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There’s a lot of doom and gloom year-end recapping that normally prefaces these lists, but you listened to the news in 2022, so you are probably already aware of everything going on in the world that kinda blows. But fuck the pessimistic lede! We’ll leave that in 2021. Instead, let’s shift focus to a bunch of great albums that find beauty and discomfort in glory, pain, and every emotion in between. From The Beths’ exuberant power pop opus to Andrew Tuttle’s striking exploration of naturalism in the face of climate change, here are the Merry-Go-Round Magazine staff’s 50 favorite albums of 2022.

Honorable Mentions:


Florence + The Machine – DANCE FEVER



beabadoobee – BEATOPIA

Black Thought – CHEAT CODES



King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – CHANGES

Caroline – S/T

Dehd Album Cover

50. Dehd – BLUE SKIES

Genre: Midwestern Rock

Your favorite Chicago surf-punk trio did it again. Dehd’s fourth record is the definition of “don’t mess with a good thing.” Instead, double-down on what makes you so good in the first place. Before BLUE SKIES, Dehd was known for stand-out vocals that came from the back of the throat, competing and combative harmonies, animalistic howls, and jumpy transitions. On this record, they sing even deeper, they fight each other harder, the howls are sexier, and the transitions are surprising and sharp. “Blue Skies” and “Bad Love” punched their way up to my top three most-played songs of the year, but for the newcomers here, this isn’t a singles play. Just head press shuffle. The wonderfulness of BLUE SKIES is that it melts in beautifully with their discography to-date, with a tough-guy, punk-is-life attitude that they continue to refine with each release. Lick it up, rock on, etc. [Devyn McHugh]

Lambchop Album Cover

49. Lambchop – THE BIBLE

Genre: Alternative Gospel

Kurt Wagner’s music has only gotten more interesting since he started the Nashville band with the rotating cast of musicians four decades ago. THE BIBLE, their 16th studio album for Merge, sits somewhere between the mellow alt-twang and gospel of their magnum opus NIXON with the electronic experimentation Wagner has added to the mix since 2016’s FLOTUS, plus some kick-ass guitar solos the band is not generally known for. It’s a real everything-plus-the-kitchen sink record. [Jack Probst]

Wilder Maker Album Cover

48. Wilder Maker – MALE MODELS

Genre: Earthy Rock

MALE MODELS posits one very important question: Just who the hell is Wilder Maker? Because this 12-track album sees the New York band bring in some heavy-duty collaborators, including Felicia Douglass, Yellow Ostrich, Mutual Benefit, Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz, and Katie Von Schleicher (as a semi-permanent member). And while these collaborations all work well—the Douglass-led “A Professional” and Yellow Ostrich-starring “Surfers Trace” are standouts—it’s still hard to get a proper pulse on Wilder Maker. But then, maybe that’s the point: This record shapeshifts not just song to song, but moment to moment. The result is a kaleidoscope of warm tones, evocative songwriting, pockets of depth and texture, and endless blurring between nostalgic remembrance and sonic line-pushing. In showing so many sides of themselves, often through their collaborators, the band have forged an identity based on both familiarity and a profound curiosity. It’s a conversation via record, and it’s always compelling. [Chris Coplan]

Mitski Album Cover

47. Mitski – LAUREL HELL

Genre: Indie Pop

LAUREL HELL is a work of art, given reluctantly, and received with desperate gratitude from the desolate masses. It was with some contractual strong-arming from Dead Oceans that we could expect the record at all—Mitski has been honest about her desire to quit music for good after 2018’s BE THE COWBOY. But she owed the label one more record before she could walk away—and LAUREL HELL was the resulting success. Four absolutely bulletproof singles kicked off the album cycle, with Mitski at her tried-and-true best, putting out exciting, surprising, dance-worthy production—but singing poetry so heartbroken, so precise in its despair, it’s all enough to turn you bisexual. The rest of the album followed neatly behind. Her thesis? The one(s) you love will kill you if you let them. And there’s no point in asking if loving is worth the hurt, because you’re going to be consumed by it either way. As painful as it must be, Mitski under the knife has changed indie music for the better. We can only hope LAUREL HELL is just the latest, not the last. [Devyn McHugh]

Sudan Archives Album Cover


Genre: Avant-R&B

It’s funny to go back and read my review of 2019’s ATHENA, where I ultimately assess that, “Even if it has tracks that stick out as not quite matching the ambition wholly, it’s by-and-large a stunning work from a young artist who is holding back very little.” If Sudan Archives was holding back very little then, she’s holding back absolutely nothing now. NATURAL BROWN PROM QUEEN is the year’s best pop album, a sonic evolution that continues to amplify her own ambitions. We’ve moved into an entirely different realm than those early EPs, the stark minimalism of the African rhythms and the violin playing hardly a focus—“Home Maker” opens the record with a squirming disco rhythm, and the relentless thump of the beats never lets up. The orchestral textures—notably, of course, her violin playing—have become a way to color pop and hip hop beats rather than the bedrock by which the album is made. On “Selfish Soul,” the ascending violin part is almost used as a sample rather than an organic part of the mix. NATURAL BROWN PROM QUEEN often reads like a debut of sorts, a new era of Sudan Archives that will push her beyond indie pop stardom and into a place reserved for the SZAs and Solanges of the world. The album is that good, so here’s hoping she reaches those highs soon. [CJ Simonson]

Goon Album Cover


Genre: Alternative Rock

Los Angeles band Goon made a record that, on the surface, is obsessed with the glory days. Whether it’s the lyrical references to childhood glories, or just the robust, often-paralyzing displays of aural beauty, it’s an album for living in the amber of yesteryear. But that encapsulation also mitigates what makes this LP more than just feverish retromania. Whether that’s the experimental structures, the bursts of junky noise and dissonance, or the overall haze of mystery, the record maintained some complex layers to all that rose-colored romance. And it never tried to reconcile either parts; instead, the record excelled because it demanded fair treatment for all ideas, creating this blur of energies and sentiments that both comforted and confronted the listener. It’s a singular accomplishment where sound and emotion entwine to engage the listener in some truly heady ways. [Chris Coplan]

Winter Album Cover


Genre: Psych Rock

Is there such a genre as bubblegum dream pop? Besides sounding like a weed strain’s name, it’s an excellent way to describe the newest collection of tranquil and fuzzy tracks from Samira Winter. Winter’s clever use of distortion and hypnotic synth channels My Bloody Valentine by way of Japanese Breakfast on songs featuring guest spots by SASAMI and Hatchie—some of the most memorable psych pop of the year. [Jack Probst]

Babehoven Album Cover

43. Babehoven – LIGHT MOVING TIME

Genre: Folk, Indie Rock

LIGHT MOVING TIME moves like a shoegaze record—frigid openings give way to relentless percussion and guitar work, a never-ending sense of both doom and hope accentuated by the duo’s looping musical sensibilities. It may not be loud, or noisy, but spiritually it feels akin to the genre—the guitar tone of “Break The Ice” alone squarely positions the album to be listened to with this idea in mind, and even if the next track, ”Marion,” is calmer by comparison, the dizzying guitars and banjos build and plod heavily forward unbroken. As the band said in our MGRM profile of them this past month, that endlessness is something they are fascinated by. Babehoven’s boldest and chilliest moments on LIGHT MOVING TIME are big indie rock cuts—“Break The Ice,” “Stand It,” “Pockets.” But as a whole, the album is defined less by how big it can feel and more by the hypnotic, folksy whirr that carries from song to song. Put it on as the snow begins to melt and the world turns over anew. [CJ Simonson]

The Smile Album Cover


Genre: Alternative Rock, Radiohead?

The Smile immediately demonstrate that they are much more than just a Radiohead side-project. While Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood are always going to sound like themselves, the group they’ve formed with Tom Skinner is not concerned with ego or expectations, but purely exists to exercise each member’s desire to make music after an extended period of isolation. Yorke and Greenwood play a non-stop game of musical chairs, switching instrument duties constantly across the album’s 13-tracks. They cover all the bases they’ve rounded throughout their career, from the effortlessly cool, bass-driven grooves in “The Smoke,” the chaotic spacey shredding in “Thin Thing,” and the pounding punk aggression in lead single “You Will Never Work in Television Again.” There is a revitalized urgency and energy in these songs that may stem from shedding the pressure that comes from the Radiohead banner. With another album already in the works, it’s clear that The Smile are planning on sticking around for a bit, and we are lucky to have them. [Jake Mazon]

Connie Constance Album Cover

41. Connie Constance – MISS POWER

Genre: Pop

A rising UK pop star, Connie Constance’s sophomore album MISS POWER was a great late in the year addition to this list. If you dig the pan-genre singer-songwriter stylings of fellow British travelers like Nilüfer Yanya and Arlo Parks, MISS POWER confidently slides into a similar viby lane. Adding to those tender-but-all-encompassing stylistic touchpoints, Constance fuses that sound with the energy of the UK post-punk moment; some spikier numbers are more reminiscent of Willow or Olivia Rodrigo collaborating with Crack Cloud or Working Men’s Club or Yard Act. Clear influences from British mainstream and alternative darlings come to the fore—Bloc Party, Florence + The Machine, and even Adele. If you prefer some spunk and a bit of a sardonic, Blighty, rough edge to your sadgirl indie, Connie Constance is the new artist for you to look out for. Don’t sleep on her. [Luke Phillips]

They Hate Change Album Cover

40. They Hate Change – FINALLY, NEW

Genre: Hip Hop

Like a lot of the most forward-thinking contemporary rap and hip hop (from Danny Brown to JPEGmafia to Vince Staples to Death Grips, Clipping., and beyond) Tampa’s They Hate Change make record collector rap for the internet’s busiest music nerds. Active since 2015, but just now releasing their Jagjaguwar breakthrough (an interesting sentence!), THC are rappers and producers who developed their sound as teen house party DJs. They have since built on their own omnivorous music taste which includes local sounds like juke and Miami bass as well as classic electronic imports from the UK. These results incorporate a diversified palate of influences, a wide-ranging sonic palette that traces not only Anglo sounds of dubstep, jungle, and grime, but also Krautrock and the ambient works of Brian Eno. On the mic, the duo favor more millennial obsessions and East Coast MCs—such as Clipse, namely—while still having a trace of their Southern rap and Atlantean-adjacent upbringing. The mix is a refreshing and wholly original-sounding milieu that has a clear sonic blueprint, but still sounds like music being piped in from a completely different dimension—an uncanny quality typified by probably one of the only clear direct antecedents to this style, Southern-fried ATLiens themselves OutKast. The progressive approach isn’t restricted to the duo’s production—tracks like “Some Days I Hate My Voice” address gender dysphoria. In a musical climate that wants for more future-forward rap music, THC seem poised as a breakout duo who could affect real change in the game. [Luke Phillips]

Dream Unending Album Cover

39. Dream Unending – SONG OF SALVATION

Genre: Doom Metal

Like the best metal albums released over the last decade or so, SONG OF SALVATION gains momentum as time goes on. Dream Unending’s members, the ‘Architect of Dreams’ Derrick Vella and ‘The Bridge Between Two Worlds’ Justin DeTore, live up to those mythic titles, using the longform song structures with rich psychedelic imagery to color and texture classically expressed metal soloing and robust doom passages. But the momentum gained over time isn’t so much due to a relentless drive, as is so true for many death and black metal albums. Rather, that momentum comes from creative curiosity, pushing the limits of the sound into harrowing and often hallucinatory spaces. The opening title track begins at a chilling creep, a waking dream that over 14 minutes evolves into an apex between good and evil. But it’s the passages between “Song of Salvation” and the 16-minute closer “Ecstatic Reign” that show us where Dream Unending’s vision musically often lies—yes, the giant waves of lengthy, complex black metal are why you come to SONG OF SALVATION, and what push it to be one of the year’s best in the genre, but the quiet, haunting, and often tranquil three songs between those pillars are rich sonic storytelling, the whisper-filled “Murmur of Voices” in particular an effective and disquieting cinematic interlude. The end of “Ecstatic Reign” brings a sense of calm, as though this visceral story is peacefully coming to a close over the sound of Dream Unending’s galloping and somehow hopeful guitar and drum tones. The whole experience was a high water mark for metal in 2022. [CJ Simonson]

NNAMDI Album Cover


Genre: Indie Rock, Pop

PLEASE HAVE A SEAT is an invitation to the type of party thrown by folks who were artsy nerds in high school. They were called “weird” by the varsity captains. They smoked weed more than anyone else, and hung out with teachers during free periods. Then they graduated and moved to a major city, where they now pay too much in rent but hold down a generation’s culture for free. We must pay tribute to those freaks, as well as the punks, the goths, the queers, and the closeted horse girls. NNAMDÏ is the conduit: listen to his music, and honor those who were brave enough to “be themselves” first. NNAMDÏ has produced individualist music for the last decade, but it’s with this latest record that he’s flexing his power as an artist who has as much skill surprising you as he does creating tight, hummable hooks. Vocal play, word play, madcap production; sweet synths, harmonies, and romantic quirks: PLEASE HAVE A SEAT is NNAMDÏ unabashedly showcasing his talents without letting himself be held back by genre or expectations. Do what you’re told for once and take a seat, this party will be more fun than anything Top 40 has to offer. [Devyn McHugh]

SOBS Album Cover

37. Sobs – AIR GUITAR

Genre: Math Pop

Returning to the spotlight after years of relative silence, Sobs’ AIR GUITAR refuses to ever slow down, nodding towards all sorts of ‘90s rock subgenres and slamming them together for an album that manages to be as lush as it is intense, noisy indie rock with a wreath of spring flowers surrounding it. By taking advantage of huge hooks and tense instrumental build without sacrificing Celine Autumn’s observant and hearty songwriting, Sobs capture a sense of apocalyptic romance that never feels melodramatic or overwrought, beautifully crafted pop with edges sharp enough to keep the excitement high no matter if they’re experimenting with sparkly drum ‘n’ bass or recording a sentimental Gwen Stefani cover. More than anything else, AIR GUITAR is simply some of the most rewarding pop this year, making its mark just by ensuring every moment is a fun one. [Lurien Zitterkopf]

Maria BC Album Cover

36. Maria BC – HYALINE

Genre: Ambient Folk

With the growing popularity of ambient music, there have been several ambient folk records in recent years that explore the uncharted waters between atmosphere-forward ambient composition and a more straightforward singer-songwriter approach. In 2022, a clear standout in that field was Maria BC’s HYALINE, whose title appropriately describes something “Clear and translucent like glass, especially a smooth sea.” Unlike similar artists working in this mold like Grouper and Midwife—who embrace the ambient qualities of their work by burying their vocals beneath layers of tape hiss and analog distortion—Maria BC’s classically trained voice floats elegantly atop the murky instrumentals, reaching for Liz Fraser-esqe acrobatic vocal flourishes while maintaining a breathy softness throughout. It’s as if the dreamy guitar parts and found-sound collages of HYALINE are a frozen lake that Maria BC is figure skating on the surface of, cutting figure eight shapes across these instrumentals with effortless grace. No matter how bombastic the performances get on HYALINE, you’re never fully taken out of the meditative headspace conjured by the soundscapes below, an immersive mood that is heightened further by seamless transitions from track to track. If you’re not paying attention on first listen, you’ll almost certainly miss the moment when album opener “No Reason” glides into the first plucked notes of “April.” “Ethereal” and “haunting” are some of the most overused crutches in music writing, but the work of Maria BC reminds us why they became cliches in the first place. How else is one supposed to describe this music? [Jacqueline Codiga]

Bartees Strange Album Cover

35. Bartees Strange – FARM TO TABLE

Genre: Alternative Rock

Bartees Strange is an artist that’s been an absolute delight to watch come up in the indie scene over the last few years, and he has yet to disappoint through his rise. FARM TO TABLE, his debut for 4AD, is full of mesmerizing lyrics and melodies, making it a must-listen for anyone looking for a captivating experience. His songs are eclectic, a brilliant fusion of hip hop, rock, electronic, and soul that shows off Strange’s considerable talents as a vocalist, musician, and lyricist. His lyrics are inspiring and thought-provoking, tackling social injustice, mental health, and the complexities of family and identity. FARM TO TABLE is an impressive and deeply moving album that will resonate within the walls of the indie rock hall of fame. [Jack Probst]

Fontaines DC Album Cover

34. Fontaines D.C. – SKINTY FIA

Genre: Post-Punk

I’m not sure there’s a better example of how to chart a modern career in indie rock than Fontaines D.C., whose trajectory through the neverending UK post-punk moment is something to study. Like many, I found both 2019’s DOGREL and 2020’s A HERO’S DEATH to be among the broader and agreeable works to come out of the genre. Within those records you could contextualize that if one of these many bands were to become bonafide rock stars, why not them? While less immediately electric, eccentric, or angry than their peers, the straightforwardness was a refreshing litmus test—a basis for which to go back and judge the likes of black midi or Lounge Society or the rest of the post-Brexit New Wave. But while words like “straightforward” and “agreeable” and “reliable” might begrudgingly get you to rock stardom, they’re hardly the kind to land you on a Best Of list. To that end, I’m amazed by 2022’s SKINTY FIA, which actually does feel electric, eccentric, and angry in enlightening ways. Relentlessly mid-tempo, Fontaines D.C. stare daggers at us with a balled-up fist for 45 minutes, never breaking eye contact or loosening their grip. Perhaps this evolution isn’t as sudden as I’m making it out to be—A HERO’S DEATH had its moments of broody intensity, but it was hardly defined by them, ultimately a stopgap between their debut and this album and released weeks into a global pandemic. SKINTY FIA is steadfastly committed to wearing a dark, perverted smirk, be that with funky shuffling singles like “Jackie Down The Line” or slow motion fist fights like “Big Shot.” While we all quietly wait for the bubble to burst, Fontaines D.C. are ensuring they’ll be the last ones standing. [CJ Simonson]

Dazy Album Cover

33. Dazy – OUTOFBODY

Genre: Fuzz Rock, Power Pop

The great Luke Phillips already has the definitive profile on James Goodson, also known as Dazy, the nascent power pop luminary who is making better Green Day songs than anything Green Day has recorded in over a decade. That won’t stop me from sharing my praise for OUTOFBODY as well, as this record just simply scratches a very specific itch that no other album this year quite does. While Dazy’s songwriting approach is always pretty firmly planted in the ‘90s, it covers a sizable breadth of the classic alt-rock canon, from the aforementioned pop-punk to far grungier and Britpop-y directions as well. Most importantly, the hooks are always sticky, Goodson’s sense for good melody carrying him at all times. Pair all this with a very well-recorded and satisfyingly hefty DIY sound, and you simply have one of the year’s most plainly enjoyable rock records. [Jacob Martin]

Soul Glo Album Cover


Genre: Hardcore Punk

Vocalist Pierce Jordan gets at the core of Soul Glo on “John J”: “Between torching PD’s and taking knees / oh my god, I choose the former.” DIASPORA PROBLEMS is schizophrenic hardcore by way of economic desolation, incrementalism, and the violence of boots on concrete. Their political immediacy constantly boils over into Jordan’s sporadic delivery. Through screamo breakdowns, rapidfire verses, or thrashing screeches, the voices of the bulldozed are spitting in your face. Even ignoring the vocals, it’s the most varied hardcore record of the year, with punk as the ballast steadying its further reaches into ska and hip hop. Following Soul Glo signing to Epitaph, DIASPORA PROBLEMS is poised to be heard by more than a handful of crust punks—something deeply needed both culturally and politically. [Chris Burleson]

Enumclaw Album Cover

31. Enumclaw – SAVE THE BABY

Genre: Post-Grunge

Somehow, you can hear the glowing, rain-filtered tail lights and the chill in the Pacific Northwest air. On Enumclaw’s debut LP, SAVE THE BABY, producer Gabe Wax sets a clean stage for the Tacoma, Washington indie quartet, all the better for their scrappy, shoegaze-y songs to scuff it up with small town restlessness, survivor’s guilt, and the earnest rock ‘n’ roll ambition to take on the world. When they call themselves the best band since Oasis, you know it’s not just stars in their eyes—where they’re from, the clouds gather far too thick for that. [Taylor Ruckle]

Andrew Tuttle Album Cover

30. Andrew Tuttle – FLEETING ADVENTURE

Genre: Ambient Americana

There aren’t many things I can possibly say about Andrew Tuttle’s rollicking and immersive FLEETING ADVENTURE that my colleagues who write for this site haven’t. Indeed it “is like few other ambient albums this year, not aiming for surreal scenery or chest-tightening gloom, but instead the innate and relaxed environments of the world around us.” And it’s true that “no matter what climate it evokes, there’s a surreal hominess to FLEETING ADVENTURE, like bluegrass musicians taking a shot at Steve Reich-esque minimalism.” To me, the reason Tuttle’s warming ambient country album endures is the wide-eyed hope and optimism that washes over you while it unfolds. It is a sun rising, not setting, and with each pluck of a banjo or whine of pedal steel guitar, the rich details of the world come a bit more into focus. With an earnest impression of spontaneity, Tuttle and his collaborators capture and bottle that optimism. It’s a record to start your day with. Carpe diem. [CJ Simonson]

Wild Pink Album Cover

29. Wild Pink – ILYSM

Genre: Indie Folk, Heartland Rock

Wild Pink have always been a band that likes to commune with the spiritual, but perhaps none of their previous albums do so as fervently and sincerely as ILYSM. Drawing on a very particular brand of starry-eyed heartland rock, John Ross takes a profoundly vulnerable position on this record, as open-hearted a listen as you will find in 2022. ILYSM is more ambitious and more daring than anything Wild Pink have attempted previously, with some very unconventional structural left turns baked in and a willingness to play in a wide variety of moods and spaces. Very few releases this year wield such a maximalist approach to texture and emotion, and it makes for a very engaging and effective listen. It also helps that the band just simply knows how to write a damn catchy tune, including several of the best Wild Pink songs to date and no shortage of memorable passages from track-to-track. An absolute must listen for the dad rock crowd. [Jacob Martin]

kiwi jr album cover

28. Kiwi Jr. – CHOPPER

Genre: Post-Punk

It’s been hard the last few years to really keep any sort of eye on the future. Luckily, we had Kiwi Jr. to help make the here and now feel a little less all-consuming. Their third album, CHOPPER, is an interesting little nugget of contradictions. Sonically, it’s obsessed with refurbishing power pop of the ‘70s and ‘80s, with an emphasis on sugary hooks and a charming effervescence. Lyrically, though, there’s a little more depth and heft, like little snapshots of some indiscernible near-future (See: “Clerical Sleep” and “Night Vision” for said vibes). The end result is a record both obsessed with the past and struggling with unknowable ideas and energies—or an experience tied deeply to our times and yet with just enough texture to still feel vaguely optimistic. If the future actually is this rollicking, maybe we’re not so damned after all. [Chris Coplan]

Angel Olsen Big Time

27. Angel Olsen – BIG TIME

Genre: Alt-Country, Indie Rock

Angel Olsen woke up one morning and said, “Man, I feel like a (c*nt)ry star.” She kicked off the sheets, stepped into some bedazzled Ropers, and set out to make the local indie show turn into a hoedown. BIG TIME is the result. It’s Olsen at her best, weaving together quality songwriting and lilting melodies, always with a cunning level of musical depth that marks her as the strongest talent in nearly any room. In the making of BIG TIME, she applied the modern wisdom and flair we’ve become accustomed to, but set it against a backdrop of 1950s crooners, country western stars, and most importantly, a little bit of the boot-scootin’ boogie.

The album leads off with its best track, but keep listening through and you’ll find soft, romantic gems set against the lazy twang of a steel guitar. “All The Flowers” is a sleeper success, holding down the record with a comfortable weight. “Chasing the Sun” tenderly closes the album with a cinematic magnitude (reminiscent of ALL MIRRORS). What makes it all so special is that we can picture Angel Olsen performing the songs while rocking a yellow jumpsuit and bolo tie. Category is: Paying tribute to the c*nts of country past. C’mon boots! [Devyn McHugh]

DISQ Album Cover


Genre: Scrappy Indie

A couple years ago, an up-and-coming band from Madison, WI was on the brink of releasing an excellent debut album that was almost-certainly poised to give their career a very promising start, only for said album to drop in March of 2020. Luckily for us, Disq picked up right where they left off with LP2, a self-titled of sorts that showcases a boatload of collective creativity and ability. Disq is a band with no less than four different songwriters, and each one contributes three numbers to a 12-track LP that never lacks interesting twists. The band plays in a number of styles and paces throughout the record, the songs themselves musically adventurous and surprisingly physical. Killer riffs, dynamic chord progressions and melodies, and emotive vocal performances abound, but perhaps the most important thing about them is their ability to imbue every song with a wholly organic electricity and personality, not a single track feeling undersold or underserved. Don’t miss out on Disq the second time, because there’s a very good chance that the third record will be one a lot of people are talking about. [Jacob Martin]

Booter Album Cover

25. Booter – 10/10

Genre: Guitar Pop

“It seems so easy / clear and totally breezy.” Alannah Walker (formerly of Cannon Bros., now of Booter) says it while sighing over a crush, but she could just as easily be talking about the Winnipeg band’s bubbly brand of ‘90s-influenced guitar pop, perfect for capturing bite-sized bits of that breathless, butterfly-in-stomach fluttering. You can try to keep things casual with their catchy, Cam Loepkky-produced debut, but if you take these 13 songs out for a second or third spin, don’t be surprised if you find yourself falling hard for their jangly sweetness. [Taylor Ruckle]

Skullcrusher Album Cover

24. Skullcrusher – QUIET THE ROOM

Genre: Ambient, Singer-Songwriter

Helen Ballentine’s thought-provocation has a habit of blanketing every surface it reaches like a limitless fog. On QUIET THE ROOM, her first LP as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has cracked the code for a spellbinding ambient folk project, pairing evocative lyrical gestures like “Pass Through Me” and “It’s Like a Secret” with periods of ambient reflection on “Whistle of the Dead” and “Outside, playing.” The instrumental interludes feel and act less like interludes, moments of transition, than of individual movements themselves, preverbal expressions of unspeakable sensations. “Lullaby in February” is a stark standout, with gentle picking that evokes Grouper’s SHADE and the specter of all-encompassing bass that eventually swallows the track. Where Ballentine utters words, they make gestures, but they never explain, leaving an irresistible question mark over the record that calls you back time after time. [Devon Chodzin]

Father John Misty Album Cover

23. Father John Misty – CHLOË AND THE NEW 20TH CENTURY

Genre: Chamber Folk, Pop

Through a decade of music under the Father John Misty moniker, the inexorable Josh Tillman has (for the most part) played a very singular character as a songwriter, embodying the persona of the tortured aging hipster, sometimes self-aware and regularly profound. With his newest record, he drops the usual act and instead adopts a number of different POVs while traipsing through instrumentals that largely mimic jazz-era movie soundtracks, telling a number of interesting stories along the way. Something that stands out about this album is how bloody it tends to get, with more than a few deaths awaiting the protagonists of Tillman’s grisly everyday tales—all this while he plays them with a very simple wink and nod, fully embracing the role of entertainer. It’s a wonderfully subversive dichotomy, all of which is flipped on its head by the album’s closer, one of Tillman’s cleverest tricks to date. It’s a veteran effort from a veteran artist, and it has “Buddy’s Rendezvous” on it, one of the most effective character portraits you’ll ever hear in song. What’s not to love about that? [Jacob Martin]

Animal Collective

22. Animal Collective – TIME SKIFFS

Genre: Psych Rock

In the running for Comeback of the Year, Animal Collective returned with TIME SKIFFS, a record that lives up to the legacy they established themselves in the first decade of their existence as a band, culminating in their breakthrough—2009’s MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION. Since MPP, AnCo’s second decade was much more of a refraction on their newfound status as indie festival headliners. 2012’s CENTIPEDE HZ. saw the full four-member AnCo unit back with a more traditional lineup, but the record disappointed and underwhelmed those expecting a victory lap or an expansion on their established sound. Ever since, the band has reconvened under various combinations and permutations (scattered as they are due to both geographical distance and family commitments) resulting in a prolific stretch of albums, EPs, soundtracks, installation, and other visual work that has mostly seemed to have gone under the radar. Throughout that time, Panda Bear has consistently (and through this year) released solo material that approaches the hypnagogic heights of the collective group’s best work.

Now, Animal Collective have finally delivered an album that lives up to the promise of their best material and finds them seemingly back at full strength. All of the psychedelic hallmarks of FEELS are present here—bubbling, meandering melodies coupled with lysergic instrumental beds. They feel reinvigorated sonically throughout this album, finally easing into their classic sound while also showing marked influences of The Dead that keep them in the modern jam and neo-psych conversation. Just hearing the honeyed vocal interplay of Panda Bear and Avey Tare on record again, presented in this way, feels both thrilling and familiar. AnCo are back, baby! How sweet it is. [Luke Phillips]

Dry Cleaning Album Cover

21. Dry Cleaning – STUMPWORK

Genre: Post-Punk

Vocalist Florence Shaw’s stream of consciousness packs more thematic oomph on STUMPWORK, but that doesn’t mean the subject material is any less cluttered. Droll quips like, “I’ve seen your arse but not your mouth / that’s normal now,” fit alongside consumerist commentary without inflection. Shaw is just parsing the stimuli, and we’re adults with varying states of being after all. With association pulling so much of the lyrical weight, STUMPWORK is a bit like John Ashbery poetry set to surging guitars. Beyond the beefed-up wit, the instrumentation is the prime driver of the improvements from last year’s NEW LONG LEG. Reedy saxophones and a myriad of guitar tones drift in and out behind the group’s main pull. Especially towards the latter half of the record, Shaw’s accompaniment is constantly on the move, only focusing their energy to climax and build again alongside her musings. It’s my record of the year and the most exciting band on 4AD, full stop. [Chris Burleson]

Chat Pile Album Cover

20. Chat Pile – GOD’S COUNTRY

Genre: Doom Rock, Post-Hardcore

Violence is the constant background noise of American life. Preventable deaths are a constant reality of this country: deaths of people living on the streets, deaths of incarcerated people, deaths due to lack of healthcare—there’s a strange American need to tune out this reality all around us. Oftentimes, all it takes to provoke people is to ask why this violence is normalized. It’s what instantly gripped the internet’s attention when Oklahoma City rock band Chat Pile dropped their single “Why?” earlier this year. Bluntly and repeatedly asking: “Why do people have to live outside?” captures the brutal horror of living in this declining empire better than just about any other piece of art from this year. The blistering stoner humor ends up being so effective at contrasting the more plainly depressing and anguished moments on the record. What really made GOD’S COUNTRY so beguiling was how deftly it refused to be defined by one theme or sentiment. Sardonic nihilism and menace coil through the whole record, but musically the band never falls into easy genre categorization. It’s a record metalheads love, but it sounds more like Nick Cave, the Melvins, and Slint had a baby than any contemporary metal. It will never be a universally appealing record, but for people with a specific type of internet brain poisoning and a shared hopelessness about our power to do anything at all to prevent the collapse of society as we know it, it was a highlight of yet another bleak and violent year. [Carter Moon]


Genre: Hip Hop

Following 2020’s soul-baring ANIME, TRAUMA AND DIVORCE, Open Mike Eagle took a step back to reflect on sense memories of the late cassette era, when he was taping underground rap radio and freestyling in Chicago cyphers. If you’re looking for easy nostalgia, though, look elsewhere; COMPONENT SYSTEM WITH THE AUTO REVERSE may be full of callbacks and collabs from a simpler time, but it still finds Mike speaking to an uneasy present, rhyming Rhonda Rousey with Dr. Fauci in a eulogy for MF DOOM and taking stock of his own run as a perpetual indie underdog. His verses are as quick-witted and poignant as ever, especially on the sublime Quelle-Chris-produced “79th and Stony Island,” where he raps: “Memories like flesh wounds / The cure isn’t in a test tube / It’s the sound of my son belly laughin’ in the next room.” [Taylor Ruckle]

Cheekface Album Cover

18. Cheekface – TOO MUCH TO ASK

Genre: Post-Punk

In short, Greg Katz lied to us. Cheekface’s guitarist and tongue-in-cheek sprechgesanger spent interviews and AMAs teasing the LA trio’s third LP as “The same, but worse,” neglecting to mention the ways it branches out into triplet flows, LCD Soundsystem-type-beats, and at least one genuine sing-along (“Shut the fuck up” call and response included). Building on the strengths that made them screwball post-punk standouts to begin with, TOO MUCH TO ASK proves that, at least when it comes to addictive hooks and inventive new ways of talk-singing about the sheer oddness of life, Cheekface can do no wrong. [Taylor Ruckle]

Cola Album Cover

17. Cola – DEEP IN VIEW

Genre: Post-Punk

There are heaps of ways to describe Cola. (The Strokes if they lived through the cycle of recession-pandemic-recission, or if the reincarnations of Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen formed a band.) But as they prove on their debut album DEEP IN VIEW, the comparisons often fall decidedly short. What rings true, though, is that this band approaches post-punk with grace and deliberateness. So whether you pick up on those endlessly catchy hooks, street-savvy poetry (“At Pace” has an especially awesome line, “Out of nowhere, satisfied / Tattooed and starry-eyed”), the subtle tinge of nostalgia, and/or the effortless coolness of it all, the record distills what makes Cola both a pioneer and a stoic devotee for rock music in 2022. Whatever you label it, then, is entirely your own business. [Chris Coplan]

Caroline Loveglow Cover

16. Caroline Loveglow – STRAWBERRY

Genre: Dream Pop, Chillwave

Injecting a dream pop haze into the glossy chillwave of her 100% Electronica label, Caroline Loveglow’s debut album takes the best parts of the sounds she’s familiar with—shoegaze, alternative dance, psychedelic pop—and puts them all together for a short-yet-unforgettable 25-minute listen. Everything about STRAWBERRY just clicks into place, all lovingly self-produced by Loveglow as she shows off not only her chops as an instrumentalist and songwriter, but proves herself an artist who can balance elegant songcraft with soul-baring performances that never cease to impress as she puts the absolute most into these eight wonderful tracks. The only thing STRAWBERRY leaves you wanting is more. And that’s a good thing for a debut this refined, headstrong, and fully confident in its vision of lavish modern electronica. [Lurien Zitterkopf]

Weyes Blood Cover


Genre: Baroque Pop

AND IN THE DARKNESS, HEARTS AGLOW, Natalie Mering’s fifth album under her Weyes Blood moniker, is the “pandemic record” that makes the very idea of a “pandemic record” from a major pop artist feel otherwise obsolete. Like TITANIC RISING, this album similarly confronts looming existential threats like climate change and societal collapse, but AND IN THE DARKNESS, HEARTS AGLOW is about searching for an escape hatch from that despair rather than wallowing in it. It’s the rare “art for our times” that avoids devolving into ham-fisted proselytizing: a sincere paean to the virtues of love and softness that implores people to be gentler towards each other simply because “It’s a curse being so hard,” and “Mercy is the only cure for being so lonely.” 

On tracks like “The Worst Is Done” and the album’s lead single “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” Mering doesn’t come across as cynically striving for the sense of prestige and overwrought self-importance that usually comes with art about Big Current Issues, instead addressing the elephant in the room directly and with a remarkable lack of pretension. These lyrics have a sort of blunt obviousness that might initially scan as broad, but they crucially have the sharpness necessary to make these universal sentiments to land emotionally and not feel platitudinal. Plainspoken observations tie directly into the “it’s all a part of one big thing” Buddhist flower power energy at the album’s core, but Mering smartly grounds these themes in relatable situations at the individual level—like its opening lyrics of the album that describe “Sitting at this party / Wondering if anyone knows me,” before zooming out to the cosmic level and viewing these mundane moments as a vehicle to access bigger, headier ideas. To borrow a line that has stuck with me from Sam Sodomsky’s Pitchfork review of GOLDEN HOUR by Kacey Musgraves: On this new album Weyes Blood “sings simply about the world as if she’s the first person to notice, and you’re the first one she’s telling.” [Jacqueline Codiga]

Earl Sweatshirt Artwork

14. Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!

Genre: Lo-Fi Rap

It was only a matter of time before the esoteric art rap of Earl Sweatshirt’s recent sound collided with the palatable hooks and slacker magnetism of his early days. Both 2018’s SOME RAP SONGS and 2019’s FEET OF CLAY found Sweatshirt moving further into the abstract for better or worse—2015’s reclusive I DON’T LIKE SHIT I DON’T GO OUTSIDE signaled a shift towards minimalism and succinct songwriting, but hardly could have prepared us for the wilderness he would later get lost in. Fittingly, SICK! comes at the tail end of a moment where a crop of Sweatshirt’s collaborative peers (MIKE, lojii, MAVI, Navy Blue, to name a few) have become celebrated for charting the same path he trailblazed throughout the 2010s. On SICK!, Sweatshirt spends 24 minutes perfectly fusing cloud rap, ambient noise, lo-fi beats, and avant-jazz with a pop ear we haven’t heard this intact since DORIS. “Vision” breathes and expands with a delicate pacing, the pitter-patter of rolling drum machines and piano tape loops falling like rain on a window sill. It’s beautiful, but it’s altogether accessible. Same for the dub bounce of standout “Lye,” which tick-tocks its brassy sample in metronomic fashion while Sweatshirt delivers his drawn-out anecdotes as only he can. At only 28, it’s mind-boggling to consider him an elder statesman of this genre, yet the smoked-out performance across SICK! is that of a man ready to embrace that role. [CJ Simonson]

The Beths Cover


Genre: Indie Rock

People want to mark 2022 as the flashpoint power pop year, but The Beths have been consistently releasing some of the best guitar-pop music of the past five years. If the title of their latest, EXPERT IN A DYING FIELD, is a bit of a cheeky misnomer, it begets the fact that this is probably the best Beths record yet.

The Beths are another act who had their momentum speed-bumped by the pandemic—2020’s JUMP ROPE GAZERS was released in the heat of COVID summer, and while it featured more great songwriting and hooks, it was perhaps plagued by the time in which it was released and a couple midtempo songs too many. Like many bands faced with global adversity threatening their existence, The Beths rose to the challenge and delivered a great collection of zippy tunes that showcase them at their absolute best. If you’re not already on The Beths’ train but love the new wave of power pop, say “g’day” to New Zealand’s best export. [Luke Phillips]

Cate Le Bon Cover

12. Cate Le Bon – POMPEII

Genre: Art Pop

While Cate Le Bon’s music has never stayed stagnant, her intricate guitarwork and vocals that soar over instantly memorable lyrics have generated a consistent stream of intrigue. Her peculiar vintage stylings and delicate hooks have earned her an audience of curious devotees who love an oddball. With POMPEII, her sixth record, Le Bon tapped into a new sensation: effortless cool. Between the minimalist-but-punctuated guitar lines, belting saxophones, and affectless vocals, POMPEII has an edge. That essence is especially sleek on “Moderation,” with new wave sensibilities and naked appreciation for obsession, complete with a video harkening back to Roman figure sculpture that recalls Pompeii itself. Her cool is still approachable, absorbable, and danceable. [Devon Chodzin]

Mo Troper Cover

11. Mo Troper – MTV

Genre: Power Pop, Indie Rock

I might have opted for “The Prince of Power Pop,” but Mo Troper’s devotion to the coat racks of the genre has taken his craft to heights worthy of feudal claims over the entire rock landscape. Artists everywhere: let this man show you how to use an 8-track. As it was for the best before him, recording on tape allows for far more than sentimental novelty. Through the whirring kaleidoscope of “Power Pop Group Chat” or the golden warmth of “Across The USA,” Troper can juice the hiss and fuzz to any emotional end. It’s the purest type of songwriting, the kind that makes you want to pick up a guitar. You’ve got no shot at the throne, though. There are hooks here that would make John, Paul, and George blush. MTV is saccharine, bitter, embarrassing, hilarious, hopeful, and everything an indie rock album should be. [Chris Burleson]

Black Midi Cover

10. black midi – HELLFIRE

Genre: Hipster Prog

Say what you will about black midi, but one thing that nobody can deny is that there is not a single other band on the planet Earth who sounds like they do. They traffic in a completely distinct brand of instrumentally hectic and sonically overpowering experimental rock that is played with astonishing technical prowess, owing as much to Primus and Zappa as they do to Slint or King Crimson. The propulsion, the manic energy, and the daring of HELLFIRE are undeniable, but what helps this album to stand out the most are Geordie Greep’s twisted lyrics, which find a sharper form here than ever before. The theme is simple: Everyone goes to Hell at the end of every story, but the various seedy and colorful characters he describes are so vividly imaginative that the journey is always more fun than the destination. The instrumentation to accompany these damned souls is suitably off the walls and inventive; every single track on this album simply drips with creativity. HELLFIRE is theatrical, it’s soaring, it’s frantic, it’s punishing, it’s hilarious, it’s literary—it’s one of the best releases of the year, and another outstanding record from one of the world’s most talented groups. [Jacob Martin]

Pendant Cover

9. Pendant – HARP

Genre: Electronic, Punk

Millennials spent nearly two decades handwringing online over what music was “cool” to listen to or not, only for the general thrust of culture to condense everything into one constantly flowing stream of content. Poptimism and the needless subgenre and microgenre categorizing of the Tumblr. era begot not only a monogenre but also a decade-length process we’re still feeling the shockwaves of. Essentially, this process—which coalesced with hyperpop, traced itself through Carly Rae Jepsen’s EMOTION, and peaked with the rise of 100 gecs—culminated in nearly every millennial being activated like Order 66 during the pandemic to start espousing and finding the merits in literally everything they’ve ever listened to over the course of their life.

PENDANT’s “caustic pop” sound—freshly incorporated on his Saddle Creek debut HARP— is built on the cold landscapes of OPN and other Tumblr. chillwave/vaporwave touchpoints, but infuses them with classic ‘90s shoegaze, house, jungle, and pop influences, as well as the melting pot approach of the Beastie Boys’ peak work. It’s a landmark work in forward-thinking pop merging chilly, brainy, modern ambient aesthetics and nostalgic sounds of a bygone era of MTV collectively re-envisioned and re-appreciated by Too Online millennials. [Luke Phillips]

Sooner Album Cover


Genre: Shoegaze

Sooner sit at the corner of Mazzy Star and The Sundays, bands that are at once expansive and intimate, heartfelt and piercing. Their stunning debut, DAYS AND NIGHTS, is a sublime collection of nostalgic and atmospheric songs that, even at their lightest, channel a certain level of melancholy. Federica Tassano’s gentle vocals are a grand contrast to the reverb-drenched guitars on “Boscobel” while lighting up the stellar summertime feeling of “Thursday” and crushing gloom of “Meaning.” Not a finer debut was released from a band that sounds seasoned far beyond their years. [Jack Probst]

Billy Woods Cover

7. billy woods – AETHIOPES

Genre: Progressive Rap

You could call his 10th solo LP the album of the year, but billy woods’ AETHIOPES also might as well be best picture. Between samples from Nigerian film, over abstract beats by Preservation, woods writes like a cinematic auteur, rapping artful narration and naturalistic dialog alike, all with an impeccable sense of lyrical mise-en-scène. For this time-hopping survey of African identity, that can mean vivid re-stagings of memory—the avocado tree in the yard of his childhood home in Zimbabwe that he climbs to investigate whether his neighbor might be the exiled ruler of Ethiopia—or dreamscapes where time itself collapses under the weight of generational trauma, fire consuming sugar plantations while his glassy eyes look out from inside a museum diorama. A triumph of visual storytelling—two thumbs up. [Taylor Ruckle]

Momma Album Cover


Genre: Indie Rock, Grunge

Brooklyn’s Momma, comprised of high school chums Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten, came into their own on their third album, HOUSEHOLD NAME. With a mix of atmospheric and melodic guitar work, the songs invoke the sounds of ‘90s alt-rock acts Veruca Salt, the layered math rock of Pinback circa-2004, and the indie-tinged 2010s emo of Now, Now. The duo makes every lyric count on songs like “Brave”: ‘Cut me open and stay right here / I just want you to stay / I’ll say nothing, I’ll show no fear / I can take it, I’m brave.” It’s raw and powerful, stunning and poetic. And any band that drops a Pavement reference in their hit single “Speeding 72” is okay in our book. [Jack Probst]

Alex G Album Cover


Genre: Indie Rock

Following the music of Alex G has often felt like rooting for a talented but mistake-prone quarterback: You love him, but you always wondered whether he will ever be able to get out of his own way and take the team to victory. Every Alex G album has at least a handful of truly great songs, but mileage varies wildly on the left-turn genre pivots like “Brick” and “Sportstar,” and to this point there was no Alex G album that felt celebrated without any reservations or caveats. It had begun to feel like I just had to accept that unevenness as part of his process, preferable to a “mature” but boringly down-the-middle Alex G album.

This is all to set up what makes GOD SAVE THE ANIMALS so miraculous: Not only is this Alex G’s most consistent album to date, but he somehow managed to deliver an “Alex G grows up” record while committing harder than ever to his idiosyncratic quirks at the same time. Take centerpiece single “Runner,” which is his catchiest and most traditionally tuneful rock song yet, but it still makes room for the howling “I have done a couple bad things,” scream. The difference is not only that the left turns on GOD SAVE THE ANIMALS are executed with more finesse this time around (see the bratty hyperpop explosion at the end of “No Bitterness”), but crucially these flourishes are woven into nearly every track rather than being cordoned off into their own separate zones. Musically, GOD SAVE THE ANIMALS is every bit as impish as the two Alex G records before it; its “maturity” instead comes in the form of actual emotional maturity. Alex G insists his songs are character studies and not autobiography, but it’s impossible not to notice the difference between the 24-year-old who sang “I never raised a kid / But I bet I’d do a good job if I did,” on “Powerful Man” and the 29-year-old singing “You say one day we should have a baby, well / God help me, I love you, I agree, yeah,” on “Miracles.” GOD SAVE THE ANIMALS is Alex G’s best album yet, preserving what made him such a beloved cult figure while also opening a door to a career with the kind of widespread appeal I would have previously never thought possible without compromise. To finish my strained football metaphor, he’s going to Disney World. [Jacqueline Codiga]

MJ Lenderman Album Cover

4. MJ Lenderman – BOAT SONGS

Genre: Slacker Rock, Alt-Country

I could throw out 10 artists under 25 that are making music well beyond their years, but few have triangulated my music taste, Southern touchstones, and love of cheap beer to the degree that MJ Lenderman has. Like David Berman, Lenderman reaches into the quotidian and pulls out affirming testaments to the human condition. Almost every song cuts a slice of the American mythos to translate the feelings surrounding heartbreak or the slow march of time into the red, white, and blue universal. The likelihood that Jordan’s flu game was the result of a hangover comforts our own love of the sauce, and the lowest moments in life take place at the Six Flags Over Texas. Life’s short and it tastes just like it costs. [Chris Burleson]

Ethel Cain Album Cover


Genre: Rock, Art Pop

On one hand, PREACHER’S DAUGHTER is a concept album narrating the life of Hayden Anhedӧnia’s spectral alter-ego, the daughter of a small-town pastor who fled the strictures of her prescribed life but found the smoldering horrors of American men waiting to lurch and kill her. And on the other hand, it’s the most entrancing collection of slow-burning bangers one can recall from the alternative pop scene since NATURAL BORN LOSERS. From one track to another, the Ethel Cain narrative unfolds in macabre and addictive vignettes, produced with extraordinary power. Anhedӧnia collects the weightiest attributes of post-metal, slowcore, heartland rock, and more typically underground genres into a spellbinding storybook that inspires repeat listens, even with the album’s prodigious length. PREACHER’S DAUGHTER is the first in a trilogy that will elaborate on further characters in Anhedӧnia’s derelict universe, one which turns the American dream upside down with a new urgency and nuance that betrays the fiction’s addictive, aspirational promises and the terrors it masks. [Devon Chodzin]

Big Thief Album Cover


Genre: Folk Rock

Bigger and bolder than anything they’ve done thus far, DRAGON NEW WARM MOUNTAIN I BELIEVE IN YOU is nothing short of a masterful left-turn for Big Thief. Across the sprawling 20-song tracklist, they dip their toes in rowdy shoegaze, blissful psych-folk, and twangy Americana without skipping a beat. Adrianne Lenker’s peerless and meticulous songwriting is given even more space to roam as she and her three bandmates explore the outer edges of folk rock and what they’re able to do with it. DRAGON NEW WARM MOUNTAIN I BELIEVE IN YOU is magical in the same way as seeing fireworks for the first time was, or how exciting exploring a forest was as a kid: Simply getting to experience so many feelings at once and hold them close is all the album needs to pull you in and easily cement its spot as one of the year’s most impressive and expansive releases. [Lurien Zitterkopf]

Alvvays Cover

1. Alvvays – BLUE REV

Genre: Dream Pop, Shoegaze

Alvvays have always been a consensus band. The consensus? That they’re the best indie pop act of the last decade. With BLUE REV, Alvvays deliver an album that affirms that mantle and takes them to the Indie Mount Olympus. Much ink has been spilled on the Sisyphean journey the band undertook in order to finally get this album recorded—in an initial setback, Molly Rankin’s apartment was burglarized and a recorder with several demos on it was taken. A day later, the band’s practice space flooded, and their gear was almost destroyed. Then, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic threw another further wrench in their recording and touring plans. When the band finally regrouped with producer Shawn Everett towards the end of 2021, they took an interesting approach to recording, running through the whole album live several times and adding overdubs and additional layers from those initial live-to-studio tracks.

Over the course of their discography, Alvvays have taken a more maximalist approach to classic dream and indie pop, as opposed to sister band TOPS’ more chill, smooth, minimalist lo-fi. BLUE REV turbocharges and builds on that approach, resulting in not only the most immediate and zippy Alvvays record yet, but also their most refined one from a songwriting and textural standpoint. Each song is so full of ideas—new aesthetic layers get added or bloom throughout, revealing little sonic cathedrals like a faberge egg.

Much like many of the other albums on 2022 year-end lists, the twisting, turning, kitchen sink songwriting is chock-full of wild and wooly hooks that seem to bear an obvious influence to hyperpop’s current sensibilities. Similar lower attention span music has become increasingly more in vogue on the power pop front—tracing a legacy of bite-sized minute-long song indie purveyors from Minutemen to GBV to Magnetic Fields to current artists like Mo Troper or 2nd Grade. While Alvvays’ sound is steeped in classic dream pop templates, there’s always been an undercurrent of more millennial influences like chiptune that creep in (dig the outro on “Plimsoul Punks,” which sounds like it’s from one of the original POKEMON games), and those aural hallmarks bear out throughout the album. Despite the hurdles and great adversity, Alvvays rose to the challenge and delivered quite possibly their best album yet. Where they go from here is up to them. It’s Alvvays’ world—we’re just living in it! [Luke Phillips]

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1 Comment

  1. Some real hidden gems in here. Thank you so much.

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