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Press Pause And Hit Play: The Best New Songs You Missed In 2021

Lars Gotrich

Updated August 23, 2021 at 9:27 AM ET

Times change and so do playlists! We have retired PressPause and migrated those playlist followers to #NowPlaying, a playlist version of NPR Music's new music blog. You can still stream an archived version of PressPause below.

It can be hard to keep pace with life's restless forward motion – chores and news, friends and family, work and play. At the very least, let us help you find some new music via Press Pause, a regularly updated playlist keeping track of new songs deemed absolutely essential by the NPR Music staff.

Just like the 2020 edition, you'll find R&B, reggaeton, rock, country, Americana, punk, pop, hip-hop and whatever else helps frame the days ahead, or simply helps you to take a breather.

Stream this playlist via Spotify or Apple Music.

Press Pause Tracklist


  • illuminati hotties, "Pool Hopping"
  • Cynthia Erivo, "The Good"
  • Deafheaven, "Great Mass of Color"
  • Buena Vista Social Club, "Vicenta"
  • SUUNS, "Witness Protection"
  • Bad Bunny, "Yonaguni"
  • Wednesday, "Handsome Man"
  • Added May 20

  • Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen, "Like I Used To"
  • Tkay Maidza, "Syrup"
  • Lou Val, "Eternal Sunshine"
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, "Lingus"
  • Laufey, "I Wish You Love"
  • Songs of Kemet (feat. Moor Mother & Angel Bat Dawid), "Pick Up Your Burning Cross"
  • Added May 12

  • Torres, "Don't Go Puttin Wishes in My Head"
  • Doss, "Strawberry"
  • Water From Your Eyes, "Quotations"
  • Xenia Rubinos, "Cógelo Suave"
  • Audrey Nuna, "Blossom"
  • Mastodon, "Forged by Neron"
  • The Goon Sax, "In the Stone"
  • Rodrigo Amarante, "Maré"
  • Iamdoechii, "Yucky Blucky Fruitcake"
  • Monophonics (feat. Kelly Finnigan), "It's Only Us"
  • Added May 3

  • Billie Eilish, "Your Power"
  • Jose Manuel, "Terror"
  • Flock of Dimes, "Awake for the Sunrise"
  • Pom Pom Squad, "Head Cheerleader"
  • Dizzy Fae, "Body Move"
  • Zao, "Creator/Destroyer"
  • Added April 28

  • Little Simz, "Introvert"
  • Willow (feat. Travis Barker), " t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l"
  • Amy Shark, "Amy Shark"
  • Jessie Ware, "Please"
  • Gunnar Kristinsson, "Roots: I."
  • Emma-Jean Thackray, "Say Something"
  • illuminati hotties, "MMMOOOAAAAYAYA"
  • Wolf Alice, "Smile"
  • Added April 20

  • Lucy Dacus, "Hot & Heavy"
  • Jorja Smith, "Gone"
  • Foxing, "Go Down Together"
  • Rita Payés (feat. Elisabeth Roma), "Quien lo diría"
  • Weeekly, "After School"
  • Petal Supply (feat. umru, Himera, trndytrndy), "1"
  • The Hirs Collective, "Love,"
  • Fred again... (feat. The Blessed Madonna), "Marea (We've Lost Dancing)"
  • Added March 31

  • IKOQWE, "Pele"
  • Joyce Wrice, "Losing"
  • Arooj Aftab, "Last Night"
  • Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders, "Promises: Movement 5"
  • Solomon Fox, "Rockaways"
  • Hirsch, "Reaction"
  • Joel Young, "Friend"
  • Added March 25

  • Mannequin Pussy, "Control"
  • Meet Me @ The Altar, "Hit Like A Girl"
  • Les Filles de Illighadad, "Surbajo"
  • JID, "Skegee"
  • Lucy Dacus, "Thumbs"
  • Quivers, "Gutters of Love"
  • Andy Stott, "The beginning"
  • Crumb, "Trophy"
  • Shamir, "DsharpG (Sharon Van Etten cover)"
  • Added March 2

  • Japanese Breakfast, "Be Sweet"
  • Noname, "Rainforest"
  • Freddie Gibbs, "Winter in America"
  • Toumani Diabaté & London Symphony Orchestra, "Haïnamady Town"
  • Black Country, New Road, "Science Fair"
  • Aaron Lee Tasjan, "Computer of Love"
  • McKinley Dixon, "make a poet Black"
  • BABii, "SHADOW"
  • Will Liverman, Margaret Bonds: "Three Dream Portraits: No. 2, Dream Variation"
  • Added Feb. 16

  • Syd, "Missing Out"
  • Dawn Richard, "Bussiframe"
  • Elephant Micah, "Glacier Advisors"
  • Added Feb. 11

  • H.E.R., "Fight For You"
  • Katy Kirby, "Portals"
  • Matt Sweeney & Bonnie "Prince" Billy, "Hall of Death"
  • AMOR & LEMUR, "Unravel"
  • Arm's Length, "Garamond"
  • Added Feb. 8

  • Devin The Dude, "Soulful Distance"
  • VanJess, "Come Over"
  • Daniel Hope & Alexy Botvinov, Schnittke: "Suite in the Old Style: V. Pantomime"
  • Raveena, "Tweety"
  • Added Feb. 4

  • Flock of Dimes, "Two"
  • The Armed, "ALL FUTURES"
  • Added Feb. 2

  • Robyn & Röyksopp, "Monument (Olof Dreijer Remix)"
  • Bomba Estéreo, "Agua"
  • Lil Durk, "Kanye Crazy"
  • Goat Girl, "Sad Cowboy"
  • underscores, "Second hand embarrassment"
  • William Parker, "A Great Day to Be Dead"
  • Nina Tech, "Hocus Pocus"
  • Added Jan. 27

  • FKA twigs (feat. Headie One, Fred again..), "Don't Judge Me"
  • Esther Rose, "Keeps Me Running"
  • DijahSB, "Throw That Back"
  • IAN SWEET, "Drink the Lake"
  • Jensen McRae, "Immune"
  • FKAjazz (feat. Noah MacNeil, Philippe Lemm), "YLEM"
  • Rat Tally, "Shrug"
  • Half Waif, "Orange Blossoms"
  • Added Jan. 22

  • Valerine June (feat. Carla Thomas), "Call Me a Fool"
  • Michael Franks, "Coming Home to You"
  • Palberta, "Big Bad Want"
  • Tomaga, "Intimate Immensity"
  • Rowdy Rebel (feat. Funkmaster Flex), "Re Route"
  • Devin The Dude, "To Each His Own"
  • Added Jan. 21

  • Olivia Rodrigo, "drivers license"
  • Jazmine Sullivan (feat. Anderson .Paak), "Price Tags"
  • Jhay Cortez & Myke Towers, "Los Bo"
  • Vagabon (feat. Courtney Barnett), "Reason to Believe"
  • The Weather Station, "Atlantic"
  • Anna B Savage, "Baby Grand"
  • Joy Oladokun (feat. Jensen McRae), "wish you the best"
  • Wild Pink, "Oversharers Anonymous"
  • C. Tangana & Toquinho, "Comerte Entera"
  • Willie Jones, "American Dream"
  • Noga Erez, "End of the Road"
  • Sun June, "Everything I Had"
  • Hailey Whitters (feat. Little Big Town), "Fillin' My Cup"
  • Pale Waves, "Easy"
  • Ebhoni, "Hit This"
  • AceMo, "Aquarium Date"
  • Run The Jewels (feat. Mexican Institute Of Sound & Santa Fe Klan), "Ooh La La (Mexican Institute Of Sound Remix)"
  • Th1rt3eN, "Cult 45"
  • Dj Jahmar (feat. Josh David Barrett), "This Feeling (Love Original)"
  • Matthew E. White & Lonnie Holley, "This Here Jungle of Moderness/Composition 14"
  • Flo Milli, "Roaring 20s"
  • Alfa Mist, "Run Outs"
  • Julien Baker, "Hardline"
  • Adult Mom, "Sober"
  • Hand Habits, "4th of July"
  • Jillette Johnson, "Forgive Her"
  • Pom Poko, "Andrew"
  • Middle Kids, "Questions"
  • Renée Reed, "Fast One"
  • A Winged Victory for the Sullen, "So That the City Can Begin to Exist"
  • Monolord, "I'm Staying Home"
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