Thought I’d share some of my favorite sounds from the records that were released this past year. I listened to a lot of different types of music in 2022, but the most emergent trend was a continuing move away from more strictly electronic music to more guitar-driven sounds and jazz. Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe I just can’t see the point of listening to club music when I don’t see myself going clubbing again anytime soon, but I still think this list will have something for every type of listening sensibility. Do let me know what you think!!
Eyes of the Amaryllis- Sift
Lo-fi bedroom chamber music for teenage ghosts, some tracks here (“Every Year”) are overwhelming, yearning shadows of normal pop songs, and others (“Fence Hobbyist”) recall the best of groups of freaks like No-Neck Blues Band. A real treat.
The sensation of hearing an excellent country band through a wall and a haze of sine waves and tape hiss. Aurally manipulative, expressive, and rather perfect. Will absolutely freak people out if they’re a little too lifted, a real beauty of a record that tests the listener’s capacity for deep listening.
Alexander Hawkins Mirror Canon- Break a Vase
A pal on the I Love Music boards said something like, “the only problem with that Hawkins record is that it’s too short,” and I’d agree— on heavy rotation since it came out in January 2022, it’s Hawkins at his best on the keys, with some real heavies in the band, too. The urgency of “Stamped Down, or Shovelled” or cool improv of “Faint Making Stones” should be enough to convince anyone on the fence.
Gerry Franke- Found Myself or Just I’m Dead
In many internet databases, this record is categorized as “Tribal Ambient,” but that does Franke’s brilliance a disservice— this is a truly out-there collection of heavily-syncopated percussion and guitar tracks that worm their way into the consciousness in a catchy yet weirdly unsettling way. Mind-bending, highly recommended.
Fievel is Glauque- Flaming Swords
It’s a somewhat lazy comparison, perhaps, but it is impossible to not think of Steely Dan and Stereolab when listening to Fievel is Glauque. There’s something about the simultaneous precision and lightness of the tunes that is utterly convincing in its strangeness. Deep proggy vibes, too, but in songs that are bite-sized, so the listener is constantly kept on their metaphorical toes. Though “The River” isn’t on here, it’s probably worth checking that single out, too— one of the best tracks to come out in 2022.
Lori Goldston & Stefan Christoff- Punk Equinox
Certainly the best album title of 2022, this record documents an entirely improvised set of music between cellist Goldston and organist Christoff, here on an old Hammond. Drones, moments that sound like a hurdy-gurdy, bowing currents from the depths of the earth. Deeply ecstatic at moments, too, particularly on “Wingspan in the Sunshine.”
Eric Chenaux- Say Laura
Extended and oft-unhinged guitar techniques and Chenaux’s sweetly crooning tenor allow this record to resemble the queasy yet beautiful feelings of love’s early stages. “There They Were” was the track that hooked me first— a ten-minute jammer where the last six minutes consist of Chenaux repeating the same lyric over and over while the pulsing and wild shimmying of his guitar rides behind him.
Binker Golding- Dream Like a Dogwood Wild Boy
London sax virtuoso Golding has made a record that hits all the pleasure points of Keith Jarrett’s early 70s fusion records, the Americana vibes of AOR hits from Bruce Hornsby & The Range, and the playing chops of a wildly talented jazz quintet. Other than Golding himself, I have to admit that I’m really partial to Sarah Tandy’s work on the keys, which is lush at the right moments and fits perfectly into Golding’s compositions. The melodies WILL get stuck in your head, so be prepared.
Širom- The Liquified Throne of Simplicity
This Slovenian trio describe their sound as “imaginary folk,” which is a bit of a misnomer, because their sound is a synthesis of many multiple musical traditions throughout the globe. Some moments resemble chaabi music, some recall Slavic peasant traditions, and some recall the repetitive vortex of Faust driven by analog instruments. A weird surprise, vaguely threatening at times, too!
mike cooper- Forbidden Delta Planet Blues
I learned this year that cooper is one of the most reliable outsiders there is, and this record is no exception— here we have nearly two heady hours of processed and looped lap steel guitar channeling the flow of rivers both on our own planet and planets way outside our galaxy. The whole record is worth checking out, but the fourth track is a standout, as an extraterrestrial idyll becomes a deep space horrorshow over the course of 25 spell-binding minutes.
death’s dynamic shroud- Darklife
Glitched-out maximalist pop music containing many elements that would normally annoy me— heavily processed and autotuned vocals abound, and the skipping CD effect can only entertain for so long if one’s done enough listening to weird music. But something about this record bewitches me, even makes me emotional— and the melodies are a help too, as evidenced by a recent bout of insomnia when “Light Left the Garden” became irrevocably stuck on a loop in my brain.
Jeff Parker ETA IVtet- Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy
Parker’s Forfolks was one of last year’s best records, a warm and intimate collection that was on a pretty constant rotation for much of this year, too. This record, the result of several live sessions with a quartet, is certainly one of 2022’s best records— a sunny, acid-drenched California spirit seeps into the sounds here, showcasing an ambient jazz that’s not as dark as Bohren und Der Club of Gore, but not as ethereal and spiritualized as Nala Sinephro. It’s active vibing, lead by Parker but indebted to the astonishing playing from all involved.
Nick Storring- Music from Wei
Solo piano has always “gotten” me, from Charles Ives’ “Concord Sonata” to Morton Feldman’s “For Bunita Marcos,” and so this record from composer Storring grabbed my attention. Originally meant to accompany a dance piece by Yvonne Ng, the piece includes everything from minimalist kinetics to percussive wanderings and echoes of the Romantics, too.
Irresistibly catchy, kraut-inspired post-hardcore. Not usually my thing, but this record really goes.
While I appreciate Daniel Bachman’s reinvigoration of and investigations into the American primitive guitar sound, I just don’t like his newer records very much— they’re interesting conceptually, but not terribly pleasant to listen to. Joseph Allred, on the other hand, is one of the world’s finest fingerpicking guitarists, and while one of his other records is getting more traction on EOY lists, it’s this meditative and plaintive record (a musical setting for two haiku) that really got me this past year.
RA Washington/Jah Nada- In Search of Our Father’s Gardens
If Sunn O))) were to produce a blasphemous gospel jazz record, it might sound something like this double LP from Mourning (A) BLKStar’s RA Washington and Bloody Show’s Jah Nada. Deep, brooding drones ferment under repetitive bells, a tinny brass group, and incantatory vocals on “When the Angels Sing,” and the bass-heavy menace of Bohren’s “darkjazz” comes through strong on “Hands.” That the digital version comes with an extra track called “Side E,” which is sides B & C played together, should be some indicator as to whether this record is for you— but I think it’s one of the year’s best.
Romance- Once Upon a Time
Probably the only ambient record of 2022 that I truly adored, Romance samples heavily from Celine Dion songs to create a queer sadboi dreamscape of lost love and hope amidst the tears. An emotionally resonant, beautiful record that sounds as sincere as it is lush.
Anna Butterss- Activities
Bassist Anna Butterss composed and played most of the instruments you hear on this record, which is a real marvel of jazz’s expanding vocabulary; indeed, there are moments here that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Aphex Twin record, some sample-heavy precision that recalls a less dusty Dilla, and epiphanic spiritual journeys like “Blevins,” the piece that continues to play in my head long after a listen.
Rilla- Yugeki EP/Yukou EP
Kyoto’s Rilla came out with two EPs on Shanghai’s SVBKVLT label this year, and there’s something about his noisy, post-deconstructed club sound that really feeds me. Take the Yugeki EP’s “Fifth Wave,” which includes a dirty Detroit techno bassline reminiscent of Underground Resistance, a looping modulator ring, live-sounding bells and other non-standard percussive elements, and grainy vocal samples. It’s aggressive and noisy and not necessarily for the dancefloor, but it is really something to behold given proper attention and good subs. “Magatama” on the Yukou EP will please those looking for that hard trance sound, too.
Chloe Jackson-Reynolds- The Winter Concert
A trans teen from Regina, Saskatchewan, uses looping pedals and an arsenal of woodwind instruments to record a live concert via a Discord call, and it might just be one of the best improvisatory jazz records of the year. Truly incredible stuff from Jackson-Reynolds, who is one to watch, and whose Twitter account is also a joy— a phrase rarely, if ever, used in my house.