We’re halfway through the year and sharing our favorite albums of 2022 thus far! Here’s John O’s list of current favs, some words about each release and a playlist.
Visit the store and check ’em out on our 2022 staff picks (thus far) display!
John O’s picks and perspectives:
Are you having a hard time keeping up with music, songs, bands, musicians? I know I am. Recorded music is everywhere these days, and it’s easy to take it for granted. When I first started collecting records in the Sixties (yes, the 1960s; I had older siblings) it didn’t seem this hard, though when you look at the crate-digging compilations of private press, vanity press and one-off 45s that are unearthed and presented to modern audiences, I suspect there has always been more than meets the eye. People my age were used to three networks, four channels, AM radio and ubiquitous hits that everyone knew. It’s not just one mainstream anymore – it’s an endless array of fire hoses all spraying every direction. It’s daunting, I know.
I prefer the way things are now. I’ve always had one rule for listening: If it sounded good to me I liked it, regardless of artist or genre. I like records that have a beat, have forward propulsion, that compel me to listen. And these days, if you are open to it, it’s never been easier to sample/peruse/hear/scope/listen to music. The kids who work for us – excuse me, work with us – are a fount of knowledge from the mainstream to the underground, and I’ve been really gratified reading the mid-year lists we have published so far. They teach me so much. A lot of the stuff on their lists could conceivably be on mine.
I’m bummed I can’t get more waking hours together to listen. I’m missing out on so much. But, that’s life as an adult.
I’m grateful for the curators, the people who take their talents and knowledge to the booth, who share with their friends, go on the radio, run the little (or bigger) labels of love that share their passion with the world.
There is so much to choose from, and I’m not a big “rank it in order” guy; this ain’t sports, bro. It’s just a list of records I like. CDs are cool too, don’t get me wrong, and I stream music like all of y’all, and Internet radio is a miracle, I tell you. So:
Miranda Lambert – Palomino
So easy to dismiss this as mainstream dreck / US Weekly personality country, but you would be wrong in doing so. This is the real thing, and it gets better with every listen. It’s heartfelt, well-conceived, well-played and well-recorded. Taking several of the (also excellent) Marfa Tapes songs from their acoustic campfire settings to a full-band studio setting, Palomino is the sound of a real artist, playing real music with real feeling and skill.
Curtis Stigers – This Life
It’s the 30th anniversary of Mr. Stigers’ recording career, and instead of re-releasing the debut album (which would be nice to see on vinyl again, btw) he stood that whole trope on its head and released an album that looks forward as well as back. This is the reflection of an artist who has grown and evolved as a musician and a singer. And, he is one of the best singers going. This Life is not a gimmicky, cash-grab reworking of a young man’s songs, but a solid reflection of how to own your work, and have it represent where you are in your life.
Willi Carlisle – Peculiar, Missouri
Bold, risk-taking, fiddle and banjo honky-tonk. The guy hoots and hollers, describes the Van Life, and opens up the big tent of his heart and yours. If you like Sturgill and Childers and Carll, you will find a home here. Your heart is a big tent, too.
The French Tips – All the Rage
All the bands you might compare the Tips to don’t hold a candle to them. But like I said, this ain’t sports! The songs are great, and they rage. They are blessed with forward motion and interesting arrangements around the three-piece rock band format. You would think that is a limitation, but it is not. They deliver. Every time.
Gaby Moreno – Alegoría
Bilingual and multi-rhythmic, a fascinating amalgam of border musics that defy description, that sound forward-thinking and silky smooth. Gaby is a great singer and is surrounded by great players here. If you like the musical adventures of Los Lobos, you may find something here.
Erin Rae – Lighten Up
An incredible sound and feeling envelop you listening to this record. It’s warm and smooth, and you move into its world effortlessly. Wonderful singing and arrangements, every song contains multitudes of delight and goodness. It’s got plenty of what the kids call “vibes.”
NOT ENOUGH TIME, THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH TIME
There are always reissues to check out as well. The Jon Savage collections from Ace Records in the UK are very special to me. Very Brit-centric, compiled from 45s that he listened to during the time period starting in 1964. Earlier this year the latest edition 1977-1979 Symbols Crashing Everywhere was released on CD, and it is as great as all of the others have been. I’m familiar with this material, but I love a good compilation, and even if I know the songs, I like to have them presented to me in a new way, one of the reasons I love DJ-curated radio programs.
The Lemonheads’ It’s a Shame About Ray got a deluxe 30th anniversary reissue earlier this year, and it still satisfies me three decades later. The original album was only 30 minutes long, which is just about perfect for a pop record.
Elizabeth Cook has released many records on vinyl, but her 2007 album Balls saw its first-ever wax release this year. Time has only burnished this album’s virtues. It remains as vibrant and audacious as it was on release, and while I love all her albums, I love this one the most.
I could go on… I am looking forward to so much in the second half. The Amanda Shires record just came out, and I am getting into it. The new Nikki Lane promises to be an ass-kicker; she is reliably great. The Linda Lindas and Hurry Up LPs are ones I am looking forward to getting into more over the next few months. Not only is there a new Built to Spill record in the offing, there is also a reissue of the classic There’s Nothing Wrong With Love to look forward to (both hitting the racks in September). And, a new Molly Lewis in October. She is an incredible artist, a modern-day evocation of exotica and… whistling! Check her out if you miss Yma Sumac!
Plus there are the albums and artists I haven’t heard yet. That is the thrill, really, of discovery and questing. There are decades of recorded music to draw from that I didn’t pay enough attention to, or just plain didn’t hear because of, you know, life, and the continuing time problem, i.e. not enough hours in the day. Oh well.
See you in the aisles!