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Favourite Albums of 2022

5. Tears for Fears – The Tipping Point: The duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith returned in 2022 in a big way. A new album, planned tour (that unfortunately had to be cancelled), and numerous TV appearances. The centrepiece of the year was The Tipping Point. The light electronics mixed with traditional instruments on tracks such as “The Master Plan” for both a mature and bright sounding pop album.

4. Lightning Seeds – See You In The Stars: Ian Broudie returned to his Lightning Seeds moniker for the first time in well over 10 years. The result was a terrific pop album bursting with sunny melodies and scratchy vocals. Tracks such as single “Great To Be Alive” reminded listeners of how positive life can be regardless of the news. It was the album many of us didn’t know we needed until we did.

3. Wet Leg – Wet Leg: In many ways, this feels like a 2021 album as four singles were released a year ago. Since then, Wet Leg has taken the indie rock world by storm with sold out shows and appearances on nearly everyone’s year end list. The duo still managed to save the blasts of “Ur Mom” and “Angelica” for 2022 along with several strong album tracks.

2. Liam Gallagher – C’mon You Know: Right from the first moments of the 60s like children’s choir opening, Gallagher’s third solo album was an unexpected powerhouse. As his brother Noel notes, Liam has kept 90s rock alive and well with a younger generation eating it up. “Better Days” has the strut of a quality Oasis tune while “Moscow Rules” co-written with Ezra Koenig opened up further depths to his sound. Liam’s quality control rarely let him down here on a terrific set of 2022 rock tunes.

1. Beach House – Once Twice Melody: The eighth album from the Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally ran an ambitious 84 minutes with four separate chapters. Highlights include the title track, “Only You Know”, and “Hurts To Love”. While the formula does not stray too far from their atmospheric, indie rock, Beach House manage to explore new vistas of sound. With a lengthier run time, it is easy to submerge in this luxiourously expanded album.

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10 Favourite Songs of 2022

10. Yard Act – The Overload: I came across this track through Cillian Murphy’s recommendation on his excellent BBC podcast. The band from Leeds mixes several different genres and on the title track of their debut album, really nail their outsider status with a few pop hooks.

9. Wet Leg – Angelica: The duo from the Isle of Wight saved one of the best tracks from their debut album for a 2022 release. The energetic track really takes off when the drums explode as they sing of Angelica going to a party. Another slice of indie rock perfection from the breakout act of 2022.

8. Taylor Swift (Feat. Lana Del Rey) – Snow On The Beach: A highlight from the Swift’s highly successful Midnights album was her collaboration with Lana Del Rey. While Lana is used sparingly, she adds a bit of texture to a song that would not sound out of place on either of their albums. Hopefully this is just the first of many tracks the two work on together.

7. Tears For Fears – Long, Long, Long Time: Curt Smith takes over the vocals on this midtempo track that adds Carina Round in the chorus. Smith turns in an excellent vocal performance over a bed of shimmering synths and electronic beats. The track is one of several highlights from their very good album, The Tipping Point.

6. Fontaines D.C. – I Love You: The moody track was the second song released from the band’s very good third album, Skinty Fia. It’s a hauntingly atmospheric track that really suits singer Grian Chatten’s deadpan delivery. The love song to Dublin is like one from beyond the grave.

5. Lightning Seeds – Great To Be Alive: This jangly piece of indie pop was the first song that many had heard from Ian Broudie in several years. The upbeat track was an unusual slice of sunshine in an otherwise hard slog for many people that was 2022. Co-written with James Skelly from The Coral, it is never anything than uplifting.

4. Liam Gallagher – Moscow Rules: The third Gallagher solo album had several bangers and highlights. “Moscow Rules”, co-written with Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend, was more understated. The atmospheric track sees Liam turn in a very good vocal performance that gets amped up in the chorus as soon as the drum kicks in. With songs like this, the younger Gallagher can leave a few Oasis tunes off the setlist and add in more solo work.

3. Suede – She Still Leads Me On: Called their punk rock record, Suede released a very good album in Autofiction. One of the highlights was the first track about singer Brett Anderson’s complicated relationship with his mother. To hear him sing with this much passion about something so personal was awe inspiring as the band rocks behind him. Excellent stuff from the legendary band.

2. Beach House – Only You Know: One of the highlights from the second half of the excellent 2022 album from Beach House, “Only You Know” was never released as a single. The cascading synths match Victoria Legrand’s repeated vocals before the tumbling drums appear. A characteristically atmospheric track that easily glides along a celestial plane. The line, “every disaster comes faster and faster” is one of many that can get lodged in a listener’s head for days.

1. Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero: One of the biggest pop tracks of the year deserved all it’s attention. The inward looking track features several moments of clever wordplay that the internet would turn into many memes, specifically as Swift sings, “It’s me/hi/I’m the problem, it’s me”. That is followed by the devastating line, “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror”. It’s something many of us could do more of in 2023. Nice work, Taylor!

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Favourite Distant (Re)Discoveries of 2022

5. George McCrae – Rock Your Baby (Song): Likely heard one night while listening to the Top of the Pops podcast on the BBC, somehow I had never heard this track before even though it is one of the biggest selling singles of all time at 11 million units. A staggering achievement for this understated slice of R&B disco that slinks along in it’s rhythmic funk. One that works as well on the dancefloor or while holding your baby on the couch.

4. Courtney Barnett – Before You Gotta Go (Song): I missed listening Barnett’s Things Take Time, Take Time album upon release in late 2021 and instead listened in early 2022. A grower of an album with several highlights. One of them being this track of breaking up but wanting to remain friends or at least go out with good memories. The video is equally as great.

3.  Siouxsie and the Banshees – Icon (Song):  Working through the Banshees catalogue, Join Hands was reviewed back in August.  The album proved to be a grim listen at times, lacking some of the pop smarts of the band’s other work.  Still, the track “Icon” was a standout. The slow building song changes midway to thundering drums before exploding into life. 

2.  Radiohead – Kid A (Album):  Kid A is an album I’ve listened to off and on for 20 years but never for more than a few tracks at a time and had never really done a deep dive into the tracks.  Released after the mega selling OK Computer, Kid A split opinion in the rock community, perhaps doing exactly what Thom Yorke was hoping.  Listening to the album and reading Steven Hyden’s excellent book, This Isn’t Happening, was a personal highlight of enjoying art in multiple mediums in  2022. 

1. The Beatles – Revolver (2CD Deluxe Edition) (Album):  Rating another Giles Martin remix of an album by The Beatles is hardly the stuff of surprise at this point. Still, it’s hard to ignore when the attention gets turned to one of the greatest albums of all time in Revolver.  The highlight of these packages, regardless of which edition you choose, is the bonus material. Hearing the all too familiar songs in different takes is thrilling.  From instrumentals (“Eleanor Rigby”), stripped down versions (“Tomorrow Never Knows”) or raw takes (“Here, There and Everywhere”), the bonus album was a delight. 

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10 Favourite Songs of 2021

10. The Hold Steady – Unpleasant Breakfast:  The mid tempo track appears midway through the latest release from The Hold Steady, on an album that welcomes Franz Nicolay back to the fold. It’s a minimal track that gets amped up with “Woooo” in the chorus before adding a piano swing towards the end.

9. Chris Miles, Lil Xan – MISS ME:  When Lil Xan teamed up with Chris Miles, they managed to cross numerous musical boundaries including rap, trap, rock, emo, pop, etc. Lil Xan turns in a vulnerable second verse and it’s hard to deny the simple hook of Miles yelling “like yeah”.  An unexpected end of year favourite.

8. Japanese Breakfast – Paprika:  The lead track from Michelle Zauner’s critically acclaimed third album was all sweetness and light. It is hard to top the joy when Zauner hits the high notes in the chorus and her exclamation that “it’s a rush” just before the horns pour in.

7. Lana Del Rey – Dealer:  With two albums of songs to choose from in 2021, this Miles Kane duet is not the most obvious. Driven by bass and drums, the lazy 60s vibe builds as they sang “I gave you all my money” before Lana belts out the anguished chorus.

6. Wolf Alice – Delicious Things:  The second track on Wolf Alice’s excellent Blue Weekend album, sees the Ellie Roswell wondering whether her move to LA was the right decision.  Over an atmospheric chorus, Roswell ponders a feeling that many of us have felt while living in a new city – “would you believe I’m in Los Angeles?”

5.  Chvrches (Featuring Robert Smith) – How Not To Drown:  Another UK band that saw members move to LA, Chvrches second single added Robert Smith to the proceedings. A pounding piano breaks through the densely layered track. Even with a legend singing with her, it’s Lauren Mayberry that delivers the powerful opening line “I’m writing a book on how to stay conscious when you drown”.

4. Wet Leg – Chaise Longue: When readers on Instagram were asked by BBC6 what  their favourite new bands were, an overwhelming amount of commenters mentioned Wet Leg. The duo delivers hilarious lyrics in a monotone, deadpan style over one of the catchiest musical beds of the year. A few more excellent singles have followed making Wet Leg’s debut scheduled for 2022, one of the most anticipated of the new year.

3. Damon Albarn – Royal Morning Blue: A highlight off of Albarn’s first solo album in seven years, “Royal Morning Blue” rides a simple electronic drum beat but also adds swirls of sounds. The atmospheric track draws much heft from Albarn’s singing and hits an emotional note when he says, “…and nothing like this had ever happened”

2. The Felice Brothers – Jazz On The Autobahn:  The upbeat track from New York’s The Felice Brothers tells the story of a woman speaking of what the apocalypse will be like. A terrific drum beat moves the track along as it reaches the infectious chorus declaring the end of times will sound/not sound like “jazz, jazz, jazz…”.  If the end of the world sounds like this, I’m ready!

1. Middle Kids – Today We’re the Greatest:  Like the year before, 2021 was a rough go much of the time.  Still battling a pandemic, cut off from friends/family, endless fighting online, employment lost, travel plans cancelled. But Middle Kids breaks through the doom to declare that, “someday we’ll be gone, but today we’re the greatest”. It’s a poignant sentiment that we’ll all disappear and be forgotten about but just for today – we can be heroes. A hidden gem that will hopefully be discovered by more people needing a lift.

Posted in Listed

Favourite Distant (Re)Discoveries 2021

5. Ela Minus – they told us it was hard, but they were wrong (Song): Originally I had this all teed up to be in my top 10 songs of the year then discovered it came out in 2020. This has all the good things we appreciate in a dance track – dark, moody, mysterious, atmospheric, incessant beat, buried vocals, etc. The Brooklyn based Colombian, knocked us out with one of our favourite tracks that we heard in 2021.

4. The Tragically Hip – Saskadelphia (EP):  Growing up as a teenager in Canada in the early 90s it was practically a prerequisite to like The Tragically Hip. They are not a band I normally put on the stereo as their music is ubiquitous around these parts but when they released this EP of music recorded around the time of the Road Apples album, I was all in. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to hear them until I did. Another great entry into their legacy and hopefully not the last.

3. Limp Bizkit – Break Stuff (Live at Lollapalooza 2021) (Song) :  I was never a Limp Bizkit fan, not even as a guilty pleasure. This video appeared soon after the heavy handed Woodstock 99 documentary that cast the band as having ruined the hippie esthetic. Looking like your dad (if he was one of the Beastie Boys), singer Fred Durst was in fine form by making fun of the documentary before tearing up the crowd. The music seems better with humour and nostalgia than it did in the late 90s as a lifestyle.

2. Oasis – Knebworth 1996 (2CD + Documentary):  25 years on from the legendary Knebworth weekend; the band released a documentary, concert films of both nights, and an album. Mainly featuring tracks from the first two albums + B-sides, the performance catches the band at their peak. The documentary starts off a bit slow but continues to build with each song with one highlight being John Squire joining the lads for a guitar solo on “Champagne Supernova”. Acting in stark contrast to the Woodstock 99 doc, this was all peace and love with plenty of cigarettes and alcohol.

1. The Beatles – Let It Be/Get Back (2CD edition + Documentary) – One of the most anticipated releases of the year was Peter Jackson’s extraordinary Get Back documentary on The Beatles making of the Let It Be album and sessions leading up to the famous rooftop concert. Remarkable to see classic songs written in just a few weeks with the highlight being Paul McCartney creating “Get Back” on the spot. While the Let It Be album is the lesser of the last few releases by the band, the second disc of alternative takes were helluva lot of fun to listen to and explore. Much more to be heard for those willing to spend the extra cash on the super deluxe edition.