A Tired Month, An Exhausted Year

by Chase McMullen

2022. Another year that I don’t even begin to know how to speak on. We continue to watch our world crumble, with even the likes of Brian Eno feeling the need to put out an album essentially saying, “Hey, what the fuck?”.

Throughout the absolute mess of it all, so many fantastic records kept me company, but at this moment my mind is on grieving. The last week or so has seen both loss and reminders of it.

We lost Angelo Badalamenti, whose exit leaves an obvious impression, but on the same day, we saw the passing of Manuel Göttsching, gone before his time.

His solo work speaks for itself (go listen to E2-E4 now if you haven’t before), but when it comes to his original band, Ash Ra Tempel, most seem to gravitate towards their self-titled debut, but I tend to be drawn to Schwingungen. It’s like tip-toeing your way through a trance, with Göttsching taking full control following the departure of the (brilliant) Klaus Schulze. It has the patience of the calmest jazz record, yet delves into the headiest arenas of Krautrock just the same. From it’s opening notes it’s just a damn ride, y’all. The album-length, improvised jam session of Join Inn and the pure fun of Starring Rosi and nearly just as essential.

Merely days later, Young Dolph’s first (and perhaps only? We can only wonder) posthumous album arrived, and it feels nearly as if he’s still with us. His ear for beats on full display, it’s a riotous and soulful romp by turns, digging into every side of an artist taken from us far, far too soon. IT’S DOLPH. Certain lines hit a little too hard, such as his precise wishes for his burial, and single “Get Away”, on which he bemoans being tired of rapping, longing for a simpler life that was brutally denied him.

May we only hope 2023 brings us better tidings. Through it all, we at Beats Per Minute remain grateful for your readership.

What follows are some of the albums that helped me make it through this year:

Billy Woods, Aethiopes: Damn am I glad I never had to write about this album in an “official” context. It’s my personal Album of the Year, but I simply wouldn’t know what to say. It’s a dense experience, unrelenting, unforgiving, and above all, perceptive.

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul, Topical Dancer: That these two managed to squeeze some fun out of this cursed year deserves all the praise. All while remaining perfectly on point as to just what our reality is.

Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You: What can I say about this record that hasn’t been said? Truth be told, I was something of a Big Thief skeptic for the longest time, sure, they made nice music, but what was all the hype about? This album put me squarely in my place, a behemoth that manages not to feel like one. As inviting as it is easy to revisit. A digestible epic.

FKA Twigs, Caprisongs: She should have just called this damn thing an album, it warrants it. Screw the naysayers who only want Magdalene-esque artistry from her, this thing is as an exhalation, a gesture of pure freedom and recovery. There are few ‘records’ I played more in 2022.

Conway the Machine, God Don’t Make Mistakes: The man who’s gradually grown to be the most reliable Griselda member put out his strongest project to date, even if Mr. Mathers didn’t deign to show up for it. A nonstop mixture of measured brutality and pained trauma, it’s as lived in as hip hop music gets. Essential.

Beyoncé, Renaissance: It’s Queen B. I really don’t feel I need to say more.

Carmen Villain, Only Love from Now On: As stunning as it is just out of reach, during a year in which I didn’t keep up with ambient the way I usually do (read: should. Don’t worry, Chihei Hatakeyama, I’m coming for that trilogy!), this was my clear favorite.

Hikaru Utada, BADモード: What a record. Having been a legend in her native Japan for decades now (with plenty of followers worldwide), she made her biggest international breakthrough to date with an album that’s personal, challenging, and inviting all at once. Absolute bliss tempered by a weathered, wizened outlook.

Pusha T, It’s Almost Dry: You need a dose of pure confidence? Plug in Push. The best-produced hip hop album of the year, it boasts enough raucous energy to just about make you forget anything else exists while it’s playing. Add in a dominant, victorious return from Malice, and you have a damn near perfect LP, one so successful that even (sigh) Ye can’t distract from it.

TENGGER, Earthing: The Korean-Japanese family band found themselves split up by COVID, and arguably their best music to date resulted. Rather than being mired in the sorrow of isolation, Earthing reaches for the beauty remaining in our sagging world, and emerges all the more powerful for it.

Vince Staples, RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART: Vince Staples remains, somehow, one of our most undervalued rappers. Ever since delivering his masterpiece Summertime ‘06 (and even before) he’s excelled in a brand of emotive yet harshly blunt hip hop all his own. His latest is no exception, crammed wall to wall with confessionals and harsh truths.

Plains, I Walked with You a Ways: My travel companion album for the year. Set within a world in which heartbreak feels inevitable, the album nonetheless manages to grasp for hope and, well, pure love. It’s a selfless record, and one I’m sure I’ll spend time with for years to come.

Mavi, Laughing So Hard, It Hurts: Mavi delivered his finest, most fully realized statement to date with this album. As full of acceptance as it is heartbreak, it’s a testament to finding maturity, whatever the cost.

WESTSIDE BOOGIE, MORE BLACK SUPERHEROES: Speaking of underrated rappers, WESTSIDE BOOGIE is somehow even less heradled than Vince Staples. His latest for Shady Records finds the rapper digging into trauma, both generational and personal, all while reaching forward towards a future in which he’s a King. Hell, there’s a reason John Darnielle recommended this thing. If you missed this album, do yourself a favor and listen up.

Sam Gendel & Antonia Cytrynowicz, Live a Little: This album has no right to be as cool as it is. The ever-reliable Sam Gendel linked up with his partner’s younger sister for a recording that was largely improvised. Just 11 years old at the time of recording, Cytrynowicz just sang what came to mind, and it turned out to be something damn near perfection.

A few other albums that stuck with me in 2022:

  1. Ghais Guevara, There Will Be No Super-Slave
  2. Emmanuelle Parrenin, Targala, la maison qui n’en est pas une
  3. Kendrick Lamar, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
  4. Westside Gunn, 10
  5. itta, Eyewalk
  6. Silvana Estrada, Marchita
  7. Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer, Recordings from the Åland Islands
  8. Marina Herlop, Pripyat
  9. Ravyn Lenae, HYPNOS
  10. Park Jiha, The Gleam
  11. Cate Le Bon, Pompeii
  12. Eiko Ishibashi, For McCoy
  13. Rosie Carney, i wanna feel happy
  14. Gwenno, Tresor
  15. Sweatson Klank, Postcards
  16. Nu Genea, Bar Mediterraneo
  17. Elaine Howley, The Distance Between Heart and Mouth
  18. Hoàng Thùy Linh, LINK
  19. Shakali, Aurinkopari
  20. Oliver Sims, Hideous Bastard
  21. Salamanda, ashbalkum
  22. T.F, Mephux & Roc Marciano, Blame Kansas
  23. Mapache, Roscoe’s Dream
  24. 長谷川愛, PUZZLE
  25. Yaya Bey, Remember Your North Star