Birmingham Music Awards winner Stephen Pennell picks the best of last year’s local releases.

…is not just the name of The Twang’s brilliant third album, it’s also an easy title for this rundown of the ten best songs of the year.

1. Deep It – DJ Zinc featuring Lady Sanity

0nly my brief to feature ten different artists stopped Sanity from claiming about five spots in this chart – she’s had a brilliant year. As she told us in her tune Time and Space, “every track is a level up to my final stage” and this is certainly a level up. For those of us old enough to remember, Deep It brings to mind the know how of Young MC with a dash of Salt n Pepa to push it into instant classic territory. Soccer AM recently played it over their Showboat montage, making Sanity the fitting soundtrack to the tricks of another young Brummie genius, Jack Grealish. Song of the year.

2. B1llionz – M1llionz

The double-barrelled explosive power of the Birmingham rapper who’s hotter than the spoons in Trainspotting, effortlessly and wittily barring over a sample of Birmingham Ormiston Academy alumni Mahalia.

3. Turn Off All The Screens – The New Consistent

The Worcester wordsmith’s evocative lyrics are perfectly suited to the downbeat vibe on this highlight from his brilliant EP Stories From The 01905.

4. Ugly – Tydal

Stripped back and self-deprecating, the debut single from Birmingham’s best battle rapper hits a heart-wrenching spot, the dictionary definition of putting his soul on a beat. Prepare for the hook to be ringing round your head for days after just one listen.

5. That Don’t Mean – Truemendous

Enjoying a well-deserved higher profile having signed to High Focus, one of the most skilled and intricate lyricists around sets an incredible standard on this debut release for her new label.

6. An Accomodation – North Parade

A sprawling, emotional epic from the band who met at Birmingham University. The Bohemian Rhapsody of indie.

7. You On My Shoulders – The Twang

Following on from their magnificent 2019 album If Confromted Just Go Mad, it’s reassuring to know that The Twang’s supply melodic melodrama is as thrilling and plentiful as ever.

8. By Any Means – Jorja Smith

The music is haunting and the lyrics are a hard-hitting commentary on the harrowing racism that reached a crescendo in 2020. The Staffordshire superstar’s expression of defiance and solidarity with those fighting racial and social injustice is as beautiful as she is. World class.

9. Step Away – Yikes

Top marks for radio-friendly rock and roll go to the Birmingham four-piece with something of the night about them. And the video is gorgeousity made flesh.

10. Devils – LaDharma

Joyful, pulsating, indie loveliness from Chris Leedham and the boys. Lyrically charming with a trademark, storming singalong chorus, LaDharma are Birmingham’s answer to The 1975, only better.