2021: Tom's Top Ten

by Tom Haugen

I found 2021 to be a fantastic year for music. Perhaps a silver lining due to the pandemic, plenty of musicians spent considerable time crafting new records – many of which were artists or bands who were dormant for many years. Sadly, there was no new music from The Weakerthans or Banner Pilot, though.

Here are my 10 favorites from the year, in no particular order, although I could have easily found 20 great albums from 2021 to blather on about...


Too Much Joy – Mistakes Were Made

The New York alt-rockers end their 25 year hiatus with a post-punk, New Wave, folk, and Americana return that even features Joan Osborne.


Sleepersound – Idle Voices

For fans of dream-pop, it just doesn't get much better than this. The Wisconsians even take influence from whatever wave of emo bands like Mineral fall into, and they present some quite interesting post-rock, too.


Native Daughters – Ultimo Capo

A Denver outfit with two drummers and an affinity for post-metal, punk, and hardcore, this is a hard-hitting and inventive listen with no lack of riffs and thundering musicianship. “Girth Crisis” might be the best song title of the year, too.


Blackout Transmission – Sparse Illumination

A post-punk, shoegaze, and psych rock fronted by Christopher Goett (of Silo Halo fame), the guitars and synth swirl with an often dark but mesmerizing quality on this excellent debut.


DeeCRACKS – Serious Issues

The Austrian legends are still playing their time honored and energetic punk rock with incredible grit, buzzing melodies, and anthemic moments that welcome plenty of sing-alongs. It's a formula that plenty of bands play, but few do it as well as this.


Antagonizers ATL – Kings

The Atlanta rockers mesh UK rooted Oi! sounds with New York City hardcore and California punk rock on this sophomore album, and it makes for some of the best modern street punk around.


Tommy Womack – I Thought I Was Fine

The veteran rocker goes back to his roots here, and revisits power pop, garage rock, and punk in a very humble and energetic fashion of grit and melody.


Get Smart! – Oh Yeah No

A band who were most active in the '80s, this release collects songs recorded in 1987 but that were never released and sound right at home in today's indie rock scene as well as '80 post-punk, Get Smart! had plans for a 40 year reunion in 2020, but Covid squashed that. Thankfully, these six tracks are a nice substitute.


Greg Antista And The Lonely Streets – Under The Neon Heat

A Southern California supergroup of ex-T.S.O.L., Manic Hispanic, and Joyride members, the hooks, sing-alongs, and power pop moments make this a rugged yet tuneful version of punk that's both modern and retro.


Ellen Foley – Fighting Words

Foley's fifth solo album takes influences from legends like The Clash and Joe Jackson, and creates a nostalgic rock 'n' roll record that can get bluesy, soulful, and even possesses some honky tonk flavor in her '70s friendly climate.

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