Categories
Albums

Best albums of 2022: Albums #10 through #6

Good morning everyone! And happy Monday!

I don’t know about you folks but I am looking forward to the holiday season. I’ve just got a couple of working days left and then, I’m off until early in the new year.

The new year. New beginnings always bring hope for better things. I’ve already heard stirrings of some great music coming out in 2023 but before we get ahead of ourselves, we should take care of closing off 2022.

Indeed, there’s been lots of great music this year as well. And though I’ve had to curtail my vinyl collecting a bit with all the supply chain issues and the rising costs all around, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been listening to all the new music coming out via the various streaming services.

I’ve discovered lots of new artists and rekindled my relationship with many others. Just a couple of days ago, I shared five great albums that didn’t quite make the cut but are worth your attentions nonetheless. Today, marks the start of my top ten countdown in earnest, starting with albums #10 through #6. Then, I plan to post about my favourite five over the next week and half, hopefully, getting them all in by the end of the year.

With all the excellent releases, I am sure I missed out on one or two so as we go through my own 10 favourite albums, I welcome your comments and thoughts and perhaps even your own top ten favourites in the comments space provided.

Let’s do this.


#10 Blushing “Possessions”

Yes, Virginia, social media does work for good sometimes. I kept seeing Blushing pop up on my Twitter feed because of their interactions with some of my favourite shoegaze bands. Well, at some point, I must’ve started following the Austin-based shoegaze quartet because I definitely knew in advance of their self-titled debut’s release back in 2019. I was pretty sure I knew what I was in for when I gave it a go but was still pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. For their sophomore release, Blushing convinced one of their heroes, Miki Berenyi, to collaborate on a track, really showcasing the similarity in vocal styles. And the rest of the album sounds to my ears like a huge step forward in all senses, fitting neatly on a shelf right next to the best of, not just Lush’s back catalogue, but alongside many of their ilk.


#9 Just Mustard “Heart under”

I haven’t yet heard the 2018 debut by the Dundalk, Ireland-based five piece but I am pretty sure it would fit right in my wheelhouse given that the adjective most used to describe it is shoegaze. I definitely plan to check it out over the upcoming holiday season, the period I usually use to catch up on music I might have previously missed, especially given how much I love this sophomore release. Of course, “Heart under” has a bit more industrial racket and gothy gloom added to it for the shoegaze adjective to be reapplied here. But it’s the haunting vocals of frontwoman Katie Ball that really sets this album apart for me this year and has everyone I’ve recommended it to likening their sound to dark dream poppers Cranes. My friend Tim, who actually turned me on to that latter band back in 90s, had said of “Heart under”, “Not sure about Just Mustard as a band name, but I added that album to my spotify”.


#8 Jeanines “Don’t wait for a sign”

Slumberland Records first came to my attention in the early 2010s when I discovered Allo Darlin’s sophomore record “Europe” and went down the rabbit hole exploring various twee and indie pop bands. Ever since then, they’ve become one of my favourite indie labels, being home to so many excellent bands over the years. And after purchasing a copy of Black Hearted Brother’s lone album off of them one Bandcamp Friday a couple of years ago, I have been getting emails from them every time they release a new album and usually it’s been worth my time to check it out. Jeanines’ sophomore album was definitely one of these this year. It very much fits in the vein of DIY twee and indie pop Slumberland sound. The rapid fire tracks all come in around the one and a half minute mark so that the total of all thirteen on the album is a measly twenty minutes. And yet, it’s far from fleeting. Each impression is deep and each melody will hook you until long after the last note reverberates away.


#7 The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Summer at land’s end”

I came across Glenn Donaldson (aka The Reds, Pinks & Purples) last year and his album “Uncommon weather” ended up being my favourite album of 2021. I loved it so much that I immediately doubled back to investigate his previous two (excellent) albums, released in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The man has been on a serious productive streak of late. This fourth album, “Summer at land’s end”, is far from the only collection of new music he’s released this year. Indeed, it seems like every other week I am getting a notification that he has concocted a new EP, mini-album, or companion album, and all of it is consistently excellent. This just happens to be the first thing that came out of his camp this year and the one I’ve spent the most time with. It is just more romantic, hazy, retro, atmospheric diary entries from Donaldson, whose voice I could listen to at any hour of the day. And yeah, he’s another artist on the Slumberland Records roster.


#6 Tallies “Patina”

It’s kind of a cliché that sophomore albums are considered to be challenging to most new artists. For this reason, I was somewhat surprised to realize that four of these first five albums in my top ten list are just that. So as great as they are, it makes me think that the future can only be brighter, and for Tallies especially. The Toronto-based indie pop band had already wowed those with a keen ear to the past glories of the indie pop renaissance in the eighties with their self-titled debut in 2019. Just around the time they announced the forthcoming release of “Patina” earlier this year, they were signed to Simon Raymonde’s UK label Bella Union. The album arrived on a welcome cloud of Sunday afternoon bliss, jangly wind chimes floating on memories of a warm breeze, all of it a haze from yesterday. Lovely stuff, all nine tracks.


Stay tuned for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Engineers “Engineers”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Engineers
Album Title: Engineers
Year released: 2005
Year reissued: 2022
Details: Gatefold sleeve, 2 x 180 gram, white, numbered 502/1500

The skinny: Of all the great albums released during the first shoegaze revival wave of the early 2000s, Engineers’ self-titled debut was one of my favourites. The group formed as a four-piece – Mark Peters, Simon Phipps, Dan MacBean, and Andrew Sweeney – in London back in 2003. I happened upon the debut shortly after its release and latched on to a great many of the songs, recognizing in Engineers’ aesthetic the bands of my youth. Though some of their later work was pretty great as well, I wasn’t as immediately enamoured with it, always holding it up to this fantastic debut. It had been on my wishlist from pretty much the beginning of my collecting days but given what I perceived as their cult-like status, I didn’t think my chances were great at finding a copy on vinyl. My hopes were raised earlier this year when I saw that Music on Vinyl was reissuing Engineers’ debut EP, “Folly”, for Record Store Day, especially given that label’s track record of reissuing other classic shoegaze works. Then, I caught wind of this reissue of the debut LP on 2 x 180 gram slabs of white vinyl and jumped headlong aboard the pre-order train. It’s a thing of beauty.

Standout track: “Come in out of the rain”

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2020: #23 bdrmm “A reason to celebrate”

<< #24    |    #22>>

From Urban Dictionary:
“Bedroom pop – A genre DIY indie music, bedroom pop is characterized by its lo-fi quality and often contemplative lyrics. Bedroom pop share elements with other indie genres including shoegaze, dream pop, jangle pop, and emo. Guitars and vocals often feature heavy use of reverb or delay.”

From Wikipedia:
“The rise of modern digital audio workstations dissolved a theoretical technological division between professional and non-professional artists. Many of the prominent lo-fi acts of the 1990s adapted their sound to more professional standards and “bedroom” musicians began looking toward vintage equipment as a way to achieve an authentic lo-fi aesthetic, mirroring a similar trend in the 1990s concerning the revival of 1960s space age pop and analog synthesizers.”

Bedroom pop and rock feels almost like a dirty word to me. I can appreciate the DIY-ness of it all and the ability for anyone with a laptop, a guitar, a synthesizer, or maybe just some good software to create something out of nothing and let it loose on the internet. But on the other side of this shiny bitcoin, there’s also a lot of it out there to wade through, kind of the like the explosion of wannabe YouTubers and influencers. Whenever I hear the term “bedroom” to describe the next big thing, I shudder a little bit on the inside. And then, I proceed to give the act in question a chance, because I’ve discovered more than a handful of artists that got their start in this way.

Hull, England five-piece, Bdrmm*, actually started out as a bedroom project for frontman Ryan Smith. Listening their 2020 debut full-length, “Bedroom”, you’d likely never guess it, though both the band name and album title are none too obvious hints. Theirs is a fully realized shoegaze sound, more guitars than keys, and sounding to this old school shoegaze fan’s ears like the brightest points of early Ride and Chapterhouse. Smith put together the group with family members, friends, and musicians he’d worked with before and released an EP that had them catching the eye and signing with the noisy label, Sonic Cathedral. The debut longplayer was released just a few months into the pandemic, when it seemed like everyone would be chained to their bedrooms for the foreseeable future.

“Well, it’s okay
For you to walk away”

The last song recorded for the ten track album was “A reason to celebrate”, which given that these words don’t appear in the song, feels more like a feeling and an exultation. Though it happens to be my favourite of the bunch, it’s not by a long shot. There’s lots of reverb and layers of guitars to stare at your fingers to, crossing your eyes at them and waggling them about. It’s a blast of inspiration to stir your languid and lazy afternoon on a grey day into something worth exploring. It’s bursting forth from the bedroom into that big old world out there, anxiety and fear be damned, and that’s just damned exciting.

I can’t wait to hear what this group comes up with next!

*You can guess how that’s pronounced.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2020 list, click here.