From Cousin Stizz to Cave In, it was an outstanding year
For the Boston music scene, 2022 was a year of returns, waiting, adaptation, and questions. The Boston Calling music festival returned to the Harvard Athletic Complex after a two-year hiatus with a ton of local bands on the bill and Nine Inch Nails plus Metallica headlining. We’re still waiting for the beloved Great Scott to reopen, though the venue did pop up at the Bellforge Arts Center in Medfield back in July.
With the shortage of venues for local bands to play around the metro area, some breweries have stepped up to help fill the void, notably Faces Brewing Company in Malden, Aeronaut Cannery in Everett, and Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company in Framingham. Still, music fans are wondering if there will be a new small to mid-sized venue for the local scene to gather in Boston proper and if there will ever be reliable public transportation around the city.
Along with this mix of emotions, 2022 also brought a ton of great music from around the Hub. For further examination, here are 20 stellar tracks from Greater Boston bands, artists, and musicians that came out this year.
Senseless Optimism – “Leave You Behind”
With her It Gets Better EP that came out in July, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brittany Tsewole released an incredibly genre-bending record. Incorporating elements of soul, r&b, blues, jazz and alternative rock, this track is an absolute stunner, with Brian Murphy on the horns along with Matt Odabashian on the keys really making it stand out in amazing ways.
Cave In – “Heavy Pendulum”
I’ve been a fan of Cave In since I was a teenager and when Stephen Brodsky hinted at a new album in an interview we did during the tail end of last year, I was instantly excited. Their seventh album, Heavy Pendulum, that was released in May lived up to my own personal hype by taking their trademark combination of ’90s era alt-rock and thunderous metal to a whole new level. The title track off of the album is so damn good with its instrumentation, progressions, and overall tone.
STL GLD – “Resisting”
Very few albums have an ability to document a place in time for a community and our society quite like STL GLD’s Rock Boyega that came out in November. Along with great collaborators including Ed Balloon, Julia Easterlin, Oompa, Latrell James, and Darlingside, the album also provides commentary on numerous critical issues, local and global alike. This track confronts police brutality head on with a chorus that’s both poignant and powerful.
Ali McGuirk – “X Boyfriends”
Ali McGuirk has one of the most soulful voices you’ll ever hear and her latest album, Til It’s Gone, is a fine example of it. This song leads the record off with infectious harmonies and lyrics that stick to the senses. There’s also some bluesy guitar and groovy notes from the keys making for a quality track with a whole lot to offer.
Born Without Bones – “Fistful Of Bees”
I know they’re from Milford, but I’m going to count Born Without Bones as being part of the Boston scene due to their habit of playing around the city more than other parts of Massachusetts. I really enjoy their fourth album Dancer that came out back in November, so much that I even did a lengthy interview with guitarist and vocalist Scott Ayotte about it. Sonically, there’s a wide range of styles within the record but this track really captures the core of the band’s emotional rock aesthetic.
Cousin Stizz – “Gone”
Cousin Stizz is one of the best rappers in all of New England and he once again proved why with his third album, Just For You, that he self-released in February. The electronic sampling on this track is fantastic and the same can be said for Stizz’ delivery. The brief stalls in between the rhymes make room for the music while Stizz makes it all seem effortless.
The Endorphins – “Voyager Of A Daydream”
I’m always down to dive into a kickass rock band and the Endorphins became one of the new ones for me when I found out about them earlier this year. They have an excellent sound that blends punk, shoegaze, garage rock, and psychedelia and this banger off of their latest album, Nothing Is Real, straight up rips. I really like the dynamic that the guitars and drums create for a highly energetic tone.
Jen Kearney – “In The Neighborhood”
Jen Kearney is a musician with her own distinct style and she has a knack for putting her individuality into her craft. Her latest EP that came out in March has an array of jazzy, soulful, and funky vibes and this track off of it is fantastic. I’m a sucker for a horn section and saxophonist James Calandrella, trumpeter Alex Lee Clark, and trombonist Brian Thomas really make this song shine.
The Rupert Selection – “Astronauts”
Prog-rock power trio the Rupert Selection are a consistently great act with killer riffs and an abundance of volume. This single they put out back in November exemplifies what I’ve just described with a cool lead up at the beginning and stellar syncopation between guitarist and vocalist Reilly Somach, bassist Sam Bouve, and drummer Peter Bartash. You can’t deny the sheer shredding that’s always been a primary trait of this talented band.
The Nervous Eaters – “Wild Eyes”
When it comes to the history of punk rock in Boston, the Nervous Eaters are legit pioneers. The band’s release of their album Monsters + Angels that came out in November was a welcome return for the legendary act with the songwriting being at very high level. This track has a major powerpop vibe going on along with a classic feel within the instrumentation and arrangements.
GA-20 – “Gone For Good”
There isn’t a band around these parts who can lay down Chicago-style electric blues quite like GA-20. This is very apparent in the latest album Crackdown that came out in September and right from the beginning this song exudes that aesthetic to the max. You can’t have blues without heartbreak and this is a great example of that relationship.
Tall Heights – “Hear It Again”
Growing away from their folk foundation while adding layers of sounds on top of it, Tall Heights exhibited a bit of reinvention with their fourth album Juniors that was released back in January. With more electronic and pop elements coming into play, the duo of Tim Harrington and Paul Wright forged a new avenue for their songwriting. This is evident within this track that makes it very easy for the listener to get immersed in.
Linnea’s Garden – “Mouth”
While abiding by a unique glam punk style, it’s only natural for Linnea’s Garden to have some sly charisma within their music. This track off of their latest full-length Fashion Show is pretty much about wanting to make out with someone in the most electrifying way possible. The riffs and rhythms are great right from the start with a certain raw quality keeping things honest.
Diablogato – “Jet Black Night”
Rock and rollers Diablogato have a cohesively original take on their music where it’s not rockabilly, it’s not garage rock, it’s not punk, and it’s not blues, but it incorporates parts of each style. This track leans more towards the latter with fantastic riffs and rhythms that resonate with vigor. The way the drums from Jesse Mayer counteract with the guitars from Andrew Indingaro and Charlie MacSteven forge the backbone for a haunting track.
Vundabar – “The Gloam”
I’ve had the pleasure of following Vundabar’s growth for a few years now and it’s been cool seeing what the trio of guitarist and vocalist Brandon Hagen, bassist Zack Abramo, and drummer and synth player Drew McDonald have accomplished so far, notably a tour with British indie rock icons Franz Ferdinand this year. Another accomplishment the band achieved in 2022 was the release of their latest album Devil For The Fire in April. This song off of it is a prime example of the danceability of the trio’s music while also maintaining their trademark jangly & rhythmic arrangements.
The Chelsea Curve – “Nuthin’ Goin’ On”
Waving the mod flag high and proud is the Chelsea Curve with their latest album All The Things that came out in March. The core trio of vocalist, keyboardist, and bassist Linda Pardee, guitarist and vocalist Tim Gillis, and drummer Ron Belanger are backed up by the “mod squad” featuring Rod Spark on the Hammond organ, trombonist Dan Levine, and trumpeter Jay Webb and this jam exemplifies this six-piece force of instrumentation. I really like how this song blends punk and ska together while being an anthem for those who are looking to make something happen.
Bia – “London” feat. J. Cole
The Medford native might be known by casual fans from her role in the reality TV show Sisterhood Of Hip Hop, but she can spit some quality rhymes as well. This jam with J. Cole that came out in April is all about shopping in one of the biggest cities in the world over a charismatic beat. Cole makes his presence felt during the tail end to make for a hypnotic collaboration.
Paper Tigers – “A Portrait Of A Scene”
This was a very big year for alt-rockers Paper Tigers with a performance at Boston Calling along with a couple nominations at the New England and Boston Music Awards. Their I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me This Sooner EP that was released in May is a big reason for their success and this track off of it absolutely shreds. The riffs and beats combining to create some real emphasis is what makes this song such a gem.
Gretschen Shae & The Middle Eight – “Unnatural Love”
Gretschen Shae & The Middle Eight put out a few different releases this year and this track off of their Exit Fire EP that came out in July kicks major musical ass. I dig their melding of ’90s alternative with the macabre that comes with post-punk. The guitars also really up the energy along with the drums making their presence felt.
Kal Marks – “Ovation”
My Name Is Hell from noise punks Kal Marks is one of my favorite albums to come out of Boston so far this decade and it was tough picking my favorite track off of it. I ended up picking this one due to the rhythmic thuds coming from drummer Dylan Taggart and bassist John Russell as well as guitarist and vocalist Carl Shane giving his intense vocals a sense of malleability during the chorus. I also can’t leave out guitarist Christina Puerto’s stellar lead chords giving the song an additional amount of substance.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.