It feels like the very banks of music were burst this year. Not only did we see genre-breaking masterpieces out in force as per the trajectory of the last few years, but we also saw – most of all in rock – a good few masterclasses on how to do what you do really, really well. Our favourite albums of the year span excellence across the board: so without further ado, here they are.
25. Kid Brunswick – XFOREVER
Kid Brunswick’s discography, before 2021, was a kind of diary. Stinging alt-rock-via-rap shared a world of internal struggle and relatable darkness that felt designed to cathart on a personal level , rather than necessarily to be shared. But this year changed that – and now Kid Brunswick enters 2022 as a new kind of artist thanks to debut album XFOREVER. Produced under the watchful eye of Linkin Park legend Mike Shinoda, Kid Brunswick has morphed into more of an intentional underdog – rather than unleashing what he has to say, there’s also an element of restraint to XFOREVER that makes it all the more exciting. Undercurrents of musical darkness ebb and flow, never breaking till just the right moment, and the subtlety in Kid Brunswick’s lyrics place him high amongst the new wave of alternative (Yungblud is a frequent comparison, although they’re not that alike) without being so in your face. Honourable mention to Stained too, which didn’t come out alongside XFOREVER but is one of Kid Brunswick’s most powerful yet.
Listen to: Skin, Bipolar Rhapsody (and Stained)
24. As Everything Unfolds – Within Each Lies The Other
As Everything Unfolds’s debut can be summarised in one word: power. From Charlie Rolfe’s soaring vocals to the ferocity of the metal-plus instrumentals that back her up, everything that happens over the course of this album is just immense. Within Each Lies The Other’s best moments, though, are undoubtedly the ones where As Everything Unfolds claw their way up to the very heights of intensity – but it’s not always done how you’d expect. Standout single On The Inside, for example, boasts stunning belts and blistering high notes, but they’re only made so intense by Rolfe’s dipping down to positive growls at the low points. So the real impressiveness of Within Each Lies The Other is actually As Everything Unfold’s range, and how they really, really know how to use it.
Listen to: On The Inside, Wither
23. Willow – lately I feel EVERYTHING
This year’s most chameleon-like star, in rock as well as in other scenes, has got to be Willow. The title lately I feel EVERYTHING is enough of a clue as to the pull on nu-emo influences in her lyricism, but the way she packages it instrumentally is far more varied and striking – Gaslight wouldn’t feel out of place on a 2000s indie record, Lipstick blends stomping riffs with soul, ¡BREAKOUT! sits just the other side of the Wolf Alice/punk line – on this album, we hear Willow exploring her own life and identity, but we also hear her circumnavigating a world of sonic styles, each one she manages to suit more aptly than the last. And it’s, of course, easy to do that when you’re guided along by legends – Travis Barker, Avril Lavigne, Cherry Glazerr, Ayla Tesler-Mabe and Tierra Whack all lend their wisdom to lately I feel EVERYTHING, but not in a way that sounds too overtly like influence. It sounds like Willow is building on their styles just as much, to stamp out her own niche.
Listen to: GROW (with Avril Lavigne), t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l
22. Hacktivist – Hyperdialect
In terms of the cross-genre masterpieces coming out this year, Hacktivist’s offering is one of the most ferocious. Blending the most intense parts of rock, rap, and metal with a fiery helping of atmosphere that elevates each track to stratospheric level. There’s not a moment that doesn’t feel massive, and Hacktivist detonate every drop with fearsome energy. Writhing and pulsating through the beats, there’s a tangible reminder of how good Hacktivist’s live show is, which is always welcome. The sheer drive of Hyperdialect could (and should) easily see them catapulted to the top of the scene, and we’re looking forward to that too.
Listen to: Hyperdialect, Anti Emcees
21. TheCityIsOurs – COMA
COMA is proof that losing your main singer doesn’t have to be a drawback. Oli Duncanson’s vocals flawlessly meld into the world of TheCityIsOurs – in some ways, Duncanson’s presence on the track is even more formidable that TheCityIsOurs’ previous releases. COMA is brazen, bold and loud – exactly what you’d want from a metal record. From title-track COMA to the viciously brutal Violent, this is an album that thrives and holds no prisoners. It’s a magnificent step forward; 2019 release Low hinted at an amazing future for the band, and COMA is proof of that. This is a band that have grown in magnitude and maturity, resulting in an album that feels polished and commendably ambitious.
Listen to: Violent, Body Count
20. Converge/Chelsea Wolfe – Bloodmoon: I
Wow. Oh wow. Upon listening to Bloodmoon: I, your initial response is impossible to put into words. This is an album impossibly visceral, absolutely coated in a dark, prowling sense of doom. Converge’s hardcore edge perfectly blends with Chelsea Wolfe’s gothic presence and the stringed talents of Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky. The fusion results in an intoxicating doom-metal-punk experience that leaves you in awe. Tracks like Flower Moon lean into the doom-y vibes, while tracks like Lord of Liars is more of a hardcore whirlwind of guitars, guitars, cymbals, guitars. The wavering tone is mystifying and, frankly, absolutely fucking glorious. THIS is what happens when genres work together – magic.
Listen to: Coil, Scorpion’s Sting
19. GLOO – How Not To Be Happy
GLOO just get it. How Not To Be Happy is, ironically, half an hour of absolute prog-rock joy; capturing a tongue-in-cheek sense of pessimism with a snarl of guitars and killer breakdowns, this is an album that shows GLOO at their very best. It absolutely buzzes with energy, a brash punk energy rousing each track into action. Sing-alongs are abundant, with howling tracks like NO ONE GIVES A FUCK! and TAKES THE PISS!, you’ll find yourself bouncing and screaming along in no time.
Listen to: Big Smoke, Takes The Piss
18. KennyHoopla – SURVIVOR’S GUILT: THE MIXTAPE//
Every year, there’s a few not-strictly-albums that make our albums of the year list, because they’re just that good. This time around, it’s pioneering pop-punk newcomer KennyHoopla who’s sneaking in with SURVIVOR’S GUILT: THE MIXTAPE//, his collaborative release with Travis Barker (who we’ve already said enough about… or have we ever?). Pop-punk is known for its propulsive verses and addictive hooks, but KennyHoopla takes it one step further by making literally every single line in every single song utterly infectious. It’s just undeniably good – not adding anything new to the genre, but absolutely breathing new vitality into it.
Listen To: estella//, hollywood sucks//
17. Loathe – The Things They Believe
When it comes to gorgeously crafted sonic landscapes, Loathe are one of a kind. Blending together elements heavy metal with an intoxicating dose of shoegaze, Loathe’s sound is both stunning and subtly harrowing. The Things They Believes leans far more into the shoegaze-y, instrumental side of the band however – and it truly feels like a desolate, yet rich and naively optimistic capturing of a perplexing era of existence. With tracks like Don’t Get Hurt, you almost feel your soul seeping out of your body, before the jazzy, classy saxophones on Love in Real Time suck you back into the present. This is an album that feels far bigger than itself, roaming soundscapes far and wide, yet humble and grounded. It’s a plethora of things, and the layers continue to unravel with each listen. A bewitching listening experience.
Listen to: Don’t Get Hurt, This Year Everything And Nothing Happened
16. Delilah Bon – Delilah Bon
We’ve already said a lot about Delilah Bon when we spoke about her fabulous Halloween EP – but whilst she unleashed her theatrical dreams on Ready To Kill, her album serves an altogether different purpose. It’s a girl power manifesto, ridden of the toxic positivity and lack of intersectionality that so many similar works have – Delilah Bon is an artist and an album who advocates fiercely for women across the board, by making anthems about their struggles that are purely for girls. Yes, she talks about the issues we face – but it’s not angry songs for men. It’s grooves for girls to feel free and move to without fear or self-consciousness, helmed by one of the coolest of the bunch.
Listen To: Devil, Where My Girls At?
15. Beartooth – Below
Beartooth are known for their ability to craft moshpit-worthy anthems – and Below is no different. Capturing Beartooth at their best, Below is a juicy dose of hardcore that simply cannot be ignored. Nothing beats the adrenaline captured by the rumbling of a Beartooth drumbeat, track after track an onslaught of high-quality breakdowns and grizzly growls. There’s an anthem on this release for everyone – you just need to dive in and let it find you.
Listen to: The Past Is Dead, Skin
14. Calva Louise – Euphoric
Euphoria is a key element of Calva Louise’s sound. Their grunge-infused punk soars, implementing otherworldly electronic breakdowns and spellbindingly huge soundscapes. Calva Louise are mystical, switching between English and Spanish lyrics as their instrumentals switch between brutal rumbles and floating, heavenly choruses. You’ll find yourself singing along before wanting to throw yourself into a pit, absolutely buzzed off of the energy Calva Louise manage to capture on track. Euphoric is a truly unique sonic experience and remarkably polished – a must listen.
Listen to: Belicoso, Trial
13. Ashnikko – DEMIDEVIL
She started at the Reading and Leeds Pit stage years ago, supporting punk-pop upstarts like GIRLI in tiny venues – and now, heralding the release of her debut full-length, Ashnikko is a bona fide icon. Hits like Slumber Party, Cry, and Toxic are no more palatable than deep cuts like Clitoris! The Musical – she’s relentless and unapologetic on all levels, without bowing to radio-friendliness, which leaves her breezy alt-electropop injected with the spirit of punk that’s contributed to how universally admired she is. DEMIDEVIL is a fearless record, from a fearless artist, whose influence we can’t wait to see evolve and trickle down through more artists.
Listen To: Slumber Party (ft Princess Nokia), Cry (ft Grimes)
12. Save Face – Another Kill For The Highlight Reel
Sometimes mixtapes and mini albums sneak into our lists because they’re just that good – and sometimes it swings the other way, as is the case for Save Face. Another Kill For The Highlight Reel is a feature-length opera disguised as an album, packing suitable melodrama and fantasy into a modest LP package. Every song delivers a new emotional level, whether it’s the perky brightness of Curse Me Out or the doom and gloom of Watch You Die Again. A notable footnote on how good the album is on its own is how brilliantly pointed Save Face are about their influences. They’re the Long Island Iced Tea of emo, and they go down a treat.
Listen to: Curse Me Out, GLITTER
11. Death Blooms – Life Is Pain
They say the devil works hard, but Death Blooms work harder; leading on from the iconic EP Fuck Everything, 2021 also saw the release of Death Blooms’ official full-length debut. Life Is Pain is just the kick to the teeth we’ve come to expect from these savage nu-metallers, filled to the brim with unbridled rage and gruesome breakdowns. Paul Barrows’ cutting vocals only add fuel to the fire, full of venom as his growls charge the album forward. Life Is Pain is designed to have your heart racing, each track crashing onto the scene like a bruise, stingingly feral and poisonously sharp. Who knew pessimism could sound so goddamn good?
Listen to: One Release, In Your Head
10. YONAKA – Seize The Power
To call Seize The Power a mission statement would be an understatement. YONAKA have been arena ready since their conception, but on Seize The Power they really get their hands dirty. The title track sets us up for a big one without being too heavy-handed, with verses that are punchy in their stripped-back stylings before continuing to build to the scream of an ending – and YONAKA maintain this sonic control with ease across the album. Fever 333 chime in for the vicious Clique, the album’s most forceful moment, but it doesn’t feel out of place because YONAKA match its energy easily.
Listen To: Clique, Seize The Power
9. Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Sticky
Frank Carter is a punk staple at this point – you know what you’re signing up for when you pop on a Rattlesnakes record. Carter’s penchant for catchy, ear-worm hooks and tongue-in-cheek lyricisms make for a masterful pairing, and Sticky is no different. This album lives up to our expectations and then some, delivering some of Carter’s most fun, anthemic tracks yet. From the title track’s crude screams of “STICKY, STICKY!!” to Cassyette feature “OFF WITH HIS HEAD! OFF WITH HIS HEAD! OFF! WITH! HIS! HEAD!”, this is an album that will have you screeching along whether you like it or not. Carter is a born showman, this album is one hell of a performance. So treat yourself – throw yourself into the pit of snakes and soak up this classy dose of chaos.
Listen to: Go Get A Tattoo (ft Lynks), Sticky
8. Trash Boat – Don’t You Feel Amazing?
This year, Trash Boat reached something of a watershed moment. Without giving us any warning, they dropped He’s So Good – a song that so instantly soared to fan-fave heights, shattered the pop-punk box that bands so often find themselves confined to, and committed Trash Boat to new levels of ambition. A hard act to follow – and yet, every time, they did, culminating in the release of their most powerful and most personal album yet. Drawing on a fresh myriad of influences and tackling a fresh batch of issues, Trash Boat decimated expectations with so much style and confidence no one had any choice but to throw themselves in. Don’t You Feel Amazing was cool, brilliantly polished, and above all, an aggressively exciting intro to a new era for Trash Boat.
Listen To: He’s So Good, Idios
7. Strange Bones – England Screams
England Screams is a whirlwind of an album. From opening track, the jungle-infused Jungle, to the huge, punk-meets-trance closer Heavy, Strange Bones have crafted a totally club-worthy album. This entire album is a rush – we’re talking non-stop movement, filled to the bring with innovative punk’n’bass that constantly pushes the boundaries. This is an example of just how flawlessly the energy of punk can be paired with the ferocity of dance, trance and adrenaline-junkie synths. And, on top of all of this, Bobby Bentham’s punk vocals are simply incredible – this is a man that commands your attention, sucking you even further into the acid-trip that is this gloriously chaotic debut. Bravo, you madmen.
Listen to: Jungle, Menace (ft Bob Vylan)
6. Waterparks – Greatest Hits
Deciding to call an album your ‘Greatest Hits’ is perhaps one of the most Waterparks moves in the book. It’s cheeky, it’s borderline-arrogant, it’s playful… but… we can’t disagree. Greatest Hits is a pop-rock extravaganza, taking bubblegum-pop-punk into a whole other realm. Waterparks have managed to inject every track with an irresistible charm, a sense of life that soars out through the speakers. And, alongside this sense of non-stop joy, there’s also a remarkable level of depth to this album – even the opening track toys with a multitude of conflicting sounds, welcoming us into the album on an intriguing, atmospheric note. Tracks like Fuzzy and Numb proudly brandish the classic pop-punk kick, while American Graffiti and the ethereally energetic Secret Life of Me parade a totally different side to the trio that we absolutely adore. Waterparks… perhaps these ARE your greatest hits.
Listen to: Violet, The Secret Life Of Me
5. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue
This debut was highly anticipated to say the least – and, fortunately, Spiritbox did not crumble under the pressure. Eternal Blue is a polished, gorgeously brutal debut. This is an album that floats like a butterfly and stings like a bitch – moving between effortless, hypnotic soundscapes and ferocious breakdowns with ease. Courtney LaPlante’s vocals are equally as fluid, shifting from heart-wrenching croons to dark, terrifying growls in moments. And the debut even has a feature from Architects’ own Sam Carter – a pretty solid sign of approval, we’d say. This debut is a surefire sign of a mighty, unstoppable future for Spiritbox – so treat yourself to a little bit of djent-sprinkled goodness and know that this is only the beginning.
Listen to: Eternal Blue, Yellowjacket (ft Sam Carter)
4. JXDN – Tell Me About Tomorrow
One quick lament: JXDN’s cover of Olivia Rodrigo’s drivers licence did not make it onto his album. Even though it was great. But to be fair to JXDN, he packed Tell Me About Tomorrow with so much of his own personality and vulnerability that there was no need to add a reimagining of someone else’s. Supporting along the way by Travis Barker, so much so that A Wasted Year even features a Blink-182 extract, JXDN’s debut joins the pop-punk renaissance as one of the most perfect homages to the genre’s roots that we’ve seen this year. The kicker choruses are there, the earworm guitar riffs, the confessional lyrics that sit just the right side of whiny and very much the right side of infectious, and even the typical late-highlight heart-wrenching acoustic tune. JXDN throws in a couple of extra highlights in the genre-mixing tracks with iann dior, as well as the likes of Angels & Demons. He’s studied under the best, and this is an offering that proves he’s ready to take off on his own. With some of the catchiest songs of the year on it, which can’t hurt.
Listen To: A Wasted Year, So What
3. While She Sleeps – Sleeps Society
With its soaring choruses and formidable breakdowns, SLEEPS SOCIETY is a showstopper. While this album captured the classic ferocity of While She Sleeps, there was a glorious spark of innovation; from the angelic soundscapes of Call of the Void to the raucous tech-infused breakdowns of Systematic, the shifting dynamics leave you drooling for the next track. As well as this, the magnificent features from Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil and Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley add to the melting-pot of sounds captured on the record. Every moment leaves you on your toes, anxious to see where the Sheffield icons will go next. Though short, this is an album where every beat packs a punch. And, needless to say, these tracks go hard live – what more could we ask for?
Listen to: YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED, SYSTEMATIC
2. Holding Absence – The Greatest Mistake Of My Life
It’s fair to say that Holding Absence might be the most well-adored band of the year, and with good reason. The Greatest Mistake Of My Life followed their self-titled 2019 debut, and everything about it was just right. The atmospheric, painstaking intro culminating in the cathartic roar of “I’M ALIVE” that opens Celebration Song couldn’t be more charged, now more than ever, and then Holding Absence continue to hold us emotionally captive through howling, heart-breaking ups and downs across the record. Lucas Woodland’s charismatic, piercing delivery is the crowning jewel of the record, equal parts beautiful and gripping as he ducks and weaves through heavily metaphored lyrics that manage to carry a universal truth. There’s heavy moments, there’s subtle moments, there’s angry and dark moments, and uplifting ones – and we’re left with a deep-rooted knowledge that Holding Absence are a band who are now not just loved, but completely treasured by people who need this music.
Listen To: Celebration Song, Afterlife
1. Architects – For Those That Wish To Exist
Architects have become synonymous with the notion of quality in recent years. From their soaring soundscapes to Sam Carter’s breath-taking vocal abilities, everything about these metalcore legends is exemplary. For Those That Wish To Exist only further proves this – opening track Do You Dream Of Armageddon? immediately traps you, gorgeous instrumentals building triumphantly in a way that drowns out everything else. This is an album entirely defined by the world it creates around you, richly crafted in a way that feels so dense, so inescapable, that it’s impossible to pull yourself away. Harsher breakdowns tracks are mystically contrasted by an ethereal weightlessness, resulting in an album that riles and spits yet still has an effortless softness woven throughout. It’s the perfect balance of soft and sharp, and every element feels perfectly pieced together. To put it simply – Architects just know how to make a goddamn good metalcore album. There’s a reason these guys are household names, and, if you pop this album on for a few minutes, you’ll understand why.
Listen to: Animals, Black Lungs