The music world has been slowly uncoiling from the pandemic which gave us another onslaught of great 2022 releases this year. This created another tough think tank around what albums would make The Blazing Top 50. There are plenty that we missed and one rule at TFN is that a review had to be posted for an album to make our list. 2022’s Top 50 highlights that Australia is still a psych rock hotbed, modern soul has never been better, indie rock still reigns supreme and then there were still plenty of surprise entries that maintained our excitement over the year. Thanks again to our writers and readers for another stellar year on the web and we hope everyone stays safe and has a nice holiday season! See you back here in 2023.
The pop moments and vocal harmonies that we have come to enjoy from Melbourne’s The Stroppies were still on Levity but the record’s more type of Wire moments took the band to a new level. The off-kilter jangles, brooding distorted movements, and vocal loops led to The Stroppies taking a big chance on Levity. Even though it was not as immediately accessible as their previous effort, it is just as infectious after multiple plays and paves a great new path for the band moving forward!
The Awful Disclosures Of Screeching Weasel
Monona Music/Rum Bar/Striped Records 
Screeching Weasel recorded their debut album in one night for $200 and released it on Chicago label Underdog Records back in 1987. They have never looked back and have influenced countless punk bands that includes more mainstream acts like Green Day, Blink-182, New Found Glory, Alkaline Trio and Less Than Jake. Now on their fourteenth studio album, Screeching Weasel showcase why they have been named such an influential act as The Awful Disclosures Of Screeching Weasel is a gold standard for what a pop punk rock record should sound like. Mainstay member Ben Weasel gives 110% with his vocals and the band responds behind him in perfect synchrony. This album was easily one of the best pop punk records you could hear this year!
It’s safe to say that soul music has been experiencing a major revival the last few years. The rise of independent labels like Loveland, Ohio’s Colemine Records or Brooklyn’s Daptone Records has produced an abundance of new top-shelf acts, such as the Monophonics and Durand Jones and the Indications. With her debut album on Magnaphone Records, Dayton, Ohio’s Heather Redman is another name you can add to that list. With The Reputation, her firecracker band made up of Dayton music scene veterans, Redman crafts bluesy soul anthems that sound both timeless and modern. Heather Redman & The Reputation self-titled record just dropped last week and quickly earned its spot at #48, but I will be honest and say that the album could have easily ranked higher on the list if we had been able to spend more time with it. It’s just that good!
San Francisco’s Monophonics have been serving up a high quality of soulful psychedelia since 2012’s In Your Brain. Over the years, the Bay Area band has increased their range and style while staying honest to the classic soul sounds. Sage Motel kept the progression going as the record once again has Monophonics at the top of their genre with a timeless approach that simply just sways out of your speakers. If you have been a fan of the Monophonics psychedelic soul there is no reason you didn’t love Sage Motel. Overall, it is a grower of an album and lead singer Kelly Finnigan continues to be a powerful soul crooner that stays in a comfortable space throughout this album. With their continued drive for perfection, the Monophonics will offer up records that are well worth checking out every single time!
I think one could easily build an argument that Bill Callahan is one of the stronger singer/songwriters of the past 25 years. The Smog band leader had a multitude of great albums and his solo career has been a fascinating journey to hear through his lens. He does not just write songs – he writes stories and on YTI⅃AƎЯ his love for a good narrative continued. One standout change here was that each track was given a full band treatment that Callahan vocally shines on leading. Each track has the ability to carve a memorable moment in your mind as Bill Callahan once again is inviting, sincere and an American songwriter that should be heard!
After leaving social media and seriously considering walking away from the music business Mitski thankfully returned with Laurel Hell. Given the situation, it would have been easy for Mitski to meet her contractual obligations and basically turn in some sub standard songs but that is not the route she went. Because many of the tracks here were written during or before 2018, she recorded Laurel Hell with her longtime producer Patrick Hyland throughout the pandemic. This extra time to record during isolation gave the songs here new life and meaning as the final output was much more upbeat than initially planned. For the listener, that shift gave fans another glimpse of Mitski’s talent.
It shouldn’t really be a surprise that during the now called “isolation months of 2020,” Ty Segall recorded an album. In fact, it would have been surprising if he didn’t. It also shouldn’t surprise you that “Hello, Hi” is more of an acoustic affair as Ty has changed it up from his garage rock ways several times before. What is different now in 2022, is that Ty feels completely at ease with this album and approach. He also harnesses his lash out guitar wizardry and lets it out in small doses which once again offers the listener something new. “Hello, Hi” was an easy listen, especially if you are a Ty Segall fan. Segall continues to be a creative force as this album is well planned out, offers a nice mix of styles within a range and will fit nicely with his catalog!
Two sisters, a cousin, and their close friend with an average age of almost 15. That is the make up of L.A.’s The Linda Lindas which caught fire last year when their performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy” for the Los Angeles Public Library went viral. They quickly were signed to Epitaph Records and now almost a year later their debut album Growing Up hit the streets. Throughout the album, The Linda Lindas sound older than they are but you never lose their youthfulness on the record. Growing Up is the perfect balance of punk and pop and repeat listens only makes it more addicting. With the group being so young, all eyes will be on them for what’s next including TFN. The Linda Lindas are the real deal!
Elder enchanted our ears with the release of Innate Passage. The record joins a long list of other artists that showed us what the band created during the pandemic. It’s an album the weaves a tale of a life lived, the time we have, and the perception of time and space that an individual occupies. The record goes more prog rock than their previous efforts with its prominent keyboards and songs that feel more expansive and exploratory. With its five song, 54 minute run time, Innate Passage was a dense journey that was worth getting lost in!
High Flying Man was the third LP by Matt Berry’s pseudo-eponymous project The Berries. The album showed a progression in songwriting and song structure which results in The Berries best LP to date. The album is a very straightforward rock record which was a big appeal. Its songs have an average length of 4 minutes which followed a classic structure of verse — chorus — verse — chorus —bridge — chorus. Everything comes together with memorable lines, excellent guitar solos and tracks you will want to hear again. High Flying Man even has one of the better album covers released this year! Every enhancement on this album represented a positive step forward as The Berries created one of the more solid rock records of 2022.
Doggerel marked the Pixies return with their best album since 1991. Some of the band’s strength came from consistency, as the album found the same members back in the studio with producer Tom Dalgety, that have been together since 2016’s Head Carrier. Musically, the Pixies remain solid, still with plenty of quirky turns, but playing together like the solid pros who’ve been playing together for years that you’d expect them to be by now. They do not play fast and loose like the younger punks they were in the 80’s, they sound like the seasoned, experienced 55+ rockers who’ve learned to focus their passion into artful precision. Bottom line on Doggerel is that the songs were all solid and Black Francis’ voice still matters.
In the spring of 2020, Ben Cook — a.k.a. Young Guv — was grounded in New Mexico due to the pandemic. Along with his bandmates, they quarantined and ended up staying for 9 months. The creative flow took place and the group produced not one but two records. GUV III was the first collection of tracks from the New Mexico sessions (GUV IV followed 3 months later) and featured an extremely catchy power pop masterclass. GUV III rivals the groups best work to date and was one of the strongest power pop records you could hear this year. Each track had the ability to be your next earworm as they were memorable and possess an innovative timeless appeal.
Brighton’s Porridge Radio and their third long player, Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky, reached into the depths of your psyche and struck every sensory neuron. The band carried the momentum from their fantastic Mercury-nominated and Headphone Approved 2020 record Every Bad and backed up all the accolades with an emotional journey that showcased them as a true indie force on the scene. The emotion, the strife, the pain, the anxiety, the fear and the joy are all included on this album and your conduit is singer Dana Margolin. Porridge Radio sound like they carry everyone’s emotions here for the last two years and honestly help each of us get to the other side. When Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky concludes you can feel some of that weight of the world just fade away!
The Murlocs returned quickly after last year’s more piano driven Bittersweet Demons album with a batch of rock n’ roll that represented some of their most frantic psych-tinged concoctions yet. The Melbourne five-piece never has felt like a side project even though its members have duties in other bands especially frontman Ambrose Kenny-Smith and Craig Cook that stay plenty busy with King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Because of those other commitments, Rapscallion found the members mostly recording their pieces separately. The band credits this factor as why the record is tighter and more concise. After one listen, I think you will agree with Rapscallion’s focused sound.
Since its inception in 1992, Built To Spill and founder Doug Martsch can undoubtedly be called consistent. Martsch doesn’t make a bad record which is simply proved by going back and listening to any album in Built To Spill’s catalog. Engaging song structures, poetic songwriting and experimental transitions are all staples of Built To Spill’s sound and When The Wind Forgets Your Name carries that same torch for its 46-minute runtime. Any longtime fan should adore When The Wind Forgets Your Name as it really does tap the magic of their earlier records and only gets better with each spin. It was great to hear Built To Spill back with original music (their last was 2015’s Untethered Moon) as they not only continued to impress on When The Wind Forgets Your Name but released their best album since 2001!
“If it’s all you got, yeah, it’s all you gave, I got a problem with it. If you can’t do better than that, babe, I got a problem with it.” This is the catchy chorus you hear in Plains single, “Problem With It,” and it was incredibly hard to get out of your head. This memorable track is just one great example of the heartfelt songwriting that you will find on the debut from this duo composed of Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield and Jess Williamson. Both Crutchfield and Williamson wrote the compositions and traded lead vocal duties so the record is a legit joint effort. The most important ingredient of Plains success though was how their floating harmonizing gave each track its lived in vibe while also sounding so natural. Plains may only be a one-time collaborative side project for this duo but based upon the strength of I Walked With You A Ways lets hope that they will find more time to spend together somewhere in the near future!
Crackdown is the third LP from blues, roots-rock, and country revival trio GA-20. The album expanded on their previous sound and blows out your speakers with a modern electric blues that honors the past but feels imaginably modern. What GA-20 are good at is making the blues spread across other genres. Soul, rockabilly, delta-blues and indie rock are all included on Crackdown. The album shows the progression of GA-20’s songwriting as it is their first LP without a cover track and features 9 original songs. The record not only is the band’s best to date but could easily inspire others to join in the modern revival of blues with GA-20 sitting as one of its leaders!
Ribbon Stage are a trio from NYC that created a debut album which is a compact earworm of noise pop. Hit With The Most is a 20 minute joyride of tight drums, fuzzed out distorted guitar and the floating vocals of Anni Hilator which cuts through it all. With 11 songs being covered in 20 minutes, there is absolutely no filler on Hit With The Most. Within these short numbers, you can find moments of shoegaze, alternative rock, post-punk and new wave but Ribbon Stage only stay there for a blink making Hit With The Most even more infectious with its exciting familiarity but yet bringing your ear something new rapidly. Ribbon Stage have created a noise pop dream.
San Francisco’s The Reds, Pinks & Purples can write some of the most gorgeous tragic indie pop songs you will here on the current scene. The group is the primary work of songwriter Glenn Donaldson and Summer At Land’s End is their forth full length which follows an excellent string of releases since 2019. The Reds, Pinks & Purples have created another seamless record in Summer At Land’s End as the music offers more and more upon repeat plays. With four releases in a row of high quality, I hope that The Reds, Pinks & Purples keep the momentum moving into 2023 as this album is close to their best!
While The Afghan Whigs’ last two albums were noteworthy in their own right, How Do You Burn? plays like a nod to the band’s earlier 90’s heyday. Its dabbling in the mix of soul influences and pop underpinnings that made the band’s rock sounds so very interesting are all part of the magic. The record contains some of the most intense rockers we have heard in years as the album reveals the kind of confidence and musical punch that you want to hear on a Whigs record. Artful, compelling, edgy, and echoing some of rock music’s most primal elements, frontman Greg Dulli builds these compositions in ways that take one on a sonic, atmospheric journey, and once again it’s a trip you won’t want to miss.
Now on their fourth album, Durham, England’s Martha perfected their indie pop punk formula as they released one of their most engaging records to date. Please Don’t Take Me Back has an early DIY sound with loud crashing guitars and drums while the group comes together for a multitude of memorable harmonies that cement the choruses in your head. This offers up a 36-minute foot-tapping experience that only gets better with more spins. The band’s now 12-year experience brings the entire record together as Martha has turned out one of the better pop punk records released this year!
Melbourne’s Surprise Chef describes their music as “moody shades of instrumental jazz-funk.” That niche genre is spot on as the group’s third LP, Education & Recreation, is a fresh exploratory instrumental blend of soul, funk and jazz that maximizes their excellent musicianship and impeccable timing. Surprise Chef work very well together as one musical unit and Education & Recreation is definitely stronger for it. This Melbourne act is most certainly under the radar for most, but they have created a great record for any time of the day as Education & Recreation really is the instrumental groove you need to hear!
The intense pulsating rhythm in Delivery’s opening track, “Picture This,” will give you your first realization that their debut record, Forever Giving Handshakes, is one of the tightest sounding post-punk debuts you heard this year. The Melbourne five-piece work as one true musical force through all of the 12 tracks here. Forever Giving Handshakes pulls on many classic and modern sounds for its winning formula. At times, you can hear Devo, Television, Pixies and Pylon while other contemporary Australian groups like Amyl And The Sniffers and Pinch Points will also come to mind. From start to finish, Delivery give 100% on each track with impeccable rhythm, timing and guitar crunch. Not to mention having one of TFN’s favorite album covers this year!
Ghost Funk Orchestra returned with their third LP, A New Kind of Love. The album emphasizes the jazz, funk, and soul side of their sound but there seems to be a heavier focus on the rhythm section this time around, with chunky beats and groovy bass lines weaving their way through almost every track. There’s also a little more breathing room in the arrangements, which lets you hear all the details stuffed into each composition. A New Kind of Love is another worthy entry in the GFO catalog. It retains the band’s unique sonic fingerprint while adding in some new elements to keep that signature sound from getting stale.
Written in isolation in London after the release of last year’s Cavalcade, Hellfire continued to expand and build on the elements found in its predecessor, while also reaching back and tapping into the muscular strength on their debut, Schlagenheim (2019). This progression forward has created another musical journey from black midi that ranges from chaotic to surreal. black midi continue to push boundaries today as they bring together angular jazz and theatrical expression into a bigger canvas that is Hellfire. They are a young band that you can just hear their joy for music in these tunes. black midi’s willingness to challenge is within every track on Hellfire as they consistently walk the line bordering sanity and madness. The best advice is just to sit back and walk the line with them!
With the release of their third studio outing, Auckland, New Zealand, power-pop/indie rock quartet The Beths are three for three. Once again vocalist/songwriter Elizabeth Stokes delivers powerful melodies as the band supply big power-pop guitars, and delightful vocal harmonies. A feat that now seems effortless with more of Jonathan Pearce’s tasty guitar parts rising to the surface. The Beths triumph once again on Expert in a Dying Field, tapping deeper emotions in an artful and cathartic way, in songs that are catchy, fun, and leave you eager to hear more. This band will continue to go places.
Dry Cleaning’s debut LP, New Long Leg, was a post-punk master class that was driven by the modern spoken word poetry of lead singer Florence Shaw. That pinnacle moment and lightning in the bottle kept the bar high for this sophomore release but Dry Cleaning returned without changing much of their approach but now sounded even more confident in the execution. The sophomore slump is a real thing for so many artists but clearly Dry Cleaning avoids the speed bump. In fact, Stumpwork pushes their post-punk to another level as the album is engaging for its entire 46-minute runtime. If you were not onboard the Dry Cleaning hype after last year’s New Long Leg, Stumpwork leaves no option for you not to join the fan club today!
Philadelphia’s 2nd Grade returned with another fantastic dose of short burst power pop earworms on their third album Easy Listening. Musically and lyrically, Easy Listening is like a tribute record to some of the best in the genre that should bring to mind Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, Flamin’ Groovies and Guided By Voices. The group has mastered the short under 2-minute song burst and here 2nd Grade pushes some of their own earlier work with a more concise focus and a mix of lo-fi and hi-fi styles that are easy to connect with and make you want to hear them again. 2nd Grade released one of the catchiest power pop records with Easy Listening and it is also their best to date. There are only so many albums in 2022 that truly can get stuck in your head – Easy Listening is one of them!
Melbourne’s Pinch Points released an excellent record of post-punk with their 2019 debut Moving Parts but their sophomore album, Process, takes their style of angular rock to another level. The band shines with their mostly shouted rotating female/male vocals as they deliver their opinion and bring more awarness to issues like Australia’s catastrophic bushfires, gendered violence, mental health struggles, First Nations incarceration and deaths in custody. Heavy stuff of course as Pinch Points deliver each of the 10 tracks here with the same level of passion you can find on classic Bad Religion or Dead Kennedy records. Pinch Points are fired up and Process will raise your heartbeat from their admirable directness. It will make you give a damn and consistently return to its flawless rhythm changes. Pinch Points deserve any time you can give them!
Sometimes you put on a record that you just know is going to be fantastic. That was the immediate vibe TFN had with Florist’s fourth self-titled LP. The album defines collaboration as Florist deliver a true band derived indie folk record. Every member contributes and you can hear each individual effort. Singer/songwriter Emily Sprague shines as she lives life with the group she loves in her bandmates. They come together as one on this self-titled album as every strum, every creak, every fingerpick, every slide guitar movement, and most of all – every lyric, fall into a perfect place that you as the listener will never question its sequence or arrangements. Florist created their best album to date and it highlights that less really is more!
This was not the only King Gizzard review you read on TFN this year as the Australian psych-prog song factory released a total of five albums in 2022. They of course each had their own niche sound but TFN felt Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava was the best of the batch to emerge from the Gizzverse this year. Over the course of the album, you get the sense that these songs were built up from the band getting together in the same room and seeing what happened. Even though each track does have a “jam session” feel, these songs actually go places, exploring different nooks and crannies of the main riff or chord progression before returning back to the collective groove. If you’re already a fan of King Gizzard’s ever-shifting nature, you will find a lot to like on all their 2022 releases but especially the seven songs here!
Melbourne punk power trio CLAMM returned with a sophomore release in Care that was their most fierce and confident effort to date. Their songs rail against systematic power while funneling all that visceral raw emotion into a positive perspective. Basically, CLAMM keep their shit together and nail everything to the wall track after track! What makes Care such a step forward for CLAMM was the addition of Maisie Everett on bass and backing vocals, producer Nao Anzai joining the band on synth and saxophonist Anna Gordon lending some fantastic and very timely angular post-jazz on several tracks. CLAMM not only released one of the better records in 2022 but Care is the example of what modern punk sounds like today!
Veteran Bay Area talent Tony Molina writes some of the best under two-minute song bursts you will hear on the indie scene. His solo work has always been top notch and showcased varied styles of lo-fi, electric rockers and fragile acoustic arrangements. Previously his style stayed in the same lane on his earlier releases but here on In The Fade, Molina mixes it up so that the electric meets the acoustic and the rock meets the ballad for a fantastic 19 minutes of music. Everything on In The Fade feels in place yet carefree as Molina sounds like an artist enjoying playing the music with his friends. In The Fade just shows that you can not judge Tony Molina by one track or one album as this record perfectly conjoins all of his talents!
Minneapolis’ Green/Blue released two great records this year as Paper Thin was fantastically dark and pulsing. Paper Thin was the second of those releases, as it followed Offering, which was released on HoZac Records in January. You might think with a short release time between the two that Paper Thin was a sequel to Offering, but it turned out this record is a cooler and even more precise piece of angular lo-fi post punk. Green/Blue sound so focused on Paper Thin that its 25 minutes flies by quickly. Melodic grooving guitars around every corner and a never faulting vocal takes the band to a new level. Offering already was a solid record but Paper Thin showcases that Green/Blue have an even richer palette of sounds and style that will keep TFN excited for what comes next!
Oso Oso gave everyone a surprise album release this year with Sore Thumb as it was immediately available when it was announced. Sore Thumb is the group’s fourth album and follow up to their 2019 breakout Basking In The Glow. Sore Thumb gave us everything we now expect from Oso Oso – layered harmonies, passionate emo, quick busting falsettos, muscular guitar and power pop greatness. The record is super catchy and turned out to be the perfect follow up to Basking In The Glow. Sore Thumb now challenges it as Oso Oso’s best album to date!
With Lucifer On The Sofa, Spoon hits it hard from the start, with a big, brutal guitar sound from Geraldo Larios and Britt Daniel set to crisp, punchy rhythms that breathe with life, creating a sense of sustained intensity. Drummer Jim Eno locks down a steady, driving beat as the band leans on big classic rock grooves, with occasional keyboards flirting with a horn section. And without sacrificing any of their rock swagger and alt rock authenticity, Britt Daniel leads the band into some smart pop songs where he just raises the bar for Spoon. Actually, everything on Lucifer On The Sofa is just that good; this tenth studio album is one of the strongest and most compelling collection of songs in an already very strong catalog.
Nick Vicario and his project Smirk gained some deserved spotlight last year with the release of LP. The album combined tracks that originally appeared on two small run cassettes in 2020. Material represents the first proper full length release from Smirk and it showcases an elevation in both songwriting and song structure! Material is a modern punk record that swims in both classic and post waves. It has the swagger you would expect from Los Angeles while showing grit that one would guess could only come from New York. Material has that slightly unpolished sound you hear on an X record while also pushing out some stronger guitar like another LA group, Flat Worms. At only 25 minutes long, Smirk maximized its sound and created 10 memorable tracks that only get stronger with every spin!
It is always better to go out on your own terms. Japanese psychedelic band Kikagaku Moyo seized control of their 10 year career with the announcement that after the release of this fifth record and a tour, the group will go on indefinite hiatus. That kind of news definitely hurts but Kumoyo Island is the perfect parting gift for any fan that has been along for their fantastic psych ride. The new album represents a maturation that will cement them as a top tier artist of the psych genre for years to come. It is sad to see Kikagaku Moyo come to an end but it will be important to follow its members into other projects as their talent is on full display here. Kumoyo Island is a timeless piece of art that showcases their ability to switch styles and tempos seamlessly. Thanks for the psych journey Kikagaku Moyo – you have left everything on the musical stage with a catalog that fans will be listening to years from now!
Back in July of 2020, Big Thief quarantined for two weeks in rural Vermont to woodshed the 45 songs they’d record before pairing them down to the 20 tracks that show up on this double album. Double albums can be tough for a group to keep a flow of consistency but Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You meets the challenge as the band delivers new modes and moods while more often than not they hit on something that really connects. There’s a lot here. In 20 tracks, Lenker and the Big Thief crew seem committed to leave it all on the tape. The strength of each individual track joins the record together in a satisfying and memorable way. Big Thief continue to produce high quality releases that are genuinely compelling and experimental. One may wonder if they can keep up this top level pace, or if this happy quartet can hold all they’re about together long enough to go the distance, but right now it’s enough to make you want to hope there will always be more!
This Is A Photograph is singer/songwriter Kevin Morby’s 7th album which once again is a record that captures his look at life with intelligent lyrics, complex arrangements and his calm as can be vocals. Morby has tweaked his style with each record over the years but I think what you heard on This Is A Photograph are all the building blocks from previous experiences. With spectacular arrangements that take over your speakers at all the right times to a multitude of talented musicians that make every note stand out, This Is A Photograph is an impressive record. Kevin Morby has been a storyteller from the beginning but this look at American life is elaborate, vulnerable and deep, making This Is A Photograph his best release to date in an already accomplished catalog!
Montreal singer-songwriter Gus Englehorn’s sophomore record, Dungeon Master, may be one of the most unique listens TFN put its ear on this year. The album was written in a cabin but it sounds much bigger with its frequent rock out moments from Englehorn’s guitar mashing with his drummer and wife, Estée Preda. The energy is real but everything about the record in the beginning may have you really questioning this ranking but I beg you to give Gus a chance. He has a higher pitched voice which takes some warming up to but then the harmonies blanket you in Dungeon Master and the record will strike your indie spine like lightning hits a metal rod. Dungeon Master is an album that needs repeat spins to absorb its greatness. The lyrics at times have a humorous tone and will make you smile with its very Dead Milkmen vibe. Dungeon Master is fun, catchy, weirdly intense and overall just a great listen. It is an album that you had no idea would be this good but you will not want to take it out of the playlist after one spin!
When Black Country, New Road released their debut (last year’s For The First Time), they were lumped together with a slew of new UK bands who mixed post-punk arrangements, prog-rock structures, and half-spoken/half-sung vocals. But even within that group BCNR seemed like an anomaly, a seven-piece band stretching out their tracks to epic proportions while mixing in elements of eastern European music. With Ants From Up Here BCNR have not only managed a record that easily matches the quality of For The First Time, they’ve improved on it in just about every way. Ants From Up Here is more diverse, confidently exploring different sounds and moods over the course of its nine tracks (plus a short intro). A few days before Ants From Up Here’s release date, singer Isaac Woods announced his departure from BCNR. For some bands the loss of a front-man might call into question their future, but the remaining members have continued on with new songs as the remaining members now share vocal duties. Time will tell if Black Country, New Road can maintain their already high level output but they have a large fanbase already cheering them on!
Kendra Morris has been releasing music for over a decade. She joined the ever-expanding roster of Colemine Records imprint Karma Chief in 2021 with her excellent single “This Life.” Blending classic soul sounds with modern production and a slight psychedelic feel, the single set high expectations for her debut album on the Loveland, Ohio label. Nine Lives proves that the success of “This Life” was no fluke and lived up to the hype. As the title suggests, Kendra Morris inhabits several different emotional, psychological, and musical spaces over the course of Nine Lives. Most people can probably relate to all these feelings in 2022, and the emotional punch is only made stronger by the sincere songs and passionate performances themselves. Nine Lives is a timeless listen from beginning to end!
Vancouver’s Dumb shows progression here on their third full length Pray 4 Tomorrow, but the overall group sound did not drastically change. The band already has produced two solid indie post-punk albums and Pray 4 Tomorrow carried everything that was great about their previous efforts forward. Dumb’s frenzied yet focused slacker rock is in full effect with fast-paced songs and plenty of quick rhythm shifts. Pray 4 Tomorrow has even tighter song structures with laser focus and a maturity in both songwriting and musicianship. There are 18 tracks which gives the band plenty of creative room as you will find several ska Specials like vibes, a couple of folk tunes with vocals from bassist Shelby Vredik, and a series of stylistic rants that sounds like the band has been playing some classic DC hardcore. Pray 4 Tomorrow can be both noisy and melodic and both at the same time. It is an album that is smart and engaging as its content almost mocks the band’s name. Dumb is anything but!
If TFN asked you today to make a list of current rock bands that have been putting out consistent albums over the last several years what names would you write down? Still thinking? Is Guided By Voices on your list and looking fairly lonely at the top? Guess what – we have the same list. Sure, there is plenty of great new music out there with a multitude of artists blending genres and finding new spaces between the chords but where is the classic rock vibe that many of us grew up on? Guided By Voices’ 35th album, Crystal Nuns Cathedral, is the answer and it solidifies their current rock ranking with boisterous guitars, pounding skins and big sing along moments. Crystal Nuns Cathedral is really a continuation of GBV’s modernized classic rock sound from the last several years that just keeps evolving. Song after song, Crystal Nuns Cathedral just rocks out. Crystal Nuns Cathedral was one of the best more traditional rock records TFN heard this year, as it never once gave you any indication that it wasn’t!
Jake Lenderman, aka MJ, is from Asheville, North Carolina and the guitarist for indie group Wednesday. His solo work has a very DIY vibe compared to Wednesday but retains its indie spirt. Lenderman has a voice that sounds like Gram Parsons met J Mascis and is built for both country and indie rock. It is that dusty road that many bands travel like Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt and Old 97’s but where MJ turns the narrative a bit is that his music also reflects some elements of Neutral Milk Hotel, Built To Spill and Yo La Tengo. This Americana meets articulate indie rock gives every track on Boat Songs its own unique groove and confidence with just a touch of polish above a true lo-fi delivery. This combination of the rock spectrum comes together perfectly into an addictive mix as MJ Lenderman released one of the more under the radar great releases of 2022.
Toronto’s Alvvays never intended to take five years to finish their third album, but life happens (a theft, a flood, border lockdowns) and that is how much time had passed since their catchy smart sophomore record Antisocialites was released. With the passing of nine years since Alvvays’ self-titled debut album this band has now matured in front of our ears as their new long player, Blue Rev, is not only the bands best album to date but its most sophisticated and mature. Alvvays uses multiple vocal layers and swirling effects within tracks to keep the listening experience fresh and current but also have created something here that goes beyond the standard music we have heard before from them or honestly – many of their contemporaries. Every component, be it instrument or voice, on Blue Rev sounds bigger and more dynamic as singer Molly Rankin guides each track with ease and confidence. These 14 tracks really will mesmerize your sonic experience as Alvvays have found a way to successfully inject their pop style into a shoegaze cloud that has resulted in one of the best albums released in 2022!
What a surprise release this became that blew past any expectations. The Smile being comprised of Radiohead members Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, bass, keys) and Jonny Greenwood (guitar, bass, keys) with drummer Tom Skinner should be good but like any Radiohead “side project” release, it could be a simple placeholder. Except it wasn’t and all signs point to maybe Radiohead being absent for a bit so The Smile feels bigger now then when the record released back in May. A Light For Attracting Attention comes with a certain aggression that we haven’t seen in a Radiohead album in a while. It’s this quality that makes it a beautiful new experience that is interesting, engaging and stretches the imagination. This fresh challenge finds Yorke and Greenwood sounding rejuvenated and with producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead’s longtime producer) behind the boards there is a spark to The Smile that leaves us in awe on A Light For Attracting Attention and of course – wanting more!
God Save The Animals is Alex Giannascoli’s, aka Alex G, ninth album at the young age of 29. He has been a staple on the indie DIY scene for years now and continues to push his own boundaries as a singer songwriter with every release. Although the topic matter here was incredibly deep, the music landscape that Alex G creates kept the mood lighter as the music has the ability to mesmerize your ear on each track. From some early vocal trickery to a closing appearance from Jessica Lea Mayfield, Alex G consistently surprised you with a song’s direction. “Runner” was easily one of TFN’s favorite indie singles released this year with its straight forward guitar rock vibe, off-kilter vocals and catchy chorus. Elsewhere, Alex G’s experimentation never goes wrong and offers up so many memorable moments that takes God Save The Animals to its higher level. Alex G continues to evolve before your ears on God Save The Animals and is completely willing to color outside the lines. For some artists, it can be a balancing act not to lose your core when changing the formula. Alex G perfectly walks the line and not only gives longtime fans an album they will adore but easily expanded his fanbase with the smartly played God Save The Animals.
#1 – Album Of The Year
“Excuse me?”, “What?” is the inquisitive back n’ forth question that gets repeatedly posed between Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers on the catchy single “Chaise Lounge” from the British indie band Wet Leg. Its surprise not surprised delivery tone is just one of the cool moments you can hear throughout this fantastic self-titled debut. Not many times does a record with hype live up to its potential but Wet Leg went beyond as this self-titled debut captures a confidence and witty prowess of its members. Each track has lyrics that grab your attention while Teasdale has a great voice and can handle the lead singer spotlight much like Debbie Harry, Karen O or PJ Harvey. Wet Leg is an album from a young and carefree band that is filled with enduring pieces of indie rock. Wet Leg’s smarts will impress you, their crassness will put you on edge and their musicianship will keep you coming back! Not many times do we know our album of the year early on but TFN was waiting for something to knock Wet Leg out of the #1 spot since April. Well – it never happened as Wet Leg is a perfect album of the year!