Music Music reviews

In Search of the Best Albums of 2022.

In my search for the best albums of 2022, I find myself this time around in the company of three fabulous women and a rowdy four-piece rock outfit from the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia. Enjoy!

Alice Merton – ‘S.I.D.E.S’.

From beginning to end German-Canadian-British singer songwriter Alice Merton’s new 15 track album S.I.D.E.S. unfolds like a long introspective story. The pandemic and its consequences seem to hang over it like a dark cloud. Sonically, it has a different feel than her 2018 debut album Mint with its darker and more sinister tones. Vertigo is my favourite track on the album. It’s dark and dramatic like many of the songs on the new album. But this one feels like Merton’s anxiety has gone through the roof. Strangely in all the chaos there is something positive (even if it’s fleeting) that we can clutch onto. That said, the songwriting on S.I.D.E.S definitely feels like Merton is exorcising her demons. She cleverly use darker lyrics like “I sat down with a gun to my head” alongside brighter melodies to create deceptively catchy but impactful songs. Standouts include Same Team, Loveback and The Other Side, which closes the album in dramatic fashion.

Sara Syms – ‘The Darkest Light’.

Nashville singer songwriter Sara Syms recently released her first new record since 2015 entitled The Darkest Light. The most fascinating aspect of the album is how it manages to pull off a big album experience where every song compliments the next making it a very engaging listen. It’s easy to see how much Syms loves writing stories through song and connecting these ideas to music. Though I feel like as listeners we are just really starting to get to know who Syms is as a person. In recent months she has opened up about her struggles with depression and anxiety, which in effect makes the album cathartic in nature. The album, recorded at New Orleans famed Esplanade Studios, has also sonically different shades of colour and emotion. The array of instrumentation in particular gives it a cinematic scope. While there are truly many standouts, two tracks worthy of a mention here are Unknown Road and Where Do I Belong. The latter builds on ideas of home and who we are and why these ideas are constantly changing.

Sharon Van Etten – ‘We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong’.

Sharon Van Etten’s albums, to put it frankly, are a collection of no-hold barred therapy sessions that have been constantly changing and evolving ever since her 2009 debut Because I Was In Love. With each new release Van Etten has managed to detail a new phase of her life, and now, while we are still very much in an era of lockdown albums, Van Etten has decided to produce her own called We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong. I guess for many of us, including Van Etten, those scary first months of 2020 felt like the end of the world was coming. I read Van Etten describe her experience nothing short of being apocalyptic. The new album’s artwork is of course the first clue of this so-called apocalypse which finds Van Etten standing in front of her L.A. home against a plum of gold and carmine red smoke of the Californian wildfires of 2020.

On All Wrong Van Etten covers territory that looks at the singer’s own worldview, especially around the challenges of parenthood. As is often certain with a Van Etten album, she continues to wrestle with her demons, finding herself in a state of flux on a myriad of tracks. Sonically Van Etten utilises the successful synths and beats of her previous album Remind Me Tomorrow but while still allowing for quieter moments to seep through where her aching and emotive vocals truly shine. Standouts include Headspace, Mistakes and Darkish.

Dear Seattle – ‘Someday’.

Everything I like about Australian indie rock stalwarts Dear Seattle is perfectly captured across eleven tracks on their new album Someday. In equal parts it’s anthem, honest and observational. When I asked frontman Brae Fisher back in April what we could expect on their new album, this is what he said: “Every song has its own little world that it lives in and explores, but overall the record is focussed on the dichotomy of ‘someday’ as a frame of mind, because there’s so much at play when were looking into the future. There’s everything from pure aspiration and excited anticipation, to fear, expectation and crippling anxiety. It’s so easy to live our lives in service of where we want to be, not where we are, because it’s an easy way to escape dealing with our current problems. But in doing so, it’s actually creating more issues than it’s resolving, and that’s something I’ve always really struggled with. This album is me navigating my way towards becoming more present and learning to live my life for what it is and not for what it could be.”

3 comments on “In Search of the Best Albums of 2022.

  1. Sharon Van Etten’s album is particularly stunning.

  2. It’s kind of fascinating to me that even though I do a new music feature each week, I only knew about Alice Merton’s album. Actually, I don’t view this as a bad thing. It’s hard to keep up with new music. Since I have limited time to listen to newly released music each week, inevitably, I have to cut corners. It’s safe to assume this means I’m missing at least some new music I would like!

    As I noted at the time, Alice Merton definitely a leap for me, musically speaking, but there’s something about her. Based on the songs you highlighted, initially, I’m most intrigued about Sara Syms. I also tend to be quite receptive to indie rock, so perhaps not too surprisingly, the Dear Seattle tune speaks to me as well.

    • It repays listening to Alice Merton’s album from beginning to end. And Syms is a seemingly perfect gateway to explore an array of soundscapes and storytelling through song. I really like them both.

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