Look, it’s been a weird year. I don’t really want to talk about it. What I do want to talk about is music, always, and what I’ve found is that there’s been a ton of great, under the radar stuff this year. I may do a proper post about what albums I’ve loved so far in 2022, but this post is specifically dedicated to songs you may have missed. You don’t need two posts about how great Bad Bunny or Sharon Van Etten are. So this post is 20 songs, unranked, that I think you should hear. I didn’t put any effort into planning genres here, just grabbed 20 that I love, but there’s a mix from noise to ska to old school hip-hop!
8 Kalacas – “Frontera”
Coming out of the gates with a controversial choice, because I know some people don’t like metal, and some people really don’t like ska, so ska-metal might sound atrocious. But 8 Kalacas combines the two in a way detached from any dopey 90’s skacore done by ignorant white dudes. Not to say that the music isn’t fun, because it’s a guilty pleasure of a track, but there’s enough genuine artistic passion and seriousness in the lyrics – a tale about immigrating back to Mexico after the American dream has failed you – to present this as a woeful tune demanding of your attention.
FFO: Streetlight Manifesto, Soulfly, dancing and/or immigration reform
Börn – “Norn”
I know absolutely nothing about this band and, full disclosure, I only found them on a bigger blog doing this exact same type of midyear post. I don’t know how they found this band, a new Icelandic band who’s debut album has yet to muster 3500+ spotify plays for any song. But boy does this rip. This is the exact type of music I was looking for in my teens – guitar-heavy goth shit. This has the sound of a noisy, combustible no wave or noise rock band, but the vocals of something more gothic. It’s loud, melodic, dark and extremely sweaty. More of this, please.
FFO: METZ, mclusky, sweating your mascara off
Foxtails – “space orphan”
There’s a handful of albums I’ve listened to or added to lists to listen that were based off recommendations where I simply cannot remember where they were recommended to me. I jumped into this album entirely unfamiliar with the group, but based on the low-caps band name/album title/song titles and the cutesy album cover, I was expecting some tender indie. What I got instead was an inspired mix of alternative, violin, and scream-y vocals, not out of the realm of Defiance, Ohio, but less gimmicky then them too. This song is more representative of how much I loved the album in general, but it rips. There’s some very chaotic, downright uncomfortable stuff going on here.
FFO: Defiance Ohio, Gouge Away, having a breakdown in small town america
HEALTH/Ada Rook/PlayThatBoyZai – “MURDER DEATH KILL”
MDK ALL FUCKIN DAY
HEALTH is one of my favorite bands, and Ada Rook is maybe my favorite screamer right now, so this pairing just makes sense. The industrial group has been working with tons of artists – most notably Nine Inch Nails – across two collaborative albums. Results have been mixed, but this absolute ripper of a 2-minute song makes it all worth it. Music doesn’t get much more in your face than this, an absolute wicked aura matched only by volume. Seems intentional that the title matches the slogan of a wrestler who was once killed in the ring, revived, and tried to fight the paramedics to clear him to finish the match. I’m MDK affiliated.
FFO: Backxwash, The Body, light tube bundles
KRS-One – “Raw Hip Hop”
Thirty-six years into his career, KRS-One doesn’t have anything he has to prove to anyone, and he’s allowed to do whatever he wants. While his new album – his 16th(!) solo record – varies in quality, it’s got some bangers like “Raw Hip Hop.” It lives up to the title, with a first-person overview of the genre’s history from someone who’s always been at the forefront of it. His forceful rapping is mixed with a minimalist beat, resulting in an old-school sounding song from an old-school artist. It’s criminal that he still flies under the radar.
FFO: Q-Tip, Biz Markie, an era without Machine Gun Kelly in it
Leikeli47 – “Chitty Bang”
Okay so you probably have heard this song, as it’s being used in a TV commercial right now (don’t ask me for what, I tune those out), but it’s worth a mention here as the full song is simply a blast. The song opens the rapper’s excellent new album “Shape Up,” the first of many straight fun songs on a Side A that plays like one long party jam. Given that “Zoom” has well eclipsed 5 million Spotify plays and “Done Right” seems to be on TikTok a lot, I’m guessing – hoping – that Leikeli47 isn’t on these lists much longer.
FFO: Princess Nokia, Rico Nasty, that brief era where MIA was huge
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – “The Harvest”
You’re right, I did want to write about this one partially because they have the best band name in music hands down. But I’ve been singing their praises for a few years now. I’m hit and miss when it comes to stoner metal, so it makes sense that I’d love this song that really toys with the format. It’s got the length (9:10) and it’s got the riffs – by god, does it have the riffs – but it’s also got spacey synths and dreamy vocals. It somehow sounds both warm and menacing at the same time, as if it is simply not of this planet. I’ll give you a few minutes to take a few tokes before we continue.
FFO: Blood Incantation, Neurosis, getting high in the forest and what, is that a UFO? is that a UFO?
Mattiel – “Lighthouse”
Mattiel is one of a handful of indie artists whose continued lack of mainstream success upsets me to no end. Their new album “Georgia Gothic” continues their trend of making very digestible indie tunes with diverse inspirations, but a complete sound. My personal favorite, “Lighthouse” is bolstered by horns and and an excellent, repeated vocal line. Songs like this were designed to stick in your head.
FFO: Sunflower Bean, Horsegirl, feeling restless on a nice summer day
MJ Lenderman – “Tastes Just Like It Costs”
The name MJ Lenderman has been on my radar for a bit but his recent “Boat Songs” album is the first release of his I’ve actually heard. His name usually comes up alongside folksier artists that I’m usually hit-and-miss on, so to hear an album of generally grungier, more old school alternative was a delightful surprise. This is possibly my favorite on the album, because I’m a huge sucker for a song that ends on a repeating line (as seen elsewhere on on this list). This is a poppy, fuzzy guitar song with a neat vocal rhythm, resulting in what Dinosaur, Jr. might sound like if J. Mascis was just a little bit playful.
FFO: Dinosaur, Jr., Pavement, flannel shirts
Otoboke Beaver – “I Won’t Dish Out Salads”
I picked this one up via a recommendation and only listened to it this week, and I remain confounded on how to even classify this band. It’s garage-punk, with the ferocity of noise and the vocals of something poppier. Too melodic for Melt Banana, too hardcore for J-pop, and the tracks are just the right length for grindcore (the album’s last three songs account for only 39 seconds of music). It’s fun, aggressive, and insanely melodic. There’s only one other band I’ve listened to this year that sounded similar, and they’re…
FFO: Melt Banana, Guerilla Toss, trashing the term “guilty pleasure” once and for all
Perennial – “Tooth Plus Claw”
I’m a little biased on this one, as I recently got to interview these fine folks about their excellent new album, but it’s one of my favorite songs from the year nonetheless. Perennial’s music is a blast in both ways, and this song works a mission statement – a bouncy dance-punk track that harmonizes fun and aggression, all wrapped up in 85 seconds. Some bands that came up in conversation were Be Your Own Pet & The Hives, and it’s hard not to see Perennial as a spiritual successor to both those names.
FFO: Be Your Own Pet, The Hives, chugging cold brew
PLOSIVS – “Hit the Breaks”
Somehow this supergroup comprising members of Pinback, Against Me! (Atom Willard!) and Hot Snakes seems to have gone completely under the radar. The opening song off their debut song definitely sounds like the latter band, an aggressive but melodic indie-punk ditty that sounds like it was designed to absolutely kill in a live setting. You could argue that we don’t need yet another jangly garage group – but when it sounds as good as this, who cares?
FFO: Hot Snakes, Les Savy Fav, dads that rock
Porridge Radio – “Birthday Party”
Naming a song “Birthday Party” and then repeating the line “I don’t wanna be loved” endlessly is the grimmest possible way to establish a song. But that’s what the indie group Porridge Radio is about. Add in the pained vocals, deceivingly catchy rhythms and faint sounds of kids in the background, and you’ve got one of the year’s most brutally depressing songs. It’s what to expect from Porridge Radio, and it’s done well across the whole album, but never as good as here.
FFO: Nick Cave, the sadder Los Campesinos! albums, working on your birthday
SOAK – “Purgatory”
We’ve seen an absolute glut of electric-acoustic indie with pretty vocals over the last decade, but it’s still so nice to find artists who can do it so well. This song, the opener to a very solid album, mixes comforting acoustic with more unpredictable electric rhythms and deceptively haunting vocals. Their voice sounds so, so much like Adrienne Lenker’s, which is to say pretty and haunting at the same time. The repetition on “I’ll be hungry forever” to end the song is an extra wrinkle on the song’s beauty.
FFO: Big Thief, Waxahatchee, autumn
Robert Stillman – “Cherry Ocean”
This song remains confounding to me. It’s just shy of 9 minutes, features just a few instruments and very hushed, difficult-to-decipher vocals. It’s the only song on the album with lyrics, as the album otherwise meanders around various subgenres of jazz. I *guess* this counts as jazz, too, but I’m not even comfortable with that label. All of the components of this feel warm – the piano drone, the sax, the quiet vocals – and yet the final product feels cold and questioning. The album’s title – What Does It Mean To Be An American? – comes from a different song, but in the year 2022 that is a menacing question, and this song reflects it. There’s practically nothing to pull from this track, and yet I keep coming back to it.
FFO: Mount Eerie, Gene Hackman playing saxophone at the end of “The Conversation”
Tropical Fuck Storm/King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Satanic Slumber Party Part 2 (Midnight in Sodom)“
Seemingly half of the current rock & punk bands I like come from Australia, so it only makes sense to see a team-up like this. I’ll admit I am not super familiar with TFS but Gizz has been my most played band each year since I got obsessed in 2018, and this song plays into their super wild side, just 6 minutes of chaotic art-punk that seems to never nail down any kind of central rhythm but also maintain just enough normalcy to not be pure cacophony. This song is pure, unadulterated fun. Gizz are by no means an undiscovered group but they released this split just weeks before their monstrous album “Omnium Gatherum” and it seems to have gotten lost in that album’s shadow. Also, be happy Gizz-heads: they’ve already committed to releasing 3 (!) more albums this year.
FFO: the better Animal Collective albums, black midi, riding a unicorn through a rainbow ocean
The Venomous Pinks – “Todos Unidos”
Ok so this song is actually 2 years old now and popped up on my radar last year, but the Arizona punk trio’s debut was finally released in June, so I’m counting it. Messy and angry, the song hearkens back to the times when hardcore punk was first burgeoning into the mainstream with its call to action and gang vocals. It feels refreshing to hear such straightforward street punk in an era where the genre label “punk” is arguably being thrown around too loosely. Given that they just wrapped up a tour with *the Dead Kennedys,* I would say to watch for this name.
FFO: Rancid, Pennywise, the great street punk bands from your hometown that split up to become firefighters
Weird Nightmare – “Searching For You”
Weird Nightmare is the solo project from Alex Edkins from METZ, but one listen to the song and you could probably figure that one out on your own. While the song is much more distinctly indie than anything METZ, the sweatiest band in the world, has done, it retains much of the same sound. Edkins still snarls his way through this slightly menacing track, and he remains infallible in his way of coupling melody and noise. This song takes heavy inspiration from some legendary 80’s/90’s guitar alternative, and we should be thankful for it.
FFO: METZ (obviously), Preoccupations, the crushing weight of a Tuesday afternoon
Zeal & Ardor – “Feed the Machine”
There weren’t a ton of albums I loved in Q1 this year so this new Zeal & Ardor album sat near the top of my list for a while. I truly don’t know why they’re not getting more attention than they are, though I blame the metal purists who demand every band follow the exact same script. Zeal & Ardor not only didn’t follow a metal script, they never even read it. This song – more indicative of how much I loved the album in general – starts with a damn stomp clap. The album takes black metal and incorporates elements of African music, chamber pop, industrial, folk, and just whatever the hell the band feels is appropriate. Nothing about it should work, and yet it does in a way that still makes metal feel fresh. Truly one of the best albums of the year so far.
FFO: Deafheaven, Author & Punisher, music that pisses off your parents and pisses off the people who make music to piss off your parents
Zola Jesus – “Sewn”
Zola’s new album “Arkhon” – only 1 day old at the time of me writing this – masterfully blends peaceful euphoria, haunting melodies and vengeful brooding into one album. My personal favorite from the album swings towards the latter, a menacing synth track that sounds like an animal creeping in the night. It hits remarkably well on the album, as the previous track is deceitfully melodic, but it works well as a standalone track as well.
FFO: Chelsea Wolfe, Jenny Hval, the Matrix nightclub scenes
And that’s 20! Thanks to anyone who actually read through all of this for some reason, I appreciate anyone so willing to discover new tunes! Also a shoutout to A Wilheim Scream, Blood Red Shoes & Thou, who all had songs that initially made the cut here before I swapped some around – I’ve loved these groups for years now. This was fun for me even if no one read it, so I’ll try to do another 20 at year’s end!