In search of the best albums of 2022, I find myself this time around turning to three established acts and someone very out of my comfort zone. Enjoy!
Florence + The Machine – Dance Fever.
Much has been made of Florence Welch’s historical deep dive while in lockdown about a dancing mania called choreomania (a group ritual of dancing to exhaustion) that it not only inspired a new song but gave rise to her band’s new album title Dance Fever. It cannot be emphasised enough that Florence + The Machine is back in a big way with a very introspective album. It is charged with the emotional weight of Welsh attempting to regaining her own individual identity after life in lockdown. But far from being a lockdown album per se, it is also an attempt by Welsh to redress an array of grievances she faced. For instance on the album opening track King she sings, ”We argue in the kitchen about whether to have children / About the world ending and the scale of my ambition / The very thing you’re best at is the thing that hurts the most.”
While Florence Welch’s lyrics often feel like you’re being put through the wringer, she balances heavy subject matter by using the power of dance as a release valve. “And for a moment / When I’m dancing / I feel free” sings Welsh on Free, probably the most obvious example of Welch’s dance ambition.
That feeling of cathartic release is also best felt on tracks like My Love and Girls Against God. On the latter Welsh sings, “And if they ever let me out / I’m going to really let it out” referencing the frustration of covid lockdown measures.
FKA twigs – Caprisongs.
The inspired hip-hop crossover of FKA twigs was something sonically that I had hoped to embrace a little more last year. That said, there is so much to like about her music even if it at times sounds very experimental. Earlier this year Tahliah Barnett aka FKA twigs released Caprisongs what she’s dubbed as her new mixtape. It consists of 17 experimental tracks which finds her collaborating with the likes of The Weeknd. It’s fair to say Tears In The Club with The Weeknd is arguably the most accessible track for hip-hop or avant-pop novices like myself. To pretend to know otherwise would be a disservice to those who appreciate all the tricks employed by avant-garde artists. If you liked her last
album mixtape Magdalene there is no reason why you won’t like Caprisongs. I especially adore her angelic vocals and how she gently winds through an array of musical styles. If this is a young woman taking control of her career and refusing to play it safe, you should definitely immerse yourself in her world.
Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe You.
Great indie rock bands seem to be a dying breed. If anything they are few and far between especially on mainstream charts and radio. Often I have to resort to creating a Spotify playlist to discover something new. That’s what happened a few years back when Big Thief suddenly came into my life. I often gush when I talk about the New York quartet that is Big Thief especially lead singer Adrianne Lenker. Anyway 2019 was a huge year for the band releasing two acclaimed albums. It’s fair to say most of us wondered whether it was humanly possible for Big Thief to craft something new that might blow our minds. I’m here to say their expansive double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe You is as close to perfection as it gets for a band that marches to its own beat. It’s full of Lenker’s unbridled charm and honesty as a lyricist and sonically this new album veers in all sorts of experimental directions. There will be time I suspect for me to add a few more thoughts about Big Thief new album later this year. Though if I am disappointed in just one aspect about the album, I would say that it is the fact that it lacks one or two killer rock tracks (akin to ‘Not’) to puncture Lenker’s preference for introspect. But I guess that’s just being overly fussy.
Eddie Vedder – Earthling.
In those rare moments where Eddie Vedder makes music without Pearl Jam, I’m always pleasantly surprised how much he’s manages to grow and reinvent himself as a musician. On his new solo album Earthling, Vedder is a man seemingly at peace with the world. He even gets to sing and play with some of music’s biggest names like Ringo Starr, Stevie Wonder and Elton John. This new album is Vedder in full celebratory mode, playing in the style of his musical heroes. For the record Vedder primarily employs the services of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer whose influence is felt throughout. Although there is an occasional nod which recalls Pearl Jam, Earthing as a whole feels like a passion project. Mellowing out over the years has certainly helped, but don’t be mistaken his intensity for activism and music is stronger than ever, often still colliding on Earthling with interesting results. But by far some of the best songs on the new album finds Vedder digging deep into subject matter about friendship, love and loss. His nod to Chris Cornell in Brother the Cloud is in particular a standout. Songs like The Haves, Good and Evil and the Beatlesque Mrs. Mills are also noteworthy highlights.