The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2021

Best of 2021 - Olivia Rodrigo, Quicksand, Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Moses Sumney, Caribou, Outside Lands

The past 12 months have been interesting to say the least. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world after almost two years, 2021 did prove to be a little better than its predecessor on the calendar and a big reason for that was undoubtedly the return of live music during the second half of this year. For so many of us after being locked down at home, just having the chance to attend a concert or festival in person again provided some sense of normalcy to our everyday lives.

But as we look forward to hopefully better days in 2022, it’s time for us to unveil our annual “Best of” lists like we have done since this blog first began (see our 2020 picks here). No, we didn’t have time to catch every show or hear all of the albums released in the last 365 days, but forcing ourselves to make difficult decisions can be a fun exercise that helps us reflect on the year in music before turning the page.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2021.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2021:

My Morning Jacket (Jim James) at Santa Barbara Bowl


My Morning Jacket at Santa Barbara Bowl // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2021
1. My Morning Jacket at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – September 23rd
Almost six years had passed since the last time Jim James and company performed at one of Southern California’s best music venues, but after surviving 18 months without witnessing any live music, the wait for MMJ’s return to the stage felt even longer. Fortunately for us, the Louisville-bred quintet brought its A game to kick off a string of West Coast dates and powered through a collection of 23 songs at the Santa Barbara Bowl that included the emotive “In Color” off the band’s new self-titled album as well as “Where to Begin” from the “Elizabethtown” soundtrack. MMJ have earned a reputation over the years as one of the best live acts still out there, and they certainly validated that claim with a 2.5-hour performance that made the 90-mile drive from LA on a weeknight totally worth it.

2. Modest Mouse at The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles, CA – September 25th
3. Caribou at Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – November 15th
4. Lord Huron at Hollywood Forever – Los Angeles, CA – September 30th
5. Primus “A Tribute to Kings” at Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – October 17th

Top 5 Albums of 2021
1. The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore
What can we say about Adam Granduciel that hasn’t already been said? After composing and producing The War on Drugs’ best material during his previous two trips into the studio with the latter effort winning a Grammy, we knew it would be tough for the Philadelphia native to match that same level of excellence attained in 2014 and 2017 with Lost in the Dream and A Deeper Understanding. And though I Don’t Live Here Anymore doesn’t quite get there, it marks another LP from Granduciel and his cohorts that you can listen straight through from start to finish without skipping a track. Because in an era when our attention spans have been shrunk thanks in large part to technology, that’s something we should all applaud.

2. Modest Mouse – The Golden Casket
3. DARKSIDE – Spiral
4. My Morning Jacket – My Morning Jacket
5. Royal Blood – Typhoons

Top 5 Songs of 2021
1. Royal Blood – “Boilermaker”
The English alt-rock duo comprised of lead singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher shared “Boilermaker” in the lead-up to releasing its third full length this year, and the promotional single certainly stands out from the pack as one of the best songs on Typhoons. Produced by Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme, it opens with Kerr’s fuzzed-out riff and quickly builds into a head-banging anthem over the course of three and a half minutes. If you haven’t heard it before, just make sure to also check out the badass music video that’s directed by and stars Liam Lynch. Enjoy!

2. My Morning Jacket – “In Color”
3. Modest Mouse – “Walking and Running”
4. The War on Drugs – “I Don’t Wanna Wait”
5. Bonobo – “Rosewood”

Favorite remix: Four Tet – “Never Come Back” (Caribou)


Quicksand - Distant Populations

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2021
1. Kowloon Walled City at The Golden Bull – Oakland, CA – November 30th
Regardless of the fact that I didn’t go to many shows this year, this would have likely been my No. 1 even if I went to more. I had only recently been turned on to Kowloon Walled City, but I was immediately drawn to their heavy sound and they proved to replicate that sonic fury live. The Golden Bull is a nice, intimate setting for live music, and the fact that KWC were able to dial in such a balanced sound at a small club made a huge difference given how BIG they sound on their studio albums. Everyone was fixated on the band throughout its entire set, and I barely noticed anyone looking at a phone — one of the modern-day signs of a great show.

2. Quicksand at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – October 15th
3. Bad Religion & Alkaline Trio at The Masonic – San Francisco, CA – November 24th
4. The Slackers & The Aggrolites at Cornerstone Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – December 9th
5. Lagwagon with Red City Radio & Decent Criminal at Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA – November 4th

Top 5 Albums of 2021
1. Quicksand – Distant Populations
During a turbulent time like what we’ve all been collectively experiencing since last year, I think this album resonated with me so much because Quicksand has always been such a solid standby. Distant Populations is heavy in all of the right ways without being abrasive while also effectively showcasing Walter Schreifels’ dynamic song-crafting abilities. Quicksand aren’t necessarily breaking the mold here, but they’re a band that had already set the bar high with their earlier albums and this LP is an excellent continuation of their contribution to the hardcore scene.

2. Turnstile – Glow On
3. IDLES – Crawler
4. Kowloon Walled City – Piecework
5. Snail Mail – Valentine

Top 5 Songs of 2021
1. IDLES – “The Wheel”
I love how IDLES have the ability to take a song about a heavy subject like chemical dependency and turn it into an absolutely infectious banger. “The Wheel” is a perfect example of this, leaving you drawn in and tapping your foot while giving you something to ponder. The way that it can make you feel equal parts uplifted and uncomfortable is part of the appeal to me, and this was easily one of my most played songs of the year.

2. Decent Criminal – “Reap”
3. The Dirty Nil – “Doom Boy”
4. Kills Birds – “Rabbit”
5. Snail Mail – “Valentine”


Adam Schatz


Adam Schatz at The Gold Room // Photo by Rochelle Shipman

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2021
1. Adam Schatz at The Gold Room – Los Angeles, CA – November 18th
The Landlady frontman actually served as the opener on this night, but armed with little more than his saxophone, keyboards and loops, it’s safe to say Schatz stole the entire show. Fresh off a tour playing with Japanese Breakfast, he stepped onstage and quite literally let loose. It was the most refreshing, freeform, organic set full of wit and wonder, offering a sharp reminder why we need to protect the live music space (and to buy the killer album Landlady put out this year, too).

2. Foxx Bodies with Suzie True & Lando Chill at Resident DTLA – Los Angeles, CA – November 7th
3. Islands at Lodge Room – Los Angeles, CA – September 9th
4. Spoon at Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles, CA – September 28th
5. Armand Hammer & The Alchemist at Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA – September 19th

Top 5 Albums of 2021
1. Foxx Bodies – Vixen
The raw emotions that come through Foxx Bodies’ debut on indie label Kill Rock Stars grabbed me by the ankles and knocked me off my feet the first time I heard it. For an album that explores everything from mental illness, sexual abuse, eating disorders, gender fluidity and beyond, it’s equally shocking how upbeat and uplifting it comes off. It’s part empowering riot grrrl and part rollicking surf punk, full confessional. Trigger warning: it will change your life.

2. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
3. Tyler, the Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost
4. Backxwash – I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES
5. Noga Erez – KIDS

Top 5 Songs of 2021
1. Hiatus Kaiyote – “Red Room”
This song is the antithesis to 2021. It’s so warm and beautiful, so intimate as though it was conceived in a world where social distancing doesn’t even exist. Nai Palm’s soft, raspy vocals envelop you, and the uncharacteristically subtle sounds (for Hiatus Kaiyote) deliver perhaps the most consistent semblance of peace felt this year.

2. Olivia Rodrigo – “Brutal”
3. Foxx Bodies – “BPD”
4. Yaya Bey – “fxck it then”
5. Little Simz feat. Cleo Sol – “Woman”

Favorite remix: Kari Faux feat. J.I.D – “While God Was Sleepin’… (Remix)”

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Nick Murphy shows he’s the new-and-improved version of Chet Faker to close out 30 Days in LA

Nick MurphyBy Josh Herwitt //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker) //
The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles
November 30th, 2016 //

When Nick Murphy dropped his debut LP Built on Glass (read our review here) under the alias “Chet Faker” in 2014, the Australian singer-songwriter was relatively unknown outside of his home country.

Sure, his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” reached No. 1 on the Hype Machine charts and made an appearance in a Super Bowl commercial, but Murphy’s popularity had been mostly confined to the land Down Under, with a list of accolades including “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” at the Australian Independent Records Awards and “Best Independent Release” at the Rolling Stone Australia Awards.

Built on Glass changed all of that, paving the way for Murphy to sell out shows in major U.S. markets, including two in LA at The Roxy Theatre (read our review here). With the 12-track album boasting three singles — one of them being “Talk Is Cheap”, which shot all the way to No. 1 in the 2014 Triple J Hottest 100 countdown — the Melbourne native was quickly headed for mainstream status.

Since then, he has made an appearance on “Ellen” and this year headlined music festivals up and down California, including CRSSD Festival (see more photos here) as well as Lighting in a Bottle (read our festival review here), where he reaffirmed that moving to a full live band was one of the best career moves he has made. In fact, ever since his set on the main stage at FYF Fest (read our festival review here) in 2015, Murphy has taken his live show up a few notches.

The Theatre at Ace Hotel


The Theatre at Ace Hotel

But that was a different person; Chet Faker is now a man of the past. Nearly two months ago, Murphy made the announcement on Twitter, revealing that “there’s an evolution happening and I wanted to let you know where it’s going.” It was his way of telling us that he no longer wanted to hide behind the moniker he spun off in reference to famous jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. From here on out, his real name would be attached to his music. And as cheesy and cliché as it might be for a musician to change their identity for artistic reasons, Nick Murphy — the one who sold out another show in LA last Wednesday — is an extension of Chet Faker more than anything else. Call him Chet Faker, Nick Murphy or whatever name you want — it doesn’t change the fact that the 28-year-old Aussie always pours his heart and soul out when he’s onstage.

At The Theatre at Ace Hotel, the gorgeously ornate, Spanish Gothic-style movie house built in 1927 and owned by United Artists, Murphy put a stamp on Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA, which after only three years is becoming a November staple for the city’s booming music scene. From opening night with Sampha at the Palace Theatre to Murphy’s series finale just a few blocks down Broadway, Red Bull continues to seemingly outdo themselves year after year with a month full of shows featuring top-notch talent at an affordable rate (all tickets were $15 or less before taxes and fees).

But unlike many of the series’ other shows, Murphy didn’t just hit the stage for an hour and call it a night. Instead, his 90-minute set extended past midnight as he dove into newer cuts — “Bend”, “Stop Me (Stop You)” and “Fear Less” — from his forthcoming sophomore studio album (release date TBA) and played older hits like “1998” and “Gold” off of Built on Glass. There were also guest appearances by Marcus Marr, the English DJ/producer whom Murphy worked with on last year’s collaborative EP Work, and Dave Harrington, the Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist who is best known for being one half of the now-on-hiatus electronic music duo Darkside that includes Nicolas Jaar. Murphy might be filling seats thanks to his uniquely soulful voice, but it’s his propensity to surprise that keeps them filled at bigger venues each and every time he performs in LA.

Murphy’s music, both new and old, can be difficult to describe. It’s equal parts electronic, rock and soul, a hybridization that accessibly encompasses all three genres. And while his latest material follows along a similar sonic path, Murphy continues to prove that he isn’t afraid to take risks with his honest, heartfelt songwriting. So, who really needs Chet Faker when you got Nick Murphy now anyway?