Music Year-End List || Niek’s Favorite Singles and EP’s of 2021

Our last 2021 wrap-up list showcases my favorite singles and EPs of 2021. ICYMI, Dennis posted his short format favs last week. Previously, we posted our Album top 50s here and here.

For me, 2021 had an abundance of great music to offer, and I believe this applies to singles and EPs as well. To avoid decision anxiety, I’ve listed them alphabetically. I’ve excluded some killer EPs and singles because (some of the) songs would later appear on the artists’  full lengths.

Enjoy reading and listening. See you all next year! If you’re looking for a convenient playlist of most (43 of 50) of the songs, check here. [post continues below]

Alvilda || Négatif 
Alvilda, a jangly powerpop sensation from Paris, mix ’60s girl group with ’70s Good Vibrations pop punk influences and je t’aime it a lot.

New single: Nylon & Operants || Split Tape

I know nothing about Nylon and Operants other than their location (New Jersey). As such, I’m going to keep this short: their Split tape on Defective Tapes is worth checking out if you are up for a fresh and slightly experimental take on classic punk – e.g., FFO The Cowboys.

Both bands deliver a pair of songs, and below you’ll find my favorites.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Heartthrob || Demo 1 and 2

Let’s kickstart the week with something short, fast and loud: Heartthrob! Heartthrob is a four-piece from Victorville (CA) whose songs were born out of “a broken heart and sleepless nights.” Musically, Heartthrob has major Lifetime, Shook Ones, Kid Dynamite and Mikey Erg vibes. Their songs are fast-paced and very melodic. And singer Cesar Marquez is absolutely singing his guts out, which is probably the best remedy for a broken heart. To close out this pretty rad ten song,  ten-minute Tape, which compiles both demos of the band, there is a cover of the Descendents’ I Like Food.

Looking forward to whatever the band cooks up next.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Extinction Burst

New EP: Liquid Mike || You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth

Michigan’s best kept secret Liquid Mike return with a surprise EP for, by the band’s own count, their “half dozen of fans.” That’s quite the miscount, but for what it’s worth, I identify as a Liquid Mike fan. Earlier this week, I included their Stuntman record among my 100 notable records of 2021.

The You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth EP continues where Stuntman dropped us off. Expect catchy and punchy powerpop/indie rock that is reminiscent of Midtown, Piebald and The Promise Ring. One of the highlights on the EP is 45, a track Liquid Mike frontman Michael Maple also released as a solo demo, and I like even better in the full band version.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start listening to Liquid Mike, if only to be able to call yourself an early adopter once the band’s get picked up by a larger audience.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Kepi Ghoulie and Vic Ruggiero || Kepi and Vic: After the Flood

“I know you’re gonna break my heart so let’s just get this over with.” What an opening line of the latest collaboration by two veterans of the punk and ska scene. Kepi Ghoulie has been a positive force for decades with his bouncy pop punk (Groovie Ghoulies), his kids’ records, his paintings, his daily social media posts, and his kind and inclusive nature. Vic Ruggiero is a multi-instrumentalist who is most famous for fronting The Slackers, but he also released several solo-albums, played in bands like Stubborn All-Stars, SKAndalous All Stars, and co-wrote some Rancid songs.

As Kepi and Vic, the duo take us on a trip through their respective songbooks and those of others. After The Flood for example includes reconstructed versions of the Groovie Ghoulies classic (and a personal fav) Carly Simon and Highway Man. The twelve tunes on After The Flood were recorded in Ruggiero’s old basement appartment. They are old-timey songs, call it rhythm-n-blues, countryblues, or whatever. What shines through is two friends doing what they’ve been doing for decades: rockin’ out, having fun and sharing their passion for music. After The Flood is a warm and generous record that transports you to a dark and sweaty basement where you are boppin’ you head, stompin’ your feet and singing along. Keep doin’what you do, Kep and Vic!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Stardumb || Discogs

Music Year-End List || Niek’s Favorite Albums of 2021

Okay, time to look back and reflect on the musical year that was 2021. Even though I’ve always spent most of my listening time on new music, I don’t think I’ve ever spent this much time browsing, scanning, and prowling for it as I did in 2021. I did not keep track of the exact numbers (Dennis is our stats guy as he showed in his Top 50 of 2021 post last week – make sure to check that one out if you haven’t already!), but trust me, it was a lot. The focus on new releases came at the cost of not spending as much time as I may have liked with some 2021 records which are decidedly great. The list below reflects the records I ultimately played and enjoyed the most.

Overall, I think 2021 was a really strong year for music, with many of the bands in my list releasing their best work yet. Like always, my list is heavy on punk, powerpop, garage and indie rock. But I’ve also included many indie and jangle pop records, a genre that had a particularly strong year. My number one album of 2021 in some way is an outlier, but I believe it is a modern classic.

Final thought: while working on this list, my mind frequently wandered to Jan Kooi who suddenly died this year. Jan was a record store (co)owner who had impeccable taste in anything music related and whose taste I, and I speak for Dennis as well, blindly trusted. I didn’t know Jan personally, but his curiosity and generosity in sharing new music was one of the main inspirations for starting Add To Wantlist. His top 31 records of the year list was consistently great and his legacy will not be forgotten. So long Jan, and thank you for the tunes.

Check out my Top 50 records (and 50 additional notable records!) below. Here is a convenient playlist with my favorite tracks of the 100 albums (98, because two records are not on Spotify).

New single: Hands Off || Of Me / To Be Told

Hands Off is Dutch duo Jans (guitar, vocals) and Tim Daniël (drums, vocals), who met in 2018 and almost immediately hit it off musically. Hands Off released a single and an EP last year which I most definitely overlooked. Luckily, their latest single Of Me doesn’t skip a beat in drawing you in. Hands Off play a fun kind of fuzzy garagepop with a dash of riot grrrl for good measure. Both song on the single are midpaced, but the band isn’t afraid to put their foot on the gas pedal every now and then. Musically. this is more than alright and Jans’ voice give these songs that extra je ne sais quo. Which is French not Dutch. I know. Cool stuff, and I cant wait to hear more from this band!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New Compilation: G.T.R.R.C. || G.T.R.R.C. III

G.T.R.R.C. stands for Good Times Rock’n’Roll Comp. And that name could not be more appropriate for this 46 (!)-song compilation. The concept is not necessarily original: there is no shortage of punk cover comps. It’s the execution that makes G.T.R.R.C. III such a fun ride. The bands featured are the cream of the crop of the international lo-fi punk scene (e.g., Gee Tee, Prison Affair, Research Reactor Corp, Snooper, Ghoulies, DD Deth and Erik Nervous), and they go beyond your average paint by numbers punk covers.

Expect the unexpected with these reworked and deconstructed versions of orginals by ABBA, Funkadelic, Wipers, The Damned, Kiss, ZZ Top and many more. Several of these covers sound like they are played at the wrong speed, some sound like the vinyl is warped, and others are simply a gorgeous mess. The lone outlier is Straight Arrows who deliver a very cool and laid back (and high fidelity relative to the other bands) rendition of Carpe Diem by The Fugs.

Below are some of my favorite tracks from the compilation, but make sure to take a deep dive in G.T.R.R.C III. So much weirdness and awesomeness to be heard! And if you are hungry for more, make sure to check last year’s G.T.R.R.C. II. G.T.R.R.C III is out now on Legless Records in Australia. Vinyl release for America (Under the Gun) and Europe (Erste Theke Tontraeger) will take a couple of months due to pressing delays.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Rik And The Pigs || The Last Laugh

Few posts from me lately, since I’ve spent most of my free time working on my top 50 albums of 2021 list, which will be online this Wednesday. Here’s a quick post about the latest, and what probably will be the last Rik And The Pigs release. Rik And The Pigs imploded in 2018 but not before recording two final sessions in California – one with Mike Kriebel (The Beat Sessions guy), another with Tony Santos. Lumpy Records thought the recordings were too good not to put out, and I’m grateful for that decision.

Here is how the label describes the band: “The Pigs, man…those guys are the laziest delinquent sort of pig slobs ever born, but at least they’re well rehearsed. They’re salty from marinating in the degenerate RNR Dick Manitoba, Cheetah Chrome and Dave E gave us long ago and it shows. Ricky the cunning wordsmith delivers with weasel verve, as one with an actual Venus in Taurus would. There’s a rawness and honesty here that has more to do with 80s hardcore than the modern garage rock scene that has embraced them.”

If you need any more reason to listen to this one, I’d say The Last Laugh is an excellent posthumous release full of old school dirty punk that is as catchy as it is obnoxious.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Dribbler || Biglife!

The album cover of Dribbler’s first full length features four kind and happy lions. Don’t interpret that as a sign that the songs on Biglife! are toothless, or innocuous. Dribbler show plenty of bite with their energetic fuzzy garagerock that has elements of both Ty Segall and Bad Nerves. It’s a record full of current themes, like drifting clueslessly through life, societal pressures and our media-obsessed world. All delivered in easily digestible nuggets. Fun stuff!

Out now on Magic Moustache Records (UK).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Magic Mousache

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