By Columnist “Tampa Earl” Burton
The Year in Rock 2022 has been a special one. There have been several top-flight releases from the artists we all know and love – Ozzy Osbourne teamed back up with Tommy Iommi AND Zakk Wylde, Five Finger Death Punch continues to deliver the goods, and newcomers Falling in Reverse, Nothing More, and The Warning bode well for the future of rock. But some are looking to make their name in the business, and that’s whom we’re going to focus on today.
The independent world – be they artists and groups that are on small labels or outright releasing their material without the benefit of a record company – is one of the toughest slogs out there. These artists and groups do it all themselves – booking their gigs, traveling around (sometimes in questionable vans), and embodying the DIY spirit. For that, we’re going to give them some love – without further ado, here are the five independent albums (in no particular order) you should have in your collection as 2022 draws to a close.
Tough on Fridays – The Encore You Didn’t Ask For
An effort from the Texas duo that was crowdfunded, The Encore That You Didn’t Ask For compiled many of the releases from the band that has made them a success. Vocals are a dual effort between Caleigh and Carly, with Caleigh handling the bass duties and Carly slinging the guitar. The band moves between alternative rock and moody introspection, as demonstrated by their tunes “Overboard!” and a “reimaging” of one of their older songs called “Lush,” both of which are the highlights of the disc.
Black Valley Moon – Songs from the Black Valley
This is just music you do not hear much anymore in the world of rock. At once a surf sound, at once punk, and at once goth, Black Valley Moon delivers arguably the most eclectic mix of music for 2022 on this CD. If you’re looking for the closest thing to a “normal” rock tune, “Blackest Night” would fall into this category, but you would miss out on some entrancing overtures. “Don’t Lie, My Succubi” is noteworthy, and they even entertain a holiday song – although I don’t know if you’d want to have “Christmas Time in the Castle of Blood!”
Tamar Berk – start at the end
In 2021, Berk issued a simply masterful CD in the restless dreams of youth, and she could have just put it on cruise control for 2022. Instead, Berk emptied her toolbox and came up with an effort that equals (if not surpasses) that disc in start at the end. Berk opens her bundle of worries, thoughts, confessions, and decisions, but she’s never sure if it is the correct course. It is the stories that every person goes through, and Berk has tapped into that vein with remarkable insight and thoughtfulness.
Stolen Organ – Have You Seen Justice
These hard rockers out of Finland continue to uphold the legacy of the Eighties with their driving beats. It is obvious that there is an influence from the Guns N’ Roses lineage of blues-based hard rock, but Stolen Organ does deliver these familiar tones with their specific stylings. “Booze Devil” could have come from the playbook of almost any of the “hair metal” bands of the Eighties, but the group comes into its own when they slow it down a bit on the song “Land of Glory.” European rock is becoming even bigger, it seems, than the world of British or U. S. rock, and bands like Stolen Organ are part of the driving force behind these efforts.
Eliza Neals – Badder to the Bone
If your tastes run towards the blues, then run, don’t walk, to pick up this effort. Eliza Neals is a blues crooner out of Detroit who adds a dollop of Motown soul to her work, making it a rich and entertaining brew. Songs like “Queen of the Nile” and “Fueling Me Up” are enriched by the soulful wailing of Neals and a top-flight band that backs her up. I certainly am hoping that Neals gets back to the studio soon to add to a discography (along with Black Crow Moan) that is rapidly making its mark on the genre.
This is but a small list (whom would you add to it? Let us know!) of the outstanding indie artists and groups that are out there, busting their asses. They’re in the records stores, on Bandcamp, and are constantly on the road. They are the ones that are carrying the banner for rock and roll in an era when it has almost disappeared from radio. And they are the ones that YOU need to hear!
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