2022 was a very interesting year for music. Of course, we had all of these massive releases from major label artists like Beyonce’s Renaissance, Taylor Swift’s Midnights, Bad Bunny’s album Un Verano Sin Ti, just these big massive records. But around the world, many smaller, underground artists and scenes thrived this year as well. Hip-hop was really strong this year with albums from billy woods and Fatboi Sharif. We also got the first Black Star album in over two decades. 2022 was also a fantastic year for club music with albums like Honey Dijon’s Black Girl Magic. A ton of dope new jazz records and reissues came out this year too. Despite the specter of COVID still hanging above our heads, impacting lives and upending every aspect of the music industry from touring to vinyl pressing, 2022 was still a really colorful, diverse year for music. As always, Philly’s music scene has plugged on with local acts turning out some fantastic releases irrespective of genre. In an effort to celebrate 2022 as a standout year for Philly music, I wanted to highlight five sleeper releases from local artists that may not have gotten the most press or attention.
Sonic Liberation Front – Justice: The Vocal Works of Oliver Lake
Justice – The Vocal Works of Oliver Lake is a magnificent collaboration from West Philly jazz stalwarts, Sonic Liberation Front and Arkansas-born saxophonist and composer, Oliver Lake. Having worked with everyone from James Blood Ulmer to Bjork, Lake is one of the great living experimentalists in jazz. By interpreting Lake’s vocal compositions, Sonic Liberation Front has given us an album that is playful, creative and deeply spiritual. Justice – The Vocal Works of Oliver Lake is a profound exploration of the power of humanity’s oldest instrument.
Truck North – Farmacia (Quick Tape III)
2022 has been an absurdly productive year for Philly-born lyricist, Truck North. This year he gave us three sprawling, ambitious albums, Tijuana Bible, Where The Wolf Lives and Feast Of Violence. If that wasn’t enough, this year, Truck North also dropped Farmacia (Quick Tape III), a fly and fully realized mixtape of tunes that ranked amongst my favorites of 2022. From the swaggering, horn-led “New Danger” to the lush, quiet-storm-referencing anthem “WDAS,” Truck North marries top-tier lyricism with lush beats
Helsinki Headnod Convention – Remixes of Mindfuckfulness for Self-helpless Cognitive Misers
Released on DJ Junior’s Record Breakin’ label, Remixes of Mindfuckfulness for Self-helpless Cognitive Misers features some fresh takes on tunes by the Finnish jazz/hip hop/soul collective, Helsinki Headnod Convention. Although the album features producers from all over, there’s some heavy representation from a handful of Philly’s finest dance music producers, solidifying their global reach and appeal. Deep Black Society checks in with a blissful Techno remix of “Men Against Fire,” while Lil Dave’s “Roslingian Aspect” remix is a funky slice of Afro-Broken Beat. Particle Ray’s remix of “Beats Not Beatdowns” is also an impressive standout, opening the album with its gorgeous, Deep House groove.
Burnt Pink – Afterlife Dub
Recorded at the Art Department thrift store in Fishtown, Afterlife Dub is a trippy record that mixes dub, psychedelia and post-rock. A completely improvised instrumental record, Afterlife Dub conjures a rich, immersive sonic environment but it’s not “ambient” music per se. The performances here are engaged and the musicians display a great understanding of space and texture that comes through on each track.
Son Little – Like Neptune
Based on a number of books of personal writing that he composed as a kid, Like Neptune was conceived during a period of introspection during the early days of the COVID pandemic. During this time, Son Little read through more than seventy books of letters written throughout his youth, crafting a set of songs that are deeply personal reflections on life healing and self-actualization. Deeply rooted in intimacy and vulnerability, funky, mid-tempo cuts like “Drummer” sit nicely alongside dreamy soul tunes like “6AM” and the entire album is practically glowing with emotional power.