As we head into the last weeks of 2022, I realize that there are so many albums, EP's and songs that I regularly listen to and have wanted to share as part of this music blog, but the hustle and frenzied pace of life seems to have got in the way of making time to do that. So, I'm attempting to do that in this post with a handful or so of albums and EP's that I regularly find myself listening to. There's so much more... Hopefully, I'll be better friends with 'free time' in the new year. I hope the reviews, videos and album shares below inspire some of you to listen and explore the outstanding and engaging music releases from Allison Ponthier, Lo Moon, James Righton, Hazlett, Paul Moody, and Wild Pink.
Allison Ponthier | Shaking Hands With Elvis EP
2022 saw the release of Brooklyn-based Allison Ponthier's second EP, Shaking Hands With Elvis. Ever since discovering her captivating duet ("I Lied") with Lord Huron from their Long Lost album, I've become a big fan of this emerging and talented indie-folk singer-songwriter. Heartfelt, straightforward, and clever lyrics are one of the hallmarks of Allison's stellar songwriting, not to mention the captivating melodies she crafts and embellishes with her warm, evocative vocals.
Every one of the six tracks on Shaking Hands With Elvis is hitworthy, but it's the title track that's the highlight for me. Don't leave this post without watching her live acapella performance of "Shaking Hands With Elvis" (video above). And if vinyl is your thing, pick up the limited vinyl for Shaking Hands With Elvis that is accompanied by Allison's debut EP, Faking My Own Death, on Side B.
Lo Moon | A Modern Life
From the moment I first heard the self-titled, 2018 debut album from LA-based Lo Moon, I've longed for more of the epic-sounding, spacious, and elegant music they produce. The four years that have elapsed prior to the release of the band's new album, A Modern Life, were definitely worth the wait. Spawning several outstanding singles, including "Raincoats," "Dream Never Dies," and "Stop," this album has been on regular repeat play for me since its release.
I'm cautious about drawing comparisons, but I write this with praise and all due respect. Every time I listen to Lo Moon, I'm somewhat reminded of the introspective atmosphere of the final releases from the legendary Mark Hollis and Talk Talk (e.g., Spirit of Eden, Laughing Stock). Lo Moon brings a similar sophisticated and reflective songwriting vibe and sound into the present day, with their own unique style and production that engages the listener. While "Raincoats" is the standout track for me on A Modern Life, the entire album is an indie rock musical masterpiece.
James Righton | Jim, I'm Still Here
I'll venture to state that one of the underdog albums of 2022 is UK musician James Righton's sophomore album release, Jim, I'm Still Here. Daring, electronic, honest, and innovative, I've found myself infatuated by the upbeat, quirky tracks on this impressive album since its July 2022 release. Readers and listeners may be familiar with James for a number of reasons: The multi-instrumentalist was a member of UK new rave band Klaxons; he is married to actress Keira Knightley; and he was responsible for putting together the live band for the new ABBA Voyage live concerts in London.
Jim, I'm Still Here is a product of the isolated months of the recent pandemic, where James found an abundance of time to compose, experiment and be musically creative. I love the clever placement of crisp, analog-sounding synthesizers throughout the 12 brilliant tracks on Jim, I'm Still Here. I hear elements and influences of Peter Gabriel, Gary Numan and David Bowie throughout. For this album, I bought the vinyl pressing, and I must say that it sounds oustanding to hear this from my turntable. Totally irrelevant to most, but it's only on the vinyl that you hear James read out the album catalog number and "Side A" / "Side B" before you hear the first track on each side of the album. Standout songs for me include "Never Give Up On The City," "Release Party, "I Want To Live" and "Empty Rooms" (feat. ABBA's Benny Andersson on some piano riffs).
Hazlett | Oh Downhill EP
Australian-born singer, songwriter and storyteller Hazlett's latest EP, Oh Downhill, came to life during 2022, starting with the Spring release of the song "Please Don't Be," and followed by several heartwarming, introspective single releases. I've been taken by Hazlett's therapeutic, yet infectious songwriting style and upflifting, empowering lyrics ever since my ears were fortunate to hear his brilliant 2019 single, "Monsters" (still one of my all-time favorite songs).
Aside from the Hazlett's music, I've found inspiration, calm and words of encouragement - on more than one occasion - from Hazlett's social media posts and videos. Recent example: "To all the big dreamers and the ones with stars in their eyes… it's okay to rest today. It's okay to take it easy. Just because you have a grand vision of where you want your life to be doesn't mean you have to make it to the finish line like some kind of broken down car wreck. Just like one big productive day isn't going to make your goals instantly come true, one bad day isn't going to make them not come true either. Rest up. We'll get there when we’re meant to."
My two favorite tracks on Oh Downhill are "Please Don't Be" and "My Skin." If you've fallen in love with Oh Downhill, don't stop there - be sure to check out Hazlett's 2020 EP, Thundering Hopes.
Paul Moody | By Your Side
My first memory of hearing indie folk singer-songwriter Paul Moody's music goes back to his 2016 Drinks EP release, and tracks like "Elaina" and "Drowning Man" that embodied a stripped-down, acoustic musical vibe and personal, reflective lyrics. Over the past several years, Paul has created music with his 'Revelators' band as well as on his own. His latest album release, By Your Side, is one of his most outstanding, containing 11 tracks with themes and topics that range from personal heartache and loss to tragedy, along with one about a cocaine angel.
Paul's ability to tell personal, touching and sometimes humorous stories in his music is as on-point as ever on By Your Side, an album that started with about 40 demos, written and recorded during a five month period when Paul lived in Nashville. The strongest songs were selected and recorded from his acoustic guitar in a small windowless cabin without running water near Woodstock, NY. Listening to the tracks on By Your Side, I find it easy to escape the bustle and worries of life, and for a little while become absorbed in the depths and nuances of the songs and stories told. My favorite songs are title track "By Your Side," "Holding On," "No Road Home" and "Cocaine Angel."
Wild Pink | ILYSM
My love of NYC-based Wild Pink's music stems back to 2018 when I first heard the band's then-current single, "There Is A Ledger." One listen to their album Yolk In The Fur turned me into a Wild Pink fan. Follow-up album, A Billion Little Lights (2021), was equally as captivating and impressive, with singles like "You Can Have It Back" and "Oversharers Anonymous" that reached the ears of even more listeners. While writing for the band's current album, ILYSM (I Love You So Much), lead singer John Ross learned of an unexpected cancer diagnosis. Despite several surgeries and medical appointments, he persisted in the songwriting and creative process that ultimately resulted in the band's ILYSM album.
After my first listen, it was clear to me that ILYSM was an outstanding release and the most engaging Wild Pink album to date. The six-plus minute title track is something truly special to take in. There are so many disparate influences and elements at play. The pulsing beat of "ILYSM" reminds me of Robyn's "Dancing On My Own." I hear bits of Peter Gabriel ("Come Talk To Me"), along with aural memories of being immersed in the walls of guitar delay and effects of a 90's Slowdive concert (listen at 2:47 into the song). Along with "ILYSM," my favorite album tracks include "Hold My Hand" (with Julien Baker), "See You Better Now" and "Abducted At The Grief Retreat."