The Alternative’s Best Records of 2022 So Far (Page 2)




Lights - PEP - Music

Lights – PEP

Each year, an album is released in the spring that melts away what remains of winter and rejuvenates my mental state. Being an avid runner, I use this yearly springtime release in conjunction with distance running to pull myself out of the winter blues. The album that broke winter’s grip this year was PEP. Admittedly, I am late to the Lights party–joining only after her Skin&Earth Acoustic album. However, I’m confident in saying PEP is her best piece of work. Opener “Beside Myself,” my personal favorite track, introduces the listener to the electronic, pop guitar, and atmospheric elements of the album. PEP is front loaded with upbeat, large scale production pop hits to get you off your feet, but once track six hits, the album pumps the brakes in the best way. With “Jaws” putting emphasis on the synth driven leads, Lights gently graces our ears with her ability to bite back when necessary. While “Jaws” was not played on her most recent tour, scrolling through her Twitter replies shows that fans are more than eager to hear this b-side banger. With track seven, “Rent,” marking the halfway point, the album starts its crescendo again. With such a strong build up throughout “Voices Carry,” it’s justifiable to believe that “Grip” would be the grand send off to such a powerful record. However, we are once again whiplashed by a full circle slow down that bleeds right back into “Beside Myself” to make for another listen. With the bruises of the seatbelt still fresh from the first listen, you’re ready for it to start again and pick up on the smaller details you missed the first listen; and really sit with the slower tracks. – Kyle Musser

Maggie Gently – Peppermint

My diary’s weighed down with hard-learned lessons,” sings Maggie Gently on “About Leaving,” over airy guitar plucks before an electric guitar tears through the quiet ambience and the song morphs into an indie rock ripper. Throughout Peppermint’s nearly 30 minute runtime, Maggie Gently enumerates those lessons about love, loss, and life in general, all backed by ‘90s-inspired powerpop riffs and bright melodies. The most important lesson of all, to hear it from her, is don’t be “afraid to tell you everything I’m feeling now.Peppermint is raw and crushingly honest, but its hooks are so sugary and infectious that it never gets to be too much. – Zac Djamoos

Mom Jeans – Sweet Tooth

On their 3rd LP Sweet Tooth, the Bay Area-based band continued to deliver pop-punk/emo greatness. Their catchy opener “Something Sweet” set the tone for the whole record. With many of the record’s themes being about love and relationships, the band continue to write about this subject in a way that doesn’t come off as cliche, but instead more diaristic, with “Hippo In The Water,” “White Trash Millionaire,” and “Luv L8r” being exemplary tracks of how to write about love while delivering meaningful lyrics, amazing hooks and riffs, and a genuine love for writing music. Over the 3 LPs the band has released, this is the one where I can tell they’ve had the most fun writing. It’s truly a delight to listen to Sweet Tooth and curve my sweet cravings. – Sarah Knoll


Opening with the effortlessly catchy “Silk Chiffon” (ft. Phoebe Bridgers), the song sets up exactly what to expect from MUNA’s third record – a collection of unapologetic queer anthems rooted in joy and exploration. Songs like “What I Want” and “Solid” are bound to be club anthems while “Kind of Girl” and “Shooting Star” slow things down with beautiful introspection. It comes at a pivotal time in America where we can all use the reminder of how important it is to embrace your identity and the sense of community that comes with it. – Lindsy Carrasquillo

Nilüfer Yanya – Painless

Nilüfer Yanya’s Painless is full of hauntingly piercing lyrics and is a masterclass in unrelenting sound. The line between synthetic and organic is blurred in her voicework, abrupt instrumentals, and somber tones. This sophomore record shows the growth made since, their 2019 debut, Miss Universe, and I am sure that they also picked up some tricks and experience on their tours with Sharon Van Etten, Mitski and The XX. Combined, all of these efforts make for a stunning record that should be listened to as soon as possible, and then over again. – Anne Hurban

oso oso – sore thumb

I said it about basking in the glow, and I’ll say it about sore thumb: it’s so comfortable and familiarly pleasant. There’s always love in anything Jade Lilitri does, but the love in sore thumb is different than anything before. Where basking was bright and new, this album is tense and fleeting. Given the circumstances behind the recording process, as well as it being Tav Maloney’s last record, the thumbprint of family is pressed deep into every note. There’s tangible emotional connections that conjure images of my cousin’s basement with the scuffed 64 system, of parking lot showers to wash the sand off, and of long embraces to sustain the same love until the next time you see them again. Despite the somber tone, there’s still some bouncy energy and Lilitri’s signature vocal stylization to ease you into every shift in energy across the album. For many reasons, sore thumb is equipped to stand the test of time and sit as a favorite for many oso fans, old and new. – Luciano Ferrara

Pedro the Lion – Havasu

Since I was a teen, Pedro the Lion has been the artist I turned to when I didn’t have words for the swirling, dark emotions I felt. Havasu feels like a homecoming, with David Bazan looking back at his childhood self and telling him he understands and he cares. I grew up in a church youth group, so “Old Wisdom” hit me in the gut and has helped me heal ( “On the same old wisdom/With the same result/Kids in turmoil/Thinking it’s their fault” just bodied me). My favorite song is “First Drum Set,” a slow burn epic so triumphant and sweet, showing Bazan is just as deft at describing joy as he is pain. – Jami Fowler

Pollyanna – Slime

Slime showcases an impressive vocal range and extremely vulnerable lyrics, and it’s some fun-as-hell punk rock. It’s heavy when it needs to be and tender when the mood is right. Pollyanna’s debut is still picked fresh off the vine, and only now are fans starting to really value the band’s talent and wide range of skills. That said, we suspect that this is an album that people will come back to more and more over time. – Anne Hurban

Prince Daddy & the Hyena – Prince Daddy & the Hyena

Prince Daddy & the Hyena’s powers are growing. Each record the Albany indie punks release manages to dwarf the previous in terms of narrative scope, sonic exploration, and bleeding passion. The band’s self-titled LP is clearest and most obvious example of the band’s evolution yet; Cosmic Thrill Seekers already introduced Broadway-esque theatricality, Celtic punk, and surfy powerpop into the band’s sound, but Prince Daddy & the Hyena takes even that experimentation a step further. Even the record’s opening “Adore the Sun” immediately obliterates any expectations. Kory Gregory’s traded in his signature throat-shredding snarl–possibly the band’s most recognizably trait–for a smooth falsetto croon (and who’d have thought he had such range as a singer?). The rest of the record generally balances those two poles–the pristine, chiming indie rock and hoarse, crowded-room punk–with flourishes here and there in case the leap wasn’t quite drastic enough. “Keep Up That Talk” flirts with funk, “Curly Q,” with its understated indie folk sway, earned ample comparisons to Grandaddy, “Something Special” is a sunny jangle-pop earworm, and “Baby Blue” ends things on a sparse acoustic note, the band’s most intimate closer yet. Prince Daddy can still tear the roof off when they need to–”A Random Exercise in Impermanence” and the explosive “Hollow as You Figured” are proof of that. Impressively, when the band blends the two is when they turn in their most memorable songs. The peaks and valleys of “El Dorado” play out like the album arc in miniature, “Shoelaces” dresses Prince Daddy’s biggest hook ever in gruff howls, and the nine-ish-minute penultimate “Black Mold” is the obvious star of the show here, a cathartic slowburner that gradually rises from a twinkling indie ballad to distorted screed. It’s hard to imagine this band circa I Thought You Didn’t Even Like Leaving attempting a song like this, let alone pulling it off. But the six years in between haven’t just seen Prince Daddy grow. They’ve turned into one of the most impressive bands in the genre, and Prince Daddy & the Hyena doesn’t feel like the band’s peak at all. It only feels like the start of the journey. – Zac Djamoos 

Sadurn – Radiator

Sadurn recorded Radiator in a cabin outside of Philadelphia, making the most of that intimate and enclosed setting to create an immediate and captivating collection of tunes falling somewhere between emo, folk, and indie. Drawing emotion from mundane things like a slow leak in your tires or a stranger’s t-shirt, the lyrics can be casual and clever at times, or devastatingly honest and forthright at others, and the group’s range of intertwining guitars from a perfect complement to Genevieve DeGroot’s vulnerable vocals. Singles “Snake” and “Icepick” are fantastic and show the group’s range next to the haunting “Moses Kill” and delicate “White Shirt,” but it might be album centerpiece “Special Power” where the Radiator hits its high point, as DeGroot delivers the final lines of “but I remember being taken over by the feeling / so if you think that means that I’m over you you’re dreaming” leading the band into a swelling coda. Aaron Eisenreich

Shamir – Heterosexuality

Shamir’s Heterosexuality is his best work to date. His ability to blend genres together to produce such a sublime sonic landscape is a stunning display of his talents. It’s obvious by the record’s end that every aspect of the album was deliberately planned out, creating a transcendent exploration of identity and queerness through deconstructing social norms while also being acutely aware of the trauma associated with it. Heterosexuality is an important moment in Shamir’s career, and it deserves to be praised for exactly what it is and exactly what anyone takes away from it. – Hope Ankney 

Snow Ellet — Glory Days

I can’t listen to Snow Ellet without thinking of the early 2000s, without thinking of The Starting Line in their bleached tips era or The All-American Rejects in their programmed drums era. Sometimes I feel bad about this — after all, hundreds of hopeful pop-rockers have tried to replicate what those bands were doing, almost always failing to put forth that mix of sugary hookiness and earnest songwriting without sounding corny or parodic. But with Snow Ellet, Eric Reyes manages to nail that style of sunny, effortless pop-punk while also feeling just as fresh as those acts did back in 2002. The Glory Days EP polishes up the formula presented by last year’s Suburban Indie Rock Star, giving even bigger hooks that feel sturdy enough to hold up through many summers to come.  — Jordan Walsh

String Machine – Hallelujah Hell Yeah

Released as winter was beginning to shift to spring, String Machine’s Hallelujah Hell Yeah is an album of rebirth, feeling like the crossing of a threshold as the songs express the desire to rejoin the world (“​​but it’s a black out stock of empty spaces / in high demand, a witch hunt to churn it anew”) mingled with the urge to escape and shut yourself up in seclusion (“and I wanna hide forever / with my jaw taped shut / paper cuts on my jotting hand”). The group pulls from their seven-member roster to create a joyous and raucous brand of indie-folk full of sharp horns and gorgeous strings overtop the more traditional rock band instruments. “Gales of Worry” stands out with its somewhat wacky synth line paired with the cello in the verse and the brooding repetition of “yeah, I take another one down / I can’t pick myself up now / so I take another one down / and I pour myself out.” As does “Dark Morning (Magnetic),” pulling energy from the driving trumpet line, with the lyrics “but I never asked to be with this way / but I am, and I can’t just give up now / in the face of something / I can’t get around” seeming to express the emotional contradictions at the core of these songs. Both an intimate expression and celebration of community, Hallelujah Hell Yeah finds beauty and hope amidst these clashes and contradictions. — Aaron Eisenreich

Sweet Pill – Where the Heart Is

I would describe Sweet Pill’s debut album as emo with a post-hardcore edge, but the energy of singer Zayna Youssef and co. proves too much for a boring logline. After all, the Philly locals have made one of the most explosive records of the year by nodding at conventions but refusing to be engulfed by them. Emo and mathy riffs twinkle behind Youssef’s forlorn vocals only to be briskly interrupted by shifting time signatures and mainlined distortion throughout all thirty minutes of Where the Heart Is. The ever-changing song structures lean in and out of the staples of the genres they’re indebted to without ever feeling formulaic despite their familiarity. It’s as dynamic of a record as I’ve heard this year and it’s yet another full-length debut. 2022 is the year of the noob! – Chris Burleson

Topiary Creatures – You Can Only Mourn Surprises

Topiary Creatures’ You Can Only Mourn Surprises is a wonderful and wildly creative emo record, finding its sound in a range of genres and influences with plenty of synths and chiptuney flourishes added to the varied guitars that range from heavy punk distortion and manic emo noodling to reflective acoustic picking. Bryson Schmidt’s voice sounds great here too, especially in the moments where the band drops out, feeling like the temporary calm in the eye of a hurricane amongst the swirling chaotic nature of the rest of the record. It’s hard to pick a standout track on You Can Only Mourn Surprises, but the airy “Juice Boxes at the Finish Line,” built off a winding riff and lyrics like “you’re hell-bent on wasting the primes of your lives / just fucking hanging out in different cities” makes its case, as does the existential “September 9th, 2020.” In the end, the strength of the record comes from its endless repeatability. It’s a record that you can’t really play into the ground, as something different is likely to catch your ear every time you put it on, no matter how many dozens of times you’ve played it.—Aaron Eisenreich


Valleyheart – Heal My Head

Valleyheart should have become the “next big thing” when they released Everyone I’ve Ever Loved in 2018. For one reason or another, that massive record flew under the radar of people it shouldn’t have. Maybe it’s the Massachusetts in me, maybe it’s my affinity for music about the struggles of life after religion, or maybe it’s my underlying hope that one day we’ll get another Animal Flag record, but Valleyheart checks every box and more and Heal My Head solidifies that further. If Everyone I’ve Ever Loved was the tumultuous anxiety-filled train ride from the city to where you parked your car, Heal My Head is the car ride home on the highway where you turn your favorite album on and wonder if the path you’ve chosen in life is the right one. Starting with the chorus of “The Numbers,” vocalist Kevin Klein exclaims, “I’ve got time but I can’t tell / if I use and wear it well” immediately getting the listener to be introspective about their own life. If you chose to listen to nothing else but the 2:50 mark of “Back and Forth” where Kevin yells, “When part of my head just wants the fire / Part of my head just needs some warmth / Why do I keep these weird desires pulling my conscience back and forth?My words can only go so far and I hope that anyone who has taken the time to read this gives Heal My Head a spin and Everyone I’ve Ever Loved a listen after. – Kyle Musser

With the Punches – Discontent

Discontent is like revisiting all of the feelings you had from 13-22, only with the wisdom of being in your 40s. The band has rolled with it and hit back stronger than ever: stronger riffs, production, lyricism. There’s that familiar angst in “Almost Everything,” the instinctual swing of a ripping punk riff in “Discontent,” and a new, reflective perspective from “Path Dependent.” With the Punches brings back the high energy and speed that’s so characteristic of pop punk, but adjusts the lens to address the same fans who, like the band themselves, have aged and changed. While it’s fun to get lost in pop punk nostalgia, the real evolution of the genre is happening now, fronted by the same people who were revolutionizing it back when. We’re all older–still a little lost, a little discontent–but we’re figuring it out a step at a time, and we’re getting better. – Luciano Ferrara 



The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.