December 16, 2022

Stinkweeds Best of 2022

We’ve noticed a shift.
Over the past few years, we’ve been delighted to see so many people finding their way to record stores. It seems every time we check in with how the business is doing, we’ll often say “we’re seeing a lot of new faces.” This has been happening for a few years now and our little world just continues to grow and grow and we couldn’t be more appreciative of each and every one of you, whether you’re one of those new faces or an old friend. But, that’s not the shift we’re talking about.

The shift is in how you are interacting with music. There are many dynamics that we see in our store. Some customers know exactly what they want and they go straight for it. Some customers like to browse, being left to their own space. And some customers come in with curiosity. This is where we really get to have fun with our job. Lately, we’re noticing more and more people asking for and being open to suggestions, or asking about whatever we’re playing over the speakers. We’re getting more and more requests for some really obscure stuff! This tells us that you are listening to your music with attention and intention. When we’re asked why people would buy a vinyl record when they can just stream music, our answer often has a lot to do with how the vinyl listening experience gets you listening with “new ears.” Going through the motions of playing a record (which include going to the record store) prepares you for a music listening experience. Our theory has always been that just doing this simple thing can change your taste and interest in music.

So, we find no coincidence in the fact that more people have been buying record players over the past few years and with that, more people are now coming in, looking for something new and interesting to listen to. Stinkweeds will always make sure to carry a nice, “hand picked” collection of music you may already know and enjoy. But the thing that makes us who we are is our efforts to carry music that you might not be familiar with. We could do just fine as a business if we filled our store with all the popular hits that everyone is looking for. But, that’s not the store that keeps employees on for over two decades. That’s not the store that hires new staff based on their excitement for creativity and new ideas. We’re excited to be the place where someone walks in and says “I don’t know half of this stuff!” That person is also met with our smiling faces and excitement for getting into some deep conversations about music. But this business model doesn’t work without your willingness to step outside of the box. We take a gamble on that and you always seem to make it worth our while.

So again, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Thank you for your loyalty. Thank you for your individuality. In a world where everyone is admiring the roses, you’re stepping off the path to admire the strange beauty of Stinkweeds.

-Kimber, Lindsay, Dario, Caleb, & Zach

ALVVAYSBlue Rev (Polyvinyl) CD/LP
At first listen, this record did nothing for me. It sounded more like a My Bloody Valentine rip off than anything else. Which is only annoying, as too many bands have been regurgitating this sound lately. However, the more I listened to this album in the shop, it wormed its way in. I’m hooked and sold. It’s poppy, yes derivative, but also creative, fun and sad. All the elements to keep you coming back. -Lindsay

AUTOMATIC Excess – (Stones Throw)  CD/LP
Automatic has done it yet again. I remember how floored I was in 2019 by their debut album, Signal. Excess somehow hits even harder. It’s exactly what I would want out of a post-punk album in 2022. Perfect bass riffs, sharp synth hits and drums that always seem to live “in-the-red.” This isn’t retro fetishism post-punk… this is post-punk for the future .-Caleb


BIG THIEFDragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You (4AD) CD/LP
It almost wouldn’t be a Stinkweeds Best Of list without a feature from one of the Big Thief crew; Adrianne Lenker, Buck Meek, and anything this group of musicians puts out are absolute mainstays of recommendations here in the shop. Dragon New Warm is an epic double LP, rounding out at twenty tracks and over an hour and twenty minutes of runtime, making it the groups most ambitious effort to date. The extra space on the album lets the band explore new directions for their music, from the quiet discomfort and tender emotions and the chugging folk-rock we’re used to, to some foreign and surprising sounds; trip-hop influences, out-of-tune guitars, and yes, even shattering icicles. The band’s fearless approach to honesty and pure vulnerability is hard to resist, and the themes of gender identity and personal resilience the lyrics touch on are radically important to the scene. -Zach

BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROADAnts From Up There (Ninja Tune) CD/LP
Black Country, New Road, the experimental post-rock outfit from Cambridgeshire, England, started the year off with high expectations. Their 2021 debut For The First Time, a dazzling blend of aggressive post-punk and atmospheric, free jazz, was critically acclaimed and formed a cult-like status for the band. To add to the hype of their follow up, just days before Ants From Up There was slated to be released, lead vocalist Isaac Wood announced his departure from the band. Ants is a musical odyssey, an hour long experiment expanding on the territory of First Time, trading in the aggression from the first record for an earnest, emotive, and heartbreaking tour through Isaac Wood’s mental health. The lyrics are deeply personal, over the top emotional, and romantic but rests perfectly within the rich soundscapes that the septet builds throughout the LP. A majority of tracks are slow building post-rock meets chamber pop epics, reaching exuberant anthemic crescendos that could be ripped right out of Arcade Fire’s Funeral or Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise. The blend just works, playing with tension and catharsis so well, and balances the emotion with some enchanting passages of minimalist piano, violin, and saxophone. It is a one of a kind listening experience, one that should not be overlooked.  -Zach

CAROLINECaroline (Rough Trade) CD/LP
The debut album from the UK band Caroline was five years in making, slowly released and built on since the band’s formation in 2017. The eight members of the group all bring different musical languages to the album, combining into a beautiful amalgamation of post-rock, minimalism, Midwest emo, Appalachian folk, and choral music. The album’s ten tracks are largely instrumental, with sparse vocals occasionally mixing in when the music swells to rich orchestral moments or introducing the many spacious, quiet, and contemplative sections of the album. It’s a meditative and hopeful listen, a perfect contemplative record for spending a night in. It’s American Football meets Sung Tongs meets Brian Eno meets Chance McCoy; it’s hard to describe, but really easy to get into. -Zach

MELISSA CARPER Ramblin Soul  (Mae Music) CD/LP
Upright bassist, singer, songwriter Melissa Carper plays music in the style of classic golden era Country, Jazz and Blues. A real throwback, she’s been dubbed “Hillbilie Holiday”, which is is pretty spot on. She’s got deep, old-timey roots. This record will make you get up and dance, smile, at least slow down a bit. I’m in. -Lindsay


ERIC CHENAUXSay Laura – (Constellation)  CD/LP
I’m such a massive fan of music that marries sounds that are incredibly beautiful and those that are ruthlessly abrasive. Eric Chenaux masterfully did just that on Say Laura. He has such a beautiful voice and songs that move at their own pace, and he litters them with avant guitar meanderings.  -Caleb


DENZEL CURRYMelt My Eyez See Your Future (Loma Vista) CD/LP
Denzel Curry continues to impress and expand his growing discography with more dynamic and unique albums, and Melt My Eyez saw Curry take another huge step into new territory for his sound. While 2018’s Taboo was a dark concept album, and 2019’s Zuu was a tribute to the Florida rap scene from which Denzel is from, Melt My Eyez sees Curry turn introspective, writing songs that are vulnerable and generally more mellow, with very few bangers or high energy bops on the LP. The songs flow together so perfectly and create a sonic landscape that you can just sink into; it’s his most fully formed “album” he’s ever done. His delivery on his raps is still frenetic and consistent, but the beats behind them are cool, controlled, and truly just very pretty. He turns his writing inward, and tackles interpersonal relationships, his own mental health, and the state of the post pandemic world in really layered and nuanced ways. And to top it all off, the Expanded Version of the album (released towards the end of the year) features an almost total rework of the album with a full “Cold Blooded Soul” band, reworking the songs with live drums and full horn sections. -Zach

Caleb DaileyWarm Evening, Pale Mornings: Beside You Then (Moone Records) LP
Stinkweeds’ very own Caleb dished out an absolute gem of spaced out, trippy, classic country covers and we can’t get enough of it! This project was a pure collaboration, with Caleb recording his vocals and acoustic guitar, sending it off to a number of musicians both local and in other parts of the world. His only instruction was for them to do whatever they wanted. This sort of “trust fall” approach only works with a strong community of musicians to pull from; featuring John Dieterich of Deerhoof, The Notwist, & Little Wings, just to name a few. Caleb, along with his brother Micah and a handful of other musicians have cultivated this community around their label, Moone Records. Warm Evening.. is a wild departure from the origins of these tunes, except that the songs themselves are still very much at the core. Caleb’s approach resembles more of what the original songwriter might have sounded like when they first wrote the song, singing it to themselves for the first time, feeling all the emotions attached to the words. The accompanying musicians are simply creating that lonely space around him. At times, the band will offer something that resembles the typical arrangement for the genre, but only as a hazy recollection of that sound, almost as if you’re remembering a song you heard when you were 5, playing on your parents hi-fi. This is a brilliantly impressionistic approach to the memory of these tunes and, I believe, a step towards altering that definition of what that “Arizona sound” just might be. -Dario

RICHARD DAWSONThe Ruby Cord (Weird World) CD/LP
The Ruby Cord was a late addition to this list, coming out just weeks ago but immediately leaving a lasting impression. The Ruby Cord is a sort of finish to a trilogy of albums, following 2017’s Peasant and 2019’s 2020 and follows a similar theme. The songs are narratively driven English folk-inspired sagas, somehow being both from the perspective of fantasy characters from the “old world” and also detailing prophetic (and often dystopian) visions of the future. You can dig into the plot if you’d like, but it’s easy to just be swept along into the rich and expansive musical journey Dawson takes you on. The album is an astonishing accomplishment in world building; it’s hard to think of a recent release that takes this much effort in establishing the musical language and feeling of the record. And it does take its time. The opening track ‘The Hermit,’ is a 41 minute (!!) wandering experience, building for 10 minutes before Dawson’s vocals begin, and culminating in a cathartic refrain of a choir. It is an absolute feat that somehow does not overstay its welcome or dwell in repetition. Put on a pair of headphones and lose yourself in this immersive and beautiful world. -Zach

LEE FIELDS Sentimental Fool (Daptone) CD/LP
Lee Fields is one of the most prolific, yet unknown artists out there. A classic Soul singer, for over five decades, he’s released tons of albums. Soul, power, beauty, humanity, chivalry, all stand center stage on this masterpiece of R&B, Soul and Blues. He recently joined the Daptone roster for this new album. So yes, fans of Charles Bradley…. Lee was there first and will fill the void!  He was just in town and GodDAMN, his live show blew the studio album out of the water!  Without sounding overly cliche… they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Drop your Steve Lacy records, this is who we need to be paying attention to. Love you Lee Fields. -Lindsay


Harding’s music is of the kind that welcomes the categorization of “Art.” While it is musical art, I’d say the artistry leans stronger towards the theater of it all. Harding seemingly inhabits a multitude of characters in a Cindy Sherman-esque manner. She’s not imitating any past person or style. Instead, each song finds Harding embodying a different voice, cadence and overall feeling. All of these are familiar, but like the characters and photographs of Sherman, there’s just something unfamiliar about each, which leaves your brain trying to make sense of why these songs are so enjoyable and familiar, yet foreign and slightly uncomfortable. Warm Chris is an incredibly interesting listen. Opening with “Ennui” an almost Randy Newman-like, lilting piano tune, you think you can keep a grasp on what exactly it is that Harding is doing, but even within this perfectly enjoyable tune, there are some strange goings on. What I appreciate most about Harding’s album is the awareness of the production to all of those idiosyncrasies that Harding provides. Harding has the voice and songs that could easily be produced in that slick, flawless manner for a larger audience. But, the artistic choices, with all their subtle strangeness, remain. These are beautiful songs, pulling from indie rock to 70s British folk, and even a little bubblegum pop. The glue is in its strangeness. -Dario

JULIA JACKLINPre-Pleasure CD/LP (Polyvinyl)
Australian songwriter Julia Jacklin makes catchy, lo-fi indie hits. But listen a little more intently, she’s incredibly direct, raw, stark and loose. You may be bobbing your head, but hone in a bit, and take it all in. Religion, abuse, sex, independence; all the layers, layered and layered. Take a peek into what it’s like waking up every day  as a woman. She tells real stories within great songs. -Lindsay


JOCKSTRAP I Love You Jennifer B (Rough Trade) CD/LP
Warp Records and Rough Trade may give cues to what’s going on here. Reminiscent of Lykke Li, Bjork, and Sylvan Esso, Georgia Ellery’s (Black Country, New Road) gentle vocals and instrumentation, mix with interesting and creative electronic fuckery, courtesy of songwriting partner Taylor Skye. Fun and eclectic enough to listen to endlessly. -Lindsay


JPWSomething Happening/Always Happening (Fort Lowell Records) LP
Something Happening/Always Happening is the debut LP from AZ based writer and musician, Jason P Woodbury. It’s a trance-inducing, blissed out, cosmic jammer that burrows into the deepest parts of your brain. It churns at the pace of a resting heart rate, and lulls your racing thoughts to a halt.  -Caleb


KING HANNAH I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me (City Slang) CD/LP
Fans of PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi take note. This Liverpool duo showcase wonderfully dark and familiar 90s sonic elements. More refined than PJ’s grittier moments, King Hannah are like a hot bath on an anxiety-ridden, cold winter day. Imagine Codeine with a bit of Mazzy Star mixed in. They visited Phoenix last year. Sadly we missed it and hope they’ll be back soon. -Lindsay

MAKAYA MCCRAVENIn These Times (International Anthem/Nonesuch) CD/LP
I have described this album as “jazz filtered through the talent and creativity of someone who grew up listening to A Tribe Called Quest and Radiohead.” Admittedly, this statement is rather “base” and doesn’t really do justice to McCraven’s own creative voice or just how important I think his music, and the music of his label-mates, really is. McCraven is one of many, young, forward thinking “jazz” artists on the Chicago-based International Anthem record label. For a genre that is often at odds with itself, International Anthem seems to have a mission statement that prefers to reflect the spiritual, philosophical, social and artistic aspects of jazz, all the while paying tribute to the history without disregarding progress. Like many albums put out by this label, In These Times features a large list of respective artists on its roster. Where McCraven finds his own spotlight, is in his production process. Most of his albums involve recorded live sessions that are then taken back to his studio and (for lack of a better word) remixed. Mind you, these aren’t “remix” albums and without knowing and given a casual listen, you might not even be aware of this process. What he does is sculpt the performances into hypnotic swells with dynamics and changes that work perfectly for an album listen. To tell a little secret, my true passion has always been live music. But, what I’ve always appreciated about an album is the ability to sculpt sound and performance into something that can exist in any figurative space, including your own body. A live performance or even a recording of a live performance is limited in regards to that potential space. What McCraven has done with this album is create something that can allow the intricate sounds to surgically find their space within the listener. Like audible acupuncture. -Dario

EMILY NENNIOn The Ranch  (Normaltown) CD/LP
There is A LOT of exciting new, young talent happening in the Country music world, the indie Country music world, that is. Emily is just one of a large handful of women artists making waves right now. Emily brings the old school honky tonk sound mixed with contemporary messaging of, “Let’s have fun, but don’t get ideas, I’m doing just fine on my own”. And she is, there’s not a weak song on the album! -Lindsay

ERIN RAELighten Up (Good Memory) CD/LP
This one is probably my most recommended album of the year. It’s just an incredibly likable album. I once had a friend describe my taste in music as “you like a pebble in your shoe.” I can confidently say that this album is free of “pebbles” or anything that might be considered challenging or even dark or dissonant. So, why do I keep coming back to it? First, I’m a sucker for a vibe. I’ve never been one to pay much attention to lyrics, but I love an album that creates a sonic emotion. I have, on occasion, been caught enjoying Steely Dan, Paul Simon, Janis Ian, Mel Torme and even the occasional 60s Barbara Streisand song. Any tune and performance that can so successfully capture a feeling, solely through the instrumentation and production, is always going to catch my attention. From there, I will often put a little more attention to the lyrics. If the music feels this good (or sad), then I’m more likely to want to hear what they have to say. Lighten Up has a loneliness to it. Unsurprisingly, that loneliness is a recurring theme in the lyrics. Musically, this album is like a playlist you might title “day off.” It has a strong “Americana” thing going on, but also strays into some 60s Laurel Canyon vibes to 70s light rock. I swear, the tune “Enemy” could be an unknown recording of a Janis Ian song. I also hear a lot of inspiration from artists like M. Ward, Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby, who also shares some backup vocals on a tune. The vibeyness is held up with some lovely, effectively placed sweeping synths, string arrangements, a little Hammond organ and a deliciously laid back rhythm section. But, it’s all buttered over by Rae’s voice, clear, unshaken and effortless. Recommended with an English muffin topped with Nutella and a pour over coffee. -Dario

DANIEL ROSSEN You Belong There (Warp Records) CD/LP
This is the first full length solo outing from Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen. But, if you’ve followed his career closely, then you know he has had a steady output of music that is as much his than any solo album. Over the past 15 years, he has established a unique voice through all but one of the Grizzly Bear albums, two albums under the name Department of Eagles and one solo EP. On each of these albums, you get a strong sense for his songwriting abilities and how adept he is at putting together arrangements that fit perfectly with those complex and unpredictable songs. But, the continuity of all of these albums shows how clearly established Rossen’s sensibilities are and how well he is able to convey those ideas to his collaborators. On You Belong Here, most of the instrumentation is played by Rossen, including guitar, string bass, cello, piano and woodwinds, with drums provided by Grizzly Bear drummer Chris Bear, and some electric guitar work provided by John Dieterich. What you get is something as lush as anything Grizzly Bear has ever produced, but with a sense of intimacy and maybe just a little bit of a patina that you get from a self-produced/mixed album that was all recorded at home. I had the pleasure of seeing Rossen perform songs from this album as well as his back catalog from other groups, live, amongst the redwoods in Big Sur, California. It was just him with a guitar, which initially left me expecting a little disappointment. But, all this time, underneath each of his songs and their lush arrangements, he’s been hiding just how amazing a guitarist he is. This is what I love most about Rossen’s music. With all its genius, the songs give equal attention to each and every part. Nothing stands out and nothing is frivolous. -Dario

DANIEL SCHURGINImmersive Bongo World & Mixed Episode (Total Peace)  CASS
Daniel Schurgin (of Gay Kiss, Soft Shoulder) released both his debut (Immersive Bongo World) and sophomore (Mixed Episode) albums in 2022 on local experiment punk label, Total Peace. Both of his albums are amazing! They are crammed full of anxious danceable rhythms, blistering noise and killer melodies. The label’s description of Immersive Bongo World might have described the music best, “If Martin Rev and John Carpenter collaborated on a Sega Genesis soundtrack this is what it would’ve sounded like.”  -Caleb

SPIRIT FESTLive at Import Export (Moone Records) CASS
Spirit Fest is comprised of the Japanese band Tenniscoats, and members of German band The Notwist. They have been steadily releasing incredibly delicate avant-pop tunes since their inception in 2016, but these live versions have made me fall deeper in love with them. Don’t get me wrong, I love studio albums, but I am a sucker for raw, slightly more off-kilter live recordings. -Caleb

SESSAEstrela Acesa (Mexican Summer) CD/LP
Something I’ve always appreciated about Brazilian music, mostly that of the 60s jazz and folk influence, is appreciation for the sonic qualities of an instrument or even a single note. This is a genre known for subtlety and relaxed pacing. But, it’s in the ringing of the notes and voices that lull you into the coziness of it all. You’d be hard pressed to hear much in the way of vibrato or trills. Everything is allowed to breathe easy and settle in. Estrela Acesa is not shy about its influences and the borrowing of these classic elements. It clearly pulls from the Brazilian musicians of the 60s and 70s, like Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa and Antonio Carlos Jobim. The instrumentation doesn’t stray far from the era, as well. There’s the pillowy acoustic nylon string guitar, the wispy drums, the lush string arrangements and backup vocals. Where the music finds its grounding in the modern time, is in its leaning into those psychedelic elements that were mostly just a product of their time on those earlier recordings. Here, the saturated reverb, ambient soundscapes and subtle glissandos are used to create something so much more “vibey” than could have ever come out of the earlier eras. Sessa’s Estrella Acesa sounds like what we hope we’ll hear everytime we find some obscure, vintage Brazilian record that we’ve never heard before. -Dario

VIAGRA BOYSCave World (Year 0001) CD/LP
What else is there to say about Viagra Boys that hasn’t been said? The Swedish punk outfit has been impressing us since 2018’s Street Worms. But on Cave World the Boys take the grime, the sludge, and the crust to a whole new level. The album is a twelve song satire, taking on the perspective of a hyper-online, alt-right internet troll, and lays out the conspiracy theories and charged rhetoric of that subculture for all out to see, in turn displaying the total ridiculousness of our world. They tackle the vaccine microchips, the stolen elections, the misinformation, and so much more; as long as you keep a sharp eye to the words Sebastian Murphy sings you can always catch the joke, even if the words sometimes seem like a firecracker in a packed concert hall from afar. Besides the parody aspects of the album, the band just rips throughout the record. The chunky bass lines, the wild synthetic guitars, and the haunting backing vocals; the production on Cave World is the clearest and punchiest they’ve ever been, and the grooves on the record are irresistible. -Zach

WEYES BLOODAnd In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow [Sub Pop] CD/LP
This followup to 2019s Titanic Rising is another lush, haunting collection of 70s easy listening, drenched with all those sugary sweet embellishments. There is no doubt, something self indulgent about Mering’s recent albums. But, no more self indulgent than any big label pop album. Which leaves me wondering, why isn’t Weyes Blood showing up on more radars?! I could throw around the cliche of “in a perfect world,” but it seems more appropriate to say in an imperfect world, Weyes Blood should be getting a lot more attention. The lyrical content and instrumentation of these songs is like a big shiny emergency mylar blanket draped over all of us after just a train wreck of a couple of years. It’s not going to solve all of our problems, but it’s a great reminder that you’ve survived, you’re not alone and you just need to get warm and be in a safe place. -Dario



Records that we couldn’t stop spinning in the shop or talking about with friends; just as essential as the main list

ALEX GGod Save The Animals (Domino) CD/LP
CALEXICO El Mirador (Anti) CD/LP
CARRTOONSHomegrown (Wichita Recordings) LP
ALEX DUPREEThieves (Keeled Scales) CD/LP
JAKE XERXES FUSSELLGood And Green Again (Paradise of Bachelors) CD/LP
GHOST FUNK ORCHESTRAA New Kind of Love (Karma Chief) CD/LP
LEAN YEARSides (Western Vinyl) CD/LP
ANGEL OLSEN Big Time (Jagjaguwar) CD/LP
WEATHER STATION – How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars (Fat Possum) CD/LP
YOUNG JESUSShepherd Head (Saddle Creek) CD?LP