Here we are again and even closer to the end of the year. So far, 2022 has been chock full of releases that have made their mark and Q3 (July 01 – September 30) is no different. It’s crazy to think that in a very short time we will be compiling our best of 2022 lists.
Once again, the Tuned Up staff has compiled some of their favorite releases of the last three months and there are some heavy hitters this time around.
Rap group ShrapKnel made up of Curly Castro and PremRock create a heavy, ominous atmosphere on their second full-length. At times, Metal Lung conjures up images of a dark circus (but in no way related to or sounding like ICP). And other tracks evoke smoking cigarettes at midnight outside of a Harlem jazz club in the 20’s. The production is sparse but not empty, with some great scratching and killer saxophone runs. And the duo’s flows play harmoniously off one another. ShrapKnel, along with the two billy woods releases, ELUCID, and Akai Solo, makes Backwoodz Studioz easily the best and most interesting hip-hop label releasing music this year.
Recommended Track: “Metal Sum Kids”
Infiniti Knives x Brian Ennals-King Cobra
King Cobra is a hazy, psychedelic trip in time to the roots of hip-hop while still having one foot firmly planted in the present. Located somewhere in between boom-bap and electro rap of the 70’s, this a wild album from start to finish. The production is unexpected, the flow is both modern and classic, calling back to storytelling rap of artists like Slick Rick and Kurtis Blow while addressing modern issues in a very straight forward, in your face manner, ala Run the Jewels. With the 90’s heavily influencing hip-hop currently, no one else is putting out music like this right now, which makes this a must-listen album.
Recommended Track: “Coke Jaw”
The Mountain Goats-Bleed Out
John Darnielle and company have returned to the concept album on Bleed Out, an ode to forgotten action flicks of the 70’s and 80’s. This is the most punk rock forward of any of their releases and has some adrenaline-fueled tunes that will have you pumping your fists, like “Training Montage” and “Wage War, Get Rich, Die Handsome.” There aren’t necessarily deeper meanings beyond the surface of the songs. That is to say, “Hostages” is really about a bad guy who has a host of hostages at his disposal to negotiate with the authorities. It’s not a metaphorical treatise on the place of America in the Middle East, or a deep meditation on John’s childhood. It is exactly what it says it is. Which is refreshing in that it can be enjoyed a very immediate level.
Recommended Tracks: “Training Montage,” “First Blood”
Black Thought x Danger Mouse-Cheat Codes
In light of the absolute deluge of top notch hip-hop that came out in September, it would be understandable to forget that some really incredible albums came out in late summer. Case in point, The Roots emcee Black Thought and super-producer Danger Mouse put out a classic album on Cheat Codes. Sonically, Cheat Codes is jazzy, funky, atmospheric, and has the right beats to keep the head nodding. Black Thought is criminally underrated and under credited as a rapper. It could be because of his ubiquity on The Tonight Show that he doesn’t get enough credit. But in any case, he deserves to be given a whole lot more praise and attention than he gets, and he is at the top of his game on this album. This project is hard to categorize because it’s not underground, but neither is it mainstream. In any case, it should be at the top of year end lists, hip-hop or otherwise.
Recommended Track: “Aquamarine”
The Bell and the Hammer-The Things We Get Wrong
Like a warm mug of hot chocolate on a cold day, The Things We Get Wrong is a comfort album. That isn’t to say that all the tracks are comfortable, as they touch on difficult issues of justice, mental illness, and the negative impact of religion, among other things. But there’s something about Dan’s songwriting and Serenity’s singing that is comforting, as if to say we know things are messed up, but everything will be alright in the end. The Bell and The Hammer have crafted a pop masterpiece on their second album, which was ten years in the making. And every time I’ve returned to it since its released, it has felt like welcoming in an old friend.
Recommended Track: “When I Was a Sailor”
Holy Fawn – Dimensional Bleed
I’ve often found myself forgetting that before this September, Holy Fawn had really only released one album to much attention, so massive was their reputation in the heavy, atmospheric music community. And for a long time, Death Spells felt like a singular record, without peer. Its follow up could never live up to the immense expectations on it.
But lucky for everyone, Dimensional Bleed offers up more “loud heavy pretty noises” without ever ripping themselves off.
Pianos Become the Teeth – Drift
Eight years after overhauling their sound with Keep You, Pianos offer up the most subdued record in their catalog. But don’t mistake the quietness here for a lack of intensity. There’s still plenty of passion here, but it’s wrapped up in a satisfying slow burn that I can’t stop coming back to.
Chat Pile – God’s Country
In my review for this record, I’m pretty sure I used the word “disgusting.” And I still stand by that. The guitars are slimy and sludgy, the drums are abrasive, and the vocals are delivered in a tuneless spoken word that often entirely disregards the rhythm of the song.
And yet, that’s exactly what keeps me coming back to this record. It’s the sort of sludge record Sonic Youth might make after spending a few days with Gil Scott Heron.
Zane Vickery – Where is Your Faith?: Volume 1
Zane Vickery quickly followed up his 2021 debut LP with a new set of four songs that took his piano-rock foundation and added in a healthy dose of post-hardcore and emo intensity. These are honest songs that wrestle faithfully with the big questions of life, purpose, body, and spirit. They’re compelling – both musically and lyrically – in a way that hearkens back to mid 2000’s emerging Christian post-hardcore.
Allen Odell – Full Hearts, Empty Places
This is an album among albums, the sort of cohesive and conceptual work that seems significant as much in what is not said. It’s a story of grief, hope, healing, and peace told through a series of personal vignettes of different places. These songs are tied together seamlessly by a number of interlude-type songs which serves as extended outros (or intros, depending on how you frame it). The result is a heartbreaking-but-beautiful work that invites us into pain and hope with ease.
Death Cab For Cutie – Asphalt Meadows
Death Cab For Cutie are one of those legacy acts that have settled into their sound, and pump out solid releases every 3 years like clockwork. Asphalt Meadows doesn’t have the timeless features that Plans, Transatlanticism or Narrow Stairs have, but this is classic Death Cab through and through. There are some unexpected moments scattered throughout, which may surprise some long time listeners but ultimately do not detract from the overall “classic” sound.
The Midnight – Heroes
The synthwave juggernauts are back with Heroes, a record that fully dives into the cheese and just is so much fun. This album was meant for car stereos. “Golden Gate” is one of my favorite album openers of the year, and was a fitting song to have on repeat during Steadfast Festival week, with its long build up into a “less is more” climax The record overall is chock full of earworms and the duo have never sounded so confident in their delivery.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down
I’m a bit of a basic bro when it comes to my familiarity with some essential indie rock artists. Yeah Yeah Yeahs I became familiar with in my teen years for “Maps” and years later I recall the quirky, abrasive “Sacrilege” getting my attention as a radio single. That made this record somewhat of a surprise to me. It’s concise and epic at the same time. Well executed synth-inspired alt-rock for a guy like me – who’s in his 30s and sometimes just wants something straightforward and cool to listen to.
Crozet – Suburbia
The timing on this album was just perfect. I was finishing up the latest season of Stranger Things and wrote my review while watching The Breakfast Club in a hotel room in Urbana, IL. I was very much encapsulated in 80s culture and Suburbia just hit all the right notes for that era. It played to the strengths of 80s synthwave, but kept it feeling new and refreshing.
Recommended Track: “Summer Nights”
Norma Jean – Death Rattle Sing for Me
Norma Jean is one of those bands that seems to continue to push themselves thematically, musically and lyrically. After the powerhouse that was All Hail I really wasn’t sure where DSFM would fall, but they exceeded my expectations in spades. DSFM displays some of Cory’s best lyricism to date and it is musically off the rails from start to finish. This one is a major contender for my AOTY.
Recommended Track: “A Killing Word”
The Foxies – Who Are You Now, Who Were You Then?
The Foxies were my sleeper hit of the summer. By happenstance, I caught them live at BreakFest back in May and my interest was piqued. Their mix of pop-punk is as fun as it is catchy. While they may draw comparisons to Paramore they are clearly not a Paramore copy. Not even close. Where Paramore plays more to pop sensibilities, The Foxies embrace the rough around the edges punk side of things all while remaining musically accessible to a variety of listeners.
Recommended Track: “Blush Boy”
The Devil Wears Prada – Color Decay
The Act was my AOTY in 2019 (surprisingly). I was not prepared for the level of maturity that Mike and company would bring to the table. Color Decay follows suite, but with a stronger sense of ferocity that was more commonplace on their earlier albums. Color Decay seems to be the perfect blend of all iterations of TDWP in the past culminating in a sound that is all their own.
Recommended Track: “Broken”
The Darling Fire – Distortions
Distortions is a strong departure from their debut album, Dark Celebration. The overall sound is more polished and/or fleshed out, but doesn’t feel overproduced. Given the combined musical background of all the band’s members it is no surprise that they would release something of such a high caliber. Additionally, “Hers” may be my favorite track of the year.
Recommended Track: “Hers”