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2022 Year End Best Of

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2022: The pandemic is over, done with, and everyone is moving on, right? Back to normalcy, whatever that means...

I still haven't really gotten into going to concerts again.

I still mostly sit around my condo and listen to records. I write about them for Record Plug, a free magazine you can fidn around Atlanta. I should probably write about some of them here too.

  1. Wet Leg by Wet Leg. The self-titled debut record includes the hit single Chaise Longue from 2021. And as fun and fresh sounding as that song was when it was released, it is not the most interesting thing on this record. Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers have done a great job of putting together a band and writing a bunch of catchy tunes. This is a great pop record.

  2. Wild Loneliness by Superchunk. I wrote about this record extensively for this site earlier in the year, so if you want to know what i think, click here. To sum up: Superchunk are still making good music, and they still have things to say, and i, for one, will keep listening.

  3. Talk Talk Talk by The Paranoyds. For their secord record, The Paranoyds turn in eleven new tracks that are even catchier and more fun than the songs on their debut record, if you can belive that. This is a joyous, happy record with good riffs and lots of vocal harmonies.

  4. Deep In View by Cola. Somehow i missed Ought, the band that Cola evolved from, and based on what i hear on Deep In View, that is something i need to correct. This is minimalist post-punk with sparse instruments and disaffected vocals, all built around tight grooves.

  5. Stareside by Billow Observatory. This is a sort of ambient supergroup consiting of Jonas Monk (aka, Manual) and Jason Kolb (from Auburn Lull). Together the two of them make richly beautiful music.

  6. Visions of Modern Performance by Horsegirl. Damn precocious teenagers these days - recording great post punk records, working with Lee Ranaldo, making elaborate Gang of 4 puns in lyrics... This record is so good, so much fun. And the trio of girls making this are so young. I can't wait to see what they do next.

  7. Gnosis by Russian Circles. Russian Circles are often called "post metal", meaning that they are kind of like Mogwai but make heavier music. I find this kind of ironic, because Mogwai made a lot of music that sounds very similar to what Russian Circles do. This is just good post-rock: heavy riffs that fade in and out, and rhythms that slow down or speed up as the song progresses. All done very well by a trio who are masters of their instruments.

  8. Stumpwork by Dry Cleaning. When the first Dry Cleaning record came out last year, it seemed kind of like a gimmick: ha, i get it, the lady rants stream of consciousness over the songs. Fun in a beat poetry kind of way. Well, on the second album they show that they really mean it. Ms. Shaw even sings a bit at times, when it works within the flow of her stream of thought. But the thing about Stumpwork is that the band has gotten even better. Their playing is tight and innovative, and it is the strength of the band that makes Shaw's vocals work so well.

  9. Portrait of a Lady by Shilpa Ray. Sometimes i feel like i am screaming into the void about the talent Ms. Ray possesses. I guess she is never going to break into top 40 radio, but dammit people, she has one of the greatest voices currently out there. And she makes interesting songs. Listen and you will find something powerful, engaging, and exciting.

  10. Words and Silences by Brian Harnetty. Harnetty is a classical composer who works a lot with field recordings, incorporating strange sounds into his quiet, mellow music. Here, he has recieved permission from the Cistercian Monestary in Trappist, KY to takes samples from a serious of recordings that monk and writer Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968) recorded towards the end of his life. Harnetty has taken Merton's musings -- on theology, birds, jazz records, poetry, storms, and philosophy -- and played piano and added horns to them. The result is a calm portrait of a man who lived very alone but also tried very hard to reach out from his aloneness. A beautiful and fascinating listen.

The pandemic changed my relationship to seeing live music. I am now a lot pickier about where i want to spend three hours in a confined space with other people. So i only went to four concerts, all at Terminal West. The venue is mostly about timing. That is, there were shows i wanted to see at other venues, but all of those conflicted with other things going on. I only made it to shows at Terminal West.

  1. Low on Saturday 26 March. Low went on at 7 and played an early set, just them with no opener. There was another act going on later, someone i had not heard of, but the tickets were separate. Whatever. Low played the entirety of last year's Hey What, faithfully reproducing the heavily distorted sounds in a live setting through the use of feedback and echo. It worked really well, and was a simply stunning performance. Of course, no one knew that we would lose Mimi Parker later in the year, a fact which puts a slight tinge of sadness on memories of this show. But they went out on top of the game.

  2. Nothing (opening for Boris) on Monday 29 August. The very prolific Boris have some records i really love, and some that are more mediocre. When you release 2 records a year, sometimes quality suffers for quantity. Still, they have enough good stuff that i was interested in seeing them, and the opener announced for the show sealed the deal. Nothing are a "post hardcore" band that make a heavily distorted sort of punk. Or at least, that is the description they use, but it is bullshit and they should have the cajones to call a spade a spade, or in this case, say that Nothing is a classic Shoegazer band. Imagine taking Alison's Halo, Slowdive, Ride, Chapterhouse, and Cocteau Twins, mixing it all up, then speeding up the rhythms while keeping the male vocals buried in the mix. That is what Nothing do, and it is glorious to see live. I kept expecting (hoping?) that the next song would be a cover of say, A to Fade In or Lorelei or Souvlaki Space Station, but they just played their own stuff. Still: very cool.

  3. Superchunk on Thursday 2 June. This show was inexplicably and with no explanation whatsoever rescheduled from April. No matter, it's the 'Chunk! They played a lot of their really good recent album Wild Loneliness and also hit plenty of the classics. It was not the greatest show i have ever seen by them, but a decent Superchunk show is still better than most other things.

  4. Russian Circles on Saturday 29 October. Russian Circles have put out several albums of complex post-metal, each album showing enough growth to keep it interesting. Live they are a powerful riff monster, cranking out energetic songs. Lots of fun.

  5. Rezn (opening for Russian Circles) on Saturday 29 October. I had never heard of Rezn before, so i went in with no expectations. However, Rezn were a very pleasant surprise. This four piece makes music that is more "hard rock" than "heavy metal" (in my opinion) and they do it with keyboards and saxophone at times. Some of their songs sounded almost dubby live, which was very cool to hear in a concert situation. I liked the show so much i bought the album, and am looking forward to a new record they should have coming out in 2023.

  6. Boris on Monday 29 August. I have long wanted to see Japanese three piece Boris. Everyone says that their shows are crazy, noisy spectacle. Well, for this tour drummer Atsuo sang lead and danced at the front of the stage in a strange leopard print robe, while some buff white dude pounded the living crap out of the kit. (I later learned that he was Mike Engle from a band named Crawl. And, seriously, he was in shape and used those muscles to make a heavy drum sound.) Boris were strange and fun and ... wierd. I mean, it's a Japanese band. Most Japanese bands are pretty strange. But the music was engaging and went from strange psychedelic tunes to head banging riffage, with guitarist Wata showing us why she is so repected in the metal world. A fun show.

  7. Reigning Sound (opening for Superchunk) at Terminal West on Thursday 2 June. I am mentioning this out of a sense of completeness: i did, in fact, endure a set from this act during 2022. I did not enjoy it, and yet it seemed to go on forever. I get that this is some sort of long running act that Superchunk has taken in to their Merge Records label like some lost stray. Merge seems to have picked up quite a few of these lately (see also: Bob Mould, Archers of Loaf). But ... ugh. I can see why Reigning Sound have been around so long: the songs and words as so utterly generic that it must be easy to spit that crap out. Oh well.
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