Schwindy’s Buzzin’ Dozen: The Top Albums of 2022
The end of another year is upon us, and it’s time to reflect on some of the best music that was released this year. Plenty of great albums (a lot of which were inspired by the forced isolation of COVID-19) were released in 2022. While it’s never easy to whittle that music into some sort of list, here are 12 of the best albums released this year (in alphabetical order by artist).
American Aquarium Chicamocomico – It’s not news that BJ Barham writes a good song. That is something he has shown as long as American Aquarium has been around. This album is filled with vignettes that put you right into the story Barham tells, whether it’s about getting away to a familiar place or putting your child to bed. Oh, and if you only need one example of the songwriting prowess on this album, listen to “All I Needed,” a song that can easily be added to any roadtrip playlist.
Laura Benitez and The Heartache California Centuries – Benitez sings in a pure voice that is the perfect match for the melodies that are ready-made for dark honky-tonks filled with people who want to dance. “Are You Using Your Heart” is a great example of a song that will get couples moving on a dance floor. Sure, some of the songs are sad, but just like Patsy Cline, Benitez can sing a sad song like “Plaid Shirt” that you can’t help but sing along with.
Bob Fleming and the Cambria Iron Works Remnants – This album is filled with the infectious lyrics and desperate themes that have long been a mainstay of basement bars everywhere. It is the sort of album you want to sing loudly while you hightail it out of your little hometown, even if it’s just for a weekend.
Joshua Hedley Neon Blue – If some poor misguided soul tells you that country music is dead, direct that person to this album, which is pure country gold. Hedley is as adept at writing boot-scooting songs as he is at writing heartfelt ballads about enduring love. The great thing about this album is that you can choose any song at random and know that it’s a great one.
Jamie and The Guarded Heart Funeral Song – Some bands give you the immediate impression that they make music because their lives depend on it. Jamie and The Guarded Heart is one of those bands. Each song on this album gives you the feeling that Jamie Salvatore and Morgan Russo were going to make this album or die trying. They are the kind of songs that artists like Springsteen and Isbell have built their careers on.
Maple Run Band Used to Be the Next Big Thing – The title of this album is enough to catch your attention, and it’s always a good thing when something about an album hooks you before you even hear a note of it. The band brings some jam-band energy in songs like the title track and also sings some sweet ballads like “Loretta,” which are perfect for slow dancing.
Kendell Marvel Come on Sunshine – It’s fair to say that Marvel has the spirit of old-time country artists like Waylon Jennings deep in his soul. That spirit is on full display in these songs in which a recurring theme is “live and let live”. While every song on the album is solid, a particularly highlight is the lead track “Don’t Tell Me How to Drink” featuring Chris Stapleton.
Sad Daddy Way up in the Hills – After a couple years where it seemed like we had all been transported to Bizarro World, Sad Daddy came up with the album we all needed. It is a celebration of simple things like bacon, hanging laundry, and dancing. It is not only filled with good songs, but it is also a good way to slow things down in your life and appreciate the simple things.
Silver Lake 66 The Space between Us – Silver Lake 66 showed a lot of range on this album that is part twangy Americana, part psychedelic rock, and part soul. They also show a lot of range thematically from songs about the difficulties of life to the infectious and fun “Bun E. Carlos”. In the process of showing that range, they managed to make an album that is like a tonic for the soul.
Sunny Sweeney Married Alone – This album is a masterclass in songwriting. Sweeney takes you on a journey from danceable songs like “Tie Me Up” to the achingly beautiful title track, which is a duet with Vince Gill. No matter the style or the theme of the song, this album is sure to make you feel something.
Vandoliers The Vandoliers – Sometimes an album comes along and it is so infectious that you can’t get enough of it. This is one of those albums. Vandoliers play a brand of alt-country that is easy to sing along with and even easier to blast from whatever sound system is handy. You won’t be alone if you find yourself listening to this album repeatedly, especially “Bless Your Drunken Heart” and “Too Drunk to Drink.”
The Western Express Lunatics, Lovers, and Poets – This is an album with a lot of songs that you want to hear regularly on the jukebox in your favorite bar with sawdust on the hardwood floor. There is also a Tex-Mex component to this album that might bring to mind bands like Mavericks. In any case, this is an album that will have you looking for a dance partner.
Schwindy’s Buzzin’ Dozen
Enjoy last year’s picks for Schwindy’s Buzzin’ Dozen, here: Schwindy’s Buzzin’ Dozen: Best Albums of 2021