For the first leg of our 2022 Cultural Advent Calendar, we spent 7 days sharing our top albums released this year – the ones that really got us grooving, bopping and sobbing.
We’re onto our Best TV & Streaming picks right now, but in case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of our Top Albums of 2022, with handy links to each review.
Day 1: Beyoncé – 'Renaissance'
What we said: "‘Renaissance’ has bops to satiate every worker in the Beyhive and it was satisfying to hear Beyoncé’s signature honey-coated vocals once again. But this time - and this is the genius twist - Beyonce is queer now? Ok, probably not but the disco and house rhythms that run through ‘Renaissance,’ the ballroom references, and her collaborations with people like Grace Jones and Honey Dijon give the entire affair a made-for-queer-clubs feel which is appropriate as that’s where it’s mostly going to be played."
Day 2: Danger Mouse & Black Thought – 'Cheat Codes'
What we said: "Under the stewardship of two tenured artists, the resulting album ended up as 38 masterful minutes that blend raw urgency with melancholy and old-school hip-hop. Soul, funk and clean samples intricately layered on groovy beats all seamlessly blend together and beautifully complement Black Thoughts’ incisive lyrical dexterity throughout. It sounds like a blast from the past and simultaneously like nothing being made right now. And that might be the definition of a timeless album."
Day 3: Fontaines D.C. – 'Skinty Fia'
What we said: "This was always a band formed around a deep consideration of lyrics. 'Skinty Fia' brings some of their most complex topics to the fore, while also deepening a sound that has evolved from scrappy post-punk stylings to the anthemic. Their sound might look like it could fill stadiums better, but it’s not through any crass act of boldness. Instead, it’s through creating haunting reverb-drenched guitar lines like the lead of ‘Roman Holiday’, a deliciously yearning lick that with a somnambulant echo."
Day 4: Little Simz – 'Sometimes I Might Be Introvert'
What we said: "It would be a crime against culture to be writing about music in 2022 without mentioning the brilliant Little Simz. Although her latest project came out in September 2021 and has already received wide acclaim, she has had an extraordinary, career defining year. With ingenious lyricism, sharp flows and exceptional storytelling, Simz explores themes of systemic racism, family dynamics, womanhood and introversion, all in the space of just over an hour."
Day 5: Kendrick Lamar – 'Mr Morale & the Big Steppers'
What we said: "After Lamar’s state-of-America ego analysis of 'To Pimp a Butterfly' and the spiritual anxiety of 'Damn', the new album eschews typical hits and manages to plunge even more personal depths. Nothing is out of his purview, from his relationships with his mother and father, addiction, sexuality, fame, truth and the pandemic. In just over an hour 'Mr. Morale' proves once again that few people are more astute commentators for the era than Lamar."
Day 6: Lee Fields – 'Sentimental Fool'
What we said: "Considering the shelf life of any artist these days is inextricably linked to trends and online gimmicks, here is a man singing his heart out and, in the regretted absence of Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones, keeping authentic soul music alive. No eye-catching stunts, no empty posturing – just no-nonsense, authentic soul at its finest. What more do you need?"
Day 7: Bonobo – 'Fragments'
What we said: "The 12-song record, which dropped at the start of the year, is a deeply emotional, cathartic and sprawling work, which ranges from wistful and meditative soundscapes to hard-hitting tracks, purpose built for the dance floor. It's clear that this connection with nature mixed with a longing for a time post-COVID has shaped the core feeling and atmosphere of the entire album."
There we have it.
Agree with our picks? Disagree completely? What did we leave out and deserve to hang our headphones in shame for our omissions? Let us know.
Happy discovering and stay tuned to our ongoing 2022 Culture Advent Calendar for the rundown of our highs and lows of this year.