Album Ratings 610
Last Active 08-01-22 11:41 pm
Review Comments 1,589
|Wally's Best of '22|
It's that time again to dig into some of my favorite cuts from last year. A little bit (ok, a lot bit) late to the game here but I was burnt from doing a full write-up of these and some other albums. If you're curious to read the whole thing, swing over to my website (in comments) otherwise, let me know if you hit any of these.
Hostile Architecture Ashenspire (Experimental Black Metal) - Black metal with saxophones, vivid spoken word, and epic in form.
King’s Disease III Nas (Hip-hop)- Nas proves why he’s still one of the greatest to do it with a slew of hip-hop bangers.
Pawns and Kings Alter Bridge (Hard Rock) - Alter Bridge’s heaviest and most energetic album in years. The fact that these guys haven’t completely taken metal/ rock radio stations hostage is a mystery.
Metanoia Persephone (Progressive Metal) - Symphonic death metal with quite a few sections that almost sound like they belong in a soundtrack.
HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST...
Backxwash is back with another collection of dark, metal infused hip-hop. This time there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it's only temporary.
Favorite Song: JUJU
Here Comes The Devil
Some sad boy emo vibes with a sense of impending doom.
Favorite Song: Here Comes the Devil
This album has this hungry. It’s violent, and will tear out your throat if you let it, but holy shit is it a thrilling experience. Mixing symphonic passages that sound like something straight out of a fantasy movie with blistering riffs and pulverizing breakdowns, this is a release that any metal fan is not going to want to miss.
Favorite Song: "Welcome Back, O' Sleeping Dreamer"
You Belong There
On “You Belong There”, Daniel Rossen (previously of Grizzly Bear fame), explores themes of new beginnings and loss over a collection of pleasant folksy riffs and jazzy drumming. It’s an album that feels like wandering through the woods at the end of autumn.
Favorite Song: Repeat the Pattern
NO THANK YOU
Simz continues to demonstrate why she is one of the most exciting MCs to be listening to with a swagger to her flow that compliments the grandiose nature of her beats, and if you haven’t caught the previous release maybe this is the one for you. And if you enjoyed last year’s album, chances are you are going to enjoy this album just as much.
Favorite Song: Angel
|25||Open Mike Eagle|
Component System With The Auto Reverse
2020 was a rough time for all of us, but for Open Mike Eagle it was exceptionally brutal, hitting him with a divorce, the loss of a television contract, and many friends. His album addressing this, Anime, Trauma, and Divorce was an absolutely gut-wrenching dig into his psyche, a raw account of the events from his perspective. In many ways it felt like an ending, but with Component Systems… Open Mike steps back into the ring, proving that despite the losses in previous years he still has his razor sharp wit, his unique flow, and an ear for strong beats.
Favorite Song: CD Only Bonus Track
|24||Animals As Leaders|
Three of metals most talented musicians come back with an album that leans more on memorable riffs and less on being rhythmic exercises.
Favorite Song: Red Miso
The follow up to 2019’s Veil of Imagination, the album’s title suggests something repetitive, a band continuing a sound to give the fans what they want. This couldn’t also be further from the truth. While all the elements of this and it’s predecessor are the same (the massive choral sections, the orchestra accenting the band’s riffs, the folksy guitars that crescendo to massive metal riffs) one of the things I appreciate that this album does is it bucks expectations (looking at you, “Distraction II). There were a few moments where I thought I knew where a song was going only to have the rug drawn from under my feet, or the song to simply do what is least expected.
Favorite Song: Distraction II
Aethiopes is not an accessible album by any means, but like all of Woods’ releases it rewards the listener for their attention and dissection.
Favorite Song: NYNEX
I’m not going to lie, Wilson had me worried about the future of his musical output with the poorly constructed The Future Bites, but this album proves that he still has it. The songs on Closure/ Continuation are very much Wilson’s brand of progressive rock, but they’re done well and are filled with catchy choruses, groovy riffs, and an energy that we haven’t heard from him since 2017’s To The Bone.
Favorite Song: Harridan
|20||Danger Mouse and Black Thought|
The majority of this album is a collection of laidback hip-hop pieces, sounding like a room full of Hip-hop Heads passing the mic back and forth instead of a club of kids moshing and grinding. It’s a heady release, but one that I would highly recommend for both old and new connoisseurs of the genre.
Favorite Song: Violas and Lupitas
Where Myth Becomes Memory
Serving as the finale to a trilogy of albums, Where Myth Becomes Memory is a culmination of sounds, a worthy capstone that encompasses the seething hardcore of 2015’s Grievances and 2018’s haunting, post-rock/ black metal tinged Time Will Die and Love Will Bury it.
Favorite Song: Prescience
|18||we broke the weather|
we broke the weather
I always like to give bands props for just going for it on their debut album. To me, it means a helluva lot more to see a group take a risk, even if there are some misses (fixing them is what their sophomore album is for, right?). On their self-titled debut, We Broke the Weather do just that, crafting a slew of Coheed, influenced songs that are infused with a heavy dose of youthful energy. Whether they are channeling musical-esq energy (“Rot King”) or epic King Crimson vibes (“The Fog”) the album rarely loses steam or missteps. This is a band to definitely keep on your radar over the next couple of years.
Favorite Song: The Fog
|17||Pusha T |
It's Almost Dry
There are some albums that are written for deeper reasons, artistic compositions to tell a story, share social commentary, advance the genre, or serve as a figurative guide into the artist’s psyche. There are some albums about selling cocaine. This is the latter.
Favorite Song: I Pray for You
The Fundamental Slimes and Humours
I’d initially started this write-up with a glowing review for this album: “Don’t listen to it.” I was convinced that this album was more for me than a recommendation for the average music listener. But as I sat down with it today and crafted my thoughts on it, I couldn’t help but find myself growing more and more fond of it until… screw it. You should definitely check out this album. It’s probably some of the most fun you’ll have listening to music this year.
Favorite Song: There's No Such Thing as a Key
|15||The Physics House Band|
Incident on 3rd
Coming off the heels of their high energy (and imo one of the best live albums of all time) release of their live album Metropolis and reeling from powerhouse bassist Adam Hutchison leaving the band, The Physics House Band have crafted an album that feels true to their sound, while progressing into a style that leans more heavily on jazz and atmosphere instead of the rock and metal of their past releases.
Favorite Song: Big Six
Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers
Much like therapy, this album is sometimes a mess. The narrative is not linear like Good Kid m.a.a.d. City nor does it have a strong underlying theme like To Pimp a Butterfly. Still, there’s something bold about Kendrick airing out his skeletons on wax, something important about an album that is as much a confession and acceptance as it is a means to explore his psyche.
Favorite Song: Crown
I think there’s something to be said about a band having a fire lit under their asses, a hunger to accompany their love of writing music, that can transform a collection of songs into something crackling with electricity. In Stasis is one of those albums. Accompanying the massive grooves of John Browne and company is young gun Andy Cizek, a vocalist whose rise to fame doing vocal covers on YouTube quickly led to him being scooped up and he does not disappoint. Monuments are only going to continue their upward trajectory from here, and I can’t wait to hear what this latest iteration of the band is capable of.
Favorite Song: Lavos
Of all the albums on this list, this is definitely the youngest. Sure, there’s a lot of young talent on this list, but this is the biggest album on this list that felt like something my students would listen to, and in a very exciting way the future of music. Incorporating a slew of genres, from pop punk to hip-hop and even folk, this album is an exciting glimpse into what music could be if people just got the hell over a label. Opener “THREE HEADS*” is a stomping punk/ hip-hop romp that shifts immediately into the indie rock heavy “GLORY*”. “POSITIVE ONE NEGATIVE ONE*” starts off like a pop punk you might have heard on channel 93.3 in the late 00s before shifting into a 90’s inspired house beat. If this sounds like a mess, sometimes it can be, but for me that’s part of the excitement. And while not everything that Dawson throws at the wall sticks, the majority of it does and it’s an exciting mess to observe.
Favorite Song: SICK OF IT*
|11||...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead|
XI: Bleed Here Now
This is one of those albums where repeat listens are essential. Is it very possible to appreciate it upon first listen? Absolutely. On a personal note, it’s really hard for me to give an album that second chance if I don’t see some merit in it. In many ways this album, at least philosophically, lives in the same space as many progressive rock albums from the past. It takes you on a journey and then returns you to where you began, changed, renewed, impassioned. Opener “Our Epic Attempts” and closer “Calm as a Valley” are mirrors of each other, the same song seen in a different light, the first more somber the second more epic with strings, a choir, and a brass chorale. This is an album for the album lover, and well worth the time the listener invests in it.
Favorite Song: Contra Mundum
A phototroph is an organism that gains energy from the sun or the light, and the band’s message on this album is not subtle. This is an album for those still feeling the looming shadow of our political and social climate, an album that offers you its hand and guides you towards the light at the end of the tunnel. As Carbone sings on “Phototroph”, one of my favorites songs from the year and a composition that lifted my spirits, “Oh, then it came to me/ That the shadows I'd seen/ Only meant to reveal/ That the light was right behind me/ The whole time.” Damn, this album is beautiful.
Favorite Song: Phototroph
|9||Dog Fashion Disco|
Cult Classic exists in a very similar space to Nekrogoblikon’s release this year, except instead of reveling in nihilistic glee it is just nihilistic. Don’t get me wrong, this album isn’t just some heavy, dark listen, but it’s pretty blunt about the content it’s tackling. Cult Classic weaves the story of a priest (presumably, based on the cover art) who engages in all of his vices and desires, and boy does it get dark. The album is very much a scathing review of the hypocrisy of organized religion, delving into the psyche of one such perpetrator over ska-esq beats, brutal metal breakdowns, and surfer rock. What makes this album so strong is its maniacal energy. Every single song is a bizarre, off-the-wall metal banger that romps around with devilish goofiness.
Favorite Song: Grand Experiment
DEATHFAME is about the concept that, for so many artists, the recognition they crave only comes in the months after their deaths, when fans and critics come together to mourn the loss of a great talent instead of praising them and giving them the recognition they deserve when they’re alive. The album is a mix of Quelle’s best raps, a statement to prove how damn good he is (“DEATHFAME”), and a slew of lo-fi, downbeat songs contemplating his place in the hip-hop hall of fame (“The Sky Is Blue Because the Sunset is Red”). There are moments of self-help (“Alive Aint Always Living”), moments of creeping dread (“How Could They Love Something Like Me”), and even moments of levity (“PS1 (Pontiac Sunfire 1)”), but of all this album is a portrait of a struggling artist, a man who knows he’s great but will never gain the accolades he desires until it’s too late.
Favorite Song: The Sky is Blue Because the Sunset is Red
I feel really bad for this band. On their first album Chat Pile have managed to create an unreal amount of hype, producing an album that is terrifying, poignant, slightly funny, slightly teeth gritting. It’s the kind of album that you expect a band to put together once in their career, the kind that they make before disbanding and disappearing from music. It’s almost legendary in status, and there’s a good reason why.
Favorite Song: grimace_smoking_weed.jpg
A Light For Attracting Attention
The best song (and music video) of 2022 is The Smile’s “Free in the Knowledge”.
It’s funny how music (much like any artform I suppose) can take on unintended meanings. A song about coming together and unifying as a people against the struggles of the world found me alone one night in April. Standing in my backyard, I stared out into the darkness, lost in memories and tears, seeing the ghost of my family dog as she bounded around my backyard. In many ways this song, for me, represents loss and the inevitability of said loss, a call to live and love what you have while you can. It’s a song that breaks your heart only to lift you up, something I’ve found myself needing as I navigate the curveballs the past year has thrown my way. It’s a song that forces you to reflect on yourself and, subsequently, ask better of yourself. And that alone is a reason to give this album a listen.
Favorite Song: Free in the Knowledge
Tiktaalik is, to be sure, more straightforward than a Haken release, but what it loses some of the zany quality that makes a Haken release so memorable, it makes up for by exploring metal as a genre. This is definitely not an album that his band would have wanted to make. “Crawl, Walk, Run” is a thrash, death metal ripper. “Luminous Beings” is a progressive metal slow burn that builds to a Gentle Giant inspired breakdown. “In Alluvium” is a power metal inspired piece that sounds like it could easily fit on the next Symphony X album. There’s a little something for every metal fan on this one, and a strong reason why it’s my favorite progressive metal album of the year.
Favorite Song: Luminous Beings
So much. Too much.
Destrage have never really been a band that’s played by the rules, but I will say that their most recent outputs (2019’s The Chosen One and 2016’s A Means to No End) felt safe, like a band settling. Gone were the EDM dance breaks, the tempo shifts, the goofy subject matter. With a lot of respect to the boys, it felt like they weren’t having fun anymore, and that sucks. But shift forward three years and something’s shifted because holy hell, these guys are back at it to create a ruckus. Openers “A Commercial Break that Lasts Forever” and “Everything Sucks and I Think I’m a Part of It” are rippers that sound like Meshuggah after a snort of cocaine. “Italian Boi” and “Private Party” stumble drunkenly through bouncing, nu-metal meets carnival-esq riffs. There’s even a cover of Stone Temple Pilots’ “Vasoline” that takes the original and lights a rocket under its ass. If this sounds like fun, that’s because it is.
Favorite Song: Italian Boi
Few Good Things
I think it says something that, given hip-hop was my most listened to genre this year (according to Spotify Wrapped) this is my favorite album of the year from the genre. There were so many phenomenal albums that didn’t even make my list, and yet this was the album that resonated the most with me. Maybe it’s because I discovered it during the season when it was most accentuated. I often found myself sitting on my porch, a beer in hand, my dog bounding around the yard, the sun setting over the rooftops, with this album playing. It’s not a collection of bangers (although there are some. Looking at you “Survivor’s Guilty”) but rather a collection of reflective bops as Chicago native Saba reflects on where he came from and where he’s planning on heading.
Favorite Song: Few Good Things
Fear of the Dawn
This is not an album that says anything deep. It doesn’t do anything you haven’t heard before. It doesn’t dazzle with a stunning vocal performance or with long-winded solos. It just unapologetically, unrepentantly, kicks your ass. It shotguns a beer at your private wedding, flips off the party, revs its snowmobile in the gravel parking lot, and does a backflip through the gazebo. It starts a fight with your great aunt Bertha over what would win in a fight between a gorilla and a grizzly bear. It takes shots of sour apple schnapps with your nephew Derek until he passes out. Then he dances with his limp body ala Weekend at Bernies. It’s the guy who wins a dance off against you during your first dance with your wife, and the crowd loves it. It doesn’t give a shit. And neither should you.
Favorite Song: Taking Me Back
Hellfire is truly deserving of its number one spot on my list, an album that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys music, an album that revels in its own zany energy but has the compositional maturity to recognize when to pull back, and when to breathe. It’s an album that finally sees a young act not only breaking into the music scene but breaking into a sense of themselves. Whether you’re a fan of post punk, 70’s rock, psychedelic music, jazz, even metal, this album is going to sit well with you. And if you aren’t but you just enjoy listening to music that is hungry, volatile, and chomping at the bit, this album is also for you. Don’t trust me, look up a live performance of this band. This is the one album you don’t want to miss.
|Did full write-ups here: https://kevinjasica.com/2023/01/07/top-30-albums-of-2022/|
Happy 2023 everyone.