Little Simz dropped one of the best albums of the year in ’Sometimes I Might Be Introverted’. Taking on themes of love, hatred, systemic racism, the ache of absence and more, the record cuts to the core of the artist – showcasing new levels of ambition and highlighting her as one of the UK’s finest rappers. The orchestral opener “Introvert” immediately indicates she means business.
Manchester’s Porij create dance music for the mind and the feet, crafting intelligent and infectious tracks that bleep and blop their way through UK Garage influences and addictive pop smarts. Inspired by the Reclaim the Night movement, ’Nobody Scared’ is one of their more lush offerings that comes armed with socially conscious themes. They say ” The song is about addressing the fact that women and girls shouldn’t have to live their lives afraid. The line ‘nobody scared’ is meant to be empowering and embody the Reclaim the Night Movement.”
Scottish pop newcomer Alex Amor raised the bar with the release of her sunny, self-assured single ‘dare you’. A track that’s testament to her dream-like creativity, the singer’s vocals guide you over a smooth, forward-thinking instrumental that begins with soothing synths and minimalist beats before evolving into something more. Turning her focus outwards, it’s a track about “taking risks while the sun is still high in the sky” and “opening yourself up to all potentials and possibilities.”
After joining Joesef on tour this autumn, the Theo Bleak shared the mesmerising ‘Feels Like Rain’ . The song has the same warm, inviting quality to it as debut single ‘Paper’ but it feels more direct and instant, with a nostalgic turn-of-the-millenium feel to its guitar melodies and wistful vocals. An artist who can tug on the heartstrings as well as lure you into a dream-like state, it’s another triumph from the Dundee newcomer.
Pretty Preachers Club have won hearts with their soft, tender vocals and heart-on-sleeve lyrics. Following the release of their ‘Going Nowhere’ EP at the end of last year, they continued to develop their bedroom indie pop sound in 2021 with its follow-up EP ‘Romance and Adolescence’. A mix of wistful melancholy and misty-eyed romance, it featured ‘Just Tell People How You Feel’ which reaches out the listener in poignant, heartwarming fashion.
Opening with dramatic, cinematic strings, London rapper Shygirl channels the glitz and glamour of Cleopatra on her single ‘Cleo’ – trading in bold lines and grimy beats for mystical fantasy and bumping dance-pop. Instantly addictive, its slinky house groove will seize your attention in no time.
Jawn Ladder emerged from the shadows this year to release their bruising debut single ‘Scarything’ – a rousing statement of intent if ever we’ve heard one. Reformulating from several other local outfits that you’ll know and love – namely Blindfolds, Alligator, The Van T’s, The Bar Dogs and Tijuana Bibles – the trio cite Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys, Tom Wait, Wolf Alice and Kate Bush as influences, taking us back to rock & roll at its most raw and visceral with an onslaught of heavy guitars, pounding rhythms and growling vocals.
Drawing inspiration from the self-aware and dreamy sound of indie-pop icons like The Cure and RIDE, Dundee outfit PLASMAS’ 2021 single ‘Always’ is the perfect representation of their influences. Singer Ross McQueen said the lyrics capture that moment in time when everything is going smoothly, and this optimism is equally matched by the starry-eyed instrumentation and hazy, dreamy pop sound.
New Glasgow indie-pop group Uninvited followed up their impressive debut “Tomboy” with the beautiful “Diet Cigarette”. The tight vocal harmonies are the song’s greatest triumph, as they meld into one another to create a beautiful chorus. Released through independent label 7 West, we can’t wait to see what comes next from the group.
All set for a massive 2022, HYYTS are the purveyors of massive emotional pop bangers that soar high as much as they pull on the heart strings. Featured on the the duo’s fantastic EP ‘helluvatime’ which tells the story of a love and heartbreak in reverse’ – ‘Blue & White’ showcases their knack for massive pop choruses. They say “it’s about the last night you spend with someone you love and not wanting it to end”.
Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars teamed up under the Silk Sonic moniker this year to release a delectably smooth album full of vintage soul and contemporary hip-hip classics. The two retro-obsessed musicians have an innate chemistry that shines bright on the album’s lead single ‘Leave The Door Open’ – a sumptuous slice of vintage R&B with swooning strings, honeyed vocals, playful humour and careful musicianship.
Sound of Young Scotland Award winner LVRA has had an incredible year, inviting us further into her invigorating world with each bold and innovative release. Increasingly impossible to predict, ‘Nightmare’ showcases LVRA’s wildly eclectic set of influences – traversing through elements of hyper-pop, left-field electronic and dark alt-pop with dense layers of jagged electronic beats and cascading synths. Lyrically, it explores the all-consuming anxiety that accompanies insomnia and the music captures this feeling with razor sharp precision. With each release comes greater confidence and this track packs an almighty, menacing punch.
Wolf Alice returned this year with their highly-anticipated third record, ‘Blue Weekend’ – and it was an absolute triumph. Showcasing a band at the very top of their game, it features some of their most personal lyrics to date while also taking their music to brilliantly expansive new heights. The stunning ‘How Can I Make It Ok?’ is one of its many highlights – it’s a brooding, synthy number that gradually builds into a soaring chorus with crashing drums and gorgeous guitars. Deeply moving, it finds Rowsell reaching out to a partner in need, all while showcasing the sheer range of her vocal talents.
A driving grunge-powered anthem that transcends from humming and rumbling verses to choruses that make the hairs on your neck stand up with their sheer power. The power of the music within this track is matched only by emotional rawness of the lyrics, the need to understand what is going on inside the head of someone close to you who is struggling.
Peppered with new ideas, ‘Maybe You Didn’t Know’ began as an ambitious, multi-layered instrumental before Haydn and Millie’s back and forth vocals transformed it into the spine-tingling anthem it is today. Everything about it is huge – soaring harmonium, glitching electronics and dynamic rhythm sections lead into towering, euphoric choruses as they take yet another big step up. It’s set to feature on their second album ‘Heavy Like a Headache’, out next year.
With a triumphant sold-out show at Barrowlands among his many achievements this year, ‘Fire’ may have been Joesef’s only new release of 2021 but it was another triumph. The self-taught artist and producer explores enticing new realms with the song – his delectable smooth, soulful vocals augmented by cinematic string sections, popping basslines and echoing harmonies. It’s a brilliantly atmospheric affair that’s rooted in Joesef’s personal reflections.
A song that was reimagined for the Tennent’s Lager summer football campaign as Scotland approached their first major tournament in 23 years, Baby Strange provided an anthem for the nation this summer with their huge ‘I Want To Believe’. Packed with thrashing drums and a menacing chorus. Baby Strange wowed at a sold-out SWG3 last weekend and are set for a BIG 2022 with new music.
The coming together of two of the decades most talented, and boundary-pushing songwriters, ‘Like I Used To’ is the stunning brain child of Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen. Undoubtable country influencers and career traits sit below the 80s girl-group power ballad feeling of this track. A triumphant and ambitious tune that captures the imagination of listeners by both songwriters doing what they do best: being themselves.
Self aware. Relatable. Human. This is the only way to describe this blend between alternative pop and pure poetry by Self Esteem. A tale of accepting your position within an ever-complicating life, this track encourages you to find comfort and a sense of uplifting in your own self. Be happy for having fun, don’t be intimidated by those having babies.
Named as the winner of the Brits’ Rising Star award, which has previously recognised artists like Adele, Florence + The Machine and Sam Fender, Holly Humberstone released her debut EP this year to widespread acclaim. The surging lead single ‘The Walls are Way Too Thin’ was a Radio 1 favourite this year – it’s a song about losing control and trying to regain it, pairing her striking lyrics with a glistening pop production.
Lifted from his self-titled debut EP, ‘Jenna’ is a prime example of Dylan John Thomas’ ability to write infectious indie guitar singalongs. Rising from the east end of Glasgow, the young singer-songwriter has fans in Gerry Cinnamon and Liam Gallagher – and after a raucous display at this year’s TRNSMT, he’s announced a headline show at the Barrowlands for 2022. With a flare for storytelling and rich indie earworms, ‘Jenna’ is a great introduction for those not yet acquainted with this rising star.
This year was a year of change for Parliamo, a new lineup – matched by a new sound, further cemented their place within the Scottish music consciousness. Bringing the iconic and soulful sound of the late 80s and 90s baggy scene into 2021, ‘Paul & Barry’ captures the imagination with an intoxicating, fuzzy sound, catchy vocals and relaxed, smooth feeling that oozes throughout the entire tune from start to finish.
Isle of Wight duo Wet Leg sent the world abuzz this year with their debut ‘Chaise Longue’. Instantly addictive, it’s the most impressive opening statement we’ve heard from a band in some time with its instantly quotable lyrics and infectious hooks.
Marking their first release since joining Marshall Records, ‘Fruitflies’ is a rambunctious slice of indie-rock that exhibits all we love about Gallus. Set against an insistent bassline, American alt-rock influences seep through their chugging chords and intricate guitar play. And while it’s instantly anthemic, the band are also engaging the listener on a cerebral level as Barry Dolan reaches out to a friend in need. Having spent the last couple of years bustling their way to the forefront of Glasgow’s indie-rock scene, it’s no surprise that Gallus are starting to make waves way beyond the confines of their hometown.
The title track from one of 2021’s biggest albums, ‘Seventeen Going Under’ hears Sam Fender’s signature brutal and honest lyricism sit at centre stage. Described by the man himself as a coming of age story, this track tells the story of life after hardship, a celebration of survival, wrapped up in the typically triumphant sound of Fender – the sound of a stadium together in emotional unison.
Lizzie Reid confronts issues of love, loss, identity and heartache with raw, unflinching honesty and pain-staking vulnerability on her stunning debut EP ‘Cubicle’ – easily one of the finest Scottish releases of this year. Across six beautifully crafted folk and rock songs, the Glaswegian singer-songwriter holds a microscope up to her innermost thoughts and unveils them with devastating power. While it’s hard to pick one track to highlight, ‘Company Car’ is certainly up there. It finds her coming to terms with her sexuality, her searingly honest lyrics set against a lovely, swoonsome jazz swing as she sings “There’s a million different reasons I wish I could love a man the way I love you”. It’s a beautiful and emotionally articulate piece of songwriting.
After setting social media alight with covers of Arctic Monkeys and more, Edinburgh’s Brooke Combe shared her debut single ‘Are You With Me?’ this year to wide acclaim. It’s a stirring soul anthem that finds Combe’s distinctive vocal surrounded by a stomping, full-bodied arrangement. Centred around big anthemic choruses, it’s a track we can imagine going down a storm on festival fields. More than that though, it indicates an artist with a very bright future ahead.
VLURE have spent 2021 raising the bar with a series of invigorating single releases and formidable live shows. Back in March, they finally unveiled their debut sinlge ‘Shattered Faith’ – a slab of electronic-soaked post-punk designed to shake you to your core. Built on a foundation of hammering post-punk beats, big synths and 80s anthemics, it’s immense in every sense of the word. Marking himself out as one of the most charismatic vocalists this country has produced in years, frontman Hamish Hutcheson bellows out idealistic self-perceptions against the towering instrumental. Like a man possessed, his performance increases with intensity as the track reaches its adrenaline-inducing climax.
Bemz released a new seven-track EP ‘M4’ this year which featured guest appearances from Chef, Washington, Just Easy and more. Bustling with ambition, it marked yet another step up for the up and coming rapper – his typically sharp lyricism shifts between intense moments of self-reflection and universal concerns. ’26’ is undoubtedly one of the highlights – originally created as part of our TTV COLLECTIVE. Featuring a gleaming production from Rory James – with warm keys and glitchy beats – the track finds Bemz sounding confident and assured, looking ahead to the future.
From a trio of sold out Barrowlands dates to a UK Number 1 album, West Lothian heroes The Snuts have certainly had a year to remember. The band’s unassailable rise continued last month with the release of ‘Burn The Empire’. A powerful statement of intent, ‘Burn The Empire’ is a straight-up protest song – a raw, furious, call to arms for change that pairs rattling guitars with fist-pumping choruses. Speaking of the track, the band said: ““I think young people have always wanted a fairer and more equal society and it’s the voices of the old, the discontent and the ignorant that try and squash that. We believe in 2022 there is no place for fascism or oppression of any kind and we must burn the empire that represents it.”