It looks like 2022 might come with more time than we’d like to explore new musicians. Luckily, NPR Music’s partner stations have already selected a crop of artists ready for you to discover. Some have been honing their crafts for ages, while others released their first project just this past year. Regardless of their time on the scene, this year’s list is full of artists ready to accomplish great things in 2022.
Black Country, New Road
Proven with its refreshing debut album, For The First Time released last February, Black Country, New Road has promise. The experimental English rock group is like if Steven Reich fronted a band that played in small clubs instead of philharmonics. “Bread Song” sprawls over six minutes, a no-chorus harmonic tour-de-force about, among other things, eating a sandwich in bed. I anticipate the group’s forthcoming album, Ants From Up There, will become one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2022. —Justin Barney, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee
Sam Houston, the creative mind behind BLK ODYSSY, hails from a line of P-Funk collaborators; Houston’s father and uncle toured with the psychedelic collective in the ’70s, and George Clinton was a close family friend. The funk is in Houston’s blood, but his is haunted.
In 2020, the police killing of George Floyd exhumed Houston’s trauma surrounding his own brother’s murder. Compulsive self-reflection resulted in the creation and release of Houston’s debut album, BLK VINTAGE. Houston’s album warps the Mothership through shadowed space, but P-Funk’s sound is no stranger to the darkness (just listen to Eddie Hazel’s guitar in Maggot Brain’s title track.) The Mothership is salvation and deliverance from the earthbound tragedies we endure, and, like the funk that came before it, BLK ODYSSY will take those willing to board on a trip to new worlds. —Ryan Wen, KUTX
Whether singer-songwriter Casii Stephan is singing about pain, love, loss or social justice, her gorgeously emotive voice inspires comparisons to alt-pop artists like Florence Welch and Fiona Apple with a writing style reminiscent of Carole King.
Her forthcoming single, “Already Gone,” is an anthem against domestic violence; “I wanted to write a song where, as a woman, you realize your worth isn’t tied up in another person’s affection. As a person you are worthy without having to prove your love to somebody,” she says.
COVID-19 permitting, Stephan plans to take her songs on the road with some regional and national dates in 2022. —Julie Watson, Live from Cain’s
Gabriels, an L.A.-based collective with deep roots in the local gospel community, taps into elemental interior feelings to craft core-shaking music. Even when it’s riffing on a tune as familiar as the Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You” — as the group does in its 2020 breakout single “In Loving Memory” — Gabriels brings a heft to proceedings that stops short of becoming unnerving. With the promise of a full-length project in 2022, I anticipate the bond between the band and its audience will only grow stronger. —Marion Hodges, KCRW
After a six-month stint as an exchange student in Amsterdam, pianist Micah Graves returned home with a passion to write music. Graves’ musical foundation has roots in several of the same programs that assisted in the early development of Christian McBride, Joey DeFrancesco, Justin Faulkner, Immanuel Wilkins and many more.
With an aggressive recording schedule, the 23-year-old Philadelphia artist has released three impressive projects in less than a year, including his sublime, genre-blending record Pawns. In 2022, his discography is slated to double. Two of his new works will feature original compositions and his other project will pay homage to jazz standards. —J. Michael Harrison, WRTI
In 2021, Minneapolis-based artist Miloe re-recorded and released his song “Winona,” this time around with features from Jamila Woods and Vagabon. Original hooks intact, the new version adds transcendent production elements. Be on the lookout for a new full-length album this year. —Brian Burns, WUNC
If you like unforgettable riffs, you’ll love Momma. If you like real hooks, you’ll love the N.Y.-based indie rock duo. Elements of Sonic Youth, The Breeders, Veruca Salt and Smashing Pumpkins shine through in Momma’s music. While there’s a clear nod to the past, Momma focuses on the here and now. —Russ Borris, WFUV
Made up of Mexican expats – Portland-based multi-instrumentalist Fabi Reyna and producer Sumohair – Reyna Tropical fuses Afro-Latin rhythms, Mexican and Colombian cumbia and psychedelic rock influences to create a sonic palette that is as beautiful as it is original. —Jerad Walker, Oregon Public Broadcasting
Sammy Rae & the Friends
Sammy Rae & the Friends consider themselves a familial collective of dreamers and artists. Thanks to the group’s debut album, Let’s Throw A Party, the family continues to grow in unprecedented ways. Influences ranging from classic rock to Latin-tinged soul are sweetly distilled through the band’s high-energy live shows. We anticipate these tunes will be buzzing in the ears of many music lovers by the time the group makes it to Mountain Stage this summer. —Adam Harris, Mountain Stage
In her single “Moves,” Suki Waterhouse name-checks Detroit’s revered and reigning rock queen, Suzi Quatro. The confessional gem, with its feathery build and instant hook, was a breakthrough for the rising UK songwriter, hooking unsuspecting pop enthusiasts and intrepid musical adventurers alike.
Add to the mix her vocal style – calling to mind the exquisite tones of Elizabeth Fraser or Hope Sandoval – and a solid collection of early work that caught the ear of Sub Pop, and you’ve got a welcome addition to your 2022 playlist. —Gini Mascorro, KXT
The Lazy Eyes
Early Tame Impala and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are clear sonic references for The Lazy Eyes. While the four-piece Australian band says that it’s hard to not wear your influences on your sleeve, tracks like “Fuzz Jam” have many of us excited to hear where the group takes psych rock on its full-length debut, out later this year. —Jason Thomas, KVOQ
Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno
Vivian Leva hails from Lexington, Va., and was raised in the old-time tradition; her parents are acclaimed roots musicians who perform as the duo Jones and Leva. She first met The Onlies’ Riley Calcagno at a music camp in the Pacific Northwest. The pair began a long-distance collaboration, resulting in their first official release in early 2021. —Desiré Moses, WNRN
Yard Act will be 2022’s breakthrough English post-punk artist. The band nails the bristle and bombast, biting humor and timely politics of Fontaines D.C. and IDLES, and builds on it with head-bobbing beats and catchy hooks for TikTok audiences. After hearing “The Overload” on WNXP, Michael Grimes of Grimey’s Records and the Basement venues in Nashville wrote this apt comparison: “Damn! It’s like The Fall meets The Streets.” —Jason Wilkins, WNXP