We continue our fortnight of top tens looking back at 2021 and looking forward to 2022:
Today, we try our very hardest to get excited about 2022. IT WILL BE BETTER. It will. It will. Will it? Whatever happens in the year ahead, at least we’ll have music – it got us through 2021 and it will get us through 2022. As always, it is likely to be the surprises that happen along the way that will be the best moments, but here are some albums we already know (or hope) will be lightening our nights in the coming months:
Charli XCX – I’m not sure why I do it to myself, but for the third time in a row I’m hyping myself up for a Charli XCX album I’m probably not going to like. I can probably blame Christine and the Queens again as the latest collaboration between Charli, Christine, and Caroline Polachek is one of 2021’s best pop bangers. ‘New Shapes’ is so good that I must have forgotten how annoying I found most of how i’m feeling now or how boring I thought Charli was outside of some big singles.
I guess I only have myself to blame, but 2022’s Crash might just be the Charli XCX album I’ve always wanted. I’m even tempted to go to ‘worst venue in Manchester’, Victoria Warehouse, to see her next year. I must be delusional.
Let’s Eat Grandma – In 2018 Let’s Eat Grandma were my picks for album of the year, with I’m All Ears. They had evolved from their debut album into something more pop polished but still weird. It is still one of my favourites to chuck on in the morning and blow away the cobwebs in my brain. After this large gap I am pretty excited for the next release. In the few tracks that have surfaced so far there has been a shift from bombastic synths, to something a little more introspective and linear. Despite this change they sound great and I’m confident the album will be getting heavy rotation when it comes out.
Black Country, New Road – Somehow here we are again with this lot. I mentioned Black Country, New Road as one of the favourite acts I discovered last year, and I was incredibly excited for their debut album. But I personally found For the First Time to be a bit of a mixed bag, largely due to the inferior re-recorded versions of previously released singles that they included on the meagre six-song LP.
Ants from Up There should be a completely different proposition. 10 tracks, all new ones at that, in a package that neatly arrives on the 4th February anniversary of their debut. Given that the band has seven members, some classically-trained, and their output has been pretty unpredictable so far, I have no idea what to expect. I’m avoiding the pre-release singles, so I’m hoping for an out-there early 2022 highlight.
Alt-J – I went right off Alt-J after their frankly lazy effort at a third album in 2017. By the time The Dream is released next year, nearly five years will have passed since. So I think I’m ready to be impressed again. And the first few singles do just that. I feel like saying something like ‘return to form’ will inevitably be a curse. I’ll definitely be listening, and expecting the quality to return.
Big Joanie – Sistahs is one of my favourite discoveries of the last few years. A short, to-the-point mix of joy and rage, Big Joanie blast out punk music with a pop sensibility and don’t leave anything on the shelf. Their second album is due in a few months’ time and everything points to it being one of the year’s best.
Yard Act – 2021 was a real revival year for spoken word, with Dry Cleaning, I Have A Love, Black Country, New Road, Self Esteem and Cassandra Jenkins among others using that style of vocal delivery to impressive effect in their music. Leeds outfit Yard Act are another emerging band who use it, and it’s a case of so far so good if their Dark Days EP is anything to go by. In ‘singer’ James Smith’s Yorkshire lilt and satirical lyrics about middle-class Britain it’s easy to make comparisons to Jarvis Cocker, and we don’t have long to wait to find out if debut album The Overload will make good on their early promise. Listen to ‘Fixer Upper’ ahead of the record’s January release.
Jorja Smith – I have no insider knowledge here, this is pure guesswork. 2021’s Be Right Back, was a pleasant surprise for several writers here. And one of the most exciting things about it was that it was pitched as the songs that weren’t good enough for the next album. The songs were amazing. So, no, I don’t know when the next Jorja Smith album is coming, but I do know it will be good. Really good.
Rosalía – We have a title, Motomami, but no solid release date for the third studio album from Rosalía yet, but we’ve had a hell of a lot of music already. In fact since her previous album El Mal Querer in 2018 we’ve had 11 singles, only ‘La Fama’ featuring The Weeknd planned for the upcoming album. It feels like a smart move as I’ve loved so many of these tracks, the reggaeton of ‘Con Altura’, or the dark alt-pop of ‘A Palé’ but they sure as hell don’t sound like a cohesive record. I’m very excited for Motamami, which could be the real international breakout moment for one of Spain’s most exciting talents.
The Smile – When Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and jazz drummer Tom Skinner pulled out a surprise set on the Live From Worthy Farm shows all us Radiohead heads went bananas. New music was incoming. We all turned to our favourite streaming services confident that, in true Radiohead style, we were gonna get an immediate release.
Six months later, still nothing. But a recent Instagram Live rehearsal has got the juices flowing again and it seems something is imminent. It’s clear that this might be the most guitar led music the lads have put out in a long time, but the presence of Skinner (previously known from acts such as Sons of Kemet and Melt Yourself Down) adds a huge amount of intrigue around how the final product will sound. I can’t wait.
Rina Sawayama – They have to be one of my top 10 finds on the podcast. As someone who was obsessed with Linkin Park and Papa Roach I was delighted to be listening to something that had magically made nu-metal interesting and cool again. I definitely did not expect that to be through fusing it with theatrical pop music. But it’s a testament to her songwriting that this worked so well. More of the same please.