Another year, another list, another last minute write up with likely typos and non-sensical ramblings that no one reads anyway!
My last.fm 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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”!
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”
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”
Rolo Tomassi “Where Myth Becomes Memory”
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”