As the year winds down, many music fans like to take an inventory of what was added to their own personal collection over the last 365, and for many, that inventory is perhaps loaded with records with a 2022 release date.
Record shopping in its various forms these days remains a killer activity if you visited a brick-and-mortar store or ordered something from your favorite label’s website. Whatever the place of purchase, be it a physical space or something of the digital world, it’s good that you continue to support artists and their work, as well as the various places that sell the work of those artists.
I liked a lot of records that came out in 2022; like each December, here is half of my 10 favorites, the other half being revealed next week.
They’re a roots country band not from Asheville. Or Austin. Or Portland. They’re from Croatia, and they’ve dropped an “Americana” record awfully far from that genre’s namesake. This record features cuts that are road lonely, others with a vibe of dark roots and country noir. This is a band that nods to the beloved Gourds, a front porch, picking party soundtrack that sounds like it could fall apart at any second, but fortunately is kept together in swampy, good-time glory.
This is punk rock through and through, but punk more in tune with The Clash and the socially conscious hardcore of the early 1980s. Bains is whip smart and always ready to deliver a message about trying to make a better South, honoring good Southern tradition while attempting to bury bad Southern tradition, and he does so with a kick-ass band always firing on all cylinders. Bains’ stream-of-consciousness scats on a cut like “Lizard People” drops a thoughtful ballad in “Gentlemen” and throws out punk boogie in “Done Playing Dead.”
Laid back roots music, the New Orleans-based Deslondes keep it slow and soulful. This is a band with multiple vocalists, with said vocalists dropping everything from roots-noir cuts to subtle hoppers. Gospel keys kick off the record with “Good to Go” with Riley Downings’ baritone vocals deep and dark, they then stretch into a record that’s comfortable crawling at its own melodic pace. “Home Again” is a celebration of your own home in its familiar and frustrating glory, and cuts like “Wild Eden” and “Hero” have instrumentation that meander between psychedelic roots and cocktail weirdness.
Aging skateboarders and punk-rockers born anywhere between 1963 and 1969 continue to celebrate OFF! As they should, because they remain one band keeping those people connected with the outsider music they fell in love with in the early ’80s when the square-johns were drinking California Coolers to the soundtrack to “The Big Chill.” Vocalist Keith Morris has now been a member of three stellar bands of the hardcore canon in Black Flag, The Circle Jerks and this band, and he continues to sound great leading OFF! as they toy with industrial sounds on “Kill to Be Heard” and “F” while slamming power chords on “Circuitry’s God.” And, like any good hardcore record, they’ll lyrically question whatever you got.
Always blurring the lines between mariachi music, reverb-heavy surf-noir and indie-folk, Calexico continues their career of throwing curve balls. “El Mirador” kicks off with punchy horns that quickly give way to an exotica cut, while a cut like “El Paso” is ripe for a dirty-tango, and “Rancho Azul” proves Joey Burns and John Convertino are fans of San Pedro’s Minutemen. Calexico continues to broaden an exploratory landscape influenced by Latin jazz, weird fusion and The Paisley Underground.
Numbers five through one will come next week.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.