Especially now that I listen to new music daily, it is easy for me to find something that I will like. The music that tends to stick with me, though, is music that goes outside of what I would usually listen to. Sometimes, that is music that I expected myself not to enjoy or takes a second to click. But when it does, it really clicks. A lot of times, though, I will listen to music that makes me wonder why I wasn’t listening to it already. I want to point out the albums that I listened to this year that made me feel these ways. I always wished that I could find articles like this, because finding ways to get into new genres is something I love to do. Since I started really diving into new music a few years ago, I’ve been too caught up in listening to only experimental or niche music, so listening to more popular genres that I am not used to has been fun and has made it easier for me to connect with more people through music. I do understand, though, that different albums will do that for different people, so these albums may not be for you. Nonetheless, I hope at least someone will listen to one of these albums or EPs and have a genre click in their brains like it did for me. I think all these records are super accessible and most of them have been widely listened to, so if any of them seem interesting to you, give it a listen!
PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation – King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
If any band were to be responsible for getting me into a new genre, it would be King Gizzard. I am a relatively new fan of them, considering they’ve been releasing music for over a decade now, but they’ve easily become my new favorite band over the last year or so. It makes sense that they got my attention so easily because all their music is so different. Each release helps me discover more about a genre I hadn’t listened to before. PetroDragonic Apocalypse is no exception.
This album is the band’s second attempt at a full-length metal album, their first being 2019’s Infest the Rat’s Nest, a space opera thrash metal album. That album wasn’t something I gravitated towards when I first heard it. I love listening to Black Sabbath and other earlier metal bands, but listening to thrash for the first time sounded more like if an entire hard rock song were to be tuned to one note. I previously have listened to more melodic music, so that was a bit of a change. PetroDragonic helped me through that, though. The album is a whole different breed of metal, using a lot more polyrhythms and progressive rock influences. Listening to these complicated tracks made me infinitely more interested in modern metal music, which made me appreciate King Gizz’s previous metal projects much more. The production is also very different than their previous metal album, but fantastic in a whole other way. Cavs’ drumming is on a new level and, while it was great before, has improved in many ways since 2019. I also can’t help but love concept albums, especially one as fantastical as this.
Space Heavy – King Krule
I first listened to Space Heavy two separate times a couple months apart this summer. It didn’t click right away. The slower pace of the album contrasted with the metal drumming that I was getting into at the time. It clicked much easier when I listened to it again earlier this fall, though. A lot of artists that I listen to are inspired by many genres, but all of which are familiar to me. King Krule’s music is somewhat similar to music I already listen to, but with much different influences, giving it a completely unique sound. King Krule pulls from bossa nova, early punk music, jazz, no wave, R&B, and hip hop, all combining to make something that is uniquely King Krule. I’ve been exposed to and love a lot of these genres, but the way King Krule pulls from them and makes something that has its own unique sound is truly special.
Hellmode – Jeff Rosenstock
I’ve never been a big pop-punk listener. I’ve had my Green Day phase, but not much more than that. Pop-punk is a genre that, for the most part, bored me when I listened to it. It was most likely the specific artists I was listening to, but it was very easy for me to hear how a song sounded, and then know exactly where it was going, how the drum fills were going to sound, how the singer was going to sing, etc. In my opinion, the pop-punk I was listening to was, at least musically, predictable, which made for a boring experience, even considering how fast-paced and loud it could be. I don’t mean to hate on anyone’s favorite genre if you like pop-punk, it just never hit close to home to me. Hellmode, though, is special on so many levels. It is a pop-punk album, through and through, and I love it. There is so much emotion and heart put into every second of every song. Even if I don’t relate to all of them, the lyrics are so real and honest and meaningful that they connected with me more than most other albums from this year. Jeff Rosenstock also made so many memorable small moments that stand on their own on this record, it is almost made up completely of them.
Dressed in Trenches – Lifeguard
Lifeguard is a Chicago band that has had me listening to them nonstop since I found them earlier this year. I never got into post-punk or noise rock music until now, but it was very easy to do so after hearing this EP. This is an example of a record that made me think “Why haven’t I been listening to this already?” As soon as I listened for the first time, I was hooked right away.
Lifeguard is only a trio, which makes their music a bit unique to me, not because it is a hindrance to the music, but because the band members interact in a more unique way. No instrument is left behind in the mix; they all seem to take center stage all at once, and the production complements that perfectly. The music is simple in some ways but complicated in other ways, which draws me in even more. This EP has easily made Lifeguard one of my new favorite bands, and I can’t wait to hear new music from them.
Ooh Rap I Ya – George Clanton
This is another record that I loved as soon as I first heard it, which made me happy, but also disappointed that I didn’t start listening to George Clanton earlier. I had heard of George and his vaporwave inspired music a few years back, but never thought to give it a try. His album Slide is one that came out at that time and is an album that I would have loved when it came out. I wasn’t a fan at that time, but at least I was here for the release of Ooh Rap I Ya. His music has elements of vaporwave, electronica, and oftentimes breakbeat. George Clanton is different than previous artists who made similar music, though, by the way he makes his records feel more cohesive, personal, and meaningful.
George Clanton made me feel nostalgic for a time that I wasn’t even alive for on this record. It’s impressive that he can make albums that are so new and unique to him for a genre that I think a lot of people assume has run its course in the music world. Ooh Rap I Ya has a more specific sound that he is calling back to than in his previous records. It’s a sound that I wasn’t around to hear when it was mainstream, so I’m glad to be here while George Clanton is keeping it relevant in popular music.