Wax Music’s Top 45 Records of 2022

Remember 2022? Honestly, we wish we didn’t. The sole saving grace from another rollercoaster of a year was its stellar musical output, with newcomers and megastars alike delivering albums that touched us here at Wax in one way or another. As is always our pleasure (though later than we’d anticipated), we bring you our rundown of the best of the best from the year just gone.

45) Little Simz – NO THANK YOU

A late entry to album of the year lists, releasing less than a month ago on December 12th, the almighty Little Simz released NO THANK YOU, her fifth studio album. Over the last few years, artists and labels have begun teasing their projects for periods ever-increasing, drip feeding content and seeding out snippets on TikTok long before records are released. On this record, Simz honours the culture, and the truth of her experience as a black female artist in an industry where she continues swimming against the current. The exemplar independent artist, Simz rejects major label tactics and releases with intention, as though reinforced by major accolades of 2022’s Mercury Prize and MOBO Awards Album of the Year. Following up from Sometimes I Might Be Introvert was never going to be easy, but with big hitters like ‘Gorilla’ and ‘No Merci’, Simz is unapologetic in her talent and ready to take on anyone who dare get in her way. Rachel Mercer


Fuelled by the frustration of creative stasis, the WEMA collective formed in 2020 as a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Msafiri Zawose, New York producer Photay and the three members of Penya. Describing the WEMA project as being “about connecting the dots between language, cultures and musical practices – all while paying due respect to artistic heritage,” the five-piece explore rhythms and influences that are truly global in nature, with Swahili and Spanish lyrics, resonant horns and strings, electronic blips and synths and chopped samples. The result is stirring, surprising, varied and (having passed the me-on-my-own-in-the-kitchen test) fantastically danceable. Fran Pope

43) Wet Leg – Wet Leg

Off the back of their ubiquitous smash-hit ‘Chaise Longue’, Wet Leg released their eponymous debut album in early 2022 to widespread acclaim. The Isle of Wight duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers use simple riffs and direct dialogue to achieve a familiar punk vibe, matched with laidback vocals for a wondrous listening experience. The stripped back production and instrumentation also gives the album a certain purity, being a wonderful listen when chilling at home with friends, driving to work or listening intently through headphones. A great album to lose yourself in for those after a slice of earnest indie punk. Ruth Alexander

42) Alvvays – Blue Rev

There was a point where many might have worried about Alvvays never making their grand return, so for them to return after a five-year hiatus with arguably the best record of their career in Blue Rev produced a less of a sigh of relief, but a shrieking chorus of joy. This remarkable re-emergence from the Toronto group sees them employing a wider range of influences than before, showcasing a shoegaze wall of noise on ‘Belinda Says’ and 80s-fuelled new wave on ‘Very Online Guy’, but the fact remains that Alvvays can really do it all. They do tender, they do energetic and they do big fucking choruses – what more could you want? Reuben Cross

41) CMAT – If My Wife New I’d Be Dead

Sexy, catchy and self-deprecating, Dublin’s CMAT released a cascade of bangers on If My Wife New I’d Be Dead. In her debut glitterball of a record she swings effortlessly from box-stepping singalongs into teary ballads. Much like regretfully glossing over a scrapbook of trying to survive your early 20s, it’s hard to tear yourself away from this record, with the theatrics in Thompson’s voice and her expressive, authentic tragi-comic storytelling standing out above all. Opener ‘Nashville’ sets the tone for the album, a colourful country track in which she demonstrates her love for classic pop song writing. Highlights include big-hitters ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby’ and ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’, but it is the ache-filled ‘I Want U’ I enjoy belting the most. If you get the chance to see her live, I implore you to grab your western boots and ten gallon hat and get on down there for a guaranteed good time. RM

40) PVA – Blush

Despite sounding at home in a dirty rave environment, there’s something undeniably classy about PVA. On their debut album, BLUSH, they expand on everything that teased this sleek fusion of synths and pummelling four to the floor dance rhythms on their Toner EP in 2020 and dial a notch further. There’s a palpable tension in the way their often-threatening sound works alongside the hushed vocals of Ella Harris, with it seeming as though she’s ready to burst into a harrowing scream at any given point, but the restraint they show in their delivery is truly sublime and shows just how much confidence they have in their sound. RC

39) Laundromat – En Bloc

Lovers of tape look no further as this year Laundromat brought their proprietary crisp and crackle to a full length after a string of EPs. On the face of it, it falls into the lofi category, but as is usually the case it’s a hell of lot more considered and deliberate under the bonnet than the well-worn surface might imply. I said of standalone single ‘Combo’ that it felt like a little machine; handbuilt and then set in motion, like an artisan windup car. The same can be said here – the consistency of the machinery and production conjuring pleasing images of little cogs turning and axles spinning. At only 34 minutes, we’re not here for long, but I’d be surprised if you didn’t jump back in straight away. EH

38) Wunderhorse – Cub

You may know Jacob Slater from his previous involvement with garage outfit The Dead Pretties, but on his debut album, he looks back on the years spent in the band to present day, but through the eyes of solo project Wunderhorse. Having left the band to embark on a solo mission, in an attempt to “reignite a lost creativity”, different stories and moments from Slater’s past make up this often dark and very personal project. Although its title Cub hints at a juvenility, the record feels mature and carefully composed. Playing with indie, blues, grunge and shoegaze, stand out tracks include instant classic ‘Purple’ and the vibrant ‘Leader Of The Pack’ on this very exciting debut. RM

37) Beyoncé – RENAISSANCE

Two years starved of sweaty clubs and sticky floors kick started a resurgence in disco and dance music, but it’s hard to tell if anyone would have bothered if they’d heard what Queen B had been cooking up. In a year where we were united in trying to forget the misery of the past, Beyoncé catapulted us into the future, experimenting with samples, funk, disco, house and what can only be described as the most sublime transitions put to record this year. It’s physically impossible to listen to ‘Cuff It’, ‘Energy’ and ‘Break My Soul’ as stand-alone tracks, and in a true homage to black music, her immaculate vocal ability, harmonies and melodies transport us into a joyous realm where diversity is celebrated and where the girls, the theys and the gays are in charge. RM

36) Laura Veirs – Found Light

As a teenager in the mid-2000s, I was first drawn into Laura Veirs’ sheer, glittering musical world with the Carbon Glacier, Year of Meteors, Saltbreakers and July Flame albums. The images and sensations of her songs – starlight, volcanoes, icicles, sun on waves, freezing lakes – are superimposed on my memories of life at the time, in the same way the memory of a dream can start to blur into reality. With her 12th album, Veirs deftly avoids repetition while remaining true to the sound she’s honed over twenty years. Crisp, North American folk cut with scuzzier, heavier moments, the 14 songs of Found Light take on a slightly different sheen to her previous work: the first album not to be produced by Tucker Martine, whom she divorced in 2020, its subtle shift is felt both in the quality of the sound and in Veirs’ lyrics. FP

35) Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – Backhand Deals

In an age where being ‘of the moment’ reigns supreme in our musical landscape, Backhand Deals by Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard harks back to the British Invasion, bringing a modern twist to recognisable sounds. A truly delightful album from start to finish, the song writing quality and the vocals of Tom Rees offer something familiar yet different. The first track ‘New Age Millennial Magic’ grabs you straight away with falling piano chords and sets the tone for a new age nostalgia trip, making this a perfect listen for those who love both 60s/70s and modern pop/rock. RA

34) Alex G – God Save the Animals

Alex Giannascoli, known as Alex G, has a knack for inhabiting multiple personalities on one album. Whether it’s hardcore, rock, folk or experimental, Alex G masters it all with ease. God Save the Animals is a long-anticipated follow up to his last album, House of Sugar, and similarly crams in all of the genres. Alex G is an exceptional storyteller and this album can be read as one long story or multiple short stories in each track. Animals have appeared on Alex G’s tracks before, such as his dog on 2012’s Trick, and on God Save the Animals he manages to touch on themes such as innocence and loss through the lens of animals, all while stepping outside of the confines of defined genres. This is truly an album that takes you on a journey. Clara Bullock


If you’ve ever felt any sympathy towards the government, you can probably stop reading this. PORNOVIOLENCE isn’t going to be the record for you. Incandescent with a righteous sense of fury, the debut record from Birmingham/London experimentalists AV Dummy is a bleak portrait of modern society and the pitfalls of living in a broken country divided on race, class and gender. It’s not a comfortable listen by any means, but a very important reminder of where we are at this moment in time and what needs to be done to fix this disaster we’ve been thrown into. RC

Rare, Forever | LEON VYNEHALL

32) Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia

We had a lot of third albums this year, but none quite as surprising as this one. Straight off the back of their celebrated 2019 debut, the band brought out A Hero’s Death and added another notch to the global ‘difficult second album’ tally. Skinty Fia is a return to form, with the band reoccupying an animated state, but one of riotous frenzy and kinesis in contrast to the wry observational energy of their debut. Production is much heavier here, and more precise too, squeezing the tracks every so slightly and maximizing energy at all points, helping to maintain this dark vigour even when the track is more subdued vocally. Throw in some borderline drum and bass and some near-industrial textures and it’s a wrap. EH

31) Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance

Undeniably the girl power album of the year, Horsegirl’s Versions Of Modern Performance  is a frank and catchy 33-minute adventure into their thesis of post-punk and classic rock. Unable, or perhaps unwilling to mask their 90’s love affair – think Sonic Youth, Radiohead, et al – the Chicago trio put their own stamp on things with their quirky lyrics and Gen-Z eye rolling.  What stands out about this record is it really feels like three young women looking to their guitars for a good time. Dark, shadowy sounds and often laissez-faire delivery serve as a dramatic backdrop for an album that ultimately just makes me want to rock out and marvel at three talented artists at the start of a very exciting career.  RM

30) Orbury Common – The Traditional Dance of Orbury Common

If you asked an alien to study a quaint English village and write them a series of anthems, then The Traditional Dance of Orbury Common would be the result. An electronic record at its core, there are elements of traditional folk and samples of what feels like playground chants smattered throughout, but the charm shines through in its sheer playfulness. It can’t ever be an easy task making instrumental music that feels like it tells a story but Orbury Common’s debut captures the essence of both the parish green and the acid-fuelled rave in the tent around the corner. Truly one of the most intriguing releases of the year, The Traditional Dance is packed with character and the ability to mythologise its own world around it, making it hard to wait patiently for more tales of their fictional village. RC

29) Kikagaku Moyo – Kumoyo Island

It’s fair to say that 2022 was an epic year for the powerhouse of Japanese psychedelic folk-rock that is Kikagaku Moyo. Fans mourned the news that the band were calling it a day, and their fifth and final album, Kumoyo Island, takes their well-honed and versatile sound – epic guitar shreds, melting sitar and acoustic finger-picked twangs, dreamy instrumentals, warm vocals – and raises it to new heights. ‘Cardboard Pile’ is two minutes of glorious raucous noise followed by two more of deeply satisfying guitar lilt, bass and tripped-out vocal layers, disintegrating into a tumbling drum riff. The joyous ‘Gomugomu’ is followed up by standout track ‘Yayoi, Iyayoi’, with its sharp, shining refrain that never gets tiresome. Not a second is wasted; every element is delicious and tightly slotted in where it should be. It gets better on every listen – there are so many layers to get lost in, it’ll be rewarding on its hundredth listen. A triumphant send-off indeed. FP

28) Kenny Beats – Louie

It’s very likely you have heard Kenny’s beats before; he has a more than impressive catalogue, widely respected for his collaborations particularly in the world of hip-hop, but this record is all about him. The project is dedicated his father, a radio presenter, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2019. Louie is both bouncy and emotional. Sampling his dad’s radio voice and forgotten 70’s tracks add to the picture he paints of himself in ‘So They Say’ and ‘Hold My Head’. This is Kenny Beats’ first full solo project, and one that has warranted many a revisit since the summer. RM

27) Roza Terenzi & D. Tiffany – Edge of Innocence

Longtime partners-in-crime D. Tiffany (Sophie Sweetland) and Roza Terenzi (Katie Campbell) released their first album as a duo in early 2022. Edge of Innocence is an eight-track wedge of rattling beats and sub-bass, building in trancey layers geared for deep dancefloor shake-ups. With a tracklist including the colourfully named ‘Gravity Bongo’, ‘Lil’ Drummer Boi’ and ‘Liquorice Skritch’, Edge of Innocence has the duo firing on all cylinders, a dizzying array of sounds and tempo shifts keeping things pleasingly unpredictable throughout. Despite the hard-partying vibe, there’s also something subtler at work in these tracks, something veering on the artsy, like the hyperactive night-time sister of Pheek’s Wildcraft with its forest-walk-feeling percussion. FP

26) TV Priest – My Other People

TV Priest’s 2021 debut Uppers made our list last year, and here we are again with follow up My Other People. Uppers presented a furious, literate and at times touching vision of the now-ubiquitous shouty post-punk vibe and this follow up advances and develops in all directions. It’s more tender and heartfelt than its predecessor, but that same fire roars through its veins beneath the surface. TV Priest flex their formidable production muscles here and deploy some very Gengahr guitar tones amid the chaos, which is always a bonus. It’s like the band took phenomenal Uppers closer ‘Saintless’ and unpacked it into a full work of its own, with no diminished returns. EH

25) Rubblebucket – Earth Worship

NYC based duo Rubblebucket made their triumphant return to the scene with their sixth album, Earth Worship, and as ever, the album exhibits upbeat and optimistic melodies with scintillating orchestration. The easy-going pop style of Annakalmia Traver and Alex Toth uplifts the listener and will compel you to dance around your living room in joy. Predictably so for a band have effortlessly created such vibrant music throughout their career to date, Rubblebucket have crafted a beautiful collection of songs that will bring happiness to your day from start to finish. RA

24) Naima Bock – Giant Palm

Making her transition from gritty post-punk to tender folk ballads, Naima Bock’s Giant Palm is a stylistic left-turn that few people may have had on their 2022 bingo card, but certainly one that should have been taken note of. Having previously risen to notoriety as a member of Goat Girl, her decision to embark on a solo career came a couple of years ago, and following some sumptuous teasers that drew inspiration from her Brazilian heritage, the complete package delivered a deftly crafted album full of moments that bring out the goosebumps. The harmonies and attention to the finer details in arrangement sit beautifully alongside Bock’s silken voice that glides over the top of tracks like ‘Toll’ and ‘Every Morning’, but the record revels most when at its most subtle. A truly majestic offering. RC

23) High Vis – Blending

Post punk group High Vis are known to grapple with working class life and late-stage capitalism in their music and their latest release Blending is no exception. The album speaks of anger with the system, but not without including hope for a better future. On the track ‘0151’, they say, almost resigned: “Our days are numbered on the picket line / We’re destitute and we’re demoralised“. Despite those bleak lyrics, the album includes glimmers of hope. On ‘Trauma Bonds’, they explore the possibility of cutting off trauma: “It might take just one / Reason inside to carry on / Or something sharp to cut these trauma bonds“. Shouting this analysis of our post-modern world over shoegaze guitars and thrashing drums, High Vis manage to create an emotional masterpiece.  CB

22) Mount Kimbie – MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning

A brilliant, sprawling two-part record from the prolific Mount Kimbie, with the duo’s members taking on a side each. Dom Maker’s trap and hip-hop-entrenched production sees him embody Madlib as he enlists a host of exciting features, with Danny Brown, Slowthai and Choker gracing the record amongst others. I dread to think how many times I have listened to the ethereal ‘Somehow She’s Still Here’ which features waterfalls of lovely vocals from long term collaborator James Blake. The second part of the record feels like Kai Campos’ techno fever dream, transporting listeners to Detroit and beyond. This record is something a little different from Mount Kimbie; instead of working as one they take up separate space on this record, with Maker wrapped up in beat production and Campos’ cinematic composition, making MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning an important moment in their ever-evolving catalogue. RM

21) Pierre Kwenders – José Louis and the Paradox of Love

Congolese-born, Montréal-based Pierre Kwenders (José Louis Modabi) continues his multifaceted explorations on his fourth and latest album, José Louis and the Paradox of Love. From the unabashedly chubby synth and arcade-machine bloops of its opening, ‘Liberté Égalité Sagacité’ sets the mood for the album by blending bouncing pulses with tactile drum sounds, eventually breaking into a pacy rhythm over which Kwenders sets his prophetic and echoing chant of “freedom, equality, wisdom.” Where ‘Kilimanjaro’ is sweet and upbeat, with playful saxophone and Kwenders’ incredible vocal range wheeling from sweet falsetto to resonant depths, ‘Réligion Desir’ is slow, smouldering and white-hot. Creative, shapeshifting and polyglot as ever, the album is no great departure from Kwenders’ previous work, but it sees him doing what he does best. FP

20) Giant Walker – All in Good Time

Midway through the year, Newcastle-based prog/alt-metal act Giant Walker landed a stunning debut album with All in Good Time. Initially written in 2020 during lockdown, the album channels a heavy rock sound, going straight to the gut of anyone that listens to it. Their use of melody and cataclysmic riffs are astounding, and the soundscape achieved across the whole album takes the listener through a wonderful and provocative story. For anyone searching for an urgent release, this is a great album to bang your head to and work through any angry tension. RA

19) Samara Joy – Linger Awhile

Samara Joy continues to wow with jazz standards with her album Linger Awhile. Her smooth and bluesy voice delightfully empowers old favourites whilst her musicianship and technicality breathes fresh air into these well-known melodies. Backed by a top-class jazz ensemble, Joy’s version of ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ is an instant classic whilst her display of vocalese (the practice of writing lyrics to a former musician’s melodic improvisation) on tracks ‘I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)’ and ‘Nostalgia (The Day I Knew)’ show her immense talent for lyric writing. A beautiful and stunning album for jazz lovers and jazz newbies alike that wagers Samara Joy as the new Ella Fitzgerald. RA

18) Panda Bear & Sonic Boom – Reset

After years of honing their craft in their respective bands, as solo artists and as collaborators, longtime friends Noah Lennox and Peter Kember join forces as Panda Bear and Sonic Boom for their first joint album, Reset. Indebted in equal measures to 60s pop and futuristic electronic soundscapes, the nine tracks on display across the record possess all the charms and quirks of their previous output, but its title Reset almost feels like a knowing nod to how they’ve swerved away from the moodier tones they previously explored on 2015’s Grim Reaper and settled back into the familiar territory of sun-drenched sampledelia. What’s most impressive is that decades into their already formidable partnership, both artists have managed to resurface with a career highlight out of nowhere, and what’s more is that it’s simply a barrel of gorgeous fun. RC

17) Weyes Blood – And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Weyes Blood has always felt like a heavy, all encompassing blanket of oddly timeless balladry, and her latest offering is no exception. A truly singular voice, to be sure, but this time round we’re treated to some delicate instrumental experimentation and all the wibbly wobbly production flourishes you could possibly dream of. The vibes are impeccable, as usual  – grandiose but not overblown, retro but never unoriginal. An album of fine eveningwear to serenade your sophisticated dinner party guests. Or something. EH

16) RAMZi – hyphea

Glitchy and organic, hyphea rolls out its colourful soundscapes across ten tracks, each one drawing on an eclectic assortment of recordings. Many of the source sounds crop up in different shapes throughout RAMZi’s body of work, which the Montréal producer (real name Phoebé Guillemot) feels lends a certain continuity to her output. Rhythmic pops and plucks call to mind Four Tet’s Rounds, while there’s something of Ciel in the gently bubbling textures. In keeping with the slant of other records on Music from Memory, hyphea is a transportive offering, its zingy, elastic layering of lush feels and skittering beats taking the brain on a holiday to a curious world subtly not quite our own. FP

15) black midi – Hellfire

It’s a brave new world, one in which the restlessly creative progenitors of the late 2010s Wunderground post-punk sound have grown far beyond it to bodily embrace a thoroughly kinetic and utterly insane jazz-core aesthetic. Hellfire is bonkers, but you knew this already. Tightly wound like the spring in a mousetrap, it moves at a clip and features some mad experiments with Americana and showtunes towards the end. black midi has always possessed an almost malevolent disdain for convention, forever iterating and innovating like cackling mad scientists in a secret lab deep underground. Long may it continue.  EH

14) Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry

A huge thanks to the rap gods for bestowing upon us a phenomenal body of work from King Push this year. Produced 50/50 by icon Pharrell Williams, and the problematic genius of Kanye West, this album deserves to be blasted loud from start to finish. The record feels like a natural continuation of 2018’s Daytona and Pusha’s flows are undeniably next level and appropriately arrogant. Although bursting with bona fide slappers, I need to mention the beat on ‘Dreaming of the Past’. The production harks back to that of Late Registration and The College Dropout whilst Push muses on a remarkable career so far, whilst poking fun at the ridiculous industry he is a part of. With six Grammy nominations behind him and outrageously no wins his disbelief matches my own: “award shows the only way you bitches could rob me”. Give that man his flowers. RM

13) Aldous Harding – Warm Chris

If there’s one word fit to describe Aldous Harding’s fourth studio album, Warm Chris, it’s, well – ‘warm’. Forever peddling the notion that you don’t have to be overly complex to be full of surprises, the New Zealand singer-songwriter’s latest offering is Harding at her most inviting and her most immediately gratifying on the surface of things, but beneath the exterior is a record that loves to catch the listener off guard for the briefest of moments. For every straightforward chord progression that you think you can hear coming, a swift two-bar change comes bounding around the corner. Each time a song sounds as though it might be opening up on a personal subject, a surreal non-sequitur will be waiting on the next line. Whenever you think you’re growing accustomed to her vocal tics, the next track will see her chameleonic tendencies slip into another style entirely. It’s these peculiarities that make Aldous Harding unmistakeably herself, and once you’re on board with the ways she employs them in her songs, then you’ll understand how Warm Chris just feels like a big hug. RC

12) HAAi – Baby, We’re Ascending

HAAi has steadily moved from underground DJ to multiple-festival-headliner in recent years, with her trademark style that pitches industrial, booming crunch alongside slow stretches, builds, haze and densely nuanced textures. Baby, We’re Ascending continues the effect with its not-incoherent collision of energies. The titular track, a collaboration with Jon Hopkins, is a microcosm of the album’s chiaroscuro world: thumping bass, soft-brushed vocals and pastel haze that build to a wall of sonic euphoria. In spite of the album’s brilliance, my heart lies with the curious interlude of ‘AM’ and ‘FM’ in the album’s midst; its snippets of radio voices spliced with jangling beats, crackling static, synth and broken, distorted vocals – a slick whirlwind around shining nuggets of silence. FP

11) Yard Act – The Overload

Yard Act have been going from strength to strength since they exploded on the scene a couple of years ago with their Dark Days EP, and with the release of their debut album, The Overload, they landed a number 2 spot on the UK Album Charts after a tense fight to the wire. The album exhibits their humour and charm on thumping tracks such as ‘Rich’ and ‘Land of the Blind’, tackling issues such as class, inequality and racism which makes you question UK society and economy. Their post-punk sound and strutting tunes make for powerful yet humourous listen, and frontman James Smith’s northern twang is both endearing and stylish. RA

10) Arctic Monkeys – The Car

I wonder at what point Alex Turner decided he wanted to be a crooner, because a precipitous transition appears to have befallen him at some time during his greaser-era. “Ditch the ducks arse”, demanded a voice from the heavens at this point, presumably; “your future lies in big collars and wordy quasi-science fiction couplets”. And lo, the follow up to 2018’s Tranquility Base is groovy, gloomy, colourful and aloof; its mysteries balanced by a weird sense of yearning, evident in any number of the now classic Turner-isms studded throughout. Gone are the days of dancefloors and knee socks, and you’ve just got to get over it. EH

9) Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn – Nothing New Under the Sun

Brighton’s rapper and producer duo Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn have been making a name for themselves in the UK’s underground scene, and their latest album might be their best one yet. While previously, the duo shared feelings on relationships, mental health, and the meaning of life, Nothing New Under the Sun speaks about some big life changes for the duo, namely the birth of Frankie’s son. They speak about being responsible and trying to live a “clean life” (on ‘Don’t Do Drugs’, Frankie says: “Don’t do drugs / Hold it down / Play my part / Take the bins out“), as well as their mental health and choosing to work on themselves (“I don’t feel the same / I opened up the window and saw the sun not rain”, Frankie sings on ‘Let the Light In’). You don’t have to be a new father to relate to this record; its message is an important one for all to take on board.  CB

8) Casually Here – Possible Worlds

London-based DJ and producer Nic Nell, otherwise known as Casually Here, released his second album Possible Worlds in early 2022. A rich and off-kilter collection of experimental electronic tracks, the record moves from the chunky, rattling ‘Apex’ and ‘A 2067’ to the hushed and gleaming ambience of ‘Rhubarb Skies’, to ‘The Great Filter’ – what feels like the album’s centrepiece – all stomping beat, jittering rhythms and totemic refrain. The replayability of the album is testament to how addictive it is, and on every listen, it feels like plunging deep into a dense and dazzling sonic universe, rich with intriguing patterns, images and textures: both escape and adventure. FP

7) Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There

If the line “I am working / Working on the glow-up” uttered by Black Country, New Road vocalist Isaac Wood on their breakout single ‘Athens, France’ truly meant anything, then the glow-up in question is most certainly the band’s astonishing second album, Ants From Up There. While Ants doesn’t eschew the more punkish and jazz-adjacent influences that permeated their debut album, For the first time, it instead opts to refine everything to create a masterpiece of a record. It might not have achieved what the band set out to create in terms of being more accessible, with its raw emotions running almost non-stop for its hour long runtime, but it’s hard to see tracks such as ‘Concorde’ or ‘The Place Where He Inserted The Blade’ as anything but miniature symphonies of grandiose ambition. Ants From Up There ought to be considered a huge achievement for a band at any stage of their career, but in this instance it serves as a fitting end to the first act of BC,NR’s existence, with Wood announcing his departure from the band shortly before the album’s release. It might not be for everyone, but I defy anyone to reach the end of ‘Basketball Shoes’ without having at least felt something. An essential, nay, a near-perfect listen. RC

6) Dry Cleaning – Stumpwork

What did the world do to deserve a band as fabulously bizarre as Dry Cleaning? It really shouldn’t work on paper – bass driven grooves, with or without saxophone but always an 80s guitar tone, accompanying the perennially detached-sounding voice of Florence Shaw delivering some of the oddest lyrics of 2022. Like 2021s New Long Leg, Stumpwork is conversational, deadpan, very strange and mysteriously mundane, but somehow once again defies the conventional wisdom that would seek to prevent its success and succeeds regardless. Development of the instrumental framework and a general sense that the band are feeling more comfortable enacting their very singular practice combine to elevate Stumpwork above its predecessor and onto this list. EH

5) Loyle Carner – hugo

Hip-hop artist Loyle Carner is known for speaking about topics other rappers might avoid – his mental health, fatherhood, his relationship with his mother. On hugo, the British-Guyanese artist still speaks about his inner life, but he also directs his anger outwards, such as on the track ‘Hate’, where he addresses the box in which people put him due to the colour of his skin: “They said it was all that you could be if you were black / Playing ball or maybe rap, and they would say it like a fact“. Carner’s impressive skill in writing vulnerable verse allows him to communicate his exhaustion and anger at a system that makes existing as a neurodivergent black man in the UK unnecessarily difficult, and he does it like no-one else.  CB

4) The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention

“Another Radiohead-associated side project?”, I thought to myself grumpily as the formation of this new band was announced. I didn’t want to get my hopes up – I’d been burned before. I just wanted the band to get back together and put one more album out, and this album by The Smile is likely the closest we’re ever going to get. And you know what? That’s OK. What else can be said of this album other than it felt and sounded like an unexpectedly outstanding next-gen reboot of any beloved Radiohead album from the last 20 years. The addition of Tom Skinner on drums has proven to be the catalyst that Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood needed to be able to enjoy making music together again, and we’re treated to somewhat of a victory lap of the sounds and textures that made their original partnership so successful. This time round, things are a touch slinkier and groovier, and as ever the addition of horns at points brings it all home. EH

3) Wu-Lu – Loggerhead

Brixton artist Wu-Lu (Miles Romans-Hopcraft) manages to tread the fine line between speaking about his inner conflict and raising issues such as gentrification and racism. His debut album, LOGGERHEAD seems to be an outlet for Wu-Lu’s rage, whether that’s directed at a system that priced him out of his South London home (on the track ‘South’ he says: “I used to live in South London / There’s not much of it left“) or directed at himself and his own demons. ‘Blame’ sees him breaking down over what seems like a spiral of his thoughts, saying: “I was trying to be the best I could be / But I could see / It was not enough for the team“. With the same artistic skill that allows him to blend post punk guitars with hip hop vocals, he manages to combine his fury at himself and the world around him with catharsis and love, finding an end to his cycle of anger. His live performances see mosh pits as well as moments of reflection, while never losing the audience, and the album is a perfect reflection of that – perfect for anyone looking to exorcise some demons.  CB

2) Katy J Pearson – Sound of the Morning

Katy J Pearson’s angelic falsetto sound captured our hearts the moment she put out her first solo project Return in late 2020. On her second full length album, Sound Of The Morning, she treads new ground and expands her sound in a new, playful direction. It is still undeniably Katy, maintaining her folky, indie fabric, but here she wades into poppier, rockier and funkier waters. Working alongside Dan Carey and longtime collaborator Ali Chant on some of her biggest, brassiest sounds yet, Katy explodes with new ideas on this wonderful record, with gorgeous harmonies and a nostalgia that is idiosyncratic to her tracks. There is something for everyone on this record – I should also note that my mother loved this album too, and she only ever listens to Coldplay.  RM

1) Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B

For all the talent and sheer excellence displayed on numerous records throughout every given year, very few possess quite enough wow factor to simply render you speechless after every listen – let alone on a debut album. Following a string of four EPs that teased baroque pop flourishes, bouncing club beats and glitchy madness, it was never in doubt that Jockstrap would deliver something fascinating on their first full-length release, but for the duo to come out of the gates swinging with an album of I Love You Jennifer B’s magnitude is astonishing. Georgia Ellery’s ability to create soaring melodies that tell fantastical tales of faraway cities, that yearn for love both lost and gained and that celebrate popular culture in all its glory is stunning, and its marriage with the utterly bonkers production of Taylor Skye makes for a disarming combination, but one that conjures new surprises upon each repeat. Tracks like ‘Greatest Hits’ and ‘Concrete Over Water’ may make nods to the past in subject matter and stylistic choices, while ‘Angst’ and ‘Debra’ both allude to contemporaries and modern reference points, but it’s safe to say that Jockstrap in their very essence are the future of pop music, and a very bright future as well. RC


Reuben Cross // Rachel Mercer // Clara Bullock // Ruth Alexander // Ed Hambly // Fran Pope

Dig into Wax Music’s top 45 records of the year in the playlist below.

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