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
Of the track, Berrin says that it “was an effort to lean into the overarching trope that makes Pom Pom Squad what it is – almost like parodying myself. Heart shaped lockets and scary cheerleaders and young adult chaos and self discovery and deep ungraceful discomfort. I was also in a really complicated relationship at the time that really pushed me to come face to face with my sexual identity in a way I never had before. I had this realization that the life I was living was designed around receiving attention and validation from men – something I never truly wanted. The result of that realization was like stepping out of an old skin. It changed the way I behaved in every aspect of my life. I was finally making decisions toward my own self actualization instead of for other people’s perception. It was terrifying and exciting and necessary. This song feels like a celebration of the discomfort that comes with stepping into your new skin – your own power.”
Of the video, she adds “The image of laying awake in a grave underneath plastic grass, a painted sky, and flowers growing from these creepy, textured structures seemed to represent what I wanted out of a full length – something fierce and funny, dreamy, dark, queer… I think the video marks a turning point in my project in the same way it marked a turning point in my life. The song is about accepting yourself radically – I think the video explores that through a really fun, campy lens.”
Today Pom Pom Squad drops “Lux.” It is their first new song of 2021. It also marks their beginnings as a City Slang Records’ artist. Mia Berrin & Julia Sub directed the video which recreates several specific shots from Sophia Coppola’s adaptation of The Virgin Suicides, and shows Mia Berrin’s colors as a lifelong fan of John Waters, David Lynch and Heathers, with an irreverent pastel-soaked high school narrative that cherishes the underdog.
“It’s about the fear of intimacy I felt as a teen that stemmed from negative early experiences of male attention,” she said. “The Virgin Suicides, one of my very favorite movies, captured that fear in a way that deeply resonated – the scene where Trip leaves Lux alone on the football field. He had gone through the effort of making her love him and then, when he got what he wanted, he left. I released the demo for this song on Bandcamp when I was in college and it ended up being played on Brooklyn Vegan’s blog radio on Sirius XMU. It was the first lightbulb that maybe I had a calling in music. The release has been a long time coming, but ultimately, I’m glad I waited so that I could really do right by this thing and simultaneously, by my teenage self.”
Julia Sub, who co-directed the video with Berrin added “Working on Lux was therapeutic for many reasons during the Covid-19 pandemic. Channeling my pent up energy and creativity into something collaborative, after a global lock-down, was so important to me during this time. The themes of our music video, I think, speak directly to an emotional state the world can currently and very easily identify with. Lux touches on the ideas of isolation, confusion and a yearning to escape. This project really challenged all those involved to push our creativity to new limits, overcome unbelievable obstacles and reminded us how uplifting collaboration is for the spirit.”
From City Slang Records: “City Slang is thrilled to welcome Pom Pom Squad into the City Slang family. We see Mia forging her own path, defying genre and expectation, in her songwriting and lyrical storytelling. The way Mia can nod to her influences, be they of the iconic 60’s girl group, characters from a John Waters film, or cutting edge fashion from today, while simultaneously spinning a beautiful and original story in her songs, is absolutely thrilling. This is the kind of record that makes you not only excited to see what you can do with an artist in a post-pandemic future, but also how you can build their career in the present circumstances. We cannot wait for you to hear this record in its entirety!”
Premiered on BrooklynVegan, both the song and video were made completely in quarantine. Of the song, frontperson Mia Berrin says, “This year would have been my first Pride as an ‘out’ person. It took me a long time to come to terms with my identity in a true and honest way, but I am proud to meet myself where I am now. This year, the idea of walking down a street proudly, in my queerness and in my brown skin, feels particularly difficult for a multitude of obvious reasons, but this song is my small celebration of the scary, complicated, empowering process of owning my black, queer identity.”
In light of recent events, on June 19 Bandcamp will be donating their share of all sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Pom Pom Squad will be donating their share of all digital downloads to For The Gworls Medical Fund/ https://www.artsbusinesscollaborative.org/asp-products/for-the-gworls-ftg/– a PoC lead Emergency Medical Relief Medical Fund that pays for black trans folks to travel to clinics and pharmacies during this time, as well as provide co-pay assistance if needed so that they can continue to receive important prescriptions. For info visit https://www.pompomsquadband.com/