The Best Progressive Pop New music of 2021

Listen: Maandy, “Hivi Na Hivo”


Luminelle

Magdalena Bay: Mercurial Entire world

The internet-obsessed rollout for Magdalena Bay’s debut album showcased Y2K-design and style internet sites, meta songs films, and hallucinatory TikToks—playful gateways into one of the most exclusive pop records of the year. The L.A.-based mostly duo of Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin make audio splashed with markers of the earlier: vaporwave, G-funk, and Max Martin-sized pop are all touchstones for Mercurial Globe. 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 supply pathos and electro-pop perfection all at at the time. –Eric Torres

Hear/Get: Rough Trade | Amazon | Apple Songs | Bandcamp | Spotify | Tidal


Saddest Factory / Dead Oceans

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

​​Who’d have guessed that, in the year of our Lord 2021, Phoebe Bridgers would set the terms “life’s so fun” to tape—unironically? Even indie rock’s phantom queen acquired swept up in the giddiness of “Silk Chiffon,” the initial one launched by alt-pop team MUNA on Bridgers’ individual label. MUNA’s songs generally middle queer adore this 1, explained by the band as something “for little ones to have their initial gay kiss to,” is a swirl of stomach butterflies and PG sensuality. But those demure lyrics are backed by vivid acoustic chords, fizzy electronics, and a chorus that pops like confetti, building “Silk Chiffon” wonderfully bombastic—a convincing counterpoint in a yr of tasteful, understated A-record pop. –Olivia Horn

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


Parlophone

PinkPantheress: “Just for Me”

The aughts revival obtained major this 12 months. With confessional lyrics alongside crushed-out 2-move and garage beats, 20-calendar year-aged PinkPantheress soundtracked the confessional side of TikTok in 480p resolution, calling back 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 far more introverted corners of the net. –Stefanie Fernández

Pay attention: PinkPantheress, “Just for Me”


Self-launched

quinn: “and most importantly, have fun”

Over the previous two yrs, quinn emerged as a person of the faces of digicore by way of her brash, boisterous on the internet pop and rap, but in 2021, disillusioned with newfound fame, she commenced to reinvent herself. On her a person-off solitary “and most importantly, have exciting,” she navigates this changeover with an evil grin. The intro—“You never even know me, you do not even know me”—feels scornful, but together with verses describing a wild, drug-fueled bender, it will become an invitation to be a part of her in the eye of the storm. Jagged bits of culture fly all all around: G-funk and drum’n’bass, a Kesha lyric, snippets from CDC director Rochelle Walensky and A Tribe Referred to as Quest. Like quinn’s on-line presence, the tune generates an illusion of familiarity though holding the listener at arm’s duration. –Mano Sundaresan

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


Matsor Jobs

Rostam: “4Runner”

Rostam’s twelve-string tribute to the open up highway would make anybody swoon, but this like music might hold particular significance for queer men and women. “Don’t wanna be really like a woman,” he sings. “I imagine I’m pretty much your boy.” For anybody who’s at any time felt like a foreigner in their own skin, remaining observed in the appropriate way by the ideal person—handsome rather than wonderful, say—can come to feel like a homecoming. In “4Runner,” Rostam and his enjoy make a new house for themselves on the highway, leaving the common behind and driving ahead into a future that once seemed extremely hard. –Peyton Thomas

Pay attention: Rostam, “4Runner”


XL

Smerz: “Believer”

Smerz, the electronic undertaking of Norwegian songwriters Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg, introduced its debut whole-size, Believer, early this yr. The album’s chilly, creeping title track is amongst the duo’s greatest perform: The music teeters on jagged synths and rattling polyrhythms, even though strings surge from powering at gale force. Stoltenberg’s voice is modest and somewhat processed, a mechanical purr that in some way feels the two vulnerable and detached. Her clipped dispatches on enjoy are pragmatic and icy, but beguiling enough to lure you through each individual disorienting curve. –Madison Bloom