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Tag: jangle rock

In Memoriam: Tom Verlaine

Television guitarist and co-founder Tom Verlaine, whose distinctive style fused psychedelia, janglerock and in later years ambient music, died suddenly on January 28. He was 73.

Born Tom Miller, Verlaine took the name of one of the French poets whose work he discovered while in his teens. Alongside fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd, bassist Richard Hell and drummer Billy Ficca, Verlaine founded Television in New York in 1975. Although they were not a punk band, they were one of the first groups to have a regular residency at CBGB.

Television’s first two albums, 1977’s Marquee Moon, and Adventure, from a year later, achieved marginal commercial success but were enormously influential on subsequent, jangly guitar bands, from the Soft Boys, to the Larch. Marquee Moon is commonly cited as one of the greatest albums of all time.

In Television, Verlaine’s sinuous, melodic climbs and cascades contrasted with Lloyd’s harder-edged attack, often echoing the Grateful Dead’s two-guitar dichotomy. Where Lloyd would punch in with riffs and chords, Verlaine opted for melodic variations and rarely employed distortion, preferring a clean, ringing Fender guitar sound that drew on surf rock as much as Jerry Garcia and Lou Reed. Many of Television’s songs feature the two guitars exchanging roles and conversational ideas, a common jazz trope that was rare in rock bands of the era.

After the band’s breakup, Verlaine pursued a solo career and focused more on briefer, more pop-oriented songcraft. Verlaine also produced albums for two of the most important, twangy rock bands of the 80s, True West and the Room, as well as two Jeff Buckley cd’s.

Verlaine regrouped Television in 1992, primarily as an instrumental unit, with limited and highly sought-after live performances in the years that followed until he left the band for good in 2007.

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In Memoriam: David Crosby

David Crosby. who with his guitarist bandmate Roger McGuinn invented janglerock in their iconic 60s band the Byrds, died yesterday at 81.

Like the Beatles, the Byrds played Rickenbacker guitars, which have a distinctively ringing, high-midrange tone enhanced by a high-pitched harmonic resonance. The Byrds maximized that effect, with McGuinn playing a twelve-string model.

Unlike the Beatles, whose early songs were based on chords and riffs, McGuinn and Crosby pioneered the use of broken chords and a slower style of bluegrass-inspired flatpicking. The Byrds were unsurpassed at Dylan covers; the group’s enormous influence on generations of jangly rock bands, from Big Star, to the Church, to REM, cannot be overstated. Crosby’s high vocal harmonies and imaginative guitar work were central to the Byrds’ sound. Their hit I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better remains one of the foundational songs in the style: pretty much every rock guitarist knows it.

Crosby’s career after the Byrds was erratic. He was a founding member of 70s harmony-rock band Crosby Stills Nash & Young, whose frequently pompous, cloying, folky sound has not aged well.

Crosby’s long solo career afterward was spent mainly on the nostalgia circuit. Tragically, he was imprisoned for crack possession in the mid-80s when he really needed rehab. He would later require a liver transplant due to his heavy cocaine and heroin use.

The 2nd Smartest Guy in the World Substack asks if Crosby was murdered by the lethal Covid injection. Crosby claimed on social media to have taken the shot, but with so many celebrities buying fake vaxx cards, we will probably never know the answer. On one hand, the world’s most-published cardiac physician, Dr. Peter McCullough, asserts that until proven otherwise, we should always assume that the Covid shot is to blame if someone who has taken it dies suddenly. On the other hand, very few people survive into their eighties after a lifetime of heavy drug abuse and an organ transplant.

Allusively Sinister Lyrical Brilliance and Slyly Cynical New Wave Tunesmithing on Ward White’s New Album

“Ice cream chords” is a derisive musician’s term for cheesy, predictable changes. In the age of autotune, Microsoft Songsmith and indie rock, ice cream chords have come to reflect a rare level of craft. On his fourteenth album, streaming at Bandcamp, Ward White celebrates those and many more serious changes via various levels of subtly venomous humor, meta, and a classic anthemic sensibility.

At this point in his career, the songwriter who got his start around the turn of the century working the corners of what was then called alt-country has reached rarefied first-ballot hall-of-fame terrain typically reserved for people like David Bowie and Richard Thompson. It is not hype to say that White ranks with both: he can sing like the former if he feels like it, and like the latter can be a force of nature on the fretboard. But ultimately it’s tunesmithing that distinguishes him the most. He’s dabbled with glam, allusively macabre nonlinear art-rock (his Bob album topped the best-of-2013 list here) and new wave. Most recently White has been mining a jangly yet unpredictable three-minute song vein packed with triple entendres, literary references and frequent violence: Elvis Costello meets Warren Zevon out behind the Rat in Boston circa 1983.

This album is a slight change of pace, somewhat more lighthearted and new wave flavored: lyrically, it’s more of a Bond sci-fi weapon than a switchblade. The ravages of time are a recurrent theme. The opening number, Shorter is probably the only chorus-box guitar song ever to reference both 70s one-hit wonders Brewer & Shipley and the Police. Pulsing tightly along with White’s terse guitar and bass textures, Tyler Chester’s keys and Mark Stepro’s drums, it’s a slicker if equally aphoristic take on Tom Warnick’s Gravity Always Wins.

White can’t resist paying a visit to the Mr. Softee truck to kick off the more powerpop-flavored but similarly metaphorical Rumors: the guitar solo joke is too hilarious to spoil. With lingering tremolo guitar, airconditioned organ and a loping beat, DeSoto is not a reference to the proto-conquistador but an old Chrysler brand: violence and madness make their first appearances, quietly if not particularly efficiently.

Mezcal Moth – which has a cruelly funny spy story video on White’s homepage – is a return to skittishly strutting, cynically imagistic new wave with goofy late 60s/early 70s guitar effects. This is what happens when you eat zee bugs!

Spacy keys waft over ominously lingering tremolo guitar and gospel-tinged piano in the album’s title track, a slow, coldly imagistic anthem contemplating the perils of fame and selling out….among other things. The pace and the jokes pick up again with Like a Bridge, although the song also has the cruelest Vietnam War allusion ever committed to vinyl or its digital analogue.

“Ever get the sinking feeling your best years are behind you?” White asks in Born Again, one of his signature, meticulously detailed portraits of a real sicko. “That spattered pattern on the ceiling, that’s how they’re going to find you, you stayed too long.”

Horses is not the Patti Smith song but a subtly bossa-soul flavored original. “This inkblot Camelot is eating on me every day,” White muses and hits his fuzz pedal before continuing with an offhandedly sinister John Perkins-style deep state tale. The band pick up from a goofy Men at Work strut to lush Byrds jangle and back in Prominent Frogman: “You can bend me all the way to ten though my offer stands at nine,” White gnomically advises. There’s screaming subtext here, the question is what.

Signore is a seedy end-of-vacation scenario that wouldn’t be out of place in the Steve Wynn catalog, White tossing off some unexpected flamenco phrasing amid the warpy synth, terse piano and wry guitar-sitar lines.

The funniest joke on the album is the guitar riffage that opens 50,000 Watts Ago, but it’s only of many in this subtly caustic middle-finger salute to mockingbird radio. “I didn’t earn this nametag just by doing what I’m told/You’ll never move that Trinitron until the black-and-whites have been sold,” White warns over a distantly ominous midtempo psych-pop backdrop on the album’s final cut. Slouch.

Several of these tracks could easily qualify for best song of 2022, as could this album as a whole. Stick around a couple of weeks for when the year-end lists hit the front page here, a little late, and find out where this lands.

A Catchy, Tantalizingly Textured New Album From Dot Dash

On their Bandcamp page, Dot Dash provide a long list of artists they’ve shared the stage with over the years, from the Psychedelic Furs, to the Brian Jonestown Massacre, to straight-up punk acts like the Dickies and 999. But the Washington, DC power trio have more of a melodic 90s sound that comes across as a psychedelic pop take on peak-era REM…without the Georgia band’s pretentions. Their new album Madman in the Rain proves they still have plenty of catchy hooks and vocal harmonies left in the tank. And they always leave you wanting more: few of these songs clock in at more than three minutes.

Hunter Bennett’s snappy, counterintuitively melodic bass propels the first track, Forever Far Out, frontman/guitarist Terry Banks building an enveloping blend of textures over Danny Ingram’s hard-hitting, straight-ahead drums.

Track two is Space Junk, Satellites, a pulsing, chiming, bossa-tinged tune with roller-rink organ from mystery sideman Geoff. Tense & Nervous has an aptly skittish drive that brings to mind the early 80s Boston scene, then Banks turns up both his reverb and his treble over Bennett’s gritty, swaying drive and the keening organ in Animal Stone.

That same dynamic persists in the interweave of guitar multitracks and growly bass on the album’s gorgeously pensive title track

Banks hands over the melody line from his icy chorus-box lead to a wry early 80s bass riff in Airwaves. Then with Trip Over Clouds the trio put a trebly, pouncing 90s-style take on late Beatles psychedelia.

With its bounding, rising bassline, Saints/Pharaohs is the closest thing here to vintage REM, Ingram peaking out with his surfy drum rolls. The band make a return to wistful territory, but with layers of bristling jangle and clang in Lonesome Sound: it could be an East Coast version of the early Long Ryders.

Imagine a young Matt Keating fronting the Who and you get Everything = Dust. Wokeupdreaming could be REM covering a late 80s Jesus & Mary Chain song, with a good singer out front. The band wind up the record with a cheery, Happy Mondays-style romp, Dead Gone. If classic tunesmithing from the past thirty years is your thing, roll down your windows and crank this thing.

Drifty, Starry Sounds in Ridgewood on the Sixth of the Month

In Chinese astrology, each lunar year is assigned to one of a dozen animals. January 22, 2023 marks the first Year of the Hare since 2011. In a distant preview of what might be coming, Queens band Year of the Hare – who have an interesting, intricate sound that falls somewhere between spacerock, shoegaze and psychedelic folk – are playing on Dec 6 at 8:30 PM at Bar Freda in Ridgewood. Cover is $10.

Like innumerable New York bands, it’s been awhile since their last recording. But their most recent release, a self-titled 2018 ep streaming at Bandcamp, is intriguing. From what they have up there, it seems there may have been some turnover in the band, but that’s no surprise considering how much has happened since they released it.

The first track, In Faulkner Co. has a sparkling but enigmatic web of electric and acoustic guitars. Axemen Ian Milliken and Ryan Hopper blend voices with a similar freshness as the drums finally kick in – that’s either Matt Nelson or Zach Fisher behind the kit. The autotune interlude is an unwelcome interruption

Leon Johnson’s slide steel enhances the drifty dreampop ambience of the second track, Hunters. The most atmospheric yet also most energetic track here is Two Lights, with Johnson adding violin to the shimmery mix: guitarist Meera Jagroop is in there somewhere as well. Then the band wind up the album with its most delicate cut, Architrave. Given an engaged crowd and a decent sound system, this could be music to get lost in.

Gorgeous, Purist Rock Tunesmithing and an East Village Gig From the Bastards of Fine Arts

Rock supergroups in New York are in short supply right now, but the Bastards of Fine Arts are at the top of the list. Guitarists Matt Keating and Steve Mayone are connoisseurs of classic songcraft, from powerpop to Americana to soul. And it’s impossible to think of a more colorful, melodic rhythm section than bassist Jason Mercer and drummer Greg Wieczorek. Keating and Mayone got their start as a duo. After putting out a series of viral videos on a certain social media platform that this blog boycotts, they survived the 2020 lockdown to release their debut album, A Good Sign, streaming at Bandcamp. They’re playing 11th St. Bar on Nov 30 at 8 PM.

They open with Hardest Part, a gorgeous, slowly swaying anthem that would fit in perfectly with the late 90s Jayhawks catalog, right down to the vocal harmonies. The way Mercer winds his way up out of the last chorus is a characteristic, luscious touch.

Track two, Take the Fall, is a punchy Keating take on vintage Lou Reed. The band add strings from violin superstar Claudia Chopek and organ from Keating in Happens All the Time, a tale of abandonment which winds from wry to absolutely vindictive: the ending is way too good to give away.

Mayone moves to banjo for the front porch Americana-tinged waltz Enough to Make You Cry. They stick with 3/4 and Mayone on banjo as they pick up the pace with Any Old Town, a cynical glimpse of rust belt anomie.

Row Away, an elegy, features a glimmering noctural interweave between Keating’s electric piano and Mayone’s sinuous lead work. Then the band kick in harder with the snidely strutting, ragtime-inflected Can’t Get My Head Around It.

They remake an earlier slow song, A Walk in the Park, as briskly chugging mid 70s British pub rock. Hole in One is brooding 60s soul through the prism of Abbey Road Beatles – right down to the watery analog chorus guitar patch, plus some neat tarantella work from Chopek and the rest of the crew..

Comin’ Home, a hushed folk-rock tune, celebrates a return from California to a now-vanished New York: these days it’s six of one, half a dozen of another. What a beautiful time it was when a song like this made you feel at home.

Keating takes over on gospel piano in You on My Arm. Next up, the band blend punchy Keith Richards riffage into a big Jayhawks-style anthem in the album’s title track.

Keating slows down for Kids, a wryly amusing look at trans-generational angst (incidentally, he is very good at the generational stuff: his daughter Greta is a similarly sharp, melodic multi-instrumentlist and songwriter). The group close the record on a benedictory note with a wee hours saloon blues tune of sorts, Lucky Stars.

Jessie Kilguss Brings Her Purist Tunesmithing and Subtle Lyrical Power to the Rockwood

Jessie Kilguss wrote Great White Shark in prison. We don’t know if the multi-instrumentalist lit-rock songwriter violated any of ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s insane 2020 antisocial distancing regulations, but she wasn’t in the slammer because of that. She actually walked out of jail that day. Full disclosure: she came up with the song while leading a songwriting class for prisoners.

It’s the first single on her new album What Do Whales Dream About at Night?, which is due to hit her Bandcamp page this weekend. It’s got stately, bittersweet ELO major/minor changes, Naren Rauch’s layers of jangly guitars mingling with Kilguss’ harmonium and soaring, subtly mapled vocals.

The rest of the record reflects Kilguss’ stature as one of the great tunesmiths to emerge from this city in the past decade. It’s her deepest dive into lush chamber pop, and her most lyrically opaque release to date: her narratives really draw you in. She paints a guardedly hopeful if surreal picture in the first track, House of Rain and Leaves over a distantly bucolic guitar backdrop: “The rules don’t apply to you, at least not mine,” she relates

Rauch teams with bassist Whynot Jansveld and drummer Brian Griffin for a Some Girls-era Stonesy drive in the second track, Outside, Kilguss channeling righteous anger as she reaches for the rafters. The Attacca Quartet‘s Nathan Schram is a one-man string section over increasingly brooding layers of jangle and clang in The Tiger’s Wife, a metaphorically-loaded tale.

Coyote Street is the big anthemic hit here, a vivid LA tableau which could be the Church at their late 80s peak with a woman out front. Kilguss took the inspiration for the elegantly orchestrated, swaying title track from Serhiy Zhadan’s poem Headphones, a reflection on psychologically escaping an earlier Ukrainian conflict. Kilguss finally drops her signature allusiveness for a witheringly direct look at how violence percolates downward.

The album’s longest, most lushly symphonic track is Sleepwalking Heart, a slow, Lou Reed-tinged existential view of the psychology of denial. She picks up the pace with the similarly Velvetsy Roman Candles and closes the record with You Were Never Really Here, a delicate, painterly detailed portrait of a doomed relationship, spiced with wistful glockenspiel. Listeners who’ve been entranced by Kilguss’ earlier and often more overtly dark work are going to love this. It’s one of the best albums of 2022.

Kilguss is playing the album release show with a string section at the downstairs room at the Rockwood on Sept 23 at 8:30 PM for $10. Onstage, she can be outrageously funny: check out her deliciously snarky dismissal of Ted-talk pretense.

Funny Memes, Big News and Some Good Singles For Sunday

Today’s singles page has about a half hour worth of good tunes and a couple of good visual jokes, but also a blockbuster video from one of the heroes of the freedom movement…and a stunning admission of guilt for crimes against humanity by a government insider. Click on artist or author names for their webpages, click on titles for audio, video, or just a good laugh.

As Etana Hecht reports, “Dr. Grace Lee is a Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, with a specialty in infectious diseases. She also currently serves as the chair of the US Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices, otherwise known as ACIP. ACIP is the only outside organization that the CDC consults with when recommending a vaccine. As such, she’s the perfect person to bring vaccine-related information to. When Yaffa Shir-Raz broke the story that the Israeli Ministry of Health covered up the true rate of vaccine side effects, Steve Kirsch thought it was critical that Dr. Lee be aware of the definitive data that came from that report. As it’s not information the CDC is acknowledging or publicizing, Mr. Kirsch assumed there’s a good chance that Dr. Lee had not yet come across that data. He proceeded to email her and call her at work to inform her of this critical information, yet all attempts at contact failed. He then attempted to deliver the news to her in person, as a process server would. On a visit to her door yesterday, Mr. Kirsch wrote a note asking Dr. Lee if she’d like to see the Israeli data, with a reminder that lives are at stake.”

Then Lee called the cops. Tension ensued – and Kirsch got it all on video. “Somebody is on the wrong side of history and it isn’t me.”

In 2 minutes 12 seconds, Dr. Paul Alexander reveals how the CDC’s Robert Redfield told him that the six-foot rule was completely made up and had no basis in science – via Celia Farber. “People died because of that six foot rule.”

Here’s 57 seconds of Holocaust survivor Vera Sharav on the psychology of compliance: pretty much all you need to know.

In a minute 20 seconds, the spiritual face of the Canadian freedom movement, Pastor Artur Pawlowski explains why “the fence belongs to the devil,” and you can’t sit on it. Either you’re on the side of the angels…or the other side.

Texas Lindsay compares lethal injection uptake and deaths by income to a familiar Pink Floyd soundtrack.

Chirpy singer Andrea Lynn’s band Iceblynk has a new single, Tragic, a skittishly catchy take on swirly/jangly early 90s Lush dreampop.

Julia Kugel of the Coathangers has a solo project she calls Julia, Julia. Her latest hazy, sad janglerock single, Do It Or Don’t, makes a good segue – with some gruesome imagery in the video!

Continuing with the dreampop, Emeryld’s Bombs Away is a louder, punchier take on it, as Garbage might have done it in the mid-90s. Speaking of creepy – check out the Jean-Paul Sartre visual reference in the first 20 seconds!

A.A. Williams‘ seven-minute art-rock trip-hop epic The Echo comes across as a less angst-fueled, self-absorbed Amanda Palmer, maybe

In addition to publishing one of the most intelligent, thoughtful daily news feeds out there, Joss Wynne Evans is also a connoisseur of poetry and a great reader. In about a minute and a half, he reads Nick Snowden Willey’s poem A Deep Perplexity That Has No Name. “Out on the moors last night I found the bones of memory…”

The Babylon Bee did a pretty hilarious skit about a Cali couple adjusting to a new life in the (mostly) free state of Texas, via Mark Crispin Miller‘s must-read Substack.

Another front-line freedom fighter, Brooklyn’s Brucha Weisberger gives us a newly creepy way to think of kids and smoking.

In addition to being one of the great prose stylists on the web, Amy Sukwan is the queen of memes. How do we solve global warming? Hint: the same way we got rid of Covid (not).

Let’s close this out with a harrowing look at the possible future and then a heartwarming alternate view. Want to know why the World Economic Forum is pushing so hard to keep muzzles on toddlers? Conditioning. This two-minute video of Chinese babies being groomed to submit to the New Abnormal will break your heart, via the 2nd Smartest Guy in the World Substack.

But there’s hope! Scroll to the very bottom for Tessa Lena’s look at cross-species compassion. The buffalos and the birds are showing us the way!

Greta Keating Brings Her Catchy, Eclectic Tunesmithing to the Lower East Side

Although there’s a long history of family legacies in folk music around the world, and plenty of cross-generational jazz pollination, rock tends to die with the first generation. The good rock legacies are a very short list: the Dylans (Bob and Jakob), the Rigbys (Amy and Hazel), the Lennons (John and Sean), with the Allisons (Mose and Amy) at the top of the list if you count brilliance that transcends jazz and Americana.

Add the Keatings to that list. Greta Keating is the daughter of Matt Keating – whose prolific and darkly lyrical songwriting career spans janglerock and soul, and goes back to the 90s – and his wife Emily Spray, a somewhat less prolific songwriter but an equally breathtaking singer. In this case, the apple didn’t fall far. Greta Keating has a soaring voice, writes catchy, anthemic songs, has a flair for the mot juste and like her dad plays a number of instruments. She’s bringing those songs to the small room at the Rockwood on Sept 23 at 7 PM.

Also like her dad, she writes a lot of songs. Her Soundcloud page has a bunch, some which could fall into the bedroom-pop category, others which are more fleshed out with acoustic and electric guitars, judicious piano, organ and occasional synthesized strings.

Keating has a thing for starry, drifting Julee Cruise-like tableaux, and there are a bunch here, including It’s a Drug, Ain’t It Strange and Hungry Dog. My Perfect Man is torchier, in waltz time, as is The Cold Makes Me Think, a hazy, spacious piano ballad that brings to mind A. A. Williams.

Keating goes into opaque trip-hop in Betwixt and Between, then reaches for quietly venomous, cynical Lynchian pop vibe with 15-Year-Old Boy. Too Late to Lay could be an early Everything But the Girl song with more delicate vocals, while Head Down to My Toes is a determined adventure into big assertive anthemic stadium rock.

How Could You Be But You Were is a bittersweet, swing-tinged stroll. The best song on the page is Small As I Felt, where she raises the angst to redline over Orbisonian crescendos: it screams out for sweeping orchestral strings and a kettledrum.

A Girl With Cheeks Damp is another stunner, a brooding plunge into jazzy 70s soul. The funniest tune on the page is Adderall Song: crystal meth makes people do the craziest things, huh?

The rest of the many songs in this long playlist range from soul (Hard to Please), to driving, sarcastic rock (My Body Is Allergic); dreamy Stereolab sonics (Out of Nowhere) and fingersnapping Peggy Lee jazz (Shadow Shadow).

There’s even more on Keating’s youtube channel, including a Telecaster-driven powerpop shout-out to girl-bonding empowerment. If the future of New York rock tunesmithing is your thing, Keating’s songs will resonate with you.

A Gorgeous New Album and a Williamsburg Gig by Purist Tunesmith Alice Cohen

Alice Cohen plays purist, often gorgeously melodic, artsy rock anthems and sings with an unpretentious delivery that’s sometimes cheery and sometimes borders on conspiratorial. On her new album Moonrising – streaming at Bandcamp – she plays most of the instruments herself, building a lush bed of acoustic and electric guitars and vintage synths over an unobtrusive drum-machine beat. Multi-reedman David Lackner and multi-percussionist Adrian Knight flesh out Cohen’s elegant arrangements. She’s playing Union Pool on August 24 at 9 PM. Since the venue has fallen under the spell of surveillance-state digital ticketing, the cover charge there lately has been measured in dollars and cents. It stands to reason that the door girl will round it up to sixteen bucks for those of us who are ahead of the curve and have gone to #cashalways.

Cohen opens the record with Wild Wolf, a swaying, twangy, Lynchian trip-hop ballad: this “eight-track Cadillac cruising through the milky way” seems to be on its way back from the Black Lodge. Then she looks back to the bittersweet starriness of 80s janglerock in Bodies in Motion. It could be a track from the Church’s Seance album, with a woman out front.

Cohen picks up the pace with Life in a Bag, an insistent, 90s-flavored downstroke anthem spiced with neoromantic piano flourishes. After the starry keyboard instrumental Inner Galaxies, she goes back to a pensive, richly textured sway with Under Chandeliers, her watery guitars and glimmering keys mingling with Knight’s vibraphone and Lackner’s echoing, spiraling soprano sax.

Baby’s Fine is a surreal mashup of early 80s new wave pop with hip-hop lyrics: it’s hard to figure out where the sax stops and what could be an old Juno synth kicks in. Vanilla Tea is a glistening backbeat stadium rock nocturne without the bombast – an oxymoron, sure, but just try to imagine.

The driftiest, most opaque song on the album is Telepathic Postcards. Cohen follows that with Queen Anne’s Lace, a breezy, jazz-inflected ballad in a Stylistics vein that she takes ten years forward in time – or forty years forward, depending on how neo-retro it seems to you. She closes the record with Fragile Flowers, following a serpentine series of chord changes with Lackner’s sax floating above. It’s been a slow year for rock records, at least compared to what we were used to before March of 2020, but this is one of the best of 2022 so far.