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Quietus Charts

Quietus Albums Of The Year 2022 (In Association With Norman Records)
The Quietus , December 31st, 2022 10:05

These are our favourite albums of the last 12 months, as voted for by tQ staff, columnists and core writers

Picture by Lisa Cradduck

Trying to instil some order into my laptop's filing system recently I came across the document that John Doran and I put together when we were pitching what became The Quietus 15 years ago this month. It's quite an odd experience, looking at these paragraphs of SWOT analysis, daft ideas (whatever happened to the planned 12 Inches Of Joy feature?), and determination thrashed out in a kitchen to think just how much, and how little, has changed.

Web 2.0, which we were setting out our stall in opposition to, barely exists in the form that it did then. In our pitch there's no mention of social media. However, scanning through certain parts stand out: "we will ignore the received wisdom that less is more," and our plans for in-depth articles and going against the consensus – I like to think that hasn't changed one iota. Back then, we had no idea if we'd ever get the gig running the site. When we lost our initial funding in September 2008 and carried on as an independent publication, we didn't think we'd last the year, let alone still be here for another 15. On a personal level, it is quite strange to feel that I've now devoted over a third of my time on earth to The Quietus. It has been a life-changing experience, but a tricky one too as we've tried to shepherd the site through the many crises that have befallen the media in that time, from the collapse in online ad revenue to the fact that we can't afford to employ a tech person to modernise the site.

Fifteen years is a long time, and my relationship with music has changed completely in that period. I've been struck this year by a sense that as a community of music lovers, many of us have been thinking about our relationship with sound. The re-entry from COVID-19 is ongoing as we all try to work out our comfort zones when it comes to live music and clubs. The cost of living crisis has had a huge impact on what we can afford to do and buy. I've also noticed this reflectiveness in some of the best writing about music in 2022. It was in these pages, when Marc Burrows wrote a brilliant Black Sky Thinking article about his weekend at Glastonbury festival, dissecting artistic snobbery and our changing relationship to music as we age. Jude Rogers' The Sound of Being Human was the essential music book of the year for me, a fantastic deep dive into the psychology, neuroscience and, most importantly of all, personal relationship we all have with music at different points of our lives. Reading Jude's book was an inspiration as I re-examined my own connection to music as I sink deeper into middle age – up to the knees now, I reckon.

The music industry's vampiric obsession with youth, and the assumption that music is a 'youth culture', can present problems as you get older as you perhaps tend to find that the music you are really connecting with is made by more 'senior' artists. If you're not careful, it can be tempting to fall into cynicism, or an incarnation of LCD Soundsystem's 'Losing My Edge', moaning that things aren't what they were. Jude's book emphasised that music is a vital, living essence that changes as we change and what we look for from it evolves. Her words became a key to taking some of the pressure off, to delving into records old and new alike in a different way, taking them at face value, do I like this, or do I not? Does it move me? How does it speak to me now, in this moment, in 2022?

Happily, this has coincided with yet another mast year for the album as a form. I struggled to get my list down from about 30 records as I was filing my personal chart to compiler wizard John. What's striking looking through the full top 100 is that while some of the artists featured were barely out of nappies when we started tQ 15 years ago, others were then hitting their supposed peak, but have continued to evolve since to great reward. Others were in a period of hiatus or creative doldrums, but have come back with some of their finest work. As ever, we do not seek a defining cultural narrative, a fool's errand in the current moment. Instead, this list is an explosion of colour, inventiveness and joy. We hope that you enjoy listening to all of this as much as we have.

As we approach our fifteenth anniversary in 2023, I hope that we can continue to keep bringing you the best writing on these 100 artists, and of course so many more to come. This, as ever, comes with a caveat. It is still incredibly tough keeping an independent publication going at the moment. You probably don't need me to tell you about the various crises currently impacting everything we all love, from cuts to arts funding and vinyl production, to live music attendance numbers still being low. All of this has a severe impact on tQ's ability to continue in its current form, which is why we are now almost entirely reliant on our subscribers via the Steady platform. The Low Culture and Sound & Vision tier subscribers can now read this 100 best albums of 2022 while listening to huge playlists of all the music featured inside. We're currently trying to tempt more of you to join them with a special offer of a free month of the top two tiers, which will give you access to our archive of specially commissioned long read essays, podcasts, playlists and special newsletters and, for the Sound & Vision top tier, three exclusive releases by artists we love – find out what you get here, and sign up for the free month here to help us keep on Black Sky Thinking.

Will there be another fifteen years of tQ? With your support, we can make it happen and keep telling the stories of the music we love, whatever age you are. For now, we hope you find music that means the world to you now in the current moment from our chart and, as ever, please do support the artists by purchasing from our partners at Norman Records. Thank you for reading, and keep your eyes peeled for the charts for reissues, tracks and from all our columnists in the coming weeks. All the best to you for the rest of the year.
Luke Turner, November 2022

This chart was compiled by John Doran, and built by Patrick Clarke and Christian Eede. Ballots were taken from Robert Barry, Bernie Brooks, Jaša Bužinel, Patrick Clarke, Christian Eede, Noel Gardner, Ella Kemp, Sean Kitching, Jakub Knera, Anthea Leyland, Jennifer Lucy Allan, Peter Margasak, David McKenna, JR Moores, Mariam Rezaei, Alex Rigotti, Kez Whelan and Daryl Worthington

100. Autopsy –
Morbidity Triumphant
Autopsy sound rejuvenated musically as well as sonically on Morbidity Triumphant, with the album offering some of the most ravenous material they've dished out in years. It may not reinvent the Autopsy sound, but it's refined it to a diamond-sharp degree; the riffing and deranged lead guitar are both consistently imaginative, writhing around in a surreal and unpredictable manner and making faster tracks like 'Final Frost' or the barnstorming 'Maggots In The Mirror' sound utterly feral in execution. New bassist Greg Wilkinson (of Brainoil fame, not to mention Deathgrave, Graves At Sea etc) already sounds right at home, bringing a powerful amount of low-end to lumbering, doomy cuts like 'Flesh Strewn Temple' and 'The Voracious One', or the deliciously Iommic riff that closes 'Born In Blood'. It's not only impressive that Autopsy are still here 35 years after their inception, but still managing to release records that can easily stand up to their cherished classics. A triumph indeed.
Kez Whelan

99. Digga D –
Noughty By Nature
Though Digga D's Noughty By Nature throws together delicious R&B licks and samples Robert Miles' '90s trance classic 'Children' (!), gospel singing and '00s hip hop breaks, it feels profoundly of the now. Outlining a new chapter in the UK drill rapper's life, Noughty By Nature embraces his hometown of London while also throwing in guest appearances from Liverpudlian MC Still Brickin' and US rappers B-Lovee and Moneybagg Yo. Full of energy and passion, and finished off with polished production and sharp lyrics, Digga more than proves his place amongst his US and UK contemporaries, whilst staying true to himself.
Mariam Rezaei

98. Cheb Terro Vs DJ Die Soon –
Cheb Terro Vs DJ Die Soon
(Drowned By Locals)
More than heavy, the sole collision of Cheb Terro's rubber-tongued, staccato flow and DJ Die Soon's venomous grind goes hard as hell. Rapping mostly in Arabic, Terro's occasional English outbursts come across as emphatic punctuation – exclamation points in the form of 'FUCK MONEY' and 'FUCK THE POLICE' that more than get the point across for those of us who don't speak his native language. Released a year after Terro's untimely passing, there's a real sense of snuffed talent here. The dude was special, his chemistry with Die Soon equally so. Maybe I'm selfish, but I want volume after volume of this. Thankfully, this slim LP is nothing if not endlessly replayable – an essential transmission from a truly unique artist gone too soon.
Bernie Brooks

97. Cheri Knight –
American Rituals
(Freedom To Spend)
American Rituals is about as up my strasse as it's possible to be – bare-bones vocal constructions and vernacular post-punk influenced by deep listening, and minimalism, basically. Consider that this might appeal to fans of Steve Reich, Michelle Mercure and Ut, and you should start getting the picture of the sound world contained. There's something deeply foundational about the instruments Cheri Knight uses, and the lexicon in particular – primary colours, prime numbers – that assemble the tracks' structures. There's also nothing extraneous. Knight made the tracks on this album, which have previously been scattered among a variety of compilations, in the early ‘80s. At this time she was part of the lesser-known DIY scene around Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where she studied composition. She worked with Pauline Oliveros, performance artist Linda Montano, and later in the alt-country band Blood Oranges, before moving into flower farming.
Jennifer Lucy Allan

96. Dale Cornish –
Traditional Music Of South London
(The Death Of Rave)
Dale Cornish genuinely surprised me here, with acoustic guitar-playing and singing folded in among the thickets of his signature electronics. I love surprises, so this is probably my favourite Cornish album, ever. I particularly love the framing – because what is traditional music of south London in this day and age? Cornish's answer is this, his own collection of urban folk music – harsh electronics; the sound of clubs from the other end of an alleyway; bedroom monologues. It works best if you think of it in terms of Harry Smith's archetypes for his American Anthology Of Folk Music, i.e. there are ballads (the stuttering finger picking and slow drawl of 'Norman Lewis'), social music (the click n' slap electro minimalism of 'Great Storm') and songs (the radar pulse and dry half-rap of 'My Geography').
Jennifer Lucy Allan
95. Nwando Ebizie –
The Swan
On The Swan, Nwando Ebizie mines her own Nigerian identity, and in particular being Igbo, but uses this as a portal to further discovery, with references to neuroscience, Black Atlantic rituals, and science fiction, querying strictures we might find ourselves smarting under. The Swan is an act of reclamation – of rituals and collective ceremonies that are being corroded by rampant capitalism and an internet culture that presents as empowering, but actually trades on fragmentary rhythms. And fragmentary rhythms are all over this record, with 'Battle Cry''s brass plunging us into a whirlpool of collective experience, picking us up and sweeping us along to 'I Seduce', with its darkly satirical narrative of girls from a future society stumbling upon the "manosphere," wondering what women must have done to be so hated, with a sense of rage crackling above muffled, driving percussion.
Siobhan Kane

94. 50 Foot Wave –
Black Pearl
The notion that 50 Foot Wave exist as a channel for music deemed 'too weird' for Throwing Muses is one that persists in writing about them, but is really rather misleading. 2020's Sun Racket deployed a similarly rough-edged sound and largely mid-tempo songs, but Black Pearl ratchets up the noise element a little further, creating a hazy, heat-saturated and impressionistic sound world that is aptly expressed in the album's cover with its lush vegetation encircling the sky as the sun begins to rise. This album is too much of a piece to be picking out favourites, yet it is also one whose subtleties really reveal themselves on subsequent listens. Go on, dive in. Soak up the heat, discover what's hidden underneath the overgrown foliage. You know you want to.
Sean Kitching

93. Gi Gi –
(Good Morning Tapes)
Bringing together Tangerine Dream-like, Krautrock synth odysseys and nods to the ambient and jazzy D&B of LTJ Bukem's Good Looking Records in the mid-to-late '90s, Texan producer Gi Gi's latest album was said to be pieced together through a patchwork sampling process. Cuts like 'Got Away Dub' and opener 'Dawn Song' are replete with colourful, Balearic goodness, while 'Two Ones' finds natural bedfellows with the ambient breakbeat and jungle currently being pushed by artists from the 3XL and West Mineral Ltd. stables like Exael and Pontiac Streator.
Christian Eede

92. Maylee Todd –
(Stones Throw)
On her debut album for Stones Throw, Maloo, ​​Canadian artist Maylee Todd delivers science-fiction soul music that borrows from undersung electronic greats. She rolls out a soft rug of synth tones to croon placatingly atop, the same cute sounds that throwback new-age artists were working with. Tracks like 'Age Of Energy' and 'Tiny Chiffon' make the hypnotic world of Hiroshi Yoshimura more bubbly without losing its sense of whimsy, and the latter portion of the album gives way to Mort Garson-like synth calligraphy.
Nathan Evans

91. black midi –
(Rough Trade)
The appeal of Hellfire is that there is simply so much to it. Littered with alluring antagonists, absurd anti-heroes and a byronic narrator to match, it's a joy to find yourself lost in the Grand Guignol of the London group’s latest opus. Each track Geordie Greep pens is a tilted vignette, an obscure and compelling short story – if Hellfire be the modern depiction of eternal damnation, it certainly retains the absurdity that it has had for all time. But perhaps most importantly, musically, the album is a righteous maelstrom, a demon-stration of what this group can do when they allow themselves to be let off the leash. It's not just the skronking US Maple guitars, the cathartic squawking Aylerisms of the saxophone breakdowns, or the sheer mania of the best rhythm section operating in the world today. It's also the softer touches too: caresses of slide guitar and piano trills that colour in the album's quietest moments – the devil is all too often in the detail.
Cal Cashin

90. Loraine James –
Building Something Beautiful For Me
(Phantom Limb)
Loraine James pays homage to the very nearly criminally overlooked work of late composer Julius Eastman on Building Something Beautiful For Me, an electronic music album that continues his radical, minimal legacy, while Anglifying some of his messages. Like Eastman, James often stitches social activism into her music. Her album For You And I (tQ's 2019 Album of the Year) was a grimy, glitching pressure release of skittish beats and underdog anger. Building Something Beautiful For Me is a gentler listen by comparison, with some anger still there – just distilled into something more gleaming and triumphant. Her hypnotising chimes recall the holographic, mesmerising dream loops of Oneohtrix Point Never, while her flattened, low key vocals and loops for days conjure up solo tracks from another working class provocateur, Hackney's Dean Blunt.
Claire Sawers

89. Staraya Derevnya –
Boulder Blues
Gosha Hniu, Staraya Derevnya's driving force, enlisted the musical aptitude of ten accomplices for the group's eighth release, Boulder Blues. These contributions range from drums (Andrea Serafino) and bass clarinet (Yoni Silver), to choir (Dasha and Masha Gerzon), "objects" (Hniu) and, the Bergman-referencing credit of "cries and whispers" for Galya Chikiss. This ought to give some clue as to the tone: it's not the poe-faced approach of some experimental compositions, there seems to be genuine joy in the performances of these merry pranksters. ​​Musicians often speak of being conduits for sounds. Boulder Blues appears to have emerged out of something deep, timeless and possibly mineral.
Jon Buckland

88. Matmos –
Regards / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer
(Thrill Jockey)
With the exception of 'Flight To Sodom', which is four minutes of psychedelic electronic (heartbeat beats; delayed keyboards, choir-like choral bits), each song on Regards is less a song than a collection of moments which generally fade into or out of those bookending it. In this way, the album is a faithful take on Bogusław Schaeffer's avant-garde compositions, and the album picks up where Matmos' last record, the three-hour The Consuming Flame, left off. Sure, Regards clocks in at a relatively brisk 40-ish minutes, but it's not 40 minutes of neatly wrapped two-minute Ramones songs. Instead, it's 40 minutes of songs like 'Flashcube Fog Wares', a shifting phantasmagoria of mechanistic feedback that sounds like having one's brain pulled out through one's ears. Which I mean as a compliment.
Kevin O'Rourke

87. Iceboy Violet –
The Vanity Project
(2 B REAL)
The lack of connection over the last two years has clearly marked Iceboy Violet's debut mixtape. The unsettling distortion and death-like tempo on 'Atone//Blankface' is drenched in desolation, as is the skittering and minimalistic, Space Afrika-produced 'Urban Ambiance'. The isolation goes much further back than the pandemic though: the mixtape delves into issues of race – like the loneliness of growing up in a predominantly white area as Violet did as a teenager in Halifax – and art too: when you're making music the mainstream can't define or describe yet in a hinterland of rap, electronica, grime and noise, where is your place? That place is still undefinable and, as you'd expect from Violet's work to date, that's just how they want it.
Elizabeth Aubrey

86. Rob Mazurek Quartet –
Father's Wing
Wildly prolific cornetist Rob Mazurek has reduced his output in recent years and it seems to have brought him a renewed focus. His recent work is as good as, or better than, anything he's done previously. This is the second album with the quartet responsible for excellent 2019 recording Desert Encrypts Vol. 1, with pianist Kris Davis, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Chad Taylor. The top-notch group sound even more locked in here, operating as a collective to support a riveting consolidation of ideas and strengths by Mazurek. His experiments with wailing vocals, for example, have been unbalanced in the past, but here they make all of the sense in the world, as an extension of ecstatic horn blowing. But the real power is in his jagged yet indelible compositions which form a suite dedicated to his late father, who passed in 2016.
Peter Margasak
85. Emmanuelle Parrenin –
Targala, la maison qui n'en est pas une
W​​ith Targala, la maison qui n'en est pas une, experimental folk artist Emmanuelle Parrenin has completed the 'house' trilogy that began with 1977's Maison Rose. Released in March, it deserves a lot more attention than it has had so far, because it is at the very least the equal of Maison Rose. Were it just to feature the billowing, raga-ish folk of 'La Rêvelinère' and 'Entre Moi', which are woven from the same flaxen thread as much of the 1977 material, it would already be a wonder. But there are also signs that the techno experiments over the years (which include a collaboration with Etienne Jaumet, who also appears on the album) have left their mark – there's an increase in bass weight in places, while 'Delyade' is run through with a steady synth pulse – and she gives free reign to her psychedelic impulses on 'Epinette Noire', with its spiralling sax and backwards-sucked percussion.
David McKenna

84. Nikolaienko –
Nostalgia Por Mesozóica
Following last year's Rings, Nikolaienko has recorded an album that's like an archaeological excavation in musical terms, referring to prehistory and its imaginary soundtrack, as well as visits to a wild forest and a museum of curiosities. The aqueous electronic passages remind me of the achievements of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the innovative solutions devised in the 80s by experimental studios in Cologne or Warsaw. Sometimes there are melodic outlines reminiscent of the hauntological expeditions and trance-like repetitions that can be found in early Sun Araw records ('Tryglodydes'). Alchemical combinations of musique concrète, samples, synthetic parts with fairy-tale melodies ('Muzak For Mesozoic Showreel'), and sound-art ('Dark-Archeo') produce a varied, fascinating and original music narrative.
Jakub Knera

83. Hudson Mohawke –
Cry Sugar
Scottish producer Hudson Mohawke delivered stellar LP Cry Sugar whilst his classic track 'Cbat' was simultaneously being spun into a viral 'perfect-rhythm-for-a-shag' TikTok-athon. From sexy maximalist synths and expansive orchestral landscapes to donk riffs, vinyl trickery and slippery hip hop beats, there's very little Cry Sugar doesn't play with. It popped up as a solid soundtrack to many festivals over the summer, neatly riding the line between appealing to Gen Z EDM DJs, with just enough cheeky business for sample snitches, and heads that remember 'wonky' from the first time round.
Mariam Rezaei

82. Manja Ristić –
Him, Fast Sleeping, Soon He Found In Labyrinth Of Many A Round, Self-Rolled
Although gently augmented, Manja Ristić's field recordings are the focal point on Him, Fast Sleeping, Soon He Found In Labyrinth Of Many A Round, Self​-​Rolled the title inspired by a Gustav Dore illustration for Milton's Paradise Lost. Every sound she chooses has weight, it matters, and asks us to contemplate what it means to us. Rasping groans and whines, ominous feet in the gravel, on 'Jarbol' the clank of a cable hitting a flagpole alongside a seismograph troubling bass drone. Her assemblages of nature and electronics are doomy, they feel like they darken the room. A heaviness akin to staring into the night, triggering all the self- and world-reflection that comes with it.
Daryl Worthington

81. Huerco S. –
Brian Leeds' debut on Anthony Naples and Jenny Slattery’s ever-reliable Incienso label, Plonk, is something of a departure from the ambient music explored on his last album. It's also certainly not a return to the dubbed-out, lo-fi house music, infamously tagged as 'outsider house', that came before it. Frequently eschewing easily definable 4x4 rhythmic patterns, or any kick drums at all for that matter, Plonk's ten tracks intersperse thrilling nods to trap and drill music with more placid moments, such as the helter-skelter, clanging synths of opener 'Plonk I'. It’s the most wide-reaching entry in Leeds' discography yet.
Christian Eede

80. Blut Aus Nord –
Disharmonium – Undreamable
(Debemur Morti Productions)
You can never quite be sure what to expect going into a new Blut Aus Nord album and, true to form, the French outfit's latest album somehow feels like both a continuation and a total inversion of their last, 2019's Hallucinogen. Disharmonium – Undreamable keeps that record's distant vocals and feverish, psychedelic atmosphere, but replaces its brighter sound and soaring, comforting guitar leads with harsh dissonance and an ominous, nightmarish hue. It's just as psychedelic as its predecessor, albeit in perhaps a less traditional way, and its harsher, more abrasive approach doesn't come at the expense of its intoxicating, hallucinatory aesthetic at all.
Kez Whelan

79. Death's Dynamic Shroud –
(100% Electronica)
Death's Dynamic Shroud expertly dart between glitch, vaporwave and synthpop to deliver an ambitious, riotous double album in Darklife. Equally as abstract as it is tender, the record surprises you with the heavenly ambience of tracks like 'I Just Wanted To Know Love', and the startling sincerity of 'Where Does It Come From?'
Alex Rigotti

78. Kode9 –
Being a concept album that functions as a portal to a parallel aural universe, I cannot listen to Escapology as a classic record, picking my favourite tracks and skipping the fillers. It is much more like a POV virtual reality adventure to be experienced in a single take. The productions are rather short, four-and-a-half minutes tops. They are employed as themes for different levels ('Freefall', 'Sim-Darien', 'Lagrange Point', 'Docking') with varying ambience and intensity. Each track comes across like a new challenge, provoking unpredicted sonic affects. Artificially-induced anxiety, a sense of disorientation, the feeling of falling and staring into the abyss, uncanny and haunting thoughts, it is all there.
Jaša Bužinel

77. Erupt –
Left To Rot
(Static Shock)
​​Geezers from three of my favourite bands in the last decade playing oily-denim tankard-raising riff mania that'd make the meekest wallflower want to crush a grape? Inject Left To Rot into my marrow! Erupt are fronted (and guitarred) by Al Smith, also of psychedelic hardcore lords Geld, and the rhythm section comprises Alessandro Coco, whose star turn for my money was in the brief, glorious Gutter Gods, and Kyle Seely, best known as a member of Philadelphia's Sheer Mag. All those bands are fun as fuck and I'd be willing to bet this one is funner, to play in, than the lot: there's nowt goofy about Erupt's type of punk metal, even when the instrumental breaks approach upturned-baseball-cap crossover thrash territory. It's just a dream assignment for anyone situated on extreme metal's grimy fringes.
Noel Gardner

76. Ani Klang –
Ani Klang
(New Scenery)
Ballistically bawdy digital queercore from a Californian rave theorist, operating in tandem here with London label New Scenery, Ani Klang is obsessed with kickdrums, going so far as to coin a nanogenre, 'Kickmusik', and pen a manifesto. On her debut album, the kicks are truly mule-esque, and the snares, basslines and samples aren't shy wallflowers either. The result is a sound that is analogous to ballroom and (New Orleans) bounce at its fiercest, but delivered in a way that could lay waste at Bangface. Hails!
Noel Gardner

75. Silvia Tarozzi & Deborah Walker –
Canti di guerra, di lavoro e d'amore
(Unseen Worlds)
There is a moment on this album where under the choir – who sing firm and in full voice like muscles flexed – strings pour in like mist under and around the women singing, lifting them upwards as if they were all on a cloud transcending into the heavens. The emotional dynamics of this moment are so intense I found myself shedding a tear while shopping for shampoo. This record is full of these moments of reflection, or lament, or the sadness of recognition; the flights of the heart and the toils of the mind. Even behind a language barrier, there is a deeply moving narrative bound into this album.
Jennifer Lucy Allan

74. Pink Mountaintops –
Peacock Pools
Abundant are the double albums that could be edited down to a superior single LP. Rarer are the single albums that possess so much chutzpah you'd be delighted to see them expanded to twice the length. Peacock Pools really should be a double album, like The Beatles by The Beatles. Its artwork is largely white, after all. It also sees Stephen McBean and his pals toying with an obscenely rich range of styles and influences. Alongside the expected lysergic alt-rock shapes, there are dabblings in squelchy synthpop, Haçienda-friendly dance rock, yacht rock with spiritual jazz décor, Americana-via-C86, anthemic arena metal, Kinks-ish honkytonk, a song about a cyclops which sounds like Chromeo Plays The Doors, and a tribute to fallen friends via the medium of thrash.
JR Moores

73. Ethel Cain –
Preacher's Daughter
(Daughters Of Cain)
Pop girls seldom balance sugar-sweet melodies and dirgeful backstory in the way they'd like, but Ethel Cain isn't just another pop girl. Like Billie Eilish before her, Cain's debut album feels like a sharp left-turn in the genre, in what's possible with pop and how much we can and should say about the intersection of religion and identity in a teenage girl's life, and just how petrifying those growing pains can be.
Ella Kemp

72. Saba –
Few Good Things
(Pivot Gang)
Something must be happening in Chicago. Maybe it always has been. But when I listen to this album by 27-year-old West Coast rapper-producer Saba, what I'm reminded of first is not so much any records by his immediate contemporaries in the US hip hop scene; more moments from recent albums by Jeff Parker and Ben LaMar Gay. It's not so much the sounds you can actually hear on the record (although, every now and then…), but rather something about the bounce of it, that certain lilt it has, the feeling of light gleaming through the cracks between the notes. But no matter how many blocks of real estate might separate them on a map of the Windy City, isn't it odd that two scions from such a venerable, half-century old jazz institution as the ACCM and the hot kid from the cool young hip hop collective across town should seemingly be taking notes over each other's shoulders? Things ain't like that in London, at least.
Robert Barry

71. Rosalía –
Songs of all flavours – flex songs, sex songs, heartbreak ballads and lamentations towards fame – are all given level standing on MOTOMAMI. The highs here hedonistically bounce around big beats, and Rosalía can rap just as coolly about her status and influence as she can get you wrapped up in it. Even the most by-the-numbers reggaeton cut, 'Chicken Teriyaki', is contagious, and finds space to nod at the album's inner conflict: "Yeah, fame's a prison sentence," she raps, "but tell me what other girl's gonna buy you dinner?"
Nathan Evans

70. Laura Cannell –
Antiphony Of The Trees
In moments of quietude that blanket us, imagine the piercing yet melodic trills of a bird song that grow louder and stronger to drown out any touches of stillness – this is the moment that UK composer, performer and improviser Laura Cannell captures in her striking seventh solo album Antiphony Of The Trees.The layered collection of eleven tracks is framed by Cannell's trademark pull of experimental semi-composed, semi-improvised soundscapes which tease the lines of perfectly polished and deeply organic as she draws inspiration from the crisp melodies of birdsongs and channels it through the raw power of a recorder.
Malvika Padin

69. Carmen Villain –
Only Love From Now On
(Smalltown Supersound)
Only Love From Now On is the fifth in a string of near-perfect, roughly album-length releases that kicked off with the release of Both Lines Will Be Blue in mid-2019. I've written about Carmen Villain's aesthetic at length before: "gentle but never wimpy"; "the crossroads of dub, ambient, and new age"; "canyon-esque dub space." And all of that still applies. What we're witnessing here isn't radical reinvention (which is hugely overrated anyhow), but the continued refinement and mastery of a specific milieu, and the judicious introduction of new elements and a new collaborator in Arve Henriksen – who joins Villain on trumpet and electronics along with longtime collaborator Johanna Scheie Orellana on flute.
Bernie Brooks

68. Immanuel Wilkins –
The 7th Hand
(Blue Note)
Alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins composed this seven-part suite with a meaningful parallel between religious devotion and group improvisation. The progression of the music, climaxing with the ecstatic 26-minute closer 'Lift', which occupies nearly half of the album's running time, is designed as an exercise in “vesselhood." The musicians in his tight-knit quartet (bassist Daryl Jones, pianist Micah Thomas and drummer Kweku Sumbry) are merely containers for a unified improvisational process that transcends written notes by the end of the session, which is the metaphor for spiritual release. The first six pieces arrive as exceptionally sophisticated manifestations of different current jazz strains informed by a deep sense of history, while the closing piece is an unfettered expression of freedom, the notes on the page little more than a husk at that point.
Peter Margasak

67. Julmud | جُلْمود –
Tuqoos | طُقُوس
From the tape rewind melody, vortical harp motifs and jerky beats of the overture 'Basmala', Julmud promptly lets us know we are in for a special treat with Tuqoos | طُقُوس. A representative of the contemporary Palestinian progressive music scene, the Ramallah-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist has collaborated with innovative compatriots, such as Haykal, Al Nather, Muqata'a, Makimakkuk and Walaa Sbait, and has now gone on to crystallise his vision on this debut for the label Bilna'es. Tuqoos is an album characterised by a clear ambition to go beyond any genre-based expectations both in terms of form and aesthetic, all the while retaining an utterly alluring sonic aura. Most productions are instrumental, but when he raps, he spits his bars in a commanding tone that grabs you by the throat.
Jaša Bužinel

66. Beyoncé –
(Parkwood Entertainment)
A celebration of club music in its various forms, Beyoncé described her seventh solo album in the liner notes shared via her website as "a place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking." The resulting album is still replete with the glossy production touches that one might expect from a record by one of the world's biggest artists, but sees her pay tribute to the Black and queer artists, and spaces, who gave us much of the electronic music that so many hold dear today. 'Pure/Honey' samples vogue-ballroom legend Kevin Aviance, 'Summer Renaissance' nods wholeheartedly to the disco shimmer of Donna Summer, and Honey Dijon is tapped for production on expansive standout cut 'Alien Superstar'. As Beyoncé rolls through references to reggaeton ('I'm That Girl'), hyperpop ('All Up In Your Mind') and Afrobeats ('Energy'), it's clear she's having fun on Renaissance, and, vitally, is unafraid to challenge a legion of fans who always have heavy expectations.
Christian Eede

65. Omertà –
Collection Particulère
Omertà's second release, Collection Particulière, which features Jérémie Sauvage of France on bass and Jonathan Grandcollot on drums, is avowedly a 'pop' album. It's underpinned by the latter's "streamlined" drumming style and the greater clarity of singer (and visual artist) Florence Giroud's cool, but not affectless, vocals.
David McKenna

Nocturnal Trance
(Hells Headbangers)
The five tracks that comprise Nocturnal Trance are deceptively detailed, with the album's washed-out sound belying a wealth of rich, textured soundscapes. Repeated plays of swirling, curiously meditative sonic vortexes like 'Poisonous Dark Apparitions' will reward the patient listener with all manner of hypnotic and oddly beautiful layers, all working in tandem to create an oppressively macabre ambience. It helps that there's a keen, if subtle, melodic sensibility here too – the album may do a good job of scaring off less adventurous listeners by opening with its longest, most abrasive track in the nine-minute 'Crystalline Telasthesia', but beyond the blistering blasts and harsh walls of noise, the way the track unfolds into a luxuriously dark, expansive soundscape without tempering its cold assault is pretty extraordinary.
Kez Whelan

63. Aldous Harding –
Warm Chris
Warm Chris is a tightly wound, crisp and straightforward record, a demonstration of Aldous Harding's now finely-honed abilities as a songwriter. It is also extremely weird, her voice flittering from moments of hypnotic warmth to a bonkers high-pitched squeal. The album is proof that when approached by a musician of sufficient ability, there is no limit to the breadth of experience a record could – and should – contain.
Patrick Clarke

62. Carl Stone –
We Jazz Reworks Vol. 2
(We Jazz)
For this release, Carl Stone is the latest participant in a series where artists are given carte blanche to use ten releases from the Finnish label We Jazz as source material for new works. Ideal territory for Stone, but also a bit new: the textures of jazz and free improv are decidedly different building blocks from that of pop, no matter how geographically wide his net has previously been cast. ​​Yet Stone takes to this source material like a fish to water, and the resulting pieces bear his unmistakable mark. Throughout We Jazz Reworks Vol. 2, snatches of bass melody fold over themselves and lapse into layers of digital detritus; horns melt into fragrant piles of simmering metal and plastic. Sometimes, as on the relatively brief blast of 'Omar', the throb and semi-repetition turns into something resembling early glitch music, moving with the tempo of the dancefloor even as it strives to trip up any fancy footwork.
Dustin Krcatovich

61. Fontaines D.C. –
Skinty Fia
At the core of Skinty Fia is Fontaines D.C.'s reckoning with their Irish identity. The title is the anglicised version of an Irish expression that drummer Tom McColl's great aunt – a Gaeilgeoir who speaks Irish as a first language – was fond of. It translates loosely as "The damnation of the deer," recalling the now-extinct Irish giant elk, and can also be used as an expletive roughly analogous to "for fuck's sake." The album opens in Irish with 'In ár gcroíthe go deo', which translates to 'In our hearts forever', the title repeated in a choral chant in the background through the entire song. That song is also a clear indication that the album is quite some step forward instrumentally too, a pounding industrial beat fizzing its way in under the elegiac choral refrain at the song's halfway point.
Patrick Clarke

60. Somaticae –
Alongside their fellow Prague residents Genot Centre, the catalogue of (mostly) tape label Gin&Platonic is a reminder some of the most ambitious electronic music is to be found on cassette. Even by their standards though, Kleis, from St. Etienne-based Somaticae, AKA Amédée De Murcia, hits new heights. This is imagination-firing music, luring your mind into dreaming up parallel universes where the regular laws of physics hold no weight. Layers of synthetic timbre weave into hyper-speed rhythms. At some points it sounds like an Edgar Varese composition for a trance sample pack, or a computerised no wave band. At others it melds polyrhythms into utopian synths to create zero-gravity breakdancing music.
Daryl Worthington

59. Blind Eye –
(Wrong Speed)
Nottingham band Blind Eye delivered one of the best hardcore/punk demos of 2019, laid low with the rest of us for a couple years and then came back with one of the best hardcore/punk LPs of 2022. It's got melody, noise, big-brain arrangements, timelessly simple passages, needle-pointed lyrics and a lineup consisting of people from Heresy, Bloody Head, Nadir and, in the case of singer Anmarie Spaziano, a Midlands grilled food franchise.
Noel Gardner

58. Sam Slater –
I Do Not Wish To Be Known As A Vandal
(Bedroom Community)
Sam Slater's latest for Bedroom Community is a cyclical exercise in transfixing slowness. Made up of two seamless suites, 'Darn!' and 'Kintsugi', this deeply affecting, intoxicating LP transports traditional orchestral instrumentation – woodwinds, strings, percussion, and voice – into the realm of the uncanny. Aided by his collaborators – Hildur Guðnadóttir and JFDR among them – and with Emptyset's James Ginzburg on the mix, Slater envelops his listeners in a luxurious sound world of slurred, syrupy sonics. They'll want to return.
Bernie Brooks

Following hot on the heels of last year's Bianca, WEAK SIGNAL's latest collection is unsettling in an extremely tuneful way. It is by no means a happy record. There are songs about poverty, mental and physical illness, loss, humiliation, annihilation and alienation. Luckily, the Jesus And Mary Chain-like melodies are fully gorgeous, with Mike Bones' hollow baritone enriched by Sasha Vine's lighter backing vocals. Whether in a faster or slower tempo, the songs chug along fuzzily, with a possible exception in the janglier palette-cleanser 'Spooky Feeling'. Oh, wait. Halfway through that one, the pervasive fuzz-chug kicks in too. It's a mesmerisingly morose journey, yet a scenic one too. Just don't whack it on the turntable when you're feeling at your most fragile.
JR Moores

56. Shygirl –
(Because Music)
On Nymph, Shygirl's debut album proper, the artist builds on the sensual energy of past singles like 'Freak' and 'Nasty'. With the help of a cast of collaborators and co-producers that includes Danny L Harle, Arca, Caroline Polachek and Vegyn, the record nods dizzyingly towards trap, hyperpop, '00s R&B, 2-step UK garage and rave breakbeats, as Shygirl's voice flits at will between seductive spoken word and a sugary-sweet falsetto. Packed with addictive hooks, humour and wide-ranging production, it's an impressive debut from one of the UK's most exciting artists.
Christian Eede

55. Wojciech Rusin –
(AD 93)
Soprano Eden Girma opens Sypon, singing in Latin of 'the mirror of truth', while Emmy Broughton sings a story of burning camps, blood waters rising and a man doing a litany of beastly things, one of which is lowing like an ox. Elsewhere, synthetically generated harpsichord and Wojciech Rusin's own pipe chanters rub up against digital glitches and whirrs, which are broken up by field recordings of woodland birds and sploshing water. Rusin describes it as 'speculative medieval music', and its sonic imagination is that of science-fiction set in alternative pasts or regressive futures – this might be music for Strugatsky's Hard To Be A God, or compositions performed by whatever mad composer remains in residence at the cathedral at Cambry in Riddley Walker. It comes from a place where glass, chrome and computers are sunk in the iron, mud and architecture of a century past that might rise again.
Jennifer Lucy Allan

54. Nik Colk Void –
Bucked Up Space
(Editions Mego)
There's a feeling in Bucked Up Space of pushing close to the edge, of risking going out of sync or letting the music collapse or decay, a tension that becomes at times exhilarating, as if Nik Colk Void is somehow constructing the mountain she is slaloming down. What unites the variation throughout the record, aside from Void's idiosyncrasies, is a feeling of world-building and an attendant sense of exploration, as if the creator is not entirely sure where it is all going. It gives the album the sensation of a live improvisation, however intentional it actually is, and it makes for a thrilling listen, full of surprises, ingenuity and left turns, as you'd expect of a member of Carter Tutti Void.
Darran Anderson

53. Mitski –
Laurel Hell
(Dead Oceans)
Mitski has always been uneasy with fame, and the uncomfortable invasion it invites from others into the soft, vulnerable parts of her life. Laurel Hell finds her throwing herself all the way into that abyss, with darker, more piercing lyrics than ever before and sporadic '80s throwbacks to engage with dance as a form of trauma release. Instead of blaming the world for her problems, she now points the knife back on herself. It makes for an album that is sadder, more dangerous and more thrilling than anyone thought she could ever sound.
Ella Kemp

52. Pimpon –
(Pointless Geometry)
Pimpon, AKA Poland-born, Copenhagen-based drummer and composer Szymon Gąsiorek defies easy categorisation on debut Pozdrawiam. Opener 'I've Made It To Another Station' sees his autotuned vocals repeat the titular phrase over a bed of field recordings and electronics, the repetition coming across like a musique concrète-tinged reimagining of Sparks' 'My Baby's Taking Me Home'. The collision of avant-garde and pop continues throughout. It's a pop album, it's a highly intricate sound art album, and it's a virtuoso psychedelic percussion album all in one. Flicking audaciously between incessant earworms, massive beats and intricate scrapes and rustles, the antithetical components amplify rather than dilute each other's impact.
Daryl Worthington

51. Pontiac Streator –
Sone Glo
(West Mineral Ltd.)
Emerging as a key figure among the consistently brilliant West Mineral Ltd. and 3XL rosters of artists who explore various submerged and smudged electronics (see also: Huerco S., Ulla Straus, Perila, Special Guest DJ and Exael), Philadelphia producer Pontiac Streator's latest album finds him in a distinctly blissful mood. Dealing in hypnotic, aqueous melodies, as well as disorderly drum patterns that might frequently have you wondering where exactly the '1' is, Sone Glo finds a midpoint between the most soothing moments of the '90s label Fax +49-69/450464's back catalogue, and the headsy IDM of old imprints such as Isophlux and Suction. What that means to say is it's quite simply gorgeous from start to finish, and one of the finest electronic music long-players you'll hear all year.
Christian Eede

50. Kelly Lee Owens –
(Smalltown Supersound)
Kelly Lee Owens' career as an artist has developed in tandem with, geopolitically speaking, a whole host of nightmare bullshit. And while she's touched on these troubled times before, LP.8 is the first of her records to really mirror them in feel – the hope and beauty, the exhaustion and melancholy – as well as in content, and the result is stunning. This thing she's made with collaborator Lasse Marhaug is unafraid and untethered and honest. It is by far her best record.
Bernie Brooks

49. Sofie Birch & Antonina Nowacka –
I feel I have known this album much longer than the few weeks I have spent with it. At one of the Unsound festival venues it was played in between the acts, and I had a moment of recognition, where I felt it was a record I had loved for years. I've said it before in this column and I'll say it again – Antonina Nowacka has such a distinctive voice and way of singing that makes me feel she is singing from beyond a threshold. She opens a small portal to a world not quite the same as this one. Birch's contributions only intensify this feeling, softening space and generating an aura in gossamer electronics and acoustics, shadowy echoes and vocal reflections. For fans of Joanna Brouk. Don't sleep! (Well, do, but only once you've hit play).
Jennifer Lucy Allan

48. Rigorous Institution –
(Black Water)
Sonically murky in some respects, with guitar and bass coagulating noisepunkishly, Rigorous Institution's addition of Hawkwind-into-black metal synth parts supplies an extra dimension and then some: without them, joints like 'Ergot' and 'Earthrise' might as well be different songs. They can still rustle up standout muscleman riffs, mind – the title track's some plundering, blundering Motörgoth exemplariness and 'Laughter' swings its axe with the mechanical stiffness of Godflesh if they'd recorded for the Hardcore Unlawful Assembly compilation. Rigorous Institution may not even care whether you like Cainsmarsh or not, but have made something with horizons well beyond their immediate PDX-scene crust-lifer environs.
Noel Gardner

47. Lala &ce, Low Jack –
Baiser Mortel
The union of producer Philippe Hallais, AKA Low Jack, and Franco-Ivorian rapper Lala &ce makes explicit the sonic affinity between French rap and left-field electronics. The soundtrack to a theatrical production of the same name – inspired by Mitchell Liesen's 1934 film Death Takes A Holiday – and with a cast that also includes several other fresh faces from the Gallic rap scene (BabySolo33, Jäde, Rad Cartier and Le Diouck), as well as producers Myd, Sam Tiba and even Félicia Atikinson, it's also a beautifully structured, flowing work that fuses shimmering cloud rap with sculpted dancehall rhythms.
David McKenna
46. Wu-Lu –
LOGGERHEAD is a vivid and expressive debut, built from the ground up using a multitude of sounds – chopped-up, thrown together and sometimes made to fit despite the obvious dissonance. From the atmospheric opening 'Take Stage', which eases you into this environment with strings that levitate around the vocals, to more furious and rowdy numbers like the unsteady, garage-influenced 'Facts' and fuzzy, grunge highlight 'Times', there is an intensity in the listening experience which carries you all the way through. It captures Wu-Lu's visceral discontent and a stream of consciousness that perfectly soundtracks, and encourages, the erraticism within.
Arusa Qureshi

45. Working Men's Club –
Fear Fear
Genre labels like 'post-punk' or 'synthpop' fail to encapsulate the singular sound on Fear Fear from Todmorden's Working Men's Club. Whether they're narrating nature’s terrifying power on '19', or the delirious fracturing of pandemic relations on 'Fear Fear', Working Men's Club have created some of the most thrilling, weirdo-pop this year on their second album.
Alex Rigotti

44. FKA twigs –
CAPRISONGS is a testament to twigs' voice, which has long broken out of that one mode of eerie breathiness. Here she's almost spitting alongside Pa Salieu on 'honda', and bouncing around the dancehall chaos of the Shygirl-assisted 'papi bones' like she was born to be there. Plenty of twigs songs build to ecstatic melodies, as on 'oh my love', but only on CAPRISONGS can that climax arrive at something akin to The Ting Tings. That being said, it seems that even when cutting loose, she has a hard time not committing something of poignancy to tape, like on 'meta angel' where she sings softly, "I've got a love for desire / I've got a pain for desire."
Liam Inscoe-Jones

43. Eric Chenaux –
Say Laura
Now at his seventh release with Constellation, longtime listeners of Eric Chenaux will find in Say Laura the distinctive sonic palette that the Montreal-born, France-based songwriter generated in his career, made of trumpeting guitars, fuzzy reverbs, and distorted picking; melding (semi-)improvised, jazz-adjacent guitar and a full songwriter croon; and once again enriched by the help of Ryan Driver, providing lyrics and the occasional Wurlitzer. There is an untethered quality to Chenaux's music. Vocals and guitars play a game of tag in his tracks, only with the pursuer at times swerving abruptly away from the one who is chased, and taking the listener with them, down the same unexpected directions that the greatest works of improvised music have taken.
Guia Cortassa

42. Gnod –
Hexen Valley
(Rocket Recordings)
A sense of community has been a perennially important part of Gnod's odd genetic make-up, and this has always extended beyond the band itself. It's wound in the spaces they've inhabited, their fluctuating all-doors-open approach to the group's lineup and a willingness to collaborate with artists from disciplines other than their own. Hexen Valley sees this sense of community playing out on a more parochial level: odd snippets of Hebden Bridge life, from fragments of pub conversation to ads thumbtacked onto shop noticeboards, seemingly giving credence to the old saw that it takes a village to raise a (mutant) child.
Alex Deller

41. Kramer –
Music For Films Edited By Moths
(Joyful Noise / Shimmy Disc)
For the most part, Music For Films Edited By Moths appears to distance itself from the music Kramer is known for. With each grand chord change and gorgeous harmonic resolution, each stately cello rasp and pizzicato pluck, the landlubbing world of scratchy psychedelia and subdued slowcore seems left further and further behind. The dubby excursions of the last two songs, 'Dreams We Never Dreamed' and 'Or Perhaps You Imagined It All', are surely the most expansive and otherworldly things he's ever been involved in. Each piece twists and rolls together, like a shoal of exotic fish making stately, wobbling progress through the fathoms-deep murk.
Will Ainsley

40. Porridge Radio –
Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky
(Secretly Canadian)
Coldplay and Deftones are among the stadium-bestriding influences Porridge Radio's Dana Margolin has cited for her band's much-anticipated new album. But the record's unique innovation is to take these familiar components – firecracker guitars, choruses that flutter gamely in the breeze – and to give them a body-horror twist, resulting in a project that feels simultaneously uplifting and unmooring. It's like going to a rom-com at the cinema and realising half way in that the director has inserted ghostly images into every frame. A lark of an afternoon is all of a sudden filled with dread. This is not only a testament to Margolin's gifts as songwriter and lyricist, but also to the uneasy cadences that she injects into her outwardly rhapsodic compositions.
Ed Power

39. ABADIR –
ABADIR's practice on Mutate resembles the style of fellow Palestinian producer and rapper Julmud, who on this year's album Tuquoos employs a wide range of styles and samples from the West Bank. Mutate is, in comparison, closer to experimental club music and stands as evidence of ABADIR's emancipation and self-confidence. The record presents an urgently danceable appeal that any remaining barriers in communication and understanding within club scenes must be torn down.
Miloš Hroch

38. Loop –
At first glance, Sonancy is an album that couldn't be made by anybody but Loop. Fuzz guitars? Check! Repetition? Step right this way, sir! A subtle garnish of ambient sounds to stretch out the sound and experience? Ambassador, you are really spoiling us! But hold it right there because dig that little bit deeper and that's where you'll find the real truffles: what we're talking about here is precision. With less decay and bleed coming from the guitars, Sonancy benefits from a greater degree of separation in its instrumentation. Consequently, every track gets to breathe. There's little stifling claustrophobia at play here and, much like the psychedelic experience, the music reaches and stretches out for a greater truth and space.
Julian Marszalek

37. Alison Cotton –
The Portrait You Painted Of Me
(Rocket Recordings)
The Portrait You Painted Of Me more than meets the exceptionally high standards Alison Cotton has set for herself. Her work can be compared to conceptual art, consisting of pieces that seem complete in themselves but acquire a whole new meaning when their purpose is explained. If this makes her music sound dry, it is anything but. She expresses visceral emotions through her viola, which cries in sympathy, whispers secrets, and groans in pain. Her voice has epic qualities, rising to fill a vast soundscape on 'The Last Wooden Ship' and closing in with the walls on 'The Tunnel Underground Seemed Neverending'.
Tom Bolton

36. Shit And Shine –
Phase Corrected
(Riot Season)
The latest jerk in Shit And Shine's, uh, eccentric aesthetic trajectory is pretty accurately charted by the geographic markers dotted over their last two LPs. If 2020's Malibu Liquor Store was a trip way out West which left the mind puddling drip by drip under the intolerable Cali sunshine like the ice bucket at some hooting backwater cookout, Phase Corrected opener 'North Atlantic' barrels in with slamming waves of heavily distorted bass which would topple an oil rig. Vacation over. Now back with long-term partners in piss-wringing label Riot Season, Phase Corrected might just top their previous release for the imprint – the pathologically unfriendly Goat Yelling Like A Man – in the meanness stakes.
Alec Holt

35. Osheyack –
Intimate Publics
The eight tunes of Intimate Publics throb and tremble like overloaded white goods. Right from the start of the album, the martial, malevolent 'Edging' has Venetian Snares-y metallic trills that seem to rattle their cages, a squeaky vocal line processed into puny rage, and a juddering, 3D bass quake that's just there. Likewise, the strange (and wonderful) staccato flow in 'Thrall' seems boxed in by the nervy, syncopated kick and hi-hat combo, and airless vocal treatments. Indeed, among all the churn and burn, some moments of beauty can happen almost accidentally; you admire the mechanical seethe in the way you admire the brushed chrome of a brand-new skyscraper.
Will Ainsley

34. Kali Malone –
Living Torch
(Portraits GRM)
On her latest two-part piece, Kali Malone jettisons "the king of instruments" for a new "electroacoustic ensemble," which features various orchestral instruments (trombone, bass clarinet), the quaint "drone box" boîte à bourdon, and the iconic vintage synth ARP 2500. The composition was originally commissioned by GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales) to be played on the gargantuan Acousmonioum loudspeaker system. I can only imagine how intense and all-absorbing the multichannel premiere of this piece was. Taking from the heritage of American minimalism and the French 20th century avant-garde, despite its monolithic soundwaves (like the most powerful sun rays piercing your body at noon at the height of summer) and apparently static nature, Living Torch is Malone's most dynamic and eventful work so far.
Jaša Bužinel

33. Haress –
(Wrong Speed)
At times, Ghosts evokes Bill Callahan in the mist, or Low. It has the sort of mid-Atlantic, lo-fi presence of the great Duke Garwood too, before finally reaching these shores with folk guitar reminiscent of Bert Jansch. On 'I Think, I Think', the accelerating reel and squirling brass suggests Haress are fellow travellers of One More Grain, whose Beans On Toast With Pythagoras is another highlight of 2022. 'Time To Drink' begins just on the right side of dirge, like a slowed-down funeral march played on hurdy-gurdys, before the reflective guitar starts pattering over the top, like raindrops dislodging dust. It's a fitting image given that Ghosts was recorded in a disused water mill. This blissed-out psychedelia is not quite pastoral – there's nothing twee about these unwinding grooves – yet evokes water and wood, light and shadow, a place of forgotten labour and the absent human form with a beguiling grace.
Luke Turner

32. The Utopia Strong –
International Treasure
(Rocket Recordings)
Steve 'Snooker' Davis, Kavus Torabi and Michael York return with their finest work yet on International Treasure, a blissed-out and escapist nine-track excursion that, despite this being a second album, seems to glow with a feeling of naive joy in experimentation. It's a wholesome cleansing of the third eye by psychedelia's oddest supergroup.
Luke Turner

31. Shovel Dance Collective –
The Water Is The Shovel Of The Shore
(Double Dare)
Shovel Dance Collective are proof that tradition and progression need not be in conflict with each other. Their material is sourced from the folk canon, however the way they approach it is entirely unique, embracing experimental improvisation and drone, as well as a radically inclusive political edge, to situate these old songs in a unique – and often deeply emotive – context. The first album proper from the London folk outfit is their boldest step yet, a series of four medleys. Working around a theme of water, they eschew the pastoral tweeness that dogs a lot of folk music. Instead, on the seas and rivers they find hard-edged tales of hard industry, oppression and exploitation, of fear and death, of love and longing and liberation. A thing of rare emotional power.
Patrick Clarke

30. Sarah Davachi –
Two Sisters
(Late Music)
Two Sisters ​​is 90 minutes of serene chamber drone bookended by the pitched percussive tolling of the University of Michigan's fifty-three bell carillon, the third heaviest in the world. Through grainy, muscular and textured pieces, cleaved from violin, viola, cello, and an array of organs, brass, and flutes, Sarah Davachi burrows into mournful sounds that are held for so long that they move right through you, sinking into your body by way of flapping eardrums and emanating out through your cells, capillaries, and veins. It's a molecular transformation. One that could deftly change the feeling of a room via a single resonating note.
Jon Buckland

29. Sarahsson –
The Horgenaith
(Illegal Data)
On Sarahsson's debut album, The Horgenaith, the beautiful and grotesque are constant companions. Opening track 'Ancient Dildo Intro' sends the listener hurtling through lurching, cavernous industrial (as if travelling through the bowels of an enormous cyborg) before breaking, with a series of sucking sounds, into a gorgeous piano prelude accompanied by tweeting songbirds. The album is gleefully volatile in approaching its weighty themes: bodily transformation, femininity's cultural proximity to nature, and Sarahsson's own experiences as a non-binary transfemme.
Alastair Shuttleworth

28. Nze Nze –
Adzi Akal
(Teenage Menopause)
Fans of Senyawa will find plenty to admire in Nze Nze's work. While the former thrust Indonesian folklore into a fearsome, post-industrial setting, the French three-piece take the warrior songs of the Fang, a Bantu people based in Central Africa, weld them to thunderous beats and drown them in echo. French vocalist Mathieu Ruben N'Dongo, whose father comes from the region (and who also records as Coldgeist and Sacred Lodge) has teamed up with the two members of duo UVB-76 (Gaëtan Bizien and Tioma Tchoulanov). They share a common attraction to the places where post-punk, industrial, dub and ritual rhythms meet, and Adzi Akal ('eat the metal') is the thrilling outcome.
David McKenna

27. Oren Ambarchi, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werliin –
(Drag City)
Oren Ambarchi's guitar-playing is on wonderfully nuanced form here, but the rhythm section hits quantum mechanical levels of intrigue. Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin's unique interaction is clearest on 'III'. The album's longest piece, it affords them the duration needed for the cumulative effect to take hold. Berthling's bass is a knotted loop of notes, full of constantly resetting momentum. Werliin's drums scatter and skip through the tangle, growing in intensity as they find ever more microscopic gaps to shape with rhythm.
Daryl Worthington

26. Wormrot –
Singapore grindcore trio Wormrot pulled out all the stops for their final record with long-standing vocalist Arif. Hiss delivers all the frantic, thrashy riffing and lightspeed blast beats we've come to expect from the band, but also pushes their sound into some interesting new places, be it the tribal noise of 'Pale Moonlight’, the spacious, atmospheric grooves of 'Sea Of Disease' or dramatic, surprisingly emotive pieces like 'Grieve' and stirring closer 'Glass Shards', bolstered by the startling violin of guest musician Myra Choo. Hiss is Wormrot's most imaginative, consistently surprising release yet, and one of 2022's most unique extreme metal records.
Kez Whelan

25. Mary Halvorson –
Amaryllis / Belladonna
Mary Halvorson has released a near impeccable run of albums over the past year or so: Never Is Enough with her trio Thumbscrew, Artlessly Falling with her lyric-based quintet Code Girl, Searching For The Disappearing Hour with Sylvie Courvoisier, and my personal favourite out of the bunch (along with this new release), John Zorn's Bagatelles, Volume 1 as the Mary Halvorson Quartet. Even if Halvorson were to release no further new music, a strong case would have already been made for her being one of the most inventive and distinctive voices of her generation. With this latest set of 11 tracks, her most compelling release since 2016's Away With You, Halvorson establishes without any doubt her position at the vanguard of jazz and modern composition. For anyone who is yet to get on board with her work, this stunning 'post-genre' release offers the best chance to date to start appreciating her multifarious musical activities.
Sean Kitching

24. Special Interest –
(Rough Trade)
Special Interest's third album, Endure, presents their most inventive, playful and accomplished music to date. Commanding its expanded palette with sincerity and ambition, it serves the group's political and personal arguments with a newfound incisiveness. Its real masterstroke, however, is that it seems to be in constant dialogue with itself, expanding upon, revising, and comparing its ideas in the pursuit of what the perfect Special Interest album might be like. The result is their best album so far.
Alastair Shuttleworth

23. Bill Orcutt –
Music For Four Guitars
I cannot get enough of Bill Orcutt's playing. Such power twang! He's really knocking it out the park the last few years. This latest one is also knocking me for six and is a killer synthesis of different Orcutts – you've got the Fake Estates Bill Orcutt who does things like A Mechanical Joey and Slow Troll (in a lineage that goes back to Harry Pussy's Let's Build A Pussy) and classic / American Bluesman Bill Orcutt, epitomised by his gnarled and triumphant 'Star Spangled Banner' or stinging covers of other songbook classics. The third strand is collaborations, and while the recent Corsano one was great I like him best solo, on guitar. Music For Four Guitars delivers some of the formalism of some of the Fake Estates releases in that it has an architecture ruling it, but the palette and blistering intensity is total gnarled Americana. Whether it's one guitar or four, I reckon he's my favourite living guitarist, no joke.
Jennifer Lucy Allan

22. One More Grain –
Beans On Toast With Pythagoras
As tQ's Luke Turner previously somewhat paid heed to in a Baker's Dozen piece, it seems inexplicable that the gatekeepers of indie 'cool' haven't taken this strange group to their hearts in the same way they have a Pictish Trail, a Jane Weaver, or a Richard Dawson. Perhaps it's because Daniel Patrick Quinn and One More Grain are just a bit too strange, a smidge too sly, just on the wrong side of experimental pop. Or perhaps because they have a LinkedIn page. Perhaps they'll wait another seven years to release an album, or Quinn will stay in Java teaching creativity and climbing volcanoes and being, as one of his friend's blogs so brilliantly dubbed him, an "extremely odd ball." Whatever happens, Beans On Toast With Pythagoras will remain as a strange shining beacon in this gloomy and certain age, a will-o'-the-wisp we all might follow up marshy pathways and rocky ascents.
Will Ainsley

21. EROS –
A Southern Code
You'd be forgiven for having never heard of EROS, but loyal readers of this site will surely recognise its constituent parts: the one and only Karl O'Connor (AKA Regis), Liam Andrews of tQ favourites MY DISCO, and legendary Einstürzende Neubauten-enabler Boris Wilsdorf. O'Connor's last two outings as Regis, Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss and The Floor Will Rise, had a certain lightness within them, a delicacy almost. A Southern Code snuffs that out. It has a slight death rock tint, a bit of Southern gothic tinge. It's real abattoir stuff. While not exactly hard or brutal, it feels merciless – in a way that recent Regis outings haven't.
Bernie Brooks

20. Persher –
Man With The Magic Soap
(Thrill Jockey)
Man With The Magic Soap is an oblique, even difficult record – certainly in the context of its producers and their core audience, and also the sort of music they’re plundering here, and the traditional audience for that. Jamie Roberts, best known as Blawan, and Arthur Cayzer, who goes by Pariah for his solo releases, are both pretty widely respected in the UK club music milieu. The duo's productions and live hardware sets as Karenn have established them as European techno mainstays – not easy-option crowdpleaser stuff by any means, but replete with mighty raveable girder-whack rhythms and acid froth. Persher should by no means be viewed as Karenn under a new name. Here they are subjecting guitars and drums to heavy digital processing rather than occupying an electronics-but-analogue middle ground. That should not, however, be taken to mean a total absence of commonality with their other project in Man With The Magic Soap's maggoty post-genre techsludge.
Noel Gardner

19. Big Joanie –
Back Home
(Kill Rock Stars)
Back Home is the sound of a band trying to expand their songwriting beyond the established punk rock austerity, touching on more universal themes such as maintaining relationships under capitalism ('In My Arms'), breaking out of harmful patterns (the Pixies-indebted 'Taut'), the housing crisis (the rootsy 'I Will') and hurtful interactions (the baroque 'Your Words'). Throughout the record’s 13 songs, Big Joanie leave no stone unturned, sifting through fresh backdrops in which their ethos resonates. And for the large part, they brandish vision and resourcefulness aplenty in this all-embracing quest. If previous record Sistahs lit a beacon, this latest album draws a roadmap – for both the band themselves and kindred spirits who have also been displaced. Indeed, it’s a thrill to find out how Big Joanie will tread it.
Jasper Willems

18. Real Lies –
Lad Ash
Real Lies' second album, Lad Ash, is definitely a London record (probably the only one this year to reference Patrick Hamilton's 20,000 Streets Under The Sky trilogy of the mid-1930s and the controversial Woodberry Down development), with all the euphoria and melancholy that the city brings, the lyrics often speaking of a city where the quest for the party increasingly has to keep a step ahead of rapacious landlords and moaning neighbours. Part of what makes it such a great album is how the the sound of the record might most immediately suggest Burial or The Streets, but the feel of it is closer to Suede's masterpiece, Dog Man Star. Like that album, Lad Ash is a homage to the "love and poison of London."
Luke Turner

17. Suede –
If Suede's last album, The Blue Hour, was the final part of a trilogy where Suede defined 'Suedeworld', then this latest record sees them standing firmly in it, facing defiantly outwards. The album has everything you expect from Suede: Brett Anderson's astonishing voice, those pulsing baselines, the violins, the rangy impossible guitars, and the powerful drums. But it's also a more mainstream record than they have made in years. Without losing what is wonderfully difficult about their music, they are bringing us what they are best at and offering something for people new to the band. There is less of the lexicon we have come to associate with Anderson's writing. There is petrol but there are no pylons. The messages in the eleven songs on this record are direct and confronting, almost aggressive.
Amah-Rose Abrams

16. Horse Lords –
Comradely Objects
(RVNG Intl.)
Comradely Objects is, in Horse Lords' telling, a more studio-assembled record than late-2020 predecessor The Common Task, but the result is less 'digital' in sound. The one standout moment for anyone invested in tracking their relationship to club music (especially after TCT), comes with the intro to 'Mess Mend', where a joyous Korg melody of an early-'90s piano house ilk plays itself out before rapidly mutating into something more bluegrass-adjacent – a guitar, tuned by Owen Gardner to sound remarkably like an electrified banjo and locking into a tense, dense trance as Max Eilbacher folds in acidic electronic hiccups. Horse Lords' interest in "rural American guitar and banjo styles" (Gardner's words when I interviewed the band five years ago) is a matter of record, but this deployment of them is a fine new horizon.
Noel Gardner

15. Claire Rousay –
Everything Perfect Is Already Here
(Shelter Press)
Much of Claire Rousay's practice is about appreciating the small moments in life that can be easy to take for granted – your late-night laughs with friends, your daily walk along the river. Everything Perfect Is Already Here again shines a light on how to begin to be more grateful for those routines, especially on the album's title track, which broadly explores the topic of love. Here, floating strings, stilted scratches and mumbles unite and disintegrate like the waves of action in everyday life. As mumbles become phrases, certain words pop out more than others, like the phrase "she's perfect," creating small snapshots of what it means to love and be loved. In music, Rousay wants to show us how something as powerful as love is simple at its core.
Vanessa Ague

14. SCUDFM –
(Dash The Henge)
On INNIT, ​​SCUDFM bring the right kind of catchy punk energy, their urgency jolting us awake from a collective brain fog in a moment of re-engaging in community life with newfound resilience. Most importantly, as a wider initiative, they’re posing the right questions by challenging the cultural impasse with a pointedly iconoclastic attitude, avoiding the easy targets like some far-right boogeyman of the mainstream left and dealing with more nuanced internal problematics instead. It may not be reinventing the wheel in sonic terms, but every track is deeply felt and lived, fresh and fun in spite of life turning consistently sour on you and blessed with a strangely moving narrative voice, unpacking amusement from the darkest corners.
Danijela Bočev

13. The Soft Pink Truth –
Is It Going To Get Any Deeper Than This?
(Thrill Jockey)
While companion EP Was It Ever Real? is minimal and deep house-inspired, double album Is It Going To Get Deeper Than This? is organic and expansive. It looks further back to disco, using a huge cast of voices and instruments to help capture more personal reflections of the dance music community and experiences of catharsis. Mark Lightcap's funky electric guitar holds the groove down on 'Deeper', as saxophone, flute and bright string flourishes come in and out of focus. It especially reminds me of 'Eye On The Wall' by Perfume Genius – another recent queer exploration of dance music that morphs from slender and spritely to stretched and formless.
Skye Butchard

12. Moundabout –
Flowers Rot, Bring Me Stones
(Rocket Recordings)
Flowers Rot, Bring Me Stones brings to mind the hidden qualities of the pillar stones (or gallauns) that litter Ireland. Though unassuming to the inexperienced eye, they are wreathed in lore, poetry, meaning, and, more literally, might stretch twenty feet below despite being only three feet above ground. Upon first listening to, say, 'The Sea' or 'Bring Me Stones', it's tempting to ask – as you might if stumbling upon a gallaun – "is that it?" But listen deeper. The lyric "waiting to be found" on 'Bog Bodies' is a perfect descriptor for the way these songs just squat there, lying in pieces like dead wood on a beach, or indeed a cadaver underneath a marsh. You might realise halfway through a song that there's a backdrop of humming, overtones, or unidentified found sounds. You are drawn further in with each recitation of a vocal refrain. Moods, loops and mantras start to spiral and twist like a barber pole, or that concentric carving featured on the album's sleeve. It's all heady, enveloping, brown acid stuff.
Will Ainsley

11. Širom –
The Liquified Throne Of Simplicity
To catch a glimpse of the sheer spectrum of Širom’s sound, imagine a set that includes the mizmar, balafon, rebab, guembri, banjos, hurdy-gurdy, tampura brač, lyre and ocarina, among other instruments. The Liquified Throne Of Simplicity, their magnum-opus, is a double release where each song barely fits on one side of vinyl. The group draw inspiration from the raw bass and trance of Natural Information Society, stretching the narrative from meditative and soothing to a growing wall of sound in 'Grazes, Wrinkles, Drifts Into Sleep'. In turn, 'Prods The Fire With A Bone, Rolls Over With A Snake' begins with a repetitive motif on the banjo, complemented by Ana Karanja's vocals through a stunning crescendo, where violins and choral singing combine into stereophonic polyphony on percussion. This ingenious balancing act is a fantastic counterpoint to the trance landscapes of the Slovenian trio.
Jakub Knera

10. Oren Ambarchi –
(Drag City)
The inspiration for Shebang came when Oren Ambarchi first heard guitarist Julia Reidy perform on a twelve-string acoustic guitar in Melbourne. As he listened to her looping, plucked melodies, he began to imagine other parts around it, like a ride cymbal; the two would later meet up and record a clip together that would be forgotten about for a while. On Shebang, her playing appears in shimmers, surrounded by ticking percussion, upbeat piano and a swath of other sounds that Ambarchi spliced together from each collaborator. The album wasn't made with each person in the same room – instead, each artist recorded something in their own voice and Ambarchi connected the dots. There's something enticing about the ways the album offers each artist their own space yet still maintains cohesiveness, finding the connections between each line to form a quilt made of each artist's individuality.

Both Ambarchi's 2022 albums, Shebang and Ghosted, are marked by careful pace and precision. Musically, both of these albums exemplify the richness of letting one, simple melody branch out, seeing how repetition and layering can subtly, even imperceptibly, alter the trajectory of a phrase. On Shebang, these shifts come through in radiant waves. The feeling of the album is often optimistic – flickering, vibrant hues emanate from the ever-growing patterns that Ambarchi and his collaborators establish together. At times, its exuberance feels like a celebration, but it never gets too loud or boisterous. Instead, Ambarchi draws from the power of potential energy, letting sound build and churn in quietude, never quite rupturing.
Vanessa Ague

9. Emeka Ogboh –
6°30'33.372"N 3°22'.66"E
On 6°30'33.372"N 3°22'0.66"E, Emeka Ogboh's second album, the Nigerian sound artist zooms in on Lagos' bustling Ojuelegba bus station and its surroundings, having previously focused on the city's wider soundscape on his also outstanding 2021 debut Beyond The Yellow Haze. Billed as an ode to the bus station and the chaotic transport system that exists around Lagos' iconic yellow Danfo buses, this latest album is built around field recordings captured by Ogboh a number of years ago at Ojuelegba. Those recordings include words from the conductors and drivers of the buses, reeling off descriptions of bus stops, information about the area's history, intimate details about their day-to-day lives, and mentions of the nearby red light district of Ayilara, besides lots more, all in Nigerian Pidgin.

As with Beyond The Yellow Haze, Ogboh pairs those recordings – of frenzied traffic jams and personal conversations – with deeply hypnotic rhythms ('Verbal Drift', 'Ayilara') and chugging techno beats ('No Counterfeit') that, vitally, afford his other sounds significant space to breathe. Beautifully capturing the disorder that can come with navigating Lagos' hectic streets on public transport via fittingly noisy recordings of just that, there's a paradoxically soothing quality to the way that Ogboh weaves together all of his source material and the dub-indebted percussion that runs through the record.
Christian Eede

8. The Ephemeron Loop –
Psychonautic Escapism
(Heat Crimes)
The Ephemeron Loop is the latest project born from the mesmeric inner-world of Vymethoxy Redspiders, better known as Urocerus Gigas from Leeds-based xenofeminist rock duo Guttersnipe. Born in Bangor, North Wales, Redspiders has been based in Leeds since 2013, where she has established herself as an underground powerhouse. Debut release Psychonautic Escapism is a "synaesthetic acid bath that cracks open the doors of perception," tracing Redspiders' break through her pre-transition life of black metal into a new life of shoegaze music, psychedelic drugs and raves in the Leeds queer underground scene.

Redspiders' realities of autism, ADHD and trans identity shapeshift through languid flashes of dream pop ambience, doom and hardgrind. Guitars, drums and vocals interlace, darting between hyper-speed death metal, psychedelic dub and breakcore in this stunning solo release. Psychonautic Escapism, an album full of continual sonic and poetic transformation, took 14 years to make. Redspiders describes The Ephemeron Loop as coming into existence at a crucial juncture in the formation of her identity, including "my becoming as a trans woman, my understanding of neurodivergence, and my experimentation with mind-altering substances."
Mariam Rezaei

7. Kendrick Lamar –
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
(Top Dawg Entertainment)
"Done with the black and the white, the wrong and the right," raps Kendrick Lamar on the stunning opener to his long-awaited fifth album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, 'United In Grief'. It sums up the record's philosophy, an embrace of the chaos of the inbetween, the war between ego and vulnerability, human nature as contradictory thoughts and opposing urges; Lamar's refusal to buy into simplistic binary thinking and to embrace the messy multiplicity of human experience instead. It's a record that offers no easy conclusions and is all the better for it.

The crown of thorns that he has worn in promotional imagery, the album's cover, and indeed his generational Glastonbury headline set, might be interpreted as a sign of the megastar messiah complex trope, but as he revealed onstage at Worthy Farm, "I wear this crown as a representation, so you never forget one of the greatest prophets that ever walked this earth. They judge you, they judge Christ." If Mr. Morale does have a message, it’s one that Lamar allows a higher power to provide. As he raps on 'Worldwide Steppers', in the time between this album and his last one, DAMN., he had "writer's block for two years, nothin' moved me / Asked God to speak through me, that's what you hear now."
Patrick Clarke

6. Sea Power –
Everything Was Forever
(Golden Chariot)
Everything Was Forever marks Sea Power's first work with Graham Sutton as producer in over a decade, and it shows. The band are always in fulsome praise of the Bark Psychosis man's ability to conjure out their best work and, as a listener, it's clear he has an uncanny knack of trimming the fat that prevented the albums since Do You Like Rock Music?, decent though they were, from reaching their full potential. He and the band have worked wonders on a record shared between fire-cracking anthems and reflective moments, a refining of the established Sea Power palette. Abi Fry, Phil Sumner and drummer Woody lift the record not just through their by now trademark augmentation in brass, viola and sturdy rhythms, but the delicacy with which tracks slip in and out of view.

Though it's not one of the most obvious songs on the album, 'Lakeland Echo' is the key that unlocks it. It starts with just a quiet vocal from Hamilton, seemingly echoing the voices of his late parents: "Turn the tape on / That's a grand track / That's a good one." It builds and builds to hover in a beautifully poised moment, emotion that is no less tender for its restraint. The song becomes even more poignant when you watch the video that features footage of the Yan and Hamilton's late parents intercut with shots of the area the family grew up in. At the end, their old man disappears into the distance over a rise in the road, raising his arms in triumph, as if in celebration of his sons. It's incredibly touching. To think upon loss, to look to the past, to venerate our forebears, does not have to be nostalgia as the reductive, negative energy that holds so many (by 'so many' I mean 'our nation') back, but as reflective, emancipatory and, curiously, realistic. "It's not for everyone," Hamilton sings, perhaps again channelling Ronald's views on Sea Power's music. That's at the crux of things for me – "it's not for everyone" doesn't have to be an admission of failure, but a comfort that some precious things are going to be beloved by a devoted few.
Luke Turner

5. Decius –
Decius Vol. I
(The Leaf Label)
Decius Vol. I is the album I wish I had to hand back when I was – let's not sugarcoat this, my mum doesn't read The Quietus – a tramp. The now long-lost era where I'd put the cheery responsible day-job me aside for a few hours to traipse to a dingy club across town where whoever you were – solicitors, truckers, civil servants, John Lewis members – was democratised by what you were wearing, where the zips were and what you wanted to do in it. Where a hoof of amyl allowed access and excess in pissy cubicles or bent over an oil barrel, and the sort of badly lit backrooms when London was the envy of Berlin with secretive places that are now consigned to history in favour of supermarkets, flats or fucking climbing centres.

That's not to say it's a gay or straight or even just a sex album. That's just me. Maybe that's you too. To say that this would sound ideal while taking a fist might make you cough on your sourdough. It also works on a swift commute, putting a kink in your step as you head home from the station. The purpose of art is to reflect something back that you recognise in it, is it not? Well, Decius Vol. I makes me feel like that. That it sounds perfect in dank basements, large inhuman cavernous cathedrals of dance, or some shitty £5 headphones proves it works. Vol. I is for both the big rooms and the dark rooms.
Ian Wade

4. Richard Dawson –
The Ruby Cord
Richard Dawson allows a world to grow on The Ruby Cord, full of dissimilar things, anachronisms essentially, where robots exist next to pseudo-medieval figures. It's more than that though. The singular idea of a world itself is in question. The gripping settings of The Ruby Cord could be within an arcane text or a VR sequence or a computer game or a dream. Or a dream within a computer game. All within a ruined future world that feels like the memory of a dark age. Dawson is melodically adventurous – it takes real nerve and faith in the audience to soar into falsetto and dive and turn as he does so – but he is also narratively adventurous, never showy or self-consciously experimental but rather pastoral, albeit a pasture of glitches and meta-realities.

The album is the third part of a trilogy that includes the feudal Peasant and the damning state of the nation address 2022. There's always been a strain of the apocalyptic in Dawson's work – 'Ogre' from Peasant begins with the feel of Under Milk Wood if it took place during a nuclear winter – and it reaches its apotheosis with The Ruby Cord. Yet this is not really an album about the future. Few works about the future are really. It's about the present. It's about the different meanings of the word lost and escape. It's about survival, binds, exile, kinship, ruin, memory, nature. It's about looking outward, as well as inward, something that has made all the difference in Dawson's work, by his admission. Far from exalting being a recluse, it suggests going outside to see what you might find. If it's about the apocalypse at all, it's about the futility of fantasising about being among the last people on earth and the freedom it would bring. Why wait that long? The last days are already close. They always have been.
Darran Anderson

3. caroline –
(Rough Trade)
Such is the life-force of caroline's music that their songs can weave their way into whatever situation they please. It helps, too, that their music is so texturally rich. Much has been made of the way the band's sound draws on Appalachian folk, Midwestern emo, noise rock and choral singing, but it is important to note that they don't simply mash those influences together. The chiming guitar on 'IWR' might recall an old folk song, and the opening vocal line of 'Skydiving' might conjure a church chorister, but the references feel subconscious. caroline primarily write their songs on an improvisational basis, first in sessions with core trio Jasper Llewellyn, Casper Hughes and Mike O'Malley, and then in a developmental period with the full eight-piece band. In such a long and layered process it is inevitable that references might arise. What's most important is that they are presented as incidental; their songs feel delicately ordered with whatever sounds they find appropriate.

As well as singles 'Skydiving', 'Dark blue' and 'Good morning', the record consists of three more long-form songs. The first is 'IWR' (which stands for 'I Was Right'), the group's most straightforwardly beautiful song on which a lengthy repeated vocal line, sung as a group, serene flowing violins, and repetitious chiming guitars all lattice together. 'Engine', meanwhile, consists of one crescendo after another, the gaps between them shortening as the song progresses until the music is a grand, clattering mess. Closing the album is 'Natural death'. Its first half is stark, just a fragile vocal and uneasy scratches of violin, and its second sees the band dive into complete abstraction, arrhythmic guitar chords, anchorless vocals and crashing cymbals, clattering against one another all out of time; it's as if the record's coming apart at the joints, the constituent parts that the band had suspended in mid-air as a beautiful whole now plummeting down piece by piece.
Patrick Clarke

2. Diamanda Galás –
Broken Gargoyles
(Intravenal Sound Operations)
I think it's the essential and sublime humanity that sits within her voice that allows Diamanda Galás to explore subject matter that would be beyond the grasp of most artists, for whom to explore them might appear gauche or in poor taste. In the 1980s, Galás released The Divine Punishment, Saint Of The Pit and You Must Be Certain Of The Devil, the so-called Masque Of The Red Death trilogy of albums that turned the shaming language of Leviticus into a weapon of rage to turn against the judgement of the AIDS crisis which had claimed the life of her own brother. She was also arrested for taking part in ACT-UP protests. Other subjects of her work have been the Armenian genocide, schizophrenia and the poetry of exile. On Broken Gargoyles, Galás vocalises the words of German poet Georg Heym, who in the early 20th century wrote verses about the suffering of soldiers at war. The album's title is also inspired by the 1914 to 1918 conflict, referencing the photographs Ernst Friedrich took of the faces of soldiers brutalised by shrapnel and bullets.

Broken Gargoyles makes most contemporary black metal, edgelord power electronics or exploring-feminity-through-witchcraft-wailers (there are a lot of Fisher Price Diamandas around at the moment) sound like they're auditioning for a role in a local production of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. In this album, Diamanda Galás has produced not only one of her finest works, but a record that is equal and arguably surpasses other records that have the capacity to swallow you whole and spit you out that have been released in the past decade or so – Sunn O)))'s Monoliths & Dimensions, Scott Walker's Bish Bosch, for instance. No other new record you'll hear in 2022 so beautifully explores the limits of what the human voice is able to do, and the stories it is able to give life to while doing so. A masterpiece.
Luke Turner

1. Jockstrap –
I Love You Jennifer B
(Rough Trade)
The enigmatic quality of Jockstrap's music doesn't prevent it from being a suitable soundtrack to life within a particular place. Heterogenous as it is, the architecture of London is often brought to mind. 'Concrete Over Water' conjures up the gloomy grace of the Barbican estate. Both the group's Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye had studied at Guildhall not long before the track was produced. With the lyrics addressing particular places such as Italy and Spain, there is seemingly one particular and non-existent place, a memory in the head of the lyrical hero. The song starts with calliope-like keyboards and Ellery's vocals, giving a sort of a recollection of events that might be either pre-pandemic, pre-Brexit or pre-whatever: "I live in the city / The tower's blue and the sky is black / I feel the night / I sit, it's on my back / On my back / It makes me cry / This European air, I swear it does." References to various geographical locations permeate the album. Whether it's a city ('Glasgow') or a single building ('Lancaster Court'), the record brings up a sense of constant – and restless – motion, familiar to any resident of a metropolis.

Closer '50/50 (Extended)' is a grinding dubstep track, as opposed to the emotive overtones on most of the record. That doesn't diminish Jockstrap's sincerity but shows the way emotions can be suppressed or transformed through a heavy dancefloor workout. The fact that both members are 24-year-olds partly explains the choice of their artistic names as well as the title of their debut record. As you age, levels of vulnerability gradually stabilise. The themes the group explore are familiar to the majority of those living on this planet and, particularly, in its most populated parts. Anxiety, alienation, longing, tidal waves of desire, pain resulting from acknowledging one’s ignorance and arrogance, etc., etc. After all, I Love You Jennifer B could be a statement on a wall of a residential block, inscribed by a smitten teenager.
Irina Shtreis

The Quietus Albums Of The Year 2022

  • 1: Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B
  • 2: Diamanda Galás – Broken Gargoyles
  • 3: caroline – caroline
  • 4: Richard Dawson – The Ruby Cord
  • 5: Decius – Decius Vol. I
  • 6: Sea Power – Everything Was Forever
  • 7: Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
  • 8: The Ephemeron Loop – Psychonautic Escapism
  • 9: Emeka Ogboh – 6°30'33.372"N 3°22'.66"E
  • 10: Oren Ambarchi – Shebang
  • 11: Širom – The Liquified Throne Of Simplicity
  • 12: Moundabout – Flowers Rot, Bring Me Stones
  • 13: The Soft Pink Truth – Is It Going To Get Any Deeper Than This?
  • 14: SCUDFM – INNIT
  • 15: Claire Rousay – Everything Perfect Is Already Here
  • 16: Horse Lords – Comradely Objects
  • 17: Suede – Autofiction
  • 18: Real Lies – Lad Ash
  • 19: Big Joanie – Back Home
  • 20: Persher – Man With The Magic Soap
  • 21: Eros – A Southern Code
  • 22: One More Grain – Beans On Toast With Pythagoras
  • 23: Bill Orcutt – Music For Four Guitars
  • 24: Special Interest – Endure
  • 25: Mary Halvorson – Amaryllis / Belladonna
  • 26: Wormrot – Hiss
  • 27: Oren Ambarchi, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werliin – Ghosted
  • 28: Nze Nze – Adzi Akal
  • 29: Sarahsson – The Horgenaith
  • 30: Sarah Davachi – Two Sisters
  • 31: Shovel Dance Collective – The Water Is The Shovel Of The Shore
  • 32: The Utopia Strong – International Treasure
  • 33: Haress – Ghosts
  • 34: Kali Malone – Living Torch
  • 35: Osheyack – Intimate Publics
  • 36: Shit And Shine – Phase Corrected
  • 37: Alison Cotton – The Portrait You Painted Of Me
  • 38: Loop – Sonancy
  • 39: ABADIR – Mutate
  • 40: Porridge Radio – Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky
  • 41: Kramer – Music For Films Edited By Moths
  • 42: Gnod – Hexen Valley
  • 43: Eric Chenaux – Say Laura
  • 44: FKA twigs – CAPRISONGS
  • 45: Working Men's Club – Fear Fear
  • 46: Wu-Lu – LOGGERHEAD
  • 47: Lala &ce, Low Jack – Baiser Mortel
  • 48: Rigorous Institution – Cainsmarsh
  • 49: Sofie Birch & Antonina Nowacka – Languoria
  • 50: Kelly Lee Owens – LP.8
  • 51: Pontiac Streator – Sone Glo
  • 52: Pimpon – Pozdrawiam
  • 53: Mitski - Laurel Hell
  • 54: Nik Void – Bucked Up Space
  • 55: Wojciech Rusin – Syphon
  • 56: Shygirl – Nymph
  • 58: Sam Slater – I Do Not Wish To Be Known As A Vandal
  • 59: Blind Eye – Decomposed
  • 60: Somaticae – Kleis
  • 61: Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia
  • 62: Carl Stone – We Jazz Reworks Vol. 2
  • 63: Aldous Harding – Warm Chris
  • 64: CANDELABRUM – Nocturnal Trance
  • 65: Omertà – Collection Particulière
  • 66: Beyoncé – Renaissance
  • 67: Julmud جُلْمود – Tuqoos | طُقُوس
  • 68: Immanuel Wilkins – The 7th Hand
  • 69: Carmen Villain – Only Love From Now On
  • 70: Laura Cannell – Antiphony Of The Trees
  • 71: Rosalía – MOTOMAMI
  • 72: Saba – Few Good Things
  • 73: Ethel Cain – Preacher's Daughter
  • 74: Pink Mountaintops – Peacock Pools
  • 75: Silvia Tarozzi & Deborah Walker – Canti di guerra, di lavoro e d'amore
  • 76: Ani Klang – Ani Klang
  • 77: Erupt – Left To Rot
  • 78: Kode9 – Escapology
  • 79: Death's Dynamic Shroud – Darklife
  • 80: Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses
  • 81: Huerco S. – Plonk
  • 82: Manja Ristić – Him, Fast Sleeping, Soon He Found In Labyrinth Of Many A Round, Self-Rolled
  • 83: Hudson Mohawke – Cry Sugar
  • 84: Nikolaienko – Nostalgia Por Mesozóica
  • 85: Emmanuelle Parrenin – Targala, la maison qui n'en est pas une
  • 86: Rob Mazurek Quartet – Father's Wing
  • 87: Iceboy Violet – The Vanity Project
  • 88: Matmos – Regards / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer
  • 89: Staraya Derevnya – Boulder Blues
  • 90: Loraine James – Building Something Beautiful For Me
  • 91: black midi – Hellfire
  • 92: Maylee Todd – Maloo
  • 93: Gi Gi – Sunchoke
  • 94: 50 Foot Wave – Black Pearl
  • 95: Nwando Ebizie – The Swan
  • 96: Dale Cornish – Traditional Music Of South London
  • 97: Cheri Knight – American Rituals
  • 98: Cheb Terro Vs DJ Die Soon – Cheb Terro Vs DJ Die Soon
  • 99: Digga D – Noughty By Nature
  • 100: Autopsy – Morbidity Triumphant