I’ve already published my Favorite Songs of 2022. Now, it’s time for my favorite albums of the year.
An Hour Before It’s Dark – Marillion
I have been a fan of UK prog rock legends Marillion since the mid-80s and still remember the thrill of seeing them live at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ, in 1990. In fact, I took the name of my fledgling, DIY music project, Ferocious Designs, from a song lyric of theirs. As much as they tried to avoid addressing the pandemic while working on their brilliant 2022 studio album, An Hour Before It’s Dark, they instead wound up creating a compelling commentary on the state of the world. I feel it’s their best album in ages.
Lucifer on the Sofa – Spoon
As I mentioned in my previous Favorite Songs of 2022 post, Spoon is a band that consistently produces fantastic songs that I enjoy when they are played on my favorite terrestrial radio station, WXPN in Philadelphia. But I never really considered myself a fan. But Lucifer on the Sofa changed that. Not a bad song in the bunch.
Crybaby – Tegan and Sara
I think Crybaby is the most recent release to make my 2022 list, but it’s so good, it grew on me quickly enough to earn its spot. I’m a sucker for well-crafted, quirky pop songs…and Tegan and Sara have excelled at that for two decades.
For the Sake of Bethel Woods – Midlake
2022 marked the long-awaited return of Midlake, something many – including the members of Midlake – didn’t think would happen. And, in my opinion, they delivered another great album, albeit overshadowed a bit by a number of great releases around the same time. It’s very odd that it didn’t get even as much love as 2013’s Antiphon, because I think it’s a much better album than that. The usual reviews are decidedly favorable, but the common theme is that something was missing. I do not share that sentiment.
Ticket to Shangri-La – Young Gun Silver Fox
I have been a huge fan of modern yacht rock torchbearers Young Gun Silver Fox since WXPN featured their 2015 song “You Can Feel It” in heavy rotation. Yacht rock, AM gold…whatever you want to call it…I’m a sucker for it. Reminds me of what was mostly on the car radio during our yearly summer drives down to Wildwood Crest, N.J., for family vacation back when I was a kid. These guys do it better than anyone right now.
my battery is low and it’s getting dark – Modern Chemistry
I actually just discovered Modern Chemistry last year when their amazing track “All The Things I Do To Get To You” was played before a song of mine on Internet radio station BlowUpRadio.com. I’ve remained a fan and their 2022 album, my battery is low and it’s getting dark, gives me every reason to continue paying attention to these fellow New Jersey artists.
Direct and Free (EP) – Christian Beach
Full disclosure…I am good friends with Christian Beach. Actually, I play organ and accordion in his live band when he needs one. I’ve also assisted him with PR and marketing. Am I carrying water for him here? Yes, and I don’t care. He’s released material that I feel is fantastic each of the previous two years and I kept him off my 2021 list because of some ethical code. Well, this year, I’m giving in, because his four-track EP, Direct and Free, includes four of the best songs I’ve heard from Christian in the 35 years or so I’ve known him. And he has written A LOT of great songs over the decades, so that is saying something.
Calendar – Christina Ward
Calendar is Bucks County, Pa.-based Christina Ward’s first full-length release and it is stunning — an atmospheric and haunting tale of love, heartbreak and starting over told over seven songs. After following her on Instagram for a few years, it was very cool to finally see her perform live at Asbury Park PorchFest last summer.
Oh To Be That Free – Michaela Anne
I’ve become a big fan of Michaela Anne’s since hearing “By Our Design” on WXPN all the time in 2019. Like most of us, her post-pandemic life has had some twists and turns, with many highs and lows. That all comes through in her fantastic 2022 release, Oh To Be That Free.
Farm to Table – Bartees Strange
As I mentioned in my Favorite Songs of 2022 post, it took me a long time to get into Bartees Strange because WXPN and other non-comm stations were hyping him up big time. And my natural reaction is to not buy the hype. But in this case, Strange’s artistry easily took down my resistance in quick order. Farm to Table is a freakin’ great album and deserves all the praise it has received. I’m looking forward to a collaboration between Strange and Lo Moon on that band’s next album, which they have already teased.
The Tipping Point – Tears For Fears
As I wrote in my Favorite Songs of 2022 post, the triumphant return of Tears For Fears was on of THE stories of 2022. The Tipping Point, their first new studio album in 17 years, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Album Sales chart and at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 album chart — their highest U.S. debuts ever and their first appearance in the top 10 in over 30 years. And it wasn’t just a commercial success. It was received with near-universal praise from all corners. And having seen them quite a few times live over the past 17 years, I have to say the response totally energized Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, because they were at their absolute best in that time. Honestly, this album could have been a disaster. Roland and Curt were being advised to work with “hitmakers” to make an album of “classic-sounding” modern Tears For Fears hits. It almost drove Curt away from the band for a second time (referenced in the song “Stay”). In the end, Roland and Curt walked away from that “master plan” and they went back to basics, writing songs together on acoustic guitar. Turns out the best people to write “classic-sounding” modern Tears For Fears songs are, in fact, Tears For Fears.
Midnights – Taylor Swift
I’m in my third year of processing the fact that I am now apparently a Taylor Swift fan. 2020’s folklore was a game-changer for me when it comes to Swift as an artist. It forced me to pay attention. Midnights sees Swift return to pop form, but it just hits different now for me. Before folklore, I could never hear the song over the production. Now, I can. But Midnights also serves up a more refined version of Swiftian pop. It’s more minimalistic, more atmospheric. It allows the songs to breathe and they take full advantage of it.
A Modern Life – Lo Moon
The band Lo Moon became a favorite of mine back in 2017 when “Loveless” seemingly took over the airwaves at WXPN. It didn’t hurt that XPN Morning Show host Kristen Kurtis actually referenced me in her first interview with Lo Moon’s Matt Lowell because I had tweeted her earlier in the week to ask him if Talk Talk/Mark Hollis was an influence. When Lo Moon finally returned with the release of the single “Dream Never Dies” in late 2021, it was the first new music from the band since a standalone single, “For Me It’s You,” came out in late 2018. Finally, in February 2022, Lo Moon released their second album, the amazing A Modern Life. It was destined to be high on this list, and I really thought it would be my absolute favorite album of 2022. But that went to an album that came out of nowhere…if you consider an 18-track album being released in four chapter installments over a period of four months, out of nowhere…
Once Twice Melody – Beach House
I never paid much attention to Baltimore’s Beach House. Even when the stunning title track to their epic 2022 album was released as a single in late 2021 and getting played a ton on WXPN throughout the first month and a half of the year, it took me until the full-album release day in February for me to realize “Once Twice Melody” was absolutely mind-blowing. So then I listened to the entire 18-song album and every freakin’ track was so damn good. I’m not usually a fan of really long albums, but this is an exception. So much so, that it is my favorite album of 2022.