WYEP's Best of 2022
If you were to be put on the spot and asked to name your favorite music of 2022 you might find yourself stumped after naming a few songs. That’s why WYEP is here to remind you of the music that helped you navigate another challenging year. In 2022, there was no lack of great offerings from new artists as well as many long-time favorites. Check out our Best of 2022 and relive this year’s gift of music.
Album of the Year: Lucifer on the Sofa by Spoon
The Austin, Texas rockers have topped many lists before, but with their 10th studio album Lucifer on the Sofa, Spoon have hit a peak in their nearly three-decade career.
Among the many great qualities of Spoon is that they have changed, adapted, and successfully carved out their own path to become one of the few rock bands that truly sound only like themselves. Lucifer is part indie rock and blues and at times both funky and soulful with just the right amount of pop.
Britt Daniel is the co-founder, lead singer, and guitarist of the band. He provided some insight on the process of recording the album around the time of its release when our Program Director Liz Felix got to chat with him in a WYEP Live & Direct (from home) Session.
In the interview, Daniel said it had been a long journey to create this record, between the pandemic, releasing a greatest hits album, and a tour with Beck. Eventually, Daniel ended up back in his hometown of Austin, Texas, and continued to write new songs. During that time, he produced so much that it had to be reworked into Lucifer on the Sofa and further delayed the album’s release.
“That’s the thing that kept me sane, was to get lost in writing a song,” he said. “And then we had all of these new ones, and I was like ‘…these have got to go on the record. These are better than some of these central ones.’ So, we were a long way off now from being finished.” The record ended up with 10 total songs, and no wasted notes or filler tracks.
Daniel also spoke about the fondness he still has for listening to the radio. “It was the thing that made me realize that even when I couldn’t leave the house, or couldn’t leave my room, or felt lonely, or was bored, (radio) gave me the sense that there’s a world that’s still happening out there,” he said. “I have evidence. It’s coming through the radio.”
You can watch the full Live & Direct (from home) Session here.
After years of critical acclaim, Spoon’s success could be easy to take for granted. Their nine previous albums should not go unrecognized, but Lucifer on the Sofa stands out as a true masterpiece in the band’s discography. Lucifer on the Sofa is our 2022 Album of the Year!
Pittsburgh Artist of the Year: The Commonheart
The first time I saw The Commonheart, I was feeling rather cosmic at a small, local music festival my friends put on in Brookville, PA. I didn’t know the band then. I was just following the music that July evening, leaving our secluded campsite for the open field, allowing the night to make the plans. Immediately I was struck by the warm tone of Clinton Clegg’s voice, and I don’t think that sound will ever leave me. I climbed the hill with my friend and got lost in the music.
The next summer, it was an explosive set on the main stage at Deutschtown Music Festival, again surrounded by friends and immersed in a show unlike any other. The playing felt more practiced, the grooves tighter, the songs deeper in meaning. This was back in the days when Clinton used to jump down into the crowd and bang on his tom-tom as if it were the musical manifestation of his heartbeat, ending the show a sweaty mess, embraced by hundreds of his closest friends. It’s impossible to not want to get up there and pile on.
Soon after, they put out the brilliant record Pressure and it felt like the cooker was going to explode at any moment. Songs like “Show Me To The Light” and, especially, “Do Right” became the group’s mission statement and we all signed on. The venues got bigger and the jams got longer. Being in the audience felt like being at a family reunion, but your family is the kind of family that really knows how to get down.
Yet, the summer of 2019 feels like ancient history at this point. While we sat at home baking bread, learning new ways to work, and struggling with finding joy in a life so abruptly changed, The Commonheart did, too. The feelings of isolation and anger that Clinton felt as he missed his band would become life-affirming anthems; songs that are grounded by love, even when things get heavy. We all feel the pain as Clinton sings about carrying on after a great loss on “How Do I Do This?” Inspired, the band reached out to an old friend – Steve Berlin of Los Lobos – to produce their new album, For Work Or Love.
The next time I saw The Commonheart I cried. We all did. It was the day after Thanksgiving 2021 and most of the audience at Mr. Smalls was experiencing live music in the flesh for the first time in a long time and the emotions of it all were overwhelming. It was more than just the music that night. It was one of those rare moments where everything felt like it was going to be okay. The music sounded better than it ever had. As always, the band made it not about themselves, but about the community, hosting a jacket drive as winter quickly approached, because that’s the kind of band The Commonheart is. It’s family. It’s community. It’s all of us. From Clinton to Mike, Abbey, Anton, and Mariko, to Cole, Lucas, Nate, Kenny, and Shawn, and everyone who has ever graced the stage with the band, helped to make their records or cried at a concert. It’s you and it’s me and it feels like home. The Commonheart is our 2022 Pittsburgh Artist of the Year!
WYEP Top 91 Songs of 2022
WYEP DJ Favorite Albums & Live Shows
Joey Spehar's Picks
Joey’s Top Album
Hallelujah Hell Yeah
String Machine is one of Pittsburgh’s most special bands. Their latest album may be their best yet and it warrants multiple listens. Full of life-affirming anthems, dusky contemplations, and a cinematic scope, Hallelujah Hell Yeah captures a band working hard and yearning for more.
Joey’s Favorite Live Show
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros at The Roxian
March 30, 2022
I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to see what color Bob Weir paints his toenails, but that changed this year when the legendary Grateful Dead member rolled into town with his Wolf Bros and Wolf Pack in tow. The full band arrangements soared under Bob’s stronger-than-it-should-be voice. The kids, they danced, and they shook their bones.
Kyle Smith's Picks
Kyle’s Top Album
Lucifer on the Sofa
The Austin Texas band is one of the more underrated acts in all of rock n’ roll. All of their records have been top-notch for close to three decades. It’s really rare to look at a legacy band’s discography of nine previous records and realize that they’ve always been at the top of their game, and consistently great, for years. Lucifer of The Sofa finds Spoon at their peak on their 10th studio release. The recording is part indie rock and blues, and at times both funky and soulful, with just the right amount of pop.
Kyle’s Favorite Live Show
Jack White at Petersen Events Center
April 14, 2022
I hadn’t seen Jack White since the infamous storm-filled show that was cut short at stage ae years ago. Fear Of Dawn and Entering Heaven Alive were two new studio albums released this year by Jack White, and coupled with his other solo material, White Stripes catalogue, and Raconteurs cuts this was the best proper rock n’ roll show of the year for me.
Rosemary Welsch’s Picks
Rosemary’s Top Album
Father John Misty
Chloe and the Next 20th Century
Father John Misty lays out a delicious feast of 20th-century musical styles in this lushly orchestrated album of love songs. Ranging from the cinematic sounds of the golden age of Hollywood to the sophisticated pop songs of the 1960s and ’70s, you’ll catch references to Glen Campbell, Harry Nilsson, and Bossa Nova. Romantic balance with sardonic undertones keep you guessing as to the singer’s intent.
Rosemary’s Favorite Live Show
Bartees Strange’s Live & Direct Session
November 3, 2022
In-studio performances are an intimate experience that includes interaction with the artists, so they are always special. Among the many I took part in this year Bartees Strange stands out for several reasons. He is a fascinating articulate and forthcoming interviewee. His music feels more intense up close and personal.
Liz Felix’s Picks
Liz’s Top Album
Hallelujah Hell Yeah
String Machine’s third album hit just right at the beginning of 2022, filling up the blank days of late winter with solid, lush indie rock songs like “Gales of Worry” and “Touring in January.” I made a mental note to remember this release when it came to my end-of-year favorites. Sometimes those albums from the early months of the year get buried in the excitement of whatever else is new. But this album stood the test of the months that followed and I didn’t need a reminder. David Beck and the band have been getting progressively better with each release – there’s a lot of online chatter about “Hallelujah Hell Yeah” – and it won’t be long before the rest of the music world figures out just how good this Pittsburgh band is.
Liz’s Favorite Live Show
Anti-Flag at The Hellbender Ball
October 22, 2022
Anti-Flag performing as the biggest punk rock band of all time for a hometown audience: not much else needs to be said. WYEP’s two signature live music events (Summer Music Festival and The Hellbender Ball) returning this year was exciting in and of itself for all of us. Anti-Flag blowing the roof off The Thunderbird as The Clash was the perfect finale.
Wrett Weatherspoon’s Picks
Wrett’s Top Album
The Blues Don’t Lie
If you just landed from another universe and inquired “What is/are The Blues?”- I would play the title song from this album. It expresses more than just an adequate prescription for the genre. Through good storytelling, though not deeply historical, both the song and video capsulize the greatness of this musical style from one (Buddy Guy) who has grown through it.
Bruce Mountjoy’s Picks
Bruce’s Top Album
Radio John: The Songs of John Hartford
It hardly seems that it has been over fifty years since John Hartford recorded “Aereo-Plain”, the album which redefined what bluegrass music could be.
And from its earliest days, Sam Bush was there. The movement, which came to be called “newgrass”, took Bill Monroe’s music in directions “Big Mon” could never have foreseen. In the intervening years, both continued to break new ground. John made music, acted, and became a student of the Mississippi River; Sam founded and led the New Grass Revival, played with Emmylou Harris’ Nash Ramblers, and fronted the Sam Bush Band.
Since John Hartford passed away at the age of 63 in 2001, Sam had thought about recording a tribute album to his friend. But it wasn’t until the pandemic forced Sam off the road that it began to take shape in earnest. Sam with his wife Lynn and a van load of instruments and recording equipment headed down to Florida to quarantine, and Sam began preparing the tribute CD, which he had planned to record with his current ensemble, the Sam Bush Band. As the pandemic continued, he started recording at home and eventually completed a CD of some of John Hartford’s classics and some not-so-well-known tunes, playing all of the instruments and performing all of the vocals. The lone exception is the title cut, “Radio John”, which is an original tune that references John’s one-time occupation as a radio DJ and is the only cut on the project featuring the Sam Bush Band.
Radio John is a treasure. A truly unique creation by one of music’s true originals honoring another.
Bruce’s Favorite Live Show
Billy Strings at The Pete
November 5, 2022
Simply put, the appearance of Billy Strings at the Petersen Events Center was the biggest bluegrass event to occur in Pittsburgh in many years! Billy’s rapid growth from venues like the Rex to Stage AE to playing a major arena may be without precedent in bluegrass and is rare in any endeavor! The band is entirely acoustic and does not utilize percussion, so it is well within the bluegrass tradition. Strings has a well-deserved reputation as a progressive acoustic musician, but he and his band are equally at home with the traditional songbook of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers. It may be a while before we see a bluegrass concert like this again!
Rob O’Friel’s Picks
Rob’s Top Album
Yes, it is a tribute album, but it’s Johnny’s brother along with a mind-boggling list of guests including Billy Gibbons, Derek Trucks, Keb Mo, and the late Taylor Hawkins. What sets this disc apart are the 17 hard-hitting cuts that Johnny used to play, played with intensity and honor. It was hard to decide which tracks to play on Rollin and Tumblin, so we played a bunch of ’em.
Rob’s Favorite Live Show
Elton John at PNC Park
September 16, 2022
Amazingly, I had still never seen Elton John live, even though he was my introduction to the world of rock ‘n roll. Still, I wasn’t expecting much with this being the third Pittsburgh stop on a years-long farewell tour.
Was I wrong… PNC Park was filled to the brim with 40,000 plus attentive, appreciative fans who were treated to a rock and roll spectacle with the backdrop of the nighttime city of Pittsburgh skyline as the difference maker. An added bonus was Ray Cooper almost stealing the show with his amazing percussion work.
Brian Siewiorek’s Picks
Brian’s Top Album
This year Beyoncé took us all on a trip through the history of dance music, a true renaissance, with references to everything from disco to 90’s house music, to EDM. The homage is reverent, yet topical, and has earned my most repeat listens this year.
Brian’s Favorite Live Show
Ata Kak at The Warhol
March 31, 2022
I’ve seen many shows this year, but a rare appearance from the mysterious Ghanaian singer/rapper right here in Pittsburgh ranks among my favorites. Ata Kak gave a fun and energized performance for a packed crowd that was ready for it. It was a show in which you could not resist moving your feet; the number of smiles on everyone’s faces leaving the show was a testament to its greatness.
Gretchen Unico’s Picks
Gretchen’s Top Album
I have been following Angel Olsen since 2016, and I am always excited to hear something new from her. Big Time is a return to the more stripped-down, folk-influenced sound of her earliest songs, which are some of my favorites, with an added retro ‘60s country bent that I also love, as a fan of vintage country records. I enjoy every song on the album, and they do what Olsen does best, combining thoughtful, yearning lyrics with memorable melodies and her naturally raw and emotional voice.
Gretchen’s Favorite Live Show
The Darkness at Jergel’s
April 16, 2022
I have wanted to see the Darkness live for a long time since I’ve been told they put on an awesome show, and ‘Permission to Land’ is one of my favorite albums. The performance was at Jergel’s which is the perfect intimate venue for a high-energy rock show with tons of crowd participation. This was also in Spring 2022, so it was one of the first shows of this size I’d been to since the COVID lockdown, and it was a great return to the live music experience. Justin Hawkins is a fantastic performer with crazy energy, and he even sang sitting on the railing of the second-floor balcony and later stole someone’s phone from the crowd and called his wife, which was hilarious. I just love a good old-fashioned rock concert where everyone is dancing, laughing, and singing along, and this was one of those wild shows that reminded me why I love live music!
Steve Morse’s Picks
Steve’s Top Album
First half of 2022 this album was with me daily like a trusted hoodie worn during all waking hours indoors and outside. Indulging themes of isolation, resignation, and burnout, I identify with the disaffected weariness that remains hopeful that comes through the music of Laurel Hell. This album has songs that remind me at times of 80s synth rock that I loved as a kid, other times its sound comforts me the same way guitar-heavy rock of the early 90s did as a teen, and in many other ways it is all new to me–new musical vocabulary and new emotional context from a younger generation from this young, impressive musician, Mitsuki Miyawaki.
Steve’s Favorite Live Show
Spoon at Stage AE
September 6, 2022
Early in Spoon’s set the PA System cut in and out during “Do You.” Undeterred, the band continued on through a couple more songs when the PA went out again early while they were playing “My Babe” and remained out for about the entire performance of the song. We were standing up front, close to the stage and while the band didn’t have the booming, loud, soaring boost of the sound system in the concert venue, they sounded amazing! We could hear the guitar, bass, and piano playing right from their personal amps. Britt’s raspy voice came through the monitors on stage, Jim Eno’s deft drumming was hitting us on its own power, and the band sounded balanced, completely in sync through the technical difficulty. It was like we got to see them at their practice. They played a great rendition of “My Babe” and when finished with the song, they did not complain or lose spirit or focus. After maybe 5 minutes, the sound system was fixed and Spoon absolutely delighted the audience with a charming, unflappable, joyful performance on a late summer night on the North Shore.
Andy Cook’s Picks
Andy’s Top Album
While Kevin Morby and Sudan Archives put out equally near-perfect albums this year, this is the one I listened to the most. Often snarky, sometimes cleverly vulgar, always catchy. I’m excited to see where they go from here.
Andy’s Favorite Live Show
Fuzz at Mr. Smalls Theatre
April 16, 2022
I saw Pavement put on an amazing show in Philly, but this show in Millvale’s Mr. Smalls Theatre last spring can’t be beaten. This was melt-your-face-off-level rock ‘n roll., and one I’ll always remember.
Kerem Gokmen’s Picks
Kerem’s Top Album
CoN & KwAkE
Eyes in the Tower
(Native Rebel Recordings)
This album is a great showing by the veteran UK duo seamlessly freestyling and rhyming over an album of carefully woven experimental dub and modern electronics. It’s forward-thinking bass like nobody’s business.
Kerem’s Favorite Live Show
The Cookers at New Hazlett Theatre
February 19, 2022
It was amazing to see musicians like Billy Harper, Cecil McBee, George Cables, and Billy Hart who were key players in their prime in the 60s and 70s with the likes of Charles, Lloyd, Lee Morgan, and Art Blakey still going strong 40 to 50 years later with a new ensemble, in an intimate setting such as the New Hazlett Theatre.
Barb Steinberg’s Picks
Barb’s Top Album
At First There Was Nothing
I discovered this release when I purchased a 16-page book that combined Anthony’s new album with his original photography from the west. I still buy CDs, but having a digital album with a book made the music come alive even more. I kept putting the album on repeat because I wanted to hear the songs over and over again. I’ve been a fan since 2016’s Rain on a Strange Roof. At First There Was Nothing has renewed my interest in Anthony’s music. It is easily my most listened-to album of 2022.
Barb’s Favorite Live Show
Bill Deasy at Jergel’s
November 29, 2022
During a free customer appreciation show at Jergel’s in November, Bill Deasy performed for two hours with an acoustic guitar. It was a journey through the early days of Gathering Field to his solo work. Instead of focusing on his current release, Bill played deep cuts from his career while fulfilling requests from the audience. He really seemed to be having fun performing songs from his catalog while I very much enjoyed being taken along for the musical ride.
Dave Blaushild’s Picks
Dave’s Top Album
Lucifer on the Sofa
Lucifer On the Sofa is Spoon’s 10th studio album in a 20 year career. The songs have great melodies and a true rock sound. This is a rock and roll album that is meant to be played loud. Britt Daniel is at the top of his game vocally and on guitar, the band is tight, and every song has an amazing sound.
Dave’s Favorite Live Show
Angelique Kidjo at August Wilson African American Cultural Center
October 27, 2022
Angelique Kidjo comes from the West African nation of Benin. She sings in English, French, and her native language. She is hugely popular in Europe and has been singing and recording for over 40 years. Her backing band included Afrobeat guitar, bass, drums, and percussion. She recently released an album covering The Talking Heads album Remaining In Light and performed several of the songs from that album adding strength to the music. Her sense of rhythm brought the audience to their feet several times to dance to the beats.