Top Music for 2021

As it Says on the Tin. 2021 in Music

I’m going to copy the first sentence from last years music post as it pretty much still stands…

If there’s anything that can possibly lift one’s spirits during the shit show that was 2021, it’s music (and beer). This here’s my yearly rundown of the top 10 new music I thought was worth listening to. As usual, it doesn’t necessarily mean NEW as in just released, just “new” to me.

I did struggle a bit to find 10 different bands/act/performers this year. There were a bunch that I found interesting or funny (Clowncore, anyone?), but not as much as I usually would put on my “Blast in the Jeep” playlist. Might have had something to do with being extremely busy with a growing company, I really just kinda settled into a few comfortable and classic genres – mostly of the heavy metal sort.

In no particular order, well, maybe UtA was the best find so it’s first, here’s my new “stuff” from 2021.

Unleash the Archers

I “discovered” Unleash the Archers at the tail end of last year but didn’t dig deeper until the begining of this year. Firmly camped in the power metal vein, UtA brings technical precision and the amazing vocal chops of Brittany Slays to a somewhat over-produced, and quite frankly, boring and easily parodied genre of metal (sorry Dragonforce).

Earlier works are typical powermetal fare, like Tonight We Ride (riding towards fame and fortune), Clean the Bloodlines (Nordic curses and killer families), and Test Your Metal (just as it sounds). The latest two albums, Apex, and Abyss, are a combined story Space-based epic of the end of the Universe.

While the musicians are stellar, Brittany Slays(Hayes) is the legitimate heir to Bruce Dickenson/Geoff Tate. As cliche as it sounds, soaring vocals, a four octave range, and her imaginative storytelling put her at the head of the pack. I also love how she’s not afraid to feature her siren-like voice at thee begining of each song instead of waiting for a finalle. Here’s my personal top three picks.

Awakening

Northwest Passage

Legacy

There are a lot more UtA songs that are excellent: Abyss, and Faster the Light to name a few. If you still aren’t convinced she’s the bomb, check out the last video I’ve included. This is Brittany performing Queensryches “Queen of the Reich” during karaoke. Mind you, this was AFTER the band just finished playing a two hour live show in Edinburgh – yes, the after show party…

Queen of the Reich – Karaoke!

Sturgill Simpson – Good Look

Some coworkers and customers at the taproom I work at introduced me to Sturgill Simpson. While not a huge country fan, the Sound & Fury video soundtrack (on Netflix) is full of great stuff crossing a lot of genre’s but keeping the rebel/rock/country feel. The video/movie is pertty cool as well, offering a very Love, Death, and Robots feel.

My favorite track is the disco, rock, country mashup called “Good Look”. A slick (hehe) take on the recording industry and the releationship between the business adn its stars. And – probably the best choreographed dance segment of any anime.

Brocas Helm – Cry of the Banshee

Was not aware of this band until this year. Founded in 1984, Brocas Helm feels like the bastard child of early Metallica and post-Carnivore, early Type O negative. In fact, when I first heard it, I would have bet money it was Peter Steel, though the music wasn’t punk enough to be Carnivore. Both fall squarely in the wheel house of my formative years.

Twelve Foot Ninja – One Hand Killing

Hard, crunchy, funky.

Maximum the Hormone – Maximum the Hormone

A Japanese version of Twelve Foot Ninja, with a little extra hard edge.

SHINee – Atlantis

Boy band K-Pop. Slick, fun, and awesome to listen to in a nice set of headphones.

Quindon Tarver, Josh Abrahams – Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

Another one from the taproom playlist of our breaer at Bad Habit. Great piece of spoken word music. Something every person should listen at the adge of 18, then again at the age of 25, then every five years after that. Very wise words, indeed.

Eskimo Callboy – I Got the Moves

Apparently this style of music is being dubbed “Partycore”, and deservedly so. Catchy riffs, cheesy lyrics, Euro-dance tracks, and super heavy industrial metal drops. Not to be taken too serioulsy, reminds me of an updated version of The Bloodhound Gang. Which isn’t a bad thng. Eskimo Callboy dropped 5 new songs this last year, most of them following a smiliar formula, this one is my favorite.

Lorna Shore – Into the Hellfire

I admit, I’m not much into Black/Death/Screamcore Metal. Most of it seemed either too pretentious (look how weird/crazy we can be), or so unintelligible as to be boring. I’ve had my eyes opened to some of the new stuff coming out and I’m starting to warm up to it. The gothic operatics, unearthly vocals, and rollercoaster buildups and body-slamming drops make Into the Hellfire one intense audio (and visual) experience.

Yes, there’s a lot of layering ging on with the vocals, but they’re all of him and all made live, not in post production. If you don’t believe me, search for the one take of this song on Youtube. And even though he sounds like a demonic bathtub pig vacuum (someone else’s description), he seems ot be one of the nicest and most humble guys in what would, on the surface, be a scary and intimidating genre.

This is the kind of song that would happily give me nightmares as an 8 year old kid.

World Order – Have Nice Day

Ending on a lighter note (which, for 2021, everyone could use), a simple conceit. “Have a Nice Day” Poppy, light, electronica from Japan. The hook is the bands tendancy to shoot thier videos with a sycronized group coporate robot walk, parodying the stuffed-shirt corporate stereotype. The founder, Gneki Sudo (in the large square glasses – center), was a former mixed martial arts fighter who switched to music, and is now a politican as well. Busy guy!

What to listen to (and watch) on a day where you jsut need a little smile.

I’ve included both video versions of Have a Nice Day. The first one is the longer, original. The second features the Shinuya business district in Tokyo. I like this version with its large, creepy, smiling, robot march through the square must have been a hoot to watch film.

Shinuya Version