Live4ever’s Best Of 2022: The Albums

Arctic Monkeys The Car

20/ Arctic Monkeys – The Car

Largely (though not entirely) gone are the eerie, seemingly discordant synths and piano, in come the strings. While lesser acts often add strings to try and corner the listener into Feeling Some Emotions, Turner et al are cleverer and classier than that. Rather than complement the songs, the luscious orchestration drives them.

Angel Olsen Big Time

19/ Angel Olsen – Big Time

After a prolific few years, Big Time reflected profound personal change for Angel Olsen. A truly classic Americana sound giving due depth of feeling to experiences that bounced through the extremes of deep loss and new love – ones which, ‘make you feel as though you’re five years old, no matter how wise or adult you think you are’.

Beach House Once Twice Melody

18/ Beach House – Once Twice Melody

It would be impossible to ignore both the lysergic and metaphysical influences on this music, but equally those moments of realness prick the bubble; Masquerade comes with intent and emotional austerity whilst also sounding like it would be great whilst appropriately f****d up in a club. This house of mirrors effect means too that the bubblegum pop of Finale isn’t actually the end.

Artwork for Kae Tempest's 2022 album The Line Is A Curve

17/ Kae Tempest – The Line Is A Curve

Has storytelling ever sounded so good? On The Line Is A Curve for Kae Tempest it was more about communicating than telling, both with the audience and a cast of collaborators which started from long-standing producer Dan Carey and grew to include Kevin Abstract, Lianne La Havas, Grian Chatten and others, opening up on anxiety and isolation from a position of unbridled strength.

Artwork for Soul Glo's 2022 album Diaspora Problems

16/ Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems

Sometimes intellectual weight can turn into a project’s entropic weakness, but from about a minute into opener ‘Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)’ the quartet’s controlled aggression and manic energy square words which, whether always audible or not, rip into their quarry, be they good guys, supposed good guys or bad guys; if you’re on that list, prepare to duck.

Artwork for Big Thief's 2022 album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

15/ Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

It was another quiet arrival for Big Thief when the new year brought Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, and even in the most delicate moments of the four preceding records there had never been anything to quite touch the beauty contained here. But across the 20 tracks there was room for much more too: strength, noise and an unashamed confidence.

Julia Jacklin Pre Pleasure

14/ Julia Jacklin – Pre Pleasure

After singing about a lack of intimacy or enthusiasm from her partner, then falling for someone but still feeling unsure and wary, Jacklin is now totally and utterly in love. Too In Love To Die is dark but beautiful, more stripped back instrument-wise and intense. The lyrics are fascinating and ponder whether being deliriously in love could actually save you from death.

Artwork for Nova Twins' 2022 album Supernova

13/ Nova Twins – Supernova

Supernova simply never lets up. From the appropriately named opening track a powder-keg of ideas, anger and energy barrels through its half-hour stay, never stopping long enough to be pinned down. “This is our power and we’re proud of where we’re from,” they said. “We want other people to feel like that too.” Mission accomplished.

Artwork for Cate Le Bon's 2022 album Pompeii

12/ Cate Le Bon – Pompeii

Restraint is the order of the day on Cate Le Bon’s sixth album, a step-up made in measured combos of brass and sass that largely sets her virtuosity on the guitar to one side and gives space for the lyrics to evoke the Joshua Tree desert which played host to its recording after work had initially begun locked in Wales during the first wave of the Covid pandemic.

The Smile A Light For Attracting Attention

11/ The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention

Never the most optimistic lyricist, Yorke’s anxiety at the state of the world dominates: ‘What will now become of us?’, he queries on The Opposite. He’s not afraid to look within and condemn himself either, hitting his classic vocal sweet spot of falsetto and angst as he informs that he talks, ‘to the face in the mirror but he can’t get through’, on the warming and moving Free In The Knowledge.

Wet Leg Wet Leg

10/ Wet Leg – Wet Leg

The news is that there is no cure for cancer amongst these songs. This record will not make you walk on water or turn it into wine. Instead, it’s a perfectly functional collection of often funny, bittersweet tunes which by design lack the special sauce of the thing that put Wet Leg in a position to write them in the first place. Long term, this may prove out to be the real miracle after all.

Michael Head Dear Scott

9/ Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band – Dear Scott

In phases, even allowing for distance, there’s the sense of a playful genie finally being released from a bottle. It’s very much there in the gorgeous jazzy motifs of Gino And Rico, which like a number of tunes here changes tack and key unexpectedly somewhere in the middle, but even then it’s not the only passage that would have Messrs. Weller and Talbot applauding on the sidelines.

Daniel Avery Ultra Truth

8/ Daniel Avery – The Ultra Truth

These are spaces filled with risk, but equally which overflow with a kind of unspoken optimism; closer Heavy Rain oscillates joyously, Collapsing Sky sounds it was taken directly from one of Warp’s legendary Artificial Intelligence compilations, whilst the disembodied vocals of Only speak to Aphex Twin’s worshipped ambient tracts of a similar time.

Artwork for Just Mustard's 2022 album Heart Under

7/ Just Mustard – Heart Under

The droning beats and maelstroms of noise work in dichotomy to Bell’s largely sugar-sweet yet ethereal vocals, which soar on the likes of In Shade, where she very nearly drowns out the rest of the band. Possibly the best weapon in a formidable armoury. Speaking of matters military, Seeds marches with searing ferocity, like an army coming over the hill, devastating all in its wake.

Ibibio Sound Machine Electricity

6/ Ibibio Sound Machine – Electricity

Opener Protection From Evil ensures that their demand for our attention in a cluttered world is answered. Halfway through, Williams chants, ‘Spiritual/Invisible/Protection from evil’, as if sitting up bolt upright after experiencing a revelation, but what precedes that is a stream of Grace Jones-like consciousness, words spoken in tongues.

Yard Act The Overload artwork

5/ Yard Act – The Overload

In words and music the foursome have been smart enough to otherwise avoid getting tribally boxed in. On Payday it’s the urban fetishism that turns grow-your-own into some kind of super heroism on the rack, complemented by the kind of gonzo funk which for lovers of the unexpected is awkwardly danceable.

Alvvays Blue Rev

4/ Alvvays – Blue Rev

Rankin tries on numerous different voices across the 14 tracks of Blue Rev: on the thrillingly punky stomp of Pomeranian Spinster she largely dispenses with her light-as-air falsetto, opting for the sassy vocal stylings of someone like Chrissie Hynde, while on the descending harmonies of Tile By Tile she croons like Lana Del Rey, mimicking the latter’s gift for sensuous role playing.

Beth Orton Weather Alive

3/ Beth Orton – Weather Alive

Possessions famously come to own you, but on Weather Alive a salvaged piano, a life that had started to drift and a shifting sense of identity were the depths from which Beth Orton had unearthed her most sublimely potent work for over 20 years. With its wounded, spiritual complications she should close the door on fame, an act that paradoxically may well be life-affirming.

Fontaines D.C. Skinty Fia

2/ Fontaines D.C – Skinty Fia

What is clear is that there’s a resolute, almost hubristic confidence in wherever this goes. Bloomsday – which traverses their constantly imperfect relationship with Dublin – has a portentous echo of Joy Division, but it’s Jackie Down The Line that chills and thrills the most, a catalogue of threats-to-music in which the anger runs to impotence.

Andy Bell Flicker artwork

1/ Andy Bell – Flicker

On and on it goes, each track building an immersive world of Bell’s own creation. At 1 hour and 17 minutes Flicker requires commitment, but it’s a pleasure to bathe in such soothing musical waters. The commitment is rewarded in spades, staggering as the album is in its eclecticism, clearly demonstrating the love and attention that has gone into it. Andy Bell has made his White Album.

Click here to read Live4ever’s interview with Andy Bell and to be in with a chance of winning a signed vinyl copy of Flicker.

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