Rosy Overdrive Label Watch 2022

Rosy Overdrive has long been vocal about its love of small, independent record labels. They’ve consistently been a key way to find good, varied, new-to-me music, and they remain a valuable, people-based resource for music discovery in an age where the “industry” is openly trying to steer us away from such things. I’ve been thinking about labels a lot recently, and I’ve decided to check in on a dozen of my favorite still-active labels and see what they’ve been up to this year as a way of acknowledging their import. I’ve chosen my favorite 2022 release from each of these labels, plus an “honorable mention” (which can be either my second favorite, something I thought didn’t get as much attention as it should’ve, or something I didn’t have time to review in Pressing Concerns but still merits a closer look).

This is not a “best record labels of 2022” list (although there would, of course, be some overlap with such a list). I chose these labels based on their output from the last half-decade or so; some of these imprints had a relatively lean year this year. Pulling selections from those ones was, in a way, more fun, as it put me onto some records I wouldn’t have listened to otherwise. With this in mind, I’d encourage anyone who’s unfamiliar with any of these record labels to check out their back catalogs beyond 2022.

To read about many more records, some released by these labels, as well as by many other great ones I didn’t have space for here, visit the site archive.


RO Pick: Mo Troper, MTV

The fifth record from Portland’s Mo Troper (hence the “V”) is the power pop songwriter’s first for Lame-O, and it picks up the off-the-cuff-thread left hanging by last year’s Dilettante. Frequently recorded with in-the-red fuzziness, MTV swings from spare and acoustic to noisy and chaotic but remains compelling throughout. (Read more)

Honorable Mention: Big Nothing, Dog Hours

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)

(Also reviewed on Rosy Overdrive: Dazy, OUTOFBODY / Dust Star, Open Up That Heart / U.S. Highball, A Parkhead Cross of the Mind)

Feel It

RO Pick: CLASS, Epoca de Los Vaqueros

The debut record from Tucson’s CLASS is an exhilarating eight tracks and twenty minutes’ worth of garage-y punk rock that contains moments of sneering 70s punk, glam-inspired power pop, and hooky 90s indie rock; Epoca de Los Vaqueros hits all the great hallmarks of a Feel It Records release with time to spare. (Read more)

Honorable Mention: Green/Blue, Paper Thin

Paper Thin is Green/Blue’s second record of 2022 (following January’s Offerings) and finds the Minneapolis quartet absolutely nailing a particular subset of modern post-punk music. It’s unabashedly guitar-forward in a garage rock way, but it also embraces a dark, reverb-heavy sound that gives it an unexpected but welcome weight. (Read more)

(Also reviewed on Rosy Overdrive: Crime of Passing, Crime of Passing / Delivery, Forever Giving Handshakes / Freak Genes, Hologram / Private Lives, Private Lives / Romero, Turn It On / Smirk, Material / Spread Joy, II / Star Party, Meadow Flower / Why Bother?, Lacerated Nights)

Post Present Medium

RO Pick: Chronophage, Chronophage

The third record from Austin’s Chronophage is a collaboratively-driven pop album that lets its charms sneak up on you. Chronophage has a looseness to it reflecting the band’s DIY punk ground, while the intricacy of songs like “Spirit Armor” and “Love Torn in a Dream” are developed so seamlessly that they don’t feel incongruous with the more straightforward numbers.

Honorable Mention: Non Plus Temps, Desire Choir

Non Plus Temps is a new Oakland, California duo made up of Andy Human (of Andy Human and the Reptoids) and music writer Sam Lefebvre, and with Desire Choir, they’ve made a potent record of kinetic, dub-influenced post-punk. Hypnotic basslines dance through eleven songs featuring a variety of guest instrumentalists and even vocalists.

Dear Life

RO Pick: MJ Lenderman, Boat Songs

MJ Lenderman continues his recent golden run of releases with Boat Songs, a front-to-back classic album that shows off Lenderman’s songwriting talents nonstop. The lo-fi fuzzy Lenderman is still present in songs like “SUV” and “Dan Marino”, and they get along nicely with the country rock groove of “You Have Bought Yourself a Boat” and the tender “TLC Cage Match”. (Read more)

Honorable Mentions: Shane Parish, Liverpool and The World Without Parking Lots, You’ll Have to Take My Word for It

I’ve covered a huge amount of Dear Life releases this year, but I wanted to cheat here and give a little space to two albums I didn’t have time to get around to. Shane Parish converts sea shanties to instrumental, electric guitar-based post-rock in Liverpool, and Ethan T. Parcell’s The World Without Parking Lots presents ten strong tracks draped in humble ambient folk with You’ll Have to Take My Word for It.

(Also reviewed on Rosy Overdrive: Courtney and Brad, A Square Is a Shape of Power / Joan Kelsey, Standing Out on the Grass / Little Mazarn, Texas River Song / Anne Malin, Summer Angel / Ylayali, Separation)

Comedy Minus One

RO Pick: The Rutabega, Leading Up To

Leading Up To is The Rutabega’s first record since 2016, and the South Bend, Indiana duo come back after six years in full force. Singer/guitarist Joshua Hensley’s songwriting and vocal delivery are open-hearted and delicate, and he and drummer Garth Mason fully flesh these songs out with winding, adventurous guitar playing and pounding percussion. (Read more)

Honorable Mention: Hurry Up, Dismal Nitch

Comedy Minus One only released two records this year, but thankfully they’re both worth highlighting. Hurry Up is a fierce Pacific Northwest punk trio featuring Westin Glass and Kathy Foster of The Thermals and Maggie Vail of Bangs—if bands like X, Dead Moon, and the early roster of Kill Rock Stars are your favorites, then Dismal Nitch is for you. (Read more)

Exploding in Sound

RO Pick: Mister Goblin, Bunny

Sam Goblin has already established himself as an ambitious and talented songwriter post-Two Inch Astronaut, and his third record as Mister Goblin has added another wrinkle: a full band (bassist Aaron O’Neill and Options’ Seth Engel on drums) that is capable of realizing and elevating his songs without homogenizing them or stunting their evolution, whether it’s blistering post-hardcore or delicate indie folk. (Read more)

Honorable Mention: Disco Doom, Mt. Surreal

The latest record by long-running Swiss duo Disco Doom is called Mt. Surreal, which is a good name for the album. Its eight songs climb and build to heady heights, but find time to explore plenty of weird, off-the-cuff sidebars along the way in a manner befitting their 90s indie rock influences.

(Also reviewed on Rosy Overdrive: Jobber, Hell in a Cell / Kal Marks, My Name Is Hell / Pet Fox, A Face in Your Life)

Trouble in Mind

RO Pick: Partner Look, By the Book

Partner Look’s debut record, By the Book, is a nonstop pleasant listen. The Melbourne quartet (featuring sisters Ambrin and Anila Hasnain and their partners Dainis Lacey and Lachlan Denton) shuffle through a dozen sparking indie pop songs, led by both shimmering synths and breezy, jangly guitars.

Honorable Mention: CB Radio Gorgeous, Tour Tape ’22

Recorded so that the band could have some music to sell on, yes, a tour, Tour Tape ’22 is an intriguing look at an up-and-coming Chicago punk band and a solid record in its own right. Featuring members of bands like C.C.T.V. and Negative Scanner, CB Radio Gorgeous rip through seven catchy, punchy garage punk tunes in a way that reflects the quartet’s experience.

(Also reviewed on Rosy Overdrive: Nightshift, Made of the Earth)

Don Giovanni

RO Pick: Ex-Vöid, Bigger Than Before

Bigger Than Before is the full-length reunion of Joanna Gruesome singer-songwriters Alanna McArdle and Owen Williams, and they’ve created 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.

Honorable Mention: Lee Bains III + The Glory Fires, Old-Time Folks

Old-Time Folks and Bigger Than Before are essentially 1A and 1B; it’s rare for a label to put out two records of this caliber in the same year. Lee Bains has been using his fiery southern punk rock to make grand statements effectively since he started The Glory Fires, and Old-Time Folks is no exception. It rocks as hard as Youth Detention and Dereconstructed at points, but also gives songs like “Rednecks” ample room to breathe.

Sophomore Lounge

RO Pick: Ace of Spit, Ace of Spit

St. Louis’ Ace of Spit are runaway-train garage rockers who embrace a proto-punk wildness and maximum amp-cranked distortion on their self-titled debut record. The songs on Ace of Spit are fuzz-drenched, surf-rock-flavored lasers, and all of them do their dirty work economically except for the eleven-minute journey of closing track “Kaw-Tikvah”.

Honorable Mention: Dan Melchior, CB Odyssey

“It’s a curse, but it could be worse / We could be in the back of a hearse,” sings Dan Melchior in the chorus of the lo-fi country tune “A Translucent Sultana”. This is the tightrope the British-born, North Carolina-based singer-songwriter walks on CB Odyssey, a record that occasionally indulges in contempt at the mundane world but attempts to contextualize it rather than be consumed by it.


RO Pick: Kids on a Crime Spree, Fall in Love Not in Line

Bay Area noise pop trio Kids on a Crime Spree have been kicking around for a decade or so, but it took until 2022 for a full-length record of theirs to emerge, and Fall in Love Not in Line doesn’t disappoint. Plenty of fuzzy, reverb-y pop songs that reflect the Bay Area trio’s “singles band” past abound, but the record takes its 25-minute runtime to expand their sound a little bit as well. (Read more)

Honorable Mention: Papercuts, Past Life Regression

Choosing two from Slumberland was the hardest one of these to do, as their releases have been uniformly, consistently sublime this year. In the end, I will go with Past Life Regression, the eighth record from Jason Quever’s Papercuts, which seems to have flown under the radar a bit. It’s a layered, lightly psychedelic and folky dream pop album that’s busy without sounding cluttered. (Read more)

(Also reviewed on Rosy Overdrive: Artsick, Fingers Crossed / Jeanines, Don’t Wait for a Sign / The Laughing Chimes, Zoo Avenue / Peel Dream Magazine, Pad / The Reds, Pinks & Purples, They Only Wanted Your Soul)


RO Pick: Winged Wheel, No Island

No Island is truly a four-part collaborative record, pieced together remotely by a group of long-time indie rockers in drummer Fred Thomas, guitarist/bassist Cory Plump, guitarist Matthew Rolin, and vocalist Whitney Johnson. The album’s eight songs are hazy, dense, captivating indie-jam-rock–Thomas’ insistent drumming draws you in early on and, while Winged Wheel slow things down a bit later, it’s never by too much or for too long.

Honorable Mention: Lewsberg, In Your Hands

Originally released digitally in late 2021, 12XU put out Dutch indie rock band Lewsberg’s third album on vinyl in April. In Your Hands finds what had been a quartet reduced to a three-piece, and the 23-minute “mini-album” shifts the band’s sound toward minimalist, Velvets-esque indie guitar pop that still contains shades of the 90s underground rock influences that had previously animated the band.


RO Pick: The Intelligence, Lil’ Peril

With their eleventh album, The Intelligence continue to occupy a unique position within the frequently limiting world of garage punk. Lil’ Peril’s nine songs flirt with synths and electronics, hit as hard as anything in the rhythm section, and play with minimalism and open space in a way that reflects Intelligence leader Lars Finberg’s dub influences. (Read more)

Honorable Mention: Massage, Oh Boy

A reissue, but too good to pass up highlighting here. Originally released in 2018, the debut record from Los Angeles five-piece group Massage is a collection of songs that could pass as lost college rock singles shot through with a “rainy day” dreamy feeling. Oh Boy is a classic jangle pop album, hopping from slow and wistful to peppy and upbeat but always offering up gripping melodies. (Read more)

(Also reviewed on Rosy Overdrive: Flowertown, Half Yesterday / R.E. Seraphin, Swingshift / Tony Jay, Hey There Flower)

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