One of our favorite discoveries of the past few years was Matt Derda & The High Watts! They released a stellar record in 2022 and so we thought what better way to celebrate an amazing year in music than to ask Matt to write about a few of his favorite releases from this past trip around the sun, and to our joy he agreed!
Thank you, Matt!
2022 was definitely the year of independent music for me. Most of the music I listened to this year was by bands that aren’t signed to a label or receiving tons of press, although they should be. As you’ll see from this list, I think they are just as good as one of the all-time greats, who also released a new, unexpected album this year.
‘Matt Moran’s Heartache Kid is what Country music is supposed to sound like. I grew up listening to Country music in the 90s and it wasn’t until the late 90s/early 2000s that mainstream country music turned south (pun intended). Until then, there were a lot of gems regularly on the radio, but occasionally they would play Travis Tritt and you’d resist the urge to jump out of the car, into traffic on the highway. Heartache Kid is reminiscent of ’90s Country music and there is not a bad track on it. I warn you if you listen to this record, songs like Palomino, Heartache Kid, and Black Sedan will be stuck in your head for weeks. But it’ll be okay because you’ll love them.
Favorite song: Palomino
One of my favorite discoveries on social media is the Austin, TX-based band Bottlecamp Mountain. I discovered them via Twitter and we’ve since become friends. Their songs are prolifically melody, with a little bit of grit and just enough twang. It’s perfect. Their songs are catchy and sound big. They fill up the space and make you emotionally connected to the songs. The lead single from this album, “Kool,” is a song I wish I had written. It’s a fun banger that is all about what you deemed dope back in your younger days. I’ve put the song “Tin Can Belief” on many playlists. It’s got a jangly rock vibe that combines R.E.M., Big Star, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, and the Gin Blossoms. If you are a fan of 80s/90s indie rock, you’ll want to spin this record.
Favorite Song: Tin Can Belief
Elephants and Stars – Last Chance Power Drive
Now I’ll change things up with a band that is straight-up rock n roll. Elephants and Stars are based in Toronto, Canada. I don’t know what to say about them other than they are perfect. They’ve quickly become one of my favorite bands. They know how to write a chorus and I’m a sucker for a great chorus. Each song is an anthem that you picture a giant audience singing along to. I got a preview of this record before it came out and I’ll tell you what I told them, it’s everything I wanted from an E&S record. Have you ever heard a song you loved by an artist and you bought the album hoping all of the songs would sound like that only to be disappointed? Last Chance Power Drive will not disappoint. It’s all songs that are what you want to hear. To me, that is a perfect record. Also, I should note there is an amazing cover of the song “I Really Want to See You Tonight” on this album. The original song is not my jam at all. However, Elephants and Stars kick it into overdrive. Actually, power drive is the perfect term to describe not only this album but Elephants and Stars music overall.
Favorite song: Turn It All Around
Eddie Vedder – Earthling
In 1993 I received a scholastic book magazine at school. One of the items was a VHS tape of music videos set to highlight clips of NBA players. Being a huge basketball fan, I somehow talked my parents into ordering a non-book from Scholastic. One of the videos on the VHS was clips of Seattle Supersonic Shawn Kemp dunking to Pearl Jam’s song Go. I was hooked. As I grew up, Pearl Jam, and especially the lyrics of Eddie Vedder played a huge role in my life and helped me get through those terrible teenage angsty years. Now, he’s helped me get through a global pandemic.
This year Eddie Vedder released the unanticipated Earthling, partnering closely with Andrew Watt. The story behind the album is that it wasn’t really planned, they just started making it and it came together pretty fast. You can tell by the songs that Vedder had things in him that just needed to get out.
One of the critiques I’ve heard of the album is that a lot of the songs sound like other artists. Once you know the stories behind those songs, it makes a lot of sense. The Long Way sounds like it was a Tom Petty cover. In fact, Benmont Tench plays on the song and they got his organ out of the Heartbreakers clubhouse for the first time since Tom’s death for this song. Ms. Mills sounds like it could be on Sgt. Pepper. The song is about a piano at Abbey Road Studios that has been named Ms. Mills. Oh, and Ringo Starr played drums on that song.
Another standout is the song Brother Cloud, which is about dealing with the loss of a loved one. It starts off light, but quickly ascends into the stratosphere and closes with an epic fuck you to whoever left him on this earth. The album is great. I highly recommend giving it a listen.
Favorite song: Brother the Cloud