Before I get to the picks — divided into an overall top 10, a metal-/rock-centric section, a jazz list and a rundown of my favorite live shows of the year — I just want to say, again, thanks for reading this and/or keeping up with my work in any way during this busy, transitional year. With Twitter on the rocks, it seems harder than ever to spread the word, so your attention means a lot.
P.S. All album-title links below go to Bandcamp.
P.P.S. The DFSBP year-end list archives have been updated to reflect the below: overall and jazz-only.
P.P.P.S. Here is a best-of-2022 playlist featuring 22 tracks drawn from the releases below. The inspiration was my old friend John's "50 Cuts of '22" opus.
OVERALL TOP 10, PLUS
Right up front, I want to say that my absolute favorite release of the year was:
Bleed, Somebody's Closer
I'm leaving this off the proper top 10 for a couple reasons: 1) It's a four-song EP rather than an album, lasting just shy of 14 minutes, and 2) it was originally self-released by the band in 2021 but got a much-deserved reissue this year via the respected metal label 20 Buck Spin. Anyway, I spun this thing dozens of times and also caught a great set by this Texas quartet in Brooklyn a few months back.
Bleed are a great illustration of why I can never really invest in objective discussions about the "best" music — of a given year, of all time, etc. This is a band that pushes my particular buttons, namely tapping into my deep love of '90s alt-metal, and coming up with a heavy, atmospheric and extremely catchy sound that, as I wrote elsewhere, "plays like a fan-fic collab between Helmet circa Aftertaste and White Pony–era Deftones."
Does that description intrigue you? If so, great! If not, this might not excite you as much as it does me. But Bleed also exemplify a loose trend in recent years, across various genres, where you see young bands zeroing in on these very specific bygone micro-eras, right down to the cover art and production aesthetic, with incredibly satisfying results. There's really no downside to pastiche when you do it this well. Bleed also put out a fine stand-alone single in October, and I can't wait to hear more.
And with that shout-out behind us, here are my favorite albums of the year, arranged in an imprecise and somewhat arbitrary order. Also, there's not 10; there's 11. I really can't decide which of these to leave off, and since no one's forcing me to make that tough call, this is the list! Each selection includes a brief annotation and a link to prior coverage where applicable.
1. Gospel, The Loser [sci-fi screamo; track write-up @ Rolling Stone]
2. Fleshwater, We're Not Here to Be Loved [crushing modern hardcore meets brooding melodic alt-rock]
3. Chat Pile, God's Country [scorched-earth noise-rock tragicomedy; interview @ SPIN]
4. Meshuggah, Immutable [that steel-plated sound you know and love; feature @ Rolling Stone]
5. Faetooth, Remnants of the Vessel [transporting, ritualistic doom; year-end metal list @ SPIN, tied for #1]
6. The Bad Plus, The Bad Plus [more indelible songs from the best beyond-jazz band on earth; year-end all-genre albums list @ SPIN, #3]
7. Messa, Close [breathtakingly epic dark prog; year-end metal list @ SPIN, tied for #1]
8. Afghan Whigs, How Do You Burn? [a veteran band that still really means it; "Please, Baby, Please" please]
9. 40 Watt Sun, Perfect Light [exquisite chamber rock from an elite songwriter; track write-up @ Rolling Stone]
10. Zoh Amba, O, Sun [delicacy and catharsis, masterfully intertwined; feature @ New York Times]
11. Hammered Hulls, Careening [Dischord all-stars make a new Dischord classic]
MORE METAL, AND A DASH OF ROCK
As far as the heavy stuff, I love all the other records I cited in the SPIN metal round-up, including but not limited to:
-Sigh, Shiki [expert eclecticism; feature @ Bandcamp Daily]
-Voivod, Synchro Anarchy [the renaissance continues]
-Undeath, Live… From the Grave [instant mosh]
-Goatwhore, Angels Hung From the Arches of Heaven [seething blasphemy]
-Anal Stabwound, Reality Drips Into the Mouth of Indifference [the one-man-band, T-1000 version]
-Wormrot, Hiss [visionary grindcore]
-Clutch, Sunrise on Slaughter Beach [the earth rockers reappear in full splendor]
-Cloud Rat, Threshold [dire extremity]
-Sumerlands/Haunt, Dreamkiller/Windows of Your Heart [retro done right]
I also love the Darkthrone record, which has sparked a re-engagement with their revelatory run of recent LPs.
Another recent listening project: a first-time immersion in Frusciante-era(s) Chili Peppers, sparked by the two new double albums and a fascinating run of Rick Rubin–conducted interviews on the Broken Record podcast. Have really dug both Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen so far and look forward to getting to know them better.
Two new Krallice albums! As ever, I'm a few years behind these guys, but every record is a revelation once you really wrap your head around it.
A new Extra Life album! Charlie Looker is an avant-garde powerhouse, not to mention a hell of a YouTuber.
The Drug Church record is strong, though it didn't prepare me for what a massively entertaining live band they are. More on that below.
PS to this section: I love reading/watching year-end metal round-ups. The genre is basically impossible to keep comprehensive tabs on so I always learn a ton from these. Check out best-of-'22 posts from:
Burning Ambulance [plenty of metal on here, among many other genres]
JAZZ, NEW AND OLD
Below is the ballot I submitted for the annual Jazz Critics Poll — formerly masterminded by Francis Davis and now run by Tom Hull — with two additional historical titles added. Full 2022 results
should be online soon are online now.
1. The Bad Plus, The Bad Plus [see top 10 entry above]
2. Zoh Amba, O, Sun [see top 10 entry above]
3. Makaya McCraven, In These Times [timeless instrumental-R&B majesty, filtered through contemporary jazz aesthetics; had the pleasure of profiling Mr. McCraven for the recently relaunched Creem but the piece is print-only]
4. Tyshawn Sorey, The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism [raucous romps through standards both familiar and fresh]
5. James Brandon Lewis Quartet, MSM Molecular Systematic Music - Live [an authoritative statement from my favorite of JBL's several excellent working bands]
6. Eubanks-Evans Experience, EEE [an unexpected and beautifully diverse duo set from mid-career masters Kevin Eubanks and Orrin Evans]
7. The OGJB Quartet, Ode to O [Oliver Lake, Graham Haynes, Joe Fonda and Barry Altschul doing gritty yet graceful stuff that sounds like it could have come out on Black Saint in the mid-'80s; side note: it's a real shame that you can't purchase TUM albums in any digital form]
8. Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade, LongGone [the all-star band to beat]
9. Karl Berger and Kirk Knuffke, Heart Is a Melody [timeless free-bop warmth from a beautifully matched quartet with Jay Anderson on bass and Matt Wilson on drums]
10. Tumi Mogorosi, Group Theory: Black Music [a powerful return to early-'70s choral jazz à la Billy Harper's Capra Black and Max Roach's Lift Every Voice and Sing]
Charles Mingus, The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott's [a wonderful surprise from a super-obscure '72 lineup]
Albert Ayler, Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings [a welcome invitation to reengage with an underrated Ayler chapter]
Horace Tapscott, The Quintet [a previously unreleased companion album to Tapscott's cult-classic debut, The Giant Is Awakened]
Elvin Jones, Revival: Live at Pookie's Pub [portrait of the drum giant as budding bandleader]
John Sinclair Presents Detroit Artists Workshop [a window into an overlooked regional scene]
Note: I wrote all these up for a recent New York Times box set round-up.
I predict we'll be hearing a lot more from Fievel Is Glauque.
So many good ones. Here are 30 that seem to sum up the year, grouped intuitively. Twitter links included where applicable.
Tyshawn Sorey, Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano @ Village Vanguard (February 6)
Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade @ Town Hall (April 19)
John Zorn New Masada Quartet with Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder and Kenny Wollesen @ Village Vanguard (April 24)
These were all just scorching. The top players, reminding you why.
Khruangbin @ Radio City Music Hall (March 10)
The ultimate party band. See them at all costs.
Gulch @ Saint Vitus (April 30)
The final New York appearance by the new kings of hardcore. These guys left behind a smoking crater.
Maryland Deathfest; Baltimore (May 26–29)
Extreme-metal heaven (hell?). Highlights too numerous to name, but catching Coroner (big bucket-list check-off), Demilich, Immolation, Deicide, Tom G. Warrior, Obituary, Carcass, Deeds of Flesh, Autopsy, Atheist, Massacre, Monstrosity, Nocturnus A.D. and other giants in the same weekend — along with cult masters Rottrevore, Divine Eve and Drawn and Quartered — was life-altering.
Rage Against the Machine @ MSG (August 8, 14)
Rex @ Tubby's; Kingston, NY (August 17)
Afghan Whigs @ Brooklyn Steel (September 15)
Jawbox @ Le Poisson Rouge (July 22)
Crowbar @ Bottleneck; Lawrence, KS (September 4)
Sunny Day Real Estate @ Brooklyn Steel (September 29)
Mars Volta @ Terminal 5 (September 30)
For a few months there, it was like my CD wallets from the '90s and early 2000s had come to life. The highlight was seeing RATM for the first time, but every other one of these — from my first time seeing Rex (after having the honor of profiling them for TIDAL) in around a quarter century to my first times seeing Mars Volta, SDRE and Afghan Whigs at all — was an utter joy.
Anteloper @ Public Records (July 16)
This is how I will always remember jaimie branch, thrillingly engaged and supercharging every moment.
Ravi Coltrane Freedom Trio @ Mama Tried (August 4)
The second of two great Ravi sets I caught at MT this year. The first was pure abstraction; this was a funk-fusion mega-jam.
Greg Tardy, Christian McBride and Johnathan Blake @ Village Vanguard (August 11)
This was supposed to be a Bill Frisell gig, but COVID intervened, Christian McBride subbed in, and it turned into the ultimate late-night Vanguard hang.
Makaya McCraven @ Public Records (September 19)
Look, the album is really good, but hearing it live in full with a string quartet, Brandee Younger on harp and De'Sean Jones on sax and EWI was the peak In These Times experience.
Gospel + Uniform @ Saint Vitus (August 12)
City of Caterpillar + Foxtails @ Saint Vitus (October 2)
Saetia + Pique + Uniform @ Le Poisson Rouge (November 19)
Always go see the screamo reunion! Props to Foxtails and Pique, standouts of the new guard, and Uniform, who never fail to bring the noise.
Domi and JD Beck @ Le Poisson Rouge (October 19)
This made me feel old! In a good way.
The Chats + Drug Church + Scowl @ Brooklyn Steel (October 22)
Punk gig of the year. Three different flavors of awesome.
Chat Pile @ Saint Vitus (October 24)
The nastiest songs of the year were even nastier live.
Mercyful Fate + Kreator + Midnight @ Kings Theater (November 10)
Undeath + 200 Stab Wounds + Enforced + Phobophilic @ Saint Vitus (November 13)
Stacked bills representing the best of the old and new schools.
Hammered Hulls @ TV Eye (December 2)
D.C. comes to Queens in style. Was sad not to see usual Hulls bassist Mary Timony, but the fill-in (Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty) wasn't too shabby.
Dinosaur Jr. + Guided by Voices + Eugene Mirman @ Terminal 5 (December 3)
The indie-rock party of the year.
Orrin Evans Quintet with Gary Thomas, Nicholas Payton, Robert Hurst and Marvin "Smitty" Smith @ Smoke (December 11)
The single best hour of jazz I heard in 2022. This band apparently hit the studio the next day and I can't wait to hear the results.
Charles McPherson Quintet with Terell Stafford, Jeb Patton, David Wong and Billy Drummond @ Smoke (November 6)
George Coleman Quintet with Eric Alexander, Emmett Cohen, David Williams and Joe Farnsworth @ Smoke (December 22)
Always go hear the masters!
AND TWO TO GO OUT ON
My favorite songs of the year by artists not mentioned above are…
Avril Lavigne, "Bite Me" (late 2021 single release ahead of a 2022 album)
Alex G, "Runner"
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