Best of 2022: Non-metal releases

Alvvays

Obviously this is primarily a heavy metal site, but we’ve never been super good at staying within those boundaries. A lot of our readers have diverse interests, and the people that actually make metal records also have tastes that lie beyond their chosen sound. We’re no different, and I’m always really excited to create this piece every year because it’s the only chance I get to write about some of these artists that make up a lot of my regular music rotation. Presented in alphabetical order.

ALVVAYS, “Blue Rev” (Polyvinyl): Canadian indie pop killers Alvvays are a longtime favorite of mine, which might seem like a weird fit with all the black and death metal in my musical rotation. Look, you need a change of pace, and I appreciate and love a lot of music that’s not heavy, with this band being one of my favorites. “Blue Rev” is their third, and Molly Rankin remains a powerful voice and great storyteller and she and the band devastate on “Pharmacist,” “Tom Verlaine,” “Velveteen,” “Belinda Says,” and “Bored in Bristol.” Easily one of the most infectious bands on earth.  (Oct. 7)

For more on the artist, go here: https://alvvays.com/

BEACH HOUSE, “Once Twice Melody” (Sub Pop): Beach House was the first band I saw live since the pandemic, and the tour was in support of their excellent double album “Once Twice Melody” that actually started to roll out as seasonal EPs in 2021. Victoria Legrand’s husky voice has only grown richer, and she and Alex Scally manage to put together 18 tracks that vibrate with spacey dream pop on songs such as “Pink Funeral,” which is my favorite of the collection, “New Romance,” the numbing title cut, “Masquerade,” and “The Bells.” (Feb. 18)

For more on the artist, go here: http://www.beachhousebaltimore.com/

BRUTUS, “Unison Life” (Sargent House): One could argue “Unison Life” could fit into the top 40 as a metal record, but I felt it fit better here. This Belgian trio exudes power and energy, led by vocalist/drummer Stefanie Mannaerts who constantly sings like her life is at stake. “Miles Away” kicks off the record and immediately gets your blood flowing, “Victoria” is another barn blazer, and “What Have We Done” is introspective and emotional but still can knock you on your ass. “Liar,” “Storm,” and “Desert Rain” are other high points in this post-hardcore power’s best record yet.  (Oct. 21)

For more on the artist, go here: https://www.wearebrutus.be/

CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX, “Banefyre” (Season of Mist): I’ve long been a huge fan of English dark rockers Crippled Black Phoenix, as they have released some of the most passionate social and political commentary as well as takes on the human condition. But “Banefyre” was their first as a reconstituted band, and breaking in a new singer can be tough. CPB didn’t miss a goddamn beat as “Banefyre” is a barnstormer full of Justin Greaves’ most ferocious and sensitive writing in some time, and Belinda Kordic got more of the spotlight she’s long deserved, trading off with Joel Segerstedt, who sounds like he’s always been there. “Wyches and Basterdz,” “Blackout77,” incredible “Bonefire,” and amazing epic “The Scene Is a False Prophet” are more stark reminders this band is the sound of our world falling apart as those in charge let it happen.  (Sept. 9)

For more on the artist, go here: https://crippledblackphoenix.net/

ZOLA JESUS, “Arkhon” (Sacred Bones): Nika Roza Danilova’s run under stage name Zola Jesus has had so many high points, but a song seven tracks deep on her sixth record “Arkhon” might be her crowning achievement. If you play the song “Desire” for someone and they’re not instantly in piles on the ground, never speak to that person again. The gothy, stormy music on this record peaks often, not just on “Desire,” as you can hear on “Lost,” “Undertow,” and “Dead & Gone,” and Jesus’ voice just reaches through the speakers and squeezes the life out of you until you have no choice but to submit. (June 24)

For more on the artist, go here: https://www.zolajesus.com/

PLAINS, “I Walked With You A Ways” (Anti-): I already was a big fan of Jess Williamson’s solo work and Katie Crutchfield under the Waxahatchee banner, but when they aligned for Plains and their excellent debut “I Walked With You A Ways,” it felt like dream booking a match between two forces that have never come into contact before. Their road-weary and battle-tested country sounds like a journey that goes over easy despite being so vulnerable. These two amazing artists make total magic with “Hurricane,” the total earworm “Problem With It,” personal high point “Abilene,” and “No Record of Wrongs.” I hope this is just the beginning for these two together. (Oct. 14)

For more on the artist, go here: https://plainsband.com/

SASAMI, “Squeeze” (Domino Recording Co.): Sasami Ashworth did the most metal thing of anyone on this list by hiring crushers Barishi as her backing band as she works to co-opt largely white male culture by adding her brash two cents. And it works insanely well as she puts her boot through your face on “Skin a Rat” and “Sorry Entertainer,” two absolute crushers that leave bruising on your body. But she has other tricks such as on torch bearer “The Greatest,” ’70s-splashed and spacey “Call Me Home,” folkish rocker “Tried to Understand,” and  slurry “Squeeze.” This record is part batshit lunacy and part heartfelt dagger, and it’s fucking awesome. (Feb. 25)

For more on the artist, go here: https://www.sasamiashworth.com/

WAILING STORMS, “The Silver Snake Unfolds” (Gilead Media): North Carolina-based psyche and noise powerhouse Wailin Storms weave foreboding tales, and they spill over onto their killer second record “The Silver Snake Unfolds,” containing eight tracks that take you on rides through storms and haunted hollows as you watch these stories play out and imitate the tension you feel deep inside. This record is dark, dramatic, and explosive, a journey you’ll take over and over, punishment and scars be damned. “Broken Into Three,” “Sunday Morning Ceremony,” “Concrete Covers Dead Lovers,” and awesome closer “Carolina Moon” will haunt and shake you. (July 22)

For more on the artist, go here: https://www.wailinstorms.com/

WEYES BLOOD, “And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow” (Sub Pop): Weyes Blood’s magical, haunting music sounds like it could have been at home in a velvet-splashed lounge deep in the 1970s. It also could float through the cosmos and bathe in the stars. Everything here works and makes your heart swoon as tracks including “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” “God Turn Me Into a Flower,” “Twin Flame,” and the title song thaw your heart and let you take an adventure in the dark that’ll ignite your cells. I’m just getting familiar with this since it’s only been out a few weeks, and I’ll follow it deep into the winter. (Nov. 18)

For more on the artist, go here: https://www.weyesblood.com/

YEAH YEAH YEAHS, “Cool It Down” (Secretly Canadian): It had been nine years since we last heard from Yeah Yeah Yeahs and their electronic-warped rock that certainly makes people who like to dance do that activity. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this record since I was lukewarm on 2013’s “Mosquito,” but this one knocked me on my ass from the first listen. “Spitting Off the Edge of the World,” the excellent opener featuring Perfume Genius, is sort of a red herring as what follows takes different turns and zaps past you. “Wolf” might be their best song since “Maps,” “Fleez” is a great one that’s brimming with energy, and closer “Mars” is a galactic trip beyond that ends the record on another world.  (Sept. 30)

For more on the artist, go here: https://yeahyeahyeahs.com/

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