Covering the first half of the year, here are our favourite albums of the year so far. Featuring Foals, Fontaines D.C., Wet Leg and a few surprises!
From January to June, we have compiled a list of our favourite albums of the year so far. Without further ado, here are 25 albums we couldn't get enough of in the first half of 2022.
25. Yard Act - The Overload
We had really high expectations for Yard Act's debut album and whilst they didn't entirely meet them, the Leeds post-punk band's first album still has plenty of charm. Breaking vinyl sales records and finishing number 2 in the UK albums chart, the social commentary on post-Brexit Britain and character stories provided a unique sound that has grown in likeability the further its been removed from its initial hype.
Best three: The Overload, Pour Another, Witness (Can I Get A?)
24. Feeder - Torpedo
There’s a heavy sense of conflict oozing from Feeder’s tenth album, the contrast between frustration and hope summarising many people’s emotions over the past two years. Prepare for heartstring-pulling and foot-stomping, a band channelling their discontent into a heavier and familiar '90s alternative template.
Best three: Magpie, Torpedo, Wall of Silence
Read more: Album review | Feeder - Torpedo
23. Gang of Youths - angel in realtime
Angel in realtime is a highly emotional collection of songs written in the aftermath of Dave Le'aupepe's father's death. The Gang of Youths frontman takes an opportunity to mourn and investigate his father's life, a son questioning his old man's legacy and coming to terms with new truths. At over 67 minutes, the Sydney band's third album is a tad on the long side, however it's difficult not to admire the ambition and emotion on offer.
Best three: in the wake of your leave, the angel of 8th ave., tend the garden
22. Arcade Fire - W.E.
WE is bookended by anxiety and positivity, a journey through isolation, claustrophobia, euphoria and landing on hope. On ‘The Lightning II’ Regine and Win sing that they’re “waiting on the lightning”. What's clear over this 40-minute listen is that Arcade Fire are back with explosive thunder. It’s their most focused album in almost a decade. An excellent return to allow us to forgive their 2017 misstep Everything Now.
Best three: The Lightning (I & II), WE, Unconditional (Race and Religion)
21. The Shed Project - The Curious Mind of a Common Man
Formed in Bolton in 2018 in one of the band member's sheds, The Shed Project rose to prominence with more than a little shove from the new music champions on Twitter. Heavily influenced by the '90’s Manchester scene, their debut is full of jangly guitars and Northern twanged vocals; a feel-good indie rock album without pretension.
Best three: My Life, Modern Way, A Day in The Dam
20. The Heavy North - Electric Soul Machine
Like The Shed Project, The Heavy North are another band with a massive underground social media following. However, where the former wear their localised influences on their leaves, The Heavy North's music is very much influenced by bands from across the pond. The debut from the Liverpool five-piece is a very accomplished collection of tunes. There was just something about those blues-rock anthems that we couldn't get enough of!
Best three: Satisfy You, Darkness In Your Eyes, To The Wind I Go
19. Skylights - What You Are
Skylights are a Yorkshire band that produce infectious rock 'n' roll tunes, putting a spin on their Northern English indie influences (Oasis, Courteeners and Urban Hymns-era The Verve). Championed by Radio X new music expert John Kennedy and recently appearing on Soccer AM, their future is definitely bright. This is evidenced by the soaring guitar anthems and swagger on debut album What You Are.
Best three: Enemies, What You Are, Outlaw
18. The Mysterines - Reeling
Released in March, this Liverpool band's debut album is one of the most thrilling and energetic records we've heard this year. It's full of explosive grunge-rock tunes creating both a brooding and gripping 43-minute listen. A band with a universal sound. We'll be hearing a lot more The Mysterines in the future we suspect!
Best three: Hung Up, Dangerous, Life's a Bitch (But I like It So Much)
17. White Lies - As I Try Not To Fall Apart
After a disappointing second record in 2011, I'll be honest and admit I gave the London band little attention in the following years. So imagine my surprise when I heard the brilliant singles 'Am I Really Going To Die' and 'I Don't Want To Go To Mars', forcing us to give White Lies consideration again. Their sixth album is their most coherent record yet, full of big hooks, spine-tingling bleakness and grand indie bangers.
Best three: Am I Really Going To Die, I Don't Want To Go To Mars, As I Try Not To Fall Apart
16. Rex Orange County - WHO CARES
I adored Rex Orange County’s third album Pony (2019) so much. Any follow-up to something you hold so dear always breeds trepidation that it won’t be as good and/or you won’t enjoy it as much. Luckily, WHO CARES continues Alex O’Connor’s brilliance, with more laid-back, carefree, addictive tunes.
‘Open A Window’ features Tyler, The Creator and is a crooning earworm. ‘If You Want It’ is so smooth and assured it almost hurts. With trademark honesty, the title track beautifully closes out the wholesome, comforting 35-minute LP. (words by Josh Robinson)
Best three: Open A Window, The Shade, Keep It Up
15. The Wombats - Fix Yourself, Not the World
Over this 40-minute album, The Wombats prove, again, that they’re far more than the "landfill indie" tag they're often associated with. The tunes are just as catchy and dancefloor-friendly as they were a decade and a half ago, sounding less rough and ready and more polished. It may also be more diverse, yet not enough to alienate fans of their early work who enjoy their accessibility.
Not without its flaws, the big hooks mixed with the sonic experimentation ensure things rarely get too stale on Fix Yourself, Not The World. A really enjoyable listen from an underappreciated noughties band.
Best three: This Car Drives All By Itself, Ready For the High, Don't Poke the Bear
14. Bloc Party - Alpha Games
Six years is a long period to reflect between albums and such time has clearly been a healer. With Alpha Games, Bloc Party have offered us their most focused and coherent record in years. With all four members now contributing to the band’s sound, there’s a welcomed freshness and energy to reinvigorate any setting in staleness. “It was fun writing,” admits Kele Okereke, “…and seeing what they (Louise and Justin) were capable of seeing; the new shapes and new sounds they could make”.
Alpha Games is an excellent return, far more accessible and focused than many of their previous efforts. Bloc Party are simply bolder and punchier than ever, a band to be taken as a serious force again. And who doesn’t love a good redemption story?
Best three: The Girls Are Fighting, If We Get Caught, The Peace Offering
Read more: Album review | Bloc Party - Alpha Games.
13. The Sherlocks - World I Understand
The Sherlocks third album World I Understand is a brilliant record full of enough big hooks, guitar anthems and universal lyrical themes of heartbreak and hope. It’ll please the established mainstream indie audience, oh and there’s enough ‘oohs’ and ‘woahs’ across the album to demand a singalong (definite plus points in my book!).
Yes, of course, the tunes can be fairly formulaic and the lyrics on the simple side at times, but World I Understand is a heap of fun. It rights the wrongs of their first two albums and should provide them with a seat at the top table of British bands. They’ve finally reached their potential at the third time of asking.
Best three: World I Understand, Sorry, City Lights
12. Confidence Man - TILT
Australian band Confidence Man describe themselves as "parading within a brand of dance-pop that sounds like Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder gleefully discovering house music via Dee-lite". Backing up this statement to the TILT, their second album has summer vibes written all over it.
I first discovered them during BBC's Glastonbury coverage, witnessing an infectiously fun set full of massive pop hooks and dance bangers. I haven't been able to stop listening to them since!
Best three: Holiday, Luvin U Is Easy, Relieve The Pressure
11. Sea Power - Everything Was Forever
Sea Power may have grabbed headlines for recently dropping the "British" part of their name, but in February they delivered one of the most stunning rock albums of the year so far, which is far more worthy of attention.
The Berkshire band have really knocked it out of the park again with their latest Everything Was Forever, a beautiful melancholy running throughout. A collection of heartwarming, stadium-sized tunes that simply stick with you and refuse to go away.
Best three: Two Fingers, Folly, Green Goddess
10. Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There
After being ambivalent on their debut For the first time, our writer Neil Renton came to absolutely love Black Country, New Road's second. He described the turnaround for him in his 10/10 review:
"Suddenly they make sense. I get them. I really get them. Beautifully messy. Exhilarating. Nothing wasted. The six remaining members have vowed to continue. Whatever happens with Black Country, New Road and Wood they’ve created not just a contender for the album of the year. They’ve created a masterpiece."
Best three: Chaos Space Marine, Snow Globes, Concorde
9. Angel Olsen - Big Time
The sixth studio album from Missouri-born singer-songwriter Angel Olsen brings together Americana/country influences and is consistently stunning, heartbreaking, moving and warm throughout.
Not often do I go through an album and press the like button next to the majority of tracks, but I did here! Outstanding effort from one of indie's most unique and cherished singers.
Best three: All The Good Times, Big Time, This Is How It Works
8. Jack White - Fear of the Dawn
It’s finally taken Jack White four solo albums to make something that stands shoulder to shoulder with his material from his days of being in The White Stripes. That’s how good Fear Of The Dawn is. It’s a frenzied assault on the ears perfecting the howl of garage rock he’s famous for. There’s hardly a breath to take on the opening three songs and when there is you’re a bit gutted. That sets the tone for Led Zepplin's pace for which the record races.
White sounds like he’s on a mission and he’s determined to remind everyone of how good he is. We still long for the reunion that’ll never happen. But we’ll forgive him when he’s as good as this. “If I die tomorrow what did I do today?” asks White on ‘What’s The Trick?’. Here’s hoping there’s a lot of life left in him. Because what’s he done right now is reinforce his reputation as a musical legend. And that’s nothing to be scared of. (words by Neil Renton)
Best three: What's The Trick?, Take Me Back, Fear Of The Dawn
7. The Skinner Brothers - Soul Boy II
Fronted by shaggy-haired frontman Zac Skinner, The Skinner Brothers are a London-based band who produce swaggeringly good indie rock for the masses. Championed by film star Robert Carlyle on Twitter, and building traction on Radio X and 6 Music, 2021 saw their music reach new audiences, providing them with new levels of mainstream acclaim. Earlier this year, they finally released their debut album and it's stood out as one of our favourites.
Encompassing the lyrical wit of Jamie T, the ferociousness of Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not-era Alex Turner and the attitude of Kasabian, The Skinner Brothers' new one oozes grit, groove and charisma. So press play on Soul Boy II, pump your chest out and prepare for a feel-good experience from one of Britain’s most exciting young rock ‘n’ roll bands.
Best three: Put Me Down As A Maybe, Low, Away Days
6. alt-J - The Dream
The Dream is the brilliant fourth album from Leeds art-rockers alt-J who find success again in producing impactful pop-focused songs and more meandering, darker tracks.
It's more American-focused than earlier releases, as they take through a range of themes from cryptocurrency ('Hard Drive Gold'), failed dreams ('The Actor') and death bed memories ('Get Better'). The Dream leaves you feeling reflective and yet, somehow, optimistic.
Best three: U&ME, The Actor, Get Better
5. The Smile - A Light For Attracting Attention
For a side project to sound a lot like the main act the members are associated with could be construed as a criticism in itself, instead The Smile's debut gloriously tempers our impatience for new Radiohead (six years and counting since their last output). If anything, you feel almost guilty to the other Radiohead members that had this been released as their tenth studio album, you wouldn’t have batted an eyelid!
The 13 tracks on A Light For Attracting Attention bring together the best parts of a modern Radiohead record without actually being one. The uneasy electronics mix with Thom’s desolate vocals for opener ‘The Same’, whilst the 20-second drumming introduction on ‘The Opposite’ give Tom Skinner his moment in the sun before a familiar funky riff and anxious lyrics (“What will now become of us? / The straw is coming out of us”). The same vibe is recreated on the similarly funky and percussion-led ‘The Smoke’.
All in all, this is the best Radiohead album that isn’t a Radiohead album. Through the pensive electronics, desolate vocals, uneasy strings, understated funk and anxious vocals, this is one that’ll please the desires of the Radiohead fanbase and starve off the impatience for record number 10. A stunning album from start to finish - did we expect anything less when Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood get together?
Best three: The Same, You Will Never Work In Television Again, Thin Thing
4. Wet Leg - Wet Leg
The hype for Isle of Wight indie rock duo Wet Leg has been off the scale over the past 12 months. Over that time they've collected celebrity fans, had the likes of 6Music and Radio 1 obsess over a handful of viral songs, and they've smashed big television appearances. With the release of their debut album in April, further evidence was provided to prove that the previous acclaim was entirely justified.
Whilst self-doubt may often come to the fore, the band temper such anxiety through their absurdist lyricism and infectious energy. Be it references to “buttered muffins” and Mean Girls (‘Chaise Longue”), sex dreams (‘Wet Dream’) or simply asking “why don’t you just suck my d***” (‘Ur Mum’), there’s a distinguishable rude edge to rival their social awkwardness.
This is exactly where the charm comes from, the two opposing themes merging to form one of the most enjoyable debuts you’ll hear in a long time. Wet Leg is groove, sex appeal, social awkwardness and goofiness all rolled into one, the banger-filled soundtrack to the lives of two uncompromising twenty-something females.
Best three: Angelica, Chaise Longue, Too Late Now
3. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Endless Rooms
After the release of the French Press EP in 2017, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever looked destined for greatness. There was just something so appealing about the Melbourne band's slacker jangly indie sound. Despite the initial acclaim, their first two albums - 2018's Hope Downs and 2020's Sideways to New Italy - were solid efforts, though it was hard not to feel like something was missing.
Endless Rooms is their strongest and most coherent album to date, which, unlike their work before, never outstays its welcome. "It's January, we're on vacation, take your complaint to the United Nations" shrugs frontman Fran Keaney on the pulsating 'Tidal River', whilst 'Caught Low' has them at their laid back, ambivalent best. 'Vanishing Dots' raises the stakes further, reaching them into more dreamy, atmospheric territory. Had this one on A LOT this year!
Best three: Caught Low, Tidal River, Vanishing Dots
2. Foals - Life Is Yours
From the choppy synths of ‘Life Is Yours’, through the West African grooves on ‘Flutter’ to the overtly EDM vibes on closer ‘Wild Green’, Life Is Yours is filled with positivity and summer escapism. It's all done without a moment’s staleness. The perfect fusion of dancefloor indie and Balearic trance influences that can’t help but win you over by the album’s completion.
When compared with their more diverse back-catalogue, the style over substance debate tips firmly in the former. Yet you’ll come out of the other side of Life Is Yours fully convinced of their new direction. They may be two band members lighter from when they started, but Foals have managed to reinvent themselves again, delivering a consistently fun and memorable record to soundtrack summer 2022.
Best three: Looking High, 2001, The Sound
1. Fontaines D.C. - Skinty Fia
After wildy claiming that their second record A Hero's Death had bettered debut Dogrel (a statement I'd soon revise a few months later...), I went into the Dublin band's new album with renewed cynicism. Thankfully, they were quick to win me over! With three albums in four years, Fontaines D.C.'s consistency is outstanding and the fact that each has been instantly obsessed over by yours truly speaks volumes. The Irish post-punk band have delivered their most ambitious album to date, moving through ominous Irish choral openers, accordion-led ballads, brooding '90s alt-rock and dreamy indie pop.
Skinty Fia feels like a continuation of A Hero’s Death, certainly in terms of its darkened sound palette and bleaker lyricism. Instead, they’ve given themselves two years to refine what felt like a radical shift back in 2020. Where much of their second album fell flat, their latest feels like a vast improvement. First preview single ‘Jackie Down the Line’ is one of the best songs they’ve produced to date, its brooding 90’s guitar vibes are simply irresistible. ‘I Love You’ is equally as stunning, the hairs on the neck rising at Grian’s passionate rant which bemoans the state of Irish politics.
Fontaines D.C. have little else to prove and they're truly in a league of their own in the current brand of popular post-punk acts. It's all done with an effortlessly bleak nonchalance and a "couldn't give a f***" attitude.
Best three: I Love You, Jackie Down The Line, Roman Holiday
Agree or disagree with the list? Have I left anything out? Let me know on Twitter @BFloodlights!