Look, I don’t want to jinx anything, but 2022 almost felt like a completely average period of time, with only basic levels of chaos and anxiety. Frankly, I’ll take it! As with prior years we asked our DJs to look back at the year and suggest some of their favorite records. The sounds and styles in their recommendations are as varied as the shows on WXNA. Perhaps a few of the records below will help you kick-start your listening for 2023.
We have completed yet another trip around the sun. While there were certainly some patches of optimism (remember how great the early summer felt, pre-Delta?), 2021, like 2020 before it, was a tough one. Thankfully, the music helped get us across the finish line. There seemed to be a ton of new releases this past year, likely a byproduct of artists being home-bound for so much of 2020. We asked our DJs to recommend some of their favorites. The list below not only provides an excellent time-capsule for year, but also illustrates the wide variety of musical styles and genres played on WXNA.
It used to be that the end of a year was a time to look back, to reminisce, to think fondly of days gone. But not this year! So long 2020! You were the worst. Please don’t come back. But with that said, time is amorphous and doesn’t like to be pigeon-holed. Just because those 365 days felt like an endless hangover (and not the good kind!), doesn’t mean that there were no sources of joy. In fact, it was a good year for music — which makes sense, because music is how many of us weather tough times. Below is a list of the best music as picked by the WXNA DJs. This is music they played, listened to and got them through a truly rough year. Luckily we can look ahead to 2021. I’m sorry, what’s that? Oh, 2021 is also a total mess? Ah, so it is. Well, we still have the music.
The year is nearing its end. At WXNA we commemorate this occassion by asking our volunteer DJ army a simple question: what is your favorite record of the year? Then they answer that question, and we present the results here. Just as the prophecy foretold!
So have a look and check out some of these amazing recommendations. It’s an excellent way to kick-start the new year (after all, music is forever).
Presented for you in no particular order…
|Fontaines D.C., Dogrel
DJ Ed, Eighties Schmeighties
|Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, Take Heart, Take Care
Chad, Dustbin Days
|Bill Callahan, Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest
DJ Trev, Our Golden Tones
|North Mississippi Allstars, Up and Rolling
Hound Dog Hoover, Goin’ Down South
|Stray Cats, 40
Jammin’ James Riley, Rockabilly ‘n’ Blues Radio Hour
|Orville Peck, Pony
Erin Mock, Wishful Thinking
|Jenny Lewis, On the Line
Dave Brown, The Black Ark
|The New Pornographers, In The Morse Code of Brake Lights
DJ Hot Car, Hot Fudge Tuesdays
|Hot Chip, A Bath Full of Ecstasy
Grigsby, Set Records To Stun
|Gauche, A People’s History of Gauche
Anna Lundy, Untune the Sky
|Ruth Garbus, Kleinmeister
DJ LT, Shout, Sister, Shout!
|Young Guv, GUV I & II|
Alexis, Free Association
|The Highwomen, The Highwomen
Laurel Creech, All About Nashville
|Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains
Brady Brock, Fidelity High
|Ioanna Gika, Thalassa
DJ Travis T, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
|Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
popGeezer, The English Breakfast
|Guided By Voices, Zeppelin Over China
Mello-D (aka Doyle Davis), Groovy Potential
|The Chemical Brothers, No Geography
DJ Rodge, Delicious Elixir
|Brittany Howard, Jaime
|Jazz Funk Soul, Life and Times
Chris Nochowicz, The Future of Jazz
|The Raconteurs, Help Us Stranger
DJ Cajun Mitch, Sounds of the Bayou
|Blood Incantation, Hidden History Of The Human Race
DJAK, No Remorse
|Frank LoCrasto, Lost Dispatch
DJ rhatfink, Bedazzled Paradigm Jukebox
|Elkhorn, Sun Cycle
Mike Mannix, Psych Out!
|Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains
Mike Hester, Flying Lesson
|Amyl and the Sniffers, Amyl and the Sniffers
Laura Powers, Needles+Pins
|Aldous Harding, Designer
DJ Charlotte Rollerskates, The Maiden Voyager
|Sharon Van Etten, Remind Me Tomorrow
DJ Juan, International Echo
|Nicholas Payton, Relaxin’ with Nick
DJ Big Chief Chaz, Gilded Splinters
|Quelle Chris, Guns
|Anderson .Paak, Ventura
|Carl Perkins, Discovering Carl Perkins – Eastview, Tennessee 1952-53
Randy, Hipbilly Jamboree Pick
|The Muffs, No Holiday
Randy, Randy’s Record Shop
|Brittany Howard, Jaime
R Reid, Holistic Revolution
|Lingua Ignota, Caligula
|Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Ghosteen
Michael Roark, Slings & Arrows
|Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Bandana
Blackcircle, The Root
|Temporary High, Nick Piunti
Tommy Womack’s Happiness Hour
|Icejjfish, The Gospel
DJ Jonni Downer, The Unlistenable Hour
|The Raconteurs, Help Us Stranger
Heather Lose, Aging Hipster
|Dry Cleaning, Boundary Road Snacks And Drinks / Sweet Princess
Jay Millar, Plural of Vinyl
|Sunn O))), Life Metal/Pyroclasts
Josh Mock, Sad Songs for Happy People
|Green Ribbons, Green Ribbons
DJ Lauren, Different Every Time
|Darrin Bradbury, Talking Dogs and Atom Bombs|
Double-Shot with Joe & Sue
|Jenny Lewis, On The Line
DJ Nexus, Musical Mysticism
|Juleah, Desert Skies
Michael, The Scatter Shot
|Gene Clark, No Other
Ashley, Set Records to Stun
DJ TJ, Static Wall
|Steve Gunn, The Unseen In Between
DJ Susan, The Inconsiderate Mixtape
|Kali Malone, The Sacrificial Code
popcorn brain, Dreambeat
|Robyn Hitchcock/Andy Partridge, Planet England
Anne McCue, Songs On The Wire
Here at WXNA we would be remiss if we let the season pass by without suggesting a few seasonal tunes to play while baking cookies or wrapping packages or
fretting about the future of democracy decorating the tree. But let’s be honest, there is no shortage of holiday playlists to be found around this-here internet. That’s why this year, we’re focusing on a holiday EP. Leave them wanting more, that’s what we always say. Also, life is chaotic. Who has time to compile the top 15,000 holiday songs of all time? Not us!
You can listen to this playlist on Spotify by clicking on these words.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
DJ Sue of Double Shot with Joe and Sue
This 1947 Frank Loesser-penned song was a favorite of my parents, when Mom was pregnant with me for New Year’s Eve that year. She played it every year for the holidays, and now, so do I. My parents loved music and would have been thrilled to know that I am part of WXNA.
“I Believe in Father Christmas” by Greg Lake
DJ Joe of Double Shot with Joe and Sue
When that came on MTV for the first time every year, I knew it was Christmas.
“River” by Joni Mitchell
DJ LT of Shout, Sister, Shout!
Not a real crate-diggin’ choice, but I can’t imagine a holiday season without this song in it, providing a respite from the expectations of joyfulness and jingling.
“Christmas At the Airport” by Nick Lowe
Rick Pecoraro, WXNA Contributor
A relatively new entry to the Christmas canon (2013), and one of the few songs that really get to the nut of holiday travel: that it can all fall into chaos at a moments notice. When I hear this song I’m usually reminded of Christmas 2005 when my flight from Newark to Omaha was cancelled. I ended up flying to Chicago and then in a hail mary attempt at forward progression rented the last available car and drove the remaining 8 hours to Nebraska. I hadn’t slept the night before, was exhausted and falling asleep behind the wheel. When I hit the Quad Cities I pulled off, and went into a Best Buy in an attempt to stay awake. I bought a copy of Pavement’s “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” and Gwen Steffani’s first solo record. Anyway, this Nick Lowe song takes me back to that Christmas. To its credit I look back fondly.
“I Wish I Had More” by Andrew Bryant
DJ Chad Pelton, Dustbin Days
Andrew Bryant (formerly of the band Water Liars, and now a solo artist) has released singles around the holidays for the past few years (my count is at 5 on Bandcamp). This one should appeal to those that love the sadder side of things around the holidays, or maybe I shouldn’t say sad, but honest. It’s a reminder of those folks dealing with tough relationships, which the holidays have a way of amplifying, and although it’s a fairly brutal tale of a family amidst breakup, I find it uplifting, sincere, and quite heartfelt.
“Patti Smith for Xmas” by Kyle Hamlett Uno
“Merry Christmas From The Family” by Robert Earl Keen
DJ Houndog Hoover of Goin’ Down South
Funny, and gets all the details right!
This Thanksgiving, WXNA has so much to be grateful for. Last week was our Fall Pledge Drive, and thanks to YOU, we exceeded our goal of $30k! Because of your generous support, we’re keeping the home fires burning and the tunes spinning into the colder months. Here’s what we’ll be playing over the airwaves and in our homes tomorrow to celebrate the season (you can also listen along via Spotify)!
- “Thanksgiving Theme” by Vince Garauldi Trio (Sirena Bragg Wilson, Music For Grown-Ups)
- “I Thank You” by ZZ Top (Ken Rhodes, English Breakfast)
- Kirsty Macoll covering The Kinks’ “Days” (DJ Lauren, Different Every Time)
- “Thank You Friends” by Big Star (DJ Alexis, Free Association and DJ Candace, The Bright Side)
- “I’m So Thankful” by Reigning Sound (Michael Buhl, Scattershot)
- “Thanks A Lot” by Neko Case & Her Boyfriends (DJ Rhatfink, The Continental)
- “Thank You” by The Remains (Paul Glavin, Eargasm)
- “Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant (DJ Ed, Eighties Schmeighties)
- “Count Your Blessings” by Rosemary Clooney (Sirena Bragg Wilson, Music For Grown-Ups)
- “Give Thanks and Praises” by Bob Marley (Angie Lovins, WXNA alumni)
- “Thank You Too!” by My Morning Jacket (DJ LT, Shout, Sister, Shout!)
- “Thank You For…” by Bridget St John (DJ LT, Shout, Sister, Shout!)
- “Thank You- Live” by Fishmans (DJ Trev of Our Golden Tones)
School has started and we’ve got the ideal soundtrack for you!
Whether it’s you, your children, or your nostalgia looking forward to sharpening those #2 pencils, we’ve curated a playlist just for the occasion!
Thirteen by Big Star
It perfectly captures and brings me back to that time and age and all the conflicting emotions and hormones.
Joe Wolfe-Mazeres, Double Shot with Joe and Sue
Sacré Charlemagne by France Gall’s
DJ Natasha, The French Connection
Punk Rock Girl AND Bitchin’ Camaro by The Dead Milkmen
For me, this is SO high school!
DJ Sirena, Music for Grownups
Sister, Do You Know My Name? by The White Stripes
Everyone knows The White Stripes’ “We Are Going to Be Friends” (which I believe can now be found in childrens’ book form): a sweet, schoolish song. But “Sister, Do You Know My Name?” is my pick from their catalog, and not just because of the word sister. It can be found simmering in the middle of the tracklisting on their second album, De Stijl (2000), which was a huge back-to-school album for me circa junior year of high school. It was one of the first vinyl records I bought and then recorded with a vinyl-recording software that came with my record player (all very early-2000s). I remember listening to the crackly, too-quiet mp3 of “Sister” on repeat while biking around my neighborhood in autumn, crunching dry leaves under my tires. Yes, it’s a bit silly, but so is going back-to-school when you’d rather be listening to records. 16-year-old DJ LT was all about this dreamy, autumnal blues and its simultaneous indebtedness/reverence to Blind Willie McTell, whom the record was dedicated to.
Meg White’s drumming is usually simple yet relentless, but here we find it almost sleepy, behind itself, like a lounging cat batting at the rug on the verge of slumber. The slide guitar fills in the blanks and overflows, coloring outside the lines and warming up the atmosphere perfectly for some sweet, boyish lyrics about longing:
I didn’t see you at summer school
But I saw you at the corner store
And I don’t want to break the rules
Cause I’ve broken them all before
But every time I see you
I wonder why
I don’t break a couple rules
So that you’ll notice me
DJ LT, Shout, Sister, Shout!
Schoolhouse Rock by Billy Harlan
Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, rockabilly!
Fuck School by The Replacements
A classic from the Great American Songbook!
Drugstore Rock & Roll by Janis Martin
And one from the Female Elvis her ownself!
Randy Fox, Randy’s Record Shop and Hipbilly Jamboree
I Need a Teacher by Hiss Golden Messenger
This is more generally pro-education (countering the Replacements? ha) and brand new from NC’s Hiss Golden Messenger, which is coming to Basement East in November. Big ups to all our educators gracing classrooms AND the airwaves each week!
DJ Celia, What Moves You
Late for School by Ponytail
This one is mostly included here for the title, as the song itself doesn’t have lyrics — unless you count the odd whoops, hollers and general sonic craziness. So, y’know, just like being late for school.
Rick Pecoraro, contributor
A Summer Song by Chad & Jeremy
DJ Alexis, Free Association
Waitin in School by Ricky Nelson
DJ Blackcircle, The Root
(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party) by the Beastie Boys
High school would not have been bearable without the parties . . . believe it or not we listened to the Beasties on our way to the Science Bowl at TTU with our super school science teacher!
DJ Leanne, X-Posure and Double X-Posure
Another School Day by Hollywood Brats
DJ Michael, The Scattershot
Sunday Morning by No Doubt
What Did You Learn In School Today? by Tom Paxton
Tom Paxton’s “What Did You Learn In School Today?” is not the cheeriest of back-to-school bangers, but it’s a banger nonetheless. Its call-and-response folk form displays a conversation between a little boy in school and his parents, who ask in each verse: “What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine?” The boy responds with all kinds of plaintive answers, delivered with a touch of self-awareness to make it clear that Tom has an opinion on the matters at hand. Here’s an example:
What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends
I learned that justice never ends
I learned that murderers die for their crimes
Even if we make a mistake sometimes
And that’s what I learned in school today
That’s what I learned in school
DJ LT, Shout, Sister, Shout!
Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Smokin’ in the Boys Room by Brownsville Station
Because it’s so punk!
DJ Houndog Hoover, Goin’ Down South
School’s Out for the Summer by Alice Cooper
Because I’d already be looking forward for this shit to be over.
DJ Ed, Eighties Schmeighties
In observance of the upcoming July 4 holiday, this week’s WXNA blog post features a list of some of our DJs’ favorite songs about the U.S. of A.
Read as you listen with our Spotify playlist!
Fridays from 10 to Noon
“Little America”- REM
Songs that hit the sweet spot of celebrating America without dipping into cheap sentimentality, jingoism, or out and out nationalism are hard to come by IMHO. Little America hits it both in its particulars of recounting the band traveling around the south on tour—”Another Greenville, another Magic Mart”—and in general showing the pure pleasure of the road trip free and easy. I saw REM many times and for me this was their best live song. An exhilarating celebration of freedom.
DJ Cranky Pants (Ashley)
Set Records to Stun
Fridays from 6-8 a.m.
“America”- Simon & Garfunkel
Ever since Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross plopped down on the back seat of that bus at the end of The Graduate (1967), disaffected middle-classers have questioned the American Dream. In “America” (1968), Paul Simon seems convinced that while the search may be eternal, the promised land remains an illusion.
The English Breakfast
Saturday, Noon to 2 PM
“American Tune” (1973) by Paul Simon, from the album “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon”
Paul Simon wrote this song, using the music of Renaissance era composer Hans Leo Hassler, after Richard Nixon’s re-election.
My emotional attachment to it is two-fold.
It’s the first Simon album I ever bought. Even though I wasn’t old enough to “get” any of it then, I really loved it. Now, over the passing decades, I return to the album, and this song, again and again.
“America Tune” is succinct, emotional, and very direct. And these lyrics especially stir a hard-won, but not cynical, patriotism in me:
“Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune”
Different Every Time
“This is Not America” is a song by David Bowie, Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny used in a soundtrack to the 1985 film The Falcon and the Snowman. But the reggae-fueled, Carla Bley arranged instrumental that I am thinking of is from Charlie Haden’s “Not in Our Name”, the Liberation Orchestra’s 2005 response to the Iraq War on Verve . In this context, surrounded by an ironic, dissonant Battle Hymn of the Republic and a stately version of Lift Every Voice, the tune takes on a new meaning. Haden believed that you could capture people with beauty and that the politics would follow. “This is Not America” reminds me that even with its set-backs, the journey to democracy is one worth taking, that politicians don’t always speak for me, and that dissent is patriotic.
The Black Ark
Thursdays 11:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
“American Music”- Violent Femmes
You were born too late
I was born too soon
But every time I look at that ugly moon
It reminds me of you
Wednesdays from 7-9 p.m.
“America the Myth”- Christ on Parade
The corporatization of our political system is destroying our country. No amount of empty rhetoric, fireworks, or flag waving is going to stop that. We are flying too close to the sun on wings of soft wax.
Hound Dog Hoover
Goin’ Down South
Monday 1-3 pm
“America”- Willie King
Sweet plea for togetherness from a late bluesman and community organizer from rural Alabama. Great soul blues groove and call-and-response vocals.
Shout, Sister, Shout!
“Fireworks” by Irreversible Entanglements
Last thing we saw was fireworks symbolizing somethin’
Can’t tell the difference between America and the unknown
The forever-expanding and reshaping the landscape
Poet Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother) uses her words as an instrument in free jazz collective Irreversible Entanglements. I can’t think of a better song to listen to on this day! It explores the symbol of fireworks, yes, but also Black trauma and liberation– all rendered by the lively collaboration of improvisation. In both form and content, this song is a true embodiment of American values such as democracy and freedom.
Sundays at Midnight
These are on my setlist every year:
“America Rules” by Murphys Law
“American Heavy Metal Weekend” by Circle Jerks
“Rock N America” by Catholic Girls
Wednesdays from 11pm-1am
“4th Of July” by Dave Alvin
Dave Alvin’s “4th of July”, particularly the version on King of California, expertly captures the desperation of a relationship quietly breaking apart, while simultaneously describing the sound of every small town backyard 4th of July celebration, ending with kids shooting off bags of fireworks into the night air. America in 6 stanzas.
Jay Millar from the Plural of Vinyl highlights his favorite album of the moment.
Kiwi Jr., Football Money (Mint Records)
Despite the plethora of current Aussie bands that find their way onto the playlists of the Plural Of Vinyl, it somehow figures that Kiwi Jr. are a Canadian band. And oddly enough, at times they remind me of turn-of-the-century canucks The Flashing Lights, especially on the emotive jangly “Comeback Baby.” The Flashing Lights led by Matt Murphy of Super Friendz, were a favorite of mine so mixing that with some Pavement-ish sounds gets me into a full blown nostalgia love fest. If I’m merely dropping one lazy comparison it would be later era Pavement.
Produced by Alec O’Hanley, guitar player from Alvvays, and released in March of 2019 via Mint Records out of Toronto, it’s an effervescent jangly ball of indie-pop fun with smirk inducing lyrics delivered with a slightly snotty deadpan tone. Largely guitar, bass, drums, & keys but it’s lightly sprinkled with some other fun sounds.
A couple lines I feel like pointing out because they make me smile:
“I’m a salary man, I want cigarettes from Japan… that taste like oranges.” – from “Salary Man”
“Gimme more Star Wars, gimme open bar chords, gimme more, gimme more more more!” – from “Gimme More”
“Last night your dreams were broadcast, but no one you know owns a television” – from “Comeback Baby”
If I had a complaint about this record it would only be that it’s too damn short. Gimme more!
The Plural of Vinyl
Tuesdays, 7-9 a.m.
When I think of Guilty Pleasures, my first thought is, “Why should I let somebody tell me what music I’m allowed to enjoy?” Then I think, “Whatever. I know they aren’t cool, but damn, I like The Carpenters.”
For the uninitiated, The Carpenters were a sister-brother duo that formed in the 1960’s and gained notoriety in the 1970’s for making inoffensive elevator-ready music. Tastemakers will tell you this is banal, Up With People-level grandparent music, but I’m here to tell you to quit paying attention to tastemakers. Why were you ever listening to those people in the first place? How on earth could they possibly know what kind of music you like? Let’s look at the facts:
- Singer Karen Carpenter had an objectively beautiful voice. If you don’t agree with me on this, just listen to it when all the instrumentation is stripped away and then apologize for trying to troll me.
- She also played drums. Are you trying to tell me that’s not worthy of consideration? WRONG.
- Ok, so maybe Karen wasn’t the best drummer in the world. Do you like musicianship? Because if you do, The Wrecking Crew is all over the place on many of The Carpenters’ albums.
- Sonic Youth liked The Carpenters. They covered “Superstar” wayyy back in 1994… without irony in the decade of irony! Even though Richard Carpenter absolutely hated Sonic Youth’s version of the song, who cares? Richard Carpenter always seemed like a completely humorless person to me anyway. Incidentally, I know The Capenters didn’t write “Superstar”, but the Sonic Youth version is on a Carpenters tribute album, so take it up with Thurston Moore.
- Speaking of cover songs, The Carpenters recorded their rendition of Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” in 1977, so if you think they were just some creepy suburban pie-eyed schmaltzball of a band, you’re wrong. You see, they also had some creepy interplanetary telepathic thing going on. That may or may not be cool, but it’s unquestionably interesting.
- Richard Carpenter was clearly a control freak and that means he was perfectly suited to compose intricate musical arrangements, which I always appreciate. The guy seemed like he was created in a lab for the sole purpose of sitting in front of a piano and cranking out hits that my parents would play while balancing the checkbook.
- Speaking of parents, The Carpenters may be the only band I like as much as my folks do. One of my earliest memories is riding around downtown Nashville in my mom’s VW Golf while listening to “There’s a Kind of Hush” on the easy listening station. Hell, we still listen to The Carpenters’ Christmas album every year and I hate Christmas music. THIS BAND KEEPS FAMILIES TOGETHER!
- Come to think of it, The Carpenters probably helped make a lot of babies in the 70’s. Yay for me, but eww.
Now that you’ve been fully convinced that this is the best band ever, I must warn you to slow your roll. Not everything they did was that wonderful, but the good stuff is very good. Where do you start? This is one of the rare instances where I recommend starting with the greatest hits compilations. Give those a shot first and if you’re still into it, start exploring their catalogue.