2021 has been a rickety rollercoaster of a year to say the least.
While the pandemic and the resulting quarantine seemingly made the music world stand still in 2020, this year we were finally able to see some light at the end of the tunnel. And while the distress is by no means over, the easing of restrictions around the country allowed musicians to once again get together and make music. As (some) venues have gradually opened back up, bands were also finally able to get back to playing shows and touring.
It was a relatively slow year for rock music here in Music City, but there were still plenty of heavy-hitters that captured the pent-up angst and energy experienced by so many during the past two years.
As we reflect on 2021, we have compiled some of our favorite rock releases to come out of Nashville during this infamous period in time.
10. Patzy – “Better Offers”
The up-and-coming Nashville-based indie rock duo Patzy released their single “Better Offers,” this past October. With tongue-in-cheek lyrics that explore themes of social insecurities and the exclusive, “what are you going to do for my career?” attitude that is ever-present in Music city’s music scene, the track is both relatable and down-to-earth. It features smooth driving drums, catchy guitar riffs, and a velvety vocal performance from singer Patrick Sewalk. This radio-ready song is widely accessible and shows just why the band has been turning heads throughout 2021.
9. Secondhand Sound- “Knievel”
With their compelling songwriting, excellent production, and engaging live shows, this band has been gaining a die-hard following in Nashville and around the country. Their single “Knievel” explores themes such as coming of age, fleeting youth, and the house-show culture that is so pervasive in Nashville. This upbeat track is bursting at the seams with energy and infectious positivity. The song also features a cinematic video that brilliantly captures the song’s youthful, yearning energy.
8. The Weird Sisters- “Going Down”
In this cover of Freddie King’s classic song “Going Down,” The Weird Sisters breathed new life into this 70s classic. On this smokin’ track, the group manage to mold influences of psych rock, blues, and jazz into a sound that is nostalgic while also sounding fresh. It features several Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii-esque guitar solos, a psychedelic, acid-fueled saxophone solo, and dynamic vocals that sound straight out of yesteryear. Rather than becoming a campy throwback tune, the group manages to make the song a complex, exciting, and rockin’ listening experience.
7. Briston Maroney- “Bottle Rocket”
Indie songwriter Briston Maroney has taken off over the past few years, garnering millions of Spotify streams and YouTube views. His single “Bottle Rocket,” is a pop-rock anthem that is reminiscent of bands like The Killers, The Strokes and other early 2000s indie-rock acts. The track features driving power chords, big thumping drums, powerful vocals, and impeccable, radio-ready production quality. He also injects wild-sounding synths, revealing his willingness to experiment with new and interesting sounds. The single is also paired with a killer video that showcases Maroney’s creativity and artful vision.
6. Total Wife- “With Speakers”
Total Wife has been around for a good while, playing shows throughout Nashville and releasing records since 2017. The group really started making waves during the past year, however. They build heavily off of the My Bloody Valentine playbook, taking the traditional shoegaze sound and elevating it into something modern and accessible for today’s audiences. “With Speakers,” the first song on their self-titled record released this year, perfectly captures the band’s innovative spirit. It features densely layered, pitch-shifted guitars that undulate underneath the soft yet dynamic vocal tracks. Hypnotic synths, driving basslines, and steady drums inject an irresistible energy into the otherwise ethereal track.
5. My Wall- “The Event”
My Wall is an up and coming metal band that has been making waves in the underground hardcore scene here in Nashville. Their single, “The Event,” is a perfect showcase of the group’s uniquely ominous sound. The track mixes elements of doom, sludge, and black metal, featuring cold, unforgivingly nasty guitar riffs, atmospheric drums, and absolutely sinister vocals. Despite the lo-fi production, the recording still manages to capture the group’s chilling and immersive live performances, and leaves listeners excited to see what else this exciting band has in store for 2022.
4. Twen- “HaHaHome”
Released mere days ago, the single “HaHaHome” from Nashville’s indie-rock titans Twen is an excellent way to close out the year. The track features the group’s signature ethereal sound, with reverb-drenched vocals, rich bass, and upbeat drums. Singer Jane Fitzsimmon’s vocals effortlessly soar over the lush instrumentation, and guitarist Ian Jones’ psychedelic guitar solo sends you on a cosmic journey through space. The single is infectiously catchy and dripping with Twen’s unique and undeniably endearing character and sound. As their first new track since their 2020 EP Soothsay/Thrice, it’s a much welcomed dose of Twen’s positive vibes.
3. Suffer Under- “Things We Already Know”
Suffer Under is the side project of Zachary Prosser, formerly of Mom and Dad and Z. Recorded during the 2020 pandemic but released early this year, “Things We Already Know” is a major departure from his previous work. It features a groovy, sampled drum track, layered, harmonized basslines, and a catchy guitar riff that’s bound to get stuck in your head for weeks. It has an undeniable Gorillaz vibe, and the inherent drone of the song makes for a hypnotic listening experience.
2. Yautja- “The Weight”
As one of the heaviest acts to come out of Nashville in recent years, Yautja has been carrying the torch for many other hardcore and metal bands trying to make it in the city. “The Weight” was the first single off their latest album, The Lurch, which was released through heavy metal music giants, Relapse Records. This marks a huge step for the band as they transition from a locally-famous band into a national touring act. This chaotic track is rife with technical yet brutal riffs and unforgiving, relentless blast beats. The track possesses a converge-esque urgency that makes you feel like you’re fighting for your life, and an infectiously evil vibe that’s sure to have fans throwing hands in the pit.
- JEFF the Brotherhood- “Mountains”
“Mountains” is the B-side on Jeff’s Garbage Man 7” EP, which, sadly, the group announced would be the final release to come from their label, Infinity Cat. The track is a fitting and triumphant send off for Nashville’s hometown-heroes. Jake Orall’s monstrous, filthy guitar tone assaults the eardrums in a most satisfying way, and sounds like his amp speakers are on the verge of combustion. Meanwhile, the signal from brother Jamin Orall’s noisy, driving drums violently clip throughout the track, making it sound as if they were recorded on an iPhone. The track is certainly more lo-fi than their last several releases, but it is still unmistakably JEFF. With its scuzzy production and angry, punk attitude, the track is an undeniable head-banger, and one of the hardest songs to come out of Nashville in 2021.