Best of 2022

Photo of Elliott, in Detroit in September, by me. See a full gallery and all my concert photography here.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have either listened to tons of Christmas music or listened to music released this year. I have an iTunes/Apple Music "smart" playlist with only songs from 2022 that I listen to on shuffle often while I'm driving. For one, this reminds me of all that was put out this year, but also it puts songs into context and comparison with each other. This is one of the most helpful ways for me to rank albums. 

This 2022 shuffle also leads to some albums climbing my list, or vice versa. The two biggest climbers go to Madison Cunningham and The Smile. I had never even heard of Madison Cunningham before November, and her album immediately grabbed me last month. And then The Smile I didn't spend much time with, which is my own fault. Had Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood simply called it a Radiohead album, I probably would have preordered it. Midnights wound up lower than I had hoped, and Havasu also didn't grab me like most Pedro the Lion albums. And then Tegan and Sara, who I love, released an album that I couldn't place on this list anywhere; more on that album below.

Here are my two primary playlists I made, one on BNDCMPR (all songs from Bandcamp, no account needed--may work better if you follow this link), and then Apple Music. The BNDCMPR playlist begins with melodic indie rock and then transitions into the harder stuff. The Apple Music playlist leans more mainstream, also begins with melodic indie rock, and transitions into folky and quiet.


Top 25 albums of 2022:

1. The Beths- Expert In A Dying Field
Auckland, New Zealand
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

This dominated my fall listening as it was released a few weeks after I saw The Beths in concert in August. They were so tight live, with four-part harmonies, and all their songs sounding better than the studio versions. Thankful The Beths got a lotta love this year, they deserve it!

2. Momma- Household Name
Los Angeles, California
See the record on my Instagram (I also constructed this album cover out of LEGO)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

I listed "Medicine" as one of my favorite singles of 2021, but it could not have prepared me for how much I would love this album. I listened to pretty much nothing but this album all summer. The 90's influence is huge and transports me back to high school (in the good ways!).
3. Caracara- New Preoccupations
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

Was a nominal Caracara fan the last couple years, as I discovered them with the "Better" EP, which I ranked as one of my fav EPs that year. This LP is on a completely different plane--the songwriting is so intelligent and profound.
4. Spoon- Lucifer On the Sofa
Austin, Texas
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

I want to call this the return of Spoon, but they never went anywhere. I love pretty much all that the band does, but the energy here is the highest from the band in quite some time. I read they wanted to make a "guitar record", and they did!

5. Death Cab for Cutie- Asphalt Meadows
Seattle, Washington
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp       

When Chris Walla left Death Cab for Cutie in 2014, I wasn't convinced the band would ever be the same. Death Cab is Ben Gibbard's band of course, but he has released tons of solo music, and Death Cab, with Walla's contributions, was always so much better. My feeling was validated with 2018's Thank You For Today (the first Death Cab album without Walla), as I find it incredibly bland and boring. I had barely thought about Death Cab since, and even after the first single "Roman Candles" dropped early this year, I though, "blah". So when I heard Asphalt Meadows in full, I was shocked. It is all over the map musically and an incredible return to form. "Wheat Like Waves" has perhaps jumped into my top 10 Death Cab songs of all time.

6. Brutus- Unison Life

Leuven, Belgium
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

I had heard a little Brutus maybe as early as 2017, but it wasn't until 2019 that I became a huge fan. I decided to listen to Nest for the first time in full while walking around Washington, DC in December of 2019. It immediately grabbed me and I made an emotional connection. Unison Life is the next step in the band's progression, and I can't wait to see them live. They seem like a perfect fit for Furnace Fest so hoping they are announced for 2023.

7. Hatchie- Giving The World Away

Brisbane, Australia
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

Hatchie makes great dream pop, and this was a huge progression for her instrumentally. I had a ticket to see her in Washington, DC in May but sadly missed the show as I was given free tickets to a professional soccer match the same night. It was a tough call ultimately picked based on location (soccer game right next to my Airbnb while the Hatchie show on the other side of the city).
8. Plains- I Walked with You a Ways

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

It's no secret I am an obsessive fan of Katie Crutchfield, primarily through her work as Waxahatchee. This new project is a collaboration with Jess Williamson, who I was previously unfamiliar with. While I prefer the five Crutchfield tunes, all the songs are all terrific--and the most pure country album I have liked ages.
9. Neighbor Lady- For The Birds

Atlanta, Georgia
See the record on my Instagram 
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

Neighbor Lady is the project of Emily Braden, who is a former student of mine. She has been musical and creative since I knew her in high school, but I lost track of her for quite a while. But this album is stunning and caught be by surprise when it was released this past summer.
10. Madison Cunningham- Revealer

San Diego, California
Record ordered, awaiting delivery
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

As I mentioned in the intro, I had never heard of Madison Cunningham until I was reading year-end lists last month. This album immediately grabbed me with it's song-writing and intricate guitar work. And Cunningham has a significant back catalog that I am now working my way into.

11. Arcade Fire- WE

Montreal, Quebec, Canada
See the record on my Instagram

Really conflicted about the inclusion of this Arcade Fire record. I do like it, and listened to it a ton the first half of 2022. But recent news has made it difficult to listen to and unsure what that means long-term. One of my favorite bands ever, and this was a nice return to form. And I even wrote my Arcade Fire top 25 list early this year. But, future listening...
12. Drug Church- Hygiene

Albany, New York
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

Drug Church was new to me this year, a Furnace Fest discovery. They are a terrific hardcore band with fairly unique vocals for the genre. Super-high energy and amazing live.
13. Taylor Swift- Midnights

West Reading, Pennsylvania
See the record on my Instagram

I love Taylor Swift, but this album was underwhelming. There are a few highlight tracks, but I will rarely ever listen to it straight through again. This SputnikMusic review caught a ton of flak, but I find it spot on. And then of course there was this mess:

14. Phoenix- Alpha Zulu

Versailles, France

I had rarely listened to Phoenix in the last decade. Like most, I discovered the band with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix in 2009, but then was underwhelmed by both their 2013 and 2017 albums. Alpha Zulu is  and fun and energetic.
15. Stars- From Capelton Hill

Montreal, Quebec, Canada
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

I once wrote something to the effect, "Stars writes great songs, but not great albums." That was an immature thing for me to say, but does describe my fandom. I listen to all their releases at times, but the only one I return to frequently is 2010's The Five Ghosts. This is my fav full Stars album since that time.
16. Astronoid- Radiant Bloom

Groveland, Massachusetts
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

Astronoid was the discovery of Furnace Fest 2021, as their blend of post-metal with soaring, melodic vocals is one-of-a-kind. This, their third album, continues the trend of complex and intricate guitar work.
17. Wild Pink- ILYSM
New York, New York
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

I discovered Wild Pink in 2017 as I had an annual subscription to the record label Tiny Engines on Bandcamp and downloaded their debut. I've always enjoyed them, but my fandom has remained nominal. ILYSM grabbed me in a completely different way and am trying to track down this beautiful vinyl variant.
18. Ethel Cain- Preacher’s Daughter

Tallahassee, Florida

This album is oh, so dark and a testament of what it's like to be scarred by the church. I hope it's stories aren't true, but I am guessing they are.
Also, bizarrely, this album is not available in any physical format-- no vinyl and no CDs.
19. Jump Little Children- Foundering

Charleston, South Carolina

In October I was sitting in a school parking lot waiting to pick up one of my kids when a Jump, Little Children song came up on shuffle. I forgot how much I loved them and over the next few days listened to three of their older albums in full while on a road trip. I think Googled them and was shocked to find that they are back! They had broken up originally in 2006, which I knew, but then they returned to performing live and dropped the album Sparrow in 2018.
20. Horsegirl- Versions of Modern Performance

Chicago, Illinois
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

I still need to listen to this more and learn the songs, but I love the sound: noisy, grungy, and tons of interesting guitar tones.

21. The Smile- A Light for Attracting Attention
Oxford, UK
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

It's Radiohead! Sort of. ;)
22. Anxious- Little Green House
Fairfield, Connecticut
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

The first pop-punk album I have purchased since the mid-90's, but because it's more diverse than that. This is my favorite album COVER of 2022. 
23. Metric-
Toronto, Ontario

While loving Metric, I honestly haven't spent much time digging into this one. Listing it now as a reminder to spend more time listening.

24. Pedro the Lion- Havasu
Seattle, Washington
See the record on my Instagram
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

I feel a deep connection to David Bazan and own all his music. That said, I don't like this as much as most of his work. I do love the autobiographical story-telling, but as he moves forward on the project of recording albums about the places he has lived, I hope for some more aggression and energy- I find this album kind-of a downer.
25. Holy Fawn- Dimensional Bleed
Phoenix, Arizona
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

See my comment about Metric and needing to listen more. The difference here is that Holy Fawn is new to me, and I am just getting started. Love the sound and need to dig into it more.

Top 5 EP's of 2022

1. Stay Inside-
New York, New York
Record pre-ordered and awaiting shipment soon.
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

Had this been a full-length, would have been in my top 5 LPs of the year. I adore Stay Inside and they would be a perfect new band for Furnace Fest.

2. Rosie Thomas- Lullabies for Parents, Vol. 1

Record pre-ordered but doesn't ship until July 2023.
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

I am so excited Rosie Thomas is writing and releasing music again. She took about a decade off while growing her family, and now she is back with songs about being a parent. Vol. 1of Lullabies for Parents dropped this year and Vol. 2 is coming in 2023.

3. football, etc.- Vision

Houston, Texas
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

Football, etc. is the master of EPs. 2015's Disappear is the most beautiful 7" I own, and so glad they are back after what was maybe a 5 year break?

4. Manchester Orchestra- No Rule (single)

Atlanta, Georgia
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

There weren't that many EPs in 2022 for me, so cheating with these last couple. Manchester Orchestra though is constantly putting out music and did throughout 2022. While No Rule was the only new original song of the year, they also are monthly dropping numerous covers, in-studio live albums, demos, etc. mostly through their Patreon. I don't support many Patreon's, but based on my experience no artist is doing a better job of putting out content than Manchester Orchestra. Even this week while working on this post they shared a private video and studio live show, Christmas Songs, vol. 3.

5. Thrice- Open Your Eyes and Dream and Dead Wake (singles)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp

Also not really an EP, but Thrice released these two fantastic singles in 2022, both songs left over yet unfinished from the Horizons-East sessions. They are both amazing and are better than half the songs on that album (which I love). As we await Horizons-West, Thrice also put out some great acoustic renditions this year of 2021 songs.

My favorite song of 2022

Frank Turner- "A Wave Across A Bay"

In 2018 Scott Hutchison, frontman of Frightened Rabbit, committed suicide. Despite not knowing Scott personally, it rattled and changed me. Frank Turner was good friends with Scott, and wrote this song about him. Hutchison's death led me to write the most vulnerable and honest essay I have ever published--about suicide, faith, community, and eternity. You can read it here: Thank God I’m Full of Holes;
What Scott Hutchison taught me about brokenness, love, God, and community.

Most disappointing album of 2022:

Tegan: "Hey sis, remember when we wrote that fun song for The Lego Movie?"
Sara: "Well, it was a little repetitive and irritating, but the kids loved that song didn't they?"
Tegan: "Ya well I was thinking, what if we recorded a whole album of songs like that?"
Sara: "Ooh, I like that idea. Considering we are in our 40's and most of our friends have children, that could work--the kids would love it!"
Tegan: "Yeah, I've been working on some really, catchy, poppy stuff."
Sara: "Me too! Do you have a lead single in mind?"
Tegan: "Oh yeah, it's called 'Fucking Up What Matters'."
Sara: "Um..."
Tegan: "And two more in the works are 'Pretty Shitty Time' and 'Smoking Weed Alone'."
Sara: "Um... what about the kids?"

In all seriousness, I actually have no problems with Tegan and Sara's use of profanity on their new album Crybaby. In fact, I even created a playlist this year called "E is for Everyone", in which every song on it contains the F-word. The difference in my playlist though is that I used songs that contain the F-word in discreet, sometimes surprise ways. I used to listen to Tegan and Sara with my kids quite a bit, specifically my fav album of theirs Heartthrob. I won't be playing this one for them, but not just because of lyrical content. Even if there was a "clean" version of Crybaby available, it's just not good.

The central problem(s) I have with Crybaby is that I just find it terrible musically. Eight of the first nine songs on the album are upbeat, electro-pop--I sadly find them goofy and mostly unlistenable. I am a HUGE Tegan and Sara fan, have almost all their albums on vinyl. This is easily my least favorite thing they have ever done. I saw them in concert in 2004 and 2007, both shows were fantastic. For the majority of this album I am just completely shocked this is what Tegan and Sara have progressed to. 

There are some great songs here which are all down-tempo and more somber-- "Faded by a Feeling", and then the final songs on the album: "This Ain't Going Well", "Sometimes I See Stars", and "Whatever That Was." Those are the only four songs on this album I plan to revisit--I'll stick to the rest of Tegan & Sara's back catalog.

Top 10 shows of 2022:

If 2021 was the return of live music, both for me and the industry, then in 2022 it reached the next level of awesomeness. I saw around 30 bands at Furnace Fest, but then went to a dozen other club shows. All that said, some incredible live music this year! Video links below are my footage.

1. Sunny Day Real Estate (Saw twice: in Detroit at Saint Andrews Hall, and Furnace Fest) "Pillars"
2. Elliott (Saw twice: in Detroit at The Fillmore and at Furnace Fest) "Calm Americans"
3. The Beths (took my kids to see them at the Magic Bag in Detroit)
4. Thrice (at Furnace Fest playing the album The Illusion of Safety)
5. Sleigh Bells (In Detroit at The Magic Stick)
6. mewithoutYou (In Detroit in January playing the album Brother, Sister)
7. Laura Stevenson (In Detroit at The Loving Touch)
8. Stretch Arm Strong (Furnace Fest)
9. Blindside (Furnace Fest)
10. Idle Threat (Furnace Fest)

See my video compilation of Furnace Fest here.

And here is a compilation of clips from other shows I saw in Detroit:

Top 9 vinyl reissues of 2022: