Queen City Sounds: Best of Music 2021 By Tom Murphy

Queen City Sounds Best of Music 2021 By Tom Murphy_096_Birdy Magazine

Best of Music 2021
Published Issue 096, December 2021

Throughout the year this column focuses on local music so here are 40 of the greatest records not from Colorado that made 2021 much better.

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Alien Boy – Don’t Know What I Am

Emo goth anthems for the wounded but unhardened heart.

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Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams

Downtempo jazz pop in melancholic yet hopeful tones.

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Armand Hammer & The Alchemist – Haram

Brooding and incisive takes on life under American racism and the ultra wealthy.

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Black Dice – Mod Prog Sic

Futuristic, mutant, noise disco bangers.

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Buck Gooter – Head In A Bird Cage

Primal, industrial, psychedelic punk born of the American political and cultural wasteland.

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CBN – Crimes Against White America

The industrial noise 2021 Fear of a Black Planet. 

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Ceschi – This Guitar Was Stolen Along With Years of Our Lives

Startlingly poignant folk punk/indie pop record from one of underground hip-hop’s stars.

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Deerhoof – Actually, You Can

Eighteen albums in and still showing that pop never has to sound like anyone else.

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Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg

Suburban Lawns + 99 Records + cinematic existential poetry = this post-punk greatness.

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Enumclaw – Jimbo Demo

Thrilling musical offspring of 90s emo, Dinosaur Jr. and shoegaze. 

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Firefriend – Dead Icons

Psychedelic doom echoes of falling empires.

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Ghösh – Alien Nation

Surreal digital punk/hip-hop from the future of a parallel timeline. 

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Goat Girl – On All Fours

Jazz lounge krautrock-esque post-punk pop commentary on modern malaise. 

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Grouper – Shade

Whispery and deeply vulnerable acoustic sketches of paths to personal serenity. 

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HIDE – Interior Terror

Ragingly brooding and caustic denunciations of internalized oppression. 

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Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take

Multifaceted, mystical, rock and soul pop. 

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Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee 

Heartfelt and tender synth pop swimming in jazz and R&B sensibilities. 

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Julien Baker – Little Oblivions

Heartbreak, lessons in compassion and psychological pain has rarely sounded so real and gloriously expressed.

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Kira – Kira 

Dusky, cinematic, gripping vignettes of the human heart from former Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler in her solo debut album. 

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Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready

Fiery hymnal drones on the destructive habits of human civilization. 

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Loraine James – Reflection

IDM deep house for dance clubs catering to introverts.

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Low – Hey What

Imagine if Tim Hecker and Liz Harris produced another sublime Low record.

Mega Bog – Life, and Another

Calypso, collage avant-pop not short on literary flourish. 

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Modest Mouse – The Golden Casket

Reconciling angst with faint hope and a defiant spirit manifested as existential psychedelia. 

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Marissa Nadler – The Path of the Clouds 

Hazily luminous musical daydreams of dark personal secrets given voice. 

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The Narcotix – Mommy Issues

Powerful folkloric tales told in pan-tribal folk dream pop style.

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Parquet Courts – Sympathy for Life

Post-punk funk techno fusion and sharp insights into life in the American oligarchy. 

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Phew – New Decade

Unsettling drones like the voices of ancestral ghosts coming home to shuffle off the abusive colonizers.

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Pierce With Arrow – Shatter

Soundtrack to an unrevealed Nicolas Winding Refn horror film manuscript.

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Ploho – Phantom Feelings

A deep sense of resignation lit up with a glimmer of hope permeates these melancholic yet bright synth melodies. 

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Shame – Drunk Tank Pink

“Human, for a Minute” is the most tenderly heartfelt post-punk song of 2021.

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The Shivas – Feels So Good//Feels So Bad

Exuberant psych pop in a time of uncertainty and the band’s most joyously focused record.

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Sleaford Mods – Spare Ribs

UK hip-hop post-punk brimming with more irreverent attitude and humor than virtually every other band.

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Spirit of the Beehive – Entertainment, Death

Warping, layered, mind-altering pop straight from the depths of dreamtime. 

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Studded Left – Spray Painted Clouds

Gritty, creeping, industrial drone psych.  

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Tamar Aphek – All Bets Are Off

Edgy, genre swapping, psychedelic prog.

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Tropical Fuckstorm – Deep States

Jodorowsky-ite indie noise pop. 

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Virginia Wing – private LIFE

Strong resonance with Laurie Anderson-esque social commentary and Eurhythmics’ soundtrack to 1984.

Wild Pink – A Billion Little Lights

A deep evocation of the acceptance of the unexpected uncertainties of adult life. 

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Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

A rewarding blend of delicate tonal colorings, saturated atmospherics and an impulse to own the full range of one’s emotions.


For more see queencitysoundsandart.wordpress.com


Tom Murphy is a Denver-based music writer and science fiction/fantasy/horror creator. He is also a musician, historian and itinerant filmmaker.


In case you missed it, check out Tom’s November install of Queen City Sounds or head to our Explore section to see more his past music selections.

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