1. Gemma Rogers – No Place Like Home (Tiny Global Productions)
Easily the most played album in my house this year even though it came out in the middle of the year. West Londoner Gemma Rogers’ debut album is nearly perfect in my book. it’s smart, danceable and oh so catchy. She combines the brilliance, intelligence and humor of Ian Dury and Kirsty MacColl into something familiar and new at once. My Idea of fun is such a smart and sad take on alcoholism and opener Stop is an undeniably catchy commentary on internet. Time of Your Life sounds like a long lost Marr/MacColl collaboration. Song for Cities channels old and new Specials into a new anthem. Those are the highlights, but there ain’t a bad one in the bunch here.
2. Mattiel – Georgia Gothic (ATO)
Mattiel Brown’s voice has an obvious similarity to Siouxsie. It’s confident and powerful but the rest of Mattiel really sound nothing like Siouxsie and the Banshees. Georgia Gothic is her third album and best yet. Opener Jeff Goldblum spins a yarn about a guy who she met in the bathroom that looks like a younger Jeff Goldblum. Lighthouse is urgent and anthemic. Subterranean Shut-In Blues smartly repurposes the Dylan song for the pandemic. These songs have some obvious influences, but they use them as jumping off points and the duo’s confident delivery make them sound new and unique, churning the blues, White Stripes and goth pop influences into something that is impactful and unforgettable.
3. Savak – Human Error/Human Delight (Ernest Jenning)
Usually bands five albums in don’t have much left in the tank to surprise you. Hell, most bands don’t even make it to album number Three. New York City’s Savak defy all of these unwritten rules and deliver their best record yet. The band is named after the Iranian secret police that terrorized that country under the Shaw, so you can assume that Savak do not fear controversy and exude melodic and intellectual confidence. Human Error / Human Delight expertly meshes post punk and classic rock into a nearly perfect album. The group has two singers and songwriters – Sorab Habibion (Edsel, Obits) and Mike Jaworski (Cops) that keeps the record balanced between dissonant grooves and more classic sounding rockers. Side one is nearly perfect, blasting off with No Jazz, No Blues lays down the gauntlet for change both for themselves musically and for everyone else socially and otherwise. Cold Ocean thrills with its brilliant Television like guitar lick and the numbing droner Set Apart. Side Two nearly keeps up with both quality and surprises making this one of my top records of the year so far. Be sure to check out the remix version of the album called Error/Delight too!
4. Viagra Boys – Cave World (Year0001)
Swedish weirdo punk rockers are nothing if not entertaining. Sort of a combination of Devo and Tom Waits. Cave World, their third album seems to be a commentary on the dumbing down of the western male that is often disturbing, hilarious and spot on all at once. Troglodytes, liars, thieves, gun-toting unstable anti-vaxers are rampant in the world of the Viagra Boys. Near the end of the record, Sleaford Mod’s Jason Williamson makes an appearance on Big Boy which is a perfect fit. Life in the gutter is fascinating and bleak, but it sounds pretty good as told by Viagra Boys.
5. Bug Club – Green Dream in F# (Bingo)
Bug Club are a busy band. Their single and EP from last year were favorites round here. Then they put out two digital singles early this year that were also favorites round here. Then an album proper Green Dream in F# showed up in October and of course it’s another favorite round here. Their is no downturn in quality and the group have been bitten by the space bug with songs titles like Little Coy Space Boy, Sitting on the Rings of Saturn, Love Letters From Jupiter and Some Things Sound Better in Space. Hopefully planet Earth will get connected to the trio’s seemingly endless stash of Beatles meets Jonathan Richman meets Richard & Linda Thompson inspired greatness.
6. Kemi – Kemi (Inåt Bakåt)
If this was 1987 Gothenburg, Sweden group Kemi would have been on 4AD and likely would have been on the Lonely Is An Eyesore compilation comfortably along side of Cocteau Twins Dead Can Dance, Dif Juz and This Mortal Coil. Their dark, synth heavy sound evokes grey skies and the cold war bleakness of the 80’s. Vocals are in Swedish and range from hopeful and angelic courtesy of Maja Millner (also of Makthaverska) to hopeless and dark when the boys sing. Din Blick and Existens are two easy highlights on this short eight song album that will have you digging back into your 80’s catalog while you anxiously await Kemi next move.
7. Dehd – Blue Skies (Fat Possum)
This Chicago trio have knack for simple stripped down slacker songs that are super catchy at a rudimentary level. Blue Skies is their third LP and in my opinion their best one so far. It’s got so many infectious choruses that the CDC put out a warning. They’re like a slacker Beach Boys or a drowsy Go-Go’s and Dream On, Bop, Bad Love and Memories are songs that have been soundtracking the early summer days.
8. Linqua Franqa – Bellringer (Ernest Jenning)
Linqua Franqa is the nom de guerre of Athens, Georga’s Mariah Parker. She’s a rapper, an activist and a politician. Practicing what she preaches, Parker has knack for delivering her message with a spoonful of sugar. Bellringer has got a great bunch of diverse influences including some trip hop, some daisy age rap and edgy socially conscious edutainment. She can sound can be serious, edgy, and fun depending on the topic. My favorite track is the Of Montreal collaboration Oh Fxck which combines De La Soul sunshine and the Pharcyde lunacy.
9. Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band – Dear Scott (Modern Sky)
Michael Head has never been one to adhere to a frantic release schedule when it comes to albums. His previous bands Pale Fountains, Shack and the Strands all had great but sporadic runs and his latest group is no different when comes to release schedule or the high quality standards he’s set with his previous groups. Dear Scott is decidedly downtrodden in nature, but beautiful in its delivery. There are well placed strings and horns that add flourishes to songs that sound well worn and comfortable and nestle themselves easily into an already crowded room of favorite Michael Head songs.
10. Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul – Tropical Dancer (DeeWee)
On her first two EP’s Charlotte Adigéry was solo, on her first LP, she’s got a partner to share the spotlight, Bolis Pupul. She’s also loosened up showing a sense of humor that allows her to address sensitive political topics in an friendly manner that isn’t off putting or preachy. That positivity and humor also comes across live, as Adigery and Popul were a ton of fun at their Barboza show in Seattle this spring. Tropical Dancer walks a tightrope of the political, provocative and propulsive.
11. Ribbon Stage – Hit With the Most (Perennial Death)
All of the great indiepop records can’t come out on Slumberland. New York City based indiepopers Ribbon Stage slipped in a near perfect Shop Assistants, Small Factory, Aislers Set inspired record that didn’t seem to get as much attention as I would expect a record this good to get. Maybe the kids these days aren’t as enamored with the lo-fi pop perfection as they were back when the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Vivian Girls were tearing up the internet combining DIY punk ethos with sweet pop hooks.
12. Gold Dust – The Late Great Gold Dust (Centripetal Force)
The second album by Gold Dust, which is really mainly Stephen Pierce with some help from friends (including J Mascis on one song) is combination of the Paisley Underground, bucolic British folk, and Laurel Canyon influences. Even though Gold Dust are based in Easthampton, Massachusetts, they sound like they could be the east coast descendants of LA’s Beachwood Sparks. The laid back, spaced out jams on The Late Great Gold Dust are capable of elevating your existence into some other plane, or if you’re not down with that sort of mumbo jumbo, they can at least de-stress help you to leave your anxiety behind for a moment or two.
13. EggS – A Glitter Year (Howlin Banana)
After a single, ep and various other releases, the French EggS get it together in a big way and released an LP. Originally I had them pegged with an obvious Flying Nun/Clean fetish. A Glitter Year sees them taking that original inspiration and blasting off to new reaches. The vocals sort of sound like a combination of John Cale and Iggy Pop and the band get a little help from Camille Fréchou and Margaux Bouchaudon, of En Attendant Ana on this record too. Not a total reinvention of their original sound but evidence they are full of ideas and capable of delivering on them. This record has its heart on its sleeve and feels gritty and urgent but it’s never overdone or overwrought.
14. Nilufer Yanya – Painless (ATO)
Born and raised in London. The daughter of Turkish father and Irish mother. Her take on rock is a fresh take of dance music, punky pop, dreamy indiepop, soul and current top 40. Stabalise sounds like she stole a Clash riff and transmogrified it into something frantic and urgent, but decades removed from 1976. She deftly combines beats, riffs and pops hoods in what sort of alludes to cut and paste, but pulls it together into fully fleshed out wonderful pop songs.
15. Fleur – Bouquet Champetre (Soundflat)
The second album from these dutch francophiles continues down the 60’s inspired ye-ye path popularized by such French pop luminaries as Serge Gainsbourg Françoise Hardy, France Gall and Johnny Hallyday. Bouquet Champetre as its cover suggests has more of a groovy psychedelic flair to than the debut’s more garage-girl group bent. The label mentions the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds as influences. So, yeah it’s a total throwback, but the songwriting by Arjan Spies and the voice of Floor “Fleur” Elman bring this era back to life to everyone that missed it in its original go round.
16. Thus Love – Memorial (Captured Tracks)
Back in the late 80’s there was a band in Morgantown, West Virginia in the early part of my college days that were sort of goth, but obviously dug U2 and the Chameleons and I always thought that Captured Tracks would be a great fit for them to reissue the songs they released on cassette at the time. My hunch is further confirmed with Thus Love’s album. This band from Brattleboro, Vermont share a small town heritage, a love of a big dark guitar sound and an ability to craft great pop songs with it. Memorial is a great post-punk, goth-tinged record that evokes the afore mentioned groups as well more recent believers like Interpol and RVG.
17. Loose Fit – Social Graces (Fatcat)
When I first saw the name Loose Fit, I thought that they might be a Happy Mondays cover band. They’re not. Though like the that Manchester group, this Australian group’s is pretty good good at laying down the grove. Their debut record is a mover, pretty much guaranteed to get you going if you’re into the jittery grooves inspired by groups like Pylon, Public Image Limited and more recently French Vanilla. Every song builds on quality dance rhythms peppered with jagged guitars and bits of saxophone. Anna Langdon’s deadpan vocals take the party to the next level with her pithy barbs and zingers.
18. Young Guv – III & IV (Run For Cover)
The Guv, Ben Cook adhere’s to the more is more credo. Depending how you got III and IV, two single albums released month apart or the double album, it was a wealth of 60s jangle and 70s powerpop goodness. Each and every one of the Twenty-four songs is packed with great riffs, sweet vocals and tons of hooks. Fans of the Byrds, Cheap Trick, Mathew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub, if you haven’t picked this up yet you will shake your head in wonder as to why this isn’t burning up the AM radio waves in your electric car. (Oh yeah, electric cars don’t have AM radio and AM radio doesn’t play music anymore).
19. Theon Cross – Intra-I (New Soil)
Theon Cross’s second LP came out at the tail end of 2021, with the vinyl finally trickling out in 2022 due to the great vinyl production backlog. Cross is a Tuba player, a member of Sons of Kemet, and has worked with Makaya McCraven. Reasons enough to give this a listen. Add the insane album cover, and someone like me cannot resist temptation. I suppose this could get slotted into the jazz bin or even the electronic bin. It’s got so much going on and all of it mind blowing and infinitely interesting. Throw in some dub, ambient and hip-hop and you’ve got a record that defies category and beguiles at every turn.
20. Doe St – Doe St (Legless)
it could be for Boomgates and Twerps fans of which I count myself. Side one, track one Race to 25 is a total dandy of a song, and honestly they could retire after just this one and go down as one hit wonders in some corner of the dark web of the oscure indie-internet. No need though, they’ve got more in the tank and deliver the rock and roll on all seven songs on their first LP. I often question whether or not I really need a physical artifact of music that I like, but when I turn up Doe St to high volume I am unable to resist an temptation that music this good creates when sharp object scrapes across a flat disc.
21. Seatbelts – A World Inbetween (Rooftop)
James Madden and Ryan Murphy of Hooton Tennis Club started this new band with Abi Woods and took a jaunt up to Scotland to record some of their songs with Edwyn Collins. The group had been letting songs trickle out on the internet to tease folks. A World Inbetweeen plucks the best of those familiar songs and adds some newer ones. Opener Citylines is lush and lofty evoking groups like Prefab Sprout and Pulp. Another Passing Day is nearly as good and the playful Hey, Hey Tiger is silly and fun. Woods’ songs provide a good juxtaposition and add some grit to the album. Her Super Stardom merits the Go-Betweens comparisons that the band have seen sent their way and Inspiration for Robots sounds inspired by Neil Young and Patty Smith.
22. Tallies – Patina (Hand Drawn Dracula)
You’re probably well aware of the other Toronto based dreampop Canadians Alvvays who seem to rightly get a lot of attention. There is more from up there in the great white north where Alvvays came from and Tallies are much, much more. Their second album is better than their first and that’s saying something. The Toronto band continue to mine the dreampop vein with an ability not just to sound dreamy, but to write songs that stick with you. Singer Sarah Cogan has got a great voice that often evokes the Sunday’s Harriet Wheeler and along with that UK band they also share an appreciation of the Smiths and other jangly guitar bands.
Here are 22 more LP’s because there were so many good records this year.
The Sadies – Colder Streams (Yep Roc)
Field School – When Summer Comes (Bobo Integral)
Boat – No Plans To Stick the Landing (Magic Marker)
Star Party – Meadow Flower (Feel It)
Stroppies – Levity (Tough Love)
Alvvays – Blue Rev (Polyvinyl)
Lady Wray – Piece of Me (Big Crown)
Pale Blue Eyes – Souvenirs (Full Time Hobby)
Lande Hekt – House Without a View (Get Better)
Spacemoth – No Past No Future (Wax Nine)
Soundcarriers – Wilds (Phosphonic)
Destroyer – Labyrinthitis (Merge)
Yard Act – The Overload (Island)
Soft Estate – The Painted Ship (Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox)
Wet Leg – Wet Leg (Domino)
Charlie Crockett – The Man from Waco (Son of Davy)
The Jazz Butcher – The Highest In the Land (Tapete)
Jim Nothing – In the Marigolds (Meritorio)
Cool Greenhouse – Sod’s Toastie (Melodic)
Dumb – Pray 4 Tomorrow (Mint)
Love Burns – It Should Have Been Tomorrow (Calico Cat)
Robyn Hitchcock – Shufflemania! (Yep Roc)