Thursday, December 22, 2022

Robert Kinsler's favorite 22 new studio releases of 2022

To be sure, 2022 was an outstanding year for new music. Here are my favorite 22 albums of 2022...Robert Kinsler

Arcade Fire
Title: WE (Columbia Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Arcade Fire, Radiohead, U2
Tell me more: On the heels of the band's mesmerizing last-minute appearance at Weekend #1 of Coachella in April 2022, Arcade Fire released their sixth full-length studio album WE. Divided into two disparate sides ("I" and "WE"), the seven-track album conjures up the exhilarating spirit of the band's most ambitious albums (2007's Neon Bible and 2010's The Suburbs) while moving the Canadian heroes into the future via a terrific 40-minute ride. The impacts of the extended COVID-19 lockdown affected most of the world including Arcade Fire whose Win Butler and Régine Chassagne (the husband and wife duo at the center of the band) wrote much of the music sans their bandmates. Lyrically, WE touches on alienation, technology overload, survival romance and parenthood. Such lofty ambition wouldn't matter if the songs didn't have the melodic sweep and overarching power heard across the disc; fortunately WE delivers in spades. The anthemic "Age of Anxiety I," burgeoning "Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)," "The Lightning I, II," majestic "Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)," Neo-electronica "Unconditional II (Race and Religion)" featuring Peter Gabriel on backing vocals and acoustic-flavored album closer "WE" are among the powerful originals on Arcade Fire's marvelous return. Information:

Bird Streets
Title: Lagoon (Sparkle Plenty Records/Deko Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: Big Star, Jason Falkner, Crowded House, Pugwash, Bird Streets' 2018 self-titled debut
Tell me more: Bird Streets — the moniker for singer-songwriter John Brodeur — returned with the ambitious Lagoon. An album of luxurious and literate songs aimed at "separation, rumination, regret and recurrence," the artistic scope of the dozen track collection is elevated by an incredible list of notable collaborators who guest on the project. Indeed, Brodeur's considerable talents as lead singer and guitarist are bolstered by the likes of Aimee MannJody Stephens (Big Star), Ed HarcourtJohn Davis, and Buddy Judge (The Grays) along with the production skills of Patrick Sansone (Wilco), Michael Lockwood (Aimee MannFiona Apple), and Zach Jones (Sting) and Oscar Albis Rodriguez (A Great Big World). While the initial recording of Lagoon spanned from the earliest sessions in Nashville in 2019 through time at Ardent Studios in Memphis in February 2020, the sudden arrival of the COVID-19 global pandemic ultimately found Brodeur turning to Los Angeles-based producer Lockwood to work on the project via remote technology for the home stretch. Each and every song on Lagoon hits its mark; the confessional opener "Sleeper Agent," emotive "The Document" (the latter one of the most striking breakup songs in memory), soaring "Let You Down," haunting "Leave No Trace" (featuring Davis' artful sitar playing), confessional "Disappearing Act" and Baroque pop sortie "Unkind" are among the wonderful songs on the masterful collection. Information:

Collective Soul
Title: Vibrating (Fuzzy-Flex Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Collective Soul, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Psychic Rain
Tell me more: Nearly 30 years after their outstanding debut Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid introduced their fully original mix of melodic alternative rock and post-grunge to the world, Collective Soul continues to chart their own course with albums rooted in stellar songcraft, creative arrangements and inspired performances. "Cut The Cord" opens the album, a searing hard rocker bolstered by loads of crunchy guitar and a driving beat; the propulsive "Reason" enhanced by an especially melodic chorus follows. The energy on the 10-track album is palpable, with singer-guitarist Ed Roland, lead guitarist Jesse Triplett, rhythm guitarist Dean Roland, bassist Will Turpin and drummer Johnny Rabb each adding sophisticated magic to the proceedings. Other highlights on the excellent album include the enticing "Take" with its hypnotic mix of '60s jangle garage rock and mellifluous musical layers, the shining "Undone," symphonic-tinged gem "Rule No. 1," genre-defying delight "Looking Around" and the ambitious romance-mining "Where Do I Go." My favorite track is the undeniably captivating "All Our Pieces," a soaring anthem with singer Ed Roland's expressive vocals bringing an emotional heft to the euphonious cut. Information:

The Cowsills
Title: Rhythm of the World (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Badfinger, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Turtles, The Bangles 
Tell me more: Musical family The Cowsills released a series of popular singles and albums in the late 1960s and early '70s before going on hiatus in 1972 — music aficionados should note the Cowsills were even the inspiration for the 1970s TV series "The Partridge Family." Although the Cowsills reunited to record new albums in 1978 and 1993, the group's return to record the full-length 2022 masterwork Rhythm of the Worlds is a true triumph. The 11-song disc is filled with songs that reflect the sharp songcraft of the best artists of the '60s and '70s; it is no stretch to note the originals on the new album featuring siblings BobSusan and Paul Cowsill would be at home on classic titles from the ByrdsBadfingerThe Turtles or the Mamas & the Papas. There isn't a bad song on the disc; standouts include the instantly-catchy melodic gems "Lend a Hand" and "Try to Believe It Too," Americana-styled "Hawks on the Line," melodic rocker "Every Little Secret," power pop-flavored title track, yearning folk rocker "The Long Run" and decidedly modern "Nuclear Winter." Information:

Title: Misadventures of Doomscroller (Rounder Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Dawes, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne
Tell me more: Dawes continues to be a stellar light in the modern rock universe, defying easy categorization while boldly displaying even more dizzying heights with each new release. The Jonathon Wilson-produced Misadventures of Doomscoller is Dawes' 8th studio album and it is certainly one of the best albums of 2022. Take the ambitious opener "Someone Else's Cafe / Doomscroller Tries To Relax," a nine and one-half minute song that somehow blends Laurel Canyon folk rock, Steely Dan-mining jazz and gospel-tinged elements across its luxurious run. The momentum and might of the album continues with the intoxicating acoustic-flavored "Comes In Waves," buoyant "Everything Is Permanent," hard-charging "Ghost In The Machine," sumptuous two-part "Joke In There Somewhere," and eloquent closer "Sound That No One Made / Doomscroller Sunrise." To be sure, many of the longer-than-usual originals feature musical jamming aplenty but the virtuoso musical sorties never negate the sterling songcraft showcased across the seven-track disc. Dawes is Taylor Goldsmith (guitar, primary vocalist), Wylie Gelber (bass), Griffin Goldsmith (drums, percussion, background vocals) and Lee Pardini (piano, organ, synthesizers, guitar, clavinet, background vocals). Information:

Def Leppard
Title: Diamond Star Halos (Mercury Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Def Leppard, Queen, T. Rex
Tell me more: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame British rockers Def Leppard returned with their long-awaited Diamond Star Halos, an album that offers up plenty of new sonic pay dirt while delivering on the distinctive sound (and parade of hits!) forged by the troupe in the 1980s and '90s. Highlights on the 15-track album include the soaring "Take What You Want," reflective "This Guitar" (featuring guest Alison Krauss sharing vocals with lead singer Joe Elliot), the sing-along "Fire It Up" (bolstered by Phil Collen's dazzling guitar work throughout), mellifluous "Liquid Dust," lovely Baroque power ballad "Goodbye For Good This Time" and introspective rocker "Open Your Eyes." A limited edition version of Def Leppard's 12th studio album  not reviewed here and available as an import  features 17 tracks. Information:

Florence + The Machine
Title: Dance Fever [Deluxe Edition] (Republic)
You might like if you enjoy: Kate Bush, Florence + The Machine, Bat for Lashes
Tell me more: Expanded beyond the standard 14-track version also released in 2022, Florence + The Machine's Dance Fever [Deluxe Edition] find's the artist's fifth studio album packaged in a hardback book; the audio CD includes five bonus tracks. Described as a "Fairytale in Fourteen Songs," Dance Fever marks the first release by British songstress Florence Welch and company since 2018. The majestic opener "King" (bolstered by all manner of sonic shifts), propulsive electronica-tinged "Free," soulful "Dream Girl Evil," anthemic "Cassandra," driving "Daffodil," acoustic "The Bomb" and intoxicating "My Love" are among the many standouts on the terrific return. Welch is a singer armed with a soprano that is both powerful and expressive, and the track listing across Dance Fever is the perfect expression of those marvelous gifts. The bonus tracks also serve to more fully appreciate Welch's artistry; she revisits four of the LP's cuts with sparse arrangement anchored by her poignant vocals — "Cassandra," "Free" and "My Love" are especially moving. Closing out the title is "Search and Destroy," a fiery take on the Iggy Pop-penned 1973 Stooges classic. Fans of Welch's singular vision will definitely want to pick up this versionInformation:

Ruthie Foster
Title: Healing Time (Blue Corn Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, Ruthie Foster
Tell me more: Ruthie Foster's stirring ninth studio album Healing Time is a fantastic disc of genuine and authentic soul. No surprise that Foster delivers another batch of winning songs that soar, her vocals a constant wonder across the dozen-track disc that simultaneously showcases her immense skills as a top-tier songwriter. The gospel mining "Feels Like Freedom" brings chills with its power and beauty all while avoiding the modern day bombast that would diminish the might of the track. The potent and anthemic "Soul Searching" is an explosive celebration of love. Blues lovers will appreciate the longing "What Kind Of Fool," where the Austin songstress uses her full vocal range across the song's wonderful arc. The wistful "Lie Your Way To The Truth" dips into pop, but the soundscape shares more in common with the artful sonics of Florence + the Machine than the disposable and robotic approach of so many contemporary R&B hitmakers. Other memorable selections on Healing Time include the spiritual-minded "I Was Called," acoustic blues foray "4 AM," tuneful "Finish Line" and majestic "Paradise." Information:

The Fixx
Title: Every Five Seconds (BFD)
You might like if you enjoy: Simple Minds, U2, David Bowie
Tell me more: Before the release of Every Five Seconds on June 3, 2022, it had been a full decade since The Fixx had issued a new studio album (2012's wonderful Beautiful Friction). The great news for fans of top-tier alternative rock is that the quintet's latest effort builds on a marvelous discography stretching back to their 1982 debut Shuttered Room. Lead singer Cy Curnin's voice is still a wonder, and it is amazing that the band's long-time lineup is fully intact (lead guitarist Jamie West-Oram, bassist Dan K. Brown, keyboardist Rupert Greenall, drummer Adam Woods). The top-tier material includes the topical rocker "A Life Survived," funk-tinged "Closer," thought-provoking sortie "Wake Up," luxurious "Suspended In Make Believe," dazzling "Spell" and the ambitious styles-defying "Lonely As A Lighthouse" — the latter showcasing West-Oram's amazing fret work. Information:

Marcus King
Title: Young Blood (American Records / Republic Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Gary Clark Jr., Marcus King Band, Walter Trout
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter/guitar master Marcus King returned in August 2022 with Young Blood, a sharp 11-track set of hard-hitting Southern-fried blues rock. Music lovers who miss the guitar heroes of yesteryear should run out and pick up King's new album. While listeners thrill in King's otherworldly talents, they will be gripped by a set of songs that collectively chronicle a dark period for King following a devastating break-up. The artist honestly addresses drug and alcohol excess as well as the real-life issues of depression and mental health struggles. Tracks such as "It's Too Late," "Lie Lie Lie," "Pain" and "Good and Gone" showcase the rising 26-year-old South Carolina native focusing simultaneously on his signature gritty vocals and astonishing lead guitar work in the service of stylish genre-meshing songs blending Southern rock, blues and soul in good measure. Elsewhere  take the lovely "Rescue Me," sparse "Blues Worse Than I Ever Had" and groove-centered "Blood On The Tracks" and "Dark Cloud"  King uses his influences to create that same kind of dynamic firepower amidst a relatively quiet stormInformation:

The Legion of Decency
Title: Deep Lines Among The Shallows (Legion Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Dawes, Old 97's, Rhett Miller
Tell me more: Deep Lines Among The Shallows is the wonderful full-length album from Inland Empire-based The Legion of Decency. An album of immense depth, warmth and undeniable beauty, singer-songwriter-guitarist Michael Tamony's rich Americana guided soundscape is bolstered by a talented cast of players and singers who bring the mix of literate and poetic originals fully to life. Compelling songs on Side A include the poignant opener "Sometimes," the genuinely affecting "Grandma's Sound," rollicking "We Are Giant" and immersive title track. The countrified "I Do," lovely "Julietta," and reflective closer "Shine a Light" are among the wonderful cuts on Side B of the albumInformation: TheLegionOfDecency.

Julian Lennon
Title: Jude (BMG)
You might like if you enjoy: David Bowie, John Lennon, Ron Sexsmith
Tell me more: It's hard to believe, but singer-songwriter Julian Lennon's amazing 2022 album Jude marks the artist's first new full-length studio album since 2011's Everything Changes. The wonderful news for fans of Lennon is the artist's skills as a songwriter and singer of literate and expressive songcraft is a potent as ever. Jude is filled with emotive and lush originals including the soaring "Round and Round," Baroque power ballad "Love Don't Let Me Down," shimmering "Freedom," gorgeous "Love Never Dies," French-flavored "Gaia" (the latter a collaboration with Paul Buchanan of Scottish band The Blue Nile and Elissa Lauper), yearning art rocker "Breathe," and ambitious "Stay" with its enthralling jazz and experimental sections. A fantastic return. Information:

Maple Mars
Title: Someone's Got To Listen (Big Stir Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Matthew Sweet, Fountains of Wayne, The Move
Tell me more: The Los Angeles-based Maple Mars released Someone's Got To Listen, a terrific 10-track effort that also marked the outfit's first new full-length album since 2010's Galaxyland. Loaded with an intoxicating mix of psychedelic rock, tuneful songcraft and artful arrangements, Someone's Got To Listen extols '60s influences while tapping into modern day heft. There is truly no filler on the outstanding disc, which boasts one must hear original after another. My faves include the irresistible opener "Useless Information," luxurious "Gliding," soaring harmonies-adorned "Teenage Dream," nuanced "Goodbye California," and driving "Silver Craft" (bolstered by some fantastic guitar work). The ambitious closer "Redemption" caps the outstanding return. Maple Mars' talented lineup includes Rick Hromadka (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Steve Berns (guitar), Ron Pak (drums, vocals) and Joe Giddings (bass, vocals). Information:

Glen Phillips
Title: There Is So Much Here (Compass Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Toad the Wet Sprocket, Neil Finn, Aimee Mann
Tell me more: Beloved as the frontman for Toad the Wet Sprocket, singer-songwriter Glen Phillips returned with his latest solo album, There Is So Much HereA master at chronicling the emotion-filled events in own life with originals that are literate, infectious and timeless, Glen Phillips mined his experiences going through the COVID lockdown on his way to the creation of the marvelous 11-track disc. This was also a singular period where Phillips used the rare experience of being home for an extended stretch to reflect on his life in ways new to him. The range of material across the album will please fans of Phillips' past parade of triumphs. The soaring "Other Birds of Prey" is a euphoric rocker that recalls the high marks set on Toad the Wet Sprocket's Dulcinea. Elsewhere the bouncy "I Was a Riot" (a particularly confessional examination of the end of a relationship), lovely piano-anchored "The Bluest Eye," spacious "Brand New Blue," melodic rocker "Center Of The Circle" and jazz-infused "The Sound of Drinking" — the latter an introspective look at everyday joys that draws favorable sonic comparisons with the work of Bruce Cockburn  allure the listener. The acoustic "Skeleton For School," infectious "Stone Throat," and luxurious "Call the Moondust" are other standouts on the masterwork. Information:

Simple Minds
Title: Direction of the Heart (BMG)
You might like if you enjoy: U2, Simple Minds, The Fixx
Tell me more: Simple Minds' highly-anticipated Direction of the Heart marked the legendary Scottish outfit's 18th studio album. The nine-track disc is a genuine triumph, featuring singer-songwriter Jim Kerr, guitarist Charlie Burchill, bassist Ged Grimes, vocalist Sarah Brown, keyboardist-guitarist Gordy Goudie, drummer Cherisse Osei and keyboardist Berenice Scott delivering stylish songs that are both bewitching and expertly crafted. The shimmering opener "Vision Thing," dynamic and propulsive "First You Jump," new wave-mining "Human Traffic" featuring Sparks frontman Russell Mael and urgent "Who Killed Truth?" are early highlights on the album. The propulsive "Act of Love" (a gem written by Kerr and Burchill in Glasgow back in 1977 and performed as the opening song of their first-ever gig), enticing "Natural" and unsettling "Planet Zero" are late album highlights. Direction of the Heart closes with a shining synch-swept cover of The Call's 1983 track "The Walls Came Down," a track that Simple Minds makes it own with lush layers of vocals, shining synthesizers and textured guitar work. Information:

Title: Jobbernowl (Big Stir Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Monkees, The Who, The Hollies
Tell me more: Listening to Spygenius' glorious Jobbernowl is to be transported back to the 1960s. The latest album from the celebrated Canterbury, England-based quartet is a bona fide thrill for lovers of top-tier songcraft, nuanced musicianship and stylish retro-leaning rock. A follow-up to the foursome's 2020 double LP Man on the Sea and 2021's album of marvelous covers (Spygenius Blow Their Covers), the 11-track Jobbernowl finds the band delivering a mix of propulsive garage rockers, sophisticated baroque pop and timeless power pop  all bolstered by soaring vocal harmonies. The hard charging opener "I Dig Your New Robes, Pierre!," bewitching Baroque rocker "2020 Revision," lovely "All That Is Solid Melts Into Air," power pop swoop "Mandy Rice-Davies Applies" and immersive "Metamorphosis" collectively showcase a band that deserves to be heard far and wide. Spygenius features singer-guitarist/chief songwriter Peter Watts, keyboard player Matt Byrne, drummer Alan Cannings and bassist Ruth RogersInformation:

Seth Swirsky
Title: Songs From The Green Couch (Lolipop Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Beatles, the Monkees, Badfinger, Julian Lennon
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Seth Swirsky returned with another batch of indispensable ear candy courtesy of his self-produced Songs From The Green Couch, a 15-track disc that is as ambitious as it is listenable. Take the opener; "Sunny Day" opens with a chamber pop section before burgeoning into a Beatlesque push. The instantly-inviting "I Don't Wanna Lose You" is pure power pop and executed with absolute perfection. Standouts abound on this terrific release; the beautiful Baroque-mining "Cashmere Sweaters," the frightful "Dead," irresistible "Making It Up As We Go Along," shimmering "Rose Avenue" (the latter bolstered by some sharp guitar work from Kirk Hellie) and luxurious closer "American Bar" are among this writer's other favorites on the masterwork. "The record was a two year process," Swirsky says in the press notes for the album. "I started writing and recording the record at the beginning of a serious new relationship I was having — it continued during a very painful breakup. Thus, the album oscillates between many hi’s and lo’s for me personally, which are reflected in the lyrics.If you love melodic and smart songcraft, get a copy of Songs from the Green CouchInformation:  

She & Him
Title: Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson (Fantasy)
You might like if you enjoy: She & Him, Brian Wilson 
Tell me more: She & Him  M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel  returned this year with their first new full-length album since 2016, the delightful Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson. The title features the duo's signature blend of 1960s pop sheen and indie rock sensibilities, a perfect fit with Wilson's timeless songcraft. While She & Him cover a few of Wilson's best-known hits, they more often stray off the beaten path across the 14-track set. The strength of the album spans from the uplifting "Do It Again" and "Good To My Baby" to the melancholy-adorned "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "Melt Away" and darker currents of " 'Til I Die" (the disc's most stirring track). A touching tribute to the 80-year-old Wilson and welcome return from She & Him in one essential collection. Information:

Tears For Fears
Title: The Tipping Point (Concord Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Tears For Fears, The Beatles, Jason Falkner, Pugwash
Tell me more: The high-profile return of Tears For Fears courtesy of the duo's highly-anticipated The Tipping Point is definitely worth celebrating. The new masterwork   the first new album from Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith in more than 17 years   equals the ambition, sonic craft and artistic mastery of past classics like The Hurting (1983), Songs From The Big Chair (1985), The Seeds of Love (1989) and Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (2004). The album is filled with stellar cuts; the title track "The Tipping Point" is a deeply affecting song chronicling the feeling of helplessness of watching someone you love lose their battle with disease. Another favorite is  the shimmering "Break The Man," which is a call for more equality between men and women. The beautiful and evocative "Rivers Of Mercy," grief-filled "Please Be Happy," swirling "Master Plan" (a yearning to understand God), the triumphant rocker "End of Night" and luxurious "Let It All Evolve" (the latter a bonus track available via a Target exclusive edition) are among the other treasures on the must--hear disc. Few artists have been able to mine Beatlesque soundscapes like Tears For Fears while charting their own inventive course. Information:

Walter Trout
Title: Ride (Provogue Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Joe Bonamassa, Rory Gallagher, Canned Heat
Tell me more: Walter Trout has been at the forefront of modern blues dating back to his role as a guitarist with Canned Heat from 1981 to 1984 and subsequently with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers from 1984-1989. Since embarking on his solo career 33 years ago, his stature has only grown. Now on Ride  Trout's 30th solo release  the singer-songwriter/guitar great delivers a masterwork fully in tune with his myriad of life experiences. The exceptional material features a mix of affecting ballads and uptempo blues rockers with all of the material bolstered by Trout's exceptional guitar work and signature vocals. Highlights include the aptly-titled opener "Ghosts," searing "Better Days Ahead," beautiful "Waiting for the Dawn," confessional high-powered blues rocker "I Worry Too Much" and evocative album closer "Destiny.". Information:

Michael Ubaldini
Title: Rabbit Foot Carnival (Blackwater Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones' "Exhile on Main Street"
Tell me more: Acclaimed singer-songwriter Michael Ubaldini returned in June 2022 with Rabbit Foot Carnival, a bona fide masterwork that finds the acclaimed artist using rich melody-adorned songcraft to ignite his literate observations on life, love, death, faith, the frayed American dream and the uncertain forces that propel each of us toward an uncertain tomorrow. Effortlessly dipping into roots rock, Americana, country blues, folk and gospel across 14 original songs, Ubaldini uses that vast sonic canvas along with his signature songwriting to zero in on these especially troubled times. Early standout cuts on the album include the irresistible rocker "Lazarus Blues" (bolstered by the terrific gospel vocals of Julie Harris), spirited celebration of faith "Free If You Want It," rollicking old school rocker "Rats In Your Attic" and haunting acoustic blues sortie "Roadside Prayer." The magic continues with late disc standouts like the driving Rolling Stones-flavored "Sabre Jet," poignant "General Store," and "Love Up Close," and rollicking blues rocker "Black Diamond Train." Information:

Pete Yorn
Title: Hawaii (Shelly Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Pete Yorn, The Postal Service, R.E.M.
Tell me more: Pete Yorn returned in June 2022 with another fantastic batch of tuneful and enticing folk rock originals via Hawaii. Co-produced by Yorn with Jackson Phillips, the 10-track album is a phenomenal return for the New Jersey native. Standouts include the driving melodic opener "Elizabeth Taylor," sweeping "Never Go" with its burgeoning melodic build, wistful "'Til The End," shimmering dream pop gem "Also Roses" and luxurious closer "Stay Away." The piano-anchored "Ransom" is particularly affecting, Yorn's yearning vocals capturing his emotional pain in one of the disc's high points. Information:

1 comment:

Robert Ortega said...

Since you liked Ruthie Foster's Healing Time, another album that came this year you might like is Feel Like Going Home by Miko Marks & the Resurrectors.