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Best Of 2022: Albums by Artist In Alphabetical Order Through November 30th

Pier Pressure – Aardee – announced with a clever pun in the title (think his home town’s Brighton Pier), and including a very expensive sample (Destiny Child’s “What’s My Name”), the UK rapper has seen his star in ascency for the past coupla years and while the US can’t quite hear it, Aardee has a flow to die for and a pop skill set that is purely brilliant. A major release

Wish For You – Allison Moorer – despite being beautiful and clever, a hit in Americana and Steve Earle’s ex, Moorer has had one of those lives, starting with her parents murder suicide, continuing with her sisters mental illness and concluding with her sons extreme autism. In response to the latter she recorded this album based upon her son, who can’t communicate, humming tunes, Moorer writing the songs, and the book that goes with it. That the EP is first rate Americana is an added plus

Who Are We? – Al Qasar – rock, electronic, Arabic pop and classical fusion on a set of unique sounds that still remind you of everything that has come before, Jello Biafra and Lee Renald are featured as is the Sudanese-American singer Alsarah who has great lungs

Anaïs Mitchell – Anaïs Mitchell – her first album since 2012 is so great that I’ve finally weakened and got a tix for Hadestown which she composed and wrote the libretto for and which is on Broadway. These are simply beautiful Americana singer songwriter confessional’s from the Bonny Light Horseman member and the token girl in indie Americana not named Taylor

Phantom Of The Opera: Global Edition – Andrew Lloyd-Webber – 152 songs from performances of the show worldwide, from Japan and Korea to Poland and Hungary, Mexico and beyond. It is an absolute blast and a must hear

Time Skiffs – Animal Collective – the singles suggested this would be one of the art Americana bands better efforts, but from the kick start “Dragon Slayer” it is all killa, wall of sound Americana that emerge as fully formed songs and melodies. As if the collective had reached a place where they weren’t afraid to let themselves be loved. Their best work since 2009 and as great as Panda Bear can be solo

I Woke Up Alive – April Rose Gabrielli – on her debut solo album, April has constructed the past year as a near death experience and love story brought together

Un Verano Sin Ti – Bad Bunny – Benito breaks up with a girl and plans to spend the summer celebrating the summer days and summer nights on an album that moves from Latino Trap to top underground reggaeton brought to the worldview, a huge hit for Benito as we await a misstep he has yet to make

Nobody’s Home – Bakar – the UK indie rocker is better than the signs would suggest, he appears to be another bedroom sadguy but what sadguy has songs as dynamic as “Not From Here” and personal best, the stupendous “GP” (hook? “I keep fucking up”)

Club Godfather – Bandmanrill – via Jersey, rapper performs club rap on an exceptional 30 minutes of danceable and intoxicated dance with strong rapping throughout. NLE Choppa welcome here

Live At The Bon Soir – Barbra Streisand – from the beginning of her career, though two years into her ascendency at the Village nightclub, a pristine and returned set with the hiss gone Live At Bon Soir and Barbra nine months into her Broadway debut “I Can Get It For You wholesale” where she went from comedic singer to protean vocalist capable of ransacking the Great American Songbook and anything else that captured her ear, though if you want to hear a song don’t clap too loud as she warned during “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries”… it must have been stupendous to be there

Artifacts – Beirut – Beirut played Beirut for the first time in 2014 and Zach Condon must have been welcomed like a visiting hero with his balkan instrumentation bled into worldview baroque pop. This odds and sods takes Zach from his very first song and the trumpet/flugelhorn/ukulele instrumentalist has made it into a huge scope sound even on his loosies

Red Mango – Ben L’Oncle Soul – Ben is a French soul singer and producer who is more than capable of a genius cover, his “Imagine” is better than Sean Lennon’s, his take on the Supremes’ “My World Is Empty Without You” percolates its deep sorrow along with complete reggae vibes, and a song that really should be on the please don’t touch list, “That’s How Strong My Love Is” is a perfect lover’s rock take.

Weather Alive – Beth Orton – nine years after her last album the tall glass of water returns with her best work since Central Reservation, at its best ( and “Friday Night” is among the very best albums of the year) it is a heartfelt and deeply moving self-portrait

RENAISSANCE – Beyonce – sure, it is great dance music

Against The Odds: 1974 – 1982 – Blondie – if ever a band was ready for more than a three hour box set, this is that. It is weird how finished everything sounds, even the Alan Betrock productions. It’s a total blast to hear the evolution of “The Disco Song” to “Heart Of Glass” and “I’m On E” emerges as the guitar lick of the future

Ribbon Around The Bomb (Deluxe Edition) – Blossoms – as deluxe’s go, ten versions on piano seems a little besides the points, especially because you don’t know Blossoms though you actually do, they were Rick Astley’s backing band for the Smiths covers performances last year and they are the first great rock band from Manchester since the 1975, this album is a major breakthrough and a great piece of work and “Ode To NYC” is better than “Empire State Of Mind”

SHMURDAGOTCASH – Bobby Schmurda – in prison for SIX YEARS before finally getting his released February 2022, he has dropped some songs since but the mixtape is his first since 2014. whatever you think of his lifestyle, the King Of Drill -he would’be been huge as Pop Smoke and Fivio, and on the strength of this vicious and clever drill thrill, he would’ve deserved it

Into The Woods (2022 Broadway Cast Recording) – Broadway Cast – my only complaint about the current revival on Broadway (this one) was its threadbear staging (part of Encores -where Chicago moved from all those years ago), I hear there is a once in a lifetime revival in the West End with stupendous effects and hope we get it here. Till then, soundtracks aren’t staging and anyway, Julia Lester’s “I Know Things Now” making the “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” a potential Broadway great

TM – Brockhampton – the finally FINAL Brockhampton is the real farewell, The Family was about Kevin Abstract’s future, TM is a great summation of the crew as a whole and a straightforward hip hop work of immense power

Roma Travestita – Bruno de Sá – we haven’t had a castrati since the earliest of 20th century and so we have gotten countertenors and de Sá is a great one, with many songs here never recorded. A smash in Europe, we could use it here

Love, Damini – Burna Boy – The Nigerian state of the art Afrobeat’s great follows a sold out MSG gig with a set of Afro variants that cross all the way to US pop sounds, Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu (aka Burna Boy) is poised for real crossover and the Afrobeats pop star’s latest is what should get him there with a little help from the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ed Sheeran and Kehlani, Love, Damini is a clear pop move and might be the one to blast Afrobeats and Nigerian vibes into reggaeton crossover dreams

De Adentro Pa Afuera – Camilo – if you can get past the moustache, Camilo is a superb songwriter who has written hits for the cream of Latin Pop in the 2020s, including Bad Bunny and Becky G, and his second album is a near perfect joyride of deeply pleasurable and infectious pop plus Latin trap high hats

please put me in a medically induced coma EP – carolesdaughter – this is how to do DIY sadgirl with charm and smarts, an excellent and very lively set of terrific and troubling self-portraits

emotionally unavailable – Cat Burns – the English modern day woman r&b world that gave us Cleo Sol, threw up a 2020 song from Cat this year, “Go”, and so we got an EP now, the excellent singer songwriter with limey accent proves that “go” wasn’t a fluke , try “anxiety” if you don’t believe me

Harold And Maude (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – Cat Stevens – Love is better than a song and few things are as good as this movie and the lovely songs Cat provides (plus dialogue excerpts)

CHARLIE – Charlie Puth – the pop pianist and electronics wiz and boy singer returns with an album that might have been one of the best of the year and isn’t not because the songs weaken but they overwhelm and you tune em out except when you don’t, then he is spectacular

Mingus Three (feat. Hampton Hawes & Danny Richmond) [2022 Remaster] – Charlie Mingus – the great bassist with his three piece, Hampton Hawes is superb here and the extended version adds eight outtakes to the original seven songs from 1957

Crash – Charli XCX – With Sophie dead, Charli XCX (or as Cardi B called her Charli STD!!) is the standard bearer for hyper-pop, deeply weird sounds and strong, strong beats, and real tunes, and while she takes some getting used to, Crash should be the album to put her over the top. Her most commercial work to date, the title track is masterful dance, the song with Rina Sawayama is already big, and the English woman Charli is a sexpot and an artist

Christmas with Cliff- Cliff Richard – the Christian seculist Christmas at its best

Dissolution Wave – Cloakroom – Indie from Indiana meets sludge meets shoegaze with a side of glammy psychedelia, “Lost Meaning” is a great song to get seriously fucked up to. A friend of mine tried to kill herself the other day and after the miss told me this is she was listening to Bach as she drifted away on a sea of pills and alcohol which failed to do the job. If I decided to off myself today, I would choose this

From a Birds Eye View – Cordae – Cordae is on top of his game on his second album, a hip hop extravaganza while missing the hard, loud rapping of his live act, he still excels on tracks with Weezy and Dr. Dre and whether re-mixing with Eminem, introducing Freddie Gibbs to Stevie Wonder or the album highlight “Chronicles” with H.E.R., or maintaining a featured list worth envying, he does it all correct right here

27 x 2 – Cosmic Bull – An EP with a song called “Joe Namath Moment” could go either way till you realize that the man behind it is Chicago’s finest songwriter Mark Vickery, then you luxuriate in it s moody sound and brilliant groove on song after song. Time for a tour…

BETTER THAN YOU – DaBaby, YoungBoy Never Broke Again – An interesting time for musicians who have been cancelled, Morgan Wallen sold out MSG (here), Ryan Adams sold out Carnegie Hall (here) and DaBaby (his deeply offensive and stupid remarks at Rolling Loud certainly deserved rebuke: “If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up,” he told attendees. “Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up. Fellas, if you ain’t sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up.”) He then doubled down and his career, from the top rapper in the US to invisible, his singles ignored, taken off Gov Ball for one followed, and is struggling to get his footing. Today’s surprise drop of his Better Than You album with YoungBoy Never Broke Again might do it, and if this doesn’t get DaBaby back to the top nothing will: tough, husky, sharp rapping plus Youngboy autotuned and emo-rap, at 33 minutes it doesn’t stop for breath on a minor masterpiece, “Hit” is a great song, so is “On This Line” but you could take your pick here, it is a superb slice of modern pop – A-

Divine Symmetry – David Bowie – there are only two types of people listening to David Bowie cover Chuck Berry’s “Almost Grown”: those who don’t care and those who would sell their mothers to the Iranian soccer team to hear it. aka An Alternative Journey Through Hunky Dory is the usual box set from the UK (demos, John Peel session, etc), except its chronology makes it of specific interest as we see his songwriting slipping and sliding the way “Waiting For A Friend” winks at VU as it goes its own glammy road not travelled

Misadventures Of Doomscroller – Dawes – this is where Taylor Goldsmith finds himself better than two songs out of every ten, the loose and magical Laurel Canyon wannabes reach a height on the eight minute “Everything Is Permanent”, their best song since “All Your Favorite Bands”… a song so good it can echo jazz chops and not lose its ways

Diamonds & Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection – Dolly Parton – my brother was a huge fan, and I loved her from time to time but the last album I loved was 2011’s Better Day (don’t believe me? try “In The Meantime”) so as a non believer this greatest hits, just 23 songs, is exactly what those like me want

Her Loss- Drake, 21 Savage – Earlier this year Drake proved himself the standard zeitgeist bearer with the dance meets hip hop state of the art Honestly, Nevermind and right now the 21 Savage collaboration (though somebody counted up the words each rapped and it is two thirds Drake Her Loss), both albums are vastly superior to the dreaded Certified Loverboy) especially the newbie with Drake playing gangster OG Don Corleone to 21 Savage’s blustery Sonny Corleone. It all works and the Travis Scott does more than that

Honestly, Nevermind – Drake – one of Drake’s best album, like Take Care with beats, and with songs about romantic love and malaise, it is a stunningly compact adding dances to Baltimore club and it is a very effective album that seriously repays a close listen

Hygiene – Drug Church – pop punk, with a lot of punk, a loud, clever, melodic sixth album from a great band

BADWORLD – Dylan Mars Greenberg – Over the years the underground horror movie guerrilla tactics genius director has been getting better and better on another front of her career. As a songwriter and performer she has gone from strength to strength and on this superb glam rock pop album she is under complete control of her skillset as she moves from the dream world of “Lovers Meet Through Television” with its sweet country undertow, to the blues “Slipping Out”, to the New Wave pop bliss out “I’m the Anomaly”. She is moving steadily forward

Ella At The Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook (Live) – Ella Fitzgerald – during a split program of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin repertory at the Hollywood Bowl, on Aug. 16, 1958, Ella performed with the Hollywood Bowl Pops Orchestra, conducted by Paul Weston, who’d also conducted and arranged the orchestra on the Berlin songbook album and now the Berlin portion is available, the show was on the heels of her very popular “Sings The Songbook” series (the Berlin original recording was nominated for a Grammy), and live is maybe not the wow of the “12 Nights” from a coupla years ago yet is still pretty wow

Let’s Say For Instance – Emeli Sandé – Emeli has been a huge influence on black women in UK pop whether it be Sault or Cat Power, Em is part of the template for sure. This is one of her best works to date, electronic r&b with beats, melodies, and a great singer; a surprisingly strong album

Back on the Road to You – Freedy Johnston – say what you want about Freedy (he hits me as a bit of a creep), the man can write a song and while we may never hear another “The Farthest Light”, this is a remarkably consistent pure Freedy album

Harry’s House – Harry Styles – sure, it’s all about “As It Was” and a coupla others BUT IT’S ALL ABOUT “AS IT WAS” AND A COUPLA OTHERS

The Boy Named If – Elvis Costello And The Imposters – their best album to date, a great set of Attractions like New Wave marinated in Americana

Caprisongs – FKA twigs – the electronic art popster returns with a mixtape – which means there is no hard copy (CDs or vinyl) and therefore is much less expensive than a follow-up album. 2019’s LP Magdalene (in rock nyc’s top five of the year) was terrific and the show wasn’t but I blame a crap seat at King’s Theatre as much as anything (here). The mixtape in easy going electronica featuring the likes of The Weeknd. It isn’t much better than very good though it is very good often, try band in the middle “Papi Jones” to “Jealousy,” from dancehall to hyper pop. In other words, she isn’t the accessory to the rock star, she is the rockstar

I DON’T LIKE YOU – Future – his ninth album is precisely what the ATL trap superstar is good for, he can rhyme and his subject matter is the usual unusual, but his voice is like a cough syrup mixed with codeine, he drags like a slow motion OD and his angriest verses still sound as though he has just woke up

Gold Rush Kid – George Ezra – Perhaps his voice is why he has never really broken the States because it sure ain’t the songs which are amazingly good singer songwriter happy happy tracks that are addictive and improve with every hearing, Ezra also has a hand for a wondrous hook as you’d expect from a guy who wants you to hold a party on the day he was died

George Formby My Ukulele – George Formby – George Formby was a big time dancehall (I mean UK dancehall, read Vaudeville here), comedian and comedic singer with either the banjo or the ukulele: considered a working class icon, Formby defined the change occurring between the ruling class and the working poor: consider him a principal on the development between Victoria and the collapse of Rule Britannia and though there is only 24 tracks on the hits round-up. Still, oh me oh my there, is “Leaning On The Lamppost” 

You Gotta Be My Baby (Original Starday Records Recordings) – George Jones – Hank Williams died in 1953, George Jones recorded his earliest songs in 1953, and so there is something of a passing of the torch between them. Jones is certainly the second name of country (that’s Jones and not Cash) with at least two groundbreaking periods in his career, the second 1973 till 1980 and that album with the cream of country (plus Elvis Costello) covering Jones , and the one documented here in the late 1950s, 21 songs from his first record company, including touchstones for his entire career, “Color Of The Blues”, “Just One More” and “Singing The Blues” and 18 more, and this is before his first big hit. There is no second guessing any of it, if you don’t worship Jones you don’t worship country or pop for that matter

DS4EVER – Gunna – “‘This is things I said I was going to do when I got in a position to do it,’ Gunna said. It’s called Gunna’s Drip Closet and it’s the school. It was designed for students who need clothing, shoes, food and even toiletries,” The terrific trap rapper has really given back, an especially good story when so many rappers second as gangbangers. The album is the third and final Drip Season release, and it is the most clearly Atlanta trap around

Entitled – Hodgy – has there between an odder second act than Odd Future members? Hodgy is absolutely brilliant on this EP, and while anybody who loved his Mellowhype duo is not really surprised that he is a seriously musical rapper and a great rhymer (personal best? “Everyday I’m on my grind, like a skateboarder, I’m a G, I’m on my rind, like a shaved orange”

on to better things – Iann Dior – Dior is definitely more than “Mood” because he not only has a sweet and yet supple voice, he is a king of tunefulness as well as electronic arrangements and his third album in three years is just a wonder of mode, a terrific album no doubt, and even better than El Dorado

JOSE (Deluxe Edition) – J Balvin – The first time I saw Balvin was joining Bad Bunny at United Palace in 2018 (here), and he was better on stage than Benito. That isn’t true anymore though Balvin is certainly not worse. Balvin blew Governors Ball in two last September (here). I have a tix to his Barclay Center gig later this year. Balvin has an album of all bangers reggaeton meets Latin trap all the time from last year, and here he doubles it

Jim Reeves The Home Recordings – Jim Reeves – dead at the age of 40 in a plane crash, Jim Reeves was country lite but the countrypolitan surges on something like “He’ll Have To Go”, The Home Recordings are near his last days (one of them, “Hit Parade” was the last song her recorded,) the home demos feel very close to complete and remind you how wonderful a singer he was

Joe Strummer 002: The Mescaleros Years – Joe Strummer – the three Mescaleros albums and an outtakes

Johnny 70 – Johnny Hallyday – while it is sure hard to imagine from here, Hallyday was one of the most popular singers of all times, the 50s, 60s, 70s and on, were all decades filled with hits. I prefer the late great at his most Presley like and not a chanson d’amour yacht rocker, as he was in the 1970s. But the first album of that decade, Johnny 70, has survived the test of time, and this 29 track album is a wonderful collection of songs from the period, “La Pollution” is exactly what it should be only better

Live au Fonda Theatre de Los Angeles, 2014 – Johnny Hallyday – Johnny wasn’t really a French Presley. He was really a French Cliff Richards, with a Presley carnality Richards doesn’t possess. What would play as restraint in UK, plays as self-indulgence in France. The music is too loud and in your face, but when put together it is a rock and roll original: Hallyday couldn’t be compared to anybody really, accept himself. Ridiculously alive, and powerful, a force of nature, he was an all time great, a breathtaking spectacle of male sexuality, his Chuck Berry cover is fabulous

Williams: Violin Concerto No. 2 & Selected Film Themes – John Williams, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Boston Symphony Orchestra – Mutter is sublime on the “Prologue” before her violin is fully integrated, and especially sparkling on a violin concerto written for her by John at the age of 89. Otherwise, three big hits are her and one of my single favorite moments in Williams career, the protean theme to Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye”

Going Places – Josh Rouse – Josh is the “Dressed Up Like Nebraska” singer songwriter over twenty years later and still as gifted a songwriter as he has ever been on this remarkably lovely album that harkens to the great 90s time when Freedy Johnston and Aimee Mann (who I once saw him open for at Tramps) ruled and he is just as good today

Neon Blue – Joshua Hedley – as traditional as traditional country can possibly get, five years into his career and there is nothing wanting here, sweet, old school, clever and moving and just plain fun, if you love traditionalism there is no doubting this album

The Line Is A Curve – Kae Tempest – my favorite white rapper is the perfect and poetic Kae Tempest -they is also a poet and everything they’ve done has been exemplary with the possible exception of its 2019 The Book Of Traps And Lessons, The Line Is A Curve includes their finest moment, “More Pressure” (with Kevin Abstract) but it is all great, all emotional apocalypse and Brit politics and world horrors with an epigram to live by, “Nothing to prove but bread, Nothing to lose but sleep, Nothing to do but less, Nothing to want but peace”

Toxic Chocolate – Kali – this is the equivalent of a woman centric neo-r&b, think Solange, but way sexier, Kali is behind the brilliant “Mmm Mmm” from earlier this year and a remix appears here… a must hear and the entire EP is fantastic

Donda (Deluxe) – Kanye West – Sometimes I can’t take Ye either, but the problem is not musical. The third take on the album is extended past the two hour mark and I can’t wait for the upcoming part two

Donda 2 – Kanye West – Ye’s songs of break up and misery is another major work from the always major Ye, “Do I Look Happy To You” is the one here

Shuckin’ Sugar – Karen Dalton – the folkie from Texas who ended up in the village while Dylan ruled and died at the age of 51, this superb collection of never before heard takes are an expressly excellent way to listen to the woman. Karen nearly never wrote her own material but she arranged traditional blues and folk songs and covered her contemporaries and she was everything you had heard she was, with a voice so raw and tender that she can make Blind Lemon Jefferson (the title track) her own, on these newly discovered songs

blue water road – Kehlani – Syd is on one song and Kehlani might have asked her about performing extreme love songs for the woman of your dreams after you break up, Kehlani is in the midst of a serious romance and the album is a dreamy and beautiful thing. I caught Kehlani at Gov Ball in 2021 and she was magnificent (here) and this is her best album to date, a lovely dance album of requited love and romance with the Justin Bieber duet the highlight, followed by the Jessie Reyez featured track and the glorious “Melt”

Bad Reputation – Kid Rock – yes, I know he was a rich kid who pretended he was working class, I know he is a moron Trumper, I know he is loathsome. But this is Kid Rock at his very best since, at the the latest, 2007 when he was sampling Warren Zevon. A full of rap, rock record that leaves Limp Bizkit in the dust, “Don’t Tell Me How To Live” is the essence of nu-metal meets classic rock. Nobody likes the dickhead, but this is a terrific album

Slut Pop – Kim Petras – is Kim Petras the biggest transgendered pop performer? Maybe third after Laura Jane Grace and Anohni. I did see Kim once and she wasn’t ready for Radio City at all, but her debut was good and Slut Pop is better, sex songs for deep house fans (plus she has great legs). Only seven tracks? Maybe she’s still dropping songs but so far it is one of the year’s best

Kutthroat Bill: Vol. 1 – Kodak Black – If Kodak Black would leave the guns to his bodyguard and the drugs to the handlers, he might well be one of the most successful rappers in the business. But even a Presidential pardon can’t keep him out of lockdown, and as he once rapped “If I could change I swear I would .. I tried everything but I’m just so hood.” He raps about OG-ing, something he knows a lot about, and he raps about love, and on the best song on his new album, performs a dance song while glomming on to some dancehall moodiness on with Trinidadian new master Prince Swanny, song for song it is the best pure rap I’ve heard in 2022 and better than the Kendrick Lamar for one: never has sex and violence been quite so appealing (well, maybe prime Jigga)

Omens – Lamb Of God – the terrified omen, indeed, with one of the great hardcore bands, Lamb Of God, who sound about as great in 2022 as they did in 2009 on the rip em to bits brilliance, a riff monster lead by Randy (bye bye Chris) at the big boys who have reasons to be worried

King Scratch (Musical Masterpieces from the Upsetter Ark-ive) – Lee “Scratch” Perry – the premiere reggae producer of all time died a year ago at 85, this two and a half hour greatest hits doesn’t, ahem, scratch the surface and is still excellent

RED & WHITE – Lil Uzi Vert – When Playboy Carti and Lil Uzi Vert were coming up, Carti was the star but Lil Uzi Vert was beloved by his fans and Lil Uzi’s latest, the gorgeous trap, autotune, cool emo Red And White EP is a nine song, 33 minute peak art less is more, which equals pink so we are still awaiting the album

Special – Lizzo – the thing about using a coupla dozen producers on a dance record is that even Max Martin can’t overwhelm the Lizzo vibe and an even and enjoyable outing with two hits already on her fifth album and a couple more in the wings this is a terrific album and a summer thriller

Words & Music, May 1965 – Lou Reed – early demos for the first time released, including “I’m Waiting For The Man” and “Heroin” and “Men Of Good Fortune” which could only have been written by Bob Dylan 

I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos – Lou Reed – Lou comes across as, in modern terms, an alt folkie, the songs on the album, from the perfect “Perfect Day” off Transformer (1972) as well as songs that would appear in completed form on Sally Can’t Dance (1974) and Coney Island Baby (1976), from his VU days and his eponymous solo debut. Reed was about as fucked up as he’d ever been at this time, drug addled and outsiderdom badass gay culture but lyrically poetic and quietly uber-ordinary yet not even close to. You will want to know why it took us so long to hear the marginalized brilliance of the demo forms of “Hangin’ Around” and the unnihilistic title track “I’m So Free”

Growin’ Up – Luke Combs – it is easy to underestimate Luke, he’s a bit of a schlub, Wallen sells more, Eric is sexier, Combs live performance is pleasant enough with zero charisma and considering his songs should be better (here) and with all that he is a superb songwriter who can fill an album with excellent country mainstreamers with an effortlessness that belies his skills. Business as usual sure, but Luke knows his business well

About Last Night… – Mabel – includes her terrific “Let Them Know” and the rest of the charming EDM popstar is much better than we had any right to to expect, everything sounds like a potential hit

mainstream sellout (life in pink deluxe) – Machine Gun Kelly – one part eight song add, one part soundtrack to the Hulu documentary (which does a pretty good job of rehabilitating his image)

Revealer – Madison Cunningham – the LA singer songwriter is a folk-Americana artist and on this sublimely beautiful and moving sophomore recording she is better than ever before (and she has always been great), a sublime collection of beautifully composed and sung songs and it is all excellent though if it had a few more songs as great as the haunting loveliness of “Life According To Raechel” (a song worthy of Joni Mitchell) she would be a contender for album of the year and is…

Finally Enough Love – Madonna – Maddie is in the process of reviewing her back pages and re-releasing em and if anyone should be on top of that it is Madonna, here we get first rate disco remixes built solely for the dancefloor, and with songs from “Into The Groove” to “Medellin” it works; the “Frozen” didn’t do it but everything else is excellent

The Ultra Vivid Lament – Manic Street Preachers – this is the extended version of their 14th album which arrived last November, they claim it isn’t about the pandemic but the lack of politics and woven tributes to Nicky Wire’s well loved parents is inside the superbly moving album, and the extended version has some demos, etc for a 34 track album

Substance – Marvin Sapp – rowdy Gospel sing alongs and r&b vibes, Marvin has been doing this since the 1990s and remains a thrill ride of a faith rollercoaster, even, maybe especially, if you don’t like faith based music, this one’s for you

Carry Me Home – Mavis Staples, Levon Helms – From Rolling Stone: “In the summer of 2011, Mavis Staples and her band arrived at Levon Helm’s barn and studio in Woodstock, New York, to perform at one of Helm’s trademark Midnight Ramble shows. The resulting show, dropping May 20 with the title Carry Me Home, was a moving reunion of two American musical legends who’d known each other for 35 years.” It would have been nice to have had Levin able to sing more than a verse (he would die in 2012) but it is a very enjoyable and soulful romp

The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! – Megadeth – their first album in six years, how can Dave Mustaine sound in his prime 30 years past his prime? Well Megadeth do it on the heavy metal all killa featuring covers of Sammy Hagar solo and Dead Kennedys. Quite possibly the metal album of the year and ten years after seeing em live (here) this will keep us fans of the politically stupid Mustaine

Takin’ It Back – Meghan Trainor – in 2015 Meghan showed up with doo wop, very clever lyric, and tunes to burn…. and then she decided to become a glam pop star ala Katy Perry and blew it. Now, married with a child she returns to her doo wop roots and it is her best album since Title

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 1971 (Live) – Neil Young – a year after After The Goldrush, a year before Harvest, Young at his folkie zenith captured on stage, including a must hear “Heart Of Gold, moving and genius and an early headlight for the seventies

Queen Radio: Volume 1 – Nicki Minaj – Nicki has always been the top of her class, just a powerful and world beating rapper, though not much of an album artist. This greatest hits (including the first rate new single, “Super Freaky Girl”) and the rest is mad good I tell you mad, all in one place

Hideous Bastard – Oliver Sim -The xx have always been the dance rock band to beat and bassist Oliver Sim is well beyond capable of crafting a superbly drawn and drawing in set of electronic, immersion pop on the excellent album 

Super Champon – Otoboke Beaver – J-rock, but really, that messes up the genre which is fast, loud rules by the Kyoto women who have the answer to your questions as to toxic masculinity on “I Am Not Maternal” and “I Do Not Serve Salad” -or, if you prefer, oh bondage up yours. The solution? Sixteen seconds of “Let’s shopping after show”

Unwanted – Pale Waves – ah yes, the 2020s are a different country where alt pop rock group from Manchester suggest Paramor except where they don’t and the lead singer writes love songs for the girls in her life, and the drummer continues their transition. All of which makes it mainstream but a different type of mainstream

Ego Trip – Papa Roach – always a great nu-metal punk band, back in the 90s the best in the business, and 11 albums in this is a terrific album of hard hitting punk, nu-metal, loud brilliance. Trust me, if you like metal you will love it

Live In Washington DC ’76 – Patti Smith – This was two performances at the Cellar Door for the King Biscuit Hour with Horses out and Radio Ethiopia in the can, it is nearly three hours of youthful Patti with the ropes down and the skill set in place to perform her punk (already post punk!), with all the biggies, “Kimberley”, “Free Money”, “Gloria”, “Redondo Beach” and on and on and covers like “My Generation” and on 

Twelve Carat Toothache (Deluxe) – Post Malone – if it stiffs (it’s a little wobbly at the moment) it will be less good (pop needs to be popular) but even if it does stiff this deluxe which adds two songs is a moving dream of a nightmare album

PSY 9th – PSY – first rate K-Pop dance from the “Gangnam Style” singer, who, ten years after, is as great as Korean dance can possibly get. PSY is not boy or girl band conglomerates, he performs thrilling dance music, try “Celeb” to see just how unique an artist PSY is, and “Snowdrop” to find PSY capable of a fine dance ballad

THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND – Pup – what if Titus Andronicus had a baby with Fucked Up? Yup, that’s the melodic punk set of songs to give up on life with; high melodic quodient yet straight ahead punk rock with every song a solipsistic nightmare

PUP Unravels Live In Front Of Everyone They Know – Pup – Live in Toronto, the punk rock band are on fire, eclective, wild, addictive and a superb six song taster including personal best “PUPTHEBAND Inc. Is Filing For Bankruptcy”

Only Built For Infinity Links – Quavo, Takeoff – the Unc(le) amd the (ne)phew and the murder of the phew has made this less than ace album that has some great moments (“Hell Yeah”) of historic important with the death of an architect of Atlanta trap Takeoff, yet another mind-blowing loss in this deadly genre

Kingman – Ras-I – the best new rastaman since Chronixx’s sophomore album is a soulful trip to lucky town with an edge, for all its good vibes it is lively and excitable. At a brisk and enjoyable 26 minutes, it could crossover if he got the right rapper on board

Welcome To The Block Party – Rebecca Block – country women are coming into their own and Priscilla Block on her debut is a sexual and romantic set from the one horse town South where heartache is the major entertainment. As first albums go, not bad

Beautiful Mind – Rod Wave – peak Rod Wave follows up last year’s album with another beautiful and soulful collection of hip hop sing rap autotuned on its fringe

MOTOMAMI – ROSALÍA – she may never improve on “Milionària” and still be the best in class adding her Flamenco to Latin Trap and she has been moving steadily to the top of Latin pop, with this being a major pop move,a big one, and if it doesn’t break the USA I’ll be surprised, it even has a spice of hyper-pop and a whole lotta weirdness (what gives with the break on “SAOKO”?), but even The Weeknd feature isn’t the best track though given a week or so in rotation it might sound better; the singing on “BULERÍAS” reminds you what she is capable

Truth Hurts – Regina Bonelli – A nine song march into electric guitar blues, funk and soul glittering prize, it re-introduces you to a singer and a songwriter considered by some (by me) to be the best female blues singer since Etta James.

Chris – Ryan Adams – the best of the trilogy is still a major bummer with resurrection a side note at the end and with a classic rock sound that moves between anthems and alt-country, yet it is a masterpiece of confessional rock. Watching the major music publication ignore it while sucking off Phoebe Bridges is nauseating

Romeo & Juliet – Ryan Adams – just dropped on Monday (here), songs written over the past two or three years that didn’t quite work on the trilogy and don’t quite stand alone, so it is lucky that the standard of songwriting is through the roof

Few Good Things – Saba – one of the most powerful rap albums you’ve heard this year, Chicago’s Saba doesn’t deal in trap, he deals in r&b flavored hip hop as he looks back in bafflement so far. If “a Simpler Time” is a lovely soul track, “Free Samples” is the best opening track of the year. A beautiful piece of work and as Pitchfork noted (here) with the use of zero samples

Sopranista – Samuel Mariño – the Venezuelan, gender fluid soprano Samuel Mariño brings glam to opera, excelling at Mozart on his Decca debut and adding the world premiere recording of “Son amour, sa constance extrême,” an aria originally for a woman) from Joseph Boulogne’s “L’ Amant Anonyme”

Early Home Recordings – Sandy Denny – twenty-seven 1960s recordings of pre-Fairport Sandy Denny – nearly all making their first appearance includes two different demos of her classic “Who Knows Where The Time Goes”

Scorcha – Sean Paul – “Light My Fire” -no, not that one, features Gwen Stefani with her best work in a long while, along with Shenseea (who already has one of the best albums of 2022) on Sean’s summer, dance hall, first rate music for the pool and the club (and the Jamaican vacation of your dreams). One sure fire hit after another on his first album of stupid fresh material in four years. In a perfect world, this would be the sound of July 2022. One of his greatest moments

Dharma – Sebastian Yatra – 2022 could be a US breakthrough year for Colombianwho is no Latin-Trap come lately hanging onto Bad Bunny’s shirt for all he is worth. On his latest album, , he features Rosalia and Daddy Yankee, sings in English and Spanish, and moves from Latin Pop through Reggaeton all the way to trap and then back. Yatra is on “Encanto” and between everything that is going on, this latest album should put him in the middle of Latin Pop 202

Hetereosexuality – Shamir – Shamir returns with his gay agenda now front and certain on a hip hop productions, synth pop underlining, industrial strength fresh beats and Shamir’s shimmering falsetto album, try the gorgeous “Caught Up”

ALPHA – Shenseea – dancehall singer and crossover to hip hop songwriter uses Megan Thee Stallion better than Megan used Dua Lipa last Friday on “Lick”, meanwhile her solo “Shen Ex Anthem” is just as good and all the assists here (Offset? Check. Tyga? Opener and closer. 21 Savage, Beenie Man? And more) on a terrifically exciting set of first tier pop

Forever On My Mind – Son House – the Black Keys may well be loathsome but if I remember I will try and be gentle in my next review though only because Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound is responsible for the release of the father of the Delta Blues Son House new album, not bad for a man who died in 1988 (don’t feel too bad -he was born in 1902). The album of acoustic guitar blues, recorded but not released a year before his return in 1965, includes some of the best blues you’ll ever hear. If only for including “Preachin’ Blues” (not the Robert Johnson song) it would be the best album of the week, but that is just a highlight during 45 minutes of gorgeous acoustic blues. One of the all time greats, it really gets to you on song after song. I have no idea why it was not released (Tom Hammond would produce his 1965 return, which was great and yet not as great) but I am very happy to have it now

Tell Me What You Miss The Most – Tasha – with all the quiet of In The Wee Small Hours In The Morning, but a different time and a different genre, the Chicago singer bums out over heartbreak and never better than on opener “Bed Song 1” and not as great closer “Bed Song 2” as she starts and ends the album where she began

Midnights (3am Edition) – Taylor Swift – a very good album of strongish electronic synth pop and self-revelation, let’s say her best since 1989, but how good is that? The problem is it doesn’t hook hard enough, in plain english her gifts are not what they once were and yet she is probably the best in class but think of this: what if her competition was Joni Mitchell and Carole King and not Courtney Barnett or Amanda Shire?

So Far So Good – The Chainsmokers – Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall are the best pop EDM guys around even if they are not much respected. Terrific on stage where they don’t allow the happenstance of DJing to tie em to the turnstile, this is their fifth album and the hits have stopped coming though what world finds “High” not charting? The best of thirteen songs, true, but everything here is as excellent as you could hope for

Combat Rock + The People’s Hall – The Clash – the worst of the classic trIo line-up was also their biggest hit, here they include the shelved tracks from the recording studio “The People’s Hall” produced by Guy Stevens as well as odds and sods. The album itself has improved over the years though to quote Richard Meltzer in Creem -it is the merest mere. Zig Zag’s Kris Needs has a must read review in Louder (here)

Hey Doll Baby – The Everly Brothers – compiled by Tom Petty’s daughter Adria Petty, with input from Patti and Jason Everly (Phil’s widow and son) as well as Don himself – the last project before he died last year (here), it collects some of the lesser-known, buried treasures in the Everly Brothers’ rich catalog, though how deeply buried was “When Will I Be Loved”? And who cares?

Drillmatic: Heart vs. Mind – The Game – The Game was never the hip hop superstar he might have been and yet he has maintained a close handle on his rap form and on the nearly two hour album he lays down his claim to being a giant with Ye, A$AP Rocky and Big Sean being among the major features, and everything in the shade of The Game’s ten minute brutal dismissal of Eminem on “The Black Slim Shady”

It’s A Shame About Ray (Expanded Edition) – The Lemonheads – Evan Dando was the heartthrob of the 1990s (he infamously took Juliana Hatfield’s virginity and took a whole lotta drugs), one result was the great 1992 album, his fifth, which stands as very melodic songs about girls and hard drugs… He includes nine demos, which amounts to the same song without the band, and it is fantastic, let’s hope we get Come And Feel The Lemonheads next

Live at The 100 Club – The Libertines – from 2002, considered to be one of three outstanding performances at the punk venue (the Clash and Oasis were the other two) and it should have cemented them as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Unfortunately, the lead singer couldn’t control his drug addiction and even if he could they are a hugely English band -our loss – A

Up the Bracket: Demos, Radio Sessions, B-Sides & Live – The Libertines – if ever an album deserved the big deal deluxe that album is the Libertines debut and they sure live up to our memories of them – A

Up the Bracket: Early Demos – The Libertines – they sound so good, always chaotic and a bit more chaos hurts nothing – A

Dentures Out – The Proclaimers – perhaps the most underestimated band, they’ve been around for nearly 40 years and “500 Miles” dropped in the late 80s, and since then the Scottish brothers have continued to tour (which figures) and continued to release great albums that mix the wiitiness of Prime Chris Difford with the sound of Scottish indie folk rock. This is a terrific album. Every song a gem and the leadoff and second song more than that

Colder Streams – The Sadies – guitarist Dallas Good died last February and his final album with the great alt country band The Sadies is his best work, a gorgeous, guitar ringing, sad and strong collection that finds their eleventh album their best including a fine alt country “All The Good” and the first song “Stop And Start” the best of the best

Burn The Empire – The Snuts – Glasgow rock band with politics on its mind and indie rock, while as a rule of thumb UK rock is hit not miss when it does hit it tends to be excellent, try “Pigeons In New York” 

Temptations 60 – The Temptations – I am getting sick of hearing how this isn’t your daddy’s (or Granddaddy’s) Temptations. Despite major players like last original Temptation Owen Williams and the highly impressive Ron Tyson, it isn’t The Temptations. But it is. David Ruffin died in 1991 (he left the band in 1968 -which is when they realized they were bigger than even the man who sang “My Girl”), Eddie Kendricks left in 1971 and died in 1992. There is no one stable Temptations the way there is no one constant Drifters, but it is still The Temptations. For their 60th anniversary they have raised a terrific collection of new songs and if only the new Smokey Robinson is breathing the same air as the late 60s Temps, nothing here is even vaguely bad with the exception of the via #BLM, too-sub-Mayfield to matter “Time For The People”- so ignore it and flip over the rest

Charmed Life – The Best Of The Divine Comedy (Deluxe Edition) – The Divine Comedy – Neil Hannon is a genius who isn’t, his super sophisticated, Bryan Ferryish baroque pop should have broken huge in the UK, but just missed. If you wanna catchy up, and you should, start here

Dawn FM – The Weeknd – two days after I reviewed it (here), Abel’s sci fi opera about the radio station (DJ’d by Jim Carrey) you listen to as you transition into the afterlife. If “Here We Go… Again” is Philly soul as post-hip hop r&b, “Sacrifice” is a huge potential smash, “Is There Someone Else?” is EDM as hyperpop and “Gasoline” is the early place setter. Even the artsiest moments, “Every Angel is Terrifying,” deserves its title. And if the spoken word “Quincy’s Story” is one of three complete disasters, that remains three out of sixteen songs. Too early to predict best albums of the year, but Abel will probably be among the top twenty. As I write, The Weeknd has nine out of ten on the Spotify Top 50, and the rest of the songs on the album spotted among the Top 40. This will be humongous for Abel, it is exactly what he needed to do a year after the Superbowl. So from beaten up on After Hours to death in progress on dawn fm -now that’s progress 

Ghost Stories – The Whitmore Sisters – The sisters harmonize very well as you would expect from two of Austin’s mainstays, Eleanor plays with Steve Earle’s band and is married to Chris Masterson, together they perform as The Mastersons. Here the sound of people dying and the sound of folk Americana half the time, country the other, it might make you think of The Roches and kudos to Bonnie on “Hurtin’ For A Let Down”. With Kelly Willis heading for a divorce, place The Mastersons at the top of the alt country married couples list

Fix Yourself, Not the World – The Wombats –– the English satirists have never sustained it through an album till now, this is their finest sustained moments, strong pop rock songs with smartness to burn

Born To Be – Tomas Doncker – a meeting ground between his New York centric apocalypse quiet 2020 Wherever You Go and angry protest 2015 The Mess We Made, with an accent on the visual which reminds you that Doncker was the man in blackface on “Some Ol’ Dolls”

The Will To Live – Titus Andronicus – the punk vibe is still there, very noticeably on the Cock Sparrow cover “We’re Coming Back”, though the album opens with the Tommy The Who style classic rock instrumental “My Mother Is Going to Kill Me” and adds the high melodic rocker riffology of “Baby Crazy” on a track about mental illness and its reflection on American politics. This is as good as Titus gets, the segue from “My Mother Is Going to Kill Me” is a showstopper to “(I’m) Screwed” -one of the best singles of the year, it is really thrilling and will blow you away on stage I guarantee

Endangered – Tomás Doncker & The True Groove All-Stars – although the musical portion of a multimedia extravaganza of politics and poetry to a genre shifting sound, Endangered stands alone no problem and includes some of Doncker’s very best songs to date (words by Yusef Komunyakaa) including two showstopping bangers of the first order, “Universal Bunnies” and “Outlaw

30th Anniversary Cover Series – Various Artists – When Olympia, Washington was the epicenter of grunge, riot grrrl and all things indie not on Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars gave voice to everyone from Sleater Kinney to Elliott Smith. Last year Kill Rock Stars dropped covers of their artists catalog featured with a cover from the current roster. Elliott comes off best, he was born to be covered which is why so many people cover him. Not everything here works, Mike Watt is completely wrong for Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl”, still Deerhoof covers Kleenex and Sleater Kinney. then local indie hero Dave Depers covers Deerhoof. If the point is that Kill Rock Star signed a boatload of huge talents, point taken

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From and Inspired By – Various Artists – Black Panther wasn’t the only introduction to afrobeats (I’d been an Angelique Kidjo fan for years prior) but to other people in the genre some of us hadn’t gotten into till Beyonce’s The Gift. Well, the producers did their job here without her and brought Burna Boy and Tems to the front (Tems has a great “No Woman No Cry”) with some names me know and some we don’t (high five to Fireboy DML) on a fabulous album except for Rihanna

Gotta Get A Good Thing Goin’: The Music Of Black Britain In The Sixties – Various Artists – Andy Kelman in (here): “(It)documents the musical impact of postwar Caribbean and African immigration on Britain in the ’60s and leaves ample room to accommodate selections by Black American expatriates. Its four discs celebrate Black artists whose music — issued on labels ranging from independents Planetone, Blue Beat, and Island to the majors — circulated first through domestic blues parties and mobile sound systems, extending to the annual Notting Hill Carnival (launched in 1959 as Caribbean Carnival, following a wave of racist attacks) and beyond…” And of course Northern soul was its resting place. The title track was by Soul Brothers -Tony Wilson went on to form Hot Chocolate

Something Borrowed, Something New: A Tribute to John Anderson – Various Artists – some big country and Americana names come out for the 80s country scene maker, starting with John Prine and including Eric Church, Sturgill Simpson, Del McCoury, and Jamey Johnson to honor John Anderson

Live Forever: A Tribute To Billy Joe Shaver – Various Artist – after a lousy year for tribute albums (the Leonard Cohen was exceptionally rotten) but the country stars – I mean the biggies, the Willie Nelsons, the Lucinda Williams, George Straits and Steve Earles, all of whom do a terrific job, especially Miranda Lambert

Cave World – Viagra Boys – the Swedish post punkers Viagra Boys have been around for seven years with a first rate lead singer in Sebastian Murphy, and without their guitarist Benjamin Valle who died last year, have released one of the better all guitar angles West

Ali – Vieux Farka Touré, Khruangbin – the son of Mali guitar legend Ali Farka Touré and the Houston based instrumental psyche band join together for an immediate contender for album of the year, a cool, gorgeous African psychedelia covering his famous father’s material. Recorded in under a week, I sure wish we had it in the summer of 2020

Live At Budokan – Willie Nelson – From a 1984 concert at the legendary venue, 29 perfect songs that play like one long highlight reel including three Kris Kristofferson songs (two of which you know and one of those two is the third best version I’ve ever heard), some classic Willie, “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Cowboy” and “On The Road Again” – the latter recently tributed by Bob Dylan, and some country greatness and more country greatness

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