Best of Boston Music: The Top Local Albums of 2022

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2022 brought another year of stellar albums from Boston artists. From big hitters like Van Buren and The Ballroom Thieves to up-and-comers like Eph See and hongjoin, our team shares their ten favorite local albums released in 2022.

Self Help by Future Teens

With the help of an anthropomorphic VHS tape puppet, Future Teens are getting through one day at a time and bringing us along on Self Help. Musically, the bummer pop album is heavy with melodic guitar lines, crashing cymbals, and honest vocal performances from lead singers Amy Hoffman and Daniel Radin, like the gentle harmonies of acoustic track “Going Pains.” From a deeply personal struggle with alcoholism in grungy “BYOB” to the oxymoronically bouncy lamentation of a lack of purpose of “Smile with Your Teeth,” Self Help is a happy-but-sad, introspective-but-deflective look into what it is to struggle with everyday living, but choose to keep going anyway. “Good Reason” leaves us with the perfect summation: “It’s all part of the plan, / just try and do the best that you can / and know that everything that happens is for some goddamn good reason.” — Sally Pigeon

Clouds by The Ballroom Thieves

In their latest album, Clouds, The Ballroom Thieves unpack the ticklish seasonality of being an artist in this day and age. While maintaining their folksy, upbeat aura, they juxtapose darkness and humor, hope and doubt, and the simultaneously gratifying and destructive properties of love. Cailin Peters’ and Martin Earley’s complimentary vocal textures find common ground on which to unfold truths about environmental degradation, relationships, and adventure seeking, while using music as a means to move through sometimes painful realities. — Sadye Bobbette

g*rlhood by Eph See

Singer-songwriter Eph See’s EP g*rlhood couples cynical and nostalgic lyrics with punchy drums, bright synths, and catchy guitar riffs to tell a captivating story of growth. A project that was partially inspired by the reflection born of pandemic-induced isolation, Eph See touches on past difficulties in their life with a stunning vocal performance. From a production perspective, vocal modulation, filtering, and other processing effects help to give the project some gratifying textural variation throughout. — Massimo Sassi

Don’t Be Afraid by Kerrin Connolly

Kerrin Connolly’s latest EP Don’t Be Afraid is all about life’s anxieties that can take the forms of the monsters under your bed, cartoonish anvils waiting to drop, and creatures from myths. Full of quirky instrumental breaks and allusions to anxieties, tracks like seemingly-sweet-as-candy “Fly In My Room” and the quick staccato claps of “Giant Falling Anvil” perfectly encapsulate the tone of the EP. Although Don’t Be Afraid is a piece of work where Connolly pours their heart and personal fears into song, it remains welcoming and relatable with its catchy hooks. — Ella Kim

Book of Sun by Notebook P

Seagulls caw, waves crash, a faint tune plays in the background. The faraway sounds of Randolph-based R&B Notebook P’s “the season” create a transition reminiscent of the tinny quality AM radio that segues Pink Floyd’s “Have A Cigar” into “Wish You Were Here” and sets the scene for a summery record. (Fittingly, the record dropped in August.) Upbeat, snappy track “WYWM” follows, with longing lyrics: “I see you with him but I can’t lie, girl I wish you were mine.” Brace yourself for the beautiful falsettos on “mani’s interlude”—and relish the moment of pause because before you know it, the sound of a car engine starting (“dusk”) is going to mark the end of this trip to the beach. Our only complaint: Book of Sun packs up before we’re ready to leave. — Knar Bedian

Petrichor by hongjoin

hongjoin explores big emotions on Petrichor—grief and heartbreak and depression—but the moments are small: dropping a friend off at the airport and encountering an ex in stripped track “you left your baggage (voice memo),” the end of a party scored by a tapping drum beat and low vocal harmonies in “Least That I Could Do.” Gentle guitar strumming and layered melancholic melodies give tracks like “when you wake” and “If Venice Can Sink” an ethereal presence, echoing and floating in the air like words left unsaid. Petrichor is an intimate collection of introspective songs recorded in hongjoin’s bedroom, and homegrown, vulnerable sound is what makes this album a standout. — Sally Pigeon

Melancholy Flowers by The Q-Tip Bandits

Following four years of live performances and two years of recording, The Q-Tip Bandits —a Boston-based band that has merged elements of indie rock, pop, alternative, and soul music—have released their first full length album, Melancholy Flowers. Filled with punchy drums, groovy basslines, and tasteful lyrics by the group’s two songwriters, Leo Son and Claire Davis, The Q-Tip Bandits touch on themes of nostalgia and longing while precisely walking the line between upbeat optimism and melancholy. The addition of horn instruments (and the fact that every member of the band does background vocals at some point on the record) makes for a stimulating, engaging, and unique listening experience. — Massimo Sassi

Family Ties by Lilah!

From the moment the mellow vocals, twinkling strings and heavy bass drum kicks on the first track, “So Long,” hip-hop fans will instantly appreciate the level of polish and nostalgia that Lilah! delivers on her latest album, Family Ties. All about spreading upbeat positivity and bounce, Lilah! serves up sunny day, feelin-myself-Friday jams like “Fragrance,” paired with atmospheric sleep-in-Sunday tracks like “Freelance.”  An artist to watch, Lilah! is well-situated within the new wave of Boston hip-hop artists and will help keep the city bouncing. — Jared Steinberg

How It Began by Cordelia

Cordelia’s debut album, How it Began, is an indie-folk tour-de-force that showcases a wide variety of styles and songwriting techniques. Vocalist and songwriter Mariam Dhabi writes about love, loss, and identity, singing with brilliant technique whether in English or Arabic. The songs also demonstrate a variety of guitar and arranging techniques to keep listeners interested, drawing from diverse genres like country, rock, Americana, and world music. — Jeff Williams

DSM by Van Buren Records

If 2021’s Bad for Press introduced the Mass-es to Brockton hip-hop collective Van Buren Records, DSM is the much-anticipated sophomore opus that deepens the audience’s familiarity with each contributing voice. From beginning the album with bouncy turn-up tracks like “FOUL” and “Back Door,” to winding the album down with introspective, soul-baring cuts such as “God Talking” and “If My Sins Were Good,” VB has firmly planted a stake at the intersection of versatility and cohesion. DSM will be cemented not only as a standalone feat of brilliantly produced contemporary rap music, but also as a stepping stone for a group with unfettered ambitions and the ability necessary to fulfill them. — Eben Cook

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