You ever get the feeling, once year-end list season has come and gone, that you experienced a very different year than the one commemorated on numerous music outlets? Not to dismiss any of the deserving titles that made those rankings, but what about the deep cuts you’ve had on repeat that never quite got the break they deserved?
In keeping with this column’s focus on artists that often go overlooked on sites like FLOOD, outlined below are a handful of LPs and EPs that shouldn’t be left behind in 2022. From zoned-out dream pop to frantic black metal, here are Signal Boost’s picks for the 15 albums from 2022 you should know.
Attia Taylor, Space Ghost
Concept album about finding comfort in the soothing voice of a sci-fi cartoon talk show host who’s always there to call you a “handsome, sophisticated, hyper-intelligent, svelte, well-read, sparkling, salty, olive-complected, full-head-of-haired man” when no one else is. The warmly piled layers of fizzy psych heard on the latest LP from Philly’s Attia Taylor—actually sculpted from childhood memories of finding comfort in watching the cult Cartoon Network series Coast to Coast—sound the way that hyper-specific compliment feels. Or like Taylor keeps leaving the room and returning with another blanket which she drapes on top of you like a very considerate host, recreating that sense of comfort for the listener.
Body Void, Burn the Homes of Those Who Seek to Control Our Bodies
2021’s Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth proved a powerful enough statement from the snails-pace meltdown-metal duo Body Void that it almost feels frustrating that they’ve already released what feels like a preview of an entirely new chapter in their arc while I’m still comfortably living in the last one. But Burn the Homes serves as more than just a teaser—its two-song, 16-minute track list takes the formula perfected on the previous year’s recording and amps it up to the level of rage familiar to metal groups outside of the veins of doom, sludge, or drone with incredibly tight results.
Boon, Bad Machine
I’ve always been critical of the folks who dunked on bands for sounding like Animal Collective a decade ago to the point that those bands broke up or pivoted to shitty synthpop, but I guess I never realized how frustrated that still makes me until an album which at times sounds like it lifted directly from Veckatimest and/or Strawberry Jam landed in my lap in 2022. Which isn’t to say Boon uses either album as a crutch, but rather explores a consistently invigorating set of ideas across Bad Machine which build upon the foundation set by these releases a decade and a half ago that the generation which came up alongside these releases has evidently deemed ground too holy to retread. I mean, if Grizzly Bear’s not gonna do it someone’s gotta.
Chastity, Suffer Summer
Pretty sure my first Joe Pera “Baba” moment of 2022 was in January, like 10 seconds into “When You Go Home I Withdrawal” when Brandon Williams’ voice—which consistently channels everything good and heartsick about emo vocals while impossibly never teetering into the realm of saccharine—matches up with the equally powerful shoegaze-y instrumental that rivals the tunneling riffs Jack Shirley and Will Yip have been abetting for the past decade or so. It’s one of many peaks on an album that sees Williams at his best on both ends of the scale he excels at balancing, with the grunge guitar always hitting a little harder than you expect—but never as hard as the unguarded lyricism.
Det eviga leendet, Reverence
Every year I get deeper into various strands of metal, yet every year I have a harder time writing about the genre as it feels more like an emotional experience to me rather than something to analyze. Det eviga leendet capture a certain frenetic energy found in black metal—most popularly in Deafheaven’s New Bermuda, or either of Spectral Wound’s LPs—whose sense of terror lies in its unrelenting urgency, with the Swedish band achieving a translation of that energy’s live feel to record in a way most other bands in any genre fail to capture. It’s the pacing of Fury Road reworked to fit horror conventions.
This anxiety probably makes me sound incredibly like a person who came of age in the mid-’00s but it feels good to find a rock band that you don’t have to worry about busting out a Reflektor after their Springsteen-iest album. I can back up my thesis that every Empath record sounds an equal amount like shitgaze-goes-pop (or banging on a variety of trash cans, as the band’s Garrett Koloski describes it)—as well as my theory that this won’t change any time in the near future—with Visitor fitting neatly alongside the group’s endearingly disheveled prior releases. If Empath ever wind up playing stadium-sized venues I imagine it’s gonna be through their unyielding commitment to their current sound rather than their decision to clean it up.
Flora Lux Victoria, A Body Made to Have a Pearl Heart (Demo)
I think we’ve finally reached a moment where The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have begun to exist in relation to The Depreciation Guild rather than the other way around. While the former’s solidified a space in the Urban Outfitters–core canon, every passing year shows that Kurt Feldman’s blown-out chiptune shoegaze outfit was a decade ahead of its time as projects like Five Pebbles and Flora Lux Victoria (also both side-projects, oddly enough) materialize. On Pearl Heart, Sleeping Peonies’ Lydia N crawls deeper into the cozy space of dreamy, noisy bedroom-pop to explore ecstatic themes of transcending the limitations of one’s body long tied to gender norms. Surely a sound that will continue to appreciate with time.
Living Hour, Someday Is Today
It was nice to finally experience a year in music that didn’t entirely revolve around ultra-personal pandemic albums, which may be why the zoomed-in moments of Living Hour’s third LP—dissociating at diners, waiting in line for the bathroom—caught me off guard when it dropped deep into 2022. Things have been relatively normal for a while now, but Sam Sarty, backed by her shoegaze band at its most swooningly melancholy, has her sights firmly set on the mundane realities embedded in the precise social activities we spent two years romanticizing after they became unavailable to us. Also probably the perfect album for anyone annoyed that Beach House has been going off script these past few years.
The eight tracks on Juvenilia each feel instantly familiar and totally unique at the same time in that specific way where an artist takes direct influence from their forebears without borrowing enough that those forebears become immediately recognizable. OutKast and Denzel Curry vaguely feel like touchstones for LUCI’s left-of-left-field raps and bouncing instrumentals, though her unpredictable inflections make each of these tracks unique from those of her peers, let alone each from each other. It’s highly individualistic without being at all repetitive; it’s all over the place while always feeling fully controlled.
Persher, Man with the Magic Soap
When Zach Hill and Nick Reinhart reunited to drop a wholly unclassifiable debut LP as Undo K From Hot in 2021 I was ready to embrace it as an anomaly of digital hardcore and move on. But only a year later we got another unexpected collaboration from ambient artist Pariah and industrial techno figure Blawan that oddly mines a very similar aesthetic, albeit with a sound palette more closely aligned with power electronics and noise rock (the album even kind of has the same weirdo in-joke song titles). If you liked G.A.S., and you can stomach the vocals on a Full of Hell LP, this one’s for you.
Springtime, Night Raver
While it’s been interesting to watch Tropical Fuck Storm evolve from a more experimental take on Gareth Liddiard’s guitar-centric blues-punk outfit The Drones into something wholly unidentifiable over the course of three albums, it’s arguably been even more interesting to see where his built-up riffing energy is finding its outlets. After releasing a debut album with the jazz-rock trio Springtime last year, Liddiard—alongside pianist Chris Abrahams and drummer Jim White—immediately upped the ante with an EP (three songs, 42 minutes…that still counts as an EP, right?) that shows considerably more focus on what this project may become while, ironically, Liddiard’s political balladry sounded more wandering than ever.
Thank, Thoughtless Cruelty
I remember back in February when this album dropped Thank tweeted at a publication who reviewed the LP citing their lyric about how there’s never been a good band below the age of 25 as an example of their sense of humor basically saying “Thank you but we really meant it”—and for some reason, that perfectly encapsulated their sense of humor for me. As a fan of fellow cheeky noise-rockers Gilla Band, “Good Boy” was the obvious entry point for me here, but this only made each of Thoughtless Cruelty’s additional eight tracks a pleasant surprise when it took that tried-and-true formula in frequently surprising directions. I don’t know how old they are but I do now know that there’s been at least one good band from Leeds.
Virgin Mother, Mourning Ritual
It’s tough to reckon with the fact that the recent uptick in global exports from the Chicago music scene has brought so little attention to the city’s metal and hardcore corners—and perhaps most of all the bounty of artists touching upon both genres while creating something totally their own. Meth. is one of the most entrancing bands in any corner of rock at the moment, and the debut solo record from the group’s Seb Alvarez sees the vocalist veering through countless different lanes of extreme music here—screamo, noise rock, shoegaze, post-hardcore, as well as unbelievably unsettling ambient sound design—and doing so in a way that feels surprisingly graceful. If a band as depraved as Chat Pile could achieve crossover success in 2022, there’s certainly hope for Meth. and Virgin Mother.
Vundabar, Good Old
There’s an EP’s worth of alternate takes of familiar favorites on Good Old, the second album-length recording released by Vundabar last year, and if you’re into stripped-down acoustic versions, this collection’s for you. But the majority of the track list is comprised of unreleased cuts that feel too Vundabar-y for nearly any of Vundabar’s records—particularly the fairly dark Devil for the Fire released back in April—so if you prefer the band when they’re going absolute loopy carnival mode, this collection’s also for you. I’m not sure it works as a cohesive whole, as it stretches the parameters of their sound to opposite extremes like one of those medieval torture devices, but instead it’s an intriguing look into two alternate dimensions Devil could just as easily have existed in.
Waveform*, Last Room
Technically a 2020 release dusted off and reissued by Run for Cover, Last Room is a great introduction to the label’s shapeshifting new signees who transform sounds from the realms of slowcore and dream-pop into a uniquely comforting listen as it draws from an unexpected range of familiar sources. The infuriatingly cute opener “Favorite Song” and the most satisfying breakdown outside of heavy rock in recent memory heard on “Tell You” give way to tracks that tap Hovvdy, Wavves, Turnover, and even the industrial sounds of Wreck and Reference. Worthy heirs to the asterisk-rock throne in the aftermath of Jonathan Fire*Eater and Stellastar*.