2021 Song of the Year: Greg’s Picks 20-11

*Note: If I’m honest, the ranking is pretty arbitrary. I really liked these songs and I want you to know about them as well. These are all “top 20” in my book, regardless of number.

20) Sean Christopher – “Stuck in a moment”
-If you’re looking for a chill groove and lyrics that will make you smile, check out Sean Christopher. This is a song about relaxing and finding your way without trying to force things. With a Jack Johnson easy going acoustic vibe, the song is essentially a philosophical treatise on not freaking out when things feel overwhelming. The “bah da daa” section is perfectly executed and gives the song a familiar, accessible vibe. This is just a GOOD SONG.

19) Grace Gonzalez – “Oh music”
-This one goes a little meta, I’ll be honest. It’s a song about how much music inspires people. As someone who very clearly loves music also, this song connects deeply in my soul. The passing lyrical (and melodic) references to classic music is wonderfully accomplished. Gonzalez has an approachable, familiar vocal style. The mix reminds me of something Dawes might produce (or at least appreciate). The pop rock flavor works well with the likes of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell appearing the in lyrics. If you’ve ever felt like your soul was healed by music, this song is for you.

18) Oliver Hazard – “Fly right”
-This may come as a surprise to some readers, but this is an indie folk song that I absolutely love! I know, I know, really outside the norm. But, to be serious about this song, it is almost perfectly the type of music that makes me happy. It’s got a sound that reminds me a little of bands like Ivan and Alyosha and the Head and the Heart. The expressive, jovial energy propels the thoughtful, poetic lyric style. The combination is relatable, fun, and allows the listener to sing along. I don’t know the members of Oliver Hazard (yet), but listening to this tune makes me feel like we’d all get along really well. 🙂 The harmonies, the lyrics, and the PIANO… just… yes. *chef’s kiss*

17) Hollow Coves – “Hello”
-Right from the start, the harmonies on this track are really good. The unhurried lyrics remind me of what it’s like to be stuck inside your own head. The lyrical concept of loneliness reminds me a bit of John Prine’s “Hello in there.” It goes beyond the title, though, because it’s really about confronting the seriousness of loneliness and how undiagnosed it is in our society. Hollow Coves bring this melancholy subject to a bright and beautiful reality, but it should certainly encourage us to check in on one another. If there’s someone you miss because they are no longer in your life, this song will bring a much needed solace… and if the person is still reachable, perhaps a nudge to reach out to them.

16) Ocie Elliott – “Eyes fall”
-I can’t be certain, but I think I’ve approved every Ocie Elliott submission I’ve ever received. This song, “Eyes fall” was one that stood out even more. This is the type of folk music that seeps down into my soul. The honest, heartfelt lyrical work on this track is really well done. The acoustic guitar work is soothing enough on its own, but adding in these lovely vocals helps it take the next step. This track is a total package with charming, loving lyrics about how music can make us feel less alone. It conjures some Blaze Foley magic for me… and I can’t think of a much better compliment than that.

15) Kat Hammock – “Beautiful life”
-There’s a beautiful energy to this song that struck me from first listen. The vocal harmonies are wonderful and the melody matches. It’s a eulogy for someone who recently passed. The pastoral description of the scene is really something special. I could imagine this being sung for a lot of “beautiful lives” that I’ve known over the years. The combination of pop, gospel, and even country works nicely on this track. It’s charming in the midst of the “joy and sorrow” that make this beautiful life. Wonderful.

14) Cat Clyde and Jeremie Albino – “Been worryin”
-We’ve featured Cat Clyde in the past, but this is our first introduction to Jeremie Albino and let me just say that these two have some fabulous musical chemistry. The vocal blending here feels like a mid-20th century folksy country mix that is absolutely classic. There’s a bluesy energy to the melody that stands out from the crowd. I just can’t get over how well the vocal styles of these two artists blend together so well. Much like the folk duo the Milk Carton Kids, I think Clyde and Albino are both good on their own and are even better together on this track. Fans of Americana are going to love this one.

13) Augusta – “the beetles and the bugs”
-I’ve written about Augusta a few times this year and it’s always with a smile on my face. The poetic lyricism is absolutely gravitating… that is to say it pulls the listener in. I can’t help but want to lean in and listen closely to Augusta’s every word. This is the type of acoustic, lyrical talent that we rarely hear (and we hear a lot of folk music). Augusta is one of my favorite artists I found in recent memory. Take a note from this song about sharing the wonder and joy you find in life; share it with others. Play music for your friends and for everyone on the Internet who will take a moment to listen. It’s worth doing. 🙂

12) Melissa Carper – “Back when”
-If you are looking for a song that sounds like it’s nearly 100 years old, spin Melissa Carper’s mid-20th century gem called “Back when.” It’s a romantic song about looking back on earlier stages in a relationship. The weathered style of Carper’s voice works perfectly well with the nostalgic energy of the song. If you miss the old days of honky tonks and common folks’ music, you will love this song. This is what Americana is all about.

11) Morningbird – “Who knew”
-If you read my album of the year list, you’ve already heard about this fabulous band and this song specifically. I don’t know what kind of magic it takes to write a chromatic melody like this but it is incredible to hear. There’s something special about the composition and performance. Of course I love the harmonies, but beyond that there’s an energy with this detached emotionalism that resonates with me. It’s like a melancholy nostalgia portrayed with a hopeful rock vibe that permeates. To me (and forgive me, band, if this is wrong) the song is about acknowledging the past and moving forward despite it. Great tune.

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