Top 45 Albums - 2022
A little later than planned, here are my favourite albums of 2022 - a GREAT year for music, from my perspective. Lots of fantastic albums by old bands, plus a few new artists we love.
45. Ezra Furman - All Of Us Flames
Not as immediately catchy as 2015's Perpetual Motion People, but still a great album.
44. Been Stellar - Been Stellar
Technically, not an album, but they were so good live when I saw them back at The Great Escape (Read Brighton Rock review here). Imagine The Strokes did shoegaze,
43. Trashcan Sinatras - Lay Of The Land
Again, another EP rather than album, but frankly anything by the Trashcan Sinatras is worth a listen.
42. The Boo Radleys - Keep On With Falling
Reviewed live here (Five gigs, a funeral and a birthday), this, frankly very unexpected, album includes gentle odes to euthanasia, a song so good New Order would kill for it and just tunes, tunes, tunes. I understand they are recording another one in 2023 - this is brilliant news!
41. Metric - Formentera
This is on the list specifically for Doomscroller, a cracking epic electro-rock number - well worth a spin.
40. Broken Bells - Into The Blue
Not as mind-blowing as its predecessors which were cool, languid indie-electro, with a dash of mournful soul. But it's still great.
39. Ed Dowie - The Obvious I
Ed had been on my list to check out and then he put a plea for people to buy up some of the albums and t-shirts he had as he was a bit brassic. Life as an artist is tough in so many ways, so I bought this off him at last. It's stripped down, electronic, harmonised vocals...it's a starker version of `Teleman to my ears, but more melodic, with touchs of early Depeche Mode. Love it.
38. Interpol - The Other Side Of Make Believe
On album opener, Toni, Paul Banks declares world-wearily "Still in shape, my methods refined" and that pretty much sums up this seventh album. No longer Joy Division ripoffs, they have built a strong sound that's now all theirs. No radical changes, just consolidation, though Renegade Hearts is, dare we say it, quite upbeat in sound?!
37. Metronomy - Small World
Slowed down, less electronic, a bit more guitar going on, Things Will Be Fine being a real standout with its unheralded, 80s guitar indie sound. Loneliness On The Run sounds like Dylan fronting The Cure. No one will agree with me.
36. Barrie - Barbara
Stripped down electronica from an all-female US group, that's twisty, quirky, imaginative and live, comes with co-ordinated dance moves, three out of four members sporting identical haircuts that take my love of a uniform to a new level...
35. Midlake - For The Sake Of Bethel Woods
More prog-folk-rock, but it's leaner, there are less capes (always wise), less complication, it's a more straight-forward Midlake. I like it a lot. One for the headphones on a dark morning heading to work.
34. The Orielles - Tableau
I still think they are channelling A Certain Ratio, but now it's alongside RnB and French cinema. They have come a long way since me and Mrs JO'B saw them in a tent on the beach at The Great Escape in 2018. Seeing them in April and can't wait (see The Orielles (Slight Return) - The Social, London, 20th July, 2021).
33. Yumi Zouma - Present Tense
Catchy as fuck synth/guitar pop, with dreamy vocals, the songs shimmer and shimmy, it's dream pop as played by Fleetwood Mac, but without the inter-band shagging and heroic enthusiasm for cocaine. Mona Lisa is particularly fine, chilled and lazy, yet simultaneously urgent - quite a trick to pull off. Give them a listen, another fine band, straight outta New Zealand.
32. C Duncan - Alluvium
Ethereal, lush, dreamy electronic spooky chamber pop.
31. The House Of Love - A State Of Grace
Another brilliant album, The House Of Love continue to blossom since they returned 15 years ago. This album even sounds like how The Stone Roses should have developed their sound in places (see The House Of Love and Pete Astor, The Garage, London, 25th September 2022).
30. Laura Veirs - Found Light
Bookish to the point she and Lloyd Cole really should make a record together, this album deals with Laura's sexual revitalisation, following the end of her marriage to her former producer. This is the first album she has produced herself, and it's tentative in sound at times, but that might just be a reflection of where she is in general right now. But this is a triumph, especially the pulsing, Eucalyptus which seems to list the people who have helped her build back her confidence in all areas, of her life, detailed through her morning run.
29. Joy Crookes - Skin
One I missed in 2021, I caught this last year. Joy is Bangladeshi-Irish crooning like a more restrained, less chaotic Amy Winehouse, with electronic Neo-soul beats and guitar led jibes and punches at Brexit (Kingdom). I wait with excitement at the idea of a second album this year.
28. Everything Everything - Raw Data Feel
More crazy, dizzying, experimental electronic pop, with lyrics no one else would try and work into a song ("He’s Obama in the streets, but he thinks he’s Osama in the sheets”). They continue to thrill and on stage, dress like they are on set for an episode of Blake's 7. Wonderful.
27. The Beths - Expert In A Dying Field
More brilliant music from New Zealand - three albums in and they are still inventive, vital, punky pop heroes. It's finest moment is its gentlest - 2am. We are seeing them in May, very excited.
26. Gwenno - Tresor
If you like your music electronic and sung in Cornish by a Welsh woman (and why wouldn't you?), this is the album for you (see Gwenno, Village Underground, 20th September).
25. Suede - Autofiction
Suede go back through their record collection and plunder post-punk to great effect, making their most stripped down, shouty and vibrant album in years (see I Heard A Rumour....Suede aka Crushed Kid live at The MOTH Club - 5th September 2022).
24. Elvis Costello And The Imposters - The Boy Named If
Elvis and 2/3s of The Attractions (no Bruce Thomas on bass for his last 20 years of albums), this is his most straightforward album in years, and it's all the better for it. Punchy rather than punching the clock, he's still telling stories others swerve, like The Difference, its narrator being an abused daughter committing patricide. I am listening to his autobiography on Audible right now, and it's great (if long!). His story-telling skills have never waned in a career that's over 45 years long. He's still vibrant, still essential, still kicking out hard.
23. CMAT - If My Wife Knew I’d Be Dead
Irish singer-songwriter CMAT's debut is witty, wordy and ambitious - she says she wants to be “The Nolans making that record with Glen Campbell, which would go on to be covered by Paris Hilton”. She's nailed that already in one album.
22. Wet Leg - Wet Leg
Lots of hype, lots of misogyny aimed at them, and one stone cold hit. But there's more to Wet Leg than being a one hit wonder, and the album is well worth a spin.
21. Pete Astor - Time On Earth
Still making fabulous pop, the former Weather Prophet delivered his best album in years and also played some fabulous gigs (see The House Of Love and Pete Astor, The Garage, London, 25th September 2022).
20. Bloc Party - Alpha Games
I'd sort of lost interest in Bloc Party after their second album - everything since seemed like it was trying too hard. You can't sit still, but the trick is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. This album is a real return to form, with pounding drums, chanting choruses and tunes abound.
19. The Heavy Heavy - Life And Life Only
Another ep as opposed to full album, but it's all they have released so far. They have a southern rock gospel soul feel, like Fleetwood Mac if they came from Brighton, via Georgia. Well worth checking out, we'll see them at this year's The Great Escape.
18. Kelley Stoltz - The Stylist
Echo & the Bunnymen's biggest fan, a back room Brian Wilson, but without the sandpits and associated mental health challenges. His poorly attended gig at The Lexington last year was fantastic and heartbreaking that he is so ignored. The album is joyous, electric guitar pop.
17. Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
Another I missed from 2021, but we'd seen her at 2019's Great Escape and I finally tracked down a vinyl copy of the album (revitalised by her Mercury Prize win). She's released another album since and I'll catch up with that soon. Protect My Energy was a standout for me.
16. Rolling Black Coastal Fever - Endless Rooms
Our favourite Aussie rockers, again another find at The Great Escape festival. Their gig at the Academy in Oxford, with Stella Donnelly supporting, was a highlight last year. This album builds on its predecessors, more of the same, but in a good way. Driving, Go-Betweens influenced Australian indie. Tidal River is a standout, callout their fellow countrymen who fail to recognise the providence of the stolen land they live in. See them live if you get a chance.
15. Warpaint - Radiate Like This
Their fourth album is their most upbeat, trip-hoppy and accessible outing to date. Opener Champion exudes confidence and Hips is dancey and Stevie is, dare I say it, sexy....
14. Tim Burgess - Typical Music
By day, Charlatans front man. By night Twitter and lockdown legend. And somewhere in between, he still makes room to crack out a series of eclectic and quirky solo albums. Typical Music is a double, and at times it might wander a bit outside my tastes, but when it's good, this is brilliant, especially Here Comes The Weekend and Time That We Call Time (see You Wear It Well - life after Britpop - Gaz Coombes and Tim Burgess live in London, November 2022).
13. Pixies - Doggerel
The best Pixies album since 2014's Indie Cindy, it's even a bit "progrock" in places. Though it's baffling they left standout single Human Crime off the album, their finest song since Doolittle!
12. Big Joanie - Back Home
My best discovery of 2022, this their second album was a favourite from 2022, and I am still playing it regularly (see Big Joanie, Central Library, Coventry, 22 October 2022). Punky, political, powerful pop.
11. Simple Minds - Direction of the Heart
A whopping 19 albums in a 46 year career, that they can still sound this good is baffling. They lost their way in the 90s, but my 2006, rediscovered their mojo and it's still going strong. First You Jump powers along, and the album is full of little gems in the same vein.
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Cool It Down
I never really got Yeah Yeah Yeahs, though I knew they were good. I just never got round to giving them a proper go. But this album has finally sucked me in, especially the opening track, Burning. It's a triumphant return after a ten year break.
9. Foals - Life Is Yours
Foals at their poppiest after two interesting, but dark and not easy albums. This is just joyous and life-affirming. 2am was the standout, if you could bottle happiness, it would sound like this.
8. Tears For Fears - The Tipping Point
After three albums as a duo, Curt Smith left, and Roland Orzabal made two more (not great) albums, but went solo and did other things after 1995. They got back together in 2004, but that album, Everybody Loves A Happy Ending was no great shakes. They tried again last year, having toured regularly and frankly looked like they hated each other on stage.
After several attempts to make this album, Curt looked like quitting,. He gave Roland an ultimatum- unless they followed their own path, rather than having teams of songwriters "help" them discover their own sound, he was off - surely, they knew this themselves best.
The result is a magnificent, poppy, proggy, gentle and also rocking album. The title track is as good as anything they recorded and Please Be Happy, which is about Orzabal's late wife and her struggle with mental health and alcohol issues, is just beautiful.
7. Johnny Marr - Fever Dreams (pts 1 - 4)
An ambitious double album, 16 songs is a bit of a stretch sometimes, but it has its moments. Lightning People is the standout, psychedelic rock and its chant reminds me of Soul Mining era The The (not an album Marr played on, but he's played songs from it live with them and clearly holds Matt Johnson in great esteem). There are lots of standout tracks, but probably could have been a brilliant single album. See Fever Dreams Pts 1 - 4 - Johnny Marr.
6. Fontaines DC - Skinty Fia
Their third album is a revelation. I knew they were good, but this is a step change in ambition. Jackie Down The Line is as disturbing as anything you will hear.
5. Eels - Extreme Witchcraft
I never liked Eels when they came out, but this album is spectacular. Fuzzed up guitars, steered by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, who partners with E, Eels' frontman on this. It's garage rock openers Amateur Hour and Good Night On Earth set the tone for this great album.
4. Warhaus - Ha Ha Heartbreak
I love Balthazar, Belgian's funky indie popsters (see Balthazar, Electric Ballroom, Camden, 8th November 2021). So when I heard that Maarten Devoldere, one of their singer songwriters had a sideband I was intrigued.
Their music is sort of soul, lounge indie - a bit chamber-pop, a waltz even here and there, it's playful, fun and I can't wait to see them live in April.
3. Spoon - Lucifer On The Sofa
Loud and rockier than their previous albums, and less experimental, but it's still a belter. Scratchy, Stonesy, nervous, twitchy, catchy, poppy, brilliant, like all Spoon albums. Criminally underrated, do give them a spin. Their dub remix album is also fantastic.
2. Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Dear Scott
Ex-Pale Fountain, ex-Strand, ex-Shack, Michael Head continues to plough his own furrow. He's a scouse Nick Drake/Arthur Lee, a romantic poet, with a Byrdsy jangle and some Love-styled mariachi sounds. This is one of two albums that will definitely stand the test of time from 2022.
1. Gang Of Youths - angel in realtime
As they recorded this, their third album proper, singer David Le'aupepe said "this record’s gonna be about my father and how he died, and how he lived, and everything I found out about him. That’s the only thing I can really write about. It’s gonna be about him … and about people I love."
Following the death of his beloved father, David and his sister discovered a series of revelations, including discovering hitherto unknown brothers, who in turn thought their father long dead.
The album crackles along like The National, with the most brilliant drumming and heavy on the orchestral backing. The music is exuberant despite its difficult subject matter.
angel in realtime., deals with this loss, this grief and coming to terms with these revelations. It’s brilliant and I have had to stop listening to it walking to work. By the time I am halfway across Westminster Bridge, I am in floods, as closing song goal of the century comes to its understated, beautiful conclusion – “In a way, it'll feel like you were an angel in real time”.
The album is 2022's stone cold classic, a genuine piece of brilliant writing, emotional upheaval and joy and loss. See Gang Of Youths - latest album and live at Brixton Academy, 15th March 2022.
Let's hope 2023 delivers a similar treasure trove of new music. See you at a gig or two, x