore them? Not possible. ‘Stories’ is the emotional rollercoaster of a song that still stands out to me on this stunning record, putting me through the emotional ringer each and every time I hear it.

What I wrote in my review:

“If you thought that was good, track three [‘Stories’] is even better – aural perfection if I may be so bold. It’s more of a slower-paced ballad, but it contains everything I love about this incredible band. For a start, Tom sounds better than ever, crooning with pure emotion across the song. The guitar solos that soar atop a delicate piano melody are equally emotional, whilst the incoming bass that replaces its six-string (or seven) cousin is stunning. Simple, effective, authoritative, it commands attention. The poignancy oozes from every pore of this track as it weaves it’s way through melancholy soundscapes rich in heart-breaking melody, accented by well-placed heavy riffs to inject the necessary metallic edge.”

–MoMM–

Nestor

“On The Run”

For a while, I was utterly obsessed with ‘On The Run’, listening to it several times a day, every day. And even now, I listen to it every time I need a pick-me-up, simply because it is a classic 80s-inspired anthem backed up by one of the most infectious choruses I’ve heard in some time.

What I wrote in my review:

“‘On The Run’ is the epitome of everything that I love about 80s hard rock, and from the first time I heard it several months ago, I’ve been unable to shake my absolute adoration for it. The verses are dominated by the incredibly powerful yet silky voice of Tobias Gustavsson, on top of some classic sounding riffs, rumbling bass, and strong drumbeats. Despite the galloping pace and hedonistic air, there’s a slightly melancholic, nostalgic vibe too that I latch on to, making the song more than just a simple 80s homage in my opinion. And then the chorus kicks in and the love is instantaneous. It’s a short-lived affair but it packs a punch, with a hook to die for, a strong AOR vibe, and infectious lyrics; I’ve been thoroughly smitten since my first listen, and I’m no less impressed several months down the line.”

–MoMM–

MØL

“Serf”

The epitome of a perfect blackgaze track, in my opinion, ‘Serf’ is an amazing blend of beautiful, emotional melody, catchiness, and naked black metal spite and aggression. There are other close contenders on ‘Diorama’, but ‘Serf’ wins it, as it’s the one that puts the biggest smile on my face every time I hear it.

What I wrote in my review:

“Without a shadow of doubt however, ‘Serf’ is my favourite track on the entire album. The simple, quiet intro literally breaks my heart, but when the main body of the song kicks in, my heart is mended and filled with wonder thanks to one of the most addictive and glorious melodies I’ve heard for a long time. Flitting between harsh passages, complete with potent blast beats and fast-picked riffing, and lighter, more delicate shoegaze moments, I cannot convey is words just how wonderfully uplifting I find this song.”

–MoMM–

Gojira

“Hold On”

I’ve never been a fan of Gojira, but ‘Fortitude’ altered that, with ‘Hold On’ being one of the primary reasons. From the irresistible intro, to the heavy technicality later in the track, this is how intelligent music can really make an impact on me. Add to that the raw and honest subject matter and it’s an all-round belter of a song, one I listen to very regularly.

What I wrote in my review:

“‘Hold On’ is a beautiful composition from start to finish, with pronounced melodies throughout. The multi-layered a capella vocals that welcome the song into existence offer a sense of the dramatic whilst a relatively simple rhythmic beat emerges, allowing a gorgeous melody to unravel thanks to the interplay between guitars and vocals. When the heaviness hits, the song changes to something much more technical, with polyrhythms doing serious damage to my neck muscles. The fact that lyrically, the song looks to speak directly to anyone suffering with stress, depression, or any myriad of personal struggles, reaching out to provide a message of strength, just makes the whole song so much stronger. It touches a nerve with me, and I thank the band for it.”

–MoMM–

Orden Ogan

“It Is Over”

Good heavens, this song still gives me goosebumps all over. From those heavy opening guitar chords, via a memorable chorus, to the final, emotional sequence, I adore everything about this song. To some it may sound a little cheesy, but I disagree and simply give over to the power and emotion contained within.

What I wrote in my review:

“I feel compelled, for many reasons, to start with the final song, entitled ‘It Is Over’. To begin with, the guitar tone used for the riffs is incredible; the heaviness and the authority with which they emanate from the speakers is irresistible. Then there’s the subject matter; the more cynical of us might declare that a song which features a final broadcast to the remaining population on Earth, seconds before a meteor impact might be a little cheesy and contrived. Normally, I might agree. But every time I listen to it, I get goosebumps. The final words ‘over and out’ are met with a momentary silence and then in comes the compelling chorus to usher the song to its climactic finale. What makes the song so powerful when it could have been awful, is that epic chorus which sounds grandiose and beautifully melodic at the same time. For me, it is the strongest chorus on an album of strong choruses, meaning that I have yet another early contender for my ‘song of the year’ top ten.”

–MoMM–

Seven Spires

“In Sickness, In Health”

There were several potential picks from this album, an album that wasn’t even on my radar initially. I could have gone for longer, or more technical tracks, but I eventually went for ‘In Sickness, In Health’ because it’s just the most addictive, beautiful song overall, with strong melodies, emotion, and bucket loads of power.

What I wrote in my review:

“Speaking of wonderful melodies, I have to mention ‘In Sickness In Health’, more of a moody ballad with some subtle electronics lurking in the shadows and a chorus to end them all. It has a killer hook or six, a thoroughly emotional and spellbinding vocal performance from Cowan, as well as another graceful lead guitar solo.”

–MoMM–

Soen

“Fortune”

As with Evergrey earlier, it was almost inevitable that this list would feature a Soen track, such is the strength of the album. My personal favourite is this, the album’s immensely strong swansong, ‘Fortune’. I love the way the song builds throughout, and the fact that it offers one of the finest choruses on the record is the icing on the cake.

What I wrote in my review:

“Somewhat unbelievably, Soen may just leave the best to last in the form of the delectable ‘Fortune’. It begins with the air and grace of doom, as it lumbers forth, slow and purposeful, with a simple drum beat, resonating riffs and passionate vocals. But as it develops, it grows and blossoms. In come some of the most glorious melodies, accented by rich orchestration, topped off by an utterly irresistible chorus. The pace never really picks up, but it never needs to. The slower delivery allows more time for the melodies to hit home, acting as the perfect backdrop for Ford to wax lyrical with his six-string. Piano notes are introduced as Ekelöf hums the melody, before a devastating reprise of the chorus emerges, building in majesty and elegance all the while as the orchestration returns, bolder and richer than ever before.”

–MoMM–

A Dying Planet

“When The Skies Are Grey”

I’ve said it many times before that Jasun Tipton is one of my favourite guitarists. But this song demonstrates a group of musicians at the top of their game, killing a song that’s full of technical prowess as well as melody. And it’s bursting with melancholy emotion too, making it a truly compelling listen and worthy addition to this list.

What I wrote in my review:

“Out of the shadows emerges a simple, yet elegant and poignant melody led by clean guitar tones from Tipton, joined by the assured bass of Brian Hart. It’s gone in a heartbeat, as chunky, djent-like notes are overlaid by a striking lead guitar line, all underpinned by a sharp beat from drummer Marco Bica alongside a more muscular bass. The heaviness departs as quickly as it arrives to be replaced by a delicate, introspective, yet gorgeously rich atmospheric verse. Since the debut, Paul Adrian Villarreal has become the full-time vocalist and it’s wonderful to hear the ex-Sun Caged singer back in action and in such fine fettle. Resonant, emotional, and blessed with a great range, he is the perfect fit for the soundscapes that surround him. And those soundscapes, as evidenced within this stunning opening track ebb and flow wonderfully cohesively from rich, driving progressive metal, to bruising tech-djent, to atmospheric post rock.

“I wish I had someone to hold…sometimes I don’t care to see tomorrow…I’m broken…Society looks the other way, and doesn’t care to know your name…” With audible lyrics from Villarreal of this nature, that melancholy, dark vibe is unquestionable and unavoidable.”

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