Wednesday, May 24, 2023

McQ's Best Of 2022 Vol 1A - Best Of The Best (The Fat 244)

Greetings once again friends and music lovers!

Here we go with Year 19 of the McQ's Best Of... mix collection!

2022 was not a banner music year - solid for singles, a big tipping point in America for international acts, but way rough in terms of top-flight albums. 

Maybe Beyonce's Renaissance or Wet Leg's debut will age well enough to earn classic status in time (though neither are our top 2022 title), but as it stands right now, I'd bet no. This is the first time since Nancy and I began doing these mixes that we haven't given a single calendar-year release a highest recommend.  

But with so many talented artists pouring their hearts into their work, there was still plenty of gold to be mined from the 2022 field, and hopefully Nancy and I have a unearthed some of the shiniest nuggets here.

Please note there are actually two variations on the Best Of The Best mix this year, the too long for a single sitting Vol 1A - Best Of The Best (The Fat 244) written up here, which casts a broad net, trying to highlight at least one or two standouts from each major sub-genre, and the more succinct Vol 1B - Best Of The Best Hard 90, which screws comprehensive inclusion to just boil things down to the best hour and a half of music we heard.

For those who may want to dive deeper, I do reference additional notable releases across these individual song write ups - most of which have a track featured on our follow up mix Vol 2 - The Next 100-ish.

And now, enjoy!

About The Artists, Albums & Songs Featured On This Mix:

1. Dawn FM - The Weeknd w/ Jim Carrey: Conceived as a fifty-minute stretch of music emanating from a radio station in Purgatory, The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye)'s fifth full-length Dawn FM (Solid Recommend) boasts several winning 80s-tinged neo-soul tracks, but its the album's playful mock DJ interstitials guiding trapped souls into heaven - performed to trippy-dippy perfection by Tesfaye's real-life neighbor Jim Carrey - that steal the show, so I thought it would be fun to bracket this year's mix with two of the most memorable.

2. In ar gCroithe go deo - Fontaines D.C.: Record 1A in our top album rankings of 2022 (a work still very much in progress), Fontaines D.C.'s third album Skinty Fia (Strong Recommend) is about as good as post-punk fronted by a tuneless lead singer gets. The excellent cad anthem Jackie Down The Line was the record's hit, but In ar gCroite go deo, my favorite song of the yearis the work's definitive track, and most representative of the album's thematic focus on the cultural indignities faced by those living abroad. The song references the incendiary 2018 UK news story of deceased Irish dinner worker and Coventry-resident Margaret Keane, whose posthumous request to have the benign Gaelic phrase the song is titled for (which translates to "in our hearts forever") etched into her headstone was denied by the court of the Church of England unless an English translation was added to avoid the potential provocation of violence and terrorist activity. Having recently relocated to London, the native Dublin act was, like most of Ireland, infuriated by the ruling, and ironically, put this protest song to tape on the same day in 2021 that the judgment was finally overturned. Keane's daughters would soon after make a public point of playing the song at their mother's grave. Most of the rest of Skinty Fia strikes a similarly thoughtful, agitated groove, with the band compensating for lead-singer Grain Chatten's lack of range on songs like the title track, the aforementioned Jackie, Roman Holiday, I Love You, and Nabokov with some seriously expressive rhythm guitar work.  

3. Feels Like A Different Thing - Confidence Man: If Australian dance-camp quartet Confidence Man's hysterical debut Confident Music For Confident People leaned heavily to the camp side of their energetic, highly entertaining formula, follow-up Tilt (Mild Recommend) flips the switch, dialing down the humor in a play to be taken more seriously as an elite-tier dance-tent band.  Some reviewers praised the album for its greater instrumental range and sophistication, others, like me, mostly missed the fun, except on standout song Feels Like A Different Thing, which perfectly recaptures the joyous Screamadelica inspiration that coursed through much of the debut.

4. This Is A Photograph - Kevin Morby: Along with Fontaines D.C.'s Skinty Fia, Kevin Morby's poetic meditation on life, death, Memphis, and communal resilience This Is A Photograph (Strong Recommend) gets our vote for the best album of 2022. After witnessing his father collapse from a medical scare while visiting his Kansas hometown, Morby rediscovered a trove of family photographs that same day while his father recovered at the hospital, and the whole experienced launched Morby into a deep exploration of human mortality, an exploration that quickly expanded to include not just his father but an entire city as well. Latching onto the idea that Memphis has the most tragic history of any American city, Morby had soon sequestered himself in the city's infamous Peabody Hotel, venturing out only to visit the sites of some of Memphis's most infamous passings, among them the Lorraine Hotel (MLK), Graceland, and the precise Mississippi river spot where Jeff Buckley drowned. Deciding he needed to finish his already started album in Memphis before the flurry of inspiration was lost, Morby invited several collaborators, including jazz drummer Makaya McCraven, Cassandra Jenkins, Erin Rae, and girlfriend Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee), to join him at the legendary Sun and Stax studios.  The end result was one of 2022's most thoughtful and reflective releases.

5. LA FAMA - Rosalia: A vibrant exploration of Flamenco music's possible future forms, rising Spanish superstar Rosalia's third album MOTOMAMI (Strong Recommend) is every bit deserving of its critical rating as 2022's best international release. Percussive and ever shifting, it has a specific multinational, polyglot swagger similar to that possessed by M.I.A.'s career highpoint Kala fifteen years ago, with one significant difference - Rosalia is a way more talented vocalist. 

6. The Overload - Yard Act: Feel like you've been missing that particular brand of cheeky post-punk popularized by the likes of Franz Ferdinand and Art Brut back in the mid-aughts? Well look no further than the high-energy debut The Overload (Solid Recommend) by snarky Leeds-base quartet Yard Act, who drag the style kicking and screaming into the Brexit era on songs like Payday, Pour Another, 100% Endurance and the title track featured here.  And for more in a similar punchy-style, check out Dubliner's The Silverbacks' latest Archive Material.

7. All The Good Times - Angel Olsen: A matter-of-fact, unsentimental break-up song, but quite likely not with another individual, but an earlier, less-emotionally-connected version of herself, All Of The Good Times is the magnificent opener to Big Time (Solid Recommend), the most unabashedly country album yet from Chicago indie-crooner Angel Olsen. Loaded with twangy, Twin Peaks-y last-call torch songs, this warm, album-long celebration of living in the moment as opposed to in one's head is my second favorite work of Olsen's career after 2016's dramatic My Woman. And for more late-night country-tinged magic, check out The Cowboy Junkies unexpected return Songs Of The Recollection, Weyes Blood's And In The Darkness, Hearts AglowAussie Julia Jacklin's PRE PLEASURE, and Orville Peck's Bronco, whose song Out Of Time was the last track trimmed from this mix.

8. The Hardest Cut - Spoon: While it doesn't possess that home run track, Spoon's Lucifer On The Sofa (Strong Recommend) is loaded with doubles and triples, making it the band's best and most consistent album since 07's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Notably, lead singer/principal songwriter Britt Daniel relocated back to his native Austin, Texas a few years back, which might explain why Lucifer is also the band's hardest rocking, most guitar-centric recording in quite some time. Spearheaded by quick-hitting tracks like the anthemic Wild, simmering Smog cover Held, Feels Alright, On The Radio, and The Hardest Cut, the whole affair has the feel of a rowdy UT Sixth Street live set. And for more tight crunchy indie, check out Canadian stalwarts Sloan's latest Steady.

9. Protection from Evil - Ibibio Sound Machine: For their third album, this London Afro-funk act decided to amplify the electronic side of their polyrhythmic sound, teaming up with festival synth-pop darlings Hot Chip to produce the aptly named Electricity (Solid Recommend). A lively front-to-back listen that oddly often reminds of the Eurythmics' best uptempo work, I was torn between three tracks to represent the record here, but finally sided with the high drama of opener Protection From Evil over the new-wavish high funk of 17, 18, 19 and the album's most popular track, All That You Want. And for more multinational funk with a debt to classic new wave, check out Charlotte Adigery and Boris Pupul's Topical Dancer.

10. Guys On Every Corner - The Mountain Goats: We move from "protection from evil" to thoughts on how to take evil on. Continuing their hot streak of lyrically unified albums that lock in on the most unusual of thematic obsessions - the world of professional wrestling (Beat The Champ), the adulting pains of aging niche music junkies (Goths), the joys of Dungeons and Dragons (In League With Dragons), and the fall of Paganism as a dominant world religion (Songs For Pierre Chuvinhave all been recent topics - John Darnielle and company turn their attention to the instantly recognizable cliches of 80s and 90s noir/revenge films with the often laugh-out-loud amusing Bleed Out (Strong Recommend).  The song titles alone - Training Montage, Extraction Point, Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome, Need More Bandages, Make You Suffer, and my personal fav, the "summon the old neighborhood chums to take on the bad guys" Guys On Every Corner  - give a great sense of the fun to be found, but the best thing about Bleed Out is how the subject matter (and an able assist from Bully lead guitarist Alicia Bognanno) has forced the usually so mellow Goats into almost full-on rock mode, making it among the most unique albums in their expansive catalog. 

11. Weeds - Beach Bunny: Alvvays' breakout album Blue Rev, featured later in this mix, delivered the year's most sophisticated jangle-pop, but for my money, 2022's catchiest jangle-pop single was Weeds here from Chicago-based, Lili Trifilio-fronted Beach Bunny's sophomore full-length Emotional Creature (Solid Recommend). And for more summery, hook-filled pleasures, check out The Beths' latest Expert In A Dying Field.

12. Don't Come Home Too Soon - The Reds, Pinks and Purples: Want some great, melancholy bedroom pop? You could do far worse than the San Francisco-based, Glenn David Robison-led The Reds, Pinks and Purples' Summer At Land's End (Solid Recommend), the best of the band's three full-length 2022 releases. And for more chill bedroom pop with a light touch, I'd give The Paperbacks' Past Life Regression a whirl.

13. Still - Just Mustard: Imagine the Cranberries backed by Nine Inch Nails/Ministry and that will give you a good idea of the throbbing sonic mayhem to be found in Irish quintet Just Mustard's second full-length Heart Under (Strong Recommend), the best industrial album of 2022. And for another female-fronted venture into the thrill of noise, take a listen to Chicago-based Sonic Youth-worshipping trio Horse Girl's debut Versions Of Modern Performance.

14. Auntie Diaries - Kendrick Lamar: Driven to self-examination over a five-year hiatus caused by an extended case of writer's block and the birth of his two children, Kendrick Lamar decided to turn his lyrical gaze inwards like never before, resulting in what is by far his most personal, difficult, and complicated album, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers (Solid Recommend). N-95, Silent Hill, Die Hard, and the stand-alone single release of The Heart Part 5 (recorded in the same sessions) were the big hits, but no song encapsulates the album's endless contradictions better than Auntie Diaries, which caused quite an uproar in the trans-community: half praising the ultimately uplifting tale of Kendrick's slow path to acceptance and appreciation of the two trans-members of his extended family, the other half disparaging Lamar's choice to riddle the song with F-bombs and dead naming practices to make his point. And for more quality hip hop from rap's 21st century guard, check out Pusha T's It's Almost Dry, Denzel Curry's Melt My Eyes See Your Future, Billy Woods' Aethiopes, and Earl Sweatshirt's Sick.

15. Ice V - King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: The first of three excellent jam-oriented albums to be spotlighted on this mix, the hyper-prolific King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms & Lava (Strong Recommend) was 2022's best psychedelic album, and maybe the most consistent record of the always adventurous but often quality control-lacking Aussie act's career. Ironically, it's also the band's least pre-planned effort to date: all seven of its grooving, flowing numbers like Ice V here were recorded live in the studio with no pre-planning or writing, just an upfront agreement on tuning and tempo. And for those looking for additional worthwhile 2022 psych-rock listens, also check out King Gizzard's other two calendar-year releases Changes and Laminated Denim, Jack White's duel '22 offerings, the exciting, almost violent Fear Of Dawn, and the much gentler, folkier Entering Heaven Alive, Goat's hard-hitting, Midsommar-suggesting Oh, Death, Wild Pink's at times War On Drugs-ish ILYSM, and the Arctic Monkey's super-loungey The Car.

16. 43 - Florist: Taking bucolic, Big Thief-styled whisper-folk a step further, the New York-based, Emily Sprague-led indie-quarter Florist eschewed the studio for the screened in porch of a Hudson Valley rental to record their fourth LP, the eponymous Florist (Solid Recommend). As gentle and warm as any 2022 release, much of the album ebbs and flows with ambient pauses that highlight the surrounding area's natural sounds, but over the course of its full-hour, six or seven sharply drawn songs do emerge out of the woodland haze - especially Sci-fi Silence, Spring In Hours, Red Bird Pt. 2, and personal fav 43 here with its long, fantastic guitar-led denouement.  Will be too delicate and sleepy for some, but I liked the vibe.

17. Hot Stuff - The Rolling Stones: It was one of the Stone's most legendary concerts.  Sick of the bloat that had overtaken major rock tours in the mid-70s, the Stones decided they wanted to record some songs in an intimate club setting reminiscent of their early cover-band days back at London's Crawdaddy.  Always fans of Toronto, they chose the El Mocambo as the venue, and released 300 tickets for a secret two-night stand billed as warm-up act The Cockroaches for headliner April Wine (who also released a live recording from these sessions). Originally, four studio-enhanced versions of the Mocambo recordings were included on side three of the Stones '77 release Love You Live, but now, forty-five years later, the Toronto-shows have been resurrected in all their pristine glory with Live At The El Mocambo (Solid Recommend). It's a must listen for any serious Stones fan, and while there's a decent smattering of the band's classic hits (It's Only Rock 'N' Roll especially kills), what's most fun about the record are the resuscitated formative-years blues covers and how ferociously the band digs into their less highly regarded mid-seventies material, especially the way-better-than-the-original flange-heavy take on Hot Stuff featured here.  

18. Chaise Longue - Wet Leg: Take Wynona Ryder's "teenage angst bullshit" from the movie Heathers, shove that anxiety forward another half-decade to the mid-twenties, and drape it all in a super-infectious, hysterically hyper-observant and profane punk-pop package, and that pretty much describes every song on Isle Of Wight duo Wet Leg's self-titled debut (Strong Recommend), the number three album in the consensus year-end polls and number four here at McQ's Best Of. As fun as any 2022 release. And for more playful, female-fronted punk pop, give the still-in-high-school Linda Linda's debut Growing Up a listen, or for a more mature take, The Yeah Yeah Yeah's latest Cool It Down.

19. Home Maker - Sudan Archives: The year's most critically championed and innovative soul album, Natural Brown Prom Queen (Solid Recommend) comes to us courtesy of Ohio-Born, LA-Based singer/songwriter/violinist Brittney Parks (aka Sudan Archives). As opener Home Maker demonstrates, Prom Queen offers soul music crafted with a level of arrangement complexity far above the norm. And for more fine 2022 neo-soul, Brit Gabriels's debut Angels & Queens  - Part 1 is worth checking out.

20. Bad Love - Dehd: Chicago trio Dehd traffics in surf-tinged garage rock so basic and minimal your six-year-old could play along. But whatever their instrumental restraint, they have an indisputable talent for plucking clever, hooky alt-rock melodies out of thin air and delivering them with a Perry Farrell-styled panache, and they do so time and again on the engaging Blue Skies (Solid  Recommend). Fans of Aught-era acts like Drums, Girls, and Best Coast will dig this one for sure.

21. Break My Soul - Beyonce: The runaway critical concensus album of the year, Beyonce's Renaissance (Strong Recommend) is a fantastic retro-dive into the dance-floor's signature sounds of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  Owner of some of the best best songs of any 2022 release, the only thing holding me back from giving Renaissance a highest recommend is that just like with Robyn's Body Talk in 2010, the melodic pop numbers so consistently outshine the more techno-oriented numbers like worst track Thique that the record feels unbalanced, when really we're just talking noticeably different tiers of excellence. And for three other very different 2022 dance-floor takes, check out Fijuya & Miyagi's Slight Variations, Lizzo's Special, and Metrics' Formentera.

22. Free In The Knowledge - The Smile: As with several of Radiohead's best albums, Thom Yorke/Johnny Greenwood side-project The Smile's A Light For Attracting Attention (Solid Recommend) didn't appeal to me much over the first few listens. But with time, especially after hearing its songs embedded in multi-artist mixes, its particular appeal sank in, to the point where I now like it better than any of Thom Yorke's solo efforts, and a few of Radiohead's lesser efforts as well.  If you're not a Radiohead fan, don't bother, but if you are, definitely give this one multiple spins.

23. Spud Infinity - Big Thief: Following two very different but highly focused releases in 2019, U.F.O.F and Two Hands, Brooklyn indie quartet Big Thief loosens things way up and goes wherever the hell they please (stylistically and literally - the album was recorded in four different locations: Topanga Canyon, Tuscon, the Colorado Rockies, and the Catskills) on their epically sprawling 2022 double-album  Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You (Solid Recommend). Unfortunately, the great, relaxed sense of freedom the album conveys isn't always matched by the song quality (this is the least consistent of the band's last five releases), but as with Beyonce's Renaissance, its best songs are as good as anything 2022 served up, from lilting numbers like Change and No Reason to the awesomely clanky Time Escaping to twang-fests like Red Moon and my personal favorite, the sublimely ridiculous Spud Infinity.

24. Pretty Songs - Bob Vylan: The first of two songs on this mix highlighting artists sprung from an ascending black-punk movement,  Bob Vylan's Pretty Songs perfectly encapsulates the entirety of the confrontational London duo's second album Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life (Solid Recommend), as direct and angry and unrelentingly political an album as 2022 produced. And for a taste of the most exciting female-fronted act in this black-punk surge, be sure to catch New Orleans-based Special Interest's third full-length Endure.

25. Weather Alive - Beth Orton: One of 2022's most ethereal and solitary-feeling releases, Beth Orton's almost ambient, folktronic Weather Alive (Solid Recommend) was recorded at Orton's home, mostly during morning hours while her children were at school.  Supported by a crack team of regular collaborators, Orton scrambled like an impressionist painter to capture the feel of the misty early hours that informed most of the recording sessions, and the end result is often as lovely and immersive as 2022 music got. And for other exercises in musical delicacy, check out Kathryn Joseph's for you who are the wronged and Skullcrusher's Quiet The Room.

26. Pasaquan - Tedeschi Trucks Band: Standing in as 2022's best blues-rock effort - Tedeschi Trucks Band's epic I Am The Moon (Solid Recommend). Originally released over the calendar year in four short separate installments (I. Crescent; II. Ascension; III. The Fall; and IV. Farewell), the album is a sprawling meditation on the narrative of - and themes present in - the 12th century Sufi poem The Story Of Layla Majnum, the same poem that inspired the Derek and the Domino's classic Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs fifty-plus years ago. But whereas Eric Clapton and Duane Allman kept the Domino's version mostly anchored in one specific country-blues sound until that album's closing moments, I Am The Moon is a constantly roaming exercise in eclecticism - serving up its fare share of blistering Derek Trucks solos, as with instrumental Pasaquan here - but all sorts of other blues, soul, rock and country diversions as well, most anchored by Susan Tedeschi's earthy vocals. And for those who want to keep the twelve-bar jam going, I also recommend Tinsley Ellis's Devil May Care and Walter Trout's Ride. Tracks from each of these albums, as well as another standout from I Am The Moon, are featured in our Vol 2 - The Next 100-ish mix.

27. Heavy Heart - Bartees Strange: While I still think, at his core, he's emerging as this generation's Jeff Buckley, if Bartees Strange's  Farm To Table (Solid Recommend) proves anything, it's that the multi-faceted, genre-hopping polymath will never be one thing. Mixed-race, bisexual, an army brat who spent half his childhood on European military bases and the other half on a rural Oklahoma farm, he's a tweener in every sense of the word.  Few emerging artists are more naturally equipped to shift narrative perspectives and musical styles at the drop of a hat, and yet it is survivor's guilt over these circumstance-forged talents, not joy, that powers most of Farm To Table. Started before his debut Live Forever was even released, and recorded during the pandemic, Strange's second album - armed with a title that implies his childhood start to the empowered seat at the music industry table he now holds - agonizes over how his career took off just as Covid was destroying lives all around him. It's a compelling angle that turns what could have been your stereotypical "fame sucks" sophomore album into something deep and meaningful.  Good stuff.

28. Love Reaches Out - A Place To Bury Strangers: Every time I start a front-to-back listen to ultra-loud Brooklyn shoegazers A Place To Bury Stranger's sixth album See Through You (Solid Recommend) I'm pestered by the same two questions: Why am I championing this album, and why does the All Music Guide recommend this record above all of the band's other solid releases when only third song Let's See Each Other makes much of an impression over the album's first half? And then Anyone But You kicks in with a flurry of custom-built distortion-pedal excitement and for the album's final half-hour rush each new song is better than the last, culminating in the record's calmest and best track, new-wavish closer Love Reaches Out. My favorite shoegaze release of 2022. Jesus & The Mary Chain and Black Rebel Motorcyle Club fans are likely to love it.

29. Yo No Soy Celoso - Bad Bunny: Puerto Rican reggaeton sensation Bad Bunny strove to create the ultimate summer of 2022 beach-party/poolside album with his sunny, memory-anchoring fourth-release Un Verano Sin Ti (English translation "A Summer Without You"), and for many it appears he succeeded, making Bad Bunny the most listened to artist worldwide three years running. So successful was the album that even its least popular deep cuts - like my personal fav, the bossa-nova-leaning Yo No Soy Celoso - presently sit at close to 300 million streams on Spotify. 

30. Communion - CMAT: Delicious country-pop melodies and wickedly funny self-deprecating lyrics abound in If My Wife New I'd Be Dead (Solid Recommend), a promising debut from Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson (aka CMAT), the social-media savvy ginger crooner who has quickly become an almost Taylor Swift-sized sensation in her native Ireland. And fans of CMAT will also want to check out First Aid Kit's latest Palomino.

31. As It Was - Harry Styles: And I thought Olivio Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Bad Bunny had some crazy Spotify numbers. 2.2 billion listens and counting?!  Even if I hated As It Was and Harry's House (Solid Recommend), I'd feel obligated to include it. But I don't hate As It Was. It actually rates right there with Maggie Rogers That's Where I Am as my favorite contemporary pop song of 2022, and Harry's House the album in full possesses a similar, easy likability. And for more contemporary pop in a slick Brit-rock vein, give The 1975's Being Funny In A Foreign Language a listen.

32. Runner - Alex G: The likely PETA-anthem of 2022, super quirky Pennsylvania indie artist Alex Giannascoli has made a career of it ruminating on the inner emotional lives of his beloved pets, and here he turns his attention once again to one of his favorite dogs on Runner from latest release God Save The Animals (Solid Recommend).

33. All These Things - The Mysterines: No-frills, grungy alt-rock from the promising underground Liverpool quartet The Mysterines and their hard-rocking debut Reeling (Solid Recommend).  Shout out to my good friend Clark for turning me on to these guys.

34. Gasoline - The Weeknd: Truth be told, I was as into the Jim Carrey interstitials as I was the songs on The Weeknd's concept album Dawn FM (Solid Recommend), but I don't want that conceit to denigrate the album as a whole, which boasts an appealingly slick 80s vibe, and a handful of fantastic songs, especially Less Than Zero and our representative choice Gasoline here.

35. Running With The Hurricane - Camp Cope: Unfortunately, this Sidney, Australia indie-rock trio's latest and best album, 2022's Running With The Hurricane (Solid Recommend), is also likely their last, as the band called it quits soon after Hurricane's release.  Still, a band could do a lot worse than leave with Hurricane as a final statement, as the record is full of highly emotive, big-throated, country-tinged rockers that stand shoulder to shoulder with the best work of some of today's other similarly styled indie acts. Fans of Hop Along and Waxahatchee will find a lot to love on this one. And for some other solid country leaning efforts, don't miss Cass McComb's latest Heartmind, Wilco's Cruel Country, or Zach Bryan's expansive American Heartbreak.

36. Concorde - Black Country, New Road: 2022's number two album on the critical aggregators until the year-end polls dropped it down to around fifteen, Black Country, New Road's sophomore effort Ants From Up There (Solid Recommend) is the moodiest album yet to emerge from London's vibrant Speedy Wunderground post-punk scene that also includes the likes of Shame, Squid, Black Midi, Dry Cleaning, Yard Act, and honorary Dubliners like The Murder Capital and this year's best album provider Fontaines D.C. A serious downtempo slog in some ways, but also exceptionally, eclectically arranged, the album mirrors the fragile, depressed emotional state of lead singer and key songwriter Issac Wood, who left the band just four days after the record's release for mental health reasons. The remaining six members are actively continuing on, but have vowed not to perform any of their songs featuring Issac again unless he is able to make a return. And for more Speedy Wunderground madness, I'd definitely check out Black Midi's way more energetic third full-length Hellfire and 2022 critical darling Jockstrap's debut I Love You, Jennifer B.

37. After The Earthquake - Alvvays: Dialing down the sugar and upping the ragged-guitar drone, Alvvays Blue Rev (Solid Recommend) is the rarest of things, a pop album that's also a serious eureka album, requiring many listens to sink in once one gets past its most immediate songs like Easy On Your Own, Pressed, and my personal fav, the almost perfect R.E.M-ish nugget After The Earthquake featured here. I rate the album as the year's fifth best straight-indie release after This Is A Photograph, Bleed Out, Lucifer On The Sofa, and The Sadies' Colder Streams, but critics had it as the 2022 indie world's number one, placing it sixth in the overall year-end polls.

38. Wanna Know - The Soft Pink Truth: Standing in as our representative track for all of 2022's top electronic efforts is Wanna Know, the engagingly warm house number from The Soft Pink Truth's Is It Going To Get Any Deeper Than This (Solid Recommend), the seventh release from the decades-long side project of Matmos's Drew Daniels. And for those seeking out other compelling 2022 electronic albums, the next best bets would be Daniel Avery's smart and savvy Ultra Truth , Brian Eno's latest FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE, Working Men's Club's LCD Soundsystem-like Fear Fear, and The xx frontman Oliver Sim's solo-debut Hideous Bastard.

39. Stop And Start - The Sadies: 2022's prestigious Juno Award winner for Canada's best alternative album, the long-standing Toronto-based country-rock outfit's Colder Streams (Solid Recommend) was my favorite scuzzed-up, garage-tinged effort of the year.  Sadly for the group, which also regularly moonlights as Neko Case's touring band, co-founder Dallas Good passed of heart complications just months before the album's release.

40. Darkness Fades - Sharon Van Etten: A pandemic solo effort to be sure, New Jersey-native Van Etten had just moved to Los Angeles and started a family with her drummer/manager/husband Zeke Hutchins when Covid hit, isolating her and family in a locale they were still mostly unfamiliar with. So, with few other options, she got to work on seventh album We've Been Going About This All Wrong (Solid Recommend), playing near every instrument herself, recording the album at home, and doing some serious lyrical soul searching about her own emotional state and the state of the world writ large.  Sonically, it shouldn't be a surprise that the album has an insular feel, but emotionally, it's as epic as anything she's released since, well, 2010's Epic EP.  One of her strongest albums.

41. Accelerometer Overdose - Binker and Moses: The final of three extended jams featured on this mix, Accelerometer Overdose is the lengthy centerpiece of the most hypnotic, exciting and forward-looking jazz release of 2022, UK sax and drums duo Binker & Moses' latest collaboration Feeding The Machine (Solid Recommend). Recorded live in the studio, with third contributor Max Luthert adding all manner of subtle, real-time electronic distortion, interference and pedal loops as the songs were being put down, it's a fascinating exploration of how to weave machine-driven effects organically into  free jazz improvisations.  Stirring, eerie, Colin Stetson-like stuff. Those who want to continue the electro-jazz head trip further should check out UK outfit The Comet Is Coming's lively latest Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam, and for those who prefer their jazz fused more to the blues/hip hop/afro-pop side of the spectrum, look no further than Ezra Collective's consistently engaging Where I'm Meant To Be.

42. Thumbsucker - Soul Glo: Even at a brisk thirty-nine minutes, Philly interracial hardcore-punk quartet Soul Glo's thrilling major label debut Diaspora Problems  (Strong Recommend) will be too much for most to take in in one sitting: too fast, too dense, too aggressive, and spitting way too many words for one to process on a first, second, or even third listen. But for those whose tastes do include hardcore punk, it is so worth sticking with, because it is one of the sharpest and most intelligent lyrical efforts of 2022, full of fantastic humor, stunningly vulnerable personal confessions, and savage "can we please, for once, talk about real issues" takes on the pathetic contemporary political practices of both the right and left. And for those looking for more along similarly extreme lines, 2022's next best bet is probably Chat Pile's God's Country.

43. Wolves - Hurray For The Riff Raff: In the past a more traditional folk band, Alynda Segarra and crew embrace the most popular of modern sounds as they turn "nature punks" and challenge the listener to view the problems of 2022 from the standpoint of how we are all interconnected on Life On Earth (Strong Recommend), the strongest effort of the group's already accomplished career. A fiery activist deeply engaged in the present day immigration crisis (her personal efforts have actually gotten several refugees freed from our border-state detention centers), Segarra begins the album with Wolves, a clarion call for those who would "otherize" to remember that most immigrant crises are primarily fueled by caring, desperate parents fearing for their children's well being. 

44. unison - Gang Of Youths: Channeling their best inner-National, unison is just one of many dynamically arranged highlights from Australian indie rockers Gang Of Youth's angel in realtime (solid recommend), a moving, album-long Papa Was A Rolling Stone-like examination of charismatic Samoan frontman's Dave Le'aupepe's erratic father and the complicated impact his father's actions had on Le'aupepe and even more so his older brothers and sisters, some of whom he never knew existed until after his father's passing. And for another emotional deep dive in an indie vein, check out Porridge Radio's Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky.

45. Because - Danger Mouse & Black Thought: My second favorite hip-hop recording of 2022, the teased-at-for-decades first album-length collaboration between production-maestro Danger Mouse and his childhood idol, Roots-frontman (and one-time Jimmy Fallon house band leader) Black Thought has finally arrived in the form of the musically relaxed, lyrically thrilling Cheat Codes (Solid Recommend). Loaded with ace sample-anchored beats that draw heavily from psychedelic, prog, and soul recordings of the 60s and 70s, it also features some fantastic guest turns from the likes of Joey BadA$$ (Because featured here) Michael Kiwanuka (Aquamarine) and to the surprise of all, MF DOOM (Belize), resurrected through the sampling of a previously unreleased recording. And for other 2022 hip hop releases with a solid old-time feel, give Nas's King's Disease III or Brit-grimer Loyle Carner's Hugo a spin.

46. Messing With The Settings - Craig Finn:  With the recent return of flamboyant keyboardist Franz Nicolay driving The Hold Steady back to to their most communal, celebratory tendencies, lead singer Craig Finn's increasingly accomplished solo outings have shifted in the other direction, becoming the primary outlet for Finn's saddest and darkest creative impulses. And not surprisingly for an album that opens with a eulogy of a life lived with spirit but little else (Messing With The Settings featured here), A Legacy Of Rentals (Solid recommend) is Finn's saddest, darkest outing yet, ten string-soaked character sketches of lonely, desperate people at, as Pitchfork perfectly described, "different points along the way to rock bottom." But no matter how sad it all gets, from the desolate, self-destructive tendencies of the alcoholic office worker in A Break From The Barrage to the once-loving couple falling apart after being forced to tap their retirement funds too early in The Year We Fell Behind, Finn's enormous storytelling talent and magic touch with minor lyrical details will hold you rapt. And for other top 2022 releases from male indie singer-songwriters, don't miss Father John Misty's Chloe And The Next 20th Century and Bill Callahan's YTILAER.

47. Little Big Girl - Anais Mitchell: While not necessarily the standout folk album of 2022 (both Joan Shelly's The Spur and Rolling Golden Holy from Mitchell's own side project Bonny Light Horsemen offered a richer pool of high-tier cuts), the Hadestown creator's eponymous fifth solo-outing Anais Mitchell (Mild Recommend) did deliver the standout folk song of 2022 with the simple, heartfelt rumination on aging and adulting-angst Little Big Girl.

48. Tastes Just Like It Costs - MJ Lenderman: The spiky, primitive spirit of Neil Young & Crazy Horse abounds in this "song title of the year" contender from young Asheville singer-songwriter (and Wednesday lead guitarist) Jake Lenderman's uneven but promising-in-its-best-moments no-fi debut Boat Songs (Mild Recommend). And for other scruffy 2022 outings, be sure to look for Superchunk's latest Wild Loneliness, and Archers Of Loaf's long-awaited return Reason In Decline.

49. That's Where I Am - Maggie Rogers: An infectious take on long-delayed love, my favorite contemporary pop song of 2022 anchors a confident collection of anthemic, easy-to-like tunes on Marylander Maggie Roger's sophomore outing Surrender (Solid Recommend). And not that you missed it, but for more crowd-pleasing pop, there's always my daughter's 2022 fav, Taylor Swift's Midnights.

50. Baby Criminal - Viagra Boys: Intentionally silly (but sometimes also profound) ruminations on human de-evolution are nothing new in rock. Hell, Devo has made a career out of it.  But pointing the regressive spotlight explicitly on alt-right internet trolls is at least timely, focused and a little fresh, and on Cave World (Strong Recommend), Swedish-American punk-rock outfit Viagra Boys has an irreverent blast broadly satirizing the gun nuts, anti-vaxxers, and rabid conspiracy theorists that riddle the net.  The jokes don't always land, as hit-and-miss as in an SNL-skit, but the sleazy/sloppy Hives-like grooves are often dynamite, as on cuts like the critical-darling Trodglodyte, Punk Rock Loser, Big Boy and my personal fav, opener Baby Criminal. Uneven, but as distinct a listen as 2022 produced.

51. Thoroughfare - Ethel Cain: Heaven and Hell are places on Earth, and organized religion and its practitioners are responsible for creating both. That's a central theme on the seething, brutal, semi-autobiographic story of a troubled runaway southern baptist teen turned cult-leader turned cult-victim Preacher's Daughter (Solid Recommend) by enigmatic young trans country-rocker Ethel Cain (real name Hayden Silas Anhedonia). Possessed of a striking voice, Cain - when not dropping a brief moment of T Swiftian pop magic in breakout hit American Teenager - mostly comes across as some eerie southern gothic version of Lana Del Ray, who like Del Ray will choose personal freedom over commitment at all times, no matter the cost. Given that most of the album's narrative details are influenced by Anhedonia's own frightening experiences as a teen runaway and a gay-then-trans home-schooled youth reared in a deeply religious, insular Florida panhandle community, it's clear some of those costs can be horrifyingly high. Intense, moody, slow-burning stuff, as representative track Thoroughfare, one of my very favorite songs of the year, makes perfectly clear.

52. Whatever It Is (I'm Against It) - Kula Shaker: The best old-school psychedelic single of 2022, the blazing Whatever It Is (I'm Against It) comes to us courtesy of Kula Skaker and the veteran, Crispian Mills (son of actress Hayley Mills)-led outfit's silly, lively 1st Congregational Church of Eternal Love (And Free Hugs) (Solid Recommend). The track also stands in as our representative for a bevy of other worthwhile 2022 releases from Brit-pop elder statesmen including Ride guitarist Andy Bell's Flicker, Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr's Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, Michael Heade & The Red Elastic Band's Dear Scott, Placebo's Never Let Me Go, Spiritualized's Everything Was Beautiful, The London Suede's Autofiction, Tears For Fears' The Tipping Point, and ex-Soft Boys frontman Robyn Hitchcock's Shufflemania, most of which have a song featured on our Vol 2 - The Next 100-ish mix.

53. Girls Against God - Florence + the Machine: Some artists despise touring, but for others, it's their raison d'etre. If the deeply felt personal songs on Florence + the Machine's fifth album Dance Fever (Strong Recommend) are to be taken at face value, Florence Welch falls decidedly into the second camp.  Shut down for two years by the pandemic, Welch was forced to confront the hard truth that performing had become the entirety of her existence, and mattered to her far more than any personal relationship or political cause. Never one to shy away from a pagan metaphor, Welch places her need to perform on par with the middle-ages practice of Choreomania, where participants would literally dance themselves to death, and the album serves up several of the high quality anthemic barn burners one has come to expect from F+TM to deliver on the theme. Surprisingly though, it's Dance Fever's confessional ballads like Morning Elvis, Cassandra, The Bomb, and the natural-world-savaging Girls Against God that make the strongest impression this time out. My favorite Florence album since Lungs.  And for more indie/art-rock with a paganish vibe, check out performance artist Jenny Hval's latest Classic Objects, and bizarre Columbian experimentalist Lucretia Dalt's Ay! 

54. Phantom Regret by Jim - The Weeknd w/ Jim Carrey: We close with one last, this time almost poignant, interstitial message from purgatory's Dawn FM radio. Until next year (well actually just a few months til Nancy and I's '72 retrospective) - peace!

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