DC's 2022 Year in Listening
We're nearing the end of 2022, and like many music writers out there, I enjoy spending the final days of November constructing a few end-of-the-year roundup posts to share with my modest readership. Last year I highlighted DC's favorite songs, EPs, and full-length albums across the first stretch of December, but this year I've decided to scale things back a smidge. I guess "scaling back" has sorta been a theme here at DC as of late, if you've noticed my declining journalistic output. This is my first post in three months! Yikes.
But anyway, here's the plan: on Thursday you can expect a traditional favorite albums post. It'll be an easy-to-digest (and easily shareable) countdown of my favorite 2022 releases. Today, however, I'm just gonna write about some random musical things I've loved over the past 12 months in a free-flowing format, without ranking or anything formal like that. I'll present musical nuggets chronologically for some structure, and I'll drop a few links, but otherwise feel free to simply skim through this post to learn a bit about DC's year in listening.
Okay, here we go!
On December 1st, 2021 (when my 2022 music tracking really started), ironomi quietly released their Four Nocturnes EP. A quiet release for a quiet EP, I suppose. Here, the ambient classical duo spins delicate piano and electronic programming into four beautiful, minimalist improvisations. If you adore ironomi's kotonoha as much as I do, you should probably check this one out, too.
And just to tease Thursday's post: this wasn't the only December 1st 2021 release I loved.
Jumping ahead a couple months, I thought that Adela Mede's Szabadság was such a midwinter gem. It runs only 25 minutes, sure, but the artist's debut offering is laden with emotional weight tied to memory and place. Recorded in her family's home on the Slovakian/Hungarian border, Mede uses her voice, field recordings, and electronics to connect the past with the present.
Some albums hit just right, and last March, Band Argument's Cow Tools got me. Like, immediately. A couple tracks in, and I was hooked. Now, Band Argument's music doesn't really sound like much else I feature on this site, but their upbeat pop cuts, many of which feature smart changes-of-pace, just make me smile. I like Safety Line and Farkel Party a lot, but letting the album run all the way into Offline Invocation and then screaming out the chorus is the most fun.
I don't wanna take up too much space writing about festivals in this roundup post, since I spotlighted three already this year, but blasting the title track off Camp Cope's Running with the Hurricane on the open highway while driving home from Treefort in late March was definitely a 2022 highlight for me.
And while we're on favorite songs of 2022, now would probably be a good time to mention foresteppe's pestrota, an epic piece dropped by the prolific sound artist in mid-April. Across the nearly 11-minute track, Egor Klochikhin blends together various percussive layers with Ukranian folk singing, speeding up the pace until he eventually achieves a strobe-like effect. It's incredibly mesmerizing, and maybe my pick for song of the year.
I finally got hit with covid in late May, and quarantined in my house for a week. Fortunately, the virus caught me after I watched Sontag Shogun (more about them on Thursday) open for Julianna Barwick. It truly was the best night of live music I'd witnessed in years. But unfortunately, covid got me the day before I was set to see Jenny Hval play a to a packed house at Holocene. I would have melted watching her run through American Coffee, another one of my favorite songs of 2022.
But I made it to summer break in one piece, and gotta shout out a couple of pop albums that brought me a lot of joy across those sunny months. Both Primer's Incubator and Grace Ives' Janky Star were technically released in the spring, but they got heavy play in my house throughout the summer months. I was actually sent Primer's album ahead of time in a press release, but skimmed over it casually and tossed it aside like a dork. I ended up falling in love with the artist's brand of danceable synth pop after circling back to her album later in the season. Grace Ives' album simply includes two amazing earworms: Loose and On The Ground. Both tracks are so so so good.
I don't pay attention to Pitchfork reviews like I used to, but I do read most of what Phillip Sherburne writes for the site, and I definitely listen to everything he recommends. In late July, Sherburne reviewed Chat Pile's God's Country, and the intro paragraph alone convinced me to check it out. His review was spot-on, of course. The sludge metal group's music IS equally terrifying and thrilling. For someone like me, who grew up on bands like Korn, Chat Pile's music feels nostalgic, but shades more sinister.
In the dog days of summer, Rachika Nayar dropped a banger. I mean, Heaven Come Crashing is a pretty solid album from start to finish, but the title track hits hard. Featuring vocals from maria bc (who had just released their own solid album), the song opens with Nayar's signature trebbly plucks, the guitarist adding layers upon layers before wisps of voice are introduced into the mix. The sound keeps building until two-and-a-half minutes in, when a massive drop ushers in a frenetic breakbeat jam. The track eventually cools down again, but man, what a ride.
Summer turned to fall, and my life got pretty crazy for a while due to a new school year starting up, while getting blindsided with some tough life stuff at the same time (which I'll get into a little bit on Thursday). I kept listening to new music for sure, but didn't have as much time to appreciate releases as I would have liked. In mid-October, however, I really took to Eliza Edens' We'll Become the Flowers. It's an album of fairly straightforward indie folk ditties, but Eden' soft voice, creative lyrical imagery, and laid-back playing style really got me. It was a pretty perfect album for my fall mornings at home.
And finally, was anyone else super into Smut's How the Light Felt? I was sent the album well ahead of its November release date, so I was able to appreciate it across much of the fall. It's just a very tight indie rock album from start to finish, characterized by a slick 90s sound and punchy hooks. The Midwest quintet delivered a late-season gem with this one.
And that pretty much brings us to now. Hit some of those links above, but be sure to come back on Thursday for DC's favorite albums of 2022. Cheers!