Following up last year’s big Indie List (2020) I am exploring the theme further and dropping some links to what I consider some of 2021’s rising stars. The following list is a mix of new independent bands, recent bands releasing music in the past year, and some oldies as well. This is a LIST unlike any other you’ll read on the internet. My guess is that the majority of you have NEVER heard of the majority of these bands in your life. Well guess what? That is the purpose of a site like this one and my goal is to win you over, to discover new and enlightening music that’ll get your heart pumping regardless of genre Read below for MY list of the 30 greatest indie bands of 2021. Please check your cynical, snobby, self focused, social influencing opinions at the door. This isn’t a definitive list and is simply just some of MY current faves and recommendations. Follow up this post by listing some of your favorites in the comments below.
So this is an oddity of sorts for inclusion on this very list. Why? Well first of all this band has not released any recorded music just yet. They did release a little behind the scenes demo action this past memorial day weekend. With that said, you know that Wiley Willis of 2Minute Minor and October Bird of Death fame, is going to bring it in this new straight edge hardcore band. I know without a doubt this is going to be solid stuff so stay tuned. Plus Mic Cox formerly of ZAO fame is laying down some bass on this debut. How cool is that?
29. Summer Years
Another “new” band on the list with classic ties and a sound I’m will be much better than most of the stuff you’re listening to. Summer Years is the new band name for Mainsail. It’s actually a new beginning because most of the former members have now moved on. Nick Lanari (Lead Vocals) remains (amongst a couple others). Seeing how much myself and others loved that Mainsail pop-punk sound, you know you’re in for something absolutely magical with “Summer Years”. The band just dropped their debut song titled “This Light” and as expected, it absolutely rules.
28. Andy Squyres
For me Andy’s music was a complete surprise. I discovered him last year when Casey G. wrote a review of his most recent album. It’s really great music. Like a wandering folk troubadour with a heavy emphasis on creating challenging and thought provoking music that one could deem as “Worship”. If you dig the sounds of John Mark McMillan, Eddie Vedder, Damien Jurado, Sufjan Stevens, and The Welcome Wagon, then you’ll love this.
27. Har Adonai
Adam Lee Rosenfeld is Har Adonai and this is his current music project. Adam is an indie artist residing in Israel and has been creating fun and challenging music for many years. He ran Men of Israel Records back in the day when I was running the IVM webstore back at the beginning. Man Alive worked with him early on. It’s a unique collection of tunes and it is unlike most popular music heard today. He released his most recent album, “Now is Golden”, back in 2020 and it quite simply is a sonic masterpiece as I have stated before. Har Adonai is Hebrew for “Mountain of the Lord”.
26. Allen Odell
Allen Odell is an insanely talented, folk leaning, singer songwriter with real heart and honesty through the lyrics he writes. On the latest songs, he further explores mature themes and builds upon past experiences by delivering passionate, somber, and catchy songs, bordering more on the ambient side of things. I can’t really compare him to anyone else because he does things his own way and is paving a path all his own. Benjamin Daniel who was another chart member last year, helps him out on the song “West Lawrenceville” with a great BGV delivery. Check out his music today.
GR8FRT is a chilling reminder never to overlook a really talented independent artist. This husband/wife duo known as GR8FRT plays an indie meets mid 00’s emo-pop like sound. Imagine taking Say Anything, Bayside, Saves The Day, and The Juliana Theory then mixing it with a little Smashing Pumpkins, Arcade Fire, Tigers Jaw, Neon Trees, and The National, then you might have some sort of a description to latch on to. The group themselves though swallow genres like some massive experimental indie blackhole and then through a new dimension, the become this other worldly creation. I know that makes absolutely no sense and is completely fictional but I’m really at a loss for words on how to describe their most recent EP. All I know is that I enjoy this and I think you will too. “Half Life Carbon Fourteen” is available now.
24. The August Guns
This is a newer band and one with a lot to prove. They started out as a straightforward punk rock type band but have branched out and are exploring a variety of sounds on their latest songs. The band has released 4 singles this year (so far) and more to come I’m sure. Their latest single “Stand My Ground” is really good and super catchy. If you dig bands like Seaway, Fireworks, The Menzingers, Citizen, The Dangerous Summer mixed with some heavy BGVs here and there like Sleeping With Sirens, Architects, Thrice, or Hands Like Houses, then you’ll find something to appreciate in these songs.
This insanely cool new heavy pop-punk band just got their start and are off running with 2 brand new songs. We all eagerly anticipate what is to come on their upcoming full length (or EP). They have some of that easycore influence mixed in with their super melodic pop-punk. It’s like State Champs meets Chunk! No, Captain Chunk meets Four Year Strong meets Real Friends meets At The Wayside. Super melodic, super catchy, and super fun. You’re gonna love it.
22. Sef Idle
How can I possibly explain Sef’s music and influence on my website in just a few words. It is nearly impossible to wrap my mind around this truly unique and creatively inspiring man. He has worked with his indie, underground punk bands uniSEF and False Idle on a somewhat smaller stage even through the music was just as huge as any punk band currently going strong. Now he has explored his more acoustic, subtle, and introspective side through the past few “solo” releases. The new 4 way split release (find on digital networks) that is available now is absolutely stunning. If you don’t know who Sef Idle is yet then please do yourself a favor and give his songs a listen. Fans of Joey Cape, Chuck Ragan, Frank Turner, Tony Sly, Tom Petty, and even some Bruce Springsteen would be proud. I hear a little Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) too!
Where do I begin with these guys. They had a strong start in the early part of the 00’s then called it quits shortly after their full length in 2003. The band reunited a few times over the past decade and a half and finally stuck in 2018. The band released what I consider to be one of the strongest independent rock full lengths back in 2019 called “Silos & Smokestacks” that most people really haven’t heard which is no fault of theirs. Their new song “Empire On Fire” is even better than some of their more subdued, slower songs but if their past album is any indication of the diversity to be found on the new EP, then we are in for a total surprise. Never judge a book by it’s cover or a band by their collective ages. It’s the music that counts. It’s the sounds that resonate. It’s the beauty of words and notes, and the passion that comes from within.
This indie band has been on my radar for several years. The band is insanely talented with beautiful songs built around melody and harmonies. They just released a brand new ep titled “Wilderness” and it is without a doubt, the best music the band has ever made. If you don’t know who or what they are, go check out these new songs and give them a listen.
Huntingtons are another oldie but goody. Not quite as old as Ramones but definitely carrying the punk banner and keeping fun, positive music alive for a whole new generation of music fans. The band released a comeback album of sorts last year and has plans for more music. The band are also re-recording their “Rocket to Ramonia” album which is out later this year through Burnt Toast Vinyl. You can find “High School Rock”, “Get Lost”, and soon “Plastic Surgery” all getting the physical treatment once again on tape and vinyl.
18. Squad 5-0
This band has been around for over 2 decades now. They’ve gone from straight up ska influenced punk rock, to glam punk, to just punk rock and then they called it quits. The band released what I believe was 5 full length albums? Plus any splits, 7’s, etc. They have always had a unique sound and this upcoming album will certainly be no exception to their energetic spirit and creative minds. Stay tuned. Check out this recently unearthed old music video off their last full length.
Another old school influenced punk band that is literally a blast from the past. The band joined back up a few years ago and released a fantastic EP last year. The band has plans for more new music along with some re-releases of classic mostly out of print albums. Great band.
HeavyMind is the new duo featuring Teddy Boldt of Teddy at Night and Mark Campbell. It’s an indie/electro-pop type sound with heavy and slow dance type beats mixed smooth vocals. Similar to The Weeknd, TwentyOnePilots, Gotye, Chris Isaac, NYVES, and maybe a little Cool Hand Luke. Its a fun combo of sounds and something most people would enjoy. Listen to “Hold Me” now on all digital networks.
15. Last Chance Marie
This melodic punk rock band is one of the best things to come along in years. Thought provoking and spiritually leaning punk rock that will get your moving. The band released a new full length this year and well as you might have guessed, it absolutely slays. It’s like Rise Against, Hot Water Music, Blink-182, Anti Flag, and Authority Zero all rolled up into one big meaty package. I just love this band and I think you will too.
14. GFM (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh)
GFM (also known as Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh) have been hitting the concert circuit heavy in the past couple of years and releasing several independent albums/eps all the while these ladies were mostly just in high school and graduating. The 3 sisters make music unlike you might expect. It’s heavy, in your face, but also maintaining a heavy shred of melodic sensibility. Their latest song “Where Were You” is a further example of the the talent these ladies posses. It’s like (old) Flyleaf meets Walls of Jericho meets Lacuna Coil with heavy mix of Lacey Sturm thrown in. Some of the beats and instruments minus the voices almost have a Korn-esque sound to it. I’m enjoying the new song vs. some of the older stuff.
13. Reap and Sow
This is melodic hardcore just the way I like it. It’s heavy, melodic, somewhat fast, angry, yet with an inspirational touch. Does that make sense? They are a really good independent band with a sound that is reminiscent of that melodic hardcore scene but with enough oomph to keep them on their own territory. It’s really good and you need to give these guys a listen. Duh, like do it now!
12. Empty Atlas
The band dropped “Kairos” album back in 2020 and it is so incredibly inspiring not to mention musically engaging. They are an indie band with heart and a vocalist that has the chops to swing fists with the best vocalists the scene has to offer up. Manchester Orchestra meets Snow Patrol meets Anberlin, in a sea of their own original creation. They exude passion, inspire heart-beating introspection, and upward gazing. Empty Atlas are a truly remarkable indie rock outfit that will have masses of fans in no time.
11. Of The Lion
Nate DeLeon is Of The Lion and first impression is that his music is unlike most other solo indie artists out there. Just take one listen to the newer song “Summer Love” and you know you have stumbled upon something really great. Nate is a multi instrumentalist and songwriter who is without a doubt a shining light in a sea of darkness. This new music is really great and something most music fans will find appreciation for.
10. At The Wayside
Ok so I am breaking my own rule by not putting the same artists on a list twice. These guys appeared on the 2020 version but you know what? They have new music!!! The band dropped a brand new EP a couple months ago and it further shows the talent that these gentlemen hold in their hands. The “Somewhere Between EP” is heavy and melodic and completely the same great sound you’ve grown to love over the past almost decade. Phil Carper has a strong voice and the melodic pop-punk the band creates is just as good or better than the majority of stuff out there. The fact that some of the bigger labels haven’t picked this band up is a travesty. I look forward as always to new At The Wayside music and can’t wait to see/hear what’s next!
9. Chase Tremaine
Chase Tremaine has been making fantastic music for just a couple of years but has already been attracting a solid interest from fans across the world. Garnering praise and admiration from several sites including this one. He just released “The Things We Can’t Plan” which is a piano based ballad sort of song that shares some in common with Ben Folds, Mark Nicks, and even The Fray. Maybe some Andrew McMahon as well. Check out the upbeat rock sound of the album “Development & Compromise” if you want a departure from the more subdued sounds. Quite a bit of diversity found on the album as well.
An oldie but goodie. Matt Aragon (yes THAT Matt Aragon) leads this punk rock group. The band had some demos and other recordings throughout the early 00’s which just recently got re-released on digital networks. The band is currently working on their comeback full length which will probably be some of the finest melodic punk heard in years. I had the pleasure of working with them for the “I’m Your Biggest Fan Vol. 2” compilation back in 2002 and put “Michigan Avenue” on the comp. I always enjoyed their songs and I think this will be a much welcomed surprise. Welcome back guys and I hope this will be your biggest (debut) record ever!
7. Forum Blue
Where do I begin. Well, first off Ray Torres & The Mercy was a really fun little project that Scott Silleta (Plankeye/Fanmail) produced like a decade ago. It was one of my favorite albums that year which was like 2010 or 2011 (I forget). Ray Torres went solo and released a couple EPs/album and then went silent for a couple years. Well he is back under the monkiker – Forum Blue, and honestly, it’s some of the most unique, refreshing music I’ve heard in years. Just like I was impressed with years ago, I think Ray’s voice really draws the listener in and the funky/electronic pop/synthy type beats keep you entertained. It’s the ultimate summertime tunes that’ll stay with your till those cold months, keeping you warm next to your loved ones. Check this Forum Blue music out, you can’t go wrong.
Mainframe became Brownstory this year. Brownstory is Mainframe. Does it make sense? All 4 members who play on those Mainframe songs are the same people who play on this slight departure in sound known as “Brownstory”. Noah K. who is one of the lead vocalists and guitarists/songwriter has been making music for years. He created songs under The Offshore Accounts when I first connected. His story is truly unique and someday will be shared. For now, just sit back an enjoy these kick back tunes from a fresh band doing things their own way and producing everything themselves. Brownstory dropped their debut “Replanting” on all digital networks a few months back and have garnered some new fans. Don’t worry, Mainframe isn’t over. This is just an experimentation in sounds and a little side story on their journey.
Jonathan Caro surprised just about everyone by reuniting with some friends and relaunching his Stairwell project. The band last released “The Sounds of Change” like just about 20 years ago and it was one of the best albums of that time period next to Jimmy Eat World “Bleed American”. In fact, I believe had Stairwell kept going with that same sound and signed with a major, they would have been just as big. Stairwell has returned with a more lo-fi pop-rock tune by the name of “In The Lions Den” which you can find on bandcamp here. The band now includes Jeff Jacquay formerly of the bands Unashamed and Rainy Days. This eclectic outfit is sure to win fans over once again with their catchy, addictive, and all together charming sound. Stay tuned for word on the new album.
4. Starflyer 59
So how exactly does SF59 fit on this list? I wrestled with myself over this topic and almost dropped them since they are signed with a small label and have been at it for nearly 3 decades. However, Starflyer 59 and Jason Martin in particular has been creating music exactly how he wants for nearly that entire span of time without regard for what’s popular or selling in the marketplace. That is completely admirable and I so respect Jason for doing things how he wants, when he wants. Velvet Blue Music are keeping hope alive by continuing to release his music even after others aren’t anymore. Starflyer 59 have a new album on the way this fall and have released several singles already in anticipation. It’s less loud buzz/fuzz in your ears and more ambient, laid back, and completely captivating. This is the Starflyer 59 you’ve always wanted and yet it is completely familiar, not forgetting the past or departing what made the music so great. I’m looking forward to the future and what’s left of it.
3. Five Iron Frenzy
This band has been together since I was in diapers, in fact, they are the reason I am here today. The story goes, my parents met and fell in love to the (upbeat) sounds of their sophomore effort “Our Newest Album Ever” and 9 months later I was born! Well, not exactly that story but I kind of wonder sometimes since my enjoyment of their music goes beyond words. We all have our differences and while I may not 100% agree with “some” things, I do find that I like their classic, old school music and some of the songs off “Until This Shakes Apart”. Reese Roper is a talented lyricist and the members create some really diverse sounds unlike most bands I’ve heard. I’ve talked to some friends after this album dropped and expressed some differing opinions but you know what? The sounds on the album are one of a kind. I really enjoy “Like Something I Missed” so much that I honestly think it should be a promoted single. Songs like “Huerfano” carry that positive hopeful vibe they’re known for along with “Homelessly Devoted To You”, “Auld Lanxiety”, “So We Sing”, and the reggae/ska esqe song, “Bullfight For an Empty Ring”. If this band can carry on till they are literally promoting AARP ads (sorry Everclear), modeling walkers, Dentures, Depends, Coffins, and eventually gravestones, then I’ll be following along, unless I fall in that grave myself. lol. [Website/store]
2. Too Bad Eugene
Too Bad Eugene are a dynamic pop-punk trio that have been led by Adam Nigh since the very beginning, right after he left his first national band, Craig’s Brother. Adam has a super strong, commanding voice perfect for this style of music. The band had a successful funding of their new full length record and I am so excited to hear it soon. I’ve heard there will be some fun guests and other elements that’ll make this album truly special. This could without a doubt be the best punk rock full length of 2021.
1. Revival Hymns
This Finnish indie-leaning rock band is turning heads and inspiring a generation of music fan to rethink what is considered “worship” and “Praise” music. This kick back, low key, indie Ep is unlike most everything out there especially in what is considered “Christian Music”. “Birth Pains” is one of my favorite things to come out of this tumultuous year and a refreshing take on music that matters.
Honorable Independent Artist Mentions:
Matt Peters & The Nerdweasels
A really great melodic punk rock band that I just recently discovered. I mean literally, just found out about them in the most recent sense. They band have a couple singles out including a new one this year. Check out both below. Fans of solid melodic punk with an emphasis on big soaring choruses will love this.
Panther City Riots
A band featuring former Letter Kills and The Wedding vocalist, Matt Shelton, is bound to be good right? Well what if I told you the first song exceeds expectations and makes you a fan at the close of this new song?. “Say It Like You Mean It” is the perfect rock song for 2021 and a most welcome introduction to a band that will hold everyone’s attention very soon.
Light The Way
The only reason Light The Way are an honorable mention is that their brand new song(s) have not quite been released. Yes, the band just finished recording full length album #2 and it is going to be my favorite release of 2021. This band is a local, underated hit waiting to happen. Labels who are casually browsing my list(s) that haven’t looked into Light The Way need an obvious reality check. Pop-Punk with a dose of heaviness and spirited passion that is unmatched. Hopeful music for a hopefully time.
Straight up hardcore punk with a real raw, street feel to it. They have a real classic, heavy sound but made current for the ’20s. The band released their debut EP, “The Middleman” earlier this year and it hits you hard in the face and doesn’t let up till the last track finishes. I strongly recommend this band for all heavy music fans and those searching for more substance.
No Lost Cause
Rob Jensen and his No Lost Cause project created one of the most inspiring, well recorded, Christian ska-pop-punk albums that I’ve heard in the past couple years. Give “Take 2” a listen today and follow his creations on social media. I pray he keeps following his passions and creates another record of this multitude because it absolutely, without a doubt, RULES!
Nate earned a top spot on my Indie Artists of 2020 list last year and is only under “Honorable Mentions” because I wanted to give a fair shot to other rising talent. Nate Parrish has a new song that is dropping on May 28th and sure it be his biggest yet!
Must Build Jacuzzi
We all eagerly await the return of this incredible ska/punk/rock band called Must Build Jacuzzi. Their first official, big full length released back in 2018 on Indie Vision Music and now is the time they make their return. I’ve heard an EP is being worked on as we speak
Craig’s Brother is back in 2021 with a new album. Supposed to be an epic 18 track masterpiece. As of this writing, no new song(s) have been released. This is why the Bro will end up in the “Honorable Mention” category. Once the new songs hit and the album is released, you better bet it’ll be high on my list for 2021!
MxPx are yet again an “honorable mention” this year. Why? Well, they still don’t have a follow up album to “Self Titled” BUT they do have several newer tracks out. One of those “new” songs is “Say Yes” along with “Can’t Keep Waiting”, which again finds the band exploring sentimental sounds, heart on the sleeve emotional lyricism, and pure punk rock spirit along with unforgettable hope during times of stress. If you’ve ever been a fan of this band in the past nearly 3 decades, then you aren’t alone and you certainly won’t turn back now. It’s suddenly cool to be old and they certainly shouldn’t shy away or be embarrassed because they play harder than most bands less than half their age.
Said no one ever….