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Skeleton at the Feast 2022
When we morphed our long-running site dedicated to simple living, The Dew Abides, into a dedicated site for Dew Point Farm, Jenn and I began refraining from writing a lot of the posts where we frittered away about stuff that was, honestly, inconsequential: wine label designs, a homemade baseball cap rack, a custom-designed font, yada yada.
Never mind that some of those posts were among our most popular, such as the completely unnecessary set of instructions on how to “hack” Fields Notes (in brief: trim paper, fold, staple).Never mind that others of those posts were quite important, such as our ongoing battle with plasticstuffs.
Modern dot-com marketing gurus say “content is king,” but it turns out that having a kingdom of followers was chaining us to the keyboard, jamming out posts to “keep people engaged.” Eventually we asked, to what end? As Jenn often puts it: we realized we either had time to write about the things or just do the things. By the molasses speed of our posts these days, you can see where we’ve landed.
Among the things I dropped was publishing a roundup of my favorite songs of the year, an annual collection I call “Skeleton at the Feast.” I was still making the collection, mind you. And I was still giving it to friends as a homemade holiday gift,albeit as a Spotify playlist these days instead of a physical disc. Turns out, it was one of Jenn’s favorite posts of mine every year, and she pretty much insisted I put it back out in the world.
That’s the long way of saying that here’s a playlist for the best songs of the year, at least according to one Dewd, with lots of feedback and considered argument from his wife.
Below the playlist, I offer some track-by-track feedback, which is what people in my day used to call “liner notes,” which, I guess is what people call them again, now that LPs are back in fashion and people need pieces of paper to protect vinyl from the cardboard sleeves. Anyway, enjoy!
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Jamie T, The Old Style Raiders: The intro guitar trill reminds me of the mandolin bit in Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” But then the power drums and faraway screams kick in and it all goes gorgeously batshit.
S.G. Goodman, Work Until I Die: There are two indispensable tracks off a stellar sophomore record from Goodman, most of whose work is traditional country. The first is the album-closing “Keeper of the Time,” a trancey rock crescendo. The second is this middle-finger to capitalism.
Black Country, New Road, Choas Space Marine: If you take the most theatrical elements of Meat Loaf’s catalog and made, IDK, David Bowie deliver them. With strings and horns, of course.
Joe Purdy, All the Pretty Things: Purdy, basically the second-coming of Woody Guthrie, disappeared for years before releasing a new album last year, followed by three collections of outtakes. The album is good, but the outtake collections are phenomenal, and this cut is from one of ’em.
Kevin Morby, This Is a Photograph: Song of the year, Jenn and I both agree. And if you don’t, then you clearly didn’t listen through to the point where the choir is chanting like a pissed off Lakota tribe about to charge down Custer. There’s a great episode of Song Exploder that breaks the song down.
Spoon, The Hardest Cut: That jagged guitar bridging chorus and verse…
Angel Olsen, Go Home: This song is all atmosphere, and the chorus builds worlds. It’s even more impactful on the album, hidden amongst lovely, quiet Americana tunes.
Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul, Esperanto: Are you polite or political?
Big Thief, Simulation Swarm: Every year, seems there’s one go-to record as a balm when the world is too stressful, too loud, too there. Big Thief’s “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” is that record for last year.
Aeon Station, Move: An actual 20 years after The Wrens put out their masterpiece, “Meadowlands,” the rest of the band finally got tired of waiting on Charles Bissell to get his stuff together and released their own album under a new moniker. What’s stunning is that, even though many of the songs directly address the issues of not being able to move forward, they are sympathetic and sweet and can make a grown man cry.
Pigeon Pit, Milk Crates: I heard this album in January and knew right then it was one of the best records of the year. Shades of vintage Mountain Goats, as filtered through a Bay Area pop-punk vocal style. But with violins and junk.
Yard Act, The Overload: Impossible to listen to this without a discernable butt wiggle. “If you don't challenge me on anything, you'll find I'm actually very nice.”
Jake X. Fussell, Washington: Beautiful album closer from a record from Fussell that’s par excellence. The song’s scant three lines were, story goes, taken from a hook-rug that Fussell saw.
Jack White, Queen of the Bees: I about gave up on JW after his terrible first release of 2022. But I gave his second album a shot, and glad I did. It’s fantastic, and includes this gem.
Kalush, Stefania: Ukraine’s Kalush won the Eurovision Song Contest with this entry, and many irate fans of other countries accused voters of bowing to politics. They’re nuts.
Nilufer Yanya, Stabilise: I hear elements of The Police and ’60s surf rock in the guitar work. But it’s the interplay between that guitar and the rhythm track and Yanya’s disaffected vocals that make it work as a whole.
Will Sheff, In the Thick of It: I’ll always love the band Okkervil River, but if they’re done for good, I’ll be OK if Sheff — the heart of that band — keeps putting out music like this.
Wet Leg, Chaise Longue: Dancy and full of innuendo. No one does sarcasm better than this new Isle of Wight duo.
Imarhan, Achinkad: Jenn says I always have a song that’s secretly by Ennio Morricone on the playlist. I’m not saying that’s true, but this would be that one.
Bodega, Doers: Ok, so anti-capitalist screes seem to be du-jour on this collection. I swear singer Ben Hozie must have to wipe the venom-spittle off the mic after performing this song live.
Tomberlin, Easy: You could’ve basically picked any song off her record and put it here.
King Hannah, It’s Me and You, Kid: Starts off with pretty faraway guitar and a hungover, fuzzed-out voice. You can hear the loud guitar spurt for a just a second before it comes on its ragged glory.Singer Hannah Merrick repeats “It’s me and you, kid” about 73 times before there’s a shimmering Zen breakthrough: “I’m all I’m ever gonna be, I’m all I’m ever gonna be.” That’s you you close an album. Both King Hannah’s and mine.
Most inconsequential of all may have been the photo-essay we created one lazy Easter Sunday with Peeps chicks breaking out of a deep-fryer cage.
That was the hazy link to The Dew Abides’ simple-living credo.
See also: Radiohead’s “Creep”.