Congrats to All the Soundfly Members Who Published Tracks in 2021!

Screenshot of Spotify playlist for 2021 Student Spotlight

2021 student spotlight

Congratulations to the entire Soundfly community for an incredible year of music! Just before the new year, we asked you to share some of the work you published this year that you’re most proud of, and we’ve loved listening to every second of it!

Because not everything that Soundfly members have shared was published to streaming platforms, we’ve created two separate 2021 community playlists to listen in:

Have a listen, get inspired, and root on your fellow community members — we hope you enjoy listening as much as we have.

And to show how much we appreciate all these incredible songs, each member of the Soundfly Team has chosen some of our favorites and reflected on them below.

Lana Cenčić – “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”

I’m a Montrealer, so when I got wind of Lana Cenčić’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s sultry, poetic classic, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” I jumped at the opportunity to write some words on it. Lana’s version takes Cohen’s acoustic strings into a synthetic, digital world pretty quickly, but then backs off and retreats to the piano elegantly. This song is also a vocalist’s dream come true, as it includes all kinds of counter melodies fit for creativity in the background, as well as the lead. And Lana really leans in to those opportunities. Lana’s production is also incredibly clean here, and yet the song is still truly set up to highlight the lyrics responsibly, as Cohen would’ve himself intended.

– Jeremy Young

Bethany Highley – “Wait for You”

Bethany Highley’s vocals and processing perfectly convey a sense of loss in this vast setting created by an evolving soundscape. “Wait for You” has all the epicness and texture you’d expect from a How To Destroy Angels tune or Reznor/Ross film score. Different textures emerge and retreat throughout the track, resulting in an endless stream of ear candy. Her second track on this year’s round-up, “Ash Like Rain,” shares a similar mastery of space and sound design. The bittersweet melodic vocal line and organic sounds peaking through the haze of reverb and synthetic pads are enveloping and beautifully dark.

– John Hull

Naheli – “Symbiotic” & “I’ll Be OK”

The word that always comes to mind for me first when I hear Naheli is operatic, and these two tracks are no different. It’s the sense of otherworldly drama that she brings to every track — the expansiveness of every sound, feeling, and melody. I’m not one who pays close attention to lyrics, but these feel like they’re describing great mythologies, melodramas on a historic scale. “Symbiotic” makes this quite literal with its epic video depicting a sumptuous, ornate, and emotionally raw version of the Garden of Eden. “I’ll Be OK” hides its emotion in the beginning before exploding into a full-on club hit — so much drama there’s nothing left to do but dance. Keep giving us these epic sounds and stories!

– Ian Temple

DJ Quod, Mofya – “Golden Sunshine”

We often turn to music when we’re in need of catharsis, and the songs that best soothe our emotions tend to be clear reflections of the feelings themselves. Sad songs swaddle us when we feel down, while singing along with a party anthem is an excellent outlet for surges of excitable energy. But right now, many of us are wrestling with a mood that is so much more complex than “sad” or “excited.” When I pressed play on “Golden Sunshine,” what came out of my headphones just felt right. There’s a warmth to the arrangement of the piece, which manages to balance richness and minimalism. It hit me like a sigh of relief — a que sera sera reminder to take a deep breath and let myself smile now and then in spite of whatever stressors surround me.

– Mahea Lee

Daitenshi – “Outlanders” & “Little Wonders”

Daitenshi spent all of 2020 showcasing exactly how skilled he was not only at crafting brilliant 8-bit texture-scapes that rival the best of anything heard on a Gameboy in the ’90s and ’00s, but a highly skilled melodic composer, arranger, and beat maker, especially with his weekly (yes weekly!) releases of his “Friday Night Headphones” (“FNH”) series. Not only has the intrepid artist continued a prolific string of releases, but each manages to build its own epic worldscape and visions of pivotal heroic moments. One can envision any of these earworm compositions reimagined as a powerful pop-punk hit, or a classic trance or happy hardcore banger, but sticking to his LSDJ platform does no disservice to the music — the adventurous nostalgia it invokes is no mistake, and any other orchestration would pale in comparison. Make no mistake, just about every Daitenshi track is an absolute air-punching banger, and “Outlanders” and “Little Wonders” are no exception.

– Martin Fowler

Arthur Moon – “Chaos! Chaos! Chaos!”

Arthur Moon is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite groups. Completely unconventional but with the ability to draw a listener in. This track features all of my favorite elements of an Arthur Moon song: space, lyrical prowess, experimental and innovative approaches to sound design, a deep groove, and so many delightful twists and turns along the way.

– Carter Lee

Orange Cassette – “Follow Through”

There’s a groove here that you can just melt further into upon each listen. Add in some gorgeous Rhodes and synth ear candy and you’ve got one of my favorite tracks of the year, bar none. The lo-fi mix is so inviting, the harmony is sophisticated yet approachable. Huge bonus points for the Kiefer quotes off the top.

– Carter Lee

Moncho – “Fargo”

When was the last time a guitar-driven southwestern surf rock just came on for you? If, like for me, it had been too long, I want to introduce you to “Fargo” — a track that’s music is rooted so far south of the border yet with a storyline set so far north of it, it simply shouldn’t exist at all. But then again, Moncho’s story only reinforces this crisis of placelessness; a Londoner raised in the mountains of France and Spain, with musical influences reading like chapters of Americana’s Book of Greats — Ribot, Frisell, Earle, and Kristofferson. Twang for days.

– Jeremy Young

McDonough – “Laurels”

I love orchestrations, so this was tailor-made for me. Actually, that’s not true — it was made for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last summer, and it’s got all the hallmarks of a classic Olympic anthem: the spacious Coplandic horns at the outset, the minor-key moments of struggle and darkness, the triumphant counter-themes of uplifting grandiosity toward the end, the gradual increase of energy as we near the finish line, and the echoes of impact reverberating at the end through the annals of history. What a fun challenge of composing and orchestrating to take on!

– Ian Temple

Elise Lane – “Antoneon”

In recent years, I have encountered very few songs that could truly hold my focus for more than a few bars before drifting into the background of my mind. In that sense, Elise Lane’s “Antoneon” is certainly an exception. With a deft hand, the track’s creator continuously finds subtle ways to reclaim the listener’s attention — a single snap in an unexpected place within a measure, the momentary appearance of a sound you can just about but not quite place, or a lyric that beckons you to wonder about the rest of the story (e.g., “I’m just a face in the crowd that sparkles in the dark”). Like a mystery novel or a movie with a twist ending, “Antoneon” is something you may find yourself revisiting to see what you missed the first time around.

– Mahea Lee

CD32 – “Junk”

Clean, but certainly not too clean — that’s what first comes to mind with CD32’s seemingly effortless beat production. Hard-hitting sampled drums with just the right amount of “wrong” in the lilt of the hi hat or the smattering of the backbeat lays confident groundwork for smooth bass lines and well-curated sample manipulation. The tracks are never overdone or overblown, produced with the clarity of some of J Dilla’s own finest work. The precise manipulation of noise textures inside of — or in tandem with — chosen samples harkens to Prefuse 73’s early works. With intuitive arrangements, satisfyingly full and impactful mixes, and infinite cool, CD32’s new works “Red Band” and “Junk” both fit comfortably in the echelon of beatmaking’s dopest.

– Martin Fowler

Arthur Lewis – “Hello Love”

An Arthur Lewis and Martin Fowler collaboration has always seemed like a unicorn of a track. Well, this mythical beast of a tune finally exists and was the perfect summer jam for 2021. Arthur’s positivity and energy radiate through the entirety of the vocal performances, and you can just imagine the fantastic bass-face that Martin’s sporting for each slap-bass flourish. The track transports me to prancing down a New York City street on that first actual day of post-winter-nice-weather when everyone is smiling, and you think you could probably high-five everyone you pass. To top it off, the track’s polished sound has a retro vibe and familiarity while still feeling fresh and modern.

– John Hull

AURALENS, Daniela Galasso – “Sirens”

I’m on Listen # like, 7 now? And not just because the lyrics indicate that “you’ve got me in a loop” either. This song is just pure “vibe” — a vibe you want to bathe in, soak in, and never dry off from. AURALENS’ reverb wet but crystal clear production provides the perfect soundscapey bed for Galasso’s airy vocals to hover above, occasionally ramping up the energy and solidifying into the most delightfully warm Pop lava rush. Great stuff.

– Jeremy Young

Isa Vidal – “Dancing With My Ghosts,” Isa Vidal, SEROW – “Counterspin,” & Copper Creatures, Isa Vidal, Gian Torri – “Home”

All three of these tracks had one job:to showcase Isa’s stunning voice. And they all nailed it. In “Dancing,” it’s haunting and lonely, full of desperation that fully colors and occupies the space left by the arrangement. The chorus hangs with you, spinning around the empty ballrooms of your mind after it’s over, like the referenced shadows. In “Counterspin,” her main vocal is a little more controlled, but ornamented by interesting echoes and backing vocals that add welcome dynamism. In “Home,” it’s dripping with beautiful nostalgia and lyricism. The arrangement is restrained and warm, a gorgeous bed for the vocals to shine and play on. These songs are absolutely beautiful, and I can’t wait to hear what Isa releases next.

– Ian Temple

Neebu – “Chateau Piano”

Many artists spending time on Soundfly are naturally attracted by our ethos of encouraging any musician anywhere to find their own sound, which often involves intriguing fusions of influences, genres, and sonic palettes. Neebu’s “Chateau Piano” exemplifies a remarkably clean fusion of many classic EDM influences, from the hard-hitting house-style piano to the acid-laden synth melodies and heavy four-to-the-floor beat. While the opening octave arpeggios lull a listener into a false new-wave direction, the impact of the Chemical Brothers-style big-beat drums stretch the fusion of influences beyond mere layering, into a hard-hitting genre space all its own. Every four bars of this track has a new surprise to reveal, tickling some satisfying itch of dance nostalgia, with a style and approach that is, nevertheless, imminently contemporary and undeniably catchy.

– Martin Fowler

PLStrio – “Cosmonauts”

In a word, this one is “stunning.” Piano trio featuring electric and synth bass? Sign me up every. Single. Time. There’s an incredible cohesiveness to the trio that can only be achieved through countless hours spent together. Deep harmony, high level improvisation, and an exhilarating drum n’ bass groove wobble makes this track extremely repeatable.

– Carter Lee

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