IPR's Favorite Albums of 2022
Read what albums made Studio One Tracks and All Access hosts Mark Simmet, Tony Dehner, and Cece’s Mitchell’s top ten lists for 2022, as well as each host's "must-listen" Iowa album pick of the year.
1. Surrender, Maggie Rogers
“Surrender is the second studio album from Maggie Rogers, released right after she graduated from Harvard Divinity School. It’s a real advance forward from her debut album — exciting, sophisticated pop music that reveals more with each listen.”
2. And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, Weyes Blood
“This is a beautiful record, so right for reflective listening at the end of the year. It’s a soothing sonic journey, with strings and subtle horns, and the wonderful voice of Natalie Mering. You may be reminded at times of Karen Carpenter or Joni Mitchell.”
3. The Blues Don’t Lie, Buddy Guy
“It’s misleading to think of Buddy Guy simply as an 86-yearold Chicago blues legend. His latest record is real and soulful, and he demonstrates how the blues form can still be vital. The big name guest stars like Elvis Costello and Mavis Staples enhance the proceedings.”
4. Things Happen That Way, Dr. John
“This is the record that New Orleans native Dr. John was working on when he died in 2019. There are several well-chosen covers, and a few fine newly written songs for the project. He conveys life-wisdom on all the tracks, with an unrushed lived-in vocal delivery.”
5. Anywhere But Here, Sorry
“A music discovery for me this year, this is the second studio album from this band out of North London. Sorry began as a duo that would become the core of the band. They are smart and aware, and their influences are diverse. For me, Sorry is the most appealing kind of British indie-pop.”
6. Dirt Does Dylan, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
“The Americana group Nitty Gritty Dirt Band formed in California in 1966 with founding members Jeff Hanna and Jimmie Fadden still with the group. Many of Bob Dylan’s well-worn songs are so familiar that it seems nearly impossible to make them sound fresh — yet the group brings sensitivity and nuance to their interpretations. One hears Dylan with new ears.”
7. Space Force, Todd Rundgren
“Rundgren has been a favorite of mine for many years. Upon my first listen of the record I found myself simply registering Todd’s usual quirks and qualities, and thinking that this multi-artist collaboration was nothing special. Upon repeated listening, I came to really appreciate Todd’s multi-faceted skill and creativity on the album.”
8. The Future, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
“Seeing them live (at Hinterland, let’s say) one appreciates this group’s ability to bring a great bar band intimacy to a large festival setting. But on record I didn’t really get it until this album. They have the songwriting of course, but Nathaniel Rateliff’s passionate and committed vocals really bring those songs to life.”
9. When The Wind Forgets Your Name, Built to Spill
“It seems to me that through the years Built to Spill have managed to sound both classic and alternative. That must be due to the idiosyncratic songwriting, distinctive vocals and guitar work of frontman Doug Martsch. This is a revitalized album, the band’s first for the venerable Sub Pop label.”
10. Butterfly 3001, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
“This hard-working Australian band had a great year, with six separate releases in 2022. This one came early in the year, featuring remixed versions of the songs from 2021’s Butterfly 3000. Sprawling and eminently danceable, this record of outside musical minds expanding on the songs of King Gizz made for a great listen.”
Mark’s Iowa Pick: EGO PARTY, Penny Peach
Penny Peach’s debut LP EGO PARTY is fun, assured and absolutely guitar driven, with Elly Hofmaier (AKA Penny Peach) riffing her way from metal to punk and garage rock, with an acoustic breather in the middle. EGO PARTY starts in style with the headbanger “Catacombs.” The nice melodic bit at the end of the track is worthy of Alice Cooper’s early 1970s morbid metal approach.
After a couple more rock strutters that simply must be played loud, we hit “Black Ice,” a ballad that treads lightly on the dreaded winter weather phenomenon. That’s followed by “Agency” featuring Hofmaier on acoustic guitar, and Avery Moss (who mixed the album) on keyboards that include some creepy funereal organ. Then comes “Nico,” with Penny Peach in pop-punk mode, and a great vocal performance from Elly. When the album ends with the garage rock banger “Effortless,” you’ll want to go back to the start and revel again in this EGO PARTY!
1. Lucifer on the Sofa, Spoon
"This one isn’t complicated. Spoon are one of the best bands of our time, possibly all time, and they’ve made another great album. This is one of Spoon’s rowdiest records in years, but they know when to get quiet too. There’s really not much to explain here that can’t be answered by simply turning it up!"
2. Omnium Gatherum, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
"The ridiculously prolific Australian band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard released a total of six albums in 2022, five of which were made of brand new music. If I had to pick one, it would be Omnium Gatherum, which is sort of a sampler of the many musical styles King Gizz have experimented with. Whether you prefer the band’s heavy metal sounds, or the long psychedelic jams, or the wacky lounge jazz, it’s all here, and then some. Please note that this does not excuse you from checking out the band’s entire 2022 output, which still represents just a fraction of one of the biggest discographies in modern music."
3. Wherever You Aren’t, Elizabeth Moen
"It’s been no secret that we’ve been fans of Elizabeth Moen for years. A native of Vinton, IA, Moen got her start in Iowa City before moving to Chicago at the beginning of the pandemic. Between the move and steady performing over the past year, she found time to record, produce, and release her best album to date. The songs are great, and there are some new sounds (horns and pedal steel, just for starters) that haven’t really appeared on any of Moen’s previous records. It’s a strong statement from an artist who has, in her own words, 'leveled up.'"
4. Farm To Table, Bartees Strange
"Bartees Strange has had an interesting path in life. The son of an opera singer and former military engineer, he had plans to play professional football, worked for the federal government instead, and is now an acclaimed indie rock artist. Strange draws inspiration for his music from his experiences growing up as one of the few Black kids in rural Oklahoma, and now as one of the few Black artists making indie rock music. The album is a fascinating mix of styles that’s held together by his strong lyrics and vocals."
5. I Walked With You A Ways, Plains
"Singer-songwriters Jess Williamson and Katie Crutchfield (of Waxahatchee fame) had been friends for several years when they decided to form the duo Plains near the beginning of the pandemic. Not only do the two vocalists sound great together, there are some beautiful songs here that make this record the perfect soundtrack for chilly autumn days. Williamson and Crutchfield will certainly return to making records separately, but let’s hope there’s another Plains album at some point."
6. Feel Like Going Home, Miko Marks
"Miko Marks returned to making music in 2021 after taking a ten-year hiatus to focus on her family. She did release a record, but 2022 was her true breakout year. Not only did she perform at the Hinterland festival, she made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry and earned two standing ovations. Her newest record is a rollicking country album that also draws upon gospel, R&B, and Southern rock. Songs like “One More Night” and the title track, among others, make this the best “sing along” album on my list."
7. Carry Me Home, Mavis Staples & Levon Helm
"Two musical giants and close friends, performing live together? Yes please! This live album was recorded at Helm’s Barn in Woodstock, NY, in 2011, at one of Helm’s legendary Midnight Rambles. It was at the height of the “controversy” over then-President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, which is necessary context for this album. The songs on this album are all classics that haven’t aged a bit, and the album benefits from being released ten years later. It’s a wonderful tribute to two of our country’s essential musicians."
8. The Boy Named If, Elvis Costello & The Imposters
"To be clear, Elvis Costello has shown no signs of slowing down at all. Still, his latest album feels like a little bit of everything he’s done. Songs like “Farewell OK” and “Magnificent Hurt” sound like they could have been on This Year’s Model, while “Paint the Red Rose Blue” and “My Most Beautiful Mistake” are more reminiscent of his work with Burt Bacharach. I’d call it a “typical” Elvis Costello album, but as his fans know, there’s no such thing, and only he knows what he’s doing next."
9. Covers, Cat Power
"Cat Power has perfected the art of the cover album on this, her second such attempt. It’s a collection of less obvious songs by legendary artists, along with some hits you might be surprised to hear from an “indie artist.” The connective thread here is Cat Power’s incredible voice, and her ability to make every song her own."
10. MUNA, MUNA
"It makes sense that MUNA chose to name their third album simply MUNA. It’s their first release on the Saddest Factory label (owned by their friend Phoebe Bridgers), and the first where they really sound like themselves. MUNA is a landmark album for the band, and struck a chord with audiences as well. MUNA’s music speaks directly to queer women, a point of view that’s largely absent from radio and other traditional music distribution. The music also radiates pure joy throughout, which is something all of us can appreciate."
Tony’s Iowa Pick: Places EP, Salt Fox
The Cedar Falls-based trio Salt Fox formed following the dissolution of their previous band, Beverly and The Accordion. The two bands couldn’t be more different: while Beverly focused on acoustic sounds (and yes, the occasional accordion), Salt Fox goes in an indie pop direction. Their debut EP is a dense, dizzying blend of synthesizers, drum machines, and electric guitars. There’s a lot packed into these six songs, and you’re going to just want to put it on repeat to catch everything, as I’ve done on many occasions.
1. Wet Leg, Wet Leg
“British indie rockers Wet Leg grew to prominence in 2021 with the success of their debut single, ‘Chaise Longue.’ Their debut self-titled album lived up to the hype of ‘Chaise Longue’ and then some, chock-full with bangers like ‘Wet Dream,’ ‘Angelica,’ and ‘Supermarket.’”
2. Harry’s House, Harry Styles
“I can’t talk about music in 2022 without talking about the smash hit album by my favorite pop star, Harry Styles. Harry’s House was loaded with catchy songs and fun energy, and is his best album yet.”
3. Natural Brown Prom Queen, Sudan Archives
“Iowa music lovers first saw Sudan Archives perform the Iowa music festival circuit last year at the inaugural Riverview Music Festival, where she wowed the audience with her charm and magnificent violin playing. I am excited to see her in 2023 at both Mission Creek and 80/35 because of how great her 2022 album Natural Brown Prom Queen is, especially the songs ‘Selfish Soul’ and ‘Home Maker.’”
4. Expert In A Dying Field, The Beths
“New Zealand band The Beths have yet to disappoint me with their indie rock album releases. Expert In A Dying Field chronicled emotions about past relationships in a brilliant way.”
5. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, Big Thief
“Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is an album as long as its title, featuring 20 songs that vary greatly in style and topic. Despite its length, the record kept my adoration the entire time and really showed off the talents of Big Thief.”
6. Blue Rev, Alvvays
“Toronto band Alvvays (pronounced ‘always’) is one of my favorite bands, and I was so excited that they released new music in 2022. As alvvays, they delivered great, dreamy indie power pop in Blue Rev.”
7. Pre Pleasure, Julia Jacklin
“Pre Pleasure featured the complicated emotions of figuring womanhood out in a way that I think resonates with a lot of people, myself included. There are a lot of great songs on the record, including ‘Ignore Tenderness,’ ‘I Was Neon,’ and ‘Lydia Wears A Cross.’”
8. Beatopia, Beabadoobee
“Beabadoobee really channeled the early 2000’s indie pop sounds that both her and I were raised on in her latest album, Beatopia. I loved tracks like ‘The Perfect Pair’ and ‘Sunny Day’ for the way they flattered the unique features of her voice.”
9. Gemini Rights, Steve Lacy
“Steve Lacy’s 2022 album Gemini Rights featured the major hits ‘Bad Habit’ and ‘Static,” but before they were big on TikTok, Mark, Tony, and I were spinning tunes off this album on Studio One Tracks. Steve Lacy’s alternative R&B style is unique and infectious; I could not get these songs out of my head this year.”
10. PAINLESS, Nilüfer Yanya
“British songstress Nilüfer Yanya has this really unique and edgy approach to the indie rock style that I absolutely adore. Her sophomore record PAINLESS is emotionally vulnerable and awesome.”
Cece’s Iowa Pick: Dream About A Cowboy, EleanorGrace
Des Moines songstress EleanorGrace first caught our attention here at Studio One with her debut single at only 16 years old, “Lighthouse.” This year’s debut LP, Dream About A Cowboy, features her songwriting from age 14, when she wrote the song “Butterflies,” to now, all the while capturing emotions and stories both real and imaginary. If this country-inspired album is any indication of the music career to come, EleanorGrace is a true powerhouse in the making.