An album of the year write up in early January feels wrong somehow. I feel slightly guilty sharing this list of 2022’s antiques when we are already a dozen days into a fresh new 2023, shinier and brighter than the year that preceded it. A year that promises much, including the outside possibility of having fewer than three prime ministers in the year. Two would be just fine thanks.
But that would be wrong. We can’t move fully into 2023 just yet. There’s all this lovely 2022 music to listen to, appreciate, and bury our noses in, if that’s a thing. We need to pause, reflect, and give time to the people who just released their 2022 magnum opus, rather than rushing on to 2023’s Next Big Thing.
Sorry 2023, you’ll just have to be patient. I’m still stuck in last year.
Have you noticed how, like Christmas, these end of year album lists seem to come earlier each year? When you consider there’s a six month wait at vinyl plants to get records pressed, Rough Trade, who produce special limited editions of their albums of the year, must have decided upon their best albums of 2022 in May.
So on reflection, no apologies for waiting until January 2023 before writing this. I am envious of Rough Trade’s Jedi-level admin skills and wish I was organised enough to pick my albums of the year in the spring.
Either way, these lists all help to give the reader a chance to reflect on what they might have overlooked, or not given a proper listen to, or simply to seethe at the temerity of the author to rate one album higher than the other, or at all, depending on your level of maturity/caffeine. So enjoy. What’s the worst that could happen?
In previous years I have added a comment if there is an interesting vinyl variant, but, well, it’s got a bit out of hand over the last ten years hasn’t it? If we’re not careful, Prince Harry’s memoir will have a vinyl audiobook in ten different variants before too long, and like other things in Harry’s life, the British press will still hate the colour. I’ll leave it to you to find your favourite format…
The Every Record Tells A Story album of 2022 is…
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Somapolis
Here’s a self-produced album made with much love, funded by the band and their fanbase which, due to vinyl-related delays and well, *gestures about the state of the world generally* was released somewhat under the radar. It’s like if Radiohead merged with Steely Dan and got Christine McVie to handle half the vocals, if that doesn’t put you off, and the nice thing is that I don’t have to describe it because rock journalism is dead and you can just listen to it yourself. Nominated in the 2009 Mercury Prize awards for their second album, “Twice Born Men”, Sweet Billy Pilgrim have continued to plough their own melodic-with-twiddly-bits furrow, producing beautifully assembled albums containing vocal harmonies and reflections on faith, hope, love, the fight against cynicism, and in this case, a Mervyn Peake novel. There are hooks throughout that Prince would have been proud of, and in the likes of “Attacus Atlas” stabs of Bowie-in-Berlin-guitar. Elsewhere, find eighties nods and more musical layers than a stack of ten Vienettas. Thank goodness I don’t have to explain this any further, I’m making it worse, aren’t I?
The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention
In a departure from the traditional rock band way of doing things: i.e. splitting up, sacking people and slagging each other off, the members of Radiohead have sussed how to survive in a band. They form other bands, with different people, and sometimes the same people, without falling out with each other. The Smile takes the best parts of Thom Yorke, namely his voice and the scornful and mysterious lyrics, and the best of Jonny Greenwood’s guitar, and adds a phenomenal jazz drummer to the mix. The three piece set-up gives each the space to produce just the right amount of noise to complement each other, and the end result is this writer’s favourite Radiohead spin off project. Although that’s a low bar, tbh. It’s not like I’ve been playing that Atoms for Peace record very much recently.
Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Wet Leg is what happens when a new band writes a bunch of great tunes for their debut album and then plays and records them brilliantly. A Grammy nomination and a number one album follow, natch. They make it seem so easy: why do so many bands make it look difficult? Hopefully, in 2023 Rhian and Hester will apply themselves to the issue of world peace.
Confidence Man – Tilt
You don’t need to see Confidence Man live to get how great they are, but it doesn’t do any harm either. Their debut album was funny, sassy and the sort of record you dance to when getting ready to go out dancing. The follow up is, dare we say, more mature, but without losing a sense of fun that carries you all the way to the end and makes you want to play it all over again. And then stay in and listen to it again. Who likes going out? It’s so over-rated, right?
Beach House – Once Twice Melody
If Beach House had released this just as a single LP, it would still have made an album of the year. For them to have released it as a double without any drop in quality – nearly an hour and a half of, for want of a better phrase, blissful dream pop, is akin to Blonde on Blonde levels of mastery, without that really really long song on side 4.
Belle and Sebastian – A Bit of Previous
Having released this potential career highlight more than twenty five years after their debut LP, the Glasgow indie-poppers have already announced their next album, for release in January 2023. Jeez, Stuart, calm down already, with your knocking hit albums out like you’re The Beatles in ‘65…
Bodega- Broken Equipment
The Dinked-LP (a limited release with exciting extras distributed exclusively by a group of independent record shops) is a great marketing tool to get otherwise lesser-known bands’ product in front and for the delight of a world-weary and sceptical public, while benefiting independent record shops. And it worked with Bodega’s album, because it’s a great record and the Dinked edition (still available if you are quick) with its flexi-disc and
essential silly glow-in-the-dark sleeve is a lovely bonus.
Kings X – Three Sides of One
Back in 1988/9, Kings X looked like they might just be the future of rock, with their unique combination of tuned-down bass and Beatles harmonies. They influenced Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, all of whom went on to eclipse their success. Three Sides of One comes a mere 14 years after their last album, so it is a minor miracle it sounds so fresh. For those of a certain age, hearing the sometimes chiming, spiky, then crunchy guitar and soaring vocals of “Let It Rain” gives a Proustian rush normally reserved for cake-munching French novelists or perhaps Jacob Rees-Mogg when being caned by his nanny.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down
A tremendous comeback. Rough Trade named this an album of the year, and produced a special edition in Cornetto blue. Which leads to the question, what colour are Cornettos again? Because last time I checked it wasn’t blue. What next? Tawny owl pink? Lasagne green? Shrek red? Can we challenge a vinyl producing company to produce a limited edition “Shrek Red” edition of an LP just to see if people are paying attention? It’s a good LP either way, in any colour.
Suede – Autofiction
Good grief, this list is starting to look like the list of someone re-living their nineties youth, choosing all the new records of their favourite bands from that era.
Lucky this is a fabulous LP then, and Bret still doesn’t look a year older than he did in ‘94, curse him.
Little Simz – No Thank You
At last, something that probably wasn’t even born in the nineties. Simbi (dammit, just checked, she was born in ‘94) picks up from where she left off with her 2021 Mercury Prize winning album. Great production also from the mysterious Inflo, the producer of all those lovely Sault records.
Placebo – Never Let Me Go
Have always had a soft spot for Placebo. Honestly, it’s a mystery I don’t wear eyeliner. This is a fabulous album, and their first for nine years. You could criticise it for sounding like it was released in the middle of their run of great early albums or perhaps alongside Depeche Mode’s Ultra as a bonus LP, but that’s exactly what I like about it.
Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa
Spoon’s tenth LP earned a Grammy-nomination and concludes this year’s list. People will tell you their early stuff is better, but those people just want to show off how cool they were in ‘98, when they ignored a band in a Brooklyn bar that ended up being The Strokes.
Well done for getting this far. Have a playlist of some of my favourite songs of 2022 so you can see what all the fuss is about. What were your favourite songs and albums of the year? And do come back here in April to post your favourite records of 2023…
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