Well, that’s a wrap. Another fine year of music excellence has passed us by, and now that we’ve cast our votes on a bountiful selection of Irish gems, it’s time to look further afield at the international stage for those LPs that made our year.
Here are HeadStuff’s Best Albums Of 2022.
Alvvays | Blue Rev
The modern masters of guitar pop returned in October to remind us all that you don’t need to overcomplicate the recipe for what makes a record great – just pack it wall to wall with power pop bangers and you’ve got one of the most outright enjoyable listens of the year front to back.
With a shoegaze inspired twist on their signature sound, Blue Rev delivered what Alvvays have been building towards since bursting onto the scene back in 2013 with ‘Archie, Marry Me’ – a verified masterclass in dream pop and modern guitar music.
Best Tracks: ‘After The Earthquake’, ‘Very Online Guy’, ‘Belinda Says’
Angel Olsen | Big Time
This gorgeous country album goes from lament to love song so fast it almost gives the listener whiplash. However, Olsen’s voice is too strong and tuneful to allow any sense of loss of control.
All you can do is trust her and listen.
Best Tracks: ‘All The Good Times’, ‘Big Time’, ‘Right Now’
Big Thief | Dragon New Warm Mountain, I Believe In You
In an age dominated by ever shortening forms of music consumption, Big Thief defied the odds with their mammoth double LP and in the process they delivered possibly the greatest record of their remarkable run yet.
Recorded across four locations in five months, the inspiring production process conceived by drummer James Krivchenia for the band’s fifth album saw the band travelling mountains, canyons, woods and deserts around the US while tapping into their most primal musical instincts and the raw craftmanship that has informed their bewitching indie folk since day one.
Sprawling and spectacular yet always as intimate and intricate as the very best of Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain is a landmark accomplishment.
Best Tracks: ‘Spud Infinity’, ‘Certainty’, ‘Simulation Swarm’
Black Country, New Road | Ants From Up There
Ants From Up There was a death cry from a band that were too fast to live and too young to die – at least, in their current iteration.
Of course Black Country, New Road live on, but in a drastically new guise as frontman Isaac Wood departed the band just days before the release of their sophomore LP back in February. The visceral performance of Wood, with his freakish yet strangely intimate and powerful poetry, is at the heart of this special record – yet just as important is the sense of comradery that BCNR possess in spades which shines through the outstanding instrumentation that Ants thrives on at all times across a chaotic, intensely emotional hour of music.
The band won’t perform any of this material out of respect for Wood, in turn gifting Ants another level of mystique and mythological status which feels like it will only continue to grow in years to come, but any uncertainty around this extraordinary collective’s future has been evaporated by a thrilling live tour comprised entirely of new music which suggests that Black Country will only continue to evolve from here.
Still, no matter what the future holds for Black Country, New Road we’ll always have Ants From Up There – a towering experimental rock masterpiece that stands as the pinnacle achievement of the band’s short lived existence in its early form.
Best Tracks: ‘Concorde’, ‘Good Will Hunting’, ‘Snow Globes’
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul | Topical Dancer
This year saw no shortage of albums from angry, guitar-wielding white men talk-singing about the state of the world, but the best work of sonic social commentary in 2022 came from Belgium courtesy of Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul.
Both solo artists in their own right, we have Soulwax to thank for encouraging the pair to work together on what would eventually become Topical Dancer; fifty minutes of moreish electropop tunes that skewer racism, sexism and xenophobia.
Best Tracks: ‘HAHA’, ‘Blenda’, ‘Ceci n’est pas un cliché’
Fontaines D.C. | Skinty Fia
Whilst they may have lost some of the raw energy that made their Mercury nominated debut Dogrel so captivating, the confidence Fontaines D.C. have in what they’re creating has only grown with each release, and that is coming through loud and clear in the music found on Skinty Fia.
The musicianship is more accomplished, the songs more dynamic and Chatten’s poetic storytelling remains as entrancing as ever. This is simply another hugely impressive and brilliantly crafted work, from one of the finest bands operating anywhere on the planet right now.
Best Tracks: ‘Jackie Down The Line’, ‘I Love You’, ‘In ár gCroíthe go deo’
Gang Of Youths | angel in realtime.
Although this third album from Australian indie rockers Gang of Youths is ultimately a personal story centred on frontman David Le’aupepe’s late father, the themes and emotions that course through the record are those with which anyone can relate.
Not only does angel in realtime. succeed in being a poignant and emotional tribute to Le’aupepe’s own family heritage, but it also delivers a richly composed, beautifully orchestrated indie rock record that flourishes in its examination of the complete human experience.
Best Tracks: ‘in the wake of your leave’, ‘the angel of 8th ave’, ‘brothers’
Kevin Morby | This Is A Photograph
Oh, to be Katie Crutchfield (also known as Waxahatchee).
Kevin Morby’s most recent album is not a love letter, it’s a photograph; a still that captures the love and respect that these two artists share in minute detail.
Morby is the one who needs to stop, before we’re all crying.
Best Tracks: ‘This Is A Photograph’, ‘Bittersweet, TN’, ‘Stop Before I Cry’
Kendrick Lamar | Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Spread across a double album and plotted out as a series of psychotherapy sessions, even by the Compton rapper’s impossibly high standards Mr Morale & The Big Steppers was an ambitious and deeply complex work of art that was unlike any other in 2022.
Through revealing his own internal battles, the pressures of his star status, his obligations to his community and the dark aspects of his very own human nature, Kendrick’s lasting message is ultimately to look inward and fix yourself first.
Whilst it may lack the big hits of his previous work, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and I can’t help but feel Kendrick’s latest multi-layered, deeply profound tapestry will only grow in stature in the years to come.
Best Tracks (Big Steppers): ‘N95’, ‘Die Hard’, ‘United In Grief’
Best Tracks (Mr. Morale): ‘Mother I Sober’, ‘Crown’, ‘Savior’
Mitski | Laurel Hell
Mitski’s back from the musically dead and here to present Laurel Hell, the 80’s pop-synth whirlwind that addresses her career in the harshest terms possible.
Because it’s Mitski, you’ll find yourself dancing and singing along, then later realise you were singing some of the saddest words you’ve ever heard strung together in your life.
This album was the cause and solution to numerous ego crises I had over the year, so it’s more than earned a mention on my list.
Best Tracks: ‘Heat Lightning’, ‘Love Me More’, ‘Should’ve Been Me’
Rina Sawayama | Hold The Girl
You name a genre, Rina Sawayama will try it.
Initially hailed as the next Britney Spears, on Hold The Girl the Japanese-British singer dabbles in everything from nu metal to country to R&B.
She uplifts and she soothes, and she sounds so good doing it.
Best Tracks: ‘This Hell’, ‘Minor Feelings’, ‘Your Age’
Sharon Van Etten | We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Alt-rock heroine Sharon Van Etten presents the perfectly titled We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong this year, wherein Van Etten reveals the magical ability to lay all your fears and insecurities out on the table for you to examine in the cold light of day.
Sometimes groovy, sometimes sad (sometimes really sad), We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is a summary of the smoothie of emotions that pandemic and post-pandemic life brings.
Best Tracks: ‘Anything’, ‘Mistakes’, ‘Come Back’
Skullcrusher | Quiet The Room
Never has it been more important not to judge a book by its cover than with the music of Skullcrusher.
If you’re thinking the name sounds like an angry Scandanavian death metal band, you couldn’t be further from the truth. It is, instead, the performance name of American indie-folk singer Helen Balentine.
On her debut record she delivers a beautiful and sad record, one which contrasts innocence with darkness to stunning effect.
Best Tracks: ‘Whatever Fits Together’, ‘Lullaby in February’, ‘Pass Through Me’
Wet Leg | Wet Leg
This stunning debut is sure to be a classic for future indie heads. Full to the brim with alternative floor fillers, you will struggle to find a record from this year that was as fun as Wet Leg.
With 12 tracks expertly tailored for the festival stage, you get the feeling that Teasdale & Chambers have come around at exactly the right time. If you’re looking for a post-COVID party, there’s no better soundtrack than Wet Leg.
Best Tracks: ‘Wet Dream’, ‘Ur Mum’, ‘Chaise Longue’
Weyes Blood | And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow
Natalie Mering’s latest outing as Weyes Blood is the album of the year because the music is timeless, yet the lyrics are modern.
Working with co-producer Jonathan Rado (Foxygen) to craft a set of chamber pop brilliance that harkens back to the Laurel Canyon scene of the early seventies, Mering further explores the retro singer-songwriter sound she previously excelled at with Titanic Rising.
Yet while that record explored a sense of impending doom, And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow is a letter mailed from the eye of the storm in a world gone mad. With themes of isolation and disconnect, Mering’s solution is to follow one’s heart back out of the black.
Best Tracks: ‘Grapevine’, ‘Hearts Aglow’, ‘Twin Flame‘
Yeah Yeah Yeahs | Cool It Down
New York trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs returned with Cool It Down in September, eight dreamy and intense synth-heavy tunes which proved their enduring relevance. It was all so easy to get lost in.
Be it the emotional power of ballad ‘Spitting Off The Edge Of The World’, the ‘60s soul of ‘Burning’ or the animalistic dancefloor urges of ‘Wolf’, Karen O and co added to their legacy with their darkest and most dramatic album to date.
Best Tracks: ‘Spitting Off the Edge of the World’, ‘Wolf’, ‘Burning’
If we do say so ourselves that’s a pretty sweet list!
Now you can enjoy it in playlist form as we’ve complied all of the best tracks above into one handy Spotify playlist for you to enjoy over the festive season: