This month we’re delving back into the very biggest and best titles of 2022 so far, making sure to include any gems you may have missed first time around – and you could glean a few Father’s Day gift ideas to boot!
The year started out with the heftiest one-two punch possible for the tailend of your summer: KORN reminded us what metal had been missing: “[Requiem] emphasises the two pillars on which the band’s enduring clout rests: their mastery of dynamics, and the nasal necromancy of Jonathan Davis’s voice,” STACK‘s Zoë Radas wrote. Then came SLASH’s latest belter with Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators, 4 – the recording of which, Slash told us in a hilarious interview, was an “orgasmic experience.” STACK‘s Bryget Chrisfield declared her joy at Slash’s guitar wizardry, praising his “scuttling-tarantula-level phalange dexterity.”
It wasn’t long before the homegrown heavy hitters leapt into the charts, in the form of two groups: one legendarily brilliant, the other settling into their freshly-established iconic status. The first is, of course, MIDNIGHT OIL, with their immediately thrilling Resist. “Forty years after the classic 10 to 1,” STACK‘s Jeff Jenkins wrote, “Midnight Oil are still delivering songs for the head and the heart, ‘standing up to those who sell fear’, making the listener think and dance. It’s a potent mix, and no one does it as eloquently or as powerfully as Midnight Oil.” Right on, brother!
The second Aussie band who flung fresh wares in late February was GANG OF YOUTHS, led with typically triumphant abandon by frontman Dave Le’aupepe. “Exposing raw nerves to the world and holding tight to your hand through the seemingly impossible recovery, [Gang of Youths] make every moment feel like a personal conversation between friends who are processing the pain together,” STACK‘s Jacqui Picone wrote. “angel in realtime. is a masterpiece of fear, grief, forgiveness, identity, family, and above all: love.”
On to March, when Papa Emeritus IV (Tobias Forge) presented us with an album “bathed in the thurible-smoke of history and glinting with the reflected horror of present day” (so Zoë wrote): Impera presented a freshly inspired epoch for Swedish melodic metal barons GHOST, which ripped up JB’s vinyl chart like a machete through butter.
Later on that month, our ears were gifted two jewels in the calmer categories of sound. Canadian swing maestro MICHAEL BUBLE dropped the charm offensive with his Paul McCartney-produced 11th album, Higher. The crooner said he’d “never felt more excited after completing an album”, describing “dancing around laughing and crying in my underwear in [his] home studio.” Oh, Boobles! We do love you.
On the same day that Higher landed, we got surf coast folk-blues muso XAVIER RUDD’s Jan Juc Moon, which Jeff suggested as a companion piece to the Oils’ Resist. “The beauty of Rudd’s work is that he can sound cruisy even when addressing serious issues,” Jeff wrote. “The result is a hypnotic collection, both soothing and searing.”
April was chockers with excellent new music, from the greats to the newbies. Fools’ Day gave us RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS’ Unlimited Love, the first album from the LA funkheads to feature golden-era guitarist John Frusciante since 2006, which the act described as “the ride that is the sum of our lives” – and boy, did they deliver.
Much-hyped indie-rock besties-turned-bandmates WET LEG released their self-titled debut the following week, and Zoë thought their “astonishingly well-formed sound (wrapped neatly around a spine of deadpan humour)… [was the] honest-to-goodness real deal”. On that same day, JACK WHITE bequeathed us the first of his two albums for the year, Fear of the Dawn. Bryget reckoned the former White Stripe was “sickeningly good” on the LP, which offered a “bluesy rock’n’roll baptism” via White’s guitar-playing majesty.
At the end of April came the long-awaited solo album from former Silverchair frontman DANIEL JOHNS. Bryget praised the Newcastle singer-songwriter’s “Prince-like genius” on FutureNever, adding that Johns “packs more ideas into just one side of a D90 cassette than most artists have in their entire career” (truth!) and ultimately dubbing it “an immensely rewarding, immersive experience.” Last up for April was THE WEEKND’s Dawn FM; though it officially dropped in January, logistical bottlenecks meant we didn’t get it on physical media until almost four months later – but fans quickly snapped up its JB-exclusive silver vinyl edition, sending its dynamic, vivid pop flavours careening up the vinyl chart.
ARCADE FIRE’s “mind-meltingly brilliant” (as Bryget penned) sixth LP WE was first cab off the rank for May: “Listening to WE pours a doting reminder directly into our earholes that connection is actually a core human requirement,” she attested. Coming up behind with the swirl of a chiffon cape was Florence Welch, whose album Dance Fever (as FLORENCE + THE MACHINE) captivated us: “On Dance Fever, Welch saunters, creeps, brings spectral flamenco to its utter brink, collapses and gasps back to life with searing power,” Zoë wrote. “Welch has raised her own bar, and vaulted it with air to spare.”
On the same day came hip-hop king KENDRICK LAMAR’s dense and didactic Mr Morale & the Big Steppers. STACK’s Tim Lambert wrote that “Lamar explores one subject more deeply than he has ever before: himself,” adding that the artist’s “piercing honesty demands the listener get comfortable being uncomfortable, with the profound goal of creating a dialogue that shifts consciousnesses.” As we moved towards the end of May, hype reached a fever pitch and then exploded into acclaim as our ears wrapped around HARRY STYLES’ third album Harry’s House. Zoë described it as “life in beautiful, unabashed motion,” from the “LCD Soundsystem-level heartwrenching” Love of My Life to the brilliant Cinema, a “squidgy little chunk of funk with pops of harmony and noodly electric guitar.” Fans agreed, and rejoiced.
Hot on Harry’s heels came DOJA CAT whose excellent Planet Her had officially dropped months earlier – but like The Weeknd, vinyl delivery issues meant we had to sit on our hands waiting for its physical release. Once it dropped anchor, the record’s interstellar investigations into R’n’B and hip hop, curled all around with Doja’s vivacious observations on love, sex, and femininity, sent it ripping up the chart.
South Korean boy band BTS sprinkled their first-ever anthology album Proof into the waiting hands of rabid fans in early June, which arrived with a brand new track – Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment), a glorious slice of rosy hip-pop that received global critical acclaim. The week it dropped, we were treated to two of the biggest homegrown titles of the year. VANCE JOY’s radiant In Our Own Sweet Time showed up “propelled by that softly marching percussion which always somehow slots into time with your own heart’s beat,” and “bursting with the colours of love,” wrote Zoë. Alongside it landed Here Comes Everybody, the second LP from Perth’s SPACEY JANE. It was a record “alive on arrival,” wrote Jeff, “with an indie rock sound that’s instantly accessible and stadium-ready… Spacey Jane are ready for stardom.”