RIOT’s Albums of the Year 2022

Contributors: Charlie Brock, Caitlin Chatterton, Kate Eldridge, Matt Ganfield, Fran Hall, Jen Rose & Olivia Stock.

20. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever // Endless Rooms

During the world’s longest lockdown (245 days to be precise), Rolling Blackouts CF’s singer and guitarist Tom Russo took to tirelessly walking the streets of Melbourne. This sprawling sensation percolates the band’s third album, Endless Rooms, filling the gaps and articulating the edges of their hallowed jangle-pop sound. Rather than being jammed into existence like previous projects, enforced isolation meant these tracks were built up slowly piece by piece. Layers of maze-like analogue synth, church organ, and glockenspiel slotted together before being infused with lashings of squelchy, overdriven ’90s grunge, and topped with soapbox ponderings on our disconnected existence. Endless Rooms is proof the Aussie lot can do pondering on the prom just as well as beers on the beach. OS

19. Deathcrash // Return

Marking a stark contrast to their peers in London’s DIY landscape, deathcrash placed themselves snuggly into the role of the scene’s gloomy, mysterious cousin. Return sees the quartet leaning into their influences, whether it be the moody mumblings of Duster, or Slint’s ability to stretch a track into the most colossal final product that it could possibly be. This US post-rock, with pepperings of the Midwest emo exports of the same period, are melded with a distinctly London outlook to make deathcrash an anomaly in the current climate – the longform converse to the frenetic punk energy around them. This is a debut LP that faces sadness and pain head on and forensically examines every inch of that space – a charming exercise in catharsis. MG

18. Gilla Band // Most Normal

On their unrelenting third album, made with an arcade of pedals and processors, Dublin refuseniks Gilla Band (nee: Girl Band) voyaged deeper still into unhinged sonic absolutism. Here, budget airlines, department stores, and Big Brother boxsets all take a mauling, amid a sonic barrage which occasionally coalesces into pleasing punk-funk but mostly glories in making organs sound like a warehouse full of malfunctioning white goods. It’s a claustrophobic listen, but then again, when are Gilla Band not? Energised by its manic outbursts and gleeful abandoning of familiar structures, the Dubliners continue to garner fresh terrain in a musical landscape pocked with pallid precision and wrung-out algorithms. This is the mob at their raucous best. OS

17. Maggie Rogers // Surrender

Surrender contradicts the gentle, relaxed tones of Rogers’ previous album and immerses the listener in a tumultuous yet exciting journey of musical and emotional discovery. Despite each and every song having the signature stamp of Maggie Rogers inked all over it, new elements are explored track by track; resulting in an album that’s pure delight from start to finish. Lulling us in with the familiar sounds of isolated guitar riffs and repetitive harmonies, opening track ‘Overdrive’ soon gives way to big drum beats, dramatic synth and belting vocals – a perfect concoction to soundtrack drives around a beating hot city at sunset. KE

16. PVA // Blush

Murky indietronica trio PVA had been plying their trade to ever-increasing audiences for a couple of years before Blush and its accompanying singles really showed the mainstream what it was missing out on. One of the finest offsprings to have emerged from South London’s vibrant alternative scene in recent years; Josh Baxter, Ella Harris, and Louis Satchell pair a scrappy rough ‘n’ ready energy with the groove of New York dance-punk to make for a collection of tracks that feel urgent and important. Add to this a knowing sprinkle of shimmering pop and Blush is one of 2022’s most impressive debuts. MG

15. Wu-Lu // Loggerhead

Wu-Lu (AKA Miles Romans-Hopcraft) leaves 2022 as one of the year’s great success stories. Dodging genre classification throughout, the Brixton artist combines grounding downtempo and a confrontational punk delivery which leans into the flow of hip-hop on Loggerhead. In the face of South London’s gentrification and local residents feelings evermore like aliens in their own community, there is a lot of anger here, but it’s the sense of humanity and a steadfast belief in his values that exudes from Wu-Lu’s songwriting that makes Loggerhead such a compelling listen. An artist who is well worth seeing live; breakbeats and claustrophobic production techniques juxtapose with sparse, cavernous cuts to make for a musical revelation. MG

14. Alvvays // Blue Rev

It might have been five years in the making (and remaking) but Canadian outfit Alvvays proved with their third album that some things are more than worth waiting for. Where past releases may have speculated the future ahead with apprehension and questions, Blue Rev sees the band hurtling into the present. Full of distorted guitars, smooth instrumentals and the moody yet captivating vocals of Molly Rankin, listeners might be headed for heartbreak but, thanks to Alvvays, heartbreak has never sounded so good. JR

13. Charlie XCX // Crash

“I’m about to crash, come watch me,” Charli XCX sings on the wheel-spinning, high intensity opening track for Crash – a promise of hedonism and self-destruction in equal measure. Far from a tail-spin though, Crash is, as Charli herself rightfully pointed out on Twitter, her most cohesive era yet. One of many standouts, ‘Used To Know Me’ practically demands the full volume of a packed club. ‘Beg For You’, Charli’s iconic collaboration with Rina Sawayama, is similarly infectious, while ‘Every Rule’ provides a brief instance of calm as it ruminates on the memories of a previous relationship. Relentless both in energy and in feeling, Crash sees her unleashed and producing earworm pop bangers from start to finish. CC

12. Wet Leg // Wet Leg

They could have faded into the background after soundtracking the summer of 2022, but Isle of Wight duo Wet Leg continued to make quite the name for themselves in 2022 (and have the fan base to show for it) with their self-titled debut album. Laced with infectious riffs and some of the silliest (albeit catchiest) lyrics our ears have heard in a long time, Wet Leg is a whirlwind of a debut. As unpredictable as a shitty funfair ghost train, it cements the duo’s place as the act to watch in the guitar scene. JR

11. Viagra Boys // Cave World

Sweden’s finest, Viagra Boys, are a truly unique musical prospect. They have an uncanny knack for producing the filthiest funk-punk: sludgy basslines, crunchy guitar, synths and earth-shattering sax combine with bone-shaking results. Cave World is the third studio LP from VB, and their experience seriously shines through here – they proffer on topics such as covid misinformation, the evolution of man, lighter-thieves and much more. Top this mix off with a fantastic vocal performance from Sebastian Murphy, who wails and howls histrionically, as well as delivering his lines with an appropriately punky growl. The whole record comes together fabulously, with the band’s instrumental mix building to an intense climax of an album where Viagra Boys flex their instrumental muscles throughout. CB

10. Fontaines D.C. // Skinty Fia

From the outset of Skinty Fia, it is clear that Fontaines D.C are a band at the very cutting edge of guitar rock. The sound is nostalgic, whilst simultaneously feeling fresh and relevant. Brooding mystery is a running theme on Skinty, with ‘Big Shot’ showcasing meaty riffs and intricate, swirling instrumentals; the album has an intense feel of melancholy, nihilism and rage throughout, often captured by the expansive guitar and consistent yet considered synth. A true work of incredible quality throughout, Fontaines occupy a similar sonic space to Portishead, and Dan Carey’s production is immaculate as his fingerprints are, as usual, all over a work of post-punk brilliance. The chaos of debut album Dogrel is still there, but it’s been whipped into shape by a tight, talented band. CB

9. Sudan Archives // Natural Brown Prom Queen

Through Natural Brown Prom Queen, songwriter and self-taught multi-instrumentalist Brittney Parks has created the year’s most moreish and intriguing concoctions of electronic, hip-hop and R&B. As capable at the mixing desk as she is on the mic, this new album sees Sudan Archives unapologetically celebrating herself over the course of 18 tracks that showcase her vast range. Every revisit uncovers another gem and another statement, with the oft. overlooked ‘Loyal (EDD)’ making for one of our favourite moments of the year. Unshakeably assertive at times and endearingly vulnerable elsewhere, Natural Brown Prom Queen is an instant classic. MG

8. Wunderhorse // Cub

After raging in his teens as the frontman of Dead Pretties, Jacob Slater found himself approaching punk’s well-trodden precipice. Coveting an outlet for the softer sensibilities he’d been suppressing, he founded solo project Wunderhorse and set to work on what would become one of the year’s defining debuts. With scuzzy rock charm and ageless resonance, Cub is the album Slater was always supposed to make. An inquisition on growth, healing and forgiveness, it wrestles with one-sided relationships and precocious mistakes via Slater’s armoury of wistful lyrics and baggy, bricks-and-mortar melodies. A real rock thoroughbred. OS

7. Jockstrap // I Love You Jennifer B

After a steady period of sharing their experimental releases to audiences who were high in praise, but medium in numbers, Jockstrap seemed like an unlikely candidate to break out of the shadows and into the mainstream. With I Love You Jennifer B, however, Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye have seen their output picking up the momentum that it deserves; as chaotic samples intertwine with ambitious compositions before being adorned with faultless flashes of whimsical melodic relief. Unpredictable at every turn, this full-length debut from the duo throws everything at the wall, taking the listener from the golden era of Hollywood to a cold, dystopian future. MG

6. Horsegirl // Version Of Modern Performance

Matador’s teenage newcomers Horsegirl nonchalantly made their name as one of 2022’s most consistent bands, with the Chicago trio pooling the forces of ramshackle garage-rock, sweet, harmonised songwriting and minimalist grunge riffs, whilst keeping a heavy focus on melody throughout. Horsegirl’s William’s Green set was one of our defining Glastonbury moments and, in a similar vein to early Wolf Alice, the ingredients are all in place to take Nora Cheng, Penelope Lowenstein and Gigi Reece to the very top of festival lineups. MG

5. Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul // Tropical Dancer

From racism, to political correctness via sexuality, Belgian duo Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul have stripped the heaviest of subject matters of their taboo and brought them to the dance floor with an air of absolute liberation. There is a finesse to broaching these topics with a light-hearted knowingness which is honed to perfection on Tropical Dancer. Punchy, looping electronic pop is toplined with conversational vocal cuts which make for an album which is as comfortable in the background as it is when soundtracking the house party. Released through DEEWEE – the label headed by Belgian electronic stalwarts Soulwax – Tropical Dancer may just be the year’s most rewarding surprise package. MG

4. Yard Act // The Overload

Navigating the modern world and all of its injustice with a snarling sense of sarcasm, Yard Act’s seething debut The Overload mixes raw instrumentation with eclectic post-punk breakdowns and… bongos? Slow, thick bass and deftly unrefined riffs instil a grounded feel to this record, building an addictive backing to the spoken word which proceeds to remark on a flurry of modern concerns, including fake news (‘Dead Horse’) and spending habits (‘Payday’). It’s never been so fun to laugh at your own suffering than throughout this endlessly quotable parody of capitalism; The Overload defined 2022’s post-punk landscape by breathing fresh cynicism and charming soul into the the genre. FH

3. Sorry // Anywhere But Here

Following their well-liked debut release, 925, Sorry were widely marked as ‘band to watch’, without commanding a space to call their own within the alternative music landscape. Anywhere But Here, however, has put the band’s talent beyond doubt and cemented their spot amongst the most exciting groups in the scene. From the urgency of album opener, ‘Let the Lights On’ to the understated charm of ‘There’s So Many People That Want To Be Loved’, this is the sound of a band who are breaking beyond the confines of the M25 and setting their sights on the stars. MG

2. Arctic Monkeys // The Car

From the outset, The Car is intriguing, with a lonely-looking motor adorning the album cover, sat atop an LA parking lot. The easy-listening swoon of ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ leads into Alex Turner’s own nods to Low-era Bowie and Skeleton Key-era Nick Cave, with the Wah-pedal making frequent appearances throughout. The strings on this album are utterly inspired, growing and swelling over the tracklist, giving The Car an immensely cinematic feel. This is truly Arctic Monkeys’ masterpiece – incorporating so many musical themes from across their career with aplomb, and culminating in a simply wonderful record. CB

1. Black Country, New Road // Ants From Up There

Released exactly a year after their momentous debut, Ants From Up There sees Black Country, New Road grow more concept-conscious within their sound. Reference points on the album span as widely as late-period Dylan and Billie Eilish, to Soviet composer Shostakovich and wi-fi related ennui, as the album roams freely and picks the juiciest fruit from any genre that takes its fancy, including College-Rock and Klezmer. Witty, but not smarmy. Well-read, without being elitist. And all the while capturing a generation’s relationship with anxiety, vulnerability and – most vitally – fun. Ants From Up There is a gift for the ages; punctuating a meaningful chapter in the story of modern alternative music. MG

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