Best indie albums of 2022
In a year that saw everything from the return of Beyoncé to the release of yet another Taylor Swift album — which brought with it a deluge of Ticketmaster drama — the indie music scene has also gifted its fans with an explosion of new music. With such musical excess, it seems almost criminal to limit the best of 2022 to 10 albums, but here we are anyway: the 10 best (indie) albums of the year.
10. “Sometimes, Forever,” Soccer Mommy
Is this a love song or a twisted metaphor about desire? You can never quite tell with Soccer Mommy where the pain ends and euphoria begins, and for Sophie Allison, lead singer and songwriter, love and torture might be one and the same. For instance, in her single “Shotgun,” Allison sings, “So whenever you want me I’ll be around / I’m a bullet in a shotgun waiting to sound,” as the drums beat in quick succession like a gunshot in the distance. Soccer Mommy’s songs on “Sometimes, Forever” are all about this push and pull of wounds of love. Love is carnage, “so carve me up,” sings Allison on “Unholy Affliction.” Her lyrics are visceral, bloody, and a hellscape of emotions — but she can’t seem to cut herself off from this addiction. This torturous tug-of-war at the heart of her most recent album is what makes it so relatable, if painful, to experience alongside her. Perhaps, an answer to Soccer Mommy’s war of love and agony lies in the title, “Sometimes, Forever”: the temporary and the infinite, irreconcilable but inextricably next to each other.
9. “Blue Skies,” Dehd
There’s something nostalgic and timeless in Dehd’s music. Their 2020 album, “Flowers of Devotion,” is dripping in reverb and longing. It provides an escape from the hell of pandemic isolation, while embracing the euphoria of the uncontrollable. However, Dehd didn’t stop there. With their 2022 album, “Blue Skies,” we get an album that builds on all the dreamy, ambient, and soaring sounds of their previous work with a more consistent sonic edge pushed forward by the fearless belting of bassist/vocalist Emily Kempf. More than often supported by guitarist/vocalist Jason Balla, Kempf’s voice leads us along a road of redemption and clarity in “Blue Skies,” a bright and dynamic fourth album for Dehd.
8. “Laurel Hell,” Mitski
It was a good year for depressed people: Mitski released her sixth album, “Laurel Hell.” In the opening track, “Valentine, Texas,” Mitski sets the tone for the rest of her album with a transcendent compilation of shaking, reserved vocals, and slow chords building to a storm of synth and piano worthy of a spiritual reckoning. Mitski is at her best when she is emotionally devastated, and “Laurel Hell” is no different from her previous work in that regard. Track 2 is a perfect example: “Working for the Knife” is a song of loneliness and disillusionment, abundant with imagery devoid of free will or any hope for the future. Yet, throughout “Laurel Hell,” Mitski also pairs emotional surrender with beautiful and haunting instrumentals, as if there is something still worthwhile in the dark — something that still glimmers through the grime.
7. “Tell Me That It’s Over,” Wallows
In their sophomore album, Wallows continued to embrace the messiness of love in your 20s, with all the emotional reservation and driving guitar chords their Gen-Z fans love them for. In 10 tracks of barely-controlled frenzy, “Tell Me That It’s Over” is a fast-paced indie rock album done right, laced with emotional confusion and pleas for an end to jumbled love affairs. There are moments of desperation and denial, and Wallows is more often than not caught up in the regrets of the past. As the album works itself down from the climax of Track 8, “Hurts Me,” the final two tracks strike a quieter tone. Through the best and final track of the LP, “Guitar Romantic Search Adventure,” Wallows leaves listeners longing for lives unlived. “Wish we could cancel time / Or let it all fly by,” lead singer Dylan Minnette pleads, and we can’t help but mourn all the things left unsaid and the time wasted on past loves alongside him.
6. “God Save the Animals,” Alex G
Alex G is an artist you can never quite predict. His latest work, “God Save the Animals,” is no exception. Alex G, the stage name of Alex Giannoscoli, has created another baffling, genre-melding album, with an undercurrent of folksy instrumentation that evokes rural countrysides and quiet failures. His lyrics are peppered with religious imagery: failed missionaries, desperate prayers, and drug-fueled miracles. The gentleness of tracks like “Miracles” and “Mission” is contrasted sharply by the harsher sound of “Blessing,” with Giannoscoli’s whispered vocals and Christ-like rebirth narrative more ominous than melancholic. Like in his past work, Alex G’s lyrics hang around you long after you finish listening. He has a gift for making songs like Track 6, “Ain’t it Easy,” that seem to emerge as much from his mind as from the mire of your own emotions. When you listen to “God Save the Animals,” you go down into the darkness with Alex G, emerging not with peace, but maybe some comfort in better knowing what haunts you.
5. “And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow,” Weyes Blood
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be Natalie Mering’s, aka Weyes Blood, mindset for her second LP in an expected trilogy of albums. Building on the epic and haunting sound of her previous album, “Titanic Rising,” “And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow” strikes a similar feeling in listeners, bringing together mythological metaphors with soaring vocals that leave you transcending the mundane landscape of modern life. Mering’s music is as much a spiritual experience as a purely auditory one. In Track 4, “God Turn me into a Flower,” the singer pleads for a fate fit for a tragic Greek hero, alluding to figures like Narcissus, whose fatal flaw is to be brought down by his own beauty. While her new album may be nothing we haven’t seen before, Weyes Blood doesn’t care — instead, she asks us to dive deeper into lore, into apocalypse, and into the glow of love.
4. “Texas Moon,” Khruangbin and Leon Bridges
One of the best partnerships in indie & experimental R&B over the past few years, Khruangbin and Leon Bridges came together again for their second EP, “Texas Moon,” a sequel to “Texas Sun,” released in 2020. What Khruangbin and Bridges do so well together is their immaculate creation of the Texas landscape — arid, endless, seductive. In “Texas Moon,” Bridges’s voice is a perfect accent to the dreamy and smooth instrumentals of Khruangbin, a three-person band that masters genres from psychedelia to reggae as much as defies them. Khruangbin and Bridges lull you into the sultry and dark Texas nighttime, where you’re as likely to find shelter as a never-ending stretch of road on the path to absolution.
3. “Blue Rev,” Alvvays
After five long years, the Alvvays drought is over, and when it rains, it pours — “Blue Rev” promised a lot and delivered beyond expectations. Alvvays is not a band to release music for the hell of it — they have only released three albums in almost 10 years. Indeed, they are methodical, and fans’ patience has been rewarded with the explosion of dream pop that is their third LP. College drop-outs, internet addicts, a drunken and jealous ex, a perpetual runaway — these are the characters of “Blue Rev.” On a track that feels like a refreshing deviation from the rest of the album, “Very Online Guy” is making fun of the stereotype of a modern, media-obsessed man. The song mows you down with a crescendo of synth and sarcasm. “Belinda Says” has every feature of an Alvvays song you could ever want: a gentle intro that screams into a wall of sound, lead singer Molly Rankin’s impossibly perfect powerhouse of a voice, lyrics about mistakes from “ankle sprains” to an unexpected pregnancy which are ecstatic as much as paralyzing, and a final cry of Rankin’s voice that bleeds into an overpowering guitar outro. As always (wink), Alvvays’ dreamy power-pop in “Blue Rev” is consuming, irresistible, and boundless.
2. “Wet Leg,” Wet Leg
Wet Leg is one of the best new music acts to emerge from 2022. Indeed, they even got a Grammy nod for Best New Artist this year. Hailing from the Isle of Wight, England, Wet Leg isn’t exactly doing anything we haven’t seen before. They’re angry, they’re screaming, they’re doing incredible guitar riffs. But something about their sound still surprises listeners with its humor — I mean, who doesn’t love a line like “Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” In their first album, there’s an incredible mixture of joy and irreverence in Wet Leg’s lyrics and driving instrumentals, which has been on full display throughout the 2022 live music festival circuit, where audience members are encouraged to literally scream along to the outro of “Ur Mum.” More importantly, Wet Leg is taking what might seem like an overdone and repetitive genre and elevating and refreshing it. Wet Leg’s indie rock is hilarious, energetic, and simply fun. And, most exciting of all, Wet Leg is just getting started.
1.“Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You,” Big Thief
Big Thief has once again done what they do best: an album that’s more than just a loosely related collection of songs, but instead a narrative, an experience, a time and place as contradictory as it is intriguing. If the album’s title gives you any idea, “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” is never just one thing. “Spud Infinity” seems hilariously, incongruously, and wonderfully silly with its twangy, country energy, and “Red Moon” could easily be heard playing at a honkytonk with its fiddle and rolling bass. These two tracks come on either side of “Certainty,” a song more reminiscent of Big Thief’s lyricism and instrumentation in their previous four albums. Adrianne Lenker, lead singer and songwriter for Big Thief, is at her best on this album. She is gentle and mournful on the titular track: “Crying out / Take me to the limits of your love.” In “Simulation Swarm,” she sings a lyric as devastating as a gut punch — “Eat the gun as it feeds you” — with unforgettable ease and informality. And just as Lenker says that her “certainty is wild, weaving,” Big Thief deftly weaves their way through an astounding, wonderfully fresh yet timeless 20-track album. It is no surprise that their album tops this list as the best of 2022.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Justice.