How the hell is it already the end of the year? This train called time only picks up steam, and here we are reflecting back on 2022.
Every year brings great new music from artists who are a bit more under the radar if even on the radar at all. Whether they just put new music out this year for the first time or only have a handful of releases to their names, contributor Maddie Fry has put together her list of the Top 15 releases in 2022 from artists she thinks are deserving of your ears.
So dive in, listen, and as always, tell your friends. – Paul
15. Neve Cunnane – Tennessee Sun
Originally from Ireland, Neve Cunnane has worked hard to make a name for herself under the neon lights of Music City. After moving away from family and all she knew on The Emerald Isle, Cunnane has since crafted her own sound with tinges of country, pop-rock, and soul. Her debut EP, Tennessee Sun, dropped this past September, showcasing a heavy dose of impressive string instrumentals, relatable stories, and her signature booming vocals. Cunnane’s work reflects a wealth of new experiences and finding herself in a new and exciting place.
14. Destinie Lynn – Little Ghost
All of the tracks on Destinie Lynn’s EP, Little Ghost, work together to conjure feelings of mourning and mortality. Touching on the uniquely human experience of losing a lover, the title track finds Lynn watching this lost lover, practically obsessing over him. The other tracks evoke similar feelings of melancholy regret, and an inability to move beyond a failed love. Enriched by sleek violin accompaniment and haunting harmonies, the EP has a resonating, eerie feel, and her vocals shine through an otherwise forlorn album.
Poetess and indie rock songwriter Tanatswa Estina. is no stranger to the healing and connective properties of music. Formerly of Estina. & The Black Sheep, she has since begun to pursue a solo career. Channeling her mental health struggles into her music is second nature, and her solo EP, I will stay for myself, explores the inside of her own mind. Estina’s background in poetry lends itself to her songwriting ability, as her lyrics read like poems often with gritty garage rock-like instrumentation. The track, “Sadder Than I Thought” was inspired by her time in therapy and realizations she made about her own life after some tough mental battles.
12. Lilly Winwood – Talking Walls
Americana and indie pop-rock songstress Lilly Winwood is known for adding a little 70s flair to her music, most evident in the music video for her riveting single, “Keep it Spinning.” Daughter of the legendary Steve Winwood, she grew up amid the U.K. and Nashville music scenes. Reinventing herself during the pandemic, Winwood began to write songs between shifts at her waitressing job, which gave way to her August album, Talking Walls. The product of countless hours alone with her guitar, the album showcases Winwood’s decision to let her guard down and lean into herself.
11. HAPPIE – Heartbreak Season
Indie pop songstress, HAPPIE, released her debut solo EP, Heartbreak Season, on November 18. Formerly of the indie folk duo Eric and Happie, she has recently launched into a solo career. Her new music leans more into a mellower, ambient indie pop sound. Diving headfirst into her own heartbreak and the journey on her own, this EP is about her time being single and all the conflicting feelings that come with it. The album presents an honest and emotional exploration of past relationships and heartbreak.
10. Stella Prince – “Closing Doors”
Age is no barrier when it comes to 18-year-old folk and Americana artist, Stella Prince, who has already had the honor of playing at a number of legendary music venues. She wrote her newest single, “Closing Doors”, while sitting in an Irish cow field, proving inspiration can often come from the simplest of experiences. Pondering the experience of rejection as an artist and how that feels like a door is closing, the song reflects on an understanding that nothing comes easy, especially not “making it” in the music world. But at the same time, when one door closes, another opens.
9. Leah Lawson – Flood House
Raised an evangelical Christian, Leah Lawson explores her past struggles with a faith she had no choice but to adopt as a young girl in her emotional album, Flood House. Her deeply poignant lyrics and soulful voice make her music an honest expression of herself. The track “Cheaper Kind” draws the comparison between her baptism and the life she now lives, in which she “Used to drink the holy wine / Now I’m dependent on the cheaper kind.” The singer-songwriter uses music to process past religious trauma and to find a lifestyle that she can more closely identify with.
8. Candy Cigarettes – Horse Lungs
Returning from a six-year hiatus, Lane Mueller’s band, Candy Cigarettes, released its second album this September, Horse Lungs. With a mellow indie-rock feel, the album showcases Mueller’s soft vocals and poetic lyricism. The self-taught multi-instrumentalist channels themes of growth and isolation. His track, “Get Lost”, expresses an optimism in the face of trials that life may bring. It’s a solid listen for mellower indie rock fans.
7. Joyce Prescher – Out of My Mind
It’s not surprising that Dutch-born Joyce Prescher has been rising amidst the Americana and folk scene. Her October album, Out of My Mind, is a raw retelling of recent pain and loss. With a stout 13 tracks, it features Prescher’s rich, haunting vocals accompanied by acoustic guitar and a delightfully minimalist sound. Transmitting her well of emotions through heart-wrenching lyrics and often melancholy instrumentation, she takes listeners along an honest journey through the human condition. Each song off of the album is an intimate window into her soul that leaves the listener entranced.
6. Ray Flanagan – “You Don’t Hear Her/Twin Flames”
Indie songwriter Ray Flanagan has been releasing two singles every month since January 2021, and dubs them “digital 45s.” His latest installment includes “You Don’t Hear Her” and “Twin Flames”. Both songs have a rich indie-folk influence, with “You Don’t Hear Her” being the softer of the two. “Twin Flames” has more of a rock influence, featuring Flanagan’s brother on drums. In the next year, fans can expect a full-length album and live shows outside of his native state of Ohio.
5. Chris Mardini – “Throw”
19-year-old Chris Mardini is again proof that talent knows no age. With a fiery passion for writing, producing, and performing live, Mardini’s love of music has blossomed from his first experiences in a band during elementary school. The alt-pop rocker’s latest video single, “Throw”, showcases his vocal power, production direction, and range as a burgeoning young artist. He is an energetic force to be reckoned with and someone you’ll likely be seeing much more of.
4. Harlow – Other Lives, Told
Another band that came about during the throes of the pandemic, Harlow released their newest EP, Other Lives, Told, on October 7th. Exploring the lives of family, friends, and mere acquaintances, each track is unique in its subject matter, with accompanying indie instrumentation to match the feel. The EP is a testament to the band’s range, blending country, folk, pop, and contemporary rock influences. “Palo Alto” features the band’s signature harmonies, and the violin accompaniment adds a melancholic layer.
3. SOWARDS – “Do Over”
Brothers Chad and Tyler Sowards are reinventing their music careers, merging their talents to create the indie pop/alternative band SOWARDS. The Nashville brother duo’s goal is to create music that evokes an emotional connection for listeners, and they seem to be off to a good start. The duo has released two singles this past year – “I Don’t Want to Love U” and “Do Over”. Both songs boast an upbeat, catchy chorus paired with punchy instrumentals. Drawing inspiration from their favorite bands, their music is reminiscent of The Band CAMINO and LANY.
2. The Thing With Feathers – “Don’t Break my Heart”
Composed of David Welcsh (vocals), Alex Hendricks (guitar), Sean Carroll (bass), and Chris Rousell (drums), Nashville pop-rockers The Thing With Feathers dropped their debut EP, Sundays in the South, earlier this year. With another EP in the works titled Waste My Revenge, the band has released three fiery singles leading up to it. Filmed in a junkyard, the music video for the lead single, “Don’t Break my Heart,” shows the effortlessly cool rock aura the band harnesses. The song is an upbeat precursor to the other tracks on the upcoming EP, which will feature a mix of positive and dark themes. Their magnetic energy and passion is palpable in every song.
1. Passion Fruit Boys – “Sex Swing”
Indie-pop duo Conor Belcher and Duncan Shea – aka Passion Fruit Boys – are doing it like few others. Full of catchy, upbeat melodies, the Nashville boys debut album released this past October, and their music makes it hard to not get up and dance along. Their feel-good video single “Sex Swing” is perhaps one of the most catchy songs I’ve heard this year. Featuring Liz Cooper, the song has a relaxed, summery vibe with an underlying message lamenting a love that never quite got off the ground. The album as a whole is an exciting debut from these cheeky motorcycle buds, and we look forward to what they’ve got in the chamber next.
Featured image: Passion Fruit Boys – Photo by Angelina Castillo