Dropper [Dirt Dog]
Dropper began life as the project of Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Andrea Scanniello, a self-defined veteran of the NYC indie rock scene, who has spent many years playing in other bands. Alongside a crack cast of friends and collaborators, Dropper finds Andrea stepping into the spotlight as a songwriter. Recorded pre-pandemic and due out next month, Dropper’s debut album, Don’t Talk To Me, is a reflection on life working in the service industry and balancing that with the life of a jobbing musician on the New York scene.
Andrea has spoken of Don’t Talk To Me as “a painstaking personal inventory of her life thus far”, reflecting on the life she led in her twenties, her patterns of repeated mistakes and how difficult it is to cast aside those old habits, even as they no longer reflect the person you are, let alone the one you want to be. While we’re waiting for the album’s arrival, the band have already whetted appetites with a pair of delightful singles. Don’t Worry fuses a bassy-stomp to wiry guitars and urgent keys like the middle ground of Devo and Terry, while most recent offering Memoirs of Working in a Bowling Alley slowed things down with primal rhythms and country-licked guitars creating a soundtrack for the ennui of a bowling alley employee, “if one more person wants my attention they’re gonna have to pay”. Ultimately Dropper have written a soundtrack for a generation, a record for everyone struggling to keep the dream alive under the thumb of a sometimes unrelenting world – fittingly it’s also a reminder that despite all the struggles, great art still finds a way to shine.
Horsegirl might be on pretty much every 2022 tips list going, but don’t mistake that for them being all hype and no substance. A trio of teenagers hailing from Chicago, the band burst onto the scene last year when Sonic Cathedral released their debut 7″ Ballroom Dance Scene. The band subsequently penned a deal with Matador, announced their first-ever tour and have promised a lot more to come this year, despite the fact they’re fitting that all around University and finishing High School respectively.
The band’s most recent offering, Billy, is a fine introduction to their, “nu-gaze” sound, even if it was more inspired by Nick Drake’s alternative tunings than anything more traditionally shoegaze. The guitars explode out of the speakers with the intensity of Wednesday, before the echo-drenched vocals add a harmonious wave of melody, rattling around your skull, the cryptic lyricism painting a picture of your minds own making. Equally exciting was the track that first caught the world’s ear, Ballroom Dance Scene, it showcases quite a different side of the band, entering on a reverberating waltz of guitars, it is gradually overlaid by layers of vocals, marching drums and distant unnerving keys, the whole thing expanding like an inflating balloon until it bursts with a raw intensity in contrast to the lyrics that go from the mundane, “If you want to stay a while, just hang your coat and turn the TV on”, through to the subtly horrendous, “Susie sits in woollen socks and licks her bruise like it’s a lollipop“. For Horsegirl it’s very much a case of do believe the hype, this very special band deserve every excited word my fellow music writers have to say about them.
Gracie Gray [Hand In Hive]
Although new to me, and quite possibly new to UK audiences in general, Gracie Gray actually first appeared back in 2019 when she shared her self-released debut album, Oregon In A Day. Now three years on Gracie looks set to reach a far wider audience with the release of her second album, anna, due out via Hand In Hive at the start of next month.
Gracie has been drip-feeding her singles to us since October last year when she shared anna’s first single, alienlover, a fully-realised musing on a doomed extra-terrestrial romance, set to a fuzzy slice of minimal electronics and layered processed vocals. That was followed by the intriguing dig, and possibly best of all Gracie’s first single of 2022, happiness. Happiness is a song that seems to simultaneously exist in the past and the present, Gracie processing old emotions and learning to live with them, so they can become, “more like an old friend than something to be afraid of“. Musically, it begins life as an intimate piece of acoustic-folk, before the ominous guitars enter like a black cloud as she sings, “I don’t trust it, what happiness is, what happiness is”. While a cancelled date as part of Line Of Best Fit’s Five Day Forecast wasn’t the start to 2022 that Gracie would have wanted, it still feels like this could be a very special year for the Los Angeles native, one that could well see her go from humble home-recordings to taking over the musical world.
Honeyglaze [Speedy Wunderground]
Based out of South London, Honeyglaze are the rapidly rising trio of vocalist and guitarist (and former Tugboat Captain member) Anouska Sokolow, bassist Tim Curtis, and Yuri Shibuichi on drums. The band were formed out of Anouska’s reluctance to be a solo musician, with their first practice happening just three days before a show Anouska had booked at The Windmill in Brixton. Since then the Haiku-loving three-piece have gone on to perform at Greenman Festival, shared stages with the likes of Wet Leg and The Lounge Society, and signed to Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground label, who will release the band’s self-titled debut album in April this year.
Discussing the inspiration behind Honeyglaze, the band have described their debut as, “the opposite of a concept album”, seeking instead to tell it straight from within, these are songs of humanity, insecurity and learning to embrace the many unknowns life inevitably throws your way. Breakout single Burglar was something of a scene-setter for Honeyglaze’s sound, the track merging Radiohead-like percussion with the playfully expansive indie-rock of Broken Social Scene and just enough of the DIY creativity of their earliest material. The track was followed by the electronic flourish of Creative Jealousy, and most recently the fantastic Shadows, a track that fuses the strutting indie of Julia Jacklin to a vocal with the quintessentially English tones of Girl Ray. From humble beginnings Honeyglaze are a band blossoming in front of your eyes, and tipped by many as, “one to watch”, they might just be the unlikely soundtrack 2022 is waiting for.
Best Bets [Meritorio Records/Melted Ice Cream]
Best Bets are a power-pop band from Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand. The band were formed by Olly Crawford-Ellis and James Harding and went on to release their debut EP, Life Under the Big Top in 2018, via local punk imprint Melted Ice Cream. The band have subsequently expanded to a four-piece with the addition of James’ brother Luke and long-time friend, Matt Phimmavanh. Recently signed to Meriotorio Records in Europe and the US, this April will see the two labels combine to release Best Bets debut album, On An Unhistoric Night.
The first taster of what On An Unhistoric Night has to offer arrived in October last year, in the shape of their single Crystal Mausoleum. The track is a somewhat hubris-laden tribute to failed mountaineers immortalised in ice and, “the folly of summiting Everest in the 21st century”. Musically, the track seems to throw back to the retro-rock sound of Thin Lizzy or The Cars, all yelp along choruses and thrashy guitar fuzz. Most recently the band shared Whataworld, a clattering garage-pop banger, full of existential crises and run-away train influenced guitars, as they yelp, “Oh what a world it is, oh what a time. Oh what a world it is, barely alive”, before ultimately embracing the futility of it all, “tell me when it’s over”. Sure there’s a retro-swagger here but Best Bets seem to add a thoroughly modern viewpoint and a winning energy to their sound, put some money on Best Bets: they’re a band going places.
The Netherlands has been something of a consistent source of excellent music in recent years courtesy of the likes of Pip Blom, Stella and Eerie Wanda. The Klittens look like they could well be the latest band to join that list as they crawl out of the Amsterdam underground and onto the world stage. Despite only releasing a handful of singles the band have already got a UK tour under their belt, as well as sharing stages with international artists like Sasami and Tacocat. The band recently returned to the studio to begin work on new material which they describe as, “less tweaked and more raw”, which they look to drip-feed into the world throughout the year ahead.
The first taste of this new material arrived in October in the shape of recent single, Canned Air. The track begins with an insistent one-note solo, before the second slacker-influenced guitar enters, reminiscent of Forth Wanderers, while the tight vocals nod to the likes of Diet Cig. The single was quickly followed up by their, “attempt to infiltrate the jazz scene”, Herkenbosch, a track named after a village in South Holland, with, “4200 inhabitants and a single skate park”. The track, while not exactly jazz, does have a certain dexterity, with rollicking drums, rapid fire-guitar riffing and delightful Hinds-like harmonic chanting. There’s something charmingly DIY about The Klittens, a band of friends working things out as they go along and sounding like they’re having the best time doing it, and nobody should ever underestimate just how far that joy for making music can take you.
Good Looks [Keeled Scales]
Signed to the ever-fantastic Keeled Scales, Good Looks are an Austin-based project formed around the songwriting of Tyler Jordan. Tyler grew up in a South Texas coastal town that was dominated by the petrochemical industry and the church. While the latter taught him to sing, Tyler became less enamoured with the lyrical content and aged 19 relocated to Austin, where he started busking, before meeting regular collaborator Jake Ames and becoming part of the late-night song-swap circles of the Kerrville Folk Festival. After the duo spent time backing up other songwriters, Tyler decided to bring his own songwriting to the fore and Good Looks were born. Their debut album, Bummer Year will arrive for the world’s attention this April.
Bummer Year was recorded with the help of producer Dan Duszynski, best known to me as a member of Loma and Cross Record, and the band have described it as a reflection on, “what it is to gut your way through your twenties, learning when to apologize and when you’ve got to live with what you said, because you meant it”. Musically, they dabble in the field of folk-rock, Tyler’s love of the sounds of his home state, and vocal twang adding a distinctly Texan feel, reminiscent of bands like Horse Thief or My Morning Jacket, with its fusion of Americana and scintillating rock’n’roll. The record was recently previewed with the fizzing single Almost Automatic, a song about a relationship between, “two intelligent, decent human beings who haven’t put it all together just yet”, all the doubts and thrills of a new relationship summarised by a song that starts bright and minimal before resolving to a particularly spectacular guitar-solo, a reminder Good Looks are not a band afraid of being labelled a rock band. Swaggering Americana for the modern age, Good Looks make timeless music to get lost in, and whatever the year, we all need that from time to time.
In case you missed any of the other parts, you can check out the other 15 acts in my 22 for 2022 HERE.