Kerry Mead's Albums of the Year 2022

Kerry Mead’s Albums of the Year 2022

Like many self-proclaimed geeks the prospect of compiling a list lights me up like a Christmas tree, but I hate them too: such was the excitement of being invited to compile a list of my top ten albums of 2022 I have barely moved from my desk for days. I’ve been crossing artists off, adding them back on again, and weeping at the thought of all the music I haven’t been able to include. This may sound hackneyed, but 2022 really has been a year full of quality album releases across the board, so I present to you, before I change my mind again, the albums that have rocked my world the most in 2022.

10. The Ruby Cord – Richard Dawson

Anyone who has the guts to release an album with a 41-minute-long opening track in 2022 deserves to make every favourite releases of the year list, but The Ruby Cord, the third of Richard Dawson’s time-travelling trilogy of albums, is also a textbook distillation of the wonky, reimagined English folk Dawson is so well known for. Where 2017’s Peasant brought us stories of woe and wonder from the underbelly of the middle ages and 2019’s 2020 brought us the same from an unsettling and painful present, The Ruby Cord catapults us into the distant future – an apocalyptic age dominated by the digital in decay.

Like much of Dawson’s musical output, The Ruby Cord is a cleverly orated, surreal blend of the archaic and the modern. His fragile, soaring vocals, aural breaks and glitches, and sweeping and powerful post-folk psych carry you along like a ruby thread throughout the unsettling landscape he presents. Its an album to sit with and get to know – even if, like me, you’d never class yourself as a folk fan – there are many moments of beauty here.

9. Mata – M.I.A.

M.I.A’s sixth studio release MATA was an album that no-one thought would happen after she announced after the release of 2016’s AIM that it would be her last. But following hints in 2019 she was back in the studio and new track drops earlier this year, MATA was released on October 22nd. Receiving mixed reviews from music critics, not making much of a commercial splash, and being swamped by controversy regarding M.I.A.’s recent social media spats, including vax-scepticism and what could be construed as sympathy for everyone’s favourite US right-wing gobshite Alex Jones, you’d be forgiven for not going out of your way to get to know MATA, but I’m here to tell you it’s actually a bit of a banger. 

Despite claiming she is ‘bringing something new’ on the fourth track ‘Beep’, MATA doesn’t stray far from her signature sound, but from start to finish, the album is a joyful celebration of the in-your-face East/West mashup sound that M.I.A. does so well. Working with various producers including Skillrex and long-term collaborator Diplo, the album weaves rap, bhangra, reggaeton, and moombahton with the skill you’d expect. Even though more contemplative and spiritual in mood, the subjects British Sri Lankan-Tamil M.I.A.unpretentiously explores in her music, such as anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism and immigration politics, are still discernible in MATA’s lyrics. If you’re approaching the album in search of 2022’s answer to ‘Paper Planes’ you’re not going to find it, but when M.I.A tells us ‘I still got fight, I still got vision, I still got sight, my brain’s still bright’ on the joyfully bhangra-laced ‘Zoo Girl’, I can’t help but agree. And let’s face it, there should always be space for outspoken, controversial and marginalised voices like M.I.A.’s in music, no matter whether you agree with her current politics.

8. Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life – Bob Vylan

I am a great believer that the UK music scene needs more blisteringly honest accounts of what it’s actually like living on our shitty little island in 2022, but what I didn’t realise until Bob Vylan entered my musical orbit this year is that the world also needs more grime/punk genre splicing. Bob Vylan Presents The Price of Life delivers all of the above in spades.

It’s a rough and ready, playful and bolshy half an hour – a rallying cry to dump statues of Churchill into the sea and wipe your arse with a union jack flag. But it also tackles issues like health, poverty and racism with intelligence, and delivers a clear message that Black voices can take centre stage in the UK’s current alternative music scene – refreshing and necessary on all levels.

7. Oh Death – Goat

Six years after Requiem, mysterious invokers of Sun Ra’s call to afro-futurist power and darlings of the mystic and hallucinogenic, Goat returned in October with an album rammed full of psych rock wig-outs, cosmic funk musings, and other weird-ass offerings. I love them for it. I’d do almost anything for the wahwah squelchy keys, deep bass and bonkers pipe-work on ‘Goatmilk’, and opening track ‘Soon You Die’ makes me want to jump on a plane to San Francisco and get stoned on a beanbag in velvet flares.

6. Anywhere But Here – Sorry

Angst-ridden indie guitar bands are ten a penny, but Sorry manage to stand out with their experimental, laconic take on London life viewed through a hazy, hungover lens. I liked 2020’s album release 925, played ‘Cigarette Packet’ and ‘Out of Touch‘ (a collaboration with Metronomy) on repeat in 2021, but I’ve completely rinsed Anywhere But Here this year, with ‘Key To The City‘ and ‘Let The Lights On’ reaching official earworm status.

It’s folorn and bitter at times, it’s honest in its treatment of lost love, everyday life, and hidden corners of London, but it also shimmers and haunts. Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen bring a viscerality with their vocals which manage to walk the tightrope between cool control and sincerity, never dipping into distant and ironic. Produced alongside Ali Chant and Adrian Utley, Anywhere But Here is more polished than previous releases without losing its quirkiness, and shows Sorry are getting better and better all the time.

5. Today and Tomorrow – Sault

If you ever needed proof that all you need to really make it in music is blinding tunes, Sault are it. This soul/funk/house collective have never played the PR game – they’ve never played live, never done an interview, never released a music video – even their lineup is shrouded in mystery – but us mere mortals still wait for every album drop with baited breath. And drop they do, with the minimum of fuss, and often. They release albums which disappear after 99 days (2021’s 9), they often release albums nothing like the last, and this year saw not one but six album releases, five of which were gifted to the masses on 1st November. Yes. Five at once.

One of the five needed to be on this list because all of them stand out from the crowd, and after much deliberation I’ve plumped for Today and Tomorrow . I’ve chosen it for a few reasons. Firstly because it is a treasure chest of what they do best – deep soul, rousing gospel, and fat beats. Secondly, it’s downright filthy. The filth is provided by the deep, grinding funk on display in tracks like ‘Run” and ‘The Jungle’‘Run’ is so dirty I completely wigged out when I first played it (in the kitchen serving dinner to my horrified children). Lastly, on Today and Tomorrow Sault really delve into some genres they usually only glance across – psych-rock and post-punk take centre stage throughout, and I like that expansion of their canon loads.

4. Renaissance – Beyonce

There’s no denying Beyonce is good at what she does, that’s why she is a superstar, but to be honest I usually don’t rush to listen to her new releases, as her polished pop/r&b hasn’t ever been top of my favourite types of music to spend my time with. But I’d heard so much about Renaissance in the leadup to its release in July I was straight there. Beyonce’s homage to and reclamation of disco and Chicago house is insanely good, but it is so much more as well. Sexy, flawless and unapologetic, its also joyful and heavy with killer hooks – from start to finish it plays with multiple BPMs and genres deftly – a perfect soundtrack to any Saturday night out. And I haven’t even mentioned the fact Grace Jones, Nile Rogers, and Honey Dijon are in residence as well.

3. I Love You Jennifer B – Jockstrap

Jockstrap have been around doing their thing since 2018 – their thing being delightfully innovative noise straight out of art school. Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye met as students at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, but with Jockstrap they rip apart the conventions of their music training to great effect, without losing the strong foundations it has given them. It’s taken Jockstrap four years to grace us with a full length album – I’ve been waiting around for it since falling hard for their 2018 debut EP Love Is The Key To The City, and guess what? I Love You Jennifer B is everything I could have wanted.

I kind of knew already it was going to be a goody – lead singles ‘50:50′ and ‘Concrete Over Water’ preceded the album’s release and both are perfect examples of the breadth of Jockstrap’s musical range. The former is a slab of driving, acid-bleeping, techno-rinsed electro, the latter a sweeping, epic, string-laden ballad, both as glitchy as you’d expect, yet expertly executed too. There was always a danger the two singles would be the highlights, but luckily the rest of the album gives us plenty of nuggets of joy. Ellery’s lustrous strings, tender, abstract lyrics and vocals weave in and out of Skye’s faultless and innovative production and synth across a landscape taking in art-pop, electro, classical, stripped back confessionals, and more.

2. Mr. Morale & The Hotsteppers – Kendrick Lamar

I’ll be honest, I never thought Kendrick Lamar would be able to top 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and although 2017’s Damn was a close contender, he has done it this year with Mr.Morale & The Hotsteppers. It’s an absolute hip hop behemoth – and just to hammer the point home he made it a double-length album with no perceptible weak spots as well. Faultless production, breathtaking lyricism, and on-point sampling wrap around twenty tracks of hard-hitting sociopolitical observation and emotional depth, proving Kendrick Lamar is deserving of his current crown as one of the most influential and talented musical artists out there right now. And you know what? In general and throughout the whole album, he manages to wear his crown without once straying into the bloated, over-hyped arrogance often on display in the upper echleons of today’s hip hop world.

This is an album that gathers up every corner of the hip hop / rap genre and runs with it whilst developing a well-trodden and rich musical genus even further at every turn. There’s a whole bunch of inspired collaborations and guest spots here too – from Summer Walker to Kodak Black, Sampha to Beth Gibbons – too many to list to be fair – showing not only that he probably has a queue of artists as long as your arm and mine knocking on his door asking to work with him, but also showcasing his ability to select a range of voices to create music which is truly richly-seamed and refreshing.

I can’t choose any standout tracks, so don’t make me – I’ll be returning to this album lots in the future and I doubt I’ll ever get bored of it – and I’ll be gobsmacked if it doesn’t make the majority of the top ten albums of the decade lists in 2029.

1. Pompeii – Cate Le Bon

2021 and 2022 have been marked by the release of a glut of introspective lockdown albums, but Cate Le Bon proved to us in February there is always room for more with the release of her sixth studio album Pompeii. Glaringly different to some of the huge, polished releases featuring elsewhere on this list, it is an unnerving, spectral beauty anchored throughout with rich, layered 80s-tinged bassy synths and lyrics that lend themselves to repeated listens to try and grasp their poetry. Cate Le Bon has created an off-kilter subterranean dreamscape from which the isolation it was composed in oozes, leaving a ghost-like mark on your psyche.

Pompeii is an album suited to lone winter walks after dark through city streets, which is why it went on my headphones constantly in February and March. Pompeii proves Le Bon is constantly getting better and developing outwards. There are moments in 2019’s predecessor Reward which hint at Pompeii’s direction, but it seems the pandemic gave Le Bon the opportunity to lean into the uncanny, darker side of lost connections completely.

It is hard to pick a favourite track, but lead single ‘Remembering Me’ manages to distil the aesthetic of the whole album perfectly, as does ‘Running Away ‘, which invites you to shrug away the warmth of the sun and discover the cold beauty of isolation. But Pompeii has moments of light woven throughout as well. After the sombre, processional wonkiness of opening track ‘Dirt On The Bed’’, ‘Moderation’ shimmers like a crisp, clear winter’s night, as does ‘Harbour’. Now the hottest summer in memory is a distant memory, it’s back on my headphones once more. I don’t think I’ll ever see a winter out without returning to the album which could possibly prove to be Cate Le Bon at her most uncanny, restrained, and yet exhilarating in the future.

Kerry Mead's Albums of the Year 2022

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.