Everyone wants to be heard. This statement applies to children and adults, across every occupation, and all aspects of our lives. It definitely is relevant to music, where millions of individuals across the world are pouring their hearts and souls into what may end up being just a 4-minute product. Many, though, will not be heard because of the stranglehold that a few individuals have on mainstream radio. The effects of the global pandemic also have added further challenges for artists and bands to tour and broaden their reach. This is why we remain committed to showcasing the exceptional talent that exists under the radar, hoping that we can do our part to spread the word. This brings us to our favorite year-end list – 20 Favorite Hidden Gems of 2022.
This category features artists and bands who have yet to achieve massive stardom. Some have launched their projects this year. Others, meanwhile, have been around for nearly a decade, but only recently have they gained traction with a broader audience. Our previous lists have included Soccer Mommy, Nadia Reid, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Ninet Tayeb, The Regrettes, Sjowgren, and Bedouine. So who on this year’s edition will break out in 2023 or later? Let’s hope all of them.
Please note that other artists and bands considered for this list will be acknowledged in other categories, such as Favorite EP or album or as an Artist to Watch in 2023.
Annie Hamilton (Australia)
The title of Annie Hamilton‘s debut album perfectly describes why she kicks off our list of Favorite Hidden Gems – the future is here but it feels kinda like the past. She is the future of the Australian music scene, and she’s doing it by channeling the music of yesteryear. Specifically, the Sydney-based artist is a throwback to the ’90s and early ’00s, combining the dreaminess and intimacy of The Sundays with the electrical shoegaze of the Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The Raveonettes. Listening to her music is like an endless and unforgettable dream. It is pure escapism that is ethereal in its effect and brilliant in its execution.
For over four years, AUS!funkt hovered under the radar, even in their hometown of Toronto. 2022, however, saw Miroslav Miskovic (a.k.a. Jozzef Ladovina), Evan Henderson, Olivia Korwan, and Hugo Frutuoso take a step towards the spotlight, as their mind-boggling concoction of leftfield, alt-electronica, post-punk, coldwave, disco, funk, and art-rock began to take hold. In other words, they are like LCD Soundsystem on steroids, and this was evidenced on their latest EP, Turn to Rust. So if you’re looking for music to play on New Year’s Eve or need to wake up the relatives after indulging all day, head to Bandcamp and spin the foursome’s discography. They’ll wake up everyone within shouting distance – and probably the whole neighborhood.
Bells Larsen (Canada)
Toronto’s Bells Larsen first graced our ears in June when they released “Double Aquarius”. Larsen’s songwriting stuck out instantly, engaging listeners by referencing Sufjan Stevens and Glee. It was even more prominent on the follow-up single “People Who Mean So Much To Me”. That song truly is one of the year’s finest singles, as Larsen sings about life’s unbreakable connections – both the ones we have and cherish and the ones we’re still yet to make. These tracks are on Larsen’s debut record, Good Grief, which stands out as one of the year’s best debuts. Good Grief really strikes all the right chords: it’s heartbreaking one moment, then heartwarming another. There’s so much about Bells Larsen’s sound and songwriting that it’s exciting to think what may come next for them.
Toronto-based alt-folk quartet, Burs released their debut record, Holding Patterns, at the end of September. Lauren Dillen (vocal, guitar), Ray Goudy (guitar, vocal), Devon Savas (bass), and Oliver Compton (drums) worked on the record for three years, painstakingly crafting an emotional and powerful effort. From the slow-burners like “Lily, which took us for a ride, to the delicate acoustic guitar numbers like “Hunger” that strike right at the heart, Holding Patterns has all the ingredients of an indie classic. Whether it’s about the defeating realities of everyday life or the frustration of a dead-end relationship, Burs capture those sentiments in a way that reverberates through the soul. Even at its most bleak and defeated, there is a warmth throughout the LP, from its gorgeous harmonies to soaring instrumental sections. There’s just so much for these four to build on and hopefully it’s not three years until the next one.
Few bands made us gasp like English outfit Crake, who time and time again awed us. This effect was not merely for a couple of songs, but an entire album. Rowan Sandle (acoustic guitar, vocals), Russell Searle (electric guitar, piano), Rob Slater (drums, backing vocals), and Sarah Statham’s (bass, backing vocals) debut LP, Human’s Worst Habits, is stunning. With Sandle’s unique yet embracing voice, her fabulous songwriting, and a spellbinding indie-folk approach, the Leeds- and London-based quartet delivered a record as poignant and beautiful as anything that Big Thief has done. One day soon, they will be celebrated and adored like the Brooklyn titans, where people will be singing along to songs like “Bobbie” and “Rabbit” or listlessly swaying with tears in their eyes to “Amy & Ty” and “Ty & Amy”. This is the effect this great little band has on listeners. This is the power of a band on the rise.
Disq (United States)
For more than half-a-decade, Disq were Wisconsin’s biggest music secret. That changed this year, as Raina Bock (bass, vocals), Isaac deBroux-Slone (guitar, vocals), Shannon Connor (guitar, keys, vocals), Logan Severson (guitar, vocals), and Brendan Manley (drums) gained significant traction across the globe on the strength of their outstanding third album, Desperately Imagining Someplace Quiet. What made the LP great was its unpredictability. In one instance, the quartet would unleash a classic ’90s indie-rocker, and then the next track would be herky-jerky art-rock or adrenaline-inducing post-punk. Despite the varied approach, most of their songs were dance-worthy – or at least catchy enough to do a slow groove. Kind of sounds a bit like Talking Heads and David Byrne, to which would not be a stretch to compare this awesome band.
Punk can be quite heavy, stark, harrowing, or explosive. In the hands of Dumb, though, it is turned into something that is completely quirky, fun, catchy, and arty. The Vancouver foursome of Franco Rossino (guitar, vocals), Shelby Vredik (bass), Nick Short (guitar), and Pipé Morelli (drums) are essentially Canada’s answer to Parquet Courts, finding ways to make the mundane amusing and the typical atypical. This description also applies to the stories they tell on Pray 4 Tomorrow, which range from wallowing in self-pity to obsessively watching one’s phone to critiquing the mind-numbing 9-to-5 routine. They share these tales with wit and humor because sometimes the only way to get through the day is to laugh at ourselves. And laugh we did alongside these future stars.
elison (United States)
It wasn’t very long ago when bands tried to emulate Azure Ray and their gorgeous approach on dream-pop. Few, however, succeeded, and the trend eventually dissipated. In Marissa Kephart and Scott Yoshimura’s project elison, however, we have found a duo that could one day lay claim as the heirs to Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor. They made our hearts flutter with “Little Lies”, had us stare into the darkness with the grunge-touched “Covered Me”, and examined life’s endless dichotomies and ironies on the bubbly “Fruit Flies”. All that prevents the duo from reaching lofty heights is an album, which should come in 2023 or 2024. Or at least we hope it is because the duo’s music is simply magical.
Girl Scout (Sweden)
Before they released their first single in September, Emma Jansson (guitar, vocals), Evelina Arvidsson Eklind (bass, vocals), Per Lindberg (drums), and Viktor Spasov (guitar) already were making a name for themselves as Girl Scout. When they dropped “Do You Remember Sally More?”, they were no longer Stockholm’s best kept secret, but now another example of a great band emerging from this underrated music city. That first single was full of raucous energy, and it could easily be pictured being played in a high school somewhere. Their second single, “All The Time and Everywhere”, built on that formula with a more introspective tone. It really feels like just a matter of time before Girl Scout becomes a name we see everywhere and associated with outrageously good music.
The band’s debut EP is expected early in 2023 via on Made Records. Expect Girl Scout to be the new year’s Wet Leg.
Hannah Schneider (Denmark)
Scandinavia is home to some of the most creative geniuses on the planet. Björk, Agnes Obel, Jenny Hval, and Sleep Party People call northern Europe home. They also are known as innovators, as being several steps ahead of everyone else. Another name that should be included on this list is Hannah Schneider, the Copenhagen-based artist who first piqued ears in 2012 with Me v. I and again in 2014 with Red Lines. She then went on hiatus, returning only this year with the gripping Ocean Letters. The album was enchanting. It blended solemn folklore with breathtaking cinema as well as weaved tranquil trip-hop with hushed piano ballads. The LP was undeniably the work of a masterful artist, who is able to paint beautiful scenes with sound. An artist who makes you pause and stare at the masterpieces floating in one’s mind.
Horsegirl (United States)
While high school band Horsegirl first caught our ears late in 2021, they blew us away in 2022 with their mixture of grunge, grunge-gaze, post-punk, and alt-rock. Penelope Lowenstein (guitar, vocals), Gigi Reece (drums), and Nora Cheng (guitar, bass, vocals) basically are the amalgamation of Nirvana, Hole, Pearl Jam, Garbage, Soundgarden, My Bloody Valentine, and Veruca Salt. They showcased their retro gifts on their awesome debut album, Versions of Modern Performance, which in another time would be the most talked about LP of the year. Despite their youthful age, the trio from Chicago didn’t confine themselves to the trials and tribulations of Gen Zers, but also tackled what it means to be human in the digital age. It seems appropriate that a young, intelligent band would address such a relevant subject. Given their talents and potential, expect to see the band headline their own shows within the next two years.
Lizzie Reid (Scotland)
In this golden era of the singer-songwriter, a name that could one day grace the upper echelons and become the standard to which future artists are compared is Lizzie Reid. The Glaswegian is not the typical singer-songwriter, as her music is wide-ranging. The best way to describe Reid is that her mind operates with the imagination of Thom Yorke but her voice and words possess the warmth and intimacy of Laura Marling. So even on a solemn ballad like “Love of Her Life” or the folksy “Bible”, she startles by adding unexpected flourishes and knee-buckling lyricism. Her sophomore EP, Mooching, for that matter, is littered with surprises. But then again, we should not be surprised that an artist compared to two musical heavyweights finds ways to astound.
Pick up Mooching on Bandcamp.
Music is not just entertainment, but it is an experience. In its most extravagant form, it is an event. The best songs trigger memories, take us to otherworldly places, and cause us to contemplate our purpose. These effects do not need to take place in a live setting; they also can occur in the comforts of our homes. This is what makes Mastergrief an extraordinary band. Their brand of post-rock and art-rock is epic and cinematic. Joachim Setlik, Matthias Gusset, Alon Ben, and Raphael Scheiwiller, for instance, headed to the far reaches of the galaxy on “Asterion” while had us swirling through the atmosphere on the breathtaking “Gooey”. In between these places, their exquisite debut album, Fey, traversed, and every track causing all to pause for a moment and take a deep breath. To take a deep breath because their music is an event.
Midnight Rodeo (England)
Most “super-groups” are temporary since the artists involved still are focused on their primary projects. For instance, the world is waiting for Gayngs’ second album, and Monsters of Folk have long teased about a collaboration. Here’s hoping Midnight Rodeo buck the trend because this super-group from Nottingham is creating desert, psychedelic rock with the hues of ’60s and ’70s cinema. And it’s awesome. Comprised of members from bands from around Nottingham (specifically, Sancho Panza, Cherry Hex And The Dream Church, Jiminil, The Hijinks and Orton), the collective have made technicolor sound ultra-cool again, and they’ve done it in a variety of ways – the hazy hallucination of “Now You’re Gone”, “The Big Melt” resembled an urgent ride towards the sunset, while the “Shootout Sunday” was made for the Wild West.
At this moment, Maddy Chamberlain (vocals, tambourine), James McBride (guitar, vocals), William Crumpton (guitar, vocals), Harry Taylor (bass), Ferg Moran (drums), and Sam Potts (keys, synths) promise that more music is coming, as their debut album is expected in the new year via FatCat Records. Let’s hope these songs and the LP are just the start of something extremely special and that is enduring.
Back in 2019, Moonpools released a fantastic little EP called, Turbulent Times. Lush, warm, and diverse dream-pop underscored insightful and relatable lyricism. The record launched the quintet into the national spotlight with their music regularly featured on Swiss radio. Fast-forward to 2022, and Marcie Nyffeler (vocals, guitar), Jasper Nyffeler (drums), Francesco Vona (keyboard), Matthias Gusset (guitar), and David Blum’s (bass) sophomore EP, Damaged Goods, have been one of the most talked-about bands in Central and Northern Europe and for good reason. Their newest record saw them resurrect the chest-swelling dreaminess of The Sunday and Slowdive and, thus, offer some of the most breathtaking dream-pop and dreamgaze on the planet. Songs like “Damaged Goods”, “Feel”, and “Secret” would be radio hits if the year was 1991. In the meantime, they’re Switzerland’s national treasure but only temporarily so.
Phoebe Go (Australia)
When we first heard “We Don’t Talk” in May, we knew Melbourne-based Phoebe Lou – or known by her stage moniker, Phoebe Go – was making this list. An incredible first solo release left a hell of a first impression. And since then, she’s released music that’s even more gorgeous, spellbinding and intricate. Go’s voice is perfectly suited for her brand of indie-folk, especially in the way it can evoke so much emotion out of listeners with just the slightest of changes. Then there are tracks like “The Kid”, which is an incredible dance between styles with some fantastic, hypnotic guitar work that builds to an immersive dreamscape. All that tied up with some intelligent and powerful songwriting means Lou will be a force among some of the best songwriters Melbourne has to offer. And she’s about to be known around the world.
Lou’s debut EP, Player, is available on Bandcamp.
ROE (Northern Ireland)
There’s something about the music of ROE‘s Roisin Donald that forms an intense connection with anyone who listens. On her debut record, That’s When The Panic Sets In, Donald manages to capture constant internal struggles in ways that resonate far beyond just herself. The record has a diverse sound to it – infectious indie rockers and spellbinding ballads – that it may sound like a disjointed record, especially knowing it was originally released in two halves. However, that’s where Donald’s artistry truly shines, all of these moving and diverse parts seamlessly came together, leading to a coherent and brilliant record that immediately presents ROE as a star.
That’s When The Panic Sets In is available on Bandcamp.
Scout Gillett (United States)
Scout Gillett‘s music is reminiscent of the early days of some of the biggest superstar songwriters right now. In April, Gillett released a short EP that featured mostly covers, including a haunting rendition of “Midnight Cowboy”. Later in the year, she released her spellbinding full-length debut, no roof no floor. A Kansas City native, Gillett has found a home in Brooklyn, and both of those places play a large part in her music without painting rosy pictures of either. There’s a reality and grit in each of Gillet’s songs even if she’s creating something danceable, intense, or dreamy. It’s a dynamic that fits the singer-songwriter so well, as a new face of Brooklyn indie-rock / folk-rock and a former Missouri punk rocker.
Sister Ray (Canada)
We first heard Toronto-via-Edmonton Métis singer-songwriter Ella Coyes, who goes by the moniker Sister Ray, in January. Almost a full year later, and the power of “Crucified” continues to strike multiple chords with us. Coyes added depth to Sister Ray’s sound with “Visions”, and that development came together with one of the year’s finest debut records, Communion. Through the record’s ten tracks, Coyes channels as many emotions as they do musical styles. At times, their voice carries a heft over some pristine piano and acoustic guitars. Then on tracks like “Reputations”, a poppier side to Sister Ray can be heard. The record is rewarding with every listen, and it’s a testament to Sister Ray’s ability to engage users constantly and create depth to their sound that it’s easy to jump in and find even more.
Sister Wives (England & Wales)
Much can be deciphered in a band’s name and the titles chosen for their albums and songs. By calling their project Sister Wives, Donna Lee (vocals, keys, synths), Rose Love (vocals, bass), Liv Willars (vocals, guitar), Lisa O‘Hara’s (vocals, drums) made it immediately apparent that they are not making radio-friendly music. On the contrary, they are here to provoke, using their voices and platform to raise awareness about critical social and political issues. Their debut album, Y Gawres, which means “The Giantess” in Welsh, was not merely a critique of archaic, patriarchal structures; it literally took a wrecking ball and aimed to demolish them. The LP was edgy and powerful, featuring explosive riot grrrl and mind-bending psychedelic rock. The songwriting was stellar, combining mythical and folklore notions and applying them to the present day. And maybe one day, this UK quartet also will be immortalized – recognized as one of the great bands to emerge in 2022.
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