80+ countries with their fantastic music – and fantastic album covers!
We started 2022 in Ukraine, we wrote about protests songs from Sri Lanka, and from Iran. We had songs about peace, war & freedom from around the world. And when we asked one of our correspondents in Latin America why he’s late with his Best Of, he said: “I can’t go back to my city, all the roads are closed, we’re in the middle of a strong conflict with the government”.
There are more stories like that below in the reviews from our experts. But that tumultuous year also gave us at least as much fantastic music as the previous ones. Even by looking at the album covers in our Best of 2022 you will know there was a lot to be excited about.
Enjoy and help us spread great music from around the world!
Lara91k – “Como antes”
“Nostalgia is what defines me, I’m a fucking nostalgic”, confessed Lara Artesi in an interview, certainly the best way to describe her debut album as Lara91k, “Como antes”, Spanish for “Like before”.
Lara was part of Coral Casino, a duet with a short life but big bangers in the alternative urban scene in Argentina. Once it dissolved, in 2019 she started releasing singles and last February, she published her debut full length, an ode to nostalgia in which she explores themes such as identity crisis, complicated family relationships and love disappointments.
The album includes a featurings of Duki (a trap singer with the most massive audience in our country) and Santiago Motorizado (the leader of El Mató a un Policía Motorizado, the biggest indie band), as a sign of the versatility in her music and in her audience.
“Como antes” works as an homage to Lara’s adolescence, to those days with friends in a coastal town doing nothing, and at the same time the feeling of an identity being born. (Rodrigo Piedra)
Delivery – “Forever Giving Handshakes”
Melbourne garage-punks Delivery didn’t even exist two years ago, but they’ve enjoyed a rapid rise over the past year-and-a-half. Composed of members from other excellent bands from the city’s tight-knit music community, their debut captures five musicians who sound like they’ve finally found the band they belong in.
Delivery play with a thrilling immediacy, always on the front foot, switching vocal duties effortlessly, and trading groovy guitar lines for fun. Mixing punk energy with garage whimsy, Delivery have landed on a buoyant sonic formula that works wonderfully for them.
Expect Delivery’s second album to follow pretty quickly from the astoundingly consistent and resolutely DIY outfit, and expect it to be just as quality. (Conor Lochrie)
Other recommended albums:
• Julia Jacklin – “Pre Pleasure”
• Body Type – “Everything Is Dangerous but Nothing’s Surprising”
• King Stingray – “King Stingray”
• Way Dynamic – “So Familiar”
• Gut Health – “Electric Party Chrome Girl”
doppelfinger – “by design”
In these troubling times we need music that engulfs us like a warming coat. Tender and touching, melancholic and vulnerable, poetic and at the same time quite simple are the songs the Austrian singer/songwriter Clemens Bäre has written and released as his debut record. “by design” is a stunning collection of musical stories, told in a classical way like Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond do, when listening to the wonderful “a place to go”.
doppelfingers power lies in the authentic, delicate expression of his feelings, on musical and lyrical level. While we get absorbed in the soundscapes of acoustic guitar picking, soft and relaxed rhythms, fading harmonica melodies, the gentle cello played by Lukas Lauermann and heartwarming backing vocals of singer OSKA, Clemens Bäre sings about his agonizing thoughts of being alone and disconnected in the impressive fist single “trouble”. Or he talks about his seasonal affective disorder in the equally named song. Despite these dark themes there is always brightness and hope in the songs, since doppelfinger is facing his emotions and looking deep into his fears and his heart.
While expressing his feelings, the music serves as a solid ground and at the same time as an resonance chamber for all our worries, wishes and hopes. In this way Clemens Bäre manages to make us feel his basic emotions and at the same time to identify with the global moods which we are all entangled in. Maybe the greatest gift of “by design” is that this music serves to (re)connect to our deepest emotions. With his pure songs doppelfinger teaches us that despite insecurity we still can open up our heart and see all the wonderful things in life.
So even if this record is the perfect soundtrack for current times of big changes, it is also a timeless masterpiece of mature songwriting that will last for a long time. (Andreas Gstettner-Brugger, Radio FM4)
Other recommended albums:
• Mira Lu Kovacs & Clemens Wenger – “Sad Songs To Cry To”
• Luek & Marco Kleebauer – “Yady Yada Yada”
• Cari Cari – “Welcome To Kookoo Island”
• HVOB – “too”
• Paul & Pets – “Domestic Monastic”
V/A – “Coke Studio Bangla”
It’s rather challenging to find out about all the releases from Bangladesh, let alone pick the best one, as most new releases do not reach a larger audience due to several factors. The list that happens goes on because of the lack of music platforms, lack of music journalism, lack of comprehensive music streaming services, and lack of radio playlists featuring new music.
Yet, picking the best album from Bangladesh this year was remarkably easy. Coke Studio Bangla songs brought together the entirety of commercial, pop, hip-hop, and folk music and, for the very first time, the very best indigenous Bangladeshi artists. Under the supervision of Shayan Chowdhury Arnob, the over-the-top production, with the preamble of coca colonization happening simultaneously, the spirit and the essence stayed on top of the music produced for the show. It is undoubtedly the most eclectic, sonically inclusive, and fresh music that has come out of this country trying to capture the essence of popular Bangladeshi music in a remarkably diverse manner.
The OG Coke Studio started in Pakistan more than a decade back and has become the go-to hub for regular music listeners to hear new sounds en masse without having to dive deep to find gems. Ever since India, the Arab and African regions have successfully adopted the show, it has become a cultural phenomenon in these parts of the world. Coke Studio Bangla is a brand-new addition in 2022 for the Bangla-speaking world.
This year indie artists from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, have managed to get the grooves right. As Spotify became active in Bangladesh, it has allowed many young Bangladeshi independent artists to get a sizable audience. This trend is poised to grow further. My additional recommendation is these fresh new kids, all in the same playlist! My favorite picks from this bunch are Dameer, Farooque Bhai Project. (Khan Mohammad Faisal)
Other recommended albums:
• Autul – “Nocturnal” EP
Света Бень и Галя Чикис (Svetlana Ben and Galya Chikiss) – “Приём!” (“Priyom!”)
This is a powerful, reflective album, where the lyrics are just as important as the music. The listener tears through fragments of the past, feeling almost physical pain from what was experienced and what wasn’t – it is like a group psychotherapy session, in the middle of which the terrible refrain sounds like a mantra: “I need to forget all this so as not to kill anyone.”
On the album “Приём!” (“Priyom!”, “Do You Hear Me?”), Svetlana Ben (with the help of Galya Chikiss) moves away from the cabaret genre familiar to her in the Serebryanaya Svadba (Silver Wedding) band: this record is difficult to fit into any stylistic boundaries. She lives her gloomy life, trying to comprehend this life and express what is very difficult to express.
If you want to understand and feel the inner world of a wounded Belarusian, then this record is absolutely necessary. Even if it’s hard to get the meaning of the lyrics, the music will point you in the right direction. (Aliaksandr Charnukha)
The Haunted Youth – “Dawn Of The Freak”
Belgian music was easy to love and hard to choose from in 2022. It wasn’t just energy and food that got more expensive in Belgium this year, as the spots in this top five were also expensive. After much deliberation, I give the top prize to The Haunted Youth, which is probably partly due to my great admiration for timeless debut albums. Count on “Dawn Of The Freak” being a record that will still be appreciated in 30 years’ time.
Like any good debut from a twenty-something, the music and lyrics contain all the emotions that have made a young adult the person he/she/x is. In the case of frontman Joachim Liebens, this means: an extremely difficult youth full of misunderstandings and frustrations that could fortunately be channelled and shared with the world in a talented way. ‘Teen Rebel’, ‘Broken’ and ‘I Feel Like Shit and I Wanna Die’ are just some of the titles that illustrate this perfectly, just as the band name does.
The music can undoubtedly be catalogued in the shoegaze department without a sibling resembling it within that genre. In other words, The Haunted Youth has its own face and treads new paths in a familiar world.
We are also more than happy to shine a big light on the other debut in this top five, that of Disorientations, a record that remained a bit under the radar despite being released on Belgian indie pride PIAS. All those who have been lucky enough to see a performance by this trio in recent months know that the energy that splashes from the record is likewise unstoppable and unflinching on a stage.
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul, Brutus and Warhaus are established acts that confirmed once again this year. Few music fans in Belgium would protest if any of them had walked away with the gold medal. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner, which is a pity, especially in this grand cru year for Belgian music. (Brett Summers)
Other recommended albums:
• Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul – “Topical Dancer”
• Brutus – “Unison Life”
• Disorientations – “Memory Lanes”
• Warhaus – “Ha Ha Heartbreak”
• Tukan – “Atoll”
La Chiva – “Signos Vitales”
At a time when a few artists bet on full-length albums in Bolivia, “La Chiva”, from Sucre, deliver their masterpiece with “Signos Vitales” (“Vital Signs”), a double album consisting of 18 songs that finally establishes the quartet as the most important act in the capital city of Bolivia, confirming their role as one of the most outstanding national groups of their generation.
The band’s fifth album – counting 73 minutes – was produced by So Myung Jung, in an ambitious production that plays far from the blues court of their early work. Songs like “Fuertes”, “Caminantes”, “Ánima”, “Savia”, “El viaje” and “Andes” are some of the highlights of the album released on October 21.
Signos Vitales was recorded in the Teatro de los Andes, in Yotala, a picturesque town on the outskirts of Sucre. (Pato Peters)
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA:
Billain – “Lands Unbreached”
Sarajevo’s native Adis Kutkut a.k.a. Billain (a.k.a. Aethek) has been bursting with his talents for twenty years now, since he was a teenager. He’s been into graffiti art, hip-hop (both as renowned producer and shortly even as a rapper), techno, drawing, sound design, DJ-ing… in short, the guy is a natural born ARTIST. Yet throughout most of the time, his beloved music genre was drum’n’bass/breakbeat/bass music.
He became known and respected worldwide in the genre thanks to everlasting experimental/exploring approach combined with vigorous production skills. It results in moving the boundaries of the genre(s) to places called neurofunk, cyberpunk, and other still-not-named subgenres, with sound design that is often remindful of some outer space-based events and adventures. He even creates images of those places and events, alongside with his visual/animation collaborators from all over the planet. So, bear in mind that there’s a significant visual side of Billain too.
2022 marked some pretty important events on his ongoing artistic path. Billain released a new album, three years after the last one, and he also finished production of his sci-fi animated movie Fugitive. Some reviews of “Lands Unbreached” describe the album with terms like: industrial, drum’n’bass, glitch, dirty bass, out of time beats, ambient, epic, speed&fury, slow&heavy, loud&soft, tour-de-force, absurdly huge album.
Add to it: uncompromising, skillful, futuristic, out of this world, sound design delight, 90-minute showcase of diverse yet complementary music elements bounded in author’s vison and concept… and you have enough reasons to make it number one on this year’s list.
If there are aliens dressed as humans on Earth, Billain is among the suspects. Try to enter his world(s). It could be quite an experience. (Samir Čulić)
Tim Bernardes – “Mil Coisas Invisíveis”
Tim Bernardes is an artist from São Paulo who is the lead singer and guitarist of the band O Terno, which has already released four albums.
In 2017, Tim Bernardes released “Recomeçar”, his first solo album, and already demonstrated his full potential as a solo artist. In 2022, he gave us “Mil Coisas Invisíveis”, which is an essentially existentialist, reflective and minimalist record.
The lyrics of the 15 songs on “Mil Coisas Invisíveis” mix anguish, overcoming, losses, dreams and pain with hope in the beauty of love and life, even in the face of a complex and sad world.
The songs on the album were composed by Tim Bernardes between 2018 and 2020, after his first solo album. “Mil Coisas Invisíveis” is produced by Tim himself, who, believe me, played most of the instruments on the album by himself.
Tim Bernardes is one of the most talented and important composers of contemporary Brazilian music, and his name is already embedded in our history. “Mil Coisas Invisíveis” is a very interesting record to follow – and listen with an open heart – on this artist’s journey to artistic fullness. (Lafaiete Júnior)
Other recommended albums:
• Xênia França – “Em Nome da Estrela”
• Russo Passapusso e Antonio Carlos & Jocafi – “Alto da Maravilha”
• Tulipa Ruiz – “Habilidades Extraordinárias”
• Maglore – “V”
• Anelis Assumpção – “Sal”
NIANDRAZ – “Sumrak”
“Sumrak” is a clear-cut melancholic record, with a dash of fatalism, which combines English and Bulgarian singing and lyrics in a way that the words often duel with the music.
It’s also a rarity to hear something from this side of the planet which echoes Zola Jesus, Emma Ruth Rundle and Chelsea Wolfe’s emotional pallet.
This ain’t a colourful album, it’s pitch black even if the title (‘sumrak’ means ‘twilight’ in Bulgarian) suggest that after all, there’s a way out. (Svetoslav Todorov)
Other recommended albums:
• Angel Simitchiev – “Priziv”
• The Black Swells – “Daily Grind”
• Hayes & Y – “Press. Go. Move. Slow.”
• KAKE – “ZLE!”
• Possibility of Island – “Simplified Stereometric Structures”
Daniel Bélanger – “Mercure en mai”
Daniel Bélanger, after gifting us with a string of classic albums, seems to have been lost in sonic experiments and explorations, even recently releasing an instrumental album (“Travelling”, 2020) flirting with rockabilly and even western.
Known for his sense of melody and his philosophical lyrics, he’s coming back to his roots in style with this new offering, the closest he’s ever been to his classic album – and a favorite of mine – “Rêver mieux”, released in 2001, more than 20 years ago.
33 minutes of auditory honey, floating in our ears like a dream, a meditation on the beauty of life, our many struggles, and what we can learn from them. Bélanger’s mix of approachable poetry and ear for catchy arrangements is quite unique in our Canadian soundscape, and this album is proof that he still has a few surprises up his sleeves. (Pierre-Alexandre Buisson)
Diego Lorenzini – “Palabritas y Palabrotas”
Diego Lorenzini (Tus Amigos Nuevos) presents the fourth album in his solo adventure, with which he has matured the ideas of folk songs, and has perfected both his lyrics and music.
There is value in doing a 25-song album, swimming against the current in a world where the singles are everywhere and a complete works get lost. “Palabritas y Palabrotas” offers us a journey and a pause in a fast-paced world.
In his compositions, Diego Lorenzini goes from current contexts, mixed with humor, to intimate stories, so the number of songs comes with a variety of topic, fulfilling Lorenzini’s objective of talking about everything but without boring. (Marcelo Millavil M.)
Police and Pea 暴力香槟 – “I Want an Authentic Tail” (我想要一条纯正的尾巴)
Police and Pea – the offbeat lo-fi indie outfit from Shijiazhuang and led by Ji Ziyuan and Ding Xiaolong hits the sweet spot between shoegaze, noise pop, and synth-filled bedroom pop – an eccentric DIY coup de grace that only comes once in a blue moon.
Dancing indifferently between kitsch and grace, between the mundane and the spiritual – it strikes a very specific tone – one that’s surreal, honest and always captivating.
Hypnotic in its sweet and sour sensibilities – they’re a fresh new voice for a new generation of rockers. (Will Griffith)
Other recommended albums:
• The Columbian Cola Ltd 哥伦比亚可乐 – “Thirteen, The Weird Dream” (怪梦十三)
• j-fever (小老虎), Eddie Beatz, Zhou Shijue (周士爵) – “To Love To Cry To Doubt” (去爱去哭去疑惑)
• Yěpéng 也朋 – “Tàiyángzhàixiàngzhàn” 太陽寨巷戰
• Sunken Square 下沉广场 – “Commodity Society” 商品社会
• Jīmáoxìn 鸡毛信 – “Gè Huái Guǐtāi” 各怀鬼胎
Cimarrón – “La Recia”
While Colombia’s main rhythms for export are cumbia, currulao and reggaetón, joropo music is mostly overlooked. Nonetheless, Cimarrón continue to explore harp music from the Colombian eastern plains with all of its complexity and possibilities, merging both tradition and modernity in a disruptive take on Orinoco’s music.
“La Recia” is Cimarron’s fifth studio album following their widely acclaimed 2019 album “Orinoco”, which cemented them as one of the key players of the “new joropo sound” and Carlos ‘Cuco’ Rojas and Ana Veydó’s as their main agitators. It is also the band’s first full release since Rojas’ passing in 2020, a founding member, main composer, harpist and Veydó’s partner. The nine tracks on “La Recia” serve both as a goodbye and a celebration of Cuco Rojas’ life, but also as a statement of Ana Veydó’s work and leadership as a woman in the music industry.
Both the title and the album’s art are a clear depiction of what you’re in for in this record. “La recia” means “the strong” or “the vigorous” and the album’s cover shows Veydó on top of a horse, wearing enormous Cebú horns as a crown-like artifact, while leading the band through a river on the Colombian eastern plains. You can’t get more symbolic than that.
The album opens with “Velorio” (“Funeral”), a song about hope and miracles, accompanied with a beautiful harp motif and arranged with ominous male vocals soaked in reverb that gives it a mysterious and cinematographic feel. “Cimarroneando” is one of the most impressive cuts on the album. A full on joropo jam with intricate rhyms section and a jaw dropping technical ability on the harp, bandola, cuatro and maracas. If this was played on an electric guitar, it would be the heaviest metal solo of all time.
Cuco’s homage comes in the track “Cuco en el Harpa” (“Cuco on the Harp”), a beautiful harp solo. “El Gavilán” (“The Hawk”), is one of the most fun tracks whilst “Del Viento” (“From the Wind”) is an experimental cut with only alpargata’s shoe dancing as its rhythm section. Ana Veydó’s statement as a woman and artist comes in the track “Recia como el Orinoco”, a powerful track which translates “I’m strong as the Orinoco itself”.
This is truly a masterpiece of an album. It has its epic and fun moments but also somber and mysterious ones. All of them are composed and arranged with the fierceness of a Colombian woman backed with one of the most talented musicians in the eastern plains. “La Recia” has no misses. It’s truly mesmerizing. (Juan Antonio Carulla)
Other recommended albums:
• MICO – “Zigurat”
• Ruca y El Quinde de Barbacoas – “¡Dale Duro al Bombo!”
• L’Xuasma, El Arkeólogo – “De La Pulpa”
• Neck Talese – “El Poder de Lola”
• Meridian Brothers – “Meridian Brothes & El Grupo Renacimiento”
Menesses – “Menesses”
There is a nihilistic, nocturnal brand of psychedelia with Menesses that could be explained with thei krautrock rhythms, guitars overdriven into furiously combusting engines, and a detached delivery that alternates between slithering and swaggering. They know what they do and do it well; you know what they do and you either vibe with it or don’t.
And like all good psychedelic musicians, Menesses leave enough space for you to choose your own adventure within their self-titled debut album. The songs almost feel like circles. It doesn’t really matter where things begin and end, you can drift away with it any point, and then come back to one of those sudden eruptions of noise, get hypnotized all over again by another incantatory vocal line.
You could (and maybe should) leave the album on a loop, letting everything continuously feed into each other. And each time one of those details latches onto you, Menesses might take you someplace new all over again. (Pablo Acuña)
Other recommended albums:
• Pictura – “aJUne afTernoOn en la mierda”
• Frank Noguera – “Serpientes”
• Andres Cervilla – “Fanfarria del Labriego Sencillo”
• A su ladera – “Elipsis”
Tidal Pull – “Uvod u promatranje cvijeća pri punoj brzini”
Hana Ne Zna Da Se Šali existed only for a short time, so the core of that band soon started to work on a new band called Tidal Pull. They had their first concert a year ago and only six month later, they released the debut album “Uvod u promatranje cvijeća pri punoj brzini”, which Croatian voting pool choose as the best album of the year.
Tidal Pull called their music ‘big indie’ and this is a very good phrase for the music they play. They took the best from both sides of the Atlantic ocean from 30-40 years ago and produced specific sound which primary combines indie rock with power pop and britpop (especially in chorus parts).
In short, they re-invent genres that we have known for decades, they sound modern, they are great, one of the most promising young groups in Croatia today. (Siniša Miklaužić)
Selected by: Boris Abramović (music-box), Predrag Brlek (terapija.net), Dubravko Jagatić (Nacional), Ivan Laić (Ravno do dna), Gorav Pavlov (Ruralna gorila/Potlista), Marin Tomić (terapija.net), Siniša Miklaužić (muzika.hr/beehype)
mat213 – “r/interstreamin'”
One of the most significant voices of Gen Z, Mat213 is a musical alter ego of Matěj Čech, a visual arts student, who has proven himself as a lo-fi pop hitmaker.
Sometimes sweet, abrasive at other times, “r/interstreamin'” is a pop album for sensitive pop lovers. Cringe is a metaportal. (Viktor Palák)
Lasse Aagaard – “Farvel Tid”
And then suddenly – out of nowhere – the Danish composer and songwriter Lasse Aagard drops his first solo-record, like a bomb in my silly adult life.
There is nothing showy about “Farvel Tid”, but that’s exactly the point. Build around piano, drum machines, sparse electronics and Aagaards bright vocals, the 7 songs clocks in at 34 minutes. The record is as digestible aspo it is brilliantly written. Aagaard, as always, sings in the danish mother-language. And delivers great poetic lines about growing old and life’s pitfalls, written from the perspective of a grown man telling his younger self, what he probably needed to hear back then. And with a focus on the loss of his dad, it effectively talks to all of us who have had a complicated childhood with addiction and broken families.
It is as marvelous as it is pretty and it took me with a storm that isn’t over yet! (Simon Heggum)
El Gran Poder de Diosa – “Te Vamo’ a Eperá”
After a little more than 10 years of waiting, the band El Gran Poder De Diosa launches its first full album, a delicately curated, well thought, that they have decided to present this year. “Te Vamo’ a Eperá” is that sound compendium created by six music-loving misfits, who bet on merengue as their main rhythm, but approaching others such as bachata, bolero, salve, among other genres and subgenres.
They are transformed into other rhythms and figurations, creating a futuristic sound, rock, electronic, psychedelic sound, even a healer in many cases, because their lyrics are sometimes mantras in the most flattened way possible with messages loaded with positivity without losing that notion of reality. (Max Cueto)
Lady Aicha & Pisko Crane’s Original Fulu Miziki of Kinshasa – “N’Djila Wa Mudujimu”
“I listened to this at work and it I forgot how shitty my job is for the entire length of the album,” wrote one listener in the Bandcamp comments. Well, if you’ve got a shitty job too, just watch the video for “Kraut” and it should work in seconds.
Shitty is also the place where members of Lady Aicha & Pisko Crane’s Original Fulu Miziki of Kinshasa grew up – the slums of Kinshasa. After 20 years since the band started, they’re not only legends of the city, but now international stars like older pioneers from Staff Benda Bilili or Konono Nº1.
The line-up of the band keeps changing, like in the case of many great collectives in Africa, but their spirit remains high. (Oumar Dembele)
Other recommended albums:
Nancy Mounir – “Nozhet El Nofous”
The title of Nancy Mounir’s spectacular debut album “Nozhet El Nofous” means “Promenade of Souls”, and these are souls of the past.
The Cairo-based musician explored old, decaying recordings of famous Egyptian singers from a whole century ago (like Mounira El Mahdeya) and combined those disappearing sound clips with her own ambients full of Arabic microtonality and moving rhythms.
Each song is a dialogue with a different singer, and it does feel like they’re listening and speaking right now, to you. (Lina Rim)
Other recommended albums:
• Abadir – “Mutate”
• 200 Shams – “Kalmeeni, Khaleeni Ashrahelk”
• Abdullah Miniawy & HVAD – “Notice a Tiny Scratch for the Blue Behind”
• Cairokee – “Roma”
• Molotof – “Gabal Ahmar”
• Felukah – “A Love Serum”
Mart Avi – “Blade”
Mart Avi, “the twilight samurai of avant-pop”, is aiming to cut “to the other side of the wind” with his sixth LP “Blade”, settling all scores between joy and dread, anticipation and doubt, craft and deceit. Building and releasing tension through a swirl of disparate influences, its grip is wrapped by sonic petting and biting of analogue sizzle, digital glare, the suavest mutant R&B and a bevy of yet uncharted timbres, dancing around the edges of what constitutes pop music.
Avi sets the mood with the slick falsetto on “Feline” that leads up to the disco-not-disco attack of “Lost Weekend”, loaded with whole-body intention and excitement. The ability to morph convention allows him to channel Yukio Mishima’s sleaziest novels with the piano torch song “Life 4 Sale”, and then hack into the muscular swingbeat and warped black & white dub.
After rhythmic jaw-slaps with bags of dare-to-differ attitude and endless new worlds of audial opportunities, “Blade” finally restores “the memory of joy once felt” with a big endgame, the glorious, haunting “Tides”. (Ingrid Kohtla, Tallinn Music Week)
KUTU – “Guramayle”
KUTU is essentially a trio of two singer from Addis Ababa – Haleluya Tekletsadik and Hewan Gebrewold – and a French violonist Théo Ceccaldi with the jazz background. On stage and in the studio they’ve got the company of very energetic drummer, keyboard player and bass player.
Together they’re like fire, or maybe fireworks. KUTU’s ethio-trance is music to dance to in the first place. However, when you sit back to get some rest it will be as enjoyable and fascinating with its bristling ingredients that come from all places yet totally make sense together – but well, the title “Guramayle” comes from mixing languages. (T. Mecha)
Other recommended albums:
• Ukandanz – “4 Against The Odds”
• Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru – s/t
• Kibrom Birhane – “Here and There”
• Asnake Gebreyes – “Ethiopia Wedet Neshe” (reissue)
Lea Kampmann – “If I Ever Made You Cry, I’m Sorry”
Lea Kampmann’s journey of self-discovery inspires excellent fully-fledged record: “If I Ever Made You Cry, I’m Sorry”, a reminder that there can always be a light at the end of the tunnel, and Lea beautifully harnesses the light, dark and every moment in-between.
In short, Lea’s dream pop universe revolves around heartache, anxiety and life as a young adult. And Lea wants to be your gentle companion for your daily contemplations.
The music is a classy mix of electronic and organic melancholy sprinkled with hope. The songwriting is next level. The melodies are catchy and beautiful, but it’s the vocals which brings the magic to the table. Lea is truly blessed with the voice of an angel. Soothing, heartfelt and goosebumps-inducing are words which come to mind.
When Lea’s debut album “Common Blue” dropped in 2017 the potential was obvious. Five years later we’re no longer talking potential. We’re talking an absolute gem of a fully-fledged second album. Make no mistake. Lea is the real deal. (Hergeir Staksberg)
Sin Cos Tan – “Living in Fear”
After a six-year hiatus, synth-pop duo Sin Cos Tan followed last year’s EP with a triumphant fourth album titled “Living in Fear”. Typically, their music harks back to the 1980s, an era when topics of love and passion intermingled with genuine angst for such concerns as nuclear war, a frame of mind that feels chillingly poignant now.
If dance music is largely about consistency and utility, pop is rather a quest for the perfect encapsulation of emotion in a piece. Highly prolific electronic music artist and producer, Jori Hulkkonen has traversed both paths steadily, and this record may be his crowning achievement.
Like every great DJ, he is a music aficionado with a wide taste and deep crates, here showing his chops also in the supplementary remixes for the outstanding singles. “More Than I Can Love” is a brilliant dance number, while “Killing Dreams” smoulders like a James Bond theme devised by Depeche Mode.
Of course, the creation would not be complete without co-writer and lyricist Juho Paalosmaa, whose emotive vocals make for a perfect pairing and deserve as much credit. (Erkko Lehtinen)
Phoenix – “Alpha Zulu”
Five years after “Ti Amo”, the famous band from Versailles is back with what has to be their best music since Phoenix’s breakthrough album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”.
On “Alpha Zulu”, Thomas Mars and his mates do what they do the best: playing memorable hooks, enlightened with bright electro-pop production. From the incredibly catchy songs “All Eyes on Me” and “Tonight” (feat. Ezra Koenig), which is a perfect mix of Phoenix and Vampire Weekend’s playfulness, to the emotive depths of “Winter Solstice”, “Artefact” and “Identical”, everything here sounds like the French team is having fun again, and is completely confident in its strengths. A must listen. (Gil Colinmaire)
Other recommended albums:
• Lucas Bel – “Yolo Mollo Dodo” EP
• Christine and the Queens – “Redcar, les adorables étoiles”
• Jacques – “LIMPORTANCEDUVIDE”
• Disiz – “L’Amour”
• UTO – “Touch the Lock”
Mzia Arabuli & Gogi Dzodzuashvili – “Ias Utkharit”
Although the music contained here is not entirely all-new, the sheer beauty of it has made me pick it as a Georgian album of the year.
Mzia Arabuli and Gogi Dzodzuashvili have been collaborating since the early 2000s. This intriguing musical alliance of an actress and one of the most important figures of Georgian alternative music has been focused on the reinterpretation of poetry from Georgia’s mountainous regions. Although 2007 saw the release of their debut work by the same name, the original CD was a limited edition and is currently unavailable. However, the two continued to make music together and in November 2022, they released the expanded edition digitally.
This new version of “Ias Utkharit” contains twice as much chilly, unique music that made the original version such a treasure. Leftfield, minimal electronic arrangements accentuate the contemplative vocal lines and drag the listener into a quasi-hypnosis that lets one connect to ever-distant times.
Since the original album, despite its rarity, was beloved by both folk and electronic crowd, this expansion is a winner in all regards and I hope it also gets a physical format release. (Sandro Tskitishvili)
Stella Sommer – “Silence Wore a Silver Coat”
Don’t get fooled by Stella Sommer’s surname, German for summer. Stella Sommer’s not the woman to write you light summer pop hits. She rather resembles an ice princess. The one to freeze and unfreeze nothing less than your heart. Let’s name her the ice princess of Laurel Canyon.
To us Germans, her folky guitar songs sound very much like Joni Mitchell, maybe a little Lana Del Rey even, adding solemn choirs and strings. On the other hand, there’s clearly German roots in the alt intonation of this Ex-Hamburgian, now Berlinian woman.
You can spot Nico (from The Velvet Underground), Marlene Dietrich and Hildegard Knef in Sommer’s sound DNA. You’ve known us for krautrock and techno, but with Stella Sommer, Germany probably plays first class folk, too, don’t we? (Stefan Hochgesand)
Kweku of Ghana (K.O.G.) – “Zone 6, Agege”
K.O.G. has been living in England for almost 15 years now, but his home lives in his heart and the memories remain strong. He communicates that already in the title of his latest work, “Zone 6, Agege”, as that’s a part of Ghana’s capital Accra where he “grew up and the vibe, culture and social structures enhanced and developed my creativity and love for art”, and this record is his “ode or a tribute to my nature, nurture and future”.
We get lyrics mostly in English, but it actually helps to send his message to everyone who’s started following him in the recent years – there’s been a number of successes including playing at Glastonbury, finding support of Damon Albarn and getting to FIFA video game. K.O.G.’s rich, inclusive music deserves it and hopefully it’s just the start. (T. Mecha)
Noda Pappa – “Piano In The Shower”
In 2022, we found ourselves coming out from a global health crisis and now facing a global energy crisis, because, you know, what would life be without challenges? Faithful to our annual rendez-vous with f*cked up situations, we gathered as well, eight contributors from Greece, to bring you some of our – hopeful – eclectic selections, covering various musical genres that sparkled our daily life.
The album that climbs to the top of this year’s best-of list, comes from the singer and guitarist of the successful garage-rock and psychedelic-pop band Acid Baby Jesus.
Noda Pappa, also known as Epameinondas Pappas, was born in London but was raised in Athens, where he mainly lives (alongside Sifnos island). “Piano In The Shower”, heavy in multi-layered harmonies and euphoric psych-pop, is his first solo album and it was released in the first days of 2022.
The LP’s ten songs pass through the ‘60s and – to a larger extent – ‘70s music styles, having a free-flowing joy in most of the tracks. The Beatles, Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers, The Doors, David Bowie, Van Morrison or Spacemen 3 are definitely some of his heroes, while soft-rock era artists seem to also play a significant role in Noda Pappa’s final outcome.
At times, his aesthetic or musical approach may remind you of the “sunnier” side of Ariel Pink, but I guess we don’t want to mention the latter, after his attendance at the pro-Trump rally in the U.S. Capitol.
The cosmic country delicacy of “Dancing Girl”, “Bad Liver” with its bittersweet approach and the stylish “Piano In The Shower”, are some of the album’s highlights, and you may start your pleasing trip with them. A fine and promising debut album. (Ares Buras)
Selected by: Aggelos Kleitsikas (avopolis.gr), Antonis Xagas (mic.gr), Ares Buras (beehype), Dimitris Lilis (mypodcasts.avopolis.gr), Markos Fragos (gone4sure), Michalis E (Rodon Fm), Marianna Vasileiou (mic.gr), Christina Koutroulou (LUNG Fanzine).
Mabe Fratti – “Será que ahora podremos entendernos”
Mabe Fratti has become one of the most reliable sources of forward-thinking and constantly evolving music that sticks to the “beauty” aspect at the same time. On “Se Ve Desde Aquí”, she trimmed her sound and made it more focused, direct, and also more emotional. She even describes it as “informed through the aesthetics of rawness, and a ‘dirtiness’”.
While I’d argue with that as for me, Mabe Fratti’s music still feels soft and delicate even when she tries to be sharp, it’s great to see her trying new things and at the end of the day, we’re the ones to profit from that for many hours of listening sessions. (Ana C.)
Analog Balaton – “Csússz le”
Analog Balaton is a big favourite of mine, so I am really happy that they finally started putting their music on streaming platforms. Their live shows are always transcendent, with a lot of lights and great atmosphere. Luckily, they always manage to create the same effect even on their recordings. It is an interesting feeling of a very intimate party. Melancholic lyrics and singing meets rhythmic electronic melodies. Sometimes I have the feeling that this would be Flume if Flume were born in Eastern/Central Europe.
This time they also experiment a bit more with the instrumentals. The catatonic rhythms are still the driving force in their songs, but their manifestation is getting more and more interesting with each song and they get a more prominent role.
On “Csússz le”, consisting of four songs, so rather an EP, they also have some collabs. On the last song ‘Pupilla’ for example you can hear the singer of another excellent Hungarian band called Elefánt. It can also been seen as a more experimental step for the Analog Balaton duo, as Csaba Szendrői, this featured singer, comes from a rather different genre.
All in all, in can be said that “Csússz le” is an album that gives up nothing from what makes Analog Balaton what it is, but steps out of the comfort zone just enough to make it something new and exciting. It is also what made it stand out from all the amazing music we got in last year and also why I chose it as the best album of 2022. (Márton Biró)
Una Torfa – “Flækt og týnd og einmana”
Una Torfa enters the Icelandic music scene with a bang with the LP “Flækt og týnd og einmana”, in English translation that goes like: “Tangled and lost and lonely”. By God, that is fresh. The album is filled with sincere songwriting and lyrics that form a strong counterpoint to a secular and masculine hip-hop scene that has warmed the top of the Icelandic charts in the last decade.
It’s clear that the tide has changed since the pandemic, and listeners are ready for a grounding live performance that addresses the matters of the heart in Una’s humble yet cheerful voice that brings back memories of ’90s girl power galore.
Una Torfa has been through a lot, despite her young age, and according to my sources, she used music as an outlet in her fight against cancer, a disease she overcame last year.
Hildur Kristín Stefánsdóttir produces the album, a unique artist with a good command of pop sound who will undoubtedly have a strong influence on the soundscape and texture of Icelandic pop in the coming years.
Icelandic women are coming in strong this year. (Nina Richter, journalist and TV presenter at Torg)
philterSoup x SAT – “EMERSION” EP
In a year riddled with so much active listening, great music all around, and people coming well and truly out of the pandemic… this EP gave me a sense of comfort. Explains the constant rotation.
philterSoup x SAT’s debut EP, “EMERSION”, comes in like an unexpected wave. ‘You Keep Moving’ reels you right in with a groovy punch, and excellent vocal contributions on SAT’s front, coupled with crafty production peppered all over.
At just around eight minutes in its entirety, EMERSION makes me excited for a full blown record from the duo. (Naman Saraiya)
Perunggu – “Memorandum”
Even though it’s Perunggu’s full-length debut album, there’s something comfortingly familiar about “Memorandum”. Perhaps it’s the late Nineties and early Noughties alternative rock and emo influences, perhaps it’s the adherence to good old-fashioned song craft, tight musical performances and meaningful lyrics.
Either way, the Bandung-bred, Jakarta-based trio of Maul Ibrahim (vocals, guitar), Adam Adenan (bass, vocals) and Ildo Hasman (drums, vocals) serve up 11 songs that run the gamut from the mosh-inducing “Tarung Bebas” to the tender “Ini Abadi”, with lyrics that touch on fatherhood (“Pastikan Riuh Akhiri Malammu”), grief (“Kalibata, 2012”), spirituality (“33x”) and much more.
It’s no wonder that Perunggu has become your favorite band’s favorite band, and their gigs have taken on a euphoric, religious-like quality in which teardrops flow both within the crowd and on the stage. And while Maul, Adam and Ildo may have started the band as a means of blowing off steam from their corporate careers, you wouldn’t blame them for thinking about giving up their day jobs. (Hasief Ardiasyah)
Various Artists – “Abandoned”
More than 100 days have passed since the start of the protests in Iran after the death of #mahsa_amini in detention, which led to an uprising and a revolutionary movement, with more than 20,000 detainees, over 500 killed, including more than 60 children, and two officially executed, and tens of people waiting for heavy and unfair verdicts.
In the last three months, almost the whole cultural and entertainment sector, including the music scene, came to a halt; no concerts, no album releases and no events, up to a point that the minister of ‘Culture and the Islamic Guidance’ (ironically the same term used for the ‘Morality Police’, responsible for the death of #mahsa_amini: ‘Guidance Patrol Police’), known for creating a massive labyrinth for getting permissions for cultural acts and canceling them at the last moment, officially asks artists to act out and hold musical concerts which didn’t receive any response from the music community yet.
Whereas there’s not so much passion and enthusiasm left at the moment, following the tradition of the best album of the year, I decided to choose an album that represents the mood of the present time of Iran.
“Abandoned”, a curated concept album, produced by Arjang Aghajari, consists of seven independent compositions by seven contemporary musicians from different backgrounds around the concept of abandoned and desolate places. The idea of this project was formed before the pandemic, but the pieces have been created during the time when the people experienced the public spaces empty of humans, abandoned.
First piece, “Desolate Sway”, a piece for violin and alto by Isa Ghaffari, is a mournful narrative of a desolate town, while the second piece, “Arbab Jamshid” by Soheil Mokhberi, narrates the sorrowful story of a street in Tehran with the same name, which was a vibrant street in 1950s, a home to several film studios and film production offices – but today nothing has left of it.
The third composition, “Mirroresque” by Golfam Khayam, a piece for solo guitar played by herself, is a mesmerizing piece that illustrates roaming around an abandoned space. The following piece, “Ash”, by a prominent electronic musician Ata Ebtekar, is an electro-acoustic piece that portrays the gradual decline of a city to disorder in an apocalyptic way.
“Nagasaki’s Digit”, the fith track of this album, by Ehsan Sadigh from the Diminished Quartet, also portrays a modern urban entropy to the edge of a chaotic collapse. This piece has been orchestrated in progressive rock style but also the old sound of harpsichord has been employed in it that creates a contradictory and mysterious atmosphere.
The next track, “Bayat-e Farsi” by Bamdad Afshar, perhaps refers to Bayat-e Tehran, an old style of urban folk singing in old Tehran, mostly sung in market places by common people like craftsmen, shopkeepers and tradesmen. This style of singing has been abandoned for decades.
The last piece by Aso Kohzadi is called “Oudlajan”, a historic neighborhood in Tehran, part of the city’s old town during the late 19th century, mostly home to Jewish and Zoroastrian families and considered as a prestigious and wealthy neighborhood. After the urban development of Tehran from the 1950s, the wealthy people mostly moved to the north of the city. Today almost nothing has left from the glory and grandeur of old Oudlajan, where once you could hear music from the houses. Kohzadi’s composition is a sonic conceptual journey to Oudlajan. (Ali Eshqi)
Other recommended albums:
• Milad Saberfakhr – “Suspended Like Homeland”
• Ali Azimi – “Kahrobaye Arezou”
• Jetpack – “Kafi Nist”
• O-Hum – “Shatt-e Sharab”
• Mehrdad Hidden, Moody Moussavi – “Zoozanaghe”
Also check out: 12 Protest Songs from Iran
Harel Hatzav – “לאוזניכם בלבד”
A relatively new artist in the scene, Harel Hatsev (הראל חצב) creates a pretty unique and refresing blend of hip-hop and Israeli mizrahit music, a highly popular genre in Israel that combines traditional styles from around the region.
The album called “לאוזניכם בלבד”, which can be translated as “For Your Ears Only”, is Harel Hatzav’s first full-length release, a combination of great production, interesting lyrics, and the atmosphere of Israel’s city streets. (David Michaelov)
Edda – “Illusion”
Stefano Rampoldi, a.k.a. Edda, is a veteran of the Italian alternative rock scene. In fact, he was the mastermind behind Ritmo Tribale, one of the most influential bands in the 90s. After the band split up, Edda took a very long hiatus from music, but then started his solo career in 2012. This is his sixth album.
Edda’s music has always been out of the box and not really tied to the classical songwriting rules. His songs are straight expression of his troubled personality. Edda constantly feels like he never quite fits into this world and that he’s always out of place. He hates any kind of social convention, but this doesn’t mean he’s angry or grumpy. On the contrary, his soul is pure and his mind is open, and he doesn’t like this life because he would like to live with no kind of boundaries.
On “Illusion”, his songs are less unconventional than in the past: there are clean melodies, verses and choruses, and a nicely structured sound (the producer is Gianni Maroccolo, another respected Italian music veteran). So, we might say that, finally, Edda is sticking to some rules, but the truth is that he’s doing it in his very own way. In fact, his singing voice is still far away from formal cleanliness, and his lyrics are a powerful slap in the face to any kind of standardized thinking.
These songs have an incredible emotional power, and this album is a true masterpiece. (Stefano Bartolotta & Indie Roccia)
Other recommended albums:
• Verdena – “Volevo Magia”
• Alessandro Fiori – “Mi Sono Perso Nel Bosco”
• Calibro 35 – “Scacco Al Maestro”
• Marlene Kuntz – “Karma Clima”
• The Wends – “It’s Here Where You Fall”
Marina Kodama – “Like a Wolf”
If Juana Molina was born in Osaka, and played there together with members of the bands Afrirampo or Boredoms, the result might be similar to Marina Kodama’s electronic folk songs.
After touring the world as the vocalist of Sawa Angstrom, she started to make a new LP with the support of friend musicians. Especially on track three – “Howling”, and four – “Like a Wolf”, daxophone master Kazuhisa Uchihashi joined to add atmosphere which make us feel as if we were in pure nature.
In this way, some songs have strange tracks like Japanese ancient court music or ethnic music from other countries. But her voice itself has more intimate melodies which stay close to you. We asked Marina why she added daxophone, her answer was related to the theme of this LP:
“It reminded me of howling wolves when I first listened to daxophone tones, so I decided to add it on the songs about wolves. They are stronger than us, but they are always in solitude. They know loneliness, even cruelty of life better than us. I feel sympathy with wolves.”
Speaking about other songs, she said “Wide pupil” is a song about being against the violent winds and looking for an opportunity, and “Plod” is about walking snowy mountains. “These songs are of course about wolves.”
Listening to the album, we can imagine wolf’s hard life in the great nature. And it might be a little similar to the recent situation that human beings are in. (Toyokazu Mori)
Tayar – “Nos El Bahr”
Lost and found somewhere between electronic music, alternative rock and pop, the Amman-based duo Tayar (تيار) offer dreamy but catchy songs Arabic lyrics and often melodies, quickly becoming a new hope for the Jordanian scene that gave us bands like Autostrad or El Morabba3.
Ahmad Farah (احمد فرح) and Bader Helalat (بدر هلالات) published their first singles two years ago, followed up by “Khams Sneen” in 2021 and a now with another EP, “Nos El Bahr”.
Don’t worry it’s just for compact songs, and not even 20 minutes total, because if they hit your spot, you’ll find yourself keeping this EP on repeat for a couple of days or weeks. Yet we do hope Tayar is back soon with a proper LP. (Lina Rim)
Other recommended albums:
Coco Em – “Kilumi”
This Nairobi-based DJ has already had a speedy live career, now with her debut album Coco Em (Emma Nzioka) mixes and magnifies elements of East African tradition and the current sound of afro house, amapiano, and other dance styles with a little bit of experimental music.
“Kilumi” includes just seven tracks and takes less than half an hour, but Coco Em and her guests take us across a range of moods and colours leaving you bewildered, satisfied, and full of hope to hear more from this talented Kenyan artist. (T. Mecha)
Shakima Trio – “Vysoko”
After Russia invaded Ukraine and started a war, millions of Ukrainians left homeland and found refuge in European countries – also in Latvia, which gave shelter to aproximately 40,000 Ukrainians (mostly women and children). Ukrainian folklorist, ethnomusician and violinist Shakima Garunts was one of them. She found shelter in Latvia and, thanks to music producer and muisican Ainārs Majors, she continues to do what she wants and is supposed to do – make and perform music.
At the beginning of the summer, Garunts together with the Latvian guitarist and singer Jānis Ruņģis and the bass player Ainārs Majors created the ethnomusic group Shakima Trio. The trio gave concerts, and at the beginning of the winter they released a lucid, gentle and colorful album “Vysoko”.
The year of 2022 started with darkness and it seems it will remain forever like that, but Shakima Trio’s warm and heartfelt sound, and Shakima’s fragile yet determined chant create illusion of much-needed light – a light in which friendship, sincerity and humanity reside. (Raivis Spalvēns)
Julia Sabra & Fadi Tabbal – “Snakeskin”
“Snakeskin”, a co-release by Beirut’s Ruptured and Portland’s Beacon Sound, is an album of visionary electronic dream pop, shapeshifting above ambient and industrial undercurrents. It is moody, unsettling, luminous – the culmination of a decade of collaboration and friendship between Lebanese producer / musician / engineer Fadi Tabbal and singer-songwriter Julia Sabra from Beirut-based indie trio Postcards.
The duo began working on “Snakeskin” in the aftermath of the August 2020 Beirut port explosion, which killed at least 218 people, injured 7,000, and left over 300,000 people homeless. Indeed, Julia’s home was destroyed by the explosion and her partner and bandmate Pascal badly injured. The first song that the first song that Fadi and Julia wrote together afterwards was ‘Roots’, which closes out the album and first appeared for the Ruptured-curated live series “The Drone Sessions” in the fall of 2020.
“Snakeskin” utilizes tape loops, synthesizers, vocals, and drum machines, combining Julia’s pop-inspired melodies and choral roots with Fadi’s affinity for minimalism and musique concrète. The album seamlessly incorporates the melancholy electro-pop of ‘All The Birds’, the quiet menace of ‘In Our Garden’, and the beat-driven ‘Signs’. The title track sums up their frame of mind, beginning as a lullaby and evolving into a glittering tapestry of distortion and feedback.
As the artists write, “Snakeskin” is a product of “the disappearance of life as we know it, and with it the decay of nature and living creatures. There is no rebirth, no renewal. It’s about what it means to feel at home in such a place.”
Some tracks were also inspired by events happening in the surrounding region, such as the invasion of Armenia by Azerbaijan and the Palestinian uprising of May 2021 (Sheikh Jarrah) – both events shedding light on relationships to home and land across the wider region. That such compelling art can emerge from unceasing tragedy may be the ultimate testament to human resilience and the pursuit of freedom and justice. (Ziad Nawfal)
Other recommended albums:
• Yara Asmar – “Home Recordings 2018 – 2021”
• Marc Codsi – “The Silence Between The New World And The Aftermath”
• Cosmic Analog Ensemble – “Expo Botanica”
• Etyen – “Untitled”
• Sandmoon – “While We Watch the Horizon Sink”
Rokas Kašėta – “Dzūkodelika”
We spent year 2022 in the presence of the absurd war where some idiotic yet powerful russian people claim to have a right to come and occupy peaceful neighbour’s land, erase their history and eliminate traditions. Seeing this cloudy reality makes you wanna check your own perception. This is why looking back to where we come from is so important. This is what Rokas Kašėta has rewarded us with.
His first acoustic album “Dzūkodelika” is an undeniably exceptional work trying to make connections with our ancestors as well as spirits from the faraway lands. It seems (yet it may not be true) that Rokas has traveled across the half of our planet to settle down in the Dzūkija countryside, make musical instruments himself and write these songs where psychedelic meets beautiful Dzūkija region and becomes “Dzūkodelika”.
Give it a try, ladies and gentlemen! (Giedre Nalivaikaite)
Bayangan – “Kelana”
On his sophomore effort, “Kelana”, Bayangan has crafted yet another record of timeless beauty. It’s a record that draws deep from a well of sorrows but is not a prisoner of it.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself both smiling and crying while listening to it. (Adrian Yap)
BKO – “Djine Bora”
BKO (name borrowed from the airport in Bamako) started making music around the conflict in Mali was starting and a whole decade the turmoil still has not ended. BKO come from a music nation so they respond with music, playing hundreds of concerts in spite of everything and delivering three beautiful albums: “Bamako Today” in 2014, “Mali Foli Coura” in 2017, and most recently “Djine Bora”.
BKO keep their and our spirits up with their own interpretation of Mande music and groovy rock adorned with the reminders of centuries-old rituals, and pulsing with even older rhythms. Mesmerizing music for heart & mind. (Oumar Dembele)
Natalia Lafourcade – “De todas las flores”
Music of Natalia Lafourcade from Veracruz, Mexico, is undoubtedly a national treasure. Each album, each song, each note, are part of the talent of a powerful woman who, with her music, is filled with joy, celebration, love and warmth. “De todas las flores” is the most recent gift of this Mexican to the world. In my opinion, it’s also the best representation of the country’s sound in 2022.
In the rhythm of a beating heart, with that Mexican blood that she boasts in her sound, Natalia Lafourcade gives us a phenomenal album that combines the best of this composer and singer. She sings about love, but also about pain when it ends. She talks about the joy of living, and also about how without death this would not be possible. Duality – life itself – is the central theme of this record, in which Lafourcade exploits her musical sensibility.
Musically you will find happy melodies, as well as melancholic ones. Of course, all of them beautifully set to music arranged with winds, strings, percussion, and in general a delicious orchestra led in the production by fellow musician Adán Jodorowsky. “De todas las flores” is what in Mexico we call an “apapacho” to the heart, to the soul; or so that you understand me: a warm and affectionate hug.
The best tradition of the Mexican song keeps Natalia Lafourcade as its best representative. The legendary Agustín Lara dances to the rhythm of this beautiful album, with all the sound flowers created by this beautiful human being, singer, composer, woman… (Asfaltos)
Bodikhuu – “Street-Hops”
Already a sampling veteran, Ulaanbaatar-based beatmaker Bodikhuu keeps producing consistent albums both sound- and quality-wise, in spite of giving us new material every year on average. This brought him a well-deserved acclaim in Mongolia and abroad – he’s a local international streaming start.
Bodikhuu sometimes he looks for external inspirations, like on the “Tokyo” album, and sometimes he seems to be looking inward. His new record “Street-Hops” feels like it belongs to that latter group, it’s focused and often minimal, puts you in full trance as soon as you close your eyes with your headphones on. (A. Bilguun)
Saib. – “Unwind”
Casablanca has been consistently giving us talented producers and Hamza Saib – born in this city, now based in Berlin – is among them, delivering quality beats for almost a decade now.
What seems to be his eighth or ninth LP, with about as EPs, “Unwind” is a chilly and jazzy work that helped to sooth your soul after watching the news.
Saib. mentions the late Japanese genius Nujabes among his idols and there are similarities, especially the feeling of being between wakefulnes and sleep, dreaming of neverending summer. (Lina Rim)
Other recommended albums:
• Master Musicians of Jajouka – “Dancing Under the Moon”
• The Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar – “Jajouka Between The Mountains”
• Majid Bekkas – “Joudour”
• Bellemou Messaoud & Boussouar – “Wahrania”
• bergsonist – EPs
The Visual – “A Night By The Shore”
Another year, another The Visual record? Just a year after releasing the stunning “The Spirit Of Age”, the Dutch trio released their new crowd-funded record “A Night By The Shore”.
On this beautiful new album, front singer Amor and bandmates managed to refine their soothing and often hypnotising sound. The record was made in collaboration with producer Pieterjan Coppens, who you might know as the producer of Eefje De Visser.
Fans of Beach House and Radiohead should definitely not miss this hauntingly beautiful album. (Jort Mokum)
Other recommended albums:
• Personal Trainer – “Big Love Blanket”
• Animistic Beliefs – “MERDEKA”
• Mathilde Nobel – “Founds On Land”
• Merol – “Troostprijs”
• Joya Mooi – “What’s Around The Corner (Side A)”
NEW ZEALAND / AOTEAROA :
Avantdale Bowling Club – “TREES”
Five years after the release of Avantdale Bowling Club’s self-titled debut album, ABC frontman Tom Scott (formerly of Homebrew, @Peace, Average Rap Band, etc.) delivers another musical tour de force.
The foundations here are Tom’s longstanding love of hip-hop, jazz, soul and funk, as understood as branches off the same tree. Over the course of ten vividly realised compositions that ride the line between band arrangements and programmed machine beats, Tom and his collaborators sweat it out, rapping and singing like their lives depend on it.
Along the way, he takes a closer look at economic inequality, drug law reform, social desperation and the realities of living with regret. The songs on TREES might be concept-driven, but they still bounce, bop and bang.
This is what happens when stop trying to compartmentalise your life experiences and accept that you can’t have good without bad, and you can’t have bad without good. Yet more masterful work from one of the most consistent New Zealand hip-hop artists of all time. (Martyn Pepperell)
Etran de L’Aïr – “Agadez”
Instant classic from the legendary family band from Agadez, “Agadez” is their homage to this city and its incredible legacy of Tuareg music.
Etran de L’Aïr (Stars of the Aïr) have been bringing joy to listeners and wedding guests around Agadez for over 25 years now, preserving the tradition of pan-Saharan blues-rock while updating it according to what cought their interest at the time.
“Agadez” was recorded in their home over “a handful of takes, in a rapid-fire recording session”, with the intention to “retain all the energy of a party.” It worked perfectly. (T. Mecha)
Emeka Ogboh – “6°30’33.372”N 3°22’0.66”E”
I just love this official explanation of what Emeka Ogboh does in his life: “Using interviews and field recordings of city streets, markets, vendors and traffic, Emeka Ogboh weaves together disparate sonic impressions of Lagos and other urban environments into long-form, ambient, dubby electronic compositions.”
“6°30′33.372″N 3°22′0.66″E” is her second album, released two years after his impressive debut “Beyond The Yellow Haze”, and those numbers in the title take you exactly to the middle of Nigeria’s capital where Ogboh collected the aforementioned sonic impressions and weaved them together into a musical hymn to the fascinating, ever-changing city. (T. Mecha)
Other recommended albums:
• Nwando Ebizie – “The Swan”
• LA Timpa – “Pity by One All Good Treasure”
• Nok Cultural Ensemble – “Njhyi”
• Asake – “Mr. Money With the Vibe”
• Obongjayar – “Some Nights I Dream of Doors”
Lufthansa – “Davor”
Lufthansa are the moving force behind Macedonia’s new wave music scene and these leaders of alternative music just released an album that proves their dedication to breaking boundaries. Inspired by the music happenings in the world, “Davor” is a role model for what Macedonian youth want to listen to today.
Their creativity along with the play on words in the Macedonian language have no limits and they channel their energy into hyperproductive period creating something new every day, as seen in their side projects (Stoj, posle!, Divogradba, Vagina Corporation, Bumbling Bilbo).
Together with other Macedonian artists, they also formed the Gola Planina kolektiv – Naked Mountain collective. (N. A.)
Amalie Holt Kleive – “De løper der jeg går”
The title of Amalie Holt Kleive’s debut album translates as “they run where I walk”. While other artists rush to put out their musical creations, Amalie gives us the gift of an extremely well-crafted album. The 34-minute journey is full of strong and diverse impressions, yet it never feels rushed. In these songs, Kleive’s moving lyrics are woven beautifully into a sonic expression that is a mixture of the artist’s jazz background and the lush and heavy synths of her producers Vetle Junker (Metteson, Solå) and Peder Kolsung (Sigrid, iris).
A great example of this effect is the single “Sier ingenting”. On this track Junker’s signature hard-hitting production combined with Kleive’s lush and calm voice hits the listener right in the feels. On the Kolsung-produced track “Usynlig”, the extremely catchy synth pre-chorus riff, combined with Kleive’s panned and fragmented voice, triggers the listener immediately. A beautiful contrast to these thick arrangements is Kleive’s acapella track “Rene”, which provides the listener with a floating in space-type of feeling.
“Ser du nå” is a song about leaving and understanding. “Home was too quiet for me,” Kleiva sings. Still, the song is quite peaceful, unlike “Syre”. Those that are longing for more noise, can check out her sister Johanna’s critically acclaimed metal band Witch Club Satan, which provides an inverted echo of Amalie’s music.
Regarding “De løper der jeg går”, one of the foremost qualities is without a doubt the introspected and fragile, yet rock-solid vocal performance brilliantly delivered in the song “Kjære”. “”My dear, I know you want to change me,” Kleive sings with love, yet integrity. Backed by delicate strings she confesses “my loneliness always leads me back to the sea”.
May Kleive stay true to her authentic voice and poetic wisdom, and may the world know peace in 2023. (Edvard Granum Dillner)
Other recommended albums:
• Ea Othilde – “How I’d Like It to Fade”
• ¡BangBang Watergun! – “Colors”
• Siv Jakobsen – “Gardening, Pt. 1”
• thea wang – “While He Is Asleep”
• han gaiden – “you called me your erika”
Haya Zaatry- “Rahawan”
Haya Zaatry (هيا زعاترة) is a talented Palestinian singer-songwriter, who’s been charming us with her soft vocals and her mostly acoustic, light arrangements.
On her latest album “Rahawan” – the title is borrowed from the surname of Haya’s great-great-grandmother, who “was the last person within Haya’s family who lived and roamed the land freely, before the forceful imposition of man made borders” – her sound grows.
In the studio, Haya was accompanied by about ten musicians and some moments, when multiple voices are joined by guitars, keys, drums, percussions, and trumpets, they embrace you like a small orchestra, especially on the beautiful song “Alouli”.
“The album is conceptually designed to reclaim a sense of freedom and belonging,” we read in the press release, and at the same it’s a story about “all the sorrows, losses, love and oppression surrounding Haya’s everyday life.” (Sara Wadi)
Daniela Lalita – “Trececerotres”
Peruvian-born artist based in New York, Daniela Lalita is a Rhode Island School of Design alumnus. Her expertise makes her a versatile artist who has experimented in different fields.
After years of releasing singles on Soundcloud, this year she debuts with her EP called “Trececerotres” (1303) because of the address number of her house in Peru.
Between dark and dissonant soundscapes, Daniela builds concepts where folktronica and industrial music flow like a freak party that slowly breaks you apart. (José Luis Mercado)
Other recommended albums:
• Fabricio Robles – “Pasajero”
• La Zorra Zapata – “Acantilados”
• Jean Paul Medroa – “Niño confundido vol. 2”
• Santa Madero – “Ya tengo nostalgia por conversaciones que tuve ayer”
• Plutonio en Alto Grado – “Desvío Alcázar”
ena mori – “DON’T BLAME THE WILD ONE!”
Ena Mori is nothing but consistent. Two years after her scene-stealing self-titled debut, Ena is back with a bolder and brighter statement with what is essentially a pandemic album.
Comprising 12 tracks including her pre-release singles (which effectively set the tone and anticipation for the brand new album) and the reimagined take on “FALL IN LOVE!”, the record takes you into Mori’s vivid world with grandiose soundscapes and deep yet relatable lyricism, putting into song the things she’s most uncomfortable about.
The classically-trained musician merges her technicality with spurts of creativity as she works more wonders with longtime producer timothy Run, and ropes in their friends and fellow artists, Zild Benitez, Sam Marquez, Zeke Valero, Eon Buendia, and more to help out.
A treat both sonically and visually, “DON’T BLAME THE WILD ONE!” proves that Ena Mori is the popstar of this generation. (Camille Castillo, Bandwagon Asia)
||ALA|MEDA|| – “Spectra 01”
What a year, huh?
As for music, instrumental records seemed to stand out in Poland more than ever since Chopin. If that’s your thing, apart from the albums listed below (only Heima has a singer, a great one) you might also check out interesting releases from Wojciech Rusin, Niechęć, Skalpel, Resina, Hinode Tapes, Aleksandra Słyż, EABS, mikro.mono, Koń or jazzman Piotr Wojtasik, who on “Voices” used voices like an instrument.
The record we listened to most in 2022 though was “Spectra 01” by the acclaimed improvising collective Alameda. The group was started by multi-instrumentalist Kuba Ziołek a decade ago, inspired by local folk, experimental rock and metal, later joined by avant-garde, kraut- and space-rock, electronic music, ambient, honestly almost everything that sounds.
This kaleidoscopic approach is magnified by the fact that the band’s line-up (and its names) keeps changing, with Ziołek holding the steering wheel. On Alameda’s latest album “Spectra 01” he’s got four companions, and they’re focused on drums, bass and electronic – no guitars – because now the inspirations came from Africa and Latin America, though they also mention “industrial music, post-punk, gqom, dub and vaporwave” as influences.
It seems complicated and it is food for thought for sure. But at the same time Alameda’s festive rhythms and vivid loops offer simple fun. “Spectra 01” could also come both from the past and the future, certainly from somewhere far away, which was quite useful last year. (Mariusz Herma & Artur Szarecki)
Club Makumba – “Club Makumba”
A resistance flag raised on Mediterranean coasts. A strait of influences in a fusion of rock cartography, southern back guitars, warm rhythms from North Africa, swept away by spirits roaming the air and jazz dunes, melodies and ancient tunings, which reach us in storms of electric dust.
They are hymns dedicated to all who seek a better life on these western shores, neglected by an increasingly closed Europe in itself. (Paulo Homem de Melo, Glam Magazine)
Alegría Rampante – “Poblado”
Singer-songwriter Eduardo Alegría’s musical career doubles as an abridged history of Puerto Rico’s independent music scene in the new millenium. A queer theater kid full of big ideas and aspirations, Alegría returned to the Island in the late 90s after a stint in NYC and co-founded Superaquello. The band was his version of something one might have discovered watching MTV’s Alternative Nation or 120 Minutes back then, one that prioritized feel over chops, high concept over sleek presentation. Superaquello joined the burgeoning Rock En Español movement of the times as it strove to form part of a broader cultural conversation beyond Puerto Rico’s shores, even piquing David Byrne’s interest as possible Luaka Bop signees.
By the time of the band’s dissolution, it had rallied enough boricua art-school kids to help fashion a small, but highly competent, alternative music scene in San Juan. Existing outside FM Radio conventions and other mainstream media norms, and for a long time resisting the influence of the world-conquering phenomenon known as reggaeton, this “other” Puerto Rican music was defined by creative experimentation, queerness, and, perhaps paradoxically, a great yearning for belonging. At the center of it all, elder statesman Eduardo persevered, now as ringleader of a new musical outlet – Alegría Rampante. The release in 2015 of their outstanding debut, “Se Nos Fue La Mano”, culminated in a two-night sold-out music revue at the historic Teatro Tapia in Old San Juan. It cemented Alegría’s reputation as a creative talent of the highest order.
After that career highlight, work quickly began on what would become Alegría Rampante’s sophomore record, “Poblado”. But the journey to “Poblado” would be derailed time and again by generational traumas stacked atop each other: cataclysmic hurricanes, rolling blackouts, political instability, economic recession, and… oh yeah, a global pandemic. All of these were compounded by numerous personal tragedies, group infighting, localized strife, and health issues – the usual weight of the day to day. The last half decade has not been easy.
And yet, stagnation has begotten us a renaissance. Indie music concerts in the island seem to have successfully made a move to bigger venues (and higher ticket prices) as alternative artists draw more attention from the media and younger audiences hungry for live entertainment. Bad Bunny’s astronomical success has played a role in this. His queer-friendly, kaleidoscopic brand of reggaeton now includes a genre-defining collaboration with scene darlings Buscabulla – their song “Andrea” being a bonafide streaming hit. Reggaeton upstarts like Villano Antillano and RaiNao, women working to make that genre a more inclusive one, have catapulted from the relative obscurity of the underground straight into the belly of the Spotify hype-beast and into public consciousness. Artists like dub-reggae one-man band Pachyman and composer Angélica Negrón of electronic band Balún – both beloved “graduates” of our independent music scene – have matured into world-caliber artists gaining international acclaim.
Amidst all of these successes and expansion, with more eyes and ears than ever set on Puerto Rico, critics could point out Alegría Rampante’s struggle to find a larger audience for “Poblado” as indicative of a fault or musical misstep. And yet, I would argue that “Poblado’s” real value lies in the way that it was created not for an intended audience but with it. The album works both as loving tribute to the band’s peers and the embodiment of that very same artistic community. Most if not all of the songs in “Poblado” feature another artist from Puerto Rico’s independent music scene, with the band working to highlight each guest’s unique contribution instead of simply folding them into Alegría Rampante’s sound. As a result, the record doubles as a guide for the adventurous to follow into the work of other Puerto Rican musicians like Andrea Cruz, Chango Menas, Fofé Abreu, MIMA, Los Wálters, and more. These collaborations allow the band to jump easily from the 80s era Bowie pastiche “Jirafa”, to the sax-fueled disco romp of “Un soldado” and the haunting electro-lament of “Ciudad Fantasma”.
“Poblado” is also a much-needed reminder to care for each other in times of great unstableness and worry for our collective future. And who knows what may lie ahead in 2023 and beyond… But as the year winds down, I find great comfort in knowing that with “Poblado”, Eduardo Alegría has allowed himself to craft the rarest of musical gestures in our country’s storied musical legacy – a queer, operatic, boricua rock fantasia free of capitalistic concerns. It is a hidden gem that will stand the test of time. It is precious, buried treasure, waiting to be found. And I hope these words can be the map that show you how to get there. (Alfredo Richner)
Other recommended albums:
• International Dub Ambassadors – “La Calor”
• RaiNao – “Ahora A.K.A NAO”
• MOTHS – “Space Force”
• No Base Trio – “NBT II”
• Anti Teenage Sound Deterrents – “Dose of a Routine Monologue”
om la lună – “ECHILIBRU”
From my perspective, om la lună is the most intriguing music project from the new wave of Romanian rock bands. The Bucharest-based band has less than 4 years since they’ve teamed up and have already released three albums. A mixture of indie rock, post rock and electro sounds, but mainly the power of their lyrics turned them into a phenomenon in terms of fans, groupies and sold-out concerts. I would categorize them as a bunch of new romantics who have reached maturity expressing themselves through music as a therapy method.
“ECHILIBRU” is their third album, released in July 2022 and promoted all around Romania with sold-out concerts. It is NOT an album about equilibrium as you might think, but one about perpetuum search for it from one meaningful failure to another. It is an album for the ones that are in the storms of their middle years and for the ones about to enter it.
Doru Pușcașu, lead vocal, is the one responsible for exposing (his) vulnerabilities via lyrics and does it in a unique way, mixing words in an unusual way to capture metaphors that best suit the song’s message. They have already released four singles with videos, but the public is expecting more and the album has the material for new releases. Keep an eye on them! (CriticEyez)
The Good Ones – “Rwanda ... you see ghosts, I see sky”
The Good Ones is a duo of Adrien Kazigira and Janvier Havugimana, who survived the 1994 genocide and when not working on their farms, they play guitars and self-made percussion instruments, and sing about what they remember, what they want to forget, and what we should focus on to make our life better and our world a better place.
“Rwanda ... you see ghosts, I see sky” is their fourth album already, and like the previous ones it was recorded all live, in the company of the acclaimed producer Ian Brennan and his wife Marilena Umuhoza Delli, on Adrien’s farm – where he was born, where he was hiding during the genocide, and where he keeps his land and his talent alive. (T. Mecha)
Wau Wau Collectif – “Mariage”
About three years ago one Swedish producer visited one fishing village in Senegal to record improvisations of local musicians. Then he came back home and polished that precious material, still working with them remotely.
This year we finally heard the results of that mutual adventure which involved over 20 musicians, for whom African jazz, blues, avant-garde, dub and sufi songs are all like “different species of fish swimming around, but together they make the ocean”. (Oumar Dembele)
Other recommended albums:
Šajzerbiterlemon – “Na dugačkim poljima”
It’s been three years since their great debut “Iza naših zidova” was released, and now Šajzerbiterlemon are coming back with another amazing studio album “Na dugačkim poljima”. It is a fascinating noise rollercoaster of a record!
The album is full of powerful and fierce guitars and a killer rhythm section that fits perfectly and captivates with vigorous energy. However, synth parts have been added to the characteristic raw sound that we have already heard from the Belgrade band, so everything seems more melodic and more attractive.
Don’t be fooled by the duration of the album because you will find plenty of fantastic things you can enjoy in those 24 minutes. Furious, direct and impulsive – those words describe their style. This record is a proof that they don’t even think about stopping. Just surrender to the music and listen to the loudest! (Nemanja Nešković)
Sezairi – “Violets Aren’t Blue”
Comprising a total of eight tracks, including an interlude and an outro, “Violets Aren’t Blue” can feel a little brief. But when you are listening to Sezairi’s latest album, you will realise that sometimes, it is better to prioritise quality over quantity.
From the moment it opens with the ‘Dead’, the Singapore Idol 3 champion’s 90s R&B-influenced collaborative track with Filipino rapper Young Cocoa, it is clear that you are in for a treat. Combining mysterious-sounding instrumentals and the mellow vocals of Sezairi — who is such a perfect fit for the song’s concept — ‘Dead’ feels like something that could easily find its way onto the soundtrack of a Bond-esque spy film.
After beginning the “Violets Aren’t Blue” on a high, Sezairi never once lets its quality dip as he explores the theme of love in tracks such as ‘Fool’, ‘Restless Love’, and ‘Blue’, the last one being another collaboration, this time with South Korean vocalist msftz. Also one of the project’s standout tracks, ‘Blue’ is much more upbeat in comparison to ‘Dead’ and it demonstrates Sezairi’s ability to effortlessly switch up his sound to explore a different facet of a particular subject matter.
The 35-year-old has come a very long way since the release of his 2010 debut album Take Two, and with “Violets Aren’t Blue”, he has not only shown his growth but also announced that there is still plenty to come from him. (Brandon Raeburn, Bandwagon Asia)
Tolstoys – “Mirror Me”
On the second album, Tolstoys brought their classic sound that won’t bore you. Meaning tunes, ideas and leader’s voice will soothe you down back to the universe behind the looking glass.
The band continued to serve dreamy ballads and anthemic chants with an idea of reflecting our environment and people we’ve met throughout our lives (“Mirror Me”).
What’s special is that every single song has also been remixed. Which actually leaves us with two albums by Tolstoys. (Viera Ráczová)
Širom – “The Liquified Throne of Simplicity”
Širom is an improvisation- and fantasy-driven trio who provide a unique fusion of experimental, jazz and folk music. Its members Iztok Koren, Ana Kravanja and Samo Kutin are all accomplished musicians and masters of their own instruments and sound.
Together, they radiate a fantastic ability of creating multi-textured soundscapes. As usual for Širom, they are musical adventurers, researchers of different sonical possibilities in improvisational alternative folk music.
Their third album “The Liquified Throne of Simplicity”, released at the prominent label Glitterbeat Records and tak:til, is fluid, deep and multi-layered, telling a moving imaginary folklore tale that speaks for itself. (Ula Kranjc Kušlan, selection by team of Radio Študent and friends)
The Brother Moves On – “$/he Who Feeds You…Owns You”
Here’s an album that out came out just at the end of October, but already feels like a classic. A classic of South African music as a whole, as it weaves its incredible sound from jazz, Afrobeat, pop and rock, roots music and South African chants – everyone in this band seems to love the mike even more than their instruments.
Talking about singing, Siyabonga Mthembu – the leader of The Brother Moves On – sings in many different languages, but it’s always about daily struggles – some even call it protest music – but also about that inner fire that keeps you going and doing such beautiful things as “$/he Who Feeds You…Owns You”. (Junior Naidoo)
Other recommended albums:
• Phelimuncasi – “Ama Gogela”
• Bye Beneco – “Leaving All the Time”
• Nduduzo Makhathini – “In the Spirit of Ntu”
• DJ Lag – “Meeting With the King”
• Tumi Mogorosi – “Group Theory: Black Music”
DOMA (도마) – “DOMA”
DOMA is folk duo consisting of Kim Doma (vocal, guitar) and Gunwoo (guitar). Their debut album, “Drifting To An Island For Reason I Don’t Know” (2017), made them one of the most delicate and subtle folk act in the country’s indie scene. The second album was set to arrive after four years after their debut, and many people were excited about it – including me. Tragically, the hope was almost lost on March 17th, 2021, with the news about the singer Doma passing away abruptly at the age of 28.
Thankfully, it was not the irrevocable end for the duo. Gunwoo and other friends of her (including Cacophony, the co-producer of the album) continued the effort to accomplish the second recording, and we were able to hold the posthumous second work, “DOMA”, at the end of December 2021. “Left alone in the band DOMA, I wanted to make ‘DOMA’s album’ rather than just a memorial work. That is why the title of the album is ‘DOMA’,” Gunwoo commented about the record.
Full of the melancholic yet determined words inside Doma’s heart, “DOMA” feels like an ambivalent consolation for listeners. We won’t be able to listen to her calm and ethereal voice in new songs, but these last efforts continue to exist against the flow of time. Clear and transparent sonic elements are revolving around the voice of Doma, including the subtly fascinating guitar contributed by Gunwoo. It’s like turning pages of a novel, slowly but firmly expanding the world inside our hearts.
Listening to the album in another year’s December once again still feels aching to me. I still miss this much-beloved singer-songwriter’s presence, and the personal memory spent with DOMA’s music. However, even the death cannot block the connection and communion created by the music. DOMA proved it, and it gives me the will to live in this bittersweet winter. (Jeong Guwon)
Betacam – “La Noche Interior”
Betacam’s second full-length album seems wounded, and sounds that way too. Opposite the brimming organic romanticism of “Mítico”, “La Noche Interior” deploys a certain coldness to take distance.
It is clear in ‘Tan sólo algo de ayuda’, where he sings “es sólo una mala racha, mañana se me pasas, un día un poco tonto lo tenemos todos” but without being able to elude, between effluvia of Destroyer’s “Kaputt”, the doubts of if we are failing, of who we are. Is he Betacam or Javier Carrasco, “un músico o tan solo un mediocre editor”?
We answer him as Tulsa does in a spectacular appearance: we will never know the answer completely, nobody does, but we always want to spend the day among Betacam’s records and songs. We wanted to be eternally in “Mythic”, and now we still like to be with you, Betacam; we love it because ‘Nos gusta hablar de amor’ activates us the intimate synthpop epic, always so difficult to execute.
We like your records because there are jitazos for radios that no longer exist (‘Yo nací para quererte’), because sometimes you dress like the Jarvis Cocker of Torrelavega (and because ‘Nada volverá a seguir a seguir a igual’ is the ‘Something Changed’ of while it’s happening), because at the same time there is some delicate and incendiary light in a lot of your songs (‘XX’ is a peak).
‘Un esclavo, un siervo’, cocked by a beat that could be ‘Paper Planes’, makes the battleground clear: “you know I’d do anything for you / even go shopping on a Friday in Madrid”. In this supposedly anodyne and anti-epic territory of everyday life is where the songs of this year’s best album become strong, huge.
‘Cosas Bonitas’ (male friendship, the “let’s see if we see each other” when we really want to) and the darky, spectacular ‘El capitalismo ha hecho llorar a Merche’ have underpinned an amazing half hour of songs that maybe before coming out were from Betacam, but from now on will be ours forever. (P. Roberto Jiménez, Hipersónica)
Noori & His Dorpa Band – “Beja Power!”
Full name of this album is “Beja Power! Electric Soul & Brass from Sudan’s Red Sea Coast” – its authors are masters of Beja music and come from the city Port Sudan, the capital of the eastern state of Red Sea.
Noori & His Dorpa Band is a sextet led by tambo-guitar player Noori, who’s accompanied by Naji (tenor sax), Gaido (bass), Tariq (guitar), Fox (congas) and Danash (tabla), and they’re fascinated with local and regional music – Sudanese, Ethiopian, Tuareg – but they clearly know what’s being played in other parts of the world.
“Beja Power!” is an instrumental album, but with sounds, it tells the story of the Beja community and its struggle for “recognition and access to the gold wealth of their own soil”. (Lina Rim)
Jonathan Johansson – “Om Vi Får Leva”
I thought I was tired of Jonathan Johansson’s music at the beginning of 2022. The first single didn’t sweep me away even though it was a great track, so my expectations were low, but the album has really grown on me and when we sum up the year it’s impossible not to put this record in the first place.
Johansson’s seventh studio album “Om Vi Får Leva” (“If We May Live”) is pure perfection and a perfect mix of classical strings, indie guitars, and rhythm. The music is organic, atmospheric, and laid back but never too drowsy, primarily because of the words that hit you in your mind and soul. As always, it’s impressions from his ulterior spirituality, his social life, and the outside world
Jonathan alternates between turning inward toward himself and outward toward the world. We get small glimpses of his private life, small considerations from Malmö, and observations from all over the world. In the beautiful song “Alcamo Marina Domenica”, Jonathan states that “in Malmö, no children have murdered each other for almost a week”. A heartbreaking reality check from the south of Sweden and the album is full of similar snapshots about both small and large things in life.
So the organic music, the lyrics, and this smooth Scanian dialect have been a winner since his first album in 2009 and it seems that he will remain a winner even in the future. “Om Vi Får Leva” is most definitely the best Swedish album of 2022. (Fabian Forslund)
Emilie Zoé – “Hello Future Me”
Emilie Zoé serves up great lo-fi rock and a wealth of ideas; a blazing force and strength like a volcanic eruption.
The album “Hello Future Me” is the logical continuation of her previous work, perfectly formulated. The level is remarkable – where is this woman taking us? (Michael Bohli, ARTNOIR.ch)
Lisa Djaati (靜物) – “Ripple Effect” (漣漪效應)
After 20 years of waiting, singer-songwriter Lisa Djaati released her sophomore album “Ripple Effect” (漣漪效應), a record that captures her personal life experiences in the concept of water.
A talented singer, Lisa suffered a vocal cord hemorrhage after releasing her critically acclaimed debut album “More Lisa”. She then became backing singer and producer for other famous artists. During these years, she also learned watercolor painting and focused on life itself.
If you listen to “Ripple Effect”, you’ll easily get touched by Lisa’s delicate voice. Adding electronic music elements into her material, she also created a sound experiment that will awake your soul and give you the experience of eternal bliss of life. (Cheng-Chung Tsai)
Other recommended albums:
• A Root (同根生) – “Holy Gazai” (邊緣轉生術)
• Bugs of Phonon (聲子蟲) – “Understory” (真面目)
• Insecteens (昆蟲白) – “In a Flash” (瞬間)
• aDAN (薛詒丹) – “Flashback” (倒敘)
• WANLONG (萬龍) – “Long Long”
Msafiri Zawose – “Sababa”
A full decade into the career of Msafiri Zawose, he remains the chief ambassador of re-invented music tradition of the nomadic tribe of Wagogo from central Tanzania, whom Msafiri’s proudly represents – just like his father Hukwe Zawose, an accomplished artist who also managed to work with the Real World family.
The great thing about Msafiri is that without losing any of the core elements of this tradition, he’s managed to make Gogo music attractive to international audiences. Just take a look at comments under his YouTube videos and you’ll see excitement coming from countries as far as Mexico, Vietnam or Poland. (T. Mecha)
Desktop Error – “i n d e l i b l e s t a i n”
Bangkok-based alternative quintet Desktop Error come have been around for 15 years now, but they’ve released only three studio albums. There are two reasons for that: one is that they work really hard on their material and with each record they get better and better, and second is that they went on hiatus a few years ago and when they reunited, the pandemic started.
And yet last May they came back with “i n d e l i b l e s t a i n”, their best album yet and one of the most intriguing we’ve heard recently in Thailand. Desktop Error have worked out their very own of post rock, indie rock, shoegaze, psychedelia, dream pop and lots of other stuff that is united by the atmosphere – not as dark as the album cover, but close. (W. Kongchankit)
Other recommended albums:
• Dept – “Ceramics Runway”
• THA FREEHAND – “ท้องฟ้าจำลอง”
• Safeplanet – “Cap, Capo, Cigarettes & Beer”
• A World Wondered Full – “They thought it but only smoke…”
• Numcha – “Bloom”
LNDFK – “Kuni”
The song titles on LNDFK’s debut album are in Japanese, English, Italian and childish, and they’re printed on the front cover, so even before pushing play one can expect this will be quite a ride. Then let’s add the fact that Linda Feki is half-Tunisian and half-Italian. And that she’s as inspired by music as by films, she mentions “Hana-bi” and “Sin City” for example.
Even knowing all of that, you’ll still be surprise when you finally push that play button. LNDFK’s music bursts and glitters with colourful sounds, changing rhythms, Linda’s flying and floating vocals, it’s jazz, soul, hip-hop and pop dancing together and you never know who’ll be leading and who’ll be following the next second. (Lina Rim)
Simge Pınar – “Sevgideğer”
My best album of 2022 for the Turkish alternative music scene is Simge Pınar’s second record “Sevgideğer”. (The title can be translated as “something/someone that deserves to be loved”.) With this album, Simge reminds us again of the beauty of an LP, where all the songs are related to each other and give you a total feeling/experience besides their one-by-one weight, especially in this era of singles and EPs.
These are not only good songs played by good musicians. But especially, there is an important name that we should mention separately. Efe Demiral put his signature in this album as a producer, arranger, guitar player, and even composer for some songs. I can easily say that all the projects of Efe are good, but this album made me feel like there are some more special Efe ingredients in it; maybe we can call this love.
Let’s listen to “Sevgideğer” and define that special ingredient by ourselves. (Emir Aksoy)
Afrorack – “The Afrorack”
Under the pseudonym Afrorack, Brian Bamanya makes music on modular synthesizer he has build himself, treating this machine like human body: “oscillator, VCA and all these envelopes” for him are like brain, eyes, ears and arms.
This helps him to everything in perfect harmony also when he’s producing his hypnotizing, heavily layered tracks filled with rhytms, bass and buzz. This is just the debut album of this Ugandan creator, his statement of what clubs in East African should be playing right now. (Afiya)
OTOY – “Околофронт” (Okolofront)
“This is my new routine, my new routine is war, I can either lay here in the ground dead or ready to spit bullets every day”. War rap by OTOY explains what Ukraine has been through in 2022.
World-class songwriters often recommend making songs about things you know the best. In 2022, war became the key topic for Ukrainian artists. One of the most noticeable pieces belongs to a rapper OTOY called ‘Околофронт’ (pronounced ‘Okolofront’).
Vyacheslav OTOY Drofa is only 23. In 2020, he released his debut EP and was preparing a new release in 2022. Then war knocked at the door. Now Vyacheslav is not only a rapper, but a volunteer soldier, initiator of a charity fund Agov and a brother of a Ukrainian missing soldier from Azov regiment.
“Околофронт” EP turned into a sublimation of the emotions and things he has been through so far – pain, despair, and a lot – I mean, A LOT – of anger. This release was perceived as a story relatable to all the Ukrainians, putting into words everything that has stuck in the throat and left unspoken.
It’s also quite noticeable that OTOY is making some music for foreign audiences. “Find My Country” single was used as a way to explain the new reality of Ukraine. He also became the voice of a social video produced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
Ukrainians invented a new term this year: war-life balance. You can be a soldier who’s releasing new music, work as a sound producer and help refugees, join territorial defence yet remain a musician. These two extremes bring us war rap. And trust me, every Ukrainian wishes you to never fully feel the pain and anger of war coming to your home. (Dartsya Tarkovska)
Other recommended albums:
• Anton Slepakov / Andriy Sokolov – “warнякання”
• Krutь – “Літепло”
• Blooms Corda – “Найдорожчі речі у світі”
• Love’n’Joy – “Half Home”
Facundo Balta – “Cuando me mires”
One of the best traditions of Uruguayan music is that of mixing local sounds and genres with international trends and influences. It’s a combination that traces its roots at least to the 1960s, when – inspired by such sources as The Beatles or Brazilian music – fusion became the norm. While the world drools with the output of Spanish artists like C. Tangana and Rosalía, a long line of Uruguayan musicians has made this combination of folklore and mainstream international sounds their home for decades, a heritage that now Facundo Balta has brought to the 21st century.
Singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentist, dancer and actor, Balta comes from an artistic household, the child of parents with long careers in the Uruguayan Carnival, that not only is the longest in the world, but is centered on diverse spectacles that every year compete among each other and combine dancing, acting, music and comedy.
Forged in the children’s version of the national Carnival contest and at age 21, Balta has developed an interesting and prolific career that already spans three albums and a plethora of singles that had presented him as one of the most promising names in Uruguayan music. “Cuando me miras” is his third LP, and his best to date.
The album mixes seamlessly candombe (the traditional Afro-Uruguayan genre that is one of the staples of Carnival and Uruguayan popular music), jazz, funk, soul, and even salsa, in a collection of eleven songs that carry droves of swing and groove, that sounds new yet familiar at the same time – something that usually means that you made an incredible piece of art – a collection of love songs that offers joy, warmth and power.
With “Simple!” as the most obvious hit and a personal universe that peeks its head from every note and song, Balta courses through different climates, moods and genreas easily and takes a confident step forward. (Nicolás Tabárez)
Other recommended albums:
• La Foca – “Los nuevos recuerdos vendrán”
• Sylvia Meyer – “¿Quién?”
• Romina Peluffo & Gonzalo Silva – “Temporal”
• latejapride* – “La forma del viento”
• Gonzalo Deniz – “Mientras tanto, en Montevideo”
Okills – “Estar bien”
Partly produced by Cheo Pardo (ex Los Amigos Invisibles, Los Crema Paraíso, Loco Beach, DJ Afro) and Grammy winner Ulises Hadjis, along with Méxican musician El David Aguilar, with a one-track contribution by Ferraz, Okills discovers a new voice within themselves, not only literally (Alberto Arcas is now joined by the drummer Drito Bautista, whose sweet voice comes off as a nice surprise for the band and a wonderful addition to their tropical indie sound) but also metaphorically.
After the departures of both of their guitarists and founding members, as well as the great success of their previous works, Venezuelan-born México-based outfit, Okills, had to face one of the most enormous challenges a band has to overcome when losing a member: find a new workflow to make music. It’s a process as hard as finding yourself, in the sense that you always want to try new things and they can end up being straight up garbage or making a turn that leaves your personality and what your fans loved about you in the past, losing some of these people in the process.
For a band with the resilience of Okills, this seemed like the easiest, most natural thing in the world. On “Estar bien”, their fourth long-play, the band showcases their touch for making catchy and intelligent pop songs is intact, and that their melodic quest has taken them to an elevated and privileged spot full of playful riffs and beautiful vocals. This is a work that uses indie pop to move around some timid new wave-y moments (specially in “Me sobra la plata and Seguir así”).
This is an album where you can tell that Okills are great students, doing their homework to refresh their influences to deliver a new sound. While it feels in a new place in comparison to their usual work, this musicality also makes you think about the reasons of why you fell for their music in the first place. (Alejandro Fernandes Riera)
Other recommended albums:
• Augusto Bracho – “Música Moderna”
• Lil Supa – “YEYO”
• Irepelusa – “Un koala en una palmera”
• Motherflowers – “Retrofuturismopsicotropical”
• Luis Otamendi – “Adolescencia Medieval” EP
Hồ Trâm Anh – “The Poetry of Streetlights”
Hồ Trâm Anh’s “The Poetry of Streetlights” is my best Vietnamese album this year. So beautiful, so emotional.
Sound-wise, her 11 tracks are situated in the alternative/dream pop area, or you could say they seem like surrounded by the mist, even her vocals seem to be hidden within it. While she’s been playing dream pop for a long time, the dreamy feeling is the norm here. And the dreaminess is also in the lyrics (all in English): “Wish I could look in your eyes/ And let loose all that we hide”.
“The Poetry of Streetlights” redefines the concept of dream pop, at least in the context of the Vietnamese music, and what’s more important it shows Hồ Trâm Anh’s beautiful soul. While it’s not available on streaming platforms for reasons she has explained here, you can stream this album on her website. (Nam Tran)
Other recommended albums:
• Mona Evie – “Chó ngồi đáy giếng”
• in memory of the view from hanoi opera house – “Beach/Heaven”
• Phùng Khánh Linh – “Citopia”
• Hoàng Thùy Linh – “Link”
• Trang – “Chỉ có thể là anh”
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