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In Review: Best of 2022 (So Far)
A half-yearly roundup of my favourite records of the year.
Once again, it’s that time of year, folks! Publications big and small are throwing their hats in the List Game and, here at The Pitch, I’m certainly not going to pass over a good opportunity for curated recommendations.
At present, my Weekly Roundup playlist (follow that one here if you haven’t already) is pushing 200+ tracks and clocking in at more than 12 hours of material. All-new, all-great, and well worth your time and attention.
So, from that hallowed selection of 2022 releases, here are my favourite records of the year so far, in totally objective, non-preferential alphabetical order. Enjoy!
Cave In – Heavy Pendulum
“Following the tragic death of bassist Caleb Scofield in 2018, Cave In needed time to regroup. On Heavy Pendulum, their first studio album in 11 years, the Boston alt-metal unit have turned a personal story of triumph over grief into the most revelatory record of their career. The inclusion of Converge bassist Nate Newton in Scofield's place feels entirely natural, adding a bottom end dense enough to crack planets to the band's already colossal sound, alongside towering riffage, expansive vocals and propulsive percussion.” (Exclaim!)
Conway The Machine – God Don’t Make Mistakes
“Whether he’s shrugging off the pandemic on the kinetic ‘Drumwork’ or talking about the 2012 shooting that left him with Bells Palsy and permanent nerve damage from two shots to the head and neck on the raw ‘Guilty,’ there’s a grim realism to be found in every cinematic hood fable. As album standout ‘Stressed’ opens up to a solemn confessional, braggadocio and chest-beating take a back seat to real talk, circling around Conway’s ongoing battle with depression, alcoholism, and grief he suffered after losing a son. It’s a stern reminder that behind every legend is a real person, caught up in the same tormented cycle of fear, desire and mortality as the rest of us.” (Weekly Roundup)
Drug Church – Hygiene
If Drug Church frontman Patrick Kindlon had any overarching grievance with the world, it would be suffering an abundance of fools. On the towering “Tillary,” the epic closer to 2018’s Cheer, Kindlon offers up a telling lyrical aphorism: “The brutal truth of the thing/ Is you need to control to feel free.” It’s little surprise then that Hygiene, the band’s phenomenal fourth LP, powerfully skewers this idea of control as an innate concept through a score of thematic framings: the weight of personal expectation, mechanisms of state coercion, commodified outrage, and identity politics.
But don't let the name fool you: Hygiene is far from squeaky clean. Alongside Kindlon’s stream-of-conciseness barbs, self-described as “intentionally unhelpful notes,” the remaining members of the Albany, NY unit sharpen their versatile instrumental palette to a cutting edge, forging shoegaze, grunge, and acerbic post-hardcore into the band's most dynamic and compelling compositions. As the frontman notes in the album’s PR material:
“The beauty that happens here is accidental. It’s not that musicians have some insight into the world; it’s just that by doing something in art, you can trip over these transcendent moments—but you can’t endeavour to make them.”
Foreign Hands – Bleed the Dream
“Back in January, I declared Delaware quintet Foreign Hands to be following the formula for the perfect metalcore record from my overstuffed brain. Well, having now listened to said EP several times over, I can confirm that the record feels like taking a tour through metalcore’s early 00s Golden Age. ‘Anemoia’ opens with a thunderous cavalcade destined to make even the most ardent early Cave In adopter quake in their boots, while lead single ‘Separation Souvenir’ acts as the spiritual successor to the 7 Angels 7 Plagues throne—punchy snare hits, angular lead riffs, spoken word vocals and all.” (Weekly Roundup)
No Pressure – S/T
One could make the argument (this being my newsletter after all) that all forms of pop-punk are centred around a nostalgic yearning for the perception of simpler times: talking shit with your mates, watching skate videos and Jackass on MTV, illegally downloading music off the Internet, wishing for the perceived freedom of adulthood while also secretly relishing in the youthful exuberance of adolescence, etc. Whether or not the object of that nostalgia is ever really as good as you remember isn’t really the point, though. It’s the feeling, and the desire of that feeling, that’s the real pop-punk catalyst.
A few weeks ago I described No Pressure as “What if we played Dude Ranch songs but hardcore?” I still stand by that analogy and after several enthusiastic playthroughs, it’s only become more apt. Featuring The Story So Far frontman Parker Cannon alongside Light Years' Pat Kennedy and Regulate's Harry Corrigan, No Pressure’s self-titled debut LP takes this nostalgic yearning and turns it into something supremely catchy and blissfully ephemeral.
Puffer – Live and Die in the City
“Sometimes, a little mystery can go a long way. Scour the internet for information on Montreal punks Puffer, and you're bound to come up short. It’s the absence of details that makes the newly formed quintet's RoachLeg Records demo, Live and Die in the City, all the more impressive. Featuring five tracks of fast ‘n’ fun hardcore punk of the old-school variety packed with burly vocals, rocking refrains, and quicksilver guitar licks, it’s a recipe for a ripping basement show.” (Exclaim!)
Softcult – Year of the Snake
While the idea of “nu-grunge” isn’t very, um, new (I even did an entire playlist about it not too long ago), there’s still potential for this ever-evolving subgenre to speak to new audiences through a revitalisation of old sounds. And this is precisely what Ontario siblings Softcult (formed by twin sisters Phoenix and Mercedes Arn-Horn) offer.
Self-described as “music for mall goths,” the Canadian duo’s Year of the Snake EP successfully splices the amps-to-11 kinetic energy of solid gold grunge riffs (“BWBB” and “Spit It Out”) with the lush atmospherics of shoegaze (“Perfect Blue” and “House of Mirrors”) and honest, feminist lyricism (“Gaslight” and “Uzumaki”).
Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems
“Hardcore is a spiritual bloodletting of bad vibes, the purgation of pent-up energy, the frenzied free-for-all of frustration. It’s the raw, ephemeral intensity of the mosh pit, the shit that makes those little hairs stand up on the back of your neck because everything might go to shit at a moment’s notice. That’s what ultimately makes the entire pursuit threatening and exhilarating: the means to explode and the will to push the button. On their incendiary fourth LP, Diaspora Problems, Soul Glo turn hardcore punk into a heteroglossic block party.
Opener “Gold Chain Punk” bristles with livewire frontman Pierce Jordan’s feral refrain (“Can I live?!”), almost singlehandedly daring the universe to step up and beat his ass. From here, the LP swings wildly between snarling screeds fixated on cultural appropriation and societal injustice to booming hip-hop beats and freestyle flow. The Philly outfit also aren’t afraid to serve up a smooth synth-wave fake-out, death metal guttural or bright bursts of horns to get their point across, either.” (Weekly Roundup)
SPEED – Gang Called Speed
“Things have been coming up strong for the Australian quintet in recent months. They racked up profiles for Rolling Stone and Vans, alongside an announcement for their first trip to North America, with a coveted appearance at this year’s Sound and Fury fest in Los Angeles, alongside labelmates Scowl, Zulu, and more… But you won’t catch SPEED allowing this well-deserved success to go to their collective heads.
The group—vocalist Jem, bassist Aaron, guitarists Josh and Dennis, and drummer Kane—aren’t ones to abandon their roots or forget their inner-city grind mentality. They might be humble, but they’re still hungry. Recorded with Elliott Gallart at Chameleon Studios, [Gang Called Speed] finds SPEED embracing their heritage and culture, cementing their place in the global hardcore scene, and drawing influences from acts like Biohazard, Merauder, and Trapped Under Ice.” (No Echo)
Static Dress – Rogue Carpet Disaster
I love watching a band’s profile steadily grow through hype and musical depth. UK outfit Static Dress have been the focus of the alternative press cycle for some time now, and with the release of 2021’s Prologue concept EP, I knew we’d see something great from them before too long. Thankfully, the band’s long-awaited debut LP delivered on all those expectations and more.
Listening to Rogue Carpet Disaster, it’s all-too-easy to clock the sonic signposts: the early MCR-esque hooks (“fleahouse” and “such.a.shame”), the Geoff Rickly backing screams (“lye solution”), the angular riffage and dissonant structure of the Glassjaw variety (“Courtney, just relax”). And while these pieces might be familiar, the Leeds quartet make sure that each chorus, bridge and hasty transition zigs as much as it zags at the level of composition. Each listen reveals elements that continue to be both curious and exhilarating, and in the dime-a-dozen landscape of post-hardcore, that’s a rare (and welcome) achievement.
Listen to all of these records on the TPD Best of 2022 playlist.