Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"
- Tresor (Heavenly) - Gwenno
Who is Gwenno?
Gwenno is/are Gwenno Saunders and Rhys Edwards…but mainly it is Saunders? What is Gwenno?
Gwenno is Saunders musical persona/identity. Maybe.
What is Tresor?
Tresor is an album. The meaning of tresor is “treasure”, in Cornish. The meaning of “Tresor” is more difficult to explain.
Does the answer to these questions matter?
Isn’t it enough that the music exists?
I think this is one of those times when you have to listen for yourself, not rely on the hot takes of others. Listen. Then you can come back and thank me.
- Wet Leg (Domino) - Wet Leg
What more can be said about Wet Leg, or “Wet Leg”? Very little. Certainly very little new. I doubt anyone reading this hasn’t already heard it. If you have heard it, then you know why it’s in the top 20 albums of the year…you may be furious that it isn’t higher than this. I understand. An album this good, in most other years, would potentially bag the top spot. But 2022 wasn’t an ordinary year, and so “Wet Leg” must settle for knowing that it is the best album released in almost any year other than this one.
- Sad Cities (Italians Do It Better) - Sally Shapiro
One of the best albums of the eighties…it’s just that it was recorded and released in 2022. A classic Italo House album…it’s just that neither Shapiro herself, or co-conspirator, Johan Agebjørn, are from Italy. These Swedish synth pop scoundrels released one of the great singles of the noughties, “I’ll Be By Your Side” back in 2006, and have consistently made music that is so cool it could freeze water, but which also has a heart that radiates the warmth of sun on a late summer afternoon. “Sad Cities” is the result of a collaboration with Johnny Jewel, and together they make a Holy trinity of synth, neon noir, and gorgeously romantic house.
- Impera (Lorna Vista) - GHOST
The greatest rock band in the world? Tell me who else even comes close. Gothic, grand guignol aesthetics, roaring guitars, melodies ABBA would give their souls for…and all delivered with either the most gloriously inappropriate sincerity, or with tongues planted firmly in cheeks. You decide. “Impera” is their most “pop” offering to date, and it still kicks most other rock bands into the dust.
As ever it is the attention to every detail that elevates Ghost. The design, the font, the videos, the lyrics, the melodies, everything is given the same amount of care. Nothing here has been flung together in a shed, nothing here is delivered with a “that’ll do” attitude, it’s all so very careful. All
so knowing and deliberate. If you don’t care about things being good, you can dismiss Ghost and move on to the next “new” band who sound exactly like every other band in your collection.
- Versions Of Modern Performance (Matador) - Horsegirl
Look everyone, look over here…four blokes in Stone Island singing songs that sound a bit like the sort of thing that good bands would chuck in the bin.
That doesn’t sound very good.
I said THEY ARE WEARING STONE ISLAND.
Meanwhile, people who want something a little more bang for their buck than that have been beguiled by Horsegirl this year. A three-piece from Chicago, Nora, Penelope and Gigi, giving you the sort of shoe gazing, riot grrrl, wonder that you didn’t even realise you needed. This is so achingly cool, so effortlessly smooth, it makes your heart hurt. Angular, spiky, fierce. At times you are reminded of the likes of The Slits and Sonic Youth, at other times they sound exactly like…Horsegirl and Horsegirl alone.
If I can over egg this pudding…this album felt important.
- Fragments (Ninja Tune) - Bonobo
His first album since 2017’s “Migration” was a curious mix of electronic beats, and something more organic…a connection made to the flesh and bone of human existence, through machines. Neat trick.
- Natural Brown Prom Queen (Throw Records) - Sudan Archives
If you already know…well done.
If, like me, you didn’t know until now…well done on getting here.
Brittney Parks (Sudan Archives) is a phenomenon.
A force of nature.
“Natural Brown Prom Queen” is a statement of intent. The sort of forceful songwriting and music making puts the supposed “geniuses” of trad rock back into the tiny box from whence they have crawled. There are so many ideas on this album that it is impossible to keep track of them. World music, electronica, hip-hop, R ’n’ B, experimental…and probably more besides.
This is what it sounds like when an artist wants to express who they are, how they feel, and why they feel that way. This is what it sounds like when someone refuses to play by the “rules”. This is the sound of an authentic voice.
- Tableau (Heavenly) - The Orielles
Who wants to live in a box?
Nobody who wants to live.
Looking at the same walls, speaking to the same people, watching the same things, hearing the same sounds…that’s not living, that’s not even existing, it’s death with breath.
The Orielles don’t want to stay in the same place, they don’t want to say the same things, and they certainly don’t have any interest in making the same album over and over again, just to keep the mythical “audience” happy. They have chosen to live.
“Tableau” is the product of people with huge amounts of talent, a willingness to step outside their own influences, and with a desire to be different, to go deeper, and to be better.
Here lies R&B, funk, dance, pop, electronica and wild experimentation.
This is the album that all bands should strive to make, something that represents who they are… and not what other people want, or demand, them to be.
- Fear Fear (Heavenly) - Working Men’s Club
When the night has come, and the land is dark…Working Men’s Club will provide the soundtrack. And a soundtrack is exactly what “Fear Fear” is. A soundtrack of deep, soul shaking, beats, for the film of your life, or a film about the future. Dystopian house? And yet, for all that lurks in the shadows, there is wit and guile here too, a lightness of touch, a fierce intellectualism. Like some Brutalist, Eastern European, Soviet Era, velvet underground. There are ghosts here too, early Human League, Kraftwerk, the finest moments of “Violator” era Depeche Mode…who doesn’t want that in their life?
- Tick Tick Tick (Dais Records) - Stephen Mallinder
Where do you start with Stephen Mallinder? At the beginning with Cabaret Voltaire? In the present with this machine meets man, house, electro, disco, pop, wonder? Somewhere else? A journalist, a lecturer, a thinker, a musician, a creator, an innovator, an inspiration…Mallinder is all of this and more. “Tick Tick Tick” arrives almost fifty years after the formation of Cabaret Voltaire. Five decades of refusing to stand still, to repeat himself, to settle. That we live in a world where the names of a hundred men with silly haircuts and a guitar trip off the tongues of people when asked “Who is the greatest…”, but Mallinder is unknown to them, is a damning indictment of the culture we have created for ourselves.