2022 YEAR IN REVIEW: Closing Ceremonies
Here are our final words of 2022, we promise! They come in the form of a hastily assembled assortment of random lists and thoughts because we have even more to say than we ever imagined. You've been good, so you'll find the following in your fishnet stockings this year...
Favorite Cover Songs
20 More Excellent Albums Not on Our Top 50 List
Our Favorite Album Titles
A Mixtape With Our Favorite Song Titles of the Year
Our Favorite Americana Albums
Our Favorite Vinyl of 2022
Our Annual List of the Pickled Priest Favorite Things of 2022
OUR 8 FAVORITE EPs OF 2022
An abbreviated list for an abbreviated format
08 NICK CAVE | Seven Psalms
If Nick Cave is driving, I'll go along for the ride; including, but not limited to, his more spiritual journeys. This EP looks like something you'd find tucked into the pew of a church and it plays like the procedural pages of a hymnal. At this point in his career, even spoken-word Cave (with light accompaniment) is compelling. He's clearly in a stage of his life where he's reckoning with ideas bigger than us all. I'll gladly listen to him complain about not getting pussy, too, but I'm also happy to tag along as he digs deep into his soul for divine answers. Makes little difference to me.
07 KHRUANGBIN & LEON BRIDGES | Texas Moon
Khruangbin's second EP with Leon Bridges on vocals is titled Texas Moon and comes a couple years after their first outing, Texas Sun. You don't have to be a detective to pick up on the implied theme of each. What they have in common is that both bring the heat, which makes sense, since Texas can be hot at night, too. There's a distinct, seductive shimmer to Texas Moon, however, and there aren't many singers who eat this territory alive quite like Leon Bridges. He's one smooth customer.
06 GRIM STREAKER | Mind
Post-punk disco in four pill-sized doses that you can slip under your tongue and cop a little buzz on demand. Delivered by your new life coach, the gloriously blasé Amelia Bushell, and it's just the boost you didn't know you needed.
05 JD MCPHERSON | The Warm Covers
JD makes his living channeling the raw thrills of 1950's-styled rock and roll, so it was a bit surprising to hear him cover artists like Pixies and Iggy Pop this year, but the five songs on his second covers EP show why he's way more than a throwback to the early days of rock & roll. He's creating his own little genre in the here and now.
04 JUÇARA MARÇAL | Epdeb
Brazil's wildly eclectic sound artist Juçara Marçal made our #12 album of 2021 with Delta Estácio Blues and Epdeb comes from those same lucrative sessions. Sometimes such "leftovers" EPs can disappoint, but Marçal's on such a creative roll lately, there's no such worry here. If you're thinking of skipping over this one, don't.
03 LIFEGUARD | Crowd Can Talk
There's a lot of good rock bands coming out of Chicago lately, but don't sleep on the impossibly young high schoolers in Lifeguard, a group that has digested the whole indie scene here over the past few decades and then spit it out in their own way on Crowd Can Talk. It's noise of the best kind and they're only getting started.
02 NO ZU | Heat Beat
Melbourne's No Zu make music they've trademarked as "heat beat," which also became the title of their latest EP. There's is a brand of 80's post-funk dance music that complements the debauched sexuality of a hip nightclub. It sounds better than the description, I assure you. Sadly, their main singer is now dead, but not as a result of the aforementioned debauched sexuality, as I understand it. When the undeniably lusty Daphne Camf passed away she left behind a few raw vocal tracks and her sizable band has fleshed them out here. "Liquid Love" is worth the price of admission alone.
01 SPRINTS | A Modern Job
A Modern Job is five songs in 15-minutes from this promising Dublin post-rock band and they make every second count. Each song is great, which makes me think this could be one of those early records from a great band that we'll all claim we bought the year it came out. Great singer, smart lyrics, and edgy instrumentation make this the best EP of 2022.
OUR 12 FAVORITE LONG SONGS OF 2022
(Minimum Length 9:00+)
12 NICK CAVE & WARREN ELLIS | "L'apparition/We Are Not Alone" (9:41)
This beautiful mantra of a song repeats over and over that we are never really alone. It's from the soundtrack of the documentary La Panthere des Neiges (The Snow Leopard), which was scored by the prolific duo of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Do these two ever sleep? It seems like they release a new movie score on alternating Wednesdays. The movie is about two people, one a nature photographer, who search for the elusive snow leopard of the title. The song is made up of two parts: the first being an instrumental suitable for a long tracking shot of the drifting wilderness, the second the discovery of the star of the movie (see above). If you thought you were along, from this point on, you're not. Even without the visual, time isn't even in the conversation as the song plays. That's the mark of a great long song.
11 AVA MENDOZA | "New Ghosts" (9:40)
Approximating the sound of a scrapyard waking up in the morning, "New Ghosts" finds experimental guitarist Ava Mendoza physically bending powerful metal with her own two hands and recording it.
10 HORSE LORDS | "Law of Movement" (10:20)
Horse Lords' Comradely Objects made our Top 20 albums this year, and there are sonic thrills throughout, but "Law of Movement" is the band at their most expansive and patient, letting their brand of insistent repetition flow through the track while they add subtle complexity as it progresses.
09 (TIE) KALI MALONE | "Living Torch (II)" (15:00)
09 (TIE) KALI MALONE | "Living Torch (I)" (18:33)
Kali Malone's new album, Living Torch, is comprised of just these two parts, so it didn't seem fair to single out one over the other since they go hand-in-hand as a total complete work. Malone's album is full of throbbing, therapeutic drones that ebb and flow throughout, letting the listener experience a sense of calm without losing their interest in what's causing it.
08 REVELATORS SOUND SYSTEM | "Grieving" (10:11)
The side-project of Hiss Golden Messenger's M.C. Taylor is about as far away from his day job as can be imagined. Instead of soulful, earthy Americana (which I really like), this time he's gone off with a friend and created some pretty cool groove music, leaning toward jazz fusion on the opening track of the band's new album, Revelators. The rest of the album didn't do it for me completely, but "Grieving" is worth seeking out.
07 HEDVIG MOLLESTAD & TRONDHEIM JAZZ ORCHESTRA | "Maternity Suite" (9:43)
Everything guitar-wizard Hedvig Mollestad does these days is mandatory listening, and her new album, which I wrote about on our Top 50 list, finds her bringing an entirely new world to her listeners, not to mention a brand new baby. But don't let the title fool you—this is not a lullaby and we don't recommend exposing your baby to it.
06 YONATAN GAT | "Tremelos - I. Allegro ma non troppo" (13:49)
Yonatan Gat reimagined Czech composer Antonín Dvorák's chamber music piece "String Quartet No. 12," better known as "American Quartet," as a rock guitar album this year and the first of four long pieces is jaw-droppingly amazing. I've gotta think Dvorák would give this a standing O.
05 ONEIDA | "Paralyzed" (10:47)
I'm thrilled Oneida decided to drop a guitar-centric album in 2022, just when I needed it. "Paralyzed" spreads out its thrills for you on a big platter letting you nibble in spots and feast in others. As the title implies, this will stop you from doing anything else for almost 11-minutes.
04 EARTHLESS | "Death to the Red Sun" (20:27)
Don't have time in your year for a 60-minute guitar opus you say? Think again. Night Parade of One Hundred Demons from Earthless starts with a 40-minute track split into two parts and ends with the merely 20-minute "Death to the Red Sun," presumably the "single" here, whose title certainly doesn't foretell a walk through a flower patch. Instead, with guitars set to "melt," we get a front row seat to the spacial burnout promised. And it's spectacular.
03 CHAT PILE | "grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg" (9:17)
This fever-dream featuring McDonald's shake-stealing burnout, Grimace, is the catalyst for a supreme high, and it delivers everything you could want from such a preposterous mind-fuck....and more.
02 EL PERRO | "Black Days" (12:01)
This is a 1970's stoner manifesto if there every was one, complete with mid-song drum solo I'm overjoyed to report, and all 12-minutes of this is heaven sent. Prescribed to all bedroom-pop acolytes trying to shake off their pandemic cobwebs.
01 METRIC | "Doomscroller" (10:29)
The only 10-minute song to ever make my year-end Top 104 song list, so that should tell you something.
OUR 18 FAVORITE COVER SONGS OF 2022
Only the worthy can play
18 "Wages of Sin" | KURT VILE (Bruce Springsteen)
A highly respectable cover of an underrated Bruce cut found on his Tracks box set. Kurt takes the song where he takes everything—out for a slow, contemplative, stoned walk through the forest.
17 "Just Because" | GA-20 (Lloyd Price)
On their swing at this Lloyd Price bopper (which got up to #3 on the R&B charts back in 1957), GA-20 choose to kick back and let the groove carry you along. The right choice, as was bringing this lesser known gem back for another spin around the dancefloor.
16 "On My Radio" | SCREAMING FEMALES (The Selecter)
A song used in the comic book series What’s the Furthest Place From Here?, “On My Radio” is a tune originally done by the Selecter, and the Females nail the lively bounce of the original 2-Tone ska classic in spades. The theme of the comic books is “Stories about the things that matter most—your survival, your loved ones, and your record collection.” Marissa Paternoster’s got you covered on the last one and delivers her usual quiver-packed vocals to your radio with ample spunk.
15 "Brown Sugar" | BETTE SMITH & KIRK FLETCHER (The Rolling Stones)
The Stones stopped doing “Brown Sugar” on their last tour because its lyrics don’t quite fit the tenor of the times, especially the line about the "old slaver doin’ alright, hear him whip the women just around midnight.” Ah, maybe we bring that back a bit later on, then. In lieu of Jagger belting this out this year, who better to start singing it in 2022 than a strong black woman? Bette Smith, along with guitarist Kirk Fletcher, have transformed the song into a “rallying cry for women empowerment” with a word change here and there. More power to her, too, because this is a hot take on an old warhorse and whips it into a usable shape.
14 "Pink Moon" | VALERIE JUNE (Nick Drake)
"June" and "moon" have been coupling up for centuries in song, just ask the Gershwins, so this idea has a certain feng shui about it. Thankfully, Valerie June has such a distinctive voice that she could transform just about any song just by singing it. On her new EP Under Cover, she takes on artists as diverse as Nick Cave, Frank Ocean, and Mazzy Star, but it’s Nick Drake fave “Pink Moon” that seems to best continue the celestial theme of her last album, The Moon and Stars: Prescription for Dreamers. If only Nick could’ve heard the album, maybe it would’ve helped him out.
13 "Steer Your Way" | NORAH JONES (Leonard Cohen)
Norah Jones has one of the most naturally sultry voices ever and she also has an ear for a song she can inhabit. That said, picking a Leonard Cohen song is always a pretty safe bet for a cover. But which one? For her contribution to Here It Is, Blue Note Record’s Leonard Cohen tribute album, she opted for this late Cohen classic from You Want It Darker, which clearly shows that Cohen was writing beautiful, thoughtful poetry right up until the end. Gorgeous.
12 "Too Much Monkey Business" | BRUCE HORNSBY (Chuck Berry)
An odd choice for a Bruce Hornsby record, you say? Perhaps, but he’s not the Bruce Hornsby you remember anymore. He’s all over the map these days and he’s not afraid to do some low-impact rapping on an old Chuck Berry tune along the way.
11 "Guess Things Happen That Way" | DR. JOHN (Johnny Cash)
Dr. John covering Johnny Cash makes total sense. Both legends, both singular artists in their chosen fields. Dr. John’s final record was both a tribute to those who preceded him and a touching last goodbye to his fans, seasoned with just the perfect amount of cajun spice. Heaven, help me be a man / And have the strength to stand alone / I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way. What a beautiful exit.
10 "You Got the Silver" | CAT POWER (The Rolling Stones)
It’s hard to beat Keith Richards’ drunken poet’s plea for forgiveness, but Cat Power is a master at picking songs she can do something with, and this is no different. In this case, we see what a smoky female voice can do for such a song and it works in a whole new way, with the understanding the original will always be the definitive take.
09 "It’s Not Love, But It’s Not Bad" | ELI "PAPERBOY" REED (Merle Haggard)
I’m not sure Eli is the person I’d tap for a full-record Merle Haggard tribute, but he clearly loves the material and figured out that much of his music could straddle that axis where country and soul collide. And he leans heavily on the latter on this lively Memphis-styled belter.
08 "Seventeen Seconds" | COWBOY JUNKIES (The Cure)
Another band that has a history of amazing covers, this Cowboy Junkies take on the titular track from the Cure’s second album isn’t an obvious match, but Michael Timmins' brilliant guitar-work and Margo’s always stunning vocals brings this home in amazing, and original, fashion.
07 "You Got to Serve Somebody" | MAVIS STAPLES AND LEVON HELM (Bob Dylan)
Almost too much of a no-brainer, until you hear it. Of course, Mavis can dominate almost any song, particularly songs with a religious overtone. We know which side she’ll be serving, but which side are you on? Or are you not taking either side? One of many highlights from this inspired Staples/Helm collaboration.
The following songs made my Top 104 songs list, so I’ve cut-and-pasted my song comments from that list for your convenience.
06 "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" | BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (Frank Wilson)
Bruce's soul covers LP was a disappointment. But to his credit, he did some things right. The biggest plus was including some lesser known soul tracks and shedding needed light on them. An album highlight was Frank Wilson's "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)", which works so well because most haven't heard it before. Bruce gives the song a robust, full-throttle treatment that'll be blastin' off T-tops come summer and it's easily the album's finest moment. (Adapted from the original post)
05 "Just Around the Corner" | JD MCPHERSON ("Big" Al Downing)
My personal favorite from JD's recent covers EP comes right from his 1950's wheelhouse. "Big" Al Downing's "Just Around the Corner," which was a B-side of a 1958 single from the semi-legendary rockabilly singer. Credit JD for uncovering (pardon the pun) a lost gem which he infuses with just the right amount of rollicking home cookin'. It's an absolute delight from start to finish.
04 "Be My Enemy" | THE BOBBY LEES (The Waterboys)
"Be My Enemy," a Waterboys cover, belongs to the Bobby Lees now, with all due respect to Mike Scott. I'm very interested in how this song got onto the band's radar, as it is not an obvious choice, but the band destroys the track in short order.
03 "Space Girl" | ELIZA CARTHY (Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl)
Beloved English folk singer, and singer of one of my all-time favorite songs ("Whispers of Summer"), Eliza Carthy, has been a fixture in England for over a quarter-century now. In the folk tradition, where songs are shared, passed-down, and re-recorded, she has been releasing a series of EPs lately with her band, the Restitution, doing just that. Some are from past albums, reimagined. The third volume includes a new version of a Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl tune called "Space Girl," and it's a playful little space odyssey with humorous lyrics and a predictably perfect vocal.
02 "Safe From Harm" | HORACE ANDY (Massive Attack)
Horace Andy and his supple voice have been around for decades, although he was reintroduced to many via his work with Massive Attack back in the 90s. Here, he takes one of those Massive Attack singles (the opening track from their first record, no less) and gives it the full hot Jamaican afternoon makeover. While the conversion isn't a stretch, it does expose the song's essence more than the original. It sounds wise coming from such a lived-in soul.
The following song I wrote about earlier this year, so I’ve cut-and-pasted it here as well.
01 "Held" | SPOON (Bill Callahan)
I really like the idea of someone being big enough to cradle me like a little baby now and again. Perhaps that's this song's main attraction for me. Credit Spoon's Britt Daniel for having an ear sharp enough to see the potential in "Held," a song from Smog's Knock Knock album from way back in 1999. The original, on an album I've owned for over 20 years, doesn't jump out at you as a great potential rock song in the making, but sure enough, the veterans in Spoon have done just that. When I listen to Bill Callahan's original now it starts to make some sense retroactively. The guitars have hints of those trademarked clanging riffs Spoon is known for and the lyrics, economical and vague, also match Daniel's writing style. I should've seen it coming, really. The band's name is Spoon, after all. The most ergonomic of positions in which to be held.
20 EXCELLENT ALBUMS WE COULDN'T FIT INTO OUR TOP 50 LIST (AND WHY)
Note: List not in order of preference
01 BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD | Ants From Up There
02 BLACK MIDI | Hellfire
I wasn’t as down for recklessly complicated records as I usually am in 2022. I had enough mental stimuli this year, so calm was favored over the maniacal. But these excellent records are patiently waiting for me when I’m ready.
03 MAVIS STAPLES AND LEVON HELM | Carry Me Home
Not on my main album list because it’s a live performance recorded about ten years ago, but this record is for everybody who needs it. Which I've gotta think, is, uh, everybody. Two legends making music together for the joy of it…and you get to listen in.
04 M ROSS PERKINS | E Pluribus M Ross
I had M Ross parked in a corner all year staring at the wall until I figured out what to do with him. Then it hit me. Just let him bring his own little world to mine and enjoy the strangeness for what it is. Soon, his peculiar brand of weird retro, whatever it is, charmed me completely.
05 EL PERRO | Hair of El Perro
Sometimes I like to fire up a blow torch and look for random things to scorch. It’s not a frequent occurrence, but when I have the itch, El Perro is there to scratch it.
06 TEGAN & SARA | Crybaby
I am a big fan of T&S, but this record didn’t have as much of the twin magic on it as I’m used to. But, little-by-little, more songs went from the con side to the pro side, even though they admittedly aren't as good as the songs on The Con, their best album from 2007.
07 CALEXICO | El Mirador
If this had been a full-throttle desert mariachi album, the record would’ve been in my Top 10. Still, plenty of great moments throughout.
08 METRIC | Formentera
I got stuck on “Doomscroller,” its 10-minute epic opening track, so I didn’t give the rest of the record the proper airing. Once I finished my year-end list, I realized the record is actually pretty damn deep.
09 THE CHATS | Get Fucked
The 5-6 songs I love on the record bring me back time and time again. Even the basic stuff is about 60-seconds long, so no need to skip anything.
10 THE INTERRUPTERS | In the Wild
A ska record is unlikely to crack my Top 50 anymore, but this band gets more bounce to the ounce than any record this year, for better or worse.
11 KALI MALONE | Living Torch
Too much of a niche record for me to put it in the big list, but when it’s Kali Malone time, you know it. Thirty-minutes of undulating drone for the most part, and it turned into my late-night meditation music this year.
12 GOAT | Oh Death
The last album I got this year, it just didn’t have the time to make a full impression. In fact, I didn’t allow it to because I have to draw the line at some date or risk going crazy. This may be Goat’s best album and is at least their second-best. After the last acoustic album didn’t work for me, I was worried, but they’re back with a whole globe of influences in tow, just as I like them.
13 NILÜFER YANYA | Painless
She’s got some of the most original songs in pop music right now. I wanted a few more, but what I got made it yet another essential record from an underrated artist.
14 LADY WRAY | Piece of Me
The former member of one of our favorite bands, Lady, released a damn fine R&B record this year that had numerous songs that could’ve been big R&B hits back in the glory days of the craft—the mid 1960s.
15 PINCH POINTS | Process
Australia wasn’t as dominant on our list this year, but they had some damn fine bands kicking out real rock and roll, as usual, Pinch Points being my favorite. When will the bucket o’ bands run dry? Hopefully never.
16 WARPAINT | Radiate Like This
I love Warpaint, the original Stella Mozgawa vehicle, but everything else she touched got our attention this year, too. I’m sorry I left this one off, but it is another of those niche records that we bring out only when we require a cool groove for a late night drive.
17 MADISON CUNNINGHAM | Revealer
An original songwriter who has the talent to separate herself from a growing pile of them these days. My bet is on Madison, and not because she’s friends with Harry Styles either. She can stand on her own and so can her unique songs.
18 DR. JOHN | Things Happen That Way
A great way to spend the afternoon is listening to Dr. John sing and play his piano. Nobody has quite the same style of New Orleans gumbo. His music has that lived-in feel to it, from someone who knows. Now that he’s dead, the records will have to suffice, and Things Happen That Way is a fitting final record for the man. He made it to say goodbye and it's full of wisdom from a long, inspired life.
19 JORGE DREXLER | Tinta y Tiempo
The country of Uruguay isn’t letting us end our year-end music review without a nod to Jorge Drexler’s record Tinta y Tiempo (Ink and Time). The highlights lift the whole record, which seems destined to be playing forever in some South American café somewhere.
20 MARINA ALLEN | Centrifics
The world of Marina Allen is where you want to be and if there’s an LA afternoon coffeehouse willing to give her a stage, you’ll be hypnotized by her songs.
OUR 10 FAVORITE ALBUM TITLES OF 2022
From Albums We Own Only
10 Don't Want to Dance Because I'm Told To | THE ROXIES
Nobody likes to be dragged onto a dancefloor in shame.
09 The Devil Don't Like It | DEDICATED MEN OF ZION
The perfect title for a gospel record. It burns! It burns!
08 Boleros Psicodélicos | ADRIAN QUESADA
I wish I loved this record, but I was drawn in by the promise of psychedelic boleros and I didn't quite get it.
07 Diaspora Problems | SOUL GLO
This is about as civil a way to put it as you can get.
06 Cake Walk From a Spaceship | SYLVAIN RIFFLET & VERNERI POHJOLA
An easy space walk? Is there such a thing?
05 Expert in a Dying Field | THE BETHS
Nobody wants this job, that's for sure.
04 Graphic Blandishment | MIKE ADAMS AT HIS HONEST WEIGHT
Some of the blandishments seem harmless, some not so much.
03 Being Funny in a Foreign Language | The 1975
I hadn't thought of it before, but being fluent in another language doesn't mean you know how to be funny in it.
02 Versions of Modern Performance | HORSEGIRL
I like the sterile, instruction manual approach to this title, something the opposite of what the band sounds like.
01 Lucifer on the Sofa | SPOON
Love the image, like the devil is in a waiting room at the dentists office or something equally hellacious.
FICTIONAL MIXTAPE: SONGS WITH GREAT TITLES
Song quality optional
01 "Pomperanian Spinster" | Alvvays
02 "Introvert Hotline" | Ego Ella May
03 "Wicked Puppet Dance" | Chat Pile
04 "Cultural Criminal" | Mattiel
05 "Chaos Space Marine" | Black Country, New Road
06 "Greasin' Up Jesus | Warmduscher
07 "Melanie Hargreaves' Father's Jaguar | The Jazz Butcher
08 "Butterscotch Review" | M. Ross Perkins
09 "Hot Plastic Punishment" | Body Type
10 "Kabongo Celeste" | Congotronics International
11 "You Have Bought Yourself a Boat" | MJ Lenderman
12 "Asteroid Witch" | Ghost Power
13 "The Guitar Is Dead 3" | Horsegirl
14 "War Above Los Angeles" | OFF!
15 "The Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis | Viagra Boys
16 "Straightjacket For Two" | Early James
17 "Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!) ((By the Future)) | Soul Glo
18 "Kurdish Radio" | Special Interest
19 "Mama Was a War Profiteer" | Archers of Loaf
20 "Lucifer on the Sofa" | Spoon
21 "I've Been Drunk in Every Pub in Brisbane" | The Chats
22 "Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater" | RZA & DJ Scratch
23 "Girls Against God" | Florence + The Machine
24 "A Madman in Manhattan" | Jack White 25 "King Rat" | Pinch Points
26 "Do You Know a Human Being When You See One? | Alabaster DePlume
12 OF OUR FAVORITE ALT-COUNTRY RECORDS
Yes, you may call them Americana if you must (whatever that is)
12 JAKE XERXES FUSSELL | Good and Green Again
Someone should just attach a “National Historic Place” plaque to his chest and call it a day. He’s doing more to preserve American history through his music than just about anyone else.
11 JOHN DOE | Fables in a Foreign Land
John’s Fables in a Foreign Land is the legendary co-leader of X’s first take on a folk record and it’s a good one, stripped down and simple the way it was meant to be. It’s a charming record until you realize the “foreign land” of the title is actually the United States.
10 WILLI CARLISLE | Peculiar, Missouri
Really catchy folk songs by this openly gay troubadour that sound like they’re old-timey, but lyrically not so much.
09 JOAN SHELLEY | The Spur
One of the great folk singers of recent years, her songs are simply beautiful, catching you off-guard when you think you’ve got the gist already.
08 DR. JOHN | Things Happen That Way
If anything is Americana, it’s Dr. John, who put out one last album before his death and it is the perfect way to walk out of this world and into the next. I want to go to there.
07 DARDEN SMITH | Western Skies
Bless Darden for carrying the torch for Americana as fine art, even if he had to take a bunch of Polaroids of desolate West Texas to do it. A charming project that comes with a gorgeous hardbound book. Now that’s dedication to craft!
06 MAVIS STAPLES & LEVON HELM | Carry Me Home
A recording from about ten years ago, but they should’ve printed it on gold as far as I’m concerned. Give me all the Mavis you can give me in this life. And if you’re going to add Levon Helm to the mix, even better. Music for the love of making music right here.
05 CALEXICO | El Mirador
Nothing is more urgently American right now than the music being made along the border, with influences bleeding over from both sides. The result is a more accurate picture of America circa 2022 than just about anything else you can get your hands on.
04 DROPKICK MURPHYS | This Guitar Still Kills Fascists
The Dropkicks are borderline Americana, but this year they made a whole album from the lyrics of Woody “This Land is Your Land” Guthrie, and it was an earnest and reverent record, capturing the blue collar spirit of \the Americans that built this fair land in the first place.
03 ARLO MCKINLEY | This Mess We're In
Where the trouble at? Some go looking for it, some stumble into it, others can’t get out of it. Arlo is an American storyteller, warning us of low bridges ahead and dangerous paths to avoid. He’s lived in the darkness for a long time, even when it’s light outside.
02 THE AMERICANS | Stand True
To me, few things say Americana more than a band slugging it out gig-by-gig, converting people one song at a time. Other than a band named “The Americans” that is! If any band lives up to the controversial genre’s name, here they are.
01 S.G. GOODMAN | Teeth Marks
There’s southern blood pumping through the heart of S.G. Goodman’s songs, and it’s a good thing, too. Because that heart is busted. The process of trying to heal herself, and others along the way, is heartfelt in the truest sense of the term.
OUR 10 FAVORITE VINYL ADDITIONS IN 2022
As if our record collection needed to get any better
01 BLUE VELVET | Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Beautiful, but bittersweet, RSD release of Blue Velvet sounds amazing, but the loss of both Angelo Badalamenti and his vocal foil Julee Cruise this year turned an already dark soundtrack even darker.
02 HOT CHOCOLATE | Hot Chocolate
Not the same Hot Chocolate famous for the big hit "You Sexy Thing," rather a Cleveland, OH, funk band of the same name (later changed to Seven Miles High) that released one collectable record in 1971 that is a highly coveted collector's item. It's now been reissued, complete with the original cover (above) which jams all three members into a cup of, of course, hot chocolate, complete with drum kit. The reissue is on, and thank god they didn't miss this opportunity, hot chocolate colored brown vinyl. I swear it makes the impossibly funky opening track, "Ain't That a Groove," sound even more delicious this way.
03 JETHRO TULL | Thick as a Brick
Get this: Bon Jovi in the RnR Hall of Fame, but Jethro Tull is not. Fuck off. Well, true fans understand the slight and this year, while Foo Fighters polished their undeserved trophies, we were buying the reissue of Tull's classic 1972 LP, Thick as a Brick, complete with its innovative packaging, a fully readable copy of the St. Cleve Chronicle (& Linwell Advertiser). The feature story tells of Gerald "Little Milton" Bostock, who just had his poem, "Thick as a Brick," disqualified shortly after winning a local poetry competition. Reason cited: An "extremely unwholesome attitude toward life, his God and Country." Now that alone is worthy of a HOF nod! The whole paper reads like the legendary National Lampoon Sunday newspaper parody released in 1978, except this pre-dated that publication by six years and certainly had to be an inspiration for it. One last side note: Below the fold on page one is a second "Little Milton" article claiming he impregnated his poetry writing partner Julia Fealey. If you look at the main photo above, you'll see Ms. Fealey pictured far right, looking more than a bit mischievous. The whole thing is a hoot to spend time with and I've only scratched the surface of its demented brilliance.
04 WIRE | Not About to Die (Studio Demos 1977-1978)
Normally, a demo record, especially one issued long after a band's glory era, is a crapshoot. And getting someone's demos on vinyl is a dubious decision at best. Why use your hard-earned on something the artist left in the can? Wire's collection of studio demos from 1977-1978, the same time period that gave us twin classics Pink Flag and Chairs Missing, is your answer. Because sometimes there's gold in those demos. And this is proof of concept.
05 BAD BRAINS | Bad Brains (Punk Note Edition)
Genius idea. Re-package albums people already have by putting a new cover on the thing, in this case the Bad Brains' legendary debut record. Even better, design the cover in the tradition of those classic Blue Note jazz covers from the 1960s. Then change Blue Note to "Punk Note," add a green tint to a black and white photo a la Reid Miles, the head of Blue Note design department back in the day, and ship it out. Nobody's gonna fall for that, right? Wrong. Bought it the day it was released. And I love it.
06 ALABASTER DEPLUME | Gold: Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love
The only new LP on this list is Alabaster DePlume's Gold, our #2 record of 2022. It deserves a vinyl listen, and even though I already had the CD, an upgrade was essential. It sounds fabulous. Add in a gorgeous inlaid cover, etched (as I pointed out in our Favorite Albums Covers of 2022 post) in gold so you can run your grubby fingers over the grooves for a little tactile interaction. Even more important, on the gatefold, is DePlume's master plan for the record, which lays out, in the most complicated way possible, how he assembled his masterpiece one track at a time. A marvelous sounding, and looking, record. What else can I do to convince you?
07 MICK FARREN | Vampires Stole My Lunch Money
Who, me? Even Mick seems to be surprised that his afro takes up more cover space than on a typical Roberta Flack record. But there's no denying you'll look eye-to-eye with the one-time leader of the Deviants as he stares out at you like he's about to say, "Oh God, are you really going to play my record right now with me right here?" I'm glad I picked this up because it's a damn fine record, comfortably existing on the fringes of punk, from a guy who was around when the inspirations for the emerging genre were being recorded.
08 ROXY MUSIC | Reissues
What a perfect time to set things right. I discovered Roxy Music during the CD Age, so the release of these seminal art-rock albums on half-speed mastered vinyl was too much to resist, especially when I already held tix to their 50th Anniversary tour stop in Chicgo. It was like hearing this music again for the first time. One of my favorite things is to pick an artist and re-immerse in their world obsessively and this was the perfect year to do just that.
09 CAN | Reissues
Speaking of picking artists for some full-throttle immersion tank therapy. I did something similar with Can this year as their essential records were periodically re-released. Fresh on the heels of several essential live sets released in recent years, there was no better time to revisit these amazing records. I'm over colored vinyl almost completely, or so I thought, but Tago Mago (pictured above) on clear orange platters is becoming, don't you think?
10 JUANA MOLINA | Segundo (Reissue)
Juana Molina's music has captivated me since her 2013 album, Wed 21, was ranked as my #1 album of that year. I was ten years late to discovering her minimalist electro-pop however-you-want-to-describe-it music, but I soon had just about everything she'd ever released. But Segundo, her second LP, eluded my grasp. I heard it, but didn't possess it, and I like to possess things. The two LP reissue is essential listening and they took care to house her first masterpiece in a gorgeously conceived package. Find it.
PICKLED PRIEST'S ANNUAL LIST OF
OUR FAVORITE THINGS (22 for 2022 Edition)
01 Shorter albums
I've been signing petitions, writing my Congressmen and Congresswomen, and standing on my soapbox outside posh L.A. recording studios preaching the gospel of shorter albums for years and finally I'm starting to get rewarded for my efforts. Soon there will be a law passed by Congress that mandates all albums, with the exception of those released by massive worldwide stars (you have to compromise in D.C.), have to be 45-minutes or less. And this year, the message has already been heard by many artists. 77% of albums I heard this year were sub-45:00 in length. 52% were sub-40:00. A great start! Still some work to do as 23% exceeded 46:00 minutes and that's gotta stop. There will always be "The Epic Factor" where an artist delusionally believes they have more than an hour of worthy material to share, but that was a mere 6% of all records. Under the new law, Beach House would be locked out of their studio for 9-12 months if they dare drop another 84-minute opus in the future.
02 The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop by Jonathan Abrams
I do love a good "oral history." It particularly suits music books, where many of the perspectives on key events are remembered differently by those who "experienced" it in the moment (drugs, alcohol, sex, dead brain cells). Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain is the book by which all such tomes are judged, at least by me, and Jonathan Abrams' The Come Up is a similarly essential account of the rise of hip-hop in NYC, complete with varying takes on the facts. But what comes through most of all is an unlikely and epic story that reads like the birth of a nation.
03 Lego Vespa 125 scooter set
I wish I'd thought of rekindling my childhood love for playing with Legos during the pandemic, but I guess I didn't have a "gateway set" to get me hooked again. That ended this year when I saw this classic Vespa kit (in classic light blue, of course) on the shelf and promptly took it home. My love of scooter life (a true Who-styled mod at heart) is well-documented in these pages, so this was a labor of love. And I mean labor—about five hours worth! Not as breezy a process as building a scooter should be, but well worth the ride down memory lane. And yes, you know I also got the aftermarket "light kit" so its head and tail lights come alive at night, among other cool accents. On my shelf right now, ready to ride.
04 Theory 11 music-themed playing cards
I don't even play cards, unless I can find three other people who play euchre (easier said than done), so my interest in Theory 11's exquisitely detailed playing cards is mostly artistic in nature. But lord are these things spectacular. I now have the full Beatles box set (plus a Yellow Submarine-themed deck) and the Elvis deck and the attention to detail is amazing, with each card thoughtfully designed to please even the most die-hard fans. They're so beautiful, even if you were a poker junkie on an all night bender, you wouldn't crack them open even in an emergency.
05 A Song for Everyone: The Story of Creedence Clearwater Revival by John Lingan
I'm not sure this will go down as the definitive tale of CCR, but it's a great story nonetheless. At first it seemed too short to capture the full scope of their history, especially since the boys have known each other since elementary school (and earlier in the case of the Fogerty brothers), but considering the fact that the prime recording era of America's greatest band only lasted about 24 months (debut through Cosmo's Factory) it suddenly makes sense.
06 Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres documentary
You may only know the name because he was the geeky editor featured in the movie Almost Famous, but this documentary tracks the unlikely, and amazingly star-studded, career of Ben Fong-Torres. He was a rare thing in this world—a music journalist beloved by the artists he covered. There may be no more endearing character in the music business that you'll meet and this is a fitting tribute to a man who only wanted the story and ended up with a front seat to music history.
07 KISS pin
Our love for Kiss dates back to 1977. Our love of rock & roll pins dates to earlier this year. Here's a hand-made gem picked up this year that was particularly high in quality and craftsmanship.
08 The Bear on HBO
Like exactly none of the beef joints I've ever been to in Chicago, the fictional Original Beef of Chicagoland (set in the same locale as the legendary Mr. Beef in River North) is a culinarily unrealistic saga of a family beef stand taken over by a top-flight chef. Nothing about its kitchen scenes ring true for me, but that's not what's important. What's important is that this is the rare TV show that makes me want to have a hot & juicy right fucking now. Screw deep dish pizza, if you want real Chicago, get yourself a beef from a dirty kitchen where nobody says "Yes Chef" to anyone without getting a mouthful of fist.
09 Nick Cave God-themed pencil set
A disproportionate number of things on this list are Nick Cave-related. I like the way he thinks (deeply) and I like what he sells (both his music and an assortment of strange swag on his website, Cave Things). I'm always on the lookout for something new from him and this year I picked up the pictured God-themed pencil set. I've always liked his take on, and use for, religion. It's always a presence, but never definitively advocated for, and I like that. Each pencil in this pack has a lyric from one of his songs, including my old favorite "I don't believe in an interventionist god" (from "Into My Arms") to my new favorite, "I believe in god and I believe in mermaids, too" (from "Mermaids"). They will never be used, of course. They're sharp enough just as they are.
10 Warren Ellis egg cup
Sometimes I don't know why I buy things. Sometimes I do. This case is a little of both. I love strange items that most other bands don't sell, so I can understand why I dropped one more item in my cart when I was buying Nick Cave's god pencils discussed a second ago. What band sells a cup used to help peel a hard-boiled egg? Especially one with a picture of Cave's main creative foil, Warren Ellis, on it? There's your answer. That I don't eat hard-boiled eggs unless someone else puts a chunk in my Cobb salad is beside the point. So I don't need this whatsoever. I presume it can hold other small things, not just an egg, so I patiently await the moment when I find out what its eventual use may be.
Note: On the box, the name of the egg cup is officially "Warren Ellis Pure Exploitation Egg Cup by Nick Cave." How on god's green earth didn't they buckle and call it an "Eggsploitation Cup"? That's either willpower or a missed opportunity, perhaps both.
11 Nina Simone's Gum by Warren Ellis
I wish I could tell you this is the last of the Nick Cave-related items on this list, but it's not. I'm semi-obsessed at the moment, so bear with me. This is a quick read that I found both strangely touching and profoundly hilarious. It's the tale of a gob of chewed gum Warren Ellis rescued from Nina Simone's piano when she took it out her mouth prior to a concert. He felt compelled to procure it for posterity and this book chronicles what follows. Suffice it to say, the journey it takes is remarkable, not to mention symbolic of something way bigger than just a discarded piece of gum.
12 Monophonics Sage Motel matchbook and keychain
Nick Cave break! When Colemine Records dropped Monophonics' new record, Sage Motel, earlier this year, they knew they had marketing gold on their hands and they didn't disappoint. For those who got in on the record early enough, a couple "extras" were added to their shipment. Specifically, a retro-styled matchbook from the Sage Motel and an old-fashioned hotel room keychain as well. I wish it had a room number on it, but that's a little nitpicky.
13 Book of Days by Patti Smith
Patti Smith's new book, A Book of Days, brings us one image every day for a year, each with an explanation of why it's included. Some big things, some past memories, and even two consecutive days where she shows us the before and after of her workplace—one messy, one clean. It may seem slight compared to great books like the life-changing Just Kids, but it does remind us to look at every day creatively, which is easier said than done.
14 Nick Cave print "God Ghost Man Guru" from Dustin at Teeveei in Chicago
When Nick Cave wrote his classic "Red Right Hand," specifically the lyrics "He's a God, he's a man, he's a ghost, he's a guru" he wasn't speaking about himself (either God or the devil, depending on your perspective), but it does seem strangely applicable to Cave, especially now, when he has turned into quite the source of sage and often staggeringly insightful, wisdom on his can't-miss Red Hand Files website.
15 Western Skies book by Darden Smith
How many Americana albums come with a hard-bound book accompaniment? Darden Smith thought enough of his project, where he traveled the back roads of West Texas solo, that it inspired songs, poems, and writings along the way. The full collection of his Polaroids taken during the trip are here as well. It's a book you can settle in with on a lazy afternoon and soak up. It's almost like you're there riding along with him.
16 Loretta, Christine, Olivia, Mimi, Mark, and Jim: The losses that really hurt
17 The World Cup
I quit soccer for good when I was 13 and I've never regretted it. I'm a fair weather fan now. But when the world assembles every four years, similar to the Olympics, the high stakes involved brings off-the-charts tension and intrigue which draws me in for about a month. Despite being played late in the year in a pitiful and intolerant (and beerless) country, the sport shined through and gave us an incredible final featuring the ultimate career reward for one its greatest players, Lionel Messi. That said, I have a few suggestions for FIFA:
- Allow the head referee to stop the clock so we all know how much time is left at the end.
- Add "embellishment" penalties like they have in the NHL so players won't oversell obstructions or injuries as much
- Put players in a penalty box for 2:00 instead of giving them yellow cards.
- Do away with penalty kicks for the elimination rounds and let them play for as long as it takes to get a winner ...NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES! Fitness will decide the winner, not goalie guesswork.
- Move the "spot" back a little to make a penalty kick more challenging, or give the referee the discretion to give a shorter or longer kick to a player depending on the location and severity of the penalty.
- No goalie gloves allowed that are so big they look like the hands of a Disney character or team mascot.
- Stop taking bribes when determining the host country.
- Find a place that isn't an oven most of the year.
18 Elton John baseball picture disk
Love baseball, love Elton John, so when he did his last show at Dodger Stadium, it made sense to commemorate it somehow. Suitable for hanging on the wall, which is just what I did.
19 Walk Hard guitar pick
Ebay alert! We love humor and we love music and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a favorite of ours for obvious reasons. A cult classic! Hence, we snapped up this movie promo guitar pick and we don't regret it!
20 Nick Cave and Sean O'Hagan | Faith, Hope and Carnage
The final Nick Cave-related item, I promise. This book chronicles an ongoing discussion between two friends about subjects all over the map, some music-related, most not. It's about faith and grieving loss and art and creativity and spirituality and a little of everything else. I read this each night before bed over a couple weeks and it soon became the highlight of my days. I mourned when the end came. Recommended for all humans, whether you know Cave's music or not.
21 Roscoe: RIP
That's Roscoe, a frisky yet classy gentleman for the vast majority of his long life (16 years). He didn't take up much space, was often underfoot, and he had one tooth by the end of his life, but he was a fixture in the Pickled Priest home office and had a good heart and crunchy whiskers pretty much all the time. The most affable in the family by far, often seen on a visitor's lap at a party. He is already missed. Rest in comfort, lil' buddy.
22 Our readers!!!!
Four exclamation points for you all! Thanks to anyone and everyone who has either joined the congregation or just stopped in for a sermon or two. We appreciate you and try to live up to your hopefully low standards.
Beloved congregation, I shall see you in 2023. We hope. Thanks for reading.