Monday, January 16, 2023

Choice Cuts Volume 21: Some of Our Favorite Tracks From 2022


In no particular order, I've selected the favorite tracks from 2022's playlists for my 21st annual Choice Cuts end-of-year mix. Listen and watch each one below!

1. Bartees Strange, "Heavy Heart"
Real name Bartees Leon Cox Jr., now known as Bartees Strange, he came on strong in 2022 with the album "Farm to Table." But Strange already had a bit of a hit in 2020 with "Mustang," off his previous album "Live Forever." Strange is the son of a military father and a mother who's an opera singer, hence being born in England before growing up in Mustang, Oklahoma (hence that "Mustang" song title). Now based in Washington, D.C., Strange has toured with Phoebe Bridgers, Courtney Barnett and The National, among others.

2. Mitski, "Love Me More"
Mitski appeared on our 2016 Choice Cuts with her fantastic track "Your Best American Girl" and last year former President of the United States Barack Obama included "The Only Heartbreaker" in his list of top songs of 2021. Not saying we were there before Obama, but clearly Mitski makes an impression. She nearly quit music in 2019, but thankfully in February 2022, she released the new record "Laurel Hell," which includes the track "Love Me More."

3. The Go! Team, "Whammy O"
I am truly obsessed with the unique songs that The Go! Team, from Brighton, England, puts out. The group mixes samples, live instrumentation, chants and original beats to come up with constant earworms. In 2015, "The Scene Between" was on my Choice Cuts playlist, and just last year I fell in love with "A Bee Without its Sting," from the album "Get Up Sequences Part One." Now, from the upcoming "Part Two," take a listen to "Whammy O." (And as a bonus, enjoy the found footage style video, sampling clips from bizarre, obscure 1980s TV clips.)

4. The 1975, "Happiness"
Hailing from Manchester, The 1975 has been on a roll; the band also appeared on last year's Choice Cuts playlist, for their song "Bagsy Not In Net." And in 2018, I opened up the mix with "Give Your Self a Try." The band, made up of Matty Healy, Adam Hann, Ross MacDonald and George Daniel, continue to garner fans for their mix of electropop and indie rock; their fifth studio album, 2022's "Being Funny in a Foreign Language," also became the band's fifth consecutive No. 1 album in the UK.

5. Holly Humberstone, "The Walls Are Way Too Thin"
When the pandemic halted tours and stopped live music for a period of time, I made a vow to start seeing more shows again. (It helps that the kids are older and its easier for us to duck out on date night.) And I feel like we have, to some degree. I still do a poor job of keeping track of who's in town, but among the artists I had tickets to see last year was Holly Humberstone... well, until she had to cancel the day of the show due to COVID. The challenges of touring in a pandemic world haven't ended, obviously. Humberstone showed up in my 2020 mix with the track "Overkill," and in 2022 was given the award for "rising star" at the Brit Awards. That's right, an ongoing theme so far: Plenty of UK artists on this year's Choice Cuts; Humberstone, who just turned 23 on December 17, hails from Grantham, England.

6. Gabriels, "One and Only"
Gabriels mixes gospel, soul, jazz, R&B and more for their unique sound, which I first stumbled across in 2021 with their track (and EP) "Love and Hate in a Different Time." Their debut album, "Angels & Queens," came out in 2022 and spawned "One and Only" among the tracks. Continuing our UK trend, the group is actually both British and American; members Jacob Lusk, Ryan Hope and Ari Balouzian first met in Los Angeles in 2016. The band is named after St. Gabriels Avenue, a street in Sunderland, England.

7. Fancy Hagood feat. Kacey Musgraves, "Blue Dream Baby"
Fancy Hagood, real name Jake Hagood, experienced one of those dream scenarios in 2015 when he was signed by producers including Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, and began recording with the likes of Meghan Trainor and Ariana Grande. But after his songs went nowhere -- and an ill-advised teaser campaign, in which the artist was billed "Who Is Fancy" -- Hagood was dropped by those producers. But the story doesn't end there. In 2022, the queer Southern pop/country artist released the bop "Blue Dream Baby," with Kacey Musgraves backing him up on vocals. It comes with a saucy animated video -- actually, there are two versions, one censored and one uncensored -- and perhaps now people finally know who Fancy is. Appropriately, the song was released on International Pride Day. “It might be love, no way it’s nothing.”

8. Meg Myers, "HTIS" (Ft. Luna Shadows & Carmen Vandenberg)
Perhaps Meg Myers was running up that hill too soon, or too late. Her 2019 cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up that Hill" was a hit, and made it to heavy rotation on alternative rock stations. But this year, when the original version re-entered the scene thanks to "Stranger Things," Myers' (solid) version was pretty much forgotten. Originally from Tennessee and now based in Los Angeles, Myers has been percolating for a while with breaking through for a while now, most recently with the 2021 album "Thank U 4 Taking Me 2 The Disco." In 2022, she released the single "HTIS" -- which stands for "Hiding That I'm Sexual" -- along with Luna Shadows (who has regularly performed with Choice Cuts favorites The Naked and Famous) and Carmen Vandenberg.

9. Arlo Parks, "Softly"
Another U.K. artist, another returnee from 2021. Last year, Arlo Parks broke through with her acclaimed album "Collapsed in Sunbeams," which earned the Mercury Prize for best album. It was hard to choose a track from that album to include in last year's Choice Cuts, but we settled on "Green Eyes." In 2022, Parks released the standalone single "Softly," an irresistable track that gets the London-based artist back on the 2022 Choice Cuts.

10. Jim-E Stack, Lucky Daye, "Next To Me"
Originally from San Francisco but now based in Los Angeles, James Harmon Stack -- aka Jim-E Stack -- previously popped up on our 2020 Choice Cuts with "Sweet Summer Sweat," which featured Dijon. Stack has also worked with the likes of Bon Iver, Kacy Hill and Empress Of; his non-album single from 2022, "Next to Me," features New Orleans-based singer/songwriter Lucky Daye. Daye also had a good 2022, landing his album on the Billboard charts and winning a Grammy for his EP "Table for Two."

11. Bob Moses, "Love Brand New"
No, let's make this clear, Bob Moses is not a person. (Well, it's the name of a jazz drummer, but that's not who we're talking about here.) It's a two-man band from Vancouver, featurng members Jimmy Vallance and Tom Howie. The group, actually named after New York urban planner Robert Moses, hit it big in 2015 with their debut album "Days Gone By" and the hit "Tearing Me Up." "Love Brand New," from their album "The Silence in Between," has been their biggest hit in the U.S., making it to No. 1 on the U.S. alternative chart and No. 11 on the U.S. dance chart.

12. Caroline Polachek, "Sunset"
Caroline Polachek keeps popping up in the most interesting places. She collaborated with Blood Orange in one of my favorite tracks of his, "Chamakay," which made it to my 2013 Choice Cuts, and has been on my monthly mixes going back to 2010, when she collaborated with Guards on the song "Trophy Queen." In 2021, she was behind memorable songs like "Bunny Is a Rider," and this fall I started hearing Polachek's flamenco-infused "Sunset" all over the radio (well, at least on The Current and KCRW) and it stuck with me. It will be a part of Polachek's 2023 album, "Desire, I Want to Turn Into You."

13. Tate McRae, "she's all i wanna be"
Tate McRae was a one-time finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance," so it's no surprise the video for "She's All I Wanna Be" mimics a music/dance competition. At just 19, the Calgary native is off to a tremendous start to her career, including the debut in May 2022 of her debut album, "I Used to Think I Can Fly."

14. SEB, "seaside_demo"
Is this really a demo? It sounds pretty polished to me, or perhaps it just feels that way since this song was a bit of a sensation when it first came out in 2021. (So OK, this is a bit of a cheat, since it's technically not a 2022 song, but that's when I started vibing on it.) SEB, who's now based in Los Angeles, made waves by mashing "Seaside_demo" with Harry Styles' "Watermelon Sugar." But I like the original just fine.

15. Dylan, "Nothing Lasts Forever"
From Suffolk, Dylan has been busy creating singles including ‘Girl Of Your Dreams’ from the EP ‘No Romeo.’ In October she released the mixtape "The Greatest Thing I’ll Never Learn," which included "Nothing Lasts Forever."

16. beabadoobee, "Talk"
Beabadoobee (real name Beatrice Kristi Ilejay Laus) is known for her throw-back 90s rock sound, and it's funny that she's also a fequent collaborator with The 1975. It feels like a pretty good fit. You remember how her 2017 debut single "Coffee" was used on rapper Powfu's single, "Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head)," which became a surprise hit in 2020. Her 2022 album "Beatopia" kicked off with the lead single "Talk," which we feature here.

17. Unusual Demont, "Sugar"
Real name Demontcea Howard, Madison, Wisc. native Unusual Demont turns 23 on January 19 but is already making a name for himself. That nickname comes from a group he used to be in, named Unusual, and Demont now carries it forward. With influences like Tyler, The Creator, Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean, Ariana Grande and more, Unusual Demont's music is as eclectic and unique as his name.

18. Flume feat. MAY-A, "Say Nothing"
Real name Harley Edward Streten, the Australian DJ who goes by the name Flume won a Grammy in 2017 for best dance/electronic album and was nominated again in 2020 for "Hi This Is Flume." His third studio album, "Palaces," came out in 2022 and featured collaborators like Caroline Polachek, Damon Albarn and MAY-A, an Australian singer-songwriter whose real name is Maya Cumming. Their track, "Say Nothing," was nominated for Best Pop Release, Best Video and Song of the Year at the 2022 ARIA Awards.

19. Marian Hill, GASHI, "little bit"
Sense a trend here? Just as Bob Moses isn't a person, it's a band, so true with Marian Hill. The Philadelphia duo, consisting of producer Jeremy Lloyd and singer Samantha Gongol, first met in high school. The alt pop band's third album, "Why Can't We Just Pretend?" was released in April 2022; it included this track, "Little Bit," with hip-hop artist GASHI.

20. Jimetta Rose, "Ebb and Flow"
Hailing from South Los Angeles, Jimetta Rose has been a major part of the underground beats, R&B and hip-hop scene for years. Her experience and background in hip-hop, choir, soul, jazz and gospel can be heard in "Ebb and Flow." Rose has been prolific as of late, releasing "The Gift: Around the Way Queen" in February 2022, followed by "How Good It Is," along with her hand-picked choir the Voices of Creation, in August. "Ebb and Flow" isn't on either of those releases, however; it came out as a single toward the end of the year.

21. Trombone Shorty, "Come Back"
New Orleans-based Troy Andrews has played trombone from the age of 4, when I suppose he really was a trombone shorty. Now the artist, who also plays trumpet and does vocals, may have the most eclectic career of anyone on this list. From appearing in "Treme" to regularly performing with the Foo Fighters to recording the theme song to CBS' "The Odd Couple" remix... the most interesting thing on his resume may be voicing Miss Othmar and other adults in "The Peanuts Movie." Trombone Shorty released is first album in five years, "Lifted," in 2022. And "Come Back" is an absolute joy.

22. The Linda Lindas, "Growing Up"
Who doesn't love the story of the Linda Lindas? The four young women, all brought together as kids to create a punk band as a one-off project, turned out to be good. So good that they were soon opening for Bikini Kill -- and recording music for Amy Poehler's film "Moxie." But it was a viral video posted in 2021, by the Los Angeles Public Library of all things, of the Linda Lindas performing songs like "Racist, Sexist Boy" at a teen event there. The band was soon signed by Epitaph Records; in February 2022 came that album, "Growing Up." This is the title track from that release.

23. LODATO & Janice Robinson, "Dreamer"
Janice Robinson has gotten quite a bit of mileage out of "Dreamer," and good for her. Robinson was the vocalist of the 1990s hit by Livin Joy, and then recorded her own solo version of the song in 2005. Robinson then appeared on "The X Factor" in the U.K. in 2018 and performed the song as a contestant, to the delight of the panelists who hadn't recognized her. In 2022 came yet another version of "Dreamer," this time with Robinson and U.S. based DJ Salvatore Lodato, aka LODATO. And the song is still a banger.

24. The Weeknd, "Gasoline"
In the discussions over the best albums of 2022, it's odd to me that The Weeknd's "Dawn FM" didn't get more attention. Yes, I love the radio references on it, but I'm also a sucker for its 80s-inspired new-wave and funk sounds. The Weeknd's fifth studio album, "Dawn FM" dropped in January 2022 on digital, prior to a physical release -- and I wonder if that hurt it to a degree, as fans couldn't race out an buy a copy (in particular vinyl, which wasn't available until the spring). Interestingly, only four singles were serviced for "Gasoline," with "Take My Breath" the most successful. "Gasoline" wasn't a single, but it resonated the most for me.

25. Ripe, "Settling"
Formed in 2011 by a group of Berklee College of Music students, the Boston-based Ripe is known for their fun-pop grooves. The group is set to release their first album in four years, since 2018's "Joy in the Wild Unknown," with "Bright Blues," which comes out March 10, 2023 and features tracks including "Settling." The band consists of singer Robbie Wulfsohn, guitarist Jon Becker, drummer Sampson Hellerman, and trombonist Calvin Barthel. (Yep, many trombonists on this year's Choice Cuts, go figure!)

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