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alexcooper
13th December 2022

Albums of the year 2022

We’ve whittled it down to our 10 top albums of the year; from Yard Act to Loyle Carner, these are The Mancunion Music Section’s favourites of 2022!
Albums of the year 2022
Photo: Libertinus @ The Culture Trip via Creative Commons

Kendrick Lamar – Mr Morale and the Big Steppers (Alex Cooper)

Kendrick Lamar‘s Mr Morale and The Big Steppers is a furiously ambitious, self-examining piece of work. As Musa Okwonga puts it succinctly, it’s his one-man stage play. Lamar presents a brutally honest image of his struggle, exploring therapy, grief, and the perils of being idolised. Mr Morale is frequently uncomfortable, including on domestic abuse, and the controversial inclusion of the convicted Kodak Black should not be ignored or trivialised. However, every word, every beat, every flow matters, whether that be on chart-friendly hits ‘Father Time’ and ‘N95’, or the extraordinary and seminal tribute to two trans relatives on ‘Auntie Diaries’. With artists like Lamar, the boundaries of what music can be are moved. Kendrick Lamar is this generation’s greatest, but he is not your saviour.

Read the full album review here.

Read the live review here.

Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia (Maddy Oxley)

I was wrong about Fontaines D.C. For too long I unfairly dismissed them, but thank god I rectified this after the release of Skinty Fia. No doubt everyone will have heard how good ‘I Love You’ is by now, but it’s a testament to how great this album is when that isn’t even the best track. From the almost haunting ‘Big Shot’ and the ridiculously catchy ‘Jackie Down The Line’, to the tender but confrontational album closer ‘Nabokov’. Skinty Fia is a near perfect record.

 

Loyle Carner – hugo (Serena Jemmett)

Without a doubt the highlight of the music year, Ben Coyle-Larner‘s third album is his best album yet. It’s fuelled with anger, political thought, self reflection, and exploration of identity. This album is beautifully intimate and vulnerable, a credit to his lyrical skill and storytelling ability. Every track links back to the central question of “but where do I go next?” (in reference to his identity), making the album cohesive and genuinely an album, rather than a bunch of songs. The album branches out from the previous Loyle Carner type of track (chill rap); instead it blends genres, features samples from non-musicians, and shows Carner to be courageous, not only being political, but also letting us into his personal thoughts and identity battles.

Read the full album review here.

 

Zguba – Znój (Kristin Cooper)

Released in the February of this year, Znój (meaning ‘toil’ in polish) by Zguba creates an immense encompassing sound filled with choral and orchestral elements. This album feels like a religious experience and is reminiscent of some plane beyond our own. Znój is emotive, producing haunting emotions like loss and loneliness through the stretched out choral elements. This ominous yet impressive drone album is safely among some of the best music created this year.

 

caroline – caroline (Kristin Cooper)

caroline’s eponymous debut album is beautiful and comforting. Filled with layers of instrumentation, caroline’s attentive playing comes together to form a soothing yet remarkable album. This album will be remembered in decades to come as hopefully the start of many exceptional albums put out by this 8-piece. As much as one can sign their praises about this album, caroline truly come into their own in a live setting with the space to improvise so if you are presented with the opportunity to see them perform live then grab it.

Read The Mancunion‘s interview with caroline here.

 

Three Days Grace – Explosions (Imogen Mingos)

As a rock fan, I would have to pick Explosions by Three Days Grace as my album of the year. I have been a fan of Three Days Grace since my want-to-be goth phase when I was about 11 years old. I was hooked by their album One X which quickly became my favourite of theirs, but I enjoyed other songs like ‘Villain I’m Not’ and ‘I Hate Everything About You’. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that their latest album, Explosions, was going on tour this year and would be visiting Manchester – I instantly booked tickets in June to see them live in September.

Consequently, I listened to their album on repeat over the summer! I found it difficult to choose a favourite song; if I had to choose, I’d pick ‘Lifetime’ because I thought it was particularly relatable and emotional. There wasn’t a single song, however, that I disliked from the album. Of course, the songs were even better when performed live which probably makes me slightly biased in naming Explosions as my album of the year! I was happily put in the top 1% of Three Days Grace listeners by Spotify Wrapped and they were my top artist of the year if my credentials weren’t sufficient for this review!

 

Taylor Swift – Midnights (Amarachi Uzokwe)

Through her 10th studio album, Midnights, Taylor Swift explores new limits of the familiar pop soundscape constructed throughout her previous pop efforts. Co-produced by long-time collaborator Jack Antonoff, distorted vocals and atmospheric synths characterise the world of Midnights. Swift takes us through the “stories of 13 sleepless nights”, with high points including the catchy, self-critical lead ‘Anti-Hero’ and the characteristically cathartic track five ‘You’re On Your Own, Kid’. With the record-breaking commercial success of Midnights, Swift shows new and returning listeners that whilst the sound may change, her clear prowess as a songwriter in crafting fully immersive worlds does not.

Read the full album review here.

 

Mitski – Laurel Hell (Maisie Outhart)

When Mitski released Laurel Hell in early in 2022, I listened to it on repeat and so loudly my neighbour started knocking on the wall.  If MARINA helped me navigate the angst of my adolescence, Mitski is the lyricist who captures experiences in young adulthood. With heart-wrenching emotional lyrics you can cry about coupled with the upbeat music you can dance around your room to; Laurel Hell explores Mitski’s turbulent relationship with her own career as well as complex romantic entanglements. It’s powerful vulnerability packaged in a exquisite mix of synth-pop, electro, and 80s indie pop.

 

CMAT – If My Wife New I’d Be Dead (Jacob Ainsworth)

I, like many others, was introduced to CMAT’s cowboy-boot-stomping blend of indie and country
through BBC’s widely-discussed Conversations With Friends. As protagonist Frances (Alison
Oliver) wandered through Dublin to the piano-led theatrics of ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’, I simply fell in love. CMAT’s If My Wife New I’d Be Dead is a giddy, yet emotionally loaded, piece of long-player perfection. It has it all – somersaulting, sleep-deprived vocals (‘2 Wrecked 2 Care’), seductive odes to attempted marriage-wrecking (‘Peter Bogdanovich’), and unashamed dependence on Robbie Williams (‘Lonely’). What more could you want?

Read the live review here.

 

Yard Act – The Overload (Sarah Taylor)

The late 10s and early 20s have welcomed a post-punk revival, and it’s fair to say that some of the more recent offerings from this genre have been middling at best. But then along came Yard Act, breaking all the rules and breathing new life into it with their polemical and witty lyrics, punchy riffs, and all the chaos, and camaraderie that comes along with their live shows. It’s safe to say that Yard Act have not only produced the best album of the year, but they have also cemented themselves as an unmissable live act – so much so I’ve caught them five times this year. From the post-Brexit panache of ‘Dead Horse’ to the existential yet sentimental ‘100% Endurance’ (which even enticed Elton John to collaborate), The Overload is a near perfect record, and one that’ll have you singing along to its silly tongue-twister lyrics after a few listens.

Read the live review here.

Read the interview here.

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Deputy Music Editor for the Mancunion, covering music and gigs in the Manchester area. Once walked past Nick Cave abroad. I’m contactable via Twitter (@alex_cooper25) and Instagram (@ale.xcooper).

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