Songs of 2022 – Mr. Dollins

Mr. Dollins shares his top songs of 2022


J. Dollins

2022 was a great year in music. Myles and Mr. Dollins look back on their faves.

Jeremiah Dollins, Pepper Bough Adviser

“Spud Infinity” – Big Thief

On its surface, “Spud Infinity,” by the Brooklyn-based Big Thief, is a novelty song that sounds like something being played at a backyard barbecue somewhere in Louisiana. Its goofy chorus and use of twanging jaw harp make it something old hats might have once heard on the Dr. Demento radio show. However, the beauty of “Spud Infinity” is how existential the lyrics go in contrast to the seemingly simple-minded bluegrass-country hoedown. “What’s it gonna take/To free this celestial body?” sings Adrienne Lenker on the chorus as she ponders about the size of the universe and our place in it, a question that makes even the mention of our elbows seem significant.

“Goodbye Mr. Blue” – Father John Misty

Despite being one of the five greatest singer-songwriters of his generation (the others are arguably: Jason Isbell, Taylor Swift, Frank Ocean, and Jenny Lewis), Father John Misty has made much of his professional career on being a troll. He puts on the caustic, ironic persona of a rock star, and has long put himself at the center of his storyteller. This year, maybe because of the pandemic, he turned outward and released the album “Chloë and the Next 20th Century,” a collection of short stories set to the throwback sounds of mid-20th century pop music. The centerpiece is the Glen Campbell inspired “Goodbye Mr. Blue,” about a couple on the precipice of ending their relationship after the death of their cat. The conceit, like many Father John songs, is silly and ironic, but the effect is one of the most beautiful, and heartbreaking songs of his entire career.

“Big Time” – Angel Olsen

I love 1960s country & western music. When I was a kid, my parents had on CD the Billboard Top 10 country songs for each year between 1958 and 1968. It was country divas, like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette that always grabbed my attention the most when Mom would put those CDs on. “Crazy” and “Stand By Your Man” are among my favorite songs of all time. So, I do not say this lightly when I say that “Big Time,” on singer-songwriter Angel Olsen’s album of the same name, is on par with those classics. It is a big sounding power ballad of 1960s country-western glory.

“Punk Rock Loser” – Viagra Boys

During my first year of college, a Communications professor of mine—also my debate coach—made a mixtape for me. The guy was a complete jerk, but the tape was gold. It introduced me to a whole new world of music, like non-goofy They Might Be Giants, indie acts like Soul Coughing, and punk icon Richard Hell, whose song “Blank Generation” is still one of my favorites. I’d like to think that the Viagra Boys, with their neo-punk aesthetic, would have made the cut on that mixtape. “Punk Rock Loser” with its disaffected, slackjawed self-own would have stood proudly between “Love Comes in Spurts” and Cake’s “Rock N’ Roll Lifestyle.”

“Wet Dream” – Wet Leg

There’s an undercurrent of rebellion in the music of current indie pop sensation Wet Leg that becomes evident in the Pavement-style drier than dust vocals of lead singer Rhian Tisdale. On “Wet Dream,” Tisdale shows a love for what seems like a combination of the Divinyls and David Lynch, with this absurd, oddly terrifying takedown of a dude that’s a little too into her. When she invites him back to her place because she has Vincent Gallo’s “Buffalo 66” on DVD, it’s not the come on it pretends to be, but instead the declaration of a woman ready to put an end to this stalker’s obsession.

“Love is Selfish” and “Taking Me Back” – Jack White

Jack White’s entire career has been, to some degree, about ping-ponging between extremes. In the White Stripes, he created the most dynamic duo in the history of rock music; after they called it quits, he formed fully fleshed out bands, even touring with two of them at the same time to do alternating sets. And musically, his writing is a back-and-forth between huge rock riffage like “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and soft ballads like “Love Interruption.” So it should have come as no surprise that this year White would release two albums, “Fear of the Dawn” and “Entering Heaven Alive,” the former being White’s vision of a heavy metal album and the latter being the Sunday morning comedown. These two songs are two of his finest to date, with “Love is Selfish” featuring one of his most plaintive melodies, and “Taking Me Back” serving as a full frontal assault in the vein of “Icky Thump” and “Lazaretto.”

“midnight sun” – Nilüfer Yanya

Earlier this year, I made a mistake. I bought a weekend pass to the Desert Daze festival before checking my calendar. Had I done so, I would have seen that my wife had already purchased tickets for the Ohana Fest on that Saturday. It was one of those stupid boneheaded things that would be much funnier if it hadn’t come hastagged as #firstworldproblems. That said, I wasn’t able to go to Desert Daze that Saturday, and while I was enjoying Jack White’s tightly wound performance at Ohana Fest, I was also missing Nilüfer Yanya’s set at Desert Daze. I’d like to think there’s a multiverse in which I went to that show, that way I didn’t have to make a choice. Yanya is an exciting artist, and “midnight sun” is a special song.

“Spitting Off the Edge of the World” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I just looked up how old Karen O, the dynamic frontwoman of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, is and saw that she is 44 this year. I’m not sure what I expected, but this information made me feel very very old. For me, Karen O is as ancient as the old gods, her banshee wail and reverb-drenched vocals a sound from days long gone by. It’s the voice of rebellion and longing and perpetual youth. To know that I am two years older is disappointing. But the fact that “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” is a dark anthem that is as old and young, hopeful and despairing, angry and jubilant as anything she’s ever written, reminds me that age is just a number.

“Golden Liar” – Zeal & Ardor

Manuel Gagneux, leader of the experimental metal band Zeal & Ardor, said of his band that their existence stems from the question of “what if American slaves had embraced Satan instead of Jesus?” Their sound is a fusion of Swedish black metal and American slave songs, creating a potent mix of the sacred and profane. On “Golden Liar,” which features some stunning guitar work, the band explores the “golden lies” we tell—those lies we tell in the name of piety that preserve the status quo which keeps our society in line. It’s a deep, melodic, song, that implies through its use of slave song rhythms that we are all slaves to a corrupt system aimed on keeping us oppressed with its golden lies.

“Running Up That Hill” and “Master of Puppets” – Kate Bush/Metallica

Thanks to “Stranger Things,” all that was old is new again. This includes Kate Bush, whose vocal stylings inspired generations of singer-songwriters trying to capture the ethereal vibe baked into those vocal cords. Her “Running Up That Hill,” which provided “Stranger Things” with its unofficial theme song in its fourth season, hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100, a position it didn’t even hold in 1985. Why did this song resurrect? Well, its emotional chorus—”And if I only could/I’d make a deal with God”—is still as resonant today as it was in the 80s. And while Metallica has enjoyed even more sustained success and impact than Kate Bush, the fact that “Stranger Things” made “Master of Puppets” feel badass again is no mean feat. All that was once potent in that song was long ago stripped away by its constant radio play and use at sporting events. But watching poor, misunderstood Eddie Munson fight off a legion of bat-like monsters with nothing more than his memory of James Hetfield’s monster riffage was the most metal Metallica has sounded in over a decade.