The Year in Music – Featuring Björk, Kendrick Lamar, Charli XCX, and more
By Mahir Ahmed, MA Global Media and Communications
2022 was a turbulent and chaotic year unlike any other, however, many of us finally got to experience live music again. With the music industry escaping the malaise of the Pandemic and venue restrictions, many artists finally delivered long-delayed, highly anticipated albums. Big names such as Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Björk, Alvvays, Rosalía, and Mitski returned with records that were worth the wait. I’ll be counting down the most prominent and noteworthy releases!
10. Ethel Cain – Preacher’s Daughter
Ethel Cain merges the world of gothic dream pop. In just a little over an hour, songs such as American Teenager hold the ferocious energy of youth, epic synths, and booming drums drive the powerful hooks and shadowy obsessive love. Also, I saw her live recently, and she is phenomenal!
9. Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There
London’s Black Country, New Road sophomore album marks the departure of frontman Isaac Wood. The album is a masterclass in technicality and frenetic melodies, jazz-meets-post-punk. Standouts include tracks such as Good Will Hunting, a breakup song that sees Wood’s narrator clinging to a former flame and Chaos Space Marine, which features wistful saxophone passages and flamboyant piano keys.
8. Charli XCX – Crash
Charli XCX’s return this year with her biggest album yet, Crash, an album reaching number one for the first time in her career, with music that solidifies her pop icon status. The album has incredible features such as Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek on New Shapes only aided its success, as well as a reworking of September’s ‘Cry For You’ on Beg For You with Rina Sawayama.
7. The Weeknd – Dawn FM
I have to admit, I wasn’t sold on this album at first, but on multiple relistens, it’s clicked for me. A bit of background first: The Weeknd’s fifth studio album is produced by a relatively small group, comprised of Max Martin and Daniel Lopetin of Oneohtrix Point Never, the latter of which is a ‘Warp Records’ alumni and architect of the Uncut Gems soundtrack. This is the perfect retro pop classic, filled to the brim with 80s synth and city pop highs without being drowned in sub-bass.
6. Bjork – Fossora
A personal favourite artist of mine, Bjork has used lockdown to craft an exceptional avant-pop record infused with techno beats and flourishes. Plus, features from Emilie Nicholas, Serpentwithfeet and Icelandic electronic trio side project. Then there are the tracks, Ancestress, Her Mother’s House and Atopos, which remain highlights of the album. Bjork is back on top form.
5. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Easily one of the most anticipated albums of the year. The first words uttered – ‘I’ve been going through something’—instantly set the mood for the album. From the bombastic chorus on N95 to the dramatic journey that is We Cry Together, which features Florence Welch and Taylour Paige. With an artist like Kendrick Lamar, it’s guaranteed that every song will be purposeful and deliberate.
4. Taylor Swift – Midnights
Swift’s tenth studio album is her best collection of pop songs. While it is a bit of a step down from the interpersonal songwriting of the folklore/evermore era, she more than makes up for it with her collaboration with Jack Antonoff. The restrained, stripped-down production puts into focus her refined songwriting skills and pop mastery. Midnights is thematically cohesive and sonically engaging, even if Taylor is no longer writing songs like Cardigan or Last American Dynasty.
3. Beyoncé – Renaissance
Six years after Lemonade, Beyonce switches everything up with 90s club sound, with songs such as PURE/HONEY ALIEN SUPERSTAR paying homage to 90s club classics whilst being produced by today’s pop innovators such as Honey Dijon, A.G Cook, Syd, Tems, who offer reinvigorated view of electronic music and beyond. The music speaks for itself.
2. Alvvays – Blue Rev
Alvvays aren’t your typical indie pop band. Every song is a feast for the ears, with memorable hooks, such as the swirling chorus and feedback on Easy On Your Own?. To the witty, self-aware lyricism on Very Online Guy. This is one of those albums to come home wanting to unwind with some sweet melodies that are immediate and sublime.
1. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You
Probably my favourite release of 2022, we have a 20-song double album titled ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You’. Pushing the boundaries of traditional folk instrumentation, Adrianne Lenker and company experiment with trip-hop grooves and wistful harmonies on Spud Infinity to the loose, distorted groove of Little Things. The album is a delight for the ears.