Spring Highlights 2022

Inevitably, I don’t get the chance to review every album that catches my attention. For each review I post, there will be several other great records released that I don’t get to write about. And the last few weeks in particular have seen a surplus of fantastic new releases, making it tough to prioritise what to review. So I’ve decided to shout out a few of my favourite new records of the last few months, that I haven’t had the chance to dedicate a full review to.

First up is a trio of shimmering dreamy pop-rock albums from opposite corners of the globe. Australia’s Harriette Pilbeam released her sophomore solo LP as Hatchie on 22nd April. Her larger-than-life 80s-inspired synth-pop is cast in a thick lo-fi haze. Imagine Carly Rae Jepsen produced in the style of Wolf Alice. Giving the World Away impresses not only in its heady atmosphere and cinematic grandeur, courtesy of producer Jorge Elbrecht, but also in Pilbeam’s razor-sharp knack for melody. ‘Quicksand’, ‘This Enchanted’ and ‘Take My Hand’ are easily some of year’s most joyous pop tunes.

A week later and UK experimental pop duo Let’s Eat Grandma came out with their third studio album Two Ribbons. The same ingredients of dance pop and swimmy shoegaze make up this record, but the result is a little dreamier, looser and less rounded. The glitzy labyrinth that is ‘Hall of Mirrors’ steers the album away from the straight lines of conventional pop, whereas the riff on ‘Happy New Year’ is as flashy as any Pet Shop Boys hit.

Finally, America’s contribution to this glittering trifecta of experimental synth-pop is a lot grittier, leaning further into indie-rock territory. Sharon Van Etten’s latest LP We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong follows a stunning collaboration with Angel Olsen last year and a feature on Batts’ haunting new track ‘Blue’. Neither of these songs feature on the album, and nor do either of Van Etten’s latest solo singles ‘Porta’ and ‘Used To It’. Instead, Van Etten gives us 10 resplendent new tracks, ranging from the ecstatic pop of ‘I’ll Try’ to the ghostly, acoustic solitude of ‘Darkish’.

‘Far Away’, a glimmering take on Cocteau Twins-esque psych-pop, has a lot in common with Hatchie’s and Let’s Eat Grandma’s projects, whereas ‘Mistakes’ brings in a heavy beat and gungy, pulsing synths reminiscent of St Vincent’s Strange Mercy. Strongest of all are the uplifting harmonies of opening track ‘Darkness Fades’ and the uneasy minor chords of ‘Born’.

The world of rock music has seen some high-profile releases so far this year: Black Country, New Road‘s follow-up to their acclaimed 2021 debut; a chart-topping third album from post-punk rockers Fontaines DC, and a debut LP from 2021’s surprise stars Wet Leg.

Getting less attention is the confident sophomore record from the all-female, Irish indie-rock outfit Pillow Queens. Rough, raw and open-hearted, Leave the Light On showcases some truly excellent song-writing. The band let feeling guide their lyrics and effortless melodies, seeing no tension between this vulnerability and their unpolished, punkish sound. The track ‘No Good Woman’ is perhaps the best example of their distinct style: richly philosophical, instantly captivating, bristling with upbeat energy and yet straining with emotion: it’s lightning in a bottle.

In recent years it’s often been said that the future of rock is female.1 In the historically male-dominated genre, more and more female artists have recently come to prominence and women musicians are creating some of the most innovative and exciting new rock music. Along with Pillow Queens, artists like London-based Nilüfer Yanya and Glasgow’s Jill Lorean have both, on their most recent albums, staked out their distinct voices within the genre once proclaimed ‘dead’. For the latter, this is a fragile, evocative folk-rock with an eerie, arresting edge, while Yanya’s style is a soulful electronic pop-rock that simply dazzles on gorgeous tracks like ‘midnight sun’ and ‘shameless’.

Moving across the rock spectrum and across the globe, Australian group Gang of Youths released their dynamic fourth studio album angel in realtime. back in late February. This immaculately produced project pulses with a defiant and exuberant life-force that’s back in fashion in rock music thanks to artists like Sam Fender, the Snuts and Bleachers. But unlike the wild exhilaration evoked in these musicians’ work, the carefully-constructed orchestral rock of angel in realtime. gives the sense of a band fully in control of their sound. Even the most energetic tracks, ‘in the wake of your leave’ and ‘the kingdom is within you’ are clean-cut and sharply defined by sleek string sections and David Le’aupepe’s rich, articulate singing voice.

Outside the sphere of rock and pop, cutting-edge jazz saxophonist Trish Clowes and her band My Iris released their fourth studio album. Throughout the rapturous A View with a Room, Ross Stanley’s dreamy piano gently ripples under Clowes’ supple, free-flowing solos and Chris Montague’s luminous raindrops of electric guitar. Completing the quartet, drummer James Maddren keeps the music light and playful with his dusting of percussion.

And finally, wispy, quivering vocals and humming reverb thread together Scottish singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph’s entrancing new LP for you who are the wronged, a sparse and intimate portrait of vulnerability, rendered in wintry monochrome.

That’s just a few of the releases that have stood out to me in 2022, and we’re not even halfway through the year. Hopefully I pointed you in the direction of some exciting new releases, please feel free to comment with your favourite music of the year so far!

1 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/01/arts/music/rock-bands-women.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slx5RTnOCmw

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