2022 was the year of musical underdogs. As we work towards emerging out of the pandemic, many artists are making bold entrances through their dramatic leaps of experimentation. They have been blurring the lines between genres, styles, and traditions. It has been a joyous year of musical confidence and collaborations.
“Makes Me Sick Makes Me Smile”, Pretty Sick
“You won’t make me into a relic
Just ‘cause nothing matters
Don’t let it get too psychedelic
It doesn’t always pass”
(“Self Fulfilling Prophecy”)
In 22-year-old Sabrina Fuentes’ first full-length album, she vulnerably confronts maturing too quickly after growing up in New York. Track four, “Sober”, calls attention to losing people to the dynamic city. The record was produced by Paul Kolderie, who has worked with legends such as Hole, Pixies, and Radiohead. This album radiates Hole’s “Live Through This” energy. This record is fresh, angsty, and just what modern rock needs.
“You Can’t Kill Me”, 070 Shake
“My skin and bones against the color of your aura
On a Sunday walkin’ slow while time was still runnin’
The moon’s favorite daughter
Light in the dark, and the waves in the water”
(Skin and Bones)
Shake’s newest record exudes romance and power. Her voice merges with the smoky production to create a hollow, electric tone. The experimental record would fit perfectly on the “Skate Kitchen” soundtrack. Her mellow, masculine energy sets tracks like “Stay” and “Skin and Bones” on a path to becoming memorable hits in the world of alternative rap.
“PRE PLEASURE”, Julia Jacklin
“Leave no room for doubt that you are brave
A little leaf catching a wave
Strong, but willing to be saved
Ignore the tenderness you crave”
Following her 2019 record “Crushing” which catapulted her to indie-rock stardom, Jacklin returns with a jazzy 10-track record. In only 38 minutes, Jacklin softly recounts falling in love, religious trauma, and holding onto herself. Track nine, “Be Careful With Yourself”, contains lyrics that sound like Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo had written them. With “PRE PLEASURE”, Jacklin evolves into a vulnerable storyteller.
“Softly – Spotify Singles”, Arlo Parks
“Stealing me traffic cones, smiling at babies
I must admit I wanted you to save me
Now I’m sat on the ground, feeling half-crazy”
(“Softly – Spotify Singles”)
Parks’ 2021 record “Collapsed in Sunbeams” made waves in the world of R&B-Indie hybrids. Parks has a unique ability to turn minuscule details into lovesick lyrics, and “Softly” demonstrates this once again. The Spotify Session version uncovers the intimacy that was hidden in the original track. The raw, vulnerable lyrics pair perfectly with the trumpet and jazzy piano.
“Flood”, Stella Donnelly
“You’ve got a lot of medals for someone who is losing
You’ve got a lot of trophies
They call it moral bruising”
While her last record, “Beware of the Dogs”, was lovesick, Donnelly picks up a different approach to songwriting in “Flood”. Donnelly uses melancholic piano lines, witty storytelling, and social commentary to produce a complex record. She rants about her landlord, makes fun of people who peaked in high school, and delivers a personal anecdote about abuse in a sophisticated collection of songs.
“Sometimes, Forever”, Soccer Mommy
“So I wanna drive out where the sun shines
Drown out the noise and the way that I feel
But even the light is so temporary
And I see the dark at the back of my heels”
(“Feel It All the Time”)
Over the course of five albums, Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison has been tearing her walls down. Allison alternates between her contempt for fame and devotion to love to create a complex, exposed record. Rather than alluding to conflict, Allison confronts her mental health, head-on. In her darkest work yet, Allison merges her Tennessee roots with witchy pop to document her resilience while facing the ebb and flow of intense emotions.
“CAPRISONGS”, FKA twigs
“My heart dissolves away to the rhythm of you
I’ll wait ‘til you arrive
You bring your soul to mine, I’m indebted to you”
Electronic legend Twigs returned with a shiny, electric record. Tracks “oh my love” and “careless” set a new standard for art pop that will be difficult to match. “CAPRISONGS” has everything: voice memos, zodiac commentary, and dramatic interludes. With features from The Weeknd and Daniel Caesar, Twigs engineered a collage of dazzling songs.
“Momma on Audiotree Live”, Momma
“A cowboy in a comet race
Don’t go back to Texas, babe
The desert moon is far away”
Through angsty lyrics and heavy guitar, Los Angeles band Momma makes perfect music for a coming-of-age film. The Audiotree session mixes the duo wonderfully. They are who Freaky Friday’s “Pink Slip” aspired to be. Tracks “Speeding 72” and “Medicine” are highlights of the album, reminiscent of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness.”
“40 oz. to Fresno”, Joyce Manor
“Lie down for a while not awake, but not asleep
With an unfamiliar boy
Object that can bleed
Subject of devotion, reason to believe”
(“Reason to Believe”)
Joyce Manor channels old-school rock in their latest midwest emo record. Their lyrics are contemplative but bold, poking fun at people who have already peaked in “You’re Not Famous Anymore”. Totaling 16 minutes, the record is cryptic and illusive.
“B-Sides”, Julien Baker
“And you can believe me
As long as you want
There’s nothing inside of here
But blood and guts”
In the B-Sides of her 2021 album “Little Oblivions”, Julien Baker succumbs to being dragged down. She accepts her fate and mourns who she used to be throughout a series of three tender songs. Baker’s aching voice pierces through the lyrics and shares a heartbreaking exploration of her insecurities. She shares the soft, intimate confession of believing she was doomed from the start.