Yup, it's time for the Rigidly Digital Round Up of the 31,557,600 seconds that make up the year
(well, nearly because there are still in excess of 2,000,00 to go as I write this)
In the interests of proper research, I have spent the last month listening to all the contenders, and have arrived at the definitive listing
(what, you think this stuff is just arbitrarily thrown together?)
Also worthy of note, I think this is the first year ever where Mojo have finally got their selection of Number 1 correct.
So here we go Pop Pickers - Not Arf
the Top 17 (+2) of 2022 is as follows:
1. Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - 'Dear Scott'
Commercial success has largely eluded Michael Head from The Pale Fountains, through Shack, and The Strands, and now with The Red Elastic Band.
2022's 'Dear Scott' may not rectify the mainstream commercial success, but critical acclaim continues unabated. Songsmithery of the highest order, mixing psychedelia, folk, jangly guitars.
"Kismet" and "Broken Beauty" are not just among the best songs of the year, but can stake a claim to the best song of this decade so far.
(OK, I know that's only 2 or 3 years so far, but their greatness will surely cement their place in future considerations)
And there are 10 more tracks not far behind on this album.
This album really is 40 minutes of anyone's time superbly spent
2. Spiritualized - 'Everything Was Beautiful'
2018s 'And Nothing Hurt' was originally intended as a double album. The bulk of the tracks (or at least the embryo of the tracks) comes form the same recording sessions.
But this ain't a bunch of leftovers re-purposed to compile a new album - the songs here are laboured over, honed until the imperfections are smoothed, and then issued to the world.
If 'Ladies And Gentlemen' is Spirtulalized Masterwork, then the (three years separated) double album surely ranks a close second place.
3. Suede - 'Autofiction'
Since reforming, Suede have continued to grown as a band in sound and scope. And now they take that maturity and wisdom to go almost full-circle mixing the sound of their early days peppered with all they have learned along the way. The angstiness of their beginnings is held in check, and their soundtrack sweeps between urgent and epic, and the songs delivered rank among the very best of their 33(!) year existence.
4. Wet Leg - 'Wet Leg'
Debut album after 6 single releases for - "Chaise Longue", Wet Dream", "Too Late Now", "Oh No", "Angelica", and "Ur Mum" - you can't help but wonder if the album has been plundered for it's best bits, and what remains is not at the same level. Wrong, the album is brimming with whimsy, knowing looks, and sheer fun. Initial concerns about the album being overly twee are unfounded - it's all part of the charm.
5. Mattiel - 'Georgia Gothic'
This is the third album from Mattiel Brown and Jonah Swiller, but the first they have collaborated on face-to-face. The garage rock base from which euphoric pop was built remains, but now with added Country and Ennio Morricone. One can't pin the songs down to a particular style or genre (despite my attempts in the last sentence), and what comes out is a diverse yet cohesive whole.
6. Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - 'N.K-Pop'
Paul and Jacqui's perfectly blending voices return for another round of documenting the human condition with wry, sometimes weather-worn lyrics, bolted to tunes pulling from many corners of pop history. It's predecessor - the double "Manchester Calling" - was perhaps overlong. This time they've gone for the brevity and delivered in spades.
60 years old, 40 years in the game, their fifth album together, and still producing albums that make years end lists.
7. Yard Act - 'The Overload'
Leeds band Yard Act have released their debut album - and very good it is too. Mixing indie, hip-hop and socialism - a bit like a cross between Sleaford Mods and Half Man Half Biscuit with some dark humour thrown in, and the ability to weave a story through the song. It's an amazingly assured statement for a 3 year old band with 4 singles behind them.
8. Block 33 - 'The Day The World Stood Still'
Their first album was released just before "that 2020 thing" denying Block 33 the opportunity to promote their wares in a live setting. But as things started to open up again, slots at the foot of festival bills began to appear, small live shows became possible again, and Block 33 pushed their energies into this, their second album. As powerful as the first, and again entirely crowd-funded.
It's weird opening a CD booklet and seeing your own name printed in the "Special Tanks To: " section
9. Foxton & Hastings - 'The Butterfly Effect'
If Block 33 are looking start a Mod Revival Revival, then here's a bloke who was in at the start of the first Revival, and is still doing it (in From The Jam) with a singer who has more than a passing resemblance to Mr Weller.
The third joint effort, and the quality remains high (if not higher than previous releases). It's like a browse through a fantastic record collection with references to of The Who, Small Faces, The Beatles, Motown, a bit of soul, and all melded together as one masterly whole.
10. Liam Gallagher - 'C'mon You Know'
Liam seems to have realised that there's more to his music than Beatle-ing. So now he pulls in some influence from 'Let It Bleed'-era Stones. Along the way he also collaborates with Dave Grohl (possibly trying to asure a footing in the US?).
OK, there may not be many surprises here, but he keeps going and showcasing the unmistakable pair of lungs he's been gifted with.
11. Massive Wagons - 'Triggered'
When you find template, why veer away if it works. And the Massive Wagons template does just such a job. Big riffs, exuberance, straight to the point lyrics (no arty-farty wordplay with these boys), a dollop of humour - what more do you need to do.
Need some cobwebs blowing away? I prescribe some Massive Wagons.
12. Humdrum Express - 'Forward Defensive'
Thirteen examinations of the absurdity, and sometimes annoyances, of modern life. There's no deep political message or new age life advice to be found in the ska-indie backbeat, just plenty of nods and smiles to be had.
13. Frank Turner - 'FTHC'
Track 1 started, I honestly though I'd bought an Anthrax album by mistake. But get through that (no that there's anything wrong with Anthrax!) and the album opens up into the most Frank-ness of Frank Turner for a few albums since 'England Keep My Bones'. Vintage FT (with added experience)
14. Fontaines DC - 'Skinty Fia'
Three albums in, and whilst the Post-Punk/Joy Division-y tropes remain, there is a noticeable growth on the songwriting and construction. If they keep on this path, they could be fighting for the crown of the best Band from Ireland (unless that other lot decide to mass-download their next album to everyone's Media Player and embark on another monumental tour)
15. First Aid Kit - 'Palomino'
Consistency is the key to longevity, and Fist Aid Kit are nothing if not consistent. They've added a stronger Country twang than previously - surprising when you know this album was recorded in Sweden and not the US. Maybe a slightly more shiny pop tone in some places, but the rich, relaxing, melodious and blending harmonies remain.
16. Ruts DC - 'Counter Culture?'
In the shape of Segs Jennings and Dave Ruffy, Ruts DC boast one of the great un-sung rhythm section. Add in the guitar work of Leigh Heggarty, and Ruts DC are some unit - both live and on record.
Where before with the Ruts there was confrontation, the same questioning is given but now with an air of exasperation. It's almost (but not quite) posing the questions and asking "Do you think that's wise sir?"
17. Sports Team - 'Gulp!'
From Ramones-like thrash of 'The Game' to the Kinks-ian closer 'The Light Industry', Sports Team deliver an album of indie-anthems in waiting with a tweak off the nose to the "difficult second album" syndrome. Granted, not everything hit's the spot, but the bullseyes are greater than the misses
These 2 are officially 2021 albums, but were released 2 late for last years compendium.
They deserve a mention in this hallowed listing.
Len Price 3 - 'Ip Dip Do'
After a debut album on an Australian label, a couple more on Steve Van Zandt's Wicked Cool label, and 2 more on a small US label, the Lennies now bring everything in-house and self release this - their 6th album. And despite the label shenanigans, and mybe the realisation that a commercial breakthrough may not happen, 'Ip Dip Do' delivers Garage Rock (with a touch of psychadelia along the way) in spades.
Chris Pope & The Chords UK - 'Big City Dreams'
Chris Pope enjoyed minor success with The Chords in the 1980s. He struck out solo, and then some 5 or so years ago, resurrected The Chords name (appending'UK') and delivers another set of honed songs which may only get a small audience, but deserve a bigger profile.
The year was also bookended by 2 very fine compilations
'Charmed Life – The Best of the Divine Comedy' - a compilation with enough highlights to get you scurrying to Amazon or Music Magpie to pick up the complete catalogue.
'The Essential Jim Bob' - until last year I thought Jim Bob's recorded work ceased with the demise of Carter USM. Oh how wrong I was - 21 tracks to be devoured and thoroughly enjoyed.
And on the subject of compilations, Cherry Red continue to empty my wallet. It's almost to the point I need to set up a quarterly Direct Debit as their compiling of catalogues past brings the well known, forgotten gems, "how the hell have I not heard this before" moments, all nicely (and thematically) presented in a clamshell box:
1979 - Revolt Into Style
Riding The Rock Machine - British Seventies Classic Rock
Kids On The Street - UK Power Pop and New Wave 1977-1981
1980 - Brand New Rage
and (coming in January, and already pre-ordered):
1981 – All Out Attack
Mention of Amazon and Music Magpie above introduces a slight rant:
It's difficult to beat the convenience of Amazon, particularly when attached to Prime, and MusicMagpie is a great place to go for catalogue gap filling at reasonable prices.
But ... I have found more and more this year I am going direct to the Artists website (or the record label) and ordering there. The price is comparable, the delivery as guaranteed on release date, and you also get access to signed copies and other goodies on offer.
I also have a number of signed postcards from the artist in question which offer genuine thanks for your purchase.