Music Of The Year: 2022

First up, I want to reiterate my recommendation that everyone check out Arooj Aftab‘s whole body of work. I mentioned her in my July post after having discovered her at Newport. She didn’t release a record in 2022, but I love her work so much I had to say something. I’m pleased to have noticed that one of her songs — “Last Night,” from her 2021 album Vulture Prince — has been getting some play on at least one SiriusXM channel. Understandably, it’s the one song on the record with lyrics in (mostly) English, but I hope it opens the door to more exposure for her overall. She certainly does deserve it.

One of the year’s coolest surprises was getting two new releases from Sarah Shook. First we got the Nightroamer album with The Disarmers in February, and then just eight months later came Cruel Liars from new Shook incarnation, Mightmare. The more I listen, the bigger Sarah Shook fan I become. Cruel Liars gets a little too synth-y and dance beat-y for me in a few spots, but I still keep dialing it up right along with Nightroamer and the rest of the Disarmers records. I can’t get enough.

I loved Wilco‘s latest, Cruel Country, right off the bat when it was released in May (and a week early for Solid Sound ticket-holders).  I mentioned in my comments at the time that it was Wilco’s clearest acceptance of the “alt-country” sound they’d been labeled with from their beginning, but repeated listens over the next months have somewhat changed my perspective. What I hear now is more of the genre-bending that has long been the band’s hallmark. Without a doubt, the country elements and influences are there, front and center. But that’s just the framework on which the record is built. There’s so much more here than just Wilco’s “country album.” Stellar.

Finally, The Beths. There’s nothing quite like falling in love with a new song, or a new band, and both happened for me with The Beths. Their September release, Expert In A Dying Field, didn’t get my overall pick that month because Tyler Childers hit us with his triple-album experiment. But man oh man, I’m absolutely 100% smitten with The Beths. I’m guessing they’re the band I’ve listened to most since I discovered them. As I said in September, I think their previous record, Jump Rope Gazers (and especially the title song), is my favorite, but that’s splitting hairs. Every song on every record has something to offer. I don’t know if I’ve heard a power pop / indie rock band that I’ve loved this much this quickly since my friend and former bandmate Frank introduced me to Fountains Of Wayne sometime in the…’90s? Like Arooj Aftab’s “Last Night,” I’m hearing the title song “Expert In A Dying Field” pretty regularly on SiriusXM lately, so I’m hoping The Beths are better known than I think they are. I wish I had lots of readers so I could better spread the word about them. If you haven’t heard them, go seek them out.

Happy New Year, and get some music in your ears, everybody!

Music Of The Month: September 2022

Tyler Childers Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven?

Lots of good new music this month. A posthumous release from Dr. John, Things Happen That Way, is especially good. Featuring guests like Willie and Lukas Nelson, Katie Pruitt, and others, it’s a collection of standards and originals that spotlight all the different facets of his music that we’ve loved over the years; funk, soul, jazz, etc. It’s a very welcome surprise on this month’s list.

The record I’ve been listening to most this month is The Beths’ new offering, Expert In A Dying Field. I’d never heard of The Beths, but this is the New Zealand band’s third record, and it made me go back and listen to the previous two. I probably prefer the second — Jump Rope Gazers — to this newest one, but since its release I’ve listened to Expert nearly every day on my commute. Definitely a little more rocking than my usual fare, but I’m loving it. 

My main pick for the month, though, is Tyler Childers’s ambitious new project, Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven? I’ve never encountered this kind of concept album before. It’s a three-record set comprised of the same 8 songs recorded in three different versions. The Hallelujah versions are more somber, and fleshed out with organ. Then we’re given the Jubilee versions, which are stripped down, funky, and perhaps more like what we may have expected from what we’ve heard of Childers in the past. Finally, the Joyful Noise versions treat the songs with all manner of audio samples, loops, spoken word passages, etc. Childers is easily among my favorite artists today, and I find this release to be nothing short of fascinating. 

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

(click photo to go to artist website)