ACL 2022 ~ The Year in Review

The pandemic eased and war began.  Inflation rose and politicians argued.  And all the while, the planet continued to warm.  Music was an anchor in a turbulent time ~ whether directing our attention to important matters, entertaining us or offering us moments of peace.

2022’s lead story ~ the war in Ukraine ~ is also the lead story on our site.  Thanks to Gianmarco del Re’s ongoing series Ukrainian Field Notes, our readers have had an ongoing, real-time window into the situation there, as well as an in-depth look at how artists respond to crisis.  We have been astounded, inspired and moved by the nation’s resilience and the diversity of music produced under fire.  Global artists have also rallied to the cause, producing a remarkable array of benefit albums.  There is so much quality music coming from and for Ukraine that we could fill a whole site with it.  Our cover image comes from the exhibition Wonderbirds of Mariya Prymachenko.

Our site’s second biggest story is the rejuvenation of our staff roster.  A Closer Listen quietly turned 10 last December, and will soon “go up to 11.”  Many of our original writers have entered new life phases, taking on new jobs and starting families.  For the first time, we issued an invitation to new writers; five made it through our strenuous audition process.  In addition to Gianmarco (from Italy), we are proud to welcome Garreth Brooke (Frankfurt), Peter Tracy (Seattle U.S.), Jennifer Smart (Chicago U.S.), Maya Merberg (Spain) and Maria Papadomanolaki (Greece), increasing our global reach, which also includes writers in Canada, Mexico and the U.K.

The musical landscape continued to change in rapid and often disconcerting ways. While vinyl continues to be as popular as production delays are long, many of our favorite albums were never released in any physical format, a trend perhaps less upsetting to millennials than it is to long-time collectors. And since many albums are not available in digital form, there’s no way to amass a collection in a single format.  But some found new ways to repurpose old records; the image above is taken from ChloeCarlinCreates on Etsy.

The pandemic also pushed the global populace to nostalgia, apparent in the popularity of catalog songs on the iTunes Charts and the retro leanings of new music.  It’s not all old, of course; we’ve reviewed plenty of original, daring artists on our site this year.  But the more people turn to songs they already know, the less room there is in their ears for new music, even from favorite artists.  This is bound to change at some point, but for now it means it’s harder than ever for new music to break through.  This is where we come in ~ we received over 5000 instrumental and experimental submissions this year, listened to at least part of every one, and chose one each day to review.  Want to hear more?  Visit our Upcoming Releases page, peruse our seasonal previews, and follow the links on our More Music Sites page.

As of this writing, apart from Ukrainian Field Notes, our most popular posts of the year were The 40 Best Winter Albums of All Time, How to Get Noticed in 2022, The 25 Best Summer Albums of All Time and The 40 Best Compilation Albums of All Time.  Our readers love lists!  Our most read artist reviews: Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Víkingur Ólafsson and Mari Samuelsen, which suggests that our readers also love modern composition and Iceland.

Our year-end lists begin tomorrow: seven specialty lists, followed by seven genre lists, followed by our overall Top 20.  This is our favorite time of year, as we begin to put the year’s music in perspective.  We hope you’ll join us daily to see what we’ve chosen!  We wish our faithful readers a meaningful and joyous December ~ thank you for being part of our musical community!  (Richard Allen)


  1. alebotijo

    Great work, you all. Love reading your reviews.

    Best, Alex

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