I almost didn’t write an annual “Best Of” post this year. Not because I didn’t buy and listen to a ton of music, but more because the blog has sort of drifted away from me over the last few years. The drop in posting frequency has been noticeable:
- 194 posts in 2019
- 127 posts in 2020
- 8 posts in 2021
- 6 posts in 2022 (not including this one)
I think its just a coincidence that this happened during COVID – if anything I’ve had more free time available over the last three years as I shifted to work-from-home and eliminated a daily 2.5 hour round trip commute from my life. Really it boils down to I just didn’t feel like I had much to say.
Some cool music-related things happened in 2022. Over the summer we got on an airplane for the first time since November, 2019 and took a trip to Chicago. I of course took the opportunity to hit up some local record shops and came home with some great stuff. I also finally attended some concerts (also for the first time since November 2019), catching Swedish House Mafia and Iron Maiden here in Seattle. Then in November we headed back to Reykjavik for our 11th Iceland Airwaves. I can’t say that I have any complaints whatsoever.
I also joined my friend Tristen on a musical odyssey of sorts, as we agreed to listen to the Top 100 albums on Rolling Stone‘s The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. Over the course of 11 months we worked our way down from #100 (The Band – Music From Big Pink) to #1 (Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On). A task such as this would have been near impossible in the past, but streaming, combined with working from home, helped make it a reality – though I did miss a Neil Young album when he pulled his stuff from Spotify.
But let’s get to the lists! Without further ado…
Top 5 New Releases in 2022
1. Sá Yðar Sem Syndlaus Er – Plagan (Iceland)
2. The Pearl – Sensational ft. Planteaterz (US)
3. Venezuela – Ohm & Octal Industries (Iceland)
4. Tröð – Dalalæða (Iceland)
5. Cosmic Dub Hop – DJ Kalish Youze (Iceland)
This is the first time I’ve ever done a year-end Top 5 list that doesn’t include at least one artist that could be classified as “rock”, which is a bit startling to me but does reflect how my listening habits have changed.
My favorite release was Sá Yðar Sem Syndlaus Er. While put out under the name Plagan, this is in fact the work of Þórir Georg. The music was part of Þórir’s art degree project. The piece as a whole was inspired by Mark Fisher’s concept of “boring dystopia”, which Þórir applied to the seven deadly sins by combining modern-sounding music with something considered kitsch, cross-stitching, which is, or at least was, quite common and prevalent in Icelandic households. Sonically dense and varied, it is an outstanding piece of work. You can find it on streaming services, though if you want a physical copy, good luck – only 10 copies were pressed on vinyl.
Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers
1. Codec & Flexor
3. Mt. Fujitive
I played Codec & Flexor’s “Time Has Changed” single so much this year that it sort of became a running joke in our house. I originally discovered these guys as part of The Sound of Warhammer 40.000 (see below) and immediately fell in love with this track. Kitbuilders also came to me from the same series. PPBB and Sameheads were both live discoveries at Iceland Airwaves, while Mt. Fujitive is an Icelandic artist who somehow managed to slip under my radar for years, a situation I rectified by picking up three of his vinyl releases while in Reykjavik for Airwaves. Fujitive’s sound has elements of hip hop and jazz, and his Bandcamp page uses the description “beats to lounge to”, which is actually pretty apt. Give him a listen when you’re looking to chill.
Top 5 Purchases/Acquisitions
1. The Sound of Warhammer 40.000 releases
2. Led Zeppelin live records
3. Novation Launchkey Mini Midi
4. Q1 – Q4U
5. First Six Dischord Records box set
My descent into the rabbit hole of The Sound of Warhammer 40.000 releases was a blast. I reached out to as many of the artists as I could track down, and a lot of them actually got back to me. The blog that came out of it was one of the best things I’ve done in a while. The only downside was the expense – I had to source most of these records and CDs out of Europe, and there were a few times that the shipping was actually more than the record. But no regrets on my end.
On the Zeppelin front, a Seattle-area record store has a section of OG live recordings from the 1960s through the 1980s – I have to assume these were part of a collection. Tons of stuff from the Stones, Yes, Dylan, The Who, and of course the mighty Zeppelin. I unexpectedly found myself with a few dollars in my pocket around this time and went a bit hog wild, buying 16 (16!) of the Led Zeppelin records. As the year progressed I added a few more from other sources, with special emphasis on Seattle shows. The recording quality on these is all over the board, but I’m glad I picked them up.
The third item on this list isn’t media, but instead midi, as in a midi keyboard. I started making my own music in 2022 and will have a cassette release coming out in January, 2023. More to follow! Finding a used copy of the original release of Q1 was a nice score in Reykjavik, and I’m glad I jumped on that Dischord box set when it was announced, since the pressing was limited to pre-orders only. I have to admit I haven’t opened this one yet, but definitely will next year.
Top 5 Live Shows
1. Janus Rasmussen – Gaukurinn, Reykjavik
2. Revenge of Calculon – Lucky Records, Reykjavik
3. PPBB – Iceland Airwaves Center, Reykjavik
4. Swedish House Mafia – Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle
5. Iron Maiden – Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle
I read mixed reviews on Janus Rasmussen’s show at Guakurinn. All I know is for me it was transcendent, a reminder of the importance of live music and what we lost during the COVID shutdowns. Revenge of Calculon was an absolute blast as the guys entrusted me with a GoPro and told me to run wild in the crowd, which I did. PPBB forced me to get outside of my comfort zone, and for that I am grateful. As for Swedish House Mafia and Iron Maiden, these music veterans still have it and know how to put on a live show.
Top 5 Artists On Spotify
1. Bolt Thrower
2. Led Zeppelin
3. The Rolling Stones
5. A Tribe Called Quest
I’m not entirely sure what drives these Spotify results. My guess is that these are the artists I searched for most frequently, because I’m not convinced they are the ones I played the most. Bolt Thrower isn’t a surprise – Realm of Chaos is an afternoon go-to that I often play after my last work calls are done for the day but while I’m still tying up loose ends. Zeppelin and the Stones are great and all, but with the Stones in particular, I didn’t play them much outside the Rolling Stone Top 100 list experiment, so maybe that’s why they showed up.
Top 5 Places To Buy Records
1. Lucky Records – Reykjavik
2. Selector Records – Seattle
3. 606 Records – Chicago
4. Reykjavik Record Shop – Reykjavik
5. Space Odyssey – Reykjavik
Finally being able to travel in 2022 was amazing, and it got us back to my favorite record shopping city, Reykjavik. Lucky Records of course holds down the top spot – not only did I buy a bunch of stuff there during Airwaves, but they also serve as a venue and I ordered a bunch from them over the course of the year, which allowed me to keep up with Icelandic releases. Reykjavik Record Shop is also a must-visit while in the city, and Reynir runs a very cool label at the same time. Space Odyssey is the newest addition to the music retail scene in Reykjavik, with a focus on electronic and experimental music and an associated label. So much great stuff happening in that city.
Closer to home, Chicago’s 606 Records and Seattle’s own Selector Records offered up lots of great new electronic music for my ears. My buying this year leaned very heavily in the electronica direction, and specialty shops like these helped make that possible.
Top 5 Music Books Read
1. My Life in the Sunshine: Searching for My Father and Discovering My Family by Nabil Ayers (2022)
2. Led Zeppelin: The Biography by Bob Spitz (2021)
3. Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 3: Frantic Rants for the Turntable Able by Henry Rollins (2022)
4. Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records by Jim Ruland (2022)
5. The Nineties: A Book by Chuck Klosterman (2022)
I think I finished nine music books so far this year, and should have a tenth done before it finally wraps up (I’m currently enjoying the first book in the 33 1/3 Genre Series entitled Death Metal). My top choice was about more than just music. Nabil Ayers gives us a very personal look at his life as the son of a famous musician whose father was basically not in his life. It’s funny, moving, and thought-provoking. For record nerds (like me) Henry Rollins serves up another dose of label-gazing, variant chasing, and general musings in the latest volume of his music listening and collecting diaries. Klosterman’s book was probably my overall favorite of the group, but given that it wasn’t music-centric I put it in the #5 spot for purposes of this list. It does have some great stuff about 90s music, though, as well as that very 90s-esque obsession with the concept of “selling out”.