Monday 30 January 2023

ALBUMS I NEVER GOT ROUND TO REVIEWING IN 2022: Beyonce, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arctic Monkeys and more...

Time to catch up on albums from Beyonce, FKA Twigs, The Garden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fontaines DC, Meat Wave, Polyphia, Arctic Monkeys, Father John Misty, Vince Staples, Open Mike Eagle and Alvvays.

Renaissance – Beyonce

Sorry Drake. Beyonce’s dance album is a lot better than yours. I’ve always thought Bey had a great ear for beats, but I was not expecting production this fun and varied. There are crazy trap beats and slinky soul numbers here, and Bey is able to match the energy of each one perfectly. The hip house tracks do feel heavily influenced by Azealia Banks, but the lyrics are a tad classier, even if they are still super raunchy. I’m also glad Bey seems to have taken a break from the aggressive feminism.   


I was hoping this album would be a lot weirder. Even though it’s still experimental enough to scare off your average pop fan, there’s a lot more afrobeat and auto-tune than I would have liked. She sounded like an alien on her debut, and three albums in she’s now starting to sound way too human. That said, there are still some hypnotic spacey moments here such as the high-pitched whisper-singing of ‘Careless’. Tracks like ‘Pamplemousse’ also have some pretty wacky production.  

Horseshit on Route 66 - The Garden

Experimental duo The Garden adopt a horror them while continuing to fine-tune the noisy lo-fi brand of hardcore punk. As with Kiss My Superbowl Ring, the mixing remains questionable (although there are definitely some cleaner tracks) and I’m still not sure if the guitars are supposed to be out of tune. However, I otherwise love how playfully weird and chaotic these brothers are. It’s like they’re a pair of witches adding disturbing ingredients to a cauldron. And by disturbing ingredients, I mean breakcore passages, grime basslines, evil laughs and even Yamaha keyboard stock sounds. Nothing is off-limits. 

Unlimited Love - Red Hot Chili Peppers

RHCP dropped two albums in 2022. After listening to Unlimited Love, I decided to give their second album a miss. There are no fresh ideas or sounds from the band here (except maybe Kiedis’s weird semi-Irish accent on ‘Black Summer’ – where did that come from?). ‘Poster Child’ is kinda cool, but it also feels like an imposter version of ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’. The rest of the songs meanwhile feel like watered-down versions of previous RHCP songs. 

Skinty Fia - Fontaines DC

Chatten’s vocals performances on this album are some of this most impassioned yet. He sounds absolutely distraught on ‘I Love You’ and you can hear the homesickness in his voice on ‘Bloomsday’. It’s just a shame many of these instrumentals seem to alternate between no more than two chords. Despite the Dublin post-punk band branching out into a more Britpop-flavoured sound, this record just doesn’t feel as musically adventurous as A Hero’s Death.

Malign Hex – Meat Wave

This is possibly the most underrated rock album of 2022. The Chicago band have an aggressive punk sound that feels very raw while still feeling very rhythmically tight. Every track feels like an outpouring of frustration. The riffs are addictive and drumming is monstrous.  

Remember That You Will Die – Polyphia

Polyphia’s mix of prog rock/math rock and r&b/hip hop is excitingly fresh. And the musicianship on this album is impressive. But the constant fidgety noodling does make these tracks feel very cluttered. If they contrasted these fidgety moments with some more straightforward grooves and passages, I think the album would be a lot less exhausting. This is particularly important on the tracks where there are vocal guests – a lot of the time, it feels like the instrumentals are competing with the vocals instead of complimenting them.

The Car - Arctic Monkeys

It’s taken me a while to get used to Arctic Monkeys in lounge music mode. I do think these instrumentals are a lot more exciting than what we got on Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ has a James Bond theme swagger, and ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’ has an enjoyably brooding atmosphere. Turner’s vocals unfortunately aren’t doing it for me though – although the lyrics are poignant, his lounge bar singer crooning can sound a bit naff.

Chloe and the Next 20th Century - Father John Misty

Father John Misty also embraced lounge music in 2022. Personally, I have the opposite problem with this album to The Car – I love the vocals, but I’m not so keen on the production. The mix of swing, Americana and boss nova definitely feels more colourful than the drab backdrops of Pure Comedy. And I love how Tillman’s downbeat apocalyptic lyrics contrast the upbeat tone of the instrumentation. But all in all, it’s the type of vintage lounge music that hasn’t aged well, and therefore hasn’t been revived for a reason.

Ramona Park Broke My Heart - Vince Staples    

Vince Staples is in his element when he’s juxtaposing downbeat gritty bars with upbeat sunny production. These classic g-funk beats feel like a nostalgic tribute to his roots. At the same time, there’s a sense that he’s now ready to move on from his past. Much of the album focuses on his hunger for money, but ultimately ends with him repeating ‘money made me numb’ on the closing track – a cautionary tale to younger rappers.

Component System With The Auto Reverse - Open Mike Eagle

This is another rap album about reflecting on one’s rise to success, except Open Mike Eagle is almost a generation older than Vince Staples. This is the first Open Mike Eagle album that I’ve listened to, and I’m absolutely loving how vivid and personal the lyrics. The woozy boom bap beats are meanwhile hypnotic. I definitely need to dive into this dude’s back catalogue.

Blue Rev – Alvvays

Reflection was definitely a recurring theme this year. Indie pop band Alvvays seem to be wallowing in regret in this album. The hazy shoegaze/dreampop inspired production makes each song feel like a foggy memory. But unlike many shoegaze/dreampop bands, Alvvays are also able to keep each song snappy and infectious. It’s the perfect balance of catchiness and atmosphere, and there aren’t really any faults that I have with the album.