2022 was a big year for artists that I specifically love. We got new records from Toro y Moi, Yung Lean, Charli XCX, HEALTH, Kendrick Lamar, Oliver Francis, Beach House, brakence... All it needed was a Playboi Carti release and it would be a big, big year for me specifically.
The following picks are as such very much geared to my twisted tastes rather than what's considered objectively good via critical consensus. The ranking is fairly arbitrary and rough as well, I didn't sweat too much over it. Just being here is good enough for archives sake of what I was loving in 2022!
Anyways. here's 30 albums I think are worth checking out across genres of pop, rock, hip-hop, hardcore, post-hardcore, electronic and so on so forth!
BROCKHAMPTON - THE FAMILY
One of the weirder releases this year was a “final” album by the disbanded hip-hop group BROCKHAMPTON, which was actually an album about the life & death of BROCKHAMPTON by a sole member of the group and their leader Kevin Abstract.
When groups disband usually it’s messy and unsatisfying, and Kevin Abstract lays it all bare for us over the course of The Family. You rarely get such honesty on the highs and lows of being in a band as displayed by Kevin on this project. He’s looking inwards and outwards to create a sort of post-mortem of BROCKHAMPTON, but there’s still a hopeful inclination that the members of BROCKHAMPTON’s best work is yet to come. You couldn't ask for a more bittersweet farewell than the final track, the only one of considerable length titled BROCKHAMPTON where Kevin relays words of support to his bandmates.
Over chopped samples and a variety of different flows and styles, Kevin Abstract delivers a scrapbook collage of what the group meant to him, sending off the band in an extremely BROCKHAMPTON fashion. Thanks for all the great music guys! The summer through winter of 2017 is partially defined for me by their SATURATION trilogy, not to mention their following work.
HEALTH - DISCO4 :: PART II
Genre: Industrial, Electronic
Los Angeles genre-defying noise rockers HEALTH usually follow up their main album releases with remix records called DISCO, but DISCO4 came as two totally new records which focus on collaboration. This second instalment continues to offer mouth watering combos for anyone who’s a massive fan of this band.
HEALTH are ready to let their collaborators be the star of the show, though they never lose that edge that keeps things HEALTH certified. Teaming with people like Nine Inch Nails, Poppy or Street Sects who fit in with HEALTH’s general sound naturally, but also including appearances from indie pop band The Neighbourhood and thrash metal heroes Lamb of God. It’s aggressive, moody and pairs really well as part of a double album with part one released in 2021 as well.
Yung Lean - Stardust
Genre: Hip-hop, Experimental
Yung Lean is one of my favourite artists and his latest mixtape finds him in the stage of his career where he can kinda experiment around and put out whatever he wants. Always an exciting voice in hip-hop, with typically exciting production and a willingness to go outside the box for the genre. On top of his usual chameleonic production from WhiteArmor, Lean makes use of brostep king Skrillex and one half of the witch-house legends Salem.
Also teaming up with FKA Twigs for one of his more recent high profile features as well as his usual electric chemistry with fellow Swedish oddballs Bladee, Ecco2k and Thaiboy Digital. It’s typically creative and makes use of the mixtape format to try new ideas, for an artist who is seemingly never looking backwards.
Bodysync - Radio Active
Genre: Electronic, House
Back in the early 2010’s I would scour soundcloud looking for fresh electronic music. Body Sync is a supergroup teaming up two familiar names from those days, Giraffage and Ryan Hemsworth. Coming together as Body Sync has seemingly been a win for their prolificness, as they’ve released a ton of stuff this year, this album being the highest profile release.
Featuring sunny, bouncy takes on house music that are often a bit cheesy, but always enjoyable. Teaming with artists like underrated R&B star Tinashe and inventive electronic leaning singer-songwriter Nite Jewel give the record some great vocals but even the instrumental cuts are often the highlight. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who wants some casual dance music to put on in the house.
AVOID - Cult Mentality
Genre: Post-harcore, Punk
AVOID caught my attention with a kick-ass EP back in 2020 (their song Flashbang! is like peak music to me) and their new album is exactly what I’d want out of an expansion of their all-out assault approach to metalcore. They channel FIDLAR’s ‘too cool to care’ attitude and provide anthemic metalcore that’s exactly up my street. With a charming frontman performance and not a ballad in sight, it’s all insane energy.
Metalcore bands often forget that it’s ok just to be good fun and provide bangers, AVOID doesn’t forget this. Their niche is so much fun to me. Not to say they don’t have frivolous lyrics, but the approach to each song is made with making you headbang, and I think that’s admirable!
K?D - CAGE SCRIPT
Genre: Electronic, Techno
K?D’s previous work caught my ear but never really blew me away, but finally his debut album arrived this year to provide one of the more exciting electronic releases of the year. His work always felt a bit inspired by Porter Robinson, who made my number one favourite album of last year, but this feels pretty distinct and exciting. Combining modern production sheen with Y2K trance and tech house, it has a consistent dancey vibe but also makes use of some guest vocal performances to add an emotional core to songs.
It’s an album that shows him as a chameleon as to what sort of area of dance music he can attach himself to, but it’s convincing whatever direction he goes in. I like the variation of styles on display and even the poppier more mainstream cuts on this album are hugely enjoyable with quirks.
Jean Dawson - CHAOS NOW*
Genre: Indie Rock
Jean Dawson released one of my favourite albums of 2020 with Pixel Bath and now he returns with a much anticipated new release. Dawson is an endearing oddball character and after showing so much versatility previously he’s settled on an indie rock persona for this album. Lots of fun riffs and cheeky, self-deprecating lyrics as well as ones that lash out at the world, though as many songs are genuinely insightful to Dawson’s self beyond the showman.
Guest appearances from Earl Sweatshirt and Isaiah Rashad are well chosen guests and much of the album uses a hip-hop influence to tinge his brand of indie rock with a fresh coat of paint. Jean Dawson is clearly a big talent and it’s great to see him carry on his wave of hype with another great album.
Ocean Grove - Up In The Air Forever
Aussie punks Ocean Grove have switched their sound pretty drastically since their initial emergence as a hardcore metalcore outfit. After a switch to nu-metal adjacent throwback ‘00s worship in 2020, they settled on some alt-rock with this year’s Up In The Air Forever.
They go for big energy on this record. With anthemic choruses and massive riffs, it’s a blast from front to back. Lots of big tracks that you’d hear playing off of someone’s bluetooth speaker at a skate park in peak summer. Instantly features a lot of earworms and the band doesn’t seem intimidated by changing up their genre, with a track like Silver Lining channelling their inner Oasis, with brit-pop riffs and a vocal performance that would make Liam Gallagher smile (actually, probably not…).
There’s a good COVID anthem, Bored that’s a typical ear worm and other blown out energetic cuts that feel like rock music for a sweltering summer day like the aptly named Cali Sun as well as Sex Dope Gold and Noise. I had the chance to catch these guys on the UK leg of their tour in a small basement show and they were fantastic live as well, proper bring the house down sort of performance.
Foals - Life Is Yours
Genre: Indie Pop / Rock
I have to be honest, I doubted Foals. I’ve been a casual fan of them for a while, though after their huge double album released in 2019 seemingly provided the culmination of their brand of indie rock. Hearing that their new singles fully embraced their flirtation with indie pop music, I skipped this album for a while only to give it a cursory listen and be hugely & pleasantly surprised.
Life Is Yours ended up remedying a lot of what held me back from fully enjoying some of Foals’ previous albums. No sappy ballads, the biggest change up in instrumental palette since their second album and consistent sticky hooks. While probably featuring the simplest lyrics of any Foals release, it’s for sure the one that has the most consistent hits. There’s no air of self-seriousness on this release and while they pretty much completely ditch any of the more technical guitar playing that got them their initial break, the bigger focus on synths and drum machines makes for danceable but still earnestly delivered material from frontman Yannis Philippakis.
Foals always found success in unabashedly making music for a festival circuit and Life Is Yours is probably their most concentrated dosage of that sort of vibe. It’s very funky and brightly presented, it was a great listen for me during the summer. This album gets your head nodding easily, from the building synths of the opener. The three song string of Wake Me Up, 2am and 2001 is hit after hit. It lives up to its affirming album title despite featuring some typical more dark, inward looking lyrics. It’s probably the most consistent release from Foals since their debut for me.
Steve Lacy - Gemini Rights
Genre: Indie Pop / Rock
Steve Lacy unexpectedly broke into the mainstream off the back of his great new album Gemini Rights. But it’s not just the absolute gold that is the number one hit song Bad Habit which carries this to greatness. It’s an album with emotional honesty that’s as funny as it often is uncomfortable. It really positions Lacy as a star singer-songwriter on a level we haven’t yet seen, despite his excellent resumé.
While Steve Lacy often showed his best work was collaborative, this one-man show of an album definitely proves him more than capable of being the star of the show with such a focused and well produced album of bedroom pop.
Hippo Campus - LP3
Genre: Indie Pop
Hippo Campus returned this year after four years with the unimaginatively named LP3, though thankfully their brand of indie pop continued to be a really enjoyable listen. Compared to their impressive sophomore record Bambi has a scrappier feel to it, but in a way that it makes the songs stand out in a different way. There’s some experimentation on display to make this album a lean, but varied listen.
Lyrically Hippo Campus are usually deceptively clever for an indie pop band and here they tackle adulthood and the aimlessness of your twenties really well. There’s an underlying bittersweet romantic feel to the whole record which unifies it across the different sounds. I see Hippo Campus’s growth as a band as one that’s satisfying and exciting, I’ll be eagerly waiting for their next release.
Fleshwater - We're Not Here To Be Loved
Genre: Alternative Metal
Spinning off from the particularly aggressive metalcore band Vein.fm, Fleshwater offers an alternative metal side project from members of that band. I liked vein.fm’s 2018 release a lot, and their new album this year is also a good time. But the direction embarked on by Fleshwater is really up my alley. Influence from Deftones and shoegaze can be felt with the more melodic vocals and distorted guitars.
With thick bass, striking vocals from two different vocalists and a lean runtime, Fleshwater lives up to their potential that was apparent on their demo tape released last year. Lots of energy, big riffs and even if it wears its influences on its sleeve, there’s not really many other bands so successfully capturing this brand of alt-metal nowadays.
Pool Kids - Pool Kids
Genre: Emo, Math Rock
This self-titled sophomore record from Florida math-influenced emo band Pool Kids caught me by surprise in the best way. Excelling in technical guitar playing and constantly exciting instrumentation while also being complimented by strong lyrics and singing. It’s angsty but not childish in how they pen their take on emo.
It often builds to big emotional payoffs with strong hooks and rewarding instrumental breaks. It’s anthemic and returns to a time where emo music could fill an arena, without losing the emotional potency. In the mainstream age of Olivia Rodrigo, I think Pool Kids could offer the ‘grown-up’ version of what she offers.
Drug Church - Hygiene
Last year one of my favourite albums was Turnstile’s GLOW ON which was really exciting crossover hardcore, a blast front to back. Drug Church’s fourth album Hygiene carries a lot of that same sort of energy. Twenty six minutes across ten tracks, it’s impressively massive sounding.
Featuring quite blunt, cynical, world-weary lyrics that feel timely and keep a comedic edge. While Drug Church have been around for a while, this feels like they’ve properly come into their own - taking what worked well about their 2018 album Cheer and building off of it as well as sharpening things up. It’s polished and accessible but still feels chaotic, urgent and has great guitar riffs.
Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Kendrick Lamar already has a body of work 99.9% of artists would be envious of before Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, so it makes sense his latest release would be his most creatively indulgent yet. Featuring a lot of his most personal lyrics, it offers some levels of introspection that feel like we shouldn’t even be hearing. Such honesty is excellent and even challenges mainstream media narratives. Kendrick deliberately makes itself known he’s not the “hero” that some people deify him as after his socially conscious work.
Still, it’s not an inaccessible album, featuring some crisp hooks and trap-influenced beats. A whirlwind of collaborators and features feel inspired, with excellent production that sets a certain atmosphere that is carried across the entire project. Of course Kendrick is still offering a level of rapping that is near unmatched and he’s still finding new fresh ideas in how to deliver his messages.
I really admire how Kendrick is definitely not chasing any trends or looking for a hit on this album. Feels like the sort of weird album that an artist releases when they don’t have much to prove, but this still ends up proving a whole lot about the longevity and consistent quality of Kendrick Lamar’s music.
Northlane - Obsidian
Genre: Metalcore, Alternative Metal
It’s rare that bands find a second wind as strong as what Australian metalcore heavyweights Northlane are experiencing since bringing in a new frontman and altering their metalcore style to look more outward in terms of inspiration. Alien, released in 2020 ended up a massive hit for me with some synth-heavy metalcore tunes, more distortion and some excellent vocal performances. Obsidian sees the band continue on in that direction, not being afraid to go in different directions than other big dogs in the metalcore scene.
With production that leans into industrial or nu-metal styles combined with their typical metalcore sound, it’s a great ride. With spacey synths and consistently amazing vocal performances from frontman Marcus Bridge, who is surely one of the most impressive voices in the metalcore scene. It’s sure to get a mosh-pit started and keeps Northlane in the conversation around whose top right now in the metalcore genre.
Larry June - Spaceships On The Blade
One of my favourite discoveries this year was Larry June. He’s been really steadily putting out albums for more than a few years now, and collaborating with all sorts of top hip-hop producers like Cardo and Harry Fraud. He consistently makes laid-back west-coast rap music that’s bouncy and sunny. His personality and charming stories and advice make him a totally engaging personality behind the beats.
Spaceships on the Blade is a meaty offering that showcases his strengths across 20 tracks, one of his longer releases. Featuring his typical collaborators as well as some new faces to add to the mix, he’s in his lane and excelling at providing this remarkably consistent brand of hip-hop. His rapping is great, often his lyrics are deceptively clever and his varied features & production make the longer run time of this project still feel like a breeze.
Alvvays - Blue Rev
Genre: Jangle Pop, Shoegaze
Sometimes you wait a while for a band to return, say maybe five years, and they come back with the exact sort of album you’d want after all that time. Alvvays did just that, one of the most straightforwardly great releases of the year. Following up their excellent sophomore release with fourteen new songs of shoegaze tinged jangle pop.
It provides many of their best written songs yet and a consistent pleasant vibe, not to mention catchy and sometimes with a great danceable vibe. There’s some really special stuff on offer with their new album, just absolutely satisfying the exact itch that Alvvays always provided in the meatiest and most impressive form yet.
JID - The Forever Story
JID’s long-awaited sophomore record is no doubt one of the most ambitious of the year. Gaining mainstream relevancy back in 2017, following it with the DJ Drama curated mixtape DiCaprio 2, it’s been an admirably patient build-up to the release of The Forever Story this year. It packs in a bit of everything, with bangers, introspection and outward looking tracks. It draws comparison to the hugely successful Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar, an album that really swings for the fences.
JID is notably a top drawer lyricist and rapper, with twisty flows that are near unmatched in contemporary hip-hop music. He can appear effortlessly slick, with machine gun flows while spitting some genuinely impressive verses. It’s hugely impressive how many different styles he can nail down across this album, though its uniformly strong production keeps it tight. Notably, the album is made stronger by an outro track 2007 which has been added to the album after its initial release, a long storytelling track which really feels like the punctuating wrap-up that the album needed, stamping JID’s place among the top dogs in hip-hop.
It’s a record that’s great throughout, though highlights for me were the hard-hitting introduction of Raydar chased by the sleek Dance Now. A fun sample punctuates Money as well as containing some of the most impressive rapping on the album. Just in Time has a great Lil Wayne feature, who ends up gelling extremely well with JID. Surround Sound is probably the hit of the album, with a catchy hook and impressive flows from JID and a feature from 21 Savage. It’s an exciting record that lived up to the hype.
Beach House - Once Twice Melody
Genre: Dream Pop
Beach House’s eighth(!) album is still very much a highlight of the year for me. After 7 ended up a massive hit for me, I was wondering what direction they would go in next, after the shoegazey and synth-heavy direction of that album was my jam. Once Twice Melody almost feels like a greatest hits album, only all the songs are new. Not in that every song is an absolute hit, but the quality is pretty consistent and it mines inspiration from all across their discography.
Split into four disks which were released as EP’s it makes the almost 90 minute runtime easier to tackle. Though it’s definitely a blockbuster album that’s a joy to be played in full as well. Across the album there’s contenders for some new Beach House highlights, such as: Superstar, Through Me or Masquerade. It’s quite the collection, hitting the same big romantic, luxurious and overflowing with emotion.
It ends up a Beach House collage, with new and old ideas converging into a fantastic collection of songs.
Charli XCX - CRASH
Charli XCX has been my favourite pop star for 5 years now, since her collaborative EP with SOPHIE Vroom Vroom and the legendary "mixtape" Pop 2 saw her fully commit to making weird fringe electronic pop hybrid stuff. After exploring that lane with her long-awaited album Charli in 2019 and the slightly scaled back “lockdown album” How I’m Feeling Now, CRASH is a return to flirting with the mainstream with less experiments than her previous work. But instead it’s just a great collection of top-tier synthpop.
It’s one of her most focused albums and shows she can write a sticky hook in her sleep. It provides hit after hit, with a mix of producers but a uniform shiny synthpop interior. It sees Charli approach making a mainstream leaning pop album with the utmost sincerity, going for the sort of ‘nothing but hits’ approach of Kylie Minogue's Fever or Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion.
While it’s relatively straightforward and doesn’t feature as many of the surprises that Charli’s previous work brought, it’s hardly a disappointment to receive a crowd pleaser that’s so consistent. Even when producing more wide-appeal pop music, Charli XCX remains one of the most charismatic and alluring popstars. From the instrumentals she picks to the playful singing and lyrics, she’s still on top despite what could have been construed as a step backwards away from her push to weirder things previously.
Oliver Francis - Hijinks
Genre: Cloud Rap
Oliver Francis is one of my favourite underrated artists. His self-produced hip-hop is breezy and not afraid to think outside of the box. Mostly operating on cloud rap beats, often landing more on the laid-back, melodic side of hip-hop. Hijinks features his strongest rapping to date over sublime cloud rap beats. It’s the project that sees him fully comfortable in his role as a cult hero within hip-hop.
Hijinks has Oliver’s most slick flows of any project and he seems brimming with confidence. Melodic leaning autotuned rapping is equally backed up by punchy flows like on an album highlight: Forrest Gump, where he knowingly raps “I been with my day ones, rappin’ bout the same ‘ol shit” on the hook. For all I care if he keeps up this quality I could listen to Oliver Francis rapping about smoking weed and getting money for years to come.
Vansire - The Modern Western World
Genre: Dream Pop, Indie
This indie duo from Minnesota have been putting out great work that’s heavily inspired by early 2010’s indie. Great summery countryside music, a soundtrack to your road-trip or walks in nature. Though they’re not simply a throwback band for those who want dreamy indie rock/pop, they indulge in off the wall contemporary collaborations with hip-hop or pop artists that offer their work a great variety across an album, while still keeping a consistent theme as a throughline.
There’s a lot of great jams and even since their last release they’ve done well to improve their compositions and worked in their oddball collaborations even better this time around. It’s a thoroughly nice and smooth listening experience. Acts as a great combo of a lot of the stuff I loved during that era of 2010’s indie like chillwave, Mac DeMarco jangle pop, lo-fi hip-hop and of course, dream pop. Sometimes all you need is a strong vibe and Vansire are up to the task to provide a blissful one here on The Modern Western World.
Beyoncé - RENAISSANCE
Beyoncé’s consistency as a cultural icon and resurgence as a critical darling makes her one of the most famous and inescapable names in the entire world. Her self-titled surprise album released in 2013 made some big waves, as did its follow-up Lemonade. Those aren’t entirely for me, but I have nothing against them, even if their constant appearance on best of lists made them come across as overrated to me. However, now I have become one of those people hyping up someone who needs no hype, since RENAISSANCE is one of the best albums of 2022.
A lot of artists have capitalised on 2022 being our first year properly out of covid, with festivals back and clubs open. This has led to us seeing some artists lean into dance music, such as Drake’s awkward house album. Beyoncé’s dance album is a measured celebration of the genre, and believe me nobody is as surprised about that as me! It’s got a great inclusionary and empowering spirit at its core, with Beyoncé providing lyrics about unafraid self-expression and positivity. It’s also a tour of genres, hitting techno, afrobeats and house among others.
With the lead single Break My Soul sampling Show Me Love by Robin S. and a Daft Punk-esque beat carrying Virgo’s Groove it’s a constantly exciting listen. One that stands out in Beyoncé’s discography as the most fun, but it’s hardly frivolous. A really exciting tour of what dance music has to offer with an exceptional vocalist at the helm.
Triathalon - Spin
Genre: Dream Pop, Indie, R&B
After switching their sound from breezy surf rock to hazy, sun-soaked R&B for their 2018 album, New York based band Triathalon’s newest album spin continues in that direction but far more assuredly. This was super under the radar release and I think it’s my favourite of theirs yet. The summer nighttime, after hours vibe is uniform and features some nice production surprises.
Any record that aims to satisfy a certain specific vibe, such as spin’s ‘man floating in a neon lit pool’, as the album cover suggests, is bound to be a hit with me. It sets the mood with the breathy vocals, bright keys and a twinge of their older surf rock sound on the opener Dreams. Effect drenched cuts like Time and Running sound infectious as well. Implementing some surprise breakbeats on Infinity Mirror was also a great touch.
I’m always looking for soundtracks to sunsets and summer nights and this just hits that very specific spot. It’s so consistent and thick with a cool atmosphere. I hope this band can find a bigger audience because this album just absolutely is my sort of shit.
Toro y Moi - MAHAL
Chaz Bear aka Toro y Moi has been tearing it up for years with an extremely prolific career wherein he constantly tries new things. From being a pioneer in the chillwave genre to electro-pop to indie rock to hazy R&B, not to mention various side projects and collabs. Mahal is his seventh studio album and can be categorised as psychedelic music where he performs as a one man jam band. It’s very easygoing and features soft vocals and open, sometimes goofy lyrics.
There’s more going on in the layered instrumentals than you’d expect, rewarding you for listening beyond the hooks or noodling guitars. It’s very sunny, continuing the tradition of Toro y Moi albums being ultimate summer listens. Songs like Millenium or The Loop sound like a sunny day and Way Too Hot hits the sort of spot you’d expect given its title.
Relaxed and varied in style, it ends up a great album in an already great discography. I’ll always be checking out what Chaz does next. I finally saw him perform live this year in support of this album and it was an all-timer, switching from tracks from this album, to his hazy R&B stuff and then to his more electronic focused highlights. Nothing but love for Toro y Moi!
Weiland - Vices
Genre: Synth Pop
Florida born Weiland has been on the fringe of hip-hop for a while, producing tracks in the plugg scene. His work prior to this album was enjoyable, often very catchy and with great beats, but often felt like he was too clearly wearing his influences on his sleeve. But he took a left turn into making his way in a new lane that’s a lot less crowded with Vices.
Moving instead into a brand of hazy, lovesick, effect drenched synthpop, Weiland is newly invigorated on this record. Featuring more genuine lyrics, it moves to give Weiland more of a personality than most of his prior work had shown, occupying a space of drug addicted longing in a lot of the tracks here. Definitely features some of his most emotive performances, wherein the effects on his voice compliment the lyrical content and tone of the album really well. It draws comparison to the more melodic Kanye West records, such as that displayed on 808s and Heartbreak as well as vintage synthpop and electronic styles.
With varied production across the record, with some tracks feeling like classic ‘80s New Order songs and others feeling like Daft Punk. I enjoy that it feels equally forward thinking as much as it mines nostalgic sounds as well. Broken Ego is an easy highlight with its breakbeats and a blossom into blissed out synths to finish. Dangerous Woman is effortlessly catchy and hypnotising with its pumping bass and autotune drawl. It’s a record that paints a strong picture with the emotional lyrics and performances from Weiland. A record that easily makes Weiland one of the more exciting artists to be birthed from the 2010’s soundcloud scene.
Sam Gellaitry - VF VOL II
This project from Scottish electronic producer Sam Gellaitry seems to be positioned as more of an odds and ends collection than a full album, but to me it feels like he has really come into his own as an artist. After a great EP last year which saw Sam start using his own vocals to fuse his oddball electronic music with pop music stylings, he continues in that direction to much success here with VF VOL II.
Unlike other artists who switch lanes from electronic to pop, Gellaitry is still doing it all himself and hasn’t lost what made his earlier stuff so ear catching. He’s got a great ear for melodies and elevates his wonky productions with melodic, alternative R&B style hooks. Feels like he’s moving into a lane that Jai Paul briefly inhabited in his extremely memorable cameo in the music scene with his crazy leaked album from 2013.
Though it’s the emotional honesty and sometimes tongue in cheek lyrics that ensures Sam Gellaitry is a potential star. With a track like ANGEL which documents a realistic and somewhat anticlimactic encounter with a girl out of his league. But then there’s tracks overflowing with loveworn honesty like TRY, INTERTWINE and SEROTONIN. One of the tracks from this album was repurposed into a song for PinkPatheress, which shows his mainstream leaning potential. Though my highlights have to be the banging NAME TO A FACE and closing track NEW WAVE which is a soaring affirmation ending with an ecstatic prayer.
The Weeknd - Dawn FM
The Weeknd came back somewhat out of nowhere with another fast turnaround for an impeccably produced sequel to his fantastic 2020 album After Hours. I never would’ve guessed that The Weeknd would gain so much mileage as an artist after his series of 2011 dark drugged up R&B mixtapes, and while his switch to being an A-lister popstar was instantly getting him hits, After Hours was the first full pop album by him that I enjoyed. Dawn FM might be even better though, some of the very best mainstream pop around right now.
Surrounded in a framing device that positions the record as a self-reflective radio station for The Weeknd in afterlife, narrated by his fellow Canadian star Jim Carrey of all people. Getting off to an unbelievable start after the Dawn FM intro with the bombastic Gasoline. The Weeknd proves with this track that he’s still got new tricks up his sleeve, with a lower pitched singing style that might make you do a double take if it’s really him and synthpop production that’s out of this world.
Dawn FM is surely one of the very best produced albums of the year. Impressing constantly, pairing mainstream pop mastermind Max Martin with Oneohtrix Point Never making for constant sticky synth heavy productions. The Weeknd’s character seems to have grown away from the drug fuelled hedonism that has defined his discography and tackles romance with a more sincere and less clichéd approach than before. Still, he’s at best an antihero rather than a villain this time, with a track like I Heard Your Married living up to its title. It has big tracks like Sacrifice, How Do I Make You Love Me? And the city pop inspired Out of Time that easily makes it a contender for The Weeknd’s best work, which is something I didn’t think I’d ever say over a decade after his emergence as a star.
brakence - hypochondriac
Genre: Electronic, Emo, Alt-pop
Fourteen months after the release of the lead single for hypochondriac, it was finally released. Usually a long rollout like this would drive me crazy, but the absolute quality of individual songs on this album made them ideal appetisers before the long-awaited main course. brakence’s maximalist production style is even more layered and alien sounding on this release, taking ‘hyperpop’ styles to a level that’s unmatched really.
It’s a modern take on emo music that’s fresh and different. His vulnerable lyrics are backed up by a great voice and genuinely yearnful vocal performances. A lot of time the chaos that his production offers is almost unbelievable given he’s managed to find such a strong melodic core. An album where you can just listen to the beats and find so much detail, and then the fact he’s singing his heart out over them as well makes it even more impressive.
I don’t think there’s another album released this year that sounds like hypochondriac. With such honest lyrics combined with unbelievably intricate production, it’s a huge improvement over his debut project from 2020, and I already loved that album.