The 20 best alternative albums of 2022. This is the music you’ve been looking for!

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20 Best
Alternative Albums
of 2022

2022 was a wild and rewarding year of music! Alternative country was at the vanguard of experimental sound, female singer-songwriters dominated across genres and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were relevant again! Most notably, pandemic-delayed music continued to flood into record stores and onto music websites. In fact, selecting the best alternative albums of 2022 was only complicated by the awesome scope of releases. Kids, there is SO. MUCH. MUSIC.

Picking the best alternative albums of 2022

So…a few rules of the road.

First, my basic measure of a great album. It isn’t influence or buzz or length. It’s a release that I can honestly say — YES — I’ll come back and listen to this record over and over in years to come. Second, I love albums that are full and cohesive musical statements. Those are weighted heavily on my list over simple collections of songs. Finally, I try my very best not to posture as cooler than thou. Some of these bands you will know; some you may not have heard about; they all belong on my list because I genuinely love them. Nothing is here for show. In fact, some of it may be damning.

I like what I like.

I’ve tried to provide two songs for every album that you can stream straight from this page. Read, listen and disagree. And by all means, tell me what I missed!

Best alternative albums of 2022: Counting down from 20 to 11

It was harder choosing the order in the second half of this list than those at the top.

Only one of my top 10 (foreshadowing) wasn’t part of my mental list of “best alternative albums 2022” for several months. However, it was a little harder to sequence from 11 to 20 for some reason. Any of these records could easily be another person’s favorite of the year, and all deserve your time.

20. Weyes Blood – And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Best albums of 2022:  Weyes Blood - And in the Darkness, Hearts Glow

I didn’t hear Weyes Blood’s 2021 Titanic Rising to compare to this year’s And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow. The first 5 or 6 tracks are magical, though I think Hearts Aglow lags a bit near the end. If she resisted the comparison at first, it really is hard not to hear Karen Carpenter in Natalie Mering’s vocals. Not a little Jeff Lynne happening here too!

19. Mañana El Espacio – Casi Nada Es Para Siempre

Best albums of 2022:  Mañana El Espacio - Casi Nada Es Para Siempre

What more can I say? Loved this indie pop band from Venezuela.

Band leader and song writer Ricardo Vergara now writes from Medellín, Columbia, known as the City of Eternal Spring. You’ll feel that kind of renewal in these songs that range from garage rock to a bit of psychedelic jangle. Pedals and indie hand claps included at no extra charge.

Check it!

Did you hear all the Spanish-language jangle pop released in 2022? You’ll fall in love with these songs!

18. Orlando Weeks – Hop Up

Orlando Weeks' Hop Up was a top alternative album of 2022

I deliberately place Hop Up here, not least of all because Orlando Weeks deserves it. Also because Weeks’ sincere family delight is anathema to jaded music critics, who cannot tolerate simple, unironic joy. The album pulses with late-Roxy Music vibes and a little XTC.

“Hey You Hop Up” – Orlando Weeks (Hop Up)
“Big Skies, Silly Faces” – Orlando Weeks (Hop Up)

17. The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness – The Third Wave of…

Top albums of 2022:  The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness - The Third Wave of...

TBWTPN collaborate across Europe on sunny indie pop songs, Gonzalo Marcos in Spain and Andrew Taylor in Scotland. However most of the hooks have the lightest touch of sweet jangle somewhere between The Byrds and Teenage Fanclub. The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness present musical elation of the highest order!

Mary Lou Lord guests on the sweet duet, “Isolation.”

16. Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful

2022 favorite albums: Spiritualized - Everything Was Beautiful

There’s a Spiritualized formula AMIRIGHT? Like Guy Garvey basically has a formula for Elbow? The answer is yes, and I’m here for every second of it.

Tell me if there has been a greater payoff than the Brian Wilson swell at 2:25 on Spiritualized’s “Always Together With You?” Like, ever in the history of music? Possibly exaggeration, but it’s my damn list. I feel like I could have dropped Spiritualized in my Top 10 without an ounce of regret.

Listen to J Spaceman only if you want to experience total exhilaration.

15. Panda Bear and Sonic Boom – Reset

2022 Best Albums: Panda Bear and Sonic Boom - Reset

It seems appropriate, if unintentional, putting Spacemen 3 alum side-by-side.

More Panda Bear than a Spacemen throwback, Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) and Peter Kember (Sonic Boom and Spacemen 3 founder) are nevertheless kindred spirits. Lennox may never return to the sublime heights reached on Person Pitch. Still, Reset lives in a nearby gentrified zip code.

Hey you! Looking back is good..but 2023 has already produced some great songs. CHECK THEM OUT here!

14. Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia

Fontaines D.C. topped my list of best alternative albums of 2022

Skinty Fia could have been a Top 5 album but for a couple of stinkers (“Bloomsday,” I’m looking at you). Irish brogue, pedals, driving backbeats combined with the rich ferocity of Catherine Wheel. A sure hit on any list of best alternative albums of 2022.

13. Naima Bock – Giant Palm

Best of 2022: Naima Bock - Giant Palm

Naima Bock’s patient arrangements frequently echo soft 70’s (“Instrumental” could be a lost TV score). Bock is formerly of Goat Girl and I love her airy, rounded voice.

Weyes Blood sounds like her emotive and high-maintenance younger sister. Aldous Harding is Bock’s spirit animal.

12. The Silent Boys – Sand to Pearls, Coal to Diamonds

Best alternative albums of 2022:  The Silent Boys - Sand to Pearls, Coal to Diamonds

Jangle pop veterans from Richmond. We’re getting dangerously close to my Top 10, and just about every one of these songs is pop perfection. Somewhere, God bless Pat Fish’s departed soul, The Jazz Butcher is listening with a smile.

11. Arlo Mckinley – This Mess We’re In

2022 best alt country: Arlo Mckinley - This Mess We're In

Until July 15, 2022 I had never heard Arlo Mckinley’s name. His show in Salt Lake this year was my favorite by not a little. What do we have to do to get Arlo a date on Mountain Stage?!

Serious Lynyrd Skynyrd energy in the best, most unironic way.

Arlo was my favorite show in 2022 by a country mile, pun intended. Check out his set and pics from SLC!

Best alternative albums of 2022: Number 10 to #1 (Casey Kasem voice)

I personally don’t think you can go wrong with any of these Top 10 releases. Each is choice from beginning to end, and a highlight from the best alternative albums 2022 offered to music lovers.

For the most part, the top 7 or 8 albums were swirling in my head as Best Album for much of the year. It wasn’t until late November or so that I changed my #1, which I thought for sure would hold all year. For whatever reason, I over-indexed on alt country in my Top 10, for which I make no apologies so stop interrogating me like a common criminal.

10. Aurora – The Gods We Can Touch

Best albums of 2022: Aurora - The Gods We Can Touch

I have zero concern for damaging what little street cred I have by including in my Top 10 albums Norway’s Aurora, for whom I am clearly not the target demo. Get over yourself and listen to what Aurora has done!

Much of The Gods We Can Touch is ethereal and intimate, and then by turns challenging and defiant. And the gothic overtones give way to a couple of unapologetic synth pop bangers. Aurora channels the chamber pop and early confidence of Kate Bush.

And I want to say this.

In the year 2023, when a 26-year-old woman is the President and Chief freaking Executive Officer of her personal brand, positively influencing tens of thousands of younger women — we need to honor that.

“Everything Matters” – Aurora (The Gods We Can Touch)
“A Place Called the Moon” – Aurora (The Gods We Can Touch)

9. Alvvays – Blue Rev

Alvvays' Blue Rev was a top album of 2022

Alvvays’ Blue Rev might have more pop hooks per song than anything else I heard this year.

After their October show in Salt Lake, I remarked they felt like a band making a new leap of confidence. You can’t say enough about the cool stage presence of Molly Rankin and Alec O’Hanley and the perfect, desultory voice Rankin gives to songs like “Many Mirrors” and “Lottery Noises.”

So did you get to see Alvvays in 2023? I did — and they were amaze. Read about their SLC set here!

8. The Highwater Marks – Proclaimer of Things

2022 best alternative: The Highwater Marks - Proclaimer of Things

Gleeful jangle that ranges from power pop to fuzzy garage – even a tasty bit of cow punk.

Nearly every song on Proclaimer of Things is a windows open-wide singalong. Hilarie Sidney of Elephant 6 collective and Apples in Stereo and husband Per Ole Bratset share songwriting and vocals. This may explain why shimmering chords alternate with sludgier guitars.

Among the best alternative albums of 2022, this record was absolutely bursting with singles.

“Jenny” – The Highwater Marks (Proclaimer of Things)
“The Devotee to the Chemist” – The Highwater Marks (Proclaimer of Things)

7. Sharon Van Etten – We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong

Top albums 2022: Sharon Van Etten - We've Been Going About This All Wrong

We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is an album of mini-epics, which I am a sucker for. Sharon Van Etten begins each song with the calmest of strums and finishes in tremendous crashing things with giant, earned emotion. She sings with such beautiful, deep tones.

This has been on repeat for me all year.

6. Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up Here

Best alt country 2022: Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up Here

Black Country, New Road are doing something new under the sun. At one moment, they pervert Van Morrison on “Concorde.” In another they descend into free form jazz cacophony on “Snow Globes.”

Without their heat-seeking sensibilities of melody, BCNR would just be a discordant band only music critics love. But they deliver the hooks in another brilliant experiment. Just one example, the 14 second full stop inside “Mark’s Theme” that only improves the resolve.

A triumphant sophomore album.

DUDE I SWEAR these are 22 songs you need to listen to! Click here and start streaming!

5. Aldous Harding – Warm Chris

The best alternative albums of 2022 included Aldous Harding's Warm Chris

So many memorable, infectious songs on Warm Chris, each stamped with Aldous Harding’s eccentricity. Harding isn’t just a blithe oddball, she may also music’s most elliptical lyricist. Also can someone PLEASE help me with “Coming Round the Mountain?” I swear that keyboard samples a movie score that I just can’t place.

4. Beach House – Once Twice Melody

Best alternative: Once Twice Melody by Beach House

I ended the year where I began, Once Twice Melody by Beach House near the very top of my favorite albums list. Chapters I and II came out in late 2021…while III and IV completed the release by February of 2022.

Of any record I listened to this year, no question, Once Twice Melody touches the stars most often.

Spiritualized played a September show in The Caverns, the renown venue in Grundy County, Tennessee. Can you even imagine hearing Beach House playing songs there like “Sunset?” I seriously might die.

3. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

Best alternative: Big Thief's album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

It is difficult to understate the scope of what Big Thief has done on Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You. Because when we say, “what Big Thief has done,” we really mean “what Adrianne Lenker has done.” No matter how democratic Big Thief may be, Lenker is the center of their universe.

That Big Thief originally produced NEARLY 50 SONGS whittled down (with no little pain) to 20 songs, defies creative description. This is a mature brand, as we say in marketing. At the same time, Big Thief are still becoming something fearless and new.

Dragon New Warm Mountain toggles seamlessly between casual hootenanny, psych folk and esoteric indie hooks. Although not streamed here, the holiest moment may be the simple harmony between Lenker and bandmate/ex-husband Buck Meek on “12000 Lines.”

Whoa STOP RIGHT THERE! Check out the alternative country you missed in 2022!

2. Angel Olsen – Big Time

Best of 2022: Big Time by Angel Olsen

For reasons I can’t exactly articulate, I was deeply affected by Big Time. I was visiting my childhood home in West Virginia as I streamed Angel Olsen’s cathartic album. In that way, it will be inextricably tied to my return home, the way great music attaches itself to a place and moment in time.

“Go Home” has been voted Most Likely to Make You Cry in an Unguarded Moment. In it, Olsen sings:

I wanna go home,
Go back to small things.
I don’t belong here.
Nobody knows me.

I am the ghost now,
Walking those old scenes.
How can I go on?

Forget the old dream.
I got a new thing

An album of aching beauty. Olsen’s voice is unrivaled, shouting down the mountains and, in turns, an intensely vulnerable, quaking vibrato.

1. Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B

The best alternative albums of 2022 topped by Jockstrap - Jennifer B I Love You

What has become of me, that I herald a band called Jockstrap? Me, perpetual critic of stupid band names.

Jockstrap (I can’t believe I continue typing that word) are Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye, London art school students. Ellery is also violinist for Black Country, New Road. Her wild vocal range drives the arrangements of Jennifer B I Love You.

Let’s not forget that, at the end of the day, rock and roll should be fun. Or it should evoke equally deep emotions of despair, anxiety or elation. If you haven’t heard of Jockstrap, allow me to introduce you to Jennifer B. Sprawling decade-defining albums are one thing. It’s another to adroitly stitch 1,000 musical ideas inside a taut 40 minute statement, some which continue to reveal themselves on listens 6, 7…12.

Is it synth pop? Post-pop? Is that even a word? Does it matter?


“Concrete Over Water” – Jockstrap (I Love You Jennifer B)

Best alternative albums of 2022: Super cool albums not in my Top 20

Records that were really good but not quite in my top tier, wherein I try to impress you with my broad musical taste. I bought and listened to each of these. They are good stuff!

Top alternative albums of 2022, more albums Part 1:

  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Cool It Down)
    Karen O has never sounded better, now singing about motherhood!
  • Big Joanie (Back Home)
    Darkwave, riot girrrl mashup gave me all the feels
  • Porridge Radio (Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky)
    Waterslide sat just outside my Top 20 all year
  • Dehd (Blue Skies)
    Chicago 3-piece knocked it out of the park. Recommended track: “Bad Love”
  • The 1975 (Being Funny in a Foreign Language)
    I thought this was a great pop record honestly
  • Kiwi Jr. (Chopper)
    Slacker rock closer in quality to their Pavement-y debut Football Money
  • Wet Leg (Wet Leg)
    Frankly I discounted this record based on their listless Salt Lake City show

Best alternative albums of 2022, more albums Part 2:

  • Belle and Sebastian (A Bit of Previous)
    Nothing I didn’t like about B&S’s return to form
  • Infinity Knives and Brian Ennals (King Cobra)
    My Top 20 list doesn’t include rap — I’m not deep enough in the scene
  • Young Guv (Guv III)
    Ben Cook’s positively delicious guitar pop. Every track, but try: “Lo lo lonely”
  • Rush to Relax (Misli)
    Look, this jangle pop is sung in Macedonian. It is worth the effort!
  • Just Mustard (Heart Under)
    How they notch Katie Ball’s vocals inside this dark, gazey noise is a marvel
  • Father John Misty (Chloë and the Next 20th Century)
    Maybe this is shtick, but it is still lovely

Here are the songs you missed on the too-little-loved EP format. I bet you find something you really dig!

2022 best alternative EP’s

Before I post some favorite songs from 2022 or rank my top albums, let’s spend some time with the little-appreciated category of EP’s.…

Keep reading

Fave alternative albums of 2022, more albums Part 3:

  • Torres Satélite (Mundos y Estrellas)
    I swooned over some of these songs. Check out: “Carl Sagan”
  • Ian Noe (River Fools & Mountain Saints)
    More from my year as an alt county evangelist
  • The Linda Lindas (The Linda Lindas)
    If Green Day were 15-year-old girls
  • Best Bets (On An Unhistoric Night)
    I’ve said a lot about Best Bets. Buy this record!
  • Wild Pink (ILYSM)
    At times Lambchop-y, I thought John Ross sounded best on the more structured songs
  • Beth Orton (Weather Alive)
    Confused Beth Orton and The Beths for most of this year. Weather Alive is a grower!
  • Castlebeat (Half Life)
    Late add from Spirit Goth Records. Josh Hwang produces these arch Joy Division melodies in his garage

Best alternative albums of 2022, more albums Part 4:

  • Crows (Beware Believers)
    A near Top 20 for me, play only at ear-damaging volume levels
  • Northern Portrait (Swiss Army)
    Danish indie pop throwback that I just loved. Listen to: “Long Live Tonight”
  • Artsick (Fingers Crossed)
    If you buy just one lo-fi garage band album this year, buy Fingers Crossed
  • The Smile (A Light for Attracting Attention)
    Another late add, you have five or six terrific songs here!
  • Eades (Delusion Spree)
    Cheap Trick fans unite! I feel like I should have re-evaluated Eades for my Top 20
  • Cuco (Fantasy Gateway)
    Bedroom pop of the highest order. Cuco plays the 2023 Kilby Court block party

Best alternative albums of 2022: Not feeling these

Disappointing alternative albums of 2022

I started the year on kind of a tear, buying a few releases without sampling. We all do this, right? Like I’ll buy on faith about anything Elbow or Sloan put out. It’s a trust relationship. Became a little too trusting this year and bought some CD’s (yes I mostly still buy physical media) that didn’t live up to reputation. And then a couple of stinkers just generally.

  • Cate Le Bon (Pompeii)
    Hey I like weird, I like eccentric. At the end of the day you have to produce songs people actually like
  • Kendrick Lamar (Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers)
    Boy, this has really divided opinion. Mark me down for a giant No. Also, half as long next time please
  • Animal Collective (Time Skiffs)
    It’s not NOT good. But it’s a far cry from the Merriweather days
  • Mitski (Laurel Hell)
    What the hell with Laurel Hell. I was expecting more
  • A Place to Bury Strangers (See Through You)
    You know what I wasn’t thinking last year? “I’d like to hear Oliver Ackerman sing a ballad”
  • Spoon (Lucifer on the Sofa)
    I think I’m mostly alone on this one. I thought Lucifer was pedestrian
  • Oliver Sim (Hideous Bastard)
    The shame here is I think the XX founder had some good musical ideas. It never punched through
  • Sloan (Steady)
    Initially slated my favorite Canadians’ album as an honorable mention. Now it’s feeling routine

These 7 albums defined the year in alt country 2022

West Virginia country road creek

I would like to personally nominate alt country 2022 as one of the recent best for a catalogue of moving and profound music.

This list won’t be authoritative for many reasons, not the least of which is that I’m not an authority. Another disadvantage, I’m writing this on a plane and can’t see everything I’ve listened to this year. Also the smell of the lavatory is making me woozy and the flight attendants are drunk with power.

A couple of caveats. First, I struggle at times with the “alt country” moniker, but for the most part that’s the canon I’m writing about here. I think most people get the broad genre. Second, a reminder that one man’s country is another man’s bucolic folk. Are these all definitively country? It’s my damn website, so I’ll call them whatever I want. They’re just labels, and lines are blurred.

Just enjoy the music, by whatever name you call it.

1. Angel Olsen – Big Time

More than anyone else, Angle Olsen defined Alt country 2022 with her album Big Time

Whenever someone asks me where I grew up, I always answer in the same way, “I’m from West Virginia of all places.” I don’t know exactly why I say that. I guess I like being the subject of curiosity. But I’m proud of my home. It was a great place to be a kid.* Last fall I returned to the land of my peoples for the first time in 20 years.

I was swooning over Angel Olsen’s sixth album, Big Time, while driving through the woods and neighborhoods where I was raised. There is NO BETTER WAY to listen to Angel Olsen than when accompanied by forest scenery and melancholy memories of childhood.

Olsen’s dewy voice and the rich production make Big Time not just a great listen but an immersive, emotional experience. She wrote Big Time in the shadow of the death of both parents, literally three weeks after her mother’s funeral. You hear the tragedy throughout.

The way Olsen hints at the triumphant chorus in the first seconds of “Go Home” is a marvel. She seems to write of her loss and a new identity as a gay and bereaving daughter:

“I wanna go home
Go back to small things.
I don’t belong here.
Nobody knows me.
How can I go on
With all those old dreams?
I am the ghost now,
Living those old scenes”

You can buy Big Time from just about any streaming service however I recommend Bandcamp.

HINT HINT – Angel Olsen played a big role in my Top 20 albums of 2022. Do you agree where I ranked her?!

2. Sharon Van Etten – We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong

Sharon Van Etten

Last year Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten collaborated on a tremendous song after circling around each other for many years. I personally think the video is pretentious and goofy but the song itself, “Like I Used To,” is an epic duo. These two need to record an entire album STAT! The collaboration also serves as a perfect transition to Van Etten’s 2022 album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong.

Van Etten ranges through quite a bit of stylistic territory on this release, as I noted previously. She moves easily in and out of rural soundscapes: But guitars grind and dancing happens on We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong. Many of the songs start simply enough but they build into mini-epics that are incredibly rewarding. Just today, Van Etten released “Never Gonna Change,” the first of two new tracks that will appear November 11 on a deluxe edition of this year’s album.

Add the deluxe edition of We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong to your list of alt country 2022 favorites.

3. Arlo Mckinley – This Mess We’re In

Alt country 2022:  Arlo Mckinley - This Mess We're In

Arlo Mckinley is a more traditional country performer, a little honk in his tonk. He is unapologetically country, rather distinctly not alternative. DO NOT LET THIS FOOL YOU.

This Mess We’re In, Mckinley’s third album, is an unadorned, roaring locomotive of country jam. He is at the very top of the list of singers I want to scream my lungs out with in person in 2022. And wouldn’t you know it, he plays October 26 at SLC’s Urban Lounge. Mark the date on your calendar.

Until October 26, here is album closer “Here’s to the Dying.” Country artists seem to specialize in album closers AMIRIGHT?! I encourage you to scream your lungs out along with Arlo at home.

I’m not crazy, there’s a little Lynyrd Skynyrd in there, right? But in the best and most un-ironic way. Billy Powell back there pounding the keyboard accompaniment like it’s 1973. I can’t believe I typed the words Lynyrd Skynrd. Woah there, I did it again. Buy This Mess We’re In before Mckinley arrives!

Arlo Mckinley was my TOP SHOW in 2022, by not a little. Check out my review!

4. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

Okay, on now to a couple of heavy hitters. I’m not doing this in any kind of perfect order; just trying to stay organized drinking bad airplane coffee.

Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You will be many people’s #1 album of the year. Country is just a starting place for Adrianne Lenker and Big Thief. Their fifth album is at once wildly broad and yet perfectly comfortable in every arrangement of bluegrass, 70’s folk, psychedelia and straight ahead indie. It is hard to believe Big Thief can maintain it across 20 tracks. But they do, and without misstep.

Here’s an example of that kind of mashup of psych folk, country and a little funky blues guitar (or is it bluesy funk?)…all in the span of 4 minutes and 12 seconds on “Simulation Swan.”

Buy Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You from Big Thief.

5. Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There

Very alt country 2022:  Black Country, New Road

Black Country, New Road will also top many people’s favorite albums this year. Their second release, Ants From Up There, bends the genre more than any of the others catalogued on this list. Country freakout and jazz are standard parts of Black Country’s presentation. They can be a challenging listen but well worth your time.

I do not have Black Country’s first album to compare Ants to, however more than one person has marveled that the group only improved after their breakout debut. I personally find Black Country, New Road similar in their raw aesthetic to New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus. Is that a strange comparison?

Decide on this alt country 2022 yourself. Here is the wild country noise of “Snow Globes.”

Black Country, New Road can be beautiful and terrifying at the same time and that’s okay. Try Ants From Up There yourself.

2022 was a great year, I admit it. BUT DUDE 2023 is starting out great! Check out these tunes!

6. Maggie Rogers – Surrender

Maggie Rogers - Surrender

If Black Country pushes the edges of authentic country on the experimental end, Maggie Rogers does it on the pop end. Rogers is the girl who smells colors. Vogue Magazine also released a video of her skin care routine. LOOK I DON’T MAKE THE RULES. I only listen to the music. And Surrender is 100% top-shelf artistry; the songs are not pop candy.

Surrender rocks at times, and at other times has the lilt of the sweetest folk harmonies. But there is a country through line for the album’s duration, even if Rogers’ vocals are at times affected. On early single “That’s Where I Am,” Rogers sounds very Sheryl Crow-y, in a way that is not representative of the rest of the album. For instance, “Want Want” could be a Grace Jones track.

Before you get all judgy, treat yourself to the marvelous “Begging for Rain.” Sit through the full four minutes for the angelic harmonies that are the song’s walkaway.

Maggie Rogers – “Begging for Rain” (Surrender)

You can buy the entirety of Surrender here. For added yuks, spend a few minutes with Rogers call-in line at 844-WANT-WANT.

7. Wilco – Cruel Country

Did you know that Columbia, Missouri fancies itself the adopted home of alternative country? It’s true.

Wilco forbears Uncle Tupelo had to put some miles on their van to get out of the shadow of Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Illinois to find fans. They played frequently 140 miles west in Columbia and found airplay on Mizzou radio station KCOU. This was a few years before I lived in Columbia in the late 90’s. Nevertheless Jeff Tweedy continued to play Columbia’s Blue Note after achieving fame in Wilco, which is when I saw them. One of my fondest rock memories is Tweedy fearlessly crowd-surfing while shrieking Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” in the richest irony. Just goofing with the crowd and having fun.

Wilco was always more alt than country. But they bring all the feels with album #12 Cruel Country. The most country our alt country favorites have ever recorded. Many Wilco listeners from the last ten years have been drawn to the delicate slow burn of “Many Worlds.” But here I encourage you to listen to Wilco exploring its roots a bit more on “Hints.”

It’s difficult for me to imagine Adrianne Lenker NOT listening to Wilco (or maybe a better guess, Son Volt) among her other stated early influences. It’s also hard not to hear the breadth of Cruel Country as a reflection of Big Thief, whom Tweedy has gushed over.

The first physical media of Cruel Country becomes available in 30 days. Order yours from Wilco’s website.

2022 blew me away with amazing indie songs and groundbreaking albums. Check out my fave songs here!

Year in alt country 2022: Three more names to watch

Most of my favorites are not super obscure, or may already be on your To Buy list. The last three may not be. I’m still exploring them myself. One was just recommended to me last weekend!

Orville Peck – Bronco

The masked crusader Orville Peck has released a new album. On Bronco, Peck sounds like some cross-pollination of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Dick Dale.

Peck’s high camp has graduated from cult status as he starts to cut through to the mainstream. Shania Twain appears on album #2. Check out “Daytona Sand.”

Ian Noe – River Fools & Mountain Saints

Ian Noe released his second album, River Fools & Mountain Saints, in March. Sometimes sounding like John Prine and other times like Dylan, the Kentuckian hits all the right notes for me. He is a fast up-and-comer and is already on my shopping list. Unfortunately he is only touring the Southeast U.S. at this time.

Here is the sublime “River Fool.”

Ian Noe – “River Fool” (River Fools & Mountain Saints)

Alt country 2022 live: Anthony D’Amato

I had the pleasure of seeing Anthony D’Amato perform a couple of numbers at West Virginia’s Empty Glass after playing on Mountain Stage last Sunday. Little did I know I’d travelled 1,845 miles to see D’Amato play, though he recorded with Joshua James in American Fork, Utah! The joyful hootenanny “Long Haul” is the first single from his upcoming album.

At First There Was Nothing releases October 21 but you can preorder now.

*If I need to demonstrate my bona fides as a child of the country, the top photo in this post is an image of the creek and west entrance to my childhood subdivision in West Virginia.

Photo courtesy: Me

2022 best alternative EP’s

Vinyl records making comeback

Before I post some favorite songs from 2022 or rank my top albums, let’s spend some time with the little-appreciated category of EP’s. If there are too many songs for any human to listen to in the modern world, there are also too many EP’s, extended singles and “mini-albums” (WTF?). But you’ll miss some serious tunes if you don’t at least sample some of the releases on my list of 2022 best alternative EP’s.

A couple of caveats, the EP is not my preferred release — ultimately, to me, too short for a sustained musical statement. Also my batting average finding great EP’s is not great. Possibly terrible. So my list is just that, a list. Only roughly catalogued in order of badassery. There are just too, too, too many EP’s out there that I didn’t or couldn’t take the time to sample. I don’t presume here to rank the very best.

Having said that, dear reader, these EP’s are absolutely worth your music dollar this Christmas.

Shoken Boys – The Shoken Truth EP

2022 best alternative EP's include Shoken Boys from Tel Aviv

Something about Shoken Boys being an indie band from Israel seems super-exotic AMIRIGHT?!

The truth is, Tel Aviv is a city/metro of almost 4.5 million people. So rock is probably pretty urban and looks not unlike a show in LA. What are the chances Shoken Boys grace our shores playing this delicious shambolic jangle they’ve been putting out since 2019? A tour or supporting role in ‘Merica? Maybe not great. But what a treat to know kids 6,968 miles from Utah are falling in love with the same Shoken Truth EP as you and me.

Buy The Shoken Truth from Bandcamp and be someone’s Secret Santa.

CIEL – Not in the Sun, Nor in the Dark EP

CIEL Not in the Sun, Nor in the Dark EP one of 2022's best

Not a little akin to 90’s ikons Lush, CIEL crushed it with their 2022 Not in the Sun, Nor in the Light EP. From Brighton, England — but also all over Europe — CIEL mixes Michelle Hendriks’ voice with gorgeous power pop, lite shoegaze and moments of four-on-the-floor beats. Invite your friends over, crank Not in the Sun and remind yourself 2023 only gets better from here!

Here is the bangin’ title track, “Not in the Sun, Nor in the Dark.”

CIEL’s tremendous EP is available as a stocking stuffer at Bandcamp.

Senica – Passing Tide EP

Are Senica from Christchurch, New Zealand #1?  The 2022 best alternative EP's

Can someone help me with Theo Tudor’s exquisite voice here? I cannot quite place the Manchester band Tudor takes me back to. From Christchurch, Senica is 100% at the top of my EP list this year. I love everything about Senica’s evocative, desperate sound. And they’re shape-shifters. Although I’m dropping “Now Crystalline” here for you to sample; other songs from the Passing Tide EP are dystopian indie Radiohead.

Don’t wait for Senica’s full length debut. Tell all your friends you heard them first on the Passing Tide EP.

Healees – Healees EP

Put the Healees shoegaze at the top of your 2022 best alternative EP's list

Like almost every year since…oh, 1993 or so…2022 wasn’t a real triumph for the shoegaze movement. How about a light in the darkness, Healees from Paris, France. They’re not doing anything terrifically groundbreaking here. Just creating tight harmonies around a wall-of-sound that make you want to cry. Also I would cynically note this EP is like 33 minutes long, so basically an album.

Here is “The Garden” from the June Healees EP.

Did someone say, “2023 opening act for Ride and The Charlatans?” Yes, please! Healees, alone, are a great reminder of why you need to follow Hidden Bay Records.

The Sundries – Full of the Joys of Spring EP

The Sundries satirize the David Letterman stalker on their Full of the Joys of Spring EP

London’s indie pop The Sundries turn up the sunshine on September’s Full of the Joys of Spring EP. Full of pop nuggets and indie handclaps, The Sundries’ The Joys of Spring EP four songs burst with life. Their breakout in 2022 was the sardonic “David Letterman,” speaking to 80’s kids everywhere.

“I stopped taking my pills.
They told me I was ill.
What did they know?
They were just making me fat.
David would not like that,
He likes me just so.”

Still, the title track “Full of the Joys of Spring” best encapsulates The Sundries sound.

Enjoy The Sundries’ Full of the Joys of Spring EP this holiday season!

2022 best alternative EP’s

people at concert

Don’t be fooled by the “EP” label from a band that you’ve fallen in love with. Even if it’s not a full album, it may still top your list of 2022 best alternative EP’s. For good measure, here are three more EP’s that you can’t go wrong with!

  • The Black WatchThe Neverland of Spoken Things EP
  • The Valery TrailsThe Introvert Blues EP
  • The Death of PopFor a Minute EP

Best albums of 2022 so far

rope lights on window

The sheer volume of music right now – full-lengths, EP’s, digital exclusives, singles, B-sides, remixes, extended mixes, reissues – all make it hard to keep up. How do you know if you’ve EVEN HEARD the best albums of 2022 so far with so much noise?

We’re all in this together, so let’s have a look at the best albums of 2022 so far.


Best albums of 2022 so far: Once Twice Melody by Beach House

To start, let’s just note the year 2022 launched with the final installment and formal release of Once Twice Melody by Beach House. It is an epic dreamwork, one worth the time and scope across all 18 tracks. Once Twice Melody will likely be high on many people’s Best Of Decade lists, not just 2022. Even as I write this and listen to the song “ESP,” I question how rational I am not putting this in my top spot.

Buy this remarkable album and judge for yourself.

Other terrific works this year that will find many Top 10 lists:

Not Feeling It

basket sad clown

Next, a few albums that left me underwhelmed.

I buy very little music sight unseen — as in, almost zero. However this year several of my favorite bands released new music and I bought it on spec. Did I not give them enough of a chance? Was I in a bad mood? I don’t know…a friend is persuading me to go back and revisit them. But these albums didn’t change my life.

First among them, as reliable as rain, Spoon. Lucifer on the Sofa is Spoon’s first album since 2017’s Hot Thoughts. I’ve never NOT liked Spoon. Not ever. But this one has not cut through for me. However, I did enjoy single “Wild.” It sounds like a straight up INXS tribute, and I am here for every second of it.

Alright since I’m such a crabby pants about Spoon…a few other big name releases that fell short:

  • Animal CollectiveTime Skiffs
  • Kendrick LamarMr. Morale and the Big Steppers
  • Cate LeBonPompeii
  • A Place to Bury StrangersSee Through You
  • The SmileA Light for Attracting Attention

It’s probably me.

Best of 2022 So Far

Best albums of 2022 so far: We've Been Going About This All Wrong by Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten has been on my radar for years but We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is the first album that really took me aback. It has everything you could want…inflections of Emmylou Harris… dancier tracks… dense numbers layered like bucolic shoegaze. The thing I love most about this album is the way Van Etten starts many of her songs with the simplest musical ideas — and they grow into these epic, crashing things at the end.

Sit with “Born” for the full five minutes to hear this kind of masterful arrangement.

I think Van Etten has released one of the best albums of 2022 so far, so buy it here.