CMU Playlists

On The CMU Stereo 2021

By | Published on Thursday 16 December 2021

Saweetie & Doja Cat

Well, that’s another year all but over. And about time too. As years go, 2021 has been yet another challenging one. One thing that can be said for 2021, though, is that it gave us a heck of a lot of good music. Just so much, as musicians started releasing all of the music they’d been working on during lockdown and all the music they’d held back because of lockdown.

Some of that music, of course, was released into yet another lockdown, but as time went on there were opportunities to promote and tour that music in something resembling the “normal” way. For many artists this was a long time coming, and the relief and joy was visible on stage.

Here is our annual rundown of our favourite music released since January. Listen to the playlist on Spotify here, and read on to find out more about our selections.

Lil Nas X


First we go right back to the start of the year, with ten of our favourite tracks released over the winter. All of these soundtracked our year, and many eventually appeared on albums that have also been on hard repeat around here.

As well as the single that appears in this list, ‘Baby Grand’, Anna B Savage’s incredible debut album, ‘A Common Turn’, also arrived in January and has never been far from our speakers since. January also saw Noga Erez release what was to be a standout track from her brilliant ‘Kids’ album – which followed in March, and which we’d been anticipating for so long that one track from it actually made our winter playlist last year.

As winter began to turn to spring, Lil Nas X released ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’, the title track from his debut album, which eventually arrived in September. When looking at artists who defined this year musically, it’s hard to think of many who might challenge him for that crown. Proving himself adept at trolling his critics and courting controversy, he backed all that up with some great tracks that defied anyone who had written him off as a one hit wonder.

We kick off our 2021 playlist with probably the first big track of the year – which was briefly also one of the last of 2020 – Saweetie’s collaboration with Doja Cat, ‘Best Friend’. A big track from two artists who have only grown in stature in the following eleven months.

These are but a few of the artists on this playlist though, there are more to delve into. Here are the ten tracks on our winter playlist:

Saweetie – Best Friend (feat Doja Cat)
Noga Erez – End Of The Road
Anna B Savage – Baby Grand
Weezer – All My Favorite Songs
Albertine Sarges – Oh My Love
Tkay Maidza – Kim (feat Yung Baby Tate)
Dry Cleaning – Strong Feelings
Lvra – Dead
Alewya & Moses Boyd – The Code
Lil Nas X – Montero (Call Me By Your Name)

Little Simz


We’re on to part two of our 2021 playlist – and a selection of tracks that arrived in the spring to further build up the soundtrack to our year.

We kick things off with Sinead O’Brien’s ‘Kid Stuff’ – the second spoken word contribution to the playlist, after Dry Cleaning in our winter selection.

Spoken word also makes up a portion of the next track, one of the best album openers we’ve heard in some time, Little Simz’s ‘Introvert’. Taken from her ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ LP, it sets the tone for the record with real grandeur. For this album, it seems, the rapper’s budgets finally caught up with her creativity, and she used both to great effect.

Another artist who has been in that situation for a while is St Vincent, who turned in another great addition to her catalogue with ‘Daddy’s Home’ this year. With pandemic restrictions still putting touring out of the picture, she also played one of the year’s best livestreams to mark the release too – a journey through songs new and old. That and the album showed an artist still at the top of her game.

Right at the start of their journey, Wet Leg emerged with their debut single ‘Chaise Longue’ in June and caused quite a stir. Our CMU Approved article on them picked up the most traffic of any in that column this year – maybe any year – by some distance. And, thankfully, subsequent singles have maintained the same level of quality.

Making her second appearance on our playlist is Doja Cat. She opened proceedings featuring on Saweetie’s ‘Best Friend’. Now she’s back in her own right on ‘You Right’ from her brilliant ‘Planet Her’ album. That record featured a whole load of big tracks and collaborations. Here she’s joined by The Weeknd.

There’s plenty more to dig into here besides those tracks, including Chvrches’ collaboration with The Cure’s Robert Smith, something deeply atmospheric from Jorja Chalmers, and all-out fun from Illuminati Hotties.

Here are the ten tracks on our spring playlist:

Sinead O’Brien – Kid Stuff
Little Simz – Introvert
Illuminati Hotties – MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA
St Vincent – Down
Reb Fountain – Heart
Jorja Chalmers – I’ll Be Waiting
Chvrches – How Not To Drown (feat Robert Smith)
Wet Leg – Chaise Longue
Doja Cat – You Right (feat The Weeknd)
Kurtis Wells – A Song About The Sun

Billie Eilish


Here we are then, part three of our round up of our favourite tracks of 2021. And that must mean we’ve come to the summer. You know summer, right? Boundless possibility, endless sunshine? Actually, in the UK this year I seem to remember it mainly rained. It was the sort of summer people in other countries imagine we always have. And just when we were allowed out again.

There was plenty of new music though. Like the second album from Dave, ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’. Another expertly crafted longform release from the rapper, it features collaborations with Stormzy, Wizkid, Fredo, James Blake and more. For our playlist though, we’ve (perhaps appropriately) picked a track with just him. ‘We’re All Alone’ opens the album and sets the scene for what is to come, delivering a wide-ranging story packed with twists, emotional heft and sudden shifts in musical style.

The big release of the summer – and indeed the year – was the second album from Billie Eilish, ‘Happier Than Ever’. After the immense success of her debut, which set her up as a pop star who doesn’t play by the rules, fans went through months of anxiety that it had all been some sort of fluke. What if she couldn’t do it again? Well, bad luck to the alternate reality that had to deal with that, because over here she nailed it. Building on what she set up on her debut, it’s another album packed full of ideas and stand out tracks. The title track here is a mini epic melodrama.

Another big pop release was the new album from Halsey. As a teenage Nine Inch Nails fan, I often told anyone who’d listen that I’d like to hear a pop album produced by Trent Renzor. It seems Halsey did the same, the difference being that she grew up to have a status that would allow her to make that happen. And so, ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’ was born – a concept album about pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood provided with a dense, cinematic sound by Reznor and his production partner Atticus Ross.

Elsewhere we’ve got the always awesome combination of The Bug and Flowdan, two very different takes on hopes of one day having a musical legacy from Hamish Hawk and BXKS, a track from Buffalo Daughter’s excellent ‘We Are The Times’ – their first LP for seven years – and more.

Here are the ten tracks on our summer playlist:

Indigo De Souza – Hold U
Dave – We’re All Alone
The Bug – Pressure (feat Flowdan)
Hamish Hawk – The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
Halsey – I Am Not A Woman, I Am A God
Buffalo Daughter – Loop
BXKS – Mean Amount
Efterklang – Hold Me Close When You Can
Qrion – 11-11

James Blake


Well then, here it is, the final part of our round up of our favourite tracks of 2021. We now have 40 tracks that prove without doubt that, despite everything, the pandemic hasn’t stopped people from making great music. Some of them even managed to get out and perform it live, which was a real treat after that enforced break from gigs.

Like the rest of the playlist, there are tracks here that are taken from some of our favourite albums of 2021. But a significant portion of this final batch also look forward to the future, with early tastes of things to come, in that the albums on which they appear are not yet out.

Los Bitchos open our autumn selections with their single ‘Las Panteras’. One of those bands we managed to catch live in the last few months, their celebratory music and performances really felt necessary and captured the moment. Their debut album, ‘Let The Festivities Begin!’, is out in February and will bring yet more brightness to the winter months.

One of those artists who already put out their album is James Blake, who once again outdid himself with ‘Friends That Break Your Heart’. The quality of his back catalogue is extraordinary and he continues to build on that and find new avenues to explore in his sound. On the track we’ve chosen here, ‘Coming Back’, he teams up with SZA, who’s also had a good year and will hopefully be back with her long awaited second album sooner rather than later.

Taking the prize for the heaviest track on the playlist (just pipping Converge, I think) are Rolo Tomassi with ‘Drip’. Although featuring a long melodic section, it also captures the band at their most punishing, and – almost fifteen years since their debut EP – sees them still utterly exhilarating. Their new album, ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’, is also out in February.

Other acts with new music lined up for 2022 include Melt Yourself Down, Caleb Kunle and Yard Act, while our 2021 playlist draws to a gentle close with an amazing solo piano piece from Poppy Ackroyd’s recently released ‘Pause’ album.

Here are the ten tracks on our autumn playlist:

Los Bitchos – Las Panteras
James Blake – Coming Back (feat SZA)
Melt Yourself Down – Pray For Me I Don’t Fit In
Elkka – Voices
Caleb Kunle – Could Be Good
Rolo Tomassi – Drip
Yard Act – Land Of The Blind
Converge & Chelsea Wolfe – Coil
Nnamdi – Backseat
Poppy Ackroyd – Murmurations

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