It’s been a weird year. Last year around this time I asked, “Do things just keep getting worse and worse, year after year after year? Is there any good reason to think that 2022 will be any better in any way than 2021?” Now I think 2022 actually was a little better than 2021.
There was still plenty of bad shit going down (Supreme Court, Ukraine, the climate, Afghanistan, Elon Musk, etc.), but on the other hand there seemed to be something of a reversion to sanity. Things like the midterm results (particularly in the Senate), the Alex Jones verdict, and the raid on Maralago suggest that the arc of the moral universe might be bending toward justice after all. But who knows? Right around 50% of the population is still willing to vote for Republicans despite everything that has happened over the past six years. (Or 40+ years, depending on your tolerance for oligarchy.) So it goes.
The Covid situation is getting better, although not as quickly as we’d all hoped. Comparing Covid to the Spanish Flu, it seems we haven’t gotten much smarter in a hundred years. They wrapped their shit up by 1921, while we continue to experience excess deaths with no end in sight. I still haven’t gotten it, but my wife tested positive right before Riot Fest and we had to miss it this year. Boo!
I fell down a deep rabbit hole when I discovered I could access my local newspaper’s historical archives and spent a bunch of time reading accounts of influenza in Michigan. After I had enough of the flu I started looking up my grandparents. My grandpa was apparently quite a bowler. This led me to researching my genealogy which became one of my big obsessions of 2022. Turns out I may qualify for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis on my mother’s side (although it sounds like an expensive pain in the ass to prove it). It can be a weird and disturbing journey, tracing your ancestors through the past. But it’s fascinating. And fun.
So that’s part of why I’ve shared way less new music in 2022 than in years past. I’ve been spending my “goof around” time getting Polish birth records translated into English and scouring old census data for people whose names aren’t indexed correctly. Thankfully, once again, Stephen Macaulay tireless filed a feature-length piece every Saturday for publication on Monday to keep the site alive.
But my genealogical diversions haven’t totally been in vain. There have been a few rock and roll correlations. When the 1950 census dropped I was able to find Muddy Waters living with Little Walter in Chicago, Elvis in Memphis, and John Lee Hooker in Detroit. It’s enthralling to work backwards and try to find their families in earlier censuses and other public records like marriage licenses, World War II draft registration documents, etc.
Speaking of world wars, another thing that distracted me from seeking out new music this year was the Ukrainian people’s heroic resistance to Russia’s invasion of their country. Like many people I was pretty pessimistic about the chances of a former Soviet republic standing up to the mighty Russian Bear. Being totally wrong about that made me question my tendency toward negativity in several other areas of my life. Maybe hope is a good thing after all? Who knew! In addition to forcing me to reframe my entire worldview, the war in Ukraine also inspired me to read into a bunch of military crap that had never interested me before: tactics, logistics, crossing bridges, truck tire maintenance, combined arms, attrition, ground lines of communication, all kinds of boring old-man-in-a-recliner stuff. (For the record, I don’t own a recliner. Yet!)
Of course, just like every year since the phonograph was invented, there were plenty of great records released in 2022. Some of my favorite artists put out albums that seemed to be aimed directly at me. The Mountain Goats’ Bleed Out was a whole album of up-tempo, guitar-driven vignettes of violence and crime. And although Wilco’s Cruel Country was not the country album its publicist claimed it was, it was a fine collection of well-crafted pop songs without the skronk and artsy-fartsiness of a lot of much of their 21st-century output.
This was made obvious by the expanded reissue of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the last Wilco album featuring Jay Bennett. I just got the 8-CD version for Christmas (CDs nuts!) and haven’t had a chance to listen to the three discs that aren’t available on streaming services, but I can’t wait to dive in.
Another twentieth anniversary expanded release I enjoyed was the Libertines’ Up the Bracket with over three hours of demos, outtakes, and radio sessions. And we can’t forget to mention the Beatles’ expanded Revolver box. Not a ton of new stuff if you already had Anthology 2 but it all sounds great, and the original-speed “Rain” instrumental is as mind-blowing as Take 1 of “Tomorrow Never Knows” was when we heard it 25 years ago.
The album I kept going back to over and over has been Taylor Swift’s Midnights. I dismissed it initially as a step back from the direction she had taken on folklore and evermore, but I’ve since realized it’s as good as anything she’s done. It’s embarrassing for a grownup man to admit this, but she’s my favorite songwriter working today.
The other big lifestyle change in addition to my newfound optimism was that I finally got off Twitter. At the end of April I took a few weeks off after the initial talk of Elon Musk taking over and re-instating Donald Trump’s account. I survived without it, but was back to my old ways by the middle of June. I gave it up for good in November. Deleted my apps. Removed the embedded timeline in the sidebar over there –>. Stopped auto-tweeting GLONO posts. Dunzo. But now I’m on Mastodon. Which will probably become equally addictive. But at least it’s not owned by a loon-enabling oligarch! It’s still a little complicated to get going on, but if you’re interested and need any help, feel free to hit me up.
Have a happy, hopeful new year, everybody!
Apple Music: GLONO 2022
Spotify: GLONO 2022
Note: Some songs may be missing from these playlists either due to human error, unavailability at the time, or being yanked by the streaming services after we added them to the playlist. Also, both Spotify and Apple only show the first 100 songs in the embedded player; click through for the whole playlist.