Best things we heard in January…

Sam Atkins: Anyone who was around for the Best of 2020 lists knows that The Weeknd’s After Hours was my standout album of that year. A Super Bowl Halftime show later and a few months after ‘Blinding Lights’ became literally the biggest song of all time over in the US, Abel has released another career defining record.

I can’t believe how good Dawn FM is, such cohesive record front to back, at times danceable and fun at others emotive and thrilling. It’s a true ‘album’ by a mainstream artist who’s managed it twice in a row now. Released just days into 2022, it has set the standard for pop records this year.

Will Collins: I’ve been a fan of Frank turner since his first EP, but his last few albums have failed to resonate with me. The same cannot be said for ‘A Wave Across the Bay’, a track from his forthcoming record FTHC, which is released this month. A tribute to the late Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, it moved me to tears when he played it at Lost Evenings in September. The recorded version is no less affecting, a heartfelt and poetic attempt to make sense of the tragic loss. At the same time as honouring Hutchison’s legacy, it is a powerful act of catharsis for both performer and listener. The proceeds from the 7″ pressing are also going to Tiny Changes, who do vital work with children and young people’s mental health.

James Spearing: Ok, in true James style I’ve got loads to cover for Jan. Plus, Fran wouldn’t let me do a ‘Best in December’ so I’m sneaking some in from the back end of last year too. Here goes.

I wasn’t bowled over by Fragments in my review, but I did pick out one tune to love from the new Bonobo album. ‘Closer’ is an ideal tune to blast away the drabness of January and features the wonderful vocals of Andreya Triana.

During the lull of new releases at the start of the month I took time to revisit albums I’d missed from the previous year. One stand out was Tread by Ross from Friends. Get a preview of what’s in store with a listen to ‘The Daisy’.

I’ll spare you a paragraph on everything else so here’s a quick run down of everything else I think you should hear: ‘Peng Black Girls Remix’ – ENNY and Jorja Smith, ‘Imagine’ – Common, ‘Intimidated (feat. H.E.R.) – Kaytranada and ’18 & Over’ – Nia Archives.

That lot should keep you going.

Constantine Courtis: To kickstart the year of our Lord 2022, here’s 7 minutes of pure funk from 1979: Dark Vader by Instant Funk. If this doesn’t get you dancing, I don’t know what will. All you are going to be thinking of is “what will I play next”?

In 2022 style, I will let the dreaded Spotify algorithm deal with that…

Instant Funk are having a whale of time on this tune and it certainly shows. Enjoy.

Fran Slater: If anyone is mad enough to be paying regular attention to my monthly recommendations, then Boy Harsher’s The Runner might seem like a bit of an anomaly. No, Boy Harsher aren’t my normal thing. But there is something incredibly addictive and haunting about this short album from the 80s influenced duo and I can’t stop listening to it.

While it might feel fun at times, and a big part of its appeal will be nostalgia, it is also an album with a heady mix of pain and power. Dark in parts, light in others – they fit an awful lot of emotion into just 8 songs. Get it in your ears.

Tom Burrows: I’ve set myself the somewhat modest aim of listening to one new album each week of 2022, so I don’t have such a backlog to (not) get through at the year’s end. Fortunately, this year has bucked the trend of January being a slow month. I’ve found moments to enjoy on new releases from FKA twigs, Earl Sweatshirt and Yard Act. But by far the most enjoyable new release was the first, which came from The Weeknd.

I’m in the process of articulating why Dawn FM is already shaping up as one of 2022’s highlights in a review, but it basically boils down to this. Drawing inspiration from a diverse range of musical collaborators, The Weeknd has embraced the album format more than ever before, with an immersive, infectious and surreal record. It owes a debt as much to disco pioneers like Giorgio Moroder and Quincy Jones, as 80s science fiction films. Rarely are mainstream pop records this thrilling.

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