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

The end of summer is when the weather adversely turns for San Francisco, getting slightly warmer during the day and getting cooler in the evenings. My work schedule had me working some mornings and some evenings during the week…and I found myself not really bothered by that as I’d thought? Considering the closeness of the Day Job and the lack of mental and emotional burnout, I realized I could get away with adjusting by the week with whatever creative work I had on hand…whether it was journaling, writing, or just posting on one of my blogs, I didn’t feel any stress. And that, I think, was a very good sign.

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Ducks Ltd (feat. Jane Inc), “In Between Days” single, released 2 August. A sunny and straight-ahead cover of the classic Cure tune that tones down the original’s bounciness but maintains its summery sheen.

Cheekface, Too Much to Ask, released 2 August. “We Need a Bigger Dumpster” was definitely my Song of the Summer. I mean, as a Gen-Xer I can only laugh and carry on living despite the world going up in flames, right? The entire album is full of deadpan goofiness and it’s a super fun listen.

Art Moore, Art Moore, released 5 August. Moody dreampop mixed with a lonely alt-folk sound that comes across a little bit like Beach House mixed with Sharon Van Etten, but that’s not a bad thing. The whole album is a pleasant and relaxing listen.

Erasure, Day-Glo (Based On a True Story), released 12 August. The duo takes tracks from their 2020 album The Neon, reconstructs them, and creates an altogether new and surprisingly experimental record in the process. It just goes to show that Andy Bell and Vince Clarke are brilliant songwriters.

Sylvan Esso, No Rules Sandy, released 12 August. Their albums have always been full of quirky and catchy dancepop, and while this one is no different, it’s even more leftfield than usual. No rules indeed.

Kasabian, The Alchemist’s Euphoria, released 12 August. Their first album in five years (and the first after former singer Tom Meighan’s departure, with guitarist Serge Pizzorno taking his place) sees the band going in an altogether different direction, away from its fuzzy post-punk and further into danceable alt-rock. It’s definitely an unexpected direction for them, but they pull it off perfectly.

Collective Soul, Vibrating, released 12 August. This 90s band is still going strong years later, and the new record shows they can still write great rock-out tunes and lovely ballads.

Hot Chip, Freakout/Release, released 19 August. “Down” is firmly in my top five favorite songs of the year, and their new album is high up there as well. They’ve always been just that little bit weird and embracing their inherent nerdiness, but the difference this time out is that this new album goes well beyond that. It’s hard, twitchy, and even a bit dark.

Silversun Pickups, Physical Thrills, released 19 August. Many bands released what was their ‘pandemic’ record over the last year or so, and the theme for theirs is about the desolation of being apart and finding alternate ways to connect to our loved ones. It alternates between deeply sad moments and tense irritation and the end result is amazing.

Royksopp, Profound Mysteries II, released 19 August. The second of three albums from this great electronic band sees them looking back to the influences of their youth, giving the record a very 80s synthwave sound. All three albums are highly recommended.

Karate, Guns & Tanning, “Enchanter” single, released 23 August. This band is one of my favorite new finds of the year (and yes, it was found on KEXP), their sound borrowing heavily from the classic wall-of-sound shoegaze of the 90s and the moodier post-punk of the 80s while still sounding fresh. A band to watch for.

Blondie, Against the Odds: 1974-1982, released 26 August. I grew up with this band always playing somewhere on the radio, yet I never quite got around to listening to them any deeper than their well-known singles. They dropped an eight-disc box set this year featuring all of their classic 70s and early 80s albums including two discs of demos. I look forward to finally giving this one a thorough listen!

Duncan Sheik, Claptrap, released 26 August. I’ve been a fan since his 1996 debut, as he’s a fantastic and very underrated songwriter. He’s been busy with stage and musical work as of late, but it’s great to see him back with a new album after so long!

Altered Images, Mascara Streakz, released 26 August. Speaking of classic bands returning after far too long, this group was best known for their bubblegummy pop in the early 80s and their unexpected return was welcomed by may longtime fans.

UNKLE, Ronin II, released 31 August. James Lavelle returns for a second Ronin volume that’s not quite tied in with the original and not quite a remix album either. As with most UNKLE albums, it’s moody and adventurous, and well worth a listen.

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Coming tomorrow: September tunage!

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

July’s playlist shows that my tastes in music have definitely changed and evolved over the years. For every band I’d followed for years releasing an unexpectedly laid back record (Interpol), there’s a new group that captures my attention with its bubblegummy goodness (beabadoobee), with the occasional sideline into the bizarre (Ty Segall). This is what listening to non-commercial radio will do to you, I suppose…

Metric, Formentera, released 8 July. Another band that chose to focus on the effects of the pandemic. Metric has always had a tinge of darkness to their music, but this one leans heavily on it with songs like “Doomscroller” and the single “All Comes Crashing.”

beabadoobee, Beatopia, released 15 July. This is such a super fun band to listen to! Catchy melodies and irresistible guitar pop make them a band I return to whenever I’m in a good mood. Their latest is just as great as their previous, if not more so!

Working Men’s Club, Fear Fear, released 15 July. I’m loving the fact that more new bands have been giving an extended nod to the dark sounds of 80s post-punk, especially when synths are involved. This new album sounds just like something I’d have listened to as a teen!

Superorganism, World Wide Pop, released 15 July. A very apt album title for this band, as this one’s full of perky, slightly off-kilter tunes that are just this side of sugary goodness.

Interpol, The Other Side of Make-Believe, released 15 July. An extremely understated album for this band, which definitely threw me for a loop for a bit. This one’s very muted and moody, unlike several of their last few albums. Well worth checking out, though.

You Shriek, “Dead Pilots” single, released 19 July. I add this as I actually knew this guy in college! He was a friend of a friend and his sound was much more goth/synthwave back in the early 90s, but he’s come along way since then with a brand spankin’ new single.

Ty Segall, “Hello, Hi”, released 22 July. This SoCal weirdo is someone I never would have followed if not for the fact that KEXP loves him and his music (and the fact that he released an EP two years ago featuring all Nilsson covers). The album is full of fuzzed-out guitars and oddball lyrics and it’s all great.

Jack White, Entering Heaven Alive, released 22 July. The second of two albums he dropped this year and the quieter half, leaning somewhat towards psychedelic country-folk (if there’s such a thing). It also features a tongue-in-cheek take of the previous album’s “Taking Me Back” single as if done by the Carter Family.

Bananarama, Masquerade, released 22 July. Yes, this band is still around! After reading their memoir a while back, I finally gave them another listen and came to appreciate them a lot more.

ODESZA, The Last Goodbye, released 22 July. Another KEXP find, they’re very much set in that curious indietronica universe where it’s obviously dance music but it’s also beautifully crafted and full of emotion.

Sun’s Signature, Sun’s Signature EP, released 29 July. One of my top ten releases this year, Elizabeth Fraser’s return (after thirteen years) finds her working with her partner Damon Reece (of Lupine Howl) to create something beautiful and strange. That might be stock in trade, but this is definitely not Cocteau Twins. This album made me realize I don’t relisten to albums nearly as much as I used to, and that I really needed to do something about that.

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Coming next Tuesday…August tunes!

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!

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

By May I was back into the groove of full-time day job work again. Five days a week and hovering right around forty hours, it was definitely not as stressful as the Former Day Job, and I just had to get used to the more physical demands of standing for most of my shift. And getting home at a reasonable hour with time to spare was just what I needed. It wouldn’t be long before I started using some of my past experience to slide into a few extra responsibilities.

Musicwise, I’d started flagging a bit as I wasn’t always able to connect with my daily schedule of listening to KEXP, but I made up for it by keeping an eye on the weekly new releases and sampling new bands.

Belle and Sebastian, A Bit of Previous, released 6 May. I’ve witnessed this band’s evolution since the late 90s and they’ve gone from the bedroom-pop twee (they were the band first given that term, I believe) to quirky modern rock to windy Smiths-style British alternapop. Their latest finds them at home sounding confident and strong.

Warpaint, Radiate Like This, released 6 May. So happy that this band is back after such a long hiatus!! Their sound is still a bit weird and slightly spooky, but also just as infectious as it’s always been. Another band worth checking out their entire catalog.

Dubstar, Two, released 6 May. I’ve loved this band ever since the US version of Goodbye came out in 1997 (the one with their megahit “Stars”), and I’m quite happy that not only did they get back together in 2018, they’re still going strong! The new record is one of my favorites of the year, and I love that they included a cover of my all-time favorite REM song on it!

The Smile, A Light for Attracting Attention, released 13 May. Sounding a lot like the quieter moments of OK Computer and the less-manic moments of Amnesiac, Thom and Jonny’s full album finds them writing some of their best introspective and adventurous music.

Florence + the Machine, Dance Fever, released 13 May. I’m still not sure what to make of this album as it’s definitely more leftfield than her usual (and that’s saying a lot, considering) but it’s a curious and entertaining listen.

Various Artists, For the Birds: The Birdsong Project Vol I, released 20 May. The first of five multi-disc volumes for an extremely curious and expansive project from National Audubon Society featuring spoken-word poetry and music about our avian friends. Interspersed with writers are musicians such as Beck, Nick Cave, UNKLE, Karen O, Beach House, and more.

Liam Gallagher, C’MON YOU KNOW, released 27 May. The younger brother’s turn in the spotlight doesn’t quite have the bombast as his earlier solo works (most likely due to pandemic reasons keeping recording at a minimum) but it actually works in his favor here; you’re not focused on the grandiosity and instead on the guitar groove and the tight songwriting. Our Boy has come a long way since his former band’s days.

Wilco, Cruel Country, released 27 May. Long labeled as purveyors of alt-country — much to their chagrin — they turn the tables this time out and completely embrace it with nearly all live takes of full-on twang alternafolk, and the end result is an amazing collection of high lonesome melodies and lovely tunes.

jennylee, Heart Tax, released 27 May. Not only do we get a new Warpaint album this month, we get a solo album from its bassist! This one’s much darker and more sedate than her band’s release, meandering and moody and contemplative. An album to listen to late at night.

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Tomorrow we hit the halfway point of the year with tunes from June!

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

By April I was working at my new job — not only working full time after two years, but back in retail after at least seventeen. Immediately I realized that while it might have been physically exhausting, mentally it was a walk in the park. Compared to the daily stresses of the Former Day Job, I knew I could stick with this one for a while and not have to ever return to that bullshit ever again. It also helped that my commute is a full eight blocks instead of thirty miles! It’s not the work-from-home I enjoyed so much in the past, but it’s a fair trade given how much I’ve come to enjoy it. And I get to listen to new music on my off hours!

EMF, GO GO SAPIENS, released 1 April. Now this was a band that no one expected to hear from again, given their last original album had been back in 1995. A welcome return to an underrated band unfairly judged on a one-hit wonder.

The Clockworks, The Clockworks EP, released 1 April. An EP from one of my favorite finds from last year? Yes, please!! I am so looking forward to more from this band as they sneak out new singles. Highly recommended!

Orville Peck, Bronco, released 8 April. Is he country? Is he alternative? is he alt-country? Whatever he may be, his style is a fascinating listen and he really does know how to write a great crooning love song.

Jack White, Fear of the Dawn, released 8 April. The first of two full records from the ex-White Stripes singer, he only seems to get better with each release.

Oceanator, Nothing’s Ever Fine, released 8 April. Elise Okusami’s quirky and catchy guitar-based tunes are all sorts of fun to listen to and well worth checking out.

Kae Tempest, The Line Is a Curve, released 8 April. They began releasing their fascinating beat style brand of pop and poetry, often gritty and frustrating, back in 2011 but their latest is a gem.

Wet Leg, Wet Leg, released 8 April. Speaking of spoken word, this duo hit the charts last year with the catchy and goofy “Chaise Longue” and followed it up with even more bonkers and irresistible alt-pop.

SAULT, AIR, released 15 April. The first of six (!!) albums to be released this year by this secretive yet incredibly prolific collective, they turn their attention away from their oddball R&B towards…classical? This one’s like a score for an unmade film and it threw quite a few fans, yet it only proves that they are exceptional musicians.

Hatchie, Giving the World Away, released 22 April. Their sophomore album is just as bouncy and fun as 2019’s Keepsake, which was one of my favorites of that year.

Fontaines DC, Skinty Fia, released 22 April. This band continues to be in its own little universe of strange yet captivating songs. Whether they’re spoken, sung or both, they’re never boring.

Bloc Party, Alpha Games, released 29 April. Always a fascinating band that can be twitchy one track and calm the next, they’ve always released great records that are excellent from start to finish.

Röyksopp, Profound Mysteries, released 29 April. This Norwegian duo always surprises me, as their releases can range from full-on chillwave electronica to laid back synth contemplation. This — the first of a three-volume set — blew me away with their great single “Impossible” with the always lovely Alison Goldfrapp on vocals. Definitely on my top ten of the year.

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Coming next week: May through July!

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

Now that I’ve gotten my head around the many albums that came out this year (and, I admit, having forgotten that some of these dropped as I’d been too distracted by adjusting to the New Day Job and other things), I can confirm that yes, there are indeed quite a few great records that I’m glad I got to check out!

Here’s a sample of some of March’s great releases!

Letting Up Despite Great Faults, IV, released 4 March. This band explores the lighter side of dreampop with what feels like a nod to The Church with its chiming guitars and reverb-drenched melodies. Their first album in quite some time has been a welcome return.

Steve Kilbey, Of Skins and Heart (The Acoustic Sessions Vol 1), released 4 March. Speaking of the Church, its front man dropped an acoustic reworking of the band’s debut album from 1981, proving these songs have definitely lasted the test of time.

Stereophonics, Oochya! released 4 March. Originally planned as a compilation of hits and rarities, singer Kelly Jones found himself inspired by some of those unreleased songs, retooled them and wrote new tracks to fill out the rest of the album instead. A band that never quite gets its due here in the States but continues to impress.

Nilüfer Yanya, Painless, released 4 March. Yanya’s second album is a study of less-is-more, with several of its songs so sparse they’re almost delicate, yet never losing any of their power. “Stabilise” is definitely on my top ten favorite songs of the year. Highly recommended.

Bob Moses, The Silence in Between, released 4 March. Yet another band on my ‘I will download anything from them’ list, their latest comes on darker and harder than previous releases yet never obscures the lighter touch of their melodies.

(G)I-DLE, I NEVER DIE, released 14 March. This K-Pop band gets punkier and poppier with this release, going full-on P!nk with lyrics and moves that are sassy, brassy and fun.

Stabbing Westward, Chasing Ghosts, released 18 March. A welcome full-album return to this band, coming back hard with their classic wall of sound style.

PLOSIVS, PLOSIVS, released 18 March. Quite possibly my favorite band name of the year — it perfectly fits their fast, gut-punching post-punk sound. “Broken Eyes” got the same reaction out of me that Interpol’s “PDA” did back in the day (…what the hell is this, and were can I find it??) and it’s high up there on my favorite albums of the year list.

Bauhaus, “Drink the New Wine” single, released 23 March. Just when you thought this band was going to implode once more, the four guys revisited the exquisite corpse style of writing (last heard with the “1-2-3-4” b-side) during the Covid lockdown by recording their own segment separately over a slow beat. It’s a weird yet surprisingly cohesive experiment.

Placebo, Never Let Me Go, released 25 March. This band has definitely mellowed with age, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering Brian Molko writes such great songs that are both quirky and extremely heartfelt.

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Stay tuned tomorrow for April tunage!

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

Given that we’re already in the last month of the year with only so many days left to blog about the year’s tunage, I will be doing my best to post here three times a week to ensure I hit all twelve months! I haven’t posted that much in ages, so hopefully I won’t be pushing it too hard!

And now for an extended look at February’s great releases…

cruush, “bckwards 36” single, released 2 February. This is a KEXP find, the kind that’s perfectly in my wheelhouse: muddy, dreamlike shoegaze with lovely wandering melodies and vocals (from Manchester at that). They kind of remind me a lot of the Boston band Mistle Thrush, who had a very similar sound. I don’t know much about them other than that they have a handful of singles on Bandcamp that I really need to get!

Love, Burns, It Should Have Been Tomorrow, released 4 February. This band really does sound like early Lloyd Cole & the Commotions if they’d chosen to go the psych rock route. It’s a fascinating listen.

Korn, Requiem, released 4 February. I’d mentioned on a friend’s Discord recently that I was surprised by how melodic this album is, and that it’s really good because of that. Sure, the drop-tuning and the vocal growling is still there as well as the doom-laden lyrics, but with age they’ve become a stronger and more cohesive band.

The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Summer at Land’s End, released 4 February. One of my favorite super-local bands — Land’s End is a cliffside hiking area of Lincoln Park that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge, just west of my apartment — released yet another banger of an album that I keep coming back to. He sounds even more like Felt here, not quite lo-fi but certainly sticking deep in that lane and I love it.

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Cold As Weiss, released 11 February. Groovy and infectious bluesy jazz that’s a super fun listen any day. These guys played on the front porch of KEXP’s morning DJ John Richards around the time this came out and it was a brilliant set.

Eddie Vedder, Earthling, released 11 February. Vedder’s newest solo record is a counterpoint to Pearl Jam’s last record Gigaton from last year, its music more contemplative and restive than his band’s sound. His powerful voice still soars just like always, creating a lovely and uplifting album in the process.

Andy Bell, Flicker, released 11 February. The Ride vocalist and lead guitarist (and former Oasis member as well) came out with a sprawling yet wonderful eighteen-track album full of his trademark brand of shoegaze — melodies that always seem to be on their way somewhere yet never quite arriving, giving the sense of weightless movement — and it’s an excellent listen from start to finish.

Spoon, Lucifer On the Sofa, released 11 February. Spoon albums are always a trip as you’re never quite sure where they’re going to lead you, with Britt Daniels’ off-kilter and twitchy songwriting style. Yet “The Hardest Cut” is one of those tracks that you just want to crank up because it’s just so great!

Urge Overkill, Oui, released 11 February. This was a year of unexpected returns of long-missed bands who’d been mostly doing live shows instead of recording, and UO’s last album had been released eleven years earlier. It’s a welcome return for a loved band from the late 80s-early 90s!

Alt-J, The Dream, released 11 February 2022. An album written and recorded during the height of Covid, it’s the band’s lightest yet most lonesome record yet. Tender in places and pained in others, it’s a tough listen but it’s beautifully crafted.

White Lies, As I Try Not to Fall Apart, released 18 February. I’ve always liked this band’s brand of not-quite-goth, not-quite-synthpop blend of melodies that are equally danceable and contemplative. This is a gem of a record and I really should be listening to it a lot more!

Beach House, Once Twice Melody, released 18 February. Originally released as four EPs over the course of late 2021 into early 2022, this band once again nails it with their own brand of dreampop that’s not just evocative of Cocteau Twins and classic 4AD but transcends that style and makes it their own. Dreamlike and sprawling, it’s a lovely listen from start to finish. One of my top ten albums of the year.

Gang of Youths, angel in realtime., released 25 February. This London-by-way-of-Sydney band has a sort of Springsteen-meets-Future-Islands high energy about it that makes their music powerful without being overly intense. It’s a great album worth checking out.

Deserta, Every Moment, Everything You Need, released 25 February. Their follow-up to Black Aura My Sun (one of my favorites from 2020) is just as dense and sprawling in its echoey and aching dreampop, and well worth the wait. “Lost in the Weight” is an absolutely lovely track.

Johnny Marr, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, released 25 February. One of many musicians that released an album in bitesize EP parts before gathering them together, Marr continues to write excellent alternative pop that’s equally enjoyable and adventurous.

Tears for Fears, The Tipping Point, released 25 February. The duo’s first album together since 2004, it feels like time has caught up with Smith and Orzabal, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering their music has always been about being caught up in situations.

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Stay tuned tomorrow and Thursday for more 2022 music!

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

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!