- Asakusa Light (Rush Hour) - Soichi Terada
According to everyone who has encountered him Terada is one of the most charming, and delightful, people in the music industry. The bright Hawaiian shirts, the seemingly ever present warm grin, the sparkling eyes, these things most of us know. His career, his life, in music stretches back to the late 80’s and his rock band (yes, really) Tax Flee, through the nineties with his deep house work, for which he is best known, and dalliances and dabbling with drum ’n’ bass, and video game music. “Asakusa Light” is his first house album in many years, and it is every bit as good as you might expect. Warm, rich, hypnotic, beguiling, funky, and with enough beats to rock every block in NYC. A welcome return to a legend and a master.
- This Is What We Do (Virgin) - Leftfield
This spot was, until a few days ago, occupied by another album. I didn’t want to drop anyone, but when Leftfield decided to drop an album as riotously, furiously, and ferociously, fabulous as this…what is a boy supposed to do? Had this been released in January it may well have been in the top ten, but the longer one spends with a record, the more important it becomes…a relationship forms, or is it just me? Whatever, by the end of January 2023 “This Is What We Do” will probably be my favourite album of 2022!
- Mahal (Dead Oceans) - Toro y Moi
The seventh album from the bull and me, or Chaz Bear as those closest to him call him. On his first album as Toro y Moi (2010’s “Causers of This”) there was some discussion of “chillwave”, something Bear himself was not keen on. Since then he has continued to record music that draws on a wide range of influences, each album seemingly the final destination in his creative endeavours, and yet what follows is always bigger, bolder, better, than what came before. Bear is a wildly talented artist, and with “Mahal” he, once again, seems to have hit a peak…but don’t be surprised if there is another summit to reach.
- Happiness Not Included (BMG) - Soft Cell
They could have released the sound of Marc Almond running a bath for Dave Ball and I would have bought it, played it endlessly, and wept great tears of joy. Soft Cell are one of the most important bands in the history of pop music. Ever. Anywhere. Sex, drama, romance, lust, camp, visionary, eccentric, dangerous, the took an ordinary boy from a nowhere town, and helped change the way he looked at the world around him. “Happiness Not Included” is just another marker of their brilliance, better than we deserve.
- Profound Mysteries I-III (Dog Triumph) - Royksopp
Three albums for the price of one. You lucky things. I know, this makes this list the top 53 albums of the year. But what can I do? I could make an argument about the albums being one body of work, and I think that is legitimate, but the real reason for including all three is that they are each the equal of the others. There are few other artists who could release one album in a year as interesting as “Profound Mysteries”, that Royskopp have released three says something…
- Life On Earth (Nonesuch) - Hurray For The Riff Raff
Once upon a time I saw Hurray For The Riff Raff perform on “Later…”, and I instantly fell head over heels in love with the whole thing. What is obvious, no matter who is in the band with Alynda, is that everything is delivered with care. The lyrics, the melody, the performance, it is all just as it is meant to be. It is difficult to be indifferent about anything that other people take such care over, and “Life On Earth” demands your love and affection, because everyone involved has given everything they have to it. A career high from a band with more highs than most.
- Magazine 1 (Cherry Red) - Wolfgang Flür
Flür is one of the most important figures in the history of electronic music. A member of Kraftwerk, his more playful approach is a key element in albums like Autobahn and Man-Machine. “Magazine 1” is his first solo album since 2015. Featuring a host of guests including Midge are and Peter Hook, it is an album of joyful, peculiar, off kilter, poptronica.
- Dawn FM (Republic Records) - The Weeknd
This may have been the first album I bought in 2022. If it had been the only album I bought this year, it would have been a great year for music. A cool, at times icy, gathering of the sort of pop music that only Tesfaye can make. The usual/unusual themes of isolation, escape, and romance are here. Missing is the “Blinding Lights” mega-anthem, but the album is all the better for that. Instead the songs work as a whole, a suite of melancholic euphoria. Back in 2020 Tesfaye was named as one of the most influential people in the world by Time, he remains exactly that today… I can’t wait to hear the music inspired by him. The future is bright.
- Sweet Like Caramel (Objects Limited) - Lia Mice
I don’t know anything about Lia Mice. Nothing. I saw the cover of “Sweet Like Caramel” and remembered what Oscar Wilde said, “Only a fool does not judge a book by its cover”, so I bought it. As usual when I followed the advice of Oscar, I was richly rewarded. This is an album so separate from most everything else in my collection, alien and otherworldly. Mice is creating grand, grande, sonic landscapes. At times things seem unsettling, “Something Has Made Me Sing” is a fine example, at other times things drift close to pop…but never close enough to be labelled or boxed in.
- MLDE (Mr Bongo) - Marxist Love Disco Ensemble
A press release for Marxist Love Disco Ensemble revealed that one of their inspirations was Orange Juice. Need I say more? Whenever an artist discusses their inspirations and starts droning on about “The White Album'' or the Droning Bones, I know that what lies within is not for me. But if a gaggle of Italian musicians start talking about Orange Juice, I know that I will not, cannot, be disappointed. MLDE is a disco record, a pop record, and a record to get you up off the sofa and shuffling, maybe even slipping into a bit of a boogie, across the floor. What more do you want?