Best of 2021 – Last year we missed doing our annual “Best Of.” This year we present it after a year of quarantine albums galore. Tours didn’t start until May but new music was flowing from the start of 2021. 2022 is already aiming to be a busy year. Here are our choices for the Best of 2021.
We’ve evolved from Phoebe Bridgers, Megan Thee Stallion and others of last year to a new crop of artists.
Best Label – Fire Talk Records – Home to Bnny, Mamalarky, Packs and more this boutique label is setting up to be the next Saddle Creek Records.
Secretly Group @secretlygroup, Saddle Creek Records @saddlecreek, Fire Talk Records @firetalkrecs, Don Giovanni Records @DonGiovanniRecs
Nest New Artist – “New” is always relative. Georgia Maq has been part of Camp Cope, and Isabella Manfredi was part of The Preatures. Our winner is Ashe who album Ashlyn was hard to put down this year.
Georgia Maq @goldsoundz_, Allison Russell @allisonrussellmusic, S.G. Goodman @s.g.goodman, Ashe @ashemusic, Jillette Johnson @jillettejohnson, Hawxx @hawxxmusic, Noa Kirel @noakirel, Kill Birds @killbirdsmusic, Killboy @killboy , Sloppy Jane @sloppyjanebandd , Ydegirl @ydegirl, The Linda Lindas @the_linda_lindas, Allison Ponthier @allisonponthier, Isabella Manfredi @isabellamanfredi, Pom Pom Squad @pompomsquad
Best Local (Colorado) Artist – Local artists can often be touring or even national acts. This category was very competitive with the amount of quarantine albums that came out. Our winner is Companion who mesmerized us in the Spring. They will quickly become a national act.
Best Dance – Dance is also electronic and electro pop. Magdalena Bay & Sofi Tukker are the 800 lb gorillas in this category. Kito is our winner for surprising collaborations.
Magdalena Bay @magdalenabay, Sofi Tukker @sofitukker, Kito @kito
Best Pop – Pop like Indie is often open to interpretation. It is often what dominates at venues. Our winner is Charlotte Cardin whose Phoenix album was one of the best albums this year.
Hana Vu @hanavuuu, Lucy Dacus @lucydacus, Japanese Breakfast @jbrekkie, Baby Queen @queenofthebabies, Charlotte Cardin @charlottecardin, Jess Chalker @jess_chalker_, May-A @mayacumming, Ashe @ashemusic, Girl In Red @girlinred, Angèle @angele_vl, Sloppy Jane @sloppyjanebandd, Nadia Vaeh @nadiavaeh, Olivia Rox @oliviarox, Number One Popstar @numberonepopstar, Bahari @bahari, Noga Erez @nogaerez, Lola Lennox @lolalennex
Best Rock – Rock is often the guitar driven beat that keeps you going. Kill Birds, who have been touring with Foo Fighters are our winner.
Royal and the Serpent @royalandtheserpent, Amyl and the Sniffers @amylandthesniffers, Mattiel @mattielworldwide , Upsahl @upsahlmusicl, Self Esteem @selfesteemselfesteem, Kill Birds @killbirdsmusic, Nadia Sheikh @nadiasheikhmusic, Red Hook @weareredhook, Pom Pom Squad @pompomsquad
Best Indie – Indie always means both a sound but also a level of development. These are the artists at the small venues touring to survive. We have a diverse selection this year. Bnny is our winner.
Best Experimental – There is always a “flinch” moment when you saw experimental. It involves a great deal of risk as personified by our winner Fifi Rong who is working on her dual album set with one album all in English, and one all in Chinese. She is crowdfunding now.
Insect Ark @insectark, Fifi Rong @fifirong, Sasami @sasamiashworth, Irreversible Entanglements @irreversibleentanglements, Haru Nemuri @haru_nemuri
Best Hip Hop – This is the first year that FEMMUSIC has this category. There may be some arguments as to whether all these artists fit it. Coi Leray is the best newcomer in this area. Ray BLK is our winner.
Bia @bia, Tones and I @tonesandi, Doja Cat @dojacat, Sza @sza, Cardi B @iamcardib, Megan Thee Stallion @theestallion, Coi Leray @coileray, Ms Banks @msbanks, Ray BLK @rayblk, Remi Wolf @remiwolf, Tinashe @tinashenow
Best Jazz – We will admit to not hearing as much jazz this year. Laufey is the winner with original interpretations of classics.
Laufey @laufey, Nnenna Freelon @officialnnenna
Best Country – Brandi Carlile is a favorite in this category and will take home more GRAMMYs. Allison Russell wins for being new and original.
Brandi Carlile @brandicarlile, Allison Russell @allisonrussellmusic, Yola @iamyolaofficial, CMAT @cmatbaby, Jackson & Sellers @jacksonsellersmusic, Ingrid Andress @ingridandress
Best Heavy Metal – Infected Rain is a former winner in this category. Jinjer, Halestorm & The Pretty Reckless dominate. The Velveteers are this year’s winner.
Hawxx @hawxxmusic, Edge of Paradise @edgeofparadise, Jinjer @jinjer_official, The Velveteers @thevelveteers, Infected Rain @infectedrain_official, The Pretty Reckless @theprettyreckless, Halestorm @halestormrocks
Best R & B – This category includes powerhouses like Arlo Parks and Dawn Richard. Alewya is our winner for new and original music this year.
Muni Long @munilong, India Shawn @indiashawn, Dawn Richard @dawnrichard, Alewya @alewya11, Arlo Parks @arloparks, Tkay Maidza @tkaymaidza, Danielia Cotton @danieliacotton, Saleka @saleka
Best Surprise – A “surprise” for us is that unexpected performance when it was not expected. It includes some risky performances such as LVXURI and Big Klit. S.G. Goodman is our hands down winner. We caught her as an opener and she garnered as much reaction as the headliner. She is a blunt, and emotive songwriter.
S.G. Goodman @s.g.goodman, Kiesza @kiesza, LVXURI @mx_lvxuri, Big Klit @klitoriusmaximus
Best Comeback – This has been a surprisingly competitive category. Whether it’s the return of ABBA after a long time to Adele’s new album. The big surprise this month is Taylor Swift taking the world with the longest song. She is our winner.
Kylie Minogue @kylieminogue, Avril Lavigne @avrillavigne, Deborah Gibson @debbiegibson, Liz Phair @LizPhairOfficial, Taylor Swift @taylorswift , ABBA @ABBA, Adele @adele, Lorde @lorde
Sofia Valdes – Sofía Valdés is a singer is a singer/songwriter, born and raised in Panama, educated in the U.S. and Liverpool, UK. Sofía’s family is deeply musical, ranging from Panamanian folk music to Cubanismo. Her latest release is “Silhouette.” @sofiavaldes
Shannon + The Clams – Shannon & The Clams’ sixth studio album, Year Of The Spider, is out now via Easy Eye Sound. For the album, the band, fronted by bass player Shannon Shaw and guitarist Cody Blanchard on lead vocals with Will Sprott on keyboards and Nate Mahan on drums, returned to Dan Auerbach’s Nashville Easy Eye Sound Studio to craft a mature, reflective and ebullient album built for the current times, on which they have perfected their signature blend of garage psych, doo-wop, classic R&B, and surf rock. The album features singles including “All of My Cryin’” and “Midnight Wine.” @shannonandtheclams
Zembu – ZEMBU is an indie-pop electronic producer and artist based out of Colorado. She combines ethereal, warm production with layers of soulful vocals and reflective lyricism centered around the intersection of her identities, mental health, and social issues. @zembumusic
Jelie – Denver rapper Jelie (pronounced “jell-eye”) is a music savant. Between her beats, production, sound engineering, songwriting and a recording arts degree received from the University of Colorado Denver, she lives and breathes her craft. @jelie303
DEADLUV – DEADLUV is a newly formed synth-pop duo from Denver, Colorado. Their music is the juxtaposition of dark and light with heavy synthesizers and ethereal vocals colliding effortlessly. Chris Nugen creates a soundscape of house beats and gnarling synth voices while Emma Henry sings hypnotic melodies on top. @deadluvmusic
The Grand Alliance – The Grand Alliance is Crl Crrll, Sur EllZ and Kayla Marque. Each amazing musicians. Together a Colorado supergroup. @legrandalliance
Lnlygrl – Perhaps the most interesting story of UMS. Originally from California this artist started music while still in college. She went to medical school in San Diego while still continuing music. Since moving to Denver and starting her career as a physician, LNLYGRL hopes to continue sharing her funky grooves with others on the dancefloor (when not on call). @_lnlygrl
Remi Wolf – Remi Wolf will cement her status as one of pop music’s brightest young stars when her debut album Juno lands on October 15th. With her eclectic sound and style and magnetic personality, Remi has developed an avid fan base – to which she affectionately refers to as “Remjobs” – that has made her a trailblazer of the emerging Gen Z pop scene. She has garnered a cult following of peers and fellow artists along the way, boasting collaborations with Dominic Fike, Beck, and Nile Rodgers and Instagram cosigns from John Mayer, Khalid and Camila Cabello. @remiwolf
Messiahvore – Formed in 2019 By guitarist/vocalist Bart McCrorey & bassist Jenn McCrorey. Kevin Disney on baritone guitar and Brokk Dagaz on drums. Messiahvore have a new full length record to be released early in 2022, but for now the plan is to keep writing, perform and get back on the road. @messiahvore
Pink Fuzz – The big news this year is The Velveteers new album produced by Dan Auerbach. The other half of the Velveteers family is in Pink Fuzz with John & LuLu. Pink Fuzz mixes harmonies with hard driving guitar. Pink Fuzz has been an extensive touring band for about 4 years. They have played with bands including Thee Oh Sees, LA Witch, Reignwolf, The Yawpers, Slowcaves, Black Pistol Fire and Heart. @pinkfuzzband
Esther Rose – As much as she’s a songwriter, Esther Rose is a scene setter, a crystallizer of moments, and a full time inhabitant of the dimly-lit world depicted in her songs. Rose found her voice over the course of years spent regularly performing and recording in New Orleans, combining her DIY work ethic with an affinity for traditional country arrangements. Though still dressed with the dreamy lap steel, fiddle, and string bass accompaniment of earlier material, sophomore album You Made It This Far took on a far more personal tone. The songs were at times cuttingly direct, with storytelling lyrics culled straight from lived experiences both stormy and revelatory. @therealestherrose
Lolita – Lolita is a latin pop artist. Her latest release is called, “Toda Mi Gente (Remix),[ft. Big Samir of The Reminders].” It’s a Spanglish pop song about gun violence and police brutality. The song weaponizes joy through pop music and puts it to use in the fight for social justice. @lolitaworldwide
Down Time – Led by Alyssa Maunders Down Time has made a mark with their debut album Hurts Being Alive produced by Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore of Tennis. @downtimeforever
The Andersons – Couples bass therapy. The Andersons is DJs Yololo and Nasty Nachos, a powerful partnership that have provided the city with grooves for all occasions. @perpetualjoyyy
Claire Heywood – After playing solo sets for small listening audiences alongside poets, comedians, and writers for several years, Heywood self-released an EP of original songs titled The Wind, It Howls in March 2019. In 2020, Heywood released three singles: “Python,” “Letter Day,” and “I Won’t Resign My Love For That Old Dream.” Her latest release is “Crushed Lemons” @claireaheywood
For over 20 years this music festival has brought big names to Denver while also showcasing the local scene. This year over 170 artists will appear on 15 stages over 3 days. Last year the festival was a virtual 3 hour event. This year’s showcase includes Pinegrove, Remi Wolf, Shannon & The Clams, Sofia Valdes among its 13 headliners. Local acts include returning artists of Bellhoss, Slow Caves, Wildermiss, Izcalli and more. There are also new faces including Lnlygirl, The Grand Alliance, Deadluv and more.
“After 20 years of Underground Music Showcase, we were thrilled to be able to carry-on our tradition virtually last year by raising $75,000 for independent musicians” shares Casey Berry, owner of the festival. “With that said, we couldn’t be happier to be in-person for 2021 to not only support live music and local bands, but to support more than a dozen independent bars and restaurants on Broadway!”
UMS is working closely with city and state officials to make sure we rage safely in 2021. This might include reduced capacity (especially at indoor venues), and potentially limiting ticket sales to ensure proper distancing as required. UMS has every intent to become a good example of how to return to in-person, live music festivals in a safe and celebratory manner, and will be monitoring health directives in real time as the big weekend approaches.