Complex Distractions Presents : Favorite Albums of 2022 Part IV(10-1)

These lists, as much as I enjoy putting them together, have become harder and harder to do. I never was much into ranking albums. I can talk about how much I love a record till I’m blue in the face, but putting them in some numerical order from loved to most loved is just a lot. Especially when I’ve listened to and reviewed over 100 albums in a year. But in the same breath I do want to let the world know that these ten records completely floored me, and putting them in a ranked list seems to be a good way of doing that.

It’s a conundrum.

Anyways, I think next year will look a little different when it comes to year-end lists. Until then, here’s my top ten albums of 2022. As always, if you haven’t heard one go give it a listen, why don’t you?

10. Hawksmoor : Head Coach

Leave it to James McKeown, aka Hawkmoor, to give us the heady 70s synth vibes. On his Spun Out Of Control release Head Coach he digs into folk horror and the study of ‘psychogeography’ , or the study of urban environment. With his signature 70s sound; warm analog synth, bass guitar, and that undeniable Floyd-meets-Tangerine Dream druggy feel, Head Coach was an album that felt like a musical sedative with all the woozy goodness one can handle.

9. Edena Gardens : Edena Gardens

Leave it to El Paraiso Records to keep the year in music an exciting and engaging one. It seems that every year of this Danish record label’s existence they come thru with some incredible albums. This year was no different, and the self-titled from Edena Gardens was an absolute highlight.

Martin Rude & Jakob Skøtt, who have both a duo and trio together along with this year’s London Odense Ensemble, came together with Papir’s guitarist extraordinaire Nicklas Sørensen to form Edena Gardens. Imagine slow-churning doom that’s part Earth and part Band Of Gypsies with elements of Krautrock, psych, jazz, and some dystopian soundscape and you might have an idea of what these three are cooking up. All are forward-thinking musicians with an ear for the ethereal and their debut is a stunning work of free-form cosmic jams with their feet on the ground and their intentions somewhere in the cosmos.

8. Joel Ross : The Parable Of The Poet

Joel Ross has become one of my absolute favorite contemporary jazz artists. I was never really drawn to the vibes all that much, with the exception of Bobby Hutcherson(his performance on Grant Green’s “Idle Moments” is sublime), but Ross has opened my eyes to what they can do. His 2019 album Kingmaker blew me away, as well as his work with Makaya McCraven solidified my adoration for his playing and compositions. His 2022 album The Parable Of The Poet is a masterpiece in composition, emotional heft, and intellectual significance.

Parable is a suite comprised of 7 movements and it feels stately, evocative, and holds heavy and emotional ebbs and flows. It has an orchestral feel, while also very much staying true to jazz. Touches of New Orleans swing come through, while the headier records of McCoy Tyner, Charles Mingus, and Eric Dolphy echo in the album’s rich compositions. This is a must for any jazz fan.

7. Billow Observatory : Stareside

The musical duo of Jason Kolb and Jonas Munk, aka Billow Observatory, returned this year with another stunning record called Stareside. Kolb and Munk have been making music as Billow Observatory for a decade now, and it’s this ethereal mixture of ambient, shoegaze, dream pop, and space-out new age. Guitar and electronics heavily effected into walls of sound; swaths of melody and abstraction that form something entirely new and absorbing.

Stareside sees the transatlantic music duo honing and refining what’s come before, intermingling darkness and light into an all-encompassing music journey that sonically resembles some kind of dream-like state. It’s meditative, heady, overwhelming, and symphonic.

6. Panda Bear & Sonic Boom : Reset

Reset is one of those albums that kind of snuck up on me. I very much dug the record when I heard it earlier in the year, but a random Friday night in November saw this album on the turntable and it kind of blew me away. 50s pop melodies intertwined with wonky electronics and Noah Lennox’ inviting vocals came together in a way I hadn’t noticed up to that point. Sonic Boom’s production sealed the deal and this album became an instant classic. For me, it captured the druggy, simple magic of Panda Bear’s masterpiece Person Pitch without repeating what had already been done.

5. Hunter Complex : Airports and Ports

Lars Meijer’s long-running musical project Hunter Complex continues to evolve and find new ways to invigorate itself. On Airports and Ports Meijer made his grandest musical statement yet, incorporating jazz elements and even symphonic touches that brings to mind both what came before as well as early CTI releases from Freddie Hubbard and even the great Mark Isham. There’s this retro-futuristic feel in the compositions, as well as the feel of journey and exploration that is hard not to fall for.

I thought Lars outdid himself with Hunter Complex’ one-two punch of Open Sea and Dead Calm and Zero Degrees. And actually, he did as those two standout releases put Hunter Complex on another level. Airports and Ports moves on from that to something new; songs and concepts filled with light and life.

4. The Smile : A Light For Attracting Attention

I’m a sucker for anything Radiohead-related. That’s just how it’s always going to be. So I was already interested as soon as I heard about this side project of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, along with drummer Tom Skinner of Sons Of Kemet. It was going to be an automatic purchase regardless of how great or not great it was. Fortunately not only was A Light For Attracting Attention great, but it was kind of brilliant. Maybe the best Radiohead-adjacent project in years. The slinky grooves, the loose musicianship, and the almost post-punk delivery of some of the tracks took me by surprise. Listening to these songs it seems as if these guys are genuinely having fun making music, and for me that’s infectious. I want more.

3. Beach House : Once Twice Melody

Beach House’s Once Twice Melody is a dense double LP that takes awhile to absorb. With so many Beach House songs in one place, it takes time to differentiate one from the next. But as you continue to spin this record all the hallmark, melancholy touches start to come through. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have made the most Beach House-y album they could make, and I am here for it. It’s a sprawling, epic listen with their signature dream pop, shoegaze touches that hit every emotional mark they can. It’s a masterpiece, and IMO the band’s best yet.

2. London Odense Ensemble : Jaiyede Sessions Vol 1

London Odense Ensemble, which is an El Paraiso Records supergroup whose members are Jonas Munk, Jakob Skott, Martin Rude, Tamar Osborn, and Al McSween, checks all the boxes for me on Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1. Heady fusion vibes with touches of spaced-out synth and dreamy grooves that go for days. Musically it’s akin to Bitches Brew-era Miles, but if Miles had invited Terry Riley in to add his quasi-spiritual, electronic classical vibes. The band goes from early 70s fusion jams to wonky electronic workouts, sometimes within the same song. If you’re familiar with Chicago Odense Ensemble, then this album is going to be right up your alley. Even if you’re not, any fan of proggy, jazz-heavy groovefests is going to want this one immediately. And with Vol. 2 dropping in a month you’ll need to be up to speed.

1. Makaya McCraven : In These Times

An album years in the making Makaya McCraven’s In These Times is essential listening. There’s a heaviness here, despite the sometimes light-as-air compositions. McCraven combines jazz inflections with 70s soul and his cut-and-paste experimentations perfectly, making what I’d call a perfect listening experience. Makaya is pushing jazz into the future by connecting new production with classic intent. This is a record of beauty; the beauty of creation as well as wanting to say something in that creativity. Makaya McCraven is an essential ingredient in carrying the jazz torch while also never denying his own drive to make something new. In These Times feels like a future standard in jazz music. In music in general.

Here you are. Here we are. I hope you enjoyed this journey. I’ve got a couple other things cooking that I’ll post in the next day or so. So stick around if you so desire. If you do not? Well have a nice holiday.

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