This is going to be a short post, because it's a short list. In fact, it's the shortest in my "modern era," which is to say the last two decades. This makes me sad, not just because music is my life soundtrack, but I'm still not much of a nostalgia guy for music. High school classmates might still be listening to Def Leppard and Poison, but I was mostly done with that by the time I left college.
There are two problems, the way I see it. The first is that discovery of music is really hard, because there are few good curated sources to do it. I don't care what others think about the "machine" that the music industry used to be, because at least at the broadcast end of that, there were taste makers looking for the good things. There's still a machine, but it seems to prefer the most ephemeral crap, and despite my guilty pleasure for stuff that is barely art, I don't understand this world where 100 people are credited with making an album for one person. That's nuts.
I used to lean on AltNation on SiriusXM pretty hard, and while I have a cheap subscription, I feel like they've been in a rut for the last two years, and it's a big homogenous mess of stuff that does not interest me. I'm starting to lean on LiveOne again (formerly Slacker Radio), which is what comes with Tesla cars. They might have the opposite problem, where they're not focused at all, but they play almost entirely different things on their alt rock station.
The other problem is that the music world in the US seems to be rock averse. Sure, call it "alternative" or whatever, but part of that is the noisy guitar-bass-drums thing. Wolf Alice's Blue Weekend in 2021 was one of those, and it was fabulous. Now if it isn't Foo Fighters, it doesn't get played here.
Anyway, my musical savior this year was Metric. Formentera technically came out toward the end of last year, but I didn't really get into it until this year. It includes the epic, 10-minute-plus "Doomscroller." Then they decided that this was supposed to be a double album, and Formentera II was released this year, and frankly I think it was even better. Metric's Fantasies was the background of my move to Seattle in 2009, and their work since had ranged from "good" to "meh," but never topping that album. Both of these are better, and it's great to see a band continue to peak more than a decade later.
Grouplove delivered another solid album this year. beabadoobee actually toned things down for her album this year, but it's a good chill listen. Depeche Mode's thing is OK. The Foo's are just OK this time as well, but I don't know how you beat Medicine At Midnight, which was fantastic. It was kind of weird to get a Linkin Park song from the grave. I think Paramore is going in a better direction that's more their own, instead of leaning into the tired emo/pop/punk thing that they used to do.
Here's a YouTube playlist, if you're into that sort of thing.