Best of 2022!
Ah, the year of singles. So much music.. so little time to hear everything. Millions of songs are uploaded every year. According to Music Business Worldwide, Spotify uploads 60,000 new tracks every day! Holy schnike!
Hard to pick a favorite album this year as I listened to "curated" Spotify playlists comprised of songs of folk, singer songwriters, Americana, hip hop, country, and indie music. The occasional pop track would make me sit up and take notice. Lizzo's excellent throwback track "About Damn Time" from Special made it to my year end list. It's my favorite pop track of the year. (If you've not heard her interview with Howard Stern, track it down. Incredibly insightful.)
Superstar Taylor Swift's rootsy melancholic tune"Carolina" from the film Where The Crawdads Sing was far more appealing to me than any track from her new album. I prefer the acoustic, confessional T. Swift over the pop gloss of her latest chart topping Midnights. Last time I checked, her single "Anti-Hero" boasted 411,273, 351 listens!!! Even the stripped-down acoustic version has 6,290,740. That's serious clout in the world of binary code.
Some fantastic hip hop was released this past year. Just too many hip hop songs to pick from... never easy, but Danger Mouse & Black Thought's "Belize" (feat. MF Doom) from their excellent, less-than-mainstream Cheat Codes remained tops for me. Smart. Great beats. Clever lyrics. Total package.
If you want to go further left of center and just as clever, check out Brownsville, Brooklyn-based minimalistic rapper Ka. Born Kaseem Ryan, he's a rapper, producer and firefighter. His music is a history lesson of the black experience in America; a distinctive wordsmith like Chuck D and Gil Scott Heron before him. He released two exceptional albums in 2022. His songs are short bursts of brilliance with jazz, spoken word soundbites, avant garde minimalism. Sometimes it's just the cadence of his voice holding down the beat or an upright bass or piano or flute or an Ebow sample. It's all about the space that lets his lyrics float and sink in. I gravitated to the Languish Arts and his haunting track "Ascension." But his other album Woeful Studies is equally worthwhile. Check out "Eat" and all of his music. You will not be disappointed.
And from Kendrik Lamar's latest "instant classic" album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, I couldn't turn off the soulful "Purple Hearts" featuring Summer Walker and Ghostface Killah.
As you'll notice from the playlist below, tons of singer-songwriters made the cut. Many you've probably never heard of; my guess -- too much inventory. If you crave for something completely different in said genre, look no further than the always excellent Father John Misty and his homage to the romantic era of Hollywood on his latest long player Chloë and The Next 20th Century and his sumptuous "Goodbye Mr. Blue," a love ballad worthy of Glenn Campbell or Harry Nilsson's venerated canon of work. Talk about wonderful wordplay...
"That Turkish Angora's 'bout the only thing left of me and you, mmhEarly this morning, it started making sounds that say 'Don't let the last time come too soon?'"
My favorite album of the year, it's like a mad fever dream from romantic mind of F. Scott Fitzgerald circa The Great Gatsby. Listen to it on deluxe vinyl for the smoothest audio experience.
Singer-songwriter Madi Diaz released 3 singles in 2022. I added all of them to my year end playlist. Her song "Resentment (New Feelings Version)" from her E.P. Same History, New Feelings may be the best song about unrequited love that I've heard in ages. And her stunning cover of Patty Griffin's "Be Careful" with help from S.G. Goodman and Joy Oladokun is equally impactful. Is she the new Joni?
Elsewhere LA-based singer-songwriter and friend David Poe released an impressive new album Everyone's Got a Camera and a killer tune "People Clap Hands." It's one of my top ten tracks. Read about him on my previous post. And his touring mate NYC-based Blake Morgan also released an equally impressive album of indie pop-rock nuggets that deserves repeated listens. "Baby I Would Want You" is one of ten tracks from the grand Violent Delights. Check out his glittering, shimmering Gretsch in the video below.
Indie rock was alive and swell from the likes of Beck, Midlake, Big Thief, The Smile, Björk, Cass McCombs, Ethel Cain, Wet Lag, Elvis Costello (!), and so much more. (See my playlist below.) Band of Horses released their sixth effort Things Are Great, one of my top vinyl albums of the year. 18 years on, multiple lineup changes, and still sharing quality music. "Warning Signs" is a tasty tease from their latest.
But wait, there's more... another impressive effort from one of my all-time favorite rockers, Scotsman Daniel Wylie (former Cosmic Rough Rider) finds him sharing songwriting duties with Ian M. Bailey on his latest single -- the psychedelic jangling guitar freakout -- "Let Go of the Gun (Year of the Tiger)." Another top ten track for me. No one does contemporary folk-rock better than Mr. Wylie! Although Ian's new album You Paint The Picture is right up there. Moreover, Mr. Wylie co-writes tunes on said fab album. "Dreams of Love" is like vintage David Crosby roaming The Byrd's sacred folk-rock turf circa 1966.
Country? Did someone mention country? Did you hear the "real deal" Chris Stapleton's crooning "I'm A Ram" for RAM trucks TV advert? When I saw it, I couldn't wait to see if it had been released as a single. Yep. The Al Green/Teenie Hodges cover was transformed into a killer, guitar-forward country blues workout from Mr. Stapleton. He remains The King of Country!
And the country women were kickin' ass and taking no prisoners with some outstanding music that needs to played all over satellite and terrestrial radio. Miranda Lambert's new album Palomino had a bunch of killer tunes. Her jukebox-worthy "Strange" was my favorite. My pals The Delevantes released a killer Americana tune in "All In All" from an equally killer album A Thousand Turns, their first long player in decades. And every time I turn around Jim Lauderdale is releasing quality tunes. From the album Game Changer his toe-tappin' 'n' bouncin' "That Kind of Life (That Kind of Day)" seems like instant classic to my ears. Nashville-based Pill Box (née Nicolette Hayford) has been writing tunes in Music City for over 10 years. Her new album Florida has my favorite production vibe/arrangements/playing. Reminds me of Daniel Lanois' solo work. "Eat Pray Drugs" is just one classic song from said album; a hard hitting song about desperation and an homage to where she grew up in Florida. She's my new Queen of Country.
"Jesus, Reese's PiecesAnd a brown bag of none of your business Flea market boiled peanuts Styrofoam cup of the shells between us Hot damn, hot lunch After Sunday service, there's a potluck Roll one, roll up Higher than a choir hallelujah"
And no list would be complete without some jamband action. For me Tedeschi Trucks Band remain the pinnacle of the genre even though they defy being pigeonholed into said genre. They released 24 new songs spread out over four "concept" albums based on The Story of Layla & Majnun, the writer Nizami’s 12th century Persian poem about a separated couple that was described by Lord Byron as the "Romeo and Juliet of the East." "Hear My Dear" (I Am The Moon: I. Crescent) is just the perfect love ballad. Susan's soulful voice sits perfectly in the mix of Derek's tasteful slide, crack horns, organ, bass and double drums. A song to get lost in. Hearing it live at the Beacon Theatre back in October only reinforced my feelings about it.
And for the prog-jamband enthusiast no album made me smile more than the palindrome-fordward band Dopapod. "Fannie" is just too cool for school. From the 11-song seventh album Dopapod, this Boston-based quartet was formed at Berklee College of Music. See my review of said song here. And new to my world of the genre is the five piece Norwalk, CT-based Goose and their congo-driven toe tapper "Hungersite"...a def Phish and Umphrey's McGee vibe permeates the proceedings on their new album Dripfield, but for me they and their new album transcends both.
Here's my Spotify year's end playlist. Will probably add a few more. What did I miss?