Here it is! My pick for the 30 best left-field pop tunes of 2021, from Canada, Australia and beyond. See if you can spot any trends in the tuneage.
30. SPOD (AUS)
COVID song #1: A blast of manic, obscene insanity. The perfect starting point for this year’s Top 30.
29. Russian Tim and Pavel Bures (CAN)
Russian-language punk band from Vancouver? You know they’re going to make the list. Reminds me of Leningrad. Super fun.
28. Enola Fall (AUS)
There Is A Light That Never Goes On
One of the best britpop tunes of the year, courtesy of some dudes from Melbourne. H/t @britdjmatt for turning me on to these guys.
27. No Tourists (CAN)
Tricky-inflected hiphop from Toronto. Oh, yes.
26. Civic (AUS)
Tell The Papers
Your new punk overlords would like a word.
25. Real Sickies (CAN)
This blast of powerpop from Edmonton made me unreasonably happy this year.
24. Miesha & the Spanks (CAN)
Mixed Blood Girls
Fierce rock and roll from a Calgary band that’s become an ATR mainstay.
23. Ripcordz (CAN)
COVID song #2: Montreal punk legends. Appropriately raw.
22. Holy Fuck & Sarah Bonito (CAN)
21. Jess Locke (AUS)
20. Ducks Ltd. (CAN)
Grand Final Day
A Canadian indie-rock band singing about the AFL Grand Final? This song was tailor-made for All the Rage. Love it.
19. Breeze (CAN)
Come Around (feat Cadence Weapon)
A Happy Mondays groove and Cadence Weapon? You know this song is going on the list.
18. Les Shirley (CAN)
Fuck It I’m In Love
Joyful power pop from Montreal.
17. Pillow Pro (AUS)
Lucky (feat. Endless Prowl)
16. PONY (CAN)
I first heard Pony on an Indoor Shoes compilation in… 2014? 2015? Very nice to see Sam Bielanski and co. deliver the goods with their debut album, TV Baby. Whole thing is worth a listen.
15. Safeword (CAN)
An indie rock song about social-media alienation equals another song genetically engineered for All the Rage.
14. Skydeck (AUS)
Unsettling and just a bit trippy. Really, really like this song. Like, a lot.
13. Negative Nancies (NZ)
Pig In A Pen
5:30 am nightmare music. You know, in the best way possible.
12. The Roop (Lithuania)
COVID song #3: This was the first year we watched the Eurovision Song Contest, and this was the first song we saw. Shades of Pet Shop Boys with just a hint of Depeche Mode, and just a bit goofy, we were instantly hooked.
11. Black Cab (AUS)
ATR faves are back with another winning 80s-style electropop tune. Such a fan.
10. Danko Jones (CAN)
I Want Out
COVID song #4: Hard rock pandemic catharsis.
9. Annie Hamilton (AUS)
Delightfully romantic tune from last year’s ATR #1. A full-length for 2022, please?
8. Kashka (CAN)
COVID song #5: Much-needed gentleness: “Whenever life gets hard I just get soft.” Words we should all live by.
7. Smaller Hearts (CAN)
COVID song #6: A reflection on pandemic life that would do the Pet Shop Boys proud, both lyrically and musically. (Translation: This is a fantastic, even profound, song.)
6. Pinch Points (AUS)
Reasons to be Anxious
COVID song #7: Lives up to its title. Anxiety-inducing post-punk from Melbourne’s next big thing. New album coming in 2022.
5. Moaning Lisa (AUS)
Big emo feels. 90s alt rock sound in the best way possible. I really, really, really like this band.
4. NOCON (AUS)
Back of the Truck
Released in December 2020 after I’d done my year-end list, so I’m noting its awesomeness here. Stripped-down indie Gorillaz vibes. I’m here for it.
3. Go_A (Ukraine)
Intense. Somewhat terrifying. And that’s just their unforgettable Eurovision performance.
2. Tropical Fuck Storm
COVID song #8: Theme song for an exhausted world gone mad. Bonus points for the best backup vocals in the biz.
Gutters of Love
Anthemic melancholy. I can only imagine how great this will sound live once everyone’s back in the world. Come back to Guelph! Heart Beach, too!