By Cole Parkinson
2021 is almost at its end which means it’s a perfect time to look back over the year at some of the best music released during the calendar year.
Every year brings new music, that’s just an obvious statement, but the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into release plans for almost two years now. Despite the pandemic, plenty of artists saw some great realizes this year whether they be full albums, EPs, mixtapes, or singles.
So here are a handful of releases that you should give a listen before the end of the year.
Green Day – “Holy Toledo!” and “Pollyanna” (singles)
Green Day has been in a really weird space of late where I haven’t loved a lot of what they’ve been putting out. But with the releases of “Holy Toledo!” and “Pollyanna”, I think it’s two of the better songs they’ve put out in quite some time. They’re both pretty different sounding than their previous album, but they still sound like Green Day at the core. I’m not sure if this is the direction of the next album or not, but at least they’ve given the fans a couple of new tunes that are really good.
1990nowhere – Have Some Shame (EP)
I hadn’t heard of 1990nowhere until Nov. 7 when they opened for Angels & Airwaves in San Diego. While I wasn’t overly optimistic about either of the opening bands, 1990nowhere blew me away with their great musicianship, fun songs, and great live show. That weekend had also saw the release of their new EP title Have Some Shame which features only four songs. Despite being a short tracklist, the EP has is tons of fun and “Gretzky” and “Asteroid” have become some of my most played songs at the end of the year.
KennyHoopla – SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE//
I’ve already talked at length about KennyHoopla in a previous column so I won’t spend a ton of time here, but this collection of songs is spectacular. It’s a throwback to the early and mid-2000s with some modern flair mixed in. Having Travis Barker in the mix as both the producer and drummer was a great addition. Kenny is a great songwriter that writes relatable lyrics that go with great riffs and fantastic drumming.
While the entire collection is awesome, I really like “silence is also an answer//”, “turn back time//”, and “smoke break//”.
Salem – II (EP)
The first Salem EP was a super fun listen and I had it on repeat for several months — and the same thing happened with their second EP. While I’ll still give the edge to the first, II is a great extension that features the same pop-punk flair that makes it a ton of fun to listen to. “William, It Was Really Something”, “DRACULADS”, and “Keep the Thorns” are the stand out tracks for me.
Ultra Q – Get Yourself a Friend (EP)
From the ashes of Mt. Eddy rose Ultra Q. And while I still think the lone Mt. Eddy record Chroma and self-titled EP are better than any Ultra Q release, Get Yourself a Friend is my favourite release of theirs so far. While the band is the same with a different name, the sound has changed quite a bit. The newest EP still delves further into the Ultra Q, but this EP finally gripped me in a way the others hadn’t. Ultra Q really is a weird sounding band, and I mean that in a positive way. They aren’t afraid to experiment with tons of sounds. Overall, my favourite songs on Get Yourself a Friend are “It’s Permanent”, “Straight Jacket”, and “Handheld”.
Hot Milk – I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M DEAD (EP)
Hot Milk is another band I’ve talked about quite a bit, so I won’t reiterate too much. The band returned with their new EP earlier this year and while it still retains that “Hot Milk sound”, it also ventures into new territory. There’s tons of influence from hardcore, pop-punk, alternative, and hard rock thrown in, which leads to tons of variety. The title track, “Woozy”, and “The Good Life” are the standout tracks for me.
Angels & Airwaves – Lifeforms (Album)
Listen, I’ve never liked AVA as much as blink-182, and that still is the fact, but Tom DeLonge’s newest record is really good. While a fair criticism of the band early on was how similar their records sound, I think Lifeforms is quite a mixed bag of sounds. There are guitars, synths, there’s bass, and Ilan Rubin’s drumming is top-notch. With only 10 songs, there are tons of songs on here to be happy with. I really like “Losing My Mind”, “Automatic”, and “Kiss and Tell”.
The Dirty Nil – F**k Art (Album)
Released on the first day of the year, the Nil’s newest record was still one of my favourite releases of the year by the end of 2021. The Nil’s rambunctious guitar, bass, and drum act is on 10 once again with F**k Art and it’s been heavily in the rotation throughout the past 12 months. From the trackless, my favourite are “Ride or Die”, “Damage Control”, and “Possession”.
Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (Album)
Halsey’s records have been hit or miss for me, but she knocked it out of the park with If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. Front to back, this record is a must-listen. It’s a great mix of pop, industrial rock, alternative, punk rock, and grunge, and I think there’s a song for everyone on this record. I just hope she continues down this path with her next release and I also hope she teams up with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross again because this record was special. Favourite songs are “Bells in Santa Fe”, “Easier Than Lying”, and “1121”.
Rise Against – Nowhere Generation (Album)
The best Rise Against record since 2006’s The Sufferer and the Witness was released this year. After some good to mediocre records were released in between, Rise finally found that missing spark in Nowhere Generation. It sounds just like you’d think a RA record would song like, but it feels like everything clicked with this one from the songwriting perspective — there’s not a skippable song on this record. Personal favourites are “Sudden Urge”, “Monarch”, and “Sooner or Later.”
Turnstile – GLOW ON (Album)
Rounding out my listen is the new album from Baltimore hardcore band Turnstile called GLOW ON. While Turnstile made their fame by playing hardcore, the new record features tons of different sounds. While that hardcore sound is still there, the band experiments with different sounds ranging from grunge, shoegaze, R&B, post-punk, and pop-punk. It’s easily one of the best records of the year, and I haven’t stopped listening since it first came out. From a 15 song tracklist, it’s hard to pick three favourites, but I would go with “Mystery”, “Holiday”, and “New Heart Design”.
Top 10 Songs of the Year
10. “Woozy” (Hot Milk)
9. “Boilermaker” (Royal Blood)
8. “Holy Toledo!” (Green Day)
7. “Hell on Earth” (Iron Maiden)
6. “Damage Control” (The Dirty Nil)
5. “Gretzky” (1990nowhere)
4. “Kiss and Tell” (Angels & Airwaves)
3. “Bells in Santa Fe” (Halsey)
2. “silence is also an answer//” (KennyHoopla)
1. “Holiday” (Turnstile)