Discover more from Check This Out!
50 Favorite Albums of 2022 Part Two
Featuring Julian Fulco Perron, Built to Spill, Yumi Zouma, Coast to Coast Collective, Vince Staples, Kikagaku Mayo, Erin Rae, Goose, Tourist, and Laura Veirs.
If you enjoy any records here, why not share or subscribe to Check This Out!? You’ll receive fresh reviews, features, and interviews in your inbox twice weekly. Rad!
Part two of my favorite albums of the year features a wide range of genres, including two records I haven’t featured yet with Julian Fulco Perron’s psychedelic yet warm stylings and the downtempo grooves of Tourist. We’ve got one of the year's best hip-hop albums from Vince Staples and Lighten Up, the wonderful country folk record from Erin Rae. Meanwhile, old favorites like Built to Spill and Laura Veirs returned with a heavy punch. Jam band Goose makes a formal ‘hello’ to the world, while legendary Japanese psych-rockers Kikagaku Moyo bows out on top. New Zealand’s dream pop maestros Yumi Zouma have another strong entry with Present Tense and, finally, a chillwave compilation that features an unbelievable lineup with Coast to Coast Collective.
Part one is already one of the most-read newsletters of the year (everyone loves CliffsNotes), so thank you again for your support. If you missed it, you could read it here. Finally, all of the below records have songs added to the playlist, so be sure to give it a listen while you read about this amazing year for music.
Let’s get into it, and if you enjoy something, I’d love to hear from you!
Julian Fulco Perron - In My Garden
Thanks to a recommendation from John Bear at Westword, Julian Fulco Perron’s In My Garden has dominated my stereo for the past three weeks. The Denver-based songwriter’s second record is the newest edition to my year-end list, proving there is always a late calendar jewel in the mix. Recorded mostly at his home studio, Perron played the majority of the instruments with the help of some hired hand-session musicians. The result is an authentic trip back to the late 60s and early 70s with a psychedelic batch of songs that don’t miss. Perfectly sequenced, In My Garden blossoms with a cacophony of the usual instrumental ingredients, but thanks to endless layers of horns, strings, sitar, ukulele, and Perron’s prized mellotron, it’s one you won’t soon forget. Perron tells me this record was inspired by Friends and Sunflower by The Beach Boys (hence why Bear sent this to me) and the latter-era Beatles. These are valid comparisons, as Perron swings for the bleachers with the harmonies while penning Paul tunes sung with George’s voice. The singles-heavy front half is immediately inviting, with “Can’t Be Trusted Part (A)” and one of the best songs you’ll hear all year in “Steady Hands.” Still, the b-side is just as solid when Perron lets the jams and runtime extend on “Not so Fast” and “Hangin’ On (Through Winter),” being absolute standouts. The vision is wrapped up with a nice bow when closing out with “Can’t Be Trusted (B),” which revisits the opener, now reconstructed with a healthy dose of horns. I cover so many genres here, but In My Garden is the rare record I know all my readers will enjoy. Dive in now and support some truly indie talent in Julian Fulco Perron’s Technicolor world.
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: Steady Hands, Not so Fast, Can’t Be Trusted (B).
Built to Spill - When The Wind Forgets Your Name
What I said in my review: “There’s no doubt that When the Wind Forgets Your Name is the best Built to Spill album since the underrated You In Reverse. The whole thing clicks, but aside from the opening run of ‘Gonna Lose,’ ‘Fool’s Gold,’ and ‘Understood,’ there are so many new ideas that look to the past for influence with excellent results. Martsch goes back to his early inspirations, with ‘Spiderweb’ pulling from Document-era R.E.M. in all of its jangly college rock glory, and ‘Never Alright’ sounds like the best Dinosaur Jr. song you’ve never heard. Also notable, ‘Alright’ follows and is the perfect sample of Martsch’s never aging nasally falsetto optimism.
I highly anticipated this one, but When the Wind Forgets Your Name is so much better than it has any right to be. While getting rid of all other original members and still calling yourself by the original band name doesn’t always pay off (I’m talking about you, Billy Corgan), and so many of their Pacific Northwest peers like Modest Mouse fell apart so many albums ago, Doug Martsch is an increasing rarity. Not often can someone lean into their unique rareness and still find major label support when singles aren’t your thing - Here’s to another decade of Built to Spill.”
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: Gonna Lose, Spiderweb, Never Alright.
Yumi Zouma - Present Tense
What I said in my review: “The richness of this new chapter for the band can’t be overstated. For example, ‘Where the Light Used to Lay’ still features the wistfully mellow foundation that Yumi Zouma shares with other indie outfits like TOPS and Men I Trust. We’ve heard this kinda song from them before, but strings and production lushness make the band more radio-ready than at any point in their eight-year career. Even the slower stuff like ‘Razorblade,’ ‘Haunt,’ and the fantastic closer' Astral Projection’ work wonderfully as the mix of electronic and organic instruments back up Simpson’s enticing lyrics about relationship woes.
So far, Yumi Zouma has a record of flying under the radar, and I know Truth or Consequences would have changed that had the world not fallen apart. There’s no excuse this time around, though, as Present Tense offers their best iteration yet. One cannot deny Yumi Zouma’s hooks and singles like ‘Where the Light Used to Lay’ are too good not to move beyond the interests of blog nerds like me.”
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: Give It Hell, Where the Light Used to Lay, Astral Projection.
Coast to Coast Collective - Volume II: Pacific Summer
What I said in my review: “I’ve covered Coast to Coast Collective a few times this year, whether it was the release of their debut EP or an interview with Teather to release her single, ‘Sinking.’ This past Wednesday, the best underground chillwave collective celebrated the streaming release of their newest collection, Vol. II: Pacific Summer. While the EP tickled your vaporwave fancy, Vol. II: Pacific Summer brings most everyone back that you know and love and adds so many more for a fully envisioned LP release. C2CC founders Luxury Noise and patchnotes put in great efforts in which fans will hear their maturation happening in real-time. ‘Grow,’ the aptly titled song from patchnotes, explores his ambient side with heavenly vocal refrains, field recordings, and a soothingly bouncy progression. Meanwhile, ‘Feelitmakeit’ by Luxury Noise excels as a fresh offering in a variation on the genre that I can only call ‘mallcore,’ and is a significant next step following Second Light from earlier this year. Teather continues her hot streak of quiet club hits, with ‘Tender’ serving as the perfect opener to the collection. For the others who are back from Vol. 1, Simple Syrup fills ‘Pink Moon’ with that magic formula of woodwinds and chimes, and Econojazz will have you floating away with ‘Gaia’s Stepdaughter,’ which very well may be my favorite here. As for the new artists here, C2CC knows who the best in the niche scene is, with V4ngoe, Sacré Bleu!, and Jonie all sliding in perfectly with the usual crew. While I’ve added the entire collection to this year’s playlist, Device Operator’s ‘Give Me Joy’ does just that and is one that has to be heard. While our capitalist overlords are pushing you towards pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween decorations, you know it’s still going to be hot for a few months, and Coast To Coast Collective is here to let your summer live on.”
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: “Give Me Joy” by Device Operator, “Pink Moon” by Simple Syrup, “Gaia’s Stepdaughter” by Econojazz.
Vince Staples - Ramona Park Broke My Heart
What I said in my review: “I’ve read enough ‘how is Vince Staples still (relatively) underrated?’ articles over the past few weeks, so I’ll spare you. Instead, let’s talk about how his latest, RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART, and how it’s his best since Big Fish Theory. Staples's upbringing in Long Beach and Compton is always a reliable subject for the now veteran rapper, but RAMONA PARK sounds like the first time he may be over this, looking to turn the page. Full of singles like the hooky' MAGIC,’ the almost love song in ‘WHEN SPARKS FLY,’ and ‘EAST POINT PRAYER,’ whose intro wouldn’t sound out of place on Bon Iver’s i,i record, RAMONA PARK benefits from its lengthy runtime (for Vince Staples standards). Last year’s self-titled effort didn’t click with me like the rest of his work, but RAMONA PARK effortlessly toes the line between that record’s self-seriousness and the lighter vibes found on FM!.”
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: Magic, When Sparks Fly, East Point Prayer.
Kikagaku Moyo - Kumoyo Island
What I said in my review: “The last time that Check This Out! checked in with Kikagaku Moyo, the Japanese psych band co-released Deep Fried Grandeur with Ryley Walker. Two ‘songs’ spread out over two sides of a record, the live set captured the improv magic of the band’s free-flowing live show. Now they’re back with a surprise release in Kumoyo Island, which marks the band’s last record after a farewell tour, and the group could not sound any tighter. Famous for their unhurried soundscapes, Kikaguku Moyo has instead elected to go out on a focused note, as the album’s eleven songs flow like a greatest hits mix.
Like We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, Kumoyo Island is an album that begs to be taken in all at once. If this is indeed it for the group (never believe a band’s finality!), then it’s the perfect capstone for an act that is unmatched in their uniqueness. Suppose this is your first time with Kikagaku Moyo. There’s nothing like getting thrown into mid-jam on ‘Cardboard Pile’ or the cover of Erasmo Carlos’s ‘Meu Mar,’ in which the group converted the lyrics from Spanish to English before landing in its final Japanese form.”
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: Dancing Blue, Cardboard Pile, Yayoi Iyayoi.
Erin Rae - Lighten Up
What I said in my review: “It was her cover of Gene Clark’s 'Some Misunderstanding’ that immediately piqued my interest in Erin Rae and led to many listens of her second album, Putting on Airs. A few years later, the Nashville singer-songwriter is back with a delightful set of timeless songs on Lighten Up, produced by Check This Out! favorite Johnathan Wilson, who assists with some cosmic country magic.
By building upon her Tennessee roots and adding warm California sunshine, Rae’s sound makes a west coast leap on Lighten Up, recorded at Wilson’s Topanga Canyon studio. Can’t See Stars’ blurs the line between country standards and current indie thanks to its steady backbeat and pedal steel guitar while featuring backing vocals from Kevin Morby. Unexpected orchestral arrangements and an array of pianos and Wurlitzers add new layers to Rae’s folk repertoire, like on breakup ballad ‘Gonna Be Strange,’ which transports her to a seventies AM radio.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make a damn good record, and Erin Rae has done just that with Lighten Up.”
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: Can’t See Stars, California Belongs to You, Lighten Up & Try.
Goose - Dripfield
What I said in my review: “The stale idea that jam bands can’t make good studio albums is hogwash, and Dripfield, the third album from Norwalk’s psychedelic favorite sons, Goose, proves otherwise. After years of being every indie dork’s favorite new jam band, the group reached new levels of hype after playing a bunch of socially distanced shows at spots like drive-ins and taking advantage of the lack of other acts out on the road the past few years. With loads of new fans in tow, Dripfield is acting as Goose’s reintroduction of sorts, produced by D. James Goodwin, who worked with Bob Weir on his later career masterpiece, Blue Mountain, as well as indie favorites of this site like Kevin Morby, Whitney, and Bonny Light Horseman. The payoff is pretty fantastic, with the group dialing in for a tight hourlong set that includes updates to old favorites like the scorching ‘Hot Tea.’ Sure, these songs’ live counterparts are still the preferred way to hear them, but this one can be snuck in a similar fashion as Billy Breathes and Farmhouse and there (usually) won’t be complaints. Goose celebrated the album’s release by playing two sold-out nights at Radio City Music Hall, and even Trey Anastacio joined them for a set for the ultimate seal of approval. Get in on the Goose, folks.”
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: Hungersite, Dripfield, Hot Tea.
Tourist - Inside Out
William Phillips, who performs as Tourist, first landed on my radar with 2019’s Everyday, which was also a favorite of that year. His easily digestible blend of downtempo and progressive house music is perfect for drifting away and offering escape. His latest, Inside Out, is a special record that becomes more appealing with time. After its early summer release, I listened to it a few times and enjoyed it but didn’t find myself returning for more. That all changed last month when Phillips released a remix EP featuring reinterpretations by Sofia Kourtesis, Waleed, and one of my current favorite producers in Yu Su. Electronic music’s brilliance is that there are so many different ways artists can approach the same idea with completely different outcomes. I found myself diving back into Inside Out and leaning into the emotion of a record Phillips crafted for a recently passed friend. Full of celebration and sorrow Inside Out covers an array of feelings with minimal words.
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: Your Love, A Dedication, We Thought You Were Sleeping.
Laura Veirs - Found Light
What I said in my review: “It’s easy to get lost in the quiet reflections of Found Light, but there are a few times Veirs picks up the pace with great payoff. Early in the record, Veirs hits the distortion pedal on ‘Seaside Haiku.’ ‘Give but don’t give too much, Have yourself away,’ sings Veirs as the guitars work in cyclical shore-crashing textures. At fourteen songs, Found Light is also her most prolonged effort yet, and it’s worth hanging around for the closing track, ‘Winter Windows,’ which finally brings in a complete drum kit, cramming it with rolling fills to make a damn good indie rock number - it opens a new sound for her and I would love to hear Veirs do a full band record.
While living in Portland all of those years ago, Laura Veirs was one of my favorite local discoveries, and I’m always delighted at her steady stream of autumnal albums. Found Light is something different, though, and has a fresh feeling. What Veirs has overcome should be celebrated as a woman in her late forties experiencing a creative rebirth and newfound empowerment. None of that is easy in an industry that superficially values youth and immediacy.”
Songs Ya Gotta Hear: Seaside Haiku, Eucalyptus, Winter Windows.