2021 RSU Radio Picks

2021 was a year of many things and excellent music is surely one of them. Though live music has yet to make it’s full return, the pandemic hasn’t been able to stop artists from releasing profound work. To honor the artists and music of 2021, here are only some of the many RSU Radio’s top picks for the year. This list was compiled by RSU Radio staff Caleb, Caden, Maggie, Maria, Sam, and General Manager Tip Crowley.



If you don’t dance while listening to this track, you might need to get a hearing check. This upbeat, pop single from Dayglow is an infectious masterpiece. A song meant to mimic inner dialogue in someone’s head, listeners are transported to the narrator’s mind for 3 minutes of colorful breath of fresh air. Good luck getting this out of your head. – CALEB

When London 7-piece band Black Country, New Road dropped “Track X” at the beginning of the year in January, it had originally fallen under a lot of people’s radar. Little did we know this soft, orchestral track was preparing us for the band’s game-changing debut For The First Time. The record turned a lot of heads with its unique fusion of jazz infused arrangements and experimental indie rock sentiment. “Track X” is undoubtedly the biggest hit on the album with almost 3 million streams on Spotify. – MARIA

I picked Fallen Fruit by Lorde as my essential single because it is one of my favorite tracks off her 2021 release, ‘Solar Power’. I love the message about climate change behind the lyrics and Lorde delivers the lyrics in a way that is oddly eerie yet beautiful. – MAGGIE

From it’s first pulsating notes, you already know you’re in for something good with this song. Holly Humberstone’s title-track from her most recent EP is a masterclass in bedroom-pop. The captured feeling of loneliness and desperation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is defined better than any other song you will hear this year. The song’s sparse construction of synths and guitars combined with Holly’s layered crisp vocals make it something special and yet nostalgic at the same time. A signature track to mark the pandemic for me and undeniably one of my favorite tracks of 2021. – CADEN

One word can describe this single for me; earworm. Bikini dropped this track late May in anticipation of is first EP titled motor function, which also contain groovy and faster tempo songs. The color of the sound is jovial and galactic. The music video depicts a good time spent with friends, video games, and football. In a year such as 2021 and an existence such as this, binki’s Clay Pigeon contests to lift the despondent and crestfallen. – SAM


OKC’s orchestral dream punkers followed up their debut album with a slick new single and music video this October. This single represents the band so well; with a hooky chorus, a synth that would sound at home in an 80’s b-movie, a powerful attitude, and the energy to back it all up. stepmom’s first album introduced the band to local audiences, but this single feels like a step toward the national stage. – TIP



Coney Island by Taylor Swift Featuring The National is my choice for my favorite Crossover Collab because the slow track incorporates a declining relationship reminiscing where the relationship had its highs and how their perception of the place has changed along with the relationship.  I like that concept because I feel everyone has gone through that and everyone can relate to the song in some way. – MAGGIE

In the Fall, Jordana and TV Girl embarked on a sold-out U.S. tour together. Only a week later, the two released Summer’s Over, a 7-track excursion of everything nostalgic and bittersweet.The collaboration brings out the best in both artists– TV Girl’s soothing, hypnotic sound and Jordana’s ethereal vocals and saccharine lyrics. The indie-pop collaboration explores young love and its fleeting nature with the entire EP acting as a painful farewell. From the bittersweet end of a summer fling to waiting to leave the party with a new squeeze, Summer’s Over provided a confessional, relatable experience for an entire generation. This EP was a big moment for young indie twenty-somethings in the year 2021. In short, Summer’s Over is the perfect soundtrack for coming of age. – MARIA

What’s better than a delicious bass-driven song that single-handedly acts as a commemorative effort to Johnny Clegg and reminds listeners of the 80’s? Seemingly nothing. Walk The Moon, with the help from Johnny Clegg’s son Jesse Clegg, pays homage to both the late South African musician and music of years past. Derived from influences such as Peter Gabriel, the band successfully creates a song full of melodramatic lyrics and groovy instrumentation for listeners of all ages to enjoy. – CADEN

Turnstile’s GLOW ON was the example of a crossover this year. This is a band that has never been afraid to experiment within a genre that can often rely on familiar sounds, but GLOW ON was more than a few steps outside the norm. Turnstile managed to blend melodic hardcore, alt rock, psychedellic, and even a bit of pop while not completely alienating their current fanbase. For two tracks, Dev Hynes, AKA Blood Orange, leaves his mark. “ALIEN LOVE CALL” slows it down and pulls in R&B influence to match Hynes current musical style. The album’s final track, “LONELY DEZIRES” pulls Hynes back to his Test Icicles days with a high energy punk track. While only two tracks, these two add a much needed variety to GLOW ON. – TIP

You will need a full evening to really enjoy this R&B and funk collaborative album. This duo consists of pop rock star Bruno Mars and soul rapper Anderson .Paak coming together for a groovy, funky half hour. Including super singles “Leave the Door Open” and “Skate”, it may be hard to miss this newly formed collaboration and you don’t want to. The entire album focuses on a singular style but hits on different emotions and themes. This duo knows how to get you moving with energetic vocals and crisp production. – CALEB

I do proclaim that this track will erode thy emotional weight and refresh the piece of you that only your subconscious can hear between your skin and muscles. I must admit that I am traditionally not a CHVRCHES fan and neither an adamant Robert Smith fan, but I only say so to communicate my unbiased opinions to this track. This song has sauce. The drums have a tight funk phrase that plays continuously throughout the track and is embellished with vocals that split the grey matter inside your brain as if it is the Red Sea so you can clearly see how sore and exhausted you are. Or at least that’s what it does for me. Robert Smith never fails to add an unprecedented level of emotion in the tracks he dips his hands into. – SAM



My breakout artist for 2021 is Gracie Abrams.  She released her sophomore album this year titled ‘This is What it Feels Like’. I like her unique soft tone and relatable lyrics, and I feel for that reason she has a lot of potential to grow further. – MAGGIE

girl in red released her debut album “if i could make it go quiet” on April 30, 2021 and she has really blown up since then. Marie Ulven has released music before this year, a few singles here and there, but the indie pop artist has broken into popularity this year. The phrase “Do you listen to girl in red?” became a social media phrase that was code for asking if another girl was attracted to girls. Ulven responded to this trend and said that her music can be enjoyed by anyone and it sure can. Her debut album is full of emotions that were written over the past few years and months, touching on subjects like mental health and intrusive thoughts. These emotions really pack a punch paired with the indie instrumentals which compliment these themes, and give Ulven a unique and emotional album. – CALEB

UK artist Arlo Parks blew me away with her debut record Collapsed in Sunbeams in January. The record came at such an important time for a lot of people–  a time of collective stress, pain, and desperate need for healing. In this time of need, Parks lent her voice, strong and steady. Her careful introspection and detailed rumination on interpersonal relationships resonated with a lot of people, especially young ones searching for a sense of belonging in the overwhelming present we find ourselves in. Parks’ sobering wisdom is most apparent on her track “Black Dog.” During the song, Parks sings, It’s so cruel / What your mind can do for no reason, after attempting to convince her friend to leave bed in exchange for fruit from a corner store. – MARIA

Mdou Moctar has been playing music since 2008, but had a breakout year in 2021. Mahamadou Souleymane grew up in several cities across Niger, where he picked up a love for Tuareg guitar music. Somewhere along the way his Saharan influenced playing mixed with psychedellic and American rock and roll styles to create a sound that explodes out of the speakers. Mdou Moctar was introduced to the mainstream by the likes of NPR and KEXP’s live sessions. Watching the band play to a group of exuberant kids in the capital city of Niger is one of my favorite performance videos of the year. – TIP

My volume stays turned to the max when I listen to Lovejoy. From the UK and Minecraft, Lovejoy’s songs have a coming of age feel. They’re an alt rock band with horns and hard driving tempos all the more better to dance to. Having debuted in May with their EP, “Are You Alright” this band has had the #1 spot on the US iTunes charts. To me it seems like a lateral movement from Minecraft to music. I can’t speak with much authority on how neat their Minecraft content is, but all of Lovejoy’s music are absolute anthems in my opinion. – SAM

There is just something to be said about Isaac Dunbar. At just the age of 19, Dunbar began showing signs of pure music genius. Though he has released EPs each year since 2019, 2021’s Evil Twin truly showcases Dunbar’s ability to conquer any genre with ease. Not to mention he sounds like he is having so much fun doing it. Upcoming fans will also be pleased to know as well that he is a multifaceted talent that writes his own songs, produces his own songs, and crafts a majority of the visual components to his music.  Lord only knows what Dunbar has in store for 2022 and beyond. I don’t think the general masses are ready to experience such greatness when he truly blows up. – CADEN



Pets may only have two singles released this year, but they are fantastic. This band performed for the first time at RSU Radio’s annual concert Chillout, went virtual in 2020 and was a fan favorite! The indie group loves to find new sounds and a colorful mix of styles. The band features catchy guitar and punchy drums. Become a fan of this up and coming band before they blow up. – CALEB

When listening to Casii Stephan the one word that comes to mind is hopeful. The Tulsa songstress and her 2021 output can make even the most cynical listener feel optimistic about their future and the local music scene. Driven by Stephan’s grand voice, the singer is able to deliver inspirational anthem after inspirational anthem. If anything, it’s hard for the instrumental to keep pace with Stephan though it does. It does triumphantly. I can’t wait for what Casii Stephan has next and so should you. – CADEN

I picked Harry and the Ranch for my favorite local artist because their songs are lighthearted and fun.  Also, some of their songs are instrumental which I like. – MAGGIE

Rodney Hulsey, known by his stage name PawPaw Rod, is a bit of an enigma. He may not be a household name in Oklahoma music yet, but he’s had a breakout couple of years. His first single “HIT EM WHERE IT HURTS” blew up in 2020. In 2021 he released a strong series of follow-ups, especially the single “Glass House”. Rod’s tracks mix smooth 70’s electric piano, funky basslines, and a vocal style somewhere between Gil Scott-Heron and Armand Hammer. His lyrics flow like a rapper, but pop with flair and vocal range in his interwoven singing. I can’t wait to hear more. – TIP

In 2021, Husbands released a slew of songs that can best be described as all things indie-pop, synth and surrealist. From questioning the cyclical, primitive nature of human existence on “Ancient One” to ruminating on the questionable behavior of the local police on “Must Be a Cop,” Husbands aren’t afraid to explore the thoughts bubbling up from their subconscious. The duo’s steady stream of reliable, interesting songs is why I consider them to be a couple of the best local artists this year. – MARIA

Rodney Hulsey, known by his stage name PawPaw Rod, is a bit of an enigma. He may not be a household name in Oklahoma music yet, but he’s had a breakout couple of years. His first single “HIT EM WHERE IT HURTS” blew up in 2020. In 2021 he released a strong series of follow-ups, especially the single “Glass House”. Rod’s tracks mix smooth 70’s electric piano, funky bass lines, and a vocal style somewhere between Gil Scott-Heron and Armand Hammer. His lyrics flow like a rapper, but pop with flair and vocal range in his interwoven singing. I can’t wait to hear more. – SAM



There is something retro sounding about Pony Hunt. I had interviewed Jesse Antonick who is Pony Hunt and learned that these songs are based from a life of constant traveling and creating, as she lived in a van, in a boat, and all the while wrote songs, and incessantly exercised her imagination with other projects. She has a beautiful stop motion animated music video for her track “Stardust”, which she created with a friend. VAR! is simultaneously a mellow, meditative trip to the desert as well as a fare to the stars. – SAM

2021 was the year of the crossover album. Many artists saw the value, both creatively and monetarily, in mixing styles and sounds, especially if that crossover included hip hop or R&B. Genesis Owusu’s Smiling With No Teeth is the perfect example of a broad variety of sounds and unique approaches to songwriting creating something greater than the sum of its parts. The Australian singer and rapper bounces from funked out slow jams to upbeat punky electro you might expect to hear out of Bloc Party or TV On the Radio. When it comes to debut albums, it’s hard to find one better than this in the last few years. – TIP

Evermore was a clear choice for my favorite album of the year because some of the song’s lyrics have unique concepts which I like giving light to what feels like a unique situation.  Also, I think the album is the perfect follow up to her 2020 album Folklore and it continued the genre shift to alternative for Taylor Swift which I thoroughly enjoy. – MAGGIE

Dry Cleaning’s New Long Leg is a fascinating post-punk album that managed to explore the phonetics of the English language in a way that hasn’t been done quite before. Granted, it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Lead vocalist Florence Shaw ruminated on plenty of oddball topics– from oven chips and discarded air fresheners to the little bit of your nose you can see in the corner of your vision. These unusual meditations are delivered with a laid-back tone that is nothing short of entrancing. Combine it with the rest of the band’s slick hooks and you have an album that changes everything. – MARIA

It’s been hard during the pandemic. Bo Burnham understands to a T and documents the times with INSIDE (The Songs). Topics throughout this one-of-a-kind project range from the difficulties of FaceTiming your mom, holding yourself accountable, and coping with all the horrors that are going on in the world. The comedian doesn’t hold back on this LP. If anything, Burnham makes sure to hit on deep themes and struggles while underlining the absurdity of life and our role in it. All of this and not to mention that the music is fun, bombastic, clever, and addicting. I recommend this to the beloved reader you are even if you yourself are not a fan of comedy specials, Bo Burnham, or musical storytelling. – CADEN

Tyler, the Creator leans more towards a mixtape style of approach for this album but still manages to create a coherent project that plays perfectly with his strengths as an artist. The most standout aspect of the album is the unique and aggressive production. Tyler combines boomy bass with crisp hi hats to immerse into his wild world. He reflects on his past and the lyrics show how much Tyler has matured and grown as a person, as well as an artist. My personal favorite is Wilshire, an 8 minute song that gets you really invested into this story he is retelling over a smooth beat. – CALEB