A baker’s dozen of 2022 favorites from Mooneyham
Jon Mooneyham, host of Everything All At Once Forever, shares some of his favorite albums of 2022 (in alphabetical order).
Eric Chenaux: Say Laura
Canadian artist Chenaux has been exploring and refining his lavender-and-horseradish pairing of pleasantly warm. honeyed crooning and wiggly, pitch-unencumbered guitar for a couple of decades. Often performing solo or abetted by minimal keyboards from Ryan Driver, this year’s big wrinkle is his addition of programmed rhythms, albeit filtered through effect pedals into anchoring electronic pulses. And while priorly the twinned aspects of his carefully crafted folkish songs and lurching, careening guitar improv frequently occupied opposite corners of the room, now they wrap around each other like alcoholic lovers getting horny at a dive bar. Nowhere is this better found here than on “There They Were,” his multi-tracked and harmonized vocals in repeated out-choruses underpinning extended guitar spazzapalooza. Say Laura (even more so than Chenaux’s other recordings) is rare territory where laid-back mellow pop enthusiasts and bristing edgelord noiseniks can find common ground.
Lucrecia Dalt: ¡Ay!
While Lucretia Dalt’s earlier recordings leaned heavily into an electroacoustic sound world and abstracted structures, here she goes off on a 90° tangent with an album of overt pop songs, driven by rhythms inspired by her Colombian origins. Propelled by hand-played percussion, the arrangements incorporate clarinet, flute, trumpet, and upright bass, while the synths are mostly relegated to organ-ish roles or various percussive punctuations and texture. The album’s lush, sumptuous sound space makes hay with Dalt’s strong, clear (and frequently close-miked) vocals, sometimes layered with backing vocals or multiple leads. The album slides in with a languidly woozy lounge vibe that sustains for most of the record (though tempos pick up a bit in the latter half). Apparently the lyrics comprise a pop opera of sorts, concerning an alien coming to grips with humanity’s feelings and emotions, but the fact they’re in Spanish means a lame monolingualist like myself is missing out on most of the story (like usual). RIYL: Swordfishtrombones by Tom Waits.
Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork
This album cover (short ’n’ curlies spelling the title on a bar of soap) is a great metaphor for Dry Cleaning’s musical approach: funny, off-centered, and maybe a smidgen disturbing. I love hearing bands evolve and refine their ideas, and here they move well past the post-punk shorthand of their debut with more ambitious styles and arrangements. Still commandeered by Florence Shaw’s coolly detached voice, there’s now a certain optimism embedded in her absurdist quotidian narratives (and she evens sings a bit!).
Five young lions from London’s jazz and experimental circles — including Danalogue from The Comet Is Coming, Tamar Osbourn of Collocutor, and Vula Viel’s Bex Burch — create an album of collective improvisation, guided by texts written by Burch. The results, unfolded from tiny modules of rhythm and melody, surprisingly hew closer to smooth, calm emotions (there’s only a couple of spots that get a terse little boil rolling), and some passages even evoke Terry Riley’s minimalist masterpiece “In C”.
Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance
A sturdy long-player debut from a trio of Chicago women, recorded while they were barely out of high school. Influences of ‘80s and ‘90s indie sounds are overt: streaks of Sonic Youth, Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, and others pepper the songs (it doesn’t hurt that SY’s Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley contribute to a couple). The lyrics, meanwhile, tend to be fragmentary, solipsistic glimpses into Horsegirl’s private world. If not breaking new ground, it’s a consolidation of those elements into genuinely exciting guitar-driven rock.
Jockstrap: I Love You Jennifer B
Inside this stunningly terrible cover is a fascinating album of contrasts: Georgia Ellery’s mainstream pop-conscious, emotive songs are underpinned and deconstructed (sometimes both at once!) by Taylor Skye’s detailed digital manipulations. Themes of urban disillusionment and loneliness thread these disparate pieces together like ipecac-flavored candy necklace beads.
Marlowe: Marlowe 3
The dynamic duo of Solemn Brigham and L’Orange go three for three with this latest stellar installment. Brigham’s clever lyrics, sheer stylistic variety, and unstoppable flow (sometimes right to the brink of asphyxia) sync with L’Orange’s eclectic retro music instrumentals to make dusty heaven for the ears. And the minimal deployment of “bad words” (you know the ones) are a boon. RIYL: the eccentricities of Madlib and J Dilla.
The Soundcarriers: Wilds
After a drought of eight years (interrupted only by their soundtrack work for the short-lived series Lodge 49), The Soundcarriers return with more of their meticulous, widescreen pop-psych. There’s a rougher edge here than before (no doubt the result of recording mostly live in makeshift spaces), enhancing the muscular rhythm section. RIYL: Stereolab, Broadcast, &c.
Spiritualized: Everything Was Beautiful
Despite its titular Vonnegut referencing connection to the previous album (…And Nothing Hurt), the more pertinent link is to an even earlier Spiritualized album, 1997’s triumphant Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space—right down to the pharmaceutical packaging concept. That’s no bad thing: Jason Spaceman’s penchant for blues and gospel inflated to Spectoriffic proportions has ebbed and flowed in quality over the past thirty-odd years, but here he nails it perfectly. Newer additions to the formula like the country-itinged “Crazy” slide right into place, and tit seems Spaceman has devoted a bit more attention to lyrics than he has in some time. As with the best Spiritualized, complete over-the-top bombast seems warmly intimate and desirable.
Spoon VS On-U Sound: Lucifer on the Moon
Though Spoon have been remarkably consistent in their carefully crafted and nuanced sound for years now, here’s a curveball I certainly didn’t see coming: a full-length dub deconstruction of this year’s excellent Lucifer on the Sofa. Reworked by legendary producer Adrian Sherwood, Lucifer on the Moon more than stands on its own—to the extent that I actually like it better than the album from which it’s derived (sorry, Spoon dudes).
Wet Leg: Wet Leg
Add my voice to the choruses of praise for these two young women from the Isle of Wight (on several of The Spy crew’s year-end lists, too). Fun, snarky, and—given fears that “Chaise Longue” was a giddy one-shot fluke—eminently replayable. I’m eager to hear what they do next.
Yard Act: The Overload
Yes, one more band operating with a “talk-sing” approach (the estate of Mark E. Smith will be delivering cease-and-desist notices any day now), Yard Act spice up the recipe by dint of an overt social observation / commentary angle. Gentrification, small town lives, the human species’ imminent demise, and other fun topics are some of the themes explored here by frontman James Smith (who occasionally sings, too, though chiefly on hooky choruses). The music isn’t the default post-post-punk variations, either, hearkening back to a ’70s art rock flexibility, with tempo changes and varied arrangements. (Note: the video below is NSFW.)
And a ringer in at lucky number thirteen…
Professor Shorthair: NOLA Breaks - The Funkilation
This is actually a compilation of work from Professor Shorthair (New Orleans aficionados will get the reference), who gently re-edits classic records by The Meters, Ernie K-Doe, Dr. John, Lee Dorsey and others with a distinct hiphop vibe. An absolute party record—not that I’ve been attending too many parties of late…
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