Published on January 9th, 2023 | by Dave Scaddan0
The Feedback Society’s Top 20 Albums of 2022
As he does every year, music writer Dave Scaddan gives us his top 20 albums of the year! Here’s Dave’s Top 20 albums of 2022!
20 Moon Duo – Live at Levitation
I can see why the sheer magnitude of the Moon Duo back catalogue might make them a hard act to get into. They release a lot of product and most of it sounds very much like the rest, which makes digging through their vaults a comforting experience, but not necessarily an exciting one full of surprises. But if you’ve ever loved anything this band ever created and you missed ‘Live at Levitation’ this year, you should spend some time with how Moon Duo sounds live in 2022. You’re probably familiar with how they sound in the studio: they’re a band who play psych-rock and psych-pop, but let the synthesizer do most of the work that the guitar would do in your average psychedelic band. In this live set, there’s a surprising proto-punk style. Ripley Johnson’s vocal delivery sounds like he’s channeling his inner Alan Vega.
19 William Orbit – The Painter
The career of William Orbit is pretty fascinating to read about, especially since his name doesn’t ring out nearly as loudly as all the other pop artists he’s worked with as a producer. In 2022, he released an album full of collaborations with names that aren’t as easily recognized as the Princes, Madonnas and U2s he’s worked with in the past. ‘The Painter’ is a dreamy set of pop songs that take me back to the early records by Ulrich Schnauss, Lindstrom, and M83, albums that are so lovely and immaculately produced that they can drift into the background of one’s listening environment until they become more felt than heard.
18 Yussef Dayes – The Yussef Dayes Experience Live at Joshua Tree
Yussef Dayes is one of my favorite drummers. It’s not just that his percussion skills are great to listen to, it’s also that he is constantly choosing other great musicians to work with that I might not ever hear of otherwise. Although this is a proper album that can be bought, downloaded or streamed, I love it most as an under-twenty-minute Youtube clip that captures the entire performance aurally and visually. This could even be an indicator of what an album (or a live album) might look like in the coming years. Several of my favorite musical selections released this year are things that can also be experienced in visual media. Fleet Foxes, The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Wet Leg, and Khruangbun are all bands that I watch as much as I listen to, simply because their ways of releasing things to the public are changing to involve a screen.
In this outdoor performance, Dayes works with a five-piece lineup playing a soothing jazz set highlighted by the alto sax strains of Malik Venna. This is a brief set that avoids any startling crescendos, choosing to glide gradually into a relaxed hum as the sun sets on the desert in the backdrop. This is a great performance to put on in the living room at the end of the day to ease into the evening.
17 II ALA I MEDA II – Spectra Vol 1
Interesting work from an interesting lineup here. Formerly known as Alameda 5, this Polish band, who’ve been around for a decade making trippy psych rock, are now totally blurring the line between rock and electro-prog. With two drummers, a bass player, and two members responsible for something they’re calling “electronics”, II ALA I MEDA II end up sounding very ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, but with a little bit of a KLF vibe thrown in.
16 Melody’s Echo Chamber – Emotional Eternal
This album reminds me of some music I wasn’t even around for. There was a certain kind of European pop in the sixties and seventies that often featured breathy, feminine vocals over mellow, bouncy melodies. For me, the song ‘Porque te Vas’ by Spanish pop singer Jeannette exemplifies this style the best.
Melody’s Echo Chamber play around in this long-gone pop style almost exclusively on this year’s album. I would place the mellow mood of ‘Emotional Eternal’ somewhere between the good-vibes flow of Khruangbin and the dreamy pop of Beach House. This record can provide a relaxing backdrop for any occasion – it simply soothes without asking the listener to work very hard.
15 Panda Bear and Sonic Boom – Reset
Some will remember a time in the late 90s when a Scottish group called The Beta Band were the promising new act of the day. Though many such promising groups have come and gone since, few have stuck in my mind with such a sense of, what if? The Beta Band sang beautiful, driving, anthemic harmonies that were worthy of a Wilson brothers’ comparison, but they stacked those vocals over wavy, electronic tracks that made them new and exciting. Lots of groups (Hot Chip, Super Furry Animals, Tame Impala) have used a similar formula since, but this new collaboration between Panda Bear and Sonic Boom has felt to me like the Beta Band record we wanted, but never got, in the 2000s. ‘Reset’ features wonderful harmonies, catchy choruses, and enough Bowie-ish curveballs to exhibit some true pop range. The Beach Boys comparisons inevitably make sense, which might compel you to try this out (or not to). But if I was an algorithmic matchmaker, I’d say the people who should certainly try out ‘Reset’ are those who waited for that follow-up to ‘Dry the Rain’ that never really arrived.
14 Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance
As you can probably tell by this album title, Horsegirl are a pretentious, art-rock trio. Fortunately for me though, having been raised on pretentious art-rock combos like R.E.M. and Sonic Youth, I guess I understand this record. While there are several great tracks here, the thing I love most about this record is that Horsegirl exist, that there are still twenty-somethings wanting to approach the work of being bandmates. Songs like ‘Homage to Birdnoculars’ and ‘Billy’ find room to rock, but they’re also deadly serious pieces, and I just like the idea that there are people I would consider “kids” that are putting such earnestness into their band.
13 Anteloper – Pink Dolphins
Many left-field jazz outfits can keep their listeners at a distance with complexity and indulgence. What draws me into ‘Pink Dolphins’most is the upbeat pulse that keeps everything on this album moving in a steady direction. Much like an outfit like Jaga Jazzist or Nordub, Anteloper keep just enough rhythm and melody in their music to keep the work grounded and accessible while still sounding odd and unfamiliar at every turn. It’s also incredible that this record was made by a mere duo (a trumpeter and a drummer) because ‘Pink Dolphins’ never sounds like it’s being played by just two people (or just two instruments).
12 Danger Mouse and Black Thought – Cheat Codes
There’s a nasty little sentiment that sometimes surfaces amongst hip-hop heads that Black Thought (the main lyricist and rapper in The Roots) is the weak link in the group, offering unquestionable technical skills, but not much style. While there are reasons why this notion makes sense, I disagree. For one thing, it’s tough to be outstanding as a rapper, especially in such a talented band who can adjust styles and approaches live and on the fly (I mean, they’re the house band for freaking Fallon, which means they have to be able to play just about anything). Second, what excited audiences about The Roots back in the 90s was that they were a band; they played their own instruments, their drummer was the shit, they had Rahzel doing beatbox effects that sounded inhuman, they were organic. Other crews needed a DJ and a bunch of samples to move crowds, The Roots needed nothing more than their chops, yet they were still clearly true to the hip-hop ethos. So to be the guy rapping over all that authenticity must’ve been tough. Everything else about your group is innovative, but you’re “just the rapper”, the same as one you’d find in dozens of other groups.
While it’s true that you can find some weak (or uninspiring) bars in Black Thought’s annals, that doesn’t make him a weak rapper or lyricist. Plus, until now, he has remained steadfastly faithful to his crew, even after they accepted a job on Late Night that didn’t really require an emcee’s presence. Maybe one thing that took away some of his shine as “The rapper from The Roots” is that he was often outshined by the guest rappers the group sometimes used. But if you have Q-Tip or early Common guesting on your track, their verses are going to jump out no matter what. All of this is to say that ‘Cheat Codes’ is a long-awaited opportunity to hear this prolific emcee outside of his role in The Roots, and it’s great to hear Danger Mouse on a project of this scope too. There’s a multitude of collaborators on this record also, and Black Thought holds his own on every track. Yet probably the most lasting asset of this album is the Danger Mouse component, filling each number with 1970s soul loops and grooves that lay the groundwork for all the talented vocalists on offer.
11 King Hannah – I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me
I love the low-tempo, pulsing rhythm section of this Liverpool band, making their promising debut with this album. I can hear shades of early-days Radiohead on some of these tracks, but listeners will also get some of the damaged, haunted stylings of Beth Gibbons in the way singer Hannah Merrick performs. She floats her lyrics through the desolation of these songs like shadows of clouds rolling across an open field. Yet this record never totally gives in to despair, much like how a Leonard Cohen track can pull you under while still giving you a space to breathe through.
10 They Hate Change – Finally New
At times, when listening to this, I start feeling like it’s the best record of the year. Then I have to tell myself to cool down on it and just enjoy it for what it is: a two-man rap crew busting a debut that makes them sound like they could be Neptunes one day, like they might go on to make their ‘Aquemini’ in 2027. Vonne Parks and Dre Gainey are evolving the form of the rap record in a real way with ‘Finally New’, sometimes leaning a little house, sometimes leaning a little dirty south, sometimes not bothering to rap, often floating out the atmosphere with a gentle synth line.
In one verse, they describe themselves as “D.I.Y. FLY” which is some well-phrased praise I wish I’d thought of. While their sound is slick, rich and lush, it isn’t anyone else’s sound. Their vocal delivery sometimes reminds me of Baltimore emcee Spank Rock. Apart from that, their sound is almost totally original, in a genre that badly needs to find ways to sound new.
9 J Rocc – A Wonderful Letter
One style of music I always wish would crop up more is the melding of hip-hop with spoken-word samples that take the place of an actual emcee. ‘Paul’s Boutique’ played around with this style a little, and deejays like Edan, Dan The Automator, Madlib, and Memory Man have delved in, but J Rocc’s L.A. sound adventure goes deeper. The beats here are programmed with one foot firmly planted in hip-hop’s old-school origins, mixed in with vocal samples that sound like they came from old TV broadcasts, all focused around this “letter” that J Rocc is writing to his city. Even when a capable guest emcee shows up, it’s still the bare track that takes center stage, except possibly for the moment on side two when Egyptian Lover guests on ‘Pajama Party’, a contender for best track of the year.
Egyptian Lover is going to turn 60 next year, yet he manages to sound neither washed nor soft when chanting a chorus line that goes, “everybody get with somebody / it’s a pajama party.” As persnickety as J Rocc had to be in penning this plunderphonic pastiche, it always sounds like it was fun to make.
8 SND & RTN – ECHO LTD 004
SND & RTN (pronounced, “send and return”) is a dub artist that does not necessarily rely on the reggae template that is at the roots of most dub music. Working with a more techno/electro base, SND & RTN create infectious, throbbing soundscapes that can smooth over any rough edges in your day like an audio trowel. These tracks lean on the board-riding effects management taught by the greats like Mad Professor and Lee Perry, but they do so with a more laid-back, clubby feel. Carving out a distinct sound while still paying tribute to the roots of the dub form is a significant accomplishment, but once you get over how new and different this sound is, the groove of the ‘ECHO LTD’ series will fill your headphones and speakers with lasting positive inertia. This is music that’s very easy to get into when it’s playing.
7 S.G. Goodman – Teeth Marks
S.G. Goodman shows tremendous range on this sophomore effort, one moment rocking out like Ryan Adams or a ‘Copperhead Road’ Steve Earle, the next warbling like the voice from a scratchy old 78. Her songs are immersed in her home state of Kentucky, which adds charm and grace to this record. I always like when a writer is proud to embrace where they are from instead of sweating to escape their ties into some other, “global” existence. I’m a big believer in the notion that there’s more to be lost by escaping your roots than there is to be gained by trying to be more “worldly”. S.G. Goodman writes about Kentucky the way Lou Reed writes about New York, as if there’s nothing else that would make sense to write about, immersed in it, expressing lived-in tales and feelings. One of the best things about hearing ‘Teeth Marks’ this year was that it led me back to S.G.’s first record, ‘Old Time Feeling’, which is now a few years older, but just as great.
6 Wet Leg – Wet Leg
This duo is just so easy to get excited about. Their songs are simple, high-energy efforts that often display more sardonic wit than musical acumen, but dang if they aren’t catchy and fun to listen to. The songwriting here sounds almost effortless, like the tunes on this debut were just waiting to get out. This collection of songs spans topics that could easily descend into melancholic “sad bastard” whining, but the attitude of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers is what keeps that from happening. When Wet Leg write a breakup song, they do a lot more than just piss and moan about it, they imagine what their ex is doing and flatly express how they feel about it, often managing to make the listener smile even though the substance is sad. Knowing that this group is about to begin a tour opening for Harry Styles is exciting – they’ll get to reach a lot of new listeners this way – but it’s also worrying, like they could be about to become big enough that capturing this same unadulterated energy a second time might be tough. That’s the potentially bad news. The potentially good news is that they apparently already have a second album’s worth of songs recorded. We’ll see.
5 Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio – Cold As Weiss
This is the DLO3 record that shows that they’ve been able to get back on the road. While this trio’s studio performances have always been great, they are so locked together as a group that they have sometimes needed their live performances draw out that charming, playful feel that makes them special. The “play” between organ player Delvon Lamarr and guitarist Jimmy James is especially intricate; in live shows, you can hear them goofing with each other over how and when a number should end, they spontaneously throw hooks from favorite covers at each other and immediately respond in kind, and they give each other room to flourish as the moment might dictate. ‘Cold As Weiss’ is a studio record that starts to show us some of this “play”. As the arrangements become a little looser, the playing allows for an approach that’s not quite as tight, and the same fun, funky, old-time good music feel that we love about this group still holds together.
If you want to hear even more “loosened” performances from DLO3, they also released ‘Live At Loveland’ this year, and they’re pretty committed to maintaining a live connection to their fans through YouTube. They’re a fun band to watch, and after you’ve done so, you’ll have a hard time not picturing them when you hear their music again.
4 Nala Sinephro – Space 1.8
Having dropped in January of 2022, this is one of the albums I’ve had the longest to listen to, and it’s probably one of the things I’ve listened to most. I need music for sleeping and napping because that’s just the way I’ve always done it, and ‘Space 1.8’ is an excellent napping album. I mean this in the nicest way. ‘Space 1.8’ is not boring or unengaging. ‘Space 1.8’ is just incredibly delicate, almost weightless while still being melodic and adventurous. Nala Sinephro plays the harp, but she also composes and engineers with a velvet glove touch, which is why this is great music that’s still very easy to drift off to. Then, about 35 minutes into a 55-minute album, Nubya Garcia shows up and starts blowing the shit out of a tenor saxophone like a smoke alarm and Sinephro mixes in a bunch of Floydian sound effects. When this happens, I sometimes don’t wake up because that first half hour can be relaxing to an almost coma-inducing degree. And sometimes if all I needed was a quick nod and a coffee, that saxophone gets me up and I enjoy the mellow remainder of the album while awake.
3 Khruangbin and Vieux Farka Toure – Ali
This band is in the midst of carving out an incredible role in the world of popular music. As a trio, they have conquered the festival circuit and become one of the world’s most successful bands in terms of moving units of vinyl, all under the heading of a band name few feel comfortable pronouncing aloud. Yet at the same time, they have managed to use their band as a kind of backing crew for a diverse selection of other artists. They did a decent EP with Leon Bridges a few years back, they collaborated with Scientist on some transformative dub remixes of songs from ‘Con Todo El Mundo’ and now they’ve allowed themselves to be a temporary support for the music of Vieux Farka Taure, a songwriter from Mali whose profile is likely to benefit much from this pairing.
The styles of these two artists blend very well, to the point where it’s sometimes hard to tell if the guitar sounds we’re hearing are coming from Toure or Mark Speer, Khruangbin’s guitar player. What results is the typically mellow and proficient playing we’re used to hearing from this band, but with different vocal tinges and some guitar work that’s informed by African folk styles (and the work of Toure’s father, Ali Farka Toure, one of Africa’s most famed musicians). Another thing that makes this record (and all these collaborations) work so well is the drum mastery of Donald Johnson Jr. Johnson hides himself in this trio behind the stylish wigs and outfits of Mark Speer and Laura Lee, who are tough to peel one’s eyes away from, making Johnson the “easy to ignore” member of the group. But his playing is so solid and reliable that I think he’s the main reason this group can adjust so easily to different lineups and styles.
2 Tim Bernardes – Mil Coisas Invisivies
Muito Lindo. That’s the best I can do to describe the loveliness of the sound of Tim Bernardes’ two solo records: this one and ‘Recomecar’ from 2017. Even if you don’t speak Portuguese, this singer/songwriter from Sao Paolo will communicate with you. Bernardes used to make jaunty pop/rock records with his three-piece band, O Terno, who are also worth checking out. This record is so soft, touching, and expertly executed that it would be perfect for a late dinner album. And even if you didn’t know everyone you were dining with that night, you could put it on and be assured that ‘Mil Coisas Invisivies’ would not massage anyone the wrong way. The blend of orchestral instrumentation, gently strummed acoustic guitar, immaculate sound production, and Bernardes’ honey-and-lavender voice make this an instant classic.
1 Blu and Fatlip – Live From the End of the World (demos)
This album put me on plenty of 2022 listening binges that hearkened back to the hip hop of the 1990s. It wasn’t just the rare treat of getting to hear Fatlip’s voice on a series of tracks again that sent me back to my Pharcyde, Tribe, Digable Planets and J5 records, it was also the wealth of middle-aged emcees whose voices show up on this record that made it feel like a time machine. In just nine tracks, we get to hear greats like MC Eiht, Chali 2na, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Ras Kass and Madlib, sooooo, not exactly a youthful endeavor, but there’s more than a collective century of hip hop experience on display here.
I’m partly confused by the “(demos)” tag in the title. Is this there because the LP is a little short (nine tracks, seven of which are real rap songs)? Is it because some of the beats sound like they could be cleaned up a little? Is it because Fatlip and/or Blu felt that more could eventually be done with what they’ve released here? Even at seven tracks, I’m still getting more Fatlip than I’ve had in years. I don’t need these tracks to be cleaned up – I like that I can hear the scratches and dirt in the records being sampled. I would chalk the confusing “(demos)” tag up to a lack of confidence in the 2022 rap game. Fatlip has never been lucky in the game, never reached a level of success that’s commensurate with his talent or his contribution. He raps about this on this record on ‘Hollywood Celebrity’: “I’ve been robbed for mils from shady-ass deals / swear I used to feel like getting’ muh-fuckers killed.” So at this point in his career, it probably isn’t easy for Fatlip to put his name on a record and feel like it will earn the appreciation it merits, even though his gifts haven’t waned at all. Honestly, this dearth of confidence (if that’s what it is) is one of the things I love about Fatlip.
One of my favourite entries into the annals of hip-hop ever is the ‘What’s Up, Fatlip?’ track from his 2005 solo album, ‘The Loneliest Punk’. That track (and the accompanying Spike Jones video) contains the rarest of rap conceits. It rallies against the tired braggadocio of emcees using their bars to boast about their own greatness and actually does the opposite. ‘What’s Up Fatlip’ is the best of rap self-deprecation in a genre full of arrogance. ‘Live From the End of the World’ often goes back to this beyond-modest approach. Though many other talented lyricists weave their ways through this album, Fatlip’s emboldened realism is my favourite thing about it.