We warned you last week, and we’ll repeat it here: This is very likely the last Essential Tracks roundup of 2022. We’re hard at work putting together a big batch of year-end features revisiting our favorite music of the past year, and for that matter, not a lot of new music gets announced during the last month of the year. We’ll see—don’t hold us to that.
In the meantime, we’ve picked our favorites for this week before a monthlong hiatus from Essential Tracks, including noise rockers playing against type, a haunting ballad from an art-pop singer/songwriter dropping a new album today, and more.
Check out this week’s best new songs, and listen to our ongoing 2022 Essential Tracks playlist.
Chat Pile – “Lake Time (Mr. Rodan)”
Chat Pile created a devastating work of cacophony, sludge and existential despair with this year’s God’s Country, as fine and unnerving a noise rock album as you’re likely to hear this year. Their follow-up to that is a soundtrack to the upcoming indie film Tenkiller, which finds them taking on some new stylistic approaches, including the ragged country rock of “Lake Time (Mr. Rodan)”. While at heart it’s a rootsy bayou-basher, “Lake Time” is still steeped in the swampy cacophony of the band’s typical sound, the odd hybrid sounding something more like Harvey Milk’s pop-ish material. With mentions of Toho movie monsters and a recurring refrain of “Kiss my ass, I’m on lake time,” it’s a song that trades the band’s blistering panic attacks for an outlaw attitude, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
From Tenkiller, out now via The Flenser
Shame – “Fingers of Steel”
Shame’s debut album Songs of Praise presented the British group as an incendiary bunch with limitless energy but little nuance. They didn’t need it—music that energizing can only get tripped up by slowing down, anyhow. But in just a few short year’s they’ve gone a long way, following a similar but distinctive path to those taken by peers such as Protomartyr and Iceage. “Fingers of Steel” is proof of their progress, a still tense and forceful track that leans toward anthemic climes, revealing a greater depth of color in their palette even as they reach for something bigger, brighter and more universal.
From Food for Worms, out February 24 via Dead Oceans
Kelela – “On the Run”
The emergence of two Kelela singles earlier this year, five years after the release of her 2017 album Take Me Apart, served most of all as a reminder of the unique space that the Los Angeles artist occupies, her simmering R&B tracks steeped in immersive ambient atmosphere and rich electronic textures. As songs like “Happy Ending” have suggested, Kelela seems to be delving deeper into a more club oriented atmosphere, and “On the Run” balances the pulse of the dancefloor with stark shimmering synths. It floats somewhere between the spaciest ambient techno and the most carnal dancehall, traced with Kelela’s uniquely sleek sense of restraint. In 2013 and 2017 her music sounded like the future, and in 2022, it still does.
From RAVEN, out February 10 via Warp
Weyes Blood – “God Turn Me Into a Flower”
Natalie Mering’s beautifully apocalyptic new album And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow is out now, but before we dive into the album as a whole, one more Essential Track to savor. “God Turn Me Into a Flower” is a slow-burning ballad that takes on the Narcissus myth via atmospheric synthesizers and warnings of the “curse of losing yourself when the mirror takes you too far.” It’s much starker than many of Weyes Blood’s more richly orchestrated art-pop anthems, and as a result it showcases just how formidable a singer Mering truly is, a moment that stands apart as one of her greatest performances as a knockout vocalist.
From And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, out now via Sub Pop
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.