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Best albums of 2022: #1 Spiritualized “Everything was beautiful”

In 2018, Jason Pierce released his eighth studio album as Spiritualized, “And nothing hurt”. I remember hearing in advance of its release of how great it was, how it was a return to the sound and scope of their masterpiece, 1997’s “Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space”, and how it might very well be his last album. I was so excited I jumped on it right away, downloading the digital version that was granted me with the pre-order of it on vinyl. Of course, I fell in love with it and it ended up landing at number four on my end of year list for that year, but what struck me the most was how different the album sounded when I dropped the needle to the disc on my turntable.

When “Everything was beautiful” was announced, I was first of all relieved that the fear of Pierce packing it in was unwarranted and secondly, I was determined to wait for my pre-ordered physical copy to arrive before giving any of it a listen. And so I held off on release day, even as I heard once again that this album was the man’s best work since that aforementioned masterpiece, and I was duly rewarded to brilliance and beauty when I gave it a spin the very night the record arrived. It was like a perfect synergy between my ears and my earphones, music and emotion and (forgive me here) spirituality.

Billed by Pierce as a companion album to its predecessor, the two titles taken together form a quote from the Kurt Vonnegut novel, “Slaughterhouse five”, apt considering the songs from both albums were all written and demoed around the same time. This second album, however, has had more time to steep and has the experience of many other lifetimes, these felt even more deeply with all that we have collectively been through in the interim. As great as “And nothing hurts” was and as much as was put into it*, “Everything was beautiful” feels just more complete, more a sum of all of Pierce’s ideas and work, like you can hear pieces of all his career on this album. But this is more a revisit than a rehash, retracing his footsteps in a different set of shoes.

At surface, one might surmise that this album was a throwaway, given that it’s only seven tracks in length. However, it uses every millimeter of space on the record, filling out the forty-five minutes and colouring in the skies in a mass of sound, his sound, space rock. If you’ve never heard Spiritualized’s particular brew of psychedelic noise, gospel, and free jazz, “Everything was beautiful” is just as great a starting point as any of his works. And yes, I would say this is definitely the best Spiritualized record in more than two decades.

The best way to listen to “Everything was beautiful” is end-to-end, all the way through on vinyl but I’m willing here to offer up three picks to lead you by the nose to the prize.


“The mainline song“: When I first saw the title of this track, I immediately thought back to Spiritualized’s second record, “Pure phase”, and the instrumental track that picked up on a theme that coursed through that whole album. This one is different though, more about trains than heroin, and though about half of the track’s six minutes is purely instrumental, we do get into some words. “Sweet heart, sweet light. Oh babe, it’s a beautiful night, and I wanted to know if you wanted to go tell the city tonight.” It’s a track inspired by lockdowns and protests about lockdowns and about finally getting things right. Setting things right.

“Let it bleed (For Iggy)”: “Laboured over these words too long / And nothing to behold / Wanted it to be special for you / But it’s just a song.” Pierce’s ode to his hero Iggy Pop certainly starts off mellow and ventures into delicate balladry, but in his hands, a song is never just a song. The choirs sing and horns call and guitars vibrate. It is about putting everything into it and having faith, perhaps blind fatih, that the efforts will be appreciated. This is about Jason Pierce as much as it is Iggy Pop.

“Always together with you”: Echoes of the title track of “Ladies and gentlemen”, the first track of the album opens with a female breathing the title of the album over space echoes but this time the voice is provided by his daughter, Poppy, instead of his ex-lover, Kate Radley. The similarities don’t end there, indeed, this feels like a sequel, a revisit, but the object is the future and not the past. It is just as epic and beautiful and heartrending. It is six and a half minutes of hope and love, strings and choirs and horns and angels. “If you want a silver moon, I would be a silver moon for you. If you want a unicorn, I would be a unicorn for you. If you want a satellite, I would be a satellite for you. If you want a universe, I would be a universe for you.” The universe would be pleased.


*I remember writing about it at the time that it sounded to me like Pierce was putting his all into it.

In case you missed the previous five posts, here is the rest of the list:

10. Blushing “Possessions”
9. Just Mustard “Heart under”
8. Jeanines “Don’t wait for a sign”
7. The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Summer at land’s end”
6. Tallies “Patina”
5. Suede “Autofiction”
4. Wet Leg “Wet Leg”
3. Beach House “Once twice melody”
2. Alvvays “Blue rev”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

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Albums

Best albums of 2022: Five honourable mentions

This year will mark the sixth time I’ve done one of these end of the year, best album countdowns. Last year, even lacking the energy and the real will to pull it off, I still managed to do a more toned-down, two-part series. This year I wanted to try and do my usual six part effort, even if the word counts for each post don’t get as lofty as usual*. My goal is to share my favourites out of all the great music released this year.

On any other year, this particular post wouldn’t even exist but for some reason, this year, I couldn’t get my list down to just ten albums, no matter how hard I tried. I just had to shout out a handful more. These five are not ranked but instead, listed in alphabetical order by artist name. (Don’t worry, I’ll get back to properly ranking with the next post.)

So you can consider this a taste of things to come and if you haven’t yet given these five albums a spin, hopefully my brief words and the sample Youtube link provided will get you on the right path. Cheers!


The Afghan Whigs “How do you burn”: I’d heard the name but never listened to the alternative band from Cincinnati, even in their first go-round in the 90s. If their intense ninth studio album (third since reuniting in 2011) is any indication, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
Check out: A line of shots

Andy Bell “Flicker”: For his second solo album, the founding member of Ride and former Oasis guitarist went full on double LP and it is full of swirling, ethereal, droning, and [continue to insert dream pop and psych rock adjectives here] beauty.
Check out: Something like love

King Hannah “I’m not sorry, I was just being me”: The debut album by this duo hailing from Liverpool, England is moody and atmospheric and cinematic, earning them favourable comparisons to Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, and maybe even Portishead.
Check out: All being fine

Dan Mangan “Being somewhere”: The Canadian indie folk troubadour has increased the atmospherics and production trickery on his seventh studio album but hasn’t dispensed with any of quiet but loud passion in the process.
Check out: In your corner (for Scott Hutchison

Sharon Van Etten “We’ve been going about this all wrong”: In my books, SVE has been one of the most consistent singer/songwriters on the indie scene in terms of producing excellent work on every outing and her sixth full-length studio might be favourite of the bunch to date.
Check out: Mistakes


*And even if I don’t manage to get all the posts in before the end of the year…

I’ll be back very soon with albums #10 through #6 for my Best albums of 2022 list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

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Albums

Best albums of 2000: #2 The Dandy Warhols “Thirteen tales from urban bohemia”

Just about five years ago, I was nearing the end of my Best tunes of 2000 list and the excellent second single of this record, “Bohemian like you”, came up at number two. I’ve got my posts linked so that when they go live, a blast also goes out through my Twitter account and I distinctly remember that when that particular post went out, whoever manages the Dandy Warhols Twitter account gave my tweet a like but responded that the song should’ve been number one. And they weren’t wrong. It definitely would’ve been at the top if it weren’t for that one niggling song by Coldplay.

Well, if the Dandy Warhols Twitter handlers are paying attention again, my apologies to you because you’re once again second best. But at least this time, it won’t be to Coldplay.*

“Thirteen tales of urban bohemia” was the album that got me hooked on the Dandies. When I saw the album on the CD racks of HMV**, I picked it up and flashed right on back to seeing them open for The Charlatans three years prior. That momentary jolt and total recall pushed me to bring the compact disc home with me. And the album’s mix of psych and glam and country rock was a whole lot of fun and had me returning the disc to the platter quite often that year. I remember bringing it into work with me and playing it for Michael, my tool rental colleague, as well as (incidentally) the recent Charlatans album, “Us and us only”, as a way of refuting his theory that rock was dead in the face of pop and hip hop. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor has made reference to the fact that the band had wanted to make one last great classic rock record when they went into the studio to make this album.

Well, I don’t know about classic rock but it is certainly a great rock record and criminally, overlooked, if you ask me. It got a bit of burn in the UK after the aforementioned single was picked up for commercial use but if it weren’t for that, it might have gone nearly unnoticed.

“Thirteen tales of urban bohemia” was the Portland, Oregon-quartet’s third album but first with new drummer, Brent DeBoer, who came on to replace the original kit man Eric Hedford. It is a collection of thirteen fantastic and playful tunes that show a band peaking and getting it all exactly right. There is so much to love here that I could go on all day but I will limit myself to sharing my typical three picks for you. Enjoy.


“Get off”: “I love god all the same / But all I wanna do is get off / I feel it I feel it I feel it babe / Baby, come on” The first of my picks was the first single to be released off the album. Track eight is just over three minutes of pumping and chugging adrenaline. It doesn’t seem to be deep at all. No hidden meaning. No politics or diatribe. Just good fun. Like the first night of frost week. Like the celebration after winning the championship. The guitars get a boost from The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe, who if you believe the hype from the documentary “Dig!” that came out a few years later, was in a constant feud with the band. It don’t sound as much here, the guitars fall right in line with the rhythm of the drums, the feet stomp and the whole band grunts and groans its agreement with our intrepid frontman.

“Godless“: The opening track was released as single number three. As an opener, it totally works, that yawning and searing, reverb soaked guitar intro just eases its way up and down your spine and allows you time to soak it all in until the song and really, the album starts in properly. At just after the thirty second mark, the acoustic strumming commences, as does the marching rhythm and the trumpet flourishes provided by hired gun, Eric Matthews. Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s vocals are understated here, mostly a whisper and a hint at what’s to come. “Hey, I said you’re godless man /Hey, and you’re a soulless friend /Hey, I said you’re thoughtless / And I swear, I swear.” He’s crooning and hitting out at all the evil deeds done in the name of religion and godliness, and it feels quite in line with thematic titles that appear later in the album, like “Nietzsche” and “Mohammed”.

“Bohemian like you”: The second single to be released off of “Thirteen tales” is arguably one of the band’s biggest tunes and commercially high points. Not bad for a tune that started off as Taylor-Taylor’s musings and fantasizing about a girl stopped at a traffic light outside of his apartment. “Wait! Who’s that guy? Just hanging at your pad. He’s looking kinda bummed. Yeah, you broke up, that’s too bad. I guess it’s fair if he always pays the rent and he doesn’t get bent about sleeping on the couch when I’m there.” As I wrote about the tune when it appeared at number two on my best tunes of 2000 list, it’s a hell of a rocker, like many of the tracks on the album. But this one, in my opinion, is elevated slightly higher by its ability to not take itself, nor its performers too seriously. Woo-ooo-ooo!


Once again, I’m still not on a regular schedule around here so I won’t promise when we’ll get to album #1… but, as I say below, I’m hoping to close off this list before this year is out. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Richard Ashcroft “Alone with everybody”
9. The New Pornographers “Mass romantic”
8. The Cure  “Bloodflowers”
7. The Weakerthans “Left and leaving”
6. The Clientele “Suburban light”
5. Belle and Sebastian “Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant”
4. Coldplay “Parachutes”
3. Mojave 3 “Excuses for travellers”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

*Coldplay’s “Parachutes” came in at number four. I am hoping that the number one album for this list will see the light of day before the end of this year.

**Remember them?