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Matt Garman writesCHIRP Radio’s Best of 2022: Matt Garman

CHIRP Radio Best of 2022

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2022. Our next list is from DJ and Programming Committee member Matt Garman.

It was such a good year for music, probably a result of many artists finally releasing material they had been sitting on since before, or during, the pandemic. See below for the things that really moved me in 2022.

Rather than compose an encompassing review of each album, I'm just going to freewrite whatever comes to mind when I think about each release.



#1 Wet Leg by Wet Leg (Domino)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Wet Leg Wet LegThis album is packed with catchy, droll earworms that made me feel happy and clever just listening to it. The music videos are fantastic. I want to hang out with Wet Leg. I want to know what the Isle of Wight is like. They are a culmination/reflection of so much great post-punk and pop that it's NO WONDER it ended up being my favorite release of 2022.

The nonsense opinions swirling around that this band is somehow fake and didn't write their songs because they emerged fully-formed is 100% misogyny. No one would say that about a male-identified-fronted outfit. So if that's you, look within. Meanwhile I'll be over here partying with Wet Leg in the living room, dancing on the chaise and pretending to drink warm beer.






#2 Lucifer on the Sofa by Spoon (Matador)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Spoon Lucifer on the SofaMy beloved Spoon! I'm a dork for this band and basically love everything they do. Peerless songwriting, true swagger, the cool kind of Texans, etc etc.

Heralded as a return to their rock roots after a dance music dalliance on their last album. I have adored this band's dedication to rhythm, their minimalist aesthetic, Britt Daniel's husky rasp, all-that-all-that since their 3rd LP first blew my mind. In 2021, post-vax, my wife and I flew to Omaha to see Spoon play a small-market tour stop, and were treated to a stunning performance in a smallish room with the newest members of the band, now a quintet.. (We've seen them 2 more times since then.)

Not gonna lie: Spoon has been kinda hit-or-miss live over the years, either because Britt flubbed a line sometimes, or because his big onstage energy was rarely reflected by his bandmates, but all that has changed now: these dudes kill it live, energy overflowing, all the parts in sync, a full-power Spoon delivery system.

This new album is not my favorite of theirs, in spite of what many in the press say about it being their best ever -- it's good, yes. Spoon is always good. At least 2 all-time classics can be found here. Jim Eno is a perfect drummer, and Alex Fischel continues to be a delightful songwriting partner and foil for Britt. Gerardo Larios really contributes big on this one, in particular his show-stopping solo on "The Hardest Cut," while new bassist Benny Trokan is perhaps my favorite addition to Spoon, ever, because I've been saying that the NYC band he used to front in the early 2000s, Robbers on High Street, sounded like Spoon. Well, now he's in Spoon, and sings backup as well as Britt Daniel himself!

TL;dr: Spoon is my favorite band.





#3 Harry's House by Harry Styles (Columbia/Erskine)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Harry Styles Harry's HouseSorry (not sorry)! This guy managed to make the best bedroom poptronica album of 2022, and if he was just some indie singer from London with an LP on Nonesuch all the aging hipsters would love it. I love it, and I'm an aging hipster.

I've literally never listened to One Direction in my life, but when my wife and I were record shopping in Madison last spring, the clerk put the single on and I was literally angry to discover I liked a Harry Styles song. 2 days later I owned the vinyl and just couldn't stop loving the songs. Maybe I'm losing my edge? I couldn't care less.

Add the fact that Harry boasts a diverse fanbase, is overtly inclusive of queer culture, had Chicago's* own V.V. Lightbody in his backing band for at least one gig, and again I ask you: are you sure he's not cool enough? He seems pretty cool, as mega-famous singer-songwriter ex-boy band wife-stealing annoyingly handsome actor triple-threats go. Enjoy life!







#4 Broken Equipment by BODEGA (What's Your Rupture?)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

BODEGA Broken EquipmentPretty sure I first heard BODEGA in a fast food drive-thru en route to an early-morning appointment and thought HEY! This is fun. I didn't get into this album until 2 months after its release, but went way deep down the rabbit hole of Ben Hozie's spoken-sung vox and the group's catchy NYC-style rock; they're the latest in a lineage that starts with the Velvet Underground and threads thru Television, Talking Heads, the Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, et al.

Imagine my delight when we got to see them open for Spoon in Champaign-Urbana! On record they sound like they have a dry, tight drummer because the hi-hat is so precise, but live the secret is revealed: the drummer plays bass + snare drum while standing, and the hi-hat is played all by itself by occasional lead singer Nikki Belfiglio.

We were lucky enough to see them a 2nd time in 2022 at Sleeping Village (a show that was criminally under-attended btw), and because Ben was unwell, Nikki sang lead for the entire show and it was truly special and f***ing awesome! Highly recommend seeing BODEGA live. Get to it.







#5 Malign Hex by Meat Wave (Swami)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Meat Wave Malign HexBetter late than never, I really didn't get into Meat Wave until last year's Volcano Park EP. My wife has been a dedicated fan for years, and thank goodness: these guys rule.

I feel proud that they are standard-bearers for Chicago*, because they deliver tough, krautrock-inspired, hypnotic, heavy, post-hardcore robo-punk rock that evokes memories of The Jesus Lizard and Shellac for me. The fact that they're on Swami Records now, home of Drive Like Jehu, makes perfect sense.

I've had days where I literally listened to the driving force of "What Would You Like Me To Do?" on a loop. Back in March we saw them open for label-mates Plosivs at Sleeping Village (a familiar haunt), and they started their set with album opener "Disney." I was floored. The thudding, trudging, buzzing, interlocked drum/bass intro, Chris Sutter's shouted instructions on what to do if you are asked to asphyxiate yourself, the menacing tension building as the guitar chugs to life, building to a fist-pumping, churning climax ... I mean... Got. DAMN. It raises the hair on my arms just writing about it. Chicago has no one doing it better right now in the game. Let's GO! ps: check out Chris Sutter's solo recordings on Bandcamp - very different, very cool.






BUY: Reckless / Amazon

PLOSIVS PLOSIVSI love Rob Crow, and pretty much every one of his projects, of which this is the latest. He made gentle, rhythmic indie rock in Pinback most famously, and flirted with math-metal influences on pop in his band Rob Crow's Gloomy Place; PLOSIVS is a natural extension of his trajectory, with heavy rockers John Reis (Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, Rocket from the Crypt) and Atom Willard (Against Me!, Rocket from the Crypt) joining him for a blast of beautiful SoCal post-hardcore supergroup awesomeness.

The band goes hard and fast, with Rob's unmistakable tenor singing voice atop the hyperspeed punk pace. Crisp, stop-start chuggalug guitars, muscular leads from John, and no space to take a breather between cuts - it's catchy, frenetic, and intense.

My only regret is that we caught COVID at the PLOSIVS/Meat Wave show. Was it worth it? I don't know. Rob Crow had blown out his voice by the time he showed up at Sleeping Village. But I did pick up the band's debut LP at the merch table, and I did get told by Rob that he loved me + everyone else in the audience, so let's call it even.





#7 A Light For Attracting Attention by The Smile (XL)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

The Smile A Light For Attracting AttentionSure it's just Radiohead by another name, kind of. But I don't know if you've heard: Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood are untouchable songwriters and performers. Listening to this album, I am struck by how impressive it is to consistently make music that sounds vital and fresh for this long; ask their '90s alt-rock peers if you're not sure I'm onto anything... *coughSmashingPumpkinscough* Freed from the Radiohead moniker, The Smile can just make gorgeous songs -- when they're not slipping in a killer, sneering rocker. RIYL: Radiohead - ha!








#8 Electricity by Ibibio Sound Machine (Merge)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Ibibio Sound Machine ElectricityOMG this is their FOURTH album?! I finally figured it out. I swear I bought this LP because of the chiming, twinkly synths and commanding presence of vocalist Eno Williams, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit it's also because the album cover is so badass.

From London and descended from Nigerian Ibibio people, Eno boasts a strong shout that makes me feel like I'm being preached to in the best way. Hot Chip produced this, which might explain the blippy electro accessibility one finds here. Live, they are energetic, joyful, and fully formed -- 8 pieces on stage, laying it down. You'll never believe it, but we caught them at Sleeping Village, and once again you probably should have been there. The crowd was bursting with love and the reciprocal appreciation made the whole night downright magical.







#9 Panama 77 by Daniel Villarreal (International Anthem)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Daniel Villarreal Panama 77Honestly I'm a dilettante when it comes to jazz, let alone Latin jazz, but I know what I like: eclectic, confident, smooth, instrumental pieces led by a drummer that we are lucky to have here in Chicago.* I love this dude's impeccable taste, big white hat, and broad smile. He's omnipresent too: find him playing in Dos Santos, Valebol, Wild Belle, DJing out in Pilsen, or fronting his own ensemble. Truly the man.








#10 In These Times by Makaya McCraven (Nonesuch/International Anthem/XL)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Makaya McCraven In These TimesAnother great Chicago* jazz percussionist I have to admit I know little about, but loved in 2022. I know he was born in Paris, and grew up in Massachusetts, and that he's been working on this album since the mid-2010s. I also know the music is meditative, nourishing, and part of a healthy musical diet. Get into it!









Honorable Mentions

The Next 10:
11. Toro y Moi - MAHAL (Dead Oceans)
12. Sudan Archives - Natural Brown Prom Queen (Stones Throw)
13. Rose Mercie - ¿Kieres Agua? (Jelodanti/Celluloid Lunch)
14. Vieux Farka Touré et Khruangbin - Ali (Dead Oceans)
15. Sam Prekop & John McEntire* - Sons Of (Thrill Jockey)
16. Thee Sacred Souls - Thee Sacred Souls (Daptone)
17, Claude* - A Lot's Gonna Change (American Dreams)
18. Shamir - Heterosexuality (AntiFragile)
19. Sessa - Estrela Acesa (Mexican Summer)
20. The Enoch Karpenter Project - Those Were the Days EP (self-released)

10 Old Favorite Artists Who Put Out Great New Albums in 2022:
1. Sloan - Steady (Yep Roc)
2. Kikagaku Moyo - Kumoyo Island (Guruguru Brain)
3. SAULT - 10 / Earth / 11 (Forever Living Originals)
4. Cat Power - Covers (Domino)
5. Sharon Van Etten - We've Been Going About This All Wrong (Jagjaguwar)
6. Russian Circles* - Gnosis (Sargent House)
7. Andrew Bird - Inside Problems (Loma Vista)
8. Sasami - Squeeze (Domino)
9. Elvis Costello & The Imposters - The Boy Named If (Capitol)
10. Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers (pgLang/Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

10 More Great *CHICAGO Albums from 2022:
1. NNAMDÏ - Please Have a Seat (Secretly Canadian/Sooper)
2. Spread Joy - II (Feel It)
3. Pink Frost - Until the Summer Comes (Under Road)
4. Bitchin Bajas - Bajascillators (Drag City)
5. The Curls - Smothered & Covered (Truth Zone)
6. The Most Distant Object - The Most Distant Object (Ernest Jenning Record Co.)
7. Así Así - Mal De Otros (self-released)
8. SABA - Few Good Things (self-released)
9. Lollygagger - Total Party Kill (Molerat/What's For Breakfast?)
10. Bev Rage & The Drinks - Exes & Hexes (What's For Breakfast?)

Honorable Mention: Heet Deth - Heet Deth Hooray! (Don't Panic)
Heet Deth's debut LP came out in late 2021 but I totally missed it and LOVE THEM.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2022

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