Another year coming to an end means a few things but most importantly it means it’s time to take stock of the year that was. And the only way to take stock is in list form. Rank ’em if you must but if there’s not a list involved, it doesn’t count. Those are the rules.
When it comes to the year in music, 2022 brought out the heavy hitters. Beyonce and Taylor Swift both released monster albums as did Kendrick Lamar. The Red Hot Chili Peppers returned, Spoon continued to do Spoon things (i.e. release solid, strong albums,) and Black Thought of The Roots may or may not have gotten sick of waiting for his bandmates to record anything and released a banger in Cheat Codes, a project with producer Danger Mouse.
Now when it comes to looking at the “best” songs of the year, I go in a slightly different direction. I like to single out the songs that grabbed my attention, that made me stop dead in my tracks, turn the volume up, and ignore everything thing else in this godforsaken world until the tune was over. These are Hey-Oh! songs, bud. You heard ’em and in one way or another, let out a good ol’ Hey Oh!.
Since 2013, I have assembled my year-end list based on this idea that some songs are Hey-Oh! songs and as such, my lists are generally comprised of songs I think best fit the mold.
What exactly is a Hey-Oh! song? I’m so happy you asked.
It’s a song that when it came on incited an unsolicited, deep from the belly & soul Ron Burgandy quality “Hey-Oh!”– as in, “Hey-oh! That’s a damn good song.” You might not have said it out loud, but you definitely thought it. You turned the volume up, you danced, you pressed repeat, and yelled to no one in particular: DJ! ONE MORE TIME!
The “hey-ohs” can be enthusiastic and full of life or they can be more restrained, complete with more stoic appreciation. Ultimately, it’s a song that stops you in your tracks one way or the other when it comes on.
In 2021, the songs that made the list were by artists such as Silk Sonic, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Bartees Strange, Foo Fighters, The War On Drugs, Freddie Gibbs, St. Vincent, Kacey Musgraves, and Olivia Rodrigo among others. If you’re so inclined, you can check out all the songs that have made the list each year here.
So, in 2022, 40 songs made the list, although a few more could have slid in there if I had elected to go past forty. Don’t go past forty though. Much like 2am, very little good happens after 40.
We have some of the usual suspects on the list but there are also some new kids in school. Overall, not a bad year. Not bad at all.
The Return Of The Red Hot Chili Peppers
In late 2019, before everything got weird, it was announced that two-time Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante was rejoining the band. For long-time fans, this was exciting news. Over the course of their shockingly super-long career, the band has arguably been at their best when Frusciante is involved. With all due respect to the other guitarists who have spent time as a Chili Pepper, Frusciante just makes more sense than anyone else. His guitar pairs perfectly with Flea’s bass, his vocals provide a solid backdrop to those of Anthony Kiedis’ and his songwriting and penchant for taking chances bring out the best in the band.
So it then shouldn’t have been a huge surprise that the band’s first album with Frusciante back in the mix was great, but it was because the past couple of albums without Frusciante had been decidedly not great and at best, were pretty good. Unlimited Love was solid from start to finish and despite the weird hiccup of the first single, “Black Summer,” it ended up being one of the best albums of the year.
I wasn’t bowled over by “Black Summer” and probably like a lot of people, was confused by Kiedis’ accent. What really won me over was “These Are The Ways,” a song that starts quietly before erupting into the kind of rock music the band has perfected. A great Chili Peppers’ song is pure chaos and seems to go in several directions at once and “These Are The Ways” is no exception. I hope this third run with Frusciante involved lasts for a while because again, the Chili Peppers truly are significantly better when he’s involved. If he leaves again, there’d be no shame in the rest of the band leaving with him.
Allergies…But Like, The Good Kind
The Allergies are a couple of DJs (DJ Moneyshot and Rackabeat) from England who throughout this year seemed to keep dropping songs that would go on to become some of my favorites of the year. They were certainly the ones I listened to the most. The duo has been around for a few years but it wasn’t until they teamed up with incomparable Lyrics Born did they pop onto my radar. It was all sunshine and rainbows after that.
And beats. Lots and lots of funky beats.
Much like when Lyrics Born teamed up with Galactic, his partnership with The Allergies made almost too much damn sense. The wild beats, horns, upbeat vibe, and generally moose-on-the-loose feel of the tune screams vintage LB. It’s fun music, plain and simple. I’d inject it in my veins if I could. Market it as a cure to what ails ya, whether it’s the Sunday Scaries, Mondays, the 2 o’clock feeling, or general malaise.
It’s worth noting that the Allergies had another tune that just missed the list.
Again, market this as a drink that makes your life full of sunshine and you got yourself a hell of a product. If nothing else, 2022 was the year I discovered The Allergies, meaning that whatever else happened, this year is going down as a win.
Damn You, Harry Styles, And Your Endlessly Catchy Songs
There was a stretch there where it seemed as if every single time I was in the car with my seven-year-old daughter, a Harry Styles song would come on the radio. It was funny but also kind of weird but in the larger sense, indicative of the firm grasp Styles had on pop music this year thanks in large part to his 2022 album Harry’s House.
Now, for the most part, I was cool with any of the songs the radio would play because they’re all a good time but “Late Night Talking” was in a league of its own. It’s one of those songs where I can’t get it out of my head for the rest of the day AND THAT’S OKAY.
Black Thought Found A New Best Friend
Black Thought, the iconic lyricist and vocalist of The Legendary Roots Crew has long since established himself as one of the best emcee’s in the game. Not even a few years spent yukking it up on late-night television can take that away.
However, legacies are great and all but they can be dicey when it comes to a living legend. At some point, you want to get back out there and remind the people why you garnered such a dynastic legacy in the first place and even though that might not have been his intention, it’s exactly what Thought did this year, releasing a tight, fierce and captivating solo album, Cheat Codes. Thought teamed up with Danger Mouse on the project and the return to hip-hop did the producer good. His production is fantastic, beautiful in its overall simplicity as he’s more than happy to let Thought and the guests that came to hang out and drop bars steal the show.
Will The Roots ever release an album again? I don’t know. I think only Questlove knows.
But if they don’t, a world where Black Thought drops fire solo albums like Cheat Codes is still a pretty good one to live in.
Music Phish Twitter Talked About When Phish Wasn’t On Tour
Phish Twitter is generally a fun place. It’s full of interesting discussions, and nuggets of information, and when the band is touring, real-time chitter chatter about setlists. Again, it’s good fun and a nice way to connect with some quality like-minded individuals.
Now, when Phish isn’t on tour or hasn’t made any news as of late, Phish Twitter tends to turn its lonely eyes elsewhere, typically using the opportunity to prop up bands that are not Phish. The results are mixed because facts are facts, and a lot of jam bands aren’t all that good. But to each their own!
In 2022, the majority of those eyes were gazing longingly at two bands: Goose and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.
Goose came out of the pandemic with some serious Northeasterly winds to the back and grew in strength as the year went on. They released a great studio album (Dripfield,) toured relentlessly, and headed into the end of the year touring with Trey Anastasio Band in what could have been dubbed the Mutual Admiration Tour. I was hesitant to fully embrace Goose for two reasons. One, their name is ridiculous and two, an onslaught of gushing and hype tends to turn me in the opposite direction. But I eventually came around and you know, I’m pretty honking happy I did.
Speaking of ridiculous band names, King Gizzard seemed to release a new album every single week once summer ended. Just when you got done listening to one, another was released. They actually might have just released another one while I was writing this. Those sneaky Aussie bastards!
In a situation like the King Gizz one, sometimes you need help sorting through the barrage of music. Thankfully I stumbled upon the band’s performance of their weird, afrobeat, indie rock tune “Ice V” off their album Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms And Lava. Whereas Goose is pretty easily accessible, King Gizzard takes a little more work. And because of how they seem to jump from genre to genre so frequently, both their music and songs aren’t for everyone. Hell, parts of their songs might not be for everyone. You should treat King Gizzard like a choose-your-own-adventure book and chart your own path through their discography.
But whatever you choose to do, take “Ice V” with you.
The Sounds Of Summer, Babe
Summer isn’t a season, kid. Summer is an effin’ state of mind. I love summer, I love summer beers and I love summer music. Unfortunately, summer weather and summer beers ghost us once fall hits but summer music can’t stop, won’t stop. 2022 provided us with some great sounds of the summer that you could take with you all year long.
Jack Johnson, a noted purveyor of the sounds of summer, released Meet the Moonlight this year. It was his first new album since 2017 and hey, it sounds like Jack Johnson. Perfect! Let’s be honest, friends, at this point you’re mind is already made up about Johnson and his music. You’re either still with it, you’re out or you were never in. Not much is changing at this point and that’s fine. Jack Johnson plays Jack Johnson songs. If you want to be challenged by an ever-changing shift in musical styles and genre allegiances, listen to King Gizzard.
Mihali Savoulidis, the lead singer of Twiddle, released his second solo album this year and among other things, Effection features “Open House,” a wonderful little tune that sounds like 78 degrees, flip flops, and sand between your toes. The song also features Dispatch Chadwick Stokes of Dispatch on vocals because we also live in a world where Dispatch is back in our lives and that’s pretty sweet.
I’m not sure I would designate the music of The California Honeydrops as just summer music, but they certainly are a card-carrying member of that genre. Yet they also dabble in overall music I could best describe as “Chill AF.” The band’s music is the equivalent of comfort food or your favorite hoodie. It just feels good. In 2022, they released Soft Spot, which you definitely dive into as soon as the holidays are over and no one is forcing you to listen to Christmas music anymore. Soft Spot might just save you from totally succumbing to the dreaded winter doldrums. Not bad. Not bad at all.
You know, like 2022. A year that wasn’t bad, not bad at all.
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