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5 Essential Power Pop Albums From 2022: Dazy, Young Guv, The Beths & More
Molly Rankin and Kerri MacLellan of Alvvays perform in London

Photo: Lorne Thomson/Redferns

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5 Essential Power Pop Albums From 2022: Dazy, Young Guv, The Beths & More

The beauty of well-executed power pop is how effortless it can sound, and as this year's releases have proven, even a song that clocks in under 2 minutes can make a long-lasting impact.

GRAMMYs/Dec 22, 2022 - 10:32 pm

Power pop may not necessarily be a genre en vogue, but there is something admirable about an artist who devotes their energy to crafting the perfect pop song with nothing but a guitar and a story to tell.

Like many things in music, its origins start with the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, and the Kinks. While the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cream and Jimi Hendrix were pushing the limits (and volume) of the delta blues, power pop upstarts like the Raspberries and Badfinger were trying their best to recapture the sound of Beatlemania. Cheap Trick, whose shows received Beatle-like hysteria abroad, brought power pop to the masses with songs like "Dream Police," "Surrender," and of course their effervescent jam "I Want You to Want Me."

But it was singer/songwriter Alex Chilton and his band Big Star who have remained power pop’s heroes. The band’s first two albums — #1 Record and Radio City — are considered cult classics in the genre. Chilton had a knack for writing catchy, danceable rock songs like  "September Gurls," "When My Baby’s Beside Me," and "In the Street," while at the same time delivering gentler ballads like "I’m In Love With A Girl" or "Thirteen" with the lovesick sincerity of a teenager with a crush.

Their music would go on to influence countless bands, many of whom had commercial success Big Star could only dream of. From Nick Lowe to the Cars, the Bangles to R.E.M., there is a long history of Chilton disciples who have plied their trade creating jangly and bright rock 'n' roll as sweet as candy-o.

Perhaps no disciple was more devoted than Paul Westerberg of Minnesotan misfits the Replacements. For Westerberg, Chilton was both his mentor and muse as a songwriter. "I never travel far without a little Big Star," he sang on the rollicking ode "Alex Chilton" from the Replacements' classic Pleased to Meet Me. On this track, Westerberg envisioned a world in which "children by the million sing for Alex Chilton." Thirty-five years later since that song was written, Westerberg’s power pop utopia has arrived.

2022 saw an explosion of vital power pop releases from artists who both carried that torch and pushed the genre in exciting new directions — a reminder that power pop isn't just fodder for grocery stores or radio replays, but rather music worthy of dissecting and embracing. The beauty of well-executed power pop is how effortless it can sound, and as this year's releases have proven, even a song that clocks in under 2 minutes can make a long-lasting impact. Here are five essential power pop albums from 2022 that you need to check out.

Young Guv – III & IV

For 15 years, Ben Cook was a guitarist for Canadian hardcore punk heroes F<em></em>*ed Up, a band known for pummeling its listeners with loud guitar riffs and barking vocals. It’s about as far from power pop as you can get, which is why it’s surprising that since leaving that band, Cook has made a name for himself making gentler, catchy power pop under the moniker Young Guv.

In 2022, the band released not one but two albums: GUV III & GUV IV, each of which were recorded in the spring of 2020, when Young Guv’s tour was halted in Texas due to COVID. Cook and his bandmates spent the next nine months living at the foot of the Taos Mountains in New Mexico in an "earthship" made from Adobe clay, tires, and bottles. They spent their days writing music, swimming in the Rio Grande, and listening to a lot of Miles Davis, and emerged on the other side with two album’s worth of new music.

While the album covers may look similar, the two records have different feels. Songs on III like "It’s Only Dancing" and "Couldn’t Leave U If I Tried" offer a more immediate rush of danceable, jangle rock, while IV feels a bit more meditative and lived in — like the wilting "Change Your Mind" or minimalistic "Cry 2 Sleep." To put it in a different perspective, III is made for the days out swimming under the sun, while IV sounds like a night best spent gazing at the bright stars in the middle of the desert.

2nd Grade – Easy Listening

For more than a decade, Philadelphia has become the  hotspot for indie rock. Artists like The War on Drugs, Japanese Breakfast, Kurt Vile, and countless others have made a name for themselves in the City of Brotherly Love before becoming embraced by fans far beyond Broad Street. Peter Gill, frontman of Philadelphia’s 2nd Grade, may not be a household name just yet, but after releasing his band’s excellent new album Easy Listening in September, perhaps album opener "Cover of Rolling Stone" won’t be a work of fiction for very long.

The best power pop doesn’t take itself too seriously, and on Easy Listening, Gill writes with a childlike playfulness about Keith Richards’ guitar and the episode of "Seinfeld" when Kramer moves to L.A. Then there are songs like "Me & My Blue Angles" and "Teenage Overpopulation'' that feel as if they have been around forever — like old friends back in town for a beer. "Strung Out On You," in particular, sounds like a classic left off of one of Big Star’s first two records. Easy Listening is exactly as the album title advertises: a breezy and fun power pop gem that makes power pop sound easy.

DAZY – OUTOFBODY

James Goodson is a music publicist living in Richmond, Virginia who, on a whim during the pandemic, recorded and released songs as DAZY, a solo-project of loud, fuzzy power pop. Following a collection of demos MAXIMUMBLASTSUPERLOUD: The First 24 Songs and 2022’s "Pressure Cooker," the one-off hookfest of a collab single with Militarie Gun, DAZY unleashed a debut full-length.

Clocking in at just over 25 minutes, OUTOFBODY is a quick and dizzying hit of electric dopamine, delivered solely via computer and a guitar. These songs rip with huge refrains, thumping drum machines, and buzzy guitars.

Goodson was a child of punk rock, and grew up listening to the likes of Nirvana, Green Day and Rancid. "I wanted to tap into the music that I’ve always loved and will always love so it will never get old to me," Goodson told Stereogum.  Throughout the record, Goodson uses these  influences as a sort of cathartic expression of the existential dread he maps out on OUTOFBODY. You can hear that early pop-punk, college rock, and grunge on "Split" and "On My Way," as well as Oasis and Britpop within the hooks on "Ladder" and "Choose Yr Ramone."

Within all the noise, however, is the comfort in knowing that music you love will never leave your side.

The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field

It’s easy to take what the Beths do so well for granted. Since they first arrived on the scene with 2018’s Future Me Hates Me, the New Zealand quartet has done nothing but write sincere, lasting power pop. In 2022 the Beths released their best album yet, Expert in a Dying Field, a collection of songs that dive into the anxieties and heartbreak of everyday life.

On "Silence Is Golden," the album's loudest song, frontwoman Liz Stokes propels into the unending noise.  Elsewhere, on "Your Side," "Knees Deep," and the excellent title track, Stokes’ lovelorn characters toggle between relationship autopsies and dreams about what’s next, "mixing drinks and messages." "When You Know You Know" wouldn’t sound out of place next to Avril Lavigne on the radio, and features some of Stokes’ best turn of phrases ("Running down the road to jog the memory"). Whether or not the album title is a bit self-deprecating remains to be seen, but the Beths are the heroes that power pop needs.

Alvvays – Blue Rev

Toronto indie darlings Alvvays first arrived on the scene in 2014 with their self-titled debut that included the indie-pop anthem "Archie, Marry Me." They leveled up on their next record, 2017’s Antisocialites, and then… well… the band went silent. For a little while, it felt like Alvvays would never return, but it turns out that the band had to overcome roadblocks of biblical proportions to record their fantastic new record. Not a pandemic, a studio flood, and stolen demos could derail Blue Rev.

On Blue Rev, Alvvays teamed up with GRAMMY-winning producer Shawn Everett to turn power pop on its head and send it in new directions. Blue Rev is awash in shoegaze-y guitars and lush synths, and songs such as "After the Earthquake," "Many Mirrors," and "Easy On Your Own?" sound like if R.E.M.’s Murmur and Monster were put into a blender.

Meanwhile, singer/guitarist Molly Rankin has a unique talent for making life’s mundanities feel high stakes; she writes about running into an ex-lover’s sibling on "Pharmacist," a tale that lands with a gut-punch, singing "You know it happens all the time, it’s alright. I know I never crossed your mind." It’s endlessly captivating and inviting, and with Blue Rev, Alvvays have established themselves as power pop’s new pioneers.

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Watch Bad Bunny Bring the Heat With A Performance Of Two Songs From 'Un Verano Sin Ti' | 2023 GRAMMYs
Photo of Bad Bunny performing at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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Watch Bad Bunny Bring the Heat With A Performance Of Two Songs From 'Un Verano Sin Ti' | 2023 GRAMMYs

The Puerto Rican mega-star brought a slice of his homeland to the 2023 GRAMMYs stage with a pair of tracks from his latest album, 'Un Verano Sin Ti,' which made history as the first Spanish-language album nominated for Album Of The Year.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2023 - 02:16 am

Bad Bunny kicked off the 2023 GRAMMYs by bringing a bit of Puerto Rico straight into the Crypto.com Arena.

The rapper/singer chose a pair of songs from his GRAMMY-nominated album, Un Verano Sin Ti, that cleverly share the joy and reality of life in his homeland. First came a section of "El Apagón," a song that celebrates the spirit of Puerto Rico while balancing that joy with sly references to the island's broken infrastructure, including the blackouts of the title. Bunny led a parade march down the center of the arena, complete with papier mache-headed dancers.

Bad Bunny then cranked up the heat for "Después de la Playa," the full merengue band getting the likes of Taylor Swift and Jack Harlow out of their seats. Once the gleaming horn section kicked in, the whole arena shifted, palm trees and sunset framing the increasing number of singers. Clad in a white T-shirt and jeans, Bunny looked right at home, leading the Arena on an ebullient journey.

Initially hailed as a crossover success, Bunny's ability to win over audiences around the world — while retaining the core of his identity and continuing to deliver songs in Spanish — has become something far greater. His fourth record, Un Verano Sin Ti, shot up the charts in a handful of countries upon its May 2022 debut, landing at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in the US — the second of Bunny's records to hit that mark, and only the second all-Spanish language album to do so.

With more than 2 million copies sold, the album has also gone down as one of the best-selling non-English releases in US history. And with "Después de la Playa" and "El Apagón" as the album's 4th and 8th singles respectively, Bunny clearly had plenty of options for this performance, making the perfect union here that much more impressive.

Un Verano Sin Ti helped the Puerto Rican superstar add three more GRAMMY nominations to his resume, as the album is nominated for both Best Música Urbana Album and the highly coveted Album Of The Year, while the record's second single, "Moscow Mule," will vie for Best Pop Solo Performance.

Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

2023 GRAMMYs: Tobias Jesso Jr. Wins First-Ever GRAMMY For Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical
Tobias Jesso Jr. at the 2023 GRAMMYs

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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2023 GRAMMYs: Tobias Jesso Jr. Wins First-Ever GRAMMY For Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical

Tobias Jesso Jr. took home the first-ever GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical at the 2023 GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2023 - 01:53 am

Tobias Jesso Jr. won the first-ever GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical at the 2023 GRAMMYs at said show’s Premiere Ceremony.

Amy Allen, Nija Charles, The-Dream, and Laura Veltz were the other nominees in the prestigious category.

Listen to music from all of the 2023 GRAMMYs nominees on our official Amazon Music playlist.

Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Beyoncé Wins Best R&B Song For "Cuff It" | 2023 GRAMMYs Acceptance Speech
Photo of Beyoncé, who won the GRAMMY for Best R&B Song at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Atlantis The Royal

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Beyoncé Wins Best R&B Song For "Cuff It" | 2023 GRAMMYs Acceptance Speech

Beyoncé Wins Best R&B Song For "Cuff It" from her much-nominated 'Renaissance'

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2023 - 01:39 am

Beyoncé’s "Cuff It" won the GRAMMY for Best R&B Song at the 2023 GRAMMYs, officially tying the record for most awarded singer. Mary J. Blige, Muni Long, Jazmine Sullivan, and PJ Morton were the other nominees in the prestigious category.

Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Brandi Carlile Performs An Electrifying Version Of "Broken Horses" At The 2023 GRAMMYs
Brandi Carlile performing at the 2023 GRAMMYs

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Brandi Carlile Performs An Electrifying Version Of "Broken Horses" At The 2023 GRAMMYs

Brandi Carlile is up for seven golden gramophones at the 2023 GRAMMYs, including Album Of The Year and Best Americana Album for 'In These Silent Days.'

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2023 - 01:31 am

Brandi Carlile came raring onto the stage at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards with a stirring performance of her twice-nominated single "Broken Horses."

Adorably introduced by her wife Catherine Shepherd and their two daughters Evangeline and Elijah, Carlile proved that wild horses know not only how to run, but how to rock out as well as she wailed, “Tethered in wide open spaces/ And fields that lead for miles/ Right into the barrel of a gun” with support from a high-octane band and pair of backing vocalists.

"Broken Horses" was originally released as the second single off Carlile’s 2021 album In These Silent Days — and even before the telecast had begun, had earned the golden gramophones for both Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. Carlile took home the award for Best Americana Album as well.

The troubadour was also up for four other awards during the show, including Album Of The Year for In These Silent Days, and Record Of The Year, Best Americana Performance and Best American Roots Song for "You And Me On The Rock" featuring Lucius. With seven total GRAMMY nominations, the singer-songwriter tied Adele for the third-most number of nominations this year, only behind Beyoncé’s nine and Kendrick Lamar’s eight.

Read More: The Rise Of Brandi Carlile: How Her Emotive Songwriting & Delivery Made Her One Of Americana's Most Versatile Stars

Since dropping In These Silent Days (Carlile's seventh studio album) in October 2021, she has re-issued the record with a bonus disc titled In the Canyon Haze. The album features acoustic recordings of the LP’s 10 tracks as well as a cover of David Bowie’s classic "Space Oddity."

Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs