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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‘Solid Ground’ Is A “Solid” Debut For The Grease Traps

Courtesy: Record Kicks

Up-and-coming independent funk outfit The Grease Traps released its debut album, Solid Ground, this month.  Released Nov. 5 through Record Kicks, the 11-song record is a presentation that is sure to appeal widely among fans of funk, soul, and R&B.  That is due in large part to the record’s featured musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical themes that accompany the record’s musical content make for more appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of that collective content adds its own share of appeal to the presentation and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album a “solid” start for The Grease Traps.

More often than not when people think of grease traps, they think of big containers that hold the leftover, disposable junk used to cook fried foods.  In the case of The Grease Traps though, people are getting anything but disposable content.  Rather, this group’s debut record is a successful start for the group that has plenty of staying power.  That is evidenced in part through the record’s featured musical arrangements.  Hearing the album’s featured musical arrangements is like opening up a time capsule loaded with the best funk, soul, and R&B sounds of days gone by.  Each composition lends itself to comparison to works from the likes of Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and Sly & The Family Stone, just to name a few similar acts.  The thing is that even with such comparison, the songs still boast their own identities.  That is due to the instrumentations and their production.  That the group pays such clear homage to those who came before them while also creating such engaging and entertaining compositions of their own makes for so much applause.  On an even deeper level, while each arrangement is clear in its throwback to those days gone by, the songs even bear a unique identity from one another, with subtle changes from one song to the next.  Only those who listen closely to the record will catch those ever so slight variations, too.  In other words, this is a record that audiences cannot and should not just passively play.  Rather, full appreciation comes through actively listening through each song.  On a side note, there is some foul language incorporated in some of the songs, including the record’s opener, ‘Roots.’  Sadly, there is not parental advisory on the record to note the language, which is disappointing.  That aside, it does not doom the record, but it does mean that some listener discretion should be used.  Some of the lyrical content is not entirely family friendly is all.

Moving from the album’s musical content, its lyrical content plays its own important part to the whole of its presentation, too.  The lyrical content featured in this record is important to examine because of its accessibility.  By and large, the lyrical themes featured throughout the record are centered on romantic relationships between a man and woman, just in various fashions.  At the same time, there is some more serious, social content featured in the record, such as ‘Color Blind.’  The song clearly takes on the issue of race relations.  Considering everything going on in America right now, this song is fully relevant.  The group sings right from the opening lines, “I’ve always heard white is right/Ya better believe/Black is alright, too/And so is blue and green and yellow/What difference should it make to you?”  That is a pretty bold statement that rings so true today.  Its message is clear.  The mention of judging people by color and that we should all be colorblind adds even more impact to the song.

On another note, a song, such as the record’s lead single, ‘Bird of Paradise,’ this work is a celebration of how people get out on the dance floor and use their moves to attract another.  More specifically, it is sung from the vantage point of a man trying to show his moves as he even invites said woman to come join him.  This is such an accessible work in that sense.  When its musical arrangement is added to the mix, it gets even more fun.

The album’s title track is yet another accessible work that audiences will enjoy in its own right through its lyrical theme.  This song is a clear statement of self determination.  That is evidenced in the mention that people should “just put your foot on solid ground.”  That is made even clearer in the statement that “if you’ve got a burden/Then you push it to the side/I wanna fight for my people’s rights/As long as I can” in the song’s second verse.  The sentiment is echoed in the song’s lead verse, which states, “If the world’s got you down/Thinkin’ that you ain’t got a chance/Just stand on solid ground/And change your circumstance/I’m telling you right now/Don’t fall into that hole/’Cause what you really need is some strength to satisfy your soul/Put your foot on the rock/Put your foot on solid ground.” This overall message of empowerment is fully accessible and one that audiences will welcome any time, what with its clear translation and equally upbeat musical counterpart.  It is yet another of so many examples of the important role of Solid Ground’s lyrical content.  When it and the other songs examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s lyrical content, the whole makes the album’s lyrical content just as powerful and important as its musical arrangements.  The sequencing of that collective content rounds out the album’s most important items.

The sequencing of Solid Ground is so important to note because it brings the record’s lyrical and musical content together and completes the presentation.  It ensures that those who actively listen to the album will hear the aforementioned subtle changes in the songs’ arrangements through the instrumentations.  It also ensures that the lyrical themes change ever so subtly from one to the next, too.  That in itself goes a long way to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  Considering the energy in each song’s arrangement, the sequencing keeps things moving just fluidly enough from one to the next, too.  This ensures in its own right, that the record’s pacing remains solid from start to end.  Keeping this in mind along with the sequencing in terms of the content, there is no doubt that the sequencing of Solid Ground is just as important to the album as its content.  It takes the content into account and orders it so as to ensure the most notable impact possible and succeeds quite well along the way.  When this is considered along with the importance and impact of the album’s content, the whole makes the record a “solid” first outing for The Grease Traps.

The Grease Traps’ debut album, Solid Ground, is an impressive first outing for the up-and-coming outfit, which specializes in funk, soul, and R&B.  Its success comes in part through its musical arrangements, which are stylistically similar from one to the next.  However, their sounds are so subtly different from one another.  That is revealed through a close listen to the record.  It in itself will engage and entertain audiences.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical arrangements is just as entertaining thanks to its clear translation in each song, and the accessibility ensured therein.  The sequencing of said content rounds out the album’s most important elements.  That is because it takes the content into mind to offer audiences something different from one song to the next.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Solid Ground an auspicious start for the group’s career.

Solid Ground is available now. More information on Solid Ground is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:




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