Dear Abundant Livers,
First of all, thanks for sticking around. For a variety of reasons, some less reasonable/traumatic than others, I’ve been a real bum about sending out a regular newsletter. Obviously I’m not apologizing for the sad reasons, but it’s not like I went through anything foreign to the human experience. And I bet Lil’ Orphan Annie still got her newsletter out at least once a month, and she didn’t even have the privilege of having pupils. On the positive excuse side, working at Creem Magazine has taken up an incredible amount of my time–gratifyingly so–but I bet Bob Guccione Jr. never let SPIN get in the way of being a gross weirdo (which is what male music media types did before newsletters. They’ve stopped now). Anyway, between the last two years doing their best to gild the COVID lily and everyone forgetting why they were mad at Substack, I’ve lost a few subscribers. But not you. You are a golden god. And I appreciate that about you.
Second, it’s the end of the year! That time when music writers make lists as an excuse to answer emails from publicists even less than they already do. So here’s a list! I’ll email you back in February!
55 (if I counted correctly) albums I liked very much. Tried to focus on albums that weren’t on every other list. Wasn’t too hard as I’ve never heard of half the artists on most of those lists.
Other caveats are:
1. I’m not being contrary, I really don’t think Taylor Swift is very interesting. At least not since Reputation, which was at least appealingly trashy and vicious. Yeah, I respect her unimpeachable craftsmanship, and at least the new one isn’t as prestige-television-astically inert as the last two, but it also doesn’t have anything I’m excited to hear played at Walgreens for the next five years. Also her fanbase is arguably the worst fanbase outside of Elon Musk’s and, sorry, but that doesn’t come from nowhere.
2. I haven’t listened to the new Beyonce. But I trust you. Throw it on here if you want.
3. I didn’t hardly listen to any power pop, synth pop, black metal, or indie folk this year. Lots of good stuff in all those genres came out, some by people I like very much, but I tried to keep the list to stuff I listened to a lot.
4. I really did try to give the 1975 more listens. Even if just to justify my lil’ joke of calling them “Inxs fronted by the Steak-umms guy.” But I couldn’t do it. Sorry!
5. There are definitely some artists on here that I have personal relationships with, and that may have influenced my judgment. I do tend to like the art made by people I like, and I don’t much worry about the order of the chicken and the egg. If you want your band on next year’s list, you are welcome to shimmy yourself into my life and see what happens. I don’t subscribe to that “oh I wonder if people like me for me or for how I can help them” bullshit. Why you’re nice to me is not my problem, just keep the list spots and retweets coming.
6. I’m sure I forgot some stuff I love. Sorry to those forgotten loved albums. Also, I haven’t gone all the way through the Quietus list, and the MRR list doesn’t come out till January, but those are the two lists that influence me the most usually. (and PS. The Creem Best Ofs are on Insta and in our newsletter. Subscribe! Follow! Etc!)
7. Finally, sorry about Chat Pile. I know they’re lovely people, and the album undoubtedly goes. But there’s something ingratiating about it that I just can’t get with. As with Beyonce, I trust you. Go ahead and pretend I put them as number one.
Oh yeah, finally finally these aren’t in any order beyond the order they occurred to me as I went down my Bandcamp purchase list. This isn’t a hierarchical ranking. It’s a list of recommendations for the aesthete with poor money management skills. Buy them all as though they were Pokemon.
Without further blather…
Fifty Five Albums from 2022 That Are Very Good
Here's a playlist! (of all these bands, plus SO MUCH MORE)
No Home Young Professional
Cabaret Voltaire, if “Nag Nag Nag” was written by your best friend, and whispered in your ear during a sleepover.
Menace Ruine Nekyia
What the Ents played on their boombox as they prepared to march on Mordor.
Kilynn Lunsford Custodians Of Human Succession (ever/never)
Easily the best post-punk record of the year.
Richard Papiercuts Reunion (ever/never)
Climate of the Hunter produced by Trevor Horn.
Rider/Horse Feed ‘Em Salt (ever/never)
Bats released, grew thumbs, enrolled in RISD, learned to play “Sex Beat.”
Fatboi Sharif x noface Preaching In Havana (PTP)
Kal Marks My Name Is Hell (Exploding Sound)
A very good noise/Mclusky-rock album made great by a bassist who prob digs Bernard Edwards as much as they dig Mission of Burma and quite possibly had to be talked out of bringing a fretless into the studio.
Morrow The Quiet Earth (Alerta Antifascista)
A veritable “We Are The World” of the most famous stadium/emotional-crust singers in the stadium/emotional-crust industry. Playing it full volume causes bonfires, the growth of backpatches, and anthropomorphization of household pets. Sorry; “household companions.”
LA MILAGROSA Pánico (Iron Lung)
Window breaking Rock and Rolla music for punx who don’t forget the struggle, don’t forget the streets, and don’t post instagram messages about how the lizard people invented COVID and cancel culture.
Shrapknel Metal Lung (Backwoodz)
Neck checking, ruckus motherfucking, wild riding, pleasure principled, hippity hop. Not sure why anyone is meeting up at Kettle of Fish, but every other word and beat feels like the gospel truth.
The Paranoid Style For Executive Meeting (Bar/None)
So wordy, reference heavy, specific in detail, and thrillingly/compellingly smart, it’s practically a Backwoodz Studioz record. The dream of ‘80s indie, uncorrupted by ‘90s concessions to the public’s bad taste and idiocy.
Noori & His Dorpa Band Baja Power! (Ostinato)
I’ll give this album a cutesy/jokey description once the people of Sudan are free (which they will be). In the meantime: unrelentingly gorgeous guitar music.
BKO Djine Bora (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
Dark, politically charged + dynamically wild, hard choogle rock from Bamako. Guitar/lute lines sharp enough to make both Steve Albini and Wolverine reassess their life choices.
End It Unpleasant Living (Flatspot)
Pity the squealer population of Baltimore, forced into hiding by End It. I imagine they’re all probably googling “Snakes, Ireland” just to find a place where they might be safe from this hellstorm of street justice curb stompery.
daddy’s boy GREAT NEWS! (Drunken Sailor)
Nice guys, not mouth breathers. Eleven Jebus Lizardified versions of “Cabin Fever,” but about being trapped in a system/world/scene.
Rigorous Institution Cainsmarsh (Black Water)
Not interested in any reboot of the DC Universe that doesn’t make John Constantine’s punk band sounding like Rigorous Institution canon.
These two ranters/crowd pleasers (in a fashion) have given me so much joy and/or inspiration over the last decade, I’ll see you all in hell before I include one and not the other. If I prefer one of these albums this week, next week I’ll be immersed in the other.
Perennial In The Midnight Hour (self-released)
White belted/Locust coke mirrored maximum R&B for an alternative timeline where the Indie Sleaze Revival wasn’t completely cynical and moronic.
Suede Autofiction (some label that’s not on bandcamp)
Naujawanan Baidar Khedmat Be Khal (Radio Khiyaban)
Heavy folk n’ drone with youth crew chants, Afghan melodies, and rhythms straight out of the Arizona psych-rocktopia (and wherever in heaven mutinies are currently all the rage).
Ojo Por Ojo Leprosario (Cintas Pepe)
Hands down the meanest record of the year. Makes 99% of the hardcore records released in 2022 sound like televised sports in comparison.
Two great albums fronted by my guy, Joshua Strachen, each exploring different aspects of his various obsessions; death, Scott Walker, sex, the Mission UK, glam, noise, art rock, sex, gnosis, Queensryche, rebirth, romance, the hurt we cause, society, society’s deceptions, sexy death, sexy gnosis, (spooky) sex.
Noah Deemer The Sleepwalker (self-released)
In theory, if you don’t have a publicist or label and send me your album, I’m going to check it out. In practice, I get (roughly) 1,000,000 emails a day and I’ll probably miss it. Deemer followed up three times, as everyone should. And once I got over my irritation at him doing what everyone should do, I realized this strange and sublime lil’ album was good as hell. So, send me your stuff. But, if you do, follow up… and try to sound a lot like Felt.
Meat Wave Malign Hex (self-released… I think…)
Grumpy Chicagoans with as many primal riffs as the neanderthals, whose Cheap Tricky bubblegum is barely hidden beneath a jawbreaker (the candy, not the band thank goodness) shell.
Special Interest Endure (Rough Trade)
Correctly on nearly all the other lists. Not gonna lie; given the choice between their rougher no wave stuff and their current hard grit-disco moves, I prefer the new style as a rancorous DFA outfit.
Extra Life Secular Works Vol.2 (self-released)
Pessimistic Lasher Keen, just like I always wanted. Fairport Convention as Anatomy of Habit, with ten minute songs instead of twenty, standing against the forces of modernity and shouting “we’ll take the synths… BUT THAT’S IT.” Oh wait, there aren’t any synths. Guess they don’t need robots at all!
Marvin Tate’s D-Settlement s/t (American Dreams)
Much as I love American Dreams, I thought including stuff from the label that Zohra is on might be pushing things, nepo baby-wise. But this absolutely brilliant reissue/compilation is everything I love about true weirdo Americana and I’d be a jerk to not include it just based on some boring ass principles that nobody else in the industry operates by on their best days.
Rhys Langston Grapefruit Radio (POW)
Like if the Community parody of My Dinner With Andre was the actual movie, had 1000 x the melanin/Semitism, and Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory were eating plates of adderall instead of quail.
Municipal Waste is so consistently great that it’s easy to take them for granted. Which would be a mistake as these drunk idiots are consistently the smartest, most aggressively charismatic thrash band on the planet. Also they put me in a video.
Morbikon is one of Dave Witte’s 15,000 other bands and it’s a blackened death/deathened black metal stunner. I love Dave Witte so much I could puke.
Big Joanie Back Home (Kill Rock Stars)
The record that Stiff Records wishes it had put out. Punk would have been so much cooler if it had.
Chronophage s/t (Post Present Medium)
The musical embodiment of that A Scene In Between book but, like, fresh as a daisy in a brand new anorak. Yeah, I know the book is about a bunch of other musical embodiments, but if you can’t see that Chronophage are as good as (or wayyyyy better than) most of those bands, I can’t help you. Go read a 33 ⅓ book about Close Lobsters.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs Cool It Down (Secretly Canadian)
I’ve always been partial to Karen O at her most introspective. “Warrior” is probably my favorite YYYs song. So this moody and throbbing fucker is right up my alley. I’m obviously biased (and somewhat tender about all the Meet Me In The Bathroom stuff… watching your friends get famous, and then watching attempts to encase them in amber, feels weird!), but YYYs were always the best of their peers–deeply strange and expansive in their oddness and empathy–and they still are.
Generacion Suicida Regeneración (Drunken Sailor)
A literal cool cat driving a combination hot rod/hearse, with the top down, sitting on multiple copies of Kid Congo Powers’ Some New Kind of Kick and two cartons of menthol cigarettes so it can see over the steering wheel, blasting Rikk Agnew, and running very light.
Ted Leo For Colt and Killie EP (self-released)
America’s finest white cis male songwriter (that’s not faint praise… it’s not exactly an uncrowded field), back with an absolutely killer EP. Achingly romantic, romantically sad, enough fun home studio shenanigans to keep things off kilter, plaintive as an orphan with an unfortunate gift for memory, and with enough kicking against pricks to remind the listener that complicity is a choice.
Ibibio Sound Machine Electricity (Merge)
The house band of the Tardis’ discotheque.
Was going to have a “no EPs” rule, just for my own sanity, but these two Chicago bruisers of hard mod/lefty skin, tuff-pop, mean streets sophistication (along with the Ted Leo record) made the rule akin to journalistic malpractice.
Ghösh Ghettoblaster (self-released)
Well, since the “no EP” rule is out the window, may as well include this single, as Ghösh is one of my favorite new bands and this wily lil firestarter is the best non-Algiers grebo song since Pop Will Eat Itself’s “Can U Dig It?” Grow your hair long and shave the sides now and get ahead of the revival curve.
T.S. Warspite Stop the Rot (Quality Control)
The Sheer Terror “squatters rights” stage patter speech, but from the squatters’ point of view.
Wilder Maker Male Models (Western Vinyl)
I wrote this about the last Wilder Maker album, and I think it still applies. Just a grand, egregiously underappreciated American Band, with Male Models having the inventive high-chops and surly sweetness of an uncovered ‘70s gem recorded by one of the more literate Steely Dan sidepeople. Like Three Dog Night covering Wolfgang Press’ version of “Mama Told Me Not to Come.” (I feel like I’ve made that comparison before, but so what? It's my newsletter.)
Nancy Mounir Nozhet El Nofous (Simsara)
The Caretaker’s An empty bliss beyond this world, but in a dream where England had kept its goddamned blood soaked hands to itself. A haunted dancehall, with a jinn behind the wheels of steel.
Will Sheff Nothing Special (ATO)
Few take the world’s slights harder, and few make all the useless beauty, mutilated world, burning for grace etc. seem effortless. You’d almost think it was easy if Sheff’s songs didn’t so tunefully and compellingly say otherwise.
Drin Down River In the Distance (Future Shock)
A moody blue baby gorging itself on a cake of pink frost till its pudgy little fingers are simply sticky with the stuff.
It’d be silly to pretend that Leeds’ Thank aren’t exceedingly fond of the catalog of Eric Paul. But since when is having good taste a capital crime. Two (three) bands that understand that the counterculture started going downhill with the first “so and so taught me it was ok to be weird” article. It’s absolutely not ok to be weird, not the way these scabrous goons do it. It’s gross and upsetting. Hence the albums ruling.
Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals King Cobra (Phantom Limb)
“Fuck the Clintons and the Kennedys, fentanyl and Hennessy/Century after you die you won't even be no one's memory.” I mean, what am I going to write that measures up to that? Like if KLF, Ka, Kas Product, and Rass Kas collaborated to quantify the exact number of stunts Bruce Willis would need to pull off to get everyone free. Further a tribute to poor Willis by being the antithesis of aphasia.
Gemma Rogers No Place Like Home (Tiny Global)
If Fleabag had been scored by Vivian Goldman and Shampoo.
Savak Human Error / Human Delight (Ernest Jenning)
Imagine if Medium Medium had managed an entire album of songs that went as hard as “So Hungry So Angry” (and had been signed to Homestead).
Ché Noir Food For Thought (self-released)
Stripped down and propulsive beats, with bars, bars, bars, and bars on top. With no concessions to either fickle style, the kids, or hipster scum such as myself; Food For Thought is nothing but one of the best rappers out there slapping the listener around with her immaculate skill, sublime smoothness, and wild/expansive spirit.
Kid Congo Powers & the Near Death Experience Live in St. Kilda (In The Red)
A too-tuff-to-die live run-through of not just Kid’s greatest hits but also some of the greatest bops of rock and roll, bruising torn up by a supergroup of Australian post-everything miscreants.
Ignorantes Parece Que Tuvimos Demasiados Hijitos (Burning Coffin)
Hideous and lurching speed freakery for people who liked “I Hate Music” well enough, but thought it had too many notes.
teen suicide honeybee table at the butterfly feast (Run For Cover)
What happens when the Wichita Lineman dips out for a pack of Marlboros and never comes back, leaving his son to be raised by the first three American Music Club albums, a broken oscillator, and a single-mom sentient Chevy el Camino.
Thanks for reading! Please share! Please subscribe! Please subscribe to Creem! Thanks! Bye!
PS. I'm gonna try to do one more newsletter before NYE. Hopefully of books I liked. If I don't... buy the Kid Congo book.