Favourite music of 2022

Releases that made an impression:

SZA - SOS (highlight: 'Special')

Not as good as Ctrl but then again what is? This record is long and vibey and somehow not as hooky as the debut, which is a bit of a problem. But on the other hand, SZA's writing and cadence remain as singular and brilliant as ever, so while there is a bit of drift you're never far from being confronted with another surprising turn of phrase or complex emotional situation. It's one to live in and soak up even if it doesn't contain absolute devastators like 'Prom' or 'Love Galore'.

Anxious - Little Green House (highlight: 'In April')

2021 favourites Arm’s Length didn’t quite follow through on their debut album this year, but thankfully the boys from Anxious came in with a perfectly fine pop-punk record – very catchy and making the most of contrasting sweet harmonies with hardcore roars. Lyrically threadbare, and doesn’t particularly have standout songs (the left turn into gentle indie rock on the final track is nice but nothing memorable). But as background energiser music little can beat it.

Rachika Nayar - Heaven Come Crashing (highlight: 'Heaven Comes Crashing' feat. maria bc)

Ambient noise midwest emo anime soundtrack epic – with those kind of descriptors thrown about in the end of year list write-ups I was going to have to check this out, wasn’t I? The album is basically all of those things, and yes the bit where the drum n bass comes in is obviously the best.

feeble little horse - Heyday (highlight: 'Chores')

This is cheating because the album actually came out in October 2021, but it was reissued, hyped up and reviewed on Pitchfork this year, and anyway it’s my list and I make the rules. Noisy guitar pop that keeps glitching in weird ways (hyperpop is an influence), and therefore never gets boring. Case in point: the majestic single ‘Chores’, which punctuates its very catchy hook with a vocal outtake that injects surprise, humour and self-deprecation amidst its temper tantrum about inconsiderate housemates.

Nia Archives - Forbidden Feelingz (highlight: '18 & Over')

Basically does for me what last year's PinkPantheress did, which is to refresh a beloved but decades-old genre and apply some feminine pressure to it. As her moniker might suggest, Nia Archives treats the material with a certain reverence, but the addition of her own vocals turns the choons into actual songs, inflected by her own personal history and perspective.

Whatever The Weather - Whatever The Weather (highlight: '17°C')

This is just very nice. Loraine James was a teenage emo kid who went through Death Cab to The Postal Service to Dntel, and this release for Ghostly International goes back to those roots, shaving off IDM's abrasiveness and leaving something supremely pleasant to waft around while you're answering your emails as the rain patters outside. Once again the drum n bass section is the highlight because it always is.

Yr Poetry - Ruin Music (highlight: 'Songs that Mention Radio are Cheating')

Tiding me over while I wait for the next Johnny Foreigner release. This side project burrows deep into inscrutable personal history, obscure scene psychogeography and reflections on being in a band following other bands and the cities and spaces they work in. It’s Johnny Foreigner but even more so – indulgent for sure, but I’m happy to indulge them. Case in point: Alexei channeling Craig Finn and yelling (ironically) about kids in bands being no good these days. He also does some spoken word bits that are actually good. I could listen to him all day. There’s maybe 1,000 people on this earth that are in the pocket for this sort of thing and I’m one of them.

Real Lies - Lad Ash (highlight: 'Boss Trick')

One long reverie about nights out in London. Admittedly not a lifestyle I've indulged in a huge amount, although even I recognise the sense of romance and mystery it could entail. Real Lies convey it masterfully, and suffuse it with an abiding sense of melancholy. It's basically Burial but with half-sung, half-whispered accounts of late night trysts and regrets from the perspective of someone who is too old to do this sort of thing anymore. This is what I imagined Junior Boys sounded like before I listened to them, and Real Lies do it much better. Oh it's such bliss to reminisce!

Pool Kids - Pool Kids (highlight: 'Arm's Length')

I thought this was the consensus pick for emo album of the year so was rather surprised it didn't appear a bit higher on lists. Perhaps the rather odd sequencing, which relegated the standout single to the very back, didn't hook people in enough. For me this is a straight-up pop album – it's just the knotty, mathy elements make it hard to realise at first. There's a lot of studio ingenuity going on in the background to accentuate its riffs and hooks (check out this deep dive on the use of vocoder in one of the standout songs). And it's all packaged together by Christine Goodwyne's accounts of being trod on by friends, lovers, managers, internet trolls and the world as a whole and powering through despite it all. We all need a bit of that motivation in our lives.

Releases from loved acts that disappointed:

Skullcrusher - Quiet The Room
Arm's Length - Never Before Seen, Never Again Found
The Beths - Expert in a Dying Field
Purity Ring - graves
Hatchie - Giving the World Away

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