Bodega’s Ben Hozie tells us about his favorite songs of 2022
The year is wrapping up, and we've been asking artists for their Best of 2022 lists. Here's one from Ben Hozie of NYC's Bodega who's given us his favorite tracks of the year, which includes Dry Cleaning, Yard Act, Spoon, Black Country New Road, Wet Leg and more. Read his commentary on the songs and listen to playlist with all of them below.
Bodega released their terrific second album, Broken Equipment, back in March and then released the supplemental Xtra Equipment in July. You can listen to both of those below.
BODEGA BEN - TRACKS OF THE YEAR 2022
Dry Cleaning - "Don’t Press Me"
Remember how ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’(1935) was advertised with ‘The Monster Speaks?’ This early single from the sophomore DC disc seemed to similarly entice: ‘Flo sings.’ Her muted vox on the titular hook section are indeed gorgeous and yearning but the band perversely never repeats this section; Maybe this choice was made to playfully undermine expectations that they capitalize on their debut’s success and go more ‘pop.’ Or maybe that’s just how it felt the best. Pop is after all, an art of spontaneity (When you try hard, you die hard). Whatever the reason, the abridged arrangement makes the track both enigmatic and endless replay-able.
Spoon - "Lucifer on the Sofa"
The phrase ‘Lucifer on the Sofa’ reminds me of the Biblical adage about idle hands being the devil’s workshop. While the first verse seems to capture a certain kind of COVID-era malaise (It’s easy to picture the song’s protagonist sitting stoned and drunk in dirty clothes), it soon becomes clear that the song’s palpable sense of guilt is not due to mere excess from boredom but past romantic regret. Soon we are ‘chasing every thought…walking over water’ as Rhodes and Mellotrons paint a quiet nighttime city stroll past empty fluorescent lit banks and restaurants (This tone is a Spoon speciality —> I’m reminded of ‘Everything Hits at Once’). Our singer knows damn well why she left but tonight he’s going to keep the truth from himself.
Cousines Like Shit - "Young and Online"
Critiques of online culture tend to be met with hostility (Trust me, I penned large portions of a disc called ‘Endless Scroll’); ‘I get it. I spend too much time on my phone. Next cliche please,’ is a common complaint. But time is not merely what’s at stake —> It is consciousness itself. One must be careful what they let into their mind, especially if you are a writer. There can be no proper output without proper input.
The Vienna twee punk duo CSL write pithy strummy strummers that mask their pedagogy with humor and hooks. “I have an eyebrow under my brow. It’s underlining me. It’s undermining me. It’s controlling every one of my moves. It tells me what to do.’
Cola - "water table"
This track is a minimalist masterstroke; just three instruments (plus or minus some subtle dubbing) —> cruise control tom gallops and tasty bass double stops with guitar swells in just the right places. The narrator (Tim Darcy) quietly protests ‘I think I am doing alright/ I don’t need additional lives’ but the rhythm section’s bittensweet sea-bed lets us know otherwise.
Brook Pridemore - "Glad to Be Alive"
Full disclosure: I produced and play on Brook’s record. I’m including it anyway because I didn’t write the tunes and not enough people have heard about Brook or his wonderful songs. Brook is a DIY lifer who has been self booking tours and releasing under-the-radar records for about twenty years. Despite never achieving the success they deserve (does anyone ‘deserve’ anything?) they haven’t thrown in the towel. They are likely next year to drive through your town to perform their devastating songs of experience.
Katie Alice Greer - "Fake Nostalgia"
This track reminds me of 2009 Brooklyn when Animal Collective and Black Dice were kings and so many bands aspired towards a chilled out dreamy sample-based haze. Although obviously a critique of simple-minded nostalgia, the warped production and Disney Princess tune nonetheless create a feeling of airy weightlessness Toro y Moi would appreciate; It makes me feel like I’m floating through a forgotten glitched out Nintendo 64 Mario level. I’ve always had a soft spot for tracks that ascend pop heights without removing the scaffolding.
Black Country, New Road - "Good Will Hunting"
The first time I heard this record, I’ll admit I had a knee-jerk negative reaction. After all, I fled the suburbs for the big city to get away from emo (and it’s cousin, musical theatre). However witnessing how many were moved by this band (and having learned full well that derision is no real virtue), I kept listening. Soon I found myself addicted to this record and admiring the way different riffs, melodies, and lyrical fragments permutate throughout. The melodramatic vocal performances (we are never a second away from a waterfall of tears or a nervous breakdown) started to become less grating and instead wonderfully expressive. ‘Good Will Hunting’ in particular has such a fantastic groove and the ‘Everyone will say she was cool/ She had Billie Eilish Style / Moving to Berlin for a little while’ melody is so catchy and moving. Music that we learn to love with some difficulty often becomes doubly cherished.
Yard Act - "Rich"
This three act rags-to-riches lyric reminds me of Scorsese or even Shakespeare; Its power comes from the giddy embodiment and self-justifying rhetoric of the antagonist POV. Much like the Wolf of Wall Street himself, this songs smarmy protagonist has the gall to ask for our sympathy: ‘People really hate you for it. You run a real risk being rich’ while also confessing dark sins: ‘I’ve done some terrible things because I’m rich.’ It says more about class and economics than a hundred other punk cuts.
Wet Leg - "Wet Dream"
The key to understanding Wet Leg’s meteoric rise is simple: their music is really fun to listen to. The current marginalization of guitar rock (at least from the top 40) probably can best be explained by the genre’s current lack of superficiality. Remember Oscar Wilde : ‘It is only the superficial qualities that last.’ The myth that rock somehow matured in the 60’s when it got psychedelic serious and less about youthful concerns like sex and dancing at the party should be kicked (by the leg). I can’t think of any issues more worthy of an artist’s gaze than desire. I hope Wet Leg fans kickstart a new generation of rock and pop that prioritize hooks, tunes, sex, and fun.
of Montreal - "Black Sabbath Lathe of Maiden"
Kevin Barnes is my favorite working songwriter. Often frustrating but never dull, the emotional depth and compositional idiosyncrasy of their sprawling songbook is endlessly rewarding. This song’s record (and the one before it) explore a certain type of digital collage; Here the always sad and horny Barnes misquotes Prince (‘I was creaming when I wrote this so forgive me if it makes you wet’) and later riffs on the gorgeous ‘Oklahoma USA’ Kinks melody on top of a terrifying 1000 BPM maelstrom. It evokes a blissed out surrender to the machine.
The Beatles - "Yellow Submarine" demo
I was stunned to my seat when BODEGA heard this early John Lennon ‘Yellow Submarine’ demo in our van earlier this year. What an odd revelation to discover that the ubiquitous children’s anthem’s verses actually begun as a devastation art-damaged waltz through John’s childhood sadness. ‘In the place where I was born / No one cared. No one cared.’ In 1966 John was discovering a new way to make tunes based on memory. ‘In My Life’ was hardly six months old and this must have been written right around the same time as the ‘When I was a boy/ Everything felt right’ middle in ‘She Said She Said’; The titanic ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was just around the corner. Fab fanaticism is a gift that keeps on giving.
S.C.A.B. - "Small Talk"
This dream pop gem from this new band really caught me off guard when I saw them play this year. When the melody explodes into a gooey falsetto in the chorus I was turned to mush. I wasn’t sure what the song was about but its intensity stood out from the group’s other material. When I finally got a hold of the recording I noticed the outro lyrics: ‘There are so many things that frustrate me but death just tops them all.’
Big Bliss - "Sleep Paralysis"
The arrangement of this jangle jammer is anxious and breezy but also sorrowful and lugubrious, evoking the contradiction of sleep paralysis itself; movement and stillness. On close listen, the arrangement is far more complicated than it first appears but each of its mulitple sections and counter riffs flow effortlessly mirroring dream logic in a way reminiscent of I.R.S. era R.E.M. The track ends with the singer Tim Race passionately questioning the legitimacy of his nocturnal vision: ‘Now I feel the weight I know is real / Is that you here?’
Fontaines D.C. - "I Love You"
I know the Fontaines guys decided to only work on the songs for this album at nighttime as a conceptual gambit. This conceit paid off handsomely; All of the tracks have a late-night-walk-through-neon-soaked-Shinjuku ambiance that is infectious. The spine tingling double-time middle section rap has a wonderful rhythmic flow; That it cascades out of an already great gentle mid tempo ballad makes it even lovelier. This is the track that deserved the title ‘Bloomsday.’
Big Thief- "Spud Infinity"
This is a chakra opening miracle of a tune. The band seems to be having a hoot (they know with a vocal and lyric that open hearted they can’t go wrong); Even the jaw harp comes across as loving and wise. I have to really practice stoicism for the third verse to not activate tear ducts; It’s all the more moving because it’s hilarious (‘Kiss your body up and down other than your elbows / cuz as for your elbows, they’re on their own / Wandering like a rolling stone/ Rubbing up against the edges of experience’). :)