My Favourite Music of 2022
Apparently, I need a deadline. On the other hand, waiting until the last minute gives me more listening time. Although I don’t pretend this is the best music of 2022, it is my favourite music of the year (as of right now). For whatever that’s worth. But if you find something here that you haven’t heard before, and you like it, then I haven’t completely wasted your time.
This year, once again, my roundup is dominated by women. It’s also heavier in twang than usual. Some of the country sound came from unexpected places. There’s lots of it on Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, the new one from Big Thief, the prolific and excellent band that always serves up pleasant surprises. There’s some in Angel Olsen’s Big Time, but there’s also a Dusty Springfield feel to some of the songs. Recording under the name Waxahatchee, Katie Crutchfield has released a series of brilliant indie albums over the last decade. But this year she teamed up with Jess Williamson and, recording under the name Plains, put out a fabulous country album called I Walked with You a Ways. Less surprising is the new one from Wilco, a band that started out as alt-country leaders, then went off in new directions. But rather than a return to their mid-1990s sound, Cruel Country offers a folkier kind of country. And in the no surprise category, the Sadies put out another alt-country gem, Colder Streams, while cosmic cowboy Orville Peck’s Bronco is, I gather, a polarizing album, I really liked it.
The year wasn’t all country, though. Beth Orton served up atmospheric excellence on Weather Alive. Elvis Costello released yet another fine album, called The Boy Named If. Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Life on Earth deserved far more attention that it received. Mitski added to her first-class catalogue with Laurel Hell. And Soccer Mommy’s Sometimes, Forever features “Shotgun,” one of the year’s standout songs.
And from our pop department: While the first two Alvvays albums offered instantly likeable poppy goodness, Blue Rev is much denser power pop that took me a few listens to really appreciate. But Wet Leg’s poppy post-punk debut Wet Leg was no work at all. It is nothing but fun.
I’ve created playlists on Spotify and Apple Music with a couple of tracks from each of these albums, as well as songs from the Beths, Andrew Bird, Craig Finn, Cassandra Jenkins, Lizzie McAlpine, Tess Parks, Kevin Morby, the Mountain Goats, Indigo Sparks and Julian Taylor. I was too lazy to sequence the playlists so just hit shuffle.
Finally, if you haven’t been listening to the Music Buddy podcast, you are really missing out. In the latest episode, which is devoted to songs of the season, I argue that “Tournament of Hearts” by Weakerthans is not just the best song about curling, but the best song about winter in Canada.