(It’s strange to me how end-of-the-year lists work. People start posting their annual best-of lists in early December, like there isn’t a whole month left. I would love it if someone like Kendrick Lamar dropped some jaw-dropping record without notice on Christmas just to fuck up all the media’s prepared awards. Anyway.)
Doing a year-end list for music is kind of strange, because while I dig hearing what is being made these days, a lot of music discovery happens looking backwards. The album that blew me away more than anything this year was actually from 2021—Inner Symphonies by Hania Rani and Dobrawa Czocher is just five-stars through and through. I saw a tweet that said Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne was bangers front-to-back and I am ashamed to say I missed this in 2003 because it’s the most fun I’ve had listening to an album in some time. (This was my fault for overlooking, as their self-titled has been a personal favorite since it came out in 1996.)
Point being, year-end lists to me can be pretty boring because critics tend to gravitate to a similar collection of stuff that isn’t bad, but doesn’t do any justice to the idea of actually discovering music over the course of a year.
That’s not to say there wasn’t a great assortment of albums out this year. I’d have to decide by a coin flip if Diaspora Problems by Soul Glo or Animal Drowning by Knifeplay would be at the top of my list—although somehow Gospel got back together and made The Loser, which is not only awesome but the 2005 version of me screaming what means of witchery! is very, very stoked on.
There was also a nice selection of woe from women between Big Thief’s Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, Nilufer Yanya’s Painless, Lykke Li’s EYEYE, Weyes Blood’s And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, Jensen McRae’s Are You Happy Now?, and Claire Rousay contributed a few good works including wouldn’t have to hurt and everything perfect is already here.
(As always, there’s a lot of noise about Beyoncé, but honestly if you’re rooting for her you’re rooting for Marie Antoinette.)
Then there were some decent eclectic sounds—Cheri Knight’s American Rituals, Moin’s Paste, and Wojciech Rusin’s Syphon. In terms of straight instrumentation, I loved the return of Esmerine with Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More and Jessica Moss’ Galaxy Heart. (Also notable: Air by Sault and For McCoy by Eiko Ishibashi.)
In the end, what I like most about this list is what isn’t on it—what gems of 2022 I’ve yet to find, that ultimately will be on some future list under Why Was I Not Listening To This Then. Like, I just got into Tim Hecker and I already know there’s a ton in that catalogue I’ll enjoy.
That will always be a wonder of music (as well as the visual arts)—they are able to be found and rest in the present moment with an audience while also providing a portal to the past.