2022 Albums of the Year; 30–21.
30. Soul Blind — Feel It All Around
This record rules. They released a little 3 track EP that boded well, and then dropped this absolute murkfest of grunge and sludge. This one reminds me of the first time I went back and listened to Silverchair after years of forgetting about them and being shocked at how heavy those guitars were. Track after track of headbanger, rife with distortion and chugging greatness. The way that all of the distortion and feedback from the guitars, all of the aftersound from the clanging of the cymbals, the muffled depth of the bass guitar is presented in its imperfect and raw glory. While deliberately produced with all of its messiness in tact, so much of the cacophony is presented in a clean way which welcomes the vocal parts which are written thoughtfully and with a deeply intentional way of guiding the song in a way that elevates it over so many other grunge revivalists. So many “holy shit” moments from front to back. One after the next, they got as much as they could out of the heft and sheer volume of their equipment. Sick.
Check Out: Seventh Hell
29. Askysoblack — Autumn In the Water EP
The second of two EPs dropped by this band this year, this set of four songs really cranks up the fuzz and the dreary and longing vocal style for a foggy helping of palatable sadness. The worst part of the release is that it doesn’t even hit a dozen minutes. A good dose of twinkling sits in the backdrop, the bass guitar is shown some pulpy and grimy love in the production, and lots of other little details really showcase the genre en masse and this isn’t just a bunch of guys who just discovered how much their distortion pedals can sound great. A really solid but short release.
Check Out: Tell By Touch
28. Astronoid — Radiant Bloom
There is something that rests just above and beyond shoegaze, something that shares a lot of the same largesse and ambition, something that uses noise and the resonance that erupts from it and instead of turning it inward, it instead unleashes it outwards, out to the places of satellites and orbits and limitless possibilities. The godfathers of this sound are Hum, I would say, and it’s their crunchy but spectral sound gave birth to something that felt bigger than the introspection, and the torch was later passed to Hopesfall who, over the course of their discography, went bigger and further out into the reaches of emptiness and the light the barely reached it with their newest record. And with this record, I would say that the next evolution of the genre may be getting passed to Astronoid. This album has a lot of that fast guitar, that sweeping and shredding influence that definitely takes a lot from aggressive music, from metal music, and somehow removes the bite from it and alchemizes it into some sort of galactic energy. Somehow through the fuzz and the spatter, instead of turning things into a droney misery, it inverts the spire into a joy, into a lightness that brushes against the gasses that circle nameless suns. It feels glowing and blissful. This whole effect is only magnified by the higher pitched vocal style of Brett Boland, sounding something like a less theatric version of Coheed and Cambria.
Check Out: Sleep Whisper
27. Moodring — Stargazer
With song titles like N.I.K.E. and SYNC.wav, there’s definitely a longing for the late 90s and early 00s with this record, and the aesthetic carries through, not only from the presentation but also the music contained on the album itself. There’s the heavy and cruncy bass guitar of the nu-metal push that appeared around when the genre started crossing into TRL territory, along with some of the same styles of screaming that were prevalent at the time. So sure, there are nods. But the band takes that style and brings it along with it to the present, giving a lot more attention to the separation of heft and delicacy as they perform a more shoegaze-heavy style through most of the record as well, giving respect to big synth parts that see the songs adrift as well. There are a lot of parallels that can be drawn between what this band is doing in that middle ground and what a band like Deftones did to make that lack of commitment to any one style sound really great. All of the different facets of the band’s personality come through as completely genuine, never feeling like they’re trying to become a hybrid of any sort. Just a great record that completely took me by surprise. Loved it at first listen. On social media, the band has been saying that they’re already working on new material and are being very vague about what the new stuff actually sounds like, but they are adamant that they don’t sound like “that” anymore — what could the transformation entail?
Check Out: SYNC.wav
26. Luna Li — Duality
This record starts off with possibly my favorite song of the year. I don’t understand the big pompous ‘rock’ intro to that track, but once the song hits it absolutely doesn’t quit. There’s a brilliant hook, a verse that could stand on its own as the catchiest part of any other pop song and the dreamy and drifty way that her vocals breeze across the music sort of sends me into a trance. Throughout the record, there are even elements of that late 2010s indie sound, similar to like, Wild Pink and Local Natives’ record Hummingbird, one of my all-time favorites. This is a very subtle and restrained album, a mellow pop that slides and slithers between the shoulders, puts its palms on the small of your back.
Check Out: Cherry Pit
25. All Get Out — Kodak
Let me get this out of the way: this sounds like Manchester Orchestra. I’m just going to own it. If you’re a fan of Andy Hull’s meandering and breaking vocals, his earnest and yearning desires bared across a desperate studio session, well, I highly recommend this record to you. That being said, this is a record that picks up my interest the same way that sails pick up on mild winds. It’s a slow simmer, building up in pockets of emotional pangs and peaking in these enormous and robust plumes that can overwhelm and submerge the listener. It’s a record that started off for me slowly, and latched onto me bar after bar. I tried to get my wife to listen to it, knowing her obsession with the aforementioned band’s comparison, and it was hard for me to draw those parallels for her, so I think it takes a while for the impact to settle in. This is one of those records, though, that I streamed once on release day and made my way to the record store that evening to grab a physical copy. If you’re looking to know where the pulse wil resonate the most, there’s a series from ‘Dfr’ to ‘Walk Me Through It’ that is the heart of the record, which rests for a second, then hits again with the excellent ‘Sumter’. I think that mainline section of the record, the core of it, that keeps me coming back to it.
Check Out: Sumter
24. Soccer Mommy — Sometimes, Forever
A Deeper, More Evolved Form of Protection
I’ve been a fan of this artist for quite a while. I remember being on a conference call with my old company and when the moderator asked how our weekend went and the chat was met with a dead silence (the standard at the time), I spoke up and said, “uhh, I just found out about an album from a band called Soccer Mommy and it’s really great?” which of course had people talking about the band name moreso than the actual statement itself. Cool, man. Anyway, seeing where they’ve gone over the last four years is such an incredible journey. Even the audio place that these songs come from is completely different. They have a deep connection with the post-production, which is such an interesting shift in the direction that I always associate Soccer Mommy’s stuff with. Where the music is usually guitar and voice based, finding vulnerability as the main ingredient, served up with a light and catchy indie flavor, this album is way more deliberate about the deconstruction of the sounds of the songs and the different dimensions that they can be presented in. Phantoms of notes hang onto the shores of the body of the songs. Raytracing effects shimmer around the halos of the voice. To be sure, there are still moments where the dynamics drip down into obscurity and we meet eye to eye with the artist, and those tense moments are powerful, deliberate. For me, though, the most interesting aspect of this record is its depth and texture. It does different things than I expected of it and getting to know the ways that the sound evolved was immaculately rewarding.
Check Out: Don’t Ask Me
23. Heart to Gold — Tom
I really liked this album right out of the gate. The first time I listened to it, I had one of those “oh shit” moments, upset that I hadn’t been following this band or what they had been putting out before this. Now, I’m not saying that it ‘sounds like the Blue Album’, but there’s something about the stalwart sound, the commitment to the no-strings-attached, the lack of novelty that reminds me of what it was like to listen to that first Weezer record and let the songs speak for themselves. The guitars are right out in the front, the singer belts out big and clear notes with a grit and excitement that leaves no lack of energy. To compare them to another band, there are shades of The June Spirit here as well, in terms of a band that is not afraid to punch above their weight class while still sticking to the core tenets of what made the band sound like this. I have a feeling that this is a band whose live show only adds a layer to what makes this record great. I initially had this genre’d as a pop-punk record, as a lot of the sentiment shares so much of that raw and vibrant style, but the more I listen to it, the more I think the punk values shaped the drive of the band, but the rock style really ended up winning out, and it’s cool to see a band write the shit out of a record without trying to drive a stake into what they ‘want’ to sound like. I have to say though, the worst part of the record (possibly worst part of listening to this whole 2022 playlist) was the sound clip played at the beginning of ‘Sonic’. There’s just something ignorant about it that feels a like they could have edited their inside jokes out a little bit. Not much, but just a bit of a chip in the paint.
Check Out: Sonic
22. Anxious — Little Green House
An absolute fucking blast. I love this record, man. What heart. An absolute soul missile. I quickly started hearing some of my very favorite bands from the early 00’s represented in this record, and one influence that jumped out in a major way to me was Hot Rod Circuit. It had been years since I’ve heard that ‘reer/reer/reer’ sound in guitars that resonated the same way HRC used it, and when it was implemented it set loose inside me some crazy sense of nostalgia that brought me back to driving my Ford Probe with my burned CDs beside my store bought ones in a huge binder and flipping through it to determine what the next 45 minute listen was going to be. Throughout the record, it goes in so many directions that the pop-punk genre has evolved through, from the gritty screams that Balance and Composure added to the mix, the hazy and laid back vocals seen from Oso Oso… just a cool amalgam of all of the things that an ever-growing cloud of styles and bands have crafted. These guys seem born to play your house show.
Check Out: In April
21. Beach Bunny — Emotional Creature
There’s an uplifting and catchy vibe throughout this entire record. There’s a narrative that seems to go from the very beginning of this record that captures the beautiful early days of a blossoming love. The chasing, the honeymooning, the eyelash fluttering and all. The way these songs seem to have such a saccharine and sing-along quality to them makes them feel like they are a soundtrack to a romantic comedy movie where the girl is going to get the guy and let all of the things that drag them down and stress them out fall by the wayside, ignoring all of the bullshit and letting love win. Transforming into someone that wants to feel the things they’ve always wanted to feel. This is an easy record to throw on. Something about this record feels like one that you want to recommend to friends and family who are looking for something new and different to check out. There are undeniable pop elements to it, songs that are digestible for anyone and everyone, but a level of emotional connection that goes far beyond the vapid detachment that a lot of pop songs that are equally as accessible as these. I just love the lightness surrounding this record, the way that it’s beautiful and carefree without trying to make the songs more complicated than they need to be.
Check Out: Weeds