While walking and wandering through the streets of my hometown a couple of weeks ago, I had an inner dialogue questioning the tradition of creating these end of the year lists. You see, when you are busy at work (as I was), it can almost start to feel like a chore (it kinda did); just another line on your to-do list. But then I started shuffling and cutting my longlist down to a Top 50. That became a reward in itself. I had a blast revisiting and rediscovering all the great music that’s been released in 2022. Hindsight’s 20/20, but the process offered a reminder how initial scepticism can turn into an eternal spot in a record collection. And vice versa, how love at first sight ultimately was a crush at best.
Below, you’ll find the 50 records that meant the most to me in 2022 (with 50 additional recommendations). They are the records that made my head bop, fueled my battery, and made me feel things. Above all, these are the records that fill me with gratitude to all the bands and labels involved. Thank you all for keeping underground music alive and kicking!
Looking for a quick way to check out the list? Check out this Spotify playlist. Also make sure to check out Dennis’ AOTY list – spoiler, my top 50 has 40+ different picks, which I think perfectly reflects the different sides of our site. Reminder: More lists are on their way.
1. Best Bets || On An Unhistoric Night
Upbeat, energetic, scrappy and infectious guitar-driven power pop from Australia. I’ve had a lot of mileage on this record this year, and zero flat tires. It still sounds fresh, still puts a smile on my face and still gets my head bopping.
2. Sick Thoughts || Heaven Is No Fun
Punk record of the year? YES! Drew Owen piles on hit after hit on this LP that showcases the most accessible and catchy side of Sick Thoughts yet. Heaven Is No Fun ignites that instant spark of discovering punk for the first time.
3. Televisionaries || Mad About You
The three Lake brothers and their childhood friend Aaron Mika sound in perfect harmony on Mad About You, a record that is an absolute blast and a time portal to the dancehalls of the ’50s and ’60s. At no time the old timey surfrock-‘n’-roll of Televisionaries feels inauthentic or filled with faux romanticism.
4. Split System || Vol. 1
A killer rockin’ punk record from Australia. The eleven songs on Vol. 1 will pierce your ears in the best possible way. Split System have the intensity of punk and are loud as hell. But take a closer listen and the music appears much more nuanced and subtle than you’d initially expect.
5. Pigeon Pit || Feather River Canyon Blues
Released on the first day of 2022, I did not anticipate it would be one of my favorites of the year. But few records evoked as much emotions for me as this one. The line between joy and goosebumps is thin with Pigeon Pit, a band that sounds like a mix of John K Samson/The Weakerthans, Nana Grizol, Pinegrove, Conor Oberst and Neutral Milk Hotel.
6. Green/Blue || Offering & Paper Thin
I’m probably breaking some rules here, but when a band releases not one but two records of equal (top notch) quality in one year (barely 6 months apart), I’m not going to pick one over the other. The amount of short and tight mid-fi mesmerizing new wavish, garagy, postpunky pop nuggets these veterans from Minneapolis released this year has blown my mind. My most played band this year according to the data analysts.
7. The Rubs || Dust
Dust is Joey Rubbish’s successful attempt to revive the heartbeat of AM radio. It is goddamn perfect and clever in all of its powerpop glory. Rubbish will return in March with a new LP by The Whiffs, already one of my most anticipated releases of 2023.
8. 2nd Grade || Easy Listening
It’s easy to get swept away by the classic and super sweet melodic guitarpop/powerpop of 2nd Grade, who reach a new level on Easy Listening. On the LP, effortlessness is a virtue and rock’n’roll music something to celebrate and pursue rather than proclaim dead. The sheer quality of this hit-after-hit fest is insane.
9. More Kicks || Punch Drunk
Quality guitar music that is loud, informed by r’n’r history and has a lot of melody, written by a songwriter who has been in the zone for quite some time, played by a super tight band that is fun to watch live as well. Punch Drunk by More Kicks is a kickass LP, and Terminal Love is one my most played songs of 2022.
10. Jim Nothing || In The Marigolds
Full of ramshackle charm, sweet melodies and a variety of styles, In The Marigolds is a feast for the synapses. Effortlessly switching between slacker indie rock, jangle goodness, and strummy indiepop, Jim Nothing takes all that is good about NZ/AU underground pop to create something exciting and new that sounds delightfully familiar.
11. The New Brutarians || Hysteria
Here is a record I initially underestimated, despite writing about it around its release date. Anytime the shuffle function digs up songs from Hysteria, I’m blown away by their awesomeness. This Lo-Fi Glam Pop Rock N’ Roll duo absolutely knocks it out of the park with Hysteria. Most played song: 16 Savior. What a jam!
12. Uni Boys || Do It All Next Week
For a while now, Uni Boys have been on a mission to recapture the magic of ’70s rock’n’roll and powerpop – particularly the sound of bands like 20/20, Shoes, Milk ‘N’ Cookies and The Records. Put on that Mission Accomplished banner for Do It All Next Week, a highly addictive record with fingerlicking guitar work.
13. The Speedways || Talk Of The Town
Talk Of The Town was released late in the year, but quickly won me over. Probably the most pop-oriented Speedways record, and also their most accomplished. Rather than make you sentimental for first wave power pop, The Speedways fill you with gratitude that bands keep the flame alive in 2022.
14. Romero || Turn It On!
Inspired, powerful and soulful powerpop from Melbourne. Romero’s Turn It On! is what happens when you put great talent, chemistry and killer musical taste all in one room. In case of Romero, you’ll get soaring guitar licks, groovy rhythm and an electrifying voice.
15. Outtacontroller || Come Alive
On Come Alive, Outtacontroller sound like they can’t wait to get your garage r’n’r party started. The ingredients are familiar from their previous releases – garage powerpop with pushy urgent drumming, simple but effective guitar riffing and the delayed (but guaranteed!) gratification of killer hooks, but the execution is flawless.
16. The Sino Hearts || Lightening The Darkness
The Sino Hearts have been hinting upon greatness on their past output, but Lightening The Darkness is the record where they finally fully live up to their potential. I’m blown away by how well executed this mixture of powerpop/garage/rnr/’70s punk is.
17. Martha || Please Don’t Take Me Back
Each Martha record is a must for music fans who like their punk full of pop and twee sensibilities, and Martha is firing on all cylinders on their latest. Indie punk doesn’t get much better and more likeable than this.
18. Class || Epoca De Los Vaqueros
If I would make a list of my favorite new bands in 2022, Class would be somewhere at the top of the list. Few bands sound as authenthically grounded in the underground music of the past (’70s and ’80s mostly, but ’60s Velvet Underground as well) and can make it sound this certified fresh. Each song on Epoca De Los Vaqueros is an adventure where the destiny may be unknown but satisfaction guaranteed.
19. Carly Cosgrove || See You In Chemistry
Sure, the twinkly guitars, the soft-loud dynamics, and the gang sing alongs are not necesarily original, but Carly Cosgrove sound completely earnest in their delivery, The band displays a high sense of conviction and ambition on See You In Chemistry. I didn’t expect to like this one nor to play this as much as I did.
20. Free Time || Jangle Jargon
Free Time is a jangle pop supergroup who absolutely deliver on Jangle Jargon, the most consistently great and most fun Free Time record to date. How can you not fall for the strummy and jangly Half Measures with its laid back “hey haha lalalala” hook.
21. Starter Jackets || Dead Malls
Starter Jackets feature members of Local Drags, The Copyrights, Hospital Job and Attic Salt. And if you are familiar with those bands, you won’t be surprised by the sound on Dead Malls: extremely melodic mid-paced poppunk, with no shortage of group singalongs. This record has a ridiculous amount of ear worms.
22. Ex-Gold || We Are Good
This Knoxville band provide a masterclass in matching two distinct styles: the stop start rhythms, angular guitar riffings of Aussie bands like Pinch Points and Vintage Crop, and the frenetic hooky pop punk/powerpop of North American bands like Steve Adamyk Band, Sonic Avenues and Marked Men.
23. The Beths || Expert In A Dying Field
We didn’t cover this record on our site for the simple reason that The Beths are kinda huge already. But that attention is well deserved: Expert In A Dying Field is too good to ignore, and I can see no reason why anyone would want to. Features some of the best songwriting in the band’s already impressive discography.
24. Mikey Erg || Love At Leeds
Complement an all-star group of talent (Jeff Rosenstock, Alex Clute and Lou Hanman) with a top producer (Steve Albini) and some of the best songwriting of Mikey Erg’s career and you have one hell of a record. Love At Leeds rocks hard in all the right places.
25. Tha Retail Simps || Reverberant Scratch
Every now and then you come across a record whose individual parts may sound familiar, but its sum sounding totally different and surprising. The debut by Tha Retail Simps is that record. It rocks, it rolls, it confuses. It’s loud, it’s dirty and full of attitude, but also suprisingly gentle and nuanced. It’s punk, but will make audiences dance rather than pogo.
26. Kids On A Crime Spree || Fall In Love Not In Line
The opening combo of Karl Kardel Building and When Can I See You Again? alone is worth the price of admission. Kids On A Crime Spree make it sound all so spontaneous and effortless, almost like they can’t help writing hits like these. What a welcome and glorious return by this bunch of juvenile delinquents.
27. Field School || When Summer Comes
Charles Bert (of Math & Physics Club and Unlikely Friends fame) returns to the top of the indie pop class with his solo project Field School. With jangly and chiming guitars, Summer melodies, a sense of melancholy and longing, When Summer Comes wraps around you like a warm and comfortable blanket
28. Petite League || Thrill Seekers
Thrill Seekers is a record that doesn’t overcomplicate things. It makes for smooth listening, like a laid back Strokes record or Real Estate going powerpop. I can’t help but feel that this is the most fun and most accomplished Petite League record yet.
29. The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness || The Third Wave Of…
There is no peacocking in the the music of TBWTPN, no bells and whistles. It’s all about writing upbeat and sunny powerpop/indie pop hits with a hint of nostalgia and a touch of melancholy. The Third Wave Of… makes for perfect late Summer/early Autumn listening.
30. Rabbit || Good Love Is A Hot Chip
It’s pretty awesome to see a band that released just one highly promising single successfully make the jump to a great full length. Rabbit absolutely find the sweet spot between powerpop and punk on some of these songs, but they pull off slower mesmerizing songs as well.
31. Kiwi Jr. || Chopper
The previous Kiwi Jr. record was my #3 record of 2021. On Chopper, Kiwi Jr opt for a more mature indie rock sound, trading jangly nervous energy for synth pop. What remained? Quality songwriting.
32. Jeanines || Don’t Wait For A Sign
There is a punk simplicity and directness to Jeanines sound, and the lack of distorted guitars and high pitched choir like vocals give the scrappy indie pop a folky vibe. Don’t Wait For A Sign is an instant indie pop classic.
33. Ex-Vöid || Bigger Than Before
The two primary songwriters of Joanna Gruesome take their trademark dual boy-girl vocal attack of Joanna Gruesome and a smorgasbord of hooks to this new exciting project.
34. Big Nothing || Dog Hours
Lame-O Records had an amazing year. I think I liked this one the most. Big Nothing operate on the intersection of indie punk, power pop, altcountry and classic rock. A great hook is never far away on Dog Hours, and Big Nothing’s music has a warmth that makes the band easy to like.
35. Tetnis || Moving Quickly To Prevent A Hater From Detonating The Vest
Tetnis are a criminally underrated band from Columbus. The songs of Tetnis in general are short, catchy, slightly lo-fi and slacker friendly. The new record is a major step up from their 2019 album (Carrot). It offers the kind of indie rock I think punk and garage kids can appreciate as well.
36. Teini-Pää || Maailma Kyllä Odottaa
The super fun powerpop of this Finnish band has as many hooks as their songtitles have vowels. If you’re looking for a comparison: kinda like the Finnish answer to The Go-Go’s and Alvvays.
37. Ribbon Stage || Hit With The Most
Punks playing pop music is such a great concept isn’t it? Don’t overthink the music, keep it DIY and full of ramshackle charm. Like the best underground pop records, Hit With The Most is noisy and sugary in all the right places.
38. Brad Marino || Basement Beat
Brad Marino is Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy in one convenient package on Basement Beat, a record that comes with an unironic disclaimer that no upstrokes were used in the studio.
39. Artsick || Fingers Crossed
A delightfully ramshackle and upbeat indie pop record by members of Burnt Palms, Kids On A Crime Spree and Lunchbox. This is the kind of record that makes you want to pick up an instrument and start a band.
40. KMES || King Mike Entertainment System
King Mike Entertainment System is Mike Abbate’s (Screaming Females/State Champion Records) first record as KMES and it’s a thing of beauty. If you are a fan of punchy powerpop that makes up what it lacks in polish with a strong sense of melody, this is a must listen – FFO Tenement, Laika’s Orbit.
41. Dust Star || Open Up That Heart
Members of Cende and Ingrates started a new powerpop project and debuted with this killer LP that has instant likeability and infinite replay value. Open Up That Heart has hints of Marked Men, Teenage Fanclub, and The Pixies.
42. Geoff Palmer || Standing In The Spotlight
Geoff Palmer’s gives Dee Dee Ramone’s hit-and-miss rap/rock/punk solo record Standing In The Spotlight a loving treatment that is a joy to listen to. The craftmanship that went into this record is impressive.
43. Praise || All In A Dream
Praise is the kind of band that offers a reminder of the power and appeal of hardcore punk. All in A Dream is bouncy, dynamic and colorful. It’s a record to get excited over, to rock out with, to sing and scream along to. RIYL: Dag Nasty, Rites Of Spring and Embrace.
44. Colt Wave || You Already Know
Colt Wave is a long distance project by Colby Mancasola (Knapsack, Downtime) and Ken Lovgren (Downtime). You Already Know is full of short and understated jangly indie rock songs that are easy on the ears and calming to the nerves. The excellent guitar work and strong melodies of Lovgren will hold your attention even in the absence of massive choruses.
45. Night Court || Nervous Birds! Too
The second installment of Night Court’s duology continues on the same foot as the first. Expect short lo-fi indie/punk/pop nuggets – this is a 13 song, 15 minute record. With most songs recorded in one or two takes at most, the spontaneity of Night Court is contagious and one of the band’s biggest assets.
46. The Windowsill || Focus
From start to finish, The Windowsill deliver on Focus. Classic pop punk in the vein of Ben Weasel, featuring some of the best songwriting of Marien Jonker’s (Apers, Giant Eagles, Shivvies) career.
47. Nasty Rumours || Bloody Hell, What A Pity!
The 12 songs on this LP are like hand grenades filled with explosive hooks and melodies that wash over you within seconds. A late ‘70s punkfeast for fans of Undertones & Buzzcocks.
48. Alien Nosejob || Stained Glass
The latest Alien Nosejob LP is heavily influenced by Bon Scott era AC/DC records. Prolific songwriter Jake Robertson combines killer guitar riffs with punk attitude and a sense of urgency to create an exhilerating rock’n’roll party, and everyone’s invited.
49. Dazy || OUTOFBODY
OUTOFBODY sounds like Goodson made us all a mixtape of everything he liked about ’90s music. There is britrock/britpop, there is ’90s alt pop and college rock, there is jangle. Mix in the early ’90s takeover by Nirvana and Green Day, and you get a record that is concise yet full of hooks, full of energy and full of heart.
50. Trevor Blendour || Falling In Love
On Falling In Love, Trevor Blendour sounds like a ’50s rock’n’roller or a ’60s Beatlemaniac who just discovered Green Day’s Kerplunk. It’s insanely sugary and should come with warning sign that it may cause permanent damage to your teeth.
Notable mentions (in alphabetical order):
All Away Lou || Things Will Change
The Bug Club || Green Dream In F#
The Cheap Cassettes || Ever Since Ever Since
Cheekface || Too Much To Ask
Christopher Peifer || Sacred And Profane
Classic Traffic || Classic Traffic
Dan Vapid & The Cheats || Welcom To Dystopia
Dead Years || Dead Years
Depress Mode || Greetings From Mission Viejo
Dot Dash || Madman In The Rain
The Drolls || The Puget Sound
Extra Arms || What Is Even Happening Right Now?
Farewell Horizontal || Tales Of Woah
Faz Waltz || On The Ball
Flash || Flash
Fruit Tones || Pink Wafer Factory
Good Grief || Shake Your Faith
Hakan || Hakan Manifesto
Hayley And The Crushers || Modern Adult Kicks
The Jansen || Banal Semakin Binal
Heavy Lag || Another Year Closer To Whatever
J Prozac || Won’t Let Go
JJ & The Real Jerks || Mess Me Up
Jimmy Doyle || Going Gray
Joyride! || Miracle Question
Limoges || Milan Shakes, Turin Shocks, Lomoges Rocks
Liquid Mike || A Beer Can And A Bouquet
The Manges || Book Of Hate For Good People
Michael Kane & The Morning Afters || Broke But Not Broken
Mick Trouble || It’s Mick Troubles Second LP
The Missed || Activation
Moral Panic || Validation
New Junk City || Beg A Promise
Oh Boland || Cheap Things
Pleasure Center || Pity In Jangle City
Popular Creeps || All This Will End In Tears
Puhelinseksi || Vieraita Toisillemme
Real Tears || Whipped dreams
The Roxies || Don’t Wanna Dance Because I’m Told To
Screeching Weasel || The Awful Disclosure of…
Sekunderna || Här Ha Du Ditt Liv
The Smashing Times || Bloom
Smirk || Material
Sob Stories || Fair Shakes
The Suttles || Stories
Teenage Tom Petties || Teenage Tom Petties
Tony Molina || In The Fade
Vaguess || Nothing’s Secret
Walker Brigade || If Only
Whimsyland || Whimsyland