Recommended Listen is doing its best to keep its head afloat with the albums you need to hear, but the struggle of 2022 has been that it’s on something else entirely with its level of highlights coming into our lives on a near-weekly basis. What used to be one or two albums a week has become at least five as the norm. It very much seems like most artists and labels sat on their homework over the past two years until it became safer to support it live on tour (and even now, is it?)
Anyhow, Recommended Listen is expanding this edition of Listen to These to lighten the load in fitting in everything worth acknowledging, and that may likely be the case again going forward. As usual, full album reviews and past recaps for anything you may have missed can be found here and here.
Beach House – Once Twice Melody [Sub Pop]
We can’t take Beach House for granted, and in a year where great new music has been in such frequency, you can imagine that their double album opus Once Twice Melody might be a lot to ask of listeners in the content overload age. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally definitely have nailed down singularity with their style at this stage in their career, but their eighth studio album is perhaps their most definitive sensation of instantaneous synesthesia and mind-and-physical-nature-altering music they’ve produced yet. Embellishing their dream-pop elixir with strings and psychedelic portals to worlds beyond worlds, Once Twice Melody is well worth its lengthy travel all while promising a kind of transcendence only the Baltimore duo hold the key to.
Drug Church – Hygiene [Pure Noise Records]
No matter the medium, Drug Church vocalist Patrick Kindlon is in no shortage of big, combustible thoughts for listeners to blow their minds to, and on the long-awaited sophomore effort from the band – which has now solidified itself as a fully fleshed and muscled force with guitarists Nick Cogan and Cory Galusha, bassist Pat Wynne and drummer Chris Villeneuve – they lay on the fire heavily. On the heels of last year’s excellent Tawny EP, Hygiene does an even deeper dive into art, our toxic culture, and disconcerted thoughts, and indulges their ugliest sides with their own mortar of grungy, brutalist anthems. Yet, Hygiene is also polished and sounds massively scaled to turn miles of cities into parking lots, and if there were ever an anti-hero post-hardcore who could go big and do a lot of good in burning it all to the ground, Drug Church would be it.
Maneka – Dark Matters [Skeletal Lightning]
Devon McKnight has led the great underground punk band Grass Is Greener, played guitar in the always cantankerously colorful Speedy Ortiz, and as his own solo outlet as Maneka, put a face behind the feedback. Dark Matters, his second full-length, is a special one, though, that witnesses McKnight coming into his own by focalizing the experience of being Black and an artist within spaces still very primarily designed around Caucasian comfort, and throwing out the creative rule book in the process. We hear his voice loudly, but so do the songs resonate just as well whether they reflect a polymathic ear that seamlessly fuses together every generational facet of indie rock, punk, mercurial hip-hop, and shade of goth in between.
Mitski – Laurel Hell [Dead Oceans]
The world Mitski reenters the frame into with Laurel Hell is a very different one than where she last left us with the indie pop grandeur that was her acclaimed third album in 2019′s Be the Cowboy. Global problems aside, the scene – background and foreground included – which her persona enters has changed with it, with her audience now being absorbed into TikTok culture and the mythology behind her artistry growing with it. Nevertheless, Mitski has made Laurel Hell an understated statement for a reason, with it being a more patient listen that holds on quieter moments longer in order for its vivid realizations in full color as well as its emotional connect to be heard only by those who continue to listen even if she were to fall off the face of the Earth again.
ROSALÍA – MOTOMAMI [Columbia Records]
Following her sophomore breakout in 2019′s El Mal Querer, ROSALÍA has never stopped working in releasing videos, singles, or working in collaboration with culture shaping forces like the Weeknd, Bad Bunny, and Cardi B to make her metamorphosing style of global art-pop into music that translates over beyond hipster cred status and into the common pop culture conscious. With MOTOMAMI, the Spanish superstar gets there by rewriting every genre language as her own, and tapping into what has come to define her work in atypical, oft morbid, oft horny songwriting. This time, it’s meticulously produced with a consumer-friendly edge in its presentation that is incomparable to everything else in today’s landscape. The future of reggaeton, hip-hop, pop, and even traditional Spanish folk balladry is right here in one world where ROSALÍA is the all-creator.
Star Party – Meadow Flower [Feel It Records]
Star Party would probably be a favorite of Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth if they existed a few decades earlier, and they’re doing what so few indie punk bands today are overlooking. What the duo of Carolyn Brennan and Ian Corrigan sonically create is something harder-edged in its fast trashing energy, yet with a dreamy siren sound in their melodies as well as the way words move through the rash of reverb and primal drum machines that offset its frayed edges as both loud and soft. On their debut full-length Meadow Flower, spring meets an instantaneous climactic point in the way the band gives noise pop a new bloom and never lets off the pedal (even in this wild gas price economy!) because it’s all a self-created alternative energy.
Vein.fm – The World Is Going to Ruin You [Closed Casket Activities]
The World Is Going to Ruin You, and not just because it’s the truth, but that’s the energy of the devastation Vein.fm create on their sophomore effort. To anticipate some level of destruction from the Greater Boston area metalcore band was a known following 2018′s breakthrough debut Errorzone, but this album also hears the band hungry to maximize it while scaling the levels of ungodliness like their peers Code Orange and Knocked Loose in uncovering dark corners in their heavy artillery where they may be able to push the genre beyond its comforts with influences of industrial, electronic, and modern post-hardcore (see: “Fear In Non Fiction” featuring Thursday’s Geoff Rickly) surmounting.