The Best Music Howie Heard In 2022

What a fantastic year for new music. My list is twice as long as usual.

I added over two hundred albums to my collection this year, and have listened to almost all of them since early November to try and the best. “Best” in this context means having double extra special sparkle sauce; absolute lightning in a bottle. “Honorable mention” is no dishonor; records in that group are truly outstanding as well.

In random order, the best music I heard in 2022 –

Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow, “Zhigeist” (2022) – A beautiful meeting of polymathematical minds, hiking through history with vision and verve.

Amber Mark, “Three Dimensions Deep” (2022) – Everything that smart, modern R&B-pop should be, with bonus points for Afrofuturism.

Stik Figa & Conductor Williams, “Valley of Dry Bones” (2022) – Intentionally short, and undeniable. Conductor warps his samples right up to the point of over-sickness, and Stik continues to drop heartfelt truths in plain but striking language.

Beth Orton, “Weather Alive” (2022) – Orton braved the emotional wilderness to bring us back this collection of meditations, performed by an absolutely cracking band.

Kendrick Lamar, “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” (2022) – Uneven on early listens, but the great tracks are *so great.* I think “Mr. Morale…” will age incredibly well.

Tangerine Dream, “Raum” (2022) – Edgar’s long-time collaborators raid his archive and piece together a perfect blend of vintage kosmische vibes and modern production.

Hammered Hulls, “Careening” (2022) – Dischord-based supergroup featuring members of Fugazi and Helium bangs out arty garage jams; grown folks going hard, one of my favorite meta-genres.

Hainbach, “Syn-Ket Studien” (2022) – This short set, in combination with its companion video and the rabbit hole it sent me down, pleasantly ate up an is-the-pandemic-over-or-isn’t-it weekend.

Del the Funky Homosapien, “Attractive Sin” (w/ Parallel Thought) (2012) – Listen to “Charlie Brown.” No one is simultaneously as shit-talkingly hilarious and technically brilliant as Del.

Heldon, “Allez-Teia (Heldon II)” (1975) – Heldon’s particular style of experimental kosmische continues to speak to me, almost as if Drew’s solo Night Mode work was sent back in time.

Huerco S, “Plonk” (2022) – I’ve respected Huerco S since “For Those Of You…” hit indie-big, but this is the first one I’ve *gotten into.* Apt album title is apt.

Hammers of Misfortune, “Overtaker” (2022) – Hammers pull lessons learned in their excellent side project Vhol into the mothership; metal AOTY in my book.

Tems, “If Orange Was A Place” (2021) – Along with her singles and “For Broken Ears” EP, this suggestion by Stig Figa from last year’s LPLP call was an easy favorite of mine this year.

Stevie Wonder, “Hotter Than July” (1980) – Pitchfork’s summer Stevie Wonder day turned me on to this one. It’s rep as a second-tier Stevie album just underlines his greatness; this is still *hot*, 42 years on.

The Architects, “Border Wars 3” (2022) – They got the band back together to rip through another set of songs about drugs and law enforcement (and being on the wrong side of both)!

The Creepy Jingles, “Take Me At My Wordplay” (2022) – A dense set of rainbowed-up ADHD psychadelia, impeccably crafted.

Szun Waves, “Earth Patterns” (2022) – Unique conjuring of cosmic atmosphere grounded in wood and breath.

Backxwash, “HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SUFFERING” (2022) – Backxwash howls and glories in one more batch of freshly harsh beats. Untouchable; no one else sounds remotely like this.

Braingea, “Holon Daze” (2022) – An outstanding team effort, but the reason it’s “Best” is that Travis Baker’s drumming is finally, fully captured on mic.

Black Star, “No Fear Of Time” (2022) – It’s so good to hear Bey rap again. Madlib makes the impossible – following up the debut – sound easy and Arkestra-weird at once. Kweli is here.

Pusha T, “It’s Almost Dry” (2022) – It’s the same well but it can never run dry when you have the skill and charisma of Pusha.

Honorable mention –

Open Mike Eagle, “Component System With The Auto-Reverse” (2022)
Asterales, “Futurespective” (2022) – Fun long-player including “So Easy” which was among my “Best” last year
Battalion of Cloudships, “Penetralia” (2022) and “Apophenic Cycles” (2021) – Really good live drone and a personal best for the project
Alister Fawnwoda, Greg Leisz, & Suzanne Ciani, “Milan” (2021)
Little Brother, “The Listening (Deluxe Edition)” (2003)

Serene Fiend, “Elegies and Effigies” (2022)
iD and Sleeper, “Displacement (Deluxe)” (2005)
Faith Maddox, “Subtle Hauntings” (2022)
Steve Hillage, “Rainbow Dome Musick” (1979)
Spiritualized, “Everything Was Beautiful” (2022) – Borderline “Best,” see “Laid In Your Arms”

Charles Mingus, “Tonight At Noon” (1961) – Did an extra-deep dive on Mingus this year; no one like him, and I’ll boost him any chance I can!
Phife Dawg, “Forever” (2022) – Legit good, not just a posthumous tribute
Lonnie Smith, “Finger Lickin’ Good” (1967) – Got into Dr. Lonnie Smith this year!
Afrorack, “The Afrorack” (2022)
Effie, “Curve My Enthusiasm” (2019)

2 Skinnee J’s, “The Big Green Book” (2005) – Well worth it for fans
Freestyle Fellowship, “To Whom It May Concern…” (1991)
Rival Consoles, “Now Is” (2022)
Proudentall, “KCeMO ’96-’99” (2022)
Alessandro Cortini, “Forse 1-3 + Vivo” (2021)

Milkdrop & Jet Moran, “Write Away” (2022)
Gift of Gab, “Finding Inspiration Somehow” (2021) – RIP
Richard Quirk, “Tape Circle” (2019)
The Afghan Whigs, “How Do You Burn?” (2022)
Elder, “Innate Passage” (2022)

Author & Punisher, “Kruller” (2022)
Selvedge, “The Real River” (2022) & “Daybreaker” (2022)
O.C., “Word… Life” (1994)
Secret Machines, “Day 21” EP (2022)
Royal Blood, “Typhoons” (2021) – I sure spun this a lot

Black Thought & Danger Mouse, “Cheat Codes” (2022)
Spoon, “Lucifer On The Sofa” (2022)