Consuming 2022: Music, Screens, Pages, & Podcasts

Accolades and Life-Lines from the Year That Just Ended

David Zahl / 1.3.23

That time again! I decided to continue last year’s practice of winnowing down these faves to what gave me hope and lifted my spirits throughout the year. As opposed to, say, the most piercing explorations of human frailty or whatever. Here’s some of what made the Year of our Lord 2022 worth living, at least for this guy.


A great deal of my 2022 listening tracked with the episodes of The Well of Sound that Lex and I recorded, which means tons of Genesis & Phil Collins, Meat Loaf & Jim Steinman, and The Pretenders/Chrissie Hynde (that one will be out later this month). Along those lines, it was incredibly gratifying to see the world latch on to Kate Bush so enthusiastically, having spent much of 2021 absorbing her work. Listen to that episode here.

Course, twelve months is a long time not to stumble on other gems as well. Here’s a playlist of my 30 Favorite Songs Discovered in 2022. Most Mbird-resonant on there is probably the obscure 1971 Meat Loaf and Stoney single, “(I’d Love to Be) As Heavy as Jesus,” but the Dallas Frazier-penned “The Baptism of Jesse Taylor” is as gospel-centered a slice of country funk as one is likely to find. The Dream Academy singing about angels of mercy and packs of wild sinners — with Dave Gilmour! — is pretty special, too. Otherwise, Scottish Indie continued to pluck my heartstrings, especially the melancholy tones of The Trashcans Sinatras. Their tune, “It’s a Miracle,” was my single most played track.

Missing from that playlist, by virtue of not being on Spotify, would be anything from the Am-I-Being-Trolled Discovery of the Year, The Neal Morse Band. I’m still baffled by how they hadn’t come across our radar screen before, as I’m pretty sure Mbird sits at the center of whatever Venn Diagram exists for the audience of prog-rock concept albums about Luther’s 95 Theses (Sola Scriptura) or John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (The Similitude of a Dream). All I can say is the fact that these projects — and the many, many others issued by the same collective — live up to their billing serves as further proof that there is a God and he loves yours truly.

Fortunately, there was also a slew of amazing new music this past year. Here’s a playlist of my 20 Favorite Songs Released in 2022. One glance and you’ll see how much the ladies have been rocking my socks. The Alvvays record Blue Rev is the runaway masterpiece of the lot, but fresh work from The Beths, Carly Rae Jepsen, Soccer Mommy, Hatchie, Mitski, Weyes Blood, Jess Ray, and Plains all featured heavily in my personal soundtrack as well. Oh and then there was a certain #LowAnthropology anthem that happened to drop one month after the book. Thank you, Ms. Swift.

Album of the Year, however, would have to be Poet Priest by Andy Squyres. While technically released in 2021, I didn’t start spinning it (and forcing it on everyone in my vicinity) until before our NYC Conference, where we were fortunate enough to have Andy serve as chaplain. The songs, the performances, the production, the accompanying Instagram (and print!) devotions; there’s not a false or contrived note anywhere. I could give you some points of reference (Springsteen’s Nebraska as filtered through the Red Hand Files and produced by The War on Drugs), but none of them would do Squyres’ accomplishment justice. A new bar for contemporary God-haunted/-glorifying songcraft.

Song of the Year: “Boys Do Cry” by Louis Dunford. Not just because of how timely the subject matter is, but not not because of that either.


That there’s far too much quality TV these days for any one person to consume should go without saying at this point. So take this, again, as a rundown of where I was glad to have given my limited attention.

Top Television would have to be the closing season of Better Call Saul. Gilligan and Gould are the masters of the medium, full stop. And they took a big risk by departing from the eye-for-an-eye ethos of their televised universe and giving us a glimpse of grace (and substitution!) in the finale. Maybe the fan service could have been dialed down a tad, but that’s a minor gripe in what was six seasons of immaculate storytelling.

Runner Up: Atlanta, the final season of which blew my mind on at least four separate occasions. Made me bust a gut laughing, too. When it comes to exposing the superficiality, humorlessness, and just plain laziness of most Hollywood commentary on race and representation, Donald Glover is in a league of his own. His take on contemporary Europe alone is worth the price of admission, to say nothing of The Goofy Movie! Utterly, utterly brilliant. I suppose you could criticize the show for lacking consistency — if it were remotely interested in consistency as a virtue.

Other Amazing Shows: Barry, Stranger Things, Severance, The Rehearsal, Andor.

Ted Lasso Award for Redemptive Comedy: tie between This Fool and Single Drunk Female.

Best Movies I Saw in Theaters: Licorice Pizza, Stay Awake.

Hands Down Wildest Viewing Experience: RRR.

Movies I Haven’t Seen But Intend to (and Suspect Are Full of Grace): The Worst Person in the World, Brian and Charles, Wendell & Wild, Bob’s Burgers.

Best Healing-Focused, Ministry-Adjacent Documentary of the Year: Stutz, Jonah Hill’s paean to his psychotherapist. So much compassion, so much reality, so much law and grace, so much pastoral grit, so much help, so much hope.

Grace in Practice Documentary of the Year (Which Actually Came Out in 2021): The Rescue. Imagine Robert Capon scripting a National Geographic disaster doc, and you’d be getting close. One sermon illustration after another.

Single Episode of TV That Made Me Laugh So Hard I Woke Up My Children: “The Claw of Death” from Nathan For You. Late to the game on that show but wow.

Funniest Skit:


Book of the Year Without Question: Faith, Hope, and Carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagen. Don’t know what else I could say about this that I haven’t elsewhere. No one spoke to me more profoundly or hopefully about life and God in 2022 than Nick Cave. This book made me excited about being a Christian at a time when it was hard to be. It made me excited about Mockingbird, too. Nick is close to the Source, and I am so thankful he decided to put aside his reticence about “going there” in print.

Comic of the Year (But Also So Much More Than That): The Holy Ghost by John Hendrix. Every page of this collection is such a wonder that I gave it away as a Christmas present to eight separate people last week. My go-to description is “Calvin and Hobbes as written by Flannery O’Connor” but that makes The Holy Ghost sound more derivative than it is. A treasure from start to finish.

Favorite Non-Fiction I Read This Year: Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California by Matthew Specktor.

New Persuasive Words Non-Fiction Award: Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect by Will Guidara.

Favorite ‘Serious’ Novel I Read This Year: Devil House by John Darnielle.

Favorite ‘Genre’ Fiction I Read This Year: Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro.

Favorite Graphic Novel I Read This Year: 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank by Rosenberg and Boss.

Most Reliably Inspired Column Anywhere: Cloud Support by Meaghan O’Gieblyn in/on Wired.

Favorite #LowAnthropology Comic Strip on the Internet: Poorly Drawn Lines.

Favorite Instagram Accounts: Muppet Recovery and Brianjordanalvarez.

Most Essential Newsletter Other Than The Red Hand Files: TGIF by Nellie Bowles.

Runners Up: The Corners, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, The Imperfectionist, by Oliver Burkeman, and Snakes and Ladders, by Alan Jacobs.

Essay I Most Wish I’d Written:The Roof Always Caves In” by Kate Bowler.

Top Theology Blog Discovery: Resident Theologian by Brad East,

Long Read That Stuck With Me, er, Longest:How ‘Trauma’ Became the Word of the Decade” by Lexi Pandell.


Grace in Practice Podcast Champion, Six Years Running: Heavyweight. This show remains a force for good like few others. Favorite episodes this season were the jaw-dropping “Sara” and the finale, “The Elliotts.”

Runner Up Series: Dead Eyes.

Runner Up Episode:I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me” from Revisionist History.

Episode I Got the Most Mileage Out of:The Science of Regret” from A Slight Change of Plans.

Podcast of Ours I Heard the Most About:Depression” from the Brothers Zahl (“Creativity” second).

Podcast of Ours I Wish I’d Heard More About (It’s So Good!):Rich Man and Lazarus” from Terrible Parables.

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4 responses to “Consuming 2022: Music, Screens, Pages, & Podcasts”

  1. Jenny Anne says:

    I love this Dave, thank you! Love that Blue Rev is on the list, our 16-year-old is obsessed and so are we. Growing up steeped in all the folk music I was a huge fan of Molly Rankin’s dad who sang and played guitar and fiddle in his family band, The Rankin family. Such a tragic story but it’s comforting to hear echoes of his music in Alvvays. And Nellie makes me LOL every single week, so glad you mentioned her. Happy New Year!

  2. Janell Downing says:

    What a great list! I’m currently listening to Hope, Faith & Carnage on Audible. Mostly while driving or doing the dishes. I’m so immersed I usually forget what I’m doing and find myself crying. Maybe I should stop driving while listening. Or not wash any knives.
    And Stutz! Yes!

  3. Joey Goodall says:

    Great list, Dave!

    My favorite songs of the year:

    My favorite songs of the year not from this year:

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