Saturday, 31 December 2022

Albums of 2022


Another year, another list, another last minute write up with likely typos and non-sensical ramblings that no one reads anyway!

My report for 2022 tells me that 2022 has been the 2nd highest volume listening year since I started using it in back in 2008 and, again, it looks like over 90% (ish) of that has been to albums released in 2022 so plenty of new stuff out there.

As before, for those that haven’t heard some of the albums here, I’ve tried to link to Spotify (other streaming services are available) to make discovery easier.  If you do like what you hear, please consider going to the Bandcamp link (or a record shop), where available, and buying the material in some form.  

It’s tough enough for artists trying to make money from music in the current climate and Bandcamp allows them to make a way bigger cut from sales than any streaming service ever could.

So, the list …

30: Abul Mogard - “COH Meets Abul Mogard”

After years of Abul Mogard’s real identity being unclear (with the urban legend being that he was a retired Serbian factory worker), he breaks cover as the alter ego of Italian composer & musician Guido Zen and drops this collaboration with Russian born Swedish resident Ivan Pavlov (COH) that is the very definition of ambient electronica.

More structured than Mogard’s ‘solo’ work but still that ‘wash over you’ experience that needs the right setting, mood and headphones to fully appreciate.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

29: Silversun Pickups - “Physical Thrills”

On their strongest and most consistent offering since their 2009 sophomore release “Swoon”, Silversun Pickups deliver another album of ‘decent’ tracks that hang together to produce something that is way greater than the sum of its parts but never quite really great.  

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

28: Half Man Half Biscuit - “The Voltarol Years”

Album #15 from Birkenhead’s finest post-punk lyrical geniuses doesn’t have any of the classics from previous releases but is as consistent a collection as they have ever delivered.

It even has a token Covid song titled, creatively, “Token Covid Song” about ‘fictional’ social network performer ‘Lockdown Luke’ … as with many HMHB tracks, they have a shelf life so enjoy them (loud) while you can. 


27: Editors - “EBM”

I’d given up on Editors … a long time ago … probably after 2005’s debut “The Back Room” to be fair!

I’ve dabbled since and there’s always been a glimmer of hope but never enough to draw me back in.

When I saw them live in London’s Hyde Park as part of The Cure’s 40th anniversary line up, the sunshine, heat and beer encouraged me not to abandon them completely.

It was the recent announcement that Ben Power aka Blanck Mass had joined the band permanently and was a big part of the new album that made me check this out.

To be fair, I’m not sure it’s that much better than their previous offerings but its banger filled and had Ben’s fingerprints all over it so it will do for me!

 [Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

26: Duster - “Together”

This was my first exposure to Duster so hadn’t experienced the extreme lo-fi offerings of their early releases before immersing myself in this particular brand of slowcore that took a while to fully appreciate but once it gets under your skin, it’s there to stay!

I have since gone back to listen to the back catalogue but will stick with this as my Duster reference point.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

25: Pixies - “Doggerel”

I have no time for the 'aye but it's no Doolittle' opinions ... of course, it's not, how many bands out there are still writing & recording with the same passion as they had thirty years ago never mind being compared to a masterpiece???!!!

Like its predecessor, 2019’s "Beneath the Eyrie, this benefits from repeated listens and face value appreciation … Also like "Beneath the Eyrie", I'd rather listen to this than "Trompe le Monde” any day of the week!


24: Scalping - “Void”

For those days when only a blend of Prodigy / Future Sound of London / Deftones / Slipknot / NIN and Massive Attack blasting through your headphones will work ... it does work, it really does!

For those of a certain vintage (just me?) this will stimulate flashbacks of playing Wipeout 2097 on the original PlayStation with its banging soundtrack! 

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

23: Michael Timmons - “The Lightness of the Dread”

My first exposure to Michael was when I walked into Glasgow’s Barrowland in 2019 for a Twilight Sad gig and he was on stage as support, on his own … just this guy and a guitar who appeared to have mesmerised an almost half full hall into silence and appreciation.

I think I even stood there and watched the rest of the set before going to get my first beer … unheard of!

While Michael had released his debut album ‘Bone Coloured’ the year before, I’ll admit I didn’t make too much effort to go and check that out.

Even when ‘The Lightness of the Dread’ landed in early 2022, I only gave it a passing listen at the time.

It was when the latest EP ‘Pastel’ dropped fairly recently that something connected for me and a journey of back catalogue obsession started.

If you’ve yet to connect with Michael’s music, be patient, there will be that time when his sound, his pacing and his voice will be perfect.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

22: Sharon Van Etten - “We've Been Going About This All Wrong”

I ‘found’ Sharon Van Etten around 2012 when she released “Tramp” and have been a fan on the periphery since.  

The albums that followed (2014’s “Are We There” & 2019’s “Remind Me Tomorrow”) appeared to attract more positive critical reviews than “Tramp” but never quite connected with me in the same way.

Similarly, “We've Been Going About This All Wrong”, while receiving largely positive reviews across the board, hasn’t been as highly rated as its predecessors by the ‘mainstream’ media reviewers.

Designed to be listed to in one session, this album develops and opens up over its 40 minute or so run time that rewards the listener in a way that skipping through the singles never could.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

21: Just Mustard - “Heart Under”

In 2018, Ireland’s Just Mustard released debut “Wednesday” and were immediately associated with being heavily influenced by countrymen My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’ era shoegaze sound. 

While an understandable association in some respects, it was a lazy one that failed to recognise the fusion of post-industrial ‘noise’ & texture with the shoegaze undertones. 

On this latest release, the band said they wanted the listener to feel like they were ‘driving through a tunnel with the windows down’ … turned up loud, this pretty much meets the brief!

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

20: Daniel Avery - “Ultra Truth”

The releases just on coming from the London based electronic producer / musician that continues to master the delivery of the fusion of digital bangers & ambient chill.

Probably the most consistent release since 2018’s “Song for Alpha” and exactly what decent headphones and subwoofers were invented for.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

19: …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - “XI: Bleed Here Now”

You feel for those bands that release a complete classic relatively early in their career and have every subsequent album compared (often unfairly & unfavourably) to it.  For ... Trail of Dead, this is the case with their 2002 epic "Source Tags & Codes" that still stands as one of the great, yet still criminally under recognised, post millennium post-punk offerings.

"Bleed Here Now" is bloated and fleshed out with prog excess but is also laced with contemporary, socio-political commentary and one or two blasts of post-punk that bring flashbacks of where they came from.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

18: Rival Consoles - “Now Is”

Following a run of outstanding output on 2018’s “Persona” and 2020’s “Articulation”, Ryan Lee West, aka Rival Consoles dropped previous album “Overflow” really late in 2021 and it received a mixed reception that was probably as much to do with its timing than its content.

“Now Is” appears to have picked up as mixed a reception as its predecessor but in my opinion, for what it’s worth, this is a much stronger and more consistent offering while falling slightly short of some of the previous offerings.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

17: Warpaint - “Radiate Like This”

When I collated my albums of 2010 list, Warpaint’s “The Fool” came in at my top spot and still stands up well all these year later.

While retaining the core of their sound and structure since that release, the band have become more polished, more refined and probably more accessible over subsequent releases.

As the singles for this latest album dropped through the early part of 2022, I wasn’t convinced I was going to be a fan of this album as initial listens suggested a fairly lightweight, poppy offering.

Listening to this album as a whole is a must, at least initially … doing so makes you want to listen to it again and again … (seemingly) effortless rhythm-based chill ensues and it takes you to a nice place that you won’t want to climb out of.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

16: Arcade Fire - “WE”

We all gave up on Arcade Fire after 2017’s “Everything Now” didn’t we? 2013’s “Reflektor” was the beginning of a terminal slippery slope, wasn’t it? 

Well, we were all wrong and should be ashamed of ourselves!

Separating the art from the artist and parking the ‘bloated’ “End of the Empire”, “WE” stands up as a solid offering from one of the most inventive bands on the past few decades that, again, strikes lyrical chords that most bands can’t come close to doing.

Anyone with children, an acoustic guitar and a mastery of a couple of simple open chords will do well to learn & practice “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” as it will no doubt convey your thoughts & feelings for them in way you would otherwise struggle to.


15: Gentle Sinners - “These Actions Cannot Be Undone”

James Graham (The Twilight Sad) and Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap) have been close (socially & musically) for some time and a collaboration like this was always in the cards … particularly when you appreciate Aidan’s solo and largely instrumental projects such as L Pierre and Nyx Nótt.

James comes across as a complex individual that seeks solace in the art of song writing and the release that comes from the ability to tell often dark stories in what comes across as the third person … I suspect there are many blurred lines involved.

While the ‘day job’ in The Twilight Sad can hardly be considered ‘mainstream’, the pseudo-random jazz / electronica canvas that Aidan provides seems to allow James the space to exercise those post-pandemic ghosts.

Oh, and the price of gas, don’t get me started!   

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

14: Mogwai - “Black Bird”

No album of the year list is complete without a Mogwai album.  The past few years have offered pretty much either a full album release or a TV / film soundtrack.

Most of the soundtracks the band have released have been for fairly ‘niche’ / arthouse projects (other than 2020’s superb but brutal TV show ZEROZEROZERO) but in the main have stood as strong albums in their own right.

“Black Bird” is the accompaniment to Apple TVs dramatization of the James Keene autobiographical novel “In with the Devil: a Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption”, largely set in a prison environment with the plot to extract information from convicted serial killer Larry Hall. 

The Mogwai soundtrack is used subtlety within the series and isn’t exclusive but works perfectly, both within the context of the show and as a stand-alone release.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

13: Max Cooper - “Unspoken Words”

As with 2019’s predecessor “Yearning for the Infinite”, electronic guru Max Cooper delivers another release that is more of a soundscape journey than a collection of electronic tracks.

This demands to be consumed in one go in order to witness the transition and the range of sensory experiences woven into the tracks.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

12: The Ninth Wave - “Heavy Like a Headache”

2019’s debut “Infancy” was a banger, and my #3 album of that year … full on synth wave vibes that brought back memories for an oldie like me and I’m sure excited many a young ‘un who wouldn’t have heard this type of stuff delivered by contemporaries.

Following “Infancy” (and possibly fuelled by Covid enforced lockdowns), the band’s sound expanded massively, evidenced by 2021’s “Happy Days” EP and previously by one of the best mash-up live performances you will ever see / hear at BBC’s Maida vale (check it out [HERE])

While we knew there were musical ‘surprises’ coming from the band, the announcement just before the release of “Heavy Like a Headache” that they were going on long term hiatus was a shocker.

The album is a much more complex and varied affair than “Infancy” and takes more listening investment to fully appreciate but well worth the effort and bodes well for the future solo efforts of Haydn, Amelia, Calum & Kyalo … and hopefully a quick end to that hiatus! 


11: Kathryn Joseph - “for you who are the wronged”

Kathryn Joseph really can’t out a foot wrong when it comes to album releases … her previous two solo outputs (2015’s “Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I've Spilled” and 2018’s “From When I Wake the Want Is”) as well as the 2017 Out Lines collaboration “Conflat” with The Twilight Sad’s James Graham have all been outstanding.

This album is themed around victims of abuse in various guises and delivered in Kathryn’s stripped-down musical style while subtle, carries some real rage in its execution.

The songs can be interpreted in many ways that will make at least some of them feel personal, hearing Kathryn sing them to you can only bring comfort and a feeling of genuine empathy that few artists can match.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

10: The Mars Volta - “The Mars Volta”

The first Mars Volta release following their inception resulting from the break-up of previous band At the Drive-In was the outstanding yet challenging “De-Loused in the Comatorium” in 2003.

Subsequent releases became more challenging, more obtuse and less coherent as they landed while retaining a consistency of sound.  Things have been quiet since 2021’s “Noctourniquet”, partially due to a brief reformation of At the Drive-In but also some other side projects and life challenges for core duo Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

This self-titled return comes with a significant shift in sound and song structure that hasn’t landed well for many but delivers a polished, laid back and consistent release that stands up against anything the duo has released in either guise.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

9: The Filthy Tongues - “In These Dark Places”

Technically not released until early 2023 (so may make next year’s list as well!), but with physical media shipping late in 2022, this had way too much impact late in the year not to be included here.

The conclusion of a trilogy, also comprising 2006’s “Jacob’s Ladder” and 2018’s “Back to Hell”, telling the stories of various characters inhabiting Edinburgh & surrounding areas, no doubt heavily influenced by personal experience & acquaintances of the band made up former (or is that concurrent?) members of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and Angelfish.

Maintaining the largely dark tone of the previous albums, lyrically and musically, and addressing various themes including Covid, there remains progression from the previous albums and a real hope that Martin, Fin & Kelly have many more stories to tell us in the future. 


8: deathcrash - “Return”

Another example of where Sp**ify can do good by supporting music discovery, even though its sound quality and artist remuneration policy are both shocking.

When lead single “Horses” landed on my ‘Release Radar’ playlist, it immediately reminded me of “Come On Die Young” era Mogwai that prompted checking out of the album.

While there is a Mogwai / Slint / Pavement sound peppered through this, it’s way too lazy to class it ‘generic’ as there is way more depth and detail that demands to be discovered within it.

Another example of an album that really needs the time investment of listening to in its entirety to appreciate, on every listen, but the return on the investment is considerable.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

7: DITZ - “The Great Regression”

I can’t even remember how I found this, it may have been another Sp**ify recommendation, but the 40-minute assault of full-on post-punk / post-hardcore / industrial energy demands to be listened to (loud) and appreciated to be believed.

Anyone struggling to fully ‘get’ this should jump straight to the closing track “No Thanks, I’m Full”, let the first couple of minutes pass you by and then buckle up for the remaining 5 minutes or so … if that doesn’t make you want to go back and listen to the whole thing … forget it, this isn’t your thing.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

6: Sea Power - “Everything Was Forever”

The first release since dropping the leading word ‘British’ from their name to distance themself from unwanted nationalistic impressions, “Everything Was Forever” stands up as one of the most consistent of the band’s seven or so (give or take a few soundtracks) albums to date.

Since the release of debut “The Decline of British Sea Power” in 2003, the albums have followed a pattern similar to many releases by The Fall where a majority of outstanding tracks are ‘affected’ by one or two sub-par efforts that probably shouldn’t have made it (2008’s “Do You Like Rock Music” is possibly excused).

While “Everything Was Forever” doesn’t have any ‘filler’, it possibly also misses out on the ‘huge’ tunes present across the back catalogue but is carried by its consistency.


5: The Smile - “A Light for Attracting Attention”

Soon after The Smile project was announced, they released “You Will Never Work in Television Again” that, to me, sounded like a Velvet Underground redux that, while not unwelcome, did not fairly represent what was to follow and eventually become the output that is “A Light for Attracting Attention”.

When a couple more of the leading ‘singles’ stated to trickle out, the project started to take the form of the pseudo-Radiohead output you would expect from anything involving Thom York & Jonny Greenwood.

As has been widely written, this is a Radiohead album in everything but name … and it’s a bloody good one … what more needs to be said?

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

4: Spiritualized - “Everything Was Beautiful”

Many (including me) thought we’d heard the last of Jason ‘Spaceman’ Pierce after 2018’s “And Nothing Hurt”.   For no other reason than it sounded like a full stop at the end of a near perfect run of releases that started with 1992’s “Lazer Guided Melodies” and included one of the greatest albums ever recorded in 1997’s “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”.

“Everything Was Beautiful” is Pierce’s most consistent album since the 1997 classic and has many hallmarks of that release including its opening.  While only seven tracks, the album sounds like a ‘greatest hits’ of everything you have heard over previous releases and passes way too quickly.

If this is the last we hear from Jason in Spiritualized guise then it’s not a bad way to sign off … if there’s more to come, I’ll take it!  

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

3: Fontaines D.C. - “Skinti Fia”

I had 2019’s debut “Dogrel” as my #4 album of that year and loved its patchy, simplistic, jangly post-punk landscape that sounded like a cross between The Fall and the Pogues.

I was largely disappointed by the 2020 follow up “A Hero’s Death”, probably because it didn’t sound like a cross between The Fall and the Pogues!  It was slower, sluggish and, at the time, didn’t feel like any logical progression from the debut, rather a complete departure.

“Skinty Fia”, a stunning album in its own right, helps put “A Hero’s Death” in context and shows that the outlier is actually the debut!

A hugely mature album, musically and lyrically, that shows that bands can progress quickly and move in directions that will surprise some and disappoint others.

The next move will be interesting and can’t come soon enough.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

2: Arctic Monkeys - “The Car”

Let’s face it, like its predecessor (2018’s “Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino”), you’re either going to love or hate this. 

Probably one of the greatest examples of musical progression of recent times, the transition from the bangin’ autobiographical tunes of 2006’s debut “Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not” to the lounge singer sci-fi rock opera of ‘Tranquillity Base … ‘ and now a full blown lounge bar, MOR, film soundtrack inspired collection of chill out stories that effortlessly wash over you.

This could easily have been my #1 album of the year, it’s almost perfect … many of you will hate it (or heard the first single and bypassed it completely) … your loss!


1: Interpol - “The Other Side of Make-Believe”

Since the opening bars of 2002’s debut “Turn on the Bright Lights”, New York outfit Interpol have ticked pretty much every box on most of their releases for me but I suspect my boxes in this respect are not the same as many other Interpol fans.

Going against the grain, aside from the classic debut, up until recently my favourite album has been 2010’s eponymous offer that was largely slated.

Similarly, early reviews of “The Other Side of Make-Believe” were not pretty and I have to admit that my early listening to it didn’t bode well as most of the tracks seemed disjointed with minimal structure.

Repeated listens seemed to bring out the detail in the non-linear structures and once you appreciate that most of the tracks wander into places that you didn’t see coming, then start to look forward to those shifts … it all starts to make sense.

Complex tracks that take a while to ‘land’ tend to breed longevity for me and this has led to me spending lots of time with record and appreciating it as one on Interpol’s finest … in all honesty, if someone asked me to put on any of their albums right now, I’d pick this one, even over “Turn on the Bright Lights”!


[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

The Notable Mentions

This isn’t just all the other albums I’ve heard this year (there are many more), these are the ones that could, with a change of wind direction, easily have been on my list above and deserve being checked out if you have the time.

So, in alphabetical order …

A Place to Bury Strangers “See Through You”

Belief “Belief”

Belle & Sebastian “A Bit of Previous”

Black Country, New Road “Ants From Up There”

Blood Incantation “Timewave Zero”

Blood Red Shoes “Ghosts on Tape”

Cloakroom “Dissolution Wave”

Crippled Black Phoenix “Banefyre”

Foals “Life is Yours”

Horsegirl “Versions of Modern Performance”

King Hannah “I'm Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me”

Logic “Vinyl Days”

Loscil “The Sails Pt.1 & Pt.2”

Meat Wave “Malign Hex”

Milly “Eternal Ring”

Oh Hiroshima “Myriad”

Peter Doherty “The Fantasy Life Of Poetry & Crime”

Phillip Jon Taylor “Supportive Partner Please Stand Here”

Placebo “Never Let Me Go”

Rammstein “Zeit”

Rolo Tomassi “Where Myth Becomes Memory”

Suede “Autofiction”

Tempers “New Meaning”

The House of Love “A State of Grace”

Warmth “The Night”

Wet Leg “Wet Leg”

Yard Act “The Overload”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Cool it Down”

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Albums of 2021

Another tough year for most and for many certainly not one where taking the time to discover new music has been high on the agenda … for me, and for various reasons, the first half of the year in particular lent itself to having time for reflective listening and discovery.

My tells me that 2021 has been the 2nd or 3rd highest volume listening year since I started using it in back in 2008 and it looks like over 90% (ish) of that has been to albums released in 2021 so plenty of new stuff out there.

I could have listed a top 50 (or more) this year but that would mean more writing of stuff that no-one reads … check out the honourable mentions at the bottom though, there’s loads!

For those that haven’t heard some of the albums here, I’ve tried to link to Spotify (other streaming services are available) to make discovery easier.  If you do like what you hear, please consider going to the Bandcamp link (or a record shop), where available, and buying the material in some form.  Its tough enough for artists trying to make money from music in the current climate and Bandcamp allows them to make a way bigger cut from sales than any streaming service ever could … I want to be able to do these lists for years to come but we need a viable industry to be able to do that.

So, the list …

25:  The Joy Formidable  -  “Into the Blue”

In a world where Wolf Alice (and I like Wolf Alice) get all the plaudits and the big prize nominations, its criminal that The Joy Formidable are not huge.

Great song writing, production and crunching guitars … a sadly rare combination these days.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

24:  Abul Mogard - “In Immobile Air”

While I’ve grown to appreciate ambient electronica more and more over the years, Covid lockdowns and working from home headphone sound tracking has taken my appreciation to a whole new level.

Serbian composter Mogard’s output over the years as been a staple of this genre for me with his 2015 release ‘Circular Forms’ being a key reference point.

“In Immobile Air” is perfectly titled as that’s where you feel you are for the entirety of its 40 minutes … Go there, it’s nice there!

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

23:  Lea Porcelain  -  “Choirs to Heaven”

The German duo’s follow up to 2017 darkwave influenced ‘Hymns to the Night’ is a more sprawling but consistent output that sounds like something that would have been chart threatening in the late 80’s.

Think Bunnymen / Furs crossover meets Depeche Mode with Cure tendencies … there’s more, but that’s surely not a bad start to tempt you in!    

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

22:  Hammock  -  “Elsewhere”

I’m pretty sure the 15 years or so of Hammock’s output would tick most of my post-rock / ambient boxes but 2021’s “Elsewhere” is the first of their albums that I’ve taken the time to invest in and let breathe.

Like a really light touch Explosions in the Sky, this washes over you when given the opportunity in a way that can feed reflection and motivation in equal measure.  

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

21:  Damon Albarn  -  “The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows”

A mixture of brilliantly written tracks that merge styles and influences from Damon’s previous incarnations with vocal styles that hint at Bowie and Billy Mackenzie, mixed with some experimentation that threatens to derail the vibe but never quite does. 

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

20:  Clark - “Playground in a Lake”

The term ‘challenging but rewarding’ could be assigned to many of the albums in this year’s list but needs to be reserved for this largely experimental piece of work by, normally, electronic composer Christopher Stephen Clark.

With climate change as a background to this ambitious multi genre project, it’s a largely dark place that needs time to unveil the optimism that’s buried deep in the various styles that include neo-classical, opera, ambient and traditional electronica.   

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

19:  Iceage - “Seek Shelter”

When the debut “New Brigade” dropped in 2011, not many would have bet that the then teenage Danish punks would deliver this polished effort that merges 70’s rock, a dab of gospel and smatterings of ‘Second Coming’ era Stone Roses.

Not the first entry here where the delta between debut and latest output is vast but positive.  

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

18:  Marconi Union - “Signals”

A heavy element of ambient electronica in this year’s list and it was Marconi Union’s heavy ambience of 2012 release “Weightless”, that I used extensively to help my son get to sleep during the first Covid lockdown, that encouraged me to spend time with this release.

Significantly different, way more upbeat and layered, this has encouraged me to delve deeper into a varied and extensive back catalogue … well worth the effort.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

17:  Manic Street Preachers - “The Ultra Vivid Lament”

A new Manics release is always looked forward to with some fear that it may just be the one that shows that they should have quit after the last one … they never quite get to that point and often surprise with some innovation that wasn’t expected.

“The Ultra Vivid Lament” falls into the latter category here, the same dark & politicised lyrical content remains but with an upbeat musical feel that can be unnerving at first with its Abbaesque piano led structure.

Go with it though, happy sounding Manics are exactly what the world needs right now! 


16:  Dinosaur Jr - “Sweep into Space”

J Mascis, Lou Barlow & Murph aka Dinosaur Jr have been consistently banging out guitar driven alternative / indie rock classics, off and on, since the mid-1980s and never, ever, disappoint.  

There has been little room for messing with the original formula over the years that consists largely of  J’s husky voice over blistering guitars and screechy solos with a couple of Lou’s relatively sedate ballady efforts thrown in … this lack of variety is never an issue given that the output is normally of high quality.

“Sweep into Space” maintains the quality level of the back catalogue and can be argued to be one of their best which, across a dozen or so albums is not a bad place to be.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

15:  MONO - “Pilgrimage of the Soul”

20 years after debut ‘Under the Pipal Tree', Japanese instrumental rockers MONO deliver another formulaic post-rock quite-LOUD-quiet set that sticks closer to the structure of recent offerings rather than their softer and more complex releases that many fans appear to consider their best.

While sticking to their core ethos, there are some left field tracks (by their standards) here, some that work and others that don’t.

For me, second track ‘Imperfect Things’, while simple, demonstrates that there is variety left in this band … certainly if you make it to three minutes and nineteen seconds in!  

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

14:  Floating Points  - “Promises”

Technically not just electronica composer Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points, but a collaboration with 80-year-old jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra that produces 45 mins or so of exactly the output you would expect from these distinct elements.

A seamless set of 9 movements that demand to be listened to as one.

If you struggle on first listen, commit to at least getting past the perfect 9 minutes of ‘Movement 6’ that could arguably stand on its own but makes so much more sense in context with the remainder of the album.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

13:  Daniel Avery  - “Together in Static”

A quick follow up to 2021’s schizophrenic ‘Love + Light’ that feels way more cohesive and a little retro but possibly slightly less impactful as a result.

The usual mix of ambience and dance floor electronica snakes in and out here and there’s an added element of Boards of Canada influenced composition dotted around that can never be a bad thing.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

12:  Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - “Carnage”

For reason’s obvious to those that follow his story, Nick Cave’s output in recent years has been largely downbeat and reflective but probably the highest quality and most consistent of his extensive career.

“Carnage” seemed to drop from nowhere earlier this year and notably not under the Bad Seeds moniker but as a combined effort with fellow (recent) bad seed Warren Ellis.  

While maintaining much of the downbeat simplicity of recent albums, particularly 2019’s ‘Ghosteen’, ‘Carnage’ includes dark unsettling moments that were commonplace pre 2013’s ‘Push the Sky Away’.

I was lucky enough to see Cave & Ellis deliver much of this live in their 2021 tour between Covid ending and Covid hitting again!  Witnessing these songs being delivered in person adds to the impact in a way that can only be explained if you were there too!


11:  Gary Numan  -  “Intruder”

On what feels like the conclusion of a trilogy that started in 2013 with “Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) and followed up in 2017 with “Savage (Songs from a Broken World)”, “Intruder” continues the bleak, post-apocalyptic theme with a collection of tracks written from the perspective of planet Earth to humanity  to highlight the damage they have done, and continue to do. 


10:  Manchester Orchestra - “The Million Masks of God”

In what feels like part II of Manchester Orchestra’s reinvention that started with 2017’s “A Black Mile to the Surface”, “The Million Masks of God” is not a collection of tracks that make much sense in isolation but a work that has to be appreciated in one sitting given its narrative.

None of the hard-hitting bangers of the first few albums here but as good an album as they have produced in totality.

Hope to get the chance to see this delivered live someday.  

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

9:  Sébastien Guérive - “Omega Point”

An out of nowhere entry and I can’t remember where my first exposure to this came from.  

Having a very similar vibe in places to my #2 album of last year, Ben Chatwin’s “The Hum”, French composer Guérive’s debut electronica release is inspired by sci-fi soundtracks and includes elements of pseudo ambience as well as more upbeat anthemic output.

My entry point to this album was pre-release tracks ‘Omega II’ and ‘Bellatrix’ both of which can stand alone but in the context of the entire album make even more sense.

The perfect headphone accompaniment to those tough working from home and need to get something delivered days. 

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

8:  Jonsi - “Obsidian”

This dropped out of nowhere and I remember seeing a Facebook post about it when I happened to be chilling in a bath and already listening to something with a similar vibe so first listen landed well.

The next day, this accompanied my Sunday morning dog walk that allowed it to be focussed on and appreciated … I’ve been hooked since.

Created to accompany an NYC gallery art installation of the same name, Icelandic Sigur Ros co-founder Jonsi has created a piece of work that combines the sonic styles of his previous solo work, Sigur Ros and a large dose of ambient electronica.

Probably needs the right listening conditions to fully appreciate (I recommend a bath and a dog walk) however accompaniment to year end headphone reflection highly recommended.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

7:  Godspeed You! Black Emperor - “G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END!”

The experience of listening to a GY!BE album is mostly always the same, regardless of how many times you hear it … Press play / drop needle in full knowledge that a challenging and disjointed hour or so is coming up but come out the other end desperate to do it all again or dig out earlier albums and repeat.

It takes a while to ‘get’ GY!BE .. it really is hard work, and this one is no different as various tracks appear to wander aimlessly for ages before coming to life or leading to the next one that starts to add colour to the overall scene.

I always listen to GY!BE imagining that the entire ensemble are in front of me playing the album live … it seems to make sense.

If you’ve never heard GY!BE, you really want to start with this one, and you can’t commit to 53 minutes … use the 11 and a half minutes of snappily titled ""GOVERNMENT CAME" (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 kHz)" as a sampler, the enlightened will then delve deeper, no doubt!

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp] 

6:  Dusted - “III”

The third (clues in the title!) album from project largely, if not exclusively, consisting of Brian Borcherdt more commonly associated with Canadian electronic noise masters Holy F**k.

All three of Dusted’s albums could not be further away from the HF sound in that they are subtle, stripped back and focussed on subtle delivery of great personal stories.

2012’s debut ‘Total Dust’ was one of my favourites of that year but ‘discovered’ too late to make that year’s list if I remember correctly … I still class it as an almost perfect album.

2018’s follow-up “Blackout Summer”, while good, didn’t come close to the completeness of the debut for me.

First few listens to “III” suggest a similar lack of cohesiveness but repeat listens tease out the subtleties of instrumentation, production and song writing that make this a close run thing with the debut … that’s high praise and its deserved … a magical listen if you have the time to invest. 

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]  

5:  Storefront Church - “As We Pass”

Spotify gets some stick sometimes but the role it plays in new music discovery these days cannot be underestimated.  

A case in point is Lukas Frank’s Storefront Church who I would never have come across had Spotify’s algorithms not put opening track “After the Alphabets” in my weekly ‘Release Radar’ playlist and make me look forward to the album release for what seemed like months.

While there are many influences and styles showcased across this hugely consistent album, you can’t escape the Radiohead meets Chris Isaak sound that, combined with creative song writing and energy, leads to what would be the perfect soundtrack to staring out the window of a car / plane / train were anyone actually going anywhere these days!  

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

4:  Arab Strap - “As Days Get Dark”

Sixteen years after previous release “The Last Romance” (2005), Falkirk’s finest deliver one of their most consistent albums in a genuine triumphant return.

Some of the edginess of the early output may be gone but the Scots brogue delivered storytelling poetry of Aidan Moffat and complex musicianship of Malcolm Middleton maintains the levels of old and their respective solo careers.

Lyrically, “As Days Get Dark” maintains a theme of recognising ageing from the perspective of various characters that will strike a chord with much of the original fanbase that will now be largely ensconced in middle age … aye, including me!

Over the years, and in his various guises, listening to Aidan feels like he’s sitting beside you telling stories and, as challenging as they often are, its always a comforting listen in a strange way … having these stories set to Malcom’s musicianship just completes things.  

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

3:  We Were Promised Jetpacks - “Enjoy the View”

You can never accuse WWPJ of being formulaic or one dimensional.  While there is a consistent and recognisable sound to them (it’s probably Adam’s vocals to be honest), their back catalogue since 2009’s debut ‘These Four Walls’ has demonstrated a wide range of styles painted in various shades of darkness.

“Enjoy the View” is all over the place … in a constructive way.  It has elements of various musical styles that loosely connect but feels like experimental new beginnings.

The first album after losing a founder member will do strange things to the creative process I’m sure and this, probably accompanied with the various states of mental uncertainty the entire world has felt over the past two years, has led to not a new sound, but several new sounds all meshed together.

There does appear to be a consistency in the lyrical theming to a certain extent along the lines of there being a lot of bad stuff behind them and an optimism of what’s to come … that’s what I took from immersing myself in this over the last few months and I’m on board.

I was due to see them live a few weeks ago in Aberdeen but was going to have to miss it due to a funeral but they had to cancel last minute due to a covid scare and means rescheduling for a date I’ll hopefully be able to make … see, bad stuff gone, optimism to follow … it all comes together! 

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

2:  Mogwai - “As the Love Continues”

Another year, another list, another Mogwai album … cannae be angry!

Something’s changed with this Mogwai album though … it’s taken a while (studio album #10) but mainstream recognition seems have happened eventually, culminating in a Mercury Music Prize nomination and Scottish Album of the Year award.

The album itself has a great blend of the various guises of Mogwai including the staple quiet-LOUD-quiet of ‘Pat Stains’ & ‘It’s What I Do Mum’ to the soundtrackesque ‘Dry Fantasy’.  We also get the closest thing Mogwai have done to a banging indie pop tune in ‘Ritchie Sacramento’ that includes a vocal effort from Stuart that goes way beyond a token effort, nails it!

For the uninitiated, it has always been difficult to recommend a Mogwai album to start with but “As the Love Continues” makes this easy … start here, it has it all.

Just don’t be expecting too many Stuart vocal led pop bangers as you continue through the back catalogue!

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]

1:  Deafheaven  -  “Infinite Granite”

I was first exposed to Deafheaven around 2018 when previous album ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’ was recommended to me as a good post-rock / black metal crossover … I tried, I really did, but could not get on with frontman George Clarke’s screamcore vocal style so gave up.

During 2021, a few Deafheaven tracks including “The Gnashing” and “Great Mass of Color” dropped on my Spotify ‘Release Radar’ weekly playlist that stood out with their big guitar sound and shoegazy (but clean) vocals that made me go back and revisit the previous album.  

I still struggled with the vocals but really got hooked by the musical style so looked forward to hearing what ‘Infinite Granite’ would deliver when it was released.

On first listen, and to those with no previous exposure to Deafheaven, ‘Infinite Granite’ likely comes across as a nice, polished effort that appears to have missed one of the many shoegaze revivals in recent years.  Repeated listens reveal a beautifully layered collection of tracks that stand up to many, many listens and grow over time … I was worried this wouldn’t be the case as most of the tracks hit home on first listen and that can often lead to a short attention span.

What makes ‘Infinite Granite’ a masterpiece in my view though is the subtle teasing of George’s previous vocal style across a couple of the earlier tracks, that may be missed by those with no previous exposure, and the climax that is final track “Mombasa” …

The 8 minutes or so of ‘Mombasa’ builds from nothing to a point around half way where it suggests a relatively weak, but very polished, conclusion to an otherwise powerful album … then at 5:25, the track explodes with both crescendo guitars but more importantly the re-emergence of George’s metal scream core vocals … it not only works as a perfect conclusion to a stunning record, it also provides a retrospective gateway to the back catalogue that cannot be ignored.

A great album in isolation, a brave masterpiece in the great scheme of things.

[Spotify] | [Bandcamp]