Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Rockin' My Turntable in 2022.

No, it's not a typo: this is my 2022 list. I think this is the last time I’ll have to say “it’s never taken me this long to put together a year-end music list” … for real! But here you go, my best of 2022 list is finally here! 

One interesting aspect of putting this particular list together was that my memory had 2022 as a slighter year for music, but once I rounded up the finalists, there were so many it took me several hours to cut this list down to the usual 20 slots. 

It’s also interesting to evaluate 2022 listening at the dawn of 2024, since I have a much better handle on what actually made a lasting impression, effectively balancing out the recency bias and communal peer pressure most lists released before the end of the year they’re tracking routinely display. 

There’re a few acts I was sure would be on here in 2022 that didn’t make the cut (sorry, Wet Leg) and some of those truly surprised me (I mean, The Smile released the Radiohead album many of us had been waiting for, and they're not on the list either). I also noticed there’s a lot of guitar-based stuff on here. Historically my lists are a bit more varied in that respect. Obviously, the endlessly recurring reports of rock’s demise continue to be more histrionic than historic. But I also think that the poppier spheres of the musical world never quite regained the forward momentum of the pre-pandemic years, so less from that realm made a lasting impression. But music is cyclical, and last year saw some more interesting pop releases, so let's hope that continues; but in 2022, it looks like it was rock and/or roll (mostly) saving my soul, y’know?

As always, this list is in no real particular oder (save one album) and since so much time has passed, I'm keeping the write-ups brief. But if any of this looks intriguing, please give the acts a listen ... I think any one of these albums would be a terrific addition to just about any collection.

Fun Days

This was the biggest surprise of 2022 for me, and remains a release I listen to frequently. As I mentioned in another recent review, I usually have one album at the top of my mental rolodex to answer the endless queries of "what's good? / what should I listen to?" and Ne'er-do-well's Fun Days was my go-to answer in 2022. These days? I'm eagerly awaiting their sophomore album and hoping that eventually they break out of the Austin scene to play a show closer to Chicago.

Tamar Berk
start at the end

The Inflorescence
Remember What I Look Like

My year-end lists historically top out at 20 releases, so to "technically" stay within those self-imposed boundaries, I've grouped a few acts together. If you somehow haven't read anything I've written about Tamar Berk, her album start at the end is an excellent place begin sampling her perfectly crafted pieces of guitar-driven pop. The Inflorescence also traffic in catchy guitar tunes, with the clear stamp of catchy '90s indie rock. Some say it's the sound that's (thankfully) sweeping the nation! And anyone who gravitated towards Matador releases in the early '90s hears a whole lotta that label's DNA in a striking swathe of similarly-minded contemporary groups. Why am I grouping these two acts together? They also share DNA—Berk is mom to The Inflorescence's singer and guitarist, Tuesday Denekas.

Keep For Cheap

I loved this album so much I bought the vinyl right after I received the promo for it. And I've continued to regularly spin this album both on my hard disc and on my turntable. Crisp, melodic songwriting causes this one to whoosh forward to the front of the line any time I need a little upbeat reflective time.

Extra Arms
What Is Even Happening Right Now?

Ryan Allen put out an unbelievable number of solo and side projects during the pandemic, but he made enough room to also release a stunning blast of nigh-perfect hard-guitar pop by his band Extra Arms.


MUNA's playful pop is better-known today than when this album was initially released, so it may be less an undiscovered gem to many. But if you haven't listened to this in a while (or at all!) give it a spin today and familiarize yourself with its positive ebullient charms.

Deaf Lingo

This Italian quartet turns their guitars way, way, way up while keeping the energy at a similar level. They've got big Superchunk / Bob Mould feels filtered through a new millennial lens, and its just too much fun.

The Handcuffs
Burn The Rails

Farewell Captain

Pink Frost
Until the Summer Comes

These were three excellent releases from three long-running Chicago acts, all of whom I've enjoyed following along with since each group's genesis. The Handcuffs have got your power-pop crossed with Nuggets-rawk and glammy swagger needs covered. Farewell Captain took years to finalize Amends, and that care shows in the quantum leap forward that band made (and they were already pretty great). And Pink Frost create howling vortexes of guitar squall pinned to driving rhythms creating a focused attack few will want to escape from.

2nd Grade
Easy Listening

So, yeah. This was on a ton of lists, and while it is easily identified as somewhat sentimental indie rock, their influences are aces, and the end result s familiar while being completely new. 

Household Name

Super-duper catchy, Momma takes a few musical cues from Weezer while side-stepping anything too silly. They then turn up the guitars around the sweet yet powerful vocals cutting through the curtains oof the song's arrangements, and they've got me in their grasp. Did I mention super-duper catchy?

The Brontosaur


Both of these albums are awesome, and both of these albums is HEAVY. Also worth noting, both albums are heavy slabs of vinyl (and both bands clearly embrace the ethos of a time when everything was analog, album covers and LP sleeves ruled the world, and heavy prog-rockers wandered the Earth. Dig into 'em and dig 'em both!


Oddly enough, this album took the longest to get its hooks into me. But once I unlocked it for myself its genius continues to floor me.

The Year That Never Came

I don't think this was widely released until 2023, but I picked up this final, long-gestating Assassins album the second I uncovered it online. In my case, Amazon had the MP3s for sale, so I'm counting it as a 2022 release. I am also clearly writing anything I can to not address why this album means so much to me. Instead I'll offer a fun fact: Assassins were the first band I wrote about when I was auditioning for Chicagoist! Who knew what amazing new worlds would unlock for me over the next 12 years that followed me writing that piece...

Neal Francis
Sentimental Garbage

A Chicago musician that stayed under my radar until this album, but if you're anything like me, the notion of Dave Fridmann producing a funk-pop album was too good to not listen to, and far far better than I expected it would be. Nowadays I pick up everything Francis is putting down the second he releases it.

Ghost Funk Orchestra
A New Kind Of Love

My absolute go-to for months and months and months for those days I needed to escape to a mental meadow-space and just vibe.

Don't Know What You're in Until You're Out

I play this album a lot and it never gets old. Is there higher praise to be given that that? Augusta Koch and her crew of merry musicians kick out jam after jam and I eagerly jump right into the center of the web they're spinning every single time.

Signs of Life

Buzzy catchy Britty brash guitars slinging against cabinets and crashing into each other while shower-hummable melodies wend their way to and fro? Yes, please.

The Backseat Lovers
Waiting To Spill

What do we get when you combine Radiohead Vox with a nod to early Bright Eyes and no fear of cranking up the volume? This is what you get. I happened to see them live on this tour and think they could be mega mega one day. 

Gill Brothers Band
Gill Brothers Band

Daniel Romano's Outfit
La Luna

Gill Brothers Band might look like a bunch of roots rockers, but this is vibrant, lively stuff that effortlessly swings while rocking hard. Danial Romano traffics similar terrain on La Luna, but eschews discrete tunes for a largely seamless song cycle. Both album are just terrific.

Wild Pink

This is one of those I throw on to get lost in. It starts off slyly quiet and slowly draws you in so that by the time to hit the insistent repetition of title track a third of the way in, it acts as a winch drawing you tightly in line with the rest of the album's ebbs and flows.

Carly Rae Jepsen
The Loneliest Time

It's Carly Rae Jepsen in full-on soft-disco sad-girl-with-a-smile mode. Of course I love it.

Whoa! You read everything until the end?! Thank you! And I promise that my best of 2023 list isn't far behind—I swear!

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