2022 saw us hurtle back into a post-lockdown world, reprogramming and readjusting to reality. But if there was one universal medium to reunite us all, it was music.
After being released from the confinement of our homes and minds, the underground music scene has emerged richer than ever, and the sense of community is palpable. Whether that be on dance-floors, listening to radio, or simply through swapping Bandcamp wishlists, there’s been a whole realm of new releases from across the musical spectrum that has made life taste that lil bit sweeter.
With the help of our lovely Melodic radio show hosts, staff and extended family, we’ve put together a list of our Top Albums of 2022, from the ecstatic chaos of Hudson Mohawke to the soothing, soulfulness of Kokoroko. Read, listen, enjoy and take note!
KOKOROKO – Could We Be More | chosen by Ni Maxine
Every time I listen to this album, I go on a really personal journey. It makes me feel connected to my West African roots in a really special way, which no other body of music has ever done before. There is something about the percussion that instantly makes me feel at home and horns and vocal lines really speak to my soul. I took my brothers and sister to see their show in London recently and it was so special. It was one of the most human experiences I’ve had all year. Thank you for the beautiful music and for creating a space for community, KOKOROKO!
Jack J – Opening the Door | chosen by Ben Cowper & Harry Fitzpatrick (Get Serious)
We first got into Jack J through his early contributions to his cofounded Mood Hut label, bringing breezy, woozy, shuffling house music to many of our early parties. His latest album on Mood Hut moves away from this with a collection of yacht rock, dubby pop and ambient. It’s a real joy to listen to in full, a lot of fun and perfect for a sunny walk or a mooch around the living room – super lovely!
Hudson Mohawke – Cry Sugar | chosen by Becky Rascal (Liverpool Audio Network)
Released on Warp, Cry Sugar is the epitome of Intelligent Dance Music and the perfect fit for the label Hudson Mohawke calls home.
The Glasgow-born producer, now based in LA, has produced songs for hip-hop elite, including Kanye and Drake. His production talent and experimental uniqueness know no boundaries. His first album since 2015, Cry Sugar shows how busy Hudmo has been experimenting with futuristic sounds, whilst staying true to his colourfully experimental, signature ‘organised chaos’ production technique.
250 words is not enough to go into depth on a track by track basis, but the album delivers everything from trap baselines to gospel vocals, synth stabs, pianos, strings and kick drums. Together with ecstasy-inducing happy hardcore and Hudmo’s dedication to old school rave, Cry Sugar delivers everything from hyperpop and soul, dizzying distortion and helium-esque sped up vocals, fizzy pitch shifting and time stretching dystopia.
Lead single ‘Bicstan’ delivers a progressive acidy rave head-fucker of a track, teamed with ethereal angelic vocals, which somehow amidst the chaos form a perfectly balanced euphoric banger.
From busy and ecstatic beats to perfect “underwater” ambience, tracks seamlessly shift from melancholy and 2-step garage to acid, trap, house and melancholy beats lifting into pure ecstasy. Hudmo has an unmatched ability to nod to old school rave, whilst shifting expertly between electronic music genres to pull listeners into a futuristic, ethereal unknown world. 10s across the board.
Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers | chosen by Chris Carney (Losing My Edge)
This album is, quite simply put, an extraordinary piece of art that transcends the hip-hop genre. Much like my favourite album of last year, Little Simz – ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’, it’s too important to be pigeon-holed. From the very first bars, this record gripped me and took me on a journey that wasn’t always comfortable. It challenged my views and opinions and revealed an intrinsically flawed character just trying to negotiate his own way through life, uneasy with the status of savour thrust upon him after the adoption of his track ‘Alright’ by the BLM movement in 2015. An eagerly awaited follow up to the Pulitzer Prize winning ‘DAMN’, the fifth studio album from Kendrick has a feel of something coming to a close, with the artist’s output in his present guise. Like a full stop on an ear perfect oeuvre.
Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee – BAMANAN | chosen by Sam (Dance for Plants)
Some albums have value to us because they decorate moments of our lives, whether those moments are memorable or everyday. Other albums are appreciated because they serve as a gateway to previously unexplored musical realms; BAMANAN served as both for me this year.
Musically, this album is a beautiful re-imaginging of the Malian sound, ranging from reflective, spiritual tracks to high-energy dance floor-ready jams. Its infectious percussive grooves, shimmering Saharan blues-soaked guitar hooks and Rokia Koné’s umistakably magical voice brought little moments of warm, transcendent beauty to those cold, lonely mornings stood waiting on the platform for the train to carry me to work.
BAMANAN represents an ambitious collaboration between a prolific, predominantly rock/indie producer in Jacknife Lee, and a Malian household name in Rokia Koné, lovingly nicknamed the Rose of Bamako. It’s a crossover that works fantastically, and the sound seems to reflect a deep musical understanding between the two, despite their disparate backgrounds. On the back of first hearing this album, I’ve hugely enjoyed delving into the vast constellation of different artists that both have been associated with over the years!
Soichi Terada – Asakusa Light | chosen by Zaremba (Melodic Distraction)
Happy is the best suited word when it comes to describing the feeling you get from watching Japanese deep house dude, Soichi Terada, perform live.
I caught him for the very first time this year on the lawn at Gottwood and this description was evidenced so beautifully by the guy dancing behind me, who couldn’t stop laughing for the entire set. Pure happiness from start to finish, garnished with an (actual) rainbow that peered out from an otherwise cloudy day.
Asakusa Light is a great album. A proper deep house masterpiece that picks up where he left off decades ago. It’s Soichi’s first album release in 25 years, after his career was revived in the mid-2010’s by a Hunee-curated compilation of his 1990’s and early 2000’s releases.
He’s honestly such a character, go catch him live if you get the chance. You don’t even need to like house music to find it 100% pure happiness.
Asathma – Arrival | chosen by Mike Darkfloor (Darkfloor Sound)
Aasthma’s debut LP is a phenomenal record – the work of Swedish producers Pär Grindvik and Peder Mannerfelt is absolutely is one of the best of the year. It’s hyperpop built with the club in mind. Big, fun, bass heavy, multicoloured, richly textured and soulful, yet slamming. It’s rare for a record to come along and not only tick those boxes, but excel at them. Sparked by their reworking of Fever Ray’s back catalogue in 2018 ahead of their PLUNGE tour, it will come as no surprise that they co-produced Fever Ray’s forthcoming album ‘Radical Romantics’, due March 2023. Hands down, one of the best records of anything I’ve heard this year – essential.