The photo, should you care to zoom the image sufficiently, will show you the seven hundred and fifteen albums released last year that I listened to from beginning to end at least once. I kept a record because I was interested in how much streaming has changed my listening habits. The answer is, as you can see, quite a lot. If you counted albums that I started but turned off quickly because they weren’t my thing at all, you could probably round up the number of albums I gave a go in 2022 to about eight hundred. Hopefully, my ridiculous listening habits will have turned up a few albums that you don’t know, yet, but that you’ll think are, like, well good when you listen to them. I’ve put them in alphabetical order instead of ranking them because I find it less stressful. Right, enough waffle, time to celebrate and discover…
Aawks – Heavy on the Cosmic
Sounds like: psychedelic Soundgarden.
Heavy on the Cosmic is heavy, but ‘Neil from the Young Ones heavy’ as opposed to ‘heavy metal heavy’, I think. If you ever had a post-grunge phase (whatever that means) then I suspect you will love this.
Akusmi – Fleeting Future
Sounds like: minimalist gamelan rave.
What, at first, feels almost mathematically structured opens up into something beautiful and joyful. If you only listen to one French contemporary classical album this year etc etc…
Andrew Mbaruk – Foam Scholar
Sounds like: hypnotic acoustic hip hop.
Andrew Mbaruk raps stream of consciousness at about three-quarters normal speed. His lyrics roam randomly, making connections via rhyme as much as logic. You’ll either like it or you won’t. I think he’s great.
Anna Erhard – Campsite
Sounds like: the Swiss Cate Le Bon?
This feels quite late-nights-on-6Music-y, and maybe it has been getting played there, but it’s absence from any end-of-year lists I’ve seen makes me suspect it has fallen under the radar somewhat, which is a shame, because it’s a corker.
Art D’Ecco – After the Headrush
Sounds like: the Canadian Let’s Dance?
After the Headrush doesn’t actually sound that much like Let’s Dance era Bowie but that isn’t a terrible indication of what it’s like either. Actually, it’s nothing like Let’s Dance era David Bowie. Ignore everything I said about Let’s Dance era David Bowie. And yet…
Ball Park Music – Weirder and Weirder
Sounds like: if you like The Polyphonic Spree or Mercury Rev you will probably like this.
Weirder and Weirder was a number 2 album in Australia where the band are kind of a big deal, I think. I’m not sure why they haven’t made it big in the UK. Maybe they have and I didn’t notice. Anyway, a great pop/rock album.
The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field
Sounds like: a poppy punky, look, you know what The Beths sound like.
I have structured this list with a if-you-know-the-album-you-don’t-need-me-to-tell-you-about-it mentality. Which is fine until you get to The Beths, who (rightly) seem to be on everyone’s end-of-year list.
Billy Woods – Aethiopes
Sounds like: the future
Another album that is on most people’s list and again rightly so. It isn’t an easy listen (though once you’ve listened to it a few times it seems far less intimidating) but oh my the lyrics are incredible. Billy Woods’ other album of 2022, Church, is also superb.
Black Midi – Hellfire
Sounds like: satanic jazz
You can invent all the genres you like (avant-progressive rock, anyone) but this is, imo, a jazz album, and all the better for it, sucking up influences like a massive grinning Henry Hoover and spewing them out again as a delicious slabs of mischievous noise.
Bobby Krlic – Paper Girls (soundtrack)
Sounds like: ominous bleeps
Annoyingly, wrongly, cancelled after one season, the actually pretty great series Paper Girls had four amazing central performances, a tonne of potential and this cracking soundtrack. If Bezos had spent one hundredth of the money he spent pissing about in lower orbit on advertising his tv shows we might be getting more Paper Girls in 2023. But he didn’t, so we aren’t. We will have to just enjoy what we have.
The Chats – Get Fucked
Sounds like: the best punk album ever made
A non-stop, full on, often hilarious, almost impossibly Australian punk album that never turns the speakers below eleven. One of the highlights of the year. Also, as a bonus, if you ask your smart speaker to play ‘the latest album by the chats’ it will bleep out the title, which is funny if you find that sort of thing funny.
Czarface – Czarmageddon!
Sounds like: post-Wu Tang Clan goodness
You would think it near impossible to make thirteen albums in nine years without standards starting to slip but if anything Czarface (Inspectah Deck, 7L & Esoteric) are getting better with every new album. Czarmageddon is a blast from beginning to end.
Danger Mouse and Black Thought – Cheat Codes
Sounds like: heavyweights collaborating
Another big album that doesn’t really need an introduction from me but I’ve committed to a format where I have to type so many words for each entry or the photos will be in the wrong place so I have to say something and that will do.
David Bowie – Moonage Daydream (soundtrack)
Sounds like; David Bowie
A collage of previously unreleased takes, live versions, and bits of speech that, like the film, works as both a monument to a unique talent and a brilliant piece of art in its own right. If you haven’t seen the film yet btw, you should treat yourself. You deserve it.
Duquette Johnston – The Social Animals
Sounds like: Americana with Dinosaur Jr vibes
I was watching an old TOTP over Christmas and Noel Edmunds was on it and he was talking about how there had been three thousand songs released that year as if it was a lot of songs. It really wasn’t. in fact, so few releases in a year partly explained how some of the crap on that show managed to chart. Nowadays there is so much out that albums like this one get lost in the churn. I very much recommend reversing that trend by giving it a listen because it’s very good indeed.
Etran De L’Aïr – Agadez
Sounds like: The world’s greatest wedding band
Which, technically, Etran De L’air are, though probably not for long given how good this album is. The weddings of Agadez might have to take a back seat for world tours and the like. I don’t know enough about the music of Niger to put this album into any sort of context. All I can do is recommend it.
Grace Ives – Janky Star
Sounds like: very very good and interesting pop
Pointlessly, and rather stupidly, I take a certain pride in how little crossover there is between my albums of the year and Pitchfork’s. This year there were only three albums on both of our lists. This was one of them. We’re both right.
Haai – Baby, We’re Ascending
Sounds like: a night out I’m probably too old for…
…which sounds like I’m being self-deprecating but she played Bluedot this year and didn’t start until past midnight and I had gone to bed a long long time before that. Who stays up until midnight? Vampires and teenagers, that’s who. Needless to say, I wasn’t at the gig. I play the record a lot though.
Holm – Why Don’t You Dance
Sounds like: the Danish Robert Forster
Which is interesting because I once saw The Go-Betweens play live in Denmark, which feels like one of those circle of life things, doesn’t it? Or the end of a bad short story. Or something. I don’t know
Homeboy Sandman – There in Spirit
Sounds like: hip hop for grown ups, maybe?
At twenty one minutes long, it’s barely an album, but with lyrics like, ‘Got emojis from my godfolks / Couldn’t see ‘em ‘cuz I don’t have a iPhone / Like, “It’s been forever since we even knew him / Let’s send him some rectangles with X’s through ‘em”’ you can’t go wrong really. The record I listened to the most in 2022.
Jasmyn – In the Wild
Sounds like: a genius at work
I find describing very good songs incredibly difficult. My brain can’t get past the fact that I am just wasting time being a pointless middleman between the very good songs and your brain. Just listen to it, yeah?
Jeshi – Universal Credit
Sounds like: UK rap vs the UK benefits system
The problem with state-of-the-nation records, when the nation is so utterly fucked, is that they can tend to be a tad to bleak for repeated listens. Not so Universal Credit which, while not pulling any punches, manages to look at Britain with an anger that doesn’t exclude humour or very good tunes.
Kali Malone – Living Torch
Sounds like: a big church organ being sad
Though, apparently, there were no organs involved in the creation of Living Torch but instead a series of instruments played through a computer in a way that mutated tones in a way that was too complicated for me to fully grasp if I’m being honest. It sounds lovely though, all mournful and that.
Katy J Pearson – Sound of the Morning
Sounds like: a Mercury Music Prize nomination would be nice…
…and well deserved too. Sound of the Morning is a smart and beautiful post-folk banger. She was great at Bluedot too, though annoyingly I missed the start because I had underestimated the distance between the carpark and the family campsite.
Lalalar – Bi Cinnete Bakar
Sounds like: Psychedelic Turkish synth funk
I suspect that there might be an absolutely cracking music scene in Turkey that we are missing almost all of in the UK. It’s frustrating, because if there are even only half a dozen bands about half as good as Lalalar then we are being denied a lot of joy. If anyone has any tips, let me know.
Loyle Carner – Hugo
Sounds like: The winner of the 2023 Mercury Music Prize
Surely? Yes? But then again, they completely robbed Kano twice so who knows eh? They’ll probably give it to The 1975 or something. But in a just world, a good world, Hugo would definitely be in the conversation.
Lucrecia Dalt – The Seed (soundtrack)
Sounds like: A scary masterpiece
The soundtrack to a horror film I haven’t seen that is currently streaming on a tv service I don’t subscribe to. I have no idea what the film is even about. Maybe a seed of some kind, doing something scary? I’m just guessing. The soundtrack though, blimey. Proper creepy goodness.
Lydia Képinski – Depuis
Sounds like: French-Canadian post-Disco
Ooooh this album. If I was ranking these albums instead of listing them alphabetically this would be pretty high up on my list. Just the baseline on the opening track would put it in any sensible top ten of the year.
Marlowe – Marlowe 3
Sounds like: the third Marlowe album
Three albums in, you kind of know what to expect from a Marlowe album – a few samples from old films with a character called Marlowe, excellent production from L’Orange, and in Solemn Brigham one of the best rappers around. I wasn’t expecting a Romesh Ranganathan cameo but I wasn’t against it when it happened.
Melt Yourself Down – Pray For Me, I Don’t Fit In
Sounds like: Jazz that has learned how to dance
If Black Midi represent where rock becomes jazz then, perhaps, Melt Yourself Down represent where jazz becomes rock, or maybe funk? Or, perhaps, and arguably more likely, I’m talking shite and these sort of definitions don’t actually matter. the album is a blast either way.
Nia Archives – Forbidden Feelings
Sounds like: a lovely bit of drum and bass
Rather excitingly, Nia Archives made the longlist for Radio 1’s Sound of 2023 (as I write this the actual winner hasn’t been announced but fingers crossed, yes). More music like this in the morning as I’m trying to get out of bed would be ideal.
Open Mike Eagle – Component System with the Auto Reverse
Sounds like: intellectual hip hop
Open Mike Eagle’s Anime, Trauma and Divorce is still, probably, the best album of the decade. Component System only came out in October so I haven’t had enough time with it to fairly compare it but it’s good, dude. It’s very good.
Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry
Sounds like: perfect rap
I can’t see any way back for Kanye after his second half of 2022 so his production on It’s Almost Dry (and in particular Dreamin of the Past) may be remembered as his last great musical offering before his self-imposed retirement. Bit depressing really, though obviously he only has himself to blame.
La Roche – Liye Liye
Sounds like: futuristic electronic sounds from the DRC
If you want a countdown of the best electronic albums of 2022 then you are better off checking out Fat Roland who knows far more about that sort of thing than I do. But occasionally I find a gem he has missed (or, potentially an album that he didn’t rate but I loved) and here it is. Look at me! I liked an album!
Romero – Turn It On!
Sounds like: The CBGB band you haven’t discovered yet
Now that, is a retro album cover. And there is a certain nostalgic element to the music too. You could see Romero supporting Blondie or Television in 1970s New York. There is a freshness to Turn It On! that raises it above nostalgia though and it is so much fun. Check out the track Honey to see what I mean.
Sasha Alex Sloan – I Blame the World
Sounds like: perfect pop
A lot of pop’s biggest names released albums this year and I’m sure some of you will be tutting at me for not including them on my list. But pop, more than any other genre of music, is subjective as fuck, and this is the pop album that my brain clicked with in 2022. Soz and that.
Silvana Estrada – Marchita
Sounds like: impossibly beautiful acoustic songs from Mexico
Which pretty much covers it really. One of the great things about streaming is instant access to a world of music instead of stuff from two or three countries. Makes a change from growing up being impressed by [insert the name of an average indie band here]
Silvia Tarozzi & Deborah Walker – Canti di guerra, di lavoro e d’amore
Sounds like: a sometimes challenging, sometimes joyful, exploration of improvisation and traditional Italian song…
…which is what it is. At times it bends your mind, at others it breaks your heart.
Surya Sen – At What Cost?
Sounds like: the UK rap and dance scenes colliding (in a good way)
A brilliant mixtape that manages to cover topics as diverse as the gentrification of London and Surya Sen’s Bengali-British heritage while being fun, funny, and great to dance to.
TSHA – Capricorn Sun
Sounds like: heart-warming house
Like many people, I have been waiting for a TSHA album since 2020’s Sister. It didn’t disappoint.