Ends in Two: Favorite songs and albums of 2022

As promised, I’m about to go through my music library to check out what came out this past year and shake the dustbunnies out of my brain to remind myself how many great songs and albums came out in 2022. Like the last couple of pandemic years, the music scene has kind of been all over the place — not necessarily in a bad way, but it’s definitely shaken things up to the point where the unexpected is the norm. Let’s take a listen…

The Smile, “You Will Never Work in Television Again” single, released 5 January. Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood joined up with their drummer friend Tom Skinner from Sons of Kemet as a creative outlet during the pandemic and surprised everyone with a decidedly punkish sound that might be Radiohead at its most frantic. They’d eventually release a full album later in the year.

The Weeknd, Dawn FM, released 7 January. His latest is kind of…weird? Yet really fun and funky? And features in-between smooth-jazz-DJ voice-overs by…Jim Carrey? I’m still not entirely sure what he was trying to say with this record, but it’s a great listen nonetheless. “Sacrifice” in particular is my favorite off the album.

Cat Power, Covers, released 14 January. Chan Marshall has been known to record unique and fascinating covers of other people’s music, and this latest batch is full of gems. Her take on Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion” got quite a bit of airplay on KEXP at the beginning of the year and it’s a wonderful take on an already quirky track.

Miles Kane, Change the Show, released 21 January. Kane, also known as part of the supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets, takes the classic British soul swing sound and tweaks it with humor and maybe a bit of strangeness and the result is earwormy fun.

Kids On a Crime Spree, Fall in Love Not in Line, released 21 January. I’ve been intrigued by Slumberland Records these days for several reasons: much of their roster is super-local (one or two coming from my own neighborhood!), and much of that same roster often records in a semi lo-fi way, providing a very loose ‘bedroom recording’ feel that reminds me of…well, my own band The Flying Bohemians, actually! Extra props for this particular Oakland band for naming themselves after a newspaper story headline about problem youths in Foster City on the peninsula…which became the inspiration for the movie Over the Edge.

Yard Act, The Overload, released 21 January. This goofy punk band from Leeds provided probably my first favorite track of the year with the title song from their debut album. I kind of see them as what The Fall would sound like if they played twice as fast and Mark E Smith hadn’t been so damn grumpy all the time, but they have a really fun and hilarious charm all their own. The whole album’s well worth checking out.

The Smile, “The Smoke” single, released 27 January. The band followed up with another new single leaning ever so slightly more towards Radiohead but remaining unique to their own style. This one definitely showcases Greenwood’s penchant for increasingly complex riffs and musical phrases and Yorke’s unnatural ability to easily shoehorn vocals within them.

Paul Draper, Cult Leader Tactics, released 28 January. The second solo album from the ex-lead singer of Mansun continues his foray into tension-filled alternative rock, this time featuring friend and Porcupine Tree singer Steven Wilson on the lead single “Omega Man”. Props to Draper for filming this video in the exclusion zone in Chernobyl to really drive the theme of isolation home.

The Beatles, Get Back: The Rooftop Performance, released 28 January. Tying in with the utterly amazing Peter Jackson miniseries, this release finally provides fans with the full rooftop show that ended up being the band’s final live show (of sorts). We got to see it on the (very!) big screen on IMAX and it was so much fun!

Our Lady Peace, Spiritual Machines II, released 28 January. A sequel to an underrated and fascinating record about Ray Kurzweil’s book about artificial intelligence, The Age of Spiritual Machines, this one revisits the predictions he’d made in the book to see what has come to pass and what has not.

**

Next Up: February tunage!

Ending in Two

Yeah, I know…I’ve gone on record multiple times that years ending in two are awesome years in music. And 2022 saw a lot of great releases! But I think it’s me this time out that didn’t do my due diligence and connect as deeply with it all as I should have. It’s not that it didn’t interest me, as a lot of it did. It’s that I didn’t allow myself to resonate with it.

I’ve been using variations of the word ‘resonance’ a lot lately, in two different ways. Musically, it means “the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating.” Emotionally, it means “the ability to evoke or suggest images, memories, and emotions.” Both are important to me: things that hit me in the heart not just emotionally but creatively.

And I haven’t been letting myself do either of them over the past couple of years. Maybe it’s partly the pandemic’s fault for holding back or blocking so many musicians out there. Maybe it’s partly my own fault for not making a strong enough attempt to make that connection in the first place. Maybe it’s also partly my own fault for focusing on the acquiring (yay for being a discography completist!) and less on the music itself. Maybe it’s that I listen to KEXP so frequently that I don’t give myself enough time to relisten to what I already have in my collection. Maybe it’s that my Day Job doesn’t allow me the ability to listen to my collection while working. Maybe it’s just too many real world distractions. It could be a lot of things.

I think what I’ll be doing in the next couple of weeks is do a monthly overview of 2022 to reconnect myself with this year’s releases and posting them here. There were a lot of great songs and albums out there that I loved but for some reason never completely connected to. And I’d like to see what I might have forgotten. Maybe I’ll reconnect with them this time around.

Let’s start with what has resonated with me: “Golden Air” by Sun’s Signature — the first new music from Elizabeth Fraser in many years. I absolutely adore the EP it’s from and I think that’s a good place to start!

Stay tuned for more!

Happy Thanksgiving and Working On Holidays

I am working today, believe it or not. Just a somewhat short shift and I’m not opening or closing, and I’ll be done by early afternoon. I’m not expecting the store to be too busy, maybe some last-minute purchasing of forgotten ingredients and a visit from a few of our regulars, but that’ll be it.

For the most part, I’ve always worked through the holiday season, quite often on the holiday itself, or the night before, so I’m quite used to it. It is what it is. Even during the Former Day Job when business was as dead as it could possibly be, I was on the clock ‘just in case’, and maybe the managers would let us clock out an hour early. [I did have a not-so-friendly conversation with a former manager once about trying to get some holiday days off but was told “it took me twenty years to be able to get Christmas week off.” To which I responded “yes, and I’m in my 40s and older than you, and I really don’t want to have to wait until I’m 60 to get a chance at it.” But I digress.]

Working retail during the holiday season isn’t always for the weak of heart, especially at certain outlets geared specifically for it. My years at HMV were always crazy from late September until the end of the year. Even working in a warehouse like I did at Yankee Candle was exhausting. Thankfully my current position at a shop geared just towards the local neighborhood lends itself to a finite amount of volume. We might have a torrent of shoppers, but never for extended periods of time on the daily.

I’ve learned to enjoy working the holidays, to be honest. Exhausting as it might be, I love the connection with the public. In my Boston years, I’d make work fun and then feel that link when I rode the T back to my apartment. At YC my coworkers and I would occasionally go to the local diner or bar for brunch after our shift. I kind of lost that during the Former Day Job years to be honest, but it feels like the Current Day Job will give that to me once more.

Hope everyone has an enjoyable, safe and sane holiday season!

Couldn’t Miss This One This Year

The downside to working in retail once more is that I’m no longer able to listen to what I like listening to. I can only listen to KEXP on days off or before/after work. Which means that I’ve been listening to a lot of slightly tinny harmless current pop and retro tunes from the 80s and 90s. Some of it’s good, some not so much, but thankfully the level of oh god not this song AGAIN is at a bare minimum.

I am curious, however, as to whether or not the work tunage will be holiday-themed come this Friday. [Which, by the way, I don’t think I’ll be suffering another Black Friday as we’re not that kind of store. We’re more of a “you mean you forgot cranberries too?” shop.] I’m not complaining mind you, because I actually enjoy holiday music at work. It’s just the right amount of Christmas cheer that isn’t intrusive or distracting. And it’s a theme that crosses all sorts of genres and bends the playlist rules on radio stations and workplace music loops.

Either way, it’s going to be a pretty good year’s end here and I’m not going to complain.

Nothing’s Gonna Change My (Social) World

Meanwhile here in San Francisco, the social media birdsite may either be transforming into something altogether different or it may be going down in flames, and either way it’s going in real time as its New Owner experiences…er…growing pains?

ANYWAY. If said birdsite crashes and burns epically, you can always find me at the following fine internet establishments:

BLOGS:
Welcome to Bridgetown (writing and personal things): https://welcometobridgetown.com/
Walk in Silence (this here music blog): https: //jonchaisson.com
Drunken Owls and Other Delights (Dreamwidth, where I post personal stuff): https://jon-chaisson.dreamwidth.org/

SOCIAL:
Discord: joncwriter#3974
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jon.chaisson.7
Instagram (where I post all sorts of pictures of local scenery as well as our cats): https://www.instagram.com/joncwriter/
Twitter (until it implodes or all my friends leave): joncwriter
Hive (I’ve just signed up and I haven’t quite played around with it yet): JChaisson

I shall update this as necessary over the next few days or until I remember I have other sites that I’d forgotten I had!

Mixtape: Untitled I

What to name a mixtape you truly enjoy, but can’t come up with a decent one? By this time I had Walk in Silence, Listen in Silence, The Last Home Year, Cimmerian Candlelight, and so on…names for themed series. But what about a chaotic mix that was essentially my favorite indie tunes at that point in time?

And so the Untitled series was born. Cheeky, but it worked.

This is a mix of songs I’d heard on Amherst College’s WAMH, WMDK out of Peterborough, recent 120 Minutes episodes, with a sprinkle of deep cuts, records borrowed from Chris, and to top it off, promo singles he and I had “borrowed” from the local radio station that they were obviously never going to play. The original mix features versions taped from the radio or off the TV speaker as well as actual source material.

Like Listen in Silence II, it was a mix primarily made as a catch-all for songs I liked but didn’t necessarily have in my collection. This would explain the strong beginning and the somewhat meandering end…but yet it works and still stands up so many years later. Also like LiS II, it was a mix to be listened to while mowing the cemeteries for my summer DPW job. Since my favorite college radio station was off the air for the season, this was my mix to fill that gap.

[Missing from the Spotify mix due to unavailability: The Feelies’ “Away” (after “Makes No Sense at All”) and Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians’ “Swirling” (after “Charlotte Anne”).]

RIP Mimi Walker

You may not know her by name, but she was one half (or one third, depending on the lineup) of the slowcore band Low. They started out in the mid-90s and created a wonderfully unique style of alternative rock that wasn’t the meandering (and often quiet-to-loud) post-rock of bands like Slint or Godspeed You Black Emperor, but neither were they the delicate quiet twee of bands like Belle & Sebastian either. They were a bit of both, shifted sideways into something beautiful yet haunting. Mimi was the drummer and the wife of the band’s guitarist Alan Sparhawk.

I’d heard of the band during my HMV years, having seen some of their early releases pass by my receiving desk, but it wasn’t until 2001’s Things We Lost in the Fire that I finally understood just how wonderful they are.

Mimi passed away from ovarian cancer the other day, and will be greatly missed by many. This particular song, one of my favorites from the band, was on my mind when I heard the news.

…and here are a few other Low tracks featuring Mimi on vocals (solo or with Alan) that have also become favorites of mine over the years:

(This last song is one of my all-time favorite takes on a Christmas song.)

Coming Soon: A Listen to the Beatles’ Revolver: Super Deluxe Edition

When I have the time (and when Jules isn’t darting hither and yon and causing all kinds of chaos), I’ll finally have a sit-down-and-listen to the new Revolver box set! This album has long been my number one favorite Beatles record (with The Beatles coming an extremely close second) ever since I bought it sometime in the early 80s so yes, I am extremely familiar with it, inside and out. I’ve listened to it in headphones to recognize the quirks, semi-hidden sounds and edits. I play it every spring when I sit down to do my taxes. I’m slowly learning more of the songs on guitar.

So yeah…hearing this album with a completely new stereo mix is going to be interesting.

Fly-by: it’s like having a kid

I’m a bit behind on the blogs due to odd Day Job hours these last few days…and because A Certain Kitty has been keeping our hands full with playtime, zoomies, food, scritches, 2am demands for more playtime, The Mysterious Laser Dot, The Even More Mysterious Moving Arrow On The Owner’s Computer Screen, and Why Are These Doors Closed. She’s been an utter delight, silly and chatty and still exploring and WHY YES I AM LOOPY FROM INTERRUPTED SLEEP PATTERNS WHY DO YOU ASK.

She’s like having a kid in some respects. And yes, we’re getting her sister soon, so it’ll be double trouble!

A bit on the new Cure songs

So The Cure, one of my favorite bands from the 80s and a huge influence not just my songwriting but my fiction writing as well, have finally slipped out a few new tracks! Well, sort of, at any rate. They’re in the midst of a tour and they’ve been playing what seem to be new songs, quite possibly from an upcoming album called Songs of a Lost World (at least that’s the current rumor).

This isn’t the first time they’d test out new songs live before recording them. A lot of bands do that, actually. Let’s give them a listen, yes?

I joked with my friend Chris, who shares my longtime love for the band, that these two new songs passed right by me because I swear they had a song called “Endsong” already. [Well, “End” is on Wish and “Plainsong” is on Disintegration, so my brain probably smooshed the two together.] Still…I like what I hear so far. It’s similar to their track “Homesick” in that it has the slow and extended opening before arriving at the main lyrics, which don’t seem to have a chorus. Very much a Disintegration/Wish vibe going here.

“It Can Never Be the Same”, on the other hand, reminds me a lot of 00s-era Cure, a mix between The Cure and 4:13 Dream. It’s got the patented dark dreaminess but with a tighter and more orchestral sheen. But it also hints at the construction of repetition that made Disintegration so mesmerizing.

What to make of these two tracks that may or may not be a part of a VERY long time in coming future album? It certainly shows that Robert Smith hasn’t rested on his laurels since 2008. Between the numerous tours and guest spots on albums and soundtracks, he’s kept busy. And that classic Cure sound hasn’t gone away, either…their best songs have either been the irresistible pop of songs like “Friday I’m in Love” or “Close to Me” at one end of the spectrum and the epic gloom of “Homesick” and “All Cats Are Grey” at the other. I’m glad to see they’ve still got it.