Check out Live4ever’s interview with Andy Bell right here.
2022. As the planet stumbled from one phase of its omni-crisis to another it would’ve been easy to dismiss music – and art in general – as somehow less relevant than ever. After all, there were plenty more important things to think about.
That may be true for some, but at Live4ever we not unnaturally took the opposite view; aside from its obvious role as a welcome escape from the avalanche of dire current events, as a medium music and the artists who make it are also facilitating conversations about topics that many outlets who should deal with choose to ignore. In a time when increasingly what our eyes see can be less and less believed, our ears still hear true.
We’re not (normally) given to hyperbole here either, but even if the job of compiling a ‘best of’ list remains a thankless task, this composite based on the opinions of our staff is one we’re all really proud of; we might not all agree on everything you see here, but talent-wise it represented the most diverse body of work we’ve ever presented.
Whether we all fist bump on what goes at what ranking is irrelevant really: this is great music, and whenever we’ve really needed an answer to any question that obviously didn’t have one in 2022, music’s where we’ve gone, every time.
Firstly, time to get Dumbo over there in the corner of the room over and done with. Whilst the Arctic Monkeys doubled down on alienating parts of their base on The Car, it was a body of work that showed Alex Turner has lost none of his talent for eloquent character sketches – and that remains a good thing.
If that had been a potential solo album for Turner then he’d have been in typically good singer-songwriter company. Amongst this milieu Angel Olsen re-emerged on Big Time as a Nashvillian country chanteuse in the mould of Loretta Lynne, whilst on Pre Pleasure Australian Julia Jacklin took her cues instead from early nineties’ alt rock.
Some of the work was no less exemplary on this side of the Atlantic: Kae Tempest’s poetry-to-beats on The Line Is A Curve continued to offer new and intriguing forms, whilst Cate Le Bon’s art pop thrilled on Pompeii and, having bought herself a ruined second-hand piano, Beth Orton duly made her best record in decades with Weather Alive.
There were also fine records when we needed them from artists we’ve come to rely on for just that; step forward Beach House (the luxuriant dream pop of Once Twice Melody), Alvayys (Blue Rev) and Big Thief (Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You), who each gave us something familiarly different.
That thing called indie continues to live on too, years after it was pronounced dead. It felt like Wet Leg and Yard Act were slugging it out all year as to who could do the most gigs, but whilst the former’s eponymous debut beat the latter’s The Overload sales wise, their mutual success once again showed that you dismiss British guitars and gab at your peril.
Let’s hear it too for the outliers. Warping our minds this year were hardcore-screamo-jazz-funksters Soul Glo (it makes more sense when you listen), the Nova Twins’ Supernova (trashy electro metal) and the ebullient Afroclash of Ibibio Sound Machine’s Electricity.
Most of the list’s upper reaches were known to us in one way or another, with the exception of Just Mustard’s Heart Under, on which the Irish quintet brilliantly updated the shoegaze/noise rock template created by Slowdive.
We wouldn’t call the rest heavyweights but Mick Head’s first album in more than five years, Dear Scott, confirmed the scouser as one of the muses of his generation, whilst The Smile’s A Light For Attracting Attention was the sort of grown-up rock that you never know is so indispensable until it’s gone.
Daniel Avery, meanwhile, represents electronic solo music this year, but Ultra Truth marked a spectacular career high either way, whilst Fontaines D.C. completed their triptych of essential albums about people and places with Skinty Fia, the final chapter looking wearily across both sides of the Irish Sea.
The top spot was something of a fight between minds and hearts, but Andy Bell’s success on Flicker was to make an album that drew on all the disparate strands of his career to-date and in the process come up with something which sounded exactly like none of it; it was so good it eclipsed that history and made way for many possible futures.
2023? Things look no less certain. But music will still be here, wherever you are, whenever you need it. And so will we.
Click here for all of Live4ever’s 2022 retrospective series.