Hit or Miss? 10 defining albums of 2022

The Other Side of Make-Believe – Interpol

Just over twenty years ago, in August 2002, Interpol taught us all a little on what it takes to produce a strong debut album when they released Turn On The Bright Lights. A gloomy masterpiece, it led to comparisons with greats like Joy Division.

Two decades can make a huge difference, and The Other Side of Make-Believe dramatically failed to live up to past standards. It never catches the imagination, quickly turning into a numbing snooze-fest. 

Opening number Toni just about sums the LP up – there are subtle hints of quality, but an eventual downfall into elevator music quickly takes hold. Tracks merge into one, and with no stand-out singles to break the album up or a strong concept to hold it together, re-listen value is at a premium.

Apparently Interpol struggled to write their music whilst Covid restrictions were in place, having to “use the internet to circulate ideas and collaborate remotely”. You can tell.

Rating: 5.2/10

C’MON YOU KNOW – Liam Gallagher

Throughout 2022, Liam Gallagher stepped out of the Oasis shadow just about as much as he ever will. His solo career hit record heights, with a fourth number one album on the trot leading to two (in his eyes) documentary-worthy Knebworth headline shows.

It’s lucky he was always the brother blessed with a knack for the stage, however, as his hands-behind-the-back, tambourine-waving aura certainly papers over some cracks in his third studio LP.

The titular track of C’MON YOU KNOW was a major disappointment when released as a single, grossly highlighting Gallagher’s simplistic songwriting ability. A few tracks are, unfortunately, too filler-friendly for the album to reach the heights of Why Me? Why Not.

However, the highs make up for it. Everything’s Electric is up there with his best solo work and was a perfect lead single, while Diamond In The Dark played to his stage strengths perfectly.

Opener More Power threw all expectations out the window from the off (did anyone ever expect Liam Gallagher to team up with a choir?) and was a stroke of inspiration, and Too Good For Giving Up is a commendable attempt to re-create the emotional magic of Once from his second studio album.

2022 was the year that cemented Liam Gallagher’s comeback as one of the greatest in music history – his transformation from a croaky, washed-out shouting machine back into one of the world’s biggest rock stars has been remarkable. C’MON YOU KNOW was a fitting crowning achievement.

Rating: 7.4/10

The Car – Arctic Monkeys

Trust Alex Turner to churn out the most divisive album of the year. Cue nostalgia-fuelled social media shouting matches.

The Car is a (slightly) more commercially-friendly take on the style the Monkeys went for with Tranquilty Base Hotel & Casino, and it feels as though Turner makes tongue-in-cheek reference to criticisms aimed at that album with some overly-simplistic track titles.

The band’s seventh studio LP kicks off in spectacular fashion with There’d Better Be A Mirrorball, a shining example of the frontman’s genius with a track that could probably hack it as a Bond theme. It doesn’t get quite as good again after that, although I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am and Big Ideas come close.

The widely-mocked Body Paint is intriguing for the most part, but deserves a lot of the laughs it gets – it sounds like Alex Turner doing an impression of someone doing an impression of Alex Turner. Make sense?

There are a few too many drive-by tracks to rank the album particularly high, but it’s far too well produced to rank it exceedingly harshly. The Car doesn’t really get out of third gear, but it just about splutters its way to pass marks.

Rating: 7.2/10

Dawn FM: The Weeknd

Don’t be fooled by the strikingly awful album cover – this is 2022 dance music at its peak, mixing a number of catchy individual tracks with an intriguing concept.

Jim Carrey grabs our attention from the start with his best impression of a hypnotist-come-radio presenter in the title track, before How Do I Make You Love Me? really steps things up a notch – it’s a slightly chilling song, with quick drums combining well with The Weeknd’s high notes.

It then transitions beautifully into star track Take My Breath, another instant dance classic. The single version may be better in isolation, but the changes made for the album suit it down to a tee. It’s slightly more drawn out and is all the better for it, and is followed by another excellent song in Sacrifice.

A Tale By Quincy, featuring the great Quincy Jones, is a fun if sobering addition, before another Carrey cameo introduces a slower second half of the album. Out of Time is a stand-out, but the best is saved almost until last – Less Than Zero mixes catchy beats with sorrow-driven lyrics, which can’t be an easy task, for the album’s best song.

It sums up both Dawn FM and The Weeknd’s unique ability. You can dance to this record, you can chill out, you may even – depending on your mood – be driven into a nostalgia-fuelled fever. It’s brilliant.

Rating: 8/10

Last Night In The Bittersweet – Paulo Nutini

The masterpiece of 2022. Whatever Nutini was doing in his eight-year hiatus certainly paid off.

Focusing on any one song from Last Night In The Bittersweet feels like a disservice. Through The Echoes brought the Scot back into the spotlight with a bang, its powerful vocals and poignant bass setting the standard, while the catchy riffs on Lose It allow Nutini to finally unleash the accent of his homeland.

Acid Eyes tells a painful story of regret; Everywhere one of beauty and obsessive love. Shine A Light epitomises Nutini’s journey from boy wonder to mature adult songwriter, and the guitar solo in Desperation throws some 80s nostalgia into the mix for good measure.

It’s the quietly-named Radio, however, that will ensure this album is, in time, considered up there with some of the best British guitar music. Tear-jerker, memory-inducer, emotion-venter all in one, its heartwrenching lyrics pull at all of the listener’s strings.

By some distance the best album of the year.

Rating: 9.2/10

Burn The Empire: The Snuts

Indie bands have a notorious knack for grabbing the headlines with a fresh, exciting debut record before following up on it with a dull, forgettable sophomore album. The Snuts, ever intent on mastering their own original sound, were never going to disappoint in that regard.

Burn The Empire has a very different sound to the Scottish quartet’s W.L. debut, and it’s not quite up to the same standard, but this is still an ear-grabbing and fun affair. Latching onto a growing hatred for Tory politicians and big corporations which is particularly prevalent amidst grassroots music fans, the opening and titular track kicks things off with an anthem born for live performances.

Zuckerpunch and Rodeo are much the same, albeit with more light-heartedness – making them perfect singles for the summer festival season – while Hallelujah Moment has already mustered up a cult following amongst the group’s fans. It was the surprise package upon the album’s release, and might just be its best.

There are quieter touches as well, like there were in album one, but they fail to grab hold of listeners in the way No Place I’d Rather Go, 4 Baillie Street and Microwave did. Burn The Empire’s 13 is as close as it gets, but Yesterday falls short. Knuckles is up there with the best on this record, however.

The Snuts liven things up with major experimentation in Cosmic Electronica, while you’ll be hard pushed to find a better 2022 gig-opener than Pigeons In New York. It’s just a shame that frontman Jack Cochrane didn’t give himself quite the same opportunity to showcase his extraordinary voice this time around.

The record won’t be quite as iconic as their debut, which shot to number one in the charts, but this was still probably the right album at the right time. As indie follow-ups go, it was definitely a hit.

Rating: 7.8/10

Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers – Kendrick Lamar

An intriguing deep dive into Lamar’s deepest and darkest thoughts, his first record in five years has been at the forefront of most major award nominations this year – and deservedly so.

United In Grief gets a thought-provoking show on the road in superb fashion, while Father Time and Purple Hearts are two highlights on a well-produced album. We Cry Together mixes harsh reality and music with a swagger only a select few artists are capable of pulling off, even if it does get a bit tiresome at points.

The passionate Mother I Sober is the highlight, however, with gentle piano keys and Lamar’s distinguishable tones combining to great effect before Beth Gibbons echoes a series of chilling lines herself.

The Heart Part 5 then rounds off one of 2022’s best records in a fast-paced, exhilarating way that sums up just why the rapper has such universal pull.

Rating: 8.2/10

LEKKERBOY: Sticky Fingers

Five albums, five success stories. The Australian group’s latest installment might not garner the same cult following their early music did, but it’s just as rich in quality – and is certainly up with their best.

The title track is something special and was an inspired lead single, leading to a late change in album name – a smart move. Love Song, Where I’m From and, in particular, Saves the Day are some of the band’s most relaxing and emotional songs to date, while We Can Make the World Glow and Lupo the Wolf successfully mix things up without creating too jarring a change in pace.

Dylan Frost’s vocals are stunning, as they have been for well over a decade now, and his haunting tones are in full force for the standout Multiple Facets of the Same Diamond. The closing song sounds like a Sticky Fingers-meets-Pink Floyd crossover – it’s a masterful piece.

Again, the tone shifts markedly from previous record Yours to Keep as the quintet continue to evolve. This is indie rock music at its very best – if you want consistent excellence and a wide range of genres all in one, this band are for you.

Rating: 8.6/10

Midnights: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift falls into a music category with the likes of Ed Sheeran – they’ve got bags of talent and that’s why they’ve reached the heights they have, but once they reach those heights they throw said talent out the window to produce the most painfully cookie-cutter, radio-friendly music they can.

Midnights is dull, it’s bland, it’s predictable. Swift barely sings at all, instead labouring her way through the record with an annoying whisper-like aura. At least half of the tracks sound almost exactly alike, highlighting a dramatic lack in creativity.

The songwriting itself isn’t exactly great either, with cringe-inducing obscenities mixed with lines which look clever on a songsheet but are clumsily cobbled together when sang out loud.

Karma is a semi-decent track and is probably the highlight, while Sweet Nothing adds a gentle touch, but Anti-Hero’s 358,480,221 Spotify streams at the time of writing are a travesty. The song is lazy and forgettable.

It’s always a shame to see artists with such ability throw it away to produce the safest and most consumable product they can. In fairness, the Swifites themselves seem to love the album – but objectively, it’s not very good.

Rating: 4.4/10

Unlimited Love: Red Hot Chili Peppers

After releasing just three albums between February 2002 and June 2016, the Chilli Peppers have hit back with two in a single year. The first, Unlimited Love, is difficult to get to grips with – on first listen it sounds bland and forgettable with a few hits sprinkled in, but re-visits to certain songs cast them in a more positive light.

Ultimately, though, you have to judge the record as a whole – and it certainty gets off to a strong start. Black Summer opens the album with a bang and epitomises nearly everything good about the band, while the jazz-infused Aquatic Mouth Dance showcases their ability to mix up their genres of choice with some wonderful instrumentals.

Not the One is quiet, giving Anthony Kiedis’ vocals a chance to shine. After that, however, a number of tracks become almost skip-worthy as a dull middle section drags down the overall quality.

Things pick up briefly again with White Braids & Pillow Chair, which infuses classic Chili Peppers with a modern twist for Unlimited Love’s best song, before things tail off once more as it draws to a close.

There are highlights and there are hints of the Americans getting back to what they do best, but too much of the one hour and 13 minutes could have been left out for a more compact record with quality throughout. It’s an enjoyable listen – it always is with these guys – but there are a few too many flaws.

Rating: 5.4/10

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