Throughout this past year, I found solace and comfort in art of all mediums, ranging from music albums to comedic podcasts and sitcoms. Below is a list of some of the most impressive art I consumed this year.
1) ‘Good News for People Who Love Bad News’ (2004) by Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse’s breakthrough into the mainstream was also my introduction to this band’s blend of alternative rock, indie rock and forced optimism (as this album name suggests). While “Float On” was my gateway into this album and the band as a whole, I was also pleasantly surprised by the deeper cuts on this record: “Bukowski,” “The World At Large,” “Ocean Breathes Salty” and “Blame It On the Tetons.” Jeremiah Green’s metronomic drumming tastefully anchors down lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock’s eclectic vocal style, all of which are glued together by Eric Judy’s languid basslines.
2) Bill Burr’s ‘Monday Morning Podcast’ (2007-)
Nothing quite energized me in the morning like an aging Bostonian comic yelling at me about the latest football game I did not watch. But really, the true treasure of the “Monday Morning Podcast” is when Burr, one of the most celebrated and brazen stand-up comics of the last decade, offers unfiltered advice during the tail-end of the podcast. I feel a mix of laughter, pity and utter confusion at the quantity and type of advice his fans ask of this deeply unqualified professional comedian. Not to mention his legendary rants that conjoin his pieces of advice.
3) ‘Europe ’72’ by the Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead are one of the most miscategorized bands of all time and, as a result, they immediately turn off a lot of potential fans in the process. They are anything but psychedelic despite what all of their trippy artwork may insinuate. This live album, which acts essentially as a “best moments” compilation from their Western European tour in 1972, is perfect for any long road trip through Route 66 or if you are in the mood for an eclectic mix of Americana, blues, roots rock and Jerry Garcia’s iconic soloing.
Nas’ infamous debut has been dissected, analyzed and discussed ad nauseam in all critical musical circles, leaving me with nothing else new to add. This album revitalized East Coast rap and was arguably its crowning achievement. Additionally, compared to other hip-hop albums released during the early ’90s, the original production and mixing still hold up today. His timeless debut is a visceral and one-of-a-kind hip-hop experience that I keep returning to in the winter months.
5) ‘Abbott Elementary’ (2022-)
This sitcom’s pilot alone gives you an all-star roster that is both immediately likable and very easy to root for despite all of their quirks. I have not watched a show in recent memory where I instantly felt connected toward the plight of the main characters: in this case, elementary school teachers at a dilapidated and underfunded Philadelphia public school. Quinta Brunson truly hit a home run with this family-friendly and deeply hilarious sitcom and critics seem to agree. This show was an unexpected but deeply appreciated burst of sunshine in my life.
6) ‘Harmony House’ (2021) by Dayglow
Yes, Dayglow also dropped an album this year, but I still kept returning to his sophomore project. The album has a mix of nostalgia and youthful optimism but also exemplifies a more mature perspective (as well as more mature production choices) as compared to his debut album “Fuzzybrain” (2019). Seeing him live with his touring band at The Eastern was also a major highlight of 2022.
7) ‘I.’ (2012) by Cigarettes After Sex
The main critique I hear of this three-piece dream-pop band is that all of their songs sound the same. While this may be true, I love their song structures because there is nothing quite like it. Dream-pop and shoe-gaze lovers might hear some vague similarities to Mazzy Star or Beach House, but nothing really falls in the same ballpark of the soundscapes this band is able to achieve on this album or future projects. Their very first EP “I.” still holds a special place in my heart. I happen to miss the more abrasive drums on this EP as compared to their eponymous debut album, especially on the introductory song “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby.” Less is more for the band, and in the process, it does them wonders.
8) ‘Surfer Rosa’ (1988) by Pixies
The Pixies were one of the biggest catalysts for the alt-rock explosion of the ’90s, and partially for spawning the likes of Nirvana and Radiohead. But their infamous debut, which gave us the doomer anthem “Where Is My Mind?” is also rich with explosive, abrasive and at times genuinely harrowing indie-rock songs. If you like Nirvana’s “In Utero” (1993), then you will definitely like its more cheerful and more manic older sibling (both of these albums were also produced by Steve Albini).
9) ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ (2002) by Interpol
While they definitely got a boost from The Stroke’s sudden emergence into the mainstream the previous year, Interpol’s debut album released via Matador Records is a feat of nature in and of itself. It’s a gloomy mix of post-punk, new wave and indie rock, well deserving of Pitchfork’s #1 album spot for the year 2002. This album is the definitive embodiment of a post-9/11 New York City (the third track, “NYC,” beautifully and heartbreakingly paints this picture to the listener).
10) ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ (2022) by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album has definitely grown on me; its heavy themes of intergenerational trauma, therapy and the healing process were not exactly light subject material for an album. The project was also nothing like its more hook-filled and pop-oriented predecessor “DAMN” (2017). As the album marinated, so did my overall view of this work. I found myself frequently visiting songs like “Rich Spirit,” “Die Hard” and “Purple Hearts,” all of which exemplify mature penmanship and unforgettable rhymes. The album’s incorporation of string arrangements, bombastic beats and tastefully selected guest features all contribute to this album standing up with K.Dot’s already legendary discography.
Segal’s article is part of a year in review series by A&E writers. Read the rest here.
Ari Segal (he/him) (25C) is from Boca Raton, Florida, majoring in philosophy, politics and law and minoring in music. He currently heads the music desk for the Arts & Entertainment Section. He is involved with the Emory Conversation Project, Franklin Fellows and the SPARK Mentorship Program. If you run into Ari, he is probably talking about music, listening to music or playing music on the guitar.