Wherein our protagonist chooses their top picks in the past year of music listening and epic album buying.
Sadly, in the last few years my only blog posts have been these, the yearly lists. Even now, I’m only writing this on 31 Dec 2022, knowing full well I likely won’t publish this before midnight. But if I’ve learned anything this year (and expect a long post about that) it’s to go gently with myself. I’m hoping to make these more common because as always, I am anything if not opinionated.
So, as a semi-pro music listener, what did I enjoy the most this year?
The Beths – Expert in a dying field
Maybe I’m getting old, but the streaming algorithms beat me to discovering this band from Aotearoa. I don’t honestly know which track it was on the playlist, but when it hit, I had to go back and find the band name. Next thing, I was ordering the record on Bandcamp. The sound is straightforward and infectious, with an indie rock sensibility that borders on power pop (which is always my favorite rock sub-genre). There are no lows on the album, no moments that elicit a skip or could have been left out. It’s my top album of the year.
Sloan – Steady
I covered this album in a video I did on TikTok, but I’ll say this much here: the pandemic may have slowed down the recording and pressing of this album, but nothing is slowing down the Canadian champs of power pop. Their 13th album in their 30th year as a band, and it’s a cracking gem. One point I will call out is that the songs featuring Jay Ferguson on vocals are possibly some of his strongest ever. If I hadn’t discovered the Beths this year, this would have coasted in as my favorite of the year.
KOG (Kweku of Ghana) – Zone 6, Agege
Talk about taking a leap of faith based on one song… this album was one of my favorite and most joyous surprises this year.
Harry Styles – Harry’s House
Oh! Sweet jeebus, I never imagined I’d be listening to a mainstream pop album, let alone it being one of the best releases of the year. To be fair, I didn’t intentionally buy this album. I’d preordered NOT TiGHT by jazz duo DOMi and JD Beck—which is definitely worth listening to, btw—and UMG had a real SNAFU in their shipping department. I decided to give Mr. Styles’ album a shot when it was clear I wouldn’t be able to procure what I ordered. Well, slap my ass and call me Silver… it’s really damn good. The Peter Gabriel influence is strong.
Rocky Votolato – Wild Roots
I’ve long been a fan of Rocky, so when he announced a Kickstarter for his first album in 7 years, I was quick to back it. Then tragedy struck as the Votolatos lost their eldest child in a car crash. Rocky’s always pulled at the heartstrings, but there is a special tenderness on this album.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Ice, death, planets, lungs, mushrooms, and lava
This was a busy year for the prolific sextet from Naarm. They
- started out with a remix album of other artists’ takes on last year’s Butterfly 3000 (with the aptly named Butterfly 3001),
- released a limited pressing called Made in Timeland (with two 15 minute songs),
- surprised us all by releasing a split with Tropical Fuck Storm. One side consisted of an 18-minute single from the new album Omnium Gatherum, and a collaborative 3-part piece called Satanic Slumber Party with TFS on the other.
Omnium followed a few months later and proved to be an epic double LP, though it lost steam halfway through and in reality was a kitchen sink of unused songs (like Gumboot Soup and Oddments). The band surprised us again with 3 albums in October, one of which was Changes, which was not finished during the 5 albums of 2017, and why we instead got Gumboot. There was a companion piece to Timeland named Laminated Denim, and a plethora of live and demo releases as part of the band’s bootleg series.
What caught my ear the most—once I got past the front-loaded earworms of Omnium—was the first of October’s releases, the aforementioned Ice, et al. 7 songs in the different modes of the major scale of western music. While that sounds like a strange lesson in music theory, the result is flowing and compelling.
And I’m going to call it there. That’s about half the list, but I’m tired of typing on an iPad and want to enjoy my NYE. As always, you can follow my Bandcamp collection and my Discogs for other music I’ve backed with money. I’m also on Last.fm, though that does get slightly polluted with music my wife and kid play on our Sonos.