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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The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Albums & Songs of 2020

Best of 2020 - Run the Jewels, My Morning Jacket, Fiona Apple, Hum, Fleet Foxes

Wow, 2020 … what can we say? This year will certainly be remembered for a lot of things, but none more so than the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged both the U.S. and world over the last 10 months and forced the live music industry to mostly shutter as musicians pivoted to livestreams and drive-in concerts to keep the show going as best they could and however possible. Yet along the way, we lost musical legends who spanned multiple generations from Neil Peart to Bill Withers to John Prine to Little Richard to Eddie Van Halen to MF DOOM — some due to COVID-19 unfortunately — making these past 12 months even more painful to endure than they already were. Ready to officially flush 2020 down the toilet and start anew? Don’t worry … you’re not alone!

In retrospect though, it has been a very quiet year for The Bam Team. You’ll notice there haven’t been a lot of updates in this space, and that’s partly due to the lack of live music on Planet Earth right now. But it’s also been a hectic time for all of us as we try to navigate our way out of these dark days and into some brighter ones, and like any good remedy nowadays, new music has definitely played its part in helping us physically and emotionally cope with the chaos.

It’s why after several months of inactivity here, we decided to dust the cobwebs off Showbams and deliver a modified version of our annual “Best of” lists like we have done since this blog first started (see our 2019 picks here). While that doesn’t mean we had time to hear and dissect every new album or song in the last 365 days — we are still in a pandemic after all — sharing our own individual picks offers a fun and stimulating opportunity for us to reflect on the year that was in music.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite albums and songs from 2020.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2020:


Run the Jewels - RTJ4

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Run the Jewels – RTJ4
One might think that after three critically acclaimed albums with some of the most socially and politically charged material since Rage Against the Machine burst onto the scene, it would only seem natural for Run the Jewels’ act to turn a little stale by their fourth time around. But despite the three-year wait for RTJ4, the longest that the hip-hop duo has gone between releases, the final product — like a fine wine — has only gotten better with time. Anchored by stellar production (a RTJ trademark) and provocative rhymes, the 11-track offering sees the two emcees sounding off on everything from corporate greed to police brutality just days after the tragic death of George Floyd. It also boasts a guest list loaded with star power, with DJ Premier, 2 Chainz, Pharrell Williams, Zack de la Rocha, Mavis Staples and Josh Homme each lending a hand while El-P and Killer Mike inject truth serum into our ears with one verbal haymaker after another. In what proved to be a shitstorm of a year, this was the soundtrack a lot of us needed to survive 2020.

2. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall II
3. Fleet Foxes – Shore
4. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
5. Caribou – Suddenly

Favorite live album: Sylvan Esso – WITH

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Royal Blood – “Trouble’s Coming”
The British rock duo composed of lead singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher are gearing up to drop their third LP in 2021 and wisely chose to wet our palette with an absolute banger for its lead single. “Trouble’s Coming” has all the makings of a Royal Blood song — catchy bass riffs that sound like they’re coming out of a guitar, heavy-metal drums and Kerr’s falsetto vocals — while charting a slightly different path for the band, one that conjures up some serious 70’s disco vibes. Just watch this scene from Charlie’s Angels to see what we mean, and if you have a pair of fingerless leather gloves handy, you might as well put those on too. We think Sam Rockwell would approve.

2. My Morning Jacket – “Wasted”
3. Run the Jewels – “JU$T” feat. Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha
4. Pearl Jam – “Dance of the Clairvoyants”
5. Sylvan Esso – “Ferris Wheel”

Favorite remix: Bonobo – “Final Days” (Michael Kiwanuka)


Hum - Inlet

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Hum – Inlet
This four-piece’s fifth studio effort came as a complete surprise when it dropped in June, and it was honestly THE album I needed. Being knee-deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure what the rest of the year would look like musically, and it was exactly the type of record that hits all the marks for me. It’s sonically huge, it showcases Hum’s trademark ultra-layered, dense instrumentation and it ebbs and flows between energetic and emotive. Inlet was easily my most-listened-to album in 2020.

2. Coriky – Coriky
3. PEARS – PEARS
4. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
5. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

Favorite live album: NOFX – The Decline (Live at Red Rocks)

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Run the Jewels – “Walking in the Snow”
Oh man, this track was just the thing I needed during what may have been one of the most tense times in modern history. And like all of RTJ4, it absolutely crushes as El-P and Killer Mike bring their signature styles to full effect on this dramatic, yet bouncy tune. The middle section, which sees Mike taking the lead, is not only effective, prophetic and timely, but it also serves as a reminder that the time for action is now and that history has a tendency to repeat itself if we’re not careful. Check out the song’s brand-new music video here, too.

2. Hum – “Desert Rambler”
3. IDLES – “War”
4. Middle-Aged Queers – “Gary’s Making Biscuits”
5. PEARS – “Zero Wheels”

Favorite remix: Squarepusher – “Pink Maggit” (Deftones)


Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
I almost feel cheated that my two No. 1 picks went to the same artist, but this year belonged to Fiona as much as it did to Dr. Fauci. FTBC busted us out of our mental prisons and allowed us to imagine our lives were more exciting than they actually were in 2020. It reminded us that we are strong enough to survive anything, to use our voices to speak even louder for what we believe in and that we can work on our own healing even if we can’t quite get outside. Ms. Apple set women free together.

2. Fleet Foxes – Shore
3. Mura Masa – R.Y.C.
4. Kari Faux – Lowkey Superstar
5. Liv.e – Couldn’t Wait to Tell You…

Favorite live album: Dolores Diaz & The Standby Club – Live at O’Leaver’s

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Fiona Apple – “Shameika”
This is a badass, “can-do” tune that was inspired by a passing comment made decades ago, one Fiona surely never thought twice about until now. And as she pounds the piano with the strength of RBG, it’s clear that this is the song 2020 needed — not to mention that it came full circle, inspiring Shameika herself all these years later. Sweet.

2. Noname – “Song 33”
3. Open Mike Eagle feat. Kari Faux – “Bucciarati”
4. Liv.e – “Lessons From My Mistakes…but I Lost Your Number”
5. Quakers feat. Sampa the Great – “Approach with Caution”

Favorite remix: Thundercat feat. Smino & Guapdad 4000 – “Dragonball Durag”

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