For quite awhile now I’ve been publishing a list of my favorite albums released by Connecticut artists. I do this as a way to celebrate what I think is an absolutely stellar music scene here in my home state. In four of the previous five years I’ve been lucky enough to have this list show up in the Hartford Courant and on their website. While that’s obviously not the case this year, it certainly doesn’t diminish my love for these records and my desire to scream from the highest rooftops possible about them.
Two caveats about this list: First, these are my personal favorites and I’m positive there are records out there that I simply haven’t heard yet that I’ll be kicking myself at some point down the road for not including. Second, in the interest of time I stuck to full-length albums only. (Trust me, there are a ton of great EPs you should check out too.)
With that said I present to you The Metal Dad’s Top Connecticut Albums of 2022 (in non-proper alphabetical order).
Afghan Haze – Hallucinations of a Heretic
If you read our metal albums year end list then you already know how highly I think of this record as it cracked our top 20. (That would be in the vast world of heavy metal, not just local acts.) This is one that the average music fan is going to find too aggressive, too violent, and too vitriolic…which is exactly what I love about it. It’s a pummeling record and one that I hope helps this band gain the national acclaim they deserve.
American Thrills – Parted Ways
While I have historically preferred my punk rock to have a crusty/metal/hardcore edge to it, I’m a sucker for a catchy pop punk record and American Thrills delivered one of the best I’ve heard in quite some time. This is a high-energy affair where you’ll be humming bars and singing choruses for days after the record stops spinning. Fans of old-school acts like Sunny Day Real Estate, Lifetime, and Avail will find a lot to love with this record.
Andy Wakeman – Old Soul
It’s been a hot minutes since we’ve heard from singer-songwriter Andy Wakeman. After a run of pair of four EPs between 2012 and 2016 Wakeman fell virtually silent until about a month ago when he somewhat quietly dropped a full-length album. The album’s title is apropos of Wakeman’s sound as he draws from folk, pop, and indie sensibilities to carve out an album that’s full of warm moment and feels like it’s been with you a lot longer than a few weeks.
The Bargain – ’22
What do you get when three amazing and prolific songwriters decide to expand their sound and add a full backing band on their newest album? You get the new long-player from New Haven’s The Bargain. Frank Critelli, Shandy Lawson, and Muddy Rivers were already a ridiculously amazing combo, but when you allow them to get into the studio and spread their wings like eagles over their prey it’s downright deadly. After their debut release it was hard to imagine this band getting better and better on every album, yet here they are doing it again. Fans of Americana music that’s not afraid to dip its toes into the sandbox where rock, country, and pop all play along should be all over this record.
Butter Jones – Butter Jones
This is one of a few albums on this list that prove no matter how involved you are with a local scene you’ll never know every single fish that swims in this deep, dark sea. Hat tip to my friends at The Local Bands Show for turning me on to the new album from Butter Jones. Blending folk, country, rock, and a dash of jam band aesthetics, Butter Jones create harmonic, folksy music that at certain points sounds like it was hand-delivered from the 1970s, and for fans of the radio-friendly music of that decade that’s a very good thing.
Christopher Cavaliere – Big Wheel
I’ve been slightly obsessed with the solo output of Bridgeport musician Christopher Cavaliere for quite some time now, and since his 2019 full-length he’s dropped a series of releases that have grown more and more mind-blowing. His most recent album, Big Wheel, is an amalgamation of indie rock/pop and experimental folk that, more often than not, defies the normal conventions of the genres in which its rooted. Cavaliere is one of the rare breed of musicians who can successfully write a traditional tune that could be featured in the next blockbuster film or Netflix series, only to make a left turn and get a little weird with it, sometimes all in the same track.
Heather McLarney – Ghosts and Shadows
If you know me then you know I’ve been singing this album’s praises since its release. After teasing us with a series of singles last year Hartford-based singer-songwriter Heather McLarney finally dropped her debut album back in April. It was absolutely worth the wait. Few folk-based artists can also capture the essence of a great indie pop song the way McLarney can. Catchy and poignant songs fill this album front to back as McLarney’s vocals absolutely soar.
In Trine – Lay It Down
In Trine is the new moniker of a trio of angelic voices who have been performing live together for over a decade – Cynthia Wolcott, Michelle Begley, and former CT State Troubadour Kate Callahan. Callahan has been knocking it our of the park with her brand of indie folk for as long as I can remember, and across several releases, but some of her most memorable live performances have come with Wolcott and Begley flanking her. So it only makes sense to get those fantastic harmonies on record, and that’s exactly what they did. Callahan on her own is worth the price of admission but having her partners in crime join in on the fun makes this one extra special.
John Spignesi Band – Roots
Normally if you were to catch this three piece live they would absolutely blow you away with a powerful array of blues and rock that could fill a room to the brim (as I witnessed first hand at the Glastonbury Apple Harvest & Music Festival). So when I was tipped off that they decided to put out an all acoustic album I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got was an album steeped in Americana and folk traditions while still somehow maintaining their bluesy rock ‘n’ roll edge. What looked at first glance like a passion piece for longtime enthusiasts is actually a must own for even those getting their first taste of JSB.
Julai and the Serotones – Julai and the Serotones
Another fantastic act to come soaring out of the rich Bridgeport scene, Julai and the Serotones are the true definition of a ‘full band’. This octet is fronted by powerhouse lead vocalist Julai and filled out by a traditional rock band arrangement and a fantastic horns section. Funk, soul, and rock all collide on this record in glorious bombast, and if this band doesn’t have you up and moving by the end of the record you should probably check yourself for a pulse.
Low Ceilings – Catch The Apathy
One of my favorite local bands over the last few years is indie rock outfit Low Ceilings. Their brand of poppy indie rock is infused with a folk edge that really separates them from a crowded and talented indie Connecticut scene (and nothing showcases that better than their rollicking version of a Pete Seeger track on this album). Catch The Apathy might be their catchiest record yet (pun intended I suppose) as there are more hooks on this release to drag you along for the ride than you’ll know what to do with. The description on their Bandcamp page talks about being able to write sad songs in major keys and I couldn’t be more here for it.
Miles Elliot – Midnight Hour
Can I be perfectly honest with you dear reader? I’m not a jazz guy. Outside of some select jazz noir albums/artists it’s not a genre I usually reach for. So when I tell you that a jazz record connected with me you should take that on good faith. Hartford-area artist Miles Elliot has been fronting his own namesake act, as well as playing with several others, for quite a bit now and earlier this year he dropped his best album to date. Midnight Hour is a soulful jazz record that constantly bucks conventional jazz set ups to dip into funk, R&B, and even hip-hop territory. Fans of all the aforementioned genres will find a lot to love here.
Plywood Cowboy – Green Grass
While I might not be a jazz guy I am most certainly a country/bluegrass guy and one of the best country/bluegrass hybrids to come out of CT over the last decade is Plywood Cowboy. This is an act that somehow manages to throw in the occasional pop aesthetic into their songwriting without dumbing down their sound or trying to shine any of the proverbial sawdust off of it. This band is living proof that Americana music can be accessible to anyone who likes great stories and solid songs without having to resort to writing mainstream country garbage. It also helps that Green Grass may just be their best record to date.
Ponybird/We Are Bison – Deep Meats I
New Haven musician Jennifer Dauphinais has always marched to the beat of their own drummer and we are all better for it, even if we may not realize it. Their Ponybird project has been one of Connecticut’s best musical exports for well over a decade now, delivering songs and albums of deliciously beautiful and ethereal Americana. In 2021 Dauphinais unleashed We Are Bison, a pop/electronic/darkwave act that delivered one of the best EPs of the year. 2022 saw a merging of the two acts with a co-release, Deep Meats I. It’s a distinctly psychedelic album, yet still manages to capture the Ponybird essence at its core. Easily one of the most interesting and unique albums of the year.
Riley Cotton – A House With Blue Siding
I’ve told this story to anyone who would listen but at the start of 2022 I had no idea who Riley Cotton was, and as I sit here and type this at the end of the calendar I now count them as one of my favorite artists in the world. Thanks to Tracy Walton from On Deck Studios for sending me a Facebook message with a sound clip and the caption “I think you’ll love this”. You were very right Tracy. I do. Cotton is an old soul type of songwriter whose songs and performance are able to cross space and time to touch that part of your brain where love, loss, happiness, and longing all co-exist. These songs feel like your favorite old blanket and you just want to wrap yourselves up in them and breathe them in.
Seth Adam – Fits and Starts and Stops
New Haven singer-songwriter Seth Adam has been at this game for a long time now. He’s toured the country, put out multiple fantastic albums, and currently plays a prolific number of shows throughout the Northeast. But I’m here to tell you that Adam continues to best himself, and his fourth full-length album may just be his best to date. Filled with rollicking and topical Americana tunes that paint vivid pictures and tell timely stories these songs should absolutely find a home on anyone’s “best folk rock mix tape”.
Shandy Lawson – Crown Street Kings
New Haven’s Shandy Lawson was a busy guy this year. Besides forming one-third of the exceptional The Bargain, Lawson dropped a solo record over the summer as well. While a lot of singer-songwriters will hide behind ‘folk’ and ‘Americana’ labels this album at least feels unabashedly country. There are obvious influences present here from all along the Americana pantheon, but Lawson seems most at home when his songs are kicking up dust on a back road somewhere. If your blue jeans have a hole in the knee and your boots are worn and scuffed then this album might be right up your alley.
Simone Marie – Entwined
When Simone Marie released their debut EP just prior to the pandemic it was filled with the promise of more fantastic music to come, which Marie delivered on earlier this year with her debut full-length album. Entwined is an album that drifts between classic R&B aesthetics and pop sensibilities. Marie has written a record with one foot seemingly planted in the mid-to-late ’60s, and her group of rocking session players have helped execute it to absolute perfection.
Stephen Peter Rodgers – Speck On A Clover
Going back to his days long ago fronting rock act Mighty Purple, Stephen Peter Rodgers is something of a local legend here in Connecticut music circles. After a self-imposed hiatus from the music scene Rodgers returned in 2019 with an excellent solo effort. Having Rodgers back active in the local scene was a blessing and we were all rewarded for it again this year when Rodgers dropped his follow-up record, Speck On A Clover. Cinematic indie rock mixes with angular rock and experimental folk to create an album that is wholly unique.
Tiny Ocean – Shot By My Arrow
One of my most anticipated CT albums this year was the newest from alt-Americana act Tiny Ocean. It had been four years since their previous album, and for various reasons that felt like decades. Shot By My Arrow is yet another album filled with lush, memorable songs that wax and wane between rustic warmth and psyche folk leanings. Songwriter Kierstin Sieser has proven once again that she’s one of the best in the state.
Charlie Diamond – From One Place to the Next
Kerri Powers – Words on the Wind
Nathaniel Hintz – Pass The Gospel