Every year seems to be better than the last for new music and 2021 was no exception. Last week, you got numbers 10 through six of what were my favorites of the year at the time of writing. This list reflects my current mood and memory; writing this tomorrow could yield same genres, but different results. I’ll mention the obscure. Like those that have state lines or even gone across the country for that one-of-a kind burrito place or the perfect snow cone, this list is made up of records you have to dig for. Spoon-fed anything is easy to get, but the good stuff takes a bit of digging.
5. Memphissippi Sounds, “Welcome to the Land” (Memphissippi Sounds/Little Village). Damion Pearson and Cameron Kimbrough have taken the sounds of Memphis’ Beale Street and North Mississippi to deliver a blast of every “style” of blues with a raw kick. Delta and Chicago blues are thumping with Detroit garage-funk, then someone invited George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic to give it all a Chocolate City vibe; the end result is some “world-boogie” of the region with a dash of gritty psychedelia. This is a record heavy on the groove and ultra-cool.
4. American Culture, “For My Animals” (Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records). Denver via Grand Junction’s Chris Adolf’s band drops a lo-fi, experimental record that at its core is a punk record. Adolf isn’t afraid to experiment by dropping in a surprise by throwing a flute into the mix, and he also proves yet again, as he did in his past band Bad Weather California, that he can write a pop song, as heard in the cut “Pedals.” Tunes like “Small Talk” are the best of punky-garage, and he can drop a psychedelic, loose and laid-back indie-groove in “I Like American Music.” It’s one fun diverse and trippy package.
3. Aquarian Blood, “Bending the Golden Hour” (Goner Records). Gentle in presentation but rough around the edges everywhere else, this Memphis duo drops an album of garage goth while giving a nod to the haunting folk reminiscent of “the Denver Sound.” Forget what you know about a “folk duo” because this is nothing presented at a festival, unless that festival happened in a dark and dingy basement. The melodies are soft, the harmonies are stark, the hooks are subtle and the whole package is mellow. It’s wonderful.
2. Amyl and the Sniffers, “Comfort to Me” (ATO Records). This Australian quartet fronted by the punchy and packed with power Amy Taylor wastes zero time charging out of the rock ’n’ roll gate. Their sound is at times a massive toss to 1980s American hardcore that’s heavy on power chords and aggression, and they’re not afraid to throw out a dash of fist-pumping butt-rock. This is a record that’s got a lot of sing-along charm in the rowdiest sense, while also stacked with guitar player Dec Marten’s riffs. It’s all-around punk rock ’n’ roll fun.
1. The Pink Stones, “Introducing ... The Pink Stones” (Normaltown Records). This Athens, Georgia, band’s debut is filed right alongside The Byrd’s and Flying Burrito Brothers, a country-rock record that’s cowboy and cosmic country cool. While the sextet drop cuts like “Blueberry Dream” that set a tone that’s lush and lazy, they drop a ripper in “Barroom Blues” and deliver twangy groove in “Let’s Sit Down” and “Miss Wind Turbine.” They’ve found a fair balance of just enough country and just enough hippie without driving strict fans of either in the other direction. It’s a gateway record that may turn rockers onto country and country fans onto rock.
Aside from these 10, we’ll also honor what would be numbers 11 and up, which includes releases from Chubby and the Gang, The Frontier Needs Heroes, The Blips, Charley Crockett, T. Hardy Morris, Cristina Vane, Mo Douglas and the Southwest’s own Genuine Cowhide.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.