I’m never really been one for pulling together any ‘best of year’ lists, mainly for the fact that I’ve long been in the habit of not buying new music from September onwards so that I can offer up lists to folk who are looking to give me Xmas presents.
2022 has been different, primarily for the fact that myself and Rachel have decided to really cut back on such extravagance and instead to go a few larger sized combined gifts in the shape of a few city breaks overseas next year. We’ve also told extended family members and friends not to bother with Xmas presents for us this year…for too many folk, especially those with kids, every penny/pound is precious with the ridiculous increase in the cost of living these days.
All of which means I’m able to offer up a list of my favourite purchases this year. Apart from the first mentioned, they are not in any particular order.
Happy Ending – HiFi Sean and David McAlmont (Last Night From Glasgow)
It feels strange to be mentioning this double album as it won’t get a general release until February 2023, but it was provided to patrons of Last Night From Glasgow (LNFG) back in September as part of the bundle of records that came with the 2022 subscription, and indeed I’ll hang off from saying too much until it is available in the shops.
Thirteen glorious pieces of music spread across a double album (my version is on clear vinyl), I was lucky enough to be at LNFG’s headquarters when the test pressing had just arrived and so was treated to an early listen of Side A which opens with the title track. It blew me away and got me very impatient for the arrival of the album. My understanding is that the plan had been to have it on general release in September 2022, but capacity issues at the pressing plant meant it had to be done in various batches, and the decision was taken to push the release back to next year. However, enough copies had been pressed to enable the LNFG patrons to be given their copy as scheduled.
David McAlmont‘s voice has always been something to treasure, but there’s something truly special about the way it matches up with Sean Dickson‘s electronic and production wizardry. Much of the album was recorded, over an extended period, in David’s home which is on the 18th Floor of a high-rise building in east London, while the added strings were conducted and recorded in Bangalore, India, which should give you a sense of how lush and exotic it all sounds.
The duo have been trailing the release with the release of videos over on Sean’s YouTube channel – click here. Here’s one of the videos –
You Had A Kind Face – Butcher Boy (Needle Mythology)
The fact I’ve placed this release below the HiFi Sean/David McAlmont album should speak volumes.
I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a total groupie when it comes to Butcher Boy, and the long-awaited release of a ‘best of’, courtesy of Pete Paphides‘ wonderful Needle Mythology label (on which Robert Forster has also had two long out-of-print albums issued on vinyl) did not disappoint. Beautifully designed and packaged, complete with liner notes from award-winning novelist John Niven, the album offers up twelve of the very best from one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets, while a bonus 7″ single delivered three band new songs, the first new material in five years.
I wrote extensively about You Had A Kind Face back in April. Click here if you fancy a read,
The Overload – Yard Act (ZEN F.C/Island Records)
I can’t recall when I first encountered Yard Act. I don’t listen much to the radio these days, so it was unlikely to have been there. I also don’t watch too much in the way of TV, but I do use YouTube when I’m a bit bored, and I’ve a feeling that, having watched a few favourite new videos, Yard Act were a recommended watch that I clicked on, but the song did sound familiar, so I might have heard them firstly on BBC Radio 6.
It would have been for the single The Overload, an infectiously catchy effort that came out in late 2021, complete with tongue-in-cheek and memorable promo. A few clicks here and there led me to come across a few earlier singles, and I was more than intrigued.
The debut album, also called The Overload, came out last January and I picked up a copy, on green vinyl, in a well-known Glasgow independent record store within a few days. It’s remained on heavy rotation ever since, to the extent that Rachel is now fully familiar with the band and will join me in going along to see them play Glasgow Barrowlands in a few months time – their previous visits to the city have coincided with me being elsewhere!
One reviewer has said that Yard Act consist of ‘sharp guitars, even sharper lyrics, plenty of fun and lots of attitude’, which is about as perfect a summary as can be offered. They are my favourite discovery of 2022.
Super Champon – Otoboke Beaver (Damnably)
The onset of the pandemic was cruel to many singers and bands, none more so than Japan’s Otoboke Beaver whose members had just taken the decision to quit their full-time jobs and have a serious go at making a living from their music, ten years after first forming.
Plans for tours in the USA and Europe had to be shelved, as indeed their intention to record a new album. The timings were initially pushed backed, and while the new album did eventually hit the shops in last Summer, the UK gigs were again pulled as COVID restrictions made travelling and touring complicated and tricky. I hope, somehow, they can be re-scheduled for 2023.
In the meantime, Super Champon did not disappoint. It’s the usual highly energetic and breathless mix of superfast post-punk music, with none of the songs coming close to overstaying their welcome. Indeed, it is something of a shock to the system that the whole album is over in just a little over 21 minutes….especially when you consider you’ve actually listened to eighteen tracks!
Oh, and there are nine songs on each side of the album. Side A is something of a marathon with a running time of 14:25…..while Side B is seemingly over faster than a Usain Bolt 100m race with its nine tracks extending to all of 7:18…..with two songs taking up more than four of those minutes.
Here’s a track from Side A:-
While here’s the full 18 seconds of the fourth track on Side B. It took me longer to type out the song’s title than it did to listen to it:-
Mr Morale & The Big Steppers – Kendrick Lamar (Top Dawg Entertainment)
As with the Otoboke Beaver album, this one also has eighteen songs, but with the running time stretching to 73 minutes, it needs four sides of vinyl to accommodate them.
Kendrick Lamar’s first new album in half-a-decade is not an easy listen, certainly in comparison to Good Kid M.A.A.D City (2012), To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) and Damn (2017), whose songs cemented his place as the most eminent and best hip-hop artist currently on the planet. It’s an album from which the rewards really come from repeated listens, which I was more than happy to do as I had picked up tickets for a live performance in Glasgow at the beginning of December 2022, a show for which I would write this review for SWC’s blog, No Badger Required.
Mr Morale & The Big Steppers was a long time in the making, and it comes from a period of well-documented turbulence in America, particularly for black people. Kendrick Lamar doesn’t shirk from addressing many of these big issues, but it’s an album in which he makes reference to his own life, reflecting, often in a downbeat manner, on his upbringing, his family, his fame and success, and his unwillingness or inability to be the spokesman for his generation or community. It’s an album in which a lot of anger and bitterness comes through, partly at the state of the world right now, but also as much at himself for his failings as a person.
As you can imagine, it proved to be a complex album to make sense of, certainly over the first few listens, but with time and my own willingness to not seek to compare it with the aerlier albums, I came to the realisation that it is a masterpiece, albeit not without imperfections.
That’s the five albums I most want to highlight.
Honourable mentions also to:-
Album Club – Album Club (Last Night From Glasgow)
A Brighter Beat (15th Anniversary Edition) – Malcolm Middleton (Full Time Hobby)
Broken Equipment – Bodega (What’s Your Rapture)
Everything Was Forever – Sea Power (Golden Chariot Records)
Fear Fear – Working Men’s Club (Heavenly)
Summer Lightning – The Bathers (Last Night From Glasgow)
The Last Thing Left – Say Sue Me (Damnably)
The Voltarol Years – Half Man Half Biscuit (R.M. Qaultrough Records)
Under The Bridge – Various (Skelp Wax Records)
Wet Leg – Wet Leg (Domino)