Music Lists

The Best Songs of 2021

December 14, 2021

The past couple of years have been all over the place, but one thing we can agree on is that 2021 gave us some pretty great music. The WYEP DJs share their top 10 songs of the year, in no particular order.

Check out WYEP’s Top 25 Albums of 2021 here.

Morning Mix Host Joey Spehar
“I Hear the Axe Swinging” by Ghost of Vroom
“Smile” by Wolf Alice
“Seventeen” by Nane
“Jazz on the Autobahn” by The Felice Brothers
“Spices” by The Hold Steady
“Simple Sweet” by PACK
“Can’t Stop The Rain” by Neal Francis
“Be Sweet” by Japanese Breakfast
“Jimi & Stan” by Strand of Oaks
“Accidents” by Sierra Sellers

Sierra Sellers made me blush this year. Her latest single “Accidents” is a provocative, yet thoughtful retelling of relationships that just weren’t meant to be, smothered in Sellers’ signature jazzy groove. Featuring production from Nice Rec and a smokey hook from Cam Chambers, “Accidents” is rooted in history while leaping toward the future – kind of like the city that produced it.
Midday Mix Host Kyle Smith
“Diamond Studded Shoes” by Yola
“I Don’t Live Here Anymore” by The War on Drugs
“Down” by St. Vincent
“Galacticana” by Strand of Oaks
“My People” by Cha Wa
“How Low” by Heartless Bastards
“Roots” by Cautious Clay
“Seventeen” by Nane
“The Hardest Cut” by Spoon
“Can’t Stop The Rain” by Neal Francis

Nané’s new single is powerful, with moving parts and equal helpings of genres in Soul, Indie-Rock, and R&B. “Seventeen” grabs your attention from the first baseline to lead singer Daniel Sahad’s falsetto culminating in one of this year’s most impressive cuts.

Afternoon Mix Host Rosemary Welsh
“We Are” by Jon Batiste
“Love and Hate in a Different Time” by Gabriels
“Hell is a Crowded Room” by Alison Ponthier
“Hey Lou” by Liz Phair
“Love, Love, Love” by My Morning Jacket
“Black Myself” by Amythyst Kiah
“Impossible Weight” by Deep Sea Diver
“I Lied” by Lord Huron
“Witchoo” by Durand Jones & The Indications
“All of the Women” by Alison Russell

Personal evolution can benefit by coupling with communal experience. Jon Batiste’s “We Are” pairs the musician with the St. Augustine’s Marching Band, inviting the youth into the creation of a self-affirming anthem. Individual voices raised together create a mesmerizing and inspiring sound.
The Grooves Host Brian Siewiorek
“Road of the Lonely Ones” by Madlib
“Gemini & Leo” by Helado Negro
“Scratchcard Lanyard” by Dry Cleaning
“Sunglasses” by Black country, New Road
“Jackie” by Yves Tumor
“Same Size Shoe” by serpentwithfeet
“John L” by black midi
“Fast Car” by Jamila Woods
“Love and Hate in a Different Time” by Gabriels
“The Only Heartbreaker” by Mitski

As mentioned multiple times on the song “Jackie” from their most recent EP, Yves Tumor isn’t sleeping. In fact, like most artists at the beginning of the pandemic, they got right to creating. Among that burst of creativity is “Jackie” a single that expresses so much in just three minutes. It’s a track that brings together glam rock, psychedelic music, and drum and bass to express the energy and anguish of a doomed relationship. As much as this seems like a well-groomed radio single, it still brings out Tumor’s unexpected and experimental nature, making them one to keep your ears on over the next few years.
Evening Mix and Pittsburgh Music Hour Host Liz Felix
“Black Myself” by Amythyst Kiah
“Galacticana” by Strand of Oaks
“I Love You, I Hate You” by Little Simz
“How Low” by Heartless Bastards
“Accidents” by Sierra Sellers
“Witchoo” by Durand Jones & The Indications
“Reach Out” by Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine
“Valentine” by Snail Mail
“Gold Chains” by Genesis Owusu
“Like I Used To” by Angel Olsen & Sharon Van Etten

Lindsey Jordan, the 22-year-old songwriter with the stage name Snail Mail, has been paying very close attention to her musical forebearers from the world of ’90s/’00s indie and alt-rock. But “Valentine” isn’t just a nostalgia trip; it’s also incredibly catchy and directly taps into the intensity of unrequited love. This one hasn’t left my brain for months.
Sunday Mix Host Barb Steinberg
“Broken Horses” by Brandi Carlisle
“Heading South” by Zach Bryan
“Can’t Stop the Rain” by Neal Francis
“Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic
“Nightflyer” by Allison Russel
“Quiet Town” by The Killers
“Strangers” by Black Pumas (feat. Lucius)
“My Cleveland Heart” by Jackson Browne
“Last Train Home” by John Mayer
“I Can See Clearly Now” by Buffalo Rose feat. INEZ

“I Can See Clearly Now”, the Johnny Nash cover by Pittsburgh artists Buffalo Rose feat. INEZ, is the song that has made me smile and sing along with each time I hear it. This version with the lush harmonies is a great earworm. And, well it’s just a great song!
Afterhours Mix Host Dave Blaushild
“Crossbow” by Tamar Aphek
“Working on Me” by The Allergies
“Like I Used To” by Sharon Van Etten/Angel Olsen
“My Cleveland Heart” by Jackson Browne
“Elevate” by Benji.
“Can’t Let Go” by Allison Krauss and Robert Plant
“662” by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
“Stand for Myself” by Yola
“Questions” by Middle Kids
“Rolling through California” by Fantastic Negrito

Tamar Aphek is an Israeli-born, classically trained musician, playing guitar, piano, and singing. She fell in love with the punk/experimental rock of bands like Fugazi. Her music is improvisational ala, Frank Zappa. She really rocks out on the tune “Crossbow”.
The Soul Show Host Mike Canton
“Ya Habibi” by Afro Yaqui Music Collective
“Another Day” by Kinetic
“Why Can’t We Live Together” by Lonnie Smith w/Iggy Pop
“Justice” by Dumpstaphunk
“Rocwell’s America” by Sa-Roc
“Wake Me” by Nigel Hall
“Stand for Myself” by Yola
“Pretend” by Brandee Younger w/ Tarriona “Tank” Ball
“Together Again” by Angelo Moore & The Brand New Step
“Wild Turkey” by Amythyst Kiah

In “Why Can’t We Live Together,” we have the remake of a 1972 classic, the unlikely pairing of punk godfather Iggy Pop with Hammond B3 master Dr. Lonnie Smith, and the poignancy of Smith’s final recording project. The groove is hypnotic.

Bluegrass Jam Session Host Bruce Mountjoy
“Singing The Blues” by Echo Valley
“Big City” by Mason Via
“I Don’t Mind” by Sturgill Simpson
“Do You Know Where Your Heart Is” by Steve Ludwig and the Casual Hobos
“Brand New Hit In Nashville” by The Kody Norris Show
“Mountainside” by Colebrook Road
“Back When It Was Easy” by Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford
“How Many Miles Of Track” by Andrew Crawford
“Rebuild” by Zoe and Cloyd

Zoe & Cloyd is the husband and wife duo of Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller from North Carolina. They are multi-instrumentalists and thoughtful songwriters, and as the title suggests, are personally rebuilding following the events of the pandemic and quarantine. The songs give one pause and ask some thoughtful questions about where we have been, where we are, and where we are going as we move forward. In these times, it’s not always easy to stop and think about it, but maybe these songs will help.
Steve Morse
Saturday Sunrise Host Steve Morse
“Night flyer” by Allison Russell
“My People” by Cha Wa
“I Need You” by Jon Batiste
“Black Myself” by Amythyst Kiah
“Like I Used To” by Sharon van Etten & Angel Olson
“Jazz on the Autobahn” by The Felice Brothers
“Quiet Town” by The Killers
“Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic
“Hold Yourself” by Tune-Yards
“Hot & Heavy” by Lucy Dacus

Allison Russell’s Nightflyer is a soothing, yet confrontational, catchy song. The rhythym of the song & it’s chorus stay stuck in my head for days. This song comforted me or kept me going many times in 2021.
An American Sampler Host Ken Batista
“The Next Mountain” by Rick Faris
“Gone” by Tim Grimm
“Dreadful Wind and Rain: Don’t You Go Marry a Railroad Man” by J.P. Harris
“Eden and Her Borderlands” by Anya Hinkle
“Blues/Ballads/Cowboy Songs” by Peter Keane
“Bucket List” by John McCutcheon
“Last of the Better Days Ahead” by Charlie Parr
“Raise the Roof” by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
“Renaissance” by Valerie Smith
“The Willie Nelson Family” by The Willie Nelson Family