James Barber: I’m a relative newcomer to the Big Thief train, but their latest release Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You (try saying that three times fast) is quickly shooting its way up my ‘Best of 2022’ list. Tinged with folksy country and blues, it’s been a warming comfort in what has been a tumultuous and stormy couple of weeks.
I’ve also – and somewhat inexplicably – found myself becoming a bit of a Dan-head (I assume that’s what Steely Dan fans call themselves?). I’m being bombarded by them on social media thanks to a track of theirs featuring on the Euphoria soundtrack and it’s a belter, so give ‘Dirty Work’ a listen if you aren’t already a convert.
Constantine Courtis: There is no sophomore slump whatsoever in Black Country, New Road’s 2nd album. If I had to choose a song, I’d go with the beautiful ‘Bread Song’.
I’m still due to review Spoon’s latest Lucifer On the Sofa, but early listens are quite positive. ‘The Devil & Mister Jones’ will likely make my end of year playlist.
And finally, FKA Twigs’ consistent run of fiddling with experimental music and popular culture seems to have no end in sight. ‘meta angel’ is a personal highlight from her new output. A Yeezus-inspired, Mark Zuckerberg-nodding tune that she somehow pulls off.
James Spearing: ‘Guayabo’ by La Perla is impossibility joyous Colombian folk with all-female punk attitude.
Subjective (a new project from Goldie and James Davidson) released ‘Lost’ featuring both Tom Misch and Frida Touray. It’s a thoughtful, jazz-laced take on Goldie’s usual d’n’b beats, with some wicked chord progressions.
Album wise, I’ve enjoyed parts of Big Thief and Sea Change this month and I’m loving the new Keeley Forsyth album Limbs after a couple of listens – it promises to reveal more still.
Rick Larson: Betty Davis died on February 9, 2022 at the age of 77. She was ahead of her time. Betty was married to Miles for a year, but she was too much for him. Chew on that for a second. This song is a one word manifesto. When she starts with that “effffffffffff”, your short hairs, wherever they may be, will stand up. Prepare to move your feet and have your mind blown. And, caution, this shit goes harder than most metal.
Sam Atkins: There were some big single releases I enjoyed during February, tracks from Becky Hill, Charli XCX, Everything Everything and ROSALIA were highlights but there were only a handful of albums that captured my attention in the same way. The first was Alt-J’s The Dream which feels like a big step up and into a new sound for the band after the middling Relaxer. Whether it’ll hang around in my listening habits long enough to be a highlight for 2022 I’m not sure yet.
The other is The Kick by Foxes which is surely the best pop pop pop album so far in 2022. Foxes has always felt like she’s on the edge of releasing truly great music, never quite managing to get away from the high expectations of her debut nearly a decade ago, but The Kick is a revelation for her. ‘Sky Love’ is a soaring bop, while ‘Growing On Me’ and ‘Body Suit’ shimmer. It’s ‘Sister Ray’ that kicks the album off in a big way though, a proper highlight single from last year that shines on the album proper.
Tom Burrows: There’s still a lot to digest from February’s releases at the time of writing. I’m enjoying the double albums from Big Thief and Beach House, as well as the new one from Black Country, New Road. But for my pick of the month, the new one from Cate Le Bon has made the most immediate impact. Pompeii isn’t a reinvention of the wheel from Le Bon’s last record, but like 2019’s Reward, it’s another collection of sumptuous, immaculately produced alt-pop songs. I love the production on this record: particularly the synth sounds for which the only descriptive word I have is ‘ethereal’. On songs like ‘French Boys’ and ‘Cry Me Old Trouble’, the background textures bring to mind the unsettling ambience of 70s horror films. It’s beguiling and immersive.
Fran Slater: The best thing I’ve heard this month is undoubtedly ‘Bread Song’ by Black Country, New Road, but I spoke about that at length in my review yesterday so won’t say much more here. I’m also going to be covering Big Thief’s latest soon so will keep quiet about the many wondrous things within it until then.
For today, I want to mention two albums that I’m not already reviewing.
Saba has followed Picky Bastards favourite Care For Me with something equally accomplished. It’s too early to say whether it will last as long on my rotation as that one, but in songs like ‘Survivor’s Guilt’, ‘If I Had A Dollar’, and ‘2012’ Saba shows that he has lost none of his power to spin an effective story. Add ‘One Way or Every N**** With A Budget’, one of my favourite hip hop tracks in ages, into the mix and we might be looking at a classic.
I’ve also been blown away by Cate Le Bon’s Pompeii in the last few weeks. I’ve had a casual interest in her career so far, always respecting but never loving her music, but on Pompeii she has finally cracked me. It’s a delightfully odd album that doesn’t stray too far from her last one, but is somehow more addictive. ‘Harbour’ and the title song are highlights.
All these cracking albums and it’s still February. 2022 is off with a bang.