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The List: Stereoboard's Best Albums of 2021

Monday, 13 December 2021 Written by Stereoboard

Well, that was still pretty weird, wasn't it? In, out, shake it all about etc. But this year, as difficult as it has been, was again studded with wonderful music, from introverted pandemic pieces to pop records that broke the whole thing open. Here, from the pens of Stereoboard's writers, are some of those highlights.


Olivia Rodrigo // Sour

Olivia Rodrigo has well and truly provided a break-up bible for Generation Z, showing that same affinity as Taylor Swift did for her fellow Millennial teens at the start of her career. ‘Sour’ seamlessly embodies the record-sleeve-to-the-chest cesspit of emotion that is adolescent heartbreak, which is a concept as timeless as it is funny to look back on. The tracklist guides us on a journey through her stages of grief at the end of a relationship, from bitterness, to self-doubt, to sadness, sprinkled with just the right amount of name-calling and righteous indignation to prevent the record from becoming self-indulgent. Now with seven Grammy nominations under her belt for the coming year, 2022 is looking blindingly bright for the Disney alumni. // Sophie Pengelly

Listen: Good 4 U


Nick Cave and Warren Ellis // Carnage

Over a hauntingly beautiful score, composed of violins, flutes and almost every  instrument inbetween, Nick Cave and long-time collaborator Warren Ellis reunited through lockdown and made ‘Carnage’, an album as complex as the period became for many: unpredictable, destabilising, pushing minds to the cusp of madness. Cave’s vocals neither snarl nor roar, but instead ache, worn yet wondrous, pondering over what was and what will be. The backdrop of orchestral instruments adds an operatic ambience, while lyrics pull at our heartstrings, reminiscent of pages in a favourite book. Cave, the poet consumed by his own imagination. Ellis, the street musician watching the world pass by. Together they shine, and ‘Carnage’ is a solemn slice of something special. // Rebecca Llewellyn  

Listen: Carnage


Lil Nas X // Montero

Some records are of the moment, others create their own moment. Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ exists firmly in the latter space. A celebratory rap whirlwind of queer lust, sex, and precision-tooled putdowns, here the Georgia multi-hyphenate and former one hit wonder candidate threw everything at the wall and watched it stick thanks to an assured sense of pop craft and the belief that he is capable of bringing his vision to life without compromise. // Huw Baines

Listen: Montero (Call Me By Your Name)


Japanese Breakfast // Jubilee

Japanese Breakfast was a project started by Michelle Zauner to try and help her to cope with the loss of her mother. Her first two albums ‘Psychopomp’ and ‘Soft Sounds from Another Planet’ pivoted around this theme. Now ‘Jubilee’ is an album that explodes with joy, and you can feel that in every single synth burst on Be Sweet. Sure, there’s discussion around the rich living in secret bunkers after the world above has been blown to bits and plenty of songs steeped in desire, but it feels like Zauner is having genuine fun with her subject matter. // Matty Pywell

Listen: Be Sweet


Boldy James and the Alchemist // Bo Jackson

Some creative partnerships work in a way that allows each member to accelerate their development with what is essentially a safety net beneath them. The latest wave in a flood of material from Detroit rapper Boldy James and producer the Alchemist is a multifaceted, woozy record that thrills with its consistent technical excellence. James’ flows are precise and multi-dimensional, playing different perspectives and lived-in imagery off of instrumentals that roll and weave, from Double Hockey Sticks’ pace-shifting drums to the repurposed soul samples of the Earl Sweatshirt collaboration Photographic Memories. // Huw Baines

Listen: Photographic Memories


Billie Eilish // Happier Than Ever

‘Happier Than Ever’ sparked a new era for Billie Eilish. As blush tones took precedence over her trademark neon green, Eilish revoked the typecast image gained from her goth-pop debut ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ and chose to step forward with a new sense of self. Alluding that she has had to hide under more than just oversized clothing, Eilish’s lyrics open up for the first time about her own experiences, and describe under a comforting cloak of delicate music the very real hardships she has faced on her rise to stardom. Now truly taking a moment to shine under the spotlight, Eilish delivers refreshing honesty in a soft melancholy style. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Happier Than Ever


Employed to Serve // Conquering

In 2017 ‘The Warmth of a Dying Sun’ made these Woking ragers UK metalcore royalty and, two years later, its followup ‘Eternal Forward Motion’ only polished their crown. With ‘Conquering’ though, Employed to Serve worshipped at the altar of American groove metal, indulging their love for Machine Head and Lamb of God to create their heaviest battering yet. Cuts like Mark of the Grave and We Don’t Need You were built around hammering riffs, while guitarist Sammy Urwin also graduated to co-lead vocalist. Thanks to his back-and-forth with Justine Jones, the band’s choruses grew stronger than ever. Nostalgic yet essential, ‘Conquering’ seized the metal world by storm. // Matt Mills

Listen: Exist


Mdou Moctar // Afrique Victime

Mdou Moctar’s sixth album is his most focused and exciting to date, and it sees the Nigerien’s psych-rock interpretations of Tuareg guitar music arrive with explosive, spiritual intensity, landing somewhere between the thrilling desert music of Songhoy Blues and the taut indie-pop of Sinkane. The high quality does not let up over 40 minutes of trippy shredding. But it’s not pure guitar stylings—the title track is a standout about the lasting damage of French colonialism. This epic rock hymnal marries a skipping reggaeton beat with call and response—the pace speeds up as the track develops, giving the rhythm an elasticity and intensity that totally wigs out. A phenomenal record in every sense of the word. // Jacob Brookman

Listen: Chismiten


Low // Hey What

Following 2018’s superb ‘Double Negative’ must have felt like an impossible task for Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, but ‘Hey What’ did so admirably. Quirky, murky and often downright weird, the album traverses a path through boundary-stretching territory as the ever-evolving band bend and distort their already unpredictable sound in even more unexpected ways. At the heart of the record, though, is what’s at the heart of 99% of their best moments—their sublime interwoven vocal harmonies. They remain stunning from the off, as opener White Horses can testify. Thirteen records in and Low are as vital as ever. // Graeme Marsh

Listen: Days Like These


Halsey // If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power

When Halsey announced they were working with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’, it was clear from the get-go this album was going to be a completely different beast to their previous releases. Though their work has always been sincere and occasionally blurred genre lines, this album found them pushing the envelope even further. Pop hooks are Trojan-horsed via discordant keys and industrial-leaning soundscapes, offering more stark and intimate moments than we’ve seen from Halsey before. They delve into a spectrum of emotions, delivering defiant and heartfelt lyrics that mirror the intensity of the music. // Laura Johnson

Listen: I am not a woman, I'm a god


Julien Baker // Little Oblivions

Julien Baker has always been an incredibly open lyricist, but this time around on ‘Little Oblivions’ it feels as if she’s really going for the jugular. It can be an overwhelming listen as she is utterly unforgiving of her own flaws. The confusion and overriding sense of negative thoughts is perfectly abstracted into the instrumentation: scratchy synths feel like wanting to tear your hair out or some sort of haunting apparition. It isn’t a joyful listen, but Baker so satisfyingly encapsulates carrying on despite being your own worst enemy. // Matty Pywell

Listen: Heatwave


Lana Del Rey // Chemtrails Over the Country Club

In a year that saw our favourite enigmatic pop icon release two different, yet equally revealing, records, ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’ was the most cohesive, satisfying and straightforward of the pair. Essentially a warm and intimate singer-songwriter album overflowing with beguiling and haunting melodies, its sweetly sung numbers take us on a bucolic road trip through Lizzy Grant’s complex formative years as a troubled romantic poet striving to make it in the music business. Openly contrasting carefree pre-fame days with conflicted feelings about who she’s become, this felt like our first real glimpse behind that multi-layered Del Rey curtain. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: White Dress


Turnstile // Glow On

Hardcore heavyweights Turnstile returned this year with a genre-hopping, experimental and much more melodic third album, opening the door to a broader range of fans outside of their usual pigeonhole, covering alt-rock to lo-fi, R&B to indie. There’s so much to digest in the record—lyrically, musically and technically—that it acts as a musical scavenger hunt, with new things to notice on each listen. The band recklessly hop from dreamy ‘80s melodies to smouldering breakdowns and basslines and bouncing hip hop-influenced beats with each track. Maybe it shouldn’t work, but somehow, it does. On ‘Glow On’, Turnstile rebel against genre elitists, smashing up the hardcore cookie cutter with a synth-shaped sledgehammer. And isn’t that what punk is all about? // Sophie Pengelly

Listen: Blackout


Every Time I Die // Radical

Formidable is an understatement when it comes to Every Time I Die’s ninth album. ‘Radical’ is a masterclass of a record, scorching and relentless, while steadfastly refusing to let the momentum drop across its 16 tracks. It’s just one of its many impressive feats–its others are its droolworthy breakdowns set to incite room-filling mosh pits, and its knack for irresistible bursts of melody. If, given their recent inter-band conflicts, this is the last album ETID release in their current form (God forbid) at least they’ll have left on a monumental high. // Emma Wilkes

Listen: Post-Boredom


Dave // We're All Alone in This Together

Dave has come a long way in a very short space of time. His debut album ‘Psychodrama’ was a critical and commercial triumph, securing the Mercury Prize, hitting number one in the UK Album Charts and scooping Album of the Year at the 2020 Brit Awards. His second record may come to be viewed in a similar light. One reason for that vote of confidence is the strength and diversity of the songs. From the digital melancholy of opener We’re All Alone to the avant-garde production on Survivor's Guilt, it’s clear that this is a recording artist with a superior talent for rich, detailed and often humiliating confessionals. If there is a criticism of the record, it’s probably that the record does not have the white hot currency of ‘Psychodrama’. References to Jeremy Corbyn, for example, suddenly feel dated. But as the UK rap scene becomes ever more competitive, mature and creatively vibrant, Dave has solidified his position at the top table. // Jacob Brookman

Listen: Clash


Dry Cleaning // New Long Leg

Ever sit in a pub and just listen to some of the conversations around you? That’s the kind of feeling Dry Cleaning vocalist Florence Shaw gives off as she lists off phrases as if they were stuck together in a scrapbook. What Dry Cleaning’s ‘New Long Leg’ renders so well is a portrait of modern Britain that isn’t necessarily directly political but simply observes the mundanity, making light out of those otherwise boring moments. They back it up with a sound that reflects the sighs and eye rolls of while punching through with a beastly guitar growl at any given moment. // Matty Pywell

Listen: Strong Feelings


Gojira // Fortitude

On ‘L'Enfant Sauvage’ and especially the Grammy-nodded ‘Magma’, Gojira shifted from you and your mates’ favourite underdogs to legitimate contenders for heavy metal supremacy. Their slamming tech-death matured into more emotive post-metal melodies, catalysed by the passing of the mother of members Joe and Mario Duplantier. ‘Fortitude’ maintained the accessibility of its immediate predecessors but flipped to a motivational headspace. While Amazonia howled for environmental action, Into the Storm was a call to revolutionary arms and Born for One Thing lobbied us to escape the trappings of a phone-obsessed society. In the process, the Frenchmen sealed their arena-level ascent. // Matt Mills

Listen: Amazonia


Hayley Williams // FLOWERS for VASES / descansos

Stripped-back and sombre, Hayley Williams is more her own person than ever before on the emotional folk endeavour ‘FLOWERS for VASES / descansos’. A million miles away from pop-punk sensations Paramore, a band that Williams has fronted for almost 20 years, the singer’s vocals are seemingly unrecognisable when comparing the two ventures side-by-side. Soft and tender notions replace angst-filled anthems, and we can truly hear Williams’ breath exhale as she settles into the bloom of a solo career and her individual identity. Stunning is too subtle a word to describe ‘FLOWERS for VASES / descansos’. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: My Limb


Little Simz // Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

It’s still difficult to wrap one’s head around the lengthy ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’. What is discernible, however, is the phenomenal artistry of Little Simz, who reaches far beyond the scope of her more populist male peers in the UK rap scene. ‘...Introvert’ is an album that’s tremendously multi-faceted, both in its lyrical themes and presentation. Particularly glorious moments include the lush neo-soul of Woman, the ferociousness of Rollin Stone, and the infectious Afrobeat groove of Point and Kill. Despite the rather self-indulgent interludes—a frustrating trope that often diminishes rap albums—this LP brilliantly demonstrates the ambition and undeniable talent of an artist who still has so much left to give. // Alex Myles

Listen: Introvert


John Mayer // Sob Rock

With a glossy ‘80s sleeve that immediately brought to mind Miami Vice, Armani suits and ‘greed is good’ yuppies, it initially seemed like the master of mellow was about to punk us with a yacht-rock parody album. How wrong we were. Having acquired some musical plutonium to power up his latest sonic DeLorean, John Mayer’s ‘Sob Rock’ hurtled listeners back to 1985 in super-sleek style. As smooth as a Bailey’s foam bath, everyone from Dire Straits and Toto to Don Henley and Springsteen informed this pristine and soulful collection of exquisitely laid back, bittersweet AOR. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: Last Train Home


Injury Reserve // By The Time I Get to Phoenix

At times, Injury Reserve’s ‘By The Time I Get to Phoenix’ resembles the constituent parts of an album laid out on the floor, disconnected but poised to become something greater again. The Arizona hip hop group’s first release since the death of member Stepa J. Groggs is both formally daring and deeply disciplined, avoiding easy moves and payoffs in order to push on into weirder, more abrasive territory. Spanning noise, trip hop and TV on the Radio-esque synth lines, it’s never more than a few seconds away from doing something genuinely surprising. // Huw Baines

Listen: Outside


Laura Mvula // Pink Noise

‘Pink Noise’ is the sound of pure liberation. Despite having two excellent albums under her belt, Mvula was unfathomably let go from her previous record label. Rather than wallow in sadness and misery, the wonderfully versatile artist went full diva on her third album, adopting a funky sound and glorious ‘80s aesthetic that was bold and oh so enjoyable. On ‘Pink Noise’, Mvula’s searing vocals are paired with chunky synths, brass ensembles, and disco guitars to scintillating effect. Though diverging from previous, more restrained, efforts, Mvula’s ambition here is something to be marvelled at. Like Mvula says herself, listeners cannot help but ‘give into the feeling’ on a truly joyous album that is an underrated gem. // Alex Myles

Listen: Got Me


Chubby and the Gang // The Mutt’s Nuts

On their second album, Chubby and the Gang squeeze more creativity out of quintessential three-chord, rabble rousing punk than most bands could ever manage. While most of these songs are as scrappy and noisy as any studded leather-jacket wearing fan could wish for, there are plenty of quietly glinting moments of nuanced experimentation–a short blitz of shredding here, a piano flourish straight from the ‘50s there–that take the record to exciting places. It’s matched by an equally wide emotional range, at times staunchly political with a proud working-class touch, at others, sentimental and even vulnerable. ‘The Mutt’s Nuts’ certainly lives up to its title. // Emma Wilkes

Listen: I Hate The Radio


Mogwai // As the Love Continues

Scotland’s post-rock standard-bearers were writing their 10th album when the COVID-19 lockdown struck, throwing the entire creative process into the air well before Zoom and remote-working became commonplace. Nonetheless, 11 months later, the fruits of their labour, ‘As the Love Continues’, soared to number one on the UK Album Chart. Rightfully so. It was a showcase of its genre at its shimmering best, climbing to crescendo after crescendo with electronic, rock and fleeting metal textures. Single Ritchie Sacramento even threw in vocals to become an instant favourite. Who says everything in the charts has to be naff? // Matt Mills

Listen: Ritchie Sacramento


Mike // Disco!

Mike’s work has long had a sense of heaviness about it, a factor that only became more apparent as he investigated grief at the loss of his mother, but in his rich, deliberate tone there is also a growing sense of self. Backed by the serene samples of the ‘Disco!’ opener Evil Eye he is both punchy and precise, and it’s a balance he maintains when the instrumentals break down into something a little more esoteric, as they do on the competing, stop-start bed of Big Love. Self-produced, there is a strong sense that his flows are serving as an anchor, preventing everything else from spiralling away. // Huw Baines

Listen: Big Love


Courtney Barnett // Things Take Time, Take Time

Written during enforced isolation, Courtney Barnett’s third solo album ‘Things Take Time, Take Time’ has an inevitable air of solitude about it. A drum machine beat here, simple guitar hook there, its roots are often laid bare but those loveable, lazy vocals provide a suitable and comforting constant. Here’s The Thing is possibly the pick of the bunch, delivering a snapshot of the Aussie singer’s career to date as it traverses casually slung beginnings into a beautiful, blooming presence. It’s another success story in an unassuming and continuously improving catalogue. // Graeme Marsh

Listen: If I Don't Hear From You Tonight


Adele // 30

Expressing human emotion with the utmost beauty, Adele captivated on her blockbuster fourth album ‘30’, creating music that resonated in tune with her fractured soul. With each release to date, Adele has imparted her own experiences in reflecting on her age and life. But, arriving at the end of her marriage, the world ‘30’ explores is overwhelmingly raw and real. Adele, standing as a pillar of strength during such upheaval, moves from blinding confusion and anguish to rekindling herself in the wake of it all. Driven by Adele’s powerhouse vocals, ‘30’ is propelled into the realms of the truly outstanding. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Easy on Me


Tyler, the Creator // Call Me If You Get Lost

Tyler, the Creator is going to follow his own road. From the title on down this record dared the listener to keep up, challenging us not to lose sight of him around the bend. Facilitated by DJ Drama and inspired by the producer’s Gangsta Grillz mixtape series, Tyler leaned into pockets of weirdo melody as easily as he rolled forward on the menacing beat of Lumberjack. In each setting he’s slick and in control, turning on a sixpence during the Domo Genesis-featuring Manifesto or drawing the synth shards of Rise! into something sweet and satisfying. // Huw Baines

Listen: Corso


Clairo // Sling

Everything about ‘Sling’ is a far cry from the days when Clairo was very much within the umbrella of emerging bedroom pop artists. Despite her relatively short career, we’ve seen a startling level of songwriting maturity, which started with 2019’s ‘Immunity’. Now on ‘Sling’ Clairo has channelled her love of Joni Mitchell to create an album of contemporary pop that shimmers with intimacy. It perfectly captures the self-reckoning that comes with entering your 20s and allows us into her thought processes as she comes to a sense of healing among satisfying textures. // Matty Pywell

Listen: Bambi


Joe Bonamassa // Time Clocks

Mr. Consistency’s latest winner unleashed one hell of a commercial kick without selling short his artistic integrity. The American’s imperious guitar skills will always bag the headlines, but ‘Time Clocks’ proves first-rate songwriting is now Bonamassa’s trump card.  Erupting with radio-roasting hooks, not to mention bedazzling country, prog, jazz, gospel and world music flourishes, Joe Bo’s retro-modernistic blues-rock, and increasingly confessional storytelling, hit musically gripping and emotionally rewarding new heights on a dynamite release that screamed ‘master craftsman.’ Highlights abound, but we recommend checking out that impressive bit between the beginning and end of the record.  You won’t be disappointed. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: Time Clocks


Thrice // Horizons/East

Are there really any other guitar bands as reliable as Thrice? Given the awe-inspiring quality of their 11th album, the answer is still a firm no. ‘Horizons/East’ favours burning slowly, contemplating deeply, and blending genres with delicate grace, but there is still a quiet sense of power to it, with dreamy yet commanding guitar lines that send these songs soaring. With this, Thrice have a trifecta of gorgeous post-hiatus records under their belts, but what is equally admirable here is their commitment to continual evolution, even this deep into an illustrious career. ‘Horizons/East’ is a true thing of beauty. // Emma Wilkes

Listen: Scavengers


Wolf Alice // Blue Weekend

A simple rule of life is that if Wolf Alice release an album it’ll be nominated for the Mercury Prize. But the winners of the 2018 award have managed to achieve the rare feat of taking another giant leap on their third album ‘Blue Weekend’. It’s best represented by The Last Man On Earth, a spectral ballad as graceful as it is utterly fatalistic. It is Ellie Rowsell at her illuminative best, and here there’s a sense that Wolf Alice could pull off anything. With a whole range of sounds from glossy synth-pop to kinetic punk, ‘Blue Weekend’ effortlessly settles into multiple styles. // Matty Pywell

Listen: Feeling Myself


The Snuts // W.L.

If the Arctic Monkeys had grown up in Glasgow during the Britpop explosion, before it became watered down and terrible, this bold and charming debut would have been the intoxicating result. Confidently swaggering across varied terrain, everything from guitar-driven indie and Black Keys-esque blues-rock to earnest troubadour crooning, jangling-pop ditties and pumping electro anthems are dispatched as the Scottish foursome confidently blend heart-on-sleeve intimacy with boisterous wide-eyed vigour. Tailor-made for radio playlists, and built to incite huge festival singalongs beneath a blazing sun, it’s an impressive bow that suggests even better may be on the horizon. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: Always


Nao // And Then Life Was Beautiful

Nao’s third album is a terse 13 track investigation of diverse and listenable neo-soul, combining versatile yet distinctive vocals with guest spots from Lianne La Havas, Lucky Daye and Nigerian highlife star Adekunle Gold. Nao’s key skill on this record is in her ability to move between the subgenres of soul. Her voice—all gutsy candyfloss on tracks like Good Luck and Glad That You’re Gone—is revitalised on Antidote and Burnout in more grown-up, deeper singing. It feels reductive to attribute such a shift to her new role as a mother, and yet such life changes will surely have had an impact on her artistic practice. // Jacob Brookman

Listen: Wait


Snail Mail // Valentine

When Snail Mail’s debut album ‘Lush’ first arrived in 2018, singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan was just 19 years old, yet had still firmly established her place as a poster girl for the thriving indie-emo scene. While the punkiness of her previous material has been somewhat sanded down on her second record, Jordan maintains an element of edge to otherwise gentle indie-rock through her trademark raspy vocals, complemented by the sparkly emo guitars of Glory and the soaring, passion-fuelled chorus of the album’s title track. The contrast between her looped, synth-led instrumentals and poppy hooks with the darkness of her songwriting—candidly addressing alcoholism, suicide and the pressures of fame and life in the public eye—makes for a feast that artists far beyond her years often fail to create. // Sophie Pengelly

Listen: Ben Franklin


Self Esteem // Prioritise Pleasure

Self Esteem’s ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ finds Rebecca Lucy Taylor on top form, both lyrically and musically, unapologetically navigating her path to self love while holding a middle finger up to societal expectations. Dynamic percussion drives this accomplished pop record, which sees Taylor drawing on eclectic influences, ranging from Baz Lurhmann to Kanye West. Mic droppable-lines are littered throughout, but the singer and drummer is as insightful as she is witty. ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ will bowl you over, and pick you back up. // Laura Johnson

Listen: Prioritise Pleasure


CHVRCHES // Screen Violence

CHVRCHES ‘Screen Violence’ is as off-the-wall as the Glaswegian band can get. Veering away from bubble-gum pop preconceptions to deliver twisted horror film-inspired lyrics, they seemingly relish in the colour draining away from their magenta-laced musical veins. But, crucially, they don’t lose sight of the peppy punchiness that forms their overall sound. Familiar synth-patterns are woven throughout, and those crowd-pleasing anthems haven’t vanished quite yet. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: How Not To Drown


Backxwash // I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses

Not all resets are head-clearing and holistic—they can be grim, abrupt, violent. Following the more measured closing stanza of ‘God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It’ with this bruising blend of rap, industrial and nu-metal is a harsh, brutally exciting pivot. Pairing a patient, muscular flow with explosions of scabrous noise, Backxwash ramps up the tension, creating a walled-in, claustrophobic atmosphere where moments of relief are in short supply. When they do come, they feel hard earned. // Huw Baines

Listen: I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses


Arab Strap // As Days Get Dark

Arab Strap’s long-awaited return—some 16 years on from the release of ‘The Last Romance’—proved that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The world outside Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton’s window is almost unrecognisable, but they react to it with the same scratchy wit and sad sack vibiness. This is a head-nodder of a record that will make you remember great nights at shit pubs that ended in melancholy, while dragging almost involuntary laughter from your gut by pointing out the absurdity of it all. “I don’t give a fuck about the past,” Moffat drawls in the LP’s opening line. “Or glory days gone by.” It might be a lie. But, also, what fucking glory days, man? // Huw Baines

Listen: Compression Pt. 1


Møl // Diorama

The 2018 debut album by these Danes, ‘Jord’, flipped the blackgaze script. After genre idols Deafheaven and Alcest rose by interrupting black metal’s intensity with shoegaze segues, Møl layered the two styles together, playing ambient guitar notes over a thrashing backbone. ‘Diorama’ voiced the same outlook but accentuated the beauty. That resulted in anthems such as Serf, where vibrant melodies are plucked between frontman Kim Song Sternkopf’s screeches. Itinerari introduced clean singing to their canon, while Tvesind toyed with death metal riffery. With this album, Møl flourished into one of the most limitless bands in heavy music. // Matt Mills

Listen: Photophobic


Sam Fender // Seventeen Going Under

Sam Fender’s second album has continued the sharp skyward trajectory for the 27-year-old from North Shields. Songs that are drenched in the heartland rock stylings of Bruce Springsteen and the War on Drugs soar through the air, with introspective, occasionally heartbreaking lyrics replacing the direct political commentary of his debut record. It’s intense yet listenable indie music that is clearly intended to dominate festival nights and establish the singer-songwriter as one of UK music’s top troubadours. And it might work—Fender appears to have the talent and support apparatus. It will be increasingly hard to ignore him in 2022. // Jacob Brookman

Listen: Spit of You


St. Vincent // Daddy’s Home

Seductive, straight-talking, and strikingly sentimental. ‘Daddy’s Home’ evokes a flurry of emotion and paves new lyrical ground for Annie Clark, more well-known by her stage name of St. Vincent. Schmoozing over a sepia-clad ‘70s soundscape, pockets of jazz and tender piano keys clink over champagne glasses. Yet despite the albums risqué, and at times, tongue-in-cheek delivery, Clarke uses her music as a means to unburden herself from years of inner turmoil. With the album’s backstory weighted heavily upon the relationship Clark shares with her father either side of his incarceration, the sultry shine wears away to reveal an album steeped in sorrow, forgiveness, and self-acceptance. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Pay Your Way In Pain


Ghetts // Conflict of Interest

With his intelligent bars and unconventional flow, Ghetts has always stood out from the crowd. ‘Conflict of Interest’ cements his outlier status further, for it’s an album that’s innately personal and profound while the beats and production remain naturally eccentric—a rarely executed feat. Lead single Mozambique is a shining example; the icy vocal chops, glossy synths and Xhosa rapping of Moonchild Sanelly are perfectly crafted. The grime veteran shows real maturity and introspection on the album with ballads Dead to Me and Proud Family, and more conventional grime tracks like IC3. Though Ghetts could have enjoyed the retrospective acclaim that comes with hanging up his boots, instead he again sets high standards for the many stars who follow in his wake. // Alex Myles

Listen: No Mercy


The Armed // Ultrapop

There have been few records in any genre as viscerally exciting as ‘Ultrapop’ released in the past 12 months. Here the hardcore collective uncovered new strains of melody and tangled noise amid their maximalist charge through styles, settling on songs such as Masunaga Vapors, which will kick your teeth in and then invite you to watch the sun rise with some people it knows who are really chill, honestly. Where the Armed go next is anybody’s guess, but they’ll have to go some to top this. // Huw Baines

Listen: All Futures


Sleater-Kinney // Path Of Wellness

‘Path Of Wellness’ was an album of firsts for Sleater-Kinney. It was their first without long-term drummer Janet Weiss, who bowed out in 2019, and the first they’d produced themselves in their 27-year-career. It found Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein drawing from classic rock influences, while still delivering their trademark staccato, punctuated vocals and meandering melodies, though this time the guitar lines were even more fuzz-fuelled, and hit harder as a result. It’s the perfect vehicle for the pair’s adroit social commentary, which proves they are as uncompromising as ever. // Laura Johnson

Listen: Worry With You


Vince Staples // Vince Staples

Vince Staples’ self-titled LP, a short, sharp collaboration with producer Kenny Beats, is the sort of hip hop record that feels like a good time until it isn’t. There is a heavy, stifling atmosphere that hangs over Staples’ typically charismatic flows, which house lyrics that bite when you least expect it. Taking us back to Long Beach and shining a torch on violence, trauma, regret and recrimination, Staples displays an appetite for world building that’s matched at all times by the desire to tell it like it is. There’s no one out there doing it quite like he is. // Huw Baines

Listen: Law of Averages


Faye Webster // I Know I’m Funny haha

Faye Webster is the type of songwriter whose lyricism allows them to pick up the little details and turn them into something with a greater sense of personality. ‘I Know I’m Funny haha’ is a record that isn’t hung up on having any expectations of itself, with the production making it sound as though Faye is jamming in the room next door to you. There is great subtlety in the way small flourishes of psychedelia become part of the fabric on some tracks. // Matty Pywell

Listen: I Know I’m Funny haha


Jazmine Sullivan // Heaux Tales

There’s something righteous and powerful about the way Jazmine Sullivan folds the experiences of others into the sinuous, pointed R&B of ‘Heaux Tales’, a record all about taking stock of your shit and realising that there is power in your story. The voices given the floor here are lacerating, funny and brutally honest, and Sullivan weaves the narratives together with songs that pop and shake thanks to classic soul backing vocals and revelatory gospel flourishes. // Huw Baines

Listen: Girl Like Me


John Grant // Boy from Michigan

On John Grant’s fifth solo album, the former Czars man interrogates Americana, taking us on a grisly voyage through the acidic catacombs that hold the whole national myth together. It’s a remarkable turn from a singer-songwriter who has sharpened his reading of his home country since relocating to the volcanic crags of Iceland a decade or so ago. While ‘Boy from Michigan’ retains a bleakness that may require a particular mood, it’s important, revealing listening. Grant is a true outsider, someone whose youth was painful, complicated and scarring, and to hear him talk with such candour, wit and poetic integrity is one of the most remarkable corners of modern pop music. // Jacob Brookman

Listen: Boy From Michigan


Lorde // Solar Power

Immersed in the lull of beach waves, basking under a soothing summer sky, as the sound of nearby civilisation drifts into the shore, the hazy appeal of Lorde’s ‘Solar Power’ washes over its listeners. Reappearing after a hiatus that stretched on for several years, Lorde gave us an album soaked in dreamy, wistful tracks. As her lyrics ponder and pull at the years gone by, Lorde breaks open her star-studded career. Grappling with fame, and relinquishing her past self, she is capable of piercing with sharp truths clothed in music that is gentle and inoffensive. ‘Solar Power’ makes for a compelling and oddly comforting listen. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Fallen Fruit


Trivium // In the Court of the Dragon

‘The Sin and the Sentence’ and ‘What the Dead Men Say’ redeemed Trivium after years of fried vocals and tumultuous lineups. Armed with Matt Heafy’s rejuvenated screams and new permanent drummer Alex Bent, all seemed right in the world. ‘In the Court of the Dragon’ rocketed that comeback to new heights, perhaps becoming the Floridians’ best album to date. In the Shadow of the Abattoir, Like a Sword Over Damocles and a blistering title track embraced all of heavy music’s best factors, from titanic melodies to uncompromising song structures. It was a must-listen for anyone whose heart beats to the iron clang of metal. // Matt Mills

Listen: Feast of Fire


Kiwi Jr. // Cooler Returns

This is an album that never asks to be taken too seriously. Kiwi Jr. make indie-pop that doesn’t seem capable of sitting still. Following the lyrical tangents of singer Jeremy Gaudet is an absolute pleasure as he goes about touting his own conspiracy theories, decrying modern politics and talking about strangling wedding bands in a quick-fire style. Yes, it can often feel like you’re trying to catch your breath but it’s a ride that you never want to get off. // Matty Pywell

Listen: Cooler Returns


The Dirty Nil // Fuck Art

Released just after the book was opened on 2021, the third album from The Dirty Nil cut through the darkness of a locked-down January and made it a little sunnier. Sounding something like a distant relative of Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’, this record is loaded with easy-going charm, but maintains an outlook on love, jealousy, angst and, um, bike theft that’s mature as well as boyish. There’s a simple joy about its bouncy choruses and chunky riffs that fit into the narrow space where rock ‘n’ roll ends and punk begins that’s difficult not to fall in love with. // Emma Wilkes

Listen: Doom Boy


Vic Mensa // I Tape

Here Vic Mensa pulled together an eclectic group of sounds and collaborators on a seven track EP that demonstrated the Chicago wordsmith’s breadth of talent. ‘I Tape’ is an occasionally fantastic turn from a musician who has hovered on the edge of mainstream success since being signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation stable in 2015. High points include Fr33dom (feat. Zacari), a spiky tip-toeing groover that is equal parts trap and grime, alongside the closer Shelter, featuring hip hop royalty Wyclef Jean and Chance the Rapper. It’s a low-slung guitar-led song with delicate, thoughtful stylings by all involved, and provides a splendid, sprawling finale to a piece of rare integrity and conscience. Mensa deserves to find a bigger audience. // Jacob Brookman

Listen: Shelter


The War on Drugs // I Don’t Live Here Anymore

The latest album from The War on Drugs is nothing short of life affirming at times. Adam Granduciel sounds as though he is at the peak of his wisdom, spinning tales of perseverance, grief and the lessons that time affords you. All of this is set within a sound that is polished with obvious yet powerful hooks as guitar riffs and synths combine to create something that always seems to resemble a hopeful horizon. It is liminal at times, and you don’t exactly know where the journey is going to end up, but it’ll be worth it in the end. // Matty Pywell

Listen: Change


Squid // Bright Green Field

Brilliantly eccentric and unapologetically loud, Squid delivered distortion at its best on their debut album ‘Bright Green Field’. A band steadily rising from the grassroots gig circuit, Squid guaranteed word-of-mouth impact with their weirdly wonderful vocals and trippy take on brass instruments. A band that cannot and will not be pinned under any genre, Squid take great pleasure in overlapping sounds and styles to create music that is utterly unique. Yet what first plays out in our ears as pure experimentation actually has a deeper thought process behind it—‘Bright Green Field’ has been created within vast imaginary cityscapes, Squid harnessing an ever-expanding universe for their music to frolic in. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Narrator


Lucy Dacus // Home Video

Generally, the arrival of new Lucy Dacus material hits in the same way as deciding to watch Marley & Me. You know it’s going to be gut-wrenching, you know you’ll probably be sobbing by the end of it, but it’s self-torture in the absolute best way. On her third album, ‘Home Video’, Dacus still provides us with those raw, unfiltered confessionals, but with a larger element of storytelling, providing a snapshot autobiography of her adolescence in a devout Christian family. She exposes her vulnerabilities, but dusts them with her signature wry wit and humour, maintaining the introspective lyrical prowess of her previous releases to the backdrop of warm indie-rock. Next rainy day, make yourself a hot chocolate, cocoon yourself into a duvet, and ‘Home Video’ will be your perfect soundtrack. // Sophie Pengelly

Listen: VBS


Katy Kirby // Cool Dry Place

Some records feel like they have always been hanging around in the background, happy to provide a comforting half-hour while everything else falls apart. Katy Kirby’s immaculate debut LP ‘Cool Dry Place’ assumed that role with some ease, offering winsome hooks alongside beautifully rendered, homespun indie-rock. In 30 minutes or so she offered up windows into her life and beliefs, using them as basis for songs that were insistent in their melodic construction and addictive without really trying too hard. Magical. // Huw Baines

Listen: Traffic!


Lindsey Buckingham // Lindsey Buckingham

Proving Lindsey Buckingham should keep going his own way after being ousted from Fleetwood Mac, this transatlantic folk-pop masterpiece is the work of a legendary musician with lots of artistic mileage left on his clock. Dialling down experimental urges in favour of a more classicist retro approach, it’s a sublimely sculpted, quietly reflective and elegantly thoughtful affair where divine harmony-laden hooks, and seductive sun-drenched melodies, cuddle up alongside sparkling guitar textures and production choices. If Fleetwood Mac had made this album, it would have been a critically acclaimed and fitting end to their recording career. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: On The Wrong Side


Poppy // Flux

Poppy has made a name for herself through constant reinvention. Making the shift from saccharine pop to nü-metal on 2020’s ‘I Disagree’, she’s now making moves from the grunge playbook on ‘Flux’, but delivered at a punk pace and with industrial flourishes. Songs such as So Mean and Lessen The Damage owe a lot to Nirvana and Jack Off Jill respectively, while she’s finessed her shout-sing delivery beautifully and shelved the Lolita-esque spoken word that introduced her to the world. Unpredictable and eclectic, ‘Flux’ is undeniably Poppy. // Laura Johnson

Listen: Flux


Strand of Oaks // In Heaven

Timothy Showalter is no stranger to addressing trauma in his life and his seventh studio album ‘In Heaven’ was no different. This time around, tapping into loss and grief provided the bones for the collection but it was brought to life by incredible contributions elsewhere. Firstly, Kevin Ratterman’s pristine production worked wonders, alongside his magnificent drumming and, as with previous album ‘Eraserland’, My Morning Jacket’s members provided significant impetus to the project, most notably guitarist Carl Broemel, who stole the show with a stunning performance on several tracks. Another must-have from an already essential artist. // Graeme Marsh

Listen: Galacticana


Amyl and The Sniffers // Comfort To Me

Great bands make playing music look effortless, like they were born to do it. Amyl and the Sniffers were born to play punk-rock and whip crowds into a frenzy, it’s in their blood. With ‘Comfort To Me’, they’ve managed to bottle lightning in 13 songs delivered across 34 thrilling minutes. In comparison to their 2019 self-titled debut, this album sees ideas explored more fully and executed more expertly while maintaining that raucous live edge, as well as vocalist Amy Taylor delving deeper for her lyrics on tracks such as Choices, about everyone's right to autonomy, and No More Tears, which details a supportive relationship. Elsewhere there are pub-rock party anthems aplenty, with nods going to the scrappy Security, Maggot and Laughing. Get rowdy. // Laura Johnson

Listen: Guided By Angels


Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes // Sticky

Concocting an album brimming with chaos and contagiously catchy music, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes tipped the scales on their latest release ‘Sticky’, providing a sound fuelled by the frenzied madness that fans adore them for. Pairing off-kilter music with sour spat-out vocals, Carter welcomed Idles’ Joe Talbot and rising star Lynks to join them for the ride, the end result being nothing short of sublime. There is no denying that the edgy grit of ‘Sticky’ will boost the volume of any stereo speaker all by itself. // Rebecca Llewellyn  

Listen: My Town


Dawn Richard // Second Line

Six solo records and almost two decades on from her time as a reality TV star, Dawn Richard exists in a space all of her own. Part concept piece, part celebration of her roots in New Orleans culture, ‘Second Line’ is all charisma and genre-hopping chops. Loosely held together by house production, there is a scrapbook feel here as Richard folds narration (by her mother) together with malleable vocal performances and music that won’t sit still, bouncing from one place to another with the pulse-quickening momentum of a real second line parade. // Huw Baines

Listen: Bussifame


Goat Girl // On All Fours

On their second album ‘On All Fours’ Goat Girl went past that South London post-punk archetype to explore deeper psychedelic flourishes. Produced by Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey, they tackle themes of environmentalism, capitalism and mental health with subtle allusions to rising tides and ignorance. It’s the type of album that feels almost like a warning sign with gritty, abrasive guitar riffs signalling our impending doom. Yet the heavier moments are undercut by moments of escapist neon-soaked synths. ‘On All Fours’ gives you the duality of a broken world and the visions of utopia sparked as a result. // Matty Pywell

Listen: Sad Cowboy


Arlo Parks // Collapsed in Sunbeams

‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ is the debut album from Arlo Parks, and it was awarded this year’s Mercury Prize. Capturing comforting waves of sound, while touching upon depression and renewal in its lyrics, this is the musical equivalent of a warm hug. Parks crafted her album to soothe minds by speaking very real truths and she communicates through brushed vocals and spoken word to envelop that homegrown feeling and allow a buttery softness to her music. ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ transcends as laid-back listening set among an uncomfortable world. Parks recognises and addresses the ugliness around her, but does so in a way that is neither harsh nor abrasive, to create a truly beautiful album. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Caroline


Bicep // Isles

‘Isles’ is a focused, intelligent and innovative follow-up to Bicep’s 2017 eponymous debut, and while the Belfast electronica duo has a far smaller audience than contemporaries Disclosure and Jamie xx, the quality of the output is of a similar standard. Weirdly, this is music rooted in a particular lyrical style despite its relative lack of lyrics. Song titles are ruthless one word poems: Lido, Sundial, Atlas. It feels one part rave, one part art installation. It’s dance music of intense literacy, channelling Chicago house, Italo-disco and jungle, among dozens of other flourishes that make the record a truly compelling listen. // Jacob Brookman

Listen: Saku


Claud // Super Monster

On the voyage from teenager to twentysomething, bedroom-pop artist Claud invited us into their head through a dreamy debut album ‘Super Monster’. Capturing emotions like Polaroid snapshots, both happiness and sadness are exuded by this cool DIY indie record. Claud contrasts heady lyrics with light vocals and a breezy soundscape as romantic songs brim with nostalgia and synths bop along to idiosyncratic drum patterns. ‘Super Monster’ sways in and out of genres just as our protagonist’s romances soar and crumble. Yet through the allure of bedroom pop, Claud amplifies the freedom in finding oneself. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Guard Down


Laura Stevenson // Laura Stevenson

Eventually, the world at large will have to hold their hands up and admit they were wrong for not elevating Laura Stevenson to the ranks of cherished indie-rock songwriters adored by millions. If you favour sharply drawn, emotionally stark songwriting performed by someone with a voice that will crack you in two, there are few more rewarding catalogues than hers. Here Stevenson makes a series of immaculate songs feel folksy and natural, delivering personality and rough-hewn melody alongside lyrics that attempt to understand the trauma of another. At times it’s like watching legs kick frantically beneath the serene water’s surface. // Huw Baines

Listen: State


Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth // Utopian Ashes

For any heartbroken soul who might feel such pain hasn’t been accurately captured in all those superficial break up songs, Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie and Savages’ Jehnny Beth concocted a visceral warts-and-all antidote with this painfully relatable, yet strangely comforting, collaboration. Depicting the dying embers of a disintegrating marriage, while mourning dreams that have been crushed beneath Father Time’s merciless boot, a misty air of gothic grief allows the record’s tender twisting of ‘70s soul, jazz, country and R&B to underscore perfectly rendered duets that bleed empathetic, unvarnished truths from every note. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: English Town


Indigo De Souza // Any Shape You Take

‘Any Shape You Take’ is perhaps the perfect summary of the journey that Indigo De Souza’s second album whisks you away on. An artist who enjoys the potential to flow between genres freely, it makes for an ever-contorting album experience that transitions seamlessly into new rhythms and landscapes. Yet this is matched by a breadth of emotion that allows Indigo to truly express feelings that may otherwise be suppressed. We hear yearning calls and cries not only of agony but of relief too, ‘Any Shape You Take’ is a rewardingly intense listen. // Matty Pywell

Listen: Real Pain


Squirrel Flower // Planet (i)

Only 18 months on from the release of Squirrel Flower’s debut LP, ‘I Was Born Swimming’,  ‘Planet (i)’ offered the sort of subtle reinvention that brings an artist’s true potential into focus. Here Ella Williams appears as a more rounded, more confident songwriter, pushing melody to the front of the conversation and allowing her voice to cut through the noise in exciting, unpredictable ways.​ Squirrel Flower’s music has a questing quality to it, with the knotty guitars of midwest emo jutting out into warm indie-folk, but these songs are never more than a couple of feet away from an arresting, grounding hook. // Huw Baines

Listen: I'll Go Running


Sturgill Simpson // The Ballad of Dood & Juanita

Akin to a classic John Ford movie filtered through the heart, soul and familial ancestry of its wilfully confounding creator, this wild west concept album served up a stirring tale of love, loss and vengeance. Fusing together proto-country and primal Appalachian folk, while throwing in a divine a cappella eulogy for good measure, the captivating narrative detail unfurled over 27 minutes is remarkably dense and effortlessly organic. Although hardly an original story, and relying on certain tropes to fill in the blanks, it’s another stellar release by a modern country troubadour who skilfully walks the line between traditionalist and iconoclast. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: Prologue


The Hold Steady // Open Door Policy

Deliberately abandoning the freewheeling raucousness of their gigs, Craig Finn and company crafted a record that added refined studio smarts to the band’s streetwise, instinctive rock ‘n’ roll. Without descending into Steely Dan levels of perfectionism, this sonically expansive, thematically cohesive collection deftly employed baroque textures to gift Finn’s typically literate conversational tales a subtly cool ‘Born To Run’ sheen.  Completed before the pandemic, and thus unintentionally prophetic, exploring notions of power, wealth, survival, capitalism and technology added extra resonance to a release that’s as edgy and agitated as it is energised and buoyant. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: Spices


Converge // Bloodmoon: I

If ever a record was founded on a collaborative spirit, it’s this one. Drawing together metalcore pioneers Converge, Cave In guitarist-vocalist Stephen Brodsky and goth-rock songwriter Chelsea Wolfe, ‘Bloodmoon I’ displayed a questing spirit as the claustrophobic, chaotic world of Kurt Ballou’s riffage and Jacob Bannon’s guttural screech was retrofitted to encompass wide open expanses, moments of chilling calm and surprising bursts of melody. // Huw Baines

Listen: Coil


The Pretty Reckless // Death By Rock & Roll

Broken by the kind of inescapable grief that allowed substance abuse and depression to take hold, Taylor Momsen extricated herself from that existential crisis by using artistic consumption and expression as a means of salvation. The relentless first half of this empowering beast captured the singer’s darkest days through head-splitting grunge anthemics, with the whole band delivering impressive, full-throttle performances. Yet, it sagely switched tonal gears towards the final third as a succession of rousing classic rock tracks, inspired by Momsen’s earliest influences (Neil Young and The Beatles), soundtracked her journey back to the light. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: And So It Went


Wiki // Half God

There is a seam of anger running through this record that jags out into the centre of the conversation from time to time, roughing up the edges of Navy Blue’s largely immaculate production. Wiki is a New Yorker who’s down to celebrate the city he comes from, but not at the expense of telling the truth about gentrification and the destruction of characterful aspects of his neighbourhood. His voice is as weathered and worn as it was during his days with Ratking but now it’s more versatile, cutting back against the keys of Roof just as he adds a percussive counterpoint to the snare-driven boom bap throwback New Truths. There’s a feeling that, unlike the city, he’ll thrive whatever time and outside taste throws at him. // Huw Baines

Listen: Roof


Tori Amos // Ocean to Ocean

This sublime record may have been inspired by bereavement, political turmoil and its creator ‘hitting an emotional wall’ during lockdown, but in writing herself out of that ‘personal hell’ Tori Amos crafted a heavenly gift for long time fans. Turning crushing despair into pure gold, ‘Ocean to Ocean’ delivers an immaculately constructed collection of elemental, spiritual, folk-inflected chamber pop that represents musical alchemy at its finest. Whether it’s the dreamy, yearning title track, deliciously eccentric Spies or Speaking With Trees’ gracious post-grief rejuvenation, every song is as melodically instant, musically lush and immensely appealing as her hallowed ‘90s work. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: Spies


Deafheaven // Infinite Granite

Wait, Deafheaven annoyed some people with a new record? Weird. Can’t picture it. Of course, the reality is that they seem to do that with each and every move. After making a pandemic live album that added coruscating weight to their blackgaze catalogue, ‘Infinite Granite’ took an abrupt turn into icy post-punk and shoegaze textures, with George Clarke leaving his paint-stripping screech on the shelf in favour of clean vocals for the first time. The result was a record of surprising melodic weight and magnificent guitar collages that felt expansive and ambitious in the face of close-mindedness. // Huw Baines

Listen: Great Mass of Color


Manic Street Preachers // The Ultra Vivid Lament

Sounding like an intense therapy session under a dozen sparkling mirror balls, while inebriated revellers party all around the room, the Manics’ most out and out pop album to date took pleasure in juxtaposing introspective and traumatised sentiments over a radio-friendly sound that oozes pure celebration. Citing ABBA and Glen Campbell as influences, Nicky Wire’s acutely personal and elegiac lyrics found solace and hope within relentlessly melodic tunes that, by eschewing full-blooded power chords in favour of upbeat piano beds, allowed its soaring hooks to take flight and render this one hell of a cathartic experience. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: Orwellian



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