Across the Margin commences its rollout of the Top 50 Albums of 2022 with albums 50 — 26…
Once again, we are thrilled to share with you, our readers who we are forever grateful for, the music that ruled our world this year. As is always the case when we annually celebrate our Top 50 Albums at Across the Margin, what we are proud to present here is simply the albums we are most thankful for in any given year (not particularly “the best”). Those which received the greatest play, moved us with the deepest emotion, and settled most soundly in our souls. So, without further delay, let’s step in and drop the needle…
50. Christian Lee Hutson — Quitters
Los Angeles singer-songwriter Christian Lee Hutson’s latest album, Quitters, is produced by Phoebe Bridgers and her Better Oblivion Community Center bandmate Conor Oberst. Bridges can be found adding backing vocals to “Rubbernecker,” an alluring, sentimental song which finds Hutson singing of heartache and loss and the will to move on: “I am gonna be okay someday / With or without you.” Rife with vivid imagery (I’m a self esteem vending machine / A doctor’s office magazine / A funhouse at the county fair / A staircase to nowhere) and poetic lyricism, “Rubberneckers” exemplified just how talented a song composer Hutson persists as, one to certainly keep an eye on. Unsurprisingly, this is only one of the captivating offerings on Quitters, an album chock full of dreamy, thought provoking ditties.
49. Molly Tuttle — Crooked Rain
Molly Tuttle is a California native, but one thing that is emphatically clear on her third album, Crooked Rain, is that her heart and soul are bound to the rolling hills of Appalachia, the birthplace of bluegrass. The talented songstress, we learn in the album’s closer, “Grass Valley,” fell in love with bluegrass when her father took her to a Father’s Day bluegrass festival in Grass Valley, California when she was ten years old. “It was my first time going to a music festival and the songs that I heard on stage and jammed in the campground stuck with me for years to come,” she explains. This enduring love of bluegrass shines brightly throughout all of Crooked Rain, an album that also features the great Gillian Welch and another one of bluegrass’s young phenoms, Billy Strings.
48. Revelators Sound System — Revelators
“You had me at ‘A new instrumental project from Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor and bassists / producer Cameron Ralston.’” This is what we found ourselves uttering upon the news that a few of our favorite folk / rock artists were venturing into uncharted territory. It didn’t hurt that they were releasing this album on the record label founded by Justin Vernon and Aaron & Bryce Dessner, 37d03d. Revelators journey far out there, with cosmic, jazz grooves and atmospheric palettes that invoke Sun Ra, Phaorahe Sanders, and even Miles Davis. Strong words, we know, but we couldn’t be more impressed by this bold musical risk from Taylor and Ralston and hope to hear more from this ambient-jazz project.
47. Sam Cohen — Slow Fawn
Sam Cohen, it can be easily argued, is one of the most impressive and prolific producers in the music business. The Brooklyn-based vocalist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, artist, and producer (and also founding member of the psychedelic rock and pop band Apollo Sunshine) has been the secret weapon on albums by Kevin Morby, Curtis Harding, and Norah Jones, to name just a few. While skilled in helping to bring other’s projects to life, Cohen’s solo albums are also terrific, and that includes his latest offering Slow Fawn, an album that is, interestingly enough, about the limitation of words. “I don’t have a lot to say verbally about these last couple of years. Everything was chaos. It didn’t need pointing out. Whereas music can transmit joy and healing, those words themselves can sound hokey, or just sort of evaporate,” Cohen discloses. When words are employed on Slow Fawn, Cohen makes them count, but it is the truly unique and intricate soundscapes — crafted with the likes of Cochemea, Stuart Bogie, Dustrider, Photay, and Saundra Williams — that make this album a must-listen.
46. Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart
Vince Staples is proving to be one of the most prolific rappers in all of hip-hop. Just a year after the release of his fourth album, Vince Staples, the Compton, California emcee dropped Ramona Park Broke My Heart on the world,encompassing a sprawling sixteen track album featuring assists by Lil Baby, Ty Dolla $ign and Mustard with production by Kenny Beats, Cardo, and DJ Dahli. Ramona Park persists as a nod to, and examination of, the place Staples calls home. As he puts it, “I have been exploring the utility of home, security, comfort, meaning. The answer. The excuse. To outgrow is to love blindly no longer. Ramona Park Broke My Heart is the story of that growth.” The first single from the album “Magic,” exhibits Vince’s deft storytelling ability where he paints a picture of what it was like growing up: “Crip and blood shit / That’s the only thing I ever been in love with / So I hope you know we never goin’ public / Hands full so I can’t hold grudges, nah / I be thuggin’, jumpin’ out the backseat bustin’.”
45. Freddie Gibbs — $oul $old $eparately
Gary Indiana’s own Freddie Gibbs is, at this point, as bonafide in hip-hop as an artist can be. The bombastic gangster rapper has a bevy of albums that are considered by ardent hip-hop fans as modern day classics (particularly those produced by Madlib). His first solo outing since 2018’s hard-hitting Freddie features guest appearances from Anderson .Paak, DJ Paul, Moneybagg Yo, Musiq Soulchild, Offset, Kelly Price, Pusha T, Raekwon, Rick Ross, and Scarface. Now that Gibbs is indeed bonafide in the game, $oul $old $eparately finds the gifted emcee exploring what it means to be successful. Gibbs is at the top of his game and because of that $oul $old $eparately persists as a celebration, he is riding high and a comedown isn’t taking place anytime soon. Or as Gibbs puts it on the superb track “Lobster Omelette,”: “You could take away this rap shit today, throw the whole shit away, and I’ma still get rich.”
44. Destroyer — Labyrinthitis
Destroyer, the Canadian indie-rock band from Vancouver fronted by founding member Dan Bejar, released their thirteenth album this year, Labyrinthitis. This superb new offering is alive yet with all the fixings that make Destroyer so special where warm, pulsating new-wave grooves are paired perfectly with Bejar’s sardonic lyricism. Yet, true to form from the always adventurous veterans, Labyrinthitis, yet again ventures into unique territory. Take the lead single “Tintoretto, It’s for You“ for example, a song that is almost menacing in its feel, and encroaching in its poetic stylings, before the beat drops that is. It’s a song that is equally ambitious, beguiling, and wholly captivating. A persistently fascinating project, which commenced as a solo home-recording project in the early to mid-nineties, Destroyer, even this late in their career, have found imaginative ways to sound fresh and distinct, and, as always, penetrating.
43. Cate Le Bon — Pompeii
In each ensuing album, we fall deeper and deeper for the musical stylings of Welch singer-songwriter and producer Cate Le Bon. Her sixth album, Pompeii, assuredly — as the title implies — nods to our current moment, living in the times of a global pandemic almost comically coupled with a catastrophic climate emergency. Yet a potential apocalypse is far from the only theme Le Bon explores with her captivating lyricism, as love, religion, and the nature of existence is considered wholly. There is a sonic minimalism found throughout Pompeii which is poignant and bellies the profound lyricism that pacifies yet also arrests. But this stunner of an album also swells with might at times, showcasing the brand of 80s synth-pop and brass-infused ballads that make Le Bon’s music oh-so-special.
42. Oneida — Success
The veteran Brooklyn, New York rock outfit known as Oneida have released their most accessible album to date, Success. On their first album since 2018’s Romance (this is their longest gap between albums), conventional — yet provocative and refreshing — guitar riffs drive the album and returned a band that has become an admired Brooklyn institution back to their roots. As Oneida puts it: “Sometimes even the longest journey ends close to where you started. Previously, Oneida pushed further into abstract sounds, recording compositions that couldn’t have been more different than the hammering anthems of their past. They return with Success, their most guitar-centric, rock album in decades.”
41. Spiritualized — Everything Was Beautiful
The legendary English rock band Spiritualized latest album, Everything Was Beautiful, is the companion album to its predecessor, the brilliant and beautiful And Nothing Hurt, as both albums are birthed from the same demo sessions. What we fortunate fans have been gifted with is another heady dose of lush and soaring soundscapes that are breathtaking in their scope and splendor.. It must be noted that Spiritualized lead vocalist (and sole permanent member), Jason Pierce, played sixteen different instruments across the album, exemplifying his awe-inspiring talents.
40. Aldous Harding — Warm Chris
It’s uncanny to behold Aldous Harding’s Warm Chris. A strange and dynamic piece of art, the New Zealand folk singer’s latest is characterized by a smattering of sparse, airy piano and guitar instrumentations where Harding’s voice fluctuates brilliantly with emotional accents. Upon peculiar, captivating soundscapes, Harding’s voice transforms from song to song, offering charming musical surprises in each ensuing track. If pressed to describe Harding’s fourth album, produced by long-time PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish in one word, we could answer without skipping one beat: magical.
39. The Bogie Band featuring Joe Russo — The Prophets in the City
Multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and music producer Stuart Bogie’s latest project finds him teaming with drummer extraordinaire Joe Russo to bring to life an album that is adventurous and fantastically boisterous. The Prophets in the City features a supporting cast of musicians whose resumes run through some of New York City’s most beloved bands including Antibalas, The Dap-Kings, Budos Band, St. Vincent, and David Byrne’s American Utopia. The resulting efforts on this debut album are riotous and jubilant, pushing the boundaries of instrumental music. “The music we’ve created here revels in the human mysteries that unfold in New York City, basking in its connections, ironies, and myths,” explains Bogie. “Through observing its humanity, we hope to invoke the underlying world of the spirits.”
Essential Tracks: “The Prophets in The City (Arrival, Balance, Discipline, Joy),” “The Struggle.”
38. Leikeli47 — Shape Up
The most cranking song on this year’s Top 50 list is undoubtedly Leikeli47’s “Chitty Bang,” the lead off song on her excellent new album Shape Up. The anonymous, persistently masked, Brooklyn rapper’s third album is raw and energetic and once again named after Black beauty treatments as was 2017’s Wash & Set, and 2018’s Acrylic. “Chitty Bang,” while a fun party/club banger, also highlights the vast musical influences that makes Leikeli47 such a compelling artist, where house and dub inflections are as present as old school-boom bap.
37. Spoon — Lucifer on the Sofa
Spoon continues to be one of the most consistent acts in all of rock, in their inspired live performances as well as their album output. The Britt Daniel fronted band released their tenth album this year, Lucifer on the Sofa, and it might be their most pure offering of rock and roll yet. Or as Daniel puts it, “the sound of classic rock as written by a guy who never did get Eric Clapton.” The third single released entitled “Wild” is a perfect example of this, a track which inspired an excellent Western-theme music video that can, and should be, seen here!
36. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava
The Australian horde of musical phenoms who go by the moniker King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard are at it again, releasing outstanding albums at a jaw-droppingly prolific rate. One of our favorites of the five (yup, five) released in 2022 has the unique, yet appropriate, title of Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava. The album is described by the band as “built around the 7 Greek modes,” “collaborative,” and “jammy,” and was reportedly recorded over the space of a week, with the six band members improvising in a different musical key and tempo each day. We remain in awe of not just this band’s quantity of output, but of the quality of each. Not sure what is in the water down under, but we’d like to request a sip.
35. Dehd — Blue Skies
The Chicgo indie rock trio that are Dehd craft songs that are airy, pulsating, and entirely catchy. In the follow up to 2020’s excellent Flower of Devotion, their latest offering, Blue Skies, Dehd heighten their driving dreampop with the addition of Grammy winning mixing engineer, Craig Silvey (The Rolling Stones, The National, Arcade Fire), and mastering engineer, Heba Kadry (Slowdive, Bjork, Cate Le Bon). According to the band, they “booked the same studio where they recorded Flower of Devotion but tripled their stay, giving themselves time to play with arrangements and delight in a wonderland of drum machines and synthesizers. While continuing to write and record every part of the album themselves.” What came of that extra time and aspiration is an album that one can throw on and just feel good listening to, and what’s better than that?
34. Goose — Dripfield
Widely considered the premiere new jamband on the scene, the Connecticut-borne quintet Goose is the toast of the improvisational music scene. Yet, we find this view a touch narrow, as we find Goose to be more Vampire Weekend than String Cheese Incident. As much indie as jam. Dripfield is easily their most focused studio effort yet, where lead guitarists and vocalists Rick Mitarotonda’s easily-digestible lyrics soar over the band’s dynamic, buoyant soundscapes. If not your thing, we very much urge you to look past that jamband label and give this exciting band a chance. But it is also worth noting that they do jam with fervor live, so catching a show is a must.
33. Black Country, New Road — Ants From Up There
Black Country, New Road’s sophomore album, Ants From Up There, was recorded at Chale Abbey Studios, Isle Of Wight with the band’s long-term live engineer Sergio Maschetzko to tremendous results. The swelling soundscapes found on the album, which build slowly and patiently, ignite with swirling aggression time and again. Take the excellent “Concorde” for instance, which erupts enthusiastically in its concluding moment in the way Black Country, New Road are only capable of, where bandmembers Lewis Evans, May Kershaw, Charlie Wayne, Luke Mark, Isaac Wood, Tyler Hyde and Georgia Ellery wield their respective instruments with a fiery might. But those intoxicating crescendos always feel earned, as Black Country, New Road are masters of classic minimalism that has the capacity to burst, and we simply cannot get enough of their unique blend of indie-folk, pop, and rock.
32. Nilüfer Yanya — Painless
The sonic palettes found on London-based singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya’s second studio release, Painless, are both fascinatingly complex and mollifying. There is a duality at play throughout the entirety of the album, where there is an energy at play that is palpable, but also Painless is rife with a bevy of tracks you can sink into like a cloud. There is a depth of introspection driving the music too, an album that “runs head first into the depths of emotional vulnerability,” effecting an work of art with so many layers to peel back and enjoy, which is unsurprising being that is was crafted by a phenom of a musician, one that grew up listening to Turkish and classical music playing at home and who gravitated to guitar rock and learned how to play the instrument at the age of twelve.
31. Jeff Parker — Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Club
We at Across The Margin do our best to avoid live albums when we are compiling our end of year list, but sometimes exceptions must be made and rules must be broken. This year that deviation from the norm is courtesy of acclaimed guitarist and composer Jeff Parker. Known as a member of the post-rock group Tortoise since 1996, and a founding member of Isotope 217 and the Chicago Underground Trio, Parker’s skillset is appropriately universally heralded. This “solo” release captures a few intimate evenings playing with drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, and New Breed saxophonist Josh Johnson at ETA, a cozy Los Angeles cocktail bar. Mondays consist of four album side-long tracks, each spanning about twenty minutes, and is a journey of an album, one that is hypnotic in its essence and stunning in its exploratory adventurousness.
Essential Track: “2019 07-08 II.”
30. MJ Lenderman — Boat Songs
Boat Songs is Asheville, North Carolina singer-songwriter MJ “Jake” Lenderman’s first solo album recorded in a studio. While studio produced, it is thrilling how organic and almost live the entire album sounds. Maybe that is because during the album’s recording WWE matches and basketball games were silently projected on the studio walls, potentially injecting the potency of their action into the music. Lenderman’s brand of driving, sarcastic garage rock, amplified by exceptional musicianship, is a fascinating and compelling combination of alt-country and garage rock and we are already thrilled to see more solo work from the guitarist otherwise found in the band Wednesday.
29. Chris Forsyth — Evolution Here We Come
Philadelphia based musician and guitar extraordinaire Chris Forsyth’s latest album, Evolution Here We Come, is largely an instrumental work and a powerful and driving work of art. Featuring contributions from Douglas McCombs (Tortoise), Marshall Allen (Sun Ra Arkestra), Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), Linda Pitmon (The Baseball Project), Tom Malach (Garcia Peoples), Ryan Jewell (Ryley Walker), and co-producer Dave Harrington (Darkside), Evolution Here We Come is seven sprawling sonic journeys that exhibit just how talented of a guitarist Chris persists as.
28. Seawind of Battery — Clockwatching
Easily the most subtle, and too one of the most beautiful, albums we point to in this year’s countdown is Seawind of Battery’s Clockwatching. Clockwatching is the debut instrumental solo endeavor of Mike Horn, who’s released more cosmic music as Goldkey and Sunblinders. A pacifying piece of art, Clockwatching persists as an ambient, experimental exercise that “acts as a sonic balm for those in a state of existential anxiety.” In the often tense, divided times we live in, albums like this are a must, ones that allow us to relax our entire being and become fully taken by the sincere beauty that only music can offer.
27. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — Endless Rooms
The story of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s latest album Endless Rooms is a story of dancing around Australia’s strict Covid lockdowns. As the story goes, the album was “born during small windows of freedom in which the band would decamp to a mud-brick house in the bush around two hours north of Melbourne.” “It’s almost an anti-concept album,” says the band. “The Endless Rooms of the title reflects our love of creating worlds in our songs. We treat each of them as a bare room to be built up with infinite possibilities.” Regardless of its enlivening origin story, Endless Rooms is as fun and exciting a rock n’ roll album we’ve come upon all year.
26. Alvvays — Blue Rev
Alvvays third studio album, Blue Rev, was a work five years in the making. This was never the plan of course, as Covid did its thing and complicated the situation, and beyond that the band’s extensive touring slowed things down. Also, unbelievably, a bunch of demos for the albums were stolen by a thief. And, oh yeah, there was an episode where a basement flood nearly ruined all the band’s gear. The Toronto-based band persisted, and the wait was beyond worth it as Blue Rev is dripping with the sort of dreamy, animated pop songs that make the talented trio one of our favorite young bands out there.
TO BE CONCLUDED…