Blair's 2022 Top 10 List
Updated: Jan 3
In the music business , it seems that post pandemic looks like a return to song and album releases to support the main objective of live performance though the viability of this this has raised questions recently .
It seems there are further twists and turns on the horizon in the form of Tik Tok ,as the primary source of all things entertainment and a belief that 30 second songs could become "normal" . Yes this could be the further erosion of the album as an artistic statement. It may be that the form largely begun with the Beatles may become obsolete as the generations pass on.
However that is all to be determined and seems a serious note to end 2022 . I am just going to keep listening and keep strumming in 2023..
Here are ten albums that have kept me going in 2022 and will do so over repeated listens next year..
Chloe and the next 20th Century - Father John Misty
Josh Tillman seems to ignore the past 70 years of music history and instead went for influences such as Music Hall , Torch or even Weimer Republic era cabaret in this his fifthr release as Father John Misty. The notable exception is "Goodbye Mr Blue" , a pastiche on the Fred Neil/Harry Nilsson "Everybody's Talkin" that he seems to get away with. Yes probably eclectic is the word, but he pulls it off in a great fashion . You have the sense that with a few albums down now he is someone that will be around a long time.
Things are Great - Band of Horses - This is very much the Ben Bridewell show but in this iteration of Band of Horses he seems to have added some real vigour via new players across the guitars and rhythm section . There are echoes of the Cure with the flanged guitar lines on "Crutch" but elsewhere the guitars are overdriven alongside Bridewell's unique vocal stylings. It's high energy stuff but very rewarding and catchy. You will find yourself repeating this often.
Teethmarks - S.G Goodman - A recurring issue with so much music these days in the streaming era is the sheer number of output and where to find out about anything that might fall into your listening pleasure orbit . This is a case in point ; Shana Gail or "S.G" Goodman is a native of Kentucky but with roots very much in the south (think early Lucinda Williams) via a very strict religious upbringing amongst other life events. This is no laid back or straight country though , there is a real thrash at times reminiscent of the Replacements with accompanying great back beats. Believe it or not I found out about her on Marc Maron's WTF podcast (realize he can be a real curmudgeon but he often has astute and interesting musical guests of which SG Goodman was one this year)
Live at the El Mocambo - The Rolling Stones Yes this is predictable , a Stones reissue making the best of list again BUT having waited a mere 45 years think I'll be listening to this till the day I shuffle off the planet. Simply extraordinary, Rolling Stones Mach III at full tilt , even more so given the backstory of zero shows in 1977 except for these two club shows in Canada and Keith's ongoing troubles . It's the great Charlie and Bill looseness (hear Bill dart up the fretboard when Keith does his Chuck Berry, hear Charlie fire up the Black n Blue funk cuts) Even Ronnie is good and for once makes sense. Not forgetting Billy Preston (keyboards/vocals), Ollie Brown (Percussion) or Jagger being part of the band and very politically incorrect in the process (though the original band introductions as caught by the “club side” of the official 1977 Live Disc Love You Live are airbrushed from history much like Bill's presence in the packaging of the discs). Rolled Gold indeed.
Get on Board - Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal - Speaking of mortality, when these 2 x guys go the world will be a poorer place indeed. Iconic, legendary musicians get back together for the first time since the 60's for a nostalgic trip through the Sonny Terry/Brownie McGee 1952 set but this is no laidback armchair exercise, they tear it up with assistance from Cooder's son Joachim (hear the backbeat on "Packing Up, Getting Ready t Go." All recorded live in a room together Ry has his amp and ever present slide guitar turned up loud and Taj Mahal has the multi -instrumental authentic harp, guitar, vocals and piano chops intact. No better illustrated than the opening cut “My Baby Done Changed the Locks” or "Pawn Shop Blues" (2 x acoustics together) . As a bonus we even have child hood standards “Midnight Special” and “Pick a Bale of Cotton” . Like Ry's guitar this should be played loud.
Harry’s Place – Harry Styles
In which the ticks all the generation boxes. This means the 80’s are represented here with Prince Sign of the Times era with "Music for a Sushi Restaurant "
complete with Phil Collins/Earth Wind & Fire horns (repeated again on Daydream with EWF “September" like backing vocal’s to boot), followed by Daryl Hall & John Oates with "Later Night Talking" not forgetting the Aha “imitation” "As it Was". Yes I should hate this but I don’t and Harry does mix it up later on via the decidedly 21st century "Little Freak" and the more acoustic "Matilda" . And "As it Was " has to be the ear worm of 2022 in a very good way.
Resist – Midnight Oil – it was an emotional farewell to the Oils at a decidedly less than capacity Horncastle Area, Christchurch in September. Perhaps an irony as these guys don’t do sentiment in so much as rage against those in power and advocate for dignity, rights and the environment. If they ever wrote a love song ever in their 40+ plus years I'm yet to her it. And they certainly didn’t bow out quietly with the first album in 20 years Resist (nope not a love song here either). It’s easy to forget that anyone can voice these sentiments but to fold it into songcraft and keep it compelling takes real talent. And as a collective there are few peers. There are classic songs including trademark hooks, 12 string guitar riffs and gorgeous melodic ideas. Just listen to the extended piano coda of “The Barka-Darling River” accompanying Garett’s lines..”who left the jar of idiots open, who drank the bottle of bad ideas, good people are forgotten” .Not these guys ever.
And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow - Weyes Blood – it’s an annoying habit of mine but more often that not with new music I am looking for who the influence is which leads to putting in boxes rather than treating on its own merits. Case in point with Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood fifth album. Never having heard her before her wonderful alto voice had me thinking Karen Carpenter ? Anne Murray even? But then it struck me that given the intricate song construction and immaculate vocals throughout were reminiscent of none other than Magnolia era Aimee Mann, (“One” ) which in itself was a cover from the great Harry Nilsson) . Take "Children of the Empire", "Hearts Aglow" and "Grapevine", which has a primitive acoustic strummed beginning but then a gradual operatic build up and crescendo. In some ways there is a hint of Roy Orbison construction here, but I could imagine the great Nilsson delivering this too and many other tracks found here. We could have found this in the seventies as it is just great , timeless music, with some recent pandemic inspired content too (listen to "The Worst is Done”). The Times gave this album of the year and I don’t tend to disagree.
Rarities - Bruce Cockburn – on one of the better tracks of the otherwise awful U2 album Rattle & Hum , Bono screams “I heard a singer on the radio late last night saying he is “got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight”". That reference (killer line it is) is via the great Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Bruce Cockburn from the 1984 release “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” (album “Stealing Fire”). Cockburn seems to have flown under the radar since the 70’s to his artistic peak in the 90’s. As a guitar player he is reminiscent of Lindsay Buckingham meets Leo Kottke (really bloody good in other words) and as a songwriter like Midnight Oil he cast his lens during his peak to human rights, environment and global issues .This collection gathers unreleased tracks through the breadth of his career. It’s great to hear his music again and a great entry point for the other Bruce.
Boston Accent - Matt Nathanson – in a quest to keep up with new music a friend recommended the indie radio station WERS out of Boston. Having listened in real time when I was there in September and being able to stream since returning back to NZ it seems whoever has the programming responsibility has some great taste in music, both new and old. A resulting discovery was Boston native Matt Nathanson , initially via the lead track “German Cars” . Might be slightly reminiscent of early Ed Sheehan (The “A team”) at times but over the course of 10 acoustic driven tracks there is a depth to his songwriting and vocals that have ensured repeated listening since the September release.