When I started putting together a personal year-end list back in November, I kept finding myself drawn back to moments not just in albums, but across comics, podcasts, the few movies/TV shows I found time to watch and, more importantly, in my own life. 2022 almost felt as relentless as 2020 in our household — we lost loved ones (my aunt/godmother, my last living grandparent, our dog Cocoa Bean, my dear friend's mother, Low's Mimi Parker), experienced upheavals in routines and spent some months in financial uncertainty. This is not all to mention what happened in the world — from Russia's invasion of Ukraine to the Supreme Court's overturning of abortion rights to what seemed like daily mass shootings (and little accountability).
But friends left jobs to start record shops or have babies or move to cities they'd always dreamt about. There were new starts: my wife's job, my kid's school. And, as you'll read below, I had revelations about music and myself — often found in sweet moments with family — that proved just as crucial to how I heard the year.
For those new here due to the year-end Viking's Choice episode on NPR's All Songs Considered or my recent appearance on Morning Edition talking about Straw Man Army, hi! My newsletter missives usually aren't this long; in fact, I'm figuring out what I'd like to do with this space in 2023.
There's a BNDCMPR playlist if the music is on Bandcamp; I didn't bother to sequence it! Links generally go to Bandcamp unless it's Bad Bunny or whatever. For whatever reason, I didn't want to name albums, but instead capture the emotion or motion the music inspired — really gunnin' for SEO on this one. Comics, restaurants, family updates and whatnot are all mixed into the pot, since that's how everything happened anyway. —Lars Gotrich
Pigeon Pit began 2022 with a mantra that I clutched like a blanket all year: "I've been to a world worth living in"
Only saw two movies in theaters, but sat in awe of The Batman's subtle renewals of character and how Everything Everywhere All at Once made me cry, laugh and think everything everywhere all at once
caroline's rich minimalist-emo-post-rock chamber-folk music was about lifting each other up, but with arrangements that reflected humanity's unstable architecture
My wife started a new gig at the D.C. chapter of ACLU, the perfect culmination of their teaching and organizing career so far
Old Dutch onion & garlic potato chips
Scored a slew of Amphetamine Reptile 7”s and fell in love with Helmet as a result
Paletas from La Neveria Michoacana, specifically the pistachio and pine nut + strawberry flavors.
HAIM’s Deli Tour my last show before the pandemic hit, which made the band's return to The Anthem all the more bittersweet; I went to both with my bestie Lyndsey, who left for Florida shortly thereafter (and gave birth to twins!)
I don’t know that I actually paid much attention to Friday’s outdoor sets at Maryland Deathfest, but loved spending all of my time drinking and eating pizza with my pals Tom, Maddie and Kim (then getting to see Kim in "book tour mode" the next day)
Homemade blackberry moonshine that my brother’s friend brought to poker night
Negative Plane's melodramatic, Faustian black-metal epic worthy of an avant-garde dance troupe's corpse-painted interpretive performance
Lots of comics, including Do A Powerbomb! by Daniel Warren Johnson, Concrete by Paul Chadwick, Blue Giant by Shinichi Ishizuka and She-Hulk by Rainbow Rowell
French septuagenarian Emmanuelle Parrenin's spectral folk music that bubbled with electronics, saxophone and synths.
During a catalog-spanning set at the Black Cat, the realization that Zao's carefully considered metallic chaos and fury is a continuum, never a throwback
Nothing went harder than the cowbell in GEL’s “Predominant Mask”
Dreamier and desert-swept, but no less bangin' doom from Messa
Maggie Rogers' exquisite pop captured the lingering awe of desire like none other; I really enjoyed to talking to her about summertime music
Sprinkles and soft serve during Ted Leo’s solo set at Fort Reno; he played a Chisel cover, making it the most D.C. night ever
Notes app realization dated Aug. 17: It’s OK to make things that don’t last
Javier Ortiz's one-man NWOBHM-inspired speed metal band Vórtize made me grin ear to ear.
Undeterred from a skateboarding injury, Coco absolutely rocked the hell out of a LED-lit Rascal scooter — that he modified — during Man…Or Astro-Man?'s incredible set at the Grey Eagle in Asheville, N.C.; it was nice to catch up with old Athens pal Sam (aka Avona Nova) afterward
Preservation's junk-shop beats were a sympathetic match for billy woods' bars that ruminated, excavated and eviscerated
L.R.E.A.M. [Luke (Stewart) Rules Everything Around Me]; the bassist was a constant presence on my favorite free-jazz records, including Heart of the Ghost's punk fury & flames, BI DA BOOM's playful dub splatter and SSWAN's exhilarating improv
Keith Fullerton Whitman released three different shades of modular synth science, but I was especially drawn to a live set from 2019 that saw KFM in a longform industrial-punk mode
Put a turntable in my home office and instituted throwback Fridays
Nancy Mounir's Egyptian ghosts and the stories they still tell us
The way Switchblade's CD — more ecstatic drum fills in emo, plz — never left my car
Absolutely wrecked my body on a slip n slide to the delight and laughter of my daughter
SAULT's meditative A Love Supreme-y gospel — still an anonymous entity, which felt revelatory in a way that maybe it shouldn't
Lamin Fofana's range as an electronic composer bewildered and lulled me to unknown dreamscapes
Made reference to an obscure Christian alt-rock band after tacos and someone perked up: "Did you just mention Adam Again?" That's when I knew the right choice to attend Furnace Fest in Alabama, pretty much last minute at the urging of Roadside Monument
Played in a Goo Goo Dolls cover band with friends for Halloween
Sang along to every dang song at Carly Rae Jepsen's ecstatic show at The Anthem with besties Marissa and Farrah
Dark humor as catharsis via the hardcore ramble and rumble of daddy's boy
Drove home from the GWAR gig in Baltimore to Vanessa Rossetto's absorbing emotional narrative composed around field recordings, uncertain what sounds were happening on the disc or in/outside my car
Scented candles — especially LAIT's Super Lune — and scratch-n-sniff stickers
Stuck Van Halen's fun-as-hell debut in the car's CD player driving home from a matinee gig and suddenly the gleefully weird rock music of Editrix made much more sense
Spirits lifted by Linda Ayupuka — fire-cracker'd, auto-tune'd gospel music from Ghana
Chopped cumbia nostalgia via Turbo Sonidero
Poured a cup of oolong tea and zoned to Sơn FM's synth-dripped and -rippled paintings.
Embraced my inner Deadhead with the catholic jamband tastes of Taper's Choice
Comforted by Hikaru Utada's voice, which — in pop songs that carry the dimmed lights and sparkles off the dance floor to the living room — has become a vessel for love and empathy
VOICE ACTOR's mesmerizing four-hour travelogue drifted from dream to dream
The Cherie Curry burger from The Runaway in D.C., which is quickly turning into our new neighborhood haunt
Eight's Mimi Gallagher asked, "What if Billy Corgan produced a Sheryl Crow record?"
Calm Collapse's Doug Lorig (also of Roadside Monument) asked, "What if we took chunky Chavez riffs and drew them out in glacial, ISIS-style jams?"
Barcelona's Serpent asked, "What if we applied Sonic Youth-ian complexity to heartfelt Jawbreaker anthems?"
'90s NBA references and block-rockin' beats from Philly's Wrecking Crew — Curly Castro, PremRock, Small Professor and Zilla Rocca never hogged the ball, but favored full-court play while holding court
Floored the highways and spaceways to Hammers of Misfortune's cosmically-revved, operatic thrash-prog.
Cheem's nu-jock jams made me grin like an idiot
Mourning doves roosted in our back porch's metal roof; we named the mama-to-be "Betsy"
Ribbon Stage made indie-pop's heart thump as hard as cartoon wolf with a Beat Happening tattoo
Gladie's Augusta Koch wrote couplets that found meditation in the everyday: "Push around my thoughts on my breakfast plate / Pause to savor taste and evaluate"
Krallice's evolution is never complete, but congealed as a crystalline cathedral of cloud metallus
Clobbered by Gospel's synth-driven proggy post-hardcore — virtuosic, yet surprisingly heartfelt
Flipped pancakes on Sunday mornings to The Reds, Pinks & Purples' perpetually teary dream-pop; the vinyl-only instrumentals were perfect for staring out windows
The deeply reported and emotionally wrought witness of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast
Compelled by Daniel Bachman to rethink our place in — and what we owe — this world
With echoes of Jason Molina in its bones and tones, cried quietly to Kali Malone's dynamic drone
Walked home from a show at 1 in the morning, listening to Shannen Moser, whose voice has a direct line to my tear ducts
No one grooved and hummed with such depth and beauty like Jeff Parker
Dan Charnas' Dilla Time literally mapped the music of J Dilla onto the streets of Detroit in an revelatory audiobook opening I will never forget
When I realized David Bazan should be treated as an author, I paired him with Hanif Abdurraqib in a conversation — for his most ruminative narrative since reclaiming Pedro the Lion's name — that I still think about
Do guitars just ring out treble-y, triumphant themes in Bill Orcutt's mind at all times?
Fell back in love with Björk… hard
Maria W Horn & Sara Parkman proved that funeral doom isn't just for metalheads — this Popul Vuh-inspired folk doom was just as heavy
Koto, saxophone and shakuhachi improvisations that yearned in an immediately understood musical language via Kozue Matsumoto, Patrick Shiroishi and Shoshi Watanabe
No one shredded with as much verve and soul as Malian rockers BKO
Judy and the Jerks released 17 minutes of sugar cereal punk frenzy
Meditated on the small glints of light in the cracks found in Straw Man Army's meticulously-crafted punk
Moin cut, shuffled and plastered '90s post-hardcore like 4D Legos
Thrashed most triumphantly to Autonoesis' outrageously fun and raw riffs
Ronnie Martin's restatement of purpose as one of synth-pop's most gifted dramatists and sequencers — his most gorgeous music since Joy Electric's White Songbook
Shouted Petrol Girls' ripping punk anthems — Ren's righteous rage is beautiful
Pool Kids took the obviously cool parts of its debut — Paramore-level pop-punk drama, mathy breakdowns — and made something much moodier and textured
I will never be prepared for No Home's existential howl
Warthog is proof that the 7" is the perfect format for hardcore
Lusted, raged and loved Sonja's gothy and glammy heavy metal
Aspidistrafly's tender, yet surreal chamber-pop only gave hints of something sinister in its lush sweetness
Every time you thought the drama couldn't escalate, La Colonie de Vacances' mathy, buttoned-up noise-rock ratcheted up the chaos.
Pretended to smoke cigarettes past midnight in Julia Reidy's haunting and otherworldly, yet still beautiful microtonal guitar wanderings
Carl Stone's plunderphonic pleasure, which somehow escaped my ears until not long ago, gave me the most bizarre and unexpected joys
Syndrome 81's emotional oi! (oi!mo?) inspired living room pogo parties
Shoegaze belonged to the soul stirrers The Veldt, including a Curtis Mayfield cover seemingly set in Andy Warhol's Factory
It's cool to cry on the dance floor; Sally Shapiro made the sumptuously sad soundtrack
Cheba Wahida's busted strobe-light music possessed my soul
Bad Bunny hosted the coolest/saddest party I will never be invited to
Noface's hall-of-mirrors beats gave Fatboi Sharif a structurally-unsound haunted house to spin terrifying tales
Released just days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Pušča's shrieked howls and roaring riffs still send shivers through my body — black metal that claws for life
My kid got bangs; as a result, she became spicier and more powerful
Eli Winter realized the best way to let his pastoral-minded guitar music bloom was from the passenger seat
Romperayo's corkscrew cumbia dreamed surreal fantasias
I still haven't finished the 562-page monograph of Geneviève Castrée's comics, illustrations and whatnot, but was surprised that my reaction was not grief about this brilliant life taken too soon, but instead unfettered joy and laughter
Listened to Heart and Bonnie Raitt tapes while making pies and pancakes with family in our go-to-getaway cabin out in West Virginia
Until next time! (Listen to Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris' Trio.)