2022 consumption: a look at some stuff I liked

Here we are again at the end of a year that feels like it only began the other week. It’s been a big one for lots of reasons, and I’ve gotten through it OK – I think? – but I have to take issue with my hopeful belief in the last one of these things that I’d somehow get more motivation in 2022.

Hahahahahahaha.

I didn’t.

In keeping with my lack of motivation, this recap may be a little shorter than previous years, but I’m hoping there’s still something in here that might pique your interest. It’s a collection of stuff that I enjoyed (or didn’t) through this year, and is one in a continuing line. Faintly ridiculous effort, but this will make it ten years of this kinda stuff, so let’s go.

Previous versions are here, here, herehere, here, here, here, here and here if you need an introduction.

Music
Honestly, I still haven’t recovered from losing my terabytes of ripped music. I’ve gone more all-in with Apple Music, which has changed the type of music I listen to, I think – a difference made even larger by my working through the 1001 Albums list. I’ve used Bandcamp to listen to more music in my (stupid-sized) library there, so there’s still some fucked-up outliers in the track listing.

It felt, as ever, that I’d listened to less music this year than I had in preceding years. According to my Last.fm account that is, once more, untrue: it’s hovering at almost 208k scrobbles, meaning that I listened to 13k tunes through the year. That’s 2000 songs more than in 2021, and more than double the amount of tunes heard in 2019.

Could this be because I am listening to enormous compilations with short tracks? Or hearing more albums with regular length tracks rather than drone epics? Possibly.

Here’s how LastWave views 2022.

Click this link for zoomed-in nerdery.

Statistically speaking (thanks) these are the musical facts of my recent listenings:

  • I’ve listened to 1947 unique artists, 17% of all artists I’ve ever listened to.
  • I’ve listened to 1431 unique albums, 8% of unique albums I’ve heard overall.
  • I’ve listened to 11560 unique tracks, 13% of the unique tracks I’ve heard, ever.

This means I’ve listened to fewer albums this year, but have listened to more artists and more songs than last year. Weird.

2022’s top 20 albums by tracks played:
Various Artists: Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965–1968; The Velvet Underground: Peel Slowly and See 1965–1969; Various Artists: Memories Overlooked: A Tribute to The Caretaker; Various Artists: Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond 1964–1969; David Chesworth: 50 Synthesizer Greats; Radiohead: KID A MNESIA; Simon Rattle: Mahler Complete Symphonies; Glenn Gould: Bach: Goldberg Variations BWV 988 (The 1955 & 1981 Recordings); Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe: Candyman Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Super Deluxe Edition).

(Click the links to hear the albums.)

For a more visual overview of what I listened to this year (along with a bunch more albums), cop a load of this:

(Click to zoom in.)

As expected, compilations and long-tracklist albums skew the data: almost all of the top ten albums fall into this category. Throughout the rest of the albums the same holds true: soundtracks and deluxe editions pepper the list.

I’m still moving through the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die listening project. There’s a lot of crap on there, for sure, but I have come across some cracker platters along the way. I’m about halfway through, and you can read my dubious takes here on my profile. If you’re interested, you can also join in the listening fun (?) by joining my group – that way you’ll be served the same albums as me on the same days.

Despite not managing to get reviews into them this year, I still contributed to Cyclic Defrost’s year-end list of Good Things. You can read my suggestions (along with a whole lot of other excellent choices from people with more of a clue than I seem to have) over here.

(I also selected some teas for your drinking pleasure.)

Here’s ten albums I dug this year in no particular order. Yes, they include the Cyclic Defrost selections. Yes, I’m lazy.

Again, this is a year for instrumental albums: there’s a lot of them here, and mostly of the drone persuasion. I can heartily recommend the Caretaker tribute as an ocean to get lost in, Nadja for some soul-destroying vocals, DEATHCOMET for one-man space madness, the Bad Manor for just INSANE metal horror carnival vibes, and Oren Ambarchi for another flawless release in a catalogue full of ’em.

Gigs
Once more, 2022 was a time where I eschewed gigs, for the most part. Partially this was because we were feeling much more at home in the middle of nowhere, but partially it was for health reasons – that and the continuing fuckery of COVID. However, I did see some shows. The one that was the year’s best was Nick Cave and Warren Ellis at the Sydney Opera House.

Smart-dressed bastards they were, too.

This was really a different type of show. Leaning heavily on the Carnage and Ghosteen albums, the pair – backed by a trio of gospel singers, Colin Greenwood and Larry Mullins – performed with joie de vivre I’d never seen in anything Bad Seeds-adjacent. They played for two-and-a-half hours, threw in a couple of happier songs to leaven the loaf of doom that comes from tunes written about dead children – no longer figurative – and pissfarted around with a glee that indicated Nick’s joy at being able to return to Australia was genuine.

Also, had you ever imagined you’d hear the Fire & Brimstone Kid cover T-Rex’s ‘Cosmic Dancer’? I know, right?

It was like watching a different man. Cave has been changed by the trials of the past few years, and emerged seemingly more humble, more human. This was no by-the-numbers show: the reviews I had read in advance of the gig – all glowing – had downplayed the event, if anything. It felt like something truly special. I’m so glad Katja convinced me to go, as initially I’d baulked at the price. In the end, it was worth everything I paid and more, as it felt a bit like one of those you-had-to-be-there things.

Here’s a recording of a full performance from earlier in the year. The setlists were very similar, so you’ll get a good idea of what the show was like. Enjoy.

HAND OF GOD. HAND OF GOD. HAND OF GOD.

FYI, Nick Cave describing Blixa Bargeld in Faith, Hope and Carnage as “the least nuanced person I’ve ever met in my life” is perhaps 2022’s harshest, yet fairest, line.

Podcasts
Getting knowledge into my ears was again the goal this year, so I kept up my regular podcasts – Matt Bevan’s excellent Russia If You’re Listening, Behind the Bastards, the Guardian‘s Audio Long Read, My Dad Wrote A Porno (which finished!), and Glitch Bottle – and added a couple more.

A couple of these were newsy or topical (The Teacher’s Trial and Ben Roberts-Smith v the Media coming on the heels of court cases, as did the Murdaugh Murders Podcast, which I had to eventually abandon due to irritation) but others were about folklore (Kowabana), cults (Let’s Talk About Sects), and artistic forgery (Art Fraud).

The two best podcasts I heard this year, however, came from the same person: Jamie Loftus. First, I listened to the excellent Ghost Church, a personal (and funny) look into Spiritualism, part family history and part Cassadaga travelogue. After enjoying it so much, I checked out her series on Nabokov’s Lolita, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Lolita Podcast is my pick of the year, because it tackles a controversial work and tries to bring a voice to the victimised child at its core. If you’ve read the book – or if you haven’t and would like to, or if you haven’t and won’t – then give this a go, as it’s a feminist dissection of the work and its cultural shadow. There’s so much good work in this series: each episode gave me something to chew over, to question. No notes.

Books
As I’ve done for a few years now, I made bookish plans on the first day of 2022. Unlike other years, I kept my suggested book numbers in line with the year: 22 for 2022. How did I go? Well, here’s what I managed to cross off the list:

14/22 isn’t too bad, gotta admit. Lotta cat hair in this picture now that I’m zoomed in, though.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ll be adding the unread books to my continually growing TBR page, so these won’t be just disappearing into the aether: they’ll create some kind of Ozymandian sculpture to shame me into reading sometime down the track.

(Neat, hey?)

What did I read, though? Well, you can sift through the 2022 reviews I’ve put up by using this tag.

Through the year, I’ve read 52 books, covering about 21,000 pages. This is more than last year by a sizeable number of pages, though some purists would probably quibble that some of those titles don’t count because they were – horror! – audiobooks.

Yes, this year I embraced audiobooks! And they’re rad. I wouldn’t want to use them for particular types of text, but for long car trips or commutes they’re pretty ace. Mowing while being read to? Delightful. You should try it.

My average rating for books this year was 3.8, which indicates that there was a bit more meh in the field this year. Not bad, just … different. According to TheStoryGraph – which will become the only place I use to track books socially going forward – I have preferred slow, reflective books this year. Here’s how the reading itself panned out:

Like biorhythms but with wood pulp.

(Given that I was recovering from surgery in July, it’s not a surprise that the consumption increased then!)

I finally knocked over both The Decameron and The Art of Melancholy this year, which made me feel particularly (inordinately) proud. The books I really loved this year – from those I read, at least – were:

  • Mark Stevens & Annalyn Swan: Francis Bacon: Revelations
  • John Darnielle: Devil House
  • Edgar Mittelholzer: Eltonsbrody
  • Clinton Walker: Stranded: Australian Independent Music 1976–1992
  • Lucy Ellmann: Ducks, Newburyport

All of them are worth your time and I would not hesitate to recommend any of them. I have an especial liking for Ducks, Newburyport, however, as it seemed so vital, so fresh. I absolutely loved it.

(If you wish to contribute to this part of the write-up, feel free to buy me something from here. Or raid it for things you might like. What am I, your conscience?)

Movies
Through the year I managed to see – well, stream – 118 films, seven more than last year. At home, we began to watch through Quentin Tarantino’s works with mates Julia and Nick, and though there were a couple of joint viewings of films, I tended to stream stuff on my own. I kept up the constant stream of terrible horror/Japanese films as I guess that’s who I am now.

I’m pretty sure I only saw one film in the cinema: Top Gun Maverick because as if I wasn’t going to.

Stuff from this year that I enjoyed?

  • Violent Night – could this be the perfect Christmas movie? Could be.
  • Top Gun Maverick – nothing new under the sun, but done very well.
  • Nope – featuring the best titular line delivery in cinema.
  • Barbarian – fucking AirBNB.
  • Hellraiser – if this is the start of a new series, I’m here for it.
  • Resurrection – that lead performance is horrifyingly good.
  • Pearl – so OTT that it shouldn’t work, but it does.
  • Prey – more of this kind of nuance, thanks.
  • Bullet Train – yes, it’s dumb. That’s the point.
  • You Won’t Be Alone – emphatically grim.
  • The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – perhaps perfect?

And for the sheer how did this get made?-ness of it all, a special mention to Nude Tuesday, which is basically The Swedish Chef but at movie length. Brilliant. One of the subs is much better than the other, so I guess you’ll have to watch it twice to be sure.

Happy Saw Jermaine Clement’s Wang Day to you!

You can check out my diary at Letterboxd. There’s “witty” reviews in there, somewhere.

(After I wrote this post, I watched Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and yes, it’s in my top list. Great camp fun!)

TV
Again, this means streaming, not free-to-air. What am I, some kind of schlub?

(Yes, but I also don’t do FTA.)

The project of watching The Simpsons all the way through continues, and we’ve passed the problematic point and are closer to today than ever – I think we’re within shouting distance of the end, now. The quality is better than I had imagined, and. the hit rate with jokes is a lot better than the formerly old-seasons-are-better me would have admitted.

I caved and watched the terribly named Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, and while the lead performances were something to behold, I couldn’t help but feel ick from sitting through it. That’s not because of the crimes – heinous as they were – because I knew what I was getting into. It was more from the feeling that the show was verging on pornography: grief tourism that once again elevates the shithead and denies any sort of agency to the victims. It’s telling that the best episode of the series was that involving Tony Hughes, a deaf victim of the killer: it gave audiences more of a look at life from the POV of people affected by Dahmer’s acts, though it wasn’t enough to swing the series on to the side of god. There were, as I say, great performances, but overall it just felt intrusive and Not Great.

Similarly unfocused and, well, bad, was The Watcher, another Ryan Murphy production. I had such high hopes for this series, given the alarming source material but what resulted was a series that didn’t know if it wanted to frighten or amuse. Some actors were wasted in their roles, and though I stuck it out to the end (largely because I’d watched too much to check out before it finished) but I felt irritated right through. Boo.

So what was good? Two things stuck out this year and I am super fond of them both: Only Murders In The Building and Get Back. The former is a show made by two mates (and an endless parade of their Broadway chums) that manages to charm and confound in equal measure – capturing the grinding loneliness of big cities in an adroit way, too – and the latter is a technical marvel that makes you a fly on the wall as one of the biggest bands ever struggles through their writers’ block to deliver tunes you know in your bones. Both of these were excellent television, albeit from different parts of the spectrum, and I’d watch ’em again tomorrow.

How are they so young and just regular dudes? HOW?

(Honourable mention to the second season of The Vow (about NXIVM) and Keep Sweet: Prey and Obey (about Warren Jeffs and his multi-wifed fuckery) for ensuring fucked-up weirdo dudes were never far from our TV.)

Games
I feel that games fell a bit by the wayside this year, at least in terms of writing up what I’d completed. I had a big post ready to put up about what I’d been playing except it never really felt like it was ready. So here’s what I completed through the year, mostly on console. (I have to admit that Game Pass on the Xbox is great.)

  • Dishonored 2 – I’d never played this. It’s more of the same, but that formula is addictive.
  • Dishonored: Death of the Outsider – didn’t wrap everything in the bow I thought it would, but still fun.
  • Far Cry 6 – not the best, let’s be honest.
  • Control – kind of like going to work as Dale Cooper must be like. Loved it.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn – Superb. Both the base game and the expansion were great. I JUST WANT TO HUNT ROBOT DINOSAURS.
  • Dying Light 2 – not as cracktacular as the first game in the series, but I’m glad that it was made. Now I just need some DLC – it seemed to end a lot more quickly than I had expected.
  • The Procession to Calvary – Terry Gilliam-style stupidity that lets you slap bishops.
  • The Artful Escape – a touching story told well. Stupid solos with excellently OTT graphics to match.
  • Assassin’s Creed – where the neck-stabbing games of hide-and-seek began.
  • Assassin’s Creed II – a real leap in gameplay, still lots of fun the second time around.
  • Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood – I always get this mixed up with Revelations.
  • Assassin’s Creed Revelations – I always get this mixed up with Brotherhood.
  • Ghostwire Tokyo – who’s a sucker for a Tokyo map? (Me. It me.)
  • Stray – playing as a cat with a robot buddy was never going to be anything but a good time.
  • Lust for Darkness – Lovecraft with dongs.
  • Lust From Beyond – Lovecraft with more dongs.
  • Never-Ending Nightmares – feels bad.
  • The Walking Dead: Season One – that ending. You know the bit.

I’m currently in the middle of the second Walking Dead season (with a plan to finish the other series before too long), and through a replay of Assassin’s Creed III (before moving on through the rest of the series). I’ve been enjoying revisiting games I’ve already played (the AC series, mostly) as they provide a bulwark of familiarity against the crushing tide of whatever these years have been.

My picks for the year?

Ghostwire Tokyo, Stray and Horizon Zero Dawn. They’re also all PlayStation games. A sign?

And of course…
This year has been a big one for me and Eve. We’re more firmly ensconced in the area than ever, and are loving being out here. There’s been medical dramas and work changes, but being here remains the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve been working on myself personally and professionally, and while there’s been grim patches of the year – like there has been for everyone – I’m keen to see what is coming.

I don’t have this much hair any more, but I still do have the doughnut-wrapped dog.

Hopefully it’s as ultimately good as 2022 has been, in places. Surely that’s not too much to ask?

If you made it this far, who the fuck are you?

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