This year, I had to winnow down from forty-five albums to this final top twenty and it was bloody difficult. I’ve had to leave a load of loveliness off because I know if I keep the list short, more people are likely to check it all out.
So, whether the album is at number twenty or number one, it’s a solid-gold winner than you need to check out, at the very least to dismiss it. I don’t think you will do that, though, because this is a fucking killer top twenty.
Right, let’s go!
They’d probably HATE me saying this but sometimes FIG evoke Pentangle at their most Children Of The Stones mental. This is a wild jazz that slipslides from pulsating cacophony to sugarsweet OD on the head of a pin. It is really fucking catchy in that Max Tundra, hyperpop way. Every song is fifteen songs.
I could just talk about the opener, The Hermit, which is forty-one minutes of scrapey, hootyiness that transforms into the most crystal, ethereal song carried high by Dawson’s beautiful voice. But, yup, that means you might ignore a song as wonderfully lolloping as The Fool or as soaring and cathartic as Thicker Than Water. Umm, how shall I sell you on it? Medieval Sufjan Stevens should at least get to you look, no?
Okay, so imagine a post-punk-obsessed Half Man Half Biscuit fronted by Al Stewart doing spoken word shit kind of like John Cooper Clarke. No, no, nothing like LCD Soundsystem. And, also, one song is very sung (I feel like that’s gonna get singled out as “the hit” as it’s the most conventionally accessible?). For once, the music equals the power of the vignettes. You will love this album. Get Unjaded is a fucking banger.
When you hear Scofield’s take on Not Fade Away, if you have any humanity in you, you’ll grin like a lil alpaca because he’s playing and he’s PLAYING and he’s just having a fucking wonderful time making difficult sound easy, making improvisations better than most folks’ compositions. I’ve found myself putting this album on so many times, it draws me back in, again and again.
Fuck me, I really did not expect to be nodding my head to a Sunshine Pop album in 2022 and yet, here’s this absolute slab of beatific harmonies, long summer afternoons and holding someone’s gaze just a shade too long. The Free Design via Komeda is my best hope of selling it to you. But beyond that, there are some simply huge tiny pop songs on here.
I didn’t realise TT3 was 20fucking18? What? Chalk up yet another pandemic timeslip in my memory. Nevertheless, TT4 is the sound of Benny building on that breakout with an almost lazy confidence. I say almost because you can still feel the reaching here, he is very much awake. Yeah, of course there are famous collabs (J.Cole!) but this record could equally stand with Benny alone. And how many could claim that, hmm?
Speaking of pandemics… here come Simulakra with ten tracks clocking in at just over twenty-one minute of pure hardcore rage. What sets this album apart is they hairpin bends and drops and the switching from straight hc to STUPID BEATS that sounds easy in their hands. It is not. I wish I could hear this album out clubbing, it’s one for the pits for sure.
Superficially, you might put The Beths into a cutesy indie(pop) ghetto but then you’d have to have missed the acid in the songs, seeping out behind every sugary melody. They have that knack The Chalets had of writing perfect little stories that have hearts of deep weirdness but still being supremely fucking catchy. They get you to sing along with the weirdest shit and I love it.
Listen to Friday Night @ The Liquor Store and the roll of those lyrics, the flow of that imagery and tell me, with a straight face, that this is not a mint hip hop album. Add to that a willingness to push things beyond the average head-nodder and you have an album you can lose yourself in via myriad paths. Dense and stewed, over fucking egged and loving it.
I’ve seen reviews saying this is a ‘post-punk’ album and, yeah, I guess it is, in the same way as Chopin was a ‘post-Baroque’ composer. Yes, there’s an angular lineage of sharp elbows in the face. But then you have a track like Last Breath and that’s just all over the shop, warm, pub-rock chorus with shattered bridges. So, in aesthetic, not sound, this is a post-punk record but it’s a shame I have to make that distinction.
I think this album, probably more than others on this list, could go fucking massive. Why? Because the kids I see out clubbing on Saturdays absolutely love dubstep and old EDM. Korn, Skrillex, they go barmy! If I was Must Die!’s label, I would get some remixes of this stuff out there and just wait for the money to roll in. For me, this record absolutely made me hoot with happiness, it’s just what I needed to hear – an absolute assault on the senses. WARNING – do not listen too loud, it’s too addictive.
What a slowmotion gutpunch of a record! So many flavours of heavy here, from blackened shoegaze to grunge to even hints of nu metal chugging. All of which I love, bring it on. Because behind all of that are huge songs that carry everything effortlessly. Marisa Shirar’s vocals are a total motherfucking joy to hear. Just wow.
Don’t trust anyone that hasn’t got this record in their top albums. Wajeed’s album is a love letter and a history, an education on Detroit house and a fucking undeniable bop. Listen to the effortless way the The Ballad Of Robert O’Bryant flies off into the hazy sky, like you could ever tie it down, ever contain it. Whether it’s pure house or acid-inflected excursions, this is dance music at it’s supernatural apogee.
Turquoisedeath and Vmrrobotic’s collab is long (over one hour fifteen) and that’s the worst thing I could say about it: that it could have been two great albums instead of one insane one. But if you decide to take the trip, the discreteness of the collab ensures it’s a varied one. One second you’re gliding along, bumping your knees and then whaaam, Fool’s Gold comes on and it’s SHOECOREBREAKGAZE time. And, yes, I have copyrighted that genre.
When I heard the first few seconds of Mess Mends, I knew it was gonna be in my top tracks/albums of 2022. It was falling in love at first wonky twiddle. I have no idea if Horse Lords are playing microtonal guitars or are just Tuning Overlords but whatever the mad fucks are doing, I’ll have more of it, please.
This is the highest heavy record in my list and it’s because it’s consistently made me shout along in the car and KICK MY WINDSCREEN OUT WITH MY EARLOBES. Easily the best straight-edge hardcore album of 2022, Unaltered Perspective careens through eleven tracks in thirty minutes with an urgency and passion most would give their dessicated genitalia to possess. It’s all about fucking heart, you can’t fake that shit.
My second-fave hip hop album of this year and only beaten by a wild GOAT. Otherwise, how could you deny the power of the music, the arrangements, the glitches and the switches and that’s without even even considering Tenney’s vocals, let alone the lyrics. This is a dream of an album, that it exists, that it shines like this makes me raw emotional. I can’t contain it.
Anxious are the band I’ve most listened to in 2022. This album came out in Feb and I didn’t hear it until I’d fallen in love with their single Where You Been (as documented here). This is a Tigermilk of an album, this is an Under Soil And Dirt of an album, a debut album by a band that is frankly astonishing in its reach and delivery of that grasping. It’s a perfect debut album, there’s not a track on here that’s sleepwalking. And I’ve no doubt many are going to go on to become melodic hardcore / pop punk classic covers. Speechless.
The first thing I heard by Jacklin was I Was Neon and I was hooked by the lyric, “Am I gonna lose myself again? I quite like the person that I am.” Notice “I quite like,” not I LOVE. And that gentle distance, that retreat from the narcissism that is most singer/songwriter’s besties is why I love Julia Jacklin and why this is my second favourite album of this year. The songs are honestly hurting, they’re not playing victim, there’s a vulnerability here that anger drowns in lesser lyrics by other songwriters.
And now Ignore Tenderness is my fave song on the album:
“Such a good student
Of all that conflicting advice
Go put ice in your mouth
Let them slap you about
Go on, choke yourself out
But leave no room for doubt
That you are brave
Beneath the sheets, you’re just a cave
A plastic bucket, or a grave
Who said you’re not what you get
You are what you gave away?”
One of the most powerful, painful albums I’ve heard. Essential.
Yeah, I can still rap along with Get Down pretty much word-perfect. And I’m shit at rapping; that’s a testimony to the prowess of Nas, not me. Never has a rapper made the twists and turns of be-bop rhythmic switches and assassins’ screed lyricism sound so natural. Yeah, sure you can do this – it’s easy. Just try… woah, apparently you can’t because it’s the work of genius.
Look at the lyrics from Beef:
“I be tryin’ to find the best way they can stop me cold
Another body and guess who the cause, and why they foes?
Beef is my name, my story is age old
So question, why do I always come to take souls? (Take souls)
I’m everywhere in the hearts of men
Jealousy and envy my right hands, them is my mans
I’m what happens on mad blocks, I’m the jabs takin’ in talks
The arguments between the women in the crab leg spots
That behind the back shit complex and multifaceted
Lesson to the real, I be decimal, subtracting shit.”
On Kings Disease III, Nas is majestically fucking relaxed, he is loose af, his timing impeccable, his imagery untouchable. He makes me fucking mad, just trying to follow the swoops of the vignettes, he’s dropping entire bloody Netflix series in the space of eight bars, fuck sixteen.
“I grew up around weed smoke, just like the Marleys
Heard my mom whenever she spoke, they havin’ parties
This the ’70s, of course Donna Summers’ voice
Me, I’m in some holey but clean undershorts on the bed tryin’ somersaults
And when the summer starts, you hear a hundred shots
Steppin’ over empty liquor bottles I come across
Scented stickers that smell like what’s in the picture
Was just a kid but I stayed away from the sniffers
We knew better, we knew how to see a setup
Just wanted to be some players pull up in a Jetta
From the Census Bureau they put up a killer’s mural
It’s a different world with 30 shot clips that curl, melon popped
Like John Fitzgerald with his girl in a drop
If he can get hit, then anybody can get got
And you a easy target, see you never know who watchin’
Cold hearted monsters, whole city going bonkers.”
– Recession Proof
This is a ridiculous album. It’s neutronium solid, it is seventeen audiobooks.
It is the best album of 2022.