Indie Basement: Top 40 Albums of 2022
Twenty-Twenty-Two is one of the best years in music we've had in a while, one where I thought I knew what was going to be my #1 of the year in January, and it was a position that held tight till July and another record usurped it, only to have that seriously challenged a few more times in the back half of the year. It was tough to whittle it down to 40 (actually 41 thanks to a really good dub version of one of the albums), and I included the biggest list of runners-up that I've had in ages. Indie Basement honors the old guard -- there are plenty of veterans on this list -- while four debut albums made my Top 10 alone.
As usual, rankings below 20 are a little arbitrary but I did put thought into every position and the positions, even in the Top 10, changed right up till the last minute. Hopefully you'll discover something you haven't heard yet -- some of my favorite albums of the year haven't gotten much love on lists. As I always say, this is not trying to be a definitive list of 2022 best albums, just the opinion of one aging music nerd and recovering indie snob.
I also put together a playlist featuring not only a song from every album on my Top 40 but also songs from albums that almost made my list, plus some remixes, stand-alone singles, etc. It's nearly 12 hours long, which is insane, but I argue it's all good so just work your way through it! I tried to put it in a listenable order, but feel free to just hit shuffle. Listen to that here.
A note about the collage image: it's a grid of all 40 albums on this list that I shoved through Deep Dream Generator's Text 2 Dream AI software. How many warped album covers do you recognize?
Head below for the Indie Basement Best Albums of 2022 list and see you in 2023.
INDIE BASEMENT - BEST ALBUMS OF 2022
40. The Soundcarriers - Wilds (Phosphoric)
The first album in eight years from Nottingham, UK's Soundcarriers picks up right where they left off with Entropicalia, which is to say it's where they've always been: a place and time that only existed in fantasies or hallucinations, a mix of groovy '60s psychedelia, sunshine pop and tropicalia and propulsive motorik grooves. Few have done it better since Broadcast left us and Wilds is a very welcome return.
Basement pick: Is there's such a thing as a "baroque ripper"? If so, "At the Time" is a textbook example an absolutely killer bass riff and some incredible ride cymbal cracks.
39. The Soft Pink Truth - Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This? (Thrill Jockey)
Matmos' Drew Daniel attempts to answer the album's titular question in a variety of different ways -- the thoughtful way, the funny way, the dirty way, etc -- via elegant disco and house that tips its hat to Arthur Russell and Paradise Garage. Where Matmos are cerebral, The Soft Pink Truth touches your heart and body with its lush grooves. Whether you're seeking answers or just a good time, this album will move you.
Basement cut: "La Joie Devant La Mort" mixes French philosophy with an absolutely killer disco backing -- shades of Roxy Music -- and appropriately grandiose vocals from Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart.
38. Horsegirl - Versions of Modern Performance (Matador)
With a deft balance of dissonant noise, delicate beauty and clattering rhythms, Horsegirl sound like they could've existed in any number of eras: living in squats with The Raincoats and Young Marble Giants in 1980; on the edges of downtown New York alongside Sonic Youth; or Lexington, KY in the '90s, sharing a bill with Slint and Palace Brothers. These three, barely out of high school, have absorbed decades of indie and postpunk, and on their debut album made it sound like they did it first.
Basement cut: Album closer "Billy" is a gorgeous wash of hazy guitar noise and swirling, multipart vocal melodies.
37. Guided by Voices - Tremblers and Goggles by Rank (GBV Inc)
If you're not aware, we are in one of the great eras of Guided by Voices, with one of the best lineups to ever back Robert Pollard. Their hot streak delivered two great albums this year, both taking a magisterial approach to Bob's brand of Who-inspired indie rock. All respect to Crystal Nuns Cathedral, but the edge goes to Tremblers by (their second of 2022) which mixes proggy epics with short, punchy pop. Is this the sound Pollard's had in his head since the '80s?
Basement cut: If played at the right volume, album opener "Lizard on a Red Brick Wall" could demolish buildings.
36. Fresh Pepper - Fresh Pepper (Telephone Explosion)
Recollections of working in restaurants has given 2022 two delicious works of art: FX series The Bear and this jazzy, witty collaboration between Andre Ethier (The Deadly Snakes) and saxophonist Joseph Shabason (Destroyer, etc). If you ever wanted Steely Dan to make a concept album about the daily grind of kitchen staff and waiters, it might go a little something like this. Dinner guests including Dan Bejar, Robin Dann and Felicity Williams make these songs all the more tasty. Do I want second helpings? Yes, chef!
Basement cut: "Prep Cook in the Weeds" has all the white knuckle tension of The Bear but set to the smoothest of AM Gold sounds.
35. Astrel K - Flickering i (Duophonic)
Holed up in Sweden during the height of the pandemic, Ulrika Spacek's Rhys Edwards explored the pop side of his psych-e -- a style he had barely dipped a toe into with his band. Dozens of multihued melodies spilled out as Astrel K, prompting Stereolab to reactivate their Duophonic label to release this album. Indie rock meets trippy shoegaze meets '60s pop, just wonderful stuff.
Basement cut: Wistful, sample-powered opening number "Is It It Or Is It i?" sets a very high bar for the rest of the album, and while it remains the best song here, the rest of the record is not far behind.
34. Yard Act - The Overload (Island)
If the 20-year nostalgia cycle still holds, we are entering a phase of fondly looking back at the early 2000s indie scene, and Yard Act certainly would've fit right in with their hooky, angular riffs, danceable rhythms and frontman James Smith's witty sprechgesang delivery. The Overload, which is loaded with great, memorable songs, would've held its own in 2005 against records by Franz Ferdinand, Art Brut and Arctic Monkeys. Here in 2022, they make all those spiky guitars, disco basslines and shouty British vocals feel fresh again.
Basement cut: "100% Endurance" ends the album on a weary but joyful note with Smith singing "It's all so pointless / It is and that's beautiful / l find it humbling, sincerely." Also check out the version with Elton John (really) and the video with David Thewlis.
33. Old Fire - Voids (Western Vinyl)
John Mark Lapham, formerly of The Earlies and '00s-era 4AD band The Late Cord, now makes '80s-era 4AD music as Old Fire. Specifically, Voids channels This Mortal Coil's dark, late night atmosphere, sense of grandeur and intimacy, but does so in a very modern way. (It's definitely a mood.) Talented friends including Bill Callahan, Doveman, Julia Holter, and Joseph Shabason help immeasurably but it's Lapham's mise-en-scène that sets the gorgeous tone for Voids.
Basement cut: "Blue Star," features the bewitching vocals of Loma's Emily Cross which intertwine with sci-fi noises, dreamy surf guitar and eerie bursts of free jazz.
32. Cate Le Bon - Pompeii (Mexican Summer)
Cate Le Bon continues to mutate on her sixth album, which she made almost entirely on her own during lockdown. Writing primarily on bass, these nine songs have a slinky, slippery feel unlike anything she's done before, with an emphasis on eerie synthesizers that intertwine with saxophone and Cate's devastating "ahhs." Despite the isolated circumstances of its creation, this is a much less lonely sounding record than 2019's Reward, but no less wonderfully alien.
Basement cut: With its soaring chorus, "Moderation" is a Bizarro World '80s #1 smash.
31. Special Interest - Endure (Rough Trade)
New Orleans' Special Interest are a wild, roiling culture clash where house and disco join forces with punk and noise -- a sweat-drenched 4 AM warehouse party where Black Flag and Black Box are the same band -- while Alli Logout holds court, ruling on crimes personal and global with a charisma that threatens to pull you through the speakers. Endure, the band's third album (and first for Rough Trade), is their most focused yet, armed with some of their biggest hooks, bangingest beats and most fiery, pointed polemics.
Basement cut: If you're just looking to dance, "Midnight Legend"; if you're looking to dance and burn it all down, hit "Concerning Peace."
30. Sorry - Anywhere But Here (Domino)
During the time between their debut album and Anywhere But Here, London's Sorry went from a duo studio project to a proper band. In doing so, they sharpened 925's best attributes into a much more satisfying record without losing any of the shambly, bummed-out charm or the chemistry between Louis O'Bryen and Asha Lorenz. Anywhere But Here captures a sense of pure exhaustion -- spiraling relationships, global pandemics, everything -- but the songs, a very British mix of noisy indie and trip hop, are always engaging.
Basement cut: Powered by clanging percussion, the propulsive, desperate "Leave the Lights On" is Sorry in a single song.
29. Panda Bear & Sonic Boom - Reset (Domino)
Panda Bear and Sonic Boom are old friends who have worked on each other's records before, but Reset is their first full-on collaboration. Hopefully it will not be their last as they bring out the best in each other, using samples of obscure '50s and '60s song to craft their own magical teenage symphonies to god. The result is a musical dive into quantum mechanics, a pop multiverse experiment where a familiar beginning takes you in entirely new and wonderful directions.
Basement cut: No qualifiers: "Edge of the Edge" is Panda Bear's best pop song since "My Girls."
28. Hollie Cook - Happy Hour (Merge)
Hollie Cook's fourth album strikes a happy medium between the string-laden allure of her first two records with the horn-heavy style of 2018's Vessel of Love, while adding new sounds to the mix. This is also marks the first time she's written and recorded with her band, and the sense of ease and trust between them can be felt in some of her most effortless, enjoyable songs yet. It's hard to go wrong with any record that has Hollie's honeyed harmonies at the center but Happy Hour is the sound of Cook truly finding her own voice, and cheers to that.
Basement cut: "Gold Girl" has the orchestral sweep of a Bond theme, but "Unkind Love" is Hollie at her poppy best.
27. Belief - Belief (LEX Records)
Like early-'90s techno and acid house? So do Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa. Made with the late LFO cofounder Mark Bell in mind -- the phrase "What would Mark Bell do?" informed every creative decision -- this album is a wonderful tribute to a time, a place and a person, but also a killer record in its own right, not to mention a lot of fun, and it's absolutely filthy with irresistible, bleep-y bangers.
Basement cut: "WOT" is not just a killer techno cut with an addictive vocal hook, it's also a great showcase for Stella's drumming.
26. Spoon - Lucifer on the Sofa & Lucifer on the Moon (Matador)
Spoon have been making great records for so long -- 27 years -- that some might've taken them for granted, but please don't as Lucifer of the Sofa is the 10th entry in one of the most satisfying discographies of the last 30 years, a record loaded with memorable songs and endless swagger. They're still innovating too, handing the album over to dub producer Adrian Sherwood for a distinctive echo deck rework of the entire thing, retitled Lucifer on the Moon, that it could've been released instead of Sofa and it would've made this list. Luckily we have both.
Basement cut: The Sofa version of "Wild" is Spoon's version of a stadium anthem; on Wild it gets taken to Manchester 1990 a la Primal Scream's "Loaded."
25. Acid Klaus - The Imagined Career Trajectory of Superstar DJ & Dance Pop Producer, Melvin Harris (Zen FC)
For his solo debut, Sheffield electronic musician and producer Adrian Flanagan (The Moonlandingz, Eccentronic Research Council) has created a concept album about, as the title helpfully lays out, the life and music of fictitious "Superstar DJ & Dance Pop Producer, Melvin Harris." While there is a rise-fall-cult-status story arc, it's basically just an excuse for Flannagan to demonstrate his mastery of 40 years of dance music styles, from the acid house that inspired his punny moniker, to techno, trance, house, chillout, europop and more. The banger quotient is high, tracks are loaded with cool guests (Richard Hawley, Maxine Peake), and you don't need to follow the plot to stay on the dancefloor.
Basement cut: "Crashing Cars in Ibiza," featuring vocals from Sink Ya Teeth's Maria Uzor, is an early-'90s style jam powered by an irresistible synth/bass hook.
24. Luke Haines & Peter Buck - All the Kids Are Super Bummed Out (Cherry Red)
The pairing of Indie Basement Hall of Famer Luke Haines (The Auteurs, Black Box Recorder) and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck on 2020's great Beat Poetry for Survivalists seemed like a one-and-done collab but not only have they made a second album, they've made a better one, and a double LP at that. All the Kids Are Super Bummed Out -- amazing title! -- weaves together conspiracy theories, terrorist plots, the Iranian hostage crisis, English painter Richard Dadd, revolutionaries and cult leaders from throughout history, the Red Scare, Korean cheerleaders, hacks, UFOs, and lots more into its paranoid, LSD-doused punk rock fever dream. All set to very catchy tunes, natch.
Basement cut: With it's chant-a-long chorus and references to Nazis hiding out in South America, "Psychedelic Sitar Casual" would make a great subversive stadium anthem.
23. Weird Nightmare - Weird Nightmare (Sub Pop)
Over the years, METZ frontman Alex Edkins has written a lot of songs that ended up being not quite right for his aggressive and very noisy band. Having thought about using them for a solo album for years, the pandemic provided a perfect impetus to actually do it and Weird Nightmare was born. His self-titled debut is packed with barbwire earworms, jangly powerpop, new wave nuggets, and arena-worthy anthems, all delivered with energy and levels blown fully into the red.
Basement cut: "Lusitania" is so anthemic and Who-esque that somewhere in Ohio, Robert Pollard is very jealous.
22. Robyn Hitchcock - Shufflemania! (Tiny Ghost)
Collaborative albums can sometimes come off like more of a gimmick than a true creative endeavor, but when Robyn Hitchcock handed over the skeletons of a batch of songs to the likes of Johnny Marr, Eric Slick (Dr Dog), Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs), and his former Soft Boys bandmates Kimberley Rew and Morris Windsor, it made for his catchiest and most flat-out fun record in ages. Robyn's gimmick? Great songs made with people who love his music.
Basement cut: Morrissey is probably jealous of Johnny Marr collab "The Inner Life of Scorpio," though he'd never admit it.
21. The Smile - A LIght for Attracting Attention (XL)
What are The Smile? A side project? A post-Radiohead project? Radiohead's two main creative forces Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, drummer Tom Skinner and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich aren't saying, but the music on their fantastic A Light for Attracting Attention certainly speaks for itself. The songs, some of which have been kicking around the Radiohead camp for over a decade, are excellent and show off sides we haven't heard them do in years. The Smile have a skip in their step and Yorke and Greenwood haven't sounded this engaged since perhaps In Rainbows.
Basement cut: It's been a long time since Yorke and Greenwood rocked out like they do on "You Will Never Work in Television Again," while "Free in the Knowledge" is a welcome return to swooning, string-laden spacerock balladry.
20. Wet Leg - Wet Leg (Domino)
Isle of Wight duo Wet Leg started 2022 on a wave of hype that began six months earlier with "Chaise Longue." They rode it all year long, thanks to making good on that single's promise with 11 more where that came from. Nothing may have been quite as instantly grabby/quotable as that but "Wet Dream,' "Angelica," "Being in Love," and "Supermarket" are close and Wet Leg offers lot of variety within it's memorable 36-minute runtime. It's a celebration of messy, relatable Saturn Returns woes set to the catchiest indie rock of its kind since the mid-'00s heyday of Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand.
Basement cut: Shoegazy ripper "Angelica" makes the most of a terrible party and being stuck with terrible people, wondering what the point of going out every night is. "I thought there was going to be free beer!"
19. Arctic Monkeys - The Car (Domino)
Alex Turner extended Arctic Monkeys' stay at Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino on this even more lush-n-loungey collection of songs steeped in breakup vibes and gorgeous string arrangements. The Car feels like One Last Hurrah under the mirrorball before kissing it all goodbye, as Turner croons lines that are at once hilarious in imagery and heartbreaking in intent. One example: "Jet skis on the moat, they shot it all in CinemaScope as though it’s the last time you’re gonna ride." As for whom the goodbye is intended is unclear -- A lover? The band? -- but it's a hell of a gorgeous way to go out.
Basement cut: The swoon of "Mirrorball" is worthy of the Marvin Gaye and Burt Bacharach comparisons it's gotten.
18. Sea Power - Everything Was Forever (Golden Chariot)
After 20 years together with primarily the same lineup, anthemic indie rock vets British Sea Power decided that, post Brexit, it was time to drop the "British" from their name. Doing so seems to have lifted a creative weight off their shoulders and given them a new sense of purpose. For their first album under the new name, bandleaders Yan and Hamilton Wilkinson's command of sumptuous indie rock is the sharpest and most thrilling it's been since their '00s years on Rough Trade. British Sea Power is dead, long live Sea Power!
Basement cut: "Two Fingers" is the kind swaying anthem Yan and Hamilton are especially good at, and this is one of their best.
17. Aldous Harding - Warm Chris (4AD)
Aldous Harding made Warm Chris with most of the same collaborators as 2019's Designer, including producer John Parish and multi instrumentalist H. Hawkline. But this is a much subtler bird. She sounds smaller, somehow; more delicate, and approachable. Warm Chris is an equally beguiling record, just different, and judging by moon-eyed tracks like "Fever," "Ennui" and the title track, made by someone who was head over heels in love. Those emotions infect the listener as well; before you realize, you're totally under her spell once again.
Basement cut: "Fever" details the thrills of new love over a loping piano arrangement: "You know my favorite place is the start"
16. Destroyer - LABRYNTHITIS (Merge)
Dan Bejar said he and producer John Collins planned for LABRYNTHITIS to be an album of "slamming techno." What they ended up with is another amazing, distinctly Destroyer record, albeit the danciest thing they've ever done. '80s New Order and The Cure meets Chic, Barry White and Jim Morrison in the disco, though not always on the dancefloor. (In the case of "June," however, all this happens in one song.) "There's just a lot of wild moves," Dan says of the album, noting that he and Collins ended up trying "to make the most disorienting record we could." Mission accomplished in the best possible way. Bejar's best since Kaputt.
Basement cut: "Ruff ruff says the beagle to the terrier," Dan notes in one of the album's funkiest workouts, "Eat the Wine Drink the Bread." Where else are you gonna get that but on a Destroyer album?
15. Crack Cloud - Tough Baby (Meat Machine)
Vancouver's Crack Cloud have always been a "no rules" kind of collective, and their cinematic aesthetic has time for all Posts: punk, modern, apocalyptic. Mad Max Meets Meat Loaf? It's not that far off, though you get a little closer to what they are if you throw in Repo Man, The Clash's Sandinista and The Pogues' Rum, Sodomy & The Lash. Even more than on their fantastic debut, Tough Baby feels like a concept album, a rock opera, a Broadway Musical in the waiting. It's a tale of survival against the greatest of odds where the fate of the world may hang in the balance, delivered with catchy choruses, thrilling twists and inventive production, and the album only gets better on repeat listens. Bring on Tough Baby: The Movie.
Basement cut: With it's gang vocal "Free, as much as I can't be, I want it so badly and I want it now" chorus, "Please Yourself" is Tough Baby's showstopper.
14. The Beths - Expert in a Dying Field (Carpark)
The title track to The Beths' wonderful third album is about scholarship in love via repeated heartbreak, but singer-songwriter Liz Stokes has proven herself to be an expert in another dying field: the perfectly crafted indie rock pop song. Stokes, lead guitarist Jonathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair and drummer Tristan Deck have always had an affinity for jangly, fuzzy earworms with a yearning spirit that mirrors the often downcast lyrics, but there's nary a misstep on these 12 songs. Classic pop and rock conventions are rarely deployed as expertly as they are here, with every middle eighth, every key change, solo and big chorus sounding effortless, aiming straight at the pleasure center. It would be wrong to say "third time's the charm" because all three of this NZ band's albums have been great, but Expert in a Dying Field is their best yet.
Basement cut: The first of many perfect songs on the album, the warm and wistful "Expert in a Dying Field," is a masterclass in classic guitar pop.
13. Gwenno - Tresor (Heavenly)
Gwenno Saunders has had such a distinctive solo career it's hard to think she was once part of the '00s-era neo-girl group The Pipettes. She has explored the Welsh and Cornish languages of her birth and created a beautiful, verdant and alien sonic universe for them to flourish. On Tresor, her third album, the many vowels which linger on the tongue in breathy delivery become one with the swirl of harps, woodwinds, vibraphones and synthesizers. It's a transportive effect, taking you to a fully realized world where the past, present and never-was exist on the same beguiling plane.
Basement cut: With its rich vibraphone backing, "An Stevel Nowydh" ("The New Room") sets the tone for Tresor's many treasures.
12. Midlake - For the Sake of Bethel Woods (ATO / Bella Union)
For the Sake of Bethel Woods is Texas band Midlake's first album in nine years and is easily their best since 2005 breakthrough The Trials of Van Occupanther. Honestly, it's better. They keep the mossy earthtones and fondness for vintage synths, mellotrons, flutes and lush vocal harmonies, but this time examine their personal history rather than that of someone who lived in 1891. The record's backstory, involving keyboardist and flautist Jesse Chandler’s late father and the original Woodstock Festival in Bethel Woods, is fascinating but you don't need to know it to be moved by these songs.
Basement cut: "Bethel Woods" rivals "Roscoe" a Midlake's best song.
11. Weyes Blood - And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow (Sub Pop)
Weyes Blood‘s 2019 album Titanic Rising was a gorgeous harbinger of doom set to grandiose, orchestrated pop. Its follow-up finds us in the middle of all this tumult as we try and figure out how to just along get by day-to-day. There are no easy answers but she does offer endless amounts of empathy and beautiful music, rendered in her signature style that mixes '70s pop grandeur and with a few modern production flourishes. No matter the scale, be it widescreen ("It's Not Just Me, It's Everybody") or intimate ("A Given Thing"), Mering's gossamer voice is at the center and doing much of the heavy emotional lifting. Hearts Aglow is another magical mix of the personal, the universal, and the cosmic as only she can weave.
Basement cut: "Grapevine" mixes climate crisis concerns and smoldering passions into a very West Coast road movie of doomed romance.
10. Daniel Avery - Ultra Truth (Mute / Phantasy Sound)
Having made heady electronic music for over a decade, Daniel Avery really came into his own with Ultra Truth that combines his different loves -- techno, acid house, jungle, shoegaze and downtempo/ambient -- into one dazzling, dizzying double album. It's also moodier and denser than anything Avery has ever done before, exploring many dark corners along its hourlong path, but spooky numbers like "Spider" and "Ache" are still gorgeous creations. Those also make the album's brighter moments, including balaeric Andrew Weatheral tribute "Lone Swordsman" and "Chaos Energy" featuring Kelly Lee Owens and HAAI, all the more euphoric. Ultra Truth is a Daniel Avery's new calling card, and his most cohesive, thrilling statement to date.
Basement cut: "Chaos Energy" is Ultra Truth in miniature, a bullet train rocketing past oceans, through icy snowcaps, and into the stars.
9. Alvvays - Blue Rev (Polyvinyl)
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but Alvvays definitely got better in the five years since Antisocialites. Blue Rev plays like a Greatest Hits, with many thrilling moments, from the falsetto "ah-ooohs" of "Line By Line," the lump-in-your-throat key change in "Belinda Says," the Smiths-y leads in "Pressed," the warm synthy glow "Fourth Figure," and all 185 seconds of "After the Earthquake." Alvvays have not changed what they do -- jangly guitar pop that owes much to '80s anorak indie -- but there is a new confidence in the tight, hook-packed arrangements, the exciting, just-muscular-enough production and, especially, Molly Rankin's across-the-board great vocal performances that go from tender to belt-it-out bold. (She's never sounded better.) Is it possible to be winsome without being wimpy? Blue Rev is an emphatic yes.
Basement cut: "After the Earthquake" is a breathtaking three-minute, featuring a masterful mid-song breakdown, build-up and joyous release/solo/coda.
8. Beth Orton - Weather Alive (Partisan)
Weather Alive is the first album in Beth Orton's career where she is the sole producer, and she did not waste the opportunity. Written on an ancient piano, these songs conjure ghosts, memories of friends and lovers lost, misspent youth and other regrets; and with a band that includes The Smile drummer Tom Skinner, bassist Tom Herbert, multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, and saxophonist Alexander DePlume, she brings them to life, letting them swirl around around the room, vivid as a sunbeam but as elusive as the dust that floats in it. Orton sounds weathered and weary but comfortable in her skin as she lets the songs flow out in unconventional structures that nonetheless transfix thanks to the masterful performances that feel like they were born of pure instinct. Beth calls Weather Alive "a collaboration with time, of someone struggling to make sense," saying, "in that struggle, something beautiful got made.” Not just something beautiful, the best album of her career.
Basement cut: Drenched in melancholy, the beautiful "Friday Night" finds Beth struggling to decide a path, to "bleed or rust in the rain.'
7. King Hannah - I'm Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me (City Slang)
Liverpool duo King Hannah (Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle) are not shy about the very '90s influences behind their music -- PJ Harvey, Mazzy Star, Portishead, Morphine, Radiohead, Smog -- but on their full-length debut they use them with such confidence and style that it’s not so much “this sounds like someone else” as “this sounds cool.” I'm Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me is set on low simmer, with Whittle's textured, hazy guitarwork enveloping Merrick's breathy, bluesy voice like cigarette smoke at the dingiest of dives. It's not just attitude and atmosphere though: "All Being Fine," "It's You and Me, Kid" and the title track are all great songs that showcase the duo's mastery of mood, eye-for-detail scene-setting, wickedly dry humor, and occasional desert rock guitar heroics. Style counts for a lot, though, and King absolutely smolder with it.
Basement cut: Set to an irresistible blues groove, "All Being Fine" is King Hannah at their most alluring while also being about childhood bedwetting.
6. Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul - Topical Dancer (DEEWEE)
Most dance acts just want to make you move, but Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul also want to make you think. It's right there in the title of their debut, Topical Dancer, an album that has the Belgium-based duo taking on a variety of issues while never losing sight of the beat. The topics these dancers tackle include casual racism, misogyny, wokeness, social media obsession and vanity, among other things, all with serious style and wit. (No preaching here.) A lot of that comes via Charlotte, who can belt it out, coo like a bird of paradise and adopt a variety of characters along the way. Bolis Pupul's beats and production are just as clever, mixing house, techno and other clubby styles with a little Talking Heads / Laurie Anderson-style arty experimentation. The album is loaded with thought-provoking, quotable bangers like “Blenda,” “It Hit Me,��� “Ceci n'est pas un cliché,” and “Thank You.” Charlotte and Bolus are a perfect pairing, two halves of the same whole (partners in music and life), and Topical Dancer is a total mind and body workout.
Basement cut: While most of Topical Dancer is delightfully wordy, Charlotte & Bolis get their point across just as well on "HAHA" with unbridled laughter and a single line: "Guess you had to be there."
5. Nilufer Yanya - PAINLESS (ATO)
If you wisely invested in Nilüfer Yanya around the time of her terrific 2019 debut, she pays out huge dividends on Album #2, refining the sound of that album, paring everything down in a way that sounds sharper, bigger, brighter and more memorable. The beats are jazzy, and so are the guitars when they're not melting into shoegaze and post-punk territory. It all fits so well with Yanya's sly, smoky vocals that both embrace her London accent and are also capable of diaphanous harmonies. PAINLESS is a low-key tour-de-force with Nilüfer displaying her mastery of a myriad or styles - rock, soul, dance music, pure pop -- but also her ability to absorb them and synthesize a sound that is her own. From the rush of "the dealer" through the sultry, ethereal "anotherlife," Nilüfer exudes an effortless, genuine, cool -- the kind that's not saying "I don't care" but "I don't care what you think." You should care, though. On PAINLESS, she's got it all figured out and deserves your attention.
Basement cut:"stabilise" is both a banger and ripper.
4. Spiritualized - Everything Was Beautiful (Fat Possum)
Jason Pierce has basically been making the same album repeatedly for 30 years, mixing space rock, gospel, pharmaceutical references, Velvet Underground drones, noisy freakouts and grand romantic gestures into something called Spiritualized. And that's just fine. Like Wes Anderson or Yayoi Kusama, he has an instantly identifiable style and is happy to mine it forever. Sometimes albums are good, and sometimes they're great. Everything Was Beautiful, a companion piece to 2018's And Nothing Hurt, is one of the great ones. The album draws parallels to Spiritualized's 1997 masterpiece, Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space, from the prescription meds cover art to the whispered intro to its scope which includes multiple studios and dozens of musicians. Clearly Piece knew this one had the stuff to hold up to the comparisons. Everything is beautiful. May J Spaceman float in space forever.
Basement cut: "Mainline Song" mixes the thrill of the city, a perfect evening and big swing romanticism, Swoon.
3. Jockstrap - I Love You Jennifer B (Rough Trade)
What a giddy pop pleasure Jockstrap's debut album is, overflowing with ideas, hooks, melodies and surprises. Even after dozens of plays, there are moments on I Love You Jennifer B that still catch you off guard, like when opening track "Neon" turns from delicate folk to crashing, glitchy psych worthy of The Flaming Lips. Or the synthesizers that flicker across the sky in the swooning "Concrete Over Water" as dog bark samples fire like choral chants, or "Greatest Hits" that sounds like it's existing in five different decades at once. Acoustic guitars nestle up to dubstep bass, '80s drum machines, '90s hip hop beats and classic Disney soundtracks, occasionally all within the same song and Georgia Ellery's gossamer voice is as much a wonder as Taylor Skye's inventive production. There are times on this wonderful record where it seems they may be unsure where they are going, but the duo's instincts always take the songs to the right place. For Jockstrap, there are no rules, no roads, only possibilities.
Basement cut: "Concrete Over Water" swells and sways with an orchestra of dripping strings, arpeggiated synthesizers, and sampled dog barks that go from the bedroom to outer space and back again.
2. Beach House - Once Twice Melody (Sub Pop)
Released in four chapters across as many months, Beach House's sprawling Once Twice Melody is a double album fairy tale that needs all 18 songs and 84 minutes to work its magic. It's the Baltimore duo's most psychedelic album to date, and subtly recasts Victory Legrand and Alex Scally in gossamer new light. (It's also their most cohesive vision since Bloom.) Gleaming synthesizers shine like pure sunlight while choral samples surround and lift you into the heavens, and whatever gravity remains is evaporated by Legrand whose voice has never sounded so angelic. There are so many beautiful, transcendent moments -- especially the ultra-dreamy ballads, like "ESP," "Over and Over," and "The Bells" -- that it can be overwhelming, but you're in good hands. Trust them and let Once Twice Melody carry you away.
Basement cut: "Over and Over" is the most beautiful song on the album, opening with a full spotlight on Victoria, just light choral synths behind her, but when the chorus kicks in, the song blooms with waves of pure shimmer. Victoria sings, "All the little angels, forever and ever, one by one they open, over and over again," and that's what listening to the song feels like too.
1. Naima Bock - Giant Palm (Sub Pop)
The former bassist for London's Goat Girl, Naima Bock made one of 2022's most assured debuts with the quietly dazzling Giant Palm. It almost didn't happen at all, as after leaving her band she went to school to study architecture and worked as a gardener. The songs kept coming, though, and working with Joel Burton of Viewfinder, they turned the spare songs she'd been playing live at solo gigs into grander, deeply beautiful creations. Giant Palm is still pretty understated, with gentle but gorgeous arrangements designed to perfectly compliment Bock's melancholic songs and breathy, often achingly beautiful, voice. Among the many wondrous, lovely moments on the record: the whistling outro of "Every Morning," when the rolling rhythm and sax kick in midway through,"Working," and the jazzy twilight beauty of the waltzing "Campervan," all woodwinds and strings. This is a deeply sad record -- you can feel it even without paying any attention to the lyrics -- documenting a permanently fractured relationship, but it is also one with hope on the horizon. "When the world crumbles at my feet," she sings on Giant Palm's title track, "I’ll pick it up and pull it tight against my cheek." In a year with many amazing memorable records, Giant Palm has stayed with me more than any other.
Basement cut: "Camper Van" is a swaying, wistful waltz featuring the most beautiful instrumental passage on the album, jazzy and sad as any words (which are mighty sad).
And in a 72-way tie for #41...
!!! (chk chk chk) - Let It Be Blue (Warp)
2nd Grade - Easy Listening (Double Double Whammy)
A Place to Bury Strangers - See Through You (Dedstrange)
The Aluminum Group - The Aluminum Group (self-released)
Andy Bell - Flicker (Sonic Cathedral)
Archers of Loaf - Reason in Decline (Merge)
Badge Époque Ensemble - Clouds of Joy (Telephone Explosion)
Belle and Sebastian - A Bit of Previous (Matador)
Bill Callahan - YTI⅃AƎЯ (Drag City)
Bitchin Bajas - Bajascillators (Drag City)
Bodega - Broken Equipment (What's Your Rupture)
Brian Jonestown Massacre - Fire Doesn't Grow On Trees (A Recordings)
Bronze - Absolute Compliance (Castle Face)
Daphni - Cherry (Jiaolong)
Dry Cleaning - Stumpwork (4AD)
Fievel Is Glauque - Flaming Swords (MATH)
Flasher - Love Is Yours (Domino)
Fontaines D.C. - Skinty Fia (Partisan)
Gentle Sinners - These Actions Cannot Be Undone (Rock Action)
Ghost Power - Ghost Power (Duophonic)
Guided by Voices - Crystal Nuns Cathedral (GBV Inc)
Hagop Tchaparian - Bolts (Text Records)
Hercules & Love Affair - In Amber (Skint)
Hot Chip - Freakout/Release (Domino)
Jane Inc - Faster Than I Can Take (Telephone Explosion)
JARV IS - This Is Going to Hurt (Rough Trade)
The Jazz Butcher - The Highest in the Land (Tapete)
Just Mustard - Heart Under (Partisan)
Kelley Stoltz - The Stylist (Agitated)
Kevin Morby - This Is a Photograph (Dead Oceans)
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms And Lava (KGLW)
Kiwi Jr. - Chopper (Sub Pop)
Lambchop - The Bible (Merge)
Little Simz - NO THANK YOU (Forever Living Originals)
Loop - Sonancy (Reactor)
Los Bitchos - Let the Festivities Begin! (City Slang)
Lounge Society - Tired of Liberty (Speedy Wunderground)
Marker Starling - Diamond Volence (Tin Angel)
Metronomy - Small World (Because Music)
Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Dear Scott (Modern Sky)
Mick Trouble - It's Mick Trouble's Second Album (Emotional Response)
Night Crickets - A Free Society (Omnivore Recordings)
Oneida - Success (Joyful Noise)
The Orielles - Tableau (Heavenly)
Papercuts - Past Life Regression (Slumberland)
Party Dozen - The Real Work (Temporary Residence LTD)
Pictish Trail - Island Family (Fire Records)
Pink Mountaintops - Peacock Pools (ATO)
Porridge Radio - Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky (Secretly Canadian)
Preoccupations - Arrangements (Flemish Eye)
The Reds, Pinks & Purples - Summer at Land's End (Slumberland)
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Endless Rooms (Sub Pop)
SAULT - 11 (Forever Living Originals)
SAVAK - Human Error / Human Delight (Ernest Jenning Recording Co)
Sloan - Steady (murderrecors)
Sondre Lerche - Avatars Of Love (PLZ / InGrooves)
Stars - From Capleton Hill (Last Gang/MNRK)
Suede - Autofiction (BMG)
Superchunk - Wild Loneliness (Merge)
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - When The Lights Go Out (Nice Age)
Ty Segall - “Hello, Hi” (Drag City)
Unloved - The Pink Album (Heavenly)
Urge Overkill - Oui (Omnivore Recordings)
Viagra Boys - Cave World (YEAR 001)
Warmduscher - At The Hot Spot (Bella Union)
Warpaint - Radiate Like This (Virgin)
The Weather Station - How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars (Fat Possum)
Widowspeak - The Jacket (Captured Tracks)
Wombo - Fairy Rust (Fire Talk)
Working Men's Club - Fear Fear (Heavenly)
Yoo Doo Right - A Murmur, To The East (Mothland)
Young Guv - GUV III (Run for Cover)
µ-Ziq - Hello(Planet Mu
Here's a playlist with songs from all 40 albums plus, songs from albums that almost made the list and some other songs I also liked in 2022:
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.
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