THE BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2022: THE EDITOR'S PICKS

 |   |  10 min read

THE BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2022: THE EDITOR'S PICKS
It's that time again when “best of” lists are prepared and people are outraged by the omissions or inclusions.

But music tastes vary and art is subjective, so no one is right or wrong.

Here's what we believe to be the 30 finest albums we've drawn attention to this past year (hence the link to our review) with the caveat that – as with our best of 2022 reissues selection and our 2022 Readers' Choices proves – there were many more albums we either didn't hear, or did but didn't find the time to write about.

Either way, prepare to be outraged.

With our Spotify playlist for sample tracks from each album to listen to as you read, here in no particular order . . .

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Brian Eno: ForEverAndEverNoMore

We said: There may disaster of Biblical proportions like an approaching zombie but Eno seems to suggest that if we are on the way out then this oddly holy album might just offer some solace if not enough to provoke us to embrace the beauty around us and do our damnedest to prevent it – and us – from going out in literal smoke and fire, floods and plagues.

Read the full review here

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Avantdale Bowling Club: Trees

We said: Trees is dense, crafted and thought-provoking, and – for its late 50s/early 60s jazz – an instrumental version deserves release also.

With that remarkable debut and now Trees, Scott/Avantdale Bowling Club are redefining this genre on their own terms so – as with Shift Left – don't anticipate others exploring this space.

Read the full review here

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Weyes Blood: And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow

We said: Again Mering alchemises songwriters like Harry Nilsson and the late 60s Beach Boys, echoes of Karen Carpenter and Joni Mitchell, and seductive atmospheres on this second in a proposed trilogy after Titanic Rising.

weyes_blood_coverThe opener It's Not Just Me, It's Everybody lifts off from Nilsson's effortless way of unfurling a melody, on Children of the Empire and the gently rolling The Worst is Done she sounds like Carpenter in the studio with Brian Wilson and the Wrecking Crew session musicians. In fact, much of this rhapsodic pop was recorded in the same Los Angeles' studio as the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.

However as with Brian Eno's recent, sumptuous ForEverAndEverNoMore, there's serious intent within the transcendent melodies.

Read the full review here

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Angel Olsen: Big Time

We said: On these 10 songs, some with gentle string arrangements, Olsen grounds herself in mainstream country (All the Good Times, the title track), mesmerising ballads (Dream Thing, Ghost On), lush Fifties noir-pop (Through the Fires), spacious alt.country (This is How It Works) and appropriately closes with the overly-lushly orchestrated ballad Chasing the Sun.

But Olsen uses such approachable, familiar vehicles to convey a beautiful, compelling and personal fragility.

Read the full review here

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Princess Chelsea: Everything is Going to be Alright

We said: Princess Chelsea is one of our most clever, considered and astute songwriters who knows exactly who she is and how she wants to present herself. It's notable for the cover art she has dispensed with the cuteness of previous images. This isn't a new Princess, the same one but with more to say and finding new ways to do it. Princess pop . . . with Nikkel nettles.

Read the full review here

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Brett Adams: Black Clouds in Stereo

We said: He seduces the listener in with Here or Tomorrow and the widescreen title track, elsewhere aggressively pushes the boundaries (Broadcast of a Broadcast) and offers shimmering beauty on Azimuth with its aerial ballet of guitars over swirling effects and thumping percussion.

a2733038595_10_1The gentle Sleep on the Wing which follows is a breathing space before he unveils a bracket of melodic, somewhat trippy progressive rock (the virtuosic Me Vs Me, Sky Beneath and Melphoria). Across 10 pieces here, Brett Adams sprints, soars, sidesteps and scores.

Read the full review here

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Julia Jacklin: PRE PLEASURE

We said: Julia Jacklin has yet to get mainstream attention and this album may not do it, but with PRE PLEASURE, she's now delivered a trifecta of significant, adult and absorbing albums.

Read the full review here

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Forenzics: Shades and Echoes

We said: The collective musicianship here is superb, [Eddie] Rayner once again confirming what a gifted player he is . . . and always was. There are also many quiet delights: notably the optimistic and enhanced folk of Autumn: “the time is new and I am young again despite all the years . . . autumn is my spring and so my music grows”.

[Tim] Finn – in the company of old familiars – offers ample evidence that's true on what is the most consistent, interesting and enjoyable album with his name attached since his The Conversation in 2008. More than just a worthwhile project, this is a damn fine, understated album by any measure.

Read the full review here

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Aldous Harding: Warm Chris

We said: Oblique references to love lost and found are throughout Warm Chris, but if Harding the person remains behind the curtain, then Harding the artist comes through on the strange, monotone pop of the final song Leathery Whip with Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson. “I’m a little bit older but I remain unchanged, and the folks who want me don’t have the things I’m chasing. No way.”

Read the full review here

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Cass McCombs: Heartmind

We said: Heartmind– its portmanteau title reflecting the dichotomy to be resolved – is a captivatingly complex album rewarding repeated attention and while there's personal loss (Belong to Heaven) there are also bigger ideas considered.

a4174315009_16New Earth is breezy with birdsong, yet set the day after the last day on Earth (“a glad day after a very bad day”) when you “thank God time has ended”. Literal or metaphorical death – or the post-apocalypse – has never sounded so weightless, dreamy and bathed in reassuringly warm light.

Read the full review here

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Charles Mingus: The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's

We said: There are whimsical and humorous moments throughout these nine pieces (check Mingus' solo at the end of Fables) distilled from the two nights at Scott's. Mingus had great respect for the traditions he came from, hence the joyous Pops here -- aka When the Saints Go Marching In, with a vocal by Foster referencing Louis Armstrong – and the suggestive Noddin' Ya Head Blues where his lengthy solo sets it up and the audience, loudly enthusiastic at the end of pieces, is hushed.

Read the full review here

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Elvis Costello and the Imposters: The Boy Named If

We said: The Boy Named If is another late-career high from Elvis Costello, an outstanding chameleon.

Read the full review here

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The Beths: Expert in a Dying Field

We said: Expert in a Dying Field is a continuum of the Beths' taut, established sound but Stokes' insightful open-heart surgery on her emotions and her assured delivery is their point of difference in a very crowded field.

Read the full review here

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Te Kaahu: Te Kaahu O Rangi

We said: Theia's rare gift is to be able to meld the past and present in songs which hit the heart but also chime with pop culture.

Read the full review here

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Racing: Must Be the Moon

We said: Must Be The Moon is smart and diverse within the genre of guitar-driven rock with multiple entry points for those looking for exciting, wide-screen music beyond the Beths.

Read the full review here

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Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

We said: As with the Dylan/Band Basement Tapes and the Beatles' White Album, this diverse double of discrete songs is for long-haul listening and discovery.

Dragon_New_Warm_Mountain_I_Believe_in_You__Big_Thief_But these grounded, poetically enigmatic lyrics come from a single source, [singer/writer] Lenker looking at life through the prism of old and new Americana.

Read the full review here

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Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance

We said: Sometimes you just want to hear an enthusiastic young rock band played loud by those who know their history but play like they just discovered this joyful noise. Meet Horsegirl, three teenage women from Chicago (singer/guitarist Penelope Lowenstein still in high school) . . .  

Read the full review here

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Marlon Williams: My Boy

We said: My Boy is an album where Marlon Williams never feels like he's posturing or acting. Just enjoying being his many selves.

Read the full review here

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Mel Parsons: Slow Burn

We said: Mel Parsons is in the same class as Reb, Nadia, Marlon, Delaney and Tami, those we identify immediately by their first name only. So she's simply Mel. And she's terrific. Again. 

Read the full review here

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Imarhan: Aboogi

We said: Those electric guitars still have a serpentine quality – check out the five minute Temet for a gently psychedelic trip – but there is a melancholy mood here (Tindjatan, Assoussam, Taghadart with Sudanese singer Sulafaya Elyas) because the nomadic Tuareg people are still beleaguered by various governments who control their flexible territory.

a2778979781_10Recorded in Tamanrasset in southern Algeria which they describe as a place of quiet where they feel calm, this fine album captures another aspect of Tuareg music, more folk than rock or blues.

Read the full review here 

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Horace Andy: Midnight Rocker

We said: On the gospel-influenced Try Love – given spacious dubadelic touches by Sherwood – Andy has a seductive, Marley-like, reassurance message for these troubled times: when you’ve found everything wanting, tell him your troubles and “try love”.  With a discreet supporting cast which includes On-U guitarist Skip McDonald and Italian synth player Gaudi among others, Midnight Rocker connects back to Andy’s roots (Mr Bassie from the late Nineties getting a new iteration) but sounds as serious as classic Burning Spear (This Must Be Hell) and as seductive as Massive Attack.

Read the full review here

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Wilco: Cruel Country

We said: There is melancholy brooding (The Empty Condor), seductive dream pop (Mystery Binds), twanging country-pop (Falling Apart), back-porch toe-tapping on A Lifetime to Find with glistening guitars, and ennui on The Plains: “Wait is all we ever do, we never get over feeling used”. Wilco bring their left-field take to country music, whatever that is, which across Cruel Country's 21 songs is as deep as it is wide.

Read the full review here

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Harry Styles: Harry's House

We said: Harry Styles -- who also appears in movies, tours and plays coy with social media -- is a clever artist and over three albums he's barely made a misstep in increasingly sophisticated pop for his demographic. But also for older heads who should give him a fair hearing.

Read the full review here

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Master Musicians of Jajouka/Bachir Attar: Dancing Under the Moon

We said: The Master Musicians tap into an ancient trance tradition with multiple lines of melody from reed instruments over a relentless percussion.

Read the full review here

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Tami Neilson: Kingmaker

We said: From the opening title track which has the breadth, power and drama of Shirley Bassey belting out an orchestrated, spaghetti western-influenced Bond theme of self-assertion and confidence (“It's my blazing light that made your shadow tall . . . and I've always been a King after all”) to the closing bluesy jabs and parries of Ain't My Job this is an album conceived as a barbed, country music manifesto.

Read the full review here

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Sharon van Etten: We've Been Going About This All Wrong

We said: Van Etten knows the darklands but here, on an often thrillingly widescreen album, she engages with epic rock (on the enormous Born, glorious stand-out Come Back and Goth-pop brittleness of Headspace) alongside elegant self-analysis, as on the closer Far Away: “Been down on myself, said [I] won't go back. Been there . . .” 

Beautiful and bold if a cinematic album of unease.

Read the full review here

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Mousey: My Friends

We said: Mousey assimilates numerous influences from 60s pop to the indie-rock of the 90s as well as delivering melodic pop ballads (Wait For Me) and the quieter folk (Rachel, the moving Stormy Boy) which put her along a similar axis as Tiny Ruins and Nadia Reid, although her concerns here are more overtly personal.

mouseyThe sonic enormity of My Hands Are Hands Made of Glass – with drum machine, astringent strings and a landslide of guitar chords – and the ambitious Pudding and Pie which contains quiet, almost dispassionately weary anger rising to fury (“the cold, damaged heart at the centre of my album” she has said with lines like “I dug a hole for you”) then circles back to tiredness, show the emotional power Mousey can unleash.

Read the full review here

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Khruangbin/Vieux Farka Toure: Ali

We said: Ali is one of those quietly mesmerising albums where understatement and mood take pole position over strenuous effort and straining for effect.

A gateway album to Khruangbin, Ali and Vieux Farka Toure . . . and the music of Mali.

Read the full review here

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Big Joanie: Back Home

We said: This second album Back Home offers snappy pop-punk (the blistering Happier Still) but mostly comes off more like minimalist Pretenders than phlegmatic punks in 12 short songs dealing with relationships, notions of “home” and belonging, and some careful rhetoric woven through.

big_joanie_coverWith organ, synths and violin adding colour to their pared-back dance-punk and subtle ballads (the droning I Will), Big Joanie are smart, important and – we hope -- in for the long haul.

Read the full review here

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Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork

We said: Dry Cleaning could have repeated the winning formula of their debut but while still sounding like the same band there is something deeper and wider going on this time out. On Kwenchy Kups, Shaw says, “things are shit, but they're going to be okay”. They certainly are.

Read the full review here

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