(Seb Painchaud, the main man behind the Montréal band Tumbleweed Dealer, has very expansive and eclectic musical tastes, which is one reason why for seven years in a row we’ve asked him to share a year-end list with us. This one, as usual, goes in all sorts of different directions. And if it hadn’t been for a malfunctioning NCS spam filter we would have shared it with you a lot sooner than now.)
Feels like these lists are getting closer and closer apart…
Around the beginning of October, I realized I had hundreds of 2022 releases I had not gotten around to listening to yet, and compiled a playlist. It was over 200 hours long. It was quite disheartening. I’ve listened to that playlist exclusively since, adding a bunch of releases every week to it, barely making a dent in it. As I write this at the beginning of December, it’s down to 110 hours. To be honest, my list has not changed much since I started that process. So here is a list that is “lived in” with no last-minute infatuations, no scouring of other people’s lists, just the albums I spent the last twelve months with.
Expect a “Shit I slept on” list a few months into 2023, but for now, this sums up my year…
…except for the obligatory late-year release I always feel obligated to include:
Needlepoint – Walking Up That Valley
This one just didn’t hit right upon its original release date. I felt it had too much ’60s pop and not enough Canterbury dulcet jazz tones. I don’t usually like it this vocal-heavy. I got into their back catalog this year and worked my way up to this one and was flabbergasted that this did not resonate with me on the first try. Then again, sometimes you just have to be in the right mood.
This summer it came up while me and the fam were driving on a sunny Sunday and I gotta admit, I made a few detours just so we could keep jamming this one. The vocals which were once a hindrance now paved the way for an ethereal experience that does not need psychedelics to be memorable, guiding you as you float amidst the hectic yet melodic landscapes before descending upon that eponymous valley illustrated on the cover art, creating a lush sonic experience for you to land and crash in as grass envelops you and you become one with this magnificent opus creation.
The Physics House Band – Incident On 3rd
Now the “one year late” status on this one is debatable, as it came out AFTER I had compiled my 2022 list. December 3rd, 2022 to be exact. Now seriously, bands out there, if you’re releasing an AOTY candidate, then Nov 15 has to be the cut-off point, or else you’re just fucking up people’s lists!
The band’s debut EP mix of jazz and math rock had floored me when it came out, but full disclosure, the subsequent two releases kinda fell flat of the potential they had teased on that original release.
It’s only on Incident On 3rd that I feel they attainted the same heights and even surpassed themselves, all while pinpointing their particular sound within the sea of similar acts that had emerged since they started.
From the alternating clanging of vintage keys and sci-fi melodies on the opener “Drifter” to the odd-metered minimalist back beat on “Drug Store”, the band marries retro textures with modern arrangements perfectly to make a record that defies time.
SONG OF THE YEAR : Delfino – Moreno Beach Nights
New feature I should’ve started years ago (last year’s honors would’ve went to Conway The Machine’s “6:30 Tip Off”). Sometimes a solid release falls short of the list but has that one song that I just can’t stop playing. With its infectious hook and catchy basslines, this song just burrows itself into your brain with its pop-punk meets Midwest emo energy.
Cold Shoulder – Primal Fury
The label’s Bandcamp says December 2021 but I’ve seen it pop up everywhere as a 2022 release, so we’re just going to go ahead and ignore that. Nothing new but always great, straight-up hardcore that had me punching the roof of my car on the way to work and had me daydreaming of starting a band and hitting the road… for 2 seconds before I remembered I never want to lug a bass amp up 3 flights of stairs ever again. But those two seconds were gloriously violent, just like this unrelenting slab of punishing two steps and breakdowns.
AJ Suede & Televangel – Metatron’s Cube
Hip hop drenched in reverb and mystery, bringing to mind Alias’ classic early 2000s masterpiece The Other Side Of The Looking Glass or even the quickly abandoned spiritual side only found on deep cups from JMT’s long-winded titled first release (check out the eerily familiar beat on “Respect The Architect”). These two artists separately are okay, but this is more than the sum of their parts, something magical happened here that neither one will ever be able to recreate.
Ben Quad – I’m Scared That’s All There Is
This shit is so goddamn sweet they’re cutting off a few of my toes right now. Fifth-wave emo, whatever the fuck that means, pushed through the noodliness of math rock with the energy of pop punk with the whole Midwest always-layered vocal thing they all do. Just listen to “Blood For The Blood God” (badass title too) and let this chip away at that tough exterior you have built for yourself over the years until you are unashamedly singing along. I dare yah.
Bryan McAllister – I’ll Meet You There
If you are a huge fan of Aghora’s self-titled opus like me, then boy do I have the album for you. I ain’t saying it’s an influence or that this Bryan guy has ever even heard of them or Cynic, nor am I comparing the level of musicianship to that of Malone and Reinhart (AKA the best rhythm section not to include a dude called Geddy) but the vibe is there.
The drums slowly creep along like its crawling through fog while the velvet jazzy melodies create shapes within the mist that you are impulsively called towards by the singer’s siren call. It clearly has a foot in the realm of jazz, but the repetitive structure of the songs belies numerous sensibilities within the song writing. The second track, “Bullseye”, starts off with an almost Robohand-ish vibe and back beat while remaining faithful to the mood the opener set.
Each song has its own interpretation of the main premise: Long-ass, repetitive, keyboard=heavy meditative jams that you will never tire of. Get ready to go into an eyes-closed, mouth-puckered-up, shaking your head no at the same time as it goes up and down sobriety test of a trance once you put this album on.
Tribal Gaze – The Nine Choirs
Dude, it has been a long ass fucking time since any death metal has made it up in here. I blast tons of it, but it usually doesn’t have the lasting effect needed for me to revisit several times and name it list-worthy. But seriously, if that opening groove doesn’t give you stankface then your facial muscles are paralyzed and you are currently having a stroke.
These guys have really mastered the art of keeping the same guitar riff while the drums switch into that kick snare kick snare 1-2 beat that makes you do a headbang/shoulder-bop combo. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
If you play “And How They Wept For Eternity” at my funeral, I swear to god my dick will get hard one last time when the drums come back in during the second riff, in a muscle memory meets rigors mortis act of absolute filth that still falls short to paying tribute to the dank nastiness held within these songs.
Midlake – For The Sake of Bethel Woods
A modern-day folk-rock band from Texas that sounds like a retro British act, think The National covering Radiohead covering Keith Tippett and you will have an idea of the lush landscapes painted by the sounds these guys weave.
Nothing embodies the band’s duality as well as the somewhat title track “Bethel Woods”. Its upbeat rhythm section playing a support role for the soaring keys and vocals, it evokes different eras at the same time in a weirdly soothing mishmash of genres that somehow works perfectly. This album will leave you falling down a psychedelic precipice as you pin-point different influences going Ooooh only to go back to your freefall, just like Ozzie Smith at the Mystery Spot in that baseball-themed, guest star filled classic episode of The Simpsons.
Savana Funk – Ghibli
I mean it’s right there in the band name: Savana = Jungle, and Funk = Funk (yes, two The Simpsons references back to back)
Big early OSIBISA vibes (def check their first two albums out if you think Prog and African music are mutually exclusive) on this one. The big, loud, epic opening of the first track “Agadir” going immediately into a tight closed funky beat prepares the table while the soothing Desert Blues-ish tones of the title track shows you how vast of a feast you are about to devour.
The album alternates between these two moods almost perfectly, contrasting the elements of both constantly to keep maximum impact for both, until the final track, “Boubacar”, sets you down for that post meal sleep of contentedness with its slightly sad nostalgic beauty.
SPEED – Gang Called Speed
The motherfucking future of hardcore right here… Need I say more? Probably should since this is an article not a list.
But I won’t.
Billy Woods – Aethiopes
Anything that reminds me of Kill The Vultures (RIP) has to be amazing. It’s easy to make experimental hip hop, just loop some weird ass noise and speak gibberish over it. But it’s hard as fuck to do it properly. To make the meeting of abstract rhymes and looped sonic oddities and turn it into art. Billy Woods has mastered it. From the disorienting opener to the gloriously pompous “No Hard Feelings” with its lack of proper beat, you know you’re in for a unique journey as soon as the album starts.
And if you’re new to his particular brand of rap, do yourself a favor and go check out the cut “Tumbleweed” off his Dour Candy release, featuring none other than Aesop Rock, in a display of how abnormal beats can still make for a fucking banger of a track.
Janel Leppin – Ensemble Volcanic Ash
How can a record evoke Alice Coltrane while kindling memories of Elend, Oliver Messiaen, and King Crimson’s underrated ’70s record Lizard all at the same time? Its structured descents into improvised chaos are at times challenging and unsettling, but the cellist composer knows exactly when to pull the reigns back. “Woven Forest”, the album’s second track, anchors everything with its heavy, trudging, Fripp meets Miles Davis In The Court Of The Brewing Bitch atmosphere that just plows ahead… until it doesn’t. And then an upbeat piece of avant-guarde prog takes the narrative lead.
You just never know where this is going to go, but you’ll figure out quite quickly that wherever it ends up will be a heady, challenging, yet ultimately rewarding experience that defies categorization.
Mint Green – All Girls Go To Heaven
If you’ve followed these lists through the years, then you know I’m a sucker for this brand of Indie Rock/Pop. “Body Language” is more angular than the intro would have you expect, evoking some Beach Bunny-type vibes with less pop punk energy. The song structures’ simplicity hides the depth of the band’s instrumental prowess, never showing off, but adding just enough so you don’t feel guilty for listening to something so catchy. Some fun basslines weave through the guitar noodlings while the drums keep the energy going without ever running out of gas in a mid-paced affair that makes for perfect early morning car ride music.
If you’re still undecided, the hook on “What I’m Feeling” with its layered vocals will rope you in, although I’m pretty sure you will be nodding your head along in enjoyment well before you make it there.
KA’TZON LA’TEVACH – Like Lambs To The Slaughter
Israel isn’t the first location that comes to mind when thinking blackened punk, which might be the reason this album hasn’t blown up how it should, but this has an early DEPHOSPHORUS vibe that I am fucking loving.
Intricate, well-crafted riffs that still resonate with that blackened atmosphere despite being much more developed and complex than what you usually get in the subgenre. The album’s 18 tracks provide intensity in various formats and whenever it relents it’s only to better provide atmosphere before launching into another aural assault. And these guys take risks. Where it would be easy for them to stick to the basic formula that works for them, you can tell they want to challenge themselves as writers and musicians, which helps set this record above the rest.
Boulevards – Electric Cowboy: Born In Carolina Mud
Gritty Funk/Soul, to say this is the best record in the genre on a year that Monophonics released an album is no small feat. The songs feel almost unfinished but in a good way. Like unearthed demo reels that were never meant to see the light of day, the tracks are rough, lending credibility to its old school vibe, but so well put together and fleshed out that you could not imagine a polished version being better.
Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!
It’s through randomly clicking on a link on a blog I follow that I ended up discovering him with his Feet Of Clay EP with no idea of his background. At that point honestly, I didn’t fuck with Tyler, it’s really through my discovery of Sweatshirt’s back catalog that I found an appreciation for the rest of the click, Domo Genesis and Hodgy included. But Earl is still my fav, and his I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside album gave me my life mantra.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely sick (pun intended) of artists mentioning on their Bandcamp album description MADE DURING THE PANDEMIC ’cause, guess what motherfucker, everything that happened for a few years was MADE DURING THE FUCKING PANDEMIC. But between its artwork, song title, and themes of isolation and depression, Earl has really made the seminal lockdown album.
Ko Shin Moon – Miniature I & II
Every year I fall in love with one of these laid back jams meet world music releases that burrows its way into my ears, my heart, and my list. These two EPs expertly blend these two worlds, as their bio says “at a crossroads between traditional Eastern strings and electronic music machines. Ko Shin Moon creates otherworldly, hybrid melodies where psychedelia meets space disco”
Just jam the song “Antelias” and you will understand, this is what they will be playing inside your favorite family-owned restaurant in the future.
Outright – Keep You Warm
All the anger I loved from a band like PUNCH with more melody and variety. Put it on, then cover your face from the barrage of fists pummelling you.
Liquid Saloon – Took A Second
The second band from Israel on this list (and I’m just now realizing it as I type it and looked up the link), these guys channel traditional afro jazz. A much more loose affair than the previously mentioned African vibed release on the list, this one has that much more open feel often associated with spirituality. Between the band name and the cover art, you will gather that this music is trying to get you on a retro psychedelic trip through the cradle of humankind.
Kazutoshi Sohta – Flumina
Imagine Mouse On The Keys, but on coke. And not nowadays powdered shit, like ’80s fusion, back and white, cool cat cocaine. The meeting of traditional piano jazz with space themed laser keyboards often harkens back to fellow countrymate Hiromi Uehara, but the songs tend to develop faster with more ups and downs than her compositions. This is a high adrenaline ride through an Archer Sterling-esque universe of spies, guns and cocktails that will leave you with a hangover the size of Manhattan, yet have you on your knees begging for more (PHRASING!)
Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems
I can hear you rolling your eyes, sarcastically saying “Oh how original!” but motherfucker if this album ain’t at the top of your list, then you’re just lying to yourself.
Warmbread out. See you fuckers next year, which will probably feel like next Tuesday, yah cunts.
[And thanks to the defective NCS spam filter, next year is now this year.]
The youtube overlords suggested Speed a while ago, and I have been really digging the rest of the bands on Flatspot records. The energy and sound of the bands is at once a throwback and progression. Very cool to see.