Best of 2022

This did not start out as a great year for music.  Aside from some amazing live shows, what was being released lacked the punch and urgency of the past few years.  It hit rock bottom when one of my favorite bands of all time put out a double record which I just couldn’t connect with, no matter how hard I tried.  

And then I heard the phrase that changed everything: “Archers of Loaf are releasing their first new album in 23 years.”

I understand most people in my orbit don’t get it.  What is my obsession with this band?  I’ve stated countless times they are my favorite band of all time.  Their debut album is my favorite record of all time.  And it’s very first track is my favorite song.  I‘ve seen the band and their singer’s various solo variations at least a hundred times live, if I’ve seen them at all.  What can I say, other than they make me happy.  I’m of the belief that Bachmann, Gentling, Johnson, & Price have saved me thousands in therapy bills.  Though perhaps my hearing has paid the price.  I love these guys and am so happy to see how well their musical chops have aged. 

Best Album of 2022:

Archers of Loaf – “Reason in Decline” – this isn’t some attempt at a cash grab, it isn’t a carbon copy of their previous records, nor is it yacht rock.  It’s angry, current, loud, and beautifully dissonant.  It’s as if they were cryogenically frozen in 1999, only to be thawed out to the mess were in now.  And they responded accordingly.  This is a perfect next step for a band that paused for perhaps way too long, or perhaps just long enough.  

And yes, ultimately there was other great music to emerge in 2022.  With the first two on this list completely blowing me away.    

The other great albums of 2022 in order are: 

Soccer Mommy – “Sometimes, Forever” 

Ethel Cain – “Preacher’s Daughter”

Maren Morris – “Humble Quest”

Horsegirl – “Versions of Modern Performance”

Tomberlin – “I don’t know who needs to hear this…”

Dry Cleaning – “Stumpwork”

Best Singles of 2022:

Morgan Wade – “Morgan Wade – The Night (Part 2)”

Billie Eilish – ”TV”

Miranda Lambert – ”Actin’ Up”

Album that would have almost topped last year’s list had I known of its existence:

Weakened Friends – “Quitter”

Older album that I became obsessed with:

Jacqueline Taïeb – “The French Mademoiselle” – Probably played this more while driving than any other record I purchased this year.  Not sure why.  It just seemed to work.

Best Reissues:

Wilco – “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (remastered)” – one of the greatest albums of all time, and now probably the greatest box set of all time. To hear how the songs evolved, or didn’t, from the Bennett/Coomer days through to its ultimate commercial release is fascinating and heartbreaking, all at the same time.

The Liminanas – “Electrified (Best of 2009 – 2022)” – Had never even heard of this French band until I saw a post from my pal Scott Hudson.  Love.  LOVE.  LOVE!

Best Concerts:

Valerie June at the Academy of Music, Northampton, MA – went in not knowing what to expect, left with my mind completely blown.  She’ll go from a ukulele version of “What A Wonderful World” to windmilling on a Les Paul without skipping a beat.  A concert I will never forget.

Soccer Mommy at Harbor Yards, Middletown, CT – Best straight-out rock show of the year.  Amazing set, even better performance, and pristine sound, on a beautiful night under a full moon.  

Wilco performing Yankee Hotel Foxtrot at United Palace, NYC – We’ve seen Wilco 75 times, and this ranks as one of the 5 best times we’ve seen them.  Strings, horns, and playing a masterpiece record from start to finish, and even throwing in a tribute to Jay Bennett.  Everything about this night was magic.

Most Disappointing Albums of 2022:

Taylor Swift – “Midnights” & Wilco – “Cruel Country” – I don’t think either of these are bad records, but for me they were immensely disappointing.  And I tried. Listening to both on endless repeat.  But after the near genius of Swift’s last two, and even after having seen Wilco perform the double album live from start to finish, they just both fell flat for me.  And there are people whose musical opinions I greatly respect who love these records.  Perhaps my expectations were too high. Perhaps years from now I’ll learn to love them.

Best Documentary: 

“Oklahoma Breakdown” – from director Christopher Fitzpatrick – this was our highest rated film amongst all submissions for this year’s NHdocs, and for good reason: it had heart, a captivating story, and it rocked.  If you don’t know Mike Hosty, watch the film, then do everything in your power to catch one of his live shows.  You’ll thank me.

Best Narrative Feature: 

“Emily the Criminal” – from director John Patton Ford – Aubrey Plaza, who is truly a national treasure by this point, stars as a college student straddled in debt who makes a very wrong decision, which somehow turns out to be a very good decision.  

Best TV:

“Wednesday” – I recognized that this was not the “best” TV show of 2022, but it certainly was the most enjoyable. Jenna Ortega, also great in the horror film “X,” reinvents the Addams Family daughter into the most original character of the year.  Kudos also to Emma Myers as Wednesday’s roommate Enid.  Together they shine as the most unlikely, but real, friendship on screen all year.  And if the now-infamous dance doesn’t move you, check your heartbeat.  I’m pretty sure it’s missing.

As for the rest of my 2021:

As our first fully live film festival since 2019, the 9th edition of NHdocs: the New Haven Documentary Film Festival came back strong this year.  Thank you to Katherine, Tony, Mars, Doug, Sydni, Kristin, and a number of amazing volunteers who helped pull it all together.  Join us again for eleven days of film starting on October 12th, 2023.  

I had three film released on DVD and streaming this year.  “The Matchbox Man” in January, “Where are you, Jay Bennett?” – my 6th rock doc – in April, and “Old Friends, A Dogumentary” in December.  

As for other film projects, we’re finishing up “FACTORY” and are about halfway through filming our documentary on the failed Powder Ridge Music Festival of 1970.  Both stories keep getting crazier with every turn.  Stay tuned for a lot more.

Kris and I got to go on a 30th Anniversary vacation to our favorite place in the world, Key West, as well as the 7thedition of Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, MA.  Saw a lot of great concerts (aside from the above mentioned): Archers of Loaf, Billie Eilish, Japanese Breakfast, Weakened Friends, Superchunk, Torres, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Lady GaGa (where I caught Covid), Nick Lowe, Tommy Stinson, and so many others.

As for our dog family, Dylan is well.  But Springsteen, now over 14, is having a rough go of it.  His back legs just aren’t holding him up like they used to.  Send him your good thoughts.  

And that’s it.  I’ll end like I usually do: be well, hug your dog, raise a drink to the people you love and respect, eat good pizza, drink hot coffee, laugh, rock, play it loud, believe that things will get better…eventually…and be kind to everyone you meet.