Beach House —“Once Twice Melody”
The list begins with a behemoth of an album. Since the 2000s, Beach House has pioneered modern “dream pop” with spacey soundscapes and celestial vocals. Tracks like “Pink Funeral” and “New Romance” feature soaring choruses, and the album as a whole contains more live drums than the duo’s first few projects. Despite a lackluster rollout that broke the entire album down into four chunks of four singles (an easy way to lose hype for the full release, in my opinion), “Once Twice Melody” delivers a pleasing vibe.
Listen to: “Once Twice Melody,” “New Romance,” “The Bells.”
Big Thief — “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You”
The title track of this album is beautiful and shows how long the influence of Sufjan Stevens’ 2015 album “Carrie and Lowell” has lasted. Some of the tracks feel haunting, while others are euphoric or magical. Emotions peak during songs like “Little Things” and “No Reason.” This album proves that you can overload singles if you back them up with another album’s equivalent of solid tracks upon full release.
Listen to: “Certainty,” “Little Things,” “Wake Me Up To Drive,” “Simulation Swarm.”
Bonsk — “Trip”
Bonsk’s new road-trip-inspired project is more than just a beat tape. The instrumental tracks are packed with infinite melodies, intricate drums and a collage of textures and grooves. This small Maine-based artist is still virtually unknown but his chill rave sound is inventive and emotionally moving in the style of Godford or TSHA. “P.O.E.” contains standout drums, and the off-balance energy of “Jan 8” is a turning point of the tape.
Listen to: “bye,” “Muskogee,” “Prescott (again).”
Action Bronson — “Cocodrillo Turbo”
No Action Bronson solo project has missed since 2015’s “Mr. Wonderful”. Each album has had at least two or three new elite songs for his insane catalog, this album’s being “Estaciones” and “Jaguar.” Bronson continues his “album tag” trend from his past three projects with the fuzzy “TURBO!” sound bite, another fun addition. The instrumentals and flows have not cooled off over the past decade for Bronson.
Listen to: “Estaciones,” “Subzero,” “Jaguar.”
Duster — “Together”
Legendary slowcore group Duster returns with a new album titled “Together,” the band’s first since their 2019 comeback. “Together” is a solid offering to build on the group’s legacy, keeping the dragged-out, grungy guitar chords but sometimes opting for drum machines instead of live kits. The album is accessible, for better or worse. However, it may take a while for each track name to ingrain itself into your memory.
Listen to: “New Directions,” “Sleepyhead,” “Feel No Joy.”
FKA twigs — “CAPRISONGS”
“CAPRISONGS” did a great job at pushing FKA twigs closer to the mainstream without losing her sound and image. Along with the newest project from Charli XCX, the mixtape proves that more accessible writing does not equal “worse” music, just a slightly different style and appeal. Twigs’ usual glitchy R&B sound melds with pop and hip hop beautifully on tracks like “lightbeamers” and “meta angel,” both featuring production from ROSALIA collaborator El Guincho.
Listen to: “honda,” “lightbeamers,” “careless.”
Rigby Picnic — “The Bog of Eternal Stench”
Local Philadelphia artist Jake Hoffpauir’s new full-length project is well-paced and memorable, including multiple stand-alone singles like “Let Faith Be Proud” and “Picture.” The title gives the album a setting which at times feels immediate, and each track offers moments worth coming back to. “Bog” is moving and sets a high standard for rock albums in 2022.
Listen to: “Let Fate Be Proud,” “I Was Only Being Stupid,” “Up To You.”
Vince Staples — “RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART”
Following the infectious single “MAGIC” from February of this year, Vince Staples is back, with a quick turnaround from his 2021 self-titled album. Despite that, “RAMONA PARK” is his longest project since “Summertime ‘06” in 2015. Staples speaks about paranoia and the insecurity he feels in his success while weaving in stories about love and jail. Standouts “WHEN SPARKS FLY” and “LEMONADE” show how diverse the emotions here are. The former feels like a career-defining track for Staples.
Listen to: “AYE! (FREE THE HOMIES),” “WHEN SPARKS FLY,” “ROSE STREET.”
Earl Sweatshirt — “SICK!”
After a drawn-out and somewhat confusing release for the complete “FEET OF CLAY” project, Earl is back with a short collection of sample-heavy tracks: 10 songs within 25 minutes. His delivery is slurred and lackadaisical, contrasting the potent lyrics which are a focal point of his verses. Similar to 2018’s “Some Rap Songs” album, Earl ends “SICK!” with a movie-like outro titled “Fire in the Hole,” a song that leaves the listener feeling that something is being left behind.
Listen to: “2010,” “Lye,” “Titanic,” “Fire in the Hole.”
Toro Y Moi — “MAHAL”
Rounding out the list is the most recent addition, Toro Y Moi’s ninth project “MAHAL”: a cohesive jam that zooms in and out of focus. The radio-esque transitions are not a new idea but are a well-executed one, especially the small bits of commercial-sounding filler left at the end of some tracks (see hit single “The Loop”). The Beatles’ influence shines through on songs like “Deja Vu” and “Magazine,” while “Millenium” and the opener demonstrate the sheer musical talent of Chaz Bear and his collaborators.
Listen to: “The Loop,” “Last Year,” “Deja Vu.”