Music Shelf with Mustard has had the pleasure of listening to some incredible albums this year. 2022 has been an incredible year for music across all genres. Collectively the staff at Music Shelf have decided on an album of the year along a runner-up. You will also be able to find Mister Substitute’s, Gimpleg’s, and JustSomeMustard’s individual top 10 lists below. Let us know if you agree or disagree with our list!
You can listen to the complete collection here.
Album of the Year: JER – Bothered / Unbothered
JustSomeMustard – It is hard to put into the words the significance and importance of Bothered/Unbothered. The work that JER puts into the ska scene is unmatched. As a condiment trying their best to better understand humans, Bothered/Unbothered by JER provides insight into to the human condition. These conditions are flawed and it is JER (and the ska scene) who provide a inclusive, supportive, and loving place while also providing criticism to structures in which they exist. Songs such as Decolonize Yr Mind should allow humans to stop and think about how much control the evil Empire has upon them. These ways, these practices are ingrained into humans from such a young age that breaking free from them may be difficult. This album is complete with a well-defined narrative. At the end of the album, JER, becomes unbothered and is simply going to be JER. They appreciate the authenticity of JER and won’t allow any human to dull their sparkle. Mustard is a big Craig of The Creek fan (go watch it on HBO Max right now) and loves how JER further elevates their own authenticity along with the message from Craig of The Creek.
Favorite Track: Nobody Can Dull My Sparkle
Mister Substitute – This album, in my humble opinion, is arguably one of the most important albums of the last 10 years. The amount of hours Jer has put into ska music has been the blood that keeps the ska community alive today. Their work as Skatune Network opened so many eyes and ears to the power of ska music, their activism on social media platforms has been the torchlight of how the ska scene has decided to shape itself (inclusive, supportive, loving, but never afraid to point out injustices and take action when necessary). “Bothered/Unbothered” is almost the thesis of Jer as a person: they’ve mentioned it can be seen as a hero’s journey and can be appreciated both from start to finish and finish to start. Both ways support each other, too: starting out bothered, Jer is telling us to look around and stop supporting those who are hurting the scene and others, and then when the album flips and becomes unbothered, telling everyone that Jer is going to be Jer and there is nothing you can do (to dull their sparkle). But the political implications of this album should also be talked about thoroughly: telling the listeners to “Decolonize ur Mind” and songs like “Clout Chasers!” and “Cold Truth” warn us about what a privileged mindset can do and how detrimental it is to the success of the ska community.
Favorite Track- UNBOTHERED
Gimpleg – This album has everything I want in an album. It reminds us that music is a forum for political discourse without lecturing, but instead it brings us on a shared experience. It has an overall theme, and takes us, as the title states, from Bothered to unbothered. From the existential dread and trauma to the hope of a solution and a better tomorrow. Meanwhile, they seamlessly blend genres and expand ska in new directions, all without feeling like anything is forced or inauthentic. My favorite track is Decolonize Your Mind because it perfectly captures everything about the album. Fitting in the middle of the album this song intros with the theme of Bothered and discusses racial injustice and cultural theft, blends ska and rap in a way I’ve never heard before, and by the end of the song brings a sense of Unbothered hope and a call for action and optimism that lasts through the end of the album.
Favorite Track: Decolonize Your Mind
Runner-Up: Young Costello – Stories Told, Some New, Some Old
JustSomeMustard – Stories Told, Some New, Some Old is an absolute powerhouse of an album. While technically an EP the staff at Music Shelf have decided to classify it as an album as collectively it is our runner-up for the year. Humans love to caffeinate themselves to remain energized. This album, for Mustard, is the equivalent of that. It is the extra added sugar that propels you to get more done. To create a pit in Aisle H3 against the wishes of stocker Steve. The storytelling and instrumentation on Stories Told, Some New, Some Old is some of the best. Much like JER’s Bothered/Unbothered the political implications within (“deny human rights with a stoke of pen”) highlight current injustices happening within human society. Young Costello is your favorite ska band’s favorite ska band and for good reason.
Favorite Track: One Eyed Open
Mister Substitute – Young Costello, they’re (STILL) so hot right now. This album couldn’t be listened to without my face contorting every time I heard a special moment in a song, and there were several in the four tracks this EP has. Fun fact: we at Music Shelf decided to consider this an album even though it’s an EP because, well, it’s that freaking good. First, you have a group of crazy-talented musicians. Second, that voice of John Micheal Leija is…sultry. This album felt like a revolution within itself, and like “Bothered/Unbothered,” the political implications are there and profound. And then I think what really sets this album apart from YC’s previous works is the excellent mixing and mastering by Millington’s own Cody Okonski. But for me, and it’s so silly, what solidified this album so far up in my list was this clip of a cholo getting down next to his lowrider but someone overdubbed it with “Levantate” and I immediately thought “That’s what’s up.” And if you understand the importance of that phrase, that’s what’s up.
Favorite Track: Levantate
Gimpleg – I’ll start off with this album’s shortcoming, because there is only one. It’s an EP- it’s only four songs. Even taken that into consideration it was a hard decision to keep this from the top spot for the year. Every song is amazing. The writing is complex, the lyrics are meaningful, the pacing is frenetic, the execution is flawless. There aren’t enough good things to say about this album. My favorite track is Backseat Driver- a clear metaphor for addiction, that ranges from the anger and aggression in the breakdown that you might expect from a song about abuse to some of the most melodic horns I’ve ever heard in a song in the bridge. Most importantly the song isn’t preaching, it is experiencing and struggling. It invokes questions and is open and it is painful.
Favorite Track: Backseat Driver
Mister Substitute’s Top 10 Albums of 2022
10. oldphone- Hey I’m Alive and it’s Cool
Starting my list is oldphone’s “Hey I’m Alive and it’s Cool,” a queer hyperemo album written by the lovely Gregory (Aka Greggy they/them/she/he). I am not afraid to admit that all of my picks this year are on my top 10 because I had some type of emotional connection to it and sometimes that connection starts in-person, like mine did with Greggy. I’ve had the privilege of watching Greggy DJ for Eichlers twice now, not to mention jump on lead guitar for Dynastic that one time at Programme Skate Shoppe, and every time they’re on stage, their energy is infectious. So, logically, the next appropriate thing to do was to check out their discography and I listened to “Hey I’m Alive…” and it took me to another place. I listened to it once, then I remember doing something else and then sat back down and listened to it again and “guestroom ft. eichlers” caught a heartstring and I had myself a good cry, I loved it. Now this is my go-to emo album.
Favorite Track: guestroom ft. eichlers
9. Atlas & Oracle- Jubilee
I love new: new sounds, new voices, new ideas. Atlas & Oracle (A&O) checked off all of those boxes for me with their album “Jubilee.” I heard the lead singer, Atlas O’Clare, on the Ska Punk International compilation album “Songs for Moms 2” when they covered Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream” and I immediately wanted more. Then (I forgot how it worked out but I’m glad it did) I got the opportunity to write a review for this album for Music Shelf and I had this album on repeat for a couple weeks. It’s Atlas’ voice that just does it for me! And then the album is wonderfully written both musically and lyrically. The nod to Bukowski was just the icing on the cake for me.
Favorite Track: Walls Come Crashing
8. Hans Gruber and the Die Hards- With a Vengeance
This album is personally responsible for the…probably around a thousand, squats I have done since I head “Squatcore” for the first time. I can only think of a handful of songs that have that effect on me. In all seriousness, this album is on my list because it was one of my favorite vinyl purchase of the year but also HG&tDH do something very unique for me: they ride this razor-thin line of being skacore without being too much for me and it’s like coming across real chocolate with the right cacao percentage: you never really knew chocolate until you’ve had the real stuff. “With a Vengeance” is the real stuff. Not to mention seeing them live was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had the pleasures of seeing this year. Plus “Let’s Drive Everywhere” is habitually stuck in my head whenever I get in the car for a long trip.
Favorite Track: Let’s Drive Everywhere
7. Lumpy- Burn the Page
This album really grew on me. I’ve followed SPI since I heard about it and I trust everything Cool Chris does and he mentioned before announcing the signing of Lumpy that they weren’t ska but he was really stoked about them, and rightfully so. Lumpy’s album hits a few soft spots for me, much like “Jubilee.” For me, the big thing for this album that solidified its placement on my top 10 list was that, again, I had an emotional connection to a certain song and even felt compelled to call my partner in tears (yeah, actually happened) and sort of made her listen to “One With You.” And when she did, I reiterated that it was exactly how I felt not only about myself but about our relationship and we had a very nice couples moment. I owe Lumpy a giant hug for that moment. The rest of the album is such a treat, too. Again, the lyrics are delicately written and the music varies which is something I always appreciate within an album.
Favorite Track: One With You
6. JER- Bothered/Unbothered
You can Mister Substitute’s thoughts on this album above!
5. Common Kid Flower- Now, We Ride
You’ve all slept on this album. Common Kid Flower (CKF) is so good, so fresh, so authentic. “Now, We Ride” is the coolest album that maintained a theme without being a full-on concept album for me this year. The theme: the dusty sunset of the desert Southwest, cowboys, crooks, and Big Nose Kate. I first came across CKF from their song “Living Room” and I was immediately hungry for more. I had to wait over a year, but when it got here, dear lord, I was satisfied. As I stated in my album review, I think the reason this album has such a special place in my heart is because they painted a picture (IN SKA, NONETHELESS) of my hometown area and the whole time I saw the entire album being played out in my head. And on top of all of this, CKF is just two people and their background story is one of the cutest things I’ve heard all year. Check out Mustard’s interview with them to hear about that. Take a bow, Common Kid Flower, I cannot wait to hear more for y’all.
Favorite Track- Big Nose Kate
4. Young Costello- Stories Told, Some New Some Old
Check out Mister Substitute’s review of Stories Told, Some New, Some Old here.
3. Bumsy and the Moochers- Diet Violence
This album is a chip on your shoulder with a smirk on your lips. I can’t believe I’m quoting myself but I was very proud of my opening lines from my album review for “Diet Violence”: Righteous pessimism. Read that again. Cynicism that is just, scrupulous criticism on something long overdue for a calling out. This album made me want to riot, to overthrow this crooked system we call society and listen to some kick-ass ska-punk while doing it. This was also one of my favorite vinyl purchases of the year. But in all honesty all of my top 3 I have on vinyl because I’m a vinyl snob now 😦 .
Favorite Track: Rewind 99
2. Stop the Presses- Got it
So, Stop the Presses (StP) are a band that I’m really upset I haven’t checked out until now. I forgot how Mustard and I decided to review this one but I was so happy when I was able to write the review for “Got it.” “Ride or Die” is arguably my top song of the year. Ali’s voice is mesmerizing. The whole stage presence of StP is something I see on social media and I want to be there. This album was just a cover-to-cover instant classic for me. I would come home and put this on vinyl and just sit there and zone out but listen. This album and my number one were ultimately constantly on repeat when they came out.
Favorite Track: Ride or Die
1. Eichlers- My Checkered Future
Anyone who knows me knows this is absolutely not a surprise. I’ve been a Hi-chler (I’m a Hi-chler, that’s all there is to it) since Ike first Hi’d me. He is someone I love supporting not only as a musician but also a human being. And before MCF I would have to listen to almost a small sample size of Eichlers, but then MCF came out and I was a feign for it. It was legitimately wake up, listen to MCF, drive to work, listen to MCF, during lunch, listen to MCF, get home, ect. And not to mention getting it on vinyl even before I had a turntable so I made my friend pull his out and it was a giant ordeal but we sat down and listened to it and I doubled over laughing at “that part” with Cool Chris and it was a very vivid core memory for me. Eichlers is the HYPERSKA SUPERSTAR. A lot like Jer, anything Ike touches turns to gold. His production skills are great and only improving and he has solidly planted himself as one of my favorite lyricist. I still moan with disbelief every time I hear the first verse of “99 Resolutions” and “Thing U C” is my alarm clock ringtone. I was obsessed with this album when it came out, now I have a very healthy love for it where I can come and go as I please and every time it’s like the first time.
Favorite Track: 99 Resolutions
Gimpleg’s Top 10 Albums of 2022
10. Dissidente- The War On Two Fronts
Whether they call it metal, hard-core, skacore, punk, what it is is a call to arms and an anti-fascist manifesto set to music, demanding political change far more significant than can be achieved at a ballot box. Attacking a system that pits the working class against one another, songs like Black Bloc, 45, and Of Heads or Houses make this abundantly clear while songs like Reproductive Reich call for awareness and change of narrower issues with the same attitude and conviction. My favorite song on this album is Labor Day with the audience call back chants and “whoa”s while calling for a UBI and demands of economic justice.
Favorite Track: Labor Day
9. Hans Gruber and The Die Hards – With a Vengeance
Texas based ska-core with cumbia influences this album is a little more hard-core than I typically prefer, but many of these songs ride that fine line to keep me listening while weaving back and forth between serious, political, playful, and absurd. Songs like No No Bronto are factually accurate history lessons about a dark period in paleontological history, while Credit Cards are a Product of Satan is an anti-capitalist ska core anthem with blast beats and metal guitar or the environmentally conscious Let’s Drive Everywhere which is set to the beat of the Gummi Bears theme song, this album has everything and is everywhere. My personal favorite track is the paranoid delusions and smooth catchy chorus and clever verses of You’re Being Watched.
Favorite Track: You’re Being Watched
8. Bumsy and the Moochers – Diet Violence
While this is their third release, this album feels much different from their previous albums. They added more horns and just better songwriting. This album is fast paced ska with some great jazz influenced horn sections, fun and exciting guitar parts, and great female fronted vocals. My favorite song on this album is definitely The Rat. The pace and rhythm of the song definitely bring my to my feet and make me wish I had to functional legs to spin around in a pit, and the guitar solo really brings everything to a climax.
Favorite Track: The Rat
7. Space Monkey Mafia- Banned in California
This was the first time I discovered Space Monkey Mafia, completely missing their 2016 debut, and this album really blew me away. It feels pretty 90s-2000s ska punk influenced but is extremely danceable. Every song just lifts me up and makes me wanna sing along. With a name like Space Monkey Mafia I was expecting something a little campy, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong. My favorite song is Unexpected Places. I don’t know that it is the best song on the album, but even the first time I listened to the album I was singing along with the chorus before the song was over, and hours later I was still humming it after listening to dozens of songs after it had come and gone.
Favorite Track: Unexpected Places
6. The Interrupters – In The Wild
First, let me establish that the third full length album from the Interrupters is actually good. But I think it’s also their worst of their three albums. While most of my top albums are bands expanding their genre or experimenting with something new, the Interrupters are looking the other direction. With appearances from Rhoda Dakar, Tim Armstrong, The Skints, and members of Hepcat, the Interrupters are paying tribute to their roots in reggae, 2nd wave ska, and it shows up throughout the album. Their first two albums sounded very familiar, but felt more like rebellion and songs of resistance, this album is a little calmer, more relaxed, and more introspective- dealing with the past, feelings of insecurity, mental health, and imposter syndrome. My favorite song on this album is In The Mirror for the simple rhythm, the straightforward lyrics that just come out and admit the insecurities Aimee is facing. I find a special courage in being so honest without hiding anything in metaphor. While I think it would have been better for the album to move the band forward, I have to appreciate the symmetry of writing a reflective album about your past while celebrating your musical influences in style and with collaboration.
Favorite Track: In The Mirror
5. Day Labor – Amigos
The second album from Day Labor has tracks with very different feels. Some songs feel like Less Than Jake with a richer, cleaner instrumentation and others feel like Streetlight Manifesto with an Aquabat influenced lyricism. Some songs are serious and others feel like they are fun or joking, but all of them feature a rich horn section and deep layers of music. It’s fun and rich, but never too playful. My favorite song is Siguele, with more Latin influences throughout the song and spanglish lyrics throughout. Every time I play this album I perk up immediately when this song comes on and I’m drawn back to the music in a way the other tracks don’t pull me in. I can’t wait to hear more from Day Labor to see what direction they move. This feels like it’s on the edge of bringing me in completely and hovering on the brink of being lost in the noise of almost made it. Right now I think it is leaning towards the former- they are too talented to not rise to the occasion.
Favorite Track: Siguele
4. Bruce Lee Band- One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Despite putting out music constantly for over 30 years, Mike Park still has a way to sound fresh, relevant, and not at all like a fresh coat of paint on old music. Anyone who knows Mike Park or the Bruce Lee Band know that you are getting social commentary given his rich history of using music to fight social injustice and his charity work, and this album is absolutely no different. The album’s single, Did You Find The Money Farm is the first song to really demand your attention, and Dance Dance Revolution is a really catchy danceable ska song, but my favorite is actually Putting Up With All My Crazy. Another song about mental health, but this hit me right when I needed it and made me feel appreciative for all the people in my life who form what safety network I have while also being smooth and sincere.
Favorite Track: Putting Up With All My Crazy
3. Eichlers – My Checkered Future
Hi. Eichlers debuted this album as its own new genre of music- hyperska. A blending of traditional ska with hyperpop, and came out of the gate swinging. The first track intros with a sample of Reel Big Fish’s Sell Out with an electronic mix, and this was the best possible introduction for a brand new style of music. Ike took an instantly recognizable classic, sampled it, twisted it, and showed you exactly where this journey was leading. Honestly, so sick. My favorite song on this album is probably Nickel City (featuring Omnigone). It has the fastest pacing and carries the themes of the album of self doubt and insecurity, all while giving you the catchiest hooks you’ll be humming to yourself for the rest of the week. It’s hard to not fall in love with this album, even if you’ve never heard anything like it.
Favorite Track: Nickel City (featuring Omnigone)
Gimpleg’s number one and two choice are both Music Shelf’s album of the year and runner up. You can find their thoughts above.
Mustard’s Top 10 Albums of the 2022
10. Bret McKenize – Songs Without Jokes
Bret McKenize, one half of New Zealand’s Flight of the Conchords, released their debut solo album “Songs Without Jokes.” this year. On “Songs Without Jokes”, McKenize further demonstrates his versatility and shows that they are still present without Jemaine Clement by his side. While this album lacks the dry wit one would expect from McKenize, its songwriting and storytelling remains clever and sharp. “Songs Without Jokes” opens and sets the tone with “This World” which is optimistic yet hopeful that humans will treat the planet they inhabit better. It is the debut single “A Little Tune” which Mustard believes to be the standout on the album. Harkening back to those old-timey jazz songs “A Little Tune” is a song that you just can’t help but falling in love with. It will inspire you to call your human loved ones and let them know how much you care about them. McKenize is a star on his own and “Songs Without Jokes” highlights that.
Favorite Track: A Little Tune
9. Kate Brunotts – Womb
Mustard had the pleasure of reviewing this album earlier in the year and it has stuck with them since. “Womb” is a revelation. In a society and country where Roe vs Wade was overturned “Womb” combats and fights against not only that decision but how women are portrayed. This album should be used to create discussions. Brunotts signature style combined with a powerful narrative makes “Womb” an album you cannot miss.
Favorite Track: Do You Want To Dance?
8. Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loneliest Time
Mustard is ashamed to say that they boarded the Carly Rae train late. Honey Mustard (Mustard’s better half) had always recommended Carly Rae but Mustard did not do a deep dive into Jepsen’s discography until this year. They are so glad this year.
When it comes to mainstream and commercial pop, Carly Rae is at the top. In Mustard’s opinion. Mustard understands there are more popular artists within the commercial sphere but it is Jepsen who consistently has produced “bangers after bangers.”
The Loneliest Time continues that trend. Rather than stick to the formula that comes with Clear Channel music, Rae expands her sound and shows that she contains multitudes.
For those who only know Carly Rae’s “Call Me Maybe” Mustard recommends you check out the rest of her discography as she is so much more than that.
Favorite Track: Beach House
7. Pacing – Hatemail
Hatemail from Pacing is an exploration into the human brain. Humans, oftentimes, seem to dislike or not believe in themselves. This human concept is called “confidence” or lack thereof. Hatemail is built off this concept. The cover art even reads “you are not good enough.” This album struck a cord with Mustard, as while they lack human emotions, it allows them to try to feel for their fellow humans. Empathy is a human trait slowly vanishing as if someone used intellectual property without consent. Pacing’s storytelling is honest, sardonic, and downright mean sometimes.
Favorite Track: Sunny ❤
6. Samantha Fierke – Mirage
2022 is the year in which Mustard began to fully appreciate and love Jazz music. Mustard never hated or dismissed Jazz beforehand, just never gave it proper attention until this year. An album that further solidified that love was “Mirage” by Samantha Fierke. Fierke’s Jazz-fusion debut has one of the best openers of the year with “Kick It Loose”, a fast-paced high energy tune that sets the stage. “Mirage” is an album of personal growth and one that Mustard believes humans can find themselves in.
Favorite Track: Color Me
5. Young Costello – Stories Told, Some New, Some Old. You can find Mustard’s thoughts about this album above.
4. Laufey – Everything I Know About Love
Mustard was first introduced to Laufey by the incredible Olivia Van Goor, a jazz musician you should check out. They recommended “Best Friend” to Mustard from Laufey’s debut EP. Safe to say, Mustard was hooked. 2022 was the year Mustard began to fully appreciate jazz and it is in big parts to Laufey. Laufey has become one of the biggest names in Jazz and understandably so.
Laufey’s debut album “Everything I Know About Love” is an exceptional album. Everything from the storytelling, instrumentation, composition. Even if you are not a fan of jazz Mustard believes you can appreciate just how exquisite this album is. It will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you appreciate human connections.
Favorite Track: Dear Soulmate
3. Grooblen – One of Four
Grooblen’s One of Four is an album that has it all: spiders, puppets, dinosaur plants, and the creative brilliance of Ellie Stokes Before even listening to “One of Four”, the album cover art does an incredible job of bringing you into the world of Grooblen. As described by Grooblen themselves, this album is a sonic musical circus “written during frontperson Ellie Stokes’s diagnosis with a rare optic nerve condition during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “One of Four” has become an album that Mustard listens to almost daily. That is in part due to the story that unfolds but also Stoke’s vocals which captivate Mustard. Grooblen has become an staple and it is in big part to the creativity of this album. “One of Four” would make an incredible independent avant-garde A24 film. The experimental jazz-rock accompanied by Grooblen’s storytelling makes you want to visit their world as often as you can. Mustard looks forward to what Grooblen has in store for the future.
Favorite Track: The Spider
2. JER – Bothered/Unbothered. You can find Mustard’s thoughts about this album above.
1. Weyes Blood – And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow
And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is one of the most beautiful albums Mustard has ever had the pleasure of listening to.This album was discovered while on the front page of Bandcamp. It was a recommended/best-selling album which piqued Mustard’s curiosity. Mustard cannot eloquently put into words or give justice to Weyes Blood follow up to Titanic Rising. Titanic Rising is an observation of human society and with And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow we are in the midst of everything going on. Blood seeks to move away from our desire to please an algorithm who dictates human actions in hopes of going viral. Our attention should be on each other and not technology. Mustard finds this incredibly compelling and relatable. This is their personal album of the year. The vocals, instrumentation, storytelling – this album is unlike anything Mustard has heard before.
Favorite Track: It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody
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