Two-Zero-Two-Two C.E.: Counting Down the Year in Sound Worship

How was 2022?

Better than 2021. 

Midyear I tested positive for COVID. I found myself unable to move or rest, which sounds contradictory until you experience bludgeoning exhaustion on top of significant physical discomfort. I'm lucky, though: In spite of testing positive for a full 8 or 9 days after symptoms showed up, the worst moments took place over the course of two full days. After that, it was just a matter of regaining some level of energy. It's no exaggeration to say that I felt drained for maybe a full month. 

I saw some gigs this year and bought a LOT of albums. I think my record collection is beginning to outgrow my space, which means I may need to consider some purges. 

Omissions & Lamentations for 2022: There are always too many of those. Considering I didn't even bother attempting to round-up my favorite albums in 2021, I'm going to focus on what I did hear and enjoy. We'll go back to being sad next year. 

While I know that the blogosphere has lost some ozone as other online creative outlets gain popularity, namely short-form video a la TikTok, I still enjoy typing out whatever thoughts and feelings I may have when it comes to music. If you're still stopping by and scanning my posts, thank you and best wishes for an excellent 2023. 

Here are my favorite albums of 2022:

15).  Boris – W (Sacred Bones)

The immediate comedown from the thrash-level rush of 2020's NO, Boris released W as a quieter counterpart: NO + W = NOW. The first LP to feature only singer/guitarist Wata on vocals since 2011's Attention Please, W is an immersive and decibel-laden listen, more on the ethereal side of Boris's penchant for washes of heavy drone.



14). black midi – Hellfire (Rough Trade)

With this year's Hellfire, black midi continue to evade categorization by being stylistically erratic and rhythmically sharp. The breakneck starts and stops remain in full swing, though Hellfire ventures more toward the cabaret side of their creative personality, answering the eternal question: "What if the Walker Brothers fronted a louder version of American Football?" I guess black midi could be the flag-bearers for math-rock lounge? This one hasn't held my interest as well as 2021's Cavalcade, but the chops black midi demonstrate can't be denied.



13). Guerilla Toss – Famously Alive (Sub Pop)

For Famously Alive, Guerilla Toss venture farther from the ESG/Liquid Liquid realm, removing most of the funk elements from their past LPs and reveling in sugary, psych-washed art pop. Famously Alive is the first Guerilla Toss album to be released by Sub Pop.



12). The Soft Moon – Exister (Sacred Bones)

"Throughout his tenure as The Soft Moon, Vasquez has occupied an evocative space. When 'Him' surfaced, the first single released for Exister, all of its sound and vision (and even Vision Street Wear if you’ve seen the video) immediately sent me back to a time and place. When you hear a song like 'Become The Lies', its magnetic bass riff and heavy factorial stomp, not to mention Vasquez’s highly expressive vocal performance, it’s implausible that a song like that wouldn’t have gained some mainstream traction during the peak of popularity that Nine Inch Nails enjoyed when singles from Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral were inescapable and ubiquitous."


 


11). Locrian – New Catastrophism (Profound Lore)

Following a seven-year absence, dark ambient/black metal trio Locrian released New Catastrophism, a rather gorgeous volume of somber and ominous compositions that further cement the band's place as unsurpassable champions of the apocalyptic soundscape. The album was also released with a digital-only EP titled Ghost Frontiers.



10). Osees – A Foul Form (Castle Face)

"Of any OSEES release to pop up over the last few years, (and there are many), 2022's A Foul Form might possibly be the most fuzz-laden and shouty. Clocking in at aggressive 22 minutes at 45RPM, A Foul Form sounds intentionally designed to emulate the hardcore releases of the past and this iteration of John Dwyer's perpetually evolving art punk outlet absolutely succeeds without abandoning ANY of its signature or creative trademark."




9). Boris – Heavy Rocks (2022) (Relapse)

The third of Boris's Heavy Rocks series, this latest installment retains the stadium-level guitar centered energy cultivated by the prior two volumes. Boris play around with the formula a little bit, finding some opportunities to thwart any potential for monotony without losing the plot. Heavy Rocks (2022) is immediately gratifying.



8). Chat Pile – God's Country (The Flenser)

Was God’s Country this year’s most uplifting album? The debut full-length from Oklahoma City’s Chat Pile, God’s Country casts as its central character the band’s hometown, which apparently plays host to a multitude of cautionary tales and bible belt misery. Vocally, Chat Pile exhibit frustrated, anxiety-inducing narration overtop chunky, almost industrial-level, shocks of down-tuned sonic mud with piston-pummel percussion a la Godflesh. Lyrically sparse, the band manages to express volumes in spite of word economy, episodic and fragmented stanzas acting as indictment of American systems of labor (‘Slaughterhouse’) or justice (‘The Mask’), questioning American apathy toward its impoverished citizenry (‘Why?’), or detailing day-in-the-life styled commentary about drug addiction (‘Wicked Puppet Dance’). It’s a rough listen but powerful, musically trodding upon the same ear-splitting ground as Unsane and the recent-era unease at play throughout Daughters’ 2018 release You Won’t Get What You Want.




7). Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyes See Your Future (Loma Vista)

Denzel Curry's fifth release, Melt My Eyes See Your Future, finds an exceptional balance between Soulquarian emulative boom bap and modern hip-hop's ties to trap and minimalist production. Though rife with features, the added voices throughout Melt My Eyes See Your Future never overwhelm the album or overshadow Curry's presence. An album both well-sequenced and composed, Curry's performances here are captivating and masterful. 

 


6). Moor Mother – Jazz Codes (ANTI-)

Jazz Codes, Camae Ayewa's latest outing as Moor Mother, is a collection of compositions built around poems Ayewa wrote as tributes to notable figures in blues and jazz, their names and any associated details dropped into free verse overtop ambient bass-n-drum, ethereal Ayler-weeping free jazz, abstract R&B, or off-kilter hip hop. As with most (if not all) of Ayewa's work, Jazz Codes is as challenging and provocative as it is musical and celebratory. A good set of headphones, zero distractions, and continued listens are recommended.



5). Hammered Hulls – Careening (Dischord Records)

Hammered Hulls is the work of Alec MacKaye, Mary Timony, Chris Wilson, and Mark Cisneros, names that are significantly tied to the lasting impact and lineage of the seminal Dischord Records label. In addition, Careening, the first Hammered Hulls LP, is likely the final album to be produced at the legendary Inner Ear Studios, the famed location that facilitated the recording and release of a bulk of Dischord's essential catalog prior to being shutdown in 2021. While excellent on its own, Careening could be considered a lasting tribute to Inner Ear's legacy, a worthy epilogue to the evolution of punk and hardcore, post-hardcore, and modern rock n' roll. Careening was produced by Ian MacKaye and recorded by Inner Ear owner Don Zientara. 



4). Danger Mouse & Black Thought – Cheat Codes (BMG)

Tariq ‘Black Thought’ Trotter dropped another reminder in 2022 that he’s one of the best rhymers to ever pick up a microphone. That reminder? A little album called Cheat Codes, a collaborative effort that’d been years in the making starring Brian Joseph Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse) in a producer role. Danger Mouse’s first hip-hop release since his outing with the late MF DOOM—which spawned the 2005 Adult Swim-inspired LP The Mouse And The Mask under the moniker DANGERDOOM—Cheat Codes is a 38-minute showcase between maestro and emcee. Black Thought’s immediate wit and inventive meter ably finds consonance with every sound Danger Mouse puts to a beat, whether it's 70s-era orchestrated soul (‘Sometimes’), abstract stitch work (‘Cheat Codes’), lowriding stride (‘No Gold Teeth’), or head-knocking flash (‘Strangers’). Boasting a healthy and smartly assembled roster of features like Raekwon, Joey Bada$$, Run The Jewels, A$AP Rocky, and a posthumous inclusion from MF DOOM, Cheat Codes is a demonstration of pure skill that never overwhelms the listener or even resorts to shit-talking bravado.

Reviewed for No Ripcord's 50 Best Albums of 2022



3). Horsegirl – Versions Of Modern Performance (Matador)

Likely to appeal to 90s “alt”-nostalgists, Horsegirl's Versions Of Modern Performance is awash in the glow of delicate indie-twang and ethereal rock bliss. Think K Records and college radio. With production from John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., The Breeders) and some aid from Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo, Horsegirl's admittedly referential approach may have gained some detractors, but, honestly, fuck them. For me, Versions Of Modern Performance was on rotation for much of 2022, the band's songwriting and performances both solid and engaging throughout, the fuzz-tone melodies and vocal harmonies both lush and somehow uplifting. Excellent debut. 



2). Makaya McCravenIn These Times (International Anthem)

Makaya McCraven’s In These Times plays like much of the jazz-fusion and light progressive rock I heard growing up as a kid, those 70s ensemble bands emergent from what had become a corporatized version of stadium-ready rock n' roll and the incorporation of soul and funk rhythms into jazz's then-abandoned traditional sound. Those songs sounded like high art to me, almost orchestral. Although evocative of the era, McCraven's music is far from pastiche. In These Times doesn't dismantle and rebuild for the sake of its creation. He's not killing his idols. Instead, you hear how inspiration should be approached and not treated as a blueprint, resulting in a modern LP that's more than worthy to be filed amongst those 70s-era jazz, funk, and soul touchstones. 



1). OFF! – Free LSD (Fat Possum)

“OFF! vocalist Keith Morris and creative co-conspirator Dimitri Coats have really created something special. Conceived as the soundtrack for a film written and directed by Coats, Free LSD, OFF!’s first LP following eight years of silence, is a conspiracy-riddled, punk-fusion head fuck that angrily spat on any pre-conceived notion I had of what to expect from them. While the vision behind the LP was no doubt aided by the band’s new rhythm section, bassist Autry Fulbright II of …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and Thundercat collaborator and drummer Justin Brown, OFF! manages to shift gears without losing their way, leaving the band’s necessary aggression fully intact while the Fulbright/Brown combo ably heightens their means of attack. Opening track ‘Slice Up The Pie’ seems familiar enough until the album transitions into ‘Time Will Come,’ Coats’ wall of sound enhanced by Brown’s Mahavishnu Orchestra-styled snare fills. From there, OFF! never lets up, a series of free jazz interludes slicing up an unrelenting barrage of aural assault, the 67-year-old Morris more than happy to keep his foot pressed firmly upon mortality’s throat.”





And, here are my follow ups:

16). Omertà – Collection Particulière (Trouble In Mind)

17). AutomaticExcess (Stones Throw

18). Helms AleeKeep This Be The Way (Sargent House

19). KEN Mode – Null (Artoffact Records

20). IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT – Spirit of Ecstasy (Century Media Records)

21). Multicult / Child Bite – split 12” (Hex Records)

22). Oort Smog – Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother (AKP Recordings)

23). Enumclaw – Save The Baby (Luminelle)

24). Bill Nace – Through A Room (Drag City)

25). JOYFULTALK – Familiar Science (Constellation


Singles & EPs:

1). Tomato Flower – Golden Arc (Ramp Local)

2). Eunoia – Psyop of the Year (Tomb Tree Tapes / Nefarious Industries)

3). Screensaver – “Clean Current” / “Repeats” (Upset The Rhythm)

4). Tropical Fuck Storm – Moonburn (Joyful Noise Recordings)

5). Laces Out - Roger Podacter (Nefarious Industries

Sincerely,
Letters From A Tapehead

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