THE TEAM AT PLANETARY GROUP IS BACK with the best new independent music coming out this year.
We’ve made our own playlist of what we’re digging right now, and we can’t wait to share it with you! We have reviewed each track on our UNDER THE RADAR INDIE 2021 PLAYLIST Below.
Now, Let’s get into it!
“In The Valley” – Sumeau
This relaxing song goes through a few musical changes before the vocalist alights the song like a bird landing on a delicate branch: gracefully, with intention. The opening’s rhythmic violin stabs give way to a beat, and eventually a dreamy electric guitar that slips and slides along while the lyrics sing of someone trying to investigate another person’s perspective. Communication breakdown and the loss of time abound, even “if only in my dreams.” Ambient and gorgeous.
“Aisles” – Fellow Hallow
Fellow Hallow starts us off with an invigorating lilt of acoustic guitar picking and warm, doubled vocals. With a keen sense of rhythm and warm, close harmonies, “Aisles” has an easy way of unfolding. The occasional musical flourish showcases a musical talent that isn’t stared for attention or to show itself off, but dances in the right moments and stays out of its way when necessary. Folky without the hokiness, this is a sensitive song for the modern-day.
“Surrender into Waiting Arms” – Wares
Wares energetically kick off their new single with a fast-paced, catchy opening, firing on all cylinders with infectious indie-rock energy. The song dissolves into a slower breakdown in the middle, with spiking guitar slices, and builds back up to a soaring, epic finale. This Canadian group explores ranges of dynamic and sonic presentation in one song that most bands struggle to encompass in an entire album.
“Hiya” – Dizzy Spells
When “Hiya” kicks off, you know you’re in for a diverse musical experience. Rolling acoustic and electric guitar riffs trade back and forth with an island flow, a programmed beat pushes us into the present day musically, and layered vocals “exhale with precision” as the lyrics happen to agree with the performance itself. It’s no wonder Calabasas, California figures into the linguistic world of this song, where “Hiya” is not a greeting, but a state of being. Uplifting, fun, and beautiful- and there are even samples of dogs barking in there if you listen closely.
“NOW” – Priestgate
Priestgate come out of the gate with a dreamy pop-rock and UK vocal swagger. The keyboards and melodies of the hook are big enough for arenas in the late 90s, but the band still sounds grounded and not preoccupied with comparisons. Strong bass, guitar, and drums push this melodic juggernaut into the stratosphere. Great driving music, but also epic for your redemptive Sunday morning activities.
“I Got The Hots For Charlie Watts” – The Exbats
This is a super fun and endearing DIY indie tune about someone who likes the Monkees the best and who can’t relate to The Beatles. It hits right in the crosshairs of pop culture sarcasm and genuinely brilliant pop songwriting. With just the right blend of raw, but lovely vocals and acoustic-punk arrangement (complete with background vocal ah’s), The Exbats bring you right back into the sound of your favorite Saturday night out. Also “I wanna see the world from my drums” is one of the cooler lyrics we’ve heard since lockdown began. Twangy indie rock never sounded cooler.
“In Love With Everyone” – Mo Troper
Mo Troper is a songwriter whose command of chord changes, melody, and arrangement knows no bounds. This song is like a crash course in powerpop indie rock, and as his story-song lyrics pull you into a night of karaoke and falling in love the unrelenting movement of the pre-chorus brings the music and arrangement back into the forefront, with horns, flutes, and a barrage of electric guitars. In just two minutes “In Love With Everyone” charts as much territory as less-economical bands often attempt to cover in seven-minute epics. Pure powerpop pleasure.
“Vibrant Colors” – Zoon
As wavy guitars wash ashore, an icy, paced programmed beat slips between the shoegazey textures occurring above and below the surface. Relaxed, smooth vocals gilded by the slightest synth bass give the impression this song is the substance of a reverie or a dream. Soon has a really unique way of placing the sounds of their music in space. The largeness of the production is of note, especially for audiophiles who enjoy listening with surround sound systems or high-quality headphones.
“Devoted” – Atta Boy
The voice feels as if it could be floating from back in time, the 50s or early 60s, but Atta Boy are not a throwback or pastiche act. This modern indie-country song is full of steel-guitar yearning and the rustic backbeat so familiar to fans of Americana, but the wit of the lyric and the performance is all of today’s milieu. Eden’s voice is at its best when it bends down low, into her beautiful alto’s bottom extremities, exploring where the voice breaks and creaks. And although they list themselves as specializing in indie-pop music, which they do, the roots of American country blues, folk, and 1970s singer-songwriters certainly inform their writing sensibilities.
“Jillian” – Dream Nails
This sunny, upbeat jammer takes off and doesn’t relent. The blend of riot girl pop-punk and modern indie rock seamlessly blend in this lead guitar and bumping bass banger that has a firm place on anyone’s summer playlist. This needs to be blasted on a ninety-degree day with the windows down. Group vocals really serve to add to and energize this great tune, as the drums and bass pulse while they sing “I feel the fear leaving my body.” Yes, I do too, now.
“I’m Not Ready” – Country Westerns
Rock n’ Roll with a tinge of twang and a little punk aesthetic for good measure. The beautifully gnarled vocals sit like an expert bull rider. A super tight band lays the foundation for a really jamming song that regales how “time don’t heal the way it used to”. The hard times, the good times, they’re all mangled up and contained in this perfect little container for the beautiful sound a band can make when they’ve spent the right amount of time together marinating as players. You can tell they are having a hell of a lot of fun.
“Wide Awake” – Like a Motorcycle
“The smell of chemicals in your brain” is one of the first lines of this upbeat, tour-de-force that feels equal parts road race and car crash. The song sings of “waiting on the end of the world”, as seeing guitars blaze and run rampant as the rhythm section smashes in time. The song grows more and more frantic as it builds, with an energetic, give no f’s, attitude. Equally appropriate in a soundtrack as booming from a festival sound system, Like a Motorcycle is wide awake and producing some seriously exciting rock n’ roll.
“Japanese Waitress” – MAITA
A voice and guitar are sometimes all you need to weave magical worlds. Maita uses this stark and quiet intro as a way to sneak their creativity into what at first sounds like a merely acoustic song. Her delivery is immaculate and the lyrics are frighteningly good…think the next Leonard Cohen in waiting. But as the song rolls along beautiful soundscapes wander in and out, augmenting the reality of this acoustic song into something more emotional and foreboding.
“Small World” – Gamblers
Does a sad song have to sound sad? Gamblers posit absolutely not. This searching song of longing for a lover or spiritual creator rides along bouncy, funky guitar tones flush with clap tracks and generous background vocals. Syncopation and soaring vocals make this track sparkle, and show that the rigorous search for meaning or love can operate at a higher BPM and can be danced to!
“Rain” (Radio Edit) – Alex Bracy
Alternative rock production and singer-songwriter precision mark the latest single by Alex Bracy. Acoustic verses with a strong beat set the scene with the “corrupt” and the “unjust”, promising that ‘rain can deliver us’ in the chorus. At its height, the vocals soar with the strength and power of a Maynard James Keenan but also display sensitive technicality in the quieter verse sections. This powerful meditation on the world and its redemptive possibilities rocks and makes one think twice. Also, it has a ripping solo for guitar-heads.
“Star Thistle Blossom” – MILLY
From the jump, a barrage of wiggly guitars and recapture and remold the thick fuzzy glory of 90s indie rock. MILLY adeptly manipulate their situation, the mix is great, the blend is not so produced as to feel ruined, but isn’t as messy as to have lost integrity for DIY aesthetics. The sludge cadence of the chorus and ennui in the singer’s voice increase the glacial feeling of the chorus, an immensity of sound, and plaintive emoting. So good you gotta play it again to make sure you caught it all.
“Strangers” – A.O. Gerber
I love when an artist can take seemingly obvious elements and arrange/perform them in such a way as to bring about enlightenment. A.O. Gerber does that here. The chords are not anyone’s invention, nor is the dream beat or sound, but when she sings atop it in her easy, beautiful way something completely new is immediately born. Take for instance her seeming nonchalance in the chorus, though I doubt she doesn’t care. As the careful production surrounds her as to not bury her, her voice and words take center stage as she questions if the person she loves has changed into someone else. Whether or not, I hope she keeps recording gems like this that push boundaries in performance and composition.
“It’s Not A Place, It’s A Feeling” – Termination Dust
“I burned your hair over the kitchen stove” leaps out into the air as this tune begins. From there the quirky, gorgeous indie-rock of Termination Dust unfurls, complete with reverb-y background vocals responding to her calls in the lead vocal. I love songs like this, ones that feel easy and free and don’t reveal how much thought and consideration probably went into them. A song like this feels like, yes, of course, this had to exist and I’m sure it was birthed fully grown. But really it just goes to show how talented and caring this artist is, all while returning to the ultimate lyrical question: “Where did our love go?”
“The Splender That Was Rome” – Hamerkop
This piece of controlled chaos feels like it may burst into a cloud of 0s and 1s at any moment, like a self-contained universe of beauty, rhythm, and expression. It’s really cool when a super futuristic song messes with your conception of experiencing time. Hearing about the splendor that was Rome while being surrounded by looping and swirling polyphonic synths and then a sitar is a master class in musical transportation and subverting expectation. Simply put, a mental, temporal, and brainy trip in just four minutes.
“Nighttime Creatures” – Lawn
I have a special spot in my heart for songs that sound like they come from the hearts of people who genuinely just love doing what they do. I can’t explain how one achieves that, it just has to happen. Lawn gets at this with no crazy gimmicks or production tricks. The lyrics hit you in the sincerity bullseye and their DIY indie production just draws you in. I wanna watch this band play at a festival and just bliss out.
“I Came To Tell You In Plain English (I’m Leaving)” – Jack Name
As the opening guitar line bends and sways in and out, you know you’re in for a moody jam. Jack Name comes in almost whispering his explanation of how he is going to break up with you. The smoothness of the band compliments his rough-hewn voice, even when quiet. If someone was going to dump me in an L.A. dive bar this is the exact guy I’d want to tell me the hard truth. The signature guitar lick comes back again, like a theme song, playing this heartbreaker in and out. And just like that, he was gone.
“Fall Away” (Radio Edit) – Alex Bracy
This single from Alex Bracy blends his vocal’s penchant for Alternative Rock and bends it toward Southern Rock with this slow-burner. Paced, but with a heavy beat, “Fall Away” ruminates about fate falling down and giving things “one more time around”. Despite the song’s tempered and deliberate start, the chorus erupts into a gigantic hook that redeems as it soars. While darkness and despair seem a theme woven deeply into the fabric of Bracy’s songwriting, there is a ceaseless hope and belief that shines through “Fall Away”.