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WUSC Music Director's Favorite Albums of 2022

2022 was a rough year for music. Too many fantastic musicians passed- Pharoah Sanders, Angelo Badalamenti, Mimi Parker, Takeoff, Coolio, Vangelis, Meat Loaf, George Crumb, Klaus Schulze, Jaimie Branch, Jeremiah Green, and more. However, their music will always be there. It’s their life after death. Their proof walking on this Earth and experiencing everything it has to offer. Many of them live on in the artist of today, influencing the sound that came after them. Many of their protegees producing some of the albums you see here. Some fantastic albums were released this year. In the rap world, billy woods and Cities Aviv both dropped two albums this year that should easily be on any “Best of 2022.” Beyonce and SZA both finally dropped! (You won’t find their albums on this list, unfortunately. Yes, I listened to them, they were fine.) Of course, my opinion serves the same purpose as my article from last year. This is solely my favorite albums from this past year. Albums that I either couldn’t stop listening to, or just left me thinking, “Oh wow, awesome, awesome, how did they do that?” So, here’s some of the albums that commemorated my 2022.

Really quickly though, I want to highlight some of my favorite EPs or reissues that came out this year. I’ll keep it short. On the EP end of things, both of my favorites actually came out of Philadelphia (will die on the hill that says that Philly has the best music scene in the States right now). Full Body 2 released demo 02 that just completely encapsulate me and turn my brain off in the most maximalist sense possible. The sounds and atmosphere they create is wonderful. I already know whenever they release a full album it’ll be at the top of my year end list. Second EP is actually a split by They Are Gutting A Body of Water (who also released a mind-melting EP with FB2 last year) and A Country Western. I’ve already waxed poetic about TAGABOW in my review for their latest album, but A Country Western really showcase the range of their sound in this one, and honestly, it’s some of their best songs yet. From ‘90s slacker to shoegaze to DnB, they manage to stuff two songs in one and it really kept me on my toes. Another band I’m predicting will be in my year end list when they drop an LP. As for reissues, Charles Stepney’s Step on Step was educational and also tear-jerking. It was released by International Anthem who is just awesome. They’re one of my favorite label discoveries of 2022 and they’re honestly the best label right now. Saturno 2000 from Analog Africa is another one of my favorite reissues that gave me a great lesson about how my mom’s generation had parties. Story behind it is dope but most importantly, had a caller say, “This is some shit I’d hear on Breaking Bad. I feel like I’m in the lab with Heisenburg.” Lastly, Habibi Funk continues being awesome and released Oghneya. It’s Middle Eastern music but it’s nostalgic for a reason that I just can’t put my finger on. Just beautiful.

In no particular order…

Death’s Dynamic Shroud – Darklife


Boy, was this a dense one. But repeat listens yield so much goodness. Audio processing and sampling is just inspirational. Goes from booming dance to a ¾ piano ballad with lovely “string” arrangements and back again for the next song. No stone goes unturned in this one.

MJ Lenderman - Boat Songs


I told y’all to keep an eye on this dude when he released his Knockin’ EP last year. Asheville, NC guitarist who is also in Wednesday goes as deep into the country as a rock album can get, some might even argue vice versa. Either way, hearing about a certain Miami Dolphins QB hustling his balls staring at a cereal box whose mascot went from him to Tom Brady in the Harris Teeter near Folly Beach is just fantastic. Had this CD in my car for most of my summer. Rocks and sobs from one track to the next and refines a lot of the tunes that were featured on that EP I mentioned earlier. Seriously great stuff that anybody can like.

Duster - Together


Wrote a review for this one as well. Long story short, though, is that Duster continues to refine their signature slowcore space rock sound with some of their best songwriting yet. More importantly, though, this is duster at their most humanist, not happy perse, but definitely hopeful. Perfectly fuzzy and sad in the most comforting way possible. Another album that kept me company for most of my free time. Awesome music videos too that I recommend.

Pedro the Lion – Havasu


I just think it’s extremely beautiful for David to reflect on that side of childhood and adolescence that a lot of people block in their memories. There’s nothing but nostalgia and love towards his younger self in his voice and there’s just something so fulfilling to me about listening to him process his memories. David is the man who taught me authenticity. The reviews left on the Bandcamp page for this release makes me so happy. One of my most replayed albums this year and I’m excited to see the next era of David that he sings about next.

marine eyes - chamomile


I think this is the year I’ve listened to ambient music the most. Having to listen to more music than ever means that I need a reset occasionally, and this record was just that for me. It accompanied me on walks, calmed me down, woke me up, took me to sleep, filled the space between conversations, and much more. I even played it quietly while I interacted with patient, and I notice my shoulders tend to fall instead of rise. This record is one of the most beautiful records I’ve listened to in quite some time, ambient or not. It’s what I imagine what heaven sounds like. Let ambient music be ambient music. You don’t need to give this record dedicated listening (although you should with some Grade-A speakers or headphones, production is great), have this on while you clean the house or drive to school/work. I promise it’ll make the time you have it on so much better.

Matthew J. Rolin – Passing


This is another one of those albums where I can shut my brain off and just fall into a trance with the beautiful melodies and overtones that Matthew creates in this continuous, Gaelic raga music. Any of his albums this year could be here, this guy is a musical powerhouse that would put the assembly line to shame in terms of output. But I played this on a warm fall day while painting the fence with my mom. We talked about my friends, her friends, the future, the past, and how rude it was of our neighbor to tell us that our other neighbor was able to paint both sides of his fence with a machine in less than thirty minutes. It was one of my favorite memories this year and I’m happy Rolin was able to help me experience it.

Animal Collective - Time Skiffs


I first really understood Animal Collective at the end of junior year in high school. They were the first people that had the sound that communicated, “the dumbest thing any child can say is ‘I can’t wait to grow up.’” They continue to alter their sound, most significantly in Deakin singing more and Panda Bear’s funk-infested drumming. It’s extremely tight and it’s the CD I’ve had in my car the most alongside Boat Songs. Give this album some time and I think fans will see it as a Top 5 album of theirs easily. Fun, beautiful, and endlessly interesting. Can’t wait for their new record this year.

C0ncernn / leroy – Dariacore 3… At least that’s what I think it’s called?


This one was probably my favorite dance (?) records of the year. The pop culture references and samples in this are so funny but the BPM is so fast you don’t have time to laugh in between moving your body all over the place. 100 gecs is dead, long live C0ncernn.

They Are Gutting A Body of Water – s


I was fortunate enough to get an early copy of this album and my review for this site does a better job of explaining things, because this is a landmark album for shoegaze. But, I’ll include this little aside. I was talking to Ben Opatut, their drummer, and I was telling him how I had a friend tell me the album was “silly shoegaze” and Ben replied saying shoegaze was being taken way too seriously at the moment. S hopefully serves as a guiding light to help make shoegaze more fun and in turn revive the genre from its increasingly stale tropes (even though the tropes sound so damn good).

billy woods, Preservation - Aethiopes


If there were to be a “best” album this year, I think this would be it. Everything is intentional from the art to the production direction (listen to it and you’ll know what I mean). Lyrically, it starts with a bomb and somehow gets better as the album progresses (“I think Mengitsu Haile Miriam is my neighbor” already had me on a history deep dive). billy woods made one of the best albums last year with ELUCID as Armand Hammer and he does so again this year. Don’t forget to check out Church as well, another album billy woods dropped this year too.

Cities Aviv – Man Plays the Horn


This one got a lot of plays early on in the year for me. I think this was one of the first albums that was released that really got me hyped for 2022. It’s a super unique style of hip-hop that I really haven’t heard before. It’s slower, hypnotic, repetitive, jazzy, distorted, reverbed, kind of surreal and cinematic? There’s even some moments of ambient that I really dig. But most importantly, this is an album’s album. If you think rap is getting stale, listen to this.

Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You


Life really isn’t complete until you see Buck Meek do his little groove dance on stage. Plenty has been written about this album already, but, this takes you through the pantheon of Caucasian music lol. Best part by far is just hearing how much fun the band is having while recording, and of course Lenker drops some absolutely beautiful lyrics and raw vocal deliveries on certain tracks. Call this their white album.

Contour – Onwards!


Probably one of the best albums to come out of South Carolina in years if I’m being honest. Lyrics are raw and poetic, vocal overlay and flow is refreshing, and this is probably one of the most earnest RnB/soul albums I’ve heard from a male artist since Frank Ocean or D’Angelo. Happy he’s been getting some national attention with this one.

Sarah Davachi – Two Sisters


Getting used to the idea that dissonance can be beautiful can be difficult for anyone who grew up with a Western concept of music, but Sarah makes it so, so easy. Sustained tones evolving into microtonal passages just filled me with wonder and fascination (plus a beautiful 'Alas Departynge is Ground of Woo' arrangement is just the cherry on top). One of the best ways to spend an hour and a half of your life, will change the way you perceive sounds.

Bill Callahan - YTI​⅃​A​Ǝ​Я


Bill just continues to perform as one of the best singer-songwriters in our age right now. Fantastic string arrangements, female backing vocals, and some more instrumental dissonance make this one of his most interesting releases to date. Humorous lyrics and casual yet important delivery continue to be his signature. One of the albums that screamed “Brandon!” to those close to me that listened.

Panda Bear, Sonic Boom / Reset


I mean this is just super well-crafted psych-pop. Loved hearing two best friends flip super well-crafted soul and R&B and pop from the 20th century into hypnotic, bouncy, and frankly silly tracks. Will be replaying this a lot when summer rolls around again. That pre-chorus on “Danger” ....

Snoozer - zzz


Shout out juliaswarrecs for getting this on my radar. Snoozer dropped an amazing EP back in September (peep the Alex G feature on one of the tracks), but this album really just had a grip on me the past couple of months. From the forlorn but upbeat lyrics to the slowcore-grunge-folk feel oozing from the songs to the slightly-experimental-to-make-things-more-interesting finishing touches on production, this is just further proof that Philly is still one of the best music scenes right now.

Daniel Rossen - Shadow in the Frame


Guitarist and one of the lead vocalists for Grizzly Bear, Rossen returns with a somber and reflective look at his life as he approaches fatherhood and an exit from urban sprawl. This is one of those albums that manage to mix extremely tight and complex arrangements with beauty and grace while still feeling airy and natural. A masterclass in composition, to be sure.

Flanafi - Follow It Back


Simon is doing something really, really special here. I can’t even begin to talk about this. This is one of those albums where the music can say much more than I could, so listen and let the music do the talking. Some of the most exciting albums I’ve heard in quite some time. Experimental yet pop but also super laid back and fast paced, so happy I found this. Thanks 4333.

Sudan Archives - natural brown prom queen


Yaya Bey and Sudan Archives both released the best R&B albums this year, but I just kept returning to Parks’s record. Ranges from discussing the social differences in light skin vs darker skinned Black people to the importance of hair culture, but I’m a big fan of the interludes on this one. Can be beautiful to empowering and educational and back again. Really awesome.

Rachika Nayar - Heaven Come Crashing


Sometimes you gotta give Pitchfork the credit it deserves. I found out about Rachika through them a couple years ago when they highlighted “The Trembling of Glass” last year, and I’ve been keeping up with her releases since then. She forgoes guitar as her main instrument and creates swathes of noise and texture. It’s not necessarily ambient because it simply commands your attention, but it does give you a sense of surrender at points. This also put me on to Maria BC, so yeah.

Širom – The Liquified Throne of Simplicity


I thought about this album a lot throughout the year, one of the most entrancing minimalist in design, maximalist in sheer emotion albums I’ve heard in the 21st century. Mixing Krautrock, with Slovenian folk, with minimalism, with classical, this is some of the most genius music I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.

Kikagaku Moyo – Kumoyo Island


RIP to my favorite jam band. Their show is still one of the best things I’ve ever witnessed. But this latest album is their best work! Super fun and groovy yet enlightening in its use of Japanese folk music. I feel like jam music is mostly skewed towards male audiences, but Kikagaku Moyo has a sound for everyone. They will be missed.

Poorly Drawn House - Home Doesn’t Have Four Walls


Huge kudos to poorly drawn house for establishing themselves in Spartanburg, SC. There’s absolutely no scene there at all yet they’re getting more national attention than most bands in Columbia and Charleston. Their sound is comprised of slowcore, field recordings, and some hints of jazz. Think less Duster and more Hood. Easily one of the best bands in South Carolina, keep an eye on these guys.

Yeule - Glitch Princess


Honestly finishing your album with a four hour long ambient drone piece is just a power move. The other tracks are awesome, though. There’s some electronic power-pop sprinkled in and really cool production, but overall, it’s a really interesting mix of singer-songwriter electronic pop with some out there sounds every now and then. Probably their most personal work yet.

Palm - Nicks and Grazes


This is just a crazy album. Differing time signatures, syncopation, and intense drumming mix with the fun and joy of Animal Collective mixed with some of the guitar work reminding me of This Heat. A great album for those who are getting into the more experimental.

Brandon Jolley

Transition from Latin to composed music. Trying to get ahead of the curve. Some of the most important artists are inspired by contemporary composers, Miles Davis and Stockhausen, Bill Evans and Debussy, John Lennon and Beethoven, Pachelbel and everyone who has used his infamous chord progression, and countless more. So, I offer this time slot as a study for what composers of today are writing for myself in my own works, as well as aspiring or practicing musicians in the scene here for inspiration themselves.

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