Friday, December 30, 2022

My Ten Favorite Albums of 2022

Whereas last year, I had moments that suggested I may not be able to cull ten new records for a list, this year I had no similar problems. LOTS of new music in 2022. What follows is the list of my ten favorite albums released in 2022.

Top Ten Albums 2022:

10) Beach House -  Once Twice Melody

I've been a bit slow on the uptake with Beach House. While I've been partaking in their music for probably close to ten years, I always kept them at arm's length. In fact, it wasn't until two or so years ago that my cousin Charles recommended I give the track "Elegy to the Void" my undivided attention. That song, from the band's 2015 album Thank Your Lucky Stars, proved to be the track that opened an entirely new dimension to the band's music for me. Since then, every album that drops plays a slightly more important role in my year, culminating with this year's double album, Once Twice Melody, which, like Mastodon's Hushed and Grim last year and another 2022 album higher on this list, is a double album with NO fat. Every track is perfect, the order is essential, and it all builds into a fitting snapshot of the quieter moments of my 2022.

9) H6LLB6ND6R - Side A

Here's a first - H6LLB6ND6R is made up of the Addams family, who also have a film in my top ten films this year! The movie is likewise titled Hellbender, and just like this record, it's a really fresh take on what a stripped-down, independent project can accomplish. If this is bedroom-producing, I want more. Every track has a hook, and yet, the sludgy, pummeling goodness still hits hard. Add in an early Jucifer-vibe to the doubled vocals, and I just couldn't put this one down. 

8) Greg Puciato - Mirrorcell

Everything Greg Puciato does moves the needle well into the red with me. Mirrorcell is no different. That first single, "Lowered" with Reba Meyers from Code Orange is a massive track, and really helped to define my year. The rest of the album takes the slightly fractured feeling of Puciato's first solo record, Child Soldier, and smooths it into a more coherent whole. I miss the f*ck out of DEP, but I can't really complain when their singer is giving us albums of this calibre.

7) Carpenter Brut - Leather Terror

Until Leather Terror, Carpenter Brut's records always felt like they were half-there to me. I dig several of them to varying degrees, and the OST to Blood Machines is fantastic (but that's a score, and thus, something a bit different than an album), but there's always been a... I don't know, call it a whimsy that sneaks into the vibe and leaves me a bit cold. But that's just me. I also think my regard for CB may have suffered by my being such a fan of Perturbator-  anyone else working in that realm of "Synthwave" or whatever you want to call it felt a few notches behind. 

But as I said, ALL of that is my own baggage, and should not be misconstrued as judgment against the extremely accomplished musician known as Carpenter Brut, who proves me 100% full of shit on this new album. This one SLAMS, the guest vocalists all do fantastic work, and the one-two of tracks "Day Stalker" and "Night Prowler" is something to behold. 

Baggage ejected; can't wait for the next record!!!

6) The Mysterines - Reeling

My elevator pitch for this band is meant to evoke honor, and yet I realize it essentially sells the Mysterines short. "PJ Harvey singing for BRMC" is enough to convince folks to give this band a chance, but having listened to the record countless times and seen them live (my first post-vaccination show), a comparison like that does nothing to convey the raw gifts on display in Reeling's perfectly tight 13 songs. This is Rock n' Roll that lives and breathes with a confidence and cool that places it right up there in the lexicon of bands that will live forever - Iggy, Bowie, the aforementioned PJ and Motorcycle Club. A lot of that is owed to singer/guitarist Lia Metcalfe, who emotes a conjuration somewhere between Nick Cave's mystic knowledge and PJ's "Fuck U" attitude.

5) Final Light - Final Light

Brutal, majestic, mysterious: take the neon pentagram glow of Perturbator's music and wash it in the medieval blood of the north often associated with Black Metal and you still can't quite get close to capturing the sonic environment of this record. One thing's for sure though: It's a storm! 

I've spent A LOT of time this year using Lustmord's various instrumental music as a soundtrack to my writing because of the doorways his musical manipulations open. Maybe more than anything else on this list, Final Light provides a very similar experience. There are dark places herein, but they're inspiring and beautiful and, if you catch them just right, they'll take you places you won't be expecting.

4) Sylvaine - Nova

I'd never heard of Sylvaine until I saw them open for another band on this list, and live they absolutely blew me away. When I fired up this year's Nova album I found that, just like that live show, this band's studio mastery creates an all-encompassing experience that is visceral and beautiful and at times, sad and scary. That's pretty much exactly what I want from my Post-Black-Metal-Folk-bands, and Nova shot to the top of that list the moment I hit play on this one.

3) Zeal and Ardor - Eponymous

To quote my good friend Keller as we stood in L.A.'s Echoplex this past October watching Z&A tear through 80% of the new, eponymous record, "These guys are truly post-genre." Yep. Every album just gets bigger and better. Can't wait for the next. 

2) Ghost - Impera

I was not a super fan of Ghost's previous record, Prequelle, and while I've never stopped recognizing Tobias Forge's genius, his work doesn't always align with my taste or what I perceive as the promise whispered by those first two-and-a-half Ghost albums. So in the run-up to the release of this year's Impera, I had assumed this would be another quasi-disappointment. 

Wrong. This is easily my favorite Ghost album behind Infestissumam. Something about the arranging and songwriting on this one - I'm not sure if it's because I'm at a place where I have reassessed and embraced so much 80s Hard Rock I once detested, but I feel elements of a lot of that here, only transmogrified into something sleek and modern. Side A closing tracking "Watcher in the Sky" is my favorite song by the band behind "Year Zero," as well as my second favorite song of the year, and it carries a lot of weight here. That said, every single track moves me and gets stuck in my heart, even the mellowest ones, because they all fit together into this beautiful puzzle called Impera and make for a thrilling snapshot of an artist who has still yet to tap into his reserves.

1) Orville Peck - Bronco

It is a rare breed, the musician who can follow up a widely praised - and deservedly so - debut album with an even better sophomore record, let alone one that is a double album. Orville Peck, however, knocked this one so far out of the park, Pony seems like it came out a decade ago. Bronco is thrilling, with every track outshining the previous in lyrics, melody, and above all instrumentation. Like Impera, Bronco takes what has come before and influenced it - in this case the pomp and circumstance of 70s country instrumentation - and weaves it into a beautiful portrait of the years that preceded the album and those yet to come. Also, like Impera, one of the songs on the A Side - in this case, "Out of Time" - is my favorite of the year. What a perfect fit to my exodus from California and my move to Tennessee. 

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