Ten Chronicle Music Writers on Their Favorite Austin Albums of 2022

Almost 100 albums we loved this year

Art by Zeke Barbaro / Getty Images

Wringing out the rest of pandemic-recorded albums around a flurry of returning live musical activity, local music in 2022 felt like a plurality. Whereas past years' isolated listening lent to long hours replaying LPs, more albums overall earned moments of my attention in the past 12 months. Back to the clubs, the car radio, the conversational recommendations; back to exposure. No one capital city collection reigned (especially as Black Pumas remain on hiatus, though producer Adrian Quesada threw in two), so, as always, we had a lot to consider: many a second LP evolution or best yet from a burgeoning favorite. Below, 10 Chronicle Music contributors expand on one of their favorite records from the year – unnumbered, not voted on, but delineated. A handful of much-loved selections from each writer follow, alphabetically, to pack in even more abundance from Austin.  – Rachel Rascoe

Kriss Conklin: Sir Woman, Sir Woman (Nine Mile)

In 2020, Austin's Kelsey Wilson strayed from her folk roots, venturing into pop and R&B inclinations with soul-gospel-funk amalgam Sir Woman. If 2020 EP Bitch was an introductory burst of light through darker exploration of Wilson's uncertainty, then full-length debut Sir Woman sees the bandleader fully illuminated: basking in self-love and sharing it. Lush multi-instrumental arrangements showcase the artist's belting, boundless vocals on tracks fit for disco ball shimmers. The self-titled effort progresses like a festivity: "Party City" greets with swaying hugs, "Blame It on the Water" tempts goodbyes, and penultimate groove "Cape Town Plush" dances the night away. (Read our past coverage of Sir Woman.)

More of Kriss' favorites, alphabetically: Blakchyl & Nez Tha Villain, G.E.N.I.U.S.; Dayglow, People in Motion; Die Spitz, The Revenge of Evangeline; 8BIT WIZRD, Blue; Hotmom, On TV; On Being an Angel, on being a tape vol. ii; The Pinky Rings, S/T; Pleasure Venom, Rebirth/Return; Why Bonnie, 90 in November

Kevin Curtin: Deezie Brown, 5th Wheel Fairytale

In the 58 minutes it takes Deezie Brown to roll out his grand vision – a panoramic view of Southern hip-hop enraptured with Texas car culture and instilled with a sky's-the-limit worldview – not a word is wasted, nor is any mix short of meticulous. So dense and detailed it rewards repeat listens, the record's 15 vignettes build thematically rather than narratively. Also fun and celebrant, 5th Wheel Fairytale presents the Bastrop singer/rapper/producer like the grand marshal of a parade, standing in front of a banner that reads: "Welcome to My World." (Read our feature on Deezie Brown.)

More of Kevin's favorites, alphabetically: Andrew Cashen, The Cosmic Silence; Big Bill, Public Freakout Compilation; BLK ODYSSY, BLK VINTAGE: THE REPRISE; Blushing, Possessions; Brennen Leigh ft. Asleep at the Wheel, Obsessed With the West; Caramelo Haze, NOESTÁSAQUÍ; Churchwood, 6: The Boule Oui; Fennec, a couple of good days; Water Damage, Repeater

Doug Freeman: Charley Crockett, The Man From Waco (Son of Davy)

Charley Crockett's suave country cool took off during the pandemic when the rest of the world seemed to pause. Credit the Texas native's familiar throwback sound, relentless recording and touring, or insistence on keeping one step ahead. For his 11th album in seven years, Crockett continues to evolve the broad Americana sweep of his music, this time teaming with Bruce Robison to cut his road-honed band the Blue Drifters live to tape. The result is a patient song cycle that lets narratives and characters cinematically develop, with some of the troubadour's best storytelling to date. (Read our past coverage of The Man From Waco.)

More of Doug's favorites, alphabetically: Aaron McDonnell, Too Many Days Like Saturday Night; Alex Dupree, Thieves; Calder Allen, The Game; Carson McHone, Still Life; Little Mazarn, Texas River Song; Melissa Carper, Ramblin' Soul; Patty Griffin, Tape; Sir Woman, S/T

Christina Garcia: Fennec, a couple of good days

How does it feel to finally arrive? Few Austin-spawned house LPs turn ears nationally, but Fennec's a couple of good days collects accolades. The sunshine-bright album beams a sugar rush of house music from a sample collagist stitching wistful hip-hop since 2014. On a slippery slope from early Panda Bear and Girl Talk influences to filter house, Fennec lands on tracks upbeat and groovy, but crunchy and muddy, too. More Avalanches than DJ Shadow, the zippy excursion – fulfilling the artist's "dream," per Twitter – landed on one Spotify user's "Retail House" playlist, glowing reviews be damned. (Read our review of a couple of good days.)

More of Christina's favorites, alphabetically: Bill Converse, Take Parts; BLK ODYSSY, BLK VINTAGE: THE REPRISE; Carson McHone, Still Life; Cuillere, Inner Soul Vibrations; Deezie Brown, 5th Wheel Fairytale; Dream Days, why am i crying at studio 69 rn; DRRTYWULVZ, Petrichor; Justin Hawkes, Existential; PointBender, Violaceous

Raoul Hernandez: Caramelo Haze, NOESTÁSAQUÍ (Nacional)

Latin indie, like Austin hip-hop, ripened exponentially during the pandemic, and local all-star offshoot Caramelo Haze proved among the juiciest harvests. Guitarist, producer, and studio owner Beto Martínez and drummer John Speice, both of Grupo Fantasma/Brownout/Money Chicha, alongside folk-punk Nemegata frontman Victor-Andres Cruz and UT (now Notre Dame) Ph.D. ethnomusicologist Alex Chávez brewed up big urban audio in NOESTÁSAQUÍ (You're Not Here). South American rhythms, Texas twang, and Spanish spellcasting – pulse, life force, grime – fuse Mexico, Colombia, and the live music capital into a one-world Latinate, 21st-century sound representing the last 2,000 years. ¡Otra, otra, otra! (Read our past coverage of NOESTÁSAQUÍ.)

More of Raoul's favorites, alphabetically: Adrian Quesada, Boleros Psicodélicos; Adrian Quesada, Jaguar Sound; Charley Crockett, The Man From Waco; Deezie Brown, 5th Wheel Fairytale; Johnny Degollado & JJ Barrera, Música al Estilo de Camilo; Kydd Jones, Onyx d'Or (No More Waiting); Mobley, Cry Havoc!; Nina Diaz, I Could Be You, You Could Be Me; various artists, Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver

Rachel Rascoe: Little Mazarn, Texas River Song (Dear Life)

Bundled around instrumental "Petit Coulee," Little Mazarn's second LP centers its influences: poetic, long-passed-down landscape hymns "Goodbye Old Paint" and "Texas River Song." Rather than resting on Southwestern laurels, the record reaches strange, spacious expansion. Naturalistic but futuristic: sentimental banjo plucks perfectly ground Jeff Johnston's squirmy singing saw and songwriter Lindsey Verrill's piercingly characteristic voice. Beyond the hyperpersonalization of many pandemic odes, the meditative record oversees a modern search for nurture, hanging monumental unease around on dissonant frequencies. Though in a flash, we see community fixture Verrill so clearly: "I was the kid in the graveyard/ Channeling spirits in a leotard." (Read our feature on Little Mazarn.)

More of Rachel's favorites, alphabetically: Bill Callahan, YTILAER; Blakchyl & HYAH!, broken communications from the outer rim; Charley Crockett, The Man From Waco; Chronophage, S/T; Chucky Blk, A Tower and Thereafter; Good Looks, Bummer Year; Moody Bank$, FEELING COLORS; More Eaze, Strawberry Season; Photokem, Luffon Bright

Mars Salazar: Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol, Doom Wop

My mom doesn't like it, and yours might not either, but the savage sacrilege littering Doom Wop teaches an undeniable master class in hard-rock hedonism, marking the second full-length by knucklehead trio Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol. Teasing a goddamn heart attack like grease dripping down the arm from a grilled patty, veins clog with the heavy metal sludge embalming this communion of gnawing distortion. The seething howls of Leo Lydon, wrenching bass tones of Aaron Metzdorf, and Sean St. Germain's spitfire drums christen them the grimy kingpins of local scum rock. (Read our feature on Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol.)

More of Mars' favorites, alphabetically: The Black Angels, Wilderness of Mirrors; Dewey Ivy, Gods in Gauze; Gus Baldwin, Thriller II; Heavy Meddo, Great News; Homemade Bangs, Love Letters; Party Van, Large Water; Public Age, MINIMUM WAGE; Sad Cell, HORSELESS; Zero Percent APR, Higher and Higher Forever

Michael Toland: Blushing, Possessions (Kanine)

Austin's never had a shortage of pedal worshippers, but Blushing loves the chain more than most. By deeply grokking sonic signatures and remembering to write standout songs in support of the distortoverb glimmerwave, dual married couples the Carmonas and the Sotos shook the shimmer so well a pair of U.K. OGs – Lush's Miki Berenyi and Ride's Mark Gardener – lent a hand. The collaborations tweaked international interest, but the strength of the album itself keeps Blushing on aficionados' lips. Possessions isn't just an all-timer in the Lone Star dream-pop parade – it's a top 10 shoegaze album from anywhere/-when. (Read our review of Possessions.)

More of Michael's favorites, alphabetically: Adrian Quesada, Boleros Psicodélicos; Adrian Quesada, Jaguar Sound; Bob Hoffnar & the Mood Illusion, Things We Wonder: An Interpretation of the Shaggs; Churchwood, 6: The Boule Oui; Destroyer of Light, Panic; Lisa Cameron/Jonathan Horne/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Joshua Thomson, Place Is the Space; Lloyd Maines, Eagle Number 65; The Margaret Slovak Trio, Ballad for Brad; Startographers, Static Calls

Julian Towers: More Eaze, Strawberry Season (Leaving)

If Strawberry Season is one of Mari Maurice's most challenging ambient environments to date, it's precisely because the album is so immediately and accessibly gorgeous. Though pastoral strings glow with golden-hour wonder and friendly bubbles of electronic sound goggle and whir like eyeballs of some excitable CGI movie critter, deeper listening reveals this soothing planet orbits a black hole of, ahem, uneaze. Named for the artificial intrusions that keep fruit unnaturally ripe year-round, Strawberry Season lulls with sleek, modernized beauty to demonstrate its real untrustworthiness – a wax flower potted in artisanal soil. (Read our feature of More Eaze.)

More of Julian's favorites, alphabetically: …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, XI: Bleed Here Now; The Bearer, Chained to a Tree; Bill Callahan, YTILAER; Deezie Brown, 5th Wheel Fairytale; Discreet, This Is Mine; Empyrrean, Manic Echoes; Fennec, a couple of good days; Fuck Money, S/T; Peace Decay, Death Is Only…

Derek Udensi: Chucky Blk, A Tower and Thereafter (Hushpuppy)

The masterful poet follows up 2020's scathing critique on modern-day American sociopolitical affairs with a microscopic window into his emotional state. Chucky Blk's second LP offers a treasure trove of relatable quotables, swaying between social media caption jewels and diaristic tears as he navigates the heartbreak of a fractured romance. Totaling a dense 26 minutes over hoarse production, songs each add a new layer to the lucid portrait of his rubble. Interludes range from a seven-second clip of the artist asking a friend not to capture him crying in H-E-B to a reminder that breakthrough occurs after a breakdown. (Read our past coverage of A Tower and Thereafter.)

More of Derek's favorites, alphabetically: Adrian Quesada, Jaguar Sound; Angélica Rahe, autorretrato; Blakchyl & HYAH!, broken communications from the outer rim; Deezie Brown, 5th Wheel Fairytale; Golden Hornet, MXTX: A Cross-Border Exchange; Ifé Neuro, Shadows on the Wall; Kydd Jones, Onyx d'Or (No More Waiting Deluxe); Melissa Carper, Ramblin' Soul; Y2, YaaYaa

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Top 10s 2022, Sir Woman , Deezie Brown, Charley Crockett, Fennec, Caramelo Haze, Little Mazarn, Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol, Blushing, More Eaze, Chucky Blk

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