The Independent Music Community Saw So Much Wonderful New Music Released In 2021

Courtesy: TAG Publicity

Independent artists and acts are the backbone of the music industry.  There is no denying this truth.  Today’s independent artist/group/act could be the next big name, given the right support.  Keeping that in mind, it is only fitting that the independent acts out there get just as much attention at year’s end as their more well-known counterparts.  That is why Phil’s Picks makes sure to present a list of the year’s top new independent albums each year, including this year. 

This year has seen so many wonderful new independent albums, too.  Up-and-coming rock act Mason Hill, for instance, is on the verge of breaking out thanks to its new album, Against The Wall.  On another note, an act, such as The Grease Traps makes it a presentation that could make it one of the next big names in the realm of neo-soul/funk/R&B with Solid Ground.  It is another record that made this critic’s year-ender list, along with Steadfast’s Transmitters.  Between these records and so many others, this year saw so many notable new independent albums.  They are all compiled in the list featured here.

As with every other list that Phil’s Picks presents annually, the list features the year’s Top 10 new albums and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles.  Those honorable mention titles are included because they each offer something enjoyable in their own right and are no less worth hearing than any of the others featured in the list.  That should be fully understood now.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Independent Albums.


  1. Mason Hill – Against The Wall
  2. Ryan Hamilton – 1221
  3. Marc Ribler – The Whole World Awaits You
  4. Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems – Still Dirty
  5. The Grease Traps – Solid Ground
  6. Walking Papers – The Light Below
  7. Grand Royale – Carry On
  8. The Straddlerz – The Straddlerz
  9. Willamena – Broken Songs: A Compilation
  10. Drones – Our Hell Is Right Here
  11. Steadfast – Transmitters
  12. Liar Thief Bandit – Deadlights
  13. The Swaggerlies – The Last of the One and Onlys
  14. Skarlett Riot – Invicta
  15. The Fifth – The Fifth

That is all for this list.  It is just a snapshot of the mass of notable new independent albums released this year, too.  It collectively serves as another reminder of the importance and place of independent music. 

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The Fifth Debuts ‘Shake Little Sister’ Video

Courtesy: Head First Entertainment/Vanity Music Group

Independent hard rock band The Fifth debuted the video for its latest single this week.

The band premiered the video for its new single, ‘Shake Little Sister’ Wednesday through Brutal Planet magazine. The song is taken from the band’s recently released self-titled EP.

Recorded at Pitcher’s Bar in Benson, North Carolina, the video presents the band amid all of the excesses of rock and roll, money, women, and alcohol. The band performs its single on stage in the bar and spends plenty of time taking in those excesses along the way, too.

Front man Roy Cathey said in a prepared statement, he enjoyed the experience of shooting the song’s video.

“Shooting this video was the most creatively fulfilling experience I’ve ever been involved in,” he said.  “Director Jaiden Frost made this song come to life and working with him fulfills a longtime wish of mine to work with this talented up & coming director. We brainstormed and we – creatively as a team – came up with some amazing shots and moments. Jaiden bringing in the freakshow/contortionist and dancer added the ‘icing on the cake’ to give the video the gritty, anything goes attitude that is the running theme of the song and video.”

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Shake Little Sister’ is pure guitar rock at its finest. It boasts plenty of hard rock and southern rock influences side by side for an infectious whole.

The song’s lyrical theme is just as simple and accessible as its musical counterpart. It features a man who is crazy for a woman, plain and simple.

The Fifth is available now. More information on the EP is available along with the band’s latest news at:



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The Fifth’s Self-Titled EP Will Appeal To Classic, Guitar Rock Purists Alike

Courtesy: Head First Entertainment

Independent rock band The Fifth is scheduled to independently release its new, self-titled EP Friday.  The five-song record is a positive first outing for the band.  That is especially the case for audiences who are fans of the pure, guitar-driven rock that bridged the late 80s and early 90s.  Each item will be discussed in itself.  The record’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own right to the whole of the EP.  All things considered, they make the EP a successful new presentation that The Fifth’s established audiences and targeted listeners will agree deserves high marks.

The Fifth’s forthcoming self-titled EP is a presentation that will find wide appeal among the band’s established audiences and more casual rock purists.  That is proven in part through the record’s featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question exhibit the kind of pure, guitar-driven styles and sounds that bridged the late 80s and 90s.  Their collective sound and stylistic approaches lend themselves to comparison to works from the band’s fellow North Carolina-based rock band Faith & Scars.  Right from the record’s outset, audiences get an arrangement in ‘Shake Little Sister’ that is just as comparable to works from the likes of Motley Crue and Poison, what with the operatic vocals, the rich guitar line and just as bombastic drums.  ‘Home,’ with its more subdued approach, is its own familiar style composition that again throws back to days gone by.  Meanwhile, a track, such as ‘Coming to Get You,’ in its blues-based presentation is so similar to so many rock songs that were popular in the early 90s and are still just as popular today.  To that end, it is more proof of the appeal that the record’s musical arrangements generate.  That is even clearer when this and the other arrangements noted here are considered with the two others not directly examined.  All things considered, they leave no doubt that the record’s musical content will engage and entertain audiences.  It is just one part of what makes the record successful.  The lyrical content that accompanies the record’s musical arrangements makes for its own appeal.

The lyrical content that is featured in The Fifth takes on a variety of topics.  The EP’s opener, ‘Shake Little Sister,’ is as the title notes, a song about a man who is admiring a woman.  ‘Calm Before The Storm’ seems to be a commentary about a broken relationship, but in this case not so much romantic, but plutonic.  There is something in the way that front man Roy Cathey sings about people’s paths never crossing again.  The sense of foreboding that Cathey seems to paint in the song’s opening verse paints toward that inference just as much and continues as he sings that “I know things will never be the same.”  There do not seem to be any real allusions here to a romantic relationship, but rather to the impact of the past on the present and future.  This is all this critic’s interpretation, of course.  Regardless, it suffices to say that this song is not about a broken relationship, but something quite opposite.  The contemplative ‘Home’ comes across as one of those familiar themes of someone looking back at life and where life is going.  Reaching back to the musical aspect, the song’s arrangement is one of those over the top hard rock ballads that was so beloved in the 80s, matching the big hair of the age.  Cathey sings here about letting go of those memories from the past and moving forward, again showing the theme of that rumination.  That and the musical approach together is sure to connect with a wide range of audiences.  ‘Coming to Get You’ meanwhile is another song that is about a man who is obsessed with a woman.  Considering that the band has already touched on this topic in the EP’s opener, it is a familiar topic.  It is just presented in a different fashion than in ‘Shake Little Sister.’  On yet another note, ‘Roll The Bones’ (not to be confused with the song made famous by Rush) takes audiences in yet another direction.  This is just a song whose lyrical content is full of swagger and energy.  It’s just a full on celebratory song about going out and having a good time with friends.  Looking back through all of this, it is clear that the band touches on a relatively wide range of items that are still in themselves accessible to audiences.  That overall accessibility along with the arrangements’ accessibility makes the album’s overall content reason enough to hear this EP.  The content is only part of what makes the record worth hearing.  The EP’s production brings everything together and completes the record’s presentation.

The production that went into The Fifth is important to address because of the different sounds and energies in each composition.  As noted, a song, such as ‘Home’ is one of those familiar contemplative rock ballads from the 80s that starts off subdued, but eventually crescendos in its solo.  That means that from beginning to end, full attention had to be paid to each musician’s performance.  The softer moments early on had to have the fullest impact as did the bigger, bombastic solo and finale.  Every bit of it all was expertly balanced throughout, leading the song to be a favorite among any listener.  On another note, the edge of ‘Coming To Get You’ required a different approach in the production.  That is because of the aforementioned swagger that is exhibited through the song.  Particular attention had to be paid not necessarily just to the guitar line here as a result, but just as much to the nuances in the effects used therein to really bring out that edge.  Again, the attention to detail paid off here just as much as in any other song.  It really brings out the confidence in Cathey’s vocals and even in the guitar line.  Much the same can be said of the attention to the bass and drums, too.  Each couldn’t just be a rich presentation, but had to have certain emphasis on specific notes and beats to really enhance the song’s presentation even more.  The attention to that detail paid off just as much.  It is just one more example of what makes the EP’s production stand out.  When the overall production is considered together with the EP’s content, the whole of the record proves to be fully successful.

The Fifth’s forthcoming self-titled EP is a successful new presentation from the independent rock band.  Its success comes in part through its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements stand out in their distinct 80s and 90s pure guitar rock approach.  From the familiar rock ballad styles of the 80s to the harder edged stuff, and more, there is plenty for audiences of said sounds to enjoy.  The lyrical themes that accompany the EP’s musical arrangements are also of note.  That is because they are just as familiar and accessible as the record’s musical arrangements.  The production that went into the EP’s creation brings everything together and completes the presentation, making sure that its general effect is as pleasing as its content.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of this record.  All things considered, they make the EP a positive new offering from the band.

The Fifth is scheduled for release Friday.  More information on the EP is available along with the band’s latest news at:



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