Another year, another listicle article highlighting our favourite albums of 2022
Yep, it’s that time of the year where every music publication scrambles to put together their albums of the year list. Now, CLUNK rocks up, late as always to throw their opinion into the ever widening void of listicle articles. So, browse our 12 albums of the year, agree, discuss, and let us know who we missed or who was on your own list!
Courting – Guitar Music
By James Mellen
Liverpool post-punk quartet Courting threw out the playbook this year when their debut album, ‘Guitar Music’ was released to the world. With past roots firmly in a guitar heavy sound, the band instead opted to throw in a myriad of elements from a plethora of genres to create a indie-punk-pop-hyperpop-electronica extravaganza of a record, ripping through SOPHIE-style sound design, Charli XCX inspired AutoTune moments and The 1975 balladry. The conclusion was one of the cleanest and most refined debut albums in recent memory.
In such the current saturated musical environment, Courting hit the scene with their left turn, defying expectations and delivering a succinct, hit-filled project. Tracks like ‘Famous’ secured Courting’s place as one of the most exciting bands around right now, with it being a cut emblazoned with glitchy synthesiser work, delectable guitar riffs and bittersweet lyricism, the result being a track that feels like it should be soundtracking an A24 coming of age film. ‘Jumper’ showed the band’s ability to essentially write a straight-up pop song, a millennial rendering of Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000’ mashed with Busted’s ‘Year 3000’ – a clever middle ground.
While influence may be audible, there is never one pastiche or moments that try too hard. ‘Guitar Music’ is the quintessential debut record. It bursts with experimentation and hit singles, but is consistently, unequivocally Courting. They boasted a superior and high-calibre step forward as a band, and with ‘Guitar Music’, Courting’s future is brighter than ever.
Rina Sawayama – Hold The Girl
By James Mellen
Rina Sawayama has remained one of the most innovative pop artists of her time, since debut record ‘SAWAYAMA’, the 2020 effort being a record bursting with an abundance of genres and sound designs, leaving the listener with one of the most interesting pop records to come out of the UK in recent memory.
Getting the sophomore album right is incredibly difficult – and Rina Sawayama did exactly that with ‘Hold the Girl’. Like her debut record, ‘Hold the Girl’ is experimental and a shapeshifting entity, using slick production and writing to redefine modern pop music. Never once is Rina boxed in; throughout the record she works through ballads, 2000s pop rock and 90s alt rock, among other sounds and genres. She also brings to the table some of her finest, and most impressive, vocal performances to date, most notably on ‘Send My Love to John’, a haunting acoustic guitar moment. Her flair for writing hooks is unrivalled on this project, and the pairing of that with huge, glossy pop production makes for an incredible listen.
A roster as talent filled as Dirty Hit’s requires serious levels of talent and innovation, and with ‘Hold the Girl’ Rina Sawayama proves herself to not only be one of the brightest stars on her label, but also one of the most exciting and daring artists in the UK pop scene.
Kenny Beats – LOUIE
By James Mellen
Kenny Beats has remained a consistent, and beloved, name within music as a result of his earth-shattering beats, hilarity-soaked livestreams and collaborations with an impressive array of friends, such as IDLES, slowthai, Rico Nasty, Dominic Fike, Vince Staples…the list goes on.
However, this year we were fortunate enough to receive an unexpected debut solo project from Kenny Beats, coming in the form of ‘LOUIE’. A mixtape type project with a backbone inspired by radio mixes and playlists crafted by his father, ‘LOUIE’ is a masterclass in emotive production, a melting pot of woozy beats, carefully curated samples and subtle but powerful guest moments. Mac Demarco’s iconic guitar work crops up, pitched down verses from slowthai appear, then Thundercat’s head-bopping basslines dominate the low end of ‘That Third Thing’. ‘LOUIE’ is a thirty-minute listen, concise and distilled. As Sum 41 would say, all killer no filler.
Amongst the foot-tapping beats and gorgeously mixed instrumentals, it’s the personal and emotive samples that truly push ‘LOUIE’ into its own realm, it becomes its own entity, its own world. Conversations between him and his father add a unique charm to the record, like the snippet on ‘The Perch’; “Here in The Perch, 103.6 FM, with my son, Ken the third, and we’d just like to introduce him to you and have you say hello”. ‘LOUIE’ is truly a remarkable project, and further solidifies Kenny Beats as not only the most beloved producers on the planet, but without a doubt, one of the best.
Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia
By James Mellen
Fontaines D.C. have remained staple figureheads of the modern guitar scene, after explosive debut which came in the form of 2019’s ‘Dogrel’. Since then, the group have continuously proved themselves to be a formidable force, on stage and in the studio, with seemingly never-ending tours and stellar festival appearances.
‘Skinty Fia’ is the band’s third full length record and might just be their best. It pulls every aspect of what made the first two so brilliant and combines it with new influence and undertones. Like the droning, choral foundation of ‘In ár gCroíthe go deo’, or the shoegaze tinted, noise fuelled closing cut ‘Nabokov’. They also never once lose their knack for infectious hooks and choruses, despite the moodier and darker undercurrents of this album.
‘I Love You’ might be Fontaines’ best track to date. Frontman Grian Chatten’s vocal delivery is spine tingling, atop of the delicate but pounding instrumental. The midway point climax is made up of a frantic lyrical passage, feedback heavy guitars and steadily building drums, resulting in almost an anti-climax, using silence to further boost the tension and mood of the song, and record. They’re a band who only seem to grow and get better, and as of right now, ‘Skinty Fia’ is their magnum opus. Fontaines D.C. are a band that don’t see the sky as the limit – they’re looking further.
Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B
By James Mellen
Few artists have had a rise as meteoric and explosive in 2022 than London duo Jockstrap. Their debut LP, September’s ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ is one of the most head turning and daring records in recent times, let alone debut.
Fronted by vocalist, guitarist and violinist Georgia Ellery, and with production helmed by Taylor Skye, the duo has pure disregard for genre on this debut record. Classical, noise, club music, pop… ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ truly leaves no stone unturned. The album is a consistently compelling listen, every change in the music being wild or tasteful enough to constitute undivided attention. Ellery’s angelic vocals supported by Skye’s signature, unrestrained production style is a bizarre concoction, but works in the best way possible. ‘Jennifer B’ has tense undertones, sprinkled with jarring production and percussion, then topped with Ellery’s pitch-perfect, heavenly vocal performances – and some string sections for good measure. It is a unique package, to say the least, but the leftfield aspects of the record are what makes it such a distinctive and idiosyncratic listen.
There are a few debuts on this list, and ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ is arguably the most eccentric, unrepeatable and individual one – but in the best possible way.
Ethel Cain – Preachers Daughter
By James Mellen
Few artists within the alternative sphere have had a year as incredible as Tallahassee-born Hayden Silas Anhedönia: more commonly known to you and I as Ethel Cain. Her 2019 breakout EP ‘Golden Age’ was backed by Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, but her 2022 debut album ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ is what has truly fired her into stardom.
‘Preacher’s Daughter’ is a concept album – an audacious move for a debut. The story follows Ethel Cain herself, who runs away from home to eventually face a violent end courtesy of a cannibalistic psychopath. Cheery, right? The album shapeshifts and morphs through genre, its sonic landscape being ever changing and visceral. ‘American Teenager’ is a masterclass in pop songwriting and production, layers of gorgeous and ethereal production accompanied by stellar hooks and lyricism courtesy of Cain. Despite her ability for pop sensibility, Cain is just as comfortable with ambient, slowcore and drone sounds, expertly highlighted on ‘A House In Nebraska’. Jumping to ‘Ptolemaea’, named after the ninth circle in Dante’s Inferno, the cut is a sludge, doom metal track, climaxing in a horror-laden and noisy breakdown. The diversity in sounds creates for an extremely compelling, and at times bewildering listen, but consistently in the best way possible. Her vocal ability throughout the record is incredible, bouncing from soft, low croons all the way to angelic higher-range performances.
2022 has boasted a multitude of exceptional debut records, and Ethel Cain’s debut is among the best of the crop. ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ is conceptual, experimental and straight-up beautiful, Cain staking her claim as one of the best breakout stars of the year. It ticks every box imaginable in terms of songwriting, production and aesthetics, a truly remarkable feat for a project so early in an artist’s career.
Everything Everything – Raw Data Feel
By Luke James
From the moment the glitchy sounds and thumping bass drum collide in opener ‘Teletype’, you know that Everything Everything have hit gold again.
Their sixth album ‘Raw Data Feel’ was part written and designed by AI and it’s this acceptance and willingness to lean in to different ideas and methods that mark out Everything Everything as a special band. The hands in the air 90’s dance feel to ‘I Want A Love Like This’ and the Talking Heads style ’Pizza Boy’ shows the breadth of influence on the band and each one is a style they wear beautifully.
As you skip through the album the styles are plentiful and yet they feel like they are part of the same unified body of work. ‘Jennifer’ is a highlight of the album with its faux country/ indie crossover lending a sincerity to the haunting lyrical content. ‘Hex’ and ‘Bad Friday’ get the party vibe going again however with their reggaeton style beats with that now traditional electronic edge.
With ‘Raw Data Feel’, Everything Everything have yet again shown that they are one of the most inventive and forward moving British bands.
Wunderhorse – Cub
By Luke James
Having fronted buzz-worthy garage rock band Dead Pretties, lead singer and guitarist Jacob Slater burned himself out and made the difficult decision to call it a day.
Fast forward a few years, via a residency as a surf instructor in Cornwall, and Slater makes his return to music under the moniker Wunderhorse. As well as bringing the grungy/ garage edge from his previous band, Slater grows the sound and seemingly takes influence from bands like Pearl Jam and The Lemonheads with a more mature feel to the songs.
‘Leader of the Pack’ is probably the best example of this. The grizzly plucked riff couples with an undeniable groove from the rhythm section resulting in a beast of a chorus. Banjo style guitar picks herald in ‘Purple’, a breezy song with a chorus that soars through the sky with a beautiful vocal line. ‘Teal’ changes things up slightly with a rapid fire vocal delivery and fast pulsing rhythm but still remains withheld and rather than stand out like a sore thumb, ‘Teal’ is more of a mid album lift.
The overall warmth of ‘Cub’ is tangible and something that is difficult to achieve. You can almost hear the crackle of vinyl run through the album like a vein. Each instrument seemingly pummels their instrument and yet feels restrained in the intensity and volume, instead colliding in a warming blues/garage/indie fire. ‘Cub’ is an album best enjoyed in its entirety and at high volume and it won’t be long until Wunderhorse is the name on everyone’s lips.
The 1975 – Being Funny in A Foreign Language
By Luke James
With each new The 1975 release, you’re never sure what it may hold as the band seek to always shift their sound and never stay in one place. Their latest release ‘Being Funny in A Funny Language’ feels like an era of joy and celebration. The only thing that does remain the same with The 1975 is that they always like to open an album with a self titled track.
On this iteration of ‘The 1975’ it almost signals the intent of the album with a joyous feeling vibrating through the social commentary style lyrics that Matty Healy is now synonymous with. Cutting straight into the insanely upbeat ‘Happiness’, the faux 80’s r&b style joy barely lets up. ‘Looking For Somebody (To Love)’ is about an infectious song as the band have written and one that will get the weariest of feet tapping. One thing The 1975 do well among the more melancholy moments is celebrate love and not many songs do it better than ‘I’m In Love With You’ which emanates sunshine and will have you singing the chorus in no time at all.
‘Oh Caroline’ comes across like a classic Luther Vandross uptempo r&b ballad and speaks to their influences. One track that sticks out is ‘Part Of The Band’ which has a beautifully imaginative verse which feels like The Beatles brought to the modern age with a chorus that flips the whole song on its head before resuming its staccato strings and subtle pulsing beat. ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ is yet another example of why The 1975 are selling out arenas all over the globe. Their knack for songwriting is unparalleled and their ability to make pop their plaything is a thing of sheer beauty.
Personal Trainer – Big Love Blanket
By Luke James
Personal Trainer are a seven piece collective from Amsterdam with frontman Willem Smit at the helm and a number of artists coming and going to flesh out the rest of the band. ‘Big Love Blanket’ is their debut album and it is about as strong a debut as you’ll find.
The track ‘Big Love Blanket’ starts proceedings simply, starting with just vocals and adding members every couple of bars until the whole gang’s here and ready to start the party. ‘The Lazer’ comes clattering in soon after and swaps between jangly indie with singalong group vocals to a super tight verse that sounds reminiscent of The Hold Steady. From there, Personal Trainer takes you through the Gang of Four and LCD Soundsystem crossover you never knew you needed in ‘Rug Busters’, the slow swing of ‘Milk’ and the noisy, bouncy shoutalong of ‘Key of Ego’.
Throughout ‘Big Love Blanket’ Personal Trainer pull so many genres and sounds into their own beautifully crafted corner of the musical universe. Each track sounds different to the last and yet the album as a whole has a gorgeous flow to it with each song feeling like a chapter of a larger story rather than songs thrown together. Moreover, ‘Big Love Blanket’ feels like the beginning of something massive for Personal Trainer, your new favourite band.
Jack White – Fear Of The Dawn
By Kieran Webber
Jack White is arguably the most recognisable face and sound in rock right now. His fuzzed out guitar, inventive licks, and genuine musical ingenuity has made him the greatest rock star of the 21st century. If any of this was in doubt, he silinced the neughsayers with his 2022 album ‘Fear of The Dawn’.
We open with the percussion heavy, synth laden, distorted guitar driven ‘Taking Me Back’, an almost all encompassing sound that teeters on overwhelming, Jack White harnesses the energy into one delightful ball of rock energy. It’s a rollercoaster of an opening that sees him boast so many layers to the track, each listen unveils a new element, it’s masterful. This really sets the precedent for the entire album, which is a continous barrage of surprises and modern rethinking of the genre. Although a completely new sound, it’s still grounded in a classic Jack White sound.
Following track ‘Fear Of The Dawn’ easily grabs the title of riff of the year, a thunderous fuzzed out, cannonade of a riff bursts through your speakers whilst the high pitched, near screeched vocals of White dance above the carnage.
We ven see Jack move out of his rock comfort with Q-Tip on ‘Hi-De-Ho’, a rap infused number. There is an almost cumbian infusion that layers the top, bringing forward the unique and inventive nature of Jack White. It also acts as an exciting beginning for Jack to partner with more artists outside his genre.
There is so much more to say on this album, yet were constrained to a word count. What can be said though is that this is arguably one of the most inventive rock albums of the last decade and continues to boast jack White as a musician that is constantly pushing boundaries.
Foals – Life Is Yours
By Luke James
Since their explosive debut, Foals have built a huge legacy and an even bigger fan base. ‘Life Is Yours’ is album number seven and, though they may have lost two founding members along the way, they still have a lot of life left in them.
What makes Foals such an interesting act is their ability to constantly morph their sound and not be constrained to what people think they should play. With that, ‘Life Is Yours’ sees Foals bring disco into the mix with songs such as ‘2001’ with its Nile Rogers style guitar work and funky bass lines. ‘Looking High’ has that island feel to it with airy synths, classic Foals guitar work and a drum beat that hops along, imploring you to move your body in time.
‘The Sound’ and ‘Wild Green’ almost sound like remixes of Foals songs such is the way they pump through your speakers as if to ignite a party. With vocals sunk into the background, the music takes priority as it bounces along with that same island party vibe as Friendly Fires but with a distinctly Foals touch to it in the guitar work and synths.
Single ‘Wake Me Up’ is a highlight, adding a disco sheen to a track that wouldn’t be out of place on their previous album ‘What Went Down’ and with a chorus that you can’t help but shout “oh no!” along to.
Foals are a band that just can’t be stopped and ‘Life Is Yours’ feels like a celebration from the very first note and is the sound of a band that have just reinvented themselves yet again.