Best of 2022: Brandon Jones

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I’m finally getting around to doing a quick write up on some favorite releases and songs from the past year. These may or may not be in any particular order and is based upon a mix of memory and my 2022 Spotify playlist where I throw everything new onto it for continual playback throughout the year. Read below and feel free to post your own favorites of 2022 that I’m sure were accidentally skipped on my own list (and maybe even have yet to be discovered). I don’t post these for scene points and mass approval, it’s just whatever I’ve been listening to during the year. As the great Five Iron Frenzy would say, “I hope you hate it!”. I created a special Spotify playlist at the bottom of this article for some favorites of 2022. I am keeping this list short as I don’t have the energy to write much more than what you see below. Top 20 sounds good right?

1. Nate ParrishSoul Surgery

With 100% confidence and without any doubt in my mind, this album is firmly at the #1 position as a personal favorite of mine. Nate Parrish makes thinking man’s punk rock and music that doesn’t just have mass appeal but also is an inspiring set of songs and even encourages the Faithful to question what it is that they believe and a common bond we all share in our human condition. “Soul Surgery” is really a special kind of album by an artist that recognizes some of the pitfalls and perils of this life mixed with doubt, misunderstanding, and struggles that are more commonplace than most choose to admit. The music through it all is electrifying and far above the mundane and “generic” that plagues the substance lacking mainstream and a music industry afraid to admit their faults. It is real honesty set to a soundtrack that we can all sing along with in unison at the top of our lungs, with burning tears scarring through our store-bought masks which were meant to shield us from the outside world. “Soul Surgery” if anything is the post-pandemic anthem bringing us up out of the rubble and giving us hope for a better tomorrow. Thank you Nate for a powerful reminder of the impact so many independent artists have had on our scene.

2. Craig’s BrotherEasily Won, Rarely Deserved

This new full-length album dropped last November on People of Punk Rock Records which is the same label that also has Too Bad Eugene and other pretty cool punk bands. This is certainly not what one would deem “boring” nor is it cheap sounding and suitable for bargain bin dumpster diving out back behind Goodwill Thrift Store. THIS is proof that you can release an underground and under the radar album that sounds as good if not better than anything this band has recorded since 1998. It has heaps of fast paced punk rock drumbeats and edgy guitar work that is both punchy and perfectly wrapping around the vocal strength of Ted Bond. In fact, Ted’s voice isn’t drowned out by the instruments but rather falls into that perfectly placed down-lined pillow of his bandmates’ individual talents. This really is the perfect album to keep things flowing at a time when there is so much division, pain, hopelessness, depression, and a certain disconnect many are feeling. It’s always good to feel that same frustration and heavy weight of the world crushing upon your back as echoed through some of songs on this album but then feeling a ray of sunshine burning bright through the darkness. These 13 songs are pure punk rock perfection and some of the band’s best work. “The Sacrifice” hits hard as does “Rodeo Clown” and “Scattered and Few”. It’s crazy to think that the band has only released 4 full lengths since 1998 and 3 EPs. I guess that is what keeps them as a much loved and critically underrated punk rock band. I can’t pick just one song as my favorite because literally there is so much diversity of sound here that you won’t let boredom seep in. Instead of drowning out the dual harmonies and guitar solos, you are forced to crank up the volume to sing along. Sing along is just what I’ve done and will continue to do throughout 2023.

3. Too Bad EugeneDistance

Oh wow, I was not expecting this album to be so good here in 2022. I mean I’ve always been a fan of their 2 full lengths but sometimes these band reunions fail miserably. Thankfully in the case of Too Bad Eugene, the “comeback” some people just didn’t think they’d need in their lives is a powerful reminder that age is nothing more than a number. The heart, mind, soul, and musical talents can’t be stopped by a ticking clock. “Distance” was an album that I believe was deserving of that solid “5” score that I rated several months ago. Each time I listen I find something new to appreciate and those vocals and harmonies are what keeps me coming back each and every time. I’ve listened to these songs so much that even the last track on the album is special to me. I don’t know what it is but the song “I Lost the World” is a truly special track. It’s like a punk rock story, a statement really on loneliness, rejection, and fighting against the odds to share a Faith deep within. If “Christian” radio were paying attention without preconceived notions and their penchant for being absorbed in hard rock they’d find something of substance and depth here in these albums on this list. I don’t mean to rip on the establishment because so many have supported what I have done at IVM here but the gears of certain styles and formulas are what drives the collective machine year in and year out. I love the substance and stories within the realm of faith-based music from Christian artists seeking to share their journey and I’d hope 2023 is the year that the scales will finally flip.

4. Light The WayLong Story Short

What can be said about Light The Way that hasn’t yet been said. The best underground, mostly unknown, melodic punk band from Sacramento California that the world needs to hear. They recently connected with Paul Hyde (Grandpa Loves Rhinos) on his new endeavor to create one of the best new indie labels called “Small Step Records“. All the promoted Small Step Records releases in 2022 were nothing short of amazing. Light The Way released 3 EPs, 1 full length, and now this one. I was lucky enough to be involved in the early years of this band and I’m beyond excited about their future. Every guy in this band are incredible individuals then when merged with their music talents and past history playing with other bands of diverse styles around California, they are an unstoppable force. They are proof you don’t need to be a karaoke bar band playing for tips on a late Friday night in a low light beer drenched pool house to make your mark. They are underground yes, and don’t tour the country 24/7 but their collective musical output in recorded form is a natural progression with each and every release. “Long Story Short” builds upon the strength of “False Memory Syndrome” incorporating dual vocals between Andrew Carlin and Christian Moore offering up even more diversity while keeping their core sound intact. I absolute love how the album starts off with the killer song “Goofball” which is filled some working class rage and truth telling yet sharing that contentment of age, maturity, and nostalgia. These are the golden years indeed. “Worrywart”, “Burt Macklin, FBI”, “Han Shot First”, “Chameleon Eyes”, the remake of “Scatterbrained” with full band, “Steering Clear”, are all strong. I loved the change of pace with the songs “They Will Let You Drown”, and “2AM” which are more mellow and even has some mandolin and piano which just sounds great mashed up against their pop-punk sound. It’s like the ultimate pop-punk cage match between Flatfoot 56, Set Your Goals, Four Year Strong, and Dashboard Confessional. It works so well and is just fun especially “2AM” which is a beautiful tribute to happiness and joy in the life through the lens of parenthood. Even “Guts” which has a hardcore influence which the band experiments on each release, just sounds so good. Light The Way needs to start a hardcore side project with a different name and a heavy meets light approach, I’m telling you that it would be an amazing trip to hear. If you haven’t experienced the joy that is “Long Story Short” do yourself a favor and head to a digital network right now and stream. If you would rather own a CD, Small Step Records has them right here. Everything I said about radio above applies to this band and all the others on Small Step Records. Great faith based music that has heart and substance without being forced on a demographic and coming off as formulaic.

5. Wolves At The GateEulogies

How great is this one? Wolves At The Gate are just one of those rare bands who consistently put out solid albums (on Solid State mind you) with each and every release cycle dating back to their very first Solid State album, which is like over 10 years ago now. “Eulogies” is filled with that same fiery intensity from prior work mixed with soaring choruses and deeply personal, spiritually engaging lyrical content. This is a group of guys who aren’t afraid to sing/scream out what they believe but also seek to challenge and encourage us the listener to find a deeper meaning in this life beyond what you see and hear about in the media. That song “No Tomorrow” really hits me in the chest and it’s one of my favorites especially that perfectly placed guitar solo halfway through the song. But really, every single song on this album I could and will continue listening to. It’s exciting to see them get some radio play and interest from all sides, even outside that bubble. Great WATG and thank you Solid State Records for continuing to put emphasis on “rock” that doesn’t fit inside the lines or within a box. Keep on keeping on guys.

6. The Rocky ValentinesSelf Titled

I hate and will not use the word “gimmick”. It is a dirty term and one used to make a quick buck off a well established name while staying far from anything deemed “Talent”. Thankfully in the case of The Rocky Valentines – natural talent, genetics, understanding of music and instruments, songwriting that isn’t formulaic, an indie label that always fights for authenticity, all come together with some recognizable names to flesh out this recording. You can’t not mention Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 when listening to this debut and I don’t mean it to cheapen the project and draw attention away from his son Charlie Martin who leads it. If anything, you can sense and understand what good parenting and father/son dynamics can do in making the best music a debut could have. Natural talent is clearly seen and heard here. I know this is only 4 songs in EP format but it is still a tremendous part of my 2022 favorites and I feel as though we are all in for a treat if and when a full length comes out. Velvet Blue really got the opportunity of a lifetime and Jason Martin has taught his son well and put him on the path to be this uniquely talented individual who is no doubt going to make waves this year.

7. Demon HunterExile

I’ve always enjoyed the music of Demon Hunter going back to their beginnings. Ryan Clark has been in some pretty killer projects in the past going all the way back to his work in Focal Point and Training For Utopia. Once Demon Hunter formed as a “project”, they had my attention. The first 3 albums were incredible then they began branching out into some more singing efforts and less abrasive metal, and you know what, it ripped hard! I am telling you that I can’t find a single album that was terrible. They are all uniquely different yet entirely identifiable as Demon Hunter music. People can’t say DH sounds like so and so or this or that because at this many years in the game they are their own genre and their music smashes all labels. Ryan’s voice is strong on the entire album and can go from that heavy, torn flesh and biting steel like sound to a soft and melodic ballad-esque, anthemic masterpiece. “Exile” is not more of the same. The album is not a rip off, it certainly isn’t boring, and shows that with more than 20 years as a band, they’re here to stay. This album has variety and something for everyone. Some of the guest spots really add intrigue. This is a band that can straddle the line between spirituality and vulnerable honesty, from passionate to wall punching intensity. The ballads soar and pummeling heavy vocals by Ryan Clark carry this album in ways other “metal” bands don’t dare venture.

8. AnberlinSilverline

The mighty Anberlin have come back after a long absence and this EP is their first new material in almost 10 years. The songs take on a modern edge but still consist of that same Anberlin feel and of course Stephen’s voice is as strong as ever. Anberlin will always be on one of my lists with each and every release. This ranks lower because it is just an EP and also because I felt as though I wasn’t feeling every single track as a whole compared with past material where it just flowed together seamlessly. I think it is just a taste of what’s to come and showcases a band not afraid to experiment and try different things. While I’m hanging on to hope that the band will get back into the vein of their first 5 albums, I won’t fault them if it changes things up a bit. Anberlin are known for the melodic, almost ballad worthy approach, singalong harmonies, and the unforgettable lead vocals by Stephen himself. Let’s see what 2023 holds for them!

9. Watashi WaPeople Like People

This was a different comeback album for sure. They kept building up the return to sound and pop-punk influence but the finished album was more modern and a post 2010 influence than it is “What’s In The Way”, “The Love Of Life”, and “Eager Seas”. The album is a grower and I’ve enjoyed it even more so now than the first go around. It’s fun and likable. It’s great to hear all the guest spots in these songs even if the “pop-punk” is absent. More Foster The People and less early 00’s guitar led pop-punk jams. Its a fun, laid back, doesn’t take itself too seriously, jam record. You can never go wrong with Watashi Wa. Now release the unreleased EP!

10. Summer YearsYou Can’t Live There Forever

This Southern California based pop-punk band called Summer Years, dropped their debut EP in early 2022 and it was a definite highlight. A couple of these guys were formerly known as “Mainsail” which was a band I was incredibly impressed with so it was understandable if expectations were high leading into this new band launch. Summer Years live up to all the hype and bring a well-seasoned sound that evokes memories of The Ataris, Blink-182, The Starting Line, New Found Glory, State Champs, Real Friends, etc. It’s the perfect balance between Pop Punk Dads and Pop Punk Kids, if that makes sense?

11. AudiophileYears Beyond My Wisdom

This is an exciting up and coming pop-punk-rock band by the name of “Audiophile” that play fresh music unlike most you’ve heard. It’s very poppy and youthful sounding but doesn’t rip anyone off and doesn’t ponder to the masses even though this music has mass appeal. They are independent and unsigned (at this time) but their music is a far cry from anything cheap or get the flack that some “unsigned” bands get. Listening to this album you’re swayed by emotions and can’t help but sing along with these sounds. “Years Beyond My Wisdom” is the perfect launching off point for a young band and I’m sure the coming years are going to be huge for them. “Sydney” is one of my faves!

12. Protect Your Heart(re)Introduction

These guys are a brand new pop-punk/easycore band from Los Angeles, California but if you’d given their debut full length a listen you never would have guessed it. This is quality work and this new band are just getting their name out there in a huge way after only being together for a year or two. So many great songs on this record and if you were paying attention last year, a bunch of them released first as “singles” leading up to this debut full length. I have no complaints and if anything I just want to hear more. Matt’s voice is insane and he really carries this band away from any sort of mundane feel and keeps the sound fresh and lively. If you’re looking for a new band to call yourself a fan of, I hope Protect Your Heart will be that band alongside all the other indies on this list! The fact that this band used lyric videos, visualizer videos, and even several music videos for their new songs really amped up publicity and I believe they delivered on hype.

13. for KING & COUNTRYWhat Are We Waiting For?

This is a beautiful album in every sense of the word. From the sound and production to the songwriting and lyrics, everything about “What Are We Waiting For?” is pure magic. It’s rare for a band to continually improve with each and every album, churning out single after single while keeping the listener at full attention. I think I’ve figured out the appeal of this group and the connection they make. Not only is their music appealing and can reach across aisles but their social media and online presence with attention to detail is what keeps the interest going. I find very little “Christian” artists that produce quality music videos at this caliber and drop many of them in advance of the album release. This band has it all together and I’m sure they’ll continue reaching mass audiences across the world in the years to come.

14. HomeplateWelcome to Breitenstein

This is as strong an ep as any new band could ever put out. I didn’t think they could top their debut but this has just about the same amount of solid home runs any like minded band in their genre could put out. If this is still considered the beginning then I’m 100% positive that this band is going throw out a game winning pitch with their first full length whenever that drops. All 7 of these songs are winners but “Given More Time” hits close to the heart. Give Homeplate a listen and support Small Step Records!

15. Hello KellySweet Nostalgia

This band was around years ago and put out some really killer tunes. Well they are still making music here in the 20’s (is that a thing?) and it’s just as good as anything they’ve ever created prior. This album really soars on the strength of their lead single “Sweet Nostalgia” which quite frankly brings on the chills and self reflecting memories of our youthful longing. I really encourage everyone reading this to get this pop-emo-rock band out today and give the entire album a fair spin. By the way, you can never go wrong with carefully placed guitar solos!

16. IslanderIt’s Not Easy Being Human

This band has been burning up those NuMetal charts for several years and ever since I found them after I heard “Count Dracula”, I knew how insane this band would eventually become. This band doesn’t follow trends but instead incite riots by charting their own territory through sounds that don’t necessarily ride the “NuMetal” borders. This is a really unique album and the guest vocal spots are absolutely killer. “It’s Not Easy Being Human” is one beast of an album and the intensity can be felt from track 1 all the way to the end. Islander are one of those special bands to play their own style of music without catering to demands and requests. You can tell by listening to this album that Islander aren’t a band who bow to some formulaic recipe. Enjoy it but don’t forget to buy it.

17. Becoming The ArchetypeChildren of the Great Extinction

Where would be without these intense metal rockers? Becoming the Archetype which is led by the mighty ferocious band leader – Jason Wisdom, plays music the way they want it to be and there is no shying away from the fact that this band is one of a kind. I love this album for not just the prog-metal kind of instances and metalcore overlay, but also the melodies that are sparsely placed and awe inspiring. Jason’s beastly, menacing, tyrannosaurus rex delivery isn’t for the faint of faint of spirit but I get a huge sense of compassion in his heart as well the heart of all the band mates (including you Seth Hecox). This is total METAL and I like it. “Children of the Great Extinction” continues in the grand tradition of all incredible Becoming The Archetype albums, cranking it up a notch. The Ryan Clark guest spot is pretty darn cool. BTA deserve a legends medal and it’s a shame these legacy artists don’t get more credit for their incredible talents and contributions. Anyway, go check this album out and make sure to support Jason, Seth, the rest of the BTA homeboys.

18. The GFM BandFraming My Perception

These 3 ladies, all siblings, had been making heavy rock n roll for several years while they were all still in grade school. They changed over the years but their hype and promotional spirit was without a doubt a huge driving factor in their likeability. Their music was well done and it was clear they knew how to play their instruments. This release, their first since signing with Rockfest Records, is by far their finest work and will remain a perfect tombstone to a young career that ended much too soon. Thankfully Maggie has continued on and will be releasing her debut in 2023. RIP GFM Band, when the time comes for a reunion I know people will be waiting.

19. Plead The Widows CasePain Split

This up and coming band play heavy punk/hardcore that is fast and spirited, passionate and with heart clenching honesty. They sound kind of like a mix of Comeback Kid, With Honor, Life In Your Way, Worthwhile, Counterparts, and Bane. A great sound and this is the absolute best debut hardcore record by a new band I’ve heard in years. If you haven’t of them yet and are dying to get your hands on some real hardcore that doesn’t suck, then give Plead The Widows Case a listen and add them to your playlists.

20. The Juliana TheoryStill The Same Kids Pt. 1

The Juliana Theory returned strong in 2022 and this EP is some of their strongest work of their comeback time. I dig these 4 songs not just because it’s Juliana Theory music but because it is well done and catchy, songs that evoke emotion, dripping with nostalgia. I even get hints of instruments here rather than just completely synth and electronic rooted. This was an EP that probably flew under most people’s radars but it deserves a listen.

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dan druff
dan druff
April 10, 2023 9:48 am

what happened to GFM? did the other two sisters jut get tired of touring and decide to do something else, or was there some sort of falling out?

Noah Hardwick
April 10, 2023 5:36 pm
Reply to  dan druff

I think it was more of the former than the latter. Just reading between the lines, but it kind of seems like like the band got a taste of what it’s like to tour professionally on their last EP and decided it wasn’t for them and to take a step back focus on other things. At least for now. They’re all still very young so I wouldn’t assume this is the last we’ll hear from them.

Noah Hardwick
April 7, 2023 3:09 pm

I guess I need to post my best of 2022 too now . . .

I can’t remember if I ever got around to listening to that The Rocky Valentines EP or not, thanks for reminding me.

April 5, 2023 6:29 pm

Great list- I need to check out several of those.
Some of my personal favorites from 2022-
Norma Jean- Deathrattle sing for me (awesome album!)
OrphanTwin- Future classic (check out llovvlless and headphones or die)

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