If you listen to enough new music in any given year, it becomes exceptionally difficult to pick your favorites once December arrives. Much of it blends together into one beautiful blur, and there’s so much to remember that sometimes you end up forgetting tracks that are truly great. Then on occasion you’ll also discover a song on somebody else’s year-end “best of” list and want to include it on your own, but it’ll either be too late to add it or you’ll be unsure of how much weight to give it because there’s no real way to tell if it hold up against something else you’ve loved for the past six months. So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that any “Best Songs of 2021” list, no matter how long or short, is imperfect. We’re all just doing the best we can with our personal tastes and fractured memories. The list below could have easily extended to more than 250 songs. It would have been many hours long and vast to the point where you’d get lost after a while and just give up on trying to listen to everything. Narrowing all of 2021 down to 100 songs may not fully encapsulate all of the music that made this year great, but at the very least it gives a nice snapshot of some amazing tracks you can enjoy and revisit whenever the mood should strike you. The best of the best. All killer, no filler. Just a whole lot of bangers, even when they’re ballads and sad folk songs. Before we begin, let me quickly run through the “rules” behind the creation of this list. First, no artist may be included on the list more than once. This is in an effort to showcase a more diverse collection of artists instead of having, say, three songs from the latest Japanese Breakfast album taking up slots that could have gone to others. Second, all songs on this list must have been released on a 2021 album/EP or as a standalone single. That’s why you won’t see any Mitski, Spoon, Charli XCX, Amber Mark, Beach House, or Big Thief on this list, even though they’ve already put out tracks from full length LPs due in 2022. Don’t worry, given their past histories I can almost guarantee they’ll end up on next year’s “best of”. And that’s it! Not sure what else I can say about this collection of songs other than I sincerely hope you enjoy them. Some may trigger fond memories, and others may introduce you to something incredible and inspiring that you’ve never heard before. It’s all pretty fantastic. One of the broader themes from my favorite tracks this year is that of healing and recovery. We’ve all been forced to face so many challenges these last few years, and it’s often felt overwhelming and detrimental to our overall health and well-being. Portions of 2021 managed to restore some semblances of normalcy, and that (often temporary) reprieve from suffering gave just enough leeway to allow some light back into our lives. So please feel free to use this list as you try to put your heart back together. Close your eyes, I’ll count to 100. Take a deep breath. Count with me. Let’s begin.

There’s a Spotify playlist featuring all 100 songs at the very bottom of this post, or you can just click the YouTube links and listen to each song individually. Whatever is easiest/most convenient for you!

100. Lake Street Dive – Hypotheticals [YouTube]

99. Ducks Ltd – 18 Cigarettes [YouTube]

98. Waltzer – Lantern [YouTube]

97. Lingua Ignota – PENNSYLVANIA FURNACE [YouTube]

96. Tasha – Perfect Wife [YouTube]

95. Mr Twin Sister – Expressions [YouTube]

94. The Marias – Hush [YouTube]

93. Wolf Alice – Delicious Things [YouTube]

92. Dean Blunt – the rot [YouTube]

91. Helado Negro – Gemini and Leo [YouTube]

90. Anna B Savage – A Common Tern [YouTube]

89. Lightning Bug – The Return [YouTube]

88. India Jordan – And Groove [YouTube]

87. Ethel Cain – Crush [YouTube]

86. TDJ – Lalala (Want Somebody) [YouTube]

85. Earl Sweatshirt – 2010 [YouTube]

84. Lord Huron – Mine Forever [YouTube]

83. Parquet Courts – Walking at a Downtown Pace [YouTube]

82. Lost Girls – Real Life [YouTube]

81. Erika de Casier – Drama [YouTube]

80. LSDXOXO – Sick Bitch [YouTube]

79. Nation of Language – This Fractured Mind [YouTube]

78. Penelope Isles – Sailing Still [YouTube]

77. MUNA – Silk Chiffon (ft. Phoebe Bridgers) [YouTube]

76. IDLES – The Beachland Ballroom [YouTube]

75. Jessie Ware – Please [YouTube]

74. Jayda G – All I Need [YouTube]

73. The Armed – ALL FUTURES [YouTube]

72. Tune-Yards – hold yourself. [YouTube]

71. Crumb – Balloon [YouTube]

70. SPELLLING – Little Deer [YouTube]

69. Playboi Carti – Slay3r [YouTube]

68. Horsegirl – Ballroom Dance Scene [YouTube]

67. Spirit of the Beehive – THE SERVER IS IMMERSED [YouTube]

66. Doss – Puppy [YouTube]

65. Illuminati Hotties – MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA [YouTube]

64. serpentwithfeet – Fellowship [YouTube]

63. Circuit des Yeux – Dogma [YouTube]

62. Arlo Parks – Hurt [YouTube]

61. For Those I Love – I Have a Love [YouTube]

60. Noname – Rainforest [YouTube]

59. Mach-Hommy – Kriminel [YouTube]

58. Lil Nas X – MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) [YouTube]

57. Halsey – I am not a woman, I’m a god [YouTube]

56. beabadoobee – Cologne [YouTube]

55. HEALTH x Nine Inch Nails – ISN’T EVERYONE [YouTube]

54. Iceage – Vendetta [YouTube]

53. Billie Eilish – Oxytocin [YouTube]

52. Peggy Gou – I Go [YouTube]

51. Yola – Diamond Studded Shoes [YouTube]

50. Turnstile – Mystery [YouTube]

49. Bartees Strange – Weights [YouTube]

48. Baby Keem – family ties (ft. Kendrick Lamar) [YouTube]

47. Alicia Walter – Prelude [YouTube]

46. Normani – Wild Side (ft. Cardi B) [YouTube]

45. Kacey Musgraves – breadwinner [YouTube]

44. duendita – Open Eyes [YouTube]

43. Sleigh Bells – Justine Go Genesis [YouTube]

42. Silk Sonic – Leave the Door Open [YouTube]

41. Self Esteem – I Do This All the Time [YouTube]

40. Water From Your Eyes – “Quotations” [YouTube]

39. Home Is Where – Assisted Harakiri [YouTube]

38. black midi – John L [YouTube]

37. Adele – To Be Loved [YouTube]

36. Arooj Aftab – Mohabbat [YouTube]

35. Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime [YouTube]

34. Dawn Richard – Bussifame [YouTube]

33. Dry Cleaning – Scratchcard Lanyard [YouTube]

32. Low – Days Like These [YouTube]

31. Little Simz – Introvert [YouTube]

30. Tyler, the Creator – Lumberjack [YouTube]

29. Black Country, New Road – Track X [YouTube]

28. CHVRCHES – How Not to Drown (ft. Robert Smith) [YouTube]

27. SZA – Good Days [YouTube]

26. Doja Cat – Get Into It (Yuh) [YouTube]

25. Olivia Rodrigo – deja vu [YouTube]

24. Radiohead – If You Say the Word [YouTube]

23. Megan Thee Stallion – Thot Shit [YouTube]

22. Jazmine Sullivan – Pick Up Your Feelings [YouTube]

21. Holly Humberstone – The Walls Are Way Too Thin [YouTube]

20. Geese – Disco [YouTube]

19. L’Rain – Two Face [YouTube]

18. Faye Webster – Cheers [YouTube]

17. The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore (ft. Lucius) [YouTube]

16. Yves Tumor – Jackie [YouTube]

15. PinkPantheress – Just For Me [YouTube]

14. Tirzah – Send Me [YouTube]

13. Tinashe – Bouncin [YouTube]

12. Snail Mail – Valentine [YouTube]

11. Wet Leg – Chaise Longue [YouTube]

10. Big Red Machine – Phoenix (ft. Fleet Foxes & Anais Mitchell) [YouTube]

9. Lucy Dacus – Thumbs [YouTube]

8. Indigo De Souza – Kill Me [YouTube]

7. Caroline Polachek – Bunny Is A Rider [YouTube]

6. Goat Girl – Sad Cowboy [YouTube]

5. Magdalena Bay – Chaeri [YouTube]

4. Japanese Breakfast – Be Sweet [YouTube]

3. Angel Olsen & Sharon Van Etten – Like I Used To [YouTube]

2. Squid – Pamphlets [YouTube]

1. Cassandra Jenkins – Hard Drive [YouTube]