While January is typically considered a quiet month for album releases, 2022 has already provided some absolute gems. Making up for what was a relatively underwhelming year for music in 2021, just 1 month in we have already been treated to major new releases from the likes of The Weeknd & FKA Twigs. Long may it continue!
I’ve picked out 10 albums worth your time from January, some being major releases, others hidden gems which may have slipped through your cracks:
FKA twigs – CAPRISONGS
Technically a mixtape, ‘CAPRISONGS‘ remains as captivating as both of Twigs’ studio albums, despite deviating from the abstract concepts which have helped make her such an enigma. Through embracing the future of pop, this project brings out a more buoyant side to her art, serving as a pleasant contrast to the ethereality presented on the sensational ‘MAGDELENE’. But while less experimental than some of her previous work, ‘CAPRISONGS’ provides a deeper insight into Twigs’ personal life, as she embarks on a jounrey towards self-discovery. Doing so by embracing her roots, Twigs’ demonstrates her artistic diversity, teaming up with shygirl on the dancehall inspired ‘papi bones’, as well as making several references to London City life on the BKay produced ‘darjeeling’. This makes for a vibrant, energetic mixtape which flaunts the qualities Twigs’ fans have grown to love, while also exploring new territories.
Favourite Track: meta angel
Yard Act – The Overload
The Leeds based post-punk outfit’s highly anticipated debut album finally landed this month, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Brimming with witty spoken word verses from knowledgeable vocalist James Smith, the band successfully encapsulate the despairing nature of life up North in a fragmented post-Brexit era Britain. But in typical Yorkshire fashion, James’ assault on classism, gentrification and greed is portrayed through humour, whit, and comedic imagery – which is very symbolic of the only way us Brits have clung on to our sanity throughout yet another failed Government. While at times messy, the propulsive new-wave grooves and electronic elements provide a unique feel to this post-punk album, making it a thoroughly enjoyable debut, which bears resemblance of early Sleaford Mods – just less obnoxious.
Favourite Track: Land of the Blind
Silvana Estrada – Marchita
‘Marchita’ – translating to ‘Withered’, is a poignantly evocative chamber folk album, dominated by Silvana’s unearthly vocals, which serve as the most commanding instrument across this 37-minute masterpiece. Written post-breakup, minimalist tracks such as ‘Un Dia Cualquiera’ allow her isolated vocals to beautifully capture her sorrow, in spite of the language barrier. If anything, the poetic Spanish lyrics provide an organic feel to ‘Marchita’, with her emphasised prnounciation exasperating the emotion of these tracks. Staying true to her musical heritage, which saw her craft her own Venezuelan cuatro – a four-string instrument – at just 11 years old, Silvana combines her love of Son jarocho (Mexican folk), with her extensive education of jazz to incorperate what is a sombre, yet heavenly atmoshphere.
Favourite Track: Sabre Olvidar
AURORA – The Gods We Can Touch
‘The Gods We Can Touch‘ is an ethereal experience, which sees AURORA at her most philosophical. Exploring the duality of light and dark, the Norwegian singer embraces her spirituality, while also acknowledging religion’s vices, which she addresses on the passionate dance-pop ‘Cure For Me’ – a protest song against the legality of conversation therapy. At her most expressive, AURORA remains unapologetically true to herself, as presented on the inspirational ‘Giving in To The Love’, on which she sings “If I’ll be somebody, I’ll never let my skin decide it for me”. Despite addressing such despondent themes, these are explored in a way which avoids nihilism, finding comfort in the smaller, often unappreciated miracles of life, as depicted on ‘Everything Matters’. While sonically nothing too experimental, ‘The Gods We Can Touch’ brings out the best of AURORA’s incredible falsetto vocals, which paired with her inspiring outlook on life, makes for an incredibly unique, and expressive art-pop album.
Favourite Track: A Dangerous Thing
The Weeknd – Dawn FM
Extending upon the rich, synth-heavy, disco inspired ‘After Hours’, ‘Dawn FM‘ further embraces the 80s elements of its predecessor, this time across a more concise album. Serving as a journey towards self-acceptance, the concept is unravelled through a radio show hosted by Jim Carrey – who’s powerful spoken art piece concludes Abel’s journey from the abyss towards self-forgiveness. As to be expected, ‘DAWN FM’ explores themes of love, vulnerability and heartbreak, but the wider concept of the album provides a unique overview such themes, giving a deeper meaning to singles such as ‘Take My Breath’ in the context of the album. Such qualities have lent The Weeknd a winning formula, allowing him to construct a poignant concept album with nihilistic undertones, while sonically incorporating radio-friendly disco hits with high replay value. Full Review:
Favourite Track: Out of Time
Bonobo – Fragments
Brighton based DJ Simon Green has earned his veteran status in the electronic sphere, with a catalogue now boasting seven studio albums. His hazy, downtempo flair has contributed a lot to the scene over the last 20 years, and while not as experimental as some of his contemporaries, namely Four Tet, Green more than makes up for this in quality and consistency. This latest Bonobo record is arguably his most focussed to date, with the old-school Detroit sound on ‘Shadows’ immediately demonstrating a rejuvenated sense of energy. ‘Fragments’ remains as captivating throughout the album, partly due to Green’s expertise, which sees him craft together some incredible samples such as the Bulgarian bagpipe choir on ‘Otomo’ – once again showing his expertise in song structuring. The album is also complimented by some superb vocal performances from the likes of Jamila Woods, showing he’s not afraid to let collaborators take centre stage.
Favourite Track: Rosewood
Daniel Son & Futurewave – Son Tzu & the Wav.God
Without being anything too galvanising, ‘Son Tzu & the Wav.God’ is definitely one of the more consistent underground hip-hop releases of 2022 so far. The Toronto duo show undeniable chemistry across these 10 tracks, with Futurwave’s mellow samples looping over some classic boom-bap beats, brilliantly complimenting Daniel Son’s gritty, raw delivery. ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Talk To Yourself’ are just a couple of many instances where the luxurious production coincides with the grimy vocals, giving off major Griselda vibes – who I feel have a massive influence on this album. While not necessarily bringing anything unique to the genre, the duo demonstrate brilliant self-awareness, recognising their strengths, and delivering these to the best of their abilities, consistently throughout the album. So if you’re a hip-hop purist seeking some fresh, hostile, hard-hitting boom-bap, then Son Tzu is definitely worth checking out.
Favourite Track: Field Trips (feat. Rome Streetz)
Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!
Written and recorded throughout the pandemic, ‘SICK!’ takes clear inspiration from the unprecedented times we’ve found ourselves in over the past couple of years. But surprisingly, Earl’s latest studio album is far less despondent than its predecessor, partly due to external production from the likes of The Alchemist, who’s trademark glossy samples provide cinematic elements on tracks like ‘Old Friend’. What remains is Earl’s slick double entendres, while appearing effortless, require multiple listens in order to fully appreciate its greatness – a trait which makes Earl one of the most intriguing lyricists of our generation. Throughout this short release of accumulated thoughts, Earl gradually progresses from a defeatist mindset towards self-resurrection, rekindling his relationship with faith on ‘God Laughs’. ‘Fire in the Hole’ closes the album in exquisite fashion, resembling a victory lap in which Earl raps, “The shield took a couple chinks, but it never broke” – a lyric which perfectly sums up his career to date.
Favourite Track: Lye
Amber Mark – Three Dimensions Deep
Amber Mark’s long awaited debut pays tribute to her evolution as a woman, which sees her tackling deeply engrained insecurities throughout this project. While I’m always sceptical going into elongated R&B albums, ‘Three Dimensions Deep’ is divided into 3 acts: Without, withheld, and within, conceptually making for an interesting structure, allowing the high-quality she sets right from ‘One’, to endure across the entire project. The luscious, crisp production often consists of funky bass grooves which brilliantly compliment Mark’s soulful, yet sensual harmonies, which lead to moments of excellence when all combined on tracks such as ‘What It Is’. Her slick songwriting and luxurious production results in yet another female contemporary R&B album which holds a healthy replay value.
Favourite Track: What It Is
Foxtails – fawn
The Connecticut screamo outfit’s fourth full-length LP reveals its abrasive intentions from the offset, with ‘ego death’ immediately introducing Megan Cadena-Fernandez’s fierce vocals. Upon multiple listens, it becomes apparent that no one in their field is producing anything remotely as intriguing as what Foxtails have achieved here on ‘fawn’, where their ability to fuse together elements of screamo, post-rock, and frantic math-rock drumming makes for an intense, explosive listen. What really sets the band apart from their contemporaries is the prominent feature of the violin, adding a further dimension to every track, while also accentuating the sheer pandemonium of tracks like ‘star-crossed’.
Favourite Track: ataque de nervios