From forward-facing flamenco laced-pop, dance music history lessons, and sensual solo sophomore records, here’s the albums we’ve been loving in 2022 (so far)!
We do feel like New Year celebrations took place a mere seven days ago, give or take. However, upon looking out the window at the UK’s record-breaking heatwave in the past few weeks, we’ve come to the conclusion that it is in fact summer, which means we’re well overdue a good stock take of the records our favourite artists have blessed us with since 2022 began.
It goes without saying, it’s been a funny few years for music and indeed the world, but this year, its back to ordinary business, *touch wood*, for most of us. However, the albums from our favourite music makers have been anything but ordinary, and with the likes of Rina Sawayama, Calvin Harris and Pale Waves still to drop new LPs before the year draws to a close, it’s time to strap yourself in for our whistle-stop tour of the best ones so far.
Reasons To Smile – Kojey Radical
Multi-hyphenate artist Kojey Radical’s debut album Reasons to Smile really took a minute to arrive. Not far off a decade, in fact, with his debut project “Dear Daisy: Opium” dropping all the way back in 2014. But my god, wasn’t the wait worth it?
Blending neo-soul, hip-hop, and jazz, as well as his trademark vivid lyricism, Radical really made an album for the ages, curating a collaborators list of some of the industry’s most interesting acts today, including Tiana Major9, Ego Ella May, Wretch 32 and Shaé Universe.
We really do hope the next one won’t require the same wait, but if it’s as good as Reasons To Smile we’re happy to oblige.
Highlights: “Payback” (feat. Knucks), “Silk” (feat. Masego), “Pressure” (feat. Shaé Universe)
Rosalía‘s third album, according to the Spanish sensation, was her most personal yet. The music industry’s flag bearer for flamenco again coupled the musical traditions of her home with unflinching, boundary-pushing pop on MOTOMAMI.
MOTOMAMI, the name of her mum’s artist management company as well as her March record was said to refer to “an energy”, seemingly a feminine fearlessness judging by the album, which was displayed in all its glory on reggaeton-infused tracks like James Blake team-up “Diablo”, as well as “Chicken Teryaki”. “King’s Dead” hitmaker Blake, who also collaborated with Rosalía on his 2019 LP “Assume Form”, was in the company of big names like Pharrell in the list of collaborators, who co-wrote and produced pared-back “HENTAI”. Commercially oriented cuts like The Weeknd collaboration “LA FAMA” touched on the perils of fame and see our friend Abel singing in Spanish, both ironically simply earning yet more fame in the process.
Rosalía’s last album, 2018’s El Mal Querer earned her a Grammy Award and well, we’re not one to tempt fate, but all signs are pointing to our favourite Spaniard picking up a gong when the ceremony rolls around next February.
Highlights: “LA FAMA” (feat. The Weeknd), “CHICKEN TERIYAKI”, “MOTOMAMI”
Gemini Rights – Steve Lacy
The Internet guitarist Steve Lacy returned with his sophomore solo record Gemini Rights just last month, following his 2019 debut Apollo XXI. The Kendrick Lamar, Kali Uchis and Calvin Harris collaborator recruited bandmate Matt Martians and alt-soul New Jersey angel-voice Fousheé for features this time around.
Pulverising that threatening curse of the second album, Gemini Rights was once again a sensual affair drawing on a wider musical pallette than his previous, including bossa nova pepperings, as well as his most pop-sounding track to date in “Sunshine”. A nebulous, lazy, and luxurious listen, the still only 24-year-old Lacy’s second record was a clarion call that the solo artist is built for longevity. Although, new The Internet music is welcome any time guys, just saying!
Highlights: “Sunshine” (feat. Fousheé), “Helmet”, “Buttons”
It really is wild to comprehend that our beloved alt-pop monarch Charlotte Aitchison is on her fifth record already. But, she is, and incidentally, CRASH marks the last record under her five-album deal with Atlantic Records. However, the 12-track offering didn’t just see the 29-year-old run through the motions to get her major label deal, for which she’s not always been entirely positive about, over and done with.
Instead, this was a full-out pop assault, looking to the future, present and past, with Aitchison turning her hand to more mainstream sounds, in a way she hadn’t on lockdown album How I’m Feeling Now. Inspired and unpredictable all the same, she sampled Robin S on “Used To Know Me”, and September for god’s sake, on “Beg For You”, turning the Europop, Y2K classic “Cry For You” into a garage banger for the 2020s. Whilst Rina Sawayama joined in for that, Aitchison drafted in yet more experimental pop powerhouses in the form of Christine and The Queens and Caroline Polachek for 80s laced “New Shapes.”
With rumours that our gal is already working on a follow-up, we simply cannot wait to enter the next chapter of the XCX story, and here’s hoping she brings her friends along again too.
Highlights: “Beg For You” (feat. Rina Sawayama), “Good Ones”, “Used To Know Me”
Abel Tesfaye opened the year in January with fifth studio album Dawn FM, told through a language of 80s R&B and soaring disco, with the Canadian flexing his adeptness for crafting pure pop perfection and fronting it in his own inimitable way. Tesfaye compared the record to listening to an adult contemporary radio station, stuck in a queue of traffic in a tunnel, however, instead of a light at the end of the tunnel, death is waiting, and the tunnel is purgatory.
Hopefully, this record doesn’t spell the demise of Tesfaye’s musical career, however, in the event of such dire happenings, he will have at least left us well stocked. With credits from production behemoth Max Martin, names like Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia, as well as longstanding collaborator Oscar Holter, Tesfaye really treated us, including to a succession of haunting but evocative visuals. And real-life neighbour Jim Carrey was involved n’all, playing a weirdly happy-go-lucky radio DJ, also voicing parody adverts from a post-life realm.
Highlights: “Here We Go… Again” (feat. Tyler The Creator), “Less Than Zero”, “Out Of Time”
If you graduated this year and didn’t sing “I went to school and I got the big D,” at least once during the big day, then your degree is simply annulled!
Such has the Isle of Wight rock duo’s ubiquity become during 2022, many of us now punctuate our daily business with Wet Leg lyrics – ”Is your muffin buttered?” etc, etc. Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers have taken their irreverent, often surreal guitar pop to Glastonbury, US talk shows and become the backbone of many an alternative radio playlist since the year kicked off.
Delivering some of the most helplessly catchy indie rock hooks the genre has seen since most of Wet Leg’s fans were children, the duo unraveled across their debut’s 12 tracks, touching on bubble baths, the incompleteness of your mid-twenties, and the perils of house parties you don’t want be at.
Often veering close to delirium, Wet Leg at-times left us nonplussed, however, once you unbelt yourself from the rollercoaster you’re straight back into the ride queue again. We don’t always know what to make of it, but we know we like it and that leaves Wet Leg firmly in our 2022 musical wet dreams.
Highlights: “Chaise Longue”, “Wet Dream”, and “Angelica”
It’s hard to believe, but HRH Queen Bey is 25 years into her pioneering career, with Destiny’s Child’s debut single “No, No, No” dropping all the way back in 1997. Whilst many artists are MIA after five years in the game, let alone five times that, Beyonce’s 7th solo studio album, Renaissance, released just last week, has become her most critically acclaimed to date, with a score of 93/100 on review aggregate site Metacritic.
And, well, we can’t say we’re surprised. Her sixth record, 2016’s visual album Lemonade was an album par excellence, with its genre-hopping and allegories documenting infidelity and making a household name of “Becky with the good hair…”, but Renaissance, just has the edge. A den of ecstasy, cataloguing dance music’s storied history, emulating the genre’s cultivation of safe spaces for those who pioneered its divergent scenes in the early days, it’s a Renaissance of Beyonce, but also, of the collective rapture of sweaty, heady, liberating nights together.
With not a single downtempo number, there’s no rest on Renaissance, and thankfully Bey recruited a legion of history-makers and present-day industry big hitters for the record’s personnel, including Nile Rodgers, Honey Dijon, Tems, The Internet’s Syd, literal Grace Jones, plus endless more.
A gorgeous love letter to her queer, “godmother uncle” Johnny, Rennaisance has recharged all of our summers and will be playing it out of every speaker find-able for the foreseeable, and what’s more, it’s purportedly only the first of three acts!
Highlights: “ALIEN SUPERSTAR”, “CUFF IT”, “CHURCH GIRL”
Harry’s House – Harry Styles
If the previous two years were ones spent largely in our houses, then 2022 looks set to go down as the one we spent at Harry’s.
Styles’ first two solo efforts, Harry Styles and Fine Line, were sometimes considered heavier in pastiche than artistic individuality, however, Harry’s House was the ex-1D boy’s most decisive shot yet at persuading previous sceptics to buy into his musically erudite, flairs-wearing solo persona.
His ongoing Love on Tour gigs have seen stadia around the globe turned into Harry’s House, fully embodying the tour’s title, with the vibes spread as resplendent as his on-stage outfits. Moments like him helping a fan at his Wembley show to come out (“You’re officially gay, my boy!”), have earned virality and added sunshine to an often rainy social media news cycle.
To top it off, the album has just bagged him his first, prestigious Mercury Prize nomination. So we’re feeling proud of Hazza! He’s come a long way since bounding about that X Factor stage on a Saturday night and has inspired a generation of lads to don pearl necklaces in the process.
Highlights: “Late Night Talking”, “Music For A Sushi Restaurant,” and “Boyfriends”.