Top 10 Albums of 2022


Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation

I didn’t really know that I needed Closure or Continuation regarding Porcupine Tree, but then I saw them live at the Met in Philly, and man, turns out I really missed them. Often, bands come back after decades only to release a single mediocre reunion album before returning to obscurity. C/C manages to avoid that tendency. It serves as a reminder of what we liked about PT all along, sure, but it’s also one of their strongest albums yet, and proof that the band have more to say. 


John Scofield – John Scofield

A warm and inviting solo(?) jazz guitar album that features the masterful playing we’ve come to expect from Scofield, who fills incredible amounts of space despite each song only consisting of a few clean guitar tracks. The sound is not so much “sparse” as it is tasteful and delicate; one of the most pleasant albums I heard in all of 2022.


The Weeknd – Dawn FM

The Weeknd builds on his familiar dark-electronic tinged aesthetic with this masterpiece; not only one of his most fully-realized works, but one of the nicest concept albums I’ve heard in several years. It’s the type of album where you can’t listen to it without feeling drawn into the questions posed by the overarching work; and it’s incredible catchy – once you start it, you’ll just want to listen through until the very end.


deathcrash – Return

If you’ve got a hankering for a blend of Red House Painters-style Slowcore with American Football-style Midwest Emo, there are no better 2022 albums to turn to. deathcrash nail the aesthetic and the overall sound perfectly, so much so that, with this debut, the instantly became one of my favorite new bands.


Julian Lage – View with a Room

Lage’s playing is such a treat to begin with, but “View with a Room” just sounds so good. The compositions cover many different tempos, styles, and moods. And the addition of Bill Frissel as a second guitar player on this record really enhances the depth of the overall atmosphere and sound of each song. 


DOMI and JD Beck – NOT TiGHT

A fantastic debut from two young prodigies the nails this confluence of neo-soul, nu-jazz, and chillhop influences. A starstudded affair that includes appearances from Thundercat, Herbie Hancock, Anderson.Paak, Snoop Dogg, and even the great Kurt Rosenwinkel. Honestly, with a debut like that, how much better could it possibly get? 


And So I Watch You From Afar – Jettison

A wonderful song-cycle brimming with nostalgia and sentiment. The sparsely decorated spoken-word sections do just enough to heighten the emotional connotations of the music’s drawn out tensions. And I’m right at home with these post-rock guitars and these strings. Barely a dull moment to be found. There are plenty of post-rock bands, few reach the level of ASIWYFA when they are at the top of their game.  


Soccer Mommy – Sometimes, Forever

Soccer Mommy delivers yet again with another thorough record that is thematically interesting as it is rich with catchy melodies and provocative turns of phrase. Whereas the preceding record, “Color Theory”, explored the shades of grief and depression as related to the color palette , “Sometimes, Forever” looks at the contradictions that have accompanied Sophie Allison’s newfound success: the irony of the continued human struggle, and the loss of personhood that lurks behind one’s burgeoning public life.


Black Midi – Hellfire

Black Midi is a force unlike much else. “Hellfire” combines the energy of a punk band with the finesse and artistry of peak Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. I was blown away, at times, with how intense and aggressive this album could sound. Other times, I was swept away by its beauty. With “Hellfire” Black Midi are 3 for 3, cementing themselves as one of the best new bands around.


Elephant Gym – Dreams

Elephant Gym have, single-handedly, taken the genre of “math rock” and elevated it not only to the next level but several levels beyond that. Is this even “math rock” anymore? Is it jazz? Is it folk? Is it sample-based music? Throughout the course of the album, you hear all of those influence. You also will hear (I counted) at least 5 languages. I love the diversity of it all. They are  so unparalleled in their uniqueness, their approach, and their ability to inspire. And that is why “Dreams” is my favorite album of 2022.

One Feeling At A Time – Björk’s Vulnicura


I wasn’t even halfway done listening to Vulnicura before I decided it was the best Björk album in several years. Now that I’ve listened to it a few more times, I have to reconsider: it might be the best Björk album there has ever been.

Björk’s music has always been interesting and, at the very least, ambitious. As she’s developed as an artist, Björk has gained a reputation for creating albums that are highly dense and experimental, and even as I listen to Vulnicura I feel like I’m experiencing a modern Classical piece – a sort of marriage between, say, Tori Amos and Phillip Glass. But over the last few years, Björk has also earned a reputation for creating music that is more abstract than personal; too dense, and leaving many unable to connect.

It doesn’t get more personal for Björk than Vulnicura. Crafted from the embers of her failing relationship with her longterm partner, Vulnicura is something like Björk’s Blood on the Tracks: Sentimental and nostalgic, visceral and misanthropic, and expressing all manners of reflection knowable to those who’ve loved and lost.  It doesn’t get further from Biophilia than this.

I Think Lupe Fiasco Just Released His Best Album


It’s tough to get a good handle on Lupe Fiasco. Ever since his debut, Food & Liquor, Lupe has been an artist that dishes out excitement and disappointment in nearly equal doses. Albums like The Cool were ambitious and reached for admirably high themes, but failed to deliver on the level of some of rap’s greater concept albums. Other releases, like Lasers, went for a more mainstream and accessible sound without gaining much momentum (Although who can say they don’t like “The Show Goes On”?).

Tetsuo & Youth seems to be where Lupe has finally put it all together. Lupe is undeniably Lupe – with the typical references to social activism, nerd culture, Islam. But here, unlike any time before, Lupe has dropped the sledgehammer pretension without  skimping on edginess and intellectual content. Instead, what Tetsuo & Youth offers is something far more raw, something that cuts straight to the bone. This album is a real portrait of an artist who, after 5 albums, is finally putting all of the pieces together and finding their true voice. It’s awesome. One can hope that this is just the beginning of a new chapter in Lupe’s career.

2014 Review

This year, I started a number of self-improvement projects. With major events like grad school, finding a job, and getting married out of the way, I found that I once again had time to my various hobbies. I started listening to more music; I began actually recording my own music. I started studying Chinese again, and learned new techniques for playing guitar. I began to pay attention to my diet, and joined a gym. Perhaps more than anything, I caught up on TV shows and finished several video games.

It’s been a pretty good year: not too exciting, but not very boring either. Going into next year, I would like spend a little bit less time in front of the TV, and more time on music and language. I would also like to revive this blog.

Somewhere, the purpose of the Tingle Review was lost. Initially, I saw the Review as a purveyor of how I experience culture.  As time went on, however, it diminished to this sparse wasteland of lists. I’m hoping to change that in 2015.

Here are a few books, games, and albums that gave me inspiration that I’ll carry into whatever I do next year:

Book – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

I’ve read a few of Mitchell’s books in the past. This one wasn’t my favorite, but I still really enjoyed the way this book seamlessly wove several different points of view and unique plots around the common thread provided by the main character. Maybe this has been done before and I have simply never read another book like it. Regardless, I found Mitchell’s style to be refreshing, and clever. Increasingly complex worlds and characters are built in a way that feels completely organic.

Book – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Unfortunately, I haven’t read many of Murakami’s books. This one was great, though. This book perfectly captures the feeling of being isolated by friends, as well as being vindicated by the discovery of new friends.  The loneliness Tazaki experiences is inherent in human relationships, even successful ones.

Music – Casualties of Cool by Casualties of Cool

Devin Townsend really outdid himself with this collaboration. Having delved more into acoustic music and ambient music lately, this album came out of the woodwork and knocked me flat with its genre defying style. I know for sure that Townsend’s empty, ambient folk is going to be a huge influence on any music I make on my own.

Game – Mario Kart 8

If for nothing else, for at least reminding me that games can be simple games and still just as fun as the big-budget interactive movies you see on the other next gen consoles.

Best New Music – Apr – Jul 2014

I’ll admit – I’ve been slacking. Still been listening to quite a bit of music this summer, so it’s time for an update.

BADBADNOTGOOD – III (Jazz/Instrumental/Hip Hop)

Featuring a multitude of jazzy hip hop beats that sometimes sound like videogame soundtracks (artsy videogame soundtracks), III is one of the tightest instrumental records of the year. Always compelling and never pretentious, BADBADNOTGOOD have crafted a well-together album that expands the mind while moving the body.

Kishi Bashi – Lighght (Pop/Electronic)

The electric violinist of Of Montreal returns with a second solo album full of catchy hooks and trippy melodies. The end result is something like Electric Light Orchestra, with a little bit more poetry and a little less prog. Lighght is a big improvement over the solid solo debut.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – Pika Pika Fantajin (Pop/Electronic)

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s newest record is the musical version of a kid shotgunning pixie sticks. It’s childish, cute, addictive, and probably not very good in the long term, but did I mention how cute it is? Pika Pika Fantajin is an overwhelmingly fun album. It sticks to you and grows, and with repeat listens reminds you of all those great previous listens.

March Music Picks

This month wasn’t great for music, especially compared to the awesome new releases from Beck, Marissa Nadler, Sun Kil Moon and Nicole Atkins in February. But I still found myself enjoying a few records.

Animals as Leaders – The Joy of Motion (Instrumental; Fusion; Metal)


Until recently, Animals as Leaders were a band that fell through the cracks for me. Having heard more than my fill of generic instrumental progressive metal over the years, I was reluctant to try out another band that might blast me with djenty tones and sci-fi levels of virtuosity. Man, was I wrong. Animals as Leaders aren’t prog metal as much as they are a tasty blend of fusion that combines energy with atmosphere and technique. Tosin Abasi is quick becoming one of my favorite electric guitar players.

Hozier – From Eden EP (Singer-songwriter; Folk)


None of the songs on “From Eden” are as good as “Take Me To Church” on last year’s phenomenal EP of the selfsame title. But this release still displays Hozier’s uniqueness in lyricism and phrasing that should make for an awesome Hozier album in the future. Both EPs are brimming with potential, but I’m still waiting in anticipation for the eventual full-length from the Irish bard. In some ways, Hozier feels to me like a male counterpart to Florence – with a voice that can haunt or uplift in equal proportions.

La Dispute – Rooms of the House (Spoken Word Hardcore)


-Core music has never really been a favorite genre of me, but I found something alluring about the jagged stream-of-consciousness delivery on “Rooms of the House”. The album is tight instrumentally too, but really it’s the words that paint all the pictures – if you can get over the monotone and follow along.

* * *

Well, that’s it for this month. I was hoping there’d be more, but like I said above, this month was weak. Plus, I’ve been doing a lot less desk work, so I’ve been listening to less music overall. Next month looks to be pretty promising, with new releases from Nickel Creek, Cloud Nothings, Devin Townsend, and Manchester Orchestra.

February, Month of Folk

February’s a short month, but thankfully a ton of great music has come out, especially if you like folkie or singer-songwriter stuff. Here are a couple of albums I’ve been digging for the month of February.


Beck – Morning Phase

I’ve never listened to much Beck, but “Morning Phase” is going to make me a fan and send me back scrounging through the latter discography. “Morning Phase” is a lush, emotive album that combines downtempo strumming and folkie dreampop vocals with lyrics that express hopefulness for new beginnings. It’s a compact and solid album, but lush and diverse enough to earn repeated, ever-rewarding listens.


Marissa Nadler – July

Marissa Nadler’s “July” continues her trend of  folk records that combine eeriness with American fingerstyle guitar patterns. The album is somber, as Nadler delivers lines like “You’ve slept through the day, the night and the day/you’re never coming back” and “There’s nothing in my heart”. Under it all is Randall Dunn’s production, usually reserved for extreme metal acts like Wolves in the Throne Room, but here mostly lending ambiance to Nadler’s gothic expressions.


Nicole Atkins – Slow Phaser

The lastest record from songwriter Nicole Atkins is a quick, bohemian statement that, at times, sounds like Sufjan Stevens; at other times, Deep Purple; and sometimes, like a spy movie soundtrack. Atkins’ husky voice and down-to-earth lyrics triumph over all, however, asserting the full command the artist has over her material. More like a quick burst of eclecticism than a “slow phaser”, Atkins’ record is bite-sized and tasteful, but still dangerous.


Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Mark Kozelek’s unabashedly honest lyrics have deterred a few reviewers, but they also drive the confessional, no BS style that makes “Benji” unique.  The album’s droning fingerstyle patterns accompany vivid, often brutal images of loss and anger, but there are plenty of soft and reflective moments too. “I Saw the Film the Song Remains the Same” is a particular highlight which exemplifies Sun Kil Moon’s unique brew.

January Music Picks

The new year started off slow, but by the end of them month I already found myself behind on a ton a new great music to listen to. Here are some of my favorites:

Alcest – Shelter (Shoegaze; Black Metal derivative)

Alcest have veered away from their trademark blackgaze style, and moved 100 percent into the realm of pure shoegazing music. While the music is atmospheric and dreamy, and there is a greater diversity of soothing shimmery sounds than ever, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss the light/dark dichotomy of previous records. However, Shelter still reaches melodic and emotional heights that are as heart wrenching as can be, and while the black metal elements are missed, I can’t fault the artist for moving in a new direction.

Cities Aviv – Come to Life (Hip Hop; Cloud Rap)

Gavin May’s unique beats and production defy genre. Voices are old school, atonal, gritty, but most of all, exuding confidence. Rhymes rely more on philosophical content than pure word play, but really percussive instrumentals are what drives that songs home. “Come to Life” sounds raw and harsh at times, and isn’t for everyone, but to its credit it is never, ever boring.

Sithu Aye – Invent the Universe (Progressive Metal)

Sithu’s sense of melody continues to be astounding – but over time, he’s made solid improvements to his tone, production sense, and chops as a songwriter. Pristine guitar tones, tasteful solos, intriguing rhythms, and glorious melodies scatter through “Pulse”, making the short EP his strongest and most concise work to date.

Transatlantic – Kaleidoscope (Retroprog)

Crisp instrumentation and a punchy, one-of-a-kind rhythm section make Transatlantic one of my favorite bands to listen to. This time around, songs feel more like genuine collaborations rather than simple Neal Morse epics which some additional arrangements. Ultimately, “Kaleidoscope” is a ton of fun, and it’s not all that often you see such a talented group of people come together to make music so pristine and glittering that it can take weeks to wash off.

Warpaint – Warpaint (Indie; Dream Pop)

If Dream Pop, as a genre, offers swooning soundscapes, Warpaint offer an echo of a trance murmur heard from the opposite end of a dark tunnel. I think I like it. The vocals are lethargic but ghastly, with lyrics too loaded to be considered mundane. Instrumentals emote, giving plenty of reverb-washed sonic space to the trio’s endeavor. There are times, though, where the production clips. A softer mix would have helped keep the brooding magic of the album in the bottle, and it’s a shame the record was mixed so loud.

Year of Our Lord, 2013 – Favorite Albums

So much new music, so much time commuting to listen to it all.

Here were my favorite albums in 2013.

  1. Olafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter
  2. Laura Marling – Once I Was an Eagle
  3. Protest the Hero – Volition
  4. Laura Stevenson and The Cans – The Wheel
  5. Levin, Minneman, Rudess – Self-titled
  6. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampies of the City
  7. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
  8. Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories…)
  9. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
  10. Vali – Skolslandskap
  11. Blackfield – IV
  12. Chrvches – The Bones of What You Believe
  13. Volcano Choir – Repave
  14. Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait
  15. The Dear Hunter – Migrant
  16. Scale the Summit – The Migration
  17. Haim – Days are Gone
  18. Deafhaven – Sunbather
  19. Ulver – Messe X.I – X.VI
  20. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap

Honorable Mentions –

  1. Cloudkicker – Subsume
  2. Tyr – Valkrya
  3. Devranda Banhart – Mala
  4. Junip – Junip
  5. Laura Veirs – Warp and Weft

Dream Theater’s New Self-Titled Album

image source: bravewords


Considering I spent nearly four years of my life listening exclusively to this band and their circle of peers and influences, it’d be a shame if I didn’t write at least a little bit about them, now that they have a self-titled record out. I’m not blown away by the new Dream Theater album, but it’s a very strong late-career outing for a band that have been incredibly productive over the course of their career.

The album can be streamed here:

And, here’s my track-by-track:

False Awakening Suite: A short piece that has interesting moments but fails to gain much momentum and suffers from a lack of fluidity. It seems to lack purpose. Score: 2/5

The Enemy Inside: An exceptional instrumental section and JP/JR solo spot gives existential validity to this otherwise vanilla prog metal tune. Score: 3/5

The Looking Glass: Dream Theater play to their strengths here moreso than anywhere else on the album, infusing old-school progressive metal with their trademark instrumental craftmanship and LaBrie’s Arena Rock knack for melody. Score: 5/5

Enigma Machine: It’s not as bad as “Raw Dog”, but it lacks direction and fails to mesmerize despite showcasing virtuosity. It might be a lot more fun to watch live. Score: 2/5

The Bigger Picture: This dynamic and powerful song spirals out of control after the first chorus, but that instrumental build-up into the finale puts everything back into perspective. Score: 4/5

Behind the Veil: Parts of good and bad songs are jarbled together without much regard for fluidity.  JP’s solo almost saves the song, but we’ve seen that trick too many times before. Score: 2/5

Surrender to Reason: The Rush influences on this album are starting to feel blatant. Dream Theater are obviously lifelong disciples, but even they should know how to avoid those awful 70’s Rush transitions by now. Score: 2/5

Along for the Ride: A solid effort that sits well beside songs like “Wither” and “This is the Life”. Score: 3/5

Illumination Theory: For every fantastic section of this 22 minute song, there is section that feels like a mere formality – including & especially Rush homages. I love the orchestrated section, and the piano/guitar fadeout at the very end. Can we have more of that? Score: 3/5

In sum, things seem looser in DT world this time around. DT12 is a mixed bag that continues to demonstrate that band’s excellent musicianship and creativity, but homages to the band’s influences are too prominent, and the songcrafting is more concise but nowhere near as seamless as on A Dramatic Turn of EventsOverall: 6.5/10