As we reach the halfway point of the year, it’s time to reflect on some of the standout rock releases that came to our attention in 2022 so far.
From indie rock to garage rock, soul rock to pop rock, the gamut of “rock” saw some killer releases.
In times like these, a little pick-me-up or even something melancholic to help share the weight of our burdens is a welcomed gift. Who doesn’t need to let it all out to a riff-heavy jam from time to time?
As it’s our foray to give a platform for the more under-the-radar artists, we did our due diligence to select a handful of rock-inspired releases that made an impression. Here is our Top 10 Rock Releases of 2022 at the halfway point.
10. The Heavy North – Electric Soul Machine
Making what they call “Dive Bar Blues,” The Heavy North are students of the greats. Inspired by The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, and modern acts like The Black Keys, their music reflects these influences. The heavy blues rock from this record is a bone-crunching blast that is sure to appease anyone that craves gritty garage rock-type energy. From “The Genie” to “As Long As You’re Here With Me,” Electric Soul Machine is a killer rock record of 2022.
9. Highway Natives – West of the Blind Side
This Nashville Americana southern rock outfit is mere days into the release of their debut album, West of the Blind Side. With badass singles like “Doghouse” and “Cold Feet,” the album offers a modern taste of classic rock powerhouses like Tom Petty and The Allman Brothers. “Cold Feet” in particular boasts a bluesy groove and soulful lead vocal, and comes with an equally engaging music video. It’s a strong and emotional track that utilizes a trade off between singers and a harmony that adds a depth to the story the song wants to tell. If this is a sign of the state of Americana rock music in 2022, then it’s in good hands with Highway Natives.
8. Tom Guerra- – Sentimental Junk
The former Mambo Sons guitarist and Vintage Guitar Magazine writer dropped his fifth solo album, Sentimental Junk, on March 25th. Released through indie label Thin Man Music, the 11-track album features ten original songs, and one delightfully obscure Bob Dylan cover, “Clean Cut Kid.” Tom Guerra delivers a vintage rock and roll style, ripe with explosive guitar riffs and hard-driving classic rock energy. Sentimental Junk is a fun rock n’ roll album, and is a testament to Guerra’s career and legacy.
7. Afton Wolfe – “So Purple”
With one of the most unique voices and styles heard in a while, Afton Wolfe is a soulful blend of jazz, rock, blues, and gospel. This track is like a gumbo of all of the best parts of these genres, and creates a unique flavor that merits its warranting of being on our list. The groove is reminiscent of trudging through a muddy creek with the low buzz of cicadas calling in the hot morning sun. “So Purple” is one of those tracks that might make you strut while you’re out on a noontime stroll.
6. The Upsides – “Gold Rush”
This is an upbeat track from The Upsides EP Patterns that can make any day better. With an easygoing groove, clean jangly guitars, and a catchy vocal melody, the song is bound to soundtrack our summer hijinks. The feel-good vibe is much needed these days and this song achieves it beautifully. The Upsides are just what the indie pop-rock scene needs.
5. The Cancellations – “Schizophrenic Blues”
With this garage rock/punk-pop inflected track, The Cancellations touch on mental illness and mental health, but do so in an upbeat manner. In a time where mental health has taken more of a spotlight, a track like this is important to have around. Not only is the song a good messenger advocating for the reality of mental health, but it simply is just a sticky rock song that stands out among the crowd. This song and more await your ears on their new record, Pity Party.
4. Katy Guillen & The Drive – “Set In Stone”
Katy Guillen & The Drive’s raw energy is palpable upon first listen. With smoky and sensual vocals, and the magic of minimalism inherent in a duo, “Set In Stone” is the band’s powerful new single. The tasteful guitar solo in itself could warrant this track’s placement here on the list, as it is equally gritty and melancholic. It’s easy to forget that simplicity can have a profound effect in rock music, and this is the kind of song that proves it.
3. Modern Diet ft. Margaux – “Smaller”
Usually modern diets are fads. But Lord knows I’m not talking about this Modern Diet. With a smooth mix of indie pop and rock, this single from their record, The State of Things, is a great melancholic tune that might soundtrack a indie movie’s post-breakup scene. It may not be the most heavy rock sound, but sometimes the best rock music has a soft side. Think of “Smaller” as turning your pillow over to the cold side.
2. Cold Jackets – Queen Health Squeeze
This Austin duo’s music is a trip. The eclectic array of sound one finds within their album is bound to be a delight for anyone that likes to dissect music and the instruments within it. It’s hard finding labels for a band like Cold Jackets, and that just adds to the many things to like about their unique psych-rock sound. In a saturated world of easily-accessible music, something new like this is a head-turner. Their indie psych-rock fusion of sound throughout this record sticks in your head, and if you’re planning on having a more far-out experience, turn on Queen Health Squeeze.
1. Strange Parade – The Watchers
With their transcendent rock soundscapes, Strange Parade’s sophomore album blew me away. I remember looking out of the window from my bedroom watching the leaves sway on riverside trees while “Are You There?” echoed from my speakers. It was like a dream. With the introspective lyrical content and a mix of magnetic elements like sweeping acoustic guitar, raw percussion, both blazing and tranquil synthesizers, and an idiosyncratic vocal style, the band succeeds in creating a stand-out sonic experience that could only warrant number one.
Note* Paul Howard contributed to this article.