30 Great Albums from 1st Quarter 2022
The first quarter of 2022 is a wrap! The weather is getting warmer, so much more great music for the spring is on the way, and it's also a good time to catch up on some of the great music that's already come out this year. It's too early in the year to start ranking things, but we've put together an alphabetical list of 30 albums released between January and March that we highly recommend listening to if you haven't already. Read on for our picks. What are your favorite albums of 2022 so far?
Absent In Body - Plague God
Absent In Body is the supergroup of Neurosis' Scott Kelly, Amenra members Colin H. Van Eeckhout and Mathieu Vandekerckhove, and original Sepultura drummer Iggor Cavalera, and their debut album Plague God pulls from both post-metal and industrial, sharing some DNA with the members' other projects but sounding like an entirely different beast than anything these four have done separately. For much more on this album, read Colin Williams' interview with Colin H. Van Eeckhout over at Invisible Oranges.
Pick it up on limited splatter vinyl.
Aeviterne - The Ailing Facade
New York death metal band Aeviterne formed in 2015 by former Flourishing members Garrett Bussanick and Eric Rizk, along with drummer Ian Jacyszyn, and they released their debut EP Sireless in 2018. Now, with the addition of guitarist Samuel Smith (Artificial Brain, Luminous Vault), Aeviterne have signed to Profound Lore and their debut full-length, The Ailing Facade, is here. Colin Williams wrote a review of it and interviewed the band over at Invisible Oranges, and you can read that here.
Aldous Harding - Warm Chris
There are new voices heard on Aldous Harding's Warm Chris, her fourth album and third for 4AD, all eminating from her. She sounds smaller, somehow; more delicate, almost like a different person than the one who made 2019's wonderful Designer. Warm Chris is an equally beguiling record, just different. It's more pastoral, almost faery folk at times, more subtle. Whoever is the subject of these songs also appears to be head-over-heels in love. "Cut it up, put it in my hand," she sings on the bright, airy opener "Ennui." "You’ve become my joy you understand." On "Fever," she sings "I had stars coming all around me / And you let me in where a mother’d invested." Despite the new vocal stylings, Aldous made the album with her now regular troupe of collaborators, including producer John Parish, and multi instrumentalist H. Hawkline. Sleaford Mods' Jason Williams turns up on the Nico-esque closing track, "Leathery Whip," not to unleash his usual spiel but to offer tender backing vocals. This is new territory for everyone it seems. While Warm Chris doesn't grab you by the lapels the way Designer did, it's an album whose many charms creep up on you and before you realize, you're totally under her spell once again.
Animal Collective - Time Skiffs
After years of more polarizing albums, Animal Collective have released what is easily their catchiest album since 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion. Time Skiffs feels more relaxed and low-key than MPP and Strawberry Jam, but like those albums, it finds Animal Collective indulging in their Beach Boys love and writing futuristic, hallucinatory pop songs. It's a gorgeous album, and Animal Collective's commitment to psychedelia is admirable. Unlike in 2009, "trippy" is not a word that gets thrown around in the zeitgeist much today -- even Tame Impala, the most popular psychedelic pop band of the last decade, sound sober in comparison to Time Skiffs -- and if you've been feeling like indie rock's third eye has been shut for a little too long, this album might be the thing you've been missing.
Grab 'Time Skiffs' on translucent ruby vinyl.
Anxious - Little Green House
Run For Cover
Bridging the gap between harmony-laden power pop and gritty hardcore, Anxious have written an emo album for the ages with their debut LP Little Green House. For much more on this LP, read our feature on the band, interview and album review included.
Pick up the Anxious album on color vinyl.
Bad Boy Chiller Crew - Disrespectful
UK trio Bad Boy Chiller Crew's antics always seem to come up before their actual music does (they first gained attention for videos that The Guardian's Damien Morris referred to as "a head-on collision between Jackass and People Just Do Nothing," to give you an idea), but with Disrespectful, they've written an album that's undeniable even if you don't know anything else about them. Over an array of UK garage and house beats, the trio deliver punky shout-rapping that seems like its main goal is living up to this album title. They also pepper the album with sugar-sweet, nostalgia-inducing, '90s-style R&B samples that offset all the brashness, and even the three members of BBCC show off a soft side when they flex their pipes on tracks like "BMW" and "Stick Around." On one hand, BBCC feel like the British Beastie Boys, and on the other, Disrespectful feels like the catchiest '90s Eurodance album of 2022. It's as ridiculous as it is alluring.
Beach House - Once Twice Melody
Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have always been expert world builders. Their records are swelling Feels Generators, powered as much by mood and vibe as songcraft. But with their eighth album they've created a galaxy. Once Twice Melody is by far -- and by design -- Beach House's most sprawling record to date, but it's also their most cohesive, fully realized record since Bloom. It's an expansion/refinement of the ethereal sound of 2018's 7, with Legrand's once throaty, emotive vocal style giving way to a gentler, more tranquil and airy delivery. Likewise, the music soars through the space dust, shining with flashes of baroque folk, electropop, celestial prog, and Cocteau Twins and Broadcast style dreampop. The whole of Once Twice Melody ebbs and flows over the course of a nearly hour-and-a-half ride, and it's a trip worth taking all the way to the end. Don't be daunted; just take their hand and let them whisk you away, through the looking glass, out the window, into the stars.
Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
Big Thief's new 20-song double album finds them at their most whimsical and their most serious, their most experimental and their most down-to-earth. It's the most sprawling, ambitious thing they've done. Read my full review of it here.
Pick up a vinyl copy.
Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There
Black Country, New Road barely waited a year after putting out their acclaimed debut, For the first time, to follow it with Ants From Up There. Just ahead of its release, singer/guitarist Isaac Wood left the band, citing mental health issues, and while his loss will certainly be keenly felt going forward, his presumably final statement with the band is a glorious whirlwind, 58 minutes of ambitious, anthemic art rock and chamber pop that captures your heart and doesn't let go. "I've kind of accepted that this might be the best thing that I'm ever part of for the rest of my life," bassist Tyler Hyde says. "And that's fine."
Grab Ants From Up There on double vinyl.
Cate Le Bon - Pompeii
Nobody sighs like Cate Le Bon. Going back at least to Mug Museum's "Are You With Me Now?" (but probably further), she has a way with "ahhs" that are beautiful, ethereal, and achingly sad. But it's a deep, earthy kind of melancholy that feels both ancient and warm, existing before us but traveling through Le Bon to our ears. Like Cate, it seems to emanate from a mysterious, unknowable land: Wales. Those sighs, which are all over her sixth album, Pompeii, also provide an emotional anchor to Cate's songs that are often alien and lyrically obtuse, even to the songwriter herself, but always alluring.
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul - Topical Dancer
"Are you polite or political? Are you correct or cynical?" Belgian duo Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul ask a lot of questions you might not expect on their debut album. Especially for an act associated with DEEWEE, the mostly dance music label run by Soulwax's David & Stephen Dewaele (who co-produced and co-wrote the album). But with Topical Dancer, a very apropos title, Charlotte and Bolis are aiming to engage listeners from their head to their feet. Topics these dancers address include racism, cultural appropriation, social media obsession, wokeness, vanity and misogyny, but as they note, "no matter how painful the subject, we use a certain lightness and humor to address things. It doesn’t minimize the problem, it only makes it easier to process, accept and overcome." While the album is not wall-to-wall bangers (it's not trying to be), Charlotte and Bolis never lose the beat. Crank up "Blenda," "Ich Mwen" (ft Charlotte's mom, Christiane Adigéry), "Mantra," "Making Sense Stop" (yes, inspired by Talking Heads) and "Thank You" for a full body workout.
Denzel Curry - Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Denzel Curry's 2019 album ZUU felt like the end of an era. It was an effortlessly great victory lap after the ambitious, three-part concept album TA13OO released one year earlier, and after ZUU came the Unlocked and Unlocked 1.5 EPs with Kenny Beats, lower-stakes releases that found Denzel making eccentric left turns rather than following the trajectory he had been on since his breakthrough LP Imperial. Now, having gone three years and a pandemic without a full-length, Melt My Eyez See Your Future is here and it feels like the start of a fresh new era for Denzel. It fuses the ambition of TA13OO with the effortlessness of ZUU, and it also feels like entirely new ground for Denzel. It's a cohesive album that wows from start to finish, and the songs feel monumental on their own too, with distinct vibes that stop the album from ever blurring or dragging. Guest appearances are well-picked and well-executed (from slowthai, Rico Nasty, JID, Saul Williams, T-Pain, Robert Glasper, and more), memorable hooks bleed right into in-depth verses, and production ranges from organic jazz to futuristic electronics. It raises the bar for an artist who's already released a string of classics, and this just might be another one.
Get the Denzel album on vinyl, cassette and CD.
Destroyer - LABRYNTHITIS
Dan Bejar said that when he and regular collaborator John Collins first started talking about making the album that became LABRYNTHITIS, they originally wanted to make a full-on electronic dance album, with "slamming techno," acid house and maybe dash of late-'90s Cher. And that is apparently where Dan thought Collins would take his skeletal song-sketches he sent to him, but "in the end, that's not what we made, because we make what we know, and we don't really know those things." This Destroyer’s most danceable record to date, but one informed by the '80s, from the over-the-top production of Trevor Horn (ABC, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Art of Noise) to peak New Order, and John Hughes soundtracks. But all in a very Bejar way.
Drug Church - Hygiene
As far as modern punk figures go, Patrick Kindlon is about as charismatic and outspoken as they come. Between his roles fronting the bands Drug Church and Self Defense Family, co-hosting the Axe to Grind podcast, and his various other endeavors, Patrick never holds back from being exactly who he wants to be. As a frontman, he's sneering and observational, funny and dead-serious, and he comes off so enigmatic that it's almost hard to picture him writing pop songs. And yet, that's exactly what he does with Drug Church, a punk band whose songs are so catchy and anthemic that they often sound like they could be one of the biggest bands in the world. They sounded that way on 2018's Cheer, and they've done it again on Hygiene, an album that might be even better than its predecessor. The two albums are cut from a similar cloth, but Drug Church have had a few years to further perfect the formula, and they've done just that. Patrick sings with a gritty rasp, and sometimes his singing is more like talking, but every time he goes for a crowd-pleasing hook, he delivers. The rest of the band is the same way. The album has moments that veer towards the arty, off-kilter side of post-hardcore, but it's completely unafraid of embracing big, loud, swing-for-the-fences stadium punk. In a way, Drug Church kind of feel like In Utero-era Nirvana; they're too self-conscious to write pop songs, but they just can't help themselves.
Earl Sweatshirt - SICK!
It's been fascinating to watch Earl Sweatshirt continue to evolve in the decade-plus since he released his instant-classic debut mixtape as a 16-year-old. His early fame has allowed him to maintain visibility within rap's mainstream (and remain on a major label) the entire time, but Earl hasn't made music that sounds anything like "mainstream rap" since at least 2013's Doris, and even that album still feels left of the dial. His unique position in the rap world has made him an ambassador for the underground, and he continues to find exciting new artists to collaborate with and new sounds to experiment with. On 2018's excellent Some Rap Songs, Earl helped shine a light on the hazy, psychedelic sounds that NYC artists like Navy Blue, Standing on the Corner, and MIKE had been (and still are) making, while more recently he's developed a collaborative relationship with a darker, murkier NYC duo: Armand Hammer (aka billy woods and ELUCID). Earl appeared on their last two albums, and they appear on "Tabula Rasa" off Earl's new LP SICK!. And just as you could feel the influence of artists like Navy Blue and MIKE on Some Rap Songs, you can hear how Armand Hammer's deceptively subtle sound has impacted SICK!.
Elsewhere on SICK!, there's beats from frequent Earl and Armand Hammer producer The Alchemist, a verse from ZelooperZ of Danny Brown's Bruiser Brigade crew and four songs produced by frequent Bruiser Brigade beatmaker Black Noi$e (Danny Brown of course being another rapper who blurs the line between underground and mainstream, and an Earl collaborator from back in the day), and beats by Navy Blue (as Ancestors), Samiyam, Alexander Spit, and more. From that diverse list alone, you get the sense that you can't pin SICK! down as one specific style or subgenre of rap, and Earl really seems to be fusing all the various influences he's developed over time, not jumping from one sound to the next.
Gang of Youths - Angel In Realtime
While writing Angel In Realtime, frontman David Le'aupepe had been grappling with the death of his father, and he also learned that, before his father moved to Australia where David was born, he had left behind a past life and a previous family, and abandoned his Samoan heritage. All of that looms large over this album, which finds David reclaiming that heritage through samples of indigenous music and contributions from Pasifika and Māori vocalists and instrumentalists, and David frequently confronts these themes head-on with some of the most candid lyrics of his career. The album opens with David grieving for his father on the gorgeous "You In Everything," and the album's centerpiece is "Brothers," a bare-bones, show-stopping piano ballad that goes into great detail about David's newly-learned family history ("Our father's love was unmistakable and he gave us everything he had/And I guess that meant pretending he was half white to give his kids a better chance"). It touches on other aspects of David's life too, like the love he has for his wife ("The Angel of 8th Ave") and being disillusioned by the music industry ("Returner"), but the unifying theme throughout is that Angel In Realtime feels like David Le'aupepe holding up a mirror to his life, being as honest and authentic as possible.
Angel In Realtime doesn't rock as hard as its 2017 predecessor Go Farther In Lightness, and it tones down the bombast a bit too, though it's not without its arena-sized moments. Instead, it favors twitchy, glitchy rhythms that recall The National at their most experimental, or The 1975's art rock side. And the heartland rock stuff on this one veers a little closer to a propulsive War On Drugs-y shuffle than Springsteen worship. David remains not just a commanding lyricist but also a hooksmith, and these songs feel just as destined to incite singalongs as the band's earlier singles. Angel In Realtime is the ideal followup; it marks a noticeable progression from its predecessor without straying too far from the charm that fans expect. Listening to it feels like falling in love with Gang of Youths all over again.
Hurray for the Riff Raff - Life On Earth
For Life On Earth, Hurray for the Riff Raff's Alynda Segarra has cited an array of different influences, from Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s 1986 new age classic Keyboard Fantasies to Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong (whose voice is sampled on this album) to the organization Freedom for Immigrants, which Alynda recently started working with. They enlisted the help of producer Brad Cook, who they chose due to Cook's work on Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud, Kevin Morby’s Sundowner, and Hand Habits' Placeholder, but perhaps the biggest difference about this album is that Alynda wanted to finally stop looking backwards. "So much of my twenties was spent being very nostalgic and feeling I was born in the wrong time," they said in the press materials for this record. "I didn’t want to do that anymore, because finally there’s resistance happening, a young-people movement wanting to change the world. Popular music has also been opened up more toward women and people of color, queer people. I was more excited about being in the present moment, and I wanted to use the tools of now."
Using the tools of now is exactly what Alynda did on Life On Earth, an album that moves between soaring, synth-coated indie rock, tender folk music, piano balladry, spoken word-infused sophisti-pop, horn-fueled art pop, and some of that ambient new age influence they picked up from Beverly Glenn-Copeland. And Alynda wasn't trying to write a protest song like "Pa'lante" this time around, but they do get political, speak-singing about ICE on "Precious Cargo," looking at colonization on "Rhododendron," and taking inspiration from climate change, the pandemic, and the 24-hour news cycle. They also get personal, like on "Pierced Arrows," a self-described "heartbreak song" which includes a line about Alynda trying to avoid running into their ex on Broadway. And in many ways, the political songs are personal too, especially the album's climactic, penultimate track "Saga," which finds Alynda taking inspiration Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate testimony and coming out with a powerful song about processing, and eventually overcoming, their own trauma ("I don't want this to be the saga of my life"). The Navigator positioned Alynda as a musician-meets-activist, but Life On Earth may actually be her most radical album yet, on both a musical and lyrical level. Her words pop out at you, and prove to be as poetic as they are blunt, as detailed and intimate as they are universally impactful.
Ian Noe - River Fools & Mountain Saints
Kentucky country singer Ian Noe follows his excellent 2019 debut album Between The Country with River Fools & Mountain Saints. After making his debut with Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, etc), Ian made this one with Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff), and his backing band for the album included The Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit keyboardist Derry deBorja. It covers more ground than his debut, making room for twang-fueled rock, traditional country and bluegrass, ethereal balladry, sweeping string-laden country pop, and more, and it seamlessly crosses boundaries between different musical genres, eras, and regions. Read more about it here.
Immolation - Acts of God
To quote Colin Dempsey's writeup for Invisible Oranges: The New York death metal titans continue their undefeated streak on Acts of God. It's remarkable that their formula still reaps such high rewards despite little variance between albums. Nevertheless, they sound as fresh as they ever have over the past 30 years.
King Hannah - I'm Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me
“I thank God the day we met in the gross bar," Hannah Merrick sings on "It's Me and You, Kid," the closing track on Liverpool duo King Hannah's excellent debut album. It's a track that also serves as their origin story, detailing Merrick and guitarist Charlie Whittle's first meeting, when they both worked as bartenders by night at the same watering hole. "It's Me and You, Kid" is King Hannah in a nutshell: darkly sarcastic but utterly sincere, a great eye for details, and an even better ear for mood and atmosphere. I'm Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me is absolutely swimming in atmosphere, the kind that evokes if not a gross bar than a dingy club, probably near closing time, and definitely well past when you should be out. Whittle's guitarwork is responsible for a lot of that. It hangs in the air like cigarette smoke on the songs, pure texture at times. You can almost smell it. Merrick's vocals are similarly smouldering and cool, all perfect for the bluesy music they make that usually stays at a low simmer but occasionally rips open into a rolling boil. Like 2019's Tell Me Your Mind and I'll Tell You Mine mini-LP, this is quiet music meant to be played loud, better to hear all the deft little touches. The devil is in the details and I'm Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me is sinful as it gets.
Mitski - Laurel Hell
According to her latest bio, Mitski "wrote many of [Laurel Hell's] songs during or before 2018," but didn't finish mixing it until May of 2021, marking the most amount of time she'd ever spent on an album. The songs may date back three or four years, but they did evolve throughout the pandemic. They "slowly took on new forms and meanings, like seed to flower," Mitski said, and added that the album evolved "to be more uptempo and dance-y."
"I needed to create something that was also a pep talk," she continued. "Like, it's time, we're going to dance through this." That feeling very much comes through in the music; Mitski has written pop-friendly songs before ("Nobody"), but she's never embraced '80s-style new wave and synthpop as fully as she does on Laurel Hell songs like "Love Me More," "Should've Been Me," "That's Our Lamp," and especially "The Only Heartbreaker," the latter of which truly feels world-conquering enough to win over the crowd when Mitski opens for Harry Styles this year. Laurel Hell definitely Goes Pop, and glossy synths definitely replace the guitar-oriented sound Mitski was once known for, but the songs still have that unique Mitski flair.
Grab Laurel Hell on red vinyl.
Nilüfer Yanya - Painless
In an era where so many indie musicians of Nilüfer Yanya's stature are pivoting to '80s synthpop, Painless is decidedly a guitar-driven rock record. From shimmering arpeggios to twitchy math rock to driving chords, Painless is like a patchwork quilt of modern indie songs that proudly put the guitar in the forefront. It reminds me at various points of a handful of mid/late 2000s UK art rock records -- anything from Bloc Party to Klaxons to In Rainbows -- but really Nilüfer has developed a style of her own, one that you can't really pigeonhole or accurately compare to anyone in particular. And it's not just that she's an inventive guitarist; she's also an increasingly great singer and she fills this album with melodies that hit right away and keep you coming back for more. It feels smaller and less pop-friendly than her debut, and the decision to make something that sounds a little more insular has resulted in an even better record.
Oso Oso - Sore Thumb
Round Hill/Triple Crown
Long Island's Oso Oso have just surprise-released their fourth album, Sore Thumb. Main member Jade Lilitri had been demo-ing the album in early 2021 with his cousin Tavish Maloney at producer Billy Mannino’s (of Bigger Better Sun) Two Worlds Recordings, and the plan was to take a month off and then go back and decide where and who to work with to complete the album, when Tavish suddenly passed away. When that happened, Jade decided not to touch the songs and release them as is, only handing it over to Long Island veteran Mike Sapone (who also produced and mixed Oso Oso's 2019 album Basking in the Glow) to mix. The result is a big, soaring, spacious indie rock album, and you can read more about it here.
Rosalía - Motomami
Rosalía's 2017 debut album Los Ángeles found the Spanish singer putting a fresh spin on traditional flamenco, while 2018's El mal querer roped in co-production from El Guincho and found Rosalía taking her sound in a more art pop direction. Since then, Rosalía got even more pop (and more popular) thanks to massive collaborations with J Balvin, Bad Bunny, Travis Scott, and Ozuna, and her new album Motomami continues in that direction. It finds her continuing to channel the reggaeton, hip hop, and straight-up pop influences she embraced on those recent collabs, and it ropes in another superstar: The Weeknd. (The album's only other guest appearance comes from fellow J Balvin collaborator Tokischa.) El Guincho is once again a producer, but so are other big names like Latin trap beatmaker Tainy, Toronto hip hop/pop producer Frank Dukes, and Pharrell. The more mainstream-friendly sound is fitting for Rosalía, who seems born to be a star, and some of those songs are among the best of her career. But the album isn't just a pivot to mainstream pop. The communal chants of "Buleria," the vintage Latin sounds of "Delirio de Grandeza," and a few jazz-tinged ballads ("Hentai," "Genis," "Sakura") find Rosalía embracing her traditional side, while the James Blake-assisted "Diablo" is among her most experimental songs. All sides of Rosalía are represented on Motomami, which feels like her most all-encompassing statement to date.
Saba - Few Good Things
Chicago rapper Saba has stayed busy in recent years with the Pivot Gang album and a string of non-album singles, but he's only now finally releasing a followup to 2018's Care For Me, Few Good Things. Most of those non-album singles seemed too good to be kept off Saba's next album, but clearly he had a strong vision in mind, because Few Good Things is more than a collection of Saba's latest tracks; it's one vast journey that only makes sense from start to finish. Even the recent singles that do appear on this album couldn't have prepared anyone for the grand statement that Few Good Things makes. Across its 14 tracks, it incorporates the introspection of '90s alternative rap, soul balladry, George Clinton-via-OutKast psych-funk, hardened Chicago drill, auto-tuned trap-pop, and more, and it brings in a slew of amazing guests to help Saba achieve his vision (Black Thought, Krayzie Bone, G Herbo, 6LACK, Smino, Mereba, Fousheé, Saba's group Pivot Gang, and more). And it doesn't feel like the guests stopped in to the studio, recorded a verse, and left; Few Good Things feels more like those classic Soulquarians records, where one big collective came together to create a communal, multi-layered piece of art. Mood-wise, it's a more joyous album than the grief-inspired Care For Me, but just as detailed and reflective. Saba knows how to write songs that scan as "catchy" on first listen but are filled with in-depth lyricism that takes multiple relistens to unpack. Based on how well his previous work has endured, I have a feeling we'll be unpacking Few Good Things for a long time too.
Soul Glo - Diaspora Problems
Soul Glo's first full-length for Epitaph is a boundary-pushing punk album that bridges the gap between hardcore and hip hop, emotions and politics, and more. It's full of cool guests from various musical backgrounds (including rappers Mother Maryrose, McKinley Dixon, lojii, and Zula Wildheart, vocalist Kathryn Edwards of Nashville hardcore band Thirdface, and Philly-via-London producer/DJ BEARCAT), and they all fit right in because Soul Glo are about finding the shared roots of various musical traditions, not drawing lines between them. It's both a big step up for the already-great Soul Glo and one of the most impactful punk albums released this year. Read much more about it in our new feature/interview about the album.
Vein.fm - This World Is Going to Ruin You
Closed Casket Activities
Vein.fm's (fka Vein) 2018 debut album Errorzone was an instant-classic of the then-burgeoning metalcore revival, and now, four years, a name change, a remix album and two side projects later, they've finally released their much-anticipated sophomore album. This World Is Going to Ruin You was worth the wait; it does everything that you've come to expect from Vein.fm and more, and it proves that Vein.fm have not fallen behind the times one bit. In the four years since Errorzone, the current hardcore and metalcore scenes have produced a handful of modern classics and achieved a lot of crossover success, and with This World Is Going to Ruin You, Vein.fm are once again on the cutting edge of their genre(s). As on their debut, this record sounds like all the best parts of late '90s / early 2000s metalcore but in an entirely futuristic way. It's in touch with metalcore's hardcore punk roots, and it's also unafraid to flirt with nu metal (among other things, Vein.fm have a member whose role in the band is providing samples). It's chaotic, intense, and bone-crushingly heavy, but Vein.fm also continue to work in the more atmospheric, melodic side that they showed off with "20 seconds : 20 hours" from their remix album, and their Fleshwater side project. "Wherever You Are" is fueled by melancholic piano and airy, hummed clean singing, "Magazine Beach" puts a metallic hardcore twist on melodic alt-rock, and the album's towering final tracks, "Wavery" and "Funeral Sound," make good on the promise of "20 seconds : 20 hours" with some of the best Deftones-y rock in recent memory. They also embrace their accessible side by bringing in Thursday's Geoff Rickly to sing the hook on "Fear In Non Fiction," and Vein.fm's ability to fuse the accessible and the antagonizing is a big part of this album's appeal. It's an album that breaks down barriers between different genres, moods, and eras in consistently exciting ways, and it raises the bar for an already-great band.
The Weeknd - Dawn FM
Dawn FM is a concept album that The Weeknd wrote during a period of depression during the 2020 pandemic; looking for an escape, he imagined a fantasy world where everyone is stuck in traffic, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and the only radio station available is the imaginary Dawn FM, which guides you towards the light. It plays out like a psychological sci-fi drama, and the radio DJ narrating the whole thing is none other than Jim Carrey, whose roles in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind come to mind when listening to his anxiety-inducing interjections on Dawn FM, which come spliced in between The Weeknd's blissful pop and fake commercial jingles.
The album was executive produced by Oneohtrix Point Never (who has become a frequent Weeknd collaborator in recent years) and mainstream pop genius Max Martin (ditto), and OPN and Max also handled the bulk of the production on the album, alongside contributions from a few others including Calvin Harris ("I Heard You're Married"), Swedish House Mafia ("Sacrifice"), and The Beach Boys' Bruce Johnston ("Here We Go... Again," which Bruce also sings backup on). Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne also show up for rapped guest verses on "Here We Go... Again" and "I Heard You're Married," respectively, and Quincy Jones narrates a spoken word track. "Here We Go... Again" has hints of The Weeknd's early alt-R&B sound, but for the most part, Dawn FM continues down the retrofuturistic '80s pop path that began on 2020's After Hours. The first single for the album was "Take My Breath," which was yet another example of The Weeknd's ability to churn out world-conquering singles, and it's not the only magical moment on Dawn FM. An even better song is "Less Than Zero," the album's last proper song before Jim Carrey's spoken word coda, a Max Martin-aided jangly synthpop anthem that deserves to be a single. Other similarly immediate moments come in the form of the OPN-assisted "Out of Time" and the OPN/Max-assisted "Don't Break My Heart," and the Calvin Harris-produced synth-funk of "I Heard You're Married" and the skittering electronics of "Is There Someone Else?" provide their own sense of euphoria. Balancing out the sugar-coated hooks, some of the tracks -- especially those produced by OPN -- favor something more abstract and eerie. The album might be intended as some sort of escapism, but it also can't shake the feeling that there's still something out there to escape from. It's ecstasy with an underlying sense of dread.
Yard Act - The Overload
"In the age of the gentrified savage, there’s no hope!" James Smith, singer for Leeds four-piece Yard Act, is doing his best to keep his head above water water while being bombarded with information, disinformation and unease from all directions, at all hours of the day and night. He and the rest of the band tackle this very relatable dilemma with anger, humor and danceable post-punk on Yard Act's very enjoyable debut album, The Overload. "The overload of discontent / The constant burden of making sense," he sings on the album's title track which opens the album. "It won’t relent, it won’t repent." James' vocal style -- talking/shouting through the verses, singing/shouting through very catchy choruses -- will get him compared to another scrabulous Smith, while his lanky frame will get him compared to Jarvis Cocker, and the band's rhythm section-forward, angular attack certainly owes a lot to Leeds icons Gang of Four and '00s-era bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Rakes. Shouty Brits, spiky guitars, disco bass -- we've heard this before, but Yard Act make it seem seem, if not new, exciting and fun again.
yeule - Glitch Princess
Singapore-born, London-based musician and artist Nat Ćmiel's new album as yeule is full of glitchy, mutant pop music, evoking the body horrors of eating disorders and drugs while still sounding like something you can dance to. "I was the Glitch Princess, in a time before," Nat says of the project. "Not far from this dimension, but close enough to remember and piece together, like a thin fabric through the wind of Earth. This documentation of myself is but a fragment I have tried so very hard to alchemise into the sonic and visual. A journey that can be experienced, as a capsule of time I have captured in the eyes of a daydream deep-dived in emotive, confessional, and somewhat hopeful repertoires of my experiences in the cyborg form. With much love, I hold my pink 18650 close to my heart under the light from a dying sun."
Get Glitch Princess on antifreeze green vinyl.
BONUS: Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales, Mo' Tales
If we didn't already name the original version of this album the #2 album of 2021, we'd include this deluxe edition in the above list too, but still, we'd be remiss not to point out the equally great bonus tracks added to this album that we already love.
SEE ALSO: 41 albums we’re anticipating for spring 2022.