Foxy Digitalis has been back for just over two years now, and I find it difficult to get my head around it. Throughout that period, though, the core idea and drive have remained the same, even if the pieces and structures have shifted somewhat. I’m excited the site launched a handful of new columns and regular series last year and will push for that to continue growing in 2023. I’m ever grateful to those who contribute to the site, with a special mention to Sam Melancon for his enthusiasm and support of my absurd idea to start a podcast about Rancid (I can’t believe we’ve recorded almost 40 episodes of it!).
Immeasurable thanks to Carl for drawing all of these portraits (kind of a shitty move on my part to have 30 categories). He has become one of my favorite collaborators in the world (we even started a ridiculous band that is way too much fun!). I think we only scratched the surface of the possibilities of awesome stuff we can do together in 2022. Look the fuck out (or something). Support his work via his Patreon!
Before getting into everything, a quick shoutout to all the Patreon and Jewel Garden supporters this past year. This site doesn’t exist (and continue to grow) with y’all, and my appreciation runs deep. If you enjoy and appreciate Foxy Digitalis and want to see it continue churning, consider subscribing to our in-house label, The Jewel Garden, or signing up for the Patreon, buying some adspace for your band/label/etc., or even throwing a few coins this way via Ko-fi. More than anything, though, thanks for reading.
So this list. I decided in early December to push the Foxy Digitalis year-in-review to January for a couple reasons. The main one was that in the previous iteration of the site, we spent January reflecting and looking back, and it felt right to me. It gave the site’s writers space to really put together thoughtful pieces that didn’t feel like they were competing with the barrage of ranked lists in December (don’t get me wrong, I love the lists (fucking hate the rankings, and find that part all a bit gross, though), but it all becomes a blur by mid-December). The other reason is simply that Carl and I needed more time. But, as we’re a week into January, this feels right to me again.
It’s been another year with a ton of wonderful music, an impossible mountain to climb, and one that nobody should attempt. Last week, I had a late-night conversation with my forever partner-in-crime about FOMO and how it’s not really something that creeps into my life. She was pretty shocked by all of this (which is kind of hilarious since we’ve been together for 20 years as of January 15), but when it comes to music specifically, there is so much (no such thing as too much, sorry) that nobody will ever hear it all. I love that. There’s always something else wedged into another distant crevice, around another strange corner. How our unique experiences with those things blend into shared experiences (and how and where to find those connections) is endlessly fascinating to me. (The real problem here is increasingly short press cycles and albums not getting coverage after a few months, but that’s a conversation for another day). I digress…
This is an incomplete list of records that left a mark in my mind for one reason or another, presented in a very tongue-in-cheek way. I tried not to include a bunch of records that everyone has been talking about everywhere (some for good reason, like the Lucrecia Dalt record) because there are plenty of other gems that could use some more shine.
I hope 2023 is a good one.
Most Likely the Voice of Eternity
Horace Andy Midnight Rocker (On-U Sound)
Horace Andy is one of the greatest singers in reggae history, and Midnight Rocker shows that not only has he not lost an ounce of that silky trademark, but he’s also soaring higher than ever. One of my favorite albums of 2022.
Most Likely to Permanently Alter Reality
Etran de L’Aïr Agadez (Sahel Sounds)
Sahel Sounds rarely misses, but even by their high standards, Agadez is something else. Etran de L’Aïr takes familiar elements and spins them into their own sonic gold. Psychedelia fuses with entrancing melodies, exquisite technique, energetic rhythms, and a grounded sense of hypnotic wonder. It’s music that moves (and gets us moving), always with purpose and joy. This is my most-played album of 2022.
Most Likely to Turn Ruins Into Wonders
Julia Sabra & Fadi Tabbal Snakeskin (Ruptured/Beacon Sound)
Snakeskin is a masterpiece that dreams not of renewal or rebirth but seeks to understand what feeling connected to this barren husk of a place means for us.
Most Likely to Tear Your Heart Out
gabby fluke-mogul LOVE SONGS (Relative Pitch)
Love is harsh. Visceral. A cocoon and a screaming stitch. gabby fluke-mogul’s follow-up to last year’s threshold (one of my favorite albums of 2021) is invigorating in a different way but just as impactful. Their music has always been saturated with vulnerability and openness, but on LOVE SONGS, that spirit is held closer. fluke-mogul puts so much raw emotion into their playing that it becomes infectious. They are a conduit.
Most Likely Immortal
Keiji Haino My Lord Music… (Black Editions)
Unencumbered by death, the horsemen ride free. This music is physical, tactile. It’s a boa constrictor sustained by harsh cacophony, feeding on the stray notes like maggots at a body farm. My Lord Music… breaks the crystal spheres containing memories and spreads them like fire across the parched Earth. Haino is perpetual.
Most Likely to Create Their Own Gravity
Lawrence English Approach (Room 40)
In these massive, grey sonic spreads, shifting nuance and emotional toil are building blocks for the power of moments. While English conceived Approach as a soundtrack to Yoshihisa Tagami’s manga, Grey, this music rises through the sun-blocking haze, revisiting forgotten ghosts while simmering in the spectral expanses of transitory drones.
Most Likely to Shred a City to Bits
Upchuck Sense Yourself (Famous Class)
This Atlanta quintet channels overflowing raw energy into dynamic, propulsive sonic catacombs where there’s no hiding from all the ghosts we’ve tried to bury. Vocalist and songwriter KT weaves lyrical razorblades into searing melodies, spilling poetic blood about discrimination, bleak futures, and the decayed foundations left behind.
Most Likely to Frog Out Forever
C.C. Sorensen Twin Mirror (Full Spectrum)
We’re heading for the lilypads. We’re living a futurist frog jazz lifestyle. There’s nothing to be done about it but sway and smile. CC Sorensen is a wizard and on their most fully-realized work yet, Twin Mirror, a sanguine aquatic landscape billows into existence, swathed with the richest of details and imbued with a silken aural luxuriousness that has me floating through the weirdest corridors in my mind.
Most Likely to Be the Sharpest Knife
Mali Obomsawin Sweet Tooth (Out of Your Head)
I have sat with this album for months now, and it still manages to do my head in each time. Sweet Tooth reclaims music of their people (Abenaki First Nation), creating a sonic statement on Indigenous heritage and experience. Obomsawin’s voice pulls all the strings, tying this aural world together with ragged precision and unending strength. It’s simultaneously overwhelming and heavy music but inviting in its gripping narrative and vulnerability. Essential listening.
Most Likely to Have You Floating In Ether
Zekarias Thompson Goodnight Shiva (Atlantic Rhythms)
An inner dialogue winds through Zekarias Thompson’s magnificent debut, Goodnight Shiva. Meditations on isolation and reconnection; the alignment of self-perception and outward realities become reveries where immersive listening reveals a river that runs beneath it all. Thompson’s hand guides this journey. He ruminates on blackness and what all that can mean as he uses these sonic expressions to find a wave of peace within his own body and a place with the cosmos.
Most Likely to Return to Dust
Silvia Tarozzi & Deborah Walker Canti di guerra, di lavoro e d‘amore (Unseen Worlds)
For two artists that have created so much incredible music, Canti di guerra isn’t so much a surprise (of course it’s excellent!), but even with lofty expectations, it surpassed every single one. The vocal arrangements are a near-religious experience, and the drama and fraught intensity in the strings is gripping. This take on folk music from their youth is a stunning journey.
Most Likely to Echo in the Cosmos
Tumi Mogorosi Group Theory: Black Music (Mushroom Hour Half Hour)
The well of incredible jazz from South Africa is infinite. Group Theory: Black Music is the latest treasure and one of the most potent statements in recent years from a scene full of them. Tumi Mogorosi’s songs and arrangements are steeped in history and dynamism, and, as a leader, he pushes this music well beyond its banks. A marching cadence presses ahead, anchored in the rich soil, and gives a host of exceptional musicians like trumpeter Tumi Pheko and guitarist Reza Khota room to wander. Surrounding the mighty tectonic flow is the sacred embrace of South African choral music. The combination of Mogorosi’s fluid jazz and the hallowed strength of this otherworldly choir is life-affirming. Absolutely crucial listening. Wow.
Most Likely to Break Into a Balloon Factory
Laura Cocks field anatomies (Carrier)
This is such a personal exposition that never turns away from the difficult passages and in the heaviest, rawest moments the connection between physical body and instrument becomes blurred as the two become a singular force of nature. field anatomies unlocks something special and new in this aural realm, and Laura Cocks will only continue to rise higher. What an important and incredible album.
Most Likely to Take Your Breath Away
Terry Jennings Piece for Cello and Saxophone (Saltern)
I don’t know if it’s the definitive performance of this piece, but I have returned to it often since it first made its way to me a few months ago. Jennings’s composition and Young’s arrangement sit in a place where each movement is imbued with an emotional heft, and each poignant note carries significant weight. The performance has such a comprehensive gravity to it that its staying power never wanes. In a year that has already featured a number of special releases, Piece for Cello and Saxophone stands out.
Most Likely to Be Found During An Archaeological Dig
Yara Asmar Home Recordings 2018 – 2021 (Hive Mind)
Yara Asmar’s collection of home recordings is another gem from Hive Mind. Across seven tracks, the Lebanese artist shows a melancholic vulnerability. This music is like an aural diary, combining melodic, wistful motifs and an array of field recordings to create fading pictures of intimate, powerful moments.
Most Likely to Make Us Dream of Time Travel
Psychic Temple Plays Music For Airports & Plays Planet Caravan (Big Ego)
I meant to write about these fantastic records for a long time but could never quite pull it together. That said, each is fantastic on its own, but together they are an improbable coalescence of pure astral magic. An all-star crew breathes new magic into two timeless pieces of music, creating their own carve-out in the cosmic flow. Hit play. Let go.
Most Likely to Move in Slow Motion
Concepción Huerta Harmonies From Betelgeuse (Umor Rex)
Harmonies From Betelgeuse sings in its dichotomies, fusing organic sounds and otherworldly atmospheres into a sonic freefall. Gravity is as ephemeral here as the synthetic repetitions and glassine resonance. Huerta focuses on the emotional core at the heart of these sounds to find a place of contemplative movement. This music is visceral yet inviting, intricate and dense yet approachable.
Most Likely to Have Been Friends With Jürgen Müller
Oksana Linde Aquatic and Other Worlds (Buh)
Aquatic and Other Worlds is foremost a gift from Oksana Linde to herself, but it is also for those who have ventured in unplanned directions; who feel disconnected from the aspirations of yesterday. We might stop, our lives on pause, but the path keeps spreading out before us searching for a horizon it can never reach. With a gentle push, like the shimmering arrangements of “Ensueño,” we can find our way back. The story may have changed and our dreams carry a different shadow into the distance, but magic forever remains.
Most Likely Already a World Away
christina vantzou no. 5 (Kranky)
Sonic treatments become imagined environments become immersible worlds. Vantzou’s use of field recordings has always had a special intuitive feel to add purposeful texture and spirit to her emotive arrangements. no. 5 continues the path laid down by her previous albums while finding new sonic terrain to explore and infuse with a solemn undercurrent. Repeated listens reveal further details and emotions, changing the movement of aural shadows throughout. Stunning.
Most Likely to Turn Into Diamonds
Adela Mede Szabadság (Self-Released; vinyl forthcoming on Night School)
Crickets chirp the night’s song carried along by a soft, rhythmic wind. Adela Mede’s voice hovers above the millions of microscopic scenes happening in the Earth’s cracks like a full moon glowing with elemental spirit. Szabadság is an exploration of how leaning into our vulnerabilities can provoke a lasting inner strength.
Most Likely to Make You Question Your Existence
Siavash Amini & Eugene Thacker Songs for Sad Poets (Hallow Ground)
On one of my favorite (and one of the most unexpected) collaborative records of 2022, Iranian composer Siavash Amini joins forces with American writer and philosopher Eugene Thacker. The aural environments will not be unfamiliar to fans of Amini’s consistently stellar work, but Songs for Sad Poets has an even thicker air of desolation and intransigence than before. Details hold universes full of gravity within them, exploding in slow motion like a sonic implosion stretched over millennia. Really incredible, crucial listening.
Most Likely to Fit an Entire Boxed Set on a c60
Spread Joy II (Feel It)
Spread Joy reminds me of many of the records on Kill Rock Stars and K Records I loved in the 90s, but with a new, sharper edge that makes this entirely its own thing. The entire album is 17 minutes long, and I love every second of it. Listen on repeat.
Most Likely to become future folklore
Katarina Gryvul Tysha (Standard Deviation)
Tysha is spectacular in the way it shifts and drifts around this central feeling of uncertainty situated at the precipice of this current moment. Gryvul’s music grapples with these dark clouds and scattered moments by pushing into them headfirst. When bass pulses drive the static and glitched-out arpeggios of “Porozhn’o” high into the atmosphere, Gryvul’s voice pierces through like a beacon. She does it on nearly every song and it never stops being entrancing. It is the light at the end of the tunnel, the way forward. Tysha ends with a blurred whisper ready to face the long night again. Stunning.
Most Likely to Break the Speed of Light
Sunik Kim Raid on the White Tiger Regiment (Notice Recordings)
Sunik Kim is a musician, writer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Their work is dynamic, ever-evolving, but always striking a visceral edge where the emotive threads within become a grounding point amidst chaos. This spirit takes the form of wondrous density in Kim’s new album on Notice Recordings, Raid on the White Tiger Regiment. It feels overwhelming at first, but at a certain point, everything else fades away, and we become immersed in the dense, inviting soundworld.
Most Likely to Turn Glass Shards Into Tears
more eaze oneiric (OOH-sounds)
Hidden beneath the simmering arrangements is a heart reaching for a connection, but aware that it’s drifting into the distance out of reach. Closer “crii” turns the page, but the fantasy world is full of cracks and it doesn’t matter if the synths and beats lithely point arrows toward a new dawn. We all have to wake up. We all have to face the reality of tomorrow. At least with more eaze slipstreaming through our speakers, there’s a magical beauty in the bubbling despondency and we can wear a glamorous mask. Keep on loving’ til your love has gone away…
Most Likely to Tell You a Story You’ve Never Heard
Wilfrido Terrazas My Shadow Leads This Way (Transvection Ltd)
There is a neverending search in these sounds and spoken word elements. Terrazas blurs the line between music and words, changing perceptions. My Shadow Leads This Way leaves me reconsidering if distinctions between the two matter and how that shapes our own understanding. As the ten-minute closer, “Shadow Postlude (Para M.L.)” fills the hollows with a quiet flute serenade, a space is left behind to fill with new, eloquent conclusions. My Shadow Leads This Way is a tremendous achievement.
Most Likely to Electrify the Sun
Linda Ayupuka God Created Everything (Mais Um)
The entirety of God Created Everything beams with Linda Ayupuka’s electric vocals. We are hypnotized and immersed in this bright, futuristic sound world from the opening moments. This music is sacred across dimensions and across time. Producer Francis Ayamga’s polyrhythmic, frenetic environments buoy Ayupuka’s voice so she can soar into the heavens. Mind-altering.
Most Likely to Come Back From the Dead
Läuten der Seele s/t (Hands in the Dark)
Sound collages that are alive with cryptic movements in the growing shadows. This music is transformative, turning forgotten history and decay into enchanting, somewhat haunted environments. Playful melodies melt into pensive dissonant stretches brushed with organic textures and lilting darkness. Both Läuten der Seele albums from 2022 are excellent, but this is the one I return to most.
Most Likely to Sit at the Eye of the Storm
Keiko Higuchi Vertical Language (Black Editions)
I am floored by the visceral delivery Higuchi gives at every moment on Vertical Language. On the minute-long a capella “the still 01,” it’s as though her spirit takes over completely and the sounds we hear aren’t of this world. This is a special album from a special artist.
Most Likely to Bring You PeaCE IN THE END
Patricia Wolf I’ll Look For You In Others (Past Inside the Present)
Like the open spaces between blurred dandelions on the cover of Patricia Wolf’s debut, I’ll Look For You In Others, the experience of grief is a bewildering maze that can seem endless and impossible to navigate. It can flit between feeling like a slow-motion dream and an out-of-control descent into an oddly-alluring void. Processing all of it, we begin to parse the connection of the impermanence of being versus the persistence of memory. Answers are ephemeral, but the act of letting the emotions wash through us is where solace can be found.
Further Flows of Sonic Magic…
Dorian Wood Invasiva (Dragon’s Eye Recordings)
Beast Nest Sicko (Ratskin)
Weston Olencki Old Time Music (Tripticks Tapes)
Horseface Sanakirjan Takana (sing a song fighter)
DunkelpeK Fire’s Hush (AKP Recordings)
Kham Meslien Fantômes... Futurs (Heavenly Sweetness)
Attia Taylor Space Ghost (Lame-O)
Rosa Beach Mason & Sean Conrad Wake (Inner Islands)
Christine Burke Something kept close : outdoor music (Sawyer Editions)
Liquids Life Is Pain Idiot (Drunken Sailor)
Alice Cohen Moonrising (Styles Upon Styles)
Kendraplex Two Rivers (Self-Released)
ML Wah Mirrored Night (Flower Room)
Odeya Nini ODE (Populist)
Les Halles Eight Fantasies (Not Not Fun)
Brown Calvin d i m e n s i o n // p e r s p e c t i v e (AKP Recordings)
Cheryl E. Leonard Antarctica: Music From the Ice (Other Minds)
Gunter Herbig wherever i go… (Cosima Pitz)
Ann Eysermans For Trainspotters Only (cortizona)
Steve Fors it’s nothing, but still (Hallow Ground)
Irarrázabal / Baldwin Grips (Tripticks Tapes)
CLASS Epoca de Los Vaqueros / s/t (Feel It)
Saint Abdullah Inshallahlaland (Room 40)
Alma Laprida ensayos basche (presses précaires)
Vanessa Rossetto The Actress (erstwhile)
A few labels that never failed me last year…
That’s all I’ve got. Again, a million plus one, thanks to Carl Antonowicz. Thanks to everyone for reading. If ya liked it, join the Patreon. Subscribe to The Jewel Garden. Support the cause. There’s so much good music out there, y’all – listen to it and support artists in every way you can. Grab a record. Go to a show. Buy a download. Do it.