You can read our 20 Essential Singles from 2020 here.
It’s been a terrible year. I won’t elaborate; you were there.
Covid was a disaster for small artists, who rely on live shows (and resulting merch sales) to stay alive. Spotify has a fairly loose relationship with artist remuneration: in so far as it barely happens. So those shows really matter, and without them, many bands were left facing stark decisions. How do you write a song when the world is ending?
Yet, this list is always a highlight of the year for us. We are always blown away by the creativity, talent and tenacity of artists on the indie scene. This year had more amazing songs than we can mention, so here are 10 absolutely essential indie singles that kept us going.
Late Night Legacy – Sunny When You’re Gone
A re-record that proved better than the original, ‘Sunny When You’re Gone’ flips the cliché of the long distance relationship on its head; here we’re actually wishing there were several thousand miles between us. It’s a beautifully peaceful Sunday afternoon kind of song. Gently intensifying beat and lovingly strum Frusciante-like guitars. We love this song.
Askies – Easy
A black sheep of a song for the Leeds band who made a name for themselves with intricate band-interplay and atmospheric reverb-heavy riffs. ‘Easy’ is pure pub rock – the central riff is monstrous, filthy and drenched in static. The krautrockish beat is incessant and the vocal snarl in the chorus is unbelievable. Brilliant.
Artio – All Things End
Artio’s dark & doomy ‘All Things End’ was the vibe of the year. Soft piano and reverb-heavy guitar give way to industrial bass tones and booming, powerhouse vocals. It’s a really strong and intoxicating blend; like being hit over the head with something heavy. An impending sense of catastrophe hangs over ‘All Things End’, making it highly relatable and very topical. A good way to end a bad year.
Alleyways – Over It
‘Over It’ was a really refreshing change of pace. It’s groove-driven, with a strong sense of flow and constantly shifting momentum. It’s such a wily, squiggly, almost liquid groove and the vocals have an amazing digi quality to them. The whole track just has a very modern, fresh sound to it – with some pretty great and pithy lines in it too. A send-up of Gen Z self-obsession.
Talk Show – Stress
That riff is sheer brilliance – a nimble post-rock shimmer that gives this punk song a little pop stardust. The brutal, spat-out vocals give this a desperate, embattled kind of urgency. Black-eyed pub rock with enough shuffle to suggest some crossover appeal.
Edited People – Natural Disaster
This is so zen, such a breath of fresh air. It’s a song where you can just enjoy the vibe and the insane amount of detail put into production, with so many intricate moving parts to pick out. It’s a smooth pop song moving at an R&B rhythm, with some sly serpentine guitar lines and nimble vocals from singer Alisha Vickers.
Free Galaxy – Look
This Coventry band only get heavier, their sound rougher, as the years go by and we love it. ‘Look’ is their hardest song yet, a scuzzy rock song powered by a static heavy, dirt-slathered riff. The vocals are absolutely insane, showing serious range while keeping a snarl and vocal burn that the song demands. Their bridge sections always absolutely slam, and this time is no exception. It’s another confident, loud, high-energy song and we love it.
Chantelle du Toit – Overdrive
‘Overdrive’ has such huge and obvious appeal: it’s a ferocious, filthy desert rock tune with the biggest riff we’ve heard all year. It is an absolute monster, that only the cooing snarl of Chantelle du Toit can seem to control. Songs like this remind me why we have this magazine in the first place. Brilliance hiding in plain sight.
Just Suppose – No Cause For Alarm
This is the quiet, unassuming song that will take over your life. Soaring synths, hypnotic riff, interstellar vocals. ‘No Cause For Alarm’ is cosmic pop. Something about this beautiful arrangement keeps me coming back, especially in the early morning. There’s something about this song lends it particularly well to that first cup of coffee. This Huddersfield band are on a different planet to us, and this track is just sublime.
Full Colour – Times Change
Never any doubt that this would be the song at the top of our list. A bittersweet moment of sheer bliss. It’s rare that a band ever encapsulates something this vivid, this powerful. ‘Times Change’ hits like raw alcohol, it’s such a real and authentic reflection on the agony of moving on and leaving people behind. The production sounds clean, the guitars and synths have a twinkle of nostalgia in their eye, but the energy is absolutely insane.
We don’t make predictions, since we aren’t really industry people, but it seems not a matter of if Full Colour will explode, but when. The talent here is unbelievable across the band. ‘Times Change’ is a guaranteed show-closer, and the best song we’ve heard this year.