Spotify doesn’t know everything. This year, according to Spotify, I spent a lot of time listening to 1970s-era Yes and All Elite Wrestling entrance themes. That’s not the whole story. 2022 was a fantastic year for music, presenting us with new music from older bands, gorgeous screams seemingly from beyond the veil, and straight-up rock and roll crunchier than your aunt’s homemade granola. Here, in precise and definite ascending order, are my top five albums of 2022.
- Dream Widow – Dream Widow
Dream Widow is the fictional metal band created by Foo Fighters for their horror movie, Studio 666. The movie opened to so-so reviews and was overshadowed by the death of Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins weeks after the film’s release. The eponymous Dream Widow album, however, is one of the coolest things released this year. Infused with Dave Grohl’s love for all things metal, Dream Widow is more than a tribute to the genre. It’s a wild, respectful trip through musical styles from thrash to epic instrumentals. “Angel With Severed Wings” is a standout, as is the ten-minute-long album closer “Lacrimus dei Ebrius.” Dream Widow proves that, as Tenacious D sang, you cannot kill the metal. Ripping and joyous, Dream Widow is a beer bong blow-out that deserves to remain in heavy rotation.
- Tears For Fears – The Tipping Point
The Tipping Point, the first Tears for Fears album in almost twenty years, implored listeners to tear themselves apart and put themselves back together again. Simultaneously melancholy and hopeful, The Tipping Point explores love and loss from a terrifyingly confessional point of view. The title track revolves around the death of singer/guitarist Roland Orzabal’s wife. It’s devastating matter for a pop single, evoking the band’s sound of the early 1980s while lyrically embracing aging and facing an uncertain future. The Tipping Point is one of those albums you play from beginning to end, no skips. Like fog rising from a river, The Tipping Point creeps up on you until it surrounds you, leaving you no choice but to breathe it in.
- Holy Fawn – Dimensional Bleed
Doomgaze. Blackgaze. Post-black metal. No matter which sub-genre label you want to slap onto Arizona rock band Holy Fawn, the music on its 2022 release Dimensional Bleed is phenomenal. This is the sound of hackles rising. It is both the cold caress on a bare shoulder and the quick thrust kick to the throat. Ethereal music, reverbed and echoed from here to Jupiter, gives way to angry power chords, bombastic drumming, and vocals like a banshee screaming in another room. Dimensional Bleed is filled with beauty, rough and overt. Yearning like a Victorian ghost, Dimensional Bleed will make you long for places you’ve never been, objects you didn’t know existed. Tread lightly but, by all means, tread.
- Chat Pile – God’s Country
With a drum sound evoking Anton Fier’s Visions of Excess work with Golden Palominos and vocals that sound like a madman raving on a street corner in front of a deconsecrated church, Chat Pile’s God’s Country is the scariest album of the year. Singer Raygun Busch doesn’t hide behind sound effects that disguise or muffle his tortured voice. You can understand every single word he says, and it’s terrifying. What, did you think an album opener called “Slaughterhouse” was going to be cheerful? Were you expecting a song from the viewpoint of Friday the 13th killer Jason Voorhees’ mother to be a happy little ditty? Musically and thematically, God’s Country is heavy, dark, and yet compulsively listenable. Cathartic and needfully upsetting, God’s Country is ugly on the inside, just like people. God’s Country grabs the wretched hideousness of man’s inhumanity to everything and kisses it, tongue out. [Warning: the below video is probably not safe for work, depending on where you work.]
- Fleshwater – We’re Not Here to be Loved
The first full-length album from Fleshwater, a side project from members of the metalcore band Vein.fm, gets more rocking done in twenty-eight minutes than most bands accomplish in their whole career. We’re Not Here to be Loved is a dervish, spinning from one tune to the next with almost feedback and abandon. Brave and exhilarating, We’re Not Here to be Loved is like being in the back seat of a speeding car. You’ve got your head sticking out of the window, feeling the wind push your lips back to your ears, and you duck your head back inside the vehicle just before you go through a dark tunnel. Overdriven bass, dissonant guitars, and deceptively complex drumming make a formidable musical base for the twin vocals of Anthony DiDio and Marisa Shirar. DiDio’s voice, a low whisper, is the perfect complement to Shirar’s clear alto. From the lead-off single, “Kiss the Ladder,” to their heavy cover of Bjork’s “Enjoy,” there is nothing about this album I don’t love. It ticks all of my widely disparate boxes. Invigorating, challenging, and as privately precious as your lover’s JBF hair, We’re Not Here to be Loved is an addictive and fully satisfying piece of work.