2022 Albums of the Year; 40–31.

steve cuocci
9 min readJan 3, 2023

40. Circa Survive — A Dream About Death EP
Ambient Indie

Similar to The Mars Volta, as you’ll read later, I’ve always cited Circa Survive as a favorite band, even though realistically I’ve only liked 2 of their records, and the multiple times I’ve seen them live have had me feeling more and more disconnected from the things I loved in the first place. However, those two records that they dropped initially truly have had some major impacts on me and the things I look for in music, and I will always give everything Green and company come out with an honest try. This and another EP they released late last year may likely be the last output of the band, as they have slowly revealed that the group is unsure about the direction they’ll be headed in together in the future. I think these songs feel like a side project of sorts, more experimental and electronic in nature than most of the guitar-pedal and choppy percussion-forward design they’ve had in the past, but there’s something almost mystical about it, something that only Anthony Green could truly convey in his ethereal and mysterious vocal style. From the first listen to this EP and the ways they were exposing new things about the core of the band and the fringes of the music they were making, I was intrigued and remain interested in just where the band could have gone if they continued to follow this path. For now, though, if this is how they’re going out, I think it’s a unique and telling way to close the door behind them, leaving a final whisper of things that could have been, a direction all too telling of the many facets of a band that was never afraid of trying new things. Not my personal favorite from the record, but recently, Anthony Green mentioned that the first track on this record, ‘Electric Moose’ is a quintessential listen for new Circa Survive fans.

Check Out: Buzzhenge

39. Surprise Chef — Education & Recreation

When I’m “getting down to work” and sitting in front of a screen, trying to run the back end of the business or just organize decisions, this is the type of shit I’m listening to. It’s got the chill atmospheric vibe with a laid back instrumental flow, but also shares a fair bit of experimentation which makes it easy to pay attention if you want to zone into the music itself. There’s a carefree glaze that echos back a muted amber light on every track of this record, whether it be an upbeat cruiser or a loungey recline. All of these tracks share a nod to an expertise and experience that is being implemented in the most positive way imaginable, never being exploited to spotlight the chops but instead presented for enjoyment and enlightenment.

Check Out: Together Again

38. Poliça — Madness

Such an apt title for a record that presents as a disconnected and almost entirely electronic based collection of tracks. This feels way more like a Project than it does an Album, though I welcome each avenue it tries to venture down. It’s been a while since I really enjoyed a solo Poliça record, but this one retains the same kind of dub, percussion driven construct that my favorite of theirs (2011’s Give You the Ghost) represented. This one takes a lot of the same flavor but almost Björk’s around with it, putting a lot of focus on the vocals and knocking down all the walls, burning down all the borders and creating an amoeba of a record that sounds just as meandering as it does introspective. For all the ways that it finds new ways to arrange itself, you can still meet it at the eyes and know its core identity. Blood is the song that lifts itself above the others as one that forms the most contemporary song, and it is easily one of the best tracks of the year.

Check Out: Blood

37. Foreign Hands — Bleed the Dream EP
Melodic Hardcore

I can’t believe this was released in 2022. This is a complete throwback to melodic hardcore that was pulling inspiration from Poison the Well. This is for fans of bands like Life In Your Way, From Autumn to Ashes, A Jealousy Issue and so forth. Steady rhythm double bass, crash cymbals before straight forward breakdowns, screaming through and through, brief metal leads… just the whole nine. For me, this sounds like YL t-shirts combined with basketball shorts and/or boot cut jeans that are just a smidge too large (coming in right before the Hot Topic skinny-jeans trend). It sounds like the music did before it became fashionable. I unapologetically love this record for bringing me back to a place in time like this, where show posters were made like ransom notes and made on cheap copy machines with washed out images and 17 different fonts, each with directions written on the flyer itself on how to find the venue. So great, dude. This EP is just such a portrait of an easier time.

Check Out: Separation Souvenir

36. Vatican — Ultra
Creative Metalcore

There’s a comfort in a record like this, an affirming sense of rest that sets in when a band playing breakdowns is clearly pulling influences from both nu-metal and metalcore. Of course, there are things that are happening that keep things interesting, keep them from just being another band that downtunes a seven string and plays music that sounds good behind strobe lights. The use of synthesizers and sound production add a ton of personality and vision to the music that Vatican is making. The complex guitar lines aren’t used to a degree that makes it feel like showing off. There’s a “let them eat cake” sort of approach to this record, where a lot of what the band is putting out there feels like they’re just as stoked to share their ideas with us as we are to hear them. This is a super creative, super heavy album.

Check Out: Uncreated Waste

35. Blut Aus Nord — Undreamable Abysses
Lapping At the Shores of Nightmares

This is such a strange record. It’s aggressive and chugging and constantly driving forward like a mechanism, a bloodthirsty phalanx of metal and noise. It goes forward in one putrid color, with spiraling voices and effects swirling around the borders of the swarm. But I wouldn’t necessarily consider this one heavy? It seems tough to “headbang” to or to even find a part to separate from the intoning, the poltergeistish reckoning that it continues to bare. The more you listen, the more you find wraiths buried in the coiled spiral, the more you find peaceful and serene vocals tracing along the ethereal walls. Yet the double bass continues to reign, the guitars continue to chug. It’s spooky and haunted and divided into two columns that never touch, but never separate. Such a rad record that sits somewhere between black and drone metal? The title of this record definitely suits that sound that sits within it. Very amorphous sound. This album sounds like the colors you see when you stare too long at the sun.

Check Out: Neptune’s Eye

34. Camp Cope — Running With the Hurricane
Meticulous Confessions

The geometry of voices is what makes this record’s sound so unique. Instrumentally, the songs feel like frameworks, canvases that are dressed in minimal flourish. Guitars strum and drums pop. But it’s the vocals and the way they are layered and ornate that gives this record its deep and robust spirit. Each of these songs gets deeply into my feelings with little to no mercy, sometimes focusing on the shortcomings of others but mostly calling me out for the ways that I’ve not shown up, the way I’ve neglected important things, the way that I can be better but have not been. And it’s a spotlight like this that can sometimes be louder than the ones that we want to cast outwardly. I hate to bring up what’s probably so often associated with this band, but the ever-present diphthong in so many of the pronunciations is also another way that these feel so condemning. There’s an authenticity to it, a lived in room way of bringing the honesty to bare in an entirely plain light. This record is really good, especially over multiple engagements with it.

Check Out: Blue

33. Spoon — Lucifer On the Sofa

This is a stout rock record that does nothing by way of changing the game or experimenting or trying to find new ways to engage with you. There are some times while listening to this one where I have to exclaim just how great some of these songs are. There are clear blues-influences throughout, though the guitar sound is far cleaner than most of that muddy and filthy sound that comes from some of that meaner delta stuff. That being said though, these are some of the most well-written and catchy tunes I’ve heard all year, all without gimmick or novelty. Their last record was great and this one is even better. Huge fan and such a big surprise. Highly recommend giving this one a listen.

Check Out: Held

32. Fit For An Autopsy — Oh What the Future Holds

This is one of the records that I probably listened to most not only when it first dropped but also in reviewing this list and trying to quantify where all of these albums should sit within the totem. There are so many good parts on this one, some really great metal moments without leaning back and relying on massive solos to get style points. It chugs along, goes big and wide when it has to, but most of it sets the water on the burner, cranks up the heat slowly and roils beautifully when it reaches a boil. This is a record that you will know if you like it within the first five minutes of turning it on, as one song to the next redresses the equation with varying figures and all paths lead to basically equal sums. I love it. The production on the record is fantastic as well, really highlighting all of the work that the band has put together, giving each element a lane wide enough to drive in without muddying up the rest. This album feels big.

Check Out: Two Towers

31. Bottom Bracket — A Figure In Armor EP
This Is the Modern Emo

I listen to all of the records on this list on one ongoing playlist titled ‘2022’ and go from one record to the next, letting them flow into one another, and going on gut and heart on what records make me feel this or that, and which ones I feel can push above records and which ones just don’t feel like they stand up. Let me tell you that when the album listed prior to this one on the playlist ended and this song came up next, I was absolutely too hype. I didn’t recognize the band, but hearing it again for the first time in forever made me feel like I was discovering a great new band out of the woodwork. Excellent, excellent guitar work. Big vocals with a youthful sense of fun and excitement. This is one of those bands that really strikes me as a DIY band that leaves it all on the line every night, has a passionate fanbase, a group of friends that can’t be beat and it’s a feeling that I absolutely love. Record is an absolute blast. Definitely sits beautifully as one of the best the genre have to offer.

Check Out: Sun Singer