Discover more from Alphabet Bands
Albums of the Year 2022
In which I start the new year, by looking back at my top 5 albums of the last one.
Happy New Year everyone. Here we go with our first actual post of the new era. Sounds exciting when you say it like that doesn’t it? To ease us all in gently, I thought it best to start with a quick recap of my favourite albums of last year.
Thanks for reading Alphabet Bands! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Full disclosure, I didn’t listen to a massive variety of new albums in 2022. Instead I continued to live in that kind of pandemic-induced-vortex where everything old was new again and went back and listened to a lot of old favourites. Note, not all of them were as great as I remembered.
Anyway, the new stuff I did listen to, I tended to enjoy. A lot. And what makes the best basis for a list? Stuff you enjoy of course! So here, for your own enjoyment are my top five albums from 2023. These are the ones I played the most, enjoyed the most, inflicted on the kids the most and sung along to (very, very badly) in the car to the most.
Charli XCX - Crash
For those of you familiar with Rick and Morty, you’ll know about Rick’s garage. It’s a multi level compound containing a plethora of tools and gadgets to make practically anything you can think of come to pass. I think Charli XCX’s brain is the pop music equivalent to Rick’s garage. She has various different levels dedicated to sub-genres, experimentation, collaborations, high-concepts, low-concepts and time travel. For her fifth album, Crash, Charli has ventured down to the commercial pop level and returned laden with infectious, bold and vibrant tracks.
On multiple occasions since its release I have woken up with a track from Crash in my head. On multiple occasions since its release I have had a track so embedded in my skull, that I have had to go and play it, only to just leave the album on because its that damn good. From the BIG POP Christine and the Queens / Caroline Polachek collaboration of “New Shapes” to the laidback grooves of “Yuck”, there are so many hooks that Peter Pan wouldn’t stand a chance.
There are genres within genres. The magpie-ing of mega-pop from the past is shameless and the album is all the more glorious for it. Gaga, Britney, Marina, George Micheal and Robin S all feature, either explicitly or by stealth. The whole thing is extremely self aware and knowing, but not in a tongue in cheek sort of way, more a subversive ‘I do this because I can and you will love it’ kind of way. A bit like Rick Sanchez’s approach to life really.
Let’s Eat Grandma - Two Ribbons
I first wrote about Rosa and Jenny, way back in December 2014 when the world was yet to experience their remarkable creativity and imagination. It was immediately clear that they were destined for big things. What wasn’t obvious was how they would evolve their sound as they themselves grew and their life experiences widened. Well, life has hit the pair pretty fucking hard recently and their sound is more rounded and complete than ever. The loss of a loved one, the cracking of a lifelong friendship, all have been experienced, lived through and found their way into their third album. And it is remarkable.
Two Ribbons is raw and emotionally open yet confident and bold. There is a fragility and softness to the lyrics. Their vocals intertwining, competing, melding together as they always have, but with greater deftness and elegance than before. You get the sense that they are talking to each other in song, using their lyrics to share feelings, hopes, pain. While the album opens with an explosions of rich electropop, it closes with a series of stripped back and stark tracks that open like a wound, using space to give us, and them, time to breathe and to process, to grieve.
They say that out of adversity comes triumph, and Two Ribbons is a triumph. But I really wish they hadn’t had to go through what they did to get here.
Fable - Shame
Inspired in part by the empty streets of London, and sounding in no small part like she’s rolled up and smoked much of Bristol’s musical output from the mid-90s, Fable’s debut album is a trip-hop infused stunner.
As the Final Fantasy VII-esque strings of opener “Fall Away” melt into the languid pulse of “Womb” you already know this is going to be quite something. While it is genre fluid, trip-hop is most prevalent, though there are many classical elements, violent rock out moments and, on “Heal Yourself” especially, frenetic beats that Roni Size would have been proud of.
Fable looks inwards as well as outwards, reflecting the depression without and within. The observable world around us is broken, and Shame is not afraid to stand up and talk about it. This is most apparent on the title track, where Fable’s lilting vocal laments society’s ills over subtle electronic flourishes and a foreboding baseline. Indeed, there is an element of foreboding to the whole album, a kind of tempered malevolence straining to be unleashed. A leash that is broken with reckless abandon and exhilarating consequences on lead single “Thirsty”. A schizophrenic tangle of Musical Youth style reggae beats and full frontal, head nodding, grinding guitar sounds that is both sweet and scary in spades.
The whole album simmers with attitude and beauty, it is both subtly seductive and in your face aggressive. You are almost compelled to move, even imperceptibly, by tantalising beats and alluring melodies, then bludgeoned by reality and guitars. As debut albums go, this is right up there.
Sofi Tukker - Wet Tennis
I’m yet to have the pleasure of seeing Sofi Tukker live, but I expect it is akin to being at a taping of Oprah when she was in one of her generous moods. You get a huge pop banger! You get a huge pop banger! Everyone gets a huge pop banger! On Wet Tennis the duo are chucking out grand danceable tunes left right and centre.
It’s an album that is as vibrant as the tennis gear the pair adorn for the album art. Even the darkness. The stunning, latin infused melancholia of “Forgive Me’ for example, swirls and undulates with its string section, whilst a subtle electrobeat pulses underneath. If that is a bit too subdued for you, fear not for title track “Wet Tennis” soon explodes into vast floor filler territory, taking all within its blast radius with it. Play this in a club and the baseline will make your bone marrow shake. It’s also dripping with double entendres, which frankly pop music needs more of in 2023 please.
Speaking of double entendres in pop music…
Wet Leg - Wet Leg
Mind you, Wet Leg don’t really restrict themselves to double entendres do they?
Having seemingly spawned spontaneously into existence from within the confines of a Carry On… film in 2021, Wet Leg released their debut album to the world in 2022, and it was good. Very good.
Full of jangly guitars, sing-a-long choruses-a-plenty and winking lyrics, Wet Leg perfectly encapsulates the sense of malaise that is ageing up in a post-pandemic world. If you don’t believe me, listen again to “Angelica” and that oh-so-on-point elongated and exasperated gasp of ‘oh my god’. It may be the single most perfect moment in 2022’s pop music oeuvre.
Wet Leg is introspective, it is reflective and it is also a lot of fun. The humour is often dry, the barbs (for exes) acerbic and the riffs are snappier than a toddler hopped up on sugar, playing the only card game they understand.
Never has the banality of life sounded so good, even doomscrolling on you phone late at night sounds enticing.
So there we have it, a quick canter through my favourite albums of 2022 and the first post proper of Alphabet Bands 2.0. I’m going to be spend some time buried in news tunes and am aiming to have the next newsletter with you in a week or so.
Enjoy your week, and remember, dance like no one is watching and sing like no one can hear you.