Things are never easy, and we all know that from the past couple of years. What we’re also aware of is how some find inspiration and fully invest it directly into their work. We’re blown away by the amount of artistry we’ve encountered throughout the past year, laying it all down can be a challenge, a catharsis of sorts. Some more than others transport us all to another place, one where we’re able to identify with the works others have put in with their music.
As with every “Best of” list, a number of individuals have had their input allowing for a collection of releases to shine. Given, this wasn’t an easy task and some obviously didn’t make the list but that’s not a slight on their artistry. Once again we have Kane Adams, Tommy Johnson, Nathan Conrad, Diego Flores, and Dan Severin to thank.
Billy Woods – Aethiopes
Billy Woods brings intense and well-thought-out lyricism to his brand of hip-hop. His songs could stand on their own as poetry, but placed on top of sample-based beats, they are damn near the point of perfection. Preservation handles the production on Aethiopes, crafting an earthy tone and consistent vibe for the record.
Eugenius – Crisis
The Ohio emcee is literally an anomaly. Through his latest effort Crisis (Friends Club Records), the tome of the release is littered with dark timbres, indie rock fluidity, and an astounding lyrical dexterity. Hip-Hop is evolving. Again.
Kal Marks – My Name Is Hell
Notoriously known around the world and especially around the Boston vicinity for many years for being vociferous, the latest installment from Kal Marks is no different. The biggest takeaway is the newly crafted lineup that incorporates a fuller sound and showcases lead singer Carl Shane’s vocals more clearly. You won’t be allowed to relax as My Name Is Hell (Exploding In Sound) is a piledriver of sound.
Alex G – God Save the Animals
Alex G has made a name for himself with his unique brand of bedroom pop. God Save the Animals (Domino Records) is his best work to date. These songs have a spiritual theme that cuts deeper than some of his previous albums. Songs like ‘The Runner’ and ‘Miracles’ are hard to put down; in fact, ‘The Runner’ was my most listened-to song on Spotify this year.
Alvvays – Blue Rev
Alvvays are a Canadian indie pop band based in Toronto with high energy and a banging discography. Blue Rev (Polyvinyl Records) offers fourteen blissful tracks that are a bit rawer than the band’s previous work. This album marks a new era of growth as they venture into dreampop and shoegaze territory.
Soccer Mommy – Sometimes Forever
Sophia Allison offers a fresh take on the “Nashville Songwriter” experience. Her latest gem, Sometimes Forever (Loma Vista Recordings) is a dreamy soundscape for songs like ‘Feel it all the Time,’ where she personifies her truck. Speaking of gems, this record was produced by Daniel Lopatin, who you may know from his score of Uncut Gems.
Sadistik x Kno – Bring me Back When the World is Cured
Sadistik is one of those rappers who always seems to be in the prime of his growth as an artist, yet he prolifically keeps releasing albums that never cease to amaze his listeners. On his 2022 release, Bring me Back When the World is Cured (Knomercy Records), he rhymes in complex patterns with ease over Kno’s sample-based beats.
Lecrae – Church Clothes 4
Church Clothes 4 is some of Lecrae’s best work to date. Lecrae might be the most popular Christian rapper in the game, and this is a good thing because he is not afraid to tell you exactly where he is coming from when it comes to social issues. One of the strongest tracks on this record, ‘Still in America,’ tells a narrative of the social and racial inequalities that exist in the U.S.
Preoccupations – Arrangements
If you didn’t know, Arrangements (Flemish Eye/Jagjaguwar)) is one of the greatest rock records not only in 2022, but from here and beyond. It’s a shame the Canadian outfit isn’t revered and discussed in more conversations as a pivotal force of nature. It’s post-punk deliveries and penchant for writing some of the catchiest songs should make it more topical. The group delivers time and time again.
Indigo Sparke – Hysteria
It has come to many that when The Nationals’ own Aaron Dessner is producing your album, good things are surely going to happen. Indigo Sparke’s Hysteria (Sacred Bones) is a prime example of such. The carefully mastered tracks are crafted with such detail and precision. Lyrically, Hysteria offers up an emotional tidal wave that many will find a comparison with. We need more from the duo of Dessner and Sparke.
Meat Wave – Malign Hex
What is not to appreciate? The Chicago 3-piece has been releasing full-frontal rhythm assaults since 2012 and with its new Malign Hex (Swami), the full realization of the band has come to fruition. The band somewhat plays with dynamics in an elaborate ploy to get your attention. Yeah, it works. And then some.
The Bad Plus – S/T
Jazz is special. To find new Jazz albums that push the confines of the genre and translate sonically through modern means of production is a rarity. That is why it is important to tell everyone you know about The Bad Plus. This Minneapolis-based Jazz Quartet has released a hard-hitting, guitar-driven, self-titled, jazz record.
Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry
Trenton-based rap outfit, Dreadpool Parker, described this brand of hip hop in 2015 with their anthem, ‘Sounds like Drugs’. Pusha T lets you know right out of the gate what this album is about as he describes himself as “Cocaine’s Dr. Seus.” The beats and overall flow of this album have a great feel. These tracks would fit in perfectly on the Grand Theft Auto 5 soundtrack.
Built to Spill – When the Wind Forgets Your Name
Built to Spill is one of the best bands to come out of the ’90s alt-rock scene. When the Wind Forgets Your Name (Sub Pop) is their best record in over a decade. Doug Martsch collaborates with members of the Brazilian psychedelic jazz-rock outfit, Oruã, on this album. These collaborators add a refreshing tone to this long-awaited album.
The 1975 – Being Funny In A Foreign Language
Being Funny in a Foreign Language takes an angle on pop music that features a vastness of instruments and synthesizers in the production. The result is a sound that is like a modern spin on Paul Simon’s Graceland. The vocals are sweet, the lyrics are honest, and the songs are daring.
Myles Bullen – Mourning Travels
Fake Four Inc. has continually uncovered unique and dope albums since the label’s conception. Myles Bullen offers gorgeous melodies to their poetic hip hop/indie pop songs. There is a purity in this album that is uncommon in the genre as some get jaded and others become commercialized. Myles has continued to release incredible singles following the release of Mourning Travels.
Negro Justice – Chosen Family
What do you need to know about Christin Brown? First, he can kick your ass on any fighting game at the arcade. Second, his freshman LP was awarded Hip-Hop album of the year by the Nashville Scene. Third, the name is Negro Justice, and he chooses who he considers family and he is going to tell you all about it with this 2022 album.
MAITA – I Just Want To Be Wild For You
The Portland, Oregon singer/songwriter MAITA sure captivated the music world with her latest I Just Want To Be Wild For You (Kill Rock Stars). Moments of confusion, uncertainty and disconnection are highlighted within the swaying guitar riffs and emotive vocals.
Sulu And Excelsior – So Ends The Honeymoon
The funny thing about Sulu And Excelsior is how it’s easily classifiable as lounge music while deftly jumping over genre categorization filtering pop, jazz, and Hip-Hop sensibilities. That’s what the band’s 3rd full-length release, So Ends the Honeymoon (Riding Mower Productions), offers. There’s no filler as multi-instrumental vocalist Steven Mallorca plays all instruments, with the help of a few friends of course.
Raw Poetic – Space Beyond The Solar System
The title of the album probably says it all, and you probably won’t find anything else that takes as much chances as Space Beyond the Solar System. D.C. emcee Raw Poetic gets the helping hand on this release by Damu The Fudgemunk and saxophonist Archie Shepp. Hip-Hop takes a complete left turn with this album leaving listeners guessing but completely hooked from start to finish. With such a dense recording, that’s not an easy task.
Oliver Tree – Cowboy Tears
Oliver Tree makes hilarious videos and has a social media presence that makes one think of Andy Warhol. On top of all of this, the dude just dropped a sick album in 2022. With all the noise around Oliver Tree, it is easy to overlook his actual music which sounds like a 90’s alt-rock-electro hybrid in the vein of Cake, Beck, and Soul Coughing.
Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyes See Your Future
Denzel Curry is one of the best rappers to enter the game in the last decade. His flow is matched by a spontaneous passion. Every album he releases has its own unique sound and theme. Melt My Eyes See Your Future (Loma Vista Recordings) is a more introspective album than his previous releases as Denzel does some self-searching as he pours his heart into these songs.
Height Keech & Darko the Super – You Gotta Have Friends
It is always delightful to hear collaborative albums between two artists who are having fun. Height Keech and Darko the Super are a couple of fun-loving rappers who take their craft seriously but know how to relate to their fans. Both are producers (although Height handles the production on this record), both are prolific, and both are dope!
Mitski – Laurel Hell
Laurel Hell (Dead Oceans) is a brilliant synth-pop record from Mitski. Mitski has a bold and dynamic voice which she uses to belt out what she describes as a “soundtrack for transformation.” While the album has a more modern feel, songs like ‘The Only Heartbreaker’ and ‘Working the Knife’ hit like the band, Heart, with their steady pulse of drums and epic choruses.
Wonky Tonk and Juan Cosby – Breaking Patterns
Bursting with musical spontaneity and lyrical honesty, Breaking Patterns is a playful yet sonically pleasing, psychedelic synth wave record that “breaks the patterns” of musical norms in Wonk and Juan’s respective genres. The blend of quirky guitars, sweet yet animated vocals, and unpredictable song structures make for a fun and exciting record.
Bjork – Fossora
Bjork has had a hell of a year kicking it off with her role in Robert Eggers’ best film to date, The Northman. Her latest album is a colossal piece of art that sounds more like chamber music or a soundtrack to a Robert Eggers film, as opposed to something that is going to pop up on your homies’ playlist of “hot tracks” for the gym. I love it!
Marlowe – Marlowe 3
The boys are back with their 3rd album, hence the title. Marlowe is a duo that consists of emcee Solemn Bringham, and producer, L’Orange. The beats are energetic and multi-dimensional, chopping samples that range from beachy vibes to 50’s detective film soundtrack feels. Solemn Bringham’s energy matches the production perfectly as his caffeinated flow experiments with different vocal tones, offering a sound that keeps your head bobbing and your face smiling.
Darko the Super – The Meeting Place
With a Sgt. Peppers inspired album cover, Darko the Super has dropped a self-produced album where he pays homage to the artists he loves such as Gil Scott Heron, K.M.D. and Sir Mixalot. He expresses his love for J Dilla on ‘Jockin Jay Dee’ where he airs out his beef with Tha Alkaholiks among others, but the best moment is ‘I Need a Haircut Too’ where he shows love to Biz Markie.
Sally Seltmann – Early Moon
Australian singer-songwriter, Sally Seltmann, has made another beautiful and thought-provoking album. With songs like ‘Table for One’ and ‘Female Pied Piper,’ Sally is playing to her strengths with unabashedly honest songs with strong melodies.
Erin Rae – Lighten Up
Erin Rae has dazzled us once again with her brilliantly titled new album, Lighten Up. Erin Rae is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter who has spent years crafting her unique brand of cosmic country pop music. Erin will make you cry, think, and laugh hysterically if you give her the chance.
kidDEAD – The Man Who Lived Forever
The Man Who Lived Forever is an album that the Nashville-based rapper/filmmaker, Ross Norton, was working on before their sudden death in 2021. Producer, Nathan Zensen, finished this album with the help of Ross’ friends and family. The result is a brutally honest, yet fun, depiction of Ross’ time on Earth.
Robert Glasper – Black Radio III
If you’re reading this you should know Glasper is an amazing composer who lifts others up, allowing them to elevate his compositions while at the same time elevating themselves. Black Radio III (Loma Vista Recordings) Opens with the amazing Amir Sulaiman with “In Tune,” but the album also features an array of artistry (Killer Mike, India.Arie, Q-Tip, and more!).
Pedro The Lion – Havasu
Havasu followed up 2019’s Phoenix (Polyvinyl Records) and of course, it’s an AZ thing. This album finds Bazan and his musicians at their very peak! Friends: Why does he sound so sad? This is depressing. Well, Bazan has always been a lyrical genius, weaving his words across musical landscapes and here it’s no different through its theme. If your friends don’t like Havasu, find yourself a better class of people.
Lando Chill – if i’m being honest
The L.A. by way of Phoenix, by way of Chicago emcee Lando Chill has been sorely overlooked the past few years and with if i’m being honest (98th & Calumet) things are probably no different but damn if this album doesn’t make you feel good and allow you to think at the same time. The wordsmith throws it down and over the Calvin Valentine production, this is life.
Jon Spencer & The HITmakers – Spencer Gets It Lit
A NYC staple for over the past 30+ years (JSBX, Boss Hog, Pussy Galore), he’s brought his noisy, dirty blues and cultivated a sound all his own. The second album with The HITmakers, Spencer Gets It Lit (In The Red), he revitalizes the sound with like-minded musicians for a serious banger of a release. Sometimes sparse but always running fluidly, the group makes a racket we can all love.
dälek – Precipice
When one thinks of “dälek,” the first thing that always comes to mind is innovation. Since the group’s early days, it’s transcended conventionality in lieu of something much more dynamic. Precipice (Ipecac Recordings) its first full-length release in 5 years, is no different. dälek continues to push the boundaries here and we must all note, the group has proven Hip-Hop doesn’t really have any.
Fawns of Love – Unrequited Love Songs EP (Glass Modern)
For some reason, I consider California’s Fawns Of Love, one of my spirit animals. The electro-pop songs the band concocted on its last full-length were some of my favorites but with Unrequited Love Songs, the group’s retrofied sound is magical! Sure, they may be reworked versions of previous works but for the newcomer… come on! It’s consuming.
Grand Mantis – Fangs
The debut release by Grand Mantis, a collaborative effort between emcees, producers, musicians that moves laterally and at odd angles. The music throughout Fangs (Knife Hits) is deconstructed and hits with visual-like artistry. This!
Mykki Blanco – Stay Close To Music
There’s just something about Stay Close To Music (Transgressive) that has the ability to tug on your most base instincts and allows your body sway across the cosmos. The album transcends boundaries and is derivative unto itself. The artist/emcee has released the most realized work to date and Mykki Blanco shows no signs of slowing down.
Bitch – Bitchcraft
Some descriptions can be literal, like Bitch, who is a musical anomaly. The pulsating rhythm, the harmonies and melodies; they don’t allow Bitch to be categorized as just one thing, and on Bitchcraft (Kill Rock Stars) it all comes to a head. Bitch rises against the status quo, Bitch fights for the underdog, Bitch isn’t going down without a fight.
Prayer Group – Michael Dose
You’ve ever felt like you’ve been hit by a freight train? That’s what it sounds like as soon as Michael Dose (Reptilian Records) drops. The loud and abrasive Prayer Group out of Virginia utilizes its instruments with medical-like precision. They hit you with enough dissonance & feedback to keep things interesting but it’s the power here that hypnotizes.
Momma – Household Name
The band surprised everyone with its second full-length release, 2020’s Two Of Me, and fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for another album brimming with just as much passion, harmonies, dueling guitars, and thundering rhythms. Household Name (Polyvinyl Records) offers listeners just as much of Momma’s sweet harmonies as its previous material had. Of course we’d find them here again.
Ghost Bitch – Blood And Honey
The appeal of Ghost Bitch? That’s simple. It’s a voice and a guitar. The guitar squeals and squawks through wiry distortion but always locks hold of melody, as the Olympia, Washington vocalist sings over these noisy tracks. You’ll find the occasional appearance of a drum machine or percussion throughout Blood And Honey (K Records) but it’s everything else you’ll be fascinated by.
Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful
Has there ever even been a question as to how talented Jason Pierce actually is? That’s not to minimize anyone else in Spiritualized but hot damn, Everything Was Beautiful (Fat Possum) is a wonderous mess of an album, filled with atmospheric sensations and glorious instrumentation.
Tim Kasher – Middling Age
The Cursive man strikes out on his own again with Middling Age (15 Passenger), Kasher’s 5th since The Game Of Monogamy (or 4th, depending on who you ask) and yes, his songs twirl seamlessly with catchy melodies, and lyrics that bounce across timelessly around relationships perfectly melded together. Kasher is a master of his craft.
Guerilla Toss – Famously Alive
Monstrous! That’s possibly the best way to describe Famously Alive (Sub Pop), the latest album by New York’s Guerilla Toss. While a 3-piece, we can’t call them a power trio, although we can call them a power trio. The band’s breathy vocals, powerful backdrops, and masterful guitar rhythms are quite addictive.
Tempers – New Meaning
After a few albums, NYC’s Tempers seems to have found its stride. New Meaning (Dais Records) rides a wave of nostalgia as washes of guitar occasionally clear away all the dirt and grime left on you. But to be honest it’s Jasmine Golestaneh’s haunting voice that’s mesmerizing. Once you hear it, there’ll be no doubt left in your mind how the moment(s) are captured perfectly.
Damien Jurado – Reggae Film Star
Jurado has stepped out on his own in literally all facets of his musical career, taking complete control of his music. Reggae Film Star (Maraqopa Records) is his latest full-length that contains all the passion that has filled previous releases, while also focusing on the future. There’s a stark beauty throughout Jurado’s songs, even when they’re fitted with additional instrumentation. Jurado can do no wrong.
Bodega – Broken Equipment (What’s Your Rupture?)
With the new Broken Equipment (What’s Your Rupture?), the 5-piece out of New York known simply as Bodega makes you think with insightful lyricism riding on top of its post-punk deliveries, driven by dual guitars, keys, and infectious rhythms. Sometimes more art than punk may not matter at all because it’s never difficult to listen to.
Battle Ave. – I Saw the Egg
There’s a revolving cast of musicians throughout Battle Ave’s latest, I Saw the Egg (Friend Club Records), and while having so many hands involved within a release can be a blessing, it can also be to a group’s own detriment. Fortunately, it’s the former rather than the latter. The grandiose indie rock compositions are never ill-tempered and always enticing. Head into the new year holding the Egg.
Tangled Up – Silk Embroidered Light
While Silk Embroidered Light (Knife Hits Records) may be just a 5-song release, it’s brimming with passion and creativity, and embarks on a fascinating psych-rock, post-punk attack that only comes around once or twice in a lifetime. Like an addict’s first hit, the release hooks you right in from the very get-go.
The Mountain Goats – Bleed Out
The only thing as sure-footed as an actual mountain goat is a Mountain Goats album. Bleed Out (Merge Records) not only delivers the album cover of the year but also delivers one of the crispiest-sounding albums of 2022. John Darnielle’s songwriting is also in master form thanks to his inspiration from the action movies of the 60s, 70s, and 80s which help shape Bleed Out into more than just your average indie rock flash-in-the-pan.
Charley Crockett – The Man From Waco
Charley Crockett rides a fine line between country and blues and does it exceptionally well. The Man from Waco (Son Of Davy/Thirty Tigers) proves just that. With the voice of a crooner and an amazing band to back it up, the two complement each other more than that peanut butter and jam sandwich you packed in yesterday’s lunch.
Sonic Youth – In/Out/In
While it isn’t a new release, the 5-track release In/Out/In (Three Lobed Recordings) could have well in fact acted as a stand-in for one. It’s a compilation of unreleased songs that were recorded between 2000 and 2010. We feel the improvisation here, the ability Sonic Youth was able to convey to listeners through its unique compositions.
Automatic – Excess
Women in rock are overshadowed by way too much testosterone but when a group like Automatic comes along, it throws a wrench into the matrix. With the band’s second full-length, Excess (Stones Throw), it’s driven by almost mechanical rhythms and keyboard-drenched effects. Monotone vocal deliveries are fitting within its structures and the band knows it doesn’t need more than what it has.
Plato III – The Devil Has Texas
It’s pretty clear how Plato III grew up on both indie rock, rock & Hip-Hop and with his third album, The Devil Has Texas (Polyvinyl Records) he’s found the right combination that suits all of his needs. Washes of guitar over driving rhythms and rhyme schemes are amazingly juxtaposed against one another. While Plato III’s palette may be powered through Hip-Hop, he sets himself apart by utilizing other genres.
Nerver – Cash (Knife Hits)
Anger seems to drive Nerver, and on its new Cash (Knife Hits), I’m all in with the band’s brash and unrelenting attitude. The overdriven instruments are fitting to the band’s songwriting and what may sound like noise to your parents, are actually well-organized structures of sonic bliss. If they don’t know it, Kansas City, Missouri has a new set of rock gods.
Busty And the Bass x S.T.S – Karneval EP
What? Well yes, the soulful experience of Quebec’s Busty and the Bass comes to complete fruition with its collaborative effort with emcee S.T.S. on the Karneval EP (Arts & Crafts). The EP makes you want to dance at almost every turn, and when it doesn’t it allows you to just nod your head to S.T.S.’s thoughtful lyrics.
King Ropes – Super Natural
It’s the lazy drawl King Ropes eloquently delivers every time that most will find charming throughout Super Natural (Big and Just Little), the Bozeman, Montana band’s fourth album(?). The band itself says their influences are all over the place so no one answer is going to be right, and that’s fine considering King Ropes has taken them all to refine an identity all its own.
LUCI – Juvenilia (Don’t Sleep)
What can be said about LUCI that hasn’t already been said 100 times? In case you’re unaware, LUCI is the future of music, and Juvenilia (Don’t Sleep) is a testament to it. LUCI raps, LUCI sings on the debut EP which defies categorization and moves with effortless ease. LUCI’s lyrics are as powerful as the vocal delivery, and we should all expect much bigger things in the future. The bar has been set and right now, no one can match it.
A7PHA – II
This shit is hauntingly good. Diverging at an almost perfect right angle from the almost unbeatable and noisy first offering, A7PHA II (Handsmade) takes a much more laid-back approach that is best absorbed through a pair of your favorite headphones.
AJ Suede X Televangel – Metatron’s Cube
Televangel’s wavy ass beats are the perfect setting for AJ Suede’s laid-back flows. With knockout features on Metatron’s Cube (Fake Four, Inc.) from Ceschi, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, PremRock, Squadda B, and Hemlock Ernst, Metatron’s Cube is in the running for one of the best rap albums of the year.
The R.A.P. – Velvet
Spooky and incredibly chill, The Road Allowance Peoples have created something so beautifully eerie, you’d swear you’re in a waking dream. It’s got a mood of its own that’s reminiscent of fog-shrouded forests and haunting realities.
Zilla Rocca & andrew – Don’t Wait For Me To Leave
Don’t Wait For Me To Leave (Three Dollar Pistol Music) is steeped in nostalgic sound. Every single beat that andrew had sent to Zilla Rocca became a song and it flows so smoothly you’d think this shit was freshly paved. While paved it is not, Fresh it most definitely is.
Buck 65 – King of Drums
Buck 65 smashed shit off the planet this year. Between King of Drums (Handsmade), Flash Grenade with Tachichi, and The Last Dig as Double Nice avec Birdapres, he’s proved he’s not done rappin’ or producin’ yet. With so many familiar loops and samples, it’s a wonder how this managed to sound so fresh. Buck takes almost all of the duties into his own hands and crafts a seamlessly, well-built rap album that is definitely one for the books.
Killah Priest – Mother
This album is a masterpiece. Killah Priest has been a top-shelf lyricist ever since he was given a solo track on GZA’s Liquid Swords. He spits poetry like he’s from another planet and the way he shoots words over the piano-driven production on Mother is nothing short of beautiful.
Destroyer – Labrynthitis
Labrynthitis (Merge Records) is the perfect name for Dan Bejar’s latest album which starts off slow and then quickly escalates into a soundscape that cannot be classified. From the static guitar riffs to the sliding synths, this album covers a lot of ground in 43 minutes and you’ll never quite know where it’s going next. It is most definitely about the journey and not the destination when it comes to a Destroyer album and Labrynthitis is most definitely a journey that should not be missed.
Black Thought x Danger Mouse – Cheat Codes
One of the most anticipated Hip-Hop albums of 2022, Cheat Codes did not disappoint. Black Thought’s signature lyricism paired with Danger Mouse’s familiar production makes a behemoth of an album that just might blow out your headphones.
Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You
aka DNWMIBIY (4AD) for short, which is way too long of an acronym for an album title but is definitely fitting for an album of this length. Big Thief throws out a monstrous effort of wavy country/folk into 20 songs of pure delight. James Krivchenia’s production efforts culminate in the perfect roundabout sound for those quiet Sunday afternoons or early morning coffee rituals.
Factor Chandelier – Time Invested II
There are certain guarantees in life. Insatiable urges to pet cute animals, unpleasant dental visits, and some form of a Factor Chandelier album on a semi-regular basis. Factor’s production always exceeds expectations and with each elevation of sound comes an equally elevated feature. With help from Eligh, Open Mike Eagle, Moka Only, AWOL One, Ceschi, and more, Time Invested II (Fake Four, Inc.) is definitely a hip-hop excursion worth investing some time into.
Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals – King Cobra
This album is crazy good. With lyrics that are on point, like Ghostface Killah’s spiked bat and production that will throw you around like Patrick Swayze at the end of Point Break, King Cobra is an earful of harsh realizations. It may come across as angry and loud sprinkled with a juxtaposition of soft pianos and dusty samples but this is an album that speaks the truth and doesn’t let you tune it out.
Leikeli47 – Shape Up
There is so much fun packed into Shape Up it’s a wonder how it all managed to fit on one album. Leikeli47 is a beast on the mic and she don’t fuck around. The production levels are heavy and create the perfect setting for Leikeli to flip around the tracks like a lyrical ninja.
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Emotional Eternal
Emotional Eternal (Domino Recording Co.) is a melodic voyage through the mind of French Artist Melody Prochet. This album is a great blend of Psychedelic Dream Pop mixed with Indie Rock that is an infectious treat for the ears.
Dj Yoda – Prom Night
Prom Night (Lewis Recordings) is a great exercise in versatility. It kicks off with dusty soul which then flips into the always stellar word acrobatics from Homeboy Sandman which carries you to a genre-hopping masterpiece. DJ Yoda’s Prom Night traverses musical classifications with ease. From scratched-up instrumentals to Gospel, R&B, and rhymes, this is a well-calculated exercise in sound.
Orville Peck – Bronco
Quite a departure from his first two albums, Orville drops the post-punk-infused country of 2019 and has immersed himself into a world of that classic country sound. Every bit the crooner, this ex-punk rock drummer definitely has a knack for surprises and while the horse may change, it definitely does not disappoint.
Quelle Chris – Deathfame
Quelle Chris is constantly pushing the boundaries of music being a lyrical dynamo, an insanely talented producer, and an all-around true artist. Chris manages to keep you guessing as to what’s going to come next album after album and Deathfame (Mello Music Group) is no exception. There is beauty in everything he touches and with over a dozen projects under his belt you’d think he’d show signs of a wavering creative streak but no, he’s like the goddamn Terminator of art rap…he’ll be back.
Say She She – Prism
Dream-like harmonies over disco-Esque funk and soul abound on Prism (Colemine Records). This 7-piece band has created something modern that still manages to throw it back like a goddamn boomerang.
Vince Staples – Ramona Park Broke My Heart
Vince Staples is one of those artists that keep pushing forward with each album release. Coming from a mature frame of mind, Ramona Park is a deeply personal, clean-cut rap album that contains no filler.
Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs – Cool It Down
What Cool it Down (Secretly Canadian) lacks in quantity it definitely makes up in quality. The first effort from Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs in close to a decade, they have proven that they are an incredible force that cannot be denied a place on any top 100 list.
Wilma Vritra – Grotto
Wilma Archer and VRITRA have created a patient, ethereal hip-hop album that pulls you into their laid-back soundscape and welcomes you from the very beginning. From the confidence of rhyme to the solidity of production, a foundation is laid that holds enough structure to compete with even the most solid rap albums of the modern generation.
Z-Ro – Pressure
Rother Vandross aka The King of the Ghetto aka Tha Mo City Don has released a gargantuan 20-track album that continues to solidify his place as a Houston Heavyweight. With styles that flip from double-time raps to R&B style hooks, Z-Ro’s lyrical capability will run circles around almost anybody. The guy’s been in the game for decades and shows no sign of slowing down unless it involves sittin’ in a Cadillac smokin’ dank and drinkin’ drank.
Pan Amsterdam and Damu The Fudgmunk – Eat
What’s better than food and rap music? Not a whole helluva lot. Pan Amsterdam and Damu have cooked up a fine feast of playful rhymes and stellar production. Eat (Def Pressé) is a shining star in a dull age and in a time when fun seems to be falling by the wayside, Pan and Damu deserve a commendation for slicing some off for the ears of the hungry.
Empath – Visitor
Acuminating praise from several media outlets and growing a rabid fanbase, Philly’s Empath didn’t get comfortable with their success. Their latest Visitor (Fat Possum) elevates the band’s noisy punk vibes with a clearer sound. The tracks are still as dreamy and heavenly as you have been accustomed to.
Spoon – Lucifer On The Sofa
When the members of Spoon reconvened to where it all began in the city of Austin, a burst of energy jolted them to lay down some of the heaviest songs within their library. Lucifer On The Sofa (Matador) is heavy on feverish guitar riffs, pounding drums, and roughneck vocals. A few drops of sweat rolls slowly down the temple when you rip into this album.
Wet Leg – Self/Titled
The duo of Wet Leg blasted through the music sphere in the summer of 2021 with the earworm “Chaise Lounge.” Who knew what we were in for when we got our hands on the duo’s self-titled (Domino) debut album. Grimy instrumentals that tap into those riot grrl days are peppered from start to finish with lyrics that are catchy and fun.
Sooner – Days and Nights
Brooklyn’s own Sooner has managed to create a blend of shoegaze and dream pop that is so fucking unbelievably charming. Finding yourself heavily deep in your emotions awaits you when you become entrenched within lead singer Federica Tassano’s vocals. One of the best songs to come off Days and Nights (Good Eye) is “Thursday.”
MILLY – Eternal Ring
It’s a welcoming sign that there are bands still slinging the grunge flag proudly. Originally the solo project of Brendan Dyer, MILLY has become a powerhouse in the LA scene. Eternal Ring (Dangerbird) slowly pushes forward with hypnotic guitars and thumping drums. There’s a youthful vibe to Eternal Ring, seemingly as if you are sneaking around and experiencing a band that will be crashing the big boy music scene table soon.
Scrunchies – Feral Coast
The rolling guitar riffs off the first track on Feral Coast (Dirtnap) are a beautiful introduction to what will be a blitzkrieg of punk rock. The Minneapolis-based Scrunchies unhinge their collective jaws and punish those who stand in their way. Thrashing around intersections, both soft and heavy, Feral Coast is an absolute blast to listen to.
The Linda Lindas – Growing Up
You remember watching that group of young women giving a giant middle finger during their performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy”? Well, that was just a taste of what was to come. Growing Up (Epitaph) curates a concoction of tracks that feature influences of the badass female acts from the 70s and 80s, along with some riot grrl flair. The album in itself is a perfect soundtrack for those who need to feel heard. Kudos ladies.
No Swoon – Take Your Time
Right during their period of transition, the duo of No Swoon choreographed an album that celebrates their path to where they are now. Possessing a steadiness from track to track, Take Your Time (Self-Released) has a self-assuredness yet still recalls moments that aren’t so wonderful. Instrumentals bounce from sludgy to booming, with dense keys and short guitar riffs.
Renata Zeiguer – Picnic In The Dark
One of the hardest things to do when you become an adult is to confront memories of the past head on. Zeiguer does it masterfully within Picnic In The Dark (Northern Spy) with the appropriate level of healing and self-actualization within the tracks. The vocals are wistful and the instrumentals are expansive, with light reverb, synthesized organ, and pattering drums.
Personal Space – Still Life
Grappling with some of the aftermaths of the pandemic, the band explored the loss of connection within their relationships with people and others in their latest Still Life (Good Eye). The vibes are chill which encapsulates the tracks perfectly.
Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia
Translated as “the damnation of the deer,” Skinty Fia (Partisan) conjures up a dense, somewhat temperamental voyage from start to finish. Inevitable changes and piercing doom encompass the songs within the album, allowing the mood to be where it stands. That being said, Skinty Fia is brimming with an expansive sound and showcases Fontaines D.C.’s evolution.
Omni of Halos – Care Free
Punching out a little over sixteen minutes, Omni Of Halos blaze through their debut EP with striking lo-fi recklessness. The angst that is felt within Care Free (Lovely) is primarily due in part to the guitarist/singer Henrik Hjelt Röstberg not writing anything for over twenty years. Once things begin to roll, it was off to the races. Care Free is noisy, loud, and hella good.
Booter – 10/10
Going to throw this out and don’t dare to try to fight it – Booter’s 10/10 (Midwest Debris) has zero skips. Yep…none. Unquestionably memorable, the album is a welcoming party to the world with the Winnipeg ensemble. Unfastened hooks and impeccable charm courtesy of lead singer Alannah Walker lead listeners to a good time.
Florist – Florist
June 2019 marked the members of Florist renting out some space in some hush lands located in Hudson Valley. During the course of Florist’s self-titled album (Double Double Whammy) you will hear the subtle sounds of nature that blanketed the area along with other tranquility parts. The backdrop clearly influenced Florist as the tracks are infused with a calmness that’s warranted.
Birds In Row – Gris Klein
French punk/hardcore trio Birds In Row dropped arguably their most expansive album to date this year. The writing for Gris Klein (Red Creek) came out of a time during the pandemic when everything was uncertain. That emotional state of being, along with feelings of isolation and depression, is unleashed in the album yet keeping faith within yourself is still encouraged in the album’s tracks.
Julie Odell – Autumn Eve
Part written before the discovery of her pregnancy with her daughter and the other half written after the birth, Odell has masterfully created an album that is deeply personal. Autumn Eve (Frenchkiss) never trays away from being what it is: an album that maintains richness in the guitar riffs and softness in the drums.
Will Stewart – Slow Life
As we began to decompress from the vigors of the year, take Will Stewart’s Slow Life (Cornelius Chapel) for a much-needed spin. Each of the tracks offers up a whimsical spirit within them with instrumentals landing perfectly within the folk/country genre. It’s almost damn near impossible to find yourself leaning back in a chair with a cold beer in hand and not drift off. Go ahead. You deserve so. Thank Will for that.
Murder By Death – Spell/Bound
For a band that has done the amount of what they have done since their inception, what does Murder By Death have to prove? In their latest, Spell/Bound (Self-Released), the ensemble has gone and blown away fans once again. Expanding on various new sounds and the addition of violinist Emma Tiemann punch the tracks to heights unimaginable. Spell/Bound is lavish and moves so effervescently.
MUNA – MUNA
Ladies and gentlemen, get to know MUNA. They are going to be one of the biggest acts in the next few years. Their empowering self-titled album (Saddest Factory) is a showcase of a trio that knows who they are and aren’t afraid to express it. The tracks are punched up with feverish synth and poppy guitars. The connection with the fans and MUNA’s new album is truly beautiful if you are lucky enough to witness.
Hutchie – Some Other Way
We are so fortunate that the forefathers of the Pacific Northwest music scene paved the foundation for bands to continue producing good music. Case in point: Hutchie. Some Other Way (Mood Killer) is so refreshing with elements of power-pop and rock. The results offer up blistering, fast-paced gems that make yearn for more. Don’t sleep on Hutchie.
Maryanna Devin – A Great Many Things
Being one of the more defining debut albums to drop this year, Maryanna Devin’s A Great Many Things (Self-Released) is a powerful display of storytelling within her songs. Painting the picture so breathtakingly perfect with folk elements, the lyrics are steeped in personal and family history. Vocals comparable to the great Norah Jones, Devin is a powerhouse on her own merit.
Drug Church – Hygiene
Harnessing the trademark hardcore attitude that has carried them for years, Drug Church directs Hygiene (Pure Noise) to newer terrain, sonically. Honesty, frustration, and the other absurdities of life still make their way within the new tracks.
Reverse Winchester – Route 2 Ulysses
Reverse Winchester is a collaborative effort between poet/emcee Mike Ladd and guitarist Matthieu Sourisseau which seems to push music to its utmost limits with the bare minimum. For the debut release Route 2 Ulysses, it seems to work perfectly as both musicians are much in tune with one another. There’s a wave of emotion that runs through the album and its relentless, untamed, and raw from beginning to end.