TM Staff Spins: Albums Of The Year 2022
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
2022's been a year to remember at Townsend Music HQ, with number-one albums from Louis Tomlinson, Fontaines D.C, Wet Leg and more, plus hundreds of artists and labels enlisting our direct-to-fan services. Following on from TM Staff Spins: Albums Of The Year 2022 (So Far) we are proud to present our final pick of the great and good that have graced our office stereo in 2022. It's an eclectic expedition through, rock, rap, prog and drum n bass; what these LPs have in common is that they've been indispensable in getting us through a blessedly busy year. We've compiled our favourite tracks into our Albums Of The Year Spotify Playlist, streaming at the end of this article - enjoy!
George Douglas: Account Manager
Wet Leg – Wet Leg (Buy Here)
Admittedly late to the 'Chaise Longue' earworm (which has lived in my head ever since), I was chuffed to find this album not just worthy of the hype, but even more than the sum of its great singles. Hooky and amusing whilst sarcastic and sharp, it’s some much-needed fun, flippant rock and hearing the duo smile to one another as they sing is contagious.
Wet Leg's layered in the vein of Pavement, Beck or The Breeders and reflects the disaffection, anxiety and angst of today’s twenty-somethings lives. Alas, I’m almost 35 and “still getting off my stupid face.”
Danger Mouse and Black Thought - Cheat Codes (Buy Here)
Though my 2022 Spotify Wrapped might favour releases by Suede, Afghan Whigs or All Them Witches that soundtrack my daily “dad rock” school run, after being lucky enough to work on the Danger Mouse and Black Thought Cheat Codes Artist Store, I heard the record early and it’s been my most played album of the year. A throwback to simpler times when Danger Mouse & Jemini's Ghetto Pop Life played through my commute; before Brian Burton really was a “super producer” and I had no means or inclination to Google what Jemini the Gifted One was up to.
After years of keeping an ear out for the rumoured collaboration, Danger Mouse's beats on Cheat Codes crackle as lush and soulful as expected. The emcee of The Roots is on fire with his snapping deep streams of thought, standing taller than even the illustrious guests Run The Jewels, Raekwon and on standout track 'Belize' the late great MF Doom. It’s not all that fun, but it makes me smile on every spin; I'm engrossed at how good a complete record it is and pleased at myself for embracing my generation’s new “old school” hip-hop. Alongside Logic’s Vinyl Days, my pick for TM Staff Spins: Albums Of The Year 2022 (So Far) (before I played this on repeat), you can file this under “dad rap”.
Laura Barrett: Junior Account Manager
Paolo Nutini - Last Night In The Bittersweet (Buy Here)
This album has been one that I’ve been anticipating for a very long time and it was definitely worth the wait. The LP has certainly got more of a heavy edge to it than his previous records but of course, it wouldn’t be a Paolo Nutini album without the acoustic tracks that tug at your heartstrings.
The whole album is a beauty but my standout tracks are 'Acid Eyes', 'Through The Echoes' and 'Everywhere'. Paolo is like a fine wine and just gets better with age. Cheers!
Harry Styles - Harry’s House (Buy Here)
I’d be lying if I said this album didn’t dominate my Spotify Wrapped this year... and my life, for that matter!
Harry's venture into more mature themes and funkier sounds on this album really has me hooked. It’s Harry Styles’ world and we are all just living in it.
Lucy Price: Account Manager
WILLOW - <COPINGMECHANISM>
2022 has been an incredible year for female-led rock. From the Nova Twins and their ground-breaking debut Supernova, to Lizzy Hale’s powerhouse vocals in Halestorm’s Back from The Dead, the women in rock have been smashing it. But my favourite has to be <COPINGMECHANISM>, the fifth studio album from the extremely talented WILLOW.
At only 21, it’s hard to name similar artists with the maturity and vocal ability to segue between such an array of genres in an average of three minutes per track. WILLOW guides you confidently on a journey, passing through pop punk, alternative rock and post-hardcore. I love the varied use of dynamics and unusual structures, which contrast with the conventional verse-chorus arrangements found in the radio-friendly hits of her previous record lately I feel EVERYTHING. She further develops these conflicts by adding impressive guttural screams over her melismatic and breathy walls of harmony.
It’s scary how much promise she has at this young age, I can’t wait to see what she does next...
Alter Bridge – Pawns & Kings
From WILLOW’s experimentation to Alter Bridge and their accomplished formula. They’re a band that needs no introduction, having defined their sound with time and experience. I’ve been a fan ever since a friend introduced me to AB III at university, and they haven’t disappointed me since. If I’m being honest, Pawns and Kings, isn’t much of a departure from anything they’ve written previously and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… When you’ve got Mark Tremonti shredding guitar like never before and Myles Kennedy’s upper register soaring above, why would you change it?
In my opinion, it’s probably their heaviest and most well-developed album to date; you can tell they’ve stuck with their producer Michael Baskette for good reason. Full of chugging guitars from Tremonti and Kennedy, plus, to build on the drama, double-kick drums aplenty from drummer Scott Philips. I saw them live at Manchester Arena last week and one thing is for sure: they know how to create one of the most consistent full-bodied sounds around, a must when selling out arenas every couple of years. The new album material bedded into the set perfectly, especially 'Silver Tongue' and the title track 'Pawns and Kings'. I’m sure they’ll be playing them in years to come.
Callum Blanchfield: Account Manager
Porcupine Tree - Closure/Continuation (Buy Here)
As much as I've enjoyed following Steven Wilson's solo career come to the fore in recent years, since their hiatus back in 2010, I've always yearned for the return of Porcupine Tree. So when I heard they were planning a new album I was more than excited, and it did not disappoint!
The musicianship is incredible and each member of the band brings their own signature sound to the album, particularly evident on the 8-minute-long lead track 'Harridan'. You've got the heavy riffs and eerie synth sounds from Richard Barbieri, technical precision from Gavin Harrison on drums and classic Steven Wilson melancholy.
Porcupine Tree are modern prog icons and I hope there's more to come, despite the ominous album title!
Shearwater - The Great Awakening
Shearwater are a band that has probably flown under the radar of most people, but they are worth seeking out if you're a fan of Spirit of Eden-era Talk Talk. Coincidentally, I first came across them in 2008 on the aforementioned website of Steven Wilson (SWHQ), where he used to list albums on his listening rotation. At the time they had just released their album Rook via Matador Records - which I bought on import from the US and it was definitely worth the extra cost.
Now in 2022, the band released their seventh album, The Great Awakening, their first in six years. Lead vocalist Jonathan Meiburg's arrangements and dynamics on this album (especially evident on the vinyl pressing) are incredibly poignant. As a keen naturalist, he includes personal field recordings to add texture. This is not an upbeat album, to say the least, but I often find a lot of beauty in sad music. There's much to immerse yourself in here and the album could almost be a soundtrack to a film; I would say it's one of their best and yet another welcome return after many years.
Lucas Barr: Business Development Manager
Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers (Buy Here)
2022 surely belongs to Kendrick Lamar. The release of his much-anticipated fifth studio album was sandwiched between co-headlining the Super Bowl halftime show and a show-stopping headline Glastonbury set, not to mention a sold-out global tour.
A dynamic and thought-provoking album that is by no means an easy listen nor free of controversy; Kendrick immediately warns us to “be afraid” in the album’s opening bars. Heavy topics and weighty production are weaved together seamlessly throughout what is a very engaging album.
Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry
It’s Almost Dry is twelve tracks of lyrical prowess from “cocaine’s Dr. Suess” over production from Pharrel and Ye, who take six tracks each. Despite the distinction between their studio styles, the layered production is interwoven between tracks and sewn together by King Push’s distinct delivery.
Similarly to Kendrick Lamar’s return on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, Pusha is in a reflective mood, covering his career and former beefs while looking to the future and contemplating how fatherhood has changed him. When you have one of hip-hop’s greatest rappers plus two of its greatest producers, it can only equal an instant classic.
Simon Walsh: Senior Account Manager
Cheekface – Too Much To Ask
A very fun indie rock record with catchy hooks and razor-sharp witty lyrics littered throughout making for a very enjoyable listen, and one that I’ve given plenty to this year. Sonically you get notes of Devo, They Might Be Giants, Dry Cleaning, Pavement, Sports Team and Jonathan Richman. Touting themselves as "America’s Local Band", I hope they enjoy some worldwide success in 2023. Masterclass.
Brockhampton – The Family
The final album from a band formed via a Kanye West forum (back when that was an okay place to be), fittingly go out with a bang. Cribbing heavily from that once-great artist’s golden period, from the heavily sampled and distorted soul tracks of The College Dropout, to the ultra-reflective honesty of My Dark Twisted Fantasy’ and the fuzzy bass-
driven glitches of Yeezus, Brockhampton give us all this and more in their own inimitable style on their final output.
It's been such a great year of releases, and a choice of two albums for Album Of The Year was incredibly tough; check out TM Staff Spins: Albums Of The Year 2022 (So Far), as I’d put these, along with those, as a four-way tie for first place.
James Smith: Account Manager
Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia (Buy Here)
Fontaines D.C. returned this year with their third album Skinty Fia, titled after the old Irish saying meaning “the damnation of the deer”.
The record finds the band continuing to evolve their sound, pushing way beyond their previous boundaries enough to not be pigeonholed into one genre. Notable standout tracks on the album for me are 'Jackie Down The Line' and 'Roman Holiday'
Jamie T - The Theory Of Whatever (Buy Here)
Jamie T is back in the game after a six-year-long hiatus and it's like he never left. The album sees Jamie balance his rough, mouthy, unrefined style with more gentle and soft moments, a balance he juggles perfectly throughout.
Notable standout tracks on the album for me are 'The Luddite' and '90's Cars'. All in all, the record is well worth the six-year wait and I hope he doesn't leave it so long next time.
Nic Staffa: Account Manager
Chase & Status - What Came Before
What an album, from start to finish! Another masterpiece from the duo. This is an album to reflect back on the journey that Chase & Status have been on when they first fell in love with electro music.
Pip Millet and Clementine Douglas are such a vibe on the album that anyone will be having a bit of a groove listening to their vocals. The best track for me is 'Censor' (featuring Popcaan & IRAH). It's just what every DnB head wants!
P Barney Barnes: Head Of Digital
Grafix – Half Life
After a collaborative career as one half of V & Grafix, a duo who have released a decade's worth of massive tracks on leading drum n bass label Hospital Records, Grafix dropped his solo debut Half Life in May 2022. If my award for Album Of The Year is judged purely on the record with the most repeat plays, then this LP has it in the bag, propelling me through a year of wild workdays, weekend wanders and jumping gym sessions in equal measure. Fans of dancefloor drum n bass have had a great year with huge releases from the likes of Wilkinson and Chase & Status, and Grafix's meticulously-produced record more than holds its own. The single 'Somewhere' typifies the project's masterful balance of soulful synth textures and tasteful toplines above booming basslines and driving beats; check out the insane arpeggiator overload of 'Blast Out' for a taste of how inventive and intense things get.
Sinneslochen Inc – POLYBIUS
Sinneslochen Inc is the latest pseudonym of electronic producer and composer Damon Baxter, most widely known as Deadly Avenger, a veteran of the worlds of big beat, synthwave, cinema trailers and library music. Released on boutique British synth and soundtrack label Burning Witches Records, POLYBIUS is an imaginary soundtrack to the fictitious 1981 arcade game and infamous urban legend Polybius (they already had my money with the concept and cover art!) Playing the coin-op supposedly produced intense psychoactive and addictive effects in the player and Sinneslochen Inc takes us through the immersive sonic journey that might have been. Analogue bleeps and blips cascade around crunchy 8-bit hats and kicks that evoke both the warm familiarity and cold otherness of a dream of childhood; retro-futurism haunted with the echos of 80s arcades looking to make contact from a strange new world.
Polybius isn't currently on Spotify so I've included another of my tracks of the year on our playlist instead: the fearsome Andy C remix of The Prodigy's 'Firestarter'. Incendiary stuff!