Sunday, 11 December 2022

Albums of 2022

As I verge towards the last section of my mid-40's, I find that I no longer feel the need to keep abreast of 'hot new music' or even what is being released on a weekly/monthly basis. I used to be super aware of what was going on, even if I didn't know or like the artist. I still knew the breaking band/artist names, song and album titles. That really is no longer the case. I find myself browsing The Guardians end of year countdown asking who? never heard of them regularly.

But new music still found me. I suspect it always will. Whether that be debut albums by Yard Act, Poster Paints, Gabriels, through established veterans like Michael Head, Spiritualized & Tim Burgess, artists like Alvvays and The Beths who both released their third albums, or the wonderful Weyes Blood who I'd never heard of before, but she released her 5th album this year.

Unusually, as a lot of albums released towards the end of the year miss End of Year lists, 5 of my favourite albums from 2022 were released in October and November. At one stage this year I did wonder if I'd be able to create an end of year favourite albums list!

As always, I'm sure other end of year lists will lead me to discovering music released in 2022 that I've missed. At the time of writing, here are my 9 favourite albums from 2022, with 7 more bubbling under that I have enjoyed throughout the year. You can check 22 of my favourite songs from 2022 on this playlist. There are also links to videos for singles/songs from each album in this list.

Poster Paints by Poster Paints

This album is getting better with every listen. The length is a strength, 10 songs in 35 minutes leaves you wanting more, though it contains so much. Falling Hard is a heart on sleeve stomper with it's straight outta Motown chorus, while Hard To Sweeten is a melodic tender reflection on love gone wrong, My Song a slow burning New Order groove (can we get a 12-inch version please?) and Circus Moving On is cinematic, dreamy and lush.

Carla & Simon now have a solid band and multiple collaborators. It will be interesting to see what they do with Poster Paints next. First step is (funding permitting) a trip to SXSW in March next year.

Cause I gave you the chance to have and to hold me
It turns out, that I got it wrong

11 by SAULT

Very arguably the most interesting group on the planet right now. Prolific and exceptionally ambitious, SAULT have now released a staggering 11 albums since 2019. In November 2022, for a limited time, you could download 5 for a few days.

11 received an official release and it is might well be my favourite SAULT album to date. The musicianship is staggering, the production is sublime, the arrangements are jaw dropping, the melodies, the lead vocals, the harmonies ... everything about SAULT makes me want more. 

I really hope SAULT break cover to play live at some point. Imagine this band playing a 3-hour show at The Barrowland?! The dirty groove of Glory with that crack snare beat and half whispered half sung vocals, the dreamy bliss of River or band jamming in the beautiful lazy way they do on songs like The Circle.

It's you, you are the one
The moon and the sun
You are my circle

Dear Scott by Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band 

Chiming & jangling guitars reminiscent of The Byrds, horn & string flourishes influenced by Forever Changes (an album beloved by many a scouser), Head's melodic & dreamy voice, storytelling lyrics ... Dear Scott washed me with a sense of calmness and escapism upon release. The first night of his mini FRETS residency was probably my gig of the year. A joyous night of celebration with travelling scousers singing the horn parts to Head's songs.  

People try to put you down, they don't win

Read my blog on Dear Scott HERE

And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow by Weyes Blood

Releasing an album in November makes it pretty difficult to get into end of year round ups/best of's published in magazines. I have Duglas T Stewart of BMX Bandits to thank for turning me on to this gem by Weyes Blood, the name that Natalie Laura Merling releases music by. A series of tweets lodged the name Weyes Blood in my brain. I finally took the time to check Merlings music and realised she had just released her latest album on Sub Pop - always a good label to trust.

And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is a beautiful album. It can get kind of dreamy at times, I found myself floating off somewhere nice to the sublime God Turn Me Into a Flower, what a song and performance! 

If anyone has (or hears of) a spare ticket for Weyes Blood at Glasgow's QMU on Friday 10th February then please get in touch.

Oh but baby you're the only one
Who would drive me down to the pier
Take me up on that ferris wheel

Everything Was Beautiful by Spiritualized

I rarely find/make the time to blog about albums upon release these days. But I found the time to write about this. Released in spring, near the start of the war in Ukraine, I really needed this album.

At times Pierce sings tender lysergic lullabies, at other times he goes beautiful, bold and grand. There are layers of noise, grooves, drones, guitars, gospel choirs, songs of love, death, regret .... all the ingredients that make Spiritualized albums so special.

Read my blog HERE

Always Together With You video

If you want a rocket ship, I will be a rocket ship for you

If you want another world, I will be another world for you

Janky Star by Grace Ives

DIY pop from NYC. Ranges from the chaotic to the sublime. There are songs that will leave you thinking, hmmm that's kind of Taylor Swift, others where hooks come out of nowhere, many where beats suddenly change direction and Ives just goes with it. 

On Lazy Day Ives vocals are beautiful as she sings; Hard drugs oh they're no longer appealing, I got addicted to the hurt and the healing while on Lullaby the synths are playful, beats are cool and Ives singing I watch that movie ten times a day, I can recite it, you press replay. It all sounds rather effortless and all the better for it. The beats, playful synths, vocal melodies and hooks all combine gloriously across the whole album.

Lullaby live on Jimmy Kimmell

It's nothing to be sad about

It's just something I've been thinking about

Midnights by Taylor Swift

Did someone mention Taylor Swift?

Taylor Swift has only just turned 33 and Midnights is her 10th album, her fourth since 2019. She is a remarkable talent. Midnights seems to flow from start to finish. I listened to it 3 times in a row when it came out. Karma is a real favourite, a super cool vocal and melody over sublime production that just sounds crystal clear.

Swift has described the album as a collection of songs written in the middle of the night. There is certainly a dreamy quality from start to finish. That comes across in the lyrics, but there is also that reflection and realisation that Swift does so well, sometimes with humour, sometimes brilliantly blunt like on Labyrinth when she sings I'll be getting over you my whole life before going on to sing oh oh I'm falling in love again

And it's like snow on a beach, weird but fucking beautiful

Lying in a dream, stars by pocketful

Karma video

Snow on the Beach video

The Overload by Yard Act

Released back in January, I found The Overload to be brilliantly refreshing. The bluntness with humour mentioned above for Swift is delivered in a very different way by Yard Act. I was gutted I had to miss their Glasgow QMU gig in November. Thankfully they are back in Glasgow at the Barrowland on 28th April.

My friend Simon wrote a guest blog where he described the band and album as a perfectly postmodern example of what guitar music can be.

Simon also urged: please listen and listen well, because this record matters. If it's the hipster dish du jour, it's also so much more: a piece of work that arrives so fully formed that its scope, its ambition, its sheer bloody humanity might be easily missed. All the jagged, twitchy Fall-ings, the majestic abrasove PIL-ading, the wryly self-referential Cocker-ness: sure, these are four young men who know the past 40-plus years of left-field indie inside-out

Simon's blog review

100% Endurance video

The Overload live on Later

Palomino by First Aid Kit

I lost touch with First Aid Kit after their 2014 album Stay Gold. It did so well that they didn't release a follow up until 2018.  So maybe that lay off is to blame. But they're back again with Palomino, released at the start of November, just in time to give a little extra layer of warmth through the winter months. I've enjoyed listening with a nice cup of tea on several occasions!

Sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg create effortlessly beautiful harmonies and melodies. I can't help but smile when they are on top form.

Bubbling under

Big Time by Angel Olsen

That voice! It really does tug on heart strings. 

Big Time official video

Freakout/Release by Hot Chip

Still bursting with energy and ideas 18-years after their debut album. You kind of know what you're going to get, but the surprise is that Hot Chip still have loads of beats, synth riffs and vocal melodies up their sleeves. Always delivered with a sense of care and fun, Hot Chips always make me smile ... and dance. A good thing.

Eleanor official video

Typical Music by Tim Burgess

Lockdown hero Tim Burgess might be the busiest musician in the UK; twitter listening parties, books, curating festival stages, touring with The Charlatans and his solo band, releasing his solo album I Love The New Sky in 2020 and then swiftly following it up with this double album. He can't stop! 

Part of me loves the fact this is a double album. Part of me also thinks it could have been better if edited to be a single album. The classic argument/debate! But of course, the most important thing is that Tim is regularly writing, recording, releasing and playing live. Tim has a reached a beautiful stage in his career where he has a real freedom to go with the flow and Burgess has the spark to make things happen. 

Blue Rev by Alvvays

Loud, shimmery, loaded with reverb, a dash of fuzz and distortion, I really need to try and catch them when they return to Glasgow next spring.

Expert In A Dying Field by The Beths

I also missed The Beths when they played Saint Lukes in the Autumn. They return to The Garage in Glasgow next May. I'm really getting into this band, guitar pop, but then on songs like 2am they can get pretty dreamy.

Angels & Queens Part 1 by Gabriels

Gabriels set a really high bar for themselves with the release of the monumental Love And Hate In A Different Time, one of the best songs of the century. Perhaps the bar was too high. Or maybe to keep momentum going, they've decided to release their debut album in 2 parts. Part 1 is excellent, although it doesn't quite reach the bar of that song for me. It's still excellent and I look forward to part 2.

Last Night In The Bittersweet by Paolo Nutini

Paolo's performance on Later was pretty astonishing. This looked like a young guy (still only 35) having an absolute blast with his band, creating all kinds of wonderful sounds. Acid Eyes is one of my favourite songs to have come out this year. The rumbling bass, Paolo's hushed vocal, his accent coming through beautifully. It's a real gem. The album cover really hints at how Nutini is diving deep into music and that really comes out on his latest album. Coming 6-years after Caustic Love, I doubt there will be such a long wait until his next. 

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