Favorite Albums of 2022

Alex G - God Save the Animals - I suppose I am a little late to the party on Aleg G, but I saw this record pop up on a lot of lists and gave it a shot - and I dig it. I appreciate the lo-fi folk and the earnest yet goofy lyrics, and there's some very nice production to boot. This feels more like a summer record than a fall record (when it came out), so I am looking forward to digging back into it as the weather warms up...

Blood Incantation - Timewave Zero - Blood Incantation's prior record was a symphonic and synth-laden take on death metal, and it was a blast. This entirely-instrumental record drops the metal sound almost entirely and strips the versatile band's sound down to an enveloping synth-crafted sonic soundscape. If you can pick up the version that comes with a Blu-Ray full of trippy visuals and extended tracks, that would be the best way to appreciate this one.

Dream Unending - Song of Salvation - Soaring guitars, driving drums, spacey synths, and guttural vocals punctuate this record, my favorite metal album of the year. The band plays well off one another and seems "committed to the bit" of a concept record enough to help shape a series of tracks that easily play like one long song. Face-melty rock.

Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers - This record has been consistently in rotation since its release early in the year, and though it is arguably the most inconsistent and least compelling of Kendrick's albums to date, it is also one of the most sonically ambitious, combining a blend of approaches, influences, and samples that outpace even some of his prior work. As always, he has a lot of interesting things to say and perspectives to share, and despite being fairly long, the record still leaves you wanting to hear what he'll do next.

Kevin Morby - This is a Photograph - Morby's last couple of records impressed me enough to pick this one up on release day, and there are probably few other albums on this year's list that I listened to more often than this one. It not only features Morby's best songwriting thus far, but the really nice production work makes brings out the sonic range in his mostly-acoustic music that I'd otherwise only really experienced when seeing him perform. The duet alone is worth the price of admission, but this one is solid top to bottom. My favorite of 2022.

The Smile - A Light for Attracting Attention - It is pretty much a guarantee that any Thom Yorke or Jeff Tweedy-related project will make these annual lists (see this year's final entry, for further proof!), and The Smile's debut record is, of course, no exception. This is somehow both the most 90s-sounding record that Yorke has been involved with since that decade, and also one of the more interesting evolutions (iterations?) of his work with Jonny Greenwood. If you aren't a fan of Yorke's signature howl, this won't turn you into a convert...but if you dig "The Bends" or "Ok Computer"...or jazz drums crossed with post-rock riffs, this one is worth your time.

Sonic Youth - In/Out/In - This collection of instrumental outtakes from 2000-2010 easily sits aside their similar "The Destroyed Room" album from 2006 as one of my favorite records the band has ever put out. There are few things I spent more time listening to this year while reading or writing.

Sunn 0))) - Metta, Benevolence BBC6 Music: Live on the Invitation of Mary Anne Hobbs: This is about as close as metal gets to "ambient," and these live recordings of some of the material from their recent studio albums (including my personal fave "Life Metal") are some of the best excuses I've heard all year to crank the volume to 11.

Void Patrol - Void Patrol - Colin Stetson and friends jam through an hour of what they call "jazz dronecore funk metal" to impressively spacey and stylish results. Another great record to write or read to. This is the only new CD I purchased in 2022.

The Weeknd - Dawn FM - Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never) co-produced this record and plays all over it, and though it isn't his first collaboration with The Weeknd, it is easily the one where he seems to have had the most influence on the record's synthy and glitchy sound. That sound, coupled with The Weeknd's unrivaled pop sensitivities, made this a serious contender for my favorite record of the year. Jim Carrey's radio DJ bits/skits, while fun for a listen or two, made it just miss that designation.

Wet Leg - Wet Leg - I don't think there was a line from any other song that got stuck in my head more this year than the catchy-as-fuck sound of Rhian Teasdale singing "on the chaise lounge on the chaise lounge on the chaise lounge all day long on the chaise longue". Much like Morby's record above, this one is really solid top to bottom...I am probably more excited to see what this band does next than any other artist on this year's list.

Wilco - Cruel Country - This album took a while to grow on me, but by the end of the year it has probably become my favorite Wilco record since 2011's "The Whole Love". More than anything else the band has done, and despite the title, this record embraces a jammy sound that's more reminiscent of peak-era Grateful Dead than it is of the "alt-country" label that Tweedy tried to break from in Wilco's formative years.

Honorable Mentions: Bonobo - Fragments, Brandi Carlisle - In These Silent Days, Horsegirl - Versions of Modern Performance, Mitski - Laurel Hell, Willie Nelson - A Beautiful Time