Hip-Hop

The Most Anticipated Local and National Albums of 2022 (Part Two)

Mega Ran returns with a new mixtape this August.
Mega Ran returns with a new mixtape this August. Mega Ran's Facebook

Back in February, we unveiled our list of this year's most anticipated albums. But, as it turns out, the great music-making machine never seemingly takes a break, and more records are dropping throughout the remainder of 2022. So, we've once again chosen just a few highlights, focusing on both local and national acts across the grand musical spectrum. Not every album may be on your personal list, but there's no denying that 2022 has been chock full of great records. Keep 'em coming!

I, the Tiger, New Eyes (July 1)

When Ari Epstein — who performs as I, the Tiger — released Black Clouds in summer 2020, it served as a hallmark of perseverance. Epstein, who previously fronted local faves Tigerface, underwent personal and professional loss in the years earlier, and roared back with a solid rock album that also served as a kind of guide to emotional maturity. But could Epstein maintain that same level of robust optimism even after the hell of the last few years? As it turns out, the answer is yes, as I, the Tiger's second album, New Eyes, is similarly inspiring for those seeking to turn their luck around. Lead single "One Wild Ride" encapsulates that dynamic, as Epstein provides a musical path through the darkness toward self-actualization. Epstein's just as much a guru as a rocker, and that distinction explains why he remains a talent to watch.

Interpol, The Other Side of Make-Believe (July 15)

Like so many bands, Interpol went on lockdown in March 2020 amid COVID. And also like so many other artists, the trio then opted to record a brand-new album, later titled The Other Side Of Make-Believe. But that's where a lot of the comparisons stop because, as press for the record explains, Interpol opted not to make another "emotional tar pit" of a record. Instead, by bringing in producers Flood and Alan Moulder, the band managed to create "paeans to mental resilience and the quiet power of going easy," finding a sense of hope that they called a "still-believable emotion within what makes Interpol Interpol." But if you think they'd ever gone soft, lead singles like "Toni" and "Something Changed" prove that even with boundless optimism, Interpol remain just as confrontational and powerful as ever.

Maggie Rogers, Surrender (July 29)

Singer Maggie Rogers was a big enough deal even before she released her debut album. When Heard It in a Past Life finally debuted in early 2019, listeners were split between a generally great pop record from a rising talent and feeling as if Rogers had been buried amid the hype and industry machinations. But Rogers will have another chance to win folks over when she debuts Surrender in late July. In part, Rogers may have recognized the issues with her debut, and this time opted to live alone on the coast of Maine to write the record. The end result is hinted at in tracks like "That's Where I Am," a sonically jarring but nonetheless infectious ditty that has Rogers declaring a profound message: "Wherever you go, that's where I am."

Weston Smith, Tales Of (August 2022)

Weston Smith has attained a perfect kind of weirdness. His last album, DUNGEON, was just odd enough to feel engaging without harming the luster of his brand of vintage electronica. Now, though, he’s seemingly upping the weird factor with Tales Of, a forthcoming instrumental album that's inspired in part by retro video games. (As evidenced by the album's promo trailer, which somehow makes old-school dungeon-crawlers a la Doom all the more terrifying.) On the one hand, a single like "Devil's Food" plays like the lite jazz you'd hear before a terrifying boss battle. But it's also oddly mesmerizing, and that dichotomy seems to fit Smith's approach brilliantly. Either way, the latter half of 2022 is about to become sublimely kooky, folks.

Mega Ran, PROTOCULTURE SEASON (August 5)

Mega Ran definitely deserves the crown for most obsessive nerd/fanboy. (And, as fellow culture connoisseurs, that's a huge compliment.) Because where some folks dress up like superheroes, or collect Japanese-language manga, the Phoenix MC has turned his geeky love into the inspiration for a handful of albums. This August, the "collection" — which includes projects about Mega Man, pro wrestling, Dragon Ball Z, and Destiny — grows to include a full-length about Macross (aka Robotech). PROTOCULTURE SEASON promises to take fans through "the most exciting, intense, and emotional moments of the series' first season" courtesy of Ran and guests Penny The Great and SlopFunkDust. If Ran's older catalog is any indication, it'll be super dweeby fun and killer hip-hop in equal measure.

Danger Mouse & Black Thought, Cheat Codes (August 12)

Danger Mouse has a long history of jaw-dropping collaborations. That includes CeeLo Green (Gnarls Barkley); MF Doom (Danger Doom); and The Shins' James Mercer (Broken Bells). This August, he joins forces with another superstar, The Roots' own Black Thought, for a collaborative LP entitled Cheat Codes. As Billboard reported, the duo first linked up in 2005 for a project tentatively titled Dangerous Thoughts, though nothing came from those sessions. Cheat Codes — which also features Raekwon, Run the Jewels, and the late MF Doom — is described in the press as "much more than typical producer-meets-rapper arrangement or side project," with "soul-infused hip-hop soundscapes" paired with "incredible lyricism, razor-sharp rapping, and raw hunger." It would seem teamwork does, in fact, make the dream work.

Built to Spill, When the Wind Forgets Your Name (September 9)

In some ways, Built to Spill has always been a mainstream act. That's perhaps laughable given that frontman Doug Martsch and company have always existed on the periphery despite their poignant, hugely influential take on indie rock. But after some 20-ish years of releasing via Warner Brothers, the band have since landed on a so-called "dream label" as they release their eighth album, When The Wind Forgets Your Name, via Sub Pop. (Fun fact: BTS released 1994's There’s Nothing Wrong With Love on the Sub Pop offshoot Up Records.) Press for the LP promises a "complex and cohesive blend of the artists’ distinct musical ideas," with an emphasis on pronounced experimentation. And if the rip-roaring "Gonna Lose" is any indication, it seems the band have found a great home for their latest musical chapter.

Death Cab for Cutie, Asphalt Meadows (September 16)

Much like Interpol, Death Cab for Cutie have a reputation to maintain — one that usually involves profound self-awareness and pointed witticisms. But as they've demonstrated in recent albums, including 2018's Thank You for Today, they're also continually evolving their skillset and further building and bolstering their indie rock sound. But in case you'd ever think they're not about making listeners mope, the band will drop their 10th album, Asphalt Meadows. In case the title wasn't mildly depressing already, frontman Ben Gibbard said that lead single "Roman Candles" centers on "crippling, existential dread that goes hand in hand with living in a nervous city on a dying planet." But, hey, at least all that nihilism is super catchy!

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cool It Down (September 30)

Some fans have been waiting on a new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album since 2009's generally beloved It's Blitz! Never mind the fact that the band actually released an album in 2013, the mostly forgettable Mosquito (which, despite how it's perceived by some fans/listeners, is a mostly good and/or enjoyable LP). But regardless, the trio's fifth album, Cool It Down, arrives in September, and according to a press release, it eagerly explores what YYYs have been up to in the last decade or so. As evidenced by lead single "Spitting Off The Edge Of The World," the band ultimately feels optimistic, celebrating how young people are "confronting what’s coming with anger and defiance" and how "there's hope there." Maybe there's also hope that we won't have to wait until mid-2032 for their sixth record.

Pixies, Doggerel (September 30)

You can basically split the Pixies' career into two halves. First, there's everything they did from 1986 to 1993, which includes their most iconic songs/albums. But since the band reunited circa 2004, you could make a strong argument for this latter half also being great, if not entirely legendary. They've released a handful of LPs and toured the world several times over, working to extend their careers in a way that honors their status as fabled indie deities. This second arc continues as Pixies release Doggerel, which, as Joey Santiago and Black Francis told Pitchfork, sees the band growing from two-minute jams toward "things that are very big and bold and orchestrated." Case in point: "There’s a Moon On," which maintains Pixies' innate punk vibes but feels grander in its scope and intention. Who said change has to be a bad thing?

Lamb of God, Omens (October 7)

Almost any band that releases an album this year will still inevitably have a "COVID record" on their hands. For some, that's meant a chance to experiment; for others, a time to cope through the grief and longing. But Lamb of God have opted for something else with their latest album, Omens. In an interview with Blabbermouth, frontman D. Randall Blythe said it's a "very pissed-off record," adding, "The world is crazy and keeps changing." And it's likely not just rage they've channeled either, as the band recorded at the same studio that gave us Joni Mitchell's Blue and The Doors' Full Circle. With that blend of ideas and energies, it'll be interesting to see what bloody magic Lamb of God have managed to summon this time.

Courtney Marie Andrews, Loose Future (October 7)

Courtney Marie Andrews continues to be a rare talent among our city's talent roster. With 2020's Old Flowers, she not only raised her personal profile, but snagged a Grammy nomination to boot. Andrews will now further her ascension toward greatness with the release of Loose Future. The 10-track album was not only produced by Sam Evian (​​Big Thief and Cassandra Jenkins) but also features guest spots from Josh Kaufman and Grizzly Bear's own Chris Bear. Lead single "Satellite" is a great first clue that Andrews is building toward something big. Not only in terms of the overall quality, but with the addition of synths, and by steering away from her usual "heartbreak-tinged" love songs, Andrews has become a formidable talent of breathtaking folk-pop. Wherever she goes, Phoenix is certainly glad to count her as our own.

Black Caesar Soul Club, Untitled (Fall 2022)

Phoenix's own Black Caesar Soul Club have only been operating together for a few years. Then, factor in COVID-related shutdowns and whatnot, and they've only been regularly playing for much less. But that hasn't stopped them at all, as the duo have been bounding between clubs across the Valley to perfect their blistering, sweat-soaked take on blues, funk, soul, and rock 'n' roll. That lively formula has translated to great recordings as well; April's Propers EP proved to be four tracks that encapsulated what makes BCSC such a powerful and dynamic young band as they continued to coalesce as a duo. But they're also more than willing to experiment, and an EP from later this fall will feature more deliberate, methodical "slow songs." Whatever the pace and tempo, though, it'll likely knock your socks off.

The Darts, Snake Oil (Tentative 2022)

All in all, The Darts have had a pretty good year. They've played heaps of shows across Arizona and beyond. They were the only local band to appear at the start-studded Punk in Drublic tour stop back in the spring. And their latest EP, April's Love Tsunami, was a shot in the arm of fiery punk rock. Now, the band could cap off the rest of the year by releasing a proper full-length, Snake Oil. So far, our only tidbit of info from the record is the actual title and a recent local performance of the title track. But oh what a performance, as the band unfurl a sleek, slightly sensuous punk jam that feels very much in the vein of the Love Tsunami tracks. Whatever comes of the actual album, or whenever it arrives, it should be more than enough proof that The Darts are already a local institution primed for their big break.

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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan