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Catchgroove’s Best of 2022

December 30, 2022

I consumed a little less new music in 2022 than prior years. Not because it was not a good year in music, but because:

  • I got hooked on the albums I already own (see my 🌵 sessions on cheap used vinyl)
  • Some of my favorite albums were long – four LPs albums became a norm
  • I took a deep dive into the Drive By Truckers (that took about two months 😊)

In summary, there was not a lot of time to consume new music. That being said, I still discovered lots of great music in 2022 that I want to share with you. As I read other year end lists I realized I have missed lots of great music from 2022.

#1
Goose
Dripfield

Goose has been around for awhile and they have a nice following. They have lots of recordings out (mostly live), but this is their first proper studio album. They absolutely nailed it! The songs are perfectly sequenced and the opening two tracks, “Borne” and “Hungersite” are seamlessly connected. This is an album and not a collection of songs. The album is beautifully recorded and mixed. Although they are a jam band, they have a pop sensibility that separates them from that scene. They play songs and not just riffs and jams. See full post here. I saw these guys last summer and they were fantastic live.

# 2
Wilco
Cruel Country

Wilco decided to fully embrace their alt-county/Americana roots on this album. They dropped the album when it was finished on streaming services vs. waiting for physical release (vinyl adds 6 – 12 months to the release process). Cruel Country is country music (in the non-Nashville alt-county/Americana sense that Tweedy helped invent), but it is also a double meaning: it is music about our country. Wilco are country like the Grateful Dead are country: they are informed and influenced by it; they borrow from the country palette. They then deconstruct it and reassemble something new. See full blog post here.

#3a
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Unlimited Love
#3b
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Return of the Dream Canteen

The Red Hot Chili Peppers managed to release two double albums this year that rival the best albums from their catalog. Both albums are great and on any given day I prefer one versus the other. The reality is they are just one massive album. The question is, with this much material, should Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen have been edited down to a 45 minute masterpiece? My answer is no. At this point in the RHCP’s career a taut masterpiece is not needed, but an excessive quadruple LP is. Links to my original reviews can be found here: Unlimited Love & Return of the Dream Canteen

Looking forward to seeing the band live in Phoenix May of 2023.

#4
Tedeschi Trucks Band
I Am The Moon

My favorite album of 2021 was the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s (TTB) take on Layla. TTB has now doubled down by creating over two hours of original songs inspired by the Layla’s source material: the “eastern Romeo and Juliet” Layla and Majnun by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjav. I Am The Moon is a 4 LP set (24 songs). It was released digitally in four chapters over the summer and is now available in physical formats (CD, vinyl and a sold out vinyl deluxe box set). Each chapter has an accompanying film/video. See link for full post.

#5
Drive By Truckers
Welcome 2 Club XIII

I bought this album because I was going to see the band live. I was not a fan and was only marginally familiar with their music, but felt like I should be a fan based on who I thought they were. I love this album and in anticipation of the show I studied their catalog. I am now a fan. If you are not familiar with the DBTs this is a great starting point.

#6
Father John Misty
Chloë and the Next 20th Century

I am a long time fan of Father John Misty – I have all his albums and have seen him live (including this year in support of this album) several times. In my review earlier this year I said: “One of my favorite music critics, Steven Hyden, has an interesting rubric – the five-albums test. The idea is to declare a band or artist great, or no no based on the fact that they have released five good to great albums in a row. This is not the only tool to measure greatness, but one tool. In his recent podcast, Indiecast Hyden declared that with Chloë and the Next 20th Century Father John Misty (FJM) had passed the five-albums test. I couldn’t agree more.”

#7
Taylor Swift
Midnights

I loved TSwift’s dalliance with Americana during Covid, but I fully appreciate her return to pure pop with Midnights. Is anyone actually seeing TSwift live given the Ticketmaster debacle?

#8
Dawes
Misadventures Of Doomscroller

I was a big fan of Dawes’ 2009 debut North Hills. I loved its Jackson Browne singer songwriter vibe. I tried to stick with them, but successive albums just didn’t click. But I thought I would give this a try as I realized it was produced by Jonathan Wilson. I had no idea Wilson was affiliated with Dawes. This is the fourth album he has produced for Dawes (including that debut album I liked so much). This new album has hooked me. I love its Grateful Dead jam band vibe. I guess Dawes recent moonlighting gig playing with the Dead’s Phil Lesh rubbed some jam on to them.

#9
The Smile
A Light For Attracting Attention

I think of myself as a Radiohead fan and I am generally aware of their side projects, but I totally missed this one. I recently became aware of it when one of the vinyl heads I follow posted a picture of the LP. I went to my streaming service and gave it a listen – it is stunning. It is beautiful and it rocks.

The Smile is Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood with the drummer Tom Skinner (member of the jazz band Sons of Kemet). Yorke provided vocals, and he and Greenwood played guitar, bass and keyboards. The album was produced by Radiohead’s longtime producer Nigel Godrich.

It sounds like Radiohead, but different. At times more lush and at times more heavy. I am still absorbing it, but it is pretty fantastic so far. Most importantly there are lots of guitars and real drums!

In December the band issued a live set on streaming services that is a rawer (in a good way) version of several of these songs.

#10
Black County, New Road
Ants From Up There
(Deluxe)

I had never heard of this band until the guys on Indiecast (one of my favorite podcasts) alerted me to it. I said in my blog post earlier this year: “I know it’s weird, no it’s weird as fuck. All I can say is listen at least five times. It is an acquired taste.”

Reissue of the Year
Wilco
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Mega Deluxe Reissue

Wilco has been systematically reissuing their back catalog in deluxe/expanded editions for a few years now, but YHF is their most ambitious reissue to date. This is fitting as YHF was the album that moved them from middling indie-rock band to the American Radiohead – they have never had a radio hit or gotten to arena level commercial success – but with this album they earned serious cachet amongst musicheads (ironically they eventually devolved into dad rock). Wilco has taken an ingenious approach to the typical reissue of alternative takes and outtakes: they have sequenced three alternative YHF universes with three alternative versions of YHF. This is a wonderful reissue that gives you deep insights into Wilco’s artistic methods. Must listening for obsessive fans.

Honorable Mentions – no particular order

Maggie Rogers
Surrender

This is a worthy follow up to the breakthrough debut. Many young artists have a sophomore slump. Not Maggie. The debut was a strong collection of singles where Surrender an album – that is, it is a cohesive whole. As much as I liked Heard It In A Past Life, I prefer Surrender. But I have always been an album guy. Surrender sounds more mature and self assured. This is pop music, but with a wonderful quirkiness. It has a bit of a 80s New Wave vibe. Looking forward to seeing Maggie live at a festival in Phoenix in March 2023.

Big Thief
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

It is a wonderfully weird album. It is both tossed off and ambitious. I don’t know what to make of it, but I like it. I hear so many things: Radiohead, The Band, Bon Iver, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Stevie Nicks, Emmylou Harris – I will stop there – this is a deep album. Adrianne Lenker’s voice is wonderfully haunting.

Maren Morris
Humble Quest

I became a Maren Morris fan on her last album Girl. I wrote earlier this year: “Maren Morris’s music is rooted in country, but she is comfortable performing R&B, rock, Americana and pop. Country has been flirting with pop as long as I can remember. Sometimes that flirtation works, but often it comes off forced. Not for Morris, she is a master at country pop. Her latest, Humble Quest (her third major label album release) makes it a country pop hat trick – she has it figured out.”

Angel Olsen
Big Time

This is the third album on this list produced by Jonathan Wilson. Wilson is the reason I came to this album. It is a slow burn of an album and occasionally Big Time swells. The production is stunning, but great production is not enough – Angel Olsen delivers: she is a fine songwriter and great vocal performer.

Harry Styles
Harry’s House

This is his third solo album, and although there is nothing new here, there is the pure confidence of an artist who doesn’t feel the need to impress anyone but himself. I listened to a recent podcast from the New York Times that suggested that Styles’ music does not live up to his greatness as a pop star and celebrity. I get that. His music is derivative and unoriginal, but it is fun and engaging. That is good enough for me! Full post here.

Nikki Lane
Denim & Diamonds

This is the long overdue follow up 2017’s Highway Queen. Denim & Diamonds has the Americana singer songwriter working with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme and his band. That unlikely pairing works. A little less twang and a little more grit – it is a nice progression.

Billy Strings
Me / And / Dad

This is a late add to the list. My son picked this up for the 🌵 Sessions when visiting for the holidays. Billy Strings has succeeded at being a rockstar and as a bluegrass musician. He comes about the genre from his dad’s influence and this is a dedication to his dad. Strings puts a modern twist on bluegrass, but this album is his most traditional. It is a collection of bluegrass classics with Billy and his dad alternating the leads. A delightful album and a great introduction to Billy Strings if you are unfamiliar with him. Looking forward to seeing him live in the spring of 2023 (Phoenix).

Ryan Adams
2022

2022 is a comeback year for Ryan Adams: he released four LPs and he had a successful solo tour of theater-sized venues. I saw him live in Minneapolis and it was a fantastic show – including several Minneapolis covers: Bob Mould’s “Black Sheets Of Rain” (which is fairy common in his set), Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train,” and The Replacements “Achin’ To Be.” The four albums are rocking. Chris is dedicated to his deceased brother, Romeo & Juliet is naturally a love album, FM is classic rock and Devolver is power pop. All are excellent.

And if that was not enough, Ryan released two covers albums for the holidays: Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska and Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. Wow!

Schitt: VALHALLA
TRIODE OTL HEADPHONE AMP AND PREAMP

Gear is a big part of my music experience. In my Minneapolis home I almost exclusively listen to music via headphones. For the last several years I have used a Schiit Vali 2 and have really enjoyed it. I brought it down to our Phoenix home and left it there and upgraded Minneapolis with a Schiit Valhalla. Schiit describes the Valhalla as “triode OTL amp”. Per my research, an output transformerless (OTL) is a type of vacuum tube audio power amplifier, which omits an output transformer for the purpose of greater linearity and fidelity. Conventional vacuum tube amplifier designs rely upon an output transformer to couple the amplifier’s output stage to the loudspeaker. I have no idea what the hell that means. Here is what I know: this is a rockin’ headphone amp – it sounds great. Schiit makes great budget audiophile equipment.

Margo Price
-Maybe We’ll Make It: A Memoir

I don’t read a lot of books, but when I do it is typically a music biography/autobiography. I listened to the audiobook version of this memoir and Margo’s reading of her memoir was a grand performance. See full review here.

And that’s a wrap. Already looking forward to 2023 when I will be retired and have more time to listen to music.

3 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    Thanks, I always find new music in your annual reviews.

  2. I love that Smile album, played it when taking the Christmas decs down and it fitted perfectly.

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