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Top 20 Records of 2022

Top 20 Records of 2022

Seasons greetings from Paradise Found Records. Our first full year at our expanded new digs on Pearl Street has been wonderful. We couldn't have done it without our customers and supporters. Thank you! It is truly our pleasure to serve your vinyl and audio-related needs. We'll be open with extended hours between now and Christmas to help you shop for all the music lovers on your gift list. In addition to new and used vinyl, we're stocked with CDs, tapes, posters, books, components and cool merch.

Here are my twenty favorite albums of 2022 in alphabetical order:

 

Big Thief–Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

Big Thief's fifth album tops the list alphabetically and in terms of quality and quantity. Across two sprawling records recorded at four sessions in different locales (including the MusicGardens studio in Placerville, Colorado), the band reaches levels of diversity and warmth only hinted at on prior work. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You has something for everyone: the shimmering folk of the title track, the trip-hop of "Blurred Lines," the roots rock of "Spud Infinity," the rollicking Dead-like gallop of "Blue Lightning," and so much more. Breathtaking, deep and more rewarding than anything else I heard this year. (Favorite tracks: "No Reason," "Spud Infinity")

Aldous Harding–Warm Chris

Aldous Harding continues to evolve her many faces, voices and styles. With an increased focus on piano--this is her first effort to be largely composed on the instrument--Harding creates a beguiling mix that moves between folk and chamber pop underneath ambiguous lyrics that draw the listener in without saying too much. The album culminates with "Leathery Whip," wherein Harding channels Velvet Underground-era Nico with help from Jason Williamson of the post-punk duo Sleaford Mods. (Favorite tracks: "Lawn," "Leathery Whip")

Hurray for the Riff Raff–Life on Earth

Alynda Segarra's music is deeply political and focused on giving voice to the downtrodden. Considering how often she evokes the American melting pot, it's not surprising that she draws from folk, rock, hip-hop and any other genre that grabs her attention. Her eighth record doesn't quite live up to the incredibly high standard of its predecessor, 2017's The Navigator, but it's still wholly original and spiritually nourishing, even when it's trying to make the listener uncomfortable. One highlight is "Precious Cargo," wherein a refugee recounts mistreatment at the hands of ICE after the long journey across the border. (Favorite tracks: "Precious Cargo," "Pierced Arrows")

Mitski–Laurel Hell

Mitski's last album, 2018's Be The Cowboy, topped many of that year's best-of lists. To top it, Mitski hinted at retiring, moved to Nashville and waited four years to return with her most commercial, accessible music. There's still enough goth- and emo-flavored angst to appeal to hipsters and teenagers, but Laurel Hell adds elements your mother could love: Motown ("Should've Been Me"), Abba ("The Only Heartbreaker") and cries for attention ("Love Me More"). The end result is ear candy that rightfully elevates Mitski from indie goddess to global superstar status. (Favorite tracks: "Heat Lightning," "Stay Soft")

Kevin Morby–This is a Photograph

My second favorite record of the year is a rock opera about fleeting youth and the mythos of Memphis. Kevin Morby sings of life as a boxing ring, interweaving the passion and passing of youth with Jeff Buckley's tragic death as its sad, shining example. The narrator dreams of a future in an idealized Tennessee of lost heroes and musical nirvana. The album starts and ends with the journey's inspiration, a photo Morby found of his father as a young man while he was visiting after nearly losing him to a heart attack. When he raises a glass "to time"--how rapidly it passes, how little we have, how precious it is--Morby makes a toast we can all relate to. (Favorite tracks: "A Coat of Butterflies," "A Random Act of Kindness")

Plains–I Walked With You A Ways

Plains is a one-off collaboration between Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee), coincidentally Kevin Morby's S.O., and Jess Williamson, a Texas singer-songwriter based out of Los Angeles. The album marries the midwestern Americana of Waxahatchee's stellar 2020 album, Saint Cloud, to Texas bluegrass. Williamson adds perfect harmonies to Crutchfield's Kansas twang to fashion an infectious, powerful collection that is more than just a placeholder until the next Waxahatchee release.  (Favorite tracks: "Problem With It," "Abilene")

Spoon–Lucifer on the Sofa

Austin's most underrated band continues its streak of potent, angular rock on their tenth studio effort. Twenty six years in, they continue to perfect their formula: punchy, muscular melodies set under Brit Daniels' echoey, energetic vocals with a minimum of fuss and guitar solos. But that's not all; last month the group also released more expansive, dub versions of the material on remix LP Lucifer on the Moon. It's always impressive when musicians this far into their career make new music this good. (Favorite tracks: "On The Radio," "The Hardest Cut")

Wet Leg–Wet Leg

The only debut effort on my list is a rare example of an album exceeding its considerable hype. Isle of Wight-based Wet Leg stormed the scene in 2021 with the knockout punch of singles "Chaise Lounge" and "Wet Dream," and their 2022 full-length LP delivers on that promise. With more than a little sense of humor (in case you can't tell by their name) and hooks galore, Wet Leg proves that there's still plenty of room for inspired rock'n'roll in a hip hop world. Led by the detached vocals of Rhian Teasdale and the lead guitar of Hester Chambers, the group sources Bowie and the Breeders for a sound simultaneously classic and uniquely 2022. (Favorite tracks: "Too Late Now," "I Don't Wanna Go Out")

Weyes Blood–And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood) garnered a lot of critical attention with Titanic Rising in 2018. Her follow-up is nothing short of stunning, a magnum opus that examines the impact of the pandemic and climate change on humans both individually and en masse. But don't let the subject matter scare you off: this record is full of big, beautiful songs, lush orchestral pop that combines the literate vocal style of Aimee Mann with production values that recall Karen Carpenter and Phil Spector. Most of the songs run past five minutes, using harps and strings to create a sweeping pop majesty that perfectly evokes the grandiosity of the subject matter. (Favorite tracks: "It's Not Just Me, It's Everybody," "God Turn Me Into a Flower")

Wilco–Cruel Country

Wilco's first double-album in more than two decades is less classic country and more of a throwback to the peak alt-country sound they achieved on Being There, the record widely considered one of their best. But Cruel Country is still a grower. From the extended Southern rock jams that end "Bird Without a Tail/Base of My Skull" and "Many Worlds" to the contemplative title track, it recalls the band in its earliest incarnation, before Tweedy switched to the indie rock of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born. Drummer Glen Kotchke has probably never been more underutilized, but Cruel Country is still ambitious, a state of the union address in which Jeff Tweedy pines for lost unity. (Vinyl edition out 1/20/23; favorite tracks: "Cruel Country," "Bird Without a Tail/Base of My Skull"

Reissue of The Year:

Various Artists–Earl’s Closet: The Lost Archives of Earl McGrath,1970-1980

When is 45-year-old music new? Earl McGrath was the head of Clean Records and Rolling Stones Records in the seventies, a raconteur who introduced Mick Jagger to Jerry Hall, bought weed from his carpenter, aspiring actor Harrison Ford, and taught Jann Wenner "how to be rich." After McGrath's passing in 2016, author Joe Hagan found boxes of submitted demos from would-be artists in his Manhattan closet. The resulting compilation is a time capsule of the seventies sound, including early demos from Hall and Oates, Terry Allen, Jim Carroll, David Johanssen, three songs by unknown artists, and others. With detailed liner notes by Hagan, this reverant collection time travels back five decades to let the listener experience the life of a record executive when country-rock was being born and California was the mecca for starry-eyed musicians, through to the New York-flavored indie rock that dominated the end of the decade. (Favorite tracks: Jim Hurt: "Dixie Darling," Daryl Hall and John Oates: "Baby Come Closer")

Nine more records worth your time (including reissues):

Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal--Get on Board (The Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee); Elvis Costello & The Imposters--The Boy Named If; Karen Dalton--In My Own Time (50th anniversary edition); Florist--Florist; Angel Olsen--Big Time; Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers--Live at The Fillmore 1997; Lou Reed--Words and Music, May 1965; Kurt Vile--(Watch My Moves); Jack White--Entering Heaven Alive

Spotify Playlist of Favorite Tracks

Best of 2021

Best of 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay Tuned

More info coming this spring.