Ends in Two: Favorite songs and albums of 2022 (Part VI)

I keep coming back to the fact that my Current Day Job allows me so much more time for introspection and clarity of mind, and that the Former Day Job did not in so many ways. I also come back to the realization at how much I’d shut myself out socially. I mean, sure, I talk to my friends online — especially now that most of us are all gathered in one place on Discord now — but for years there wasn’t that deep of a social connection in general.

Working in retail again after so many decades made me realize just how much I’d missed that connection. While I’m not a drinks-after-work sort of person anymore, this is the first time in ages where I look forward to seeing my coworkers, having fun chats and getting to know them on a personal level. Some of them are only half my age, but it truly is fun to get to know them from a Gen-X standpoint. And as an unexpected plus, these new social connections have made me do a lot of rethinking of my character building in my writing!

Nation of Language, “Androgynous” single, released 1 June. One of my favorite recent synth-rock bands dropped a few interesting things this year, including a cover of the classic Replacements song. They turn a boozy, sloppy album track and turn it into a curious and rather nice melody that tiptoes along.

Prince and the Revolution, Prince and the Revolution: Live, released 3 June. The fabled live show from Syracuse NY in March of ’85 was filmed and a rarity for years until it was officially released via online streaming in the middle of the pandemic. [I highly recommend watching it, as it really does show just how flipping amazing Prince really was, and how tight the Revolution was with him.] It finally got an album release this year and it’s well worth adding to your collection.

Kula Shaker, 1st Congregational Church of Eternal Love and Free Hugs, released 10 June. Crispian Mills and his band return with quite the unexpected album that brings them back to their classic psychedelic-Britpop sound, this time adding a healthy dose of self-conscious humility and humor. This album might be full of religious themes, but it’s also filled with much silliness (the minute-long spoken interludes set during a make-believe mass are often quite goofy) and there’s even an unexpectedly great and funky cover of a Marx Brothers song as the first full track!

Panda Riot, Extra Cosmic, released 10 June. This band had been hiding away since 2017 so I was pleasantly surprised to see they’re back with a fun, fuzzy and bouncy album that got some play during my writing sessions. This is definitely a record I should be listening to more!

Shearwater, The Great Awakening, released 10 June. One of A’s favorite bands return with another album of epic and atmospheric alternative rock that sounds both dreamlike and daunting. This is another album that’s become part of my writing session soundtrack.

Various Artists with Neneh Cherry, The Versions, released 10 June. An unexpected treat, several bands rerecord a number of Cherry’s best tracks and bring them into the 21st century. This is a really fun album worth a listen!

The Dream Syndicate, Ultraviolet Hymns and True Confessions, released 10 June. This band has had a bit of a renaissance with several new albums since 2017 and a great and exhaustive box set overview of their excellent 1986 Out of the Grey album (What Can I Say? No Regrets.. from January). Glad to see they’re still going strong.

Big Wreck, Big Wreck 7.2 EP, released 17 June. This band is also going strong after several years, following up last year’s EP with five more tracks of hard-rocking blues and blasting vocals.

Foals, Life Is Yours, released 17 June. This band can be alternately forebodingly loud and light and funky, and sometimes they’re both at the same time. Their irresistible grooves and twittering guitar licks keep you listening from start to finish.

Lit, Tastes Like Gold, released 17 June. This 90s band is back and it’s like they never left, giving us more songs about being a terrible boyfriend, having a little bit too much fun, and getting in stupid kinds of trouble. And it’s a super fun album!

Alanis Morissette, the storm before the calm, released 17 June. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, Alanis returns with an unexpectedly chill and meditative work of mostly long instrumental tracks. While one might expect new-agey space music, this is firmly planted in the real, with ethereal hushed vocals, quiet percussion and relaxing melody.

Porcupine Tree, CLOSURE/CONTINUATION, released 24 June. For years Steven Wilson made no mention of his former band during their incredibly long hiatus so its band members could focus on their solo endeavors. The surprise return (minus bassist Colin Edwin) brings them back to what they’ve always done best: extended jams of tense hard rock anthems. This feels a lot like their early 00’s era of In Absentia and Deadwing, which in all honesty I felt was their best work ever. Definitely in my top ten of the year.

Various Artists, For the Birds: The Birdsong Project, Vol II, released 24 June. The second of five volumes of the poetry/music hybrid project from Audobon features songs from Elvis Costello, the Flaming Lips, Jeff Tweedy, Stephin Merritt, Shearwater, and more.

Third Eye Blind, Unplugged, released 24 June. This was a band I loved, then hated, then loved again years later. (I think it’s partly because they’re a hometown band to me now!) Their classics work surprisingly well in an unplugged format, making this an extremely enjoyable album.

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Coming tomorrow: music for a warm July!

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