Top 22 NJ Songs of 2022, And Who to Watch in 2023
Updated: Jan 12
Alexander Simone & WHODAT Live Crew at ParkFest on July 10th, 2022
New Jersey has its own breed of everything. People will argue over the best diners, the best bagels, best pizza (it's me, I'm people). One thing we're not gonna do, though, is argue about the best music, because we all know that the Garden State creates icons. But before they were iconic, the long celebrated legends of New Jersey's rich music history started out small, and that's what our list is here to recognize. Here's our list of independent NJ musicians and bands who put in work and brought amazing new music into the world last year, and our predictions of who's about to do the very same in 2023.
22. "Money" by Jarod Clemens and the Late Nights
Jarod Clemens and the Late Nights laid down a quick-paced, bluesy, rock classic with “Money”, sure to rock any dance floor in front of them.
21. “Auto Pilot” by Nick Ryan
Nick Ryan is a pop powerhouse, and “Auto Pilot” is an expertly crafted example of exactly what he can do in the studio. The lyrics, riffs, and production are all top tier, and his voice is acrobatic.
20. “Larry Johnson” by Big Boss Noff
The braggadocio that Hip-Hop music is famous for is the fiery heart of "Larry Johnson". During a year of cooking up straight flames, this is the one song in which Big Boss Noff put all the ingredients together just right.
19. "Not Over It" by Candy Cavity
In addition to having a local favorite New Year themed anthem, Candy Cavity is continuing to keep listeners hooked with lines like "I'm insane because you hijacked my brain" in this year's single, "Not Over It".
18. “In My Clothes” by Gnarly Peters
The retro soft rock vibes are in full effect throughout “In My Clothes,” a detailed account of unrequited love and rejection from the well rounded self-titled album by Gnarly Peters. This band is making huge waves in the southern NJ scene, and this album shows precisely why.
17. "Astroplane" by Tula Vera
A little bit of blues, a little alternative, a touch of psychedelia, and a lot of vocal prowess makes Tula Vera's "Astroplane" one not to miss. Lyrics like "I'm free beyond what the eye can see" are the enlightened final touches of this powerhouse song.
16. "What's a Girl to Do" by Accidental Flowers
Combining alternative, melancholy jazz tones, unapologetic reverb, and lines like, "Wish my head would bump something to knock me unconscious when I think of you," it's obvious “What’s a Girl to Do” would have been a hit in the 90s. And that is definitely a compliment.
15. "Public Figure" by All Systems Go
Laden with clever lines like, "You're advocating for change, but you can't change your ways," this song might be for one person, but ends up calling out the entire influencer generation who shows the world only one side of themselves. It was a standout on an album of pop-punk gems. Check it out if you wanna feel nostalgic about music that you've never heard before.
14. "Elevation" by Yawn Mower
Asbury Park mainstays Yawn Mower have been consistently rocking the scene for years. Their entire latest album, To Each Their Own Coat, bottled up the energy we've come to expect from this band, but this song jumps out as the favorite.
13. “Clarity” by S0ulfood feat. Tony Newbury
"Clarity" is a reflective R&B single about persevering through pain, the inspiration to start over ushered in by S0ulfood's hook from the heart, "Living like it's the first day of my life."
12. "Jersey Devil" by Dana Why
The genre-bending project Dana Why takes a refreshingly experimental approach to songwriting as well as production, and the best showcase of this is "Jersey Devil". Listen if you really enjoy weird waltzy bops. *New music out next 1/20/23!
11. "Elon Musk" by Human Zoo
Straddling the line between dripping sarcasm and straightforward honesty, Human Zoo perfectly penned in one song what we're all quietly (and sometimes loudly) thinking about the wealthiest man on earth: that he better save the fucking world.
10. "Ride Home" by Kate Dressed Up
“Ride Home” is the culmination of every brilliant element throughout the folk-rock project Kate Dressed Up’s latest EP, In Another Lifetime. The tightly woven harmonies deliver lines like “I tried to leave in darkness using stars now for a guide/ staring into all that nothing, it felt like a look inside” with true emotion and passion.
9. "Spilled Coffee" by Dentist
Dentist probably had the most aptly titled album of the year with Making a Scene, since they've been one of the cornerstones of New Jersey music for years. The entire album is solid, but the driving riffs and the singalong chorus of "Spilled Coffee" are guaranteed to do laps around your brain for days.
8. "Boy on Fire" by Sonofdov
Sonofdov writes perfect indie movie soundtracks, and that is glaringly evident with "Boy on Fire." Using somber tones and a voice wrapped in reminiscence and reflection, Sonofdov turned out Fangs, one of the most authentic and emotive projects of 2022.
7. "Church" by Olivia Bec
Initially, the blaring organ sets a religious tone, but the lyrics end up being an unsparing criticism of religion, while Bec's beguiling voice somehow still does the lord's work. "Church" is a brave song for good people who are not necessarily god's people.
6. “Black Man Thoughts” by Alexander Simone and WHO DAT? Live Crew When listening to "Black Man Thoughts" it’s important not to forget that many of the songs that were produced and recorded this year were written during 2020-2021, a time when the nation saw the highest racial tension in recent memory. This powerful song, featuring King Ramses, offers up insightful lyrics detailing how people of color in America have to scrutinize even their own thoughts in order to survive.
5. "I'm a Melodrama Mama Baby" by Funeral Doors
The immediately gripping lead in lyrics to “I'm a Melodrama Mama Baby" are “I’ve been feeling real tired/ a funny kind of tired/ and no amount of coffee or pills could ever fix this.” This is the kind of smart, sensitive, sloppy punk that the underground was tunneled out for, told from a unique perspective.
4. "29" By Well Wisher
Well Wisher's entire album, That Weight, is rock solid with honest lyrics and fun riffs, but their song "29" was everything you could want from a coming of age canticle ripe with fading post-teenage alienation.
3. "Breathe" by Bulletproof Belv
Bulletproof Belv's single "Breathe" humbly teaches that coming of age has its realizations, not the least of which is that in the face of death is when it's most important to feel alive. Lyrically, this is among the best he's offered up, and the distant guitars set a moving backdrop to deliver such a poignant message.
2. "rutratz university" by Latchkey Kids
The buzz of Latchkey Kids hit us long before the music, and they lived all the way up to the hype. Their album the week you ran away is not one to miss if you like DIY sounding indie/punk, and make sure you don't miss out on the magic that is "rutratz university".
1. "Insomnia, etc." by Shinything
The song of 2022 is the unbelievable debut single from Shinything. The poetry of the lyrics is unmatched, and that would be enough to earn it at least some recognition on this list, but then they made it irresistibly catchy. And then they change it up towards the end, and it's still catchy. “Insomnia, etc.” is intelligent, metaphorical, but approachable, which is no easy feat. This is the band to look out for in 2023.
Shinything during their first live performance at Atomic Vintage on June 25th, 2022.
2023: Who's Up Next Bands and projects we love who are expected to drop new music this year: Fake Pockets
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