The final playlist of 2022. It will be a little different as I plan a special playlist for Monday and will hang on to new tracks until next Friday.
“Man at C&A” – The Specials
“Our Lips Are Sealed” – The Go-Go’s
Terry Hall, one-time frontman for The Specials, died a week ago. I’ve listened to a fair amount of Specials music over the years, but his passing had me reading up on their history. In the process I learned that despite being their lead singer, he didn’t write any of their songs until their second album. This was the first, a fitting track for the times about nuclear war. I also didn’t realize how many of their songs were covers, including my first favorite, “A Message to You Rudy.” FTR, my all-time fav Specials song is 1984’s “Free Nelson Mandela.”
I also did not know until last week that Hall co-wrote “Our Lips Are Sealed” with Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s. The two had a brief affair while The Specials and Go-Go’s toured together, and this is the lasting result. The first release off The Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat, it hit #10 in the US. Hall recorded a version with his second band, Fun Boy Three, and took it to #7 on the UK charts (The Go-Go’s version only made it to #47 over there).
“The Rubberband Man” – The Spinners
“Mamma Can’t Buy You Love” – Elton John
Thom Bell also passed last week. He was a third of the Mighty Three with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff that pretty much created the Philadelphia Sound of poppy R&B. He is most famous for his work with The Stylistics and The Spinners, especially the later, who saw their biggest pop chart success while in the studio with him. I learned this week that Bell also produced this 1979 comeback hit for Elton John, his first top 10 hit in over three years. The Spinners are there, too, on background vocals. No idea why I never heard his influence in this track; it’s unmistakable.
“late night skate” – Trust Fund
Feels right for this time of year without being holiday-ish.
“Snowman, Snowman (Sweet Potato Nose) – The Jaynetts
I recently signed up for writer Dan Epstein’s newsletter, or at least the free posts. Those free posts tend to be about old songs. Here he wrote about this wonderful little winter track from 1963.
“17 Days” – Prince
When the girls had the flu last month they missed a few days of school and a couple social events. I told them about the time I had the flu the worst I’ve ever had it, just after New Year’s 1998. I missed a KU game and going to see Prince. S said that I must have really been sick if I didn’t go to a KU game. I told her missing the Prince concert was a far bigger deal, as I never got to see him live. It’s not the same experience, but thank goodness we can find videos like this and remember how great the man was.
I guess if you have to go 14 years between bowl games, this is the way you want to return.
Well, kind of.
A win sure would have been nice. And not going down by 25 points would have made for a more interesting game.
But the Kansas Football Jayhawks sure found a way to make Wednesday’s Liberty Bowl exciting. They nearly capped off a year of unforgettable KUcomebacks with another epic one.
My viewing experience was fortuitous. We sat down for dinner just as KU fell apart and Arkansas took control of the game late in the first quarter. So while I heard what was going on, I wasn’t an active participant. To my eye Jalon Daniels seemed to be really struggling. His throws didn’t seem as crisp or powerful as they were before his shoulder injury. As the deficit got bigger and he continued to look like 80% – at best – of his full capabilities, I figured a loss was inevitable.
Thus I pretty casually watched the second and third quarters. Three different times I was ready to either flip to something else or mute the TV and watch something else on my laptop. Turns out I was pretty cozy under my blanket and didn’t feel like going to grab the MacBook.
Kids, sometimes being lazy pays off! Had I switched I would not have seen the Jayhawks get their shit together and make a huge rally.
Let’s be honest and fair: Arkansas seemed to totally check out when the fourth quarter started, from the players to the coaching staff. And KU benefited from a clearly incorrect call, when they pounced on a fumble and turned it into a score a few plays later.
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, right? KU took advantage of those breaks, Jalon found his mojo, KU converted an onside kick and a two-point conversion in the final minute to tie, and we got the crazy, triple overtime ending.
Ahhh, the ending. My guess to friends immediately after Jason Bean tossed the ball out of the end zone without looking at a wide open Mason Fairchild was, “We must have been out of two-point plays,” turned out to be correct. Or at least that’s what Lance Leipold told the media after the game.
I’m no football coach, and I understand how two-point plays need to be crafted for a specific yardage and specific need. But with an offense as inventive and complex as KU’s, shouldn’t they be able to make just about anything into a two-point play?
I was mad at the coaches for about five minutes. I was never mad at Jason Bean. That’s a tough-ass spot to put a kid who had only been on the field for a couple of plays. It feels like the better play would have been to send Jalon out wide, have Bean pitch/lateral to him, and then JD makes the final pass. I mean, the kid just broke the bowl game and school records for passing yards in a single game. You don’t take the ball out of his hands. Coaches getting too cute.
Bean got KU to a bowl game by beating Oklahoma State. He damn near beat TCU when Daniels got hurt. That’s a terrible way for him to end his career, and he deserves no blame.
In the end, it was a fun if frustrating game. That’s about all you can ask for one of these crappy, mid-tier bowl games. There are still a lot of games to be played, but it feels like this one will end up near the top of best games of this bowl season.
The important thing was KU was in a bowl game. I would have been thrilled with three wins this year. We got six plus a game in late December. That was a huge accomplishment for this program, which has been so bad for so long.
Obviously the big issue the past several days has been the weather. We ended up only getting between 1–2” of snow Thursday, a far cry from that initial forecast of over a foot. But it was still enough, combined with the wind and cold, to make travel difficult and dangerous. Fortunately, for us, S was home before the roads got bad and the rest of us had no need to be outside of the house on Friday as the windchill dropped to over 30 below zero.
With fridges and freezers full of food and temps dangerously low I was super concerned about our power staying on. The weather people kept saying because it was supposed to rain all day Thursday and then quickly freeze, followed up by 48 hours of high winds, power lines would be in great danger.
Thank goodness our electricity never cut out. Well at least it didn’t until right in the middle of our Christmas morning brunch, when the power winked out for a couple seconds then came right back on. Thursday night, as the winds howled and shook our roof, I kept waking up, thinking the power had gone out and having panics about our food going bad or the pipes freezing. Luckily we didn’t have to deal with any of that.
We normally do a big family gathering on Christmas Eve, but because of the cold, the bad roads for a few locals, and one out-of-town group delaying their visit, we decided to postpone that until New Year’s Eve. We had a couple nephews over for an impromptu pizza party.
Christmas morning was nice. Our girls long ago figured out if they are only getting three things, they should only ask for three things. I think M even told S a couple nights ago, “I pretty much know what I’m getting…” They were still excited to open the gifts, though. A lot of clothes and beauty products. C got some Uggs that we were sweating the arrival of, but made it just in time. L is now into photography so got a new lens and tripod for her camera.
Then it was the annual family Christmas brunch. We were down a few people so it wasn’t as huge as it often is, but still two full tables of folks celebrating the holiday together.
Christmas night, after all the guests had left, we convinced M and C to watch Glass Onion with us. L was too busy reading the book that came in her stocking to join us. It’s been a long time since we watched a movie together. It took awhile for the girls to get into it, but eventually they were all-in and enjoyed it. I think C at least wants to go back and watch Knives Out.
By midday Christmas, the wind chills had finally crept above zero. Funny how that seems like a big change and then you take the trash outside and nearly freeze. S and I ran out this morning to check out a couple sales before the traffic got too heavy. Despite actually cracking 20° it was still not a very enjoyable walk from the car to the stores. Later this week it may push 60°. Typical Midwest weather bullshit.
We have out-of-towners coming in a couple waves later this week, so I imagine there will be some additional gatherings over the week heading into the New Year’s Eve family deal.
I hope all of your Christmas events were warm, safe, and joyful.
I realized after I posted my Favorite Songs of the Year that I forgot to share my Year By Year favorites playlist. So, on this very cold morning (–9, wind chill –36 as I type…), I will send you into the holiday weekend with those 21 songs, running from 2004 to the present. Merry Christmas!
’Tis the season for articles about our favorite Christmas movies. I read them all because of course I do.
I liked this one, except for the author’s conclusion. I think it applies to Jean Shepherd’s original essays that A Christmas Story was based on. But the movie very much softened those rough, cynical edges away. The final ten minutes of the movie are filled with joy and reinforce the myth of the perfect Christmas morning.
Most other Christmas movies reserve at least a little warmth for the holiday — some treacly message about the warm glow of family, the joy of community, and all that hokum. But not A Christmas Story, which barely masks its contempt for the season and all its compounding agonies with its warm Norman Rockwell glow.
One of the very interesting consequences of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling is that is has brought a conversation about how the burden of using birth control almost always falls upon women into the mainstream. Along with that, vasectomies are becoming more common. Here’s a story about a midwest physician who is doing his part to help men get snipped.
“It makes more sense to take the bullets out of a gun, than try to put a bulletproof vest on somebody…”
With the death of Grant Wahl, we lost a voice who would have carefully balanced the majesty of the World Cup Final with all the disappointing business, political, and human rights aspects that surrounded this tournament. Brian Phillips did a pretty good job finding that middle point in his match summary.
It’s a story that feels lifted from a children’s book, a story unblemished by the disappointments and compromises and hypocrisies inescapable in adult life. This is, in a way, the essence of sport’s appeal to us. It lets us escape, for a few hours at a time, into a better world.
It’s been a crazy couple of days. That will happen when a massive winter storm is predicted to arrive just as the biggest holiday of the year arrives.
M and C finished finals Tuesday. They seemed pleased with their performances. We’ll find out in a few weeks.
L wrapped up school Wednesday. It was pretty much a useless week, as all tests and assignments were completed last week. She cracked me up by wearing a Santa hat to school each day, then again when we went to the gym on Tuesday.
I have been to grocery stories 150 times this week. OK, that’s not true.
I did the normal weekly shopping on Monday.
Tuesday I stopped into a store right after dropping off L to try to get a bunch of stuff for the holiday weekend before the storm-induced panic buying began. I made a decent dent in that list.
Wednesday was my big shopping day. I dropped L off at school and had a window of 8–8:30 to pick up our ham. So I popped into the store next to the ham place to see how well they were stocked. Turned out they were not stocked well but I did get a few things before it was Ham Time.
Next it was onto another big grocery store that was very well stocked. I got 90% of what I still needed there.
On the way home I wanted to stop at a liquor store, but it didn’t open for another 15 minutes, so I ran into the grocery store next to it to work on that last 10%, and maybe avoid a trip to Costco.
I was unable to avoid the Costco trip so after taking C to ortho, we headed that way. When we arrived, at about 11:15, the parking lot was packed and there were literally dozens of people parked on the grass. I told C if it was really this crazy we were going to skip it. But we went down one aisle, immediately had three parking spots to choose from, and headed in. We just needed a few things, but the checkout lines were backed up through the entire store. I made sure to get into the one targeted for the self-check machines and we were out in 15 minutes.
Then Thursday morning I ran to our neighborhood store for a few more things.
So that’s six stops at grocery stores, plus Costco, liquor, and ham.
Ridiculous but had to be done as I think the entire city is going to shut down tonight into Saturday morning between the snow, wind, and cold. The windchill here is forecast to be 25 to 35 below zero Friday morning. That’s no good for anyone, especially people making last-minute grocery runs.
The girls are currently off having their annual Christmas breakfast/cookie-baking party with their grandmother. S is normally home on Thursdays but has to run into the office to help see some patients that were re-scheduled from Friday. Once everyone is home we’re going to hunker down, crank the heat up, and hope the power lines in our part of town survive the winds until our first family gathering Saturday evening.
I’ve enjoyed watching the forecast adjust over the past week. As with any winter storm there is all kinds of uncertainty. The weather app I use on my phone, Hello Weather, has a cool feature that allows you to pick between one of eight different sources for forecast information. In the winter I love toggling between them, as some make a very conservative calculation and others take the worst-case option. Last Sunday, when this storm first got pulled into the seven-day view, these forecasts varied from a prediction of two inches of snow to 22 inches. That’s quite a range! As it stands now, we are in the 3”–6” window, and it’s starting to look like the lower half is more likely.
Regardless, it appears that this will be our first truly white Christmas in at least four years. And that one was just because of a dusting of snow on Christmas morning.
I know this storm is affecting most of my readers, so I hope all of you get through it safely, with heat and power, and that you are able to make all the gatherings on your calendar.
I was unable to watch the Indiana-Kansas game live, which was a major bummer, because it was another first-rate ass kicking. One so comprehensive that I’m left wondering if IU really isn’t that good and, thus, us KU fans shouldn’t overreact to the win.
Regardless, as a Jayhawk living in Hoosier-land, that was a fun ass game.
I was following the score from L’s games, but because I’m a superstitious idiot, I decided I would only check the score every 15 minutes of real time so I could focus on her games. Which, of course, meant I was constantly checking my watch to see if I could look. Again, I am an idiot.
Several of the parents on her team are Purdue fans and told me they were big KU fans for the day. They messed with me by dramatically pulling out their phones, checking the score, then looking at me and shaking their heads like it wasn’t going well for the Jayhawks. I would respond by telling them, “It was 21–6 five minutes ago, it can’t be that bad.”
I did get a little concerned when I saw IU got it down to 10 early in the second half. But my next glance showed KU up by 18, and as we walked out of the gym I saw the 22-point win was final.
I watched the recording as soon as we got home and was pretty happy with how things went. It’s one game, but it seems like Bill Self has already found a way to work within the limitations of this year’s roster to make them a bitch to play. Usually that doesn’t happen until early February. Having two absolute defensive studs on the perimeter sure makes everything a lot easier. But the development of KJ Adams has been outstanding and incredibly important. Three weeks ago we were thinking, “How can we get one of the freshmen bigs to take his minutes?” Now the freshmen can barely get on the court, and it’s because KJ has become a legit threat on both ends.
I don’t know if his recent play is sustainable, and he will not matchup well against some teams. But there’s no reason he should not be getting the bulk of the minutes at the five spot right now.
I do have to throw an Old Man Rant in. Apparently only about half of the KU student tickets were claimed for the marquee non-conference game of the year? I know finals are over and many students have gone home. And student attendance around the country just isn’t what it used to be.
But, “Back in my day”™ we hung around an extra day or two when Indiana came to Lawrence in 1993, or came back when North Carolina State or some other good team would play in Allen in January before classes resumed. I have a few IU friends who went to the game and while I’m eager to hear about their experiences (weird how very few of my them or my local IU friends have reached out since about 10 minutes after the game began), I’m frankly going to be a little embarrassed that there were empty seats for the biggest game of the non-con season.
Or maybe I’ll tell them that kids didn’t show up because IU has been bad/mediocre for so long they don’t realize this was supposed to be a big game!
OMG! When I sat down to watch the KU game, the Colts had just taken an improbable 33–0 lead over the Vikings. What a world!
When I was done with the Jayhawks and switched from the DVR to live TV, the Colts game was headed to overtime.
What a disaster, yet a perfect way to put a symbolic end to this dumpster fire of a season, and really era, of Colts football.
Burn it all down and start all over again.
It was bracket weekend for L’s team. They won their semifinal by six. They were ahead 9–0 early and blew that. Led by eight multiple times in the second half but kept giving it up. It was not a pretty 28 minutes of basketball.
She’s been sick off-and-on for weeks and was still trying to recover. She struggled with her stamina and legs the entire game. In the break before the championship game she kind of went and laid down, hoping to rebound.
She seemed to feel better and played a bit better in the second game. It looked like we were going to get run off the court early, but we kept it close and somehow took a six-point lead late in the game. Then gave up a 8–1 run to lose by one.
Kind of a bummer but they were the better team and our girls were all kind of checked out. They haven’t practiced much and it seems like the coach is having a hard time connecting with the players. Hopefully that improves when we start the winter session in January.
World Cup Final
OMG!!!!! That was one of the greatest games of any kind I’ve ever watched. The swings of momentum and emotion were stunning and draining. Lionel Messi finally gets the (totally unfair) World Cup monkey off his back. At the same time Kylian Mbappé shows that he is the heir to the Greatest Player in the World throne with a freaking hat trick in the championship game, including one of the greatest shots you’ll ever see. A couple of absolutely ridiculous near-goals at the end of regulation and extra time nearly gave each team the win. And then the thoroughly gut-wrenching process that are championship deciding penalty kicks.
That was an awesome way to spend three hours Sunday morning. I was pulling for both Messi and France, so I both won and lost. I can’t imagine if I truly cared who won how exhausting that match would have been. I thought the national championship game last April was stressful…
Kids, North Carolina State was once a premier game on your non-conference schedules. ↩
There’s not much music left in my FPL pool, so seems like a good week to take this in a different direction.
It’s been an odd weather month here in Indy so far. Not warm but not cold, generally in the upper 40s with a few days up into the low 50s. THe issue has been that we’ve been socked in by low, thick clouds for most of the past two weeks. Every afternoon it looks like it’s about to just dump snow, then you walk outside and realize it’s far too warm to snow. The clouds finally dropped some rain on us Wednesday and we got a few glimpses of sunshine yesterday morning before the clouds filled back in.
And now the cold has arrived. A week from today the thermometer may not make it to 10°. It’s going to be a cold, cold Christmas.
I would share a bunch of Christmas songs, but as there are so many ways to listen to holiday tunes these days that seems like a waste of your and my time.
So some songs about winter/cold/this time of year.
“Winter Solstice” – Phoenix
“Winter Song” – Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson
“White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes
“Winter” – TV On The Radio
“‘Tis the Damn Season” – Taylor Swift
“Christmas In Hollis” – Run-DMC
OK, one true Christmas song…
M and C start their first semester finals today. I’m pretty sure that CHS has changed their finals schedule all four years that M has been there, which she finds annoying. This year the days are split between two morning exams and two afternoon review sessions. So, technically, finals began yesterday with two reviews after lunch. We’ll see what the girls think of this schedule when they wrap up next Tuesday.
This could be M’s last time taking high school finals. CHS seniors are excused from second semester finals in classes they have A’s in. She has one A- in nearly three and a half years of classes, so she’s pretty confident this is her last go. The senior-itis has started to kick in, though, and we’ve already started reminding her that she can’t slack off too much between January and May.
I freaked the girls out a little last week when I told them that I loved finals in college.
My friends will recall that I wasn’t the most focused student in my extended college years. But finals week always got me locked in. I loved getting the exam schedule and sitting down to plot out the days I had tests, when there were review sessions, when I had papers/projects due, and when I would be done. There was something about that tight schedule, without regular classes, that got me super-focused. I was stressed, to be sure, but it was the good kind of stress. I know I wrote some of my best papers then, sitting down at the typewriter with a general idea of where I wanted to end up and, two-three-four hours later, finishing with something I was excited to turn in.
I shared this with the girls in an effort to relieve some of their stress. I wanted to try to get them to view the week the way I did: as a chance to prove that they learned something over the semester rather than just another set of tests that can affect their grades. Finals, and the essay questions that came with them, were an opportunity for me to dazzle my professors not just with my knowledge, but with my writing ability. I know there were years that B’s turned into A’s because I could organize and clearly communicate my thoughts, while I had friends who couldn’t make the same leap because their essays and papers were a mess.
I’m telling you, if college was nothing but finals, I would have graduated on time with straight A’s!
I don’t think any of that worked. The girls looked at me like I was crazy. M especially seems stressed out. She is very smart, smarter than I ever was, something she for sure gets from her mom. But she also got her mom’s tendency to stress out over tests. I’m glad M got my writing ability; her teachers are always telling her how good she is at it. I just wish I could have passed on some of that finals zen to her, and her sisters, as well.
It was kind of fun for me to have her come down and sit by me last night while I watched the Pacers beat the Warriors. She said she needed a change of scenery. As I watched the Pacers try to blow the game, she was on the other end of the couch with her AirPods in, banging away on her final paper for her English class. It made me think of those nights I was cranking out papers late into the night. It was also a reminder that this time next year she’ll be doing this in a dorm room or at the library on whatever campus she is living on.
We have arrived at one of the most glorious days of my blogging year: the reveal of my favorite songs of the past 12 months.
I often attempt to find common threads that wind through my selections. At first I wasn’t detecting any this year. There were a few songs about dead people, but that was a small subset of the bigger list. As I was putting the final touches on my list, I realized that there is a presence of gratitude in quite a few of these tracks. Maybe not all 21 songs (spoiler alert: there’s a tie in the countdown), but many of them address gratitude from different perspectives.
I am grateful there was so much good music this year (the first eight months of the year were terrific, then the pace slackened a bit). And I’m grateful for you indulging me by reading my thoughts and listening to my playlist.
As is tradition, I have embedded videos for each song and included a Spotify playlist.
20 – “Static” – Gold Tongue
Songs that rocked made a comeback in 2022. At least in the stuff I listened to. This was a good way to get the year started, a pummeling track that is a throwback to the heady days around the turn of the millennium.
19 – “My Echo” – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Nearly an automatic entry in my year end lists, RBCF hit this time with a song about the anxiety that grows from our endless exposure to screens.
18 – “GOOD TIMES” – Jungle
The world is filled with negativity. We need more songs like this, that are packed with joy and almost force you off your ass so you can shake it. (The video features a bonus song tacked on at the end.)
17 – “Oceans of Darkness” – The War on Drugs
A song recorded during the I Don’t Live Here Anymore sessions that did not make the final record, but was released this fall with the album’s deluxe edition. And a song that immediately made every TWOD fan ask, “WHY WASN’T THIS ON THE ORIGINAL ALBUM?!?!?!”
16 – “Best Left” – The Beths
Elizabeth Stokes has such a gift for making glorious songs about uncomfortable situations. Here she sings about her tendency to mess with things that don’t need messing with.
15 – “A Wave Across A Bay” – Frank Turner
Turner’s elegy for his good friend, Scott Hutchison. Scott would have loved it, as Turner sings with shocking frankness of Hutchison’s suicide. Scott was never afraid to rip the bandage away to expose the festering hurt beneath.
However, Turner does what I think all of us who have lost a loved one to suicide wish we could do: he imagines fate, the hand of God, or some other force intervening at the last moment. While it doesn’t bring his friend back, it does free the victim from the mental health demons that plagued him.
I admit this song – the most Frightened Rabbit-sounding song Turner has ever made – and the video have brought me to tears more than a few times.
14 – “ILYSM” – Wild Pink
WP leader John Ross received a cancer diagnosis a year ago just as he was beginning work on the band’s next album. One of his doctors told him to continue working, as it would take his mind away from his disease. The result is a remarkably affecting album, filled with reflections on mortality and appreciation for those who Ross loves and supported him. You hear all of that in the instrumental break that hits at 2:44, the best musical moment of the year.
13 – “Alive” – Poliça
Songs like this, that tread in dark territory and deal with intense desire, can easily go wrong. But everything about this – the music, lyrics, vocals, and tone – hit perfectly.
12 – “What’s Done Is Done” – Delta Spirit
Videos often change the meaning of songs. Here, a song that is about either a breakup, or an imminent breakup, takes on a sweet, uplifting vibe thanks its video, which features actors with Down Syndrome working through their own relationship issues.
11 – “After The Earthquake” – Alvvays
When Alvvays released their excellent Blue Rev album, Steven Hyden wrote that it was the archetypal fall album. In general I agree with him; dreamy, shoe-gazey pop sounds best in the months when the days get shorter and darker.
But this song? It’s a shot of pure, blazing, summer sunshine breaking through the clouds.
10 – “Lights On” – Hatchie
Upon signing with Indiana’s Secretly Canadian label last year, Harriette Pilbeam hinted at making a change to her sound. While that shift was largely present on her Giving the World Away album, this track was one more dose of the wonderful, lush electro-pop that made 2019’s Keepsake one of my favorites of the past decade or so.
9 – “Porta” – Sharon Van Etten
Van Etten’s music is almost always confessional. Composed during a phase of deep depression in 2020, this track is about SVE seeking positive coping mechanisms to work through that darkness and pull herself into a more healthy space. One of those techniques was doing pilates with instructor Stella Cook, who joined her in the song’s video. It is a massive, fierce, gorgeously inspiring tune.
Also, this is the annual “Song I just liked when I started editing this list but fell completely in love with as I was re-listening to it constantly in November/December” entry. Which means it is either three spots too high or too low.
8 – “Talk For Hours” – High Vis
Derek Thompson, on his Plain English podcast, recently had an episode about the “Friendship Recession.” This song can be taken as a counter to that idea, and a hint that we all need to rediscover our senses of empathy, shut our mouths, and listen when people around us need to vent.
7 – “Angelica” – Wet Leg
THE buzz band of the year, these ladies absolutely delivered with their debut album after the hype built by their lead singles “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream.” The album is filled with songs that still make me laugh every time I hear them. While some listeners were put off by their vibe, I loved the band’s sly silliness. The twinkles in their eyes and tongues in their cheeks are reminders that rock music is supposed to be fun.
6 – “Full Round Table” – Chappaqua Wrestling
The roots of rock music are in the celebration of being young, free, and totally alive. That’s tough to do in today’s world, where the outlook for the future seems bleak. This rousing track is an ode to not letting all the bad news get you down and celebrating the possibilities that come with youth. The glass is full and the future’s bright.
5 – “The Night Before Your Birthday” – Andrew Bird
Good Lord, how many gorgeous songs has Bird made over the years? Each time he releases a new album I know there will be at least one song that absolutely floors me. Here it is about the mundane moments with the one you love, and how recalling those together are as thoughtful of a gift as the brightest diamond.
4 – “Brother the Cloud” – Eddie Vedder
The first single off EdVed’s first solo album, “Long Way,” was my #6 song of 2021. Despite that track’s greatness, I was still surprised by how good the entire album was, one of my favorite and most listened to LPs of this year. This tribute to Ed’s late brother may be the ultimate Vedder song: heartfelt, passionate, and filled with poppy-yet-punky riffs.
3 – “Anything But Me” – MUNA
I love breakup songs, as my loyal readers know. This is a different take on the genre. Here the narrator is ready to move on, willing to let bygones be bygones and remain friendly with her ex. But she isn’t about to let them keep their hooks in her. An absolute banger.
It also features my favorite lines of the year:
You’re gonna say that I’m on a high horse
I think that my horse is regular sized
Did ya ever think maybe
You’re on a pony
Going in circles on a carousal ride?
2 – “Wild” – Spoon
Spoon has been around almost as long as Pearl Jam. They haven’t sold as many records and can’t tour the world in front of sold-out arenas, but Pearl Jam isn’t still making songs this good. So tie?
This is the best song Spoon has ever made, taking all of the swagger that has been in their music since day one and amping it up to a whole new level.
Gang of Youth’s angel in realtime was my favorite and most listened to album of 2022, and the one that impacted me the most.
It is primarily about lead singer David Le’aupepe’s emotional journey following the death of his father. The album travels a beautiful arc, from the final moments of Telesco Le’aupepe’s life, through David’s process of grieving, to learning about his father’s secret life and the ethnic background he kept hidden, to reaching out to the half-brothers he did not know existed, and finally to being ready to move on and focus on his new family with his father’s memory as a guide.
These two songs tackle the subject of grief from different angles. “in the wake of your leave” is about the various ways that pain can take over our lives. Meanwhile, “the man himself” focuses on how we cope when the person we relied on for wisdom and direction is gone. It also pulls in the traditional sounds of the Pacific that Le’aupepe included to honor his (and his father’s) Samoan heritage.
The LP was filled with wonderful songs that stand out on their own. Combined, though, they built a deeply emotional album that was equally difficult and rewarding to sit through. It seems proper to honor it by selecting two of the tracks that I connected with the most to cap this year’s list of favorites.
(“angel of 8th ave,” the lead single from the album released in the summer of 2021, was my #3 favorite song of last year.)