Bill Cummings' Albums of the Year 2022 Part One

Bill Cummings’ Albums of the Year 2022 Part One

Here I present the first part of my run down of thirty odd of my favourite albums of the last twelve months in a rather rough descending order. It’s been another fantastic year for music, no matter what the government thinks, no matter the deep inequalities and challenges that face artists, music is still vital. I hope you discover something you’ve never heard before and fall in love with a record or an artist below. Here’s to 2023!

Blue Amber – Rockland’s Workshop

A fascinating debut album from the post-whatever collective from Cardiff, Blue Amber. Cycling through frustrated poetic diatribes, bittersweet melodies, rocky melodic terrains layered with post rock/punk/folk/indie, and splashes of horns, this is a fascinating journey through the wreckage of Brexit Britain in 2022. Highlights include the yearning dissatisfaction of the left-behind generation and swinging inequality and privilege, that is ‘University Jesus‘. ‘The Great British Sitcom’ which features guest vocalist Kate Willets and is written by Joe Rackza and the band’s vocalist, Drew Noel. This double-handed pitch-black balladry provides sharp commentary on the current political and cultural climate while incorporating references to their individual childhood memories, gentrification and classism. Black Country New Road eat your heart out because this record is fucking brilliant.

Deer Scout – Woodpecker

Yonkers-native Deer Scout, who was raised by two folk musicians, spent six years writing and exploring projects through Philly’s punk scene, Oberlin’s conservatory experimentalism and New York’s DIY history before arriving at her debut. Like a crumpled hand written letter Dena Miller’s brand of songwriting is charmingly heartfelt. The tender alt-country of ‘Synesthesia’ is at once reassuringly familiar yet lyrically personal, referring to a oft misunderstood condition.

While another standout ‘Cowboy’ is charming and wistful, spindly finger-picked guitars and Miller aka Deer Scout‘s intimate and almost childlike tone captures my heart, taking its little fish, big pond inspiration from the character Joe Buck in the film Midnight Cowboy. Heartfelt and beguiling it nods towards the likes of Waxahatchee and Cat Power, yet has a personality all of its own.

Tallies – Patina

Patina was produced by Graham Walsh (Holy Fuck) and Dylan Frankland of Tallies at Palace Sound, Baskitball 4 Life and Candle Recording in Toronto. The Canadian group’s new record is brimming with hooks, heart and fully realised widescreen pop songs, brushed with elements of gaze and indie pop, it deepens the connection between the emotive lyrics and the earworm tunes; it’s a wonderful delight. Decorated by singer Sarah Cogan’s distinctive bittersweet tone and documenting the valleys and peaks of her own emotional landscape, imbued with light of the melodies with the dark of the subject matter. Tallies sound oscillates between the wistful jangle pop of The Sundays colliding with the abrasive textures of the likes of Curve or Throwing Muses

Kindsight – Swedish Punk

Kindsight are a charming proposition. The Danish group have carved out swooning jangle-pop songs over the past few years, detailing growing up and breaking up, they have captured hearts and got feet moving. Their debut album, Swedish Punk, is the perfect soundtrack to hazy summer days.

Kindsight formed when Nina Hyldgaard Rasmussen and guitarist Søren Svensson bonded over a shared love of The Sugarcubes. They went on to recruit bass player Anders Prip and drummer Johannes Jacobsen and over the past few years have earned a reputation within Copenhagen’s scene.

With its see-sawing rushing chorus and twitchy almost mathy percussion of ‘Hi-Fi’ is an insidious earworm. While the mid-tempo ‘The Sun Is Always In Your Eyes’ wistfully hits that sweet point between jangle-pop and hook-laden bittersweet melodies somewhere between Mazzy Star and Camera Obscura with a side order of Scandi pop.

Fable – Shame

A bold and inventive record that shape shifts through moods and big ideas of the toxicity of an online world and consumer-driven society that shapes us. Devon-born artist Fable has carved out a world of searingly sharp pop songs that evocatively ripple with elements of trip-hop, alt-rock, and string-draped neo-soul, laden with personal and universal depths that intrigue and challenge at every turn. Shame is a debut album of genre-fluid, brutally honest and darkly beautiful music that spans from urgent post-punk to introspective electronica, Informed by the sounds she heard growing up in the ’90s from trip-hop and alt-rock to the naughties’ neo-soul of Amy Winehouse, ‘Orbiting’ and ‘Womb’ in particular are underpinned by a trippy electronic tapestry that allows Fable to mould her messages, whilst posing questions that are both timely and personal.

Andrew Eaton Lewis – Tourism

Andrew Eaton Lewis, a songwriter known for his work in Seafieldroad and as a member of the band Swimmer One, who released a run of impressively sophisticated synth pop records. Last year he covered ‘Find the River’ in a stately fashion for our R.E.M. compilation. His new album Tourism, his first for Wee Studio Records, is a set of impressively evocative piano-led interconnected songs inspired by his move from Edinburgh to the Outer Hebrides. He says the songs are “about feeling like a tourist in someone else’s culture, about the ‘mainland’ becoming somewhere on the edge of your experience, and ultimately about whether we are all just tourists on Earth, on a brief visit from somewhere more permanent that we return to afterwards.”

That sense of being out of place bleeds through each rich song suite, Eaton-Lewis’s voice possessing a wistfulness that sails from weathered to falsetto peaks. “The winters can feel endless/but there’s beauty in the darkness” he sings on the bittersweet opener and title track. While the song cycle of ‘A Guide to the Western World‘ and the superlative building ‘Vahalla‘ is riven with a yearning and melancholia that’s reminiscent of some of Nick Cave‘s early solo work. The sense of clarity here, of experiences lived and learnt, and the acknowledgement of the fragility of life makes, this is a record you should invest time in.

Shy Girl – Nymph

The 12-tracks of Nymph were created with a close-knit group of friends and previous collaborators including Mura Masa, Sega Bodega, Karma Kid, Cosha, it contains the excellent genre-blurring lead single from Nymph, ‘Firefly,‘ whose sleek melodic hooks tip-toed through popping beats. Nymph reveals Shygirl’s inner self-reflection, playfully inventive vocals and rippling soundscapes that merge elements of pop, R&B, electro and hip hop. Produced by Arca, title track ‘Come For Me’ is a deconstructed dance track showcasing Shygirl’s fantastic ability to stretch and pull you in with crunchy beats and hooks and a commanding vocal that sounds like it’s been beamed down from another planet. Throughout the punchy song Shygirl reminds us how she has the power and the know-how to direct what’s going down.

Barrie – Barbara

Barrie is the musical moniker of New York-based singer, songwriter and producer Barrie Lindsay; her intimate, heart on her sleeve songwriting punctures the sweet spot between folktronica and synth-pop textures. Opener ‘Jersey‘ is all delightful bubbling verses that give way to a blooming melodic chorus, the earworm melody teetering on the edges of happy/sad.

Concrete‘, meanwhile, shudders and shuffles, a synth-pop track that crackles like Four Tet or Scandi pop, its airy pretty melody is underscored by more wrought feelings. “It’s about taking the time and energy to figure out who you are. Learning to take up space and be yourself unapologetically”  explains Barrie.

Jenny‘ is so addictive, it’s downtempo strums and lovelorn vocal hooks are redolent of early Phoebe Bridgers: its gorgeous chorus gathers into life-affirming. A deeply personal record written in the wake of her father’s passing and the midst of falling in love with her now-wife, Gabby, ‘Barbara’ is the delicious sound of trying to find new beginnings and emerging back into the world.

Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals – King Cobra

Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals’ awesome album King Cobra came out in the summer. A masterfully executed expression of both ferocity and joy. “Not a checklist of all the ills in the world,” says the band, “but it feels like darkness” .

Pairing 80s-esque electro beats/synths and inventive rhymes, lead track ‘Death of a Constable‘ is a hard hitting hip-hop joint that lands somewhere between Run the Jewels and Afrika Bambaataa. The duo spar over over this skittering beat and it is punctuated by a sing-along chorus. It is the sound of honouring black lives lost and going on hand-to-hand combat with injustice.

Ynys – Ynys

Ynys is the solo outing of Welsh songwriter Dylan Hughes, previously known for psychedelic pop band Race Horses. His debut full-length is a bold return, the album’s ambitious sound palette journeying from Big Star power pop to Beach House via cinematic strings and Italo disco synthesizers from 1981, sung in Welsh and English. Ripe with suave, noir-lounge pop that slides effortlessly between the likes of Divine Comedy and Rialto, I love the rich instrumental sweep of brass, and the golden dewy melodies that have echoes of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and SFA. There’s an air of Morricone about the atmosphere, it feels like another step up from Ynys who is a fast emerging Welsh songwriter. A lot of the songs wrestle with Hughes’ move back to Aberystwyth from Cardiff; home from home, city to rural, the idea of thriving urban activity, and the stillness of a rural seaside hometown. 

Don Leisure – Shaboo Strikes Back 

Don Leisure returned with a new 25-track album Shaboo Strikes Back this year. A treasure trove of sound this collection of beats and pieces, it documents the road trip of Don’s youth – hip-hop music interspersed with Asian radio station jingles of old, dedicated to Bollywood actor, Nasser ‘Shaboo’ Bharwani – Don Leisure’s late uncle. The sound of searching through your radio dial, it’s a refreshing bricolage of sound and really quite tremendous.

Lead, title track ‘Egg Yolk Bun‘ is a groove-laden trawl through the mists of the 70’s funk and Indian found samples. Gruff Rhys provides the vocals on the wonderful ambient ‘Neon Drizzle (Hotel Shaboo)’, whilst acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Angel Bat Dawid and Jazzman-signed harpist Amanda Whiting lend their talents to the dreamlike jazz flecked ‘All Praises Due‘. There is even a cameo appearance from his young daughter, (aka Shaboo’s great-niece!), Naima, on the chilled beats and samples of ‘Naima’s Dream‘ that could be lifted from a J Dilla record. A nostalgic trip that offers much aural delight.

Caroline Loveglow – Strawberry

I was tipped off about Caroline Loveglow on Hatchie’s Patreon page; she is supporting her in the States. Her debut mini-album Strawberry is a thing of glowing chilled beauty. Reflecting the gentle pulses of the city, the unseen pain of every day, the weightlessness of modernism, her intimate and beguiling brand of future pop music is vacuum-packed with ghostly synths and glistening guitars. Wistful opener ‘Patience etc’ is imbued with glacial percussive steps caressed by waves of synths and shimmering guitars, throbbing with Loveglow’s “whisper in your ear” vocals, that are possessed by a lovelorn obsession with someone who has left and never returned.

The chorus swells like daylight rising through your blinds and it’s exquisite. Meanwhile ‘Happy Happy‘ retools dream-pop for the Tik Tok generation, plunging you into a longing crescendo (“take your time/will you sleep inside my mind tonight/would you stay”) turning the bittersweet vocal up a notch or two, Lovegrove wraps her hands around a memory on the back of an oscillating drum machine beat and chiming guitars. This entire EP is like opening the door and allowing celestial sounds to wash through you, like the wintry air. Quality songwriting paired with an endlessly impressive appreciation of space for fans of early Grimes, and Mitski. Prepare to fall under her spell, hard.

Gwenno – Tresor

Tresor (Treasure) is Gwenno Saunders’ third full length solo album and the second almost entirely in Cornish (Kernewek). Written in St. Ives, Cornwall, just prior to the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and completed at home in Cardiff during the pandemic along with her co-producer and musical collaborator, Rhys Edwards, Tresor reveals an introspective focus on home and self, a prescient work echoing the isolation and retreat that has been a central, globally shared experience over the past two years. It’s layered with an intoxicating atmosphere, tip toeing percussion, keyboards that sound like swishing chandeliers, and French pop inspired sonics as Gwenno peels back the layers on hidden themes influenced by motherhood and Cornish and Welsh culture.

Poster Paints S/T

This year Poster Paints released a string of wonderful singles including gorgeous lead single ‘Falling Hard’. Marrying spiralling guitars of Simon Liddell with the husky, swooning vocal melodies of Carla J Easton, relentless and irresistible ‘Falling Hard’ chased dreams all summer, in a soaring, lovelorn pop song.

It also contained the slowly unfolding majesty of ‘Never Saw It Coming‘ and the wistfully enveloping ‘Circus Moving On’ , each song taking us on a journey through bittersweet sorrow of parting and loss, juxtaposed with the joy of love. Culminating in the release of their wonderful self- debut album, wrapped with these themes and burnished by the sound of collaboration and Liddel’s distinctive guitars, it reflects a kind of sadness and darkness tinged with a hopeful flickering light that things will work out.

Rosalia – Motomani

Rosalia Vila Tobella is a daring enigmatic artist and her third record is an inspired collection bursting with ideas. The Catalonian artist rifles through a grab bag of influences from flamenco, to slinky R&B to hip hop at times it sounds like a jigsaw puzzle that won’t fit together, at others it sounds extraordinary. This bricolage of found sounds and abrasive beats rattles on fearsome opener ‘Saoka‘ that is the sound of M.I.A. being turned inside out. The third track features The Weeknd and gyrates with Latin rhythms and her sugar-sweet melodies are augmented by the Weeknd’s contribution. It’s a tango of cultures that will get your hips moving. ‘Bizcocthito‘ mashes Casio keyboard beats with infectious rhythms with catchy chants alongside, littered with Spanish bars, it’s an undeniable earworm. Motomani is that all too rare beast, a refreshing multicoloured blurring of cultures and sounds, infused with buoyant tunes reflecting joy and pain, mixing Latin and Western sounds with such invention, it’s one of the most refreshing pop releases of the year. 

Loyle Carner – hugo

Loyle Carner moves beyond the upbeat infectiousness of the Top 3 album Not Waving, But Drowning to tackle with invention, casting his eyes upon both personal and social tensions and the injustices he sees developing around him on both a global and personal scale. ‘Hate’ is an epic pairing of gospel backdrops with insistent bars that chart childhood trauma, frustration and defiance in the face of prejudice. Meanwhile, ‘Georgetown’, is an excellent track which sees him continue to explore new dimensions to his work. Produced by  Madlib, the inventive bricolage of sound harks back to a more old school hip hop tapestry infused with Carner’s knowing meditation as as he explores how his mixed-race identity has shaped his life experiences and journey as a musician.  It’s a visceral examination of burning frustration, fear, and anger which mirrors the landscape it maps – a place of isolation, loss, confusion, danger, creativity, defiance, and hope.

Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance

Chicago is baked into the heart of Versions of Modern Performance, right across the album, recorded at Chicago’s Electrical Audio with John Agnello (Kurt Vile, The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr.) These refreshing songs are the sound of a band finding their place in the world. It’s scuffed up, ragged glory is infused with their impressionistic lyrics and nascent harmonies and underpinned by quick-fire drums. There are elements of the ‘80s and ‘90s independent music the band love, but Horsegirl processes their fandom to craft a sound that whilst it takes from the past sounds and imbues it with their personalities to create something of their own like all special bands, hook-laden, at times experimental, kinetic, playful and with layers of feeling infused with their life-affirming spirit.

GRETA – Forever We’ll Be Dancing

Denmark’s GRETA released her second album Forever We’ll Be Dancing this year, a landscape of synth-wave textures and celestial evocative melodies that transport you to different planets at a time when many of us have been stuck staring at four grey walls for months.

The album was co-produced by Norwegian artist Farao, who also produced GRETA’s 2020 debut album, Ardent Spring. It was written in the midst of lockdown within a romantic symbiosis shared between her and her husband, but also during a time when his depression was growing increasingly worse. The enlivening dance floor flutter of ‘Vibrant‘ in some far off stratosphere is a strong opener. The title track is a collision of early 90’s trance synths, delicious beats, and euphoric harmonies that surf the ups and downs of life. It gets your mind moving and your body grooving! Standout track ‘Out of Mind‘ elegantly oscillates in its own galaxy, sparkling with glistening synth-pop and airless production its underpinned by a keyboard motif, it sounds like a futuristic retooling of ‘80s sound. Rippling with GRETA’s sensitive vocal that sounds like it’s floating around disconnected in a weightless space pod.

Suede – Autofiction

Perhaps influenced by Brett Anderson’s two recent books on his childhood and the early years of the band, Autofiction sees Suede at their most autobiographical, and whilst it may not be the punk record he trailed it as, it has a sinuous edge and a personal depth that casts aside any possible previous lyrical clichés. See the insatiable ‘Personality Disorder‘ laced with Oakes’s stinging riffing and the swooping and heartfelt ‘She Still Leads Me On‘ about his late mother, the incendiary yet nostalgic ‘15 Again‘. It’s another storming late period Suede record as they make the case for them being the 90’s band to produce the best post-reformation material.

Part two follows tomorrow.

Bill Cummings' Albums of the Year 2022 Part One

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.