Looks like we’re gonna keep making lists until they tell us to stop. Here’s a sprawling set from the inaugural squad of No Bells writers and friends of the blog. Got kinda bored of seeing the same albums and songs on these, so I told the crew they could make lists about pretty much anything they wanted. This is how it turned out. – Mano Sundaresan
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Srikar Poruri’s 3 Favorite Movies of the Year
Titane (Julia Ducournau)
- Truly original in its scope, tenderly probing gender identity and love with a neon-drenched needle and stick shift.
Red Rocket (Sean Baker)
- Simon Rex for actor of the year.
Shang-Chi [in 4dx + belligerently high] (Destin Daniel Cretton)
- The best amusement park ride I’ve ever been on. Fuck you Scorsese.
Srikar’s least favorite movie of the year: Inside (Bo Burnham)
Allison Harris’ Hottest Music/Fashion Moments of the Year
“Microdosing” by UNIIQU3 for the Fendi / Balanciaga Swap
One of the most addictive (pun intended) songs of the year is “Microdosing” by Jersey Club producer UNIIQU3, which is why I was delighted to see it used in the collection film for the Versace Fendi swap collection. “Microdosing” combines a pulsing club beat with bodacious lyrics, and it’s perfect for the runway, so it just feels correct to see the legendary Naomi Campbell strut down the catwalk to it, long tresses swinging behind her.
Shygirl beat Kendall Jenner at her own game for Burberry
You might remember this photo of Kendall Jenner from a Burberry accessories photoshoot in May. Specifically, you’ll probably remember people making fun of her lackluster model face. We’re happy to report that raunchy UK pop sensation Shygirl didn’t receive the same treatment. In fact, several people took to Twitter to say that she “ate her up” which is a pretty astute observation if you compare the two photos.
Arca for Vogue México y Latinoamérica
The music from Mugler’s Fall/Winter 2021 Runway Film
The digital runway film’s stacked setlist includes “Link Up” by Tinashe,“SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY (ft. Moliy)”, and a FRNGE remix of “Debut” by COBRAH. The sexed-up and futuristic vibe of the collection is perfectly accompanied by equally sexy electronic music. (Read more at my column, Hautepop!)
The pop girls’ obsession with Versace satin platform Mary Janes
It’s all about the chunky heel- just ask the TikTok girls. Pictured on Beyoncé and Ariana Grande, what more advertising could you possibly need? Buy them from Versace for $1,500 or get the knock-off from Steve Madden for a slightly more manageable $140 (they have Afterpay).
Jude Noel’s Top 15 Footwork/Juke Trax of 2021
- Khadija Al Hanafi – “&ilovemyloot“
- EQ Why – “Computed Damage“
- DJ FLP – “Out of Body“
- Jana Rush – “Suicidal Ideation“
- RP Boo – “Finally Here“
- Foodman – “Hoshikuzu Tenboudai”
- Kush Jones – “Rugrats“
- DJ Orange Julius – “DOWNWIDDAPRO“
- DJ Manny – “Never Was Ah Hoe“
- Ripatti – “Videophonekitty“
- DJ Earl – “GodBreathedOnThis RMX“
- DJ Chad Nulegendz – “By My Side“
- Hiroki Yamamura – “Ocean Waves“
- Seanni B – “Back Down, Damn It!“
- DJ Swisha & Kush Jones – “Torcida“
Andrew Matson’s Top Producers of the Year
A living link from SoundCloud rap circa Gothboiclique/Lil Peep to the present (check “Goth Angel Sinner”), fish narc branched into digicore this year with tracks by osquinn & blackwinterwells and 8485, which ranked among the best work from those half-generation removed artists. He also put out a producer album called Foraging Wild Mushrooms where he brought together Black Kray & Bootychaaain and Cold Hart & ppgcasper on songs, creating more of the same connective tissue.
Massive year from digicore producer/vocalist quinn, including the sensational single “And Most Importantly, Have Fun,” where she sampled “Funky Worm” and “Award Tour” and made it blast tf OFF. Then there was the very sick dnb-ish album as cat mother (gave new life to Miguel’s “Girl With the Tattoo”) and of course her proper album “Drive-By Lullabies,” which featured several peaks and styles, from confessional singer-songwriter, to rap, to IDM.
Three titanic releases by digicore artist dltzk this year: the game-changing “Teen Week,” the even-better “Frailty,” and the euphoria-inducing Frailty-companion Jersey Club mix, which singlehandedly made me fuck with Taylor Swift. All that on top of inventing “dariacore,” a producer genre that is all about throwing the kitchen sink at your DAW and sprinkling Vyvanse on top, which spawned a whole-ass discord and enough copycat producers to host a music festival on said discord.
It’s all in the drums for Tony Seltzer, whose impossible-to-pin-down beats have been a cheat code for the rap underground for more than a few years now—especially the east coast. This year he laced Papo2oo4, Baby Sosa, made a masterpiece psychedelic album with KEY!, “The Alpha Jerk,” and put out a crazy producer album called “Hey Tony” where he soundtracked everyone from Hook to Mavi.
A lot of people were sampling other records in their drill songs this year but here’s the thing: A Lau started that shit and did it better than everyone else. His secret is he’s not subtle. Bizzy Banks’ “Bandemic” was probably his biggest hit with its giant “One Blood” sample, and the bangers kept coming all year, lately hitting again with Humble Gz’s “Umbrella” which chops the Rihanna sample at Jersey Club speed. My favorite though was “Grateful” for Rocko Ballin with its godly Duranice Pace vocals.
Melina Duterte (Jay Som) casually bodied 2021 with her album with Ellen Kempner as the group Bachelor, and produced two spin-offs of Chastity Belt, one album with Julia Shapiro and one with Annie Truscott as Routine. Taken together this is the only indie rock you needed to listen to this year, beautiful and deadpan and super smart, while comfortable dumbing it down..
Producing whole albums for noted swordsmen Wiki, Akai Solo and Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon wasn’t enough apparently: Navy Blue also had to drop his own heatrock, the “Navy’s Reprise” album, to really hammer home the point that he’s not just a pretty face on a throwback rap tip: he’s a fking beast from the east who can flip pianos and guitars all day and brings a meditative calm to everything he does.
H.D. Angel’s Favorite Overlooked SoundCloud Music of 2021
- Ame – “Cha Cha” (Elijahdior) / “Boom” (Elijahdior)
- deth coni – “brick wall” (dazegxd & optic::core)
- holyrain – “go stupid!” (CJ808 & keyblade)
- lerdnay – “OUT OF MY MIND”
- quannnic & d0llywood1 – “come down from above” (quannnic)
- w1tchlxrd – “CRXXK3D PVTH” (shimaelok)
- exodus1900 – “w0rk-w0rk_remix*FREESTYLE”
- flatroom – “flatroom @ dariafest 2021”
- midwxst – “hate me” (blackwinterwells)
- cr3stfallen – #CF21
Harley Geffner and Kate Buckwald’s Favorite Afrobeats (+ Other African Music) of 2021
- Ayra Starr – “Bloody Samaritan“
- Adekunle Gold & DaVido – “High“
- Olamide – “Rock“
- Matata & Meija – “Chini Chini“
- Nasty C – “Best I Ever Had“
- Tiwa Savage feat. Nas & Rich King – “Work Fada“
- Naira Marley, Busiswa – “Coming“
- Omah Lay – “Understand“
- Berri-Tiga – “Fire“
- Karole Kasita & DJ Maker Breaker – “Mbeelamu“
- Rema – “Soundgasm“
- Musa Keys feat. Sir Trill & Nobantu Vilakazi – “Vula Mlomo“
- Gyakie & Omah Lay – “Forever (Remix)“
- Khaligraph Jones – “CHAMPEZ“
- Alewya – “Zuggy“
- Simi feat. Joeboy – “So Bad“
- SPINALL feat. Fireboy DML & 6lack – “Sere (Remix)“
- Breeder LW feat. Ssaru – “Bei Imepanda“
Jesse Taconelli’s Favorite Albums of 2021 (excluding dltzk & quinn)
black midi – Cavalcade
Pink Siifu – GUMBO’!
Lil Ugly Mane – Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern
Low – HEY WHAT
Squid – Bright Green Field
Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready
Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augestine – A Beginner’s Mind
Pharoah Sanders, The London Symphony Orchestra & Floating Points – Promises
Injury Reserve – By The Time I Get to Phoenix
Genesis Owusu – Smiling With No Teeth
L’rain – Fatigue
Black Country, New Road – For the First Time
Richard Dawson & Circle – Henki
SPELLLING – Turning Wheel
Porter Robinson – Nurture
파란노을 [Parannoul] / Asian Glow / sonhos tomam conta – Downfall of the Neon Youth
Backxwash – I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES
Akash Pandey’s Best Interviews of 2021
Music. Film. Writing. All sorts of work moved me this year. What stuck with me most, though, were interviews. It felt nice to peek inside the minds of creative people while tugging on my dog’s leash in the morning, airpod in ear. Questions arose that I didn’t even know I had. How, for example, does a journalist keep at it after being exiled by a government trying to hide a genocide? How does a film editor use montage and archival cuts to elevate a music story into Black folklore? How does a curiosity rising in the mind of a 12-year old girl lead to a reassessment of a founding father’s legacy? Combine these with moments of connection and levity and you have my list of the best interviews with creative people I came across in 2021:
- Thundercat on The Jump with Shirley Manson
- Jeff Tweedy on the Ezra Klein Show
- Vijay Iyer on Prince’s “Sign O’ the Times” on Heat Rocks
- Joshua L. Pearson on Art of the Cut
- The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (2004)
- Riz Ahmed on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
- The future of L.A. is here. Robin D.G. Kelley’s radical imagination shows us the way. by Vinson Cunningham for the LA Times
- Annette Gordon-Reed, The Art of Nonfiction No. 11 in The Paris Review (interview by John Jeremiah Sullivan)
- Megha Rajagopalan on the Longform podcast
Vivian Medithi’s 2021 Songs + Scents
Mano’s Favorite MA Rap Songs of 2021
BIA – “Whole Lotta Money” (London Jae & Tee Romano)
Van Buren Records feat. Jazz Cartier – “CULT” (AzizTheShake)
Trottie Y Gizzle – “My City” (???)
Surge – “Basic” (codylemont, benjicold & idontkry)
Cincinnati Rose – “All Alone” (drellonthetrack)
CAEV – “Fuck How They Feel” (Super Smash Broz & Kevin Kofo)
Devstacks – “Money Dance” (Cxdy, Rio & Pipes)
Starker & Divino feat. Estee Nack & The Hidden Character – “Curbcandy” (Al.Divino)
OG Swaggerdick – Freestyle on CWTFB Radio (Eugene Wilde)
Avenue – “Bob The Chefs” (DUMP)
Cousin Stizz – “Lethal Weapon” (Snapz, Mike Hector & SuperDuperBrick)
Connis – “Lost Touch” (Versus)
DJ Lucas – “Fake the Funk” (NoTrust)
Uncle Spvnkk – “Kirby” (???)
Chavo feat. Pi’erre Bourne – “Ryuk” (Pi’erre Bourne)
Jack Riedy’s Favorite Chicago Indie Rap Projects of 2021
UDABABY – UDABABY LP
Defcee + Messiah Musik – Trapdoor
Mother Nature – SZNZ
Semiratruth – I Got Bandz for the MoonLandin’
D2x – The Color Blue
SG Ali – Bet Against Me
MFnMelo + squeakPIVOT – En Route (Deluxe)
NombreKari – Children Play With Fire
BAHA BANK$ – Big Bank
Greensllime – monk.
swoozydolphin’s 2021 Third Space Selects
Ziggy Waters – “COLD IN THE D“
454 – “HEAVEN“
Frazier Trill feat. Pi’erre Bourne – “Bout Nun“
Mica Levi feat. jonathan leandoer96 – “Sticks & Stones“
CFCF – “Life is Perfecto“
Blackdown – “This Journey VIP“
FLEE – “Blessings!“
Damedot – “Balacananas“
Los and Nutty – “Finished Vibes“
Shaudy Kash – “Actual Factuals 2“
Erika de Casier – “Busy“
Dazegxd – “424am (u dont kno me)“
Haru Nemuri – “bang“
Grouper – “Unclean mind“
Yasmin Williams – “Juvenescence“
BoofPaxkMooky – “Really Nice Days“
staysie atoms – “FATAL ATTRACTION“
Psych feat. d0llywood1 – “i need you forever“
Bear1Boss feat. Mercury & Niontay – “MySpace!“
Josh Svetz’s Most Memorable Song Moments of 2021
Playboi Carti’s mental breakdown on “Sky”
“In love with my bitch/I think she my bitch/I know she suck dick/I know she not shit.”
Brent Faiyaz’ crushing take on it’s not you, it’s me on “Gravity”
“It’s not that I’m over you/But I got things to do.”
Young Dolph clapping cheeks on “Case Closed”
Dolph meets a “boss bitch” and works his magic on her, with all the sound effects included: “You just need a real n**** to smash it (hold up, ha-ha)/I just turned a bad bitch to a ratchet.” To cap it off, he lets out a celebratory “wooo” to underscore his accomplishment. Long live Dolph.
Kanye West’s cringe love of Taco Bell and KFC on “Lord I Need You”
Who knew $2 beefy 5-layer burritos and a $5 fill-up box was Kanye’s love language?
Kendrick Lamar flaunting how much he doesn’t give a fuck on “range brothers”
Let’s Get This Shit, Let’s Get This Shit.
PinkPantheress’ honest desire for reciprocated feelings on “break it off”
“One day, I just wanna hear to say, ‘I like you’ / What’s stopping you?”
Maxo Kream recounting his brother’s final moments in excruciating detail on “Trips”
Juice WRLD ascending on “Matt Hardy 999”
RXK Nephew questioning everything on “American tterroristt”
The most entertaining 10 minutes of rap this year.
Anytime RX Papi rapped in 2021
Millan Verma’s Five Things He Didn’t Expect to Love This Year
1. Taylor Swift
I listened to Taylor Swift and realized that I, too, have emotions.
Asian pears, Bosc pears, Bartlett pears and more. I fell in love with the texture, and now it’s pears that I adore.
3. The Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra
This Norwegian nymph and her backing band listened to a bunch of old dixieland tunes and said, “Hmpf, we can do it better.” And sure ’nuff, they did. The Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra performs ancient American Bluegrass in the Scandinavian mountains – universal sounds re-embellished by the rarest crop of musicians I heard all year.
So it’s got the adrenaline of tequila but the smokiness of scotch. Couple shots of this and I’m out the wazoo.
Long story short: I went solo camping, miles away from any person or town –> my fire is out, it’s pitch black, and I’m about to head into my tent –> all I hear are deafening coyote howls; I am paranoid and scared –> right after fear sinks in, two slobbering creatures come sprinting and barking at me from the abyss; I let out an instinctive shriek from the bottom of my belly –> turns out they were two very friendly (and lost) hunting hounds who then slept with me in my tent.
I was terrified, and it felt wonderful.