MMM Staff Picks: Douglas Dahlström’s Top Ten Favorite Albums of 2022

Constantly changing throughout the year, my Album of the Year list – which I always enjoy making – this year constitutes Irish Weird Al Yankovic-inspired country pop, moist body parts, teenage Sonic Youth apprentices, weaponized troglodytes, crashing metaphoric airplanes, strong, colorful, Canadian beverages, and for the first time since 2018 – no hip-hop albums. Below are my top ten albums of 2022, enjoy!

#10. Angel Olsen – ‘Big Time’

During the pandemic, the sound of Lucinda Williams and 1970s country echoed from Angel Olsen’s North Carolina home. After coming out as homosexual and losing both of her parents within a short period of time, the Americana- and country genres became her escape route as she recorded her brilliant sixth album, Big Time. The pedal steel and acoustic guitars suit Olsen’s sensitive yet powerful vocals wonderfully, and despite the rough times it succeeds, Big Time is no tear-jerker. There are mournful moments, for sure – the grandiose “Go Home” exhaustingly concludes that “we watched it all burn down and did nothing,” regarding an old relationship – but most of the time, the album is about all the good times that will occur when the wounds finally start healing.

#9. Jockstrap – ‘I Love You Jennifer B’

This is the sound of two students from the prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama – Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skyle – making their ambitious visions of sound come true. On their virtuosic full-length debut album, neo-classicism clashes with futurism while connecting everything in between, from Fatboy Slim to Donna Summer and Joni Mitchell to EDM. Ellery – who’s also known as the violinist in Black Country, New Road – is constantly placed in the middle, with her pristine, crystal-clear falsetto taking songs like ”Concrete Over Water” and ”Glasgow” to incredible heights. Occasionally and unexpectedly, Tyler kidnaps the songs with nerve-tickling special effects taking them all the way to the stratosphere. An exciting debut from an exciting duo.

#8. Weyes Blood – ‘And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow’

After bringing life to a godforsaken place at the bottom of the ocean on her gorgeous 2019 breakthrough Titanic Rising, Natalie Mering continues her quest for the big answers on the less joyous and weightier follow-up And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow. The songs here are longer – often around six minutes – and build up a detailed atmosphere in which Natalie’s wonderfully comforting vocals are embedded in layer upon layer of angelic choruses and orchestras inspired by classical music as well as ’70s chamber pop. The influences from Harry Nilsson and Carole King are less obvious than on its predecessor, and in most aspects, this is a sadder, lonelier, and at times even a prettier record – another proof that few can make music as touching as Natalie.

Listen to: “Children of the Universe” – “Hearts Aglow” – “God Turn Me into a Flower”

#7. Black Country, New Road – ‘Ants From Up There’

Every generation deserves its own romantically devastated and hopelessly misunderstood prophet to put words to their tears. Isaac Wood is Gen-Z’s. As the Manchester group released their second album, the lead singer and guitarist of the band announced his departure. Not only did his farewell spark questions regarding the future of the band; it also provided further depth to lines like, ”though England is mine // I must leave it all behind,” or using the failed airplane project Concorde as a metaphor for a broken relationship. When his emotions can’t be held back anymore, the seven-piece group explodes with characteristic eruptions more concise and memorable than before, most brilliantly so on ”The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” and ”Bread Song.” Regardless of what happens to the band now without Isaac’s presence, Ants From Up There will be remembered for years to come as a cult classic.

Listen to: “Concorde” – “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” – “Bread Song”

#6. Horsegirl – ‘Versions of Modern Performance’

It’s not bad for a group that has only existed for a couple of years to have to deal with countless Sonic Youth comparisons, but truth is that Nora Cheng, Penelope Lowenstein, and Gigi Reece started Horsegirl as a Sonic Youth cover band. And they have definitely done their homework. With a youthful energy and an angsty attack, the Chicago group goes from one highlight to the next of this thrilling debut album. Songs like “Anti-glory” and “Option 8” are essential to anyone who can handle raw, efficient rock music that cuts wonderfully painful through your ears, and the schizophrenic two-layered vocals embed the album in a mysterious, fuzzy haze. Every pile down to “Billy,” the chaotic final track ending with a Velvet Underground-worthy escalation. Oh, right – did I mention they’re not even in their twenties?

#5. Alvvays – ‘Blue Rev’

Things Take Time, Take Time is the title of a Courtney Barnett album that brilliantly adopts to Alvvays’ much-delayed third album. And if an album has ever grown on me, it’s got to be Blue Rev – its title taken from a strong Canadian alcoholic beverage. If their early recordings resembled the sound coming from a broken car stereo, Blue Rev sounds as if they finally at least made it into the FM station. It takes some time to get used to the giant tsunami waves washing over you with ‘80s-inspired synthesizers and jangle rock chords, but when Molly Rankin’s tender melodies and stunning vocals shine through, it feels like rain and sun at the same time. In addition, Rankin’s pen is sharper than ever before. Her songwriting is so detailed, alive, and filled with genius metaphors that the words will echo in your mind long after the album is over. Blue Rev might take time but take time and you will find new glimpses of light shining through the clouds each time you’re listening.

Listen to: “After the Earthquake” – “Belinda Says” – “Easy on Your Own?”

#4. Big Thief – ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’

It was only a matter of time until Big Thief would give us their undisputed magnum opus – something that would overshadow everything in an already excessive discography. Here it is; 20 songs in 80 minutes, all of them in unique ways demonstrating the astonishing talents possessed by this New York group’s wonderfully unkempt members. Next to experimental cuts like ”Time Escaping” and ”Wake Me Up to Drive,” we’re finding charming bluegrass (”Spud Infinity”), the Band-Esque folk rock (”Certainty”), unblemished lullabies (”Promise Is a Pendulum”), and tracks where everything meets in magic moments of tender euphoria (”No Reason, ”Simulation Swarm”). Adrianne Lenker takes a more prominent role as the group’s de facto leader, as the rest of the group continues to push themselves to new heights, making the deterrent 80-minute runtime flow with undeniable finesse and precision.

Listen to: “Spud Infinity” – “Simulation Swarm” – “Certainty”

#3. Viagra Boys – ‘Cave World’

If you thought after Sports (2018) and Welfare Jazz (2021) that Viagra Boys were already firing on all cylinders, they proved you wrong in 2022 by turning the volume up to eleven and providing a sonic explosion never to be forgotten. If their previous work could be considered somewhat self-reflective, Sebastian Murphy this time reaches out to the true psychopaths of society. Incels (“Troglodyte”), world extinctions (“Baby Criminal”), conspiracy-makers (“Creepy Crawlers”), pocket thieves (“Ain’t No Thief”), and general riffraff (“Punk Rock Loser”) are all granted a voice in Viagra Boys’ hysterical Cave World. On the devastating showstopper “Return to Monke,” they’re all prompted to once and for all form their own, vaccine-free, primate society in the forest (“find a tree, commit to it”). Would be a big help for the rest of us, actually.

Listen to: “Ain’t No Theif” – “Baby Criminal” – “Return to Monke”

#2. CMAT – ‘If My Wife New I’d Be Dead’

Occasionally, an artist unlike everyone else appears, often from a place near the imperialistic outskirts. In a pub, locked up in a rainy Ireland, 26-year-old Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson resignedly declares that “everything is harder than they said it’d be,” before the bartender comes to kick her out. If My Wife New I’d Be Dead constantly peddles between dream and reality. “I hate the way my life turned out,” she sings on the instant Western classic “I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!” and starts dreaming about suspicious love affairs with Peter Bogdanovic and about looking like Anna Nicole Smith. Through her hysteric, dark humor she comes across as an anti-hero of the miserable every day and her debut album is a hilarious tribute to the hopeless, simple homo sapiens and all of her dreams, filled with love and melodies.

Listen to: “I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!” – “Nashville” – “Lonely”

#1. Wet Leg – ‘Wet Leg’

When was the last time a new rock album made you jump up and down in your apartment for joy? It is as if the recent post-punk revival and the sad bedroom rock made us forget how rushing and exhilarating rock music can be. With almost childish energy and constant tongue in cheek, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers from the Isle of Wight debut with the most concise rock debut since the Strokes’ Is This It twenty-one years ago. The songs are incredibly charming, rowdy, catchy, child-forbidden without being tasteless, and filled with humor and character. From shoegaze (“Angelica”) to TikTok-singalongs (“Chaise Longue”), the rapture shines through, and even when the thirty-year crises shines through on the ending “Too Late Now,” Wet Leg shows that sometimes a bubble bath is all you need to take you on a higher path. 

Listen to: “Angelica” – “Wet Dream” – “Too Late Now”

Written by: Douglas Dahlström

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