Jasper’s 2022 Overview

I’m going to choose my words very carefully and say the year 2022 wasn’t exactly fun. With a spiteful grin plastered on my face, I’m hereby kicking it to the curb. Good riddance! Fortunately, I’m still in one piece, and actually in a better place than when the year started. When you’re living at the heart of trauma, bitterness and isolation, your fight-or-flight-mechanism kicks in to reach for immediate resolve. And throughout my existence, music has never failed to show up. The year 2022 – fortunately – was no exception.

During rough patches, my teenage self rummaged for music that affirmed those angsty feelings I mentioned. The likes of Nirvana and Korn provided the perfect echo chamber in high school to give my anguished feelings merit. But as a person gets older, one craves less and less affirmation from the outside world. I noticed, now on the wrong side of 39, those pleas for acceptance manifest quite differently. Last year, I took major steps in bolstering my own self-worth, and in hindsight, I built the necessary armor to withstand this shitstorm-of-a-year in a meaningful way.

So in 2022, I wasn’t gravitating towards cartoonish sadcore records that doubled down on my state of mind. Instead, I sought alleviation in pop records that exuded joy. My favorite record of the year was Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul’s Topical Dancer, which showed me that progessive thinking in pop music doesn’t have to read like some straight-faced manifesto. The Belgian duo circumvents this trap with irresistible wit, flippant enthusiasm and piercing perspicacity. It truly shows off how pop music can rewire your thinking in a fun, and insightful way. Each song was conceived from a cool creative angle too; from the glib cut ups of live favorite “Ceci n’est pas un cliché”, to the more autobiographical “It Hit Me” , which tells as much a story in its production as it does in its lyrics. 

Joy was also found in familiar places. For the third year in a row, bedroom pop phenom Lucy (Cooper B. Handy) incited a surefire chuckle in a year when chuckles were few and far between. I enjoyed interviewing him for BPM, and getting to understand the genesis of his free-wheeling pop vignettes. I’ve seen so many artists contrive a comparable “everyman oddball”-schtick as a stage persona, but the great thing about Lucy is that it isn’t a schtick. He is the real McCoy; an affable pure-hearted dude from Cape Cod with an inexplicably divine gift for memorable pop hooks. 

Lucy – Radiation:

On “Radiation” – the lead single off of his latest EP Devoted–  he rhymes the line” Isley brothers together on the beat” with ‘Just like I feel better with leather on the seat’. He then ad libs the “leather on the seat”-part to such comedic effect, it leaves me in stitches every time. And that’s just one example: there are tons of moments like this. Lucy also plays a starring role in my favorite song of the year, “Autonomy” with his longtime pals Boy Harsher. Over the past few months, I could never quite put my finger on why I love this song so much. But, as I was writing my blurb for our Best Songs of 2022-feature, I formulated a sound theory; as a child of the 80s and 90s, both cult horror classics and blockbuster spectacle were poured into my impressionable young mind. “Autonomy” more or less combines those can’t-miss elements, but in an updated fashion. It’s John Carpenter meets John Hughes and it’s absolutely glorious.

Lucy’s (hopefully more than) one-time collaborator Lily Konigsberg wasn’t as mind-bogglingly prolific as last year, but she still made a profound impact with My Idea, the project she formed with producer/songwriter Nate Amos (This Is Lorelei/Water From Your Eyes). It was a heart-tugging record for me to cover, because the album essentially captures two creative and spiritual equals at the peak of their songwriting talents. But the songs also feel smeared by the emotional toils of their alleged breakup, which gives this record this haunting, mercurial energy. It speaks of both Konigsberg and Amos’s resolve and talent that they managed to make something that sounds so buoyant and full of life, with songs like “Lily’s Phone” and “Baby I’m The Man” acting like livewires for their infectious chemistry. Amos and Konigsberg seemed to have landed in better places since Cry Mfer came out, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next projects coming from two of indie rock’s most incandescent figures.

Many of my other corona lockdown heroes made a big splash. LA’s Worthitpurchase released their excellent second album Truthtelling and Yaya Bey finally unveiled her masterpiece Remember Your North Star. I saw UK noise act Mandy, Indiana explode with shows in Rotterdam and Tilburg respectively, and I’m convinced they are gonna rule 2023 with a velvet-clad fist. France-native Valentine Caulfield is one of the coolest performers around, adopting a perfect blend of incendiary punk abandon and ribald stage theatrics. It seems that bands who enjoy wearing wigs on stage have been my thing, because Nottingham outfit Divorce also enjoy dressing up. But instead of pitch black avant-rock and no wave, this bunch blends indie rock, country, freak-folk and music-theater numbers together in an unheard of way. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Divorce to hit the big time sooner rather than later, because all of their songs so far have been sublime.

Divorce “Services”

More mainstream-oriented records I’ve enjoyed are Shygirl’s Nymph, Rosalia’s Motomami and FKA twigs’ Caprisongs; in their own way, they represent an exciting launching-off point from two and a half years of solitary living. For many – especially the younger generations – 2022 was a year for making up for lost experiences, and understandably so. But there was also a sinister ramification of all this delirious storming-the-gates energy. The touring economy became more fractured than ever, with even more marquee names like Lil Simz, Santigold, Arlo Parks and Animal Collective not being able to make ends meet. It’s a clear sign that ‘business as usual’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. The music industry failed to capitalize during the pandemic in establishing sustainable business models for artists to survive and thrive in. I hope that in 2023, we’ll see the first signs of serious reform. 

For me personally, life felt like a bullet train I was unable to catch at any point. I often found myself staring enviously at my Instagram feed, watching other people fall in love again, creating things together or going on a trip. I got low and lonely, and with this traumatic event throwing my mental health into a tailspin, I wasn’t able to embrace the ‘back to normal’ as gleefully as some other. During the moments where I did catch up with others, I noticed many have fought similar mental battles, which gave me a silver lining of comfort that I wasn’t the only one. 

I still kept close tabs on my own music scene – a scene I have more or less abandoned on a social level. Tramhaus have become a real powerhouse, playing bigger and bigger venues, while emerging names such as Kalaallit Nunaat, Library Card, Vulva (who righteously ruffled the feathers of Dutch anti-abortion parties) and Sacrificial Chanting Mood routinely outshine contemporaries from other regions. Seeing Library Card become the absolute highlight of Left Of The Dial festival – after just a handful of shows – made me realize that the music scene here is really something special abuzz here. In the electronic music scene – which I frequent even less – there is plenty to look out for as well, with names like Animistic Beliefs, Acidic Male, mad miran and Nadia Struiwigh making a big splash. Indeed, I feel very fortunate to be in close proximity to so much ingenuity – even if emotionally, I seem to be in the thick of it less and less.

Sacrificial Chanting Mood live:

That wasn’t the case, however, when I covered another Rotterdam stalwart: GGGOLDDD’s latest album This Shame Should Not Be Mine. Doing a longread about this alarming project triggered a similarly traumatic event within myself, and for the remainder of the year, I had to clear the emotional fallout from that. Looking back, I view this article as one of my crowning works; because Milena and Thomas’s album not only helped me recognize the severity of my own experience with sexual trauma; their record offered a roadmap on how to mend from it as well. So writing this profile piece felt like drawing that very roadmap for myself;  and with that, the abject understanding that doing the right thing – and just giving a damn – never entails taking the easiest route.

So yeah, some year it was, the year 2022. The kind of year that made interviewing a longtime hero of mine – Doug Martsch of Built to Spill – feel like a mere afterthought. Conversely, losing Mimi Parker of Low – whom I have only met once over a Zoom interview – felt like losing one of my closest friends. To me, Low has been the single most important band of the past six years, and I will never see them live again. But with that realization comes a lot of counting of blessings: the fact that I got to see them at their peak in places like Barcelona and New York – I will never ever take that for granted. I frequently turn now to their Fitzgerald Theatre show, featuring the most stunning rendition of “Tempest” ever. The lyrics of that song ring truer for me in 2022 than in 2018, when they first haunted the world like a ghost trapped in a machine. “Forgive, forget/You live and let/You grin and paw/And laugh it off”.

Low live:

I feel content to be in the position to laugh 2022 off. It’s a year I survived on the strength of great music, family support, some new souls entering my life and an abundance of basketball, books and Key & Peele skits to find respite in. I guess you had to be there. If anything, life can blindside you on a whim: after eleven months of stress, anxiety and despair, the final month decided to be one of good fortune, with fresh avenues opening up for me to explore. Plus, SZA released a new album…‘nuff said! Suffice it to say, I’m giddy for the 2023 revenge tour.