Noise Floor’s Best of 2022

Lingua Ignota at The Sinclair

Looking back on the year with some favorite records, photos and gigs.

It’s time…for another long-winded year-ender post. Maybe not that long-winded this time. Every year I nearly back out of doing one of these, or making a best-of list, but I think I have to keep at them for accountability’s sake.

As years go, 2022 was actually a pretty good one around these parts. Things are more or less back to “normal” in the world of live music, and I had a full year’s schedule of shows to cover for the first time since 2019 – around 150, plus a handful of festivals, in total. And plenty of them I did right here. 2022 was undoubtedly Noise Floor’s biggest year as an independent music publication/digital entity, which is something I’ve wanted for a long time. “We” were all over Boston and on the road, covering huge tours, small shows, local gigs, festivals…everything from Rammstein’s pyrotechnic extravaganza to the Pavement reunion, Mercyful Fate’s first U.S. tour in decades, the final Gulch shows and Kraftwerk at Radio City. And that’s just the stuff that made it to the blog.

I did a good amount of freelance work I’m reasonably proud of too, working with Bowery Boston on the opening of Roadrunner, joining a small festival team for Nice A Fest’s expanded second year and dipping my tow back into some more “professional” writing with The Boston Globe. I even managed to go to some shows just for fun, absent any responsibility and making photos simply because I wanted to.

Relatedly, I shot an insane amount of film, too; more rolls on stage and off than any prior year of my life for sure. I took a film camera to nearly every gig and came away with a lot of grainy and imperfect results, but the process has remained satisfying, and I think helped me stay connected with why I want to photograph and document in the first place. I failed to keep the recurring analog feature running here (they only made it to Instagram), but bringing that back feels like a tackleable new year’s resolution.

Things obviously haven’t been perfect in the live music ecosystem in 2022 (Ticketmaster debacles, another year waiting for Great Scott 2.0, no one will use front light at The Sinclair anymore, many venues way too cold for some reason), but it’s felt good to be really, properly back, with every week bringing at least a show or two I wanted to catch. And for all the bad news that development has wrought, there are still signs of new growth in Boston beyond the mega-venues. The Crystal Ballroom/Rockwell team has had an incredible year bringing shows to Davis Square, and Allston has had a packed schedule at O’Brien’s in addition to new locally-focused nights at the Sil and Notch Brewery. Monday nights at Charlie’s are even not-sucking again! Whereas much of last year still felt like a tentative post-lockdown fog, this one actually offered some optimistic glints. I had missed those.

Readjusting to shooting so much live music strangely pushed me a bit out of touch with new releases this year. That’s not to say I didn’t hear a lot of things (250-ish new records), but my ear felt less adventurous – ultimately more drawn to comfort listens. Joyce Manor’s effortless 40 Oz. to Fresno was likely my most-spun of the year, while Black Country, New Road’s Ants from Up There was the emotional knockout that immediately topped my list. I also (am in the minority of people who) loved the new Arctic Monkeys, and found it a strong year for death metal in the form of very-different-from-one-another-but-all-very-excellent releases from Undeath, Worm and Dream Unending.

There’s lots of predictable stuff elsewhere among my picks (who knew I’d be all in on the big Radiohead side project?), which makes me feel a tad guilty. But a list that honestly reflects what I was listening to beats compiling one to look more critically tuned-in than I really am. I think these things function best as snapshots anyway, and to that end, maybe this first year of my thirties is the preamble to my music taste freezing in carbonite. Or maybe I’ll get deep into digital hardcore in the new year. Only 2023’s list can say.

Anyway, find my usual, loosely ranked top 50 below with a playlist, followed by 60 favorite live photos from throughout the year. Hear something new perhaps, and relive a great concert moment. Thanks for reading and see you in the pit.

Favorite records of 2022:

  1. Black Country, New Road – Ants from Up There
  2. Joyce Manor – 40 oz. to Fresno
  3. Arctic Monkeys – The Car
  4. The 1975 – Being Funny in a Foreign Language
  5. The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention
  6. Alvvays – Blue Rev
  7. Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia
  8. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
  9. Undeath – It’s Time…To Rise from the Grave
  10. MJ Lenderman – Boat Songs
  11. Worm – Bluenothing
  12. Special Interest – Endure
  13. Destroyer – Labyrinthitis
  14. Drug Church – Hygiene
  15. Yard Act – The Overload
  16. Black MIDI – Hellfire
  17. King Hannah – I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me
  18. Dream Unending – Song of Salvation
  19. Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems
  20. Alex G – God Save the Animals
  21. Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa
  22. Gilla Band – Most Normal
  23. Chat Pile – God’s Country
  24. The Mountain Goats – Bleed Out
  25. Bonny Light Horseman – Rolling Golden Holy
  26. Wilco – Cruel Country
  27. Palm – Nicks and Grazes
  28. Weyes Blood – And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow
  29. Knoll – Metempiric 
  30. Animal Collective – Time Skiffs
  31. The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field
  32. Dazy – OUTOFBODY
  33. Rachika Naya – Heaven Come Crashing
  34. Horse Lords – Comradely Objects
  35. Cult of Luna – The Long Road North
  36. Nnamdi – Please Have a Seat
  37. Beach House – Once Twice Melody
  38. Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance
  39. Blood Incantation – Timewave Zero
  40. Pup – The Unraveling of Puptheband
  41. The Comet is Coming – Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam
  42. Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful
  43. Bartees Strange – Farm to Table
  44. Panda Bear / Sonic Boom – Reset
  45. Death Cab for Cutie – Asphalt Meadows
  46. Mizmor / Thou – Myopia
  47. Cave In – Heavy Pendulum
  48. Ylayali – Separation
  49. Birds in Row – Gris Klein
  50. Kal Marks – My Name is Hell

60 Favorite Live Photos:

Chemical Fix at Paradise Rock Club
Bad History Month at State Park
The Beths at Royale
Dua Lipa at TD Garden, for The Boston Globe
Cerebral Rot at Middle East Upstairs
Deafheaven at Royale
Gang of Four at Crystal Ballroom
The Microphones at Somerville Theatre
Sons of Kemet at The Sinclair
The Tallest Man On Earth at Royale
Squid at Brighton Music Hall
Converge and Chelsea Wolfe at Roadrunner
Gulch at Saint Vitus
Lorde at the Boch Center, for The Boston Globe
Seed at O’Brien’s Pub
Cousin Stizz at Roadrunner, for The Boston Globe
Garth Brooks at Gillette Stadium, for The Boston Globe
Lingua Ignota at The Sinclair
Major Stars at Charlie’s Kitchen
Pup at House of Blues
Jeff Tweedy and David Byrne at Solid Sound, for The Boston Globe
Angel Bat Dawid at Solid Sound, for The Boston Globe
Turnstile at the Worcester Palladium
Low Cut Connie at Waking Windows
Stuyedeyed at Waking Windows
Colin of Arabia at the Harvard Square Pit
Kraftwerk at Radio City Music Hall
Superchunk at Paradise Rock Club
Future Teens at Crystal Ballroom
Leopard Print Taser at Crystal Ballroom
Paul Simon at Newport Folk Festival, for The Boston Globe
The Weeknd at Gillette Stadium, for Consequence of Sound
Dreamwell at Somergloom
Dummy at The Sinclair
Kehlani at Leader Bank Pavilion, for The Boston Globe
Sharon Van Etten at Leader Bank Pavilion
The Mountain Goats at Baltimore Sound Stage
Black Country, New Road at Bowery Ballroom
Carly Rae Jepsen at Roadrunner, for The Boston Globe
Death Cab for Cutie at The Met Philadelphia
My Chemical Romance at TD Garden, for DigBoston
New Order at Leader Bank Pavilion
Pavement at the Boch Center
Rammstein at Gillette Stadium
Red Hot Chili Peppers at Fenway Park, for The Boston Globe
Roxy Music at MGM Fenway
Spiritualized at Royale
Stereolab at Roadrunner
Wednesday at Crystal Ballroom
Fontaines D.C. at House of Blues
Hallelujah the Hills and Cassie Berman at Lilypad
Judas Priest at MGM Fenway
Actor Observer at The Rockwell
Guided By Voices at House of Blues
Insignificant Other at The Sinclair
Merciful Fate at MGM Fenway
The Smile at Roadrunner, for The Boston Globe
Liturgy at Middle East Upstairs
New Forms at Charlie’s Kitchen
Modest Mouse at Roadrunner