“Give it a listen and you’ll hear why. You can thank me later.” 

Clairo on the grass. (Presumably in Carlise?) Brooks Sproul

By Peter Chianca

August 12, 2021

BOSTON MUSIC: readers have spoken, and their view is clear: We must all bow down before Clairo, the Carlisle-based singer/songwriter whose luscious dream-pop was by far the most-mentioned music in our survey asking for the best new releases from Boston-area artists.

Readers are clearly taken with the recent Rolling Stone feature subject’s sophomore album Sling, released this past July — many of the individual tracks got shout-outs from readers, in particular the standout single, “Amoeba.” 

But dozens of other local artists also made the cut, with readers recommending both albums and single tracks from new sensations like rapper Bia, stalwarts like seminal ’90s alt-rocker Juliana Hatfield, and up-and-comers like Eph See and Alisa Amador. (Haven’t heard of them? You will.)

For our playlist of 43 tracks, we stretched our definition of “new” a bit. (Some suggestions came from a couple years back, but could we really ignore the likes of Nancia’s on-the-nose “She is Boston” from 2019’s Heir to the Throne?) But all are at least fairly recent offerings from artists that either got their start here, like Aimee Mann and The Magnetic Fields, or are going strong in the Hub right now, like irrepressible Northeastern grad Sidney Gish (class of 2020).

Below are the albums and individual tracks by Boston artists recommended by readers, along with at least a vague approximation of their genres and, if they identify as being from somewhere other than Boston proper, a mention of their home base. (Granted, some of the “Boston” acts might actually be hiding out in Dedham or Barnstable, but you didn’t hear that from us.)

Albums EPs:

  • Sling, Clairo (lo-fi pop, Carlisle)
  • Blood, Juliana Hatfield (alt rock, Cambridge)
  • Turn Up That Dial, Dropkick Murphys (Celtic rock)
  • For Certain, BIA (rap)
  • When God Was Great, Mighty Mighty BossTones (ska punk)
  • Kick it Like a Wicked Bad Habit, The Shang Hi Los (old-time rock ‘n’ roll)
  • ADHD and Evolution, Joyner Lucus (rap, Worcester)
  • OMG I MADE IT, Pronoun (rock)
  • Obviously, Lake Street Dive (indie pop/alt jazz)
  • The Golden Ticket, Long Lost String Band (Americana, Marlborough)
  • Heir to the Throne, Nancia (soul/RB)
  • No Dogs Allowed, Sidney Gish (indie rock)
  • January Hopeful, Michael Maloney (rock, Somerville)
  • Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Kier and Mandy Byrnes (country/Americana)
  • Cold Water Waltz, Chris Trapper (power pop)
  • Between the Richness, Fiddlehead (post-hardcore)
  • Paranoia Party, Frances Forever (alt-pop)

Individual tracks:

  • “Suicide is Murder,” ??Aimee Mann (alt folk rock)
  • “Kid,” Tanya Donelly (of Throwing Muses/Belly/The Breeders) and the Parkington Sisters (rock, Rhode Island)
  • “Fall,” Kay Hanley (of Letters to Cleo, rock)
  • “Emily Ivory,” Guster (rock)
  • “My Stupid Boyfriend,” The Magnetic Fields (experimental pop)
  • “Bible Belt,” Russel James (country)
  • “So Far So Good,” Carissa Johnson The Cure Alls (rock)
  • “Timing,” Alisa Amador (latin folk, Cambridge)
  • “Steppers,” DJ Whysham (hip-hop)
  • “Blood and Bone,” Abbie Barrett (rock)
  • “Boston Town,” The Wolff Sisters (folk rock)
  • “Driving,” Juniper (alt-pop)
  • “Polo Sweater,” Michael Christmas (rap)
  • “Maria,” Jill McCracken (soulful pop)
  • “What It Is,” Lady Lupine (heavy soul)
  • “Emotions,” Millyz (rap, Cambridge)
  • “Switching to Whiskey,” Adam Ezra Group (folk rock)
  • “Simpleton,” Mace (progressive metal, Everett)
  • “Baby No More,” Anjimile (folk)
  • “First Time Feeling,” Ripe (funk/jazz/soul)
  • “Scent of Sin,” Matt York (Americana/country rock)
  • “Running Backwards,” Soul Love (indie psychedelic)
  • “Did I?,” Eph See (RB/pop)
  • “Glow,” GrandEvolution (alt rock, Worcester)
  • “I Can Go,” Airport (’70s-style rock)
  • “Fantasizer,” Freezepop (electronic/dance)
  • “25,” Mom Rock (alt-rock)

Listen to the Spotify playlist, with a standout popular track representing each album mentioned. (Warning: Some language NSFW.)

Here’s what some readers had to say about their favorite new music by local artists:

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

“Juliana Hatfield, Blood. She has consistently put out great music her entire career, and is always coming up with different sounds.” — Cary, Vero Beach, Calif.

“Russell James — strong story-telling with a sing-a-long feel. While the track ‘Bible Belt’ was rock heavy and guitar focused, his ‘Two Feet’ is a summer jam for sure — light and melodic to match the theme of life at 16 with a first car. I can’t wait to listen to the rest of the track list!” — Courtney Martin, Woburn

“Aimee Mann song ‘Suicide is Murder’ … So talented since her ’80s days in Boston fronting ’Til Tuesday.” — Paul, Belmont

“‘Queen of Suffolk County’ by The Dropkick Murphys is the Boston-area song that I have enjoyed the most in the 2020s. It captures a certain, tough, parochial, Boston personality type that is fading from the scene.” — Shawn, Framingham

“Carissa Johnson The Cure Alls, ‘So Far So Good,’ released in 2020. The chorus just blows you away — she is such a powerful singer. Such a great rock song, I hope this sparks a rock revival. She’s the real deal.”

“Clairo, ‘Blouse.’ Her voice has a beautiful, melodic quality. To me, the song is reminiscent of old Simon and Garfunkel tunes that I could listen to again and again. Very beautiful.” — Diane, Natick

Narratives by Alisa Amador. Though this album won’t be officially released until September, I have gotten to hear Alisa sing these songs several times during streaming concerts she has done from home and for Club Passim in Cambridge. Alisa writes and sings songs in both Spanish and English. She sings like an angel with a voice that is both joyous and profoundly beautiful. Her writing is pure poetry, with beauty to be found in the words themselves. What makes her songs truly special though is the sincerity and depth of feeling she puts into them. If you haven’t heard Alisa before I would start with this video of her song ‘Together’ she put together for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert last year. A song full of hope and humanity, something I would often watch before starting my day last year when things felt especially bleak.” — Robert, Cohasset

“Abbie Barrett’s ‘Blood Bone’ — ethereal ear candy.” — Nils, Norfolk

“The Wolff Sisters song called ‘Drive.’ Great guitar, catchy chorus, good lyrics. And ‘Boston Town’ by Wolff Sisters, too.”

“The Shang Hi Los. Album — Kick it Like a Wicked Bad Habit. Song — ‘Sway Little Player.’ Give it a listen and you’ll hear why. You can thank me later.” — Mitch, Derry, N.H.

“Long Lost String Band! The Golden Ticket has crazy good fiddling, and will have your toes tapping in seconds!” — Lynne, Andover

“I know it’s a bit out of season to talk about, but the new Kier and Mandy Byrnes Christmas album, Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. It was so dark but hopeful! Got us through some dark times.” occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.

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