A montage of album art and photos from Lane County musicians.

What we’re listening to

Eugene Weekly looks back at our staff-favorite albums of 2022

Lane County musicians have been busy this year. 

For some, the silenced live music scene during the early stages of the COVD-19 lockdown was a time to write new music or form new groups. And this year music lovers get to reap the benefits of the music community’s work. From hip hop to garage rock to jazz, this 2022 music album roundup shows how sonically diverse our community is. 

Most of these artists have their works available on major streaming services, such as Spotify. But remember to support your favorite local artists by going further than streaming these songs, which basically pays artists about a thousandth of a penny per stream. Go see the artists when they play live, pay the cover charges and buy their merch — it’s the only way local music can thrive. 

Of course, this roundup doesn’t include every artist or group that released an album this year, so if we missed something, give us a shout at Music@EugeneWeekly.com. — Henry Houston

Buffalo Romeo, Where the Buffalo Roam 

April 1. Facebook.com/BuffaloRomeo. Rock. 

Chances are if you’ve ever had an evening drink at beergarden, you’ve seen Buffalo Romeo, a duo consisting of Lea Jones (vocals and guitar) and Kennan Dorn (guitar). They’ve played shows around town since 2014, but the band hit the recording studio, Jones tells Eugene Weekly, after he was hit with a couple cancer diagnoses. (He reminds EW that he’s still alive.) Where The Buffalo Roam opens with “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a rock song akin to Huey Lewis and the News — musically and with light-hearted lyrics. The album is an adventure of genres, including rock, country, rockabilly and jazz. The other half of Buffalo Romeo shows is Dorn, who unleashes his multi-instrumental talents on the record. Dorn’s melodic and tasteful guitar licks fill the album, with solos to match the album’s various genres. And he switches off from electric guitar to mandolin to lap steel (and more) reminding listeners that he’s a strings renaissance man. — Henry Houston


Candy Picnic

Candy Picnic, Circus Dogs

June 30. CandyPicnic.com. Alternative rock. 

The band’s first full-length album balances bright, distorted guitars and loud drums with Stella Parker’s smooth vocals for a unique alt-rock experience. Songs effortlessly bounce between dreamy, quiet sections and in-your-face rock with hints of punk, almost like flipping a switch on some songs. The switching centers different emotions at different parts, engrossing the listener in the music. For those who like listening to the lyrics, the songs present solid poetic stories with edgy themes. Tight sounds and polished instrumentals on this album certainly reflect the musicians’ growth since their 2019 EP Garage Sounds, which is especially clear in the re-recording of “Lochness.” Circus Dog gives fans an exciting hope for Candy Picnic’s future. — Krista Kroiss

Fortune’s Folly, Trust the Way

Sept. 5. FortunesFollyBand.com. Alternative rock. 

Are you part of the “FollyFam,” what fans of the Eugene-based pop rock quartet Fortune’s Folly call themselves on social media? With a new release, Trust the Way, out this year, now’s your chance to find out. Led by effervescent lead singer Calysta Cheyenne, Fortune’s Folly blends ’90s alt guitar rock, soul music on songs like “Solid Ground” and even at times, a vague sense of pop country — or maybe that’s just the group’s persistent high-energy optimism shining through, alongside Cheyenne’s bright delivery. “Fantasize” sees the band toy with a reggae-rock backbeat, while a rare downbeat number from the group comes with “Alone,” as Cheyenne emotes heartbreak the way Alanis Morrissette used to do. Will Kennedy


Glide Divide

Glide Divine, Glide Divine

April 29. SoundCloud.com/GlideDivine. Psychedelic Rock. 

Atmospheric and vast, Glide Divine’s self-titled debut EP cements them as a mainstay in the local music scene. The Corvallis band’s three-track EP came out in April, and they are set to release their debut album in January. Though they self-identify as “space rock,” their music is reminiscent of psychedelic rock from the ’60s and ’70s, combined with ’90s-era shoegaze. “Sighs and Blues,” off the EP, is all searching guitars and subdued vocals that blend into a sea of sound. But the highlight of the debut is the endlessly catchy “Baby There’s Another.” The vocals on this track are the strongest out of the three, the cadence melting into the groove. As for their forthcoming album, Glide Divine released a statement: “It’s lots of work, and lots more patience,” but “the sonic possibilities are literally endless once we get into that groove and we hope it never dies.” — Sofia Garner

Idit Shner & Mhondoro, Heat Wave

July 8. MhondoroMusic.com. Jazz. 

During the throes of COVID-19, saxophonist Idit Shner and John Mambira were in a “parent pod,” a relic of the early pandemic days when children completed online school together. Keyboardist Torrey Newhart then joined the group, which then added Garrett Baxter on bass and Ken Mastrogiovanni on drums. Early in the pandemic, Shner says recording studios were closed, so the group recorded the album in Newhart’s living room. Shner says what sets Mhondoro apart from other jazz ensembles is that it’s focused on group chemistry; “We’ve taken time to gel together.” The group’s debut album, Heat Wave, brings together jazz and Zimbabwean traditional music, a delicate combination filled with exciting tracks from the driving rhythmic ’60s vibes of “Heat Wave” to a groove-filled “Step By Step.” — Henry Houston

Last Year’s Man, Time Is a Sparrow

Nov. 18. LastYearsMan.com. Folk. 

Eugene-based indie folk singer-songwriter and producer, Tyler Fortier, performing as Last Year’s Man, put out Time is a Sparrow, his first full-length since Last Year’s Man 2020 debut, Brave the Storm. In the past, his music has been used on network TV shows like CBS Sunday Morning, among others, and on his new release, Fortier continues along the same vein, playing deeply personal, well-crafted contemporary indie folk. The music soars at points. At others, it dips into romantic melancholy. From a certain adult acoustic-folk perspective, there’s huge commercial potential on Sparrow. Especially on the pop and alt-country influenced “Spill the Light,” among the record’s most engaging tracks, or the heart-swelling “Only Memories,” in which, as the percussion joins in, Last Year’s Man gestures toward stadium-filling sensibilities. — Will Kennedy

Kerry Politzer, In a Heartbeat

Oct. 21. KerryPolitzer.com. Jazz. 

Portland pianist Kerry Politzer assembles a star-studded band — and including herself all musicians on the record are also faculty members at the Eugene-based Oregon Jazz Workshop — for her album In a Heartbeat. Politizer’s compositions feature memorable melodies along with virtuosic solos from her band, creating a work of art that is both approachable for new listeners to jazz yet substantial for those steeped in the artform. “Shaky Ground” is a must-listen from the album, which illustrates the elite company Politzer surrounded herself with — as well as her composition ingenuity —  to make such a remarkable work. — Henry Houston


The Macks. Photo by IanEnger.

The Macks, Rabbit

Dec. 2. TheMacksBand.com. Alternative rock. 

OK, so, The Macks are now based on North Portland, but here at Eugene Weekly, we still consider these graduates from the University of Oregon house show scene one of our own, and so do local audiences. With their second album of the year, Dajiban, the 2022 Willamette Week best-new-band winners continue their exploration of classic FM radio hard rock through a modern lens. The Macks have been performing heavily and it shows, capable of taking their music right up to the edge of chaos without losing control, where the best rock ‘n’ roll belongs. Album highlights include the funk-rock “Rubberneck” and album lead single “I Get My Shit Delivered.” If you despair they just don’t make rock bands like they used to, The Macks and Dajiban may be just what you asked for. — Will Kennedy

Muddy Souls, The Raven

March 12. TheMuddySouls.com. Bluegrass. 

Storytelling is important in all forms of music. However, it is especially vital in folk, country and bluegrass music. With their album The Raven, released in March, Eugene progressive bluegrass band The Muddy Souls do just that. They include topics such as sadness and loss (“Music Man”), having a good time in a tough world (“Dancing in the Rain”) and understanding one’s ancestors (“Survivors”). There are different lead vocalists on the tracks, and all bring unique styles to the songs. Their harmonies are spot on, with “Rolling Thunder” featuring the vocals on the chorus arpeggiating into one beautiful harmony. Ultimately, The Raven is a great album for not only those who love bluegrass and folk music, but also anyone who wants to hear great stories being told through music. — David Ainsworth

Plaedo, Strange Encounters

Dec. 12. Plaedo.com. Hip hop.

Strange Encounters from Eugene-based rapper and musician Plaedo, with production from Kyron Rising, is a concept hip-hop album about bonding through trauma and “the hero’s journey,” referencing whimsical elements like Peter Pan. It’s a love story, as rappers Zen Tempest and Maxwell Davis contribute guest verses, and singers Princess T and Kara Strickland, among other guest artists, provide a tonal center, singing soul-style hooks. Musically, the record is reminiscent of Minneapolis-based hip-hop duo Atmosphere, among others artists on the Minnesota rap label Rhymesayers Entertainment. With an apparent appreciation for hip-hop music and the styles that inflect the genre like soul, jazz and R&B, Strange Encounters is danceable, especially on the vaguely bluegrass-influenced “Hillbilly Shaman Banger.” There’s also the sense that secrets will be revealed upon close listening. — Will Kennedy



Spunj, Snack Size, Vol. 1

March 15. SpunjMusic.com. Jam. 

Spunj describes itself as “a high energy, multi-genre fusion four piece” in its Spotify bio. It feels like an accurate description of the five-track, 24-minute EP. Snack Size Vol. 1 brings complex layers of instrumentals as it blends a funky bass with rough blues vocals, also bringing sax, synth and soft rock guitar solos into the mix. Each song has a different feel, but a general “beachy” theme can be drawn across most tracks. The EP demonstrates the fun, precise musicianship of the jam band members that fans of artists like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard will enjoy. — Krista Kroiss

Titsweat, Swelter

Nov. 10. Titsweats.bandcamp.com. Garage glam. 

Founded last year, Eugene-based Titsweat hit the ground running, playing local venues and recording singles. Titsweat is for those of you who are looking for fixes to the Kate Bush obsession that Stranger Things created. On the band’s Band Camp website, they declare influential art rock artist Bush as their queen. Despite the surge of popularity with “Run Up that Hill (A Deal With God),” Gracie Schatz says she and Titsweat guitarist Russel Melia have a long history of their love for Bush: They were in a cover band 20 years ago. “We’ve been riding that Kate Bush train for almost two decades,” she says. 

“Mountain Tiger” off of the debut EP captures one of the hallmarks of ’90s garage rock: clean guitar tones that dramatically switch to a wall of distortion and swirls with guitar noise. Bassist and vocalist Schatz says that the EP features some of the band’s most popular songs from its recent West Coast tour. And it’s a snapshot that shows the band’s songwriting diversity, from moments of abrasiveness, cleverness and melancholy, she says. “Jane Eyre” is one of those songs that illustrates the group’s exceptional songwriting. Similar to Derek and Dominos’ “Layla” or Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “November Rain,” Titsweat’s “Jane Eyre” is two songs in one, the first half has a sharp, biting melody that’s followed by a chant-like climax. And “Jane Eyre” is a nod to Bush, whose 1978 classic “Wuthering Heights” was also a Emily Bronte-themed song. So take a pause from running up that hill and give Swelter a listen. — Henry Houston

Upstate Quartet, Days Gone By

Nov. 5. UpstateQuartet.com. Jam funk. 

Released in November and recorded locally at Sprout City Studios, Eugene-based jam band Upstate Quartet’s debut album Days Gone By is a mix of genres, including rock, blues, jazz and funk. As guitarist Jay Waylett explains, “The theme is Upstate Quartet.” 

Opener “Porcupine” shows off the band’s funkier side, starting with a catchy slap bass riff that is reminiscent of bass masters such as Flea. “Intergalactic Love Song” and “Bustin’ a Justin” keep up those fun vibes, while “Sunny Day #2,” “5th Floor” and “Underneath the Seas” dig into the band’s rock influences. Vocally, the group’s strongest talents are the harmonies, as demonstrated in tracks such as “Intergalactic Love Song,” “Days Gone By” and “El Guapo.” “It Came From the Couch” features funky, comedic humor, while “Carpal Tunnel” increases the tempo significantly and makes for a riveting closer. All in all, Days Gone By is a solid debut, and is for anyone who loves jam bands and multiple music genres. — David Ainsworth

Ziree Sun, Local Celebrity

Nov. 1. Find on Facebook. Facebook.com/dezbcreative. Hip hop.

As the album’s oxymoronic title would suggest, Ziree Sun is seemingly everywhere in the Eugene art scene. They host a number of recurring drag shows as Lyta Blunt and were named the town’s best actor in Eugene Weekly’s 2021 Best of awards as Deziree Brock. And now, Sun is adding to her creative repertoire, with the release of her first EP inspired by hip-hop artist Noname.

Sun’s been making music since they were a kid, but they’ve never put together an actual project until now. Local Celebrity addresses that struggle, Sun says, as well as her realization that she can create art for herself rather than for other people. Or as she raps in “Fly Away,” the project’s lead single: “Just trying to make it, but I’ve been too scared to write the music.” 

Sun’s friend Evan Hopper-Moore helped her to produce the EP, with Adam Fishburn stepping in on viola, and Amiia Nectar is featured vocally on the song “On My Mind.” — Leo Baudhuin 

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