A few weeks back, I wrote an article called My Art Must Stew, in which I discussed the ways in which the (admittedly meaningless) end of the calendar year influences and shapes my obsessive list-making proclivities. The punchline of the piece was that when it comes to albums, my desire to live with my music for some time means that in 30+ years of posting annual “Best Albums” reports, I’ve never picked a “#1 Album of the Year” that came out in October, November or December of any given year. Books and films are definitely different from music in that regard, for me, in that I generally only watch or read them once, so they don’t need to have “legs” in the ways that tunes do.
So as November’s mid-point approaches, I find my annoyingly insistent brain compelling me to begin developing my Best Albums, Best Books and Best Films lists for 2022. On the films and books fronts, there’s still things to come that I expect will place highly in the final reckoning, though I’ve seen and read so much this year, that I do find myself starting to think “Okay, that’s enough, you can stop now.” (But I probably won’t). While those film and book lists remain at least nominally fluid, I think the early drafts of my Best Albums list are likely to reflect the final product pretty closely, at least near the top of the pile, if history is any indicator, which it almost always is.
On a related front, a couple of months before that “art must stew” piece, I wrote another article called Caving to Streaming, which described the processes through which I was finally dragged, kicking and screaming, into using streaming services to access and play my music. Three-plus months into the new paradigm, I will admit that there are benefits to not having to hard-synch and update a physical music-playing device every time I want to acquire or change something, and that the new model allows me to listen to my music in higher fidelity settings than had been the case for me in recent years. It’s also certainly easier to create playlists on the fly via my phone, and we’ve found that having a dozen or so 100-song thematic lists (e.g. Jazz, Gospel, Folk, African Music, New Albums, Sunday Morning Mellow, Friday Highday, etc.) which we can toggle between quickly has been a nice way to soundtrack our home life. (I’m still using an iPod in the car, because I don’t like letting the car access and control my phone every time I go for a drive as a default setting).
But there are downsides to the new system too. First and foremost, I continue to worry about the streaming model because I believe it is disadvantageous to the artists who create the music that moves me. I am still paying for some of my music via Bandcamp, just to support said creators. Other nuisances include the fact that my streaming service of choice (Spotify) has some wonky functionality issues, and does not do or allow certain simple things that my prior digital files service (iTunes) did do or allow, primarily with regard to properly randomizing playlists, and keeping track of personal play data that I liked to evaluate and manipulate at year’s end. (There will be no “Most Played Songs” report here this year for the first time in a dozen years, as one unfortunate [for me] outcome of this transition). And having to use voice commands via a set-up that includes a Bose speaker, a Spotify app, an Amazon control device, and an Android phone leads to regular glitchy interactions between unfriendly competing technologies, which often require re-connections or reboots. I’m learning to live within those constraints, but I’ll never like them.
I mention those two older articles in this post today for a reason: I can now use my shareable streaming service to tease my coming-soon hard-copy music lists by creating and posting a playlist here for those readers who are interested in such things. If you’re looking for a taste of what my world sounds like these days, feel free to take the embedded playlist below, which represents my 25 Favorite Songs of 2022, shuffle it to your heart’s content, and get what I think is a solid two hours of utterly sublime songs. Some of these are singles, and will not appear in any form in the Best Albums of 2022 list. Some are on albums that will feature on that list, and on the flip-side, that list will include lots of albums that are not represented at all in this playlist.
That’s why it’s a tease, yeah? You’ll still have to check back later this year for the Full Musical Monty, but I hope you’ll enjoy this mix as much as I am right now. And you’ll get to do so without having to click between a bunch of Youtube videos, as has been the norm in the past for such website projects, so that’s a good thing too, as much as I hate to admit it.