I made a deliberate decision to jump start 2023 by listening to the first great alternative songs new to January.
That’s what you’re going to hear below. While the first couple weeks of the year always seem to be catchup mode on Best Of lists for the year before, you will 100% fall in love with the new music already dropping in 2023.
Let’s have a listen!
Alternative songs new for your January playlist
Each of these songs shot out of the cannon in the first four weeks of the new year.
I haven’t finished listening to all the indie songs new to January, but these are the ones that caught my immediate attention. Each tune comes with a link to buy the song or album and support the artist. Make that a new year’s resolution in 2023! Support independent musicians by paying them for their art!
1. “Dark Moon” – GRMLN (Dark Moon)
We were just four days into the new year when Yoodoo Park of Kyoto, Japan, released Dark Moon and its tasty title track. Park’s GRMLN has been at this for a decade and doesn’t find these dream pop guitar lines by accident. I didn’t hear an entire album of these hooks on Dark Moon but the title track is one of the promising alternative songs new to January 2023.
2. “Mile Marker 29” – The Bad Ends (The Power and the Glory)
You know who you don’t hear a lot about in the year 2023? REM drummer Billy Berry.
Bill’s been taking it easy – the royalty checks probably still clear. After a health scare in the 90’s, Berry has been hay farming outside Athens the last 25 years. A chance meeting with Mike Mantionelead to new band The Bad Ends and Berry’s return to music. Have a listen to “Mile Marker 29.”
The Rills have a super dancy Franz Ferdinand thing happening.
It was especially clear on “Landslide,” which The Rills released last fall. Two weeks ago, they dropped “Falling Apart.” The Rills’ second EP, depending on where you get your info, will be available in February.
4. fine. – “New Skin/Good Life” (Love, Death, Dreams and the Sleep Between)
What I really dig about Boston’s fine. is this grade school choir sound they’ve perfected.
Bubblegum pop songs by Alice Kat and Liam James Marsh will wake you from your winter doldrums and get you dancing again. Although I’m including fine. in my January list of tunes…Love, Death, Dreams came out three days before Christmas, so sue me. Hit play and fall in love!
Let me tell you what I know about The Spooky Boys, which is close to nothing. They’re billed as “Portland’s premier indie/surf rock group featuring jangly dripping wet guitars, relentless driving rhythm, and insatiable catchy melodies.” Admittedly I didn’t know “jangly wet guitars” was a thing, nor that The Spooky Boys were Portland’s exemplar.
I DO KNOW superior power pop when I hear it. So check out one of the best indie songs new to 2023, “Past Tense.”
If Priestgate look miserable, their single “White Shirt” is a delirious balance of pop sugar and darker 80’s Cure vibes. I’m looking forward to hearing Priestgate’s second EP due on March 3. I have to say I love the rhythm and vocal desperation of “White Shirt.”
I get it, a band with a name and sound like Toronto’s FU is not going to appeal to everyone reading this post, and that’s a shame.
The arrangements and (honestly) melodies underneath Damian Abraham’s vocals are second to none. It is remarkable hardcore guitar rock. Hang with it for two minutes and think about what songs like “Huge New Her” would sound like with actual singing.
My FU collection goes back, if not to their origin, to their remarkable David Comes to Life. Abraham sang a bit more on David than on One Day. So, for context, a bonus track: “The Other Shoe” from 2011’s landmark David Comes to Life.
10. “Skeleton Boy” – Strange Neighbors (Party of None EP)
Let’s stick with the power pop sound. I bet Strange Neighbors are a fun show. Just look at them, having fun with a camera like good self-entertaining kids. The Party of None EP came out two weeks ago, and I recommend you download and inject one of the indie songs new to January that will get your party started.
This month Chicago singer-songwriter Maria Jacobson released her second album, Leaving. It’s sweeping acoustic folk with song titles like “Winter” and “God.” Those feel like difficult motifs to live up to. Much of this rests on Fran’s voice and lyrics, like Weyes Blood striped bare of the chamber orchestra.
Kelley Deal, Kim’s twin and most famous sister, delivers on R. Ring with partner Mike Montgomery.
Deal is involved in a ton of stuff in addition to R. Ring, including Breeders reboots and Protomartyr. I love Kelley’s comeback story, the Breeders’ icy cool baked into R. Ring and her indie rock confidence. Check out the payoff halfway through War Poems’ lead, “Still Life.”
I confess, another 2022 song but – come onnnn! — Denmark’s appleseeds! dropped this song on December 31. You were probably already asleep, so it’s officially one of the alternative songs new to January in my book. Too Good to be True Records indicates appleseeds! will release æblefrø on February 3.
Check out “Hungry Mouth” and get set for what promises to be an album of jangle pop perfection!.
Sabrina Teitelbaum is LA’s Blondshell, who writes about her toxic relationships with a candor that couldn’t care less. Dark indie rock echoing influences like PJ Harvey and Courtney Love. Some of it is sexualized, some of it is just dysfunctional emotion like “Sepsis.”
15. “Anglepoise” – The Happy Somethings (A Gathering of Sorts)
Let’s finish this list with 90 seconds of fist-pumping guitar rock. England’s The Happy Somethings roll the rhythm from Bow Wow Wow’s “I Love Candy” under bubblegum guitar fuzz and twee Bangles vocals.
You’ll be singing “Anglepoise” all day, and you’re welcome.
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
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
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.
Did you hear all the Spanish-language jangle pop released in 2022? You’ll fall in love with these songs!
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.
17. 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
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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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.
9. Alvvays – Blue Rev
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!
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.
7. 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
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!
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
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.
3. Big Thief – 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!
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
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?
EVERYTHING WORKS on 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
Best alternative albums of 2022: Not feeling these
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