2022 Albums of the Year: 50–41.
50. Frontières — Regret EP
I typically place a lot of indie records on these lists, but those are mostly ones that I want to listen to while I’m alone and brooding, deeply reckoning with What to Create and How I’ve Lived, etc. A record like this is one that’s just ignorant enough that I want to share with all my friends, a record I hear parts and riffs and cannot wait to be with some homeys and laugh incredulously. It crosses into nü-metal territory more often than I would feel comfortable with, but the beatdown and breakdown parts (à la August Burns Red and similar acts) are far more inviting than off-putting. I think the vocals is where I think the band needs the most flair, as it tends to go into a more generic and worn out style more often than not but once they find a sound that feels more their own, this band has some big things ahead.
Check Out: Timeless
49. Just Mustard — Heart Under
First and foremost, I want to say that I hate this band name. It’s got a weird early internet vibe, one that seems to be trying to be cheeky or clever or “so weird” kind of somewhere in that verbalscape of calling things “epic” or just the general appeal of llamas, etc. that came out of the minds and mouths of a lot of Invader Zim fans. Wanted to get that out of the way. BUT. ‘Heart Under’ is such a great zone out record. Some of the sounds that the band produces are extraworldly, really reaching into their bag to create a diorama of sound that’s so different than anything I’ve heard before. The vocals are punctuated above all else, really taking a spotlight on a surface listen, but digging into the way the sound is flexing and bending elevates the record to something so much bigger. Just Mustard wants to go massive. They want to go loud. They really accomplish this. There are elements of disintegration, of haunting, of vortexes, of bending dimension.
Check Out: Blue Chalk
48. Alas — Uusi Vuosi
The guitars on this one are the highlight, not because the skill level is outrageous or that they’re doing anything particularly special, but the sound that they produce is so bright and in such stark contrast to the vocals and tone of the rest of the record in general. There’s something about this album that somehow reminds me of the dichotomy that exists between Jeremy Bolm and the rest of his bandmates. There’s nothing aggressive about the music itself, but the vocals that layer on top of it create such a seething alloy that it’s tough to find the joy through the brush. The tone here is everything, with long stretches of only instrumentation able to convey a sense or contemplative weight, very similar to pre-boom emo.
Check Out: Odottavan Aika
47. Bedlocked — Bedlocked
Simply a great Sad record. One that passively strums a guitar and laments all the ways in which one has fucked up, staring out into a gray and lifeless abyss, wondering what would have been different if one had just applied themselves. This record wins through consistency. The common thread that runs throughout the songs is the extraordinary pillar of deep regret and misplaced focus and how it all certified the way that we will fail. I like it. The sound is hypnotic if you’ve ever found yourself listening to those droney, wan records that the shoegaze genre has blessed us with.
Check Out: Pictures
46. Drug Church — Hygiene
Working Class Rock
This album brings with it a working class punk aesthetic without being exclusive to “Those Who Work, Toil and Suffer.” The big and anthemic tunes are catchy without sacrificing the gnarly grind in order to make way for hooks that don’t hit with the same impact. These songs feel written on napkins instead of inside of notebooks yet they are twice as clever and far more organic. There is a distinct “realness” that pervades the songs, something that snaps together quickly. It feels like you can read the personality of the band from the very jump. You know what they’re about and know that they worked on these songs a ton, as they’re tight and without any loose ends or thrown in parts, but also that they were born freely, not written to death and that became more like products than expressions. This record sounds like Carhartt jackets and thin ribbed, brandless wool hats that you buy because you work outside or you live in a city where you walk everywhere and you love it but it sucks. Northeastern I-95 cities, I’m looking at you. I swear, if there were a new Tony Hawk game coming out, Piss & Quiet would be on it.
Check Out: Detective Lieutenant
45. Alice Glass — PREY//IV
I love Alice Glass’ entire aesthetic. The shattered sound, the digital production, the dichotomy of baby-doll voice and Furiosa violence. Several years ago, her EP was one of the best things I’d heard all year, and now with a new full-length, the songs are more assembled, more structured, less reliant on a single hook to carry the track. There are ideas at play here that feel like they have been sweated out and slaved over for nights in the studio. While there are moments in this record that feel a little bit like we’re lost in an audio experiment, we’re brought back to an excellent dark record that can mostly be considered ‘pop’ by way of its catchiness and memorability. There’s something that will suck you back in on every song, and all throughout, there are reminders that people will try to hold you down beneath your potential, but within you is the primal instinct to rise above it. This album is such an acidic joy.
Check Out: Fair Game
44. Khruangbin & Leon Bridges — Texas Moon EP
I wish this record was longer. Lots of chilled out, reverbed out, slow mo music that cuts deep into the smoky side of your soul. I get a little hypnotized by this EP, drilled down into the core of my cranium, spiraling into the purples and lavenders of the sonic expanses. There’s one song that jumps out above all the others though, something different and funky. The song is called B-Side and I wonder if it’s because this song felt like it became an island off of the major Pangaea of the rest of the track. It’s still got that hazy sound that seems to be coming from a higher level, but it’s got a hell of a jump to it. It’s a hip shaker, a waist mover, a head bopper for sure. An absolute gem of a song.
Check Out: B-Side
43. Gianni Brezzo — Tutto Passa
If you’ve read the last five years of writing I’ve done about music or if you’ve just read one blurb, one thing that you can probably ascertain is that everything I say about music is based on feel. I don’t know much about the technicalities of songwriting or the intricacies of playing. I’m a witness, a member of the audience. And one thing that’s so strange about jazz as a genre is that it, too, is all about the highly engaged marriage of both skill and feel. It’s extraordinarily hard for me to relate sounds from this genre because the width and breadth of the history of its players is so vast that I feel a bit lost, trying to land a feather on a pinhead. What I can tell you about this particular record is that it feels like a European getaway. Nothing on a resort, far from the major territories. This record feels like an amber sunset in a coastal town far from where the tourists lay their bags. There’s a mediterranean cool about it, a timeless eternae that feels like the score to foreign art films. It feels like weathered cobblestone and buildings that have been standing through wars. I love this one for walks and for contemplation. Such a great record.
Check Out: Capture This
42. Softcult — Year of the Snake EP
There isn’t enough of this EP. The six songs spiral by in under 20 minutes, leaving just enough potential out there for me to be stoked about whatever what may come next. The first three tracks on this one really got me pulled in, with the shoegaze and grungy sound that theyre employing, but with a bit too much simplicity for the way the songs were written and structured. But their sound was undeniable. However, the second half of the record brings three outstanding tracks that really stretch the duo to a place where you can tell they are discovering the glass ceiling can be shattered and they are gaining a bit more understanding of their sound and how to engineer it in new and interesting ways with each new song they write. Their strength is in their simplicity of a two-person unit and the way that they are able to pull out such a thick and textured sound through the fuzz of it all. You can hear the way that they understand where to find the value in a pop song but also that they don’t want to sacrifice the core of their sound. This is where the last three songs start to shine, and they leave you hanging with the very last song on the EP.
Check Out: Uzumaki
41. Prize Horse — Welder EP
The short EP reminds me a bit of the first time that I heard Balance and Composure’s Separation. There’s a heft to the guitar, a punch to the drums, a density that feels so weighty, so heavy. The vocals, though, float across that acrid and choppy soundscape in a drifting contemplation that adds a new dimension to the songs. The spiraling depth of the tracks gives it an emotional volume, and the raw value of the production brings about the rumble of the bass guitar, the chaos of the metallic clashing of cymbals further cements it. This band waves violence like a controlled flame on the end of a torch.
Check Out: Far