So this is Christmas. What have I done? Well, including this one, I’ve thus far written 90 posts since the first of the year, with 64 being “First Impression” reviews. Not all have been albums, as I also spotlighted a few EPs and singles, but consider this: Many more were returned to their respective digital shelves and/or set to the side due to the constraints that come from this blog being a weekend endeavor and/or the releases just not being for me. The mere fact that I wrote about an album or EP, in other words, means that I heard magic in its grooves. (I don’t waste space or time with things I dislike.)
What else? I don’t claim my picks to be anything but my picks. I’m a 57-year-old, long-married white guy with fairly catholic (yet idiosyncratic) tastes, a product of my times but not a prisoner of them. I enjoy discovering and championing young artists who speak to my aging soul, so while many of my peers are content to click repeat on their favorites of long ago, I consistently seek out new sounds. Listening to the same-old, same-old, over and over again bores me to tears. That’s not to say I don’t lean on my favorites at times. The slew of new-old Neil Young releases—a quality new album, an impassioned live album, the 50th anniversary release of Harvest, plus his official bootlegs and Toast—were balm for my spirit. Too, it doesn’t get much better than grooving to E Street Radio or Soul Town on SiriusXM while driving here ‘n’ there.
Of my much-ballyhooed Album of the Year award: It’s an honorific I’ve bestowed on one album (sometimes two) every year since beginning my journey into music fandom way back in 1978 for no other reason than…well, why not? Why should Rolling Stone have all the fun? To that end, over the past few weeks I’ve revisited, replayed, ranked and re-ranked my many favorites of the past 12 months, with only my No. 1 pick remaining constant from the moment I heard it in June until now. It’s just an immense set o’ songs.
With that, here are my Top 10 Albums for 2022 along with 10 honorable mentions. (To read the full reviews, click through.)
1) The Dream Syndicate – Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions. “I hear echoes of long ago lingering throughout the Dream Syndicate’s latest album, Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions. It’s immense and vibrant, accented by fluid guitars one moment and Steve Wynn’s incisive lyrics the next. Hints of Lou Reed/Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Brian Eno and more erupt from Ultraviolet in ways that flood the brain with dopamine, yet—as back in the day—the result remains decidedly Dream Syndicate, which always trod new ground with each new release.”
2) Chris Canterbury – Quaalude Lullabies. “Quaalude Lullabies is a remarkably evocative album that spins stirring tales of addiction, fading dreams and loneliness, of life on the road and at home. The lyrics are as sharp as the musical accompaniment is sparse. The opening track, ‘The Devil, the Dealer, & Me,’ explores how doubts fester and transform into figurative monsters that hide beneath our beds. Like the songs that follow, it’s littered with lines that should soon be the envy of every songwriter, including ‘a heart only breaks when you use it,’ ‘a memory is worthless if you make it alone,’ ‘some days are made to run out the clock,’ and ‘what’s heaven when hell crashes through?’”
3) Kelsey Waldon – No Regular Dog. “Waldon’s songs routinely meet at the crossroads of country and R&B, though her Kentucky twang tips the scales toward the former. That said, if not for the back cover listing the recording locale as North Hollywood, one would be forgiven for thinking the set was recorded either in Muscle Shoals, Ala., or at American Sound Studios in Memphis (though, of course, that latter closed up shop long ago). Her music is earthy, real and soulful.”
4) Jimetta Rose & Voices of Creation – How Good It Is. “If you’re weary, feeling small, if tears are in your eyes, Jimetta Rose and friends will dry them. They’re on your side. Oh, if times get rough and friends just can’t be found, just click play on How Good It Is and, trust me, all that pain and sadness will slip away. The six song, 32-minute album is a joyful blend of gospel, jazz and soul, a true ‘70s throwback, with a chorale of voices celebrating life, love and more, abundantly.” (FYI, Rose’s The Gift: Around the Way Queen, released in February ’22 is a jazzy trip that’s sans choir. While it didn’t make my Top 10, it is worth many spins.)
5) Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance. “Think giant ocean waves crashing to shore that, when they retreat to the sea, reveal jagged guitar prints in the sand. The individual songs almost don’t matter, if that makes sense, as each crest folds into the next, powering it in a combustible yet sustainable manner. (To quote the bard Neil Young, ‘it’s all one song!’)”
6) Miko Marks & the Resurrectors – Feel Like Going Home. “Some songs conjure P.P. Arnold’s little-known (in the U.S.) singles in the late 1960s; others bring to mind Gladys Knight & the Pips’ soulful embrace of country singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly’s tunes as well as the Rolling Stones circa Let It Bleed.”
7) Kaitlin Butts – What Else Can She Do. “Her expressive vocals are the definition of an immersive experience. On the one hand, they’re akin to fireworks lighting up a cloudless sky; on the other, they well and swell like the ocean tide in the dark of night—or, to appropriate yet another metaphor, rain down from overhead. Either/or, in the last instances, you’re left drenched. Add on top of that the songs themselves and, wow. Just wow. They unreel like short stories, just about, spinning unsentimental yet sympathetic portraits of characters whose trials and tribulations echo not from the distance but next door.”
8) Sophie & the Broken Things – Delusions of Grandeur. “The full-length debut from Sophie Gault and her band (named after Julie Miller’s song ‘Broken Things’) hones in on the present realities faced in America and elsewhere, where the rich get richer while the rest of us do our best to hold on—and does it in the best way possible, via songs that resonate through one’s soul.”
9) Samara Joy – Linger Awhile. “Samara Joy’s buttery vocals melt across the warm grooves of whatever song she’s singing, conjuring the greats of yore while simultaneously forging her own effervescent style.”
10) The Delines – The Sea Drift. “The notes and chords linger in the air like humidity on a sweltering night, while a weary singer drawls—and draws—vivid minuscules from sharply honed lyrics. Some songs are less stories than character studies; others are slice-of-life vignettes; and all focus on people who feel trapped in their lives.”
Bubbling just under the Top 10 are Jessie Baylin‘s Jersey Girl, Big Nothing‘s Dog Hours, Eliza Edens‘ We’ll Become the Flowers, Jessica Willis Fisher‘s Brand New Day, Zach Phillips‘ Goddaughters, Jimetta Rose’s The Gift: Around the Way Queen, Joss Stone‘s Never Forget My Love, VHS Collection‘s Night Drive, Wilder Maker‘s Male Models and, though his World Record was—at least to these ears—surpassed by my Top 10, Neil Young. Also, though I’ve yet to review it (a mistake I plan to rectify by year’s end), Bailey Bigger’s Coyote Red is somewhere in the mix.
Neil’s soulful Toast was my archival delight of the year, followed by his Citizen Kane Jr. Blues. The Valerie Carter compilation Lost Tapes Vol. 2 was great, too.
Favorite EPs came courtesy of Juliet Lloyd, Niamh Regan, Riders of the Canyon, Sprints and Gloria Taylor. Single-wise, there’s no doubt: Maggie Pope’s “Northern Girl” is, hands down, my favorite three minutes of music of the year.