[sic] Magazine

Neil Meehan’s Top 10 Albums Of 2022

1. Beth OrtonWeather Alive
The eight tracks on Orton’s eighth record come and go like a dream. Slow in tempo, spacious, entrancing, most clock in at over 5 minutes. Dreamy, Ghosteen-esque backdrops are complemented by Orton’s vocals, which at times are almost warble-like, hinting at a semi-conscious state of reflection. At others, bass grooves kick in, and she is vividly descriptive, enhancing the mood of this triumphant album: “Almost makes me wanna cry / The weather’s so beautiful outside.”

2. The SmileA Light for Attracting Attention
Whilst self-evidently doing so here, try to consider this record without any thought to the personnel behind it (Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner, producer Nigel Godrich), and you’ll find the year’s best collection of interesting rock rhythms, subtle guitar textures, and plenty of melodic intrigue. An album strong enough to Attract Attention in its own right.

3. The Mars VoltaThe Mars Volta
Unexpectedly announced then released in quick succession, The Mars Volta’s self-titled seventh studio album offers a change in style (less energetic, more introspective – a tearful Zane Lowe interview provides full context). What does remain the same is TMV’s ability to creep further inside, listen after listen, to slowly reveal their most emotional record yet.

4. Ethel CainPreacher’s Daughter
Dark, atmospheric, and at times chilling, the music on this debut record is as complex as the backstory to Hayden Silas Anhedönia, AKA Ethel Cain. ‘American Teenager’ hints at a pop album, but third track ‘A House In Nebraska’ changes that approach thereafter. Piano, gothic, gregorian chants, even leaning to sludge, Cain has conjured a powerful, emotive, cacophonous collection.

5. October DriftI Don’t Belong Anywhere
The Somerset four-piece’s debut made my end-of-year list in 2020, a year whose events seem to have much influenced its follow-up (‘Webcam Funerals’, ‘Airborne Panic Attack’). There’s no great deviation in sound, a great set of songs once again, with the Drift retaining the knack of choosing that perfect guitar tone, whether subtle or deliberately hard-hitting.

6. Helens Somewhere In Nowhere
Portland four-piece with a glorious sonic soundscape. Imagine the melodies of Mew, had the Danes quit the Academy of Prog and studied instead at the School of Shoegaze.

7. Andy BellFlicker
If such a School does exist, Bell – founding member of shoegaze pioneers Ride – would surely be Professor. Remarkably, Flicker is only his second solo album of a distinguished career, with the first as recently as 2020. It is lo-fi, acoustic, with sparse instrumentation, but has a depth in the songs for this psychedelic double album to pass with distinction.

8. Melt Yourself DownPray For Me I Don’t Fit In.
Fourth album from the London Afro-beat jazz ensemble, which will finally allow people to put the ‘Is the saxophone cool?’ debate to bed. Once they’ve finished dancing, that is.

9. Beach HouseOnce Twice Melody
Released initially in four ‘Chapters’, one month apart, the 18 tracks fit together as the 7th album by the US Dreampop duo. Minimal electronica, sumptuous synths and gentle guitar set the base for Victoria Legrand’s vocals – each release the perfect antidote to the cold, dark winter months of their emergence.

10. SAULT11
A late entry in at number ten is 11, released in November. The mysterious SAULT surprised everyone with not one but five new albums, given away free on their website. 11, the fifth, sees them juxtaposing loose-yet-precise grooves, sounding both instinctive and entirely deliberate. SAULT at their most soulful.