By Sam Woodhouse
10. Psyche Lifeline – The Ghost Ease (The Ghost Ease, October 22nd)
Anyone who has been a fan or attendee of Treefort Music Festival the last few years can share the heartbreak in falling in love with a band meant to come to Boise but having to wait to see them due to covid cancellations. This was the story for me and The Ghost Ease. When I finally was able to see them live at the 2022 Treefort my love of the garage rock/post punk trio grew even more. Things got even better when they released their second LP, Psyche Lifeline later that year in October. Psyche Lifeline includes the slow dreaminess displayed on their debut album, RAW with even more added energy and melodic vocals. This album is a step more towards a post punk sound with more focus on the song writing and song structure. Fans of Blood Lemon, The French Tips and Death Valley girls will feel right at home listening to this record with the added melodicism and creative songwriting of Nirvana and Kate Bush.
9. MAHAL – Toro y Moi (Dead Oceans, April 19)
I first discovered Toro y Moi when it was announced they would be performing at the 2019 Treefort Music Festival. I checked out some tracks to see if I’d be interested in attending their show. What I discovered opened me up to Chaz Bundick’s beautiful world of groovy vaporwave indie electronic music. This description does not truly embody the breadth of Chaz’s work. Every album, the act manages to in one way or another reinvent themselves. This consistently keeps Toro y Moi’s sound fresh and challenging. This has never been more true than in the 2022 release MAHAL. Chaz ventures into a more traditionally psychedelic sound supported by Toro y Moi’s trademark brand of introspective lyrics that discuss topics as relatable as the comfort of home, dealing with tough times, to more existential themes such as ever expanding universal patterns that can be observable over one’s lifetime. If you’re looking for a lush, sunny album, with out of this word instrumentation and production, MAHAL is for you. Hop on Chaz’s Hippie van parked by the golden gate bridge, next stop: the beautiful unknown.
8. Cave World – Viagra Boys (YEAR0001, July 8)
2022 was an excellent year for Post Punk and Viagra Boys’ Cave World is no exception. Of their 3 studio albums to date Cave World is by far the most cohesive and complete sounding. Their 2018 release Street Worms proved to the world that the Swedish group had energy and chops to boot. 2021’s Welfare Jazz showcased their potential to insert tongue in cheek moments and ideas into their high energy, razor sharp style. It’s this sound that is found perfected on Cave World. Follow the boys into a scathing critique of modern day life through the analysis of themes such as drug use, theft, lying, evolution, learning disabilities and one’s self image (essentially the things that make us human). By the end of the album, Cave World’s thesis that mankind is better off abandoning the trappings of modern life and returning to a simpler existence as an early primate will come off as truly the current best direction for the human race. Even if you’re not interested in returning to the caves or the trees, Cave World provides hard hitting post punk tracks for the immediate consumption of anyone looking to listen to some great contemporary alternative and rock music.
7. Ants From Up There – Black Country, New Road (Ninja Tune, February 4)
Speaking of outstanding 2022 post punk albums this list would not be complete without Black Country, New Road’s latest effort, Ants From Up There. The group’s debut, For the first time, introduced them as a talented group with a penchant for dramatic, idiosyncratic, long form song construction and autobiographical, observational lyrics that provide a unique perspective on daily life in the modern era. Though their second album came out only the following year from their debut the group’s progress is stunning. Black Country, New Road took their existing style and nearly perfected it in the context of an album. The album jumps even deeper into experimental and jazz influenced soundscapes that are moving in their own right. Add Isaac Wood’s interpersonal and introspective lyrics delivered dramatically as ever it’s hard not to be impressed by the compositions in this record. Whatever the group feels in any song on this album you will feel as well. Despite Wood’s departure from the group things are still looking up for the band and their best release to date, Ants From Up There ensure a promising future wherever the band’s next endeavors take us.
6. 40 oz. to Fresno – Joyce Manor (Epitaph, June 10)
If you get tired of listening to all of the great 2022 post punk releases fear not because Joyce Manor are back again with their unique hard hitting punk rock stylings in 40 oz. to Fresno! The 4 year gap between the 2018 release of Million Dollars to Kill Me and 2022’s 40 oz. to Fresno was the band’s longest yet but the wait was absolutely worth it. 40 oz. to Fresno establishes Joyce Manor’s classic short form punk songs with energy leaking from every second as well as some newer sonic ideas that are more indulgent to the instrumental of the song such as the opening track Souvenir. Joyce Manor has always been an anthemic band and tracks such as Reason to Believe, You’re Not Famous Anymore, Gotta Let It Go and Dance With Me presents some of their best hard hitting choruses with a vintage taste that shows some of the member’s more surprising influences like Morrissey and The Smiths. Like any Joyce Manor record this album gets in and out very quickly like punk rock lightning that can get pretty much get anyone up and dancing. While the lyrics on this album continue a traditional Joyce Manor level of analytical cynicism there are moments that show more hope and positivity than the group previously displayed. The instrumentals even have a more hopeful quality that still keeps the format of some of the best punk music you’ll ever hear. Nonetheless, punk fan or not you should definitely check out 40 0z. To Fresno. Catchy, pop friendly, fun songs will undoubtedly keep listeners returning to this album despite one’s bias towards a certain genre.
5. Fairy Rust – Wombo (Fire Talk, July 29)
Surprise, surprise we’re back to discussing another fantastic 2022 post punk release. Unlike the previous albums discussed, Fairy Rust delves into the more atmospheric or aetherial side of the genre. With a sound at times comparable to Cocteau Twins or Pixies, Wombo never fails to take the listener on a journey full of lush, experimental instrumentation with the right amount of discordant moments to add a bit of kick. In fact, one of Wombo’s greatest skills as a group is their combination of both the beautiful and the rugged sounds of music to create truly unique compositions. The punchy bassline and erratic guitar runs over Sydney Chadwicks subdued and calm vocals create a soundscape difficult to compare to that of any other groups. However, don’t be fooled into thinking Wombo is a mellow group. Tracks like Below the House feature face melting guitar work that can run with the best of them. On Fairy Rust Wombo manages to combine indie, dream pop, grunge, bubblegrunge, etc. to encapsulate a truly unique brand of post punk. The album front to back has a perfect variety of songs with all different intensities. One moment you can float down a river of clouds only to be dropped into an endless scourge of robotic warfare. OK, that might be a little over dramatic but let that level of hyperbole be a testament to how amazing this record is and what a fresh take it brings to the modern alternative music landscape.
4. A Light for Attracting Attention – The Smile (XL Recordings, May 13)
It’s hard to imagine a world where a group with not one but two members of Radiohead wouldn’t be one of the best on the planet and I’m happy to report that A Light for Attracting Attention by The Smile shows that this truth is truly evident. Not to mention a member from Sons of Kemet and production credits to the man who’s been making records with Radiohead since the 90s perfectly rounds out this group and album. While many supergroups are often criticized for coasting on their namesake or producing work similar to the projects that originally brought the members fame, neither allegation holds water to this album. While some of the tracks could possibly be imagined as appearing on a Radiohead album, the combination of Thom Yorke’s unique bass style and Tom Skinner’s unbelievably tight jazz drumming makes the Smile’s work immediately stylistically separate. In fact many of A Light for Attracting Attention’s tracks would honestly have been some of Radiohead’s best 2000’s era songs if they had appeared in their discography. In 2022 fashion the album is beautifully littered with lyrics critically analyzing modern day life. Through all the trials and tribulations of modern life The Smile asserts that maybe it’s OK to function through such a level of modern chaos and still remain whole at the end of the day. No matter how you feel about life there is most likely a track on this album you can find solace in. You can gaze into the void of simply not knowing with tracks like The Opposite, realize your own personal obsessions with The Smoke and Pana-vision. Want to rock out? Check out You Will Never Work In Television Again. Want atmospheric orchestration that makes you feel like you’re orbiting the planet? Give Free In The Knowledge a spin. Your best bet is just listening to the whole record start to finish and enjoying the work of some of the greatest current living musicians with an equally renowned producer behind the control desk.
3. Todo Bailarlo – Zeta (Skeletal Lighting, April 22nd)
While Todo Bailarlo is technically an album it plays like an epic, sprawling, mastercrafted 31 minute song with few reminders that there are actually in fact 11 songs on the record. In most cases in my listening of this record I don’t even notice when one song switches to the next because it’s that natural. Despite this holistic design, nearly any track from Todo Bailarlo stands out as a great piece on its own. Outstanding percussion graces nearly every track and can be especially ogled at on Piel De Oro and La Visión. Unique and vibrant guitar work, that’s always been a virtue of the group, is showcased on La Flor de la Palabra, 11:11 and El Encuentro. The factor that really seals the deal with this album is the wealth of extra instrumentation Zeta included within the tracks. Strings and complete horn sections are used throughout the album making it that much fuller and building on to the latin musical themes found within the record more than any of their other works. It was ironically the group’s exodus from Latin America into the United States that inspired the increased latin direction the compositions on Todo Bailarlo took. A sense of traditional pride yet homesickness is projected through the record that can be relatable to anyone whether you are of latin descent or not. Even if you don’t speak spanish the sheer intensity and passion of the vocals transcend any man made dialogue barrier into the universal language of music. Todo Bailarlo roughly translates to dance it all which almost acts as a recommendation to the listener. “Listen to this record and dance away all of your problems.” Find inspiration in persistence and by the end of the record you know that you too shall overcome even the hardest obstacles in your path.
2. Chopper – Kiwi jr. (Subpop Records, August 12)
Of any of the artists on this top ten list, my 2021 top ten list and artists in general today, Kiwi jr. has had extremely consistent and high quality material over the last couple years. Placing Number 3 on my 2021 list I’m absolutely thrilled to be placing them even higher this year. Listening to Chopper brings me the same Kiwi jr. I fell in love with their previous album. Cooler Returns, but perhaps through a darker lens. The opening track Unspeakable Things assures the listener that they will still enjoy the same upbeat, relatively happy go lucky sound of the group but with some added features such as fuzzy synths and more guitar feedback. Kiwi jr. all but dropped the Jangle Pop sound fleshed out on their previous record in exchange for a darker production style. Though a bit on the nose, the best comparison that comes to mind is Weezer’s progression from their debut album to their second LP, Pinkerton. Kiwi jr. retains the extreme catchiness and at times humorous, relatable lyrics on Chopper as found on Cooler Returns. The track Parasite II describes the feeling of losing money and gaining weight being to the fault of an outside force. Clerical Sleep describes the simple need to get enough sleep to function. Tracks like The Extra Sees the Film paint an unrelatable situation to some like being cut out of a movie just as down to Earth as anything else. Here lies Kiwi’s secret weapons, incredible story telling and lyric crafting. Not too dorky, not too pretentious. If you want Indie with a flavor for some of the best pop and rock music of the 80s/90s but insists on pushing the genre forward this is the record for you.
1. The Overload – Yard Act (Island Records, January 21)
New music is always exciting but it’s honestly exhilarating when it’s as good as this. In a year where self aware, scrutinizing post punk reigned it’s truly a testament to the group’s talent that Yard Act’s debut LP, The Overload did it better than anyone else. If you have any anger about anything in this world you’ll probably find at least one cathartic moment on The Overload. Perhaps it’s the group’s newness that pushes this need to be heard on this record but either way the world is now certainly listening. The songwriting, instrumentation, lyrics and production are all on equally exquisite levels. The layering done as the opening track, The Overload, builds up alone will leave a listener in awe. This studio mastery doesn’t sacrifice cutting guitar tones, upbeat, even danceable drum grooves and of course the insightful lyrics of James Smith keeps this record raw yet modern in the most confusingly awesome way. Throughout the record Yard Act refuses to let you forget the increasingly existential world we live in. If you are angry about nationalism, fake news, artistic suppression, fake sincereness, economic disparity or leaders who are continually bringing the world to a grinding stop you’ll be right at home in the world of Yard Act which is in fact the very world we live in. However, if you need a break from cynicism, no matter how true it is, you can get relief in tracks like Tall Poppies where small town culture is exhibited as unfortunate but still enduring in the end. This is all done with a light theatrical flare as if listening to this album is a bit like watching a contemporary play or spoken word piece about the world’s problems. However you want to describe Yard Act’s music, it’s thoroughly enjoyable in every conceivable way. Artists are often found excellent due to their songwriting, profound lyrics, unique style, song arrangement, etc. but Yard Act is made king by leaving nothing left to be desired in all of these departments. It’s not for one person to say who and who is not the voice of a generation but if you’re looking for one I honestly couldn’t recommend a better group than Yard Act or a better album than The Overload as an unbelievably good place to start.