Luke Nuttall (Editor / Writer)
Malevolence – Malicious Intent
As the veritable poster-boys for the underrated metal band, it’s with sad consistency that Malevolence continued that trend once again this year. The fact that Malicious Intent is easily their greatest grower makes that all the more disappointing too, an album flooded with sludgy enormity and an ear for towering melody in almost equal measure. In their embrace of accessibility, Malevolence landed on genuine gold with Malicious Intent, and they’ve nowhere near been paid their dues for doing so. They’ve still got legs to make a play among the UK’s brightest heavy talent, and that’s perhaps never been represented better than with Malicious Intent.
Meryl Streek – 796
No one else this year sounded like Meryl Streek. No one really could, when his sound is so informed by homegrown sources of disenfranchisement and abuse of power, and he stands at the very epicentre as part punk, part street-poet, part radicalised rabble-rouser and all firestarter. From that came 796, one of the most blistering statements of intent put to record this year that, in the current climate of unfiltered societal discourse, especially in alternative music, should be finding itself infiltrating far more circles. Granted, as still a relatively recent release, there’s still time for that, but being there on first impact to witness the smouldering crater left by 796 is where the most power was evident. Don’t sleep on this one, under any circumstances.
Beauty School – Happiness
This isn’t exactly underground by any means—not when Beauty School’s wheels are very much in motion now—but the niggling feeling abounds that Happiness should’ve been the breakthrough that mowed down all in its wake this year. The potential is certainly there, in a warm, heartfelt emo palette finding expert balance in Midwest-inspired detail and candy-coated goodness. Alongside one of the most consistent tracklists of any debut in 2022, Beauty School simply seem to be doing everything right within emo, pretty much through and through. It’s really only a matter of time before that’s recognised on a wider scale; in terms of entries on this list for whom the ‘underrated’ tag is likely to be shed sooner rather than later, Beauty School are far and away in pole position.
Spielbergs – Vestli
Spielbergs have always been good, but 2022 was the year when they really came into their own for something verging on special. Vestli remains one of the best-kept secrets of the year in terms of albums, in a jostling blend of indie-rock, pop-punk and noise-rock that’s at its most refined here, without feeling compromised whatsoever. It’s just excellent to hear alternative music in this vein feel so constantly thrilling, especially when the album in question has only gotten better with each subsequent spin, and the hidden corners and quirks of Spielbergs have brought themselves forward to phenomenal results. Wonderful stuff from a wonderful band, and one that just keeps getting better at that.
Blood Command – Praise Armageddonism
This should’ve been Blood Command’s year, man. With a new singer and a freshened sound, the wall to real widespread presence they’ve been chipping away at for years should’ve come toppling down. Alas, that didn’t happen, though it’s through no fault of their own. Everything they did on Praise Armageddonism is exactly what Blood Command should’ve done, and if people are still unwilling to get onboard, that’s their loss of one of rock’s most terrifically fun and frantic bands. It does blaze along in terms of how enormous and impenetrable it is, but that’s all part of the charm of Praise Armageddonism. It’s a big album leaving a big mark, and with Pagan’s Nikki Brumen being fully ingratiated into the fold, she’s the natural missing piece that gets this band running on overdrive. Post-hardcore and dance-punk rarely pack in the thrills-per-minute as Blood Command do here, and it’s mystifying how that keeps going overlooked.
Georgia Jackson (Deputy Editor / Writer)
Death Cab For Cutie – Asphalt Meadows
Their classics are etched in listeners’ minds alongside the greats, but it seems that Death Cab For Cutie’s newer material passes most people by every time. They’re masters of atmospheric, highly emotional indie rock, this year’s Asphalt Meadows invokes the likes of Transatlanticism but with the learned maturity of Death Cab in 2022. They’re always consistent and this album should have earned them more flowers than most.
No Devotion – No Oblivion
It seemed that the end had long been accepted and lived-in for No Devotion. Until this year, that is, when they emerged with half of their original lineup and a new sprawling record that pushed the boundaries set by 2015 debut Permanence. No Oblivion is controlled in the laying out of its songs, more morose and introspective than before but still very much capable of keeping listeners along for the entire emotional ride. Hopefully this record gives No Devotion the long-lasting respect they deserve.
Pianos Become The Teeth – Drift
Drift marked a step forward for Pianos Become The Teeth this year, showcasing stellar performances from each band member individually as well as together and really adding weight to a genre that could easily be thought of as just a collection of tropes. They’re so great at crafting compelling musical journeys that ebb and flow while still packing an emotional punch, and should be separated from the pack more often.
Let’s Eat Grandma – Two Ribbons
Let’s Eat Grandma have long been forging their own path, this year’s Two Ribbons showcasing the leveled-up version of their sound but with added heft. It’s made all the more visceral by discussions of Jenny Hollingworth’s partner’s death at the age of 22 and loss felt as the intense bond Hollingworth and bandmate Rosa Walton have had since childhood drifts (as friendships naturally do). They craft irresistible pop melodies but packaging them in weird and wonderful ways but never offer them up in the easy way, which has probably contributed to this career-best record not getting the recognition it definitely deserves.
Foxes – The Kick
The competition in out-and-out pop music remains fierce, the oversaturation lessening fans’ capacities to seek out new music that isn’t from megastars or presented via an algorithm. The Kick, Foxes’ first record in six years, should’ve been the one to put her back on radars, her new synthpop vibe fitting her indellible skill for melody to a tee. Wistful, confident and oodles of fun, The Kick should have been (and still could be) catnip to the Carly Rae Jepsen faithfuls.