The Best Albums Of 2022, part 1

It got too long again.

Wed Jan 11 2023

Do records change the world any more? Looking at the big winners of 2022 list season I don’t see it. I don’t think it’s possible any more. We wanted access to more more more and now we have so many choices nobody can agree on anything. Nothing can be great without being confrontational; nothing can be confrontational unless half the world hates it. We’ll never all be able to like anything again, not even the PEANUTS Christmas special. Records can still change YOUR life, though, that much is certain.

We’re in a phase of culture, though, where people aren’t looking to have their lives changed, they’re looking for escape. That’s what all the marquee listy albums are about this year, middle-aged zillionaires talking about how comfortable they are with themselves and a myriad of pure nostalgia exercises from indie folk to dancepop to post-punk, everyone beaming a sidelong political glance at the haters. (Except for Bad Bunny, he’s not middle-aged nor a nostalgia act. Rock on Bad Bunny.) It’s not just mainstream music either; we’re being lulled into isolated contentment by artists on every platform.

I know I’ve fallen victim to it. Last month I put on the latest Diamanda Galás album, BROKEN GARGOYLES, on a random Monday afternoon and found that my heart could not handle it. It’s an incredible accomplishment by Galás and I should not be this fragile. Sure, she’s deliberately evoking human suffering the likes of which I cannot fathom (as usual!); it’s JUST MUSIC though, right?

Then I realized that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. I remembered that I…can’t really listen to Mount Eerie any more. I desperately want to get over this but A CROW LOOKED AT ME broke me. The same thing happened with Nick Cave’s GHOSTEEN. I love these guys so much. I keep buying their albums and not listening to them. And I’ve listened to a LOT of depressing music over the past 40-some years. Maybe I just didn’t have the life experience until recently to understand the depths of despair these albums represent, to have it reach me like that? Or maybe in the past, I was more willing to retreat into these dark spaces within myself than I am now. Maybe I’m still trying to recover from having my mind constantly raked by world events; good luck with that, right? Whatever the case, raw literal suffering seems to not be my bag, musically, these days.

As such, I think my vote into the imaginary rankings of things in the sky for album of the year would be a tie between BROKEN GARGOYLES and Bad Bunny’s UN VERANO SIN TI, the former for being so powerful as to be almost intolerable (yes I did eventually finish it and yes the experience is one I would highly recommend assuming you’ve had some experience with extremely unorthodox caustic music; also the vocals that consist of actual words are in German) and the latter for being incredibly soothing in, well, various ways both ecstatic and yearning (shout-out to Gego y Nony for being the gateway to my having any appreciation for reggaetón at all!), even though I don’t understand many of the lyrics. And because that’s part of the way Bad Bunny IS changing the world. Eventually between this guy and Juana Molina I AM going to be compelled to learn Spanish; blah blah blah hours in a day. The more I listen to UN VERANO SIN TI, the more I realize there ARE little nuggets of nostalgia in here. In spite of myself, the more I listen to it, the more I WANT to listen to it. Hell if you’re going to change the world with music you probably will have to lure in regular American schmucks. Based only on this one album and what little I’ve heard and read about the man, Bad Bunny needs to be listened to, ESPECIALLY by regular American schmucks. Co-AOTY based on PRESUMPTION of greatness, that’s right. Because clearly, I am not currently equipped to assess either of these albums critically. My hunch, however, is that they were the best albums of 2022. I’ll get back to you.

In the meantime, here are words about 25 albums from 2022 which I had a better capacity to fully appreciate, which are listed in approximate reverse order of greatness. There were ten more albums even better than these, but this blog platform won’t allow enough characters to tell you about those, so I’ll make a separate post tomorrow about the top ten. There was soooo much good music this year, I had almost 50 albums I felt compelled to include but who has time for that, yeesh. So I deleted the most mainstreamy stuff this year, stuff I loved a lot but at this point if you like Wilco you like Wilco amirite? Below are (all but ten of) the ones you absolutely need to know about.


I never met Jaimie Branch, one of the creative forces behind Anteloper (along with Jason Nazary and on this record Jeff Parker); only saw her perform once, but by then in the span of a few short years she’d already affected me profoundly. You could say this about plenty of things, but I think to myself, how could I have gotten THROUGH the pandemic without the energy of Jaimie Branch? How many times I’d be sitting there listening to “Bird Dogs Of Paradise” with tears streaming down my face, almost feeling like the human race was gonna make it. And now I’m looking through my collection, realizing I never got around to buying this second Anteloper album, what an asshole. I’ll bet ya Bandcamp gave me the breaky-heart on that one.


I could put this album on the list purely on the strength of the song “Why”. If we could just get some famous people to cover this song at their shows I wonder if it would rattle us enough as a society that we’d get off our asses. In Raygun Busch’s screams you can choose to hear either futile expulsion of rage or delusional insistence that someone in power listen, OR the potential for true inspiration to action. The trouble is, if what we’ve seen in broad daylight from our thousands of interlocking little governments the past decade or so hasn’t yet prompted a critical mass of people who are mad as hell and not going to take it any more, it’s hard to imagine what would. A noise rock band from Oklahoma City? Why not. But you can enjoy this record just for its punishing music, every bit as evocative of the pain of modern life (not to mention the enduring pain of history echoing through any place you happen to live) as Busch’s words. It’s caustic at first even for someone well-adjusted to extreme music, but it doesn’t take long for the hooks to poke through the din. And it’s not a hyper-political album; it’s more a tapestry of human suffering that reveals how our institutions have failed us all throughout our lives. No big deal.


I’m insane, so the other day I was flipping between two bad Christmas movies on cable tv: FOUR CHRISTMASES, and OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY. I had this sudden attack of shame about being so detached from mainstream culture that I was totally unaware these movies existed. Between the two of them it’s a ridiculous amount of famousness. The latter one did have some humorous bits; the former had more famous people in it but the producers’ goal seemed to be not to let any old people watching it catch more than two minutes’ worth of shuteye. It was loud and obnoxious and not funny. The big takeaway was I found myself wondering how old on average a person in this country would have to be in order to tell Vince Vaughan and Dave Matthews apart. I guess I wasn’t missing much; mainstream culture can after all suck it. In order to cleanse myself of these unholy aberrations of holiday cliché I turn to Jean Grae. If you find yourself subjected to mind-numbing holiday programming, or god forbid you can personally RELATE to any of the circumstances that Jennifer Anniston and the dudes from SWINGERS and Justine Bateman’s kid brother get themselves into in these movies, or perhaps you have different problems entirely, then this album could seriously help you.


I don’t get to deny this album a spot on a list just because I don’t have much to say about it. Masterful dynamic krautpsych grooves, all kinds of wonderful flourishes and moments of searing fire. You know what you’re in for and it doesn’t get much better than this. (Hate to say it but as much as I tend to enjoy King Gizzard & co., nothing they’re doing these days at least on record comes close to this kind of intensity, am I wrong? Not that they’re TRYING to…oh nevermind.)


Here is your entry for the pulsing/droning variety of dungeon synth (à la Ghoëst, who continue apace with a new awesome lengthy morbid track every few months or so), not necessarily as dark as it gets but definitely on the low end of the production-values scale and all the more hypnotic for it. It definitely trends toward minimalist new age/smooth-D&B territory at times, almost like a sparse Phutureprimitive only on the low-energy side. PENDA doesn’t get too weird with this release for the most part; plenty of it is truly peaceful, and “Pale Neighbour, Pale” is sublime both in its blissed-out and more urgent portions. Then there’s the eleven-minute centerpiece title track, anchored by an outlandishly gruff bass theme in its development section, truly otherworldly with the icy synths and subtle thrumming percussion as it gradually morphs between shades of vague unease. “Plague Cart Hallucinations” shows how far this genre (ds) has already come; play the song out of context for a random person and dare them to name what kind of music it is.

Glimmen, GLIMMEN

The electronic/ambient scene largely passed me by in 2022 and I nearly forgot about this sprawling, eclectic work of drone beauty. Yet another new project from the endlessly creative mind of Jason Wietlispach, Glimmen features prominent saxophone and an incredible range of bass sounds atop various beds of atmosphere—ambient, avant-garde, found-sound—all powered by insistent organic percussion as well as various digital sounds and sometimes simply by its own impenetrable density. What emerges is more often along the lines of jazz than techno, yet particularly the middle track, “Dark Lagoon”, could easily arise in the bridge between these two worlds that some are calling “nu-jazz”. Whether you’re looking for meditative moments or improvisation on the verge of chaos, GLIMMEN has something for you.


We’re in this hilarious phase of pop culture where everyone’s obsessed with spores, mycelium and all manner of fantastical properties associated with fungus. (Also tardigrades. Why are these popping up so much the past few years?) It’s a perfect time for Hideous Gomphidius to thrive. This is a dark ambient/dungeon synth project focused entirely on such things (the mushrooms, not the water bears), although one might argue that this only sets the artist apart via song titles. This third Gomphidius full-length drifts between formlessness and medicated melodicism, all steeped in a traditional, primitive ds haze. In many cases, the sounds you hear coming from the end of that tunnel, you might find yourself wanting desperately to chase after them. Only this is no open-world game. That’s a potent type of yearning unique to really good dungeon synth, I think, and if you’re more into the darker, purely atmospheric motifs you’ll also have good luck on this album. I love a pristine, polished ds sound too when it’s exceptionally rendered, but it’s even more encouraging to hear artists utilizing sonic qualities more suited to the name of the genre getting this imaginative with it.

An Abstract Illusion, WOE

I still get such a kick out of listening to WOE. The way this band cycles through styles in service of a singular guiding vision never ceases to be stunning. I’d love to get to a point where I could anticipate each change; the listening experience could be elevated to the point of an obvious antecedent like golden-age Opeth or even going back to classic ‘70s prog, building tension through both racing tempos and eerie quiet like the masters, as well as the risky move of lacing a single theme into various different motifs throughout the album. Yes there’s some cheese! Never accuse me of hating cheese, especially when it’s only during brief, dare I say poignant breathers. Before long we’re headbanging again. I don’t mean to give the impression that it’s chaotic; the album flows beautifully despite its stylistic changes. So much fun despite the obvious, y’know, despair/anger/etc.


This album absolutely flies by every time, just like time itself, increasingly as we get older. So sue me if Open Mike Eagle and I are fairly close in age and have similar considerations coursing through our heads sometimes. Serengeti says it best though, in a track called “credits interlude”: “Tripped out by the fact that twenty years ago was ‘02”. Who among us didn’t think they’d have more to show for themselves by now? All creative fields seem to be getting more cutthroat as the years go on, endeavors stalled indefinitely in bureaucratic dead links. This doesn’t stop anybody from creating, though, and Eagle turns to his Chicago past once again as the backdrop for this album. The key songs for me are “I Retired Then I Changed My Mind” and “Crenshaw And Homeland”, in which Mike wrestles mightily with his legacy in all tenses. All kinds of second-guessing everything and glancing around futilely, I can relate. But there’s also this incredible yearning for community that pulses through this album more than usual, a feeling bolstered by plentiful crew verses basically from track 5 onward. Eagle sorta gives his predecessors and influences and partners in crime all the credit as he goes along; again, I get it. And I will say that his last album, 2020’s ANIME, TRAUMA AND DIVORCE, almost unavoidably packed a bigger emotional punch; it was about as raw a record as Mike has made and A TAPE CALLED COMPONENT SYSTEM WITH THE AUTO REVERSE is more of a nostalgia party in a sense, though I’d say the throwback concept of the album is mostly surface. The songs are about now, and let’s face it, ‘90s kids are awash in nostalgia these days whether we seek it out or not. But having been through an extra traumatic pandemic, Eagle knows to hold his loved ones (for instance, Video Dave, still rift, R.A.P. Ferreira, etc.) close; that’s the takeaway we all need, to remember that community got us through so far and it must be nurtured.


For the folks who like their black metal (bm) slick and proggy this is the one. For the most part it’s not as fast-paced or heavy as peak-era Enslaved but some of these riffs approach that caliber on maybe more of a doom/sludge tip, and the whole album plays like candy especially if, say, you’ve been listening to a lot of harsh, lo-fi stuff lately. Even if you haven’t I think this is a very approachable record in all respects, if you like atmospheric synths, if you’re into Tool and that ilk and want to try something a little heavier, if by chance you’re looking for a metal album that tells a story in relatively evocative, poetic terms you might actually be able to somewhat relate to (THEY EXIST), THE KNOCKING is the complete package. I don’t know what’s up with that abrupt fade-out at the end of “The Offering” but other than that, practically a flawless album.

randal b, PARADE…

Whereas I’ve always delighted in his convulsant, almost belligerently nontraditional beats, a part of me has been waiting for randal b. (fka/aka? R. Bravery, Brando, etc.) to make a full project where you can really zone out and groove. No wheels reinvented, I just found myself putting this on over and over again all year because while it’s perfect background music in a basic sense, you’ll definitely find yourself sucked into it even if you’re trying to pay attention to something else. And he does this without sucker punches or getting wild; the brain needs pleasure too. The album reminds me a little bit of Kenny Segal’s INDOORS from last year, not quite as comfy-cozy, more scattered, more crucial bits of dialogue, but arguably randal’s most cohesive and consistently listenable collection to date.


Apologies in advance as You-Phoria Dot Com gradually transforms into a Caio Lemos fanpage. The Brazilian auteur didn’t release anything under his Kaatayra namesake this year, but he did put out a Bríi album (see below), a synthwave album (a collaborative project with Raíssa Geovanna Matos called Rasha), a debut dungeon synth album under the moniker of Bakt, AND this, a collaboration with Bruno Augusto Ribeiro. And ALL of these albums are really good. To be fair, everything Lemos makes exists in a fluid state between genres; the Bakt release often veers about as close to black metal as it can get without tumbling over, whereas POR NÓS DA VENTANIA gets lumped into the bm category almost unfairly. Sure, it boasts the fidelity of a 1980s cassette demo and the screams and some of the music are staunchly in the bm realm. There are almost as many bits that remind me of the evil deathy thrash of early Sepultura, and there are also sublimely melodic bits, brief stretches of almost everything from ultra-primitive post-hardcore to krautrock to distinctly old-school prog. Some sections flow together almost as if improvised and allowed to cohere. The delivery throughout is impassioned, the mood dark; everything else is unpredictable. My only complaint is every time “Cadência para Ingãpá” fades out I feel so angry, I need more of this part.


You go through ups and downs with any band and you don’t always know for sure why. Sylvan Esso have never released music I didn’t like but the songs on 2020’s FREE LOVE never swept me off my feet like the first two albums did. With NO RULES SANDY they busted out the broom again. It’s crazy ‘cause I remember how I actually got burnt out on the first album because it completely saturated the local airwaves and PAs and whatnot, so I’ve been sort of saving my listens to NO RULES SANDY for particular moments, forgetting that over the course of eight years my listening habits and/or the world has changed such that there’s no longer any chance of my getting sick of hearing anything. The thing is, this will be one of those bands that if I live long enough to get nostalgic for their catalog as a whole, or at least big chunks of it, I’ll be bingeing them in my 70s and 80s when I need to be reminded of some of the best times of my life and the way I felt at those times, because the sonic aesthetic of Sylvan Esso remains entirely its own thing, featuring a combination of wordplay and beats like no other artists. Eventually, most of the bands on this list will be all but forgotten because there’s just TOO MUCH, but that’s already impossible when it comes to Sylvan Esso.

Hegemone: VOYANCE

I liked the new Cult Of Luna, really I did! That drumming though, why do people think that sounds good? They’re like the Widespread Panic of post-metal. I prefer a little versatility and a little finesse in the percussion, which we definitely get on VOYANCE along with the typical post-metal plodding and such. I also appreciate Jakub Witkowski’s different vocal approaches (although CoL probably top Hegemone in this category, THIS TIME), variations on a roar sometimes layered for full effect. The fast tremelo and gargantuan production mode cause the guitars to merge into a harrowing sonic whine during some of the album’s most intense moments, quite intoxicating. These are the parts where you remember ‘oh yeah they’re kind of still a black metal band’. For me it’s the middle track, “Sermon”, that brings together all this band’s strengths, where the roaring sludge parts are as fierce as the breakneck throttling and you even get a chilling ambient outro. Glad I didn’t give up on this one after my first spin; it was a real grower.

Empyrean Frost, DREAMWEAVER

Last year I did a separate “dungeon synth corner”; this year I decided to stop marginalizing it. On one hand it’s kind of a pretentious move; there’s almost no chance at this stage of dungeon synth taking album of the year honors. However, since I still don’t see any significant coverage of the genre on any websites I ever check except Invisible Oranges (, my crusade continues. Much respect to Jonathan Carbon, who wrote the piece in the link above; he is wayyy more of an expert on this genre than me and does it great justice with his words, but his best of 2022 list (likewise for that matter the RYM list: makes me wonder if there’s already an element of purism in the ds world, because there’s a universe of experimental music in this genre that doesn’t necessarily hew to the fantasy/sci-fi/video game music template. DREAMWEAVER was one of the more straightforward entries I bought in 2022. It’s fairly traditional, medieval-sounding and atmospheric, but does drift off into some crazy cosmic themes, and it also has some striking piano interludes (“Emeraldor” in particular). The thing is, I came to this genre through the back door; it existed prior to being co-opted by black metal artists and I wonder if there’s any bitterness there amongst, like, ‘old-school ds fans’. I just can’t bring myself to dive into online communities like that any more, that was thankfully just a fad in my case. The thing is, there’s this song on DREAMWEAVER called “Invading Castle Eternia”, which I dunno, has to be a MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE reference right? And yeah, this music sounds like fantasy video game music, cinematic and wide-ranging compared to any game I’ve ever played; admittedly, it has been many years. But the urgency in this composition, the transitions, the blending of organic and digital sounds, I SWEAR I hear an ELP tease during the climactic build! This is just superb music and I spit at any would-be ds gatekeepers for ignoring it.


Did you know nostalgia was originally a disease? I heard about it on NPR, mind blown, my whole generation should be on disability in that case. This affliction is the only reason I can come up with for why I would feel soothed by the automated voice narrating this album. Only the voice—that of Kendal Rae—sounds Australian, and nostalgia is supposed to be focused on the notion of ‘home’. What if all the telephone line-hold voices, slowly being phased out in favor of online support bots, have come to symbolize a single quaint embodiment of the vanishing idea of even prefabricated ‘concern’ for a customer’s feelings? I’d like to mention that at no point does she say “Your call is important to us”; I feel like that’s intentional somehow. There are also songs on the album. Glorious, heartfelt, joyous and sorrowful songs, danceable songs, chillable songs. Including the title track, a song that’s foreshadowed by an earlier track, “Your Automated Accomplice”. This latter track is an analogue to Radiohead’s “Fitter Happier”, only it’s the flip side of that coin. There’s no scorn; although you might argue that the sense of comfort is a false one, you…COULD just take it literally if you wanted. In fact, maybe the track is more akin to “Optimistic”; it may all be hopeless, but the best you can IS good enough. Rae’s execution of all of these interludes is remarkable, and the songs, though deliberately derivative of old songs, are simply wonderful. None of them comes close to overstaying its welcome, and that includes the 30-minute “Telesthesia Mix”, a single track of (almost) the entire album set in true telephonic audio complete with mid-song interruptions by Rae. I confess that my wife disagrees; she cannot handle it, and that seems like the logical human response. What is my problem, do I LIKE being on hold?? I’m unable to turn it off once it starts; it has some power over me. Maybe in a society suffocating in cloying, capitalistic nostalgia, this earnest, self-effacing kind is my only escape.


Rather than two 28-minute songs like last year, Bríi offered up a single 36:36 track for 2022. No time to waste on a long, drawn-out intro, this one gets right down to business, although the black-metal barrage is rather restrained, buffeted by the insistent drums and cavernous screeches and not guitar. Instead it’s keyboards providing the melodies, a faux-harpsichord and various icy synths leading the way until the mellow breakdown about four and a half minutes in. We do hear some subdued guitar but it will never come to dominate the music, a technique not unique to Bríi but it still might take you a few listens before your brain stops processing it as though something’s missing. Although by the end of the first listen you’ll likely be amazed at how much damage a piano can do when accompanied by such caustic vocal and percussive mayhem. Everybody’s trying to add more and more shit INTO black metal; here’s to REMOVING some shit and keeping it as intense as ever.


The burden of devoting one’s life to writing about music is that it becomes increasingly difficult to find things that don’t immediately remind you of other things. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about SYKE JAZZ is that I’m only reminded of actual discernible musical instruments. What precisely is making the sounds at any given moment, you’d have to ask them. Oo that’s some type of drum right there, I’d almost swear to it. Pretty sure I hear a bass clarinet at times. I hate to make this reference for fear of scaring people off but there’s a band called Phish who when they’re at their best occasionally make music like this for a few minutes at a time as well. Maybe like me, Boo Hiss (aka Todd Drootin) was raised on Phish and yearns for the open waters of unrestrained psychedelia, only unlike me he knows how to make music too. I’m also reminded at times of various points along Animal Collective’s career; SYKE JAZZ fuses the unhinged, happened-upon infectiousness of old AnCo with the dense, synthesized ethos of the modern band, only without any of those actual pop songs getting in the way. This is wordless and often seemingly formless music that never loses its way.


Admittedly I haven’t spent a ton of time yet with the ethereal (at times bordering on—ew—“transcendent”) ENDLHËDËHAJ QÁSHMËNA ËLH VIM INNIVTE, Trhä’s fourth full-length of 2022 (seriously someone prove to me it’s not a Christmas album), but I doubt it’s going to overtake VAT GËLÉNVA!!! in my estimation. His second release of the year, a single-track 48-minute folkier release with a title that’s way too long to paste here, struck me as surprisingly traditional overall but not without its departures into pure fantasy RPG interludes with loopy twin-guitar faerie melodies. It has its gorgeous parts and its ferocious parts and its weird parts and its parts that make me want to strangle someone. Plenty triumphant as a piece of music in the long run. And let’s not forget about the 44-minute single-track one with the EVEN LONGER TITLE that came out in March. None of these evokes for me anywhere near the emotion of this one we’re ostensibly discussing here, VAT GËLÉNVA!!!. It is merciless from the get-go, showcasing a handful of what you might call guilty-pleasure riffs when you put them into a belligerently lo-fi black metal context like this. As such, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether the drumming is actually any good this time around; the beat roils in and out of the “mix” like flippers and teeth in a sharknado, leaving you with only screeched vocals, visceral trebly guitars and the occasional incursion of bargain-basement synth tones that never fail to enhance the deathly atmosphere. Except of course at times like the last couple minutes of “grã sôhhlen bem rhôn trhãthàs” when they shift into a bizarre major-key climax that if you squint your ears sounds a bit like a tenth-generation cassette dub of an REO Speedwagon record. Then a carnival theme ensues, readying you for another beastly onslaught. And there’s also “sëtrharhanlha”, which I might call a true black metal ballad. Of course I have no clue, nor does anyone except Thét Älëf, what any of these songs are actually about (nor how to even pronounce the NAME OF THE BAND), but this one feels like absolute despair over the death of a loved one to me. There are quiet moments that sound like the listless flailing of a person out of their mind with grief, and the pronounced synths that enter with a couple minutes left of the song might for all I know have been lifted from some obscure Belinda Carlisle b-side. Except, to reiterate, NOTHING is polished. Nothing is precise. I have felt out of touch with what people refer to as punk rock for over two decades now because it all fails so completely to spit in the face of whatever you want to call The Establishment. (OF COURSE there are exceptions.) The strict conformity of punk all the way down to the literal anarchists, it’s no wonder they can’t recognize it in their own music. Trhä is far too fringe to even be able to piss on mainstream culture; instead they co-opt elements of it and reveal them as the virtually unlistenable drivel they are, thereby also pissing on the expectations of even the most open-minded edges of the black metal community—in both directions at once, when you think about it. At the same time, their reputation only grows with each release. What’s a guy gotta do to get hated these days.

Kendraplex, TWO RIVERS

It can be tough at first as a musical chameleon, building a reputation in a particular scene or genre. Still, the idea of resisting any sort of pigeonholing for as long as possible is a valid artistic statement in its own right, and it’s moot when the artist’s output is as consistently fresh as Kendraplex’s (fka Kendra Amalie). This two-track, 43-minute album is nothing like her previous full-length, 2019’s INTUITION, a guitar/vocal-based folk-psych record that should be heard by everyone. TWO RIVERS is for more specialized tastes, certainly, an experimental mixture of styles that finds grooves and noise and ambient bliss in equal measures, always flowing in an emotional contour that makes sense, at least to me. It also makes sense in the context of the various tracks she’s been putting up on her soundcloud the past couple years, some of which are equally amazing, and although her focus is always shifting (there’s the new-ish organic-improvisation collective known as Cosmic Impact Channel, for instance), it still never fails to lead in musically interesting directions. TWO RIVERS is really only a taste of the great Kendraplex material in this vein that exists; my hunch is that her next release will be something that sounds completely different but we can always hope for another volume! Synths, guitars, voice, field recordings, autoharp, etc. fuel the expansive journey that stretches from relatively eclectic improvisation to meditative drone; in either case you’re liable to be lifted right out of your worldly concerns for a minute.

Petrale, VRH

Unlike a lot of similarly twisted black metal solo projects, Petrale’s VRH is not dauntingly lo-fi; you’ll be able to discern all of the instruments and even the lyrics (although some are in Croation). It won’t make the music more PLEASANT however; while not on the level of Portal or Blut Aus Nord, Petrale isn’t afraid to take things into discordant, avant-garde territory, nor does he shy away from sudden stoppages in the middle of songs or abrupt tempo and dynamic shifts. These are ambitious arrangements and nothing is half-assed; the churning in your gut as you listen is 100% intentional. There’s plenty of straightforward grind and crunch as well, all the trappings of the modern kitchen-sink metal album, and again, the production makes me daydream about what some of my other faves would sound like if given this kind of treatment. One does have to EXECUTE, of course, and Petrale is the complete package. The album first comes to a head in “Križ mađija”; the sensation is being dragged through snow and gravel behind something going way too fast. A quick Dino Dvornik cover and then back into the meatgrinder with “Šupjine se isavaju”. The album is arguably a little slow to get going but by this point it is positively roaring and doesn’t really let up, a blood-curdling good time.


In the end it was “Lifted”, after I don’t know how many times hearing it. One annoying problem with being a radio DJ is that sometimes you get hung up on screening records for swear words and forgetting to LISTEN, and then you end up feeling like you’ve finished with the album when you know which tracks you want to play on the air. I only realized it while writing this piece, when it dawned on me that this was probably my first deep listen since right when it came out. How could this song “Lifted” have passed me by? It made “Some Days”, the album closer, hit way differently in its wake this time. These two songs are an album’s worth of drama and redemption and pain in nine minutes. I’d been hung up on “Smart Ass” and what I’d thought of as the centerpiece, “ANXIOUS EATER”, and aside from the first and last track the rest of the album had receded into the background. I’m realizing now that that’s because PLEASE HAVE A SEAT leans hard into eclecticism musically while NNAMDÏ’s singing is mostly so soothing. It’s an anti-pop approach, requiring effort; there are hooks galore in the twists and turns and in the quietude, and I’d been slacking because truthfully everything NNAMDÏ has put out thus far I’ve loved so it was like ‘yeah of course it’s great, fifteen more albums just came out’. And holy crap it’s just been constant distractions the past year, I know I’m not the only one. To think of all the other albums I didn’t give enough of a chance eh.


Country album of the year? I kid! I suck at listening to country albums, I’m not equipped for such proclamations. Rat Bath are more punk than most of what you’d call country but they’re also more country than, say, Wilco ever was. Of course my love of Hank Williams goes back to the womb, and his topics aside from religion were love and pain and having a rip-snortin’ good time. RAT FROM HELL has all of that and more; it’s basically a mini-opera, ten songs, 25 minutes, and every time it finishes you have to stop your head from spinning. I’m trying to think of a true successor to The Who’s “A Quick One, While He’s Away”; maybe this is it. I seriously think Pete Townshend needs to hear this album. Someone make that happen. In fact I think everyone should hear it.

Wormrot, HISS

This one has had its praises sung so much I almost didn’t include it but then I remembered that grindcore isn’t exactly mainstream and HISS rips so damn hard it would be wrong not to mention it. So on the off chance that you like metal and haven’t given this a listen, you must do so meow. Grindcore isn’t one of the genres I’m ‘on top of’ per se; there was a time when I listened to it more and here’s another instance where I think about what ‘grindcore’ has meant over the years and marvel that nowadays it’s allowed to mean THIS. The traditional tempos and cadences are there in fits and spurts, the tones as well oftentimes, the vocals you bet. There’s just so much more going on, so much richer a tapestry of composition and instrumentation than I’m used to in this style. Could there be hundreds of bands out there doing stuff just like this? For all I know! I’m sure grateful to the internet for bringing this one to my attention.

the rutabega, LEADING UP TO

There’s a duality to being determined to thrive through pain—GETTING through versus being bolstered by the pain itself. Sometimes when you’re going through deep pain you can begin to question where the line is, artists more than most. There’s no stopping it, though; you get through, and you thrive in whatever ways are within your control. So you can feel a lot of pain coursing through LEADING UP TO, and at least as much love. When was the last time a rock record GUSHED love like this? The choruses of “gone” alone are waterfalls of communal therapy; the song should be sung in churches around the world. It’s not generally a bombastic album; I can’t help thinking of a much scrappier and entirely un-detached Death Cab For Cutie at times, like what I initially thought Death Cab WAS until it dawned on me. The rutabega is a summer rainstorm of empathy, occasionally a bulldozer of empathy; either way, what are you gonna do but let it roll over you. Perhaps the best thing I can say about LEADING UP TO is that it comes really close to capturing the raging joy of a rutabega live show. Now when I ponder the next one of THOSE I get to see, with THESE songs, hoo boy.

(Thanks for reading; the top ten drops tomorrow…)

Cal Roach

Cal Roach is a word whore currently being pimped sporadically by Milwaukee Record and the Journal Sentinel, and giving it away for nothing right here at He also co-hosts the Local/Live program on 91.7 WMSE FM every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and spouts nonsense on twitter as @roachcraft.

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