The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2023

In 2023, I saw my first “normal” live shows since the lockdown, though I only managed to hit a few and they were all local/regional acts. On April 29th, I saw Dickie/Dick Prall perform at CSPS in Cedar Rapids backed by a string quartet which was really fantastic. Dick’s music tends to adapt well to strings. Cedar Falls artist Joel Sires opened as a duo with Jacob Lampman. I also saw a reunion show for seminal Iowa band House of Large Sizes at The Octopus in Cedar Falls. I hadn’t seen them since I lived in Iowa back in the early 90’s. Considering the age of the band (and the fans, frankly) they put on a fantastic high-energy show complete with Barb jumping up and down. The show was a warm-up for the 80/35 Festival. You can watch the complete performance at 80/35 here. The band that opened for HOLS the night I saw them was 10-Watt Robot from Des Moines with Mike Sangster of The Hollowmen and Head Candy fronting. 10-Watt Robot recorded their debut album at Pachyderm Studios (where Nirvana recorded In Utero) this year and their album should come out in 2024!

I saw Joel Sires a couple more times this year– once was for a live-streamed performance for VUit that I produced (click here to watch) and I also caught him playing a show in the “Art Alley” in Marion, IA with Jacob.

I wouldn’t say that vinyl production returned to normal, but maybe to borrow a phrase from the early COVID times, “a new normal.” Pre-orders were months out, and while that isn’t unusual, most of the preorders I had missed original estimates, and often months from the original estimate. I have resorted to creating a Google spreadsheet that keeps track of my pre-orders so I don’t forget them (and also remember to check on them!). Craft Recordings kicked off a campaign to start reissuing the Original Jazz Classics series from the 80’s. The OJC series was a bargain-priced reissue series of Prestige/Riverside/Contemporary jazz titles. Under its new reboot, these are remastered from tape by Kevin Gray, but are now decidedly NOT discount at $32. I ordered Bill Evans Trio’s Waltz for Debbie and Sunday At The Village Vanguard together to save on shipping in May when they were announced. I received the albums in late December. There was a manufacturing problem with Vanguard apparently which delayed it, and since I ordered them together, Waltz was held up for me. These are gorgeous releases with very heavy Stoughton-style jackets and OBI strips and 180g vinyl. Rather than try to track down originals (or even reissues) this is a great way to build a jazz essentials catalog.

The recurring topic in the vinyl community was the rising prices of new and used vinyl across the board. Most new vinyl was $28-$30 for a single LP in 2023, with multiple LP sets often twice that. Market studies showed the vast majority of new vinyl collecting came from younger collectors who were more interested in collecting the records than actually playing them. This explains the deluge of release variants with different color vinyl and different covers. The most obvious of this are the Taylor Swift “Taylor’s Version” of her Big Machine catalog. This contributed to the clogging of the production of vinyl as well, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Some part of this is the increase in cost of manufacturing and distribution, but also I think that the major labels saw the opportunity to “adjust” prices. Lots of counterarguments said that these increases corrected for inflation. Used vinyl looks to be on the upswing in pricing for bigger titles, which is compounded by median pricing reported by discogs. There are still deals to be had, but you have to be diligent.

I finally bit the bullet and joined Vinyl Me Please in 2023. They had a 40% coupon for members and I was very interested in the VMP Anthology release Miles Davis : The Electric Years box set. The member price of the box set was $349, and with the 40% discount, it brought it down to $209, which is a great deal for this beautiful box set, which was mastered by Ryan Smith from the original analog master tapes. The membership for 1 month is $46 and the release for December (when I joined) was VMP’s release of Herbie Hancock’s Sextant, which I didn’t have. $46 is steep for one album, but it is beautiful with a foil-stamped tip-on gatefold with an exclusive photograph and an essay. I considered stopping my membership, but I swapped the record for January (Labelle’s Nightbirds) for Monk’s Music, which I didn’t have an official release of (I had a gray-market one I picked up from Half Price Books years ago).

One big thing for me for 2023 was the purchase of some new gear. I managed to purchase one of the NAD C 3050 LE (limited to 1,972 worldwide). This replaced the circa-1978 Kenwood amp I’d been using for a really long time. I loved it, but it had some issues with the right channel cutting in and out. It probably needs to have the pots or the power switch cleaned on it. Also, I wanted to use a subwoofer in the room, and that amp didn’t have a good way to do that without using an Aux out or trying to loop through a speaker connection. This started me down the path of looking at newer amps and I considered one of the vintage-look Pioneer amps, but I stumbled over a YouTube review of the C 3050 LE and I was sold, I preordered it in 2022 and it took months to get, but it was worth the wait. The C 3050 LE has a phono stage and a dedicated headphone stage, but also can do bluetooth and network/internet streaming via BluOS. I had been using a bluetooth receiver on the old amp, but this amp can stream popular sites like Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Sirius XM. You use the BluOS app to chose the streaming site, which makes this amp a lot more flexible as a center of music for the home. NAD has introduced a non-limited edition version of the amp, which is available now. It’s the same except the BluOS card is available separately and the wood box is different.

Now onto the list. Quite a few interesting releases this year– I listened to a lot of new music this year, and looking back I’m reminded of releases that I was hot for a minute on, but then moved on. Writing this list each year ends up being a good exercise in reminding me of releases from earlier in the year. Here are my Top 20 of 2023 (in no particular order).

Neal Francis – Francis Comes Alive – Chicago musician Neal Francis put out a 2 LP live album this year. He brought an 11-piece band to Thalia Hall in Chicago and they filmed the concert as well as multi-track recorded the audio to analog tape. This album shows Francis in his element as a brilliant showman. The resulting album is certainly a callback to important 70’s live albums like Paul McCartney and Wings’ Wings Over America, Little Feat’s Waiting For Columbus and, of course Frampton Comes Alive. The extended workouts of songs like “Sentimental Garbage” with its Pink Floyd-esque extended outro jam is one I play a lot, especially to introduce friends to Neal Francis.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Jump For Joy – Another damn fine album from MC Taylor and company. Characteristically laid back jams with prime vintage vibes. I’ve said it before, but every year that HGM puts an album out is a year they’ll end up on this list. Bonus release: Solo MC Taylor Live from April of this year or Live at EartH Hackney.

Beth Bombara – It All Goes Up – St. Louis musician Beth Bombara was signed by indie record label Black Mesa Records, and It All Goes Up is the first release. The album is a continuation of the arc of brilliant albums from Beth. Most of these songs were written, or started during COVID, so songs like “Lonely Walls” certainly speak to that isolation, but certainly the record is more than just a “COVID album.” My favorite album of hers to date!

William Tyler and the Impossible Truth – Secret Stratosphere – An unexpected live album from William Tyler! A full-band set which includes songs from Tyler’s previous albums, but also a Kraftwerk cover “Radioactive” and a new song “Area Code 601” which is a tribute to 70’s instrumental band Area Code 615. The band includes pedal steel genius Luke Schneider. Schneider was in a post rock band with Tyler called Character in the early 2000’s, so this is kind of a reunion, too! Bonus release: “Darkness, Darkness/ No Services” 12″ collaboration between Tyler and Kieran Hebden.

Elijah McLaughlin Ensemble – III – For Chicago fingerstyle guitarist Elijah McLaughlin’s third release he moved to one of my favorite jazz labels Astral Spirits. On III, we find McLaughlin expanding the tonal palate of his work to include field recordings and new treatments to the cello and some synths. Beautiful album.

Alanna Royale – Trouble Is – For her third album, Alanna Royale took a chance and drove to California during the lockdown to work with R&B and Soul producer and musician Kelly Finnigan. Those sessions included members from Kelly’s band The Monophonics. The resulting album Trouble Is ends up being the perfect marriage– a Monophonics album lead with the dynamic vocals of Royale. A pairing we didn’t know we needed, but WOW, kind of the best of both.

I Think Like Midnight – Microtonal Honkytonk – The Philly instrumental guitar band I Think Like Midnight fronted by Andrew Chalfen started life as a band that’s original stated direction was to record albums in the style of Pell Mell, and to that end they released a lot of music that sounded like it was a continuation of that band. But, over the band’s previous albums, they’ve experimented with different styles and tones, so they’ve released albums that have strayed from that formula. For Microtonal Honkytonk, we hear some of that original sound as the band dips back into a more guitar-focused direction. If you’re a fan of bands like Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, or obviously Pell Mell, that are less surfy guitar instrumental, then this is a band you should check out. I Think Like Midnight is one of my favorite instrumental guitar bands today.

Black Duck – Black Duck Continuing the instrumental guitar theme of this list is Tortoise bass and Bass VI player Doug McCombs’s latest project called Black Duck. Black Duck is a trio with McCombs on bass and guitar, Bill McKay on guitar and Charles Rumback on drums. If you’re familiar with McCombs’s outings in Brokeback, this album sounds like an extension of that work. Gigantic reverb on the guitar coupled with light drumming recalls Tom Verlaine’s Warm and Cool album (an album McCombs openly admits is his favorite).

Sam Prekop and John McEntire – Sons Of – 2023 brought us another unexpected release from the Thrill Jockey stable of bands. Sam Prekop of The Sea and Cake, and solo and John McEntire of The Sea and Cake as well as Tortoise collaborated on an album anchored in analog synths and sequencers. Prekop is known for his recent analog synth works and McEntire brings his love of synths to Tortoise, so the record’s synergy is one that works. McEntire brings the beats to this effort which makes it very expansive and compelling and somewhat Tortoise-like in that regard. Bonus Release: A Yellow Robe Remixes by A Soft Pink Truth who is Drew Daniel of Matmos.

Okonski – MagnoliaSteve Okonski from Durand Jones and the Indications released his first solo album on Colemine Records. The album started out as an instrumental soul record with the idea that these songs would be composed in that manner and recorded. In fact, he released the demos from the initial sessions later in 2023 and the songs seem like break beats similar to El Michels or even kind of like J Dilla’s instrumental breaks. He liked the warmup recordings so much he switched to improvising in the studio resulting in a jazz trio record and one of my very favorite records from 2023. I really love that Terry Cole expanded the genre scope of Colemine Records to include a piano jazz record. I think that Okonski is going to record a new album in 2024. Bonus Release: Trio Session Demos

John Fahey – Proofs & Refutations – Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting a new John Fahey album in 2023! Comprised mostly of an EP put out in 1996 by his manager Dean Blackwood, the album on Drag City collects some “lost” sessions of Fahey’s later career. In addition to some improvised guitar work, there are some spoken works that reveal a fascination with a digital loop pedal. This album is not for the casual fan of John Fahey. It’s on this list because I’m a huge fan of John Fahey. I wrote an article HERE about the album’s history which covers the mid-90’s resurgence in interest of Fahey which led to his later period noise and electric works.

Exploding Star Orchestra – Lightning Dreamers – Exploding Star Orchestra is one of the many projects led by jazz trumpet player Rob Mazurek (Chicago Underground Duo/Trio, Isotope 217). Mazurek more than any other jazz musician carries the mantle of the Chicago Jazz Improvisation legacy first established by the Art Ensemble of Chicago in the mid-60’s. Lightning Dreamers brings back many of Mazurek’s regulars including Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and Nicole Mitchell. It picks up where the band’s 2020 album Dimensional Stardust left off. Funky and angular, this album shows what jazz can be in the 2020’s incorporating sounds and textures of our times.

Subatlantic – Say It Again – Quad Cities band Subatlantic released their sophomore album in 2023. This album was the result of some woodshedding done in a cabin in 2022 by the band. The album has a kind of theme around interpersonal conflicts that clearly Rebecca Rice wanted to get off her chest. Happy that this album and their last album Villians are both on vinyl. Subatlantic albums are best consumed in a vinyl listening session, in my opinion. You can read my review of Say It Again for Little Village Magazine HERE.

DeYarmond Edison – EPOCHThis massive box set encompasses the brief but intense period of creativity of a band moving from nascent post-high school hopefuls in Eau Claire, WI to wildly unbounded Americana band in Raleigh, NC. The band is normally a footnote in the careers of Justin Vernon as Bon Iver (whose middle names comprise the band name) and the Cook brothers, Phil and Brad and Joe Westerlund who would become another brilliant but sadly overlooked band Megafaun. Phil Cook has his own solo career these days and is also a go-to producer and sideman. Brad Cook is the manager of Hiss Golden Messenger. Westerlund has found success as a solo musician as well as contributor to bands like Califone. This box is an incredible undertaking, digging out lost recordings from the band as well as the legendary Hazeltons solo album which marked the end of DeYarmond Edison and foretold the beginning of Emma, Forever Ago. It’s a massive, sprawling box which taken in whole tells the story of the band.

Jared Mattson – Peanut – Jared is one of the Mattson twins that make up the band The Mattson 2. Peanut is the first solo record from either of them. Peanut is mostly sung in Japanese– a language picked up while touring the country often as The Mattson 2. The album is not really much of a departure from The Mattson 2’s breezy West Coast sound which draws easy comparisons to The Sea and Cake and Toro y Moi (whom they’ve worked with).

Toro y Moi – Sandhills EP – Speaking of Mr. Chaz Bear/Toro y Moi, he put out an EP of quietly acoustic music this year. This 14-minute release is a tribute to his hometown of Columbia, SC. It draws comparisons to Sufjan Stevens or Elliott Smith. Beautiful record. The EP has an etched side B that also has a short track of field recordings.

James Elkington – Me NeitherJames Elkington seems to be a sideman on a lot of albums I listen to from bands out of Chicago. It helps that his groups are all related to Thrill Jockey– Eleventh Dream Day, Brokeback, and Freakwater. But, his solo works are also fantastic– his moody baritone vocals are some of my favorites starting in his band The Zincs and moving to his duo with Janet Beveridge Bean in The Horses Ha (one of my early reviews is HERE) as well as his solo albums on Paradise of Bachelors. Me Neither is a 2 LP compilation of instrumental guitar sketches and is a great album to have on in the background or while driving for me.

Ratboys – The Window – Even though Chicago band Ratboys has been recording for over 10 years, I had only come across them this year. Fronted by the high soprano vocals of Julia Steiner, the band has a kind of twee sound that recalls 90’s acts like Juliana Hatfield. Really great punky pop.

Bob Martin – Seabrook – A lot has been said about Bob Martin elsewhere, but the short story is that he recorded a brilliant debut record called Midwest Farm Disaster in 1972 for RCA Nashville, but it wallowed in obscurity due to management changes at the label, as well as a change in focus to rock by RCA overall. Bob continued to record music up until his death in 2022. His final album Seabrook was produced by Jerry David DeCicca (of The Black Swans and solo). DeCicca had approached Martin about the possibility of reissuing Midwest Farm Disaster a while ago and struck up a friendship that resulted in his involvement in the final album. A bittersweet release, it is an album of reflection and a wonderful last work from Martin. Bonus Release: DeCicca released an album this year as well!

Dave Helmer – Such A Clown – Dave Helmer’s primary focus since 2014 has been his band Crystal City, which also includes his wife Sam Drella. They released a three great albums as Crystal City, with 2019’s Three-Dimensionality being one of my favorite local releases in recent history. Dave’s rough and ragged vocal delivery I compared to Paul Westerberg in my Little Village review of that album. So, it was somewhat surprising that he decided to release an album under his own name. I suspect it was mostly a factor of trying a different band or maybe the ability to focus the songs in a more personal direction. Crystal City seems more like a “we” band whereas the songs on Such a Clown are more “me” focused. Whatever the reason is, the songs are fantastic and don’t really stray too far from the guitar punch of Crystal City.

The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2022

As far as how this writer’s year went, 2022 was not really notable as far as music goes. The industry was still trying to recover from the mess of 2020 and, in fits-and-starts artists seemed to get back to the business of live performance. A few reports of bands getting COVID and canceling dates, though it didn’t seem like whole tours were really impacted. I saw one in-store performance by Iowa musician Dick Prall (who performs as DICKIE). There were a few other shows I was interested in, but the malaise of not seeing shows really set in for me, plus COVID is still a concern I have.

Vinyl record manufacturing was still on the blink with most releases seemingly pushed back from original release dates and in some cases pre-orders canceled entirely. Used vinyl prices continue to rise. This is likely due to the surge of new vinyl collecting during the lockdown in 2020, and also due to economic inflation across the board and rising oil prices (which records are made from, and the fuel for shipping them). Good used vinyl records are getting harder to find in the typical spots, and if the record is by a top-tier artist, the retailers are taking advantage of it. Considering the tough time independent retailers have in general, I don’t really blame them. Clean copies of pre-owned records by the cast of regulars– Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and others have seen an all-time high. I bought a collection of 10 Bowie records that were between $20 and $30 apiece for very clean RCA re-pressings of his mid-70’s titles. Thankfully, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin catalogs have been in print on vinyl for a few years now, and places like Walmart and Target stock them, so new collectors don’t have to resort to early pressings if they don’t want to.

Record Store Day returned to the non-Drop/two date version (April and Black Friday). My friends and I did the April RSD and bought quite a few titles (plus a ton of used). The RSD releases I bought were mostly reissues, so there won’t be a lot of those on this list. Black Friday RSD was a bust as far as I was concerned. The list just didn’t have anything I was interested in.

I continue to find myself purchasing a lot more from Bandcamp, both physical and digital releases, and my Top 20 list has a mix of both.

In no particular order, here are my Top 20 releases of 2022!

Makaya McCraven – In These Times Makaya McCraven is a drummer and producer from Chicago who is part of what I consider the new school of Jazz music. These are musicians who are drawing from the larger canon of Jazz, but are not afraid to fold in elements of current music (sampling, hip-hop, electronic music). Artists I think are also in this space are Jeff Parker, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington and Flying Lotus. For his album In These Times, McCraven is acting as band leader, pulling together other musicians to help deliver his compositions. The guitar on this album (as on some of his previous) is Jeff Parker. This is a beautiful record and one that I heartily recommend.

Toro y Moi – Mahal – This album might be the most-spinned this year for me. The super laid back chillwave style of Chaz Bundick (aka Chaz Bear aka Toro y Moi) is one I can’t get enough of. The soft vocals and jazzy instrumentals land him squarely in the Sea and Cake space as well as his collaborators Mattson 2 (who are also on here). Summer vibes all year long.

Kendra Morris – Nine Lives Although this is her third album, I hadn’t heard about her until Colemine Records started promoting the release (which is on Colemine sub-label Karma Chief). Her previous two albums gained press due to her involvement with Czarface/MF Doom (both released on Wax Poetics). This album is described as being “Neo Soul” and that pretty much nails it. She’s got a huge voice that really cuts through the record. This record fits in with other releases on Colemine like the first album from Neal Francis and Monophonics. A real banger, for sure.

Monophonics – Sage Motel – Speaking of Colemine and Monophonics, Kelly Finnigan and company came back with a concept album of sorts surrounding vignettes of guests of a fictional seedy, but once glamorous hotel. I’d say the album is less of a concept album and more of an album with a running theme, so no worries of overwrought tales of blind pinball players or post war children who have mommy issues. It’s more like White Lotus for the soul crowd. This video is AMAZING:

Elizabeth Moen – Wherever You Aren’t – After a delay, Moen dropped her fourth full-length album in November. Since I reviewed it, I was lucky to have a lot of time with it before it came out. It’s her best release to date with a lot more interesting details in the production including some new instruments. Read my review in Little Village here.

Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa – This album seemed to drop out of nowhere for me. I’m a very casual Spoon fan, so I’m not really tracking them with the same fervor that I do other bands. In fact, they seemed to release like three albums that I didn’t listen to, for whatever that is worth. I must have seen an article or something mentioning the album so I checked it out. For their 2022 album, the band seems to be leaning into the rockier side of their sound. I found myself listening to this a lot over the summer.

Sylvee and the Sea (aka Pieta Brown) – The Less I Needed The Better I Felt – This was kind of a surprise release and kind of overlooked. Sylvee and the Sea is a supergroup of sorts featuring Pieta Brown, Don Was (president of Blue Note Records, and formerly of Was (Not Was)) on bass, John Convertino of Calexico on drums and CARM (of Y Music and Bon Iver) on horns. A collaboration recorded remotely by sending snippets of music around and letting the musicians record their parts with the instructions of not overthinking their contributions or creating charts. Kind of a freewheeling affair of instrumentals in the Pieta Brown vibe of not sounding like any particular genre or time.

Bo Ramsey – How Many Miles – Another surprise drop came from Iowa country blues legend Bo Ramsey in the form of a digital EP. Never content to leave a song alone, Bo typically brings out retooled versions of his classic songs in a live setting. For this EP we have new versions of “Wounded Dog” with a searing guitar line by Mark Knopfler all the way through it, a laid back and softened take on “555×2” and a new take on “Blue Earth,” the beautiful instrumental from Down to Bastrop. These versions represent the 2020’s version of live Bo Ramsey. The other two tracks are new instrumentals in the vein of his 2016 album Wildwood Calling.

Revelators Sound System – Revelators – Revelators Sound System is a side project of M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger along with Cameron Ralston of Spacebomb House Band. This project is intended to be distinct from Hiss Golden Messenger, and in fact sounds only vaguely like the jam-adjacent works of that band. These are full-on jammy instrumental workouts with some dub worked in and sounds a lot more like 70’s albums from bands who heard Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew– an aural pastiche of improvised breaks. While it isn’t HGM, I can hear how this informs what live Hiss Golden Messenger is becoming.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Wise Eyes: Live at The Neptune, Seattle, WA, 2/25/22, Greetings From Charleston!, Mystic What: Live in Kansas City and St. Louis – Continuing the releases of live shows to Bandcamp, Hiss Golden Messenger gave us THREE fantastic live shows this year. All three have Grateful Dead covers, which sort of tips the hat to what HGM’s live shows are becoming, in my opinion. This band keeps getting better and better in live performance. Out of the three my favorite is Mystic What based on St. Louis and Kansas City shows from March of 2022. Some deeper cuts in this set. “Standing In The Doorway” was a really nice surprise. My favorite non-album track, coincidentally paired with “Cat’s Eye Blue” on a Record Store Day 7″ “Live From Spacebomb.” and a surprise cover of “Bird Song.”

Jeff Parker – Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy – This record is based on a residency that Parker and band did at the Enfield Tennis Academy which is a bar in L.A.’s Highland Park area. These are largely free improvised performances with some standards and original compositions peppered in. While the idea of an improv jazz album might turn most folks off, this group’s use of melody and structure make this a very enjoyable music journey. The recording was made from open room mics, so we get the whole experience of the room complete with typical bar ambience.

Elijah McLaughlin Ensemble – II At this point, it seems that I’ll buy pretty much anything that comes out on Tompkins Square. In fact, I hadn’t heard of Chicago musician Elijah McLaughlin until Tompkins Square announced the pre-order in an email. Elijah McLaughlin’s acoustic guitar work fits in the American Primitive space, but with his ensemble he creates layered and scenic soundtracks in a space similar to William Tyler’s works. I quickly ordered his first album after I heard this album. Beautiful stuff.

Penny Peach – Ego Party – Penny Peach is often found delivering her amazing harmony vocals on other peoples’ records (see: Anthony Worden and the Illiterati or Elizabeth Moen) but her string of solo recordings are worth checking out– her early works are largely DIY affairs but her last couple of album/EP’s have had the full band treatment with her bendy, sneering and sometimes gutteral vocals front and center. She’s kind of her own genre– a playful but often dark mixture of bratty Ramones punk, new wave and black metal. The droning distorted guitars smeared with Digitech Whammy pitch bending is fantastic.

Allegra Hernandez – Gift Exchange – Allegra Hernandez is a new artist I discovered this year through my gig as music reviewer for Little Village. This album is a fantastic mix of catchy melodic post-punk and fantastically epic guitar work. Read my review and interview with Hernandez for Little Village here.

Squalls – Live From the 40 Watt – In 2022 seminal Athens, GA bar band Squalls released a fantastic compilation of live recordings from the early 1980’s (around the time of the performances in Athens, GA Inside/Out). Prior to this album, I was only really familiar with the songs on the soundtrack to that documentary, but this album shows the band in their element as a seasoned live act. Squalls are getting a reissue campaign of their studio albums, too, that are worth checking out. With the Pylon reissues, and the ongoing Love Tractor reissues, it’s cool to see these Athens bands getting some love. Kilkenny Cats or Dreams So Real next?? Here’s my article breaking down the live album.

Richard Thompson – Music From Grizzly Man – The brilliant soundtrack to the documentary about Timothy Treadwell done by Richard Thompson got the vinyl treatment this year. One of my favorite Thompson records is Strict Tempo, which is an instrumental record, and this soundtrack is a kind of compliment to that release. The Grizzly Man film is sort of hard to locate on the streaming services these days, but at least we have this soundtrack which also includes snippets of Treadwell talking.

Nathan Salsburg – Landwerk No. 3 – The third installment of the Landwerk series of guitar sketches by Nathan Salsburg came out this year. These albums started as a way for Salsburg to get some inspiration by utilizing samples of old 78 RPM records to provide loops of some instruments, and sometimes only the crackle. These are amazing records and I’m glad he is continuing this series.

Diplo – Diplo – I was a big fan of Diplo’s first solo full length Florida which came out in 2003 around the time he started gaining attention having worked with M.I.A. and others bringing his finely-honed beats and production to a continually-growing list of projects (Major Lazer, Jack Ü, etc). He wouldn’t bring another project credited to himself out until he dropped the California EP in 2018 around Record Store Day. Positioned as kind of the spiritual follow up to Florida, I was curious to check it out. I loved the bubbly, an often moody electro pop and it became a regular play in my car. His 2022 self-titled full length picks up where California left off. I really love this album and he’s been nominated for a couple Grammys, and it is deserved.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Live at the Fillmore, 1997 Boxset – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers captured at their peak. A legendary 20-night run at the Fillmore West in early 1997. The band wanted to step out of their regular album release and tour schedule and do something to reenergize them. This massive box set is a compilation of the last six nights of the run that were captured for editing to be use for radio broadcast. While the band didn’t do the same setlist every night, there were some songs that were featured each night, and we can look at this box set as kind of representative of these shows. The box set is almost half cover songs, which is really fun, especially for fans like me who collect Petty.

I mentioned that I thought that they should do a box set of this run of shows in my article covering An American Treasure. I think this brings some hope that we’ll see more box sets like this in the future. Maybe boxes based on the Fillmore runs in 1981 and 1999.

Life Moves Pretty Fast – The John Hughes Mixtapes Box Set – Under the category of everything eventually comes out on vinyl, we have this fantastic compilation of songs from the films of John Hughes. As someone who grew up with these films and also bought the soundtracks, this addresses some glaring omissions. For one thing, there was never a soundtrack to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and we finally get pretty much everything from that on this box set (leaving off stuff like “Danke Shoen,” “Twist and Shout” and the theme to Star Wars is fine, I think) and it fills out some of the other soundtracks that were released (She’s Having A Baby, Sixteen Candles). I was a little surprised that it wasn’t organized by film, but the spirit of it was based on the mixtape trades that Hughes did with the music supervisors, and I guess makes it more listenable as a big mix of everything. I wrote an article about the release here.