Top 30 Tracks Of January 2021

This year it’s my goal to listen to as much new music as possible and I will compile a top 30 for each month at the end of it. This will go towards the top 100 countdown at the end of the year and hopefully we’ll discover some exceptional stuff along the way. This first list includes some releases from December 2020 so that a full 12 months will be covered.

Already a great start to the new year, this list contains some awesome stuff with a fair few tracks already contenders for sticking around until the end.

30. FKA twigs (feat. Headie One & Fred again…) – Don’t Judge Me (Don’t Judge Me – Single)

Great combination between the always wonderful FKA twigs, UK rapper Headie One and producer Fred again…, this has a smoked out, blissful vibe. The Kate Bush esque vocals mix well with Headie’s bars and deep bass, enveloping thought provoking and intelligent lyrics that deal with injustice and inequality and make you sit up and take notice like great rap songs have the power to do.

29. A-Trak (feat. Ferreck Dawn) – My Own Way (My Own Way – Single)

Discofied floor filler built around a sample of Band Of Thieves’ ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’, this is funky enough to get you on your feet or cool enough for you to stand back and just nod your head. It has elements of French filter-style dance (hello, Daft Punk) and is more reminiscent of the style that A-Trak has been dabbling in for the last few years as opposed to the scratch master hip-hop work produced in the past.

28. AFI – Twisted Tongues (Twisted Tongues – Single)

Brilliant return from these alternative rock greats, this is their first release since The Missing Man – EP in 2018 and contains all the elements that make them such a delight to listen to. Melodic but with a hard enough edge to appeal to rock fans, this has an explosive chorus that is catchy as hell. The drumming from Adam Carson is excellent and drives the song throughout and Davey Havok gives one of his most assured and polished vocal performances yet. The other track released at the same time as this (‘Escape From Los Angeles’) is also great and has me excited for the upcoming album.

27. DaBaby – Masterpiece (Masterpiece – Single)

It’s all about that bass!! The production by D.A. Got That Dope is booming on this track and coupled with one of the most recognisable (and impressive) flows in rap today, it’s no surprise that this was another hit. In a genre that can get samey real quick, DaBaby keeps finding ways to make his style fresh and leaves you wanting to know what he’s got up his sleeve next.

26. Everything Is Recorded – The Night (feat. BERWYN) (CLIPZ Remix) (Saturday Specials: The CLIPZ Remixes)

Everything Is Recorded is the latest project from XL Recordings owner and producer Richard Russell. Enlisting the smooth sounding vocals of London-based BERWYN and the remix skills of junglist Bristolian, CLIPZ (previously known under the Redlight alias), this has just the right amount of chilled out vibes and enough bass and beats to sound good relaxing in your room or cutting it up on the dancefloor.

25. deadmau5 (feat. Wolfgang Garner) – Channel 43 (Channel 43 – Single)

This is how you do robot funk and get the body popping. Two of the biggest names in electro house team up to create a progressive, epic sounding dance monster. Like a cross between 80s videogame music, the original Tron soundtrack and Daft Punk re-recording the soundtrack to an 80s Tron arcade game, this is as cool as that sounds!! Full of builds and drops, funky bass and keyboard squelches, this will make you want to get up and move.

24. SZA – Good Days (Good Days – Single)

Superb vocals over dreamy production are nothing new to SZA but she makes it sound so good, so effortless, so enticing every time. Lush use of acoustic guitar gives this an almost folk feel but coupled with a crisp kick drum and snare beat keeps it firmly in R’n’B territory. What sets this apart for me are the vocal melodies, they are not conventional, unshowy and give it a unique feel in this type of song.

23. Paul McCartney – Deep Down (McCartney III – Album)

Now this was a surprise!! Obviously one of the most talented people to ever be involved in music (he was a Beatle for Pete Best’s sake) but I thought, at the grand old age of 78 that his glory days were long behind him (and I’m not talking about that Frog Chorus collab!!). Then he goes and makes this and I’m not kidding when I say this is one of his best solo releases – ever. A funky groove, like Beck fronting The Beta Band, this is a man not willing to see out his last days resting on his laurels. Every instrument is played and produced by himself. Who would have thought a literal grandad could make a track that rivals the kids for coolness.

22. High Contrast – Met Her At A Dance In Leicester (feat. UK Apache & Ady Suleiman) (Notes From The Underground – Album)

Old school melodic jungle vibe with an excellent vocal performance from UK Apache (‘Original Nuttah’), this is dancefloor ready and puts a huge smile on your face when that first chorus kicks in. High Contrast is one of the best doing this at the moment, criminally underrated and nowhere near as big as he should be, check this song out and then go digging in his back catalogue and you’ll uncover some absolute gems.

21. Chloe Black – Title Track (Title Track – Single)

This sounds so complete for an artist so young into her career. Beautifully composed, lushly orchestrated and with a voice that sounds like a 1950s star. This up and coming Australian born/Parisian based artist makes a classic sound but mixes in enough contemporary influences (rap, distorted vocals) to give this the edge it needs to stop it falling into tribute territory. What’s next could be big for her.

20. Run The Jewels – the ground below (feat. Royal Blood) (Royal Jewels Mix) (the ground below – Single)

A remix BY Royal Blood can work just as good as a remix works for them (see ‘Trouble’s Coming’ Purple Disco Machine Remix), this gives a solid album track from RTJ4 a hard rock makeover and an overall improvement. Killer Mike has a voice that sounds awesome over some distorted guitar/bass (check out ‘Bust’ by Big Boi from the Speakerboxxx album) and EL-P holds his own. Topped off with Mike Kerr giving us a catchy hook and this is one winning collaboration.

19. Bugzy Malone – Notorious (feat. Chip) (Notorious – Single)

Manchester rapper Bugzy Malone is due to release his second album this year and judging by the tracks released so far, it’s looking like it’s gonna be a biggie (no pun intended). This track is my favourite so far, built upon a sped up sample of ‘Notorious’ by Turbulence over some almost 80s sounding dark keyboards and synths. Most surprising of all is just how good Chip sounds on this, he’s come a long way since his Chipmunk days (be sure to avoid checking out ‘Chip Diddy Chip’).

18. Jazmine Sullivan – Girl Like Me (feat. H.E.R.) (Heaux Tales – Album)

‘Lost One’ was an amazing taster for the album last year and once it arrived it didn’t disappoint. There are some great tracks on there that could have made this list but this laidback acoustic track was a real standout. Both these women have incredible voices and sound so smooth and controlled to begin with, contributing tight harmonies and fills. When they get the chance to soar toward the songs end it takes the whole thing to another level. One of the strongest things about Jazmine Sullivan is she sings what she lives and as hard as that must be for her (and can make for an uncomfortable listen as it’s so real and so honest), it gives her lyrics an authenticity that when coupled with her vocal prowess, makes her a cut above the rest.

17. Abra Cadabra – How We Living (feat. Kush) (Product Of My Environment – Album)

One of the most exciting talents on the UK rap scene today, this is an atmospheric track with great production, booming bars from the man Abz and an infectious chorus. Taken from his full length debut, this has a less aggressive feel to it than a lot of the tracks coming out of the scene and is all the better for it.

16. DIVINE – Jungle Mantra (feat. Vince Staples & Pusha T) (Jungle Mantra – Single)

Absolute banger!! Taken from the soundtrack to the Netflix film The White Tiger, this features Indian rapper DIVINE, Odd Future alumnus Vince Staples and former Clipse legend Pusha T. The production is excellent, mixing Indian sounds and instrumentation with modern day hip-hop production techniques, each rapper delivers a strong verse but DIVINE steals the show with an absolute ripper in his native tongue. I haven’t watched the film yet, I’ll add it to the (long) list of movies to review on

15. Fredo – Money Talks (feat. Dave) (Money Talks – Single)

Dave returns the favour by reversing the guest spot from his ‘Funky Friday’ single for this laidback but dark sounding UK rap track. Both guys are at the tops of their games and spit a couple of great verses here with Dave showcasing that he’s probably the best in the scene at this current time. I’m expecting big things from the Fredo album when it drops at the end of this month and could see some tracks be contenders for our February list.

14. Kings Of Leon – 100,000 People (The Bandit/100,000 People – Single)

Elder statesmen of the alternative rock scene, Kings Of Leon returned with a double appetiser for their 8th album, When You See Yourself. Whilst ‘The Bandit’ is really good but atypical of the KOL sound, this song offers up something a little different. A slower, almost dreamlike quality to the music is rounded out with lush banks of keyboards and a persistent, simple bassline. The most interesting part is the backing vocals in the chorus which give the song an almost Air-like feel, 70s rock meets 90s ambient production – it’s a sound that suits them and hopefully can show their detractors that there’s still a desire to progress from this band.

13. The Antlers – Solstice (Solstice – Single)

Delicately beautiful with understated piano, synths and breathy vocals leading to a chorus that just sinks right into your brain and fills you with a warmth throughout your body. This is the 3rd taster of their forthcoming album, their first since 2014. With this being the best so far I have high hopes that, when it drops, the album could be something special.

12. Anuel AA – Los Dioses (feat. Ozuna) (Los Dioses – Album)

Is that the John Cena entrance music I hear? Hell yeah, it is!! This is an excellent piece of Latino hip-hop, reuniting Anuel AA with Ozuna, after collaborating on a number of previous tracks, this time across a whole album. Great laidback production featuring atmospheric synths and keyboard stabs, underpinned with some big bass hits, the two rappers get to spit bars that add a lot of melody making this incredibly catchy, even if not fluent in the Spanish language. Plus, this has some awesome use of rolling ‘r’s’ which I enjoy trying to imitate but am SO bad at!!

11. Rich The Kid – Laughin (feat. DaBaby) (Lucky 7 – Mini-Album)

One of the most prolific rappers in the game right now, Rich The Kid drops the follow up to last years Boss Man with this 7 track mini-album. Great guest verse from DaBaby (as if anything else is possible at this point), quick fire spitting over a banging beat topped with acoustic guitar giving this a Latino feel, if he can continue releasing quality tracks like this at this pace then we have a future rap superstar on our hands.

10. Travis Scott & HVME – Goosebumps (Remix) (Goosebumps – Single)

Spanish producer HVME sampled Travis Scott’s 2016 track ‘Goosebumps’ for his 2020 deep house single of the same. It makes its return this year, remixed, cleaned up, sounding brighter than ever, all with the full blessing of the man himself. This is a track that, when the beat drops, you can’t help but move and will sound incredible when the clubs open back up. The only complaint is that it’s over far too soon but gets you reaching for rewind to start it all over again.

9. CARM – Song Of Trouble (feat. Sufjan Stevens) (CARM – Album)

CARM is multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger CJ Camerieri, who has worked with some of the biggest names on the alternative scene including Bon Iver, The National and the man he has providing vocals on this beautiful song, Sufjan Stevens. Taken from his debut self-titled album, this sees Sufjan’s wonderfully wounded yet warm voice sit atop a bed of horns and keyboards that seem to melt and mould into different sounds, relaxing your whole body and filling you with a feeling of drifting bliss.

8. Bicep – Sundial (Isles – Album)

Best track from an excellent album, already firmly in place for the year end best of lists at this early stage, this Northern Irish duo have created a sonic masterpiece on their second go round. This song encapsulates their sound perfectly – swirling, atmospheric keyboards and synths, propulsive bass and a drumsound that is so crisp it sounds like the drums are being played right there in the room with you. Their music gives you that rushing feeling as it builds to a crescendo, similar to what the best film scores are capable of. This would sound perfect over the end credits of any exhilarating cinematic experience.

7. Taylor Swift – coney island (feat. The National) (evermore – Album)

Releasing one amazing album in a year (hell, in a career!!) is hard enough but to release two in a matter of months shows the incredible talent of one Miss Taylor Swift. Collaborating again with Aaron Dessner (and on this song, the whole of The National) is a perfect match, allowing Taylor the space to bring out just what makes her so special – beautiful melodies set to heart tugging arrangements and lyrics that feel so real, so lived in. Just like on ‘exile’ alongside Justin Vernon, the deep baritone of Aaron Dessner intertwines with her voice and creates a warm sad sound that comforts your head whilst breaking your heart.

6. Griff – Black Hole (Black Hole – Single)

Now this is a pop song!! The best track of her career so far, this deserved to be a far bigger hit than it was. Great production, an almost 80s synth pop feel at times and a chorus that instantly gets stuck in your head, this young lady has all the tools required to be a star. Hopefully this will be her year.

5. CamelPhat – Easier (feat. LOWES) (Sub Focus Remix) (Easier – Single)

Already a good song in it’s original form, Sub Focus (as so often is the case) takes it to the next level on the remix. British production duo CamelPhat have released a treasure trove of singles since 2016, often in collaboration with some strong vocal talent but none more so than on this song. Evie Plumb of LOWES has a voice perfect for this style of record, her Florence esque vocal gives this a power and majesty you just don’t get in every dance track. Adding the trademark Sub Focus drum ‘n’ bass pace makes this perfect for tearing up the dance floor, a lightning bolt across the swirling ethereal beauty of the verses.

4. London Grammar – Lose Your Head (Lose Your Head – Single)

I’ve said before that these guys seem to write perfect songs that really suit a dance remix and on this track they created the closest they’ve come to that without the need of an outside remixer. Still retaining the sumptuous beauty of their regular sound, they’ve added little nuances with the beats and twinkling, almost house music esque piano lines that get you moving but not in an overt, let’s hit the dancefloor style. It’s been a little bit of wait but their sophomore album is shaping up to be something special when it hits later this year.

3. Taylor Swift – champagne problems (evermore – Album)

The most beautifully sad song (on an album full of them), this still manages to perform the trick that she does so well – filling you with hope and a smile by the end of the song instead of leaving you depressed. Gorgeously understated musically, lyrically honest and hard hitting, it builds to a goosebump inducing last verse that manages to combine humour with pain. Co-written by one William Bowery (or Joe Alwyn as he’s better known, Taylor’s long term boyfriend), he also contributed to ‘exile’, my favourite song of 2020 – maybe we need to hear some more stuff from this clearly talented artist this year?

2. dvsn – Use Somebody (Amusing Her Feelings – Album)

I’m a sucker for a good cover version done right and this is a GREAT cover. The Kings Of Leon original is an classic alternative rock anthem but this Canadian duo turn it into a sleek, futuristic r’n’b jam and it’s like discovering a brand new song. The bass on this is perfect, deep and spongy, soothing you as the beat makes your head nod. The vocals are effortlessly smooth and controlled and then allowed to soar when when they drop the chorus from ‘Sex On Fire’ into the mix. If you haven’t already done so, dvsn are well worth checking out, their 2016 single ‘The Line’ is a bit of a lost classic.

1. Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club (Chemtrails Over The Country Club – Single)

This was my favourite song of the month as soon as I heard it. It feels so old yet so now, so sad and reflective but so uplifting in its vocal melodies and musical structure. She gets a bad rap (just stay off social media and concentrate on music, please) and when she first emerged she was almost too perfect, like someone’s manufactured idea of what a ‘mature’ pop star should sound like. With the assistance of frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff she’s shrugged those preconceptions off and blossomed into an incredible artist – someone making the music she wants to make regardless of what’s in fashion. This is the most gorgeous and complete song she’s released and if she can follow this up with a classic album, of which she’s perfectly capable, she could be on for the best year of her career so far.

Here is the full 30 playlist on Spotify –

Here is the full 30 playlist on Apple Music –

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