A quick word about 2022: after getting my second vaccination I was finally comfortable enough to get out of the house and catch a few shows. So I promptly hit up 105 of em (still 2 to go before the new year) and discovered a lot of great new music. It was simply too much to not write about, so I’m back with a list. It’s far from comprehensive, but it’ll have to do.
No Sunshine Collective – Old Radio
There’s nothing as gratifying as No Sunshine Collective’s kick-you-in-the-face wall-of-sound rock-n-roll approach. Clocking in at 1:40, “Old Radio” is actually the longest of their trio of singles. And it’s their best. Can’t wait for the full-length.
Heavy Petter – Final Post
Speaking of gratification, we all like to rubberneck as someone has a very public and meltdown on the internet. Enter: Barrie’s Heavy Petter and the second track on their split 7” (w/ The Holdouts). A fast and furious piece of punk fury – it features what is simply the best sing-along chorus of 2022.
The Tryouts – Nothing Bad Is Ever Going To Happen
Few mourned the tragic demise of David Macmichael’s long-running band The Danger Bees. A band so excellent that the fact that so few mourned it is more tragic than their actual demise. Fortunately for us lucky few Macmichael (now located in Newcastle, Australia) has teamed up with his wife Chelsea Reed for an EP of clever pop perfection. And as long as we keep getting songs like “Wolf at the Door (Structural Integrity)” there’s really no need to mourn at all.
The Supervoids – Neon Lights
Resist as you may, there is no denying the inherent sexiness of Supervoids frontman Greg Kowalczyk’s classic crooner voice. Or his ability to shift gears as showcased on 4-song EP Neon Lights. He effortlessly slides between high octane rock, funk, blues and classic r&b. Like true chameleons, The Supervoids can do it all.
Top 10 Albums of 2022
#10 – Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down
At the end of 2014 Yeah Yeah Yeahs went on hiatus – seemingly to never be heard from again. Karen O’s name would pop up in a number of collaborations with the likes of Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross, Ezra Koenig, Danger Mouse, David Lynch(!) and Willie Nelson(!!!). Thus it came as a bit of a surprise to see Yeah Yeah Yeahs reformed in 2022 instead of more collabs.
I instantly latched on to lead single “Spitting Off The Edge Of The World” – the collaboration (oh dang) with Perfume Genius. It’s a widescreen anthem that hits with the force of a thousand exploding glaciers. The rest of the album is filled with the fuzzy club-ready jams you come to expect. Some a bit more contemporary (the minimalist “Blacktop”) and some still hangin’ out in 2003 (“Fleez”).
It’s good to see the gang back together.
#9 – Wasting Time – Once More Without Feeling
Let’s hear it for the second full length from this iteration of Wasting Time. A tight, polished collection of throwback pop punk numbers destined to find a home at your prom. Or at least the one you wished you didn’t get wasted at and spent barfing in the bathroom. Album standout “My Limited French” has plenty of pep and will inspire all kinds of embarrassing dance moves. Meanwhile, acoustic number “Certain Days” is the perfect song to hold your partner close – lest they try to get away.
#8 – AAWKS – Heavy on the Cosmic
On the sixth day of creation, God created the animals of the world. Which was a shit-ton of work – so on the seventh day – God rested. And needed some tunes to listen to. The Devil said “how about some sweet metal riffs?” and God replied “not today, Satan!”
So God had to wait another 7500 years (or 4,500,000,000 but who’s counting?) before He/She could listen to Heavy on the Cosmic: the debut full-length from Barrie psych-stoner-doom four-piece AAWKS. An album evolved (uh-oh) from the likes of Sabbath, Sleep and Electric Wizard. Filled with lumbering gargantuan dirges (“Space City”) and some mid-tempo shufflers (“Sunshine Apparitions”). And as promised, beneath the thick fuzzy production, are the sweet metal riffs promised from below.
#7 – Skull Fist – Paid In Full
An ominous voice declares “I am no longer your slave, the debt has been paid in full” at the top of the title track of Skull Fist’s fifth release. No doubt a reference to a record deal that went sideways. Featuring six new songs and two re-recorded from 2010’s “Heavier Than Metal” EP (“Blackout”, “Heavier Than Metal”), “Pain In Full” continues the Fist’s long-running revival of 80’s heavy metal. Album standout “Long Live The Fist” cuts a breakneck pace and features the twin guitarmonies we come to expect from Skull Fist. “Madman” is more deliberate and riff-heavy. There’s a lot of great throwback metal albums coming out every year. But great songwriting and melodies are what keeps Skull Fist ahead of the pack.
#6 – Andy Bell – Flicker
2022 continues what has been a renaissance period for Andy Bell. As co-frontman of Oxford shoegazing pioneers Ride, the comeback records “Weather Diaries” (2017) and “This Is Not A Safe Place” (2019) are still very fresh in memory. But it’s his solo releases under his own name (2020’s “The View From Halfway Down”) and as GLOK (last year’s “Pattern Recognition”) that make it clear that the man has no intentions of slowing down. (he maintains that more Ride material is on the way)
2022’s “Flicker” is 18 tracks and over 75 minutes long and is very much a flushing out of lingering ideas leftover from the past couple decades. It’s got a low-key, blissed out vibe as Bell experiments with different sounds. “The Sky Without You” plays backwards on top of itself. The Beta Band-esque “Riverside” layers psychedelic guitars, synths and drum loops over a groovy bassline. If you’re looking for something more familiar, “Something Like Love” is akin to a “Vapour Trail” part II. Highly recommended.
#5 – Carpenter Brut – Leather Terror
Anyone down for spooky 80’s movie music? After providing the score for Seth Ickerman’s “Blood Machines” (released in 2020), the French producer found himself a man without a movie. Carpenter Brut’s “leather” trilogy acts as the soundtrack to a series of non-existent movies (though the accompanying music videos provide plenty of clues to what the films may look like) The second part of the trilogy is longer and more sonically ambitious than its predecessor (2018’s “Leather Teeth”).
Right off the bat “Straight Outta Hell” pummels listeners with pounding drums over fuzzy synths and choir vocals. “Night Prowler” carries an eerie vibe over driving beats. “Paradisi Gloria” brings the album to a crescendo before the finale title track leaps into black metal territory with screams provided by Johannes Andersson.
Speaking of which, there’s six different guest vocalists on the album. And they each bring something different. Sylvaine sings over the dirgey “Stabat Mater”, GUNSHIP appears on synth-driven “The Widow Maker” and Persha lends vocals to the club-ready synthwave insta-classic “Lipstick Masquerade”.
“Leather Terror” is Carpenter Brut’s most vicious record to date. I shudder to think what’s next to come.
#4 – Stone Leek – Revival
Stone Leek’s last album – the then aptly titled “My Last Words” dropped in 2010. Then seemingly nothing until a couple singles dropped years later. First “Testimonial/Temperment” in 2019, then “Blast” and “Who Knew” on a split with Bates Motel. Finally – earlier this year – the Kyoto-based melodic hardcore quartet dropped “Revival” – a brand new full length that collects the aforementioned singles with seven new tracks.
Stone Leek yet again perfectly combines blastbeats, guitar fireworks and urgent melodic hooks – a familiar sound to skatepunkers, but executed perfectly here. Album closer “Goodfellas” is absolutely huge. Get this album.
#3 – Metalian – Beyond The Wall
If seeing the letters NWOBHM together gets you excited, move this album up a spot on the list. Montreal’s Metalian have been paying homage to classic bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden for over 15 years. There’s plenty of fireworks on display with burners like “Fire on the Road” or “Last Chance To Ride”. Meanwhile the deliberate numbers like tension-fuelled “March to the Death” or epic throwback “Rise of the AI” are drawn out to maximum effect. Midtempo rocker “Dark City” is the closest Metalian has come to a party anthem.
For those who believe that heavy metal peaked in the late-70’s/early-80’s, this is the album for you. I’ll say without hesitation that “Beyond The Wall” is a more enjoyable listen than Priest’s “Firepower” (2018) or Iron Maiden’s “Senjutsu” (2021).
#2 – Avem – Three Birds Stoned
One of the joys of writing about music is getting to use ridiculously specific sub-genres when describing a record. Enter Ramonescore (all downstrokes, sir), Gutter-Pop or most specifically to Avem: Birdcore. Many bands sing about animal rights. Few do it from the perspective of the *the animals* and even fewer do it as effectively as performed on this album. When I find myself questioning my own set of values, yet unable to resist catchy songs like “Rat Race” or “Pre-Suburban Paradise”, I know that Avem has got a hold on me.
As a bonus – a remastered version of the Sing Every Day EP is included at the back end of the album featuring party anthem “Blue Jay”. The title track – a remarkable piece about resilience – is uniquely compelling and beautiful. This EP’s inclusion furthers Three Birds Stoned’s case as an essential purchase.
#1 – The Bare Minimum – The Bare Minimum Is A Gateway Drug
This one’s a bit of a controversial pick for #1. You see, half of this album was released in advance. Drip-fed one single at a time. Six total. And they were released during the slow brutal first years of the pandemic. With trips to the record store off the table, I had a lot of time alone at home to listen to my new digital files. By the time the rest of the songs were released Nov 2022, I was already in love with this album. Call it a competitive advantage.
What I love most about The Bare Minimum is their ambiguous sound. (Are they punk? Are they metal? Let the debate begin!) They hit the sweet spot of loud, fast, melodic and INTENSE. There’s so many “holy shit” moments on this record. The scat breakdown on “Party Martyr”. The face-melting solo on “Garbage In My Brain”. The Offspring-esque chorus of “Woah” (by design I’m told). The majestic metal intro to “Part Time Punks” before it explodes into a frenzy.
Whether you choose to grab a copy the album on disc, or just mix a few singles into your rotation, make sure that you do. This album is the definition of must-have and the best thing to come out of 2022.
NOTE: Metalian’s “Beyond The Wall” isn’t on Spotify. Give it a listen on Bandcamp