2022 has been much more of a positive year for me. The clouds finally lifted for good on Covid. It took me a full two years to get that dreaded double line on the lateral flow. When it hit it was unpleasant, but the isolation was probably more annoying, and thankfully I had been vaccinated by this point so didn’t get the tastebud rewiring to which the pioneers were susceptible.
In terms of gigs this year, I saw TOPS, LoneLady, BODEGA, Indoor Foxes, Alex Cameron, Soccer Mommy, Kit Sebastian and L’éclair. These were at Stereo, Audio, Mono, Hug & Pint, St Luke’s, QMU and Broadcast respectively. Of these, I think I enjoyed Alex Cameron and Kit Sebastian the most. AC’s latest album didn’t do much for me to be honest, but the strength of his previous two was more than enough to carry the night in a unique venue. Kit Sebastian is centred around a French-Turkish duo and their music is evocative of a sort of lost 60s film soundtrack – maximum vibes.
2022 has been mostly a year of stalwarts and continued listening to old favourites, but a casualty of my Covid-imposed incarceration was missing a gig by Nilüfer Yanya whose new album and particularly the song “the dealer” was one of my most compelling discoveries.
I was lucky enough to see my top artist from last year live at SWG3 last month: Stereolab. Perhaps less jubilant or irreverent than Alex Cameron but as good, if not better, in other ways. It was funny to see the fanbase who were a lot more introverted than other artists I’ve seen. While the band was really making a lot of noise there was a minimal outward show of appreciation in contented head bobbing. There was no place for moshing in this mass. I felt that the performance started off quite frostily but gradually things warmed up and I began to see the dynamic between what seems like an unusual pairing of serious French absurdism and reserved English handiness, all over a relentless base of infinitely reproducing Krautrock solidity.
Old favourites resurfaced in my Spotify Wrapped, with Toro y Moi taking the top spot, followed by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Kurt Vile whose 2018 album Bottle It In I got into for some reason, the aforementioned Nilüfer Yanya and Charli XCX.
An honourable mention in my music round-up of 2022 is my Arabic Funk phase. This year I got into this YouTube channel called My Analogue Journal. It does mixes of particular genres from specific regions in the world in certain decades. For some reason, the Arabic 70s stuff seemed to resonate with me. I suppose it is a natural progression from my Turkish penchant the previous annum?
I can only honestly recommend three new albums that have come out this year that I have listened to the whole way through multiple times and liked. Without further do, here is my list of projects that I think are worthy of checking out:
3. Mahal by Toro y Moi
On Mahal, Toro y Moi revisits some of their chillwave roots but leans more into a vintage vibe that is sometimes reminiscent of Steely Dan. I think that while the record perhaps doesn’t have the standout singles of Outer Peace it is more cohesive and listenable. There is no ‘Laws of the Universe’ or ‘Freelance’ but there aren’t any real lulls in the tracklist. As opposed to Outer Peace there are recurring motifs and a few weird sketches that help to stitch the album together, even if one wishes that some of them were stretched out into fuller songs. It has a couple of funny earworms in ‘Postman’ and ‘The Loop’, but these are not indicative of the album’s general expansive tone.
I really enjoy the psychedelic laziness of ‘Mississippi’, which showcases the dynamic production style of the album.
2. CRASH by Charli XCX
One has to allow for some pop in one’s life, and surely it doesn’t get much better than Charli XCX in 2022. Again, I’ll be honest and say that I did prefer her pandemic record How I’m Feeling Now for capturing the Zeitgeist, but that was a high bar to surpass. In any event, this album is tonally quite different from the previous outing and there are far fewer A.G. Cook-isms in terms of production. HIFN was much more introspective whereas this is bombastic and outward-looking. The double-run of ‘Baby’ and ‘Lightning’ is the peak of the album for me – both undeniable bangers.
The energy rarely drops off on this one, which makes it an ideal gym playlist staple. There is no mid-album lull and it has a very strong start and finish – bookended with the title track, ‘Crash’ and the club-inspired ‘Used to Know Me’.
- Blue Rev by Alvvays
I adored the last album from Canadian band Alvvays, Antisocialites, which saw me through a challenging time trying to teach teenagers English in Hamburg. Five years on, their sound has not lost any of its potency and the songwriting is as on-point as ever. I love how the band don’t rush the development of a musical idea, but neither do they linger on a hook too long – giving you just enough and no more. The album has a very shoe-gazy start, which is a theme throughout but is front and centre on the arena-filling ‘Pharmacist’ and ‘Easy on Your Own’. The next section is more jangle-focussed with beautifully melodic guitar work reminiscent by turns of Johnny Marr and Robert Smith – ‘After the Earthquake’ and ‘Pressed’ are highlights here. We then go to the quirkier side of the band with ‘Very Online Guy’, which I suppose would be the lead single if Alvvays were a single-type artist and what is probably my favourite track, at least at the moment, ‘Velveteen’.
If I have one criticism of the album, it would be the jarring intromission of ‘Pomeranian Spinster’ which doesn’t really seem to fit the tone of the rest of the project. The band quickly wins me back with ‘Belinda Says’, which is also a major highlight. It’s a massive track with huge descending pitch-bent guitars set against the sweet celestial vocals of Molly Rankin and features a bold key change just a minute in. Oh, and it mentions Inverness! If you listen to one album from 2022, let it be this.