2022 YEAR IN REVIEW: Our Annual Mixtapes Ft. Our Favorite Songs of the Year, Pt. 1 (Songs 104-53)
Every year we make our readers four mixtapes. Since the average mixtape, based on data taken from tapes created from 1979-1998, is 26 songs in length, that amounts to 104 total songs. We only allow one song from each artist, which provides variety, but also makes selections agonizingly difficult, especially because some of our favorite albums have many great songs. We then rank them in countdown format for dramatic purposes, just like they used to do on New Year's Eve in the 1970s on WLS AM. One thing we are sure of is that we love each and every song for a different reason, from song #104 to song #1.
MIXTAPE #4: SONGS 104-79
104 PINCH POINTS | "Stock It"
Blurb: Since it's the Christmas shopping season, here's a little slice of internet paranoia for you that's actually justified. Every retailer seems to know you better than you know yourself these days, stocking what you need, what they think you need, and what they want to sell you, just in case you're susceptible to the power of suggestion (which you are). Melbourne's Pinch Points have a knack for writing about modern society with edgy humor that always hits with the just the right impact at just the right time.
Moment of Conversion: Guitar/bass interplay at beginning.
103 CHASTITY BROWN | "Back Seat"
Blurb: Minneapolis pop/soul singer Chastity Brown isn't getting enough attention. "Back Seat," from her new album, Sing to the Walls, is a song that seems to treat every road as a possible destination. There's a sense of possibility in the song, one that reminds me of sacred ground, Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car," in feel more than in execution. The song similarly gives you the sensation of being in a fast car, the wind rushing through your hair, and a world of possibilities stretched out before you.
Moment of Conversion: Slow build of groove.
102 TOO MUCH JOY | "We Yell at 8"
Blurb: From a band that once said “Every great band should be shot before they make their Combat Rock,” comes a new album, the group's second since triumphantly returning from a 25-year hiatus in 2021. Amazingly, neither of the two comeback albums is even close to being a jump the shark moment. In fact, they're both as good as the records I remember from their first run back in the late-80s and early-90s. Mistakes Were Made made my Top 50 last year and All These Fucking Feelings is joyfully demented, too. I got it too close to my deadline to fully digest their dense combination of humor and music in time for list season, but "We Yell at 8" immediately jumped out as a new TMJ classic, regaling us with the daily timetable of an infinitely bored suburban couple. Its resigned vibe approximates the soul-depleting ennui found in the movie Office Space right down to the afternoon "decline" which sets in around 1:00pm, leaving very few productive hours in the average workday. It's funny, but admittedly hits a little too close to home.
Moment of Conversion: From 1:18 to 1:46, the "Mystery of the Moving Soda Can" unfolds.
101 SHEMEKIA COPELAND | "Too Far To Be Gone" (Ft. Sonny Landreth) & "Done Come Too Far" (Ft. Cedric Burnside)
Blurb: Two songs for the price of one, both with the same defiant chorus. A chorus that merits repeating. Both songs feature killer guest appearances. The first, from slide guitar legend Sonny Landreth, the second from RL Burnside's grandson Cedric, himself a galvanizing blues singer and guitarist. The two songs form the thematic foundation of Shemekia Copeland's latest modern blues classic. If you thought you could get away with giving temporary lip service to racial equality and then move on, listen up. That's not how it's going to work this time.
Moment of Conversion: Shemekia dominates of course, but Landreth's wicked slide is the perfect complement. And Cedric's juke-joint guitar and genetically-gifted voice adds just the right seasoning to song two.
100 GRIM STREAKER | "Mind"
Blurb: Brooklyn's Grim Streaker are on to something with their new EP, Mind. Promoting self-care, the titular track advocates for all to protect their mind first before doing anything else, much like putting on your own oxygen mask on an airplane before you help someone else. The prescription is simple: "Take care of yourself, take care of your health, start with your mind." That it's housed in an ultra-cool club mix that wouldn't sound out of place pounding from overhead in a chic New York dance club only makes the pills easier to swallow.
Moment of Conversion: Blasé tone of singer Amelia Bushell when she tells me to "Zip up your mouth."
099 THE SMITHEREENS | "Dear Abby"
Blurb: So-called "Lost" albums aren't uncommon. They pop up now and then accompanied by advanced hype that tries to make them seem like they've found the Ark of the Covenant in a well on Oak Island. In fact, most were lost for a pretty good reason, only a select few offering something truly revelatory. This year, we got a real lost album from the Smithereens vault and for the most part, this is prime-era Smithereens, a band who never wrote a bad song that I remember. The new material, while not fully cooked in all cases, is like going back into a time machine. I'm a lover of Pat DiNizio (RIP) and hearing him back at the helm of one the great under-appreciated bands of the late-80s with new material in the can is a blessing for me. "Dear Abby," about a girl and not the famed advice columnist (although the tie-in is intentional), is classic DiNizio; another well-crafted and memorable chorus, his specialty. So take the Pickled Priest's advice and give this song, and the album, a listen.
Moment of Conversion: Clever chorus.
098 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)"
Blurb: Bruce is 73 now, so he can do whatever he wants with his remaining time. His legacy is secure. Let's face it, an album of soul covers really wasn't necessary, although he's had a long history of playing them live in concert. And they were great, too, full of spontaneity and fire. On this record, he's never less than committed, and it's pristinely recorded, but much of it falls flat for me. Being a soul purist, I think he missed the target this time. If asked, I would've told him to cut the songs live and raw, maybe in a small club, with the E Street Band in support. This kind of music feeds on crowd energy. As is, it's way too clean and produced for my taste. Soul music is meant to sweat, it's meant to groove. While offering Bruce advice, I would've told him to ditch all the standards, too, for they can't be improved upon. There's absolutely no use in taking on "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." It simply has been perfected already. The same goes for "Someday We'll Be Together" and to a lesser extent, "I Wish It Would Rain." And the most ill-advised cover on the whole thing is "Night Shift." No, Bruce, no, a thousand times no! In this case, he needed an honest voice to tell him this is not his song to sing. It's not that he does a horrible job with it—it's tastefully done—it just doesn't fit with the theme. And finally, Bruce has said in interviews that he didn't want to change or interpret these great songs, just add his vocal to them. His biggest mistake. The best covers bring something new to old material and he's done that for years, just listen to some old bootlegs. The fact that there's 40 more songs just like this on the cutting room floor worries me. We do not need a volume two, especially if these are the rejected tracks.
To his credit, however, he does do some things right. The biggest is including some lesser known soul tracks and shedding needed light on them. Indeed, album highlight Frank Wilson's "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" 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. Even this, however, would've been better live and raw, but I'll take it, choir and all, because it's such a great song.
Postscript: Bruce also pays homage to one of Pickled Priest's favorite soul singers, William Bell, with two tracks on the record, "Any Other Way" and "I Forgot to Be Your Lover," and both pale in comparison to the originals. What a missed opportunity. Go to the source people.
Moment of Conversion: A lost classic being resurrected before your very ears.
097 JD MCPHERSON | "Just Around the Corner"
Blurb: This is how you do a covers record. JD McPherson is my favorite modern purveyor of old-school 50's-styled rock & roll. His songs keep the raw spirit of those "dangerous" early singles alive while also adding some twist that makes them sound vital and fresh. His originals, as a result, sound less like homage and more like new classics. He also, unsurprisingly, does covers—but not the covers you might expect. On his second covers EP in seven years, Warm Covers, Volume 2, he takes on some unexpected source material. He covers Iggy Pop ("Lust for Life"), Art Neville ("Let's Rock"), Pixies ("Manta Ray"), and Irma Thomas ("It's Raining"), which shows he pulls from a deep well of inspiration. My personal comes right from his 1950's wheelhouse. "Big" Al Downing's "Just Around the Corner" 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. Bruce should've listened to JD's record before cutting his own. Mighta learned something.
Moment of Conversion: Front-loading the bouncy chorus, 50's style. Why save it. for later?
096 AMANADA SHIRES | "Here He Comes"
Blurb: An essential part of heartbreak protocol is the step when you renounce love and claim you're never going to put yourself in that situation again. And you believe it, too. Until that moment when you forget it all and get on the rollercoaster again. Sometimes it's as easy as seeing someone walk through a door.
Moment of Conversion: It takes about 20-seconds to break her resolve thanks to "swinging doors and an overcoat."
095 METRIC | "Doomscroller"
Blurb: Yes, it's ten minutes in length, you don't need to tell me that many a mixtape has been ruined by such a maneuver, but there is just no denying the haunting power of Metric's epic "Doomscroller," a song that captures the sensation of sliding hopelessly down the dark vortex known as doomscrolling or, a compulsion to focus on negative or tragic news on social media. True, not the most upbeat topic. The first half of the song chronicles the mentally damaging process of staring at a tiny screen for hours on end immersed in the sadness and tragedies of others. The accompanying music is both riveting and disturbing, contrasted perfectly by the gentle, dreamy voice of Emily Haines. She anchors the track in beauty no matter how menacing it gets. Thankfully, the feeling doesn't last for the entire ten minutes and there's hope to be found in the song's waning moments. Trust us: the time spent is worth it.
Moment of Conversion: The audacity of putting a 10-minute song first in the running order.
094 TAYLOR SWIFT | "You're On Your Own, Kid"
Blurb: If you follow Pickled Priest closely you know that for some unknown reason, Taylor Swift is an avid reader.
She can get a little chippy when our commentary doesn't go her way, but we feel an honest voice helps keeps her grounded. She wasn't thrilled by our lack of coverage for Midnights this year, so we had to tell her the real reason: that the record was just OK, not her best work. She then sent us an exasperated note saying she really bared her soul this time. to which we responded by telling her that the concept of the album (tales of twelve sleepless nights) was good, but that her so-called "sleepless nights" seemed far less harrowing than our own. and that we'd love to toss and turn over a relationship or the fact we can't go shopping without getting mobbed anymore. She rolled her eyes to that statement, which we kind of regret now. So, tossing her a bone, we admit that every TayTay album has a few outright winners and this tale of having to figure life out for yourself is one of them.
Moment of Conversion: "You're on your own, kid / You always have been"
093 MOLLY TUTTLE & GOLDEN HIGHWAY | "Castilleja"
Blurb: Molly Tuttle is an institution in bluegrass circles already and she's not even 30 yet. That's how respected she is. She's already got a fat Rolodex of illustrious pals and she isn't afraid to use it, as proven by her latest LP, Crooked Tree, which sports as many features as the Migos mixtape. If I had my way, I'd clear the decks and tell Molly she doesn't need the star-studded cameos. She has enough charm and talent all by her lonesome to carry an album solo—in fact, it would be better that way. Proof? The beautifully atmospheric "Castilleja," which stands out on a record of great songs sung by so-called stars. Whenever I hear it, I get lost. And that's a good quality in a song.
Moment of Conversion: "Spanish bluegrass" intro.
092 CAMILA CABELLO | "La Buena Vida"
Blurb: Girl's got some shelf-life around here. Her first single from Familia, "Don't Go Yet," made my Top Songs of 2021 list. Now, a full year later, the same album lands another spot on 2022's list. This time, the secret is a no-brainer. We love us some mariachi, and "La Buena Vida" serves it up, albeit with her usual pop panache. That said, the rest of the album can now be ground up into chorizo as far as I'm concerned.
Moment of Conversion: Whenever the band kicks in.
091 PSYCHLONA | "1975"
Blurb: I don't know what you'd expect from a band named Psychlona (a new term for a psychedelic cyclone, perhaps the one benefit of global warming?), but I want some big fuzz delivered through huge Marshall stacks. And if you're going to name the song "1975" it had better sound like it time-traveled here from that decade. But take a look at these dudes. You think they ain't able to pull that off? Think again.
Moment of Conversion: False ending at 4:51.
090 DAZY | "Choose Yr Ramone"
Blurb: A punk-rock take on the "Who's your favorite Beatle?" query from the 1960s, Dazy asks a similar question on "Choose Yr Ramone." In the end, it's just a pretty simple song about getting older, but that doesn't mean your choice of Ramone (Johnny) doesn't tell people a lot about you.
Moment of Conversion: Mid-song squall.
089 BUCK 65 | "Part 3"
Blurb: Depending on the moment, Buck 65 calls "Part 3" "Part C" but who the fuck cares when it's on an album packed wall-to-wall with clever wordplay? Add in a steady backbeat and rejoice that the man is back and better than ever.
Moment of Conversion: Hidden like a porn collection / Here's the horn section (followed by horn section)
088 LIFEGUARD | "Typecast"
Blurb: This song gives us faith that noise, glorious noise, is making a comeback. At least in Chicago it is, courtesy of these three high schoolers who are likely getting their asses picked-on by some bully at this very moment. The "geeks" always get the last laugh, however, and here it's in the form of a 16-minute EP titled Crowd Can Talk that churns out shrapnel like a combine running over a bike rack. "Typecast" is the final exam and Lifeguard has aced it as expected.
Moment of Conversion: Second one.
087 ALVVAYS | "Pomeranian Spinster"
Blurb: I'm one of the few who wasn't head over heels in love with Blue Rev, but I do love a good song title and my hopes that "Pomeranian Spinster" would live up to its title were mercifully granted by the mixtape gods this year.
Moment of Conversion: The title, I'm not ashamed to admit.
086 SPRINTS | "How Does the Story Go?"
Blurb: We were blessed by a killer EP (Modern Job) rom Dublin's Sprints this year and all five of the songs were near perfect examples of edgy modern alt-rock. If any song packaged the angst of the pandemic in a tolerable way, it was on "How Does the Story Go?" Enough of the bedroom hand-wringing, let's just blast out our feelings (we're not fine!) in two-and-a-half minutes and get the fuck back out there already.
Moment of Conversion: Great opening spoken line: Should I start this with another cliche or how does the story go?
085 THE ROXIES | "Underdog"
Blurb: Surprise! Three Krauts and a British guy on vocals pumped out one of the best albums of its kind this year; one of the final, and most brutal, cuts from my Top 50 albums list and I owe them an apology text. Great album title, too. Inside you'll find 100% edgy pop energy front to back (aka von vorne nach hinten), with a snarling lead singer that reminds me a little of the Thermals' Hutch Harris. Any fucking day of the week, boys. Bring it on.
Moment of Conversion: I don't want to dance because I'm told to / I want to live another way.
084 THE HARLEM GOSPEL TRAVELERS | "Fight On!"
Blurb: Just because you've placed your soul in the hands of a higher power does not mean you've got to let yourself be marginalized by society. This is uplifting gospel-soul music with a social purpose that would make the Staple Singers proud. Do not skip this track for any reason.
Moment of Conversion: The opening vocal with only church organ backing and the closing a cappella wail. Chills every time.
083 CONGOTRONICS INTERNATIONAL | "Kule Kule Redux"
Blurb: See my original discussion of this record on our Q2 Pt. 1 mixtape. I initially chose a different track a few months ago, but since the album is 70-minutes short, I thought I'd dish another gem from the record, the almighty "Kule Kule Redux," which is a damn good title and an even better song.
Moment of Conversion: Shambolic first minute as the rhythm bed assembles itself seemingly from spare parts at a junkyard.
082 JUST MUSTARD | "Still"
Blurb: If I have to go to Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland, to indulge my occasional need to wrestle with the mechanically heavy darkness, then I will.
Moment of Conversion: Sounds like it was recorded in an abandoned factory.
081 MARINA ALLEN | "Gardiner's Island"
Blurb: A timeless sounding folk song from L.A. songwriter Marina Allen, who might've missed her exit on the space-time continuum at some point, emerging in 2022 when she originally planned on dropping into Laurel Canyon in the early 70s, perhaps into the same neighborhood as David Crosby, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young. Her poetic, beguiling songs seem to retain an air of mystery despite their surface simplicity, never revealing a complete picture. The refrain of "Gardiner's Island," features Allen repeating the question "What am I looking at? / What am I looking at?" as if she's not quite sure what to make of her songs either.
Moment of Conversion: The quizzical refrain, which I've found can be appropriated for many real-life situations.
080 MADISON CUNNINGHAM | "Hospital"
Blurb: A talented songwriter from California who doesn't settle for anything typical, either in her instrumentation, her lyrics, or her singing. She doesn't write all of her songs in her bedroom either, some are serious family room material. The added clarity and power are refreshing changes of pace that separate her from a sea of soul-baring closet whisperers. "Hospital" is the perfect example of all her best qualities, and it's just one of many gems on her latest LP, Revealer.
Moment of Conversion: I am an antenna / A feeding tube and a hard drive / Entertaining myself to death / To maintain some sort of life
079 RAE MORRIS FT. FRYARS | "Go Dancing"
Blurb: We love our lil' Rae because she's a bit of a dreamer and a lot of an oddball. It makes her slightly off-kilter take on modern pop both endearing and fresh despite a little Auto-Tune here and there. "Go Dancing" is a duet with Benjamin Garrett (aka Fryars) that features a couple debating the merits of staying home or going out for a big night out. One thing that seems sure is Rae is going to be dancing with character somewhere, with someone, by the end of the night.
Pickled Priest wine pairing: Bucket of sparkling rosé from Martini & Rossi
Moment of Conversion: The way she replaces "I'm going to go dancing" with "I'mma go dancing."
MIXTAPE #3: SONGS 78-53
078 CÉCILE MCLORIN SALVANT | "I Lost My Mind"
Blurb: One of the most critically acclaimed vocalists on the planet, usually classified in the jazz realm, Cécile's new album is a study in versatility. She can sing anything from Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" (recorded long before it was cool to do so) to full Broadway bombast (the amazing "Optimistic Voices/No Love Dying") and she wasn't afraid to get weird on us either. Enter "I Lost My Mind" which lives up to the title. We love when "artistes" go off the deep end. It makes for a demented little mixtape diversion and that's exactly what this song is. Insert anywhere.
Moment of Conversion: My reaction when I first heard it. Scrambling to see who this was and my delight when it was her.
077 MONOPHONICS | "Sage Motel"
Blurb: Colemine Records' anchor band, the Monophonics, led by the versatile blue-eyed soul vocalist Kelly Finnegan, have released their most ambitious album to date in Sage Motel. They've committed to a concept here and the entirety of the record unfolds like a day at the cheap motel of the title, complete with guests checking in and out in various states of disrepair and morality. The whole thing is like a sweaty dream on a cheap, vibrating mattress. The record sounds like a product of the 70s, a perfect setting for the mood they are trying to capture, but the recording is 21st century pristine. Title-track "Sage Motel" is fittingly the centerpiece. Finnegan turns in one of his all-time great vocals on the track, which puts you right there next to a pool much in need of a thorough cleaning.
Moment of Conversion: She's something like addicted when I do the things she likes
076 FATHER JOHN MISTY | "Q4"
Blurb: Cynical yes, but never boring. Some of the best art ever made has a nasty bite to it and if you think Father John isn't going to get in on the action, you clearly haven't been paying close attention to his career for the last ten years. The song deals with the frustrating concept of business over art, the grind of working for the man, and further lining the pockets of those already lighting their cigars with rolled-up $100 bills. Father John succeeds in pointing out the obvious in his usual clever way here and nobody makes the absurd sound so gorgeous—a talent I didn't know was needed until I discovered his music.
Moment of Conversion: What's "deeply funny" mean anyhow?
075 BEYONCÉ | "Virgo's Groove"
Blurb: It takes a village. With the list of contributors rivaling the end credits of war epic The Longest Day, Beyoncé's new album is almost preposterous in its excess. No less than ten songwriters and three producers teamed up on this one, and amazingly, it's one of the more stripped-down efforts on Renaissance, Bae's over-worked, over-everything monstrosity. I have to admit, I find the whole thing to be a bit much in one sitting. One big exception is "Virgo's Groove," which is a total astro-blast that heralds the arrival of Earth's new Queen Mother. Or is that role below her at this point?
Moment of Conversion: Uh, the groove. Duh.
074 WARPAINT | "Champion"
Blurb: "Champion" is the perfect example of why Warpaint remain so revered in indie-pop circles. I love how the song transports you through time. As always, however, what distances them from all competition is drummer Stella Mozgawa, who very subtly pushes these songs forward. If you listen only to the drums for a few passes, you'll notice they're simply remarkable. She brings a complexity to the songs without intruding on the band's trademarked effortless pop haze. This was the Year of Stella.
Moment of Conversion: The drums
073 STAR FEMININE BAND | "Peba Ikisina"
Blurb: Africa's groundbreaking and inspirational Star Feminine Band put out their second record in 2022 and the African girls, yes still bona-fide girls, are getting better and better. The infectious spirit that made their debut so life-affirming is thriving and the songs are still great. Here's one of them. I don't know what it means, but I know how it makes me feel.
Moment of Conversion: Spirit
072 BELIEF | "Anx"
Blurb: Warpaint drummer extraordinaire Stella Mozgawa strikes again. Stella! It's been about four minutes since we've last heard from her, so I figured her second of three appearances on our year-end mixtapes should come sooner than later whilst we crave her subtle genius like a drug as we do. Stella adds to an already strong year by teaming up with hip-hop producer Boom Bip (Bryan Hollon) on this old-school techno record. The twist is that Mozgawa plays alongside Bip's beats live, weaving in between the blips and beeps, adding some real humanity to some already pretty cool nob-twiddling. She's the star of the show for me whenever, and for whoever, she plays and it's no different here. The Year of Stella continues!
Moment of Conversion: The drums, once again!
071 LADY WRAY | "Piece of Me"
Blurb: Nicole Monique Wray, California born Virginia raised, has had a long road to her excellent new album Piece of Me. Twenty years ago she found herself with a gold record called "Make it Hot" under the name Nicole Ray. Not my thing really. She also worked and toured with Missy Elliott for a bit, but she mostly toiled in relative obscurity for the better part of two decades before coming onto my radar in 2013 via her collaboration with British soul singer Terri Walker in an amazing group called Lady. The band's self-titled debut (sadly their only record to date) made my year-end Top 20 Albums list back then and I still love it today. Then she decided to take her career in another direction complete with a new name, Lady Wray, and the results have been impressive. The title track of her new record is a modern soul classic (as is "Come On In"). To this soul loving record fanatic, it not only holds up with the classic singles of yore, it stands right there next to them. While it sounds contemporary, there's no escaping the natural talent that has always been there, simmering, waiting for its moment to properly shine. That time is now.
Moment of Conversion: Yearning vocal
070 EL PERRO | "No Harm"
Blurb: Beware of anyone who says they're going to do you no harm. Usually, that means there's harm coming your way....and soon. El Perro (the dog), are a new band made up of Radio Moscow's Parker Griggs and his mates. On Hair of El Perro, a clever shout out to the 1975 Nazareth album (and song) of the same name (Hair of the Dog), the boys do some good old fashioned 1970's-styled brain frying, brain baking, brain sautéing, brain simmering, and brain boiling. It's all here, not always on every song or in the same order, but rest assured, there's a monster truck coming your way and it's loaded up with heavy riffs, funky grooves, and pummeled drums. We chose "No Harm" for our year-end mix because it's a ferocious ass-kicker with a propane-fueled vocal to match. Be prepared to get roasted alive...and like it.
Moment of Conversion: Headphone listen
069 THE INTERRUPTERS | "Let 'em Go"
Blurb: Ska? Hmmmmm, do we give it one more shot? Easy decision, thanks to the Interrupters and Joan Jett-esque singer Aimee Interrupter (name used against my advice), who comes off as one tough customer not inclined to take any bullshit. Especially from guys. So when they try to take control, you know what to do.
Moment of Conversion: "When they try to take control, let 'em go"
068 MIKE ADAMS AT HIS HONEST WEIGHT | "Tie-Dyed & Tongue Tied"
Blurb: Mike Adams looks like an aging uncle of yours who is desperately trying to stay contemporary and cool, but isn't quite pulling it off at the kids table on Thanksgiving. He writes catchy power-pop gems, which only make matters worse. If there's anything perpetually uncool in popular music these days, it's power-pop. But when done well, and few (if anybody) do it better, there's nothing more thrilling than a cool melody, a crafted chorus, and a crunchy band to drive it all home like on "Tie-Dyed & Tongue Tied."
Moment of Conversion: "I've forgotten how to have a good time." The perfect post-pandemic sentiment.
067 BETH ORTON | "Friday Night"
Blurb: We got her new album, Weather Alive, a little too late to include it for year-end list consideration, but since then, we've been slowly succumbing to it, much as you would during the second half of a bottle of cheap whiskey. And, at times, it sounds like Beth has, too. Her vocals sound like they are in the throws of fresh emotional wounds, nowhere close to healing. "Friday Night" is the song that stood out from first listen because there's a palpable feeling of loneliness coursing through its words, something we can all identify with.
Moment of Conversion: The way she says "Friday night" with the full awareness of how pathetic she might sound.
066 THE SILOS | "The Spanish Man"
Blurb: One of our favorite bands ever, the Silos have been a going concern, at the whim of founder Walter Salas-Humara, since 1985. "The Spanish Man," from the recently released Family, features one of his most pleasingly esoteric choruses in an ocean of them, "Growing old and staying young / The Spanish man and his German son / The more you think the less you get done / The Spanish man and his German son." There's limited background provided, no clue as to how the Spanish man gained a German son, but we do get a sense of the challenges they face during their daily interactions. And that's enough to make the song stick with you long after its over.
Moment of Conversion: The mystery of the story. Make up your own.
065 CHAT PILE | "Wicked Puppet Dance"
Blurb: Fuck, I had to watch the goddamned video, which I rarely do for good reason. Bad decision. I did not need to see a marionette that looks like it survived a meth-lab explosion attempting to shoot smack into his wooden arm today. Anyway, here's the second song from Chat Pile's pain-packed God's Country that we've highlighted this year. First, there was "Why", about America's indifference to the homelessness crisis, but this time it's the harrowing "Wicked Puppet Dance," a horror film soundtrack with chop-shop guitars, amphetamine drums, and charming lyrics like "Tried to fuck me, called me a liar / So I shot him in the head, set the house on fire." These songs aren't all pretty folks, but you ain't going anywhere until the wicked puppet says it's OK. So don't even try it.
Moment of Conversion: When Raygun Busch suddenly whispers "A wicked puppet" at the 1:16 mark. Terrifying.
064 ONEIDA | "I Wanna Hold Your Electric Hand"
Blurb: Not an electrified, alt-rock take on the Beatles standard, as could be expected from the song's title, rather this is New York's revered Oneida attempting and succeeding (hence, the album's title, Success) to bring back some frenetic electric guitar rage, a la Bob Mould, back into this pop and rap focused world.
Moment of Conversion: It feels so good when they let the chords fly.
063 THE CHATS | "Panic Attack"
Blurb: The Chats hail from Australia, a place we love mainly because it's the only continent that seems to realize that rock & roll isn't dead yet. Which brings us to the Chats, a band of good old-fashioned fuck-ups who favor getting pissed (the band's website is www.thechatslovebeer.com) and cranking out fast and reckless punk singles. There's a bunch of them on their new album, but this one (and our Q2 pick "I've Been Drunk in Every Pub in Brisbane") sounds like a good a description of the band's eternal, addled frame of mind.
Moment of Conversion: "Panic attack-tack-tack-tack-tack!!!!"
062 HORSE LORDS | "Mess Mend"
Blurb: This highly-precise instrumental, from the band's great new album Comradely Objects, might be best listened to in quadrophonic sound; there are so many angles being charted simultaneously, a team of high school geometry teachers would be needed to diagram it all on a chalkboard in order to fully understand it. In execution, it's far better if nobody shows their work, instead letting the whole thing fit together in its own multi-dimensional construct.
Moment of Conversion: Machinery malfuntion at end.
061 A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS | "Let's See Each Other"
Blurb: It's hard to believe this Brooklyn band has been around for twenty years already. Their debut record sounded like they were already about to self-destruct or careen into a cement median or something equally chaotic. That said, it was a trip to listen to, especially if you're predisposed to cacophonous, grinding, scraping, ear-splitting noise like we are here at Pickled Priest. They seem to be getting better as they age if their new record, See Through You, is any indication. It's their most "accessible" album to date, which doesn't mean you won't be white-knuckling it here and there. Hell, it even contains a love song, the menacing "Let's See Each Other," and you've never been romanced quite like this before, I assure you. If it proves anything, it's that there's someone out there for everyone. You just might have to look in places most fear to go to find it. You know who you are.
Moment of Conversion: The opening moments where, no matter what volume you've set your device at, it feels like your ears are about to be compromised.
060 OFF! | "War Above Los Angeles"
Blurb: The longest song on OFF!'s Free LSD record clocks in at an almost unheard-of three-minutes (average time under 2:00) but it is also the record's most crushing track. The trick to this new, pummeling record from these L.A. punks is that the album sounds metal and punk simultaneously, with both crunch and angst in equal doses."War Above Los Angeles" is the perfect example of this unholy, but somehow majestic, alliance. A total fuck you to metal. A total fuck you to punk.
Moment of Conversion: The thundering guitar riff at the open.
059 THE BOBBY LEES | "Be My Enemy"
Blurb: "Be My Enemy," a Waterboys cover, belongs to the Bobby Lees now, with 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, capping off an often brilliant return.
Moment of Conversion: Sam's nasty vocal.
058 PLAINS | "Problem With It"
Blurb: The only thing I don't have a problem with is two of my favorite current songwriters, Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee) and Jess Williamson, combining their talents on a new side-project for both, plainly called, er, Plains. The results are anything but plain, but this is the song where it all comes together best for me.
Moment of Conversion: It's a pink carnation, it's a hand hastily played
057 DROPKICK MURPHYS | "Two 6's Upside Down"
Blurb: Only the eternal optimist gets 99 years in the slammer and makes it seem more palatable by describing his sentence as "Two 6's Upside Down." I appreciate the attempt at making lemonade from lemons. In a way, this song is a bit like Springteen's "Johnny 99," complete with a mean judge with a propensity for handing out stiff sentences. In both cases, it seems, there was more than all this that put that gun in their hands.
Moment of Conversion: Momentary pause at 2:27
056 JOHN DOE | "Down South"
Blurb: From X's John Doe comes this plain-spoken song about a quietly troubled man hoping it won't rain. I'm assuming it's a symbolic rain, but either way, this short little tune is the perfect combination of understated beauty and pleasing melancholy.
Moment of Conversion: The chorus is super perty.
055 NILÜFER YANYA | "Stabilise"
Blurb: This London-based artist has a unique genetic makeup, with strands from Ireland, Barbados and Turkey, so it's not surprising that her music sounds like nobody else's. Yanya makes very accessible pop songs that move with the relentless pace of a late-night taxi ride through dense traffic, matching adrenalin with danger, rapid acceleration with sudden unexpected zigs and zags. "Stabilise" is one such example, taking off on a moody guitar riff that Interpol fans would love, and then tearing off into the night as if she's in a getaway car. I love pop music...when it sounds as original and adventurous as this.
Moment of Conversion: Typewriter-ish opening beat.
054 FONTAINES D.C. | "Jackie Down the Line"
Blurb: Many have put this record in their year-end "best of" lists, but we did not. I suppose it all comes down to what you want from Fontaines D.C. Don't get me wrong, I want this, too. But I can't say I didn't prefer that. I just can't. The best songs on Skinty Fia are fantastic, of course, one being the newly minted Fontaines classic, "Jackie Down the Line."
Moment of Conversion: Prevailing mood
053 SHARON VAN ETTEN | "Mistakes"
Blurb: Sharon Van Etten has said her new record, We've Been Going About This All Wrong, is "designed to be listened to in order, at once, so that a much larger story of hope, loss, longing, and resilience can be told." You know what that means don't you? It means we here at Pickled Priest are going to carve out one catchy song from the album and slap it on our year-end mixtape out of context!
Moment of Conversion: Seinfeld reference: I dance like Elaine / But my baby takes me to the floor