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The Finest Progressive Pop Audio of 2021

Hear: Maandy, “Hivi Na Hivo”


Magdalena Bay: Mercurial Environment

The web-obsessed rollout for Magdalena Bay’s debut album showcased Y2K-design internet websites, meta audio video clips, and hallucinatory TikToks—playful gateways into 1 of the most distinctive pop information of the 12 months. The L.A.-dependent duo of Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin make new music splashed with markers of the previous: vaporwave, G-funk, and Max Martin-sized pop are all touchstones for Mercurial World. There are wobbly sugar rushes and glitched-out ballads, but the album reaches its apex on “Chaeri,” a melancholic ode to a crumbling friendship the place Magdalena Bay provide pathos and electro-pop perfection all at as soon as. –Eric Torres

Listen/Purchase: Rough Trade | Amazon | Apple Tunes | Bandcamp | Spotify | Tidal

Saddest Manufacturing facility / Useless Oceans

MUNA: “Silk Chiffon” [ft. Phoebe Bridgers]

​​Who’d have guessed that, in the calendar year of our Lord 2021, Phoebe Bridgers would put the terms “life’s so fun” to tape—unironically? Even indie rock’s phantom queen obtained swept up in the giddiness of “Silk Chiffon,” the first one released by alt-pop team MUNA on Bridgers’ very own label. MUNA’s tracks usually heart queer like this 1, explained by the band as a little something “for young children to have their to start with gay kiss to,” is a swirl of stomach butterflies and PG sensuality. But these demure lyrics are backed by dazzling acoustic chords, fizzy electronics, and a chorus that pops like confetti, creating “Silk Chiffon” incredibly bombastic—a convincing counterpoint in a year of tasteful, understated A-checklist pop. –Olivia Horn

Hear: MUNA, “Silk Chiffon” [ft. Phoebe Bridgers]


PinkPantheress: “Just for Me”

The aughts revival got major this year. With confessional lyrics along with crushed-out 2-move and garage beats, 20-calendar year-aged PinkPantheress soundtracked the confessional aspect of TikTok in 480p resolution, contacting again to the halcyon times of LiveJournal. “Just for me” lingers in the cutely obsessive, a diary entry that indulges the sort of vulnerability afforded by the a lot more introverted corners of the internet. –Stefanie Fernández

Listen: PinkPantheress, “Just for Me”


quinn: “and most importantly, have fun”

More than the past two a long time, quinn emerged as just one of the faces of digicore by her brash, boisterous on line pop and rap, but in 2021, disillusioned with newfound fame, she commenced to reinvent herself. On her just one-off single “and most importantly, have entertaining,” she navigates this transition with an evil grin. The intro—“You really do not even know me, you really don’t even know me”—feels scornful, but together with verses describing a wild, drug-fueled bender, it turns into an invitation to be part of her in the eye of the storm. Jagged bits of society fly all all around: G-funk and drum’n’bass, a Kesha lyric, snippets from CDC director Rochelle Walensky and A Tribe Named Quest. Like quinn’s on-line existence, the tune makes an illusion of familiarity even though trying to keep the listener at arm’s duration. –Mano Sundaresan

Listen: quinn, “and most importantly, have fun”

Matsor Projects

Rostam: “4Runner”

Rostam’s twelve-string tribute to the open highway would make everyone swoon, but this enjoy track could keep exclusive importance for queer individuals. “Don’t wanna be rather like a female,” he sings. “I think I’m very much your boy.” For any one who’s at any time felt like a foreigner in their very own skin, becoming viewed in the right way by the suitable person—handsome somewhat than attractive, say—can come to feel like a homecoming. In “4Runner,” Rostam and his adore make a new residence for themselves on the highway, leaving the familiar driving and driving forward into a potential that as soon as appeared unattainable. –Peyton Thomas

Hear: Rostam, “4Runner”


Smerz: “Believer”

Smerz, the electronic venture of Norwegian songwriters Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg, introduced its debut total-size, Believer, early this year. The album’s chilly, creeping title keep track of is among the the duo’s very best do the job: The song teeters on jagged synths and rattling polyrhythms, although strings surge from behind at gale force. Stoltenberg’s voice is small and somewhat processed, a mechanical purr that someway feels equally susceptible and detached. Her clipped dispatches on love are pragmatic and icy, but beguiling sufficient to entice you by every disorienting curve. –Madison Bloom