There were a lot of albums I loved this year, and listened to over and over again, but I started Jersey Beat to bring attention to New
Jersey bands. So here is my list of my favorite music from the Garden State in 2022.
BEACH RATS – Rat Beat (Epitaph)
This hardcore punk supergroup features Bad Religions's Brian Baker and members of the Bouncing Souls and Lifetime, breathing new life into skatepunk with a sense of energy and excitement that feels like these punk rock lifers have discovered a fountain of youth. Singing about bikes and skateboards and telling their dads to “fuck off” may not be appropriate for guys in their Fifties, but it sure is fun.
CATHEDRAL CEILINGS – Summer Of Misguided Dynamite (dromedaryrecords.bandcamp.com)
The grizzled, graying, and utterly uncompromising Cathedral Ceilings identify only as Nicky, Tommy, and Ralphie, but anyone who's been around the Jersey indie-rock scene for the last two or three decades know these guys. Summer of Misguided Dynamite sounds like what might have happened if the Descendents had moved to D.C. during Revolution Summer, or if New Brunswick's Court Tavern had wound up spawning the same industry-changing zeitgiest as Eighties Athens or Nineties Seattle. Ralph Malanga, the guitar and voice here, has been at this for a while (Footstone, Stuyvesant) and he hasn't lost an inch off his fastball. Buckle up and enjoy.
DAMFINO – Skywriting By Word Of Mouth (damfino.bandcamp.com)
DENTIST – Making A Scene (dentist1.bandcamp.com)
Joe Merklee's 12-string guitar and Oliver Ignatius' inventive production (which incorporates exotic instrumentation on several) elevates this latest collection of heart-on-sleeve indie-pop from Damfino. The songwriting here segues to the deeply felt to the whimsical, but always with an earnestness and commitment to craft that you can't manufacture.
The ebullient pop-rock of Asbury Park's Dentist reached a crescendo on the trio's third album, with Emily Bornemann's pixie-like voice, Justin Bornemann's surfy guitar, and Matt Hockenjos' motorik drumming delivering a dozen fuzzy gems. Blondie and the Go Go's echo on some tracks, as Dentist mine the nexus of Punk and New Wave with a single-minded dedication to their sound. They slow it down a bit on “Thin Ice” and dirty the guitars on “Maladies,” but this is very much an album of Dentist songs, and that, as Martha Stewart might say, is a good thing.
VAL EMMICH – Starburst (valemmich.bandcamp.com)
The latest album from the prolific Bard of Jersey City Heights features his trademark fusion of indie rock and Americana, with a mix of electric and acoustic guitars as well as a good deal of piano. In a career that spans 12 full-lengths and some 20 years, this is Emmich's first completely DIY release, on which he played all the instruments and produced, mixed, and mastered the tracks.
THE FRONT BOTTOMS - “Theresa” EP (thefrontbottoms.com)
The third in the Front Bottoms' series of “Grandma EP's” (named after Brian Sella and Mat Uychich's grandmothers) may not be the treasure trove of unreleased and out-of-print early tracks we got on “Rose” and “Ann,” but it does include the crowd favorite “More Than It Hurts You.” And let's face it, even lesser songs from the FB's back catalog are better than a lot of what's being released by anybody else. Plus these EP's feature the stripped down instrumentation of the FB's early albums, with Brian's adorkable vocals and Mat's crisp drumming unfettered by the major label production that's overwhelmed their last two full-lengths.
THE HAPPY FITS – Under the Shade of Green (www.thehappyfits.com)
The hardest touring band from New Jersey spent so much time on the road this year – playing to sold out rooms full of enthusiastic singalong crowds – that it's amazing they found time to record a new album. The wide-eyed wonderment of What Could Be Better has been replaced here with a realization that we may be on the brink of the apocalypse; the lyrics reflect a cynicism and despair ripped from the headlines, but the band still floats the hope that we can rise above the darkness together. Go to one of their shows and you'll get a sense of how uplifting and empowering that sense of community can feel.
TITUS ANDRONICUS – The Will To Live (Merge)
Who'd've thunk Titus Andronicus would find redemption in classic rock? But with unmistakable inspiration from Alice Cooper, The Who, pub rock, Celtic folk music, and (duh) Bruce Springsteen, Patrick Stickles & Co. have delivered their best album since The Monitor. There's a theme here if you delve deep enough to find it, including two proggy, 7-minute concept songs, “An Anomaly” and “Bridge And Tunnel,” ripe with the stench of “rock opera.” Contemplate them but stick to the plentiful rockers, some of the best in Titus' canon, as well as the thoughtful and moving elegy to Stickles' cousin (and best friend,) Matt Miller. A rousing cover of Cock Sparrer's “We're Coming Back” transforms the football-stadium anthem into a redemption song, as the album's unnamed narrator returns from the abyss and Titus Andronicus regains its footing.
THE VICE RAGS - “Midnight Ride” EP (thevicerags.bandcamp.com)
This combo of Jersey vets (including frontman Paul Rosevear and bassist G.E., both of Readymade Breakup, and drummer Joe Chyb) go back to the Fifties and Sixties for inspiration here. Twangy guitars and reverb'd vocals invoke Duane Eddy and Roy Orbison on the rollicking title track, following by a New Orleans gumbo of garage rock and blues (with a killer bassline) on “Hoodoo Voodoo.” The band time-travels to Liverpool for the Beatlesque “About Time” and then back to the Jersey shore for the romantic “Keep Movin'.” The twang and reverb return on “Dreamin' Again,” a gorgeous ballad that's less retro than simply timeless.
WELL WISHER - That Weight (egghunt-records.com)
Although frontperson Natalie Newbold sings forlornly about turning “29,” no one in Well Wisher remembers the Nineties firsthand. Yet that's clearly the period from which she and the rest (guitarist Lucas Dalakian, bassist Lynsey Vandenberg, and drummer Matt Viani) draw inspiration: The Breeders, the Pixies, Juliana Hatfield, Alanis Morissette... There's also something about Well Wisher that recalls Kurt Cobain's line about writing arena rock songs for small clubs; the music isn't loud, but it's BIG. They've been called pop-punk and emo and punky; I'll stick with impressive.
YAWN MOWER - To Each His Own Coat (Mint 400)
Jersey produces some great duos – Brick & Mortar, Cinema Cinema, Fascinations Grand Chorus, the Components, not to mention the original lineup of the Front Bottoms. Add Yawn Mower to that list, irreverent lo-fi bro's who mix New Wave tropes with Pavement's slacker aesthetic. The casualness of their presentation believes the cleverness of their lyrics or the subtle sonic embellishments they use to keep monotony at bay. There's more going on here than meets the eye (or ear,) and it's all pretty good.
After 2021’s tentative steps with clubs reopening, live music has come roaring back, with a full schedule of shows at local clubs and long-awaited rescheduling of larger tours. It’s been an equally good year for new records, though the industry’s vinyl delays means most releases come out digitally first, or on CD or cassette, long before the coveted vinyl makes an appearance. Still, there’s much to be thankful for, and there’s been an especially large bumper crop of great debuts. So, as I do every year at this time, I humbly present some of the best new records I listened to this past year. As always, these are presented in the order in which they were released, rather than in any order of favorites.
PAUL SILVER - Top Records for 2022
Top 20 LP's & EP's
DIVIDED HEAVEN – Oblivion (A-F Records)
The tracks on this LP are stronger, deeper, and more ardent, sincere, and heartfelt than past efforts (as good as those were). I think this is the best LP ever to come out under the Divided Heaven moniker.
LA ARMADA – Anti-Colonial Vol. 2 (Mal De Ojo Records)
La Armada provides a requiem for a post-pandemic society, one in which politics carries the day over truth, where thoughts and prayers are substituted for concrete action, and the consequences of corporate greed have come home to roost. This album is denser, more complex, angrier, and more chaotic than “Anti-Colonial Vol. 1,” an album that made my Best of 2018 list.
HUMAN ISSUE – Faceless Nameless (Rad Girlfriend Records)
Human Issue is rage personified. There are lots of classic hardcore riffs in here, but also with mathish meter and rhythm changes. Metallic guitars punctuate the songs with angularity.
EN GARDE – Debts (Count Your Lucky Stars Records)
The music is a blend of math, emo, and indie; the music is incredibly intricate with shifting rhythms, and the vocals are intensely passionate. The labyrinthine guitar work is matched by the equally complex drumming, but the vocals are stark and ardent.
LIGHTWEIGHT – This One’s On Me (lightweightpunk.bandcamp.com)
Huge gang vocals, epic soaring melodies, crunchy guitars, heartfelt lyrics, it’s all here. Not only are the songs well-written and performed with furious passion and precision, the production is top-notch.
REMINDERS – Best of Beach Punk (Wiretap Records / Venn Records)
Reminders are not quite a punk band, not quite an indie rock band, and instead falling somewhere in the no-man’s land in between. The songs cover the usual teen angst sort of topics that young bands write about, but the music is joyous. That they do it without falling into the trap of sounding like too many other bands is testament to their creativity.
ELWAY – The Best of All Possible Worlds (Red Scare Industries)
This album does, indeed, seem to represent the best of all possible punk worlds. Some of the songs have an almost orchestral quality, and others span big sing along pop punk to speed skate punk. There are lots of interesting touches, little audio clips inserted here and there, and wonderfully surprising arrangements and riffs. The power of the songs, the strength of the diversity in melodies and textures, and the excellence of the production add up to a quality release, perhaps Elway’s best.
DEAF LINGO – Lingonbery (Lövely Records)
This album is like having three or four EPs from different bands that all feature the same members. There’s variety and there’s consistency of quality. It’s like listening to a less tense version of Radioactivity or Marked Men, and mixed with loping pop punk. This stuff is fantastic!
EXTRA ARMS – What Is Even Happening Right Now? (Forge Again Records)
The band’s latest LP is their best yet, with ten strong tracks, a thick rich sound, and a glorious upbeat feeling. Front man Ryan Allen belts out the vocals like his life depended on it, with passion and fury. Every single track on this album is a good one.
VENOMOUS PINKS - Vita Mors (SBÄM Records)
The songs are raucous punk with a big sound, plenty of melody, and just the right amount of snotty attitude in the vocals. The album starts strong and goes at full speed for the entire ten tracks, without letting up.
THE INFLORESCENCE – Remember What I Look Like (Kill Rock Stars)
The nine songs presented show a strong maturity, blending lovely indie pop with raucous pop punk to create compelling music. The songs are exuberant, with passionate and harmonized vocals. The band members are masters of dynamic control, too.
WHIMSYLAND – Whimsyland
Chadd Derkins assembled an all-star cast to help him realize his vision of a strange theme park. The result is the one of the most charming enjoyable releases of the year.
THE SCHIZOPHONICS – Hoof It (Pig Baby Records)
Not only do the Schizophonics play with explosive energy, they’re downright soulful, and channel 70s music like that of The MC5, but crossed with James Brown. Right from the get go the band crank things up to eleven and don’t let up for a single second of the thirty-eight minutes that it takes for the eleven songs to play; there isn’t a single throwaway track. And as good as their last LP was (2019’s “People in the Sky”), this one is several steps up from that.
LIGHTWEIGHT – You Have To Promise (lightweightpunk.bandcamp.com)
Yep, Lightweight’s two EPs both appear on my list! They combine huge group vocals, crunchy guitars, soaring melodies, and heartfelt lyrics.
LIVE, DO NOTHING – Hiraeth & Loathing (Specialist Subject Records)
Live, Do Nothing are a Cardiff collective, playing lush, rich indie pop music with a full arrangement including saxophone, clarinet, keytar, flute, violin, melodica, cello, trumpet, and even halldrophone (a cello-like instrument with odd controls bolted to it), in addition to the more traditional guitar, bass, and drums of an indie pop band. The result is a unique, fun sound that’s filled with child-like wonder, mystery, and adventure.
BANDA DESTRUIDA (Beer City Records & Skateboards)
The band’s songs are an interesting mix of early punk, garage, indie, math, free jazz, and Chilean folk. Songs have fascinating arrangements, with some including instruments such as accordion, trumpet, flute and more, injecting a ton of Latin and folk into the garage punk proceedings. This is one of the most creative and interesting records I’ve listened to this year.
JAWBOX – Live at Metro Chicago 2019 (Arctic Rodeo Recordings)
When Jawbox had their reunion tour the summer of 2019, they sounded better than ever and appeared to be having more fun than ever before. With this live double LP, you get more than an hour and a half of Jawbox’s hits in one of their best live performances ever.
MARTHA – Please Don’t Take Me Back (Dirtnap Records / Specialist Subject Records)
This is an album that’s filled with brightness and darkness, with elation and depression. Their songs always sound so bright and cheerful, and sometimes they are. But other times they’re full of gloom and doom. I love Martha, and I think this LP may be their best yet.
THE RAGING NATHANS – Still Spitting Blood (Rad Girlfriend Records)
This Ohio punk band just keep getting better and better. The album features powerful Midwest melodic punk, gritty and crunchy, speedy and strong, yet with great pop punk melodies and strong tuneful vocals.
GHOST FOREST (ghostforestband.bandcamp.com)
The dozen songs on this album contain a potent mix of hard rock and 90s post punk and noise rock. This is one of the most exciting debuts of the year.
RICHARD QUINLAN - Favorite Music of 2022
TOP TEN 2022
Every release from TRAVELS WITH BRINDLE (travelswithbrindle.bandcamp.com)
An extremely gifted songwriter with a golden ukulele, Chelsea Spear is an American treasure. If you do not believe me, listen to anything and then everything she released this year.
JANE LEE HOOKER - Rollin’ (Ruf Records)
Rock is not dead, kids. The spirit, energy, and rebelliousness that rock used to have is all convenient found in one sonic package called Jane Lee Hooker.
SENTIENT HORROR - Rites of Gore (Redefining Darkness Records)
For those who crave a return to gut-churning, classic death metal, turn your blackened eyes to the alter of Sentient Horror. This New Jersey outfit brought 1992 into 2022.
CRISIX - Full HD (Listenable Records)
Young, full of energy, and masters of fun-filled punk, I adore this band. They are moving beyond songs about pizza and becoming a truly refined mass of destruction.
HULDER - The Eternal Fanfare (20 Buck Spin Records)
Marliese Riesterer, the one-woman black metal machine known as Hulder, is astoundingly powerful here. Her music is a combination of lush beauty and terrifying intensity. This is a treasure.
ABDUCTION - Black Blood (Candlelight Records)
Are we in a new golden age of black metal? A band like England’s Abduction may lead you to believe so.
DIE! DIE! DIE! - This is Not an Island Anymore (diediedie.bandcamp.com)
With music as direct and furious as their name, this New Zealand trio was the most pleasant surprise of 2022 for me.
IVAN NAHEM - +Ex->Tension Crawling Through Grass (ivan-nahem.bandcamp.com)
Nahem’s talents knows absolutely no bounds, as Crawling Through Glass puts aside his traditionally incredible post-punk genius for what Nahem called “yoga music”. The result is equally stirring and was a go-to record all year.
WOLFBRIGADE - Anti-Tank Dogs (Armageddon Records)
Nothing warms my heart like traditional D-Beat punk, and Woflbrigade injects intelligence into their spleen-stomping force.
ANTHROPHOBIA - Live at Nitro Bar (anthrophobia.bandcamp.com)
Any year in which we are treated to anything from Anthrophobia is a good year. This lie record illustrates just how much fun Frank and his pals continue to be. No gimmicks, no frills, just everything right with rock n’ roll.
Ten Favorites from 2022
Please excuse the absence of many of the top charting hits on the alternative circuit. I spent much of 2022 listening to old hip hop and jazz. Though my exposure to a lot of new music was limited. Much of what I loved regarding 2022 came from artist I’ve been tuning into for decades. Below Is a list of releases that really put the hooks in me and left a lasting impression.
Spoon – Lucifer On The Coach
Superchunk – Wild Loneliness
Otoboke Beaver – Super Champion
Bitter Branches – Your Neighbors Are Failures
The Linda Lindas – Growing Up
Soulside – A Brief Moment In The Sun
Hammered Hulls – Careening Out
Cathedral Ceilings – Summer of Misguided Dynamite
Archers of Loaf – Reason In Decline
OFF! - LSD
20. AWOLNation - My Shadow, My Echo, My Covers & Me
Pop bombast, complete with overproduction, overqualified guest stars, and… I dunno, a general Gen-z-esque-ness, covering songs that really shouldn’t be covered. Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend”? Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta”? Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning?!?! Inexplicably the soundtrack to my summer.
19. Breaklights - Wind Down
One of the better kept secrets of our realm. They could easily join the Mutant Pop roster, if that label dared to add a little gravitas to the genre. The guitar work elevates them above the modern chaff, and the vocals nail the balance between sweet harmonies and the traditional pop punk adenoidal syndrome. A real tight ten songs here.
18. Danger Mouse & Black Thought - Cheat Codes
Off the top of my head, the first hip-hop album to make my top list since 2018! But impeccable sample choices from the dustbins of moody soul mixed with Black Thought’s rapid-fire boom bap will do it for me. Run The Jewels, Raekwon, and MF Doom (RIP) spit verses.
17. Mikey Erg - Love At Leeds
Every time I listen to a new Mikey Erg album, I always end up doing two things, 1) Grasping at random frames of reference like “This part sounds like when Pearl Jam backed up Neil Young on Mirror Ball,” and 2) Recognizing and enjoying that no matter what riffs, romps, or the occasional cover that come up, it still sounds enjoyably Ergsian. Love the energy that went into this.
16. Mountain Goats
Patience pays off as this is my favorite MGs album in twelve years. Strong in the lyrical department as usual, and the catchiness of John Darnielle’s sweet spot era is back. Successful across various styles, too - badass indie folk, country-tinged numbers, and even some extended guitar jams.
15. Alvvays - Blue Rev
This band created my # 1 of 2017, so this one suffers (somewhat, since here we still are on the top list) from high anticipation. Still love the vocals and songwriting, but the sound is a lot more modern and produced, rather than old-school jangle. Respect the growth but I myself need to grow past my “sometimes more is less” inclinations.
14. 2nd Grade - Easy Listening
A bit ambitious at 16 tracks, but the album does indeed provide two handfuls of gems. Too lo-fi to be power pop, too easy-breezy to be pop punk. This still kinda reminds of Stands For Decibels, but also a bit of the New Bad Things.
13. V/A - Under The Bridge
Amelia Fletcher (formerly of Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, and a handful of other awesome projects) pushes a “We are still here!” comp, filled out with bands that were either around for the original Sarah Records era, or sound like they were birthed from that movement. Very dreamy.
12. Built To Spill - When The Wind Forgets Your Name
Still chugging along 30 years later, and surprisingly not slowing down. With only one song clocking in above 6 minutes, Doug & Co. took their guitar-centric indie rock and streamlined instead of sprawled. I loved There Is No Enemy but not the two albums that sandwiched it, so I’m glad to report they are still worth listening to in this decade.
11.Guerilla Toss - Famously Alive
Art pop as it should be. Dense and noisy, but not in a challenging, off-putting way. This is the soundtrack for the part of the movie where the weirdo outsider who feels like they never fit in, walks through a door and finally finds the world where they belong.
10. Martha - Please Don’t Take Me Back
Hook after hook after hook. Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward modern British indie punk, other times it gets a little more majestic in its rocking-ness. Between that, the dual lead vocalists, and their ability to slow it down or put it into overdrive, there’s always something that keeps you interested.
09. Leftfield - This Is What We Do
This one came as a surprise, partly due to the seven year gap from the previous effort, and partly from the contradictions contained within. The 90s techno vibe - big, catchy beats, rave-inducing layers of sound, and Leftfield’s patented recipe on fusing world music and anthemic shouts - still sounds fresh, meshing with new faces (Fontaines DC vocalist Grian Chatten among them).
08. Dear Nora - Human Futures
Katy Davidson, you never cease to captivate me. This album is also infuriatingly difficult to describe in three sentences, since it’s so quirky and off-kilter. Lyrics are well crafted but the melodies take unexpected turns, like she just comes up with them on a whim. My IYKYK release of the year.
07. Cheekface - Too Much To Ask
I approached this album with some trepidation as I wasn’t sure if they could do the tweets-as-lyrics + slacker rock schtick and have it work again. I mean, can I even call it a schtick and still have it rank this high? Something magical is happening here.
06. The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness - The Third Wave Of…
Recommended if you like the last couple of Teenage Fanclub albums, which I do. Well-crafted Scotlandpop oozing with coziness. Like taking your favorite blanket fresh out of the dryer for your ears.
05. Jeanines - Don’t Wait For A Sign
Twee duo from Brooklyn, on the Slumberland label from Oakland, influenced by the 00s acts that rattled around Portland and Olympia and the indie pop originators from 80s UK. Jeanine’s bright vocals and that classic jangle knows no bounds of time and space!
04. Sally Seltmann - Early Moon
A dozen years ago I loved her well-named debut Heart That’s Pounding, filled with love lorn piano pumping pop. She delivers once again here. Earworms and a legit aching voice kept this in heavy rotation.
03. Life - Northeast Coastal Town
Post-indie/dance rock/art punk and yes I really do need to highlight those genres in equal measure. This post-modern UK outfit does everything, does it well, and does it without sounding “all over the place.” Truly a well-crafted long player that gives me hope that alternative rock can still mean something.
02. Whimsyland - Whimsyland
Looking a decade into the future, 27 year olds are working from home, and instead of actually doing their jobs, they are using their networked VR headsets to argue about pop punk. “Yeah pop punk is catchy and energetic and fun,” they will say. “But where’s the imagination? Where’s the creativity?” And then someone will say, “I have the answer to those questions, and that answer is Whimsyland.” And then someone else will say, “Lock this convo up, son!”
01. The Beths - Expert In A Dying Field
Almost too good to be true. This is like a ballplayer winning Rookie of the Year, an MVP, and the Triple Crown in their first three seasons. It’s as simple as indie/alt rock from New Zealand, but it’s so well written and executed that I can’t fault it. No better release this year, and perhaps not coincidentally, The Beths put on the best live show I saw this year too.