Top 10 Songs of 2021 | Courtney Dowdall

Photo of Iggy Pop and Dr. Lonnie Smith by Don Was, courtesy of Blue Note Records.

1. “Sunshine Superman”

Dr. Lonnie Smith | Breathe

This song was such a gift this year. I love Iggy Pop for continuing to seek out new partnerships and endeavors. And I am thankful he pointed me in the direction of Dr. Lonnie Smith with this delightful collaboration. I “started digging nto Smith’s catalog just in time to recognize our loss when he passed on September 28.

2. “Take Me Avalon I’m Young”

Pond | 9

It is not easy to pick just one song off this album. It is a masterpiece. But this is probably the shiniest, glitteriest, most polished gem of the bunch. Layers of sound, complete with strings and a chorus. I love the dip of the bassline. And Nick’s voice is just so earnestly pleading here—he makes a convincing case.

3. “Erased”

Ty Segall | Harmonizer

“Damn, Ty, that is sick! Why is it so sick?! How do you do it??” I have this conversation with Ty every time I hear this song. The harmony, the panning drums, that whining guitar…and then the beat really kicks in on the chorus. It is just heavenly. Or sick. So sick.

4. “I Am the Shaman”

Donovan | single

Apparently, David Lynch was involved in the creation of the song, and there’s a fabulously creepy video to go with it. Given the full experience, the pairing makes perfect sense. “Yeah mon—I am the shaman.” I’ll believe anything they say. 

5. “hold yourself.”

Tune-Yards | sketchy.

Gosh, this song is bittersweet. Empowering but also really depressing, this came to me at a too-poignant moment in time. We can’t blame parents for trying, but at some point, the tables turn on the child/adult dynamic. When it dawns on you that you’re on your own, turn this up loud and belt it out.

6. “Ticket”

Night Beats | Outlaw R&B

This song is adrenaline. Night driving music. You can almost imagine the lane lines passing through the headlights and the brush zooming by in your peripheral. It’s real trouble for my lead foot.

7. “Last King of Hell”

CULT OF DOM KELLER | They Carried the Dead in a U.F.O.

One of the more song-like tracks on the album, this one can actually stand alone. It gives a good sense of their sound—lilting, grooving, full of doom, plenty of reverb, and a nice gradual build.


8. “Country as Fuck”

Paul Cauthen | single

I’m sneaking him in here one way or another with a single. Paul Cauthen was a new find for me this year, and I’m still digging in. He’s a little bit rock ‘n roll but still super twangy. His mood is gratifyingly satirical, self-deprecating, confident, defiant, boastful, and humble all at once.  “Hot dog holly golly dagnabbit damn son…” Cauthen will tell you all about how he’s creating a new definition of country, and I’m all ears. 

9. “Catching Smoke”

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard | Butterfly 3000

This fun album did a complete 180-turn away from their recent doomsday theme—trading in the anxiety of “Infest the Rats Nest” for a more lighthearted (or at least less devastated) vision. If you wanted more “Intrasport,” here you have it. Its’s synth-heavy and experiments with a Southeast Asian flavor in instruments as well as vocal affect. This track does a nice job of blending quirkier new sounds with their past flair for the dramatic, with great earworm potential.

10. “Scarcity is Manufactured”

Deerhoof | Actually, You Can

Classic Deerhoof. The guitar is meandering with an almost Caribbean vibe. They get in a groove just long enough for you to start bobbing your head along, and then masterfully trainwreck it with fantastically fuzzy bass. I always love the bittersweetness of their cheery-sounding vocals carrying a snide little bite in the lyrics. “I was fine ‘til you got here, my friend.” | Courtney Dowdall

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