As I was finalizing my post here just now I caught myself committing the cardinal sin of any best of the year list which is Being Mad. Moving tracks up and down a few slots here and there and frowning like a mechanic over a nice car that has been driven poorly. Getting pissed off at the guy who made this.
Obviously as with any such list these are not really the 50ish best songs of the year in order. Instead they are a bunch of songs I like that came out in 2022 and I hope this turns you on to a band or record you might have missed or at the very least confirms your priors that I have exceptional and/or terrible taste.
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If you want to jump to the full 140ish song playlist on Spotify (sorry) you can find it here:
Or on Apple Music here.
Or on YouTube here.
49. "Whispers of Your Death" – Counterparts
If this type of music herein happens to be your exact shit you might also check out last year's list.
48. "Chlorine Tears" – Foreign Hands
Or maybe this list of my favorites from the 2010s I did a couple years ago. 2019 man... what a concept. Were we ever so innocent?
47. "Mantra" – Squint
I did a lot of listening to new shit this year but not as much as I usually do on account of after seven years of slaving over a beer-wet laptop I finally retired from DJing my party Emo Night Boston. In part because I live just far enough away now that it's a pain in the ass to get home late at night but also because I simply cannot hear the opening chord of "Cute Without The E" anymore without instantly being rendered hungover for three full days. You're in good hands with my man Nick and all them carrying on somehow without me though. The next party is this week in fact on Thursday at The Sinclair in Cambridge. You should go!
46. "Bells" – Absinthe Father
45. "Arm's Reach" – Actor/Observer
Speaking of Nick he and the nice polite Boston boys from Actor/Observer killed it on their Songs for the Newly Reclusive record this year.
44. "Blood" – Run Into the Sun
From a story in WGBH today on the ongoing homelessness crisis in the Mass & Cass area of Boston:
In the first 10 months of [mayor Michelle] Wu’s tenure, up through August 2022, Boston police logged more than $4 million in overtime payments in the area, according to police payroll records.
Between 2021 and August 2022, the city spent around $8 million on police overtime, payroll data show — nearly double the $4.3 million spent in the previous two years combined.
If I wanted to come up with a solution to the problem of people not having anywhere safe to live I simply cannot think of a better use of millions of tax dollars than paying cops extra money to sit in their cars dicking around on their phones and posting to Racism.com all day.
43. "One Twenty Two" – Botch
For more on that particular issue in Hell World check out either of these previous pieces:
Fucking Botch is back by the way.
42. "An Offering to the Night" – Jesus Piece
I started watching the Game Show Network right around when the pandemic and middle age and suburbia all hit me concurrently none of which I have yet to and will likely never rebound from and something I still can’t get over two years later watching anew every evening eating our little coffee table dinner is how on most of the games every contestant is this kind of pure grotesquerie from California which is the most uncanny state in America the most uncanny country in creation. I haven’t gotten through the Rehearsal yet but I’m reminded of how when I used to watch Nathan For You and I’d think it’s a trick it’s all actors but no it’s just that people there are like that. Californians are a people who simply want to be able to drive two miles in under 90 minutes if they can time traffic right and who love to be insane. No one will ever figure them out. Not Steinbeck or Hammett or Chandler or Didion or West or Tarantino.
It’s all just pool balls clattering.
I don’t know what that is supposed to mean but it sounded like something.
41. "Nothing" – Gladie
I don't know if I've ever sincerely and lustily booed someone in person. Watching the least funny man and single worst Poster alive get embarrassed at the transphobe comedy hour over the weekend has been hearty schadenfreude sure but it's making me think right now about the physical act of booing. Booing as like a little joke is one thing but booing like you are pissed off out of your mind is something different. Boooo. Boooooo. Cupping your hands to your mouth so the anger travels further.
40. "Curtain Call" – Bouquet
Maybe I booed the Patriots in the first half of the Super Bowl against Atlanta in Houston?
39. "Hiding In Place" – Queen of Jeans
It's so insulting that we’re meant to believe the “free speech” people sincerely mean it for us too. Almost like the maddening contradiction is part of the fascist project!
Regarding the geniuses down at the Grievance Factory (non-union) trying to rub something out of the half-limp Twitter Files I was reminded of something I wrote the week that Trump was banned from Twitter which I think still applies:
If I were required for some reason to present a coherent argument in court or in some academic or journalistic forum or whatever about t h e f r e e s p e e c h i m p l i c a t i o n s of all this I would probably have a more nuanced take about it but I'm not required to do that so I can just say lol get fucked Trump and all fash eat shit.
I’m sorry but I’m just not all that fired up about access to ~~the virtual public square~~ when people right now and all year and for years before that have been marching in our actual public squares pushing for justice and civil rights and getting their heads kicked in and their eyes shot out by police with the very vocal support of the right. How many Black Lives Matter activists out of Ferguson and elsewhere have been literally murdered in mysterious circumstances for their speech?
So no. Everyone being able to post whatever they want is somewhere on my long list of concerns but it’s not particularly high.
You do not under any circumstances have to come to the aid of your enemies. If our broader project whatever you want to call it has any hope of ever succeeding it requires destroying the fascists and the right entirely as it exists and there is no possible future in which aligning with them now out of noble rhetorical principle will have any positive boomerang benefit. Kick them in the face when they are down. They would not help you if the situation was reversed. I know from firsthand experience! Everyone on the right crying about free speech right now was calling for my head a couple years ago.
And besides who are the hypothetical refs of discourse we are offering up our fealty to fairness to in this situation? What good-will redemption credits are we banking right now that will be honored at a later date and by whom?
Do people honestly think if we never try to deplatform the far right they will be forced by logic and sportsmanship to acknowledge our good faith efforts and provide the left the same protections when its our turn later on? Obviously not. And it’s always already been our turn. The speech of the left is regularly constrained all the time.
Every time anything happens we gotta immediately shift to talking about what if the opposite thing happened. Hmm well you won’t like it when they take your posts down will you? No of course not. I’ll think well this sucks then whine about it like a huge fucking baby if they do and then I’ll go about my life. Start a…fuckin… zine or something. Or just shut the fuck up for while. Who cares! People aren’t having their speech constrained right now they’re having their ability to be unnaturally amplified constrained. People can say whatever they want still they just don’t have access temporarily to one or two specific massive recruitment platforms for organizing crimes and hate. Who cares!
Trump not being able to post lies to 100 million people every single day is a net good for the world. The entire network of worms who worship him not being able to organize and gas each other up as easily as they have been for years is a net good. These seem like easy distinctions to make to me in the same way that saying rallying and protesting and occupying government buildings for the cause of good is good and doing it for the cause of bad is bad.
That said break up and nationalize Facebook and punt Twitter’s servers into a bottomless pit. Who cares! We do not need any of this shit to live or thrive personally or as a society.
38. "BYOB" – Future Teens
After the wind had abated they drove east on a length of flat empty plains highway hoping to outstrip its inevitable redoubling and remarked upon little for some miles before the first of the overturned tractor-trailers on the shoulder appeared and then the next and the next and the next passing almost evenly spaced out now with the mile markers. The symmetry of the trucks’ resting was uncanny never mind the simple fact of their having toppled like so in the first place. It all unfolded like that for a while less like the aftermath of a cyclone’s tantrum than a formal laying down of arms by a retreating army or a herd of animals showing its collective belly.
More peaceful than that.
Maybe horses slumbering in an orderly and well kept stable.
37. "The Razor's Apple" – Fleshwater
They kind of look like horses sleeping she said and he said don’t horses sleep standing up and she said not when they are actually sleeping. In deep sleep I mean. In REM sleep. They have to lie down for that.
When did you ever see a horse sleeping he said and she said we had a horse when I was young and he said what was it called and she hesitated and said I don’t remember but it sounded maybe like a liar buying time.
36. "Caffeine" – Brakence
Her phone wasn’t working correctly so the screen was stuck on the last article she saw from before from a tabloid she used to hate-read. Archaeologists uncover "Egyptian mummies with golden tongues."
That phrasing wormed into her pulse compounding its musicality with each swipe down on the screen when it would not disappear upon refresh.
"Egyptian mummies with golden tongues."
"Ancient tombs containing corpses with precious metals in mouths" the subhed read.
"Precious metals in mouths."
35. "Drain" – Softcult
The full article never ended up loading so she didn’t read through to see that the whole thing was about how they apparently used to remove the deceased’s tongue and replace it with a hunk of gold so they would have an offering on hand when it came time to speak to Osiris the judge of the dead. How reasoning is always less valuable than a bribe with respect to an audience with the powerful.
The other day the nice folks over at the Embedded newsletter asked me and a bunch of too-online folks to write about our favorite posts of the year. You should check the whole thing out there are some great ones to remember but here's what I said in part:
...one of my favorite things that happens online is when you stumble upon a series of words that you've never heard before in that specific order and the uniqueness of it amounts to a sort of accidental music that later pops into your head off an on when you least expect it. Could be something simple like “do him job”, “all my apes gone”, or “food restaurant”, “I;m thinking about thos beans”, or something you wished you hadn't read like “pimped out cumdump event no loads refused.” Maybe “gorgeous enchilada lunch”, or “Bean Dad”, or “Cliff Wife”, or “don't e-mail my wife” or “large adult sons” or “‘The boyfriend’ looks nice and the girls seem to have eaten their spaghetti and meat balls!”
Most of those are old though so the one from this year came from a report about the most hospitalized bird-bitten Covid-chasing man in the world Jair Bolsonaro shortly after he ate shit in the recent election.
“Cannot wear pants.”
You’ve never heard those words put together like that before and now you have. Poetry finds you when you least expect it.
33. "Midnight Zone" – Common Sage
Meghann Fahy baby. Now that is Massachusetts Irish excellence. Drive me over the Powder Point bridge in Duxbury out onto Saquish in the Jeep Wrangler in 4WD and make me walk all the way back to Kingston.
32. "Fracture" – Stay Inside
Indigenous people in Alaska and other northern regions have been hunting whales for thousands of years which sounds almost impossible doesn’t it. I can barely reconcile the fact that whales even exist today never mind think about seeing one hundreds or thousands of years ago and saying to myself I am going to eat that. I can’t boil rice without my wife having to come in from the other room frowning.
Have you ever been on a whale watching trip and you go out in the little sad boat the guy owns and you sit there for a while like this blows and then you finally at long last see a whale and you’re like holy shit are you seeing this shit? Your entire life changes right there next to some guy from Arizona.
Holy fucking shit.
Now imagine you’re a guy in a much shittier boat from a thousand years ago and you gotta go fight the whale. Where would you even start?
31. "Pressure Cooker" – Dazy/ Militarie Gun
30. "Sour Punch" – Blushing
I wrote about something a couple years ago where kids with lunch debt were being prevented from going to prom, or on school trips, walking at graduation, and things like that. Another time about kids having trays of food ripped out of their hands when they didn't have enough money in their account. A while back there was a guy on a school board in Wisconsin who said he was worried kids were going to become "spoiled" and "addicted to" the idea of getting lunch for free. It’s just fucking cruel. I think the idea, maybe on a bigger level from a conservative point of view, whether it’s Republicans or conservative Democrats, is that they don’t want kids to get used to the idea that the government can help you. Similarly with the student debt cancelation. They’re freaking out because it’s an illustration that life in America doesn’t have to be like this. The government can actually help people. I think they don’t want anyone to get a taste of that possibility.
I like to think of it in the sense of a library. You go and you’re able to get a book. They’re not going to means test you. It should be the same thing for when you go to school and you need to get breakfast or lunch.
29. "Disarmament" – For Your Health
28. "Wondering Still" – Alien Boy
I may be repeating myself here from last year I'm too old and too drunk now to remember things but I'm sorry I just cannot describe what a song sounds like anymore. You would have to pay me a lot of money to write sincerely about how urgent a bassline is or how soaring some vocals are or whatever. I did that for ten or fifteen years as my main writing job hundreds and hundreds of times and I have no more adjectives for how a delay pedal sounds left in me.
27. "Super Saturated" – Drug Church
This on the other hand was a fabulous piece of music writing by our pal Rax King in Hell World earlier this year.
26. "Fear" – awakebutstillinbed
Me when the woke mob forces me have to look at a pronoun.
25. "Really Big Shrimp" – Carly Cosgrove
24. "Oldest Daughter" – The Wonder Years
23. "You're Part of It" – Ben Quad
22. "Object Permanence" – Arm's Length
A farmhand tilling the field one bright morning heard what sounded like a cry for help somewhere toward the treeline not far off from where he labored. After investigating unsuccessfully he went back about his business and finished his work presuming it must have been the mewling of an animal caught in one of the many traps the farmer had placed around the property.
When he returned the next day the cry came once again and more human in its tenor this time. Unnerved now he searched more thoroughly until he came upon a small opening in the earth beneath a flowering tree.
“Please,” a pitiful voice cried from somewhere below.
“Is someone there?” the farmhand asked.
“Yes, it’s me,” the voice answered.
“How did you get down there?”
“I don’t rightfully remember,” the voice replied.
“What is your name?”
“I’m not sure.”
Worried he had been too long away from his work he told the subterranean voice that he’d have to return later as there was much to do and certainly you understand what it’s like he said before begging his leave.
“Yes, yes of course,” said the voice. “Please do not delay any more than necessary.”
The next day the farmhand appeared once again this time in the company of the farmer himself who seemed displeased to have been so waylaid.
“What is it you want?” the farmer shouted down into the hole.
“I’d like to be free, naturally,” he answered. “It is so very dark.”
21. "A Means to an End" – Chalk Hands
“Naturally,” the farmer replied. “But I’ll have to send for the mayor in town before anything can be done. One must always be careful in situations such as these. Things must be done in their proper order that is the way.”
A few days later after some effort was expended rustling the mayor from his nocturnal indulgences he arrived with a coterie of attendants and the newspaperman. After interrogating the voice about how he came to find himself in such a position it was determined that the specific geographical location of the hole fell just outside of the mayor’s jurisdiction. The freeing of the voice from its current predicament was outside of his authority he explained and so the matter would have to be taken up with the governor.
In the meantime the newspaperman questioned the voice further. In short order a story was published that attracted the attention of the townspeople. It had been quite some time since an event of this kind had happened in their town. By dozens they arrived over the next week a disturbance which annoyed the farmer at first. Soon he had an idea. Around the edge of the hole he displayed towers of pumpkins and gourds and all manner of his produce for the spectators to purchase and thus was he pleased with an unexpected windfall.
In turn each gawker would approach the hole and make their own inquiries. Eventually it was decided the voice must surely be suffering from hunger and thirst so lunch was sent down by string for his sustenance and jugs of water were procured from the river. The voice seemed thankful at first for surely he was hungry and thirsty but stubbornly he pleaded with the townspeople to at long last free him.
The people were shortly aggrieved by his ingratitude and his celebrity waned. Rumors began to circulate about the provenance of the voice’s manner of speaking and it was decided by more than a few that he must come from elsewhere. Still others began to whisper that perhaps the hole was in fact where the voice belonged. After all someone who found themselves in such a predicament surely must have done something or other to have earned his fate.
By the time the governor arrived some weeks later the legitimacy of the voice’s earthly entombment had been decided by the majority and indeed the governor being a vain and callow man and not one for causing a stir that would upset his personal prospects pronounced as much. While regrettable for good people of faith to see someone trapped like this there was the matter of where he came from and how he found himself in such a hole. Something that after all had never happened to any of them.
20. "Gift Horse" – Gatherers/ Geoff Rickly
Before long the public sentiment around the voice changed from curiosity mixed with pity to enmity. Children would sing songs and taunt the voice from above and older boys drunk on cider would urinate into the hole or set their dogs to do the same.
It was decided that the voice should be punished further. But these being kind people few and not even the roughest among them had the stomach to inflict harm on the voice by their own hand. Instead the engineer was brought in and set to building a contraption whereby a series of levers and tubes and gadgets of all manner would be placed into motion by the pressing of a button some miles away from the hole and through its machinations would an alternating delivery of water which would fill the hole and an electrical current which would shock the voice into submission be deployed. The automation of the service from such a remove absolved any one person of guilt besides perhaps the engineer who was in any case a man of few words and as some wondered perhaps not from the area himself.
The voice at long last grew quiet and ceased pleading for its release. It was a development that further irritated the town.
“Were it me in that position I would never stop crying for my freedom,” the carpenter said.
“One wonders what he’s hiding,” the tavern keeper agreed.
19. "2022" – L.S. Dunes
If I'm being honest the only band I really listened to listened to this year was War On Drugs.
18. "Water Wings" — Birds in Row
I spent most of the year writing my new book and for whatever reason the propulsive reverb-laden riffs (lol) of War on Drugs was the perfect soundtrack for the endeavor and as such it probably is no coincidence that so many of the stories ended up being set on the beach and concern the movement of water in uncanny fashion.
The title of the book — A Creature Wanting Form – is a riff on the lyric from I Don't Live Here Anymore:
I was lying in my bed
A creature void of form
Been so afraid of everything
I need a chance to be reborn
Which is of course a riff on Bob Dylan's Shelter From the Storm:
I came in from the wilderness
A creature void of form
"Come in," she said, "I'll give ya
Shelter from the storm"
Which is of course a reference to:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.
17. "A World Without You" – Record Setter
No matter how bereaved you are or are not it’s very hard to spread a person’s ashes without feeling as if you’re doing it in an artful and mannered way.
16. "Fucked Up If True" – Soul Glo
15. "Victoria" – Brutus
This bit from Adam Serwer's "the conservative right to post" piece explains why they haven't shut up about this "free speech" shit in years. When the only path to power on the right is cultural grievance (and they have a politics absent of any tangible means or desire to help people) posting is their entire career.
Trump’s use of Twitter also shaped the character of the conservative movement, spawning a legion of feeble imitators who seek fame by catastrophizing about the liberal menace and engaging in thinly veiled murderous ideation against their political opponents. Posting has become the primary means for right-wing personalities and politicians to build brands and followings, in part by showcasing angry liberal responses to their posts. Posting has even supplanted governance for some ambitious politicians, whose policies and proposals become secondary to their performances on social media. Then there are those who are simply hooked on the emotional rewards of posting, and resent the possibility that their supplier may restrict their access.
14. "Dark Blue" – One Step Closer
From Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr.
13. "High Hopes" – Sweet Pill
It's not gonna be as bad as the extinction aspect but it’s still going to be pretty maddening watching all these climate milestone pass while being told it’s not really happening.
12. "Silence is Golden" – The Beths
11. "Cloaked" – Rolo Tomassi
From Three Cheers for Socialism by David Bentley Hart:
Americans are, of course, the most thoroughly and passively indoctrinated people on earth. They know next to nothing as a rule about their own history, or the histories of other nations, or the histories of the various social movements that have risen and fallen in the past, and they certainly know little or nothing of the complexities and contradictions comprised within words like “socialism” and “capitalism.” Chiefly, what they have been trained not to know or even suspect is that, in many ways, they enjoy far fewer freedoms, and suffer under a more intrusive centralized state, than do the citizens of countries with more vigorous social-democratic institutions. This is at once the most comic and most tragic aspect of the excitable alarm that talk of social democracy or democratic socialism can elicit on these shores. An enormous number of Americans have been persuaded to believe that they are freer in the abstract than, say, Germans or Danes precisely because they possess far fewer freedoms in the concrete. They are far more vulnerable to medical and financial crisis, far more likely to receive inadequate health coverage, far more prone to irreparable insolvency, far more unprotected against predatory creditors, far more subject to income inequality, and so forth, while effectively paying more in tax (when one figures in federal, state, local, and sales taxes, and then compounds those by all the expenditures that in this country, as almost nowhere else, their taxes do not cover). One might think that a people who once rebelled against the mightiest empire on earth on the principle of no taxation without representation would not meekly accept taxation without adequate government services. But we accept what we have become used to, I suppose. Even so, one has to ask, what state apparatus in the “free” world could be more powerful and tyrannical than the one that taxes its citizens while providing no substantial civic benefits in return, solely in order to enrich a piratically overinflated military-industrial complex and to ease the tax burdens of the immensely wealthy?
10. "Be Sweet" – Japanese Breakfast
9. "Death is a Relief" – Holy Fawn
We watched this the other night and it was pretty good and creepy and extremely Irish above all but you can bet I hooted and hollered when a certain line of dialogue was finally said.
8. "That's Physics, Baby" – Pool Kids
I really like this band!
7. "Howler" – Football, Etc.
The Spine of the Snowman by David Berman.
6. "Call From You" — Anxious
I will say that after listening to all these songs over and over the one hook that's stuck in my head is from the Dazy/Militarie Gun song:
Pressure cooker's got me running
Pressure cooker's got me running
Pressure cooker's got me running
Pressure cooker's got me running out.
5. "Send the Pain Below" – Midwife
Don't care that it's a cover the original and this reinterpretation of it are both so good it's probably the song I've listened to the most on this entire list.
4. "Words" – Storefront Church/Phoebe Bridgers
Another cover. Who cares.
If you missed it this piece on the passing of Mimi Parker by Brad Searles from the other day was real good. As I wrote of this cover in that one:
It's just a perfect tribute. It gets the thing about Low where the harmonies are so tight but that's not always necessarily a good thing in the context of the characters in the song in question. Where you can tell that any second they could and maybe should diverge but still do not. A coupling vibrating anxiously in tune.
3. "Easy On Your Own" – Alvvays
I forget if I said this in here before but lots of people stop paying attention to music after a certain age and that's fine. I still listen to a lot of new stuff every year but I have pinpointed the last years where I was capable of genuinely caring and being moved by new bands and incorporating them into my sense of self in the way that we do when we are young and learning who we are and that was Alvvays/Pianos Become the Teeth era of like 2013-15. I was already in my thirties by then but that is when I finally became the person I was always going to be and locked into that for better or worse.
2. "Genevieve" / "The Days" – Pianos Become the Teeth
I feel pretty capable of writing about most things but I don't think I have ever been able to explain with words how much I love this band. Sentences don't seem adequate to the task.
1. "I Get It" – Chevelle
A huge upset for long time readers of this newsletter as Machinehead by Bush has for the first time in almost thirty years been unseated as the best song of the year! Condolences to Gavin Rossdale and the lads but the number one song of 2022 is "I Get It" by Illinois post-grunge trio Chevelle from their fourth studio album Vena Sera released on April 3, 2007. Congratulations to them and to all of us.