YEAH, IT’S BEEN A YEAR. In some ways hellish, but still, much better than 2020 and 2021, right?
After all, the plague hasn’t killed us, yet. Putin hasn’t bombed Ukraine into oblivion, yet, man-child Musk hasn’t destroyed what was left of his reputation (… well, actually). And a hell of a lot of good albums, some of them quite brilliant, were released.
What were the best? As ever, my disclaimer is this: given so many records are made, I’ve only got so many hours to listen, I can only review a fraction, and some genres I leave to the specialists to judge, this is categorically not a definitive list of 2022’s best albums.
Instead, it’s the albums I played incessantly, the albums that did what they did brilliantly, the albums I wish I had reviewed, the albums I think you should hear. Good stuff!
(Meanwhile, if you want to hear some of the songs of the year - the singles, album tracks and stray beasts which offered four, five, six or even eight minutes of pleasure, CLICK HERE TO ENJOY.)
The top shelf is the best 22 of 2022, in no particular order. But marginally below them are another 22 that could easily have taken a spot in that first batch, so I’ve offered them up as well.
And then a bonus six to give you 50 of the best things in music this year. I know, I know …you’re welcome!
Where I’ve reviewed the album you’ll find a link to my review, and to accompany your reading, or to follow it – maybe even inspire you to hit a store online or in the flesh and buy one or more of them – there’s a playlist of these albums* with 50 tracks and untold pleasures. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THAT PLAYLIST.
(*Except for Bek-Jean Stewart, who isn’t on Spotify - but don’t worry, one act here doubles up in the playlist for good reason, as you’ll see below).
2022 IN MUSIC … START YOUR TURNTABLES
DRY CLEANING – Stumpwork
Taking the angular post-punk of their debut further, sometimes slower, occasionally even to charming, with a lyricist/singer mixing meaningful non-sequiturs with frank emotion.
DARREN HAYES – Homosexual
A gleeful, lustful, life-full Darren Hayes begins to own his space and his life. Usually on the dancefloor.
LADY BLACKBIRD – BLACK ACID SOUL
Released late 2021 but really only discovered in 2022, this is an album of soul filtered through jazz, or jazz filtered through folk and intense cabaret, with a carefully balanced sensuality and captivating voice. You’ll make connections to Flack and Simone.
BEK-JEAN STEWART & THE SOCIETY FOR THE LOST – Fierce Attachments
This is not an album for the feebly interested or the half committed. It is certainly not an album about the feebly interested or the half committed, and these songs burn as fiercely as the characters within.
BEYONCE – RENNAISSANCE
She’s on a horse. And in the disco. She’s still boss of all she surveys. And she’s dedicating herself to … having fun.
LAURA JEAN – AMATEURS
Strings are added, beats expand, but Laura Englert still pulls down the curtain on the small and intimate, no matter how harsh it might be.
JULIA JACKLIN – PRE PLEASURE
A record for the striving rather than the resolved, a catalogue of lessons in the process of being understood. In mid-tempo.
BIG THIEF – DRAGON NEW WARM MOUNTAIN I BELIEVE IN YOU
Adrianne Lenker takes her band into displaced folk, borderline home electronica, coiled rock and intense, insular indie., but always with trust, adventure, belief and anger as important as hope.
KENDRICK LAMAR – MR MORALE & THE BIG STEPPERS
Breathtaking, brilliant and deeply connected, LA’s finest observer/writer/revealer on his town, his flaws, his mixed journey to something better.
SHARON VAN ETTEN – WE’VE BEEN GOING ABOUT THIS ALL WRONG
Exploring a rich but conflicted emotional life with sounds that wash rather than penetrate, drums that expand to fill space; and vocals that spend a lot of their time turned away just enough from you to simultaneously invite and discourage pursuit.
BILL CALLAHAN – REALITY
Still the born again believer in people as potentially good, Bill Callahan tempers recent optimism on an album about all of us coming out of (good and bad) dreams of the plague years.
ADALITA – INLAND
Desire and destruction, internal musings in endless settings, small scale thrown grand, hurt proving restorative and deadly. Tricky terrain, no easy answers, but a distorted damaging love explored.
CARLY RAE JEPSEN – THE LONELIEST TIME
Disco, pop, introspection, fun, Rufus Wainwright, and bad dates. That’s only some of the fare on an album so easy to enjoy but more than just instant pleasure.
HANNAH MCKITTRICK – THE DAY HAS AGAIN BRUISED ME
A voice close but filtered, the sounds accompanying that voice coming from instruments through which air seems to huff as much as flow, conversational as much as delicate, and pianos which are caressed.
COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS – LOOSE FUTURE
Channelling L. Ronstadt in the best way as pop engages with country. More nimble, more hopeful, more joyful than before, making even more of that delightful Courtney Marie Andrews voice.
OUMOU SANGARE - TIMBUKTU
Written in Baltimore, blending African and European sounds, but deeply rooted in her Wassoulou past and present. Touched by the forlorn, still riding on hope.
BLACK CAB – ROTSLER’S RULES
Technology examined, humour unearthed, machine-meets-flesh, decades of music compressed into one disc. Most of all, this is a record to dance to.
ALDOUS HARDING – WARM CHRIS
You can try to divine the answer in opaque but always intriguing songs; you can also just let the psychedelic folk and bent pop take you where it wants to go.
NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION – LE DEMON DE L’AMOUR
Pomp rock and metal mixed with outlandish mythology, showwomanship, and full tilt boogie playing. You can laugh and punch the air, and bow before the Imperial Priestess, at the same time.
SUDAN ARCHIVES – NATURAL BROWN PROM QUEEN
This is an album which moves in and out of percussion-driven dance and big pop melodies, bent-shaped R&B and spoken-word interludes, lean funk and slinky soul, Euro-folk loose limbed hip-hop, and briefly, even a kind of elegant Vegas.
ARCTIC MONKEYS – THE CAR
Instead of backing away from the lunar cabaret, The Car goes even further into its strings-and-drama possibilities, offering in addition Curtis Mayfield wah-wah guitar and higher range, and some Denmark Street delicacy and theatrics.
CAMP COPE – RUNNING WITH THE HURRICANE
Fully embracing classic era pop - sound, vocals, feel – with both understanding and an edge in the lyrics, with the centrepiece some crucial, brilliant bassplaying.
WANT MORE? HELL YEAH.
ANOTHER 22 THAT ARE JUST AS GOOD
WEYES BLOOD – AND IN THE DARKNESS HEARTS AGLOW
LIZZO - SPECIAL
TAYLOR SWIFT – MIDNIGHTS
THE SMILE – A LIGHT FOR ATTRACTING ATTENTION
CONFIDENCE MAN – TILT
HARRY STYLES – HARRY’S HOUSE
FKA TWIGS – CAPRISONGS
YARD ACT – THE OVERLOAD
KING GIZZARD AND THE WIZARD LIZARD – ALL 300 OR SO ALBUMS RELEASED THIS YEAR
BIG SCARY – ME AND YOU
JESSIE BUCKLEY AND BERNARD BUTLER – FOR ALL OUR DAYS THAT TEAR THE HEART
KING CURLY – SONGS
ERIN RAE – LIGHTEN UP
ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE IMPOSTERS – THE BOY NAMED IF
SOUAD MASSI – SEQUANA
AMANDA SHIRES – TAKE IT LIKE A MAN
STELLA DONNELLY – FLOOD