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SonicAwareness Special Guest Feature

SonicAwareness is proud to bring you this special guest feature! Take a look at music connoisseur Phil Herring's picks for the the best 40 albums of 2022, along with a playlist and detailed write-up of why he selected each record!

Phil’s Top 40 Albums of 2022

2022 was a great year for music not only in terms of quality but also quantity. Several acts released not only one but two full length albums and we also saw a fair amount of long sprawling records as everyone was eager to get back out on the road. Below are my favorite 40 releases which include some obvious choices, some new acts and some new-to-me acts. If you stumble upon this list, hopefully you’ll find something new to like. Spotify playlist primer is also below for easy sampling:.

40) WEEZER - SZNZ: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

Ever since Weezer’s 1994 debut, everything Rivers Cuomo and co have done have always been viewed through some sort of ironic lens. Even though he claimed to be being sincere, there was always a suspicion of him being slightly cheeky despite writing deeply earnest songs. 2021’s OK Human and its gorgeous orchestral pop seemed to finally free him from this baggage and allowed Weezer to create a magnum opus distributed in multiple parts most likely optimized for social media consumption. SZNZ allows Cuomo to finally write lovely little ditties like “A Little Bit Of Love” with a straight face and also allows the band to stretch out stylistically. Breezy summer pop, chunky rock, experimentation, dance-rock and more are all found across each of these EP’s all themed based on the season. Wisely, they chose to release them 3 months apart as to now overwhelm the listeners. At his heart, Cuomo remains an excellent pop/rock scientist always able to sprinkle in catchy melodies while keeping the focus of the project in tact. These days, Cuomo sounds fully comfortable with Weezer’s legacy, regardless of how salty certain segments of their fanbase are about their various experiments throughout the years. These 4 EP’s are a welcome addition to their diverse catalog and further proves that Weezer continue to have the most interesting career of many 90’s legacy acts.



A typical rock band might pivot back to the sound that fans easily embraced after the great but divisive space-louge-rock style of 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino but the Arctic Monkeys are no typical band. Continuing down the path of piano-led baroque-pop, frontman Alex Turner allows his bandmates into his headspace in order to give his piano-based tunes a bit more oomph as guitars scuttle in and out. More down to earth than the previous offering, The Car is a nice continuation of the Arctic Monkeys mid-career pivot, embracing both mood and soundscapes while keeping Turner’s witty musings front and center. While longtime fans may crib at the lack of riff-centric rockers, The Car showcases that the ‘Monkeys are happy to continue following their muse regardless of what their audience wants them to do. 


38) EDDIE VEDDER - Earthling

More than 30 years after his face was seen scowling across MTV in those seminal Pearl Jam videos, Eddie Vedder seems more comfortable than ever in his skin. As several of his interviews indicated in the 90’s, he always strived to be a journeyman rocker than an multi-platinum rock star and now that he’s in his mid’50’s, his third solo album finds him sounding sturdy and, frankly, fun which is a word not usually associated with his work in his day job. Partnering with a number of collaborators (Elton John, Ringo Starr, Chad Smith, Stevie Wonder), Earthling is a nice tribute to Eddie’s inspirations. Atypical of most middle-age rocker solo albums, this album actually has a pulse and is not exclusively focused on MOR mid-tempo numbers though the few that due pop up are propelled by strong melodies. After multiple listens, it’s almost startling to hear Vedder sounding so tuneful and joyful given what we’ve come to expect from him but it’s another reason why him and his band have been successful for 3 decades plus. 


37) PALE WAVES - Unwanted

The recent emo/pop-punk revival seems to have missed Pale Waves who even on album #3 are still slugging it out at 300-capacity clubs over here (though they are markedly bigger in their native UK). Unwanted is the logical next step in their evolution since their debut which was given a large boost by their friends, collaborators and labelmates in The 1975. Continuing their mix of early 00’s slick Warped Tour-adjacent pop mixed with a minor goth/emo affectation Unwanted should please the devoted and attract both Paramore and Olivia Rodrigo fans alike. While the band suffered a horrendous bus accident in 2021, the album still sticks to the general theme of romantic trials and tribulations which might come off a bit trite without lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie’s keen ability to sell the heartbreak. Ultimately, great songs and big hooks can always cut through the clutter and that’s exactly what Pale Waves continue to do.


36) BOB MOSES - The Silence In Between

Even though they play fairly big rooms and mid-day festival sets, Bob Moses' profile seems to be practically invisible. Continuing to combine live instrumentation with electro-house, The Silence In Between is their most song-oriented offering to date (as evidenced by their minor hit “Love Brand New” which received not only a healthy number of streams but actual radio play). The dark romanticism of their earlier works is still present as the two guys tend to like hanging out in late-night dives filled with chilly beats confessing their sins. This one sees them broadening their scope and searching out more than just a good time, resulting in their most accomplished release to date.


35) DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - Asphalt Meadows

Entering a legacy phase can be tricky for an aging band, particularly an aging indie rock band who operate in a genre that initially was supposed to be a rebellion against grandpa rock bands. Death Cab For Cutie are now a two decade institution who have naturally experienced peaks and valleys. Producer/guitarist’s Chris Walla’s departure in 2014 shook them slightly though they soldiered on, cranking out solid records which leads them to this year’s Asphalt Meadows. The result is not so much a return to form as a band sounding reinvigorated, with Ben Gibbard delivering some of his most biting songs in over a decade and the band actively stepping outside the confines of their traditional sound. Well it may not convince those who aren’t dedicated, Asphalt Meadows is thankfully not a band continuing to put out albums because they are obligated to but because they want to.


34) BONOBO - Fragments

Whenever one looks up Bonobo on their streaming platform of choice, the genre tag is usually “electronic”. While that’s not entirely untrue, Fragments demonstrates Simon Green’s (who records as Bonobo) emphasized focus on actual instrumentation. Long-time listeners will still find plenty of electronic synths and beats sprinkled throughout Fragments alongside a new emphasis on atmosphere and instrumentation, creating a fantasy–land of sound which invites listeners to construct their own dream-like visuals. Keeping things interesting, Green invites several excellent guest vocalists to contribute throughout, giving the record a welcome sense of variety while adding new personality to the textures listeners have come to love him for creating.


33) CANNONS - Fever Dream

After kicking around L.A for years, Cannons inked a deal with Columbia on the strength of some early singles and EP’s, finally putting out their debut this year. As is typical in Los Angeles, Cannons was formed by a few musicians seeking out a singer vai Craigslist which was thankfully answered by Michelle Joy, a star-powered vocalist with an effortlessly laid-back but still engaged presence. Highlighting all their strengths, Fever Dream is the sound of a late-night smokey room filled with guitars and synths operating in the shadows with Joy’s pouty romantic tales of woe. Encapsulating both the 60’s Laurel Canyon melodic sound mixed with modern-day synth-pop, Cannon's debut is an all-banger affair and a young band rising to the challenge of playing in the big leagues. 


32) BASTILLE - Give Me The Future

While their profile in the U.S. has diminished over the years, Bastille have quietly been putting together a great catalog of dystopian pop. Led by overall mastermind Dan Smith, Give Me The Future continues the overarching narrative of their last album focusing on the big lyrical themes of dealing with technology, global unrest, environmental concerns and all the other haunting topics that we all deal with every day. Sonically, this allows Bastille to expand beyond their typical approach and invest in more extreme instrumentation and electronics which plays well to Smith’s natural ability for big pop hooks. Given his earnest approach, it’s not entirely surprising they’ve yet to achieve the same status as, say, The 1975 but ultimately album #4 continues their winning streak and caters to those who still want to dig in deep with them. 


31) LUCIUS - Second Nature

Since their last proper studio effort in 2016 the core duo of Lucius have been plenty busy. Aside from releasing an all-acoustic album they’ve also found time to guest and provide vocals to several other acts ranging fromSheryl Crow to The War On Drugs to Harry Styles and more. All those collaborations must have rubbed off on them since Second Nature is both their most concise and richest release to date. Continuing to build from their previous releases, Lucius incorporate sparkling synths, keyboard, piano balladry and dance grooves into the mix while still hyper-focusing on the illustrious vocal harmonies they’re known for. The glittery sonic approach is a bit of a facade as both key members Jess Wolf and Holly Laessig went through significant life changes (divorce, motherhood) resulting in songs grappling with how to deal with adulthood and the compromises that come with it. Nevertheless, they sound so joyous and rich throughout you’d almost forget Second Nature functions as a very hummable mid-life crisis album.


30) PHOENIX - Alpha Zulu

It’s been well over a decade since Phoenix finally broke through with Wolfgang Amadeaus Phoenix in 2009 and, since then, they’ve seen their cultural cache diminish with each passing record. Alpha Zulu likely won’t put them back atop festival posters but that’s the fault of the listening public, not the band. On another excellent concise 35 minute record of 10 songs, Phoenix continue to split the balance between addicting synth-pop and early 00’s Strokes clean guitar gems. This album can politely be called their most experimental as the recordings don’t sound as fussed over as their previous releases (even if everything still sounds perfectly in place). Fans of Phoenix’s output should find plenty to like here as, similar to bands like Spoon, they simply do not allow themselves to produce a pad cut leaving them with one of indie’s most consistent discographies for the last 20 years.


29) BEACH HOUSE - Once, Twice Melody

Once an artist gets to album #8 (and 5 since their break-through) it gets very hard to continue to reinvent yourself and, perhaps more importantly, please the fanbase you initially required. At first listen, Beach House’s beautiful sprawling Once, Twice, Melody isn’t too significant of a departure from their previous work (lush, dream-like beautiful shoe-gazey sonic landscapes with Victoria Legrand’s understated haunting vocals). However, as it unfolds, the changes begin to expose themself as this record finds Beach House tinkering with their winning formula to reveal an insanely layered sound that can be both beautiful while also rough-sounding in the space of the same song Not content to rehash past fan favorites, this collection of 18 tracks flows well together while featuring multiple dynamics to allow for new discoveries with each listen. 


28) ALT-J - The Dream

As with several acts on this list in terms of profile, Alt-J are in a strange position. They had a critically acclaimed debut in 2012 (winning the prestigious Mercury Prize) while also seeing huge commercial fortunes as evidenced by their headline of Madison Square Garden in both 2015 and this year. However, they seem to live in a no-man's land in terms of media coverage and their 2017 record derailed their momentum, ambitious as it was, leaving them in the position to make a comeback. The Dream is a full-on display of Alt-J’s talents, showcasing their angular art-rock approach while also expanding into both louder and quieter territories put together by the common lyrical theme of a pseudo-fantasy. Even if their heyday is behind them, Alt-J continue to push forward and remain one of the most promising and interesting indie rock bands. 


27) HOT CHIP - Freakout/Release

While touring their last record A Bathful Of Ecstacy, Hot Chip often threw in a cover of “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys. Doing so must have heightened their desire to inject a bit more aggression into their music which is what Freakout/Release ultimately sounds like. Still one of the best in the game at festival-ready synth-pop, album no. 8 from Hot Chip sees the band streamlining their more atmospheric tendencies to ensure a certain level of sonic euphoria. Of course, this record being made during the pandemic, the lyrics still have an overall bleak bent to them as the band themselves are also starting to question their longevity in the game. Either way, Hot Chip’s craft is one of the most enviable in the indie scene today and this is another fine addition to their stacked catalog of electro-pop jams.


26) SYLVAN ESSO - No Rules Sandy

On their fourth effort, Sylvan Esso threw out a lot of the rule-book and adopted more of an “anything goes” policy to give their glitch-pop style a bit of a makeover. While they don’t stray too far from the initial template, this allows for the duo to expand in both directions, allowing for more dynamic melodies and tricky rhythms that give new character to their music. Most surprising and welcome is the use of acoustic-based instruments allowing for an organic feel which works well with vocalist Amelia Meath’s warm vocal approach. Thankfully the band didnt forget to kick out the jams so for all the new textures, there are still plenty of electronic beat-driven jams that fit in with their previous bangers. The overall quality of this record continues to cement that Sylvan Esso are quietly one of the most interesting new pop acts to come out of the last decade. 


25) MUSE - Will Of The People

Muse have now been playing stadiums across the globe for well over 15 years which really limits their ability to ever scale back. Being a stadium band for this long and making big, grand, unapologetic Queen-inspired stadium rock naturally has had a fair amount of critics mocking them and/or not taking them seriously. For the first time ever, Muse seems to getting in on the humor adding various layers of goothy-synths, ripping of Marilyn Manson (“Will Of The People”) and even producing a song that seems to merely be fodder for TikToks (“You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween”). While this may make them susceptible to even more snarky tark-downs, the band seems like their having downright fun for the first time in a long time and, as an unapologetic fan of big brash rock bands, the short running time coupled with the big riffs and hooks make this album and absolute blast. 


24) JACK WHITE - Fear Of The Dawn / Entering Heaven Alive

Ever the prolific songwriter, Jack White compiled enough material for two records during the pandemic and decided to split them based on sonic themes. Fear Of The Dawn continues the out-there experimentation of his 2018 opus, Boarding House Reach focusing on the distorted, riff-heavy and scratchy vocal sound that he began tinkering with a while ago. Guest spots from Q-Tip keep the momentum on the first one while Entering Heaven Alive is his classicist acoustic-based singer/songwriter record. Often, keeping to a sonic theme on an album can limit artists and result in sonic redundancy. In this instance, it actually keeps White from over-indulging and, in particular on the acoustic songs, showcases a rare vulnerability that he was not always willing to show in the past. Which record his fans defer will largely depend on their mood in the moment but both are worthy additions to his stacked catalog.


23) BONNY LIGHT HORSEMAN - Rolling Golden Holy

The alt-folk collective of Bonny Light Horseman was sidelined like everyone else after releasing their excellent debut in 2020 so, in reality, they didn’t get to really tour and gel as a band until late 2021. Rolling Golden Holy is a logical extension of their self-titled debut and showcases the collective continuing to present themselves in a laid back, easy-going manner while easily tossing off beautiful melodies and classic arrangements. Instead of updating old folk-classics, as they did on their debut, their sophomore effort features 10 originals that could slot alongside any one of those traditional folk covers on their debut. Like a lot of acts on this list, the pandemic gave the band a chance to re-evaluate what’s important so lyrical themes of togetherness, love and empathy run throughout. Song to song, the band delivers in a beautiful smooth and lush manner with enough sonic variations so the record stands above typical NPR fodder and makes for a gorgeous warm listen driven by both excellent songwriting and performances.


22) THE BLACK KEYS - Dropout Boogie

Released less than a year after their blues cover album, The Black Keys have settled into a nice comfortable mid-career groove with another seamlessly consistent and solid effort. Given how prolific both the members are in and out of The Black Keys, it’s no surprise how effortlessly snappy and smooth these songs sound. Sure, there hasn’t been too much of an update on their template of garage-rock blues run through an arena rock template but there doesn’t need to be when the songwriting is this consistently sharp. The production thankfully never gets in the way of the overall vibe and the sharp riffs, hooks and grooves which create a lean rock record that fans of all generations can enjoy.



Inspired in part by the COVID lock-downs and also by Florence Welch’s own fascination with choreomania (a “dancing plague” phenomenon in 14th and 17th century Europe), Dance Fever continues her winning streak. After the big and bombastic recent albums, Welch feels content to let her hair down a bit and lock into grooves and dance rhythms previously not usually associated with her. Of course, this being a Florence & The Machine record, she can’t help but focus on BIG themes while also making BIG songs. The result is likely her most inviting release since her debut with a mature lyrical bent as Welch embraces settling down and what it means to grow older while not losing the passion that initially sparked her early creative years. Welch’s ability to take broad tragic and complicated themes while weaving them into gorgeous sonic offerings never seems to waver and Dance Fever is another step in her continued global domination.


20) ANAIS MITCHELL - Anais Mitchell

The last decade has been a busy one for Anais Mitchell, most noticeably producing a Broadway production of her acclaimed 2012 album Hadestown. In between that and several other collaborations she also participated in a folk super-group (also found on this last) who released their second full-length this very year. Her first solo offering in a decade is a stripped-down affair focusing on whimsy acoustic guitar and piano-based folk-like numbers reflecting more personal themes most likely influenced by the recent birth of her child and her move from New York to Vermont. It’s a candid, delicate and overall comforting solo offering that invites listeners into her world without any difficulty and showcases Mitchell’s vulnerable charm throughout, bringing her back to her earth and standing as her most personal release to date.


19) BEACH BUNNY - Emotional Creature

While the pandemic prevented many bands on the verge of breaking out from touring, Beach Bunny experienced a strange phenomenon in that their sugary-spiked pop-punk blew up on TikTok while everyone was stuck inside. After releasing the excellent debut Honeymoon in 2020, Emotional Creature maintains the momentum by offering another set of songs highlighted by lead singer Lili Triflio’s somewhat passive yet still emotionally intense delivery. Finding the nice spot between early day Paramore, 90’s alt-rock and modern day guitar pop, Beach Bunny expand on all their strengths and create a bigger, faster and all-around better record than their breakthrough proving that their viral success was no fluke. 


18) TOVE LO - Dirt Femme

In her first album as an independent artist, Trove Lo grapples with the passage of time, questioning her ability to love, be a mother and several other coming-of-middle-age themes. The move from a major label thankfully doesn’t diminish any of the slickness in her sound as she is still happy delivering big-budget pop anthems alternating between fancy disco beats, lush ballads and even haunting mid-tempo numbers. While she unfortunately hasn’t reached the commercial heights of many of her competitors, there’s no reason why this record shouldn’t also be able to stand alongside other big name pop releases from Charli XCX, Carly Rae Jepsen and similar artists. As someone who has enjoyed all of Tove Lo’s releases, this one may not out-do her excellent debut but it comes close to matching it several times which is an impressive feat for a pop act on record #5..


17) THE LINDA LINDAS - Growing Up

Formed in LA a few years back and consisting of all girls 18 and under, The Linda Lindas make quite a fun racket on their debut. Borrowing from both 70’s/80’s power-pop and punk while mixing with turn-of-the-century pop-punk, their full length debut expands on the promise of early singles and is an all-around raucous affair. Songs about homework, boys and cats litter the record while the band has an absolute blast rocking out together. Bonus points for all members singing which gives a nice melodic variety to this 25-minute rush of fun. While they haven’t quite shed their influences yet, the band’s songwriting chops can hang with the current scene of Warped Tour alumni and there is plenty of evidence that The Linda Lindas will continue to grow into their own moving forward.


16) CHARLI XCX - Crash

As a songwriter, Charli XCX has lent her talents to many big-name hits. As an artist in her own right, she’s always lived a bit outside the pop mainstream most likely on purpose in an effort to make slightly left-of-center futuristic pop music. Crash is her big swing to play in the same leagues as some of the other artists she worked with and it delivered in spades with one glossy hooky blast after another. In this big mainstream bid, Charli XCX keeps her big bombastic personality on display throughout allowing her to differentiate from all the other contenders in the space and shows that she not only has the star power but also the tunes to put her in big rooms across the globe. 


15) THE SMILE - A Light For Attracting Attention

With Radiohead on an extended hiatus, Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood wanted to dive back into guitar-based music with low stakes. Partnering with jazz drummer Tom Skinner (himself just as acclaimed as the two Radiohead members in his circles), The Smile work through some tricky art-rock that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Radiohead’s early releases. Of course, this being two members of Radiohead, nothing is ever as straightforward as early reviews may have let on and thankfully Yorke and Greenwood give us plenty of tricky stabbing guitar work to play nicely with Skinner’s jazz-influenced drumming. Released from the constraints of making BIG IMPORTANT Radiohead albums, it’s nice to hear Yorke sounding so free and not leaning on his typical glitchy electronic tendencies. Returning to guitar and bass, Yorke sounds as impassioned as ever and much more relaxed now that he’s not stuck in the electronic glitch doldrums.


14) BUTCH WALKER - Butch Walker As…Glen

While it divided fans in 2020, Butch Walker’s concept record American Love Story showcased not only that he hasn’t lost a beat in terms of his songwriting but also that he’s a great at writing in-character. Taking on the mantra of “Glen”, a down-on-his-luck piano bar player, Walker leads his band through a mock show in a dive bar emphasizing his chops on the piano in order to deliver good ol’ fashioned American songwriting. Walker’s sense of melody, humor as well as melancholy all work exceptionally well here as he croons out songs that sound just as good in 2022 as they would have in 1972. Whether or not his fans follow him in this new direction remains to be seen but it’s yet another strong piece of work by one of today’s best singer/songwriters. 


13) RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS - Unlimited Love / Return Of The Green Canteen

Reuniting with guitarist John Frusciante in late 2019, the Peppers made up for lost time by releasing two 75 minute albums in 2022. Frusciante’s tenure with the band is the most beloved amongst fans, making expectations high. As the other three members have stated plenty of times, songs just seem to flow out of them when they work with Frusciante so it’s not surprising they were able to produce a surplus of material. Given they’re now entering their 40th year as a band, there are no real surprises on either of these records as both are full of sunny California pop, slap bass, a few skit-skat raps and Frusciante’s beautiful guitar lines. What makes both these records so triumphant is how confident and at-ease the band sounds, almost as if they can finally relax and simply be themselves. Veteran bands don’t usually continue to crank out such quality and quantity but the Chili Peppers have somehow been able to survive their demons and grow old with grace.


12) BIG THIEF - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe You

I’ve always been fairly lukewarm to Big Thief, typically dismissing them as a indie-hippie hybrid that creates nice somber music which plays well in the background. While that take isn’t entirely incorrect, it is a bit reductive and their 2022 opus proved me wrong in multiple ways. Recorded at four different locations, there is still a strong cohesiveness with this sprawling album as Big Thief stretches out, embraces their inner jam-band love while also not totally ignoring the importance of melody. Adrienne Lenker proves herself to be one of indie rock’s sharper songwriters and the band injects their own distinct personality into this epic 20 song (21 on the deluxe version) set. Normally, at this stage in their career, it’s difficult for bands to convert the skeptics but this record made me a believer.


11) WET LEG - Wet Leg

Nowadays, bands achieve buzz with only 1-2 songs so when Wet Leg was generating a ton of press early in the year with a few singles (albeit great singles), they were met with a fair amount of skepticism. Thankfully, their full length debut made good on the promise of their initial singles which harken back to the days of mid-00’s blog-approved indie rock full of flashy guitars, big hooks and the sardonic wit of lead singer Rhian Teasdale. Coming from the Isle Of Wight, the band often joked that all trends tend to hit the area 5-10 years after the mainland and, while I somehow doubt that’s truly the case with internet access, their debut is a neat throwback to 00’s guitar rock where post-punk and bubblegum pop could play nice in the sandbox together. Time will tell if their success was a fluke or not but there’s no denying their debut offering lived up to the hype.


10) SPOON - Lucifer On The Sofa

There’s not much more I can say about Spoon that probably hasn’t been said a million times but I’ll try regardless. Spoon continues to be the ultimate example of consistency throughout their career and Lucier On The Sofa is a return to more straightforward groove-based indie rock. Britt Daniel, as always, comes across as effortlessly cool with a never ending supply of hooks that he casually struts out while his band swings to the beat. Lucifer On The Sofa is Spoon in the “just in the room playing” mode with the band sounding fresh, focused and like they’re having an absolute blast plowing through these 10 excellent numbers. Maybe one day Spoon will make a misstep but until then, every new album is an event for their fanbase.


09) FOALS - Life Is Yours

Whittled down to a trio after the departure of their bassist Walter Gervins , Life Is Yours is Foals resetting and churning out their most consistent release to date. Most Foals records typically are split between live bangers and more atmospheric numbers which offer a nice balance but can sometimes be a slog to sit through. Life Is Yours combines all their strengths and almost serves as a way for the band to re-introduce themselves to the masses with one effortless shiny anthem after another. Featuring their neat trick of aggressively stabby clean guitar lines, Foals keep the rhythm moving throughout with lead singer Yannis Philappakis’s throaty vocals conjuring up some much needed euphoric release after the dark days of a global pandemic. Whether the band continues to find new audiences on both sides of the pond remains but, to date, this stands as their best all-around record. 


08) BARTEES STRANGE - Farm To Table

Putting out an acclaimed album during the pandemic was a tricky situation. Putting out an acclaimed debut during the pandemic is even trickier but such is life for Bartees Strange, an English-born American musician who gave us his excellent second record this year. Truth be told, nothing is really typical about Strange as he’s a former college athlete and a black musician dabbling in what is typically a white genre. Farm To Table builds upon his 2020 debut, Live Forever, in all the best ways. Combining multi-genres often within the same song, Strange holds it all together with his unique vocal approach and soul-bearing personality. One of those records that’s tough to describe (emo, rap, indie rock, etc), Farm To Table proves that Strange’s debut was no fluke and is setting him up nicely for a long versatile career. 



After a career-best in 2020, John Ross who leads up Wild Pink was set to go bigger and better on the follow-up. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer in mid-2021 which could have put the project to a halt but his doctor encouraged him to keep writing and engaging with music, potentially as a way to refocus his energy elsewhere. The result is not only Ross’s best album but one of the most beautiful, crushing, romantic and lovely set of songs released this year. Given the heavy circumstances, it wouldn’t be surprising for the overall tone of the album to be dour but Ross instead applies a sentimental optimistic outlook, paying tribute to his partner and essentially life as a whole. Sonically, everything that makes Wild Pink great is still there (big 80’s heartland guitars, lush piano, strings, gentle textures, etc) but the true victory is Ross working through his illness and coming out the other side.


06) SUEDE - Autofiction

Suede (or The London Suede as they’re known here in the US) has been a blind spot for me for many years. While they boast an excellent catalog, their lack of presence here both in terms of visibility and literal presence (they hadn’t played a show in the States since 2011 and even THAT was a one-off at Coachella though they thankfully changed that this year). Autofiction is a proper entry or re-entry point for American audiences and a significant addition to their already stacked catalog. Since their reunion in 2013, Suede has continued releasing records that stand on par with their 90’s heyday and Autofiction may be among their best as the band streamlines the sound of big guitars, glams and Brett Anderson’s seductive britpop melodies. While it may not move the needle in terms of their US popularity, it still showcases the band’s immense talent and further cements the fact that legacy acts don’t have to fall into an abyss of mediocrity as they age. 


05) PANIC! AT THE DISCO - Viva Las Vengeance

Brendon Urie has re-built the Panic! At The Disco empire back to even bigger heights than the 2006 eye-liner emo phase the band debuted with. Now essentially a solo project, Viva Las Vengeance peels back on the big budget pop to allow Urie the opportunity to craft a glam-infused power-pop ode to his youth. Sticky melodies abound, Viva Las Vengeance functions as Urie’s love letter to rock and roll (not surprising given he’s been covering Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” live for years). Throughout these 12 excellently crafted tracks, Urie delivers one ear-worm after another giving nods to 70’s and 80’s influences mixed in with his theater-kid love of bombastic melody. While it may not have achieved the same commercial heights as his previous two releases, Viva Las Vengeance is an excellent case of an artist following his muse and ignoring unnecessary outside pressures.


04) MOMMA - Household Name

There’s been plenty of bands doing an update on fuzzed-out early/mid-90’s rock but something about Momma’s attention to the power players makes their third full length shine. Through a swirl of crunchy guitars and power chords, Household Name makes a bid for the big leagues harkening back to the days of Nirvana and early Smashing Pumpkins (one song even name checks “Hummer” directly). As someone who came out age in this era, this is essentially catnip to me but Momma thankfully isn’t a total nostalgia trip. The band brings their own personality and updates to an older sound by demonstrating solid songwriting chops and a fun playfulness than many of the 90’s bands they were influenced by never really allowed themselves to indulge in. While it may not make them as famous as the 90’s forefathers, Household Name should be of interest to anyone who misses the glory days of the Buzz Bin.


03) THE KNOCKS - History

Having been kicking around for nearly a decade, The Knocks continue their streak of winning collaborations with History being a collection of all their most recent. Guest stars include the likes of Foster The People, Muna, Cola War Kids, Dragonette and tour-mates Cannons allowing The Knocks to bring a dynamic sense of melodic approach to their insanely catchy and crafty productions. It helps that all the guest stars bring some of their strongest material to the table as each song is insanely hooky and intoxicating with specific highlights coming from Dragonette and Donna Missal. While the live show I saw this year failed to capture the heights of the record (most likely due to not having the actual vocalists), History was probably the most down-ring fun release of the year.


02) MUNA - Muna

After releasing two albums on a major label, Muna somehow finally achieved their breakthrough after leaving RCA Records, dueting with Phoebe Bridgers and joining Bridgers’ powerhouse indie label, Saddest Factory Records. While no longer the fresh-faced indie pop group of their early days, album #3 find the trio demonstrating a newfound confidence allowing them to put out their sharper songs yet. Still somewhat loyal to their “sad bop” attack, the songs on their self-titled show a revitalized group that’s obviously been through the ringer able to come out on the other side. A natural crisp production highlighting their endless supply of beats, energy and hooks provides a natural sonic accompaniment to lead singer Katie Gavin’s tails of uncertainty and anxiety about her youth ending. Power ballads fit in nicely next to all-out dance raves making this Muna’s best album to date and one of the best of the year.


01) THE 1975 - Being Funny In A Foreign Language
After the sprawling, over-ambitious 2020 release of Notes On A Conditional Form, The 1975 returned with their leanest and frankly most consistent release to date. Gone are the electronic detours, the spoken-word interludes, the ambient passages and anything else that’s not an element of The 1975’s core sound. This core sound of 80’s pop, 90’s indie and 00’s emo gives superfans of this band what they’ve been waiting for, 11 great songs of impeccably produced pop/rock given an extra jolt by frontman Matty Healy’s extremely self-aware lyricism, always dancing around satire and sincerity. Secretly, this also The 1975’s most personal album as Healy delves into the one topic he’s oddly skirted around, love and heartbreak. While not explicitly confirmed, it’s a concept record about the rise and fall of his relationship with fellow UK singer FKA Twigs culminating in the beautiful yet brutal “When We Are Together”. Melancholy and euphoria are rarely presented so well together but The 1975’s craft is as sharp as ever making them one of the best and most fascinating bands today.

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