Steven Hyden’s Favorite Music Of July 2022

Every month, Uproxx cultural critic Steven Hyden makes an unranked list of his favorite music-related items released during this period — songs, albums, books, films, you name it.

1. Guided By Voices, Tremblers And Goggles By Rank

Still most associated with his mid-’90s work — in which GBV became indie-famous for minute-long, lo-fi songs on albums like 1994’s Bee Thousand and 1995’s Alien Lanes that somehow hit with the anthemic force of Who’s Next — Robert Pollard in recent years has made some of his most ambitious and sprawling LPs, like 2019’s expansive 32-song, 74-minute Zeppelin Over China and 2021’s dense and often thrilling concept album Earth Man Blues. But what’s more impressive than the quantity or even the quality of GBV’s recent output has been Pollard’s ability to keep on surprising even his most loyal followers. This month, GBV put out its second LP of 2022, the (of course) inscrutably titled Tremblers And Goggles By Rank, which is precisely the sort of GBV album I would have never expected or thought I wanted — a tight rock record with zero filler. At 10 songs and 38 minutes, it’s 18 songs and three minutes shorter than Alien Lanes. You could even call it relatively “normal,” no matter that one of the catchiest tunes is called “Cartoon Fashion (Bongo Lake).” For this band, “normal” or “tight” are not necessarily compliments. But in this case, to my ears, they absolutely are.

2. The Bear soundtrack

If you watch enough prestige TV — and you’re the sort of person who pays attention to the music playing in the background — you no doubt understand what these shows are supposed to sound like. The soundtracks often treat songs like signifiers of “quality.” They are so aggressively tasteful and curator-approved that they can feel a little anonymous and even oppressive, like you’re watching the televisual equivalent of a blandly fashionable downtown boutique. But the acclaimed FX/Hulu series The Bear moves to a radically different rhythm. The bulk of the soundtrack is made up of songs from the ’80s and ’90s that patrons of the show’s fictional eatery The Original Beef Of Chicagoland might like: Pearl Jam, John Cougar Mellencamp, Counting Crows, Genesis, Radiohead. If that’s not dad rock enough for you, there are also three Wilco songs. While some snobs might wince at such a normie playlist, the music enhances the everyman vibe of The Bear, while also feeling true to the characters and the milieu. So many TV shows and movies bungle their soundtracks by turning the protagonists into inauthentic music experts whose listening habits don’t line up with real life. Whereas in The Bear, when Carmy’s lunkhead cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) retreats to his car during a tough day at the restaurant, it makes perfect sense that he would have a live acoustic version of Counting Crows’ “Have You Seen Me Lately?” playing on the stereo. (It’s also, to be clear, an awesome song.)

3. Alvvays, “Pharmacist”

Some of the best news to come down in the indie world this month was the announcement of a new Alvvays album, Blue Rev, which is due Oct. 7. It’s been five long years since 2017’s Antisocialites, which is just about as perfect as the Canadian dream pop band’s classic self-titled first album from 2014. The news arrived with a new single, “Pharmacist,” that thankfully sounds very Alvvays-y, albeit with a slightly rougher and more energetic edge. This is no doubt related to how the album was made in Los Angeles with ace producer Shawn Everett (who is perhaps best known for working on the last two War On Drugs albums). Everett encouraged the band to play live to tape, and they responded by essentially tearing through the material like they were at a live gig. The result is a record that will likely land in the upper reaches of my year-end list.

4. Wild Pink, “ILYSM”

Speaking of albums destined for my year-end list: I’ve had a promo copy of the fourth Wild Pink album due in October, ILYSM, for about a month, and it already seems like one of the more dazzling and emotionally overpowering records of 2022. I’ve been a fan of John Ross’ band for a while now, and while I’ve loved all of their albums there was a danger that they could fall into a lilting synth-rock lull. But ILYSM finds Ross shaking up the formula with an expansive supporting cast that includes Julien Baker, J. Mascis, Ryley Walker, and Yasmin Williams. Written and recorded in the midst of Ross’ recent cancer diagnosis — he’s thankfully in remission at this time — ILYSM evokes the fear, confusion, and stubborn survival instinct of navigating life-changing trauma. Musically, this record swings for the fences — it sounds like an attempt by Wild Pink to make their own Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Did they make it all the way? We’ll talk more about it later but … get excited.

5. Pool Kids, Pool Kids

I remember first hearing about these smart-aleck-y Florida math-punks in 2019 when I came across their Audiotree session, which spotlighted the Iron Maiden-like guitar interplay between lead singer Christine Goodwyne and guitarist Andy Anaya, as well as Goodwyne’s witty observational lyrics. At the time, they seemed a little green but with a lot of potential. Flash forward three years later, and their self-titled second LP has fully lived up to the promise that they showed in that clip. Pool Kids is a consistently fun and tuneful pop-rock record that delivers insight and laughs in equal doses. My favorite song is “Arm’s Length,” because the 27-year-old Goodwyne describes my own life as it existed at age 27: “I don’t think I have the energy / To make it out of my bed today / It’s not even a bed / I’ve been sleeping on / A air mattress with a hole / For almost three months.” I also slept on an air mattress with a hole in it for three months at that time! Is this a more common experience that I realized?

6. John Moreland, Birds In The Ceiling

In the early 2010s, people referred to Jason Isbell as a “songwriter’s songwriter.” But now Isbell is too famous to be classified that way. The current reigning “songwriter’s songwriter” has to be John Moreland, a 37-year-old Tulsa native who has been putting out music since the late aughts. I started listening around the time of 2015’s High On Tulsa Heat, and over the course of subsequent albums, he’s perfected that low-key, Townes Van Zandt-style of writing where he’s slowly ripping your heart out even if his voice never rises above a resigned warble. In his recent work, he’s been dabbling with electronic elements, and on Birds In The Ceiling it complements the rough-hewn, acoustic instrumentation like heat lightning dotting a humid, mid-summer sky at dusk.