Rosy Overdrive’s Top 40 Albums of 2022 So Far (Part 1 of 2)

It is mid-June, which means it is now time for Rosy Overdrive to choose forty records that have stood out in the first six (or so) months of 2022. As per usual, there were more than forty good records to come out this year, many of which I’ve written about elsewhere on the site, so this isn’t comprehensive by any means. It’s also not as comprehensive as the end-of-year list will be; there’s some stuff out now that’ll probably end up there, I just haven’t given it enough attention yet.

The list is unranked, alphabetical by artist name. Last year I did reverse-alphabetical order for the mid-year list, so I guess we’ll just alternate from here. Like last year, I mostly stuck to full-lengths, but readers will notice a couple of EPs in here as well.

Thanks for reading, and here are links to stream a playlist of these selections via Spotify and Tidal (Bandcamp links are provided for all records that have one below).

View part two of the list here.

40 Watt Sun – Perfect Light

Release date: January 21th
Record label: Cappio/Svart
Genre: Slowcore
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital

I was partially drawn to 40 Watt Sun’s Perfect Light because the album artwork and group name reminded me of Mark Eitzel’s 60 Watt Silver Lining, and, well—the record doesn’t disappoint on this front. Patrick Walker, the mind behind 40 Watt Sun, apparently has a doom metal past, but Perfect Light is all gorgeously ornate, heartbreaking slowcore. Most of the record’s eight songs stretch beyond eight minutes long, with Walker’s strong but vulnerable vocals finding and holding on to striking melodies over top of ebbing and flowing piano and guitar.

Bad Heaven Ltd. – In Our House Now

Release date: January 28th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, dream pop
Formats: Cassette, digital

Bad Heaven Ltd. is the solo project of Pennsylvania-based John Galm, and In Our House Now is his third album under the name since 2016. Galm is probably most famous for his cult emo group Snowing, but In Our House Now falls squarely into the category of “hazy, downcast indie rock” and sounds more like Hovvdy, Sparklehorse, and Grandaddy than anything else. Like the best records in this genre of music, Bad Heaven Ltd. avoids the common pratfalls of grayness and facelessness with memorable melodies and inspired instrumental choices from the get-go. Galm’s tender voice is a highlight throughout In Our House Now—it’s striking despite sounding humble and breathy, and is an essential part of these songs. (Read more)

Bellows – Next of Kin

Release date: March 23rd
Record label: Topshelf
Genre: Indie pop, indie folk, art pop
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, CD, digital

The latest album from Bellows, the project of New York’s Oliver Kalb, has grandiose ambitions, but Next of Kin seems equally concerned with not losing the plot at the record’s sturdy core. Kalb’s songs are dressed up in colorful, brimming palettes throughout the record, but his vocals are breathy and impassioned even in Next of Kin’s busiest moments, which preserves the songs’ intimacy. It’s an important wrinkle for Next of Kin, an album that sits with losses that are felt from the slight-remove of the title on down. (Read more)

Big Nothing – Dog Hours

Release date: February 18th
Record label: Lame-O
Genre: 90s alt-rock, punk rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital

The members of Philadelphia’s Big Nothing have put their time in with various bands for a few years now; that is to say, they’ve earned their “indie punk band goes mellow alt-rock” moment. The ten tracks of Dog Hours evoke a very specific period of beginning-of-the-90s “college rock”—bands like late-period Replacements/early Paul Westerberg solo material, The Lemonheads, and Buffalo Tom. There’s a weariness to Dog Hours, but it doesn’t sacrifice hooks or pop songwriting either—it makes messiness and uncertainty sound simple and breezy. (Read more)

Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

Release date: February 11th
Record label: 4AD
Genre: Indie folk, alt-country
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, CD, digital

I had been on the Big Fence about Big Thief for years now, rolling my eyes at some of the hyperbolic praise they’ve gotten even as the electric catharsis of Two Hands scraped my 2019 year-end list and I’ve been impressed by the prolific nature of the band’s members. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You is the first time I’ve strongly felt that the group is where they should be musically—it sounds like a record made by four people in tune with themselves and no one else, giddily embracing all of their own ideas just to see where they go. This artistic confidence is a great trait for making ambitious double albums—so long as one doesn’t let it go unchecked to the point where one thinks they can start “healing” ethnic persecution with it, but I digress.

Blanche Blanche Blanche  – Fiscal, Remote, Distilled

Release date: February 14th
Record label: La Loi
Genre: Jazz-pop
Formats: Cassette, digital

Blanche Blanche Blanche is the duo of singer Sarah Smith and multi-instrumentalist Zach Phillips (also of Fievel Is Glauque and a bunch of other bands). The two have made a lot of music together; so far, I’ve only heard their latest record, 2022’s Fiscal, Remote, Distilled, but it rules. It’s a shiny, original record of jazzy pop marked by Smith’s clear vocals that are sung-spoken but still quite melodic and by Phillips’ arsenal of jazz and rock band instruments that can both overwhelm and draw back to fit the songs. Fiscal, Remote, Distilled is smart, but comes off straightforward—songs like “That’s Siberia”, “Overdry Sensation”, and “Only Yesterday” have been bouncing around my head since I heard them initially.

Julia Blair – Better Out Than In

Release date: February 24th
Record label: Crutch of Memory
Genre: Roots rock, alt-country
Formats: Vinyl, digital

I’ve known Julia Blair as a member of Appleton, Wisconsin’s country rock group Dusk, contributing piano, violin, and vocals on highlights like “Done Nothin’”. Her debut solo record, the amusingly-titled Better Out Than In, will appeal to Dusk fans, even as Blair takes strides in establishing her own sound on the album. Dusk have a classic retro pop-rock streak to them, and Blair explores this fully on Better Out Than In. A lot of the songs on the record excel at finding a groove and riding it out, with Blair repeating a few key lyrics and the music form-fitting to them, like enthusiastic highlights “Make the Darkness Go Away” and “Just a Cue”.

Cashmere Washington – Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them

Release date: February 25th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: lo-fi indie rock
Formats: Digital

The second in Cashmere Washington’s debut trio of EPs continues Thomas Dunn’s blend of indie rock with “beat-making and lo-fi production”—think music made by somebody equally inspired by math rock and J. Dilla. Almost Country for Old Men… feels more relaxed and confident than last year’s The Shape of Things to Come, not reaching as far into the emo tinge that appropriately colored that EP’s formative recollection.  Instead, the new EP casts a wide net, ranging from piano ballads to slacker rock to pop punk over the course of six songs. There’s been a lot of promise in Cashmere Washington since its inception, and it’s already being realized. (Read more)

Editrix – Editrix II: Editrix Goes to Hell

Release date: June 3rd
Record label: Exploding in Sound
Genre: Experimental rock, math rock
Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette, digital

The second record from Boston’s Editrix comes a year and change after 2021’s superb Tell Me I’m Bad, and it finds the group’s talented trio advancing even further together. Editrix II: Editrix Goes to Hell feels more insular and more focused than the “zanier” Tell Me I’m Bad, with guitarist Wendy Eisenberg’s vocals falling in line with the musical storm cooked up by them, bassist Steve Cameron, and drummer Josh Daniel (although their singing still sticks out in poppier highlights like “I Can Hear It” and “Queering Ska”). It’s all still recognizably Editrix—a band that’s the crowning achievement of one of the most prolific and intriguing frontpeople in indie rock currently, and a force in its own right as well.

Ex-Vöid – Bigger Than Before

Release date: March 25th
Record label: Don Giovanni
Genre: Jangle pop, power pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital

I’m not really familiar with Joanna Gruesome, the Welsh band that rose and fell in the early 2010s, but I’m fully on board with Ex-Vöid after hearing their debut album. Bigger Than Before is the full-length reunion of Joanna Gruesome singer-songwriters Alanna McArdle and Owen Williams—their first band disintegrated after McArdle stepped away from it in 2015, although they released an EP under the Ex-Vöid name in 2018 and Williams has been playing in The Tubs lately. Bigger Than Before is a big, hooky, indie pop record that’s got just a bit of an edge to it. It’s power pop at its wistful best, with McArdle and Williams’ harmonies being shot through with just enough noisiness to punch the songs up a tad.

Freakons – Freakons

Release date: March 25th
Record label: Fluff and Gravy
Genre: Folk, country
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital

Freakons is, naturally, a collaboration between Jon Langford and Sally Timms of The Mekons and Freakwater’s Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean (also of Eleventh Dream Day) with several ringers (Jean Cook, Anna Krippenstapel, Jim Elkington) getting in on the action as well. They have been playing together in some form for awhile now, but their self-titled debut record as a group is a must-listen for fans of protest folk music, as the two bands find solidarity in the shared coal-mining backgrounds of their states of origin (England and Kentucky). The American Chestnut Blight, railroad culture, deadly mining disasters, and organized labor all get their moments in the spotlight on Freakons.

Golden Boots – Liquid Ranch

Release date: April 28th
Record label: Pass Without Trace
Genre: Alt-country, lo-fi indie rock, psych-country
Formats: Vinyl, digital

Golden Boots’ core duo of Ryan Eggleston and Dimitri Manos cite both 70s country and 90s lo-fi indie weird pop (Pavement, yes, but also eyebrow-raising names like Bingo Trappers, Strapping Fieldhands, and Tall Dwarfs) as wells from which they draw their sound. Liquid Ranch is apparently the Tucson band’s seventeenth record, and while it’s the first Golden Boots album I’ve heard, I feel like I understand where they’re coming from just based on its contents.  Liquid Ranch is a very accessible record at its core, but it isn’t without its share of odd, scenic-route detours as well. It has hooky alt-country tracks (“Lookout”, “Sedona”) as well as more cosmic moments in “Skylight” and “Chemical Burn”. (Read more)

Good Grief – Shake Your Faith

Release date: March 8th
Record label: Everything Sucks/HHBTM
Genre: Indie punk, punk rock, 90s indie rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital

Good Grief are quite adept at making loud, punk-influenced hooky rock music that’s immediately familiar and recognizable to fans of 90s indie rock, and their long-awaited debut record (practically a decade in the making) reflects this. The Liverpool trio are extremely open Bob Mould disciples, songs like “The Pony Remark” could’ve come straight from Superchunk’s On the Mouth, and there’s a heart-on-sleeve earnestness that puts them into Samiam/Knapsack-esque emo-punk territory. No matter how many older groups Shake Your Faith evokes, it all sounds remarkably fresh and present.

Guided by Voices – Crystal Nuns Cathedral

Release date: March 4th
Record label: GBV, Inc.
Genre: Indie rock, post-punk, power pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital

Judging by both Crystal Nuns Cathedral and the advance singles from July’s Tremblers and Goggles by Rank, Guided by Voices are in a heavier, denser mood as of late. I’m on board with it. While Crystal Nuns Cathedral does contain plenty of muscular guitar pop that this current iteration of Guided by Voices can easily churn out (see “Come North Together” and “Never Mind the List”, not to mention the title track), there’s a darkness to these dozen tunes that colors songs like towering opening track “Eye City” and the surprisingly dramatic “Climbing a Ramp”. As the band’s “new lineup” enters a half-decade of playing together, Robert Pollard and his collaborators sound as invigorated as ever.

The High Water Marks – Proclaimer of Things

Release date: February 4th
Record label: Minty Fresh
Genre: Power pop, shoegaze, noise pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital

It’s only been a year and a half since late 2020’s Ecstasy Rhymes, but if The High Water Marks are trying to make up for the thirteen year gap between that record and the one before it, then that’s fine with me. Proclaimer of Things is a spirited noise pop album, burying melodies in the lightly psychedelic fuzz of tracks like “We Are Going to Kentucky” and the title track. The High Water Marks’ two bandleaders, Hilarie Sidney and Per Ole Bratset, take turns delivering highlights in songs like “Jenny” and “The Best Day”. These original Elephant Six folks are still at it, and still have a lot left in them. (Bandcamp link)

Jon the Movie – A Glimpse That Made Sense

Release date: January 5th
Record label: New Morality Zine/Cauldron of Burgers
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock/punk
Formats: Cassette, digital

Long Island, New York’s Jon Gusman is perhaps most notable musically as being the vocalist for hardcore group Rule Them All, but he debuted his solo project Jon the Movie at the beginning of the year with A Glimpse That Made Sense. Jon the Movie falls nicely into the category of “dude with hardcore background making more melodic alt-rock”—Gusman cites Fugazi, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Guided by Voices, and I’ll be damned if the first five songs on A Glimpse That Made Sense don’t sound like the exact center of that triangle.  “I Can’t Help” is MacKaye and Jimmy Chamberlain-evoking, “Soul Tied to a Stranger” is particularly Pollardesque, and ten-minute closing track “Quest for Materiality” veers hard into prog opera. (Read more)

Joyride! – Miracle Question

Release date: April 15th
Record label: Salinas
Genre: Power pop, pop punk, indie rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital

I don’t know much about the band Joyride!. They’re from San Francisco and have been around for a decade or so, but I only heard of them after they released their fourth album, Miracle Question, earlier this year. But they’re quickly becoming one of my favorite new discoveries of 2022. Miracle Question is a classic 2010s lo-fi power-pop-punk album at heart, even as shiny as it sounds. Joyride! get all of this done in under a half hour, with most of these songs making their impression both musically and lyrically (there is a lot going on beneath the surface on Miracle Question) in about two minutes or so.

Joe Kenkel – Naturale

Release date: January 13th
Record label: Earth Libraries
Genre: Folk rock, alt-country
Formats: CD, digital

Rosy Overdrive is a noted fan of Nashville supergroup Styrofoam Winos, and the latest solo project from a member of the group is a record that holds up well against his band’s work. Joe Kenkel’s songs are some of the lighter and spacier moments on the most recent Styrofoam Winos record, and Naturale inhabits a similar territory. Kenkel’s acoustic guitar and humble vocals are in a familiar dreamy country/folk style throughout Naturale, but there’s also a drum machine and synths hanging out in the background that reveals of another side of the singer-songwriter, that of an 80s sophisti-pop aficionado.

MJ Lenderman – Boat Songs

Release date: April 29th
Record label: Dear Life
Genre: Alt-country, country rock
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital

At 34 minutes, Boat Songs is the most substantial record to come out of MJ Lenderman’s recent flurry of activity. Something of a breakout record for the Asheville alt-country musician (and member of Wednesday), Boat Songs should immediately grab any curious new listeners with the roaring country rock opener “Hangover Game” and the mid-tempo southern groove of “You Have Bought Yourself a Boat”. The rest of the record is a showcase for all of Lenderman’s talents, from the lo-fi fuzz-fests of “SUV” and “Dan Marino” to the affecting wrestling-themed ballad of “TLC Cagematch” to the “how-does-he-do-it” genius of “You Are Every Girl to Me”. (Read more)

Maneka – Dark Matters

Release date: March 11th
Record label: Skeletal Lightning
Genre: Experimental rock, lo-fi indie rock
Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette, digital

Dark Matters is either the second or third album from Maneka, the project of Brooklyn-based Devin McKnight (depending on how one views 2017’s Is You Is), and it’s certainly the most ambitious record I’ve heard yet from him. The album cycles through jazz interludes, lo-fi, slowcore-influenced indie rock, experimental pop, and guitar-rock workouts in a clean half-hour, resulting in several peaks throughout Dark Matter: the chaotic multi-part single “Winner’s Circle”, the mid-tempo middle of “The Glow Up”, and the propulsive closing track “Bluest Star”.

Continue to part two of the list here.

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