Local Music Roundup — 2021

2021 was definitely not the year we thought it would be. Live music came back and then was taken away as quick as it came. At least local music didn’t disappoint. Fire in Little Africa put Tulsa on the map while bringing awareness, Johnny Manchild got enough crowdfunding to drop another record and Speak, Memory released their first piece of new music in seven years. Check out the highlights of this year’s local releases below.

Fire in Little Africa – Fire in Little Africa

Fire in Little Africa was a reckoning, a resistance to the pain and injustice left in the wake of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Released via Motown Records/Black Forum, the effort is a collaborative feat with over 60 Oklahoma artists taking part to tell the true story of what happened on May 31st and June 1st, 1921. Fire in Little Africa‘s powerful message and brutal honesty brought Tulsa’s vibrant rap scene to the world stage– making the collaboration an obvious choice among the top local releases of 2021.

Johnny Manchild – We Did Not Ask For This Room

In the year 2021, we had crowd-funding to thank for the new Johnny Manchild album We Did Not Ask For This Room. The record is full of contemporary rock jams with soaring vocals and stellar harmonies. The band’s unique combination of jazz, alternative rock, ska, and world music makes this album hard to pin down in the best way.

Speak, Memory – Adirondack

In May of 2021, Speak, Memory shared Adirondack– The group’s first new music in seven years. The band called on past member Bartees Strange to help produce the EP. Adirondack was aptly named after the Adirondack mountains, Upstate New York’s most expansive landmark. Much like The Adirondacks, the three-track effort is vast, atmospheric, and breath-taking.

Sports – Get A Good Look Pt. 1

Tulsa band Sports set the bar for local indie with their EP Get A Good Look Pt 1.  The EP saw the duo getting comfortable with their chill, groovy sound as they leaned into laid-back melodies and lush instrumentation. The EP is remarkably easy-listening with enough hooks to keep your playlists engaging. Sports also dropped two singles in the final quarter of the year, “Ordinary Man” and “Can’t Be What You Think.” The tracks come off of their upcoming record Get A Good Look out in February 2022. You can catch the band live at The Vanguard Tulsa in April on their Get A Good Look Tour.

Husbands – “Liked to Party” B/W “Ambi’s Mom”

OKC indie rockers Husbands released a slew of stellar singles in 2021. From the loosely-political themes on “Must Be a Cop” to the strange, surreal ideas lying behind “Ancient One”, the Oklahoma duo was not afraid to share what was on their minds. In September, Husbands released their (subjectively) best track of the year– “Ambi’s Mom.” There’s something mystical bubbling under the ethereal synth and hushed vocals that makes this cut so easy to put on repeat. If you loved it as much as this writer did, you’re in good luck. A new Husbands album is coming to you January 18th and you can pre-order it here.

Ramona & The Phantoms – Marmalade & Blood

On Valentine’s Day 2021, Ramona & The Phantoms released Marmalade & Blood, a 10-track excursion into the winding, mystic world of singer-songwriter Kylie Rusk. The album is familiar and charming with a hefty dose of 90s revivalism. On “Happy”, Rusk channels childhood nostalgia, “I’m happy just to lay in bed / ’cause the glow-in-the-dark stars above my head / they make me happy.” Blanketed in a warm, grungy, and psychedelic atmosphere, Marmalade & Blood is  a must-listen for fans of bands like Nirvana and Mazzy Star.

Hotel Nights – Tidal Friction

Hotel Nights blew us away in August with Tidal Friction, a re-release of the Tidal Friction EP. The effort was expanded with previously unreleased tracks and a few songs from A Quiet Man EP.  The result? an undeniably Springsteen-y anthemic rock album that you can sing along to with the windows down. The unyielding catharsis lying in every track on Tidal Friction lands it among the top local releases of the year.

Beau Jennings & The Tigers – Feel The Sun

In November, Norman group Beau Jennings & The Tigers released Feel The Sun. The four-track EP is their first under Oklahoma label Black Mesa Records (making them labelmates with locals John Calvin Abney and Travis Linville). The EP channels nostalgic rock n’ roll music with hints toward Tom Petty and other rock greats. Jennings’ enigmatic vocals and The Tigers’ adept musicianship make for a cozy EP that will keep you warm all winter.

Drmcrshr – Drmcrshr

2021 marked the year OKC artist Derek Moore launched Drmcrshr, a collaborative project that sought out other local artists. He released four singles over the course of the year with each being just as high quality as the last. They’re all now compiled in the project’s self-titled EP.  From the danceable “Frankie” (check out the music video here) to the atmospheric TTYT featuring Kodos, the effort marked a strong start for the new endeavor.

Stepmom – Damage Control

Does social media fill you with an overwhelming pressure to be someone else? OKC band Stepmom explored this phenomenon on their latest single “Damage Control” back in October.  The group’s impeccable harmonies and orchestral style make this dream punk track a must-listen going into the new year. Don’t forget to give their music video for “Damage Control” a watch too.