December 14, 2022
I’m not sure if there has been a musical theme this year. I’ve spent a lot of the year listening to Polish and Ukrainian music during and following my trip into the war zone. Replaying “Szal Niebieskich Cial” by Maanam in my Krakow hotel room, waiting for my ride to Auschwitz, or blasting “Бабушка” by the Russian rap artist L-Jane as we sped towards Lviv with the smoke from Russian rocket attacks in front us will always be powerful musical memories.
The best concert of the year was easily the DhakaBrakha show in Beaverton on September 30. The Ukrainian band enchanted us and compelled us to act. Their other-worldly sounds had Andi squeezing my arm and me in tears thinking of the people I left behind there. The images behind the quartet conveyed that this was more than just a concert. It was a desperate plea for global action. In Beaverton.
Like last year, I was devoted to making endless playlists on Spotify. This included 35 playlists for Andi while she was living in her apartment, with titles like, “Tied to the Whipping Post” and “So It’s Come to This, Barry Manilow.” Andi’s back home but we’re still not back together, so I will step up my playlist game in 2023.
As part of my Spotify playlist obsession, at the end of each month, I listened to at least one song of the 100 to 200 albums that were released that month (thanks to Wikipedia), making a playlist representing that month’s music. So I have quite literally listened to at least one song from each major release in 2022. That’s a lot of K-Pop and death metal. But it gave me a good overview of the year and lots of new discoveries, like Norway’s Blood Command. While I was looking for love lost songs, I found plenty of punk and metal albums that gave me the energy to swim forward.
So here is my annual “Top 20” list. Maybe not the twenty best albums, but the albums I enjoyed the most this year. The top three reflect the diversity on the list. Wet Leg’s debut album brought me back to the clever wordplay that I loved in 80s new wave music. The Smile’s A Light for Attraction Attention is essentially a Radiohead album and it transported me the to the ambient beep bop boop that helped be drift off on those endlessly lonely nights. At the top of the pile is the New Jersey punk band, Titus Andronicus. Their sweeping opus, The Will to Live, was joyous, earnest, and empowering. I played “I’m Screwed” a thousand times, always at full volume. It’s exactly what I needed to survive 2022.
The rest of the list has some old friends, like Harry Styles and Miranda Lambert, and releases I just lost myself in, like Soli’s beautiful tribute to Miriam Makeba. Giles Martin’s remix of The Beatles’ Revolver was orgasmic, especially when experienced with a gummy or two. I’m sure 2023 will have some favorite artists I don’t yet know exist. No doubt I will be listening to more music with my daughter who will turn nine in nine months. But here’s my soundtrack this year that has been like no other.
1. Titus Andronicus – The Will to Live
2. The Smile – A Light for Attraction Attention
3. Wet Leg – Wet Leg
4. Blood Command – Praise Armageddonism
5. Harry Styles – Harry’s House
6. The Linda Lindas – Growing Up
7. Somi – Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba
8. The Beatles – Revolver Super Deluxe Edition
9. Adrian Quesada – Jaguar Sound
10. Todd Rundgren – Down with the Ship
11. Viagra Boys – Cave World
12. Rosalía – Motomami
13. Natalia Lafourcade – De Todas las Flores
14. Drive-By-Truckers – Welcome to Club XIII
15. Miranda Labert – Palomino
16. Bebehoven – Light Moving Time
17. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
18. Beyoncé – Renaissance
19. Father John Misty – Chloe and the Next 20th Century
20. Various Artists – Elvis (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)