In leiu of a traditional weekly playlist this week, to celebrate the dawning of a new year I thought it would be nice to look back at the year that was. 2021 was a bit of a rollercoaster, but much like its predecessor, it was a spectacular one for homegrown independent talent here in the UK. As this is a special edition of the weekly playlist, I’ve chosen more than just the standard three highlights – we have got an entire year’s worth of material to choose from, after all.
First up: one of my favourite releases of the year, and indeed one of my desert island discs – our good friend Emma Moore released her EP ‘the table’ back in May. The entire collection is an absolute sensation, but this track – the song that lends the EP its title – is a stunning display of vocal and songwriting talent inspired by some of country music’s greats. I’ve played this song on repeat all year and I’ve got no plans to stop anytime soon.
Over is another favourite release from 2021 and another I’ve had on repeat. There’s something so stirring about that slide guitar, and David’s vocal performance here just makes my heart ache. Its release was timed perfectly for the early summer resurgence of a very classic, traditional country sound, and I love it. Not sure I’ll ever get over it, actually. Ha.
A much more recent favourite is Home On The Highway – the song’s pace imitates the burble of a V8 engine and Mitchell Kersley’s voice is like butter. A true roadtrip song, if ever I’ve heard one, and easily one of the best releases of the year.
I definitely could leave it there – and on a regular weekly playlist, I would. But since this is a special edition, and our playlist this week is l-o-n-g, let’s throw in a few more highlights.
Earl is a fantastic showcase of Adele & Andy’s storytelling and a little glimpse into the depths of their combined talents: not only are they a country-pop vocal-and-guitar duo but their ability to transport and immerse a listener into a whole new world is tremendous. This is a song about social and racial injustice, something that has been incredibly loud over the last two years, and Adele and Andy turned it into a country classic – and then signed their names on it.
The Wandering Hearts’ Dolores straight up stopped me in my tracks this year. I first heard it on Matt Spracklen’s radio show late at night – I was half asleep, but the moment this song started playing I was wide awake. Inspired by an article about the late, great Dolos O’Riordan, I found myself absolutely floored. The ache in the lyrics, the richness of the harmonies and the entire journey this song takes me on – it’s gorgeous.
On top of the highlights, here are a few honourable mentions. Caitlin Mae’s Take My Demons won song of the year at the ARC Radio awards. Louise Parker’s I’ve Forgotten How To Smile is a gut-wrenching pitstop on the road to her ‘imperfect recovery’. Gary Quinn’s Catch Me offers a delirious, ecstatic sense of space, freedom and wide open roads in contrast to some of his previous country-pop singles. Chloe Jones’ New Mexico is such a soothing balm in the form of a song (and if you have the chance to see her live, go and do it – she is absolutely captivating!). Emilia Quinn’s Head Rush (and indeed the entire Medicate EP) shows that this firecracker got SOUL. The Rising’s Ain’t Nobody Got Me Here But Me was almost bumped in favour of their Highway to the Lost & Found, but ultimately it was the smooth, stirring, self-congratulating single that made the cut.
Find the full playlist here on Spotify.
That was the year that was. Now we’re in 2022 – who’s releasing new music soon? What were your favourites from last year, and what are you looking forward to this year? Join the conversation and let me know!