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By Ann Hug
Choosing a best-of list when you’re more than halfway through the year isn’t exactly the most common time for careful deliberation.
Not only are we disregarding the reality that perhaps not all of the year’s best records have been delivered to us so far, but we risk having to repeat the exercise once more at year’s end. Still, with 2022 being jam-packed with fantastic new music, we simply couldn’t help ourselves.
Indeed, the year 2022 seems to be a fine one indeed for music fans, so continue reading to find out 8 of the best records you might have missed.
Forbidden Feelingz by Nia Archives
If you’re looking for an artist on the rise, Nia Archives is your ticket. Archives is a singer and producer from Manchester, U.K., who combines elements of jungle, reggae, breakbeat, and other eclectic forms of upbeat music to create an evocative patchwork.
Her first EP, titled Forbidden Feelingz, is an exhilarating adrenaline rush anchored by sweet, almost laconic vocals that keep listeners on their toes. Every minute of this album compels you to get up and move, whether it’s the revved-up samples that blast through the title track or the seductive, melancholy chorus on the EP’s highlight, “Luv Like.”
Only Love From Now On by Carmen Villain
Carmen Villain’s Only Love From Now On is a seamless fusion of acoustic instrumentation, painterly electronics, and ambient soundscapes, creating a plethora of different sounds and sensations for the listener. The Mexican-Norwegian artist’s fourth album employs wind instruments, soft pattering percussion, and the odd thrumming sub-bass to weave surreal, enveloping songs.
Villain was said to be inspired in part by video art from the ’70s and works by female artists. Only Love From Now On progresses with meticulous precision, methodically deploying each piece to expose the luminous beauty that lies at its very center.
Regards to the End by Emily Wells
The symphonic music that Emily Wells composes is bursting with grandly melancholy gestures, including synth tones that are as thick and black as crude oil and woodwinds that sound like wings fluttering in the upper reaches of a doomed tower. The ambiance is so potent that it almost appears to produce its own dry ice and winter setting.
The NYC-based composer is said to draw her inspiration from the activist groups that emerged in response to the AIDS epidemic and the climate disaster. Hopelessness and rebirth are two of the overarching themes of the album. However, once you’re within the spinning snow globe that Wells has skillfully crafted, you won’t want any further information from the outside world.
Arcola by Caution
Caution entertains with catchy pop songs and a flood of sound scuff marks throughout their music. The songs are drenched in blinking fuzz, hypnagogic reverb, and chilly charm, and the pair takes things to the next level with their shared lead vocals. On Caution’s debut record, Arcola, the band displays a strong ear for texture and dynamics by evoking the synthy shoegaze of Chapterhouse and the ageless noise-pop of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Estyland EP by Esty
Dominican-American musician Esty is a rollerskating influencer and a Sailor Moon fanatic, and her music is just as colorful as her hobbies. Interestingly, Etsy’s music was written in English and Spanish, serving up a bilingual double-delight. On the track “Pegao,” Etsy boasts, “I’m delicate, but I cut like a knife,” while riding a funky rhythm. Etsy’s transitions from moonlight balladry into dark trap, R&B, and hip-hop depict an artist oozing with flawless levels of cool.
Fault Lines by Deliluh
The most recent release by Toronto-bred turned European transplants Deliluh is titled Fault Lines, and it’s hauntingly gorgeous. Fault Lines is an album that will most definitely challenge listeners’ senses due to its minimal post-punk grooves, ambient synths, saxophone, and string flourishes. Additionally, its harrowing, discordant chants are performed in a manner that is halfway between speaking and singing, which will be exacting to digest as well.
Fault Lines creeping tempos, creaky guitars, and Kyle Knapp’s ominous, monotone voice are stand-out points, to be sure. Simply put, when despair is captured this deeply, it’s hard not to feel a strong emotional connection to these forlorn sounds.
Hiding in Place by Queen of Jeans
This Philadelphia-based outfit has been stirring up what they affectionately refer to as “crockpot pop” for several years. Despite its straightforward nature, Queen of Jeans is tricky to categorize, but one might describe them as vaguely beachy, grungy, pastoral, and bubblegum pop.
In 2022, Queen of Jeans returned with a new EP, Hiding in Place. And they appear to be reaching new heights, highlighting Miri Devora’s ability to belt, which amplifies the emotional impact of the lyrics tenfold. The title track features an assured and charming vocal performance, even though the lyrics paint a picture of festering insecurities and isolating anxiety.
Marchita by Silvana Estrada
Raised by parents who handcraft guitars and violas, it’s hard to resist the temptation to romanticize Mexican-born singer-songwriter Silvana Estrada’s abilities as genetic superpowers. Her second studio affair, Marchita, is a sophisticated folk tapestry woven out of heartbreak, son jarocho, and the Venezuelan cuatro, a four-string instrument that Estrada plays as if it were an extension of her limbs.
Musically nimble, Estrada’s voice harbors an eerie tone pulsating with loneliness and resolve, with the songstress baring her soul over a background awash in simple instrumentation. Throughout Marchita, Estrada whimsically snaps her fingers, spinning each note into an emotional release.
Though Marchita sometimes feels like Diane Cluck being orchestrated by Van Dyke Parks or Jessica Pratt singing in Spanish, Estrada’s interpretation of stripped-down sadness is entirely unique.
– Ann Hug is a contributor for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at email@example.com