KUTX Staff pick their favorites of 2022 so far

Despite Everything…Great Music Keeps Happening.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment, but somewhere in the early months of yet another off-and-on year, it began to settle in. We’re not going back to normal. This is normal. So we’ve begun to grapple with that. The upheaval of the last few years has been unprecedented. Yet one thing has remained constant. Despite all the hurdles thrown at them – and they have been considerable – musicians have never stopped making great music. Even pre-pandemic, music was what got us by here at KUTX. And 2022 is already delivering another banner crop. Our music-obsessed staff check in at the mid-point with some of their favorites. 

– Jeff McCord


Art Levy, producer

Lady Wray – “Come On In”

A lot of artists want to hit you over the head with recording tricks. This song does the opposite. It’s a minimalist masterpiece: the band lays way back, leaving a ton of space for Lady Wray to pour out her heart and soul.

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Good Looks – “Vision Boards”

This Austin band has roots in the Kerrville Folk Festival scene, and you might not hear that in this garage rock banger. But between the power chords, there’s generational and economic despair as potent as any folk ballad.

It’s the “Satisfaction” or “My Generation” for the Millennial/Gen Z cohort.

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Caramelo Haze – “Caramelo Haze”

Cumbia goes to outer space, courtesy of this new Austin band, featuring members of Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, Kalu & the Electric Joint, Chicago’s Dos Santos, and more. A perfect summertime jam.

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Deidre Gott, producer

Daniel Fears – “Keep On” 

The Marvin Gaye vibes are strong on this well-crafted tune about the inevitable doubts we face in every relationship. Bonus points for any song that I can add some harm to when singing along in my car.

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Lava La Rue – “Hi-Fidelity” 

There are some musicians that make me feel like I’m a total slacker and have done nothing with my life. Lava La Rue is one of those. Not only does this Queer Londoner sing, rap, and produce music, she has her own clothing line and recently directed a music video for her pals Wet Leg. (link to video) “Hi-Fidelity” has strong sexy energy.  

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Caramelo Haze – “Caramelo Haze” and “Window Seat”

My brain kinda exploded when I heard these two tracks from this all-star cast of Austin musicians (Beto Martinez, John Spiece, Alex Chavez, Victor Cruz) WHAT IS THIS? Some kind of warbly, lo-fi, dreamy, cumbia and I’m way into it.

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Jack Anderson, producer

Robert Glasper – “Black Superhero”

Grammy-winning prescient pianist, Robert Glasper,  the R&B-jazz-gospel genius, doesn’t let any of his guests phone it in on “Black Superhero”. Big K.R.I.T. and Killer Mike bring the quality of transparent, socio-political rap we’ve come to expect from them, and BJ the Chicago Kid’s auto-tuned chorus stands out over Glasper’s clean keys. Between an eerie Funkadelic-style choir, effortless section changes, and a D minor 11th chord that drives right into my soul every time it strikes, “Black Superhero” is a hands-down favorite.

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Toro y Moi – “The Loop”

My tastes tend to steer closer to sample-based than synth-heavy, and because of that, Anything In Return remains in my top ten favorite albums of all time. And I get it, Chaz continues to push himself past creative boundaries, which I admire. But not every genre direction he chooses clicks as much with me; The new one, though, MAHAL? Love it. The dude’s vocal skills and production techniques have leveled up so much since 2019’s Outer Peace. And it’s awesome to hear Chaz bring his “Bundick energy” to a mid-‘70s-style retro-funk-soul sound.

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Daniel Fears – “Keep On”

Speaking of people who have leveled up hard in a short time, Austin’s Daniel Fears is shaping up to be a superstar. His embrace of the modern R&B style and migration from trombone to vocals spell the makings of a future music icon. Pun impending: Fears’ exponentially-maturing compositions and dedicated work ethic certainly don’t evoke his surname in listeners. 

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Jake Perlman, engineer

​​Adrian Quesada – “Mentiras Con Carino”

This tune has such an instant cinematic vibe for me. Though I don’t speak the language, I can still feel the sorrow & loneliness in iLe’s voice. We had the privilege of recording Adrian & iLe in Studio 1A recently and that same vibe was there in their live performance.

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King Gizzard – “Gaia” 

I grew up playing and listening to a lot of heavy music, and this song reminds me of the times when I first heard The Melvins, or Helmet, or something where I couldn’t believe that someone made something so cool. Great riff. Clever, odd-time rhythms. I’m quite lucky to work at a radio station that’ll put this on the air.

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Toro y Moi – “Postman” 

I love a song that’s 85% bass, especially when it has that disco walk-up. I’m a sucker for a lo-fi groove. I only wish it was longer. 

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Jay Trachtenberg, host

Cimafunk – “Caramelo”

My favorite live band of the past several years, this Cuban-based juggernaut serves up a non-stop onslaught of irresistible Afro-Cuban funk.  The band’s charismatic front man, Erik Rodriguez, has been rightfully dubbed “The Cuban James Brown.” 

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Japanese Breakfast  –  “Slide Tackle”

My musical epiphany so far in 2022.  The effusive, bouncy groove on this tune had me hooked from the get-go.  And there’s even a sax solo to boot! 

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Bonobo (feat. Jordan Rakei) – “Shadows”

The infectious trip hop beats of producer Bonobo provide a perfect bottom for Jordan Rakei’s ethereal vocals. Depending on your mood, you can dance to this or you can chill to it. 

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Jeff McCord – music editor, host

Black Thought and Danger Mouse – “Because” ft. Joey Bada$$, Russ and Dylan Cartlidge

You notice Brian Burton’s trademark silky funk first, then Cartlidge’s hook, and slowly, this state of the union from the Roots rapper, where “brothers drop down to their knees and make do of/Popsicle sticks, raced down the curb into the sewer”, starts to sink in. The verses from Bada$$ and Russ are variations on the theme: “Sometimes I’m wishing that my brain came with a kill switch/I don’t vacation, dawg, I guilt trip.” There’s self-reflection and grim realism, on streets where “Gangland all a façade” and  where  you “don’t need a reason to die, we die just –  because.”

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Good Looks – “Vision Boards”

In rare cases, so much can be said with so little. Barely topping four minutes, “Vision Boards” somehow addresses unrealistic societal expectations, the numbing myopia of privilege, and the crushing pitfalls and doubt that occur when you follow your muse without support or reward. It doesn’t preach or whine – well, not much, anyway. Instead, it rocks. Song of the year.

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Margaret Glaspy – “My Body, My Choice”

Most protest songs fade into the ether as the news cycle churns. Not this one. In three verses of plain-spoken determination, framed by little more than a biting guitar, Glaspy emanates the attitudes of herself and millions of others, There’s no rallying cry, no name-calling or blame. It’s just how it is. 

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Jody Denberg, host

Adrian Quesada – “Mentiras Con Carino” (feat. ILe)

A highlight from Adrian Quesada’s groundbreaking Boleros Psicodelicos album. The mixture of these Latin ballads with eclectic production – each helmed by a guest artist – is intoxicating. Quesada is one of the greatest visionaries in Austin music history. One looks forward to his next moves (which will include a second Black Pumas release).

(Watch the Studio 1A session HERE.)

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Spoon – “Lucifer On The Sofa”

Spoon has never made a bad record, and their latest is one of their best. This title track is a stand-out, replete with Austin references and a languid, effortless feel.

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Lyle Lovett – “Pants Is Overrated”

Lyle Lovett’s first new studio effort in 10 years – 12th Of June – was worth the wait. It plays like a greatest hits, touching on the stylistic bases Lovett has explored since 1986, but all taken up a notch. The album’s title refers to the birthdate of his young twins, and one could imagine one of his toddlers blurting out this song’s refrain. Welcome back, Lyle!

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Laurie Gallardo, host

Lava La Rue – “High Fidelity”

Lo-fi experimental hip-hop from a badass West London rapper – and founder of London’s NINE8 arts collective.

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The Black Angels – “El Jardin”

The entire album Wilderness of Mirrors, combined with excitement over this year’s LEVITATION Fest, places this as one of my top faves.

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Caramelo Haze – “Window Seat”

Austin has another incredible supergroup to brag about. An A-list band of talent makes super cool, super smooth neo “sol.” Consíguelo.

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Matt Reilly, program director

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – “Gaia”

I have a lane of metal that suits me, the kind where you can understand the words and there’s space between the notes. I also love great, dirge-y riffs. This has all of these. I’ve been cranking this with my kids in the car and they’ve moved beyond the annoyed at dad phase into acceptance of their new lord and master, “Gaia”.

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Angélica Rahe – “Mio” 

This slinky, hypnotic song from Austin’s Rahe has a lot going on. With each listen, I hear a new element that makes it more pleasantly complicated. This is definitely an artist on the rise and don’t be surprised to see her on a national or even global broadcast near you. 

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Danger Mouse and Black Thought – “No Gold Teeth”

From producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse and Roots frontman Black Thought comes a tune that’s rooted in classic soul but is yet totally modern. It’s a total earworm.

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Michael Crockett, host

Criolo & Maya Andrade – “Ogum Ogum

Brazilian singer-songwriter Criolo invites Cape Verdean singer Maya Andrade to join him on his song for Ogum, the Afro-Brazilian warrior deity, and to the perseverance and faith of the people of Brazil.

Residente & Ibeyi – “This Is Not América”

The Cuban sister duo Ibeyi joins Puerto Rican rapper Residente on a song that references Childish Gambino’s 2018 anthem “This Is America” with a common Latinx complaint that “America” means more than just the “USA”. It’s a powerful song highlighting the various cultures and politics of Latin America and the video is as strong as Gambino’s was.

Leyla McCala – “Le Bal Est Fini (The Party’s Over)

Singer-songwriter, cellist and banjo-player McCala’s latest album is dedicated to the music and history of her parents’ homeland Haiti. This song, sung in Creole French, refers to the closing of a popular community radio station by the Haitian government.


Rene Chavez, engineer

Adrian Quesada – “Mentiras Con Carino”

Quesada’s songwriting/arrangement and iLe’s sultry vocals are a vibe that evokes Los Angeles Negros, Luis Bacalov, and Bond films.

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Gustaf – “Book”

Fire track and record that tips its hat to early Devo. Can’t not love the quirk.

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Beach House – “Superstar”

Nothing hits like Beach House’s synth arpeggios. Lush pop tune with incredible textures and vocals. 

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Rick McNulty – music director, host

Cimafunk – “Caramelo”

The most raucous party jam I’ve heard in a long time. If George Clinton was from Cuba, this is what he’d sound like. Mix up some Cuba Libres and blast this song in a room full of people and watch them go bananas.

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Diana Ross & Tame Impala – “Turn Up The Sunshine”

I can’t think of an odder pairing unless you count olive oil and ice cream. On paper, it makes no sense, but in execution, it’s the song of another turbulent summer. When The Man and his unenlightened minions get you down, just turn up the sunshine.

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Kevin Morby – “This is a Photograph”

Inspired by his father’s collapse one night, Morby wrote one of the best songs about facing your parents’ mortality – something a lot of us middle-aged folks are reckoning with these days. The story is told through photographs, where we can see the glimmer in our parents’ eyes as if they’re telling us “This is what I’ll miss about being alive/This is what I’ll miss after I die.”

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Ryan Wen, host

Big Thief – “Simulation Swarm”

Past generations can be understood through their art. Music, for example, conveys the overall tenor of a time, and there is a pervasive feeling of melancholy verging on despair during ours so far. Big Thief’s “Simulation Swarm” articulates our Sci-Fi tinted apocalyptic moods in lilting phrases like “drone of fluorescence” and “the last human teachers.” The song’s title itself evokes terror, albeit in a phonetically pleasing way. 

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Phoebe Bridgers – “Sidelines”

Is this Phoebe Bridgers’ attempt at making a sappy love song? You probably think I’m crazy when the first few verses are customary Bridgers expressions of numbness and detachment. But there’s an uncharacteristic lyrical shift in the second verse “Had nothing to prove / Til’ you came into my life / Gave me something to lose.” Musically, “Sidelines” is another one of Phoebe Bridgers’ seductively depressive reveries, but here the music seems like a smokescreen to hide the sentimental lyrics. It’s as if she’s embarrassed to admit she’s in love, and there’s something very endearing about that. 

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Sylvie – “Hold On, Magnolia” (Songs: Ohia Cover)

I sometimes forget about Jason Molina’s music. Not because it’s forgettable, but because it’s too painful to think about. Few have had the skill and unflinching nerve to express their sorrow in stark honesty as beautifully as Molina did, yet each of his records is a pitch-black vista that I don’t care to visit too often anymore. The best sad songs say, “You’re not alone,” and to be honest, I didn’t need to hear this cover but I’m still glad I did. Molina’s most obvious influence was Neil Young, and Sylvie, a folk group out of Saskatchewan, recorded maybe the closest we’ll ever get to a prime CSNY version of a Molina track.  

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Soundfounder, host

​​Limalo – “Materia Medica” 

Austin duo Limalo is back with an impressive new album, Follow Plants. The duo works seamlessly to mesh elements of ambient electronic music, hip hop beat making, jazz, and psychedelia. 

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​​Fennec – “Girl” 

Recent Austin transplant Fennec has been garnering attention from major publications like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork for his unique, fun, high-quality sound. Fans of early music from The Avalanches will be drawn to his nostalgic, sample-heavy album A Couple of Good Days  and this stand-out track “Girl.”

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​​Stro Elliot – “Turn it Up

Nowadays many people know Stro Elliot as a member of the Roots. but he also has a deep discography of solo music. His recent album Black and Loud: James Brown Reimagined by Stro Elliot is exactly what it sounds like: James Brown sampled and creatively remixed by one of the best beat makers in the world.  “Turn it Up Give it Shrooms” is a stand-out track yet just one of many heavy hitters on the project.       

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Susan Castle, host

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Spitting off the Edge of the World”

 Karen O sings of “cowards”, “dark, dark places” and “rising”, and appears to be addressing existential climate change. The NYC trio’s first new song in nearly a decade is anthemic, moving, and particularly lovely when Perfume Genius sings a few lines adding to the emotion of it all.  

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Arcade Fire – “Lightning I, II”

Win Butler says “The Lightning I, II” was recorded during “peak COVID” and “in the shadow of the Mexican border wall” while the 2020 election results rolled in. The song is inspired by Haitian immigrants “walking from as far as Brazil for a chance at freedom, only to be met with whips and dogs and officers on horseback”.  A wonderful and welcome return to form.

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Cimafunk f/ Lupe Fiasco – “Rompelo”

Balancing the despair of my other picks is an electrifying Cuban artist whose voice and moves spark pure joy. This song will forever be linked to SXSW 2022 when he and his amazing band played our first morning broadcast in Studio 6A, the original home of Austin City Limits, which, at times, felt like a Havana club in Cimafunk’s funky hands. Many danced and smiled, and a few of us even cried tears of joy at the realization that here we were…together again enjoying soul-nourishing live music during SXSW for the first time in two years.  It was magical. 

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Taylor Wallace-Riegel, host

Sofi Tukker – “Kakee” 

A surfboard walks into a club. “Kakee” is made. A full party in under two minutes.  

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Good Looks –  “Vision Board” 

When it’s drilled into you that you are responsible for your own success, coming to terms with the fact that you only have so much control over achieving your goals is tough and requires copious amounts of humility, especially when it comes to art and the entertainment industry. Good Looks lays it all out it in a relatable song. Kurt Vile and Ron Gallo wish they could write a song like this.  

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Yard Act –  “Pay Day” 

Like James Murphy before them, “Pay Day” takes punk music and throws synthesizers and arpeggiators at it. A song eviscerating capitalism, along with those so deranged that they’re able to convince themselves that gentrification is a positive change and everyone else just needs to work harder. “Pay Day” invites the boogie and a middle finger.  

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