In the Scene: Unpacking the Year in Music issue Pt. 1

Here’s our latest conversation on what the alt-weekly The Nashville Scene is covering with its music editor Stephen Trageser.

Jewly Hight: You have so much packed into the Year in Music issue that I think we better split this into a two-parter. How about that?

Stephen Trageser: That’s great.

JH: I know that people get really invested in year end lists. So let’s start by working our way down the list of the 10 favorite local albums of 2021. What can you tell me about the projects that landed at 10th, ninth, eighth and seventh place, besides the fact that a couple of those came from former WNXP Artists of the Month?

ST: At number 10, we’ve got Joy Oladokun’s in defense of my own happiness, the complete edition that came out this year. And the big story there is just how much Joy gives of herself and how that plays into her songwriting. At number nine, you’ve got L’Orange and Namir Blade’s Imaginary Everything, in which you have the former Nashvillian L’Orange, who’s kind of running free with these more imaginative beats, and then you’ve gotten Namir Blade kind of left free to rock the mic and really show off his skills as a lyricist. At number eight, there’s Todd Snider’s First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder, sort of a new spin on funk with a vision for making it through this very strange world we’re in. At number seven, we’ve got the Shindellas Hits That Stick Like Grits, in which the trio is really kind of pushing R&B vocal music traditions into the future with a nod to the whole history of that genre.

JH: What variations on a singer-songwriter approach that are also going to be familiar to WNXP listeners landed in the sixth, fifth and fourth slots?

ST: At number six, we’ve got Yola’s Stand For Myself, number five, that’s Tristen’s Aquatic Flowers, and at number four is Katy Kirby’s Cool Dry Place.

JH: The top three albums are all the work of Nashville-based artists. Some of them are finally getting recognition in the city beyond their inner circles and scenes, and some of them are being named year-end favorites by folks all over the place. So what projects landed at third, second and first?

ST: At number three, we have Reaux Marquez’s No Roads, at number two is Adia Victoria’s A Southern Gothic and at number one is Alison Russell’s Outside Child.

JH: Your Rock ‘n’ Roll Poll respondents, which include a couple of members of our WNXP staff, shared opinions on a lot of topics. What stood out to you about which artists they said ruled in 2021, are going to rule in 2022 or were their favorite discoveries this year?

ST: We had some significant agreement between some of the our poll respondents and our critics. A lot of folks had love for Allison Russell, Joy Oladokun and Namir Blade. And there was a lot of love for the local hip-hop scene, especially folks like Daisha McBride, Gee Slab and Negro Justice. Another group that really popped out was Styrofoam Winos, which is this rock band made up of three excellent songwriters. They had their debut LP this year. And the sort of post-punk group called Snooper, who one of our respondents described as “a Devo 33 played on 45,” also featured strongly this year.

JH: What about who they thought deserved more attention than they got in 2021 and what they considered to be the biggest music stories of the year?

ST: As far as things that deserve more coverage, there is a look at some rappers have been doing a whole lot of hard work this year. One who popped up a few times was Petty, who’s been doing a single series called 53 Fridays. He’s been releasing a new song every week, all year. Something that also came up was beloved Nashville venue The Springwater, which is known as the oldest running bar in Tennessee and is still having shows. And as far as the best stories of the year, a lot of the responses centered around being able to see live music in person again, especially about how people came together to support vaccination requirements at venues to help keep things safe and keep this going.