Here’s how it all appeared in the Brentwood Gazette. Click for bigger image!
Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …
Album: Swedish House Mafia – Paradise Again
After disbanding in 2013 to pursue various solo projects it’s been great to see Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso together again with what is actually their first studio album and which includes a variety of collaborations with the likes of A$AP Rocky, Ty Dolla $ign and the Weeknd. Whilst not all the tracks hit the spot Paradise Again is a great incentive to want to see the guys headlining at Creamfields 2023!
Track: Koven – Take it Away
2022 has been a great year for drum ‘n’ bass, with the likes of Cat Burns’ passionate song Go making it big two years after its original release and Venbee’s imaginative collaboration with Goddard, Messy in Heaven. With its rich orchestral strings, strong melody and powerful yet not overbearing bassline Take it Away is a beautifully crafted example of how drum ‘n’ bass can give energy to a ballad whilst retaining something of its underlying serenity.
Album: The Big Moon – Here Is Everything
Here Is Everything is the Big Moon’s third album, but by far their best to date and one that pushes their sound to new places. It tackles the subject of motherhood as it was recorded either side of vocalist Juliette Jackson’s pregnancy and the songs are their strongest so far.
Track: Wyldest – Tin Foil Girl
Taken from Wyldest’s third album Feed The Flowers Nightmares, Tin Foil Girl is unlike anything Zoe Mead has produced before. A fizzing indie pop banger that is destined to be a highlight of the Wyldest live set.
Track: Joel Corry, Tom Grennan – Lionheart
Album: George Ezra – Gold Rush Kid
Green Green Grass is the closing number in my panto this year so I’ve got it on the brain. Good job I really like it. There are lots of other great tracks here too, like Don’t Give Up and Love Somebody Else. Very soulful selections.
Track: Lizzo – About Damn Time
I heard it taking TikTok by storm and loved it straight away. Very infectious and a great video as well. I also need two shots in my cup!
Album: The Temptations – Temptations 60
I loved this album from start to finish. Of course, with only one remaining member of the original group, Otis Williams, this could have been no more than a tribute album, but it is full of fresh original songs sung with precision. Williams has been very careful to keep the spirit of the original group intact and he has succeeded. The addition of Smokey Robinson singing on the lead track Is It Gonna Be Yes Or No is simply divine.
Track: Jojo Man Band – I Like People
Nick Woodgate (the brother of Woody, the drummer in Madness) is the man behind The Jojo Man Band. This self-produced song just makes me smile and tap my feet every time I hear it. Isn’t that a big part of what music is supposed to do?
Album: David Villarreal – Panama 77
This album came out earlier in the year, and I discovered it and subsequently fell in love with it whilst laying on a hammock in the garden one lazy afternoon. It is sensual, dreamy and packed with warm and exotic flavours and will be my summer companion for years to come.
Track: Kae Tempest – Nothing To Prove
Having won the Ted Hughes award for poetry I knew this artist was going to be a master of the spoken word, but I was blown away by the punching power of this track. It’s raw, urban and potent.
Album: Stormzy – This Is What I Mean
Stormzy’s latest offering finds him in reflective, soulful mood. Some honest and touching ballads here – a long way from the angry juggernauts of his other stuff – and it showcases his courage to experiment with new styles and collaborations. The single Firebabe is a good example with Debbie sharing vocal duties. The use of gospel choirs and string sections add to the winter fireside vibe of this album.
Track: Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Wuh Oh – Hypnotized
I’ve always liked SEB ever since she burst onto the scene over twenty years ago beating a newly-solo Victoria Beckham to number 1 with Groovejet and If This Ain’t Love. Hypnotized is a brilliant song which really showcases her distinctive voice. She’s one of the very few singers where you can understand every lyric and here she adds a haunting, traditional folk siren quality to a pure melody and old school 80s euro beat. SEB’s skill has always been to add 80s schtick to her retro vibe. She has described this single as “ABBA on crack” and she’s not wrong!
Album: Suede – Autofiction
Their “punk” album was a massive return to form from the band, and their finest release in many years. For a band that released their first single 30 years ago, this sounded like Brett and co had found their passion once more, and the accompanying live shows backed up that, with the band sounding amazing, and Brett owning the stage like it was back in the days of their early gigs.
Track: Gang Of Youths – In The Wake of Your Leave
From their Angel In Realtime album, another outstanding single from the band, and despite the subject matter (loss and grief) manages to still feel somewhat uplifting.
Album: The Divine Comedy – Charmed Life
The standard edition was an ideal starting point for those wishing to explore the lush musical tapestry of my favourite artist, Neil Hannon. While the deluxe 3CD edition added a bonus CD full of new and unreleased recordings which is perfect for the seasoned fan. My favourite was a track called The Adventurous Type, a song that could only come from my show’s touchstone, The Divine Comedy.
Track: Vega Rally – Come Out And Play
A great recording that had a touch of the ‘Spirit of Spike Island’ about it. Sounding like it was released in the late 80s, it was released in June this year by Vega Rally, a solo artist from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire who describes his sound as big beats with guitars. A sort of Fatboy Slim meets The Stone Roses.
Album: Rex Orange County – Who Cares?
Lovely album with some beautiful tracks from Rex Orange County which once again adds to the already impressive catalogue he has created.
Track: Fontaines DC – I Love You
A true beast of a song and will blow your mind when seen live. Shows off why this band are arguably the most see band and best live performers of the year ask anyone who’s seen them live this year, they will say that this song is the best of an already impressive set list.
Album: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Unlimited Love
The Chilis were certainly on fine form for the first of two double albums they released in 2022. There are upbeat tracks on this album like Paper Child and Black Summer as well as slow ballads like the brilliant Not The One. Southend even gets a mention in the song It’s Only Natural. A true Chili Peppers album, one of my favourites ever and I’m a massive Chilis fan!
Track: Liam Gallagher – Everything’s Electric
This barnstorming song starts with gritty guitars and doesn’t let go until the end. A superb first single off his brilliant album C’mon You Know.
Album: Muna – Muna
The self-titled third album by Muna has brought us 11 powerful, poppier tracks. Silk Chiffon was Muna’s first release on Phoebe Bridgers’ label, Saddest Factory Records.
The album blasts out synthpop gorgeousness with insane hooks, although Kind Of Girl has a country feel shining a light on their versatility. Katie, Josette and Naomi are a trio that isn’t standing still.
Track: Arxx – The Last Time
Constantly evolving Brighton duo (think Haim, Dream Wife and Tegan & Sarah) who were guests on the Mix It Up show back in February. Smashed this alt/pop rock song out of the park! Hear the track once and it will never leave your head.
Arxx said “the song is a candid insight into heartbreak and letting go”. Look out for their debut album in March 2023.
Album: Bruce Springsteen – Only The Strong Survive
Bruce has always been a big fan of soul and R&B, and on this album he has breathed new life into a selection of classic songs from those genres.
Track: Tears For Fears – Break The Man
After four decades they have lost none of their ability to craft superb songs, and this is up there with some of their best.
Track: Ed Sheeran – The Joker And The Queen
A slow paced track from Ed’s album =, released as a single in February. He has a unique style and tells a great story. My late mother always told me I was a Joker and my mother was, of course, my Queen.
Album: The Weeknd – Dawn FM
I picked this album because I like the genre, very 80s inspired – well it is my era after all. I can’t say I dislike anything from the Weeknd. The album is a bit like listening to a radio station from the 80s but in the future. Oh hang on a minute ! 🤔 It’s a smooth chilled listening experience with a story – fun fact: Jim Carrey is the voice of the radio presenter.
Track: Diana Ross – Turn Up The Sunshine
Sung by such an icon. This should have been the summer song of the year, unfortunately I don’t think it got enough commercial airplay. In my view it’s another Ross feel good classic and I will be playing it every summer.
Album: Liam Gallagher – C’mon You Know
The title track is superb, a real good ol’ fashioned foot stomper, and it has a surprising 70s vibe running through it. The sort of track you should add to your playlist if you’re running. The drums remind me a bit of Roger Taylor from Queen. And Too Good For Giving is a stadium anthem in the making. Probably his best solo album to date all round.
Track: The Killers – Boy
Such a great band who did some great gigs this year after being postponed by Covid (sadly I missed them, next time, eh?) Anyway, I love this song as it has a bit of an 80s vibe to it and I’m sure I can hear Erasure in there somewhere. I guess I am a Killers fan anyway, so a bit biased when it comes to the music they put out.
Album: Heather Small – Colour My Life
From when M People first hit the pop scene back in 1990 I have been one of their biggest fans, seeing them live at Wembley Arena and other venues; their music was, for me, a big part of what I loved in pop music in the 90s. Moving on from M People, lead singer Heather Small has continued to belt out those iconic tunes such as Moving On Up and Search For The Hero, and since going solo she has, in my opinion, grown into an amazing solo artist with tracks that will never age.
I saw Heather Small this year live at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend where she kicked off her 2022 tour and she was exceptional. Her new album Colour My Life, released in August 2022, gives us a twist on some of her previous music but with some great new tracks and some beautiful remixes with some quality orchestral additions. Great artist and great album!
Track: Heather Small – Colour My Life
A smooth and easy listening track which shows Heather’s ability to create a warm and charming medley without having to always be the pop style artist. A clever and creative track.
Album: Beyoncé – Renaissance
One of the most incredible vocalists and performers, Beyoncé came back with something retro and catchy. Break My Soul, the first release was not what I was expecting, it took several listens before I “got it”. Sometimes a track hits you in the heart (as with Cuff It) and you’re addicted straight away. Cuff It reminds me of classic disco tunes that you’d dance to on a Friday night before going out. Played it over and over.
Track: Jojo Man Band – Kindness
There has been phenomenal output of independent music this year that I have been playing on the show. There were many contenders including, Jkas (Royalty), Meaco (Just do You), Leanne Louise (This is What I Need), Vix20 (The Island), Kaysien (BCrow), Gemma Vango (Home), Mayfair Lady (Summer Body), Dan Olsen (Do What Makes you Smile ) Jacob Reedy (Nothing is Impossible) SBR Bone & Star (Drive) and Helen McCookerybook (Beachwalk) are all top tunes. But my song of the year is Kindness by The Jojo Man Band. Nick Woodgate has released so much great music this year. Nick’s lyrics always tell a story and on KINDNESS leads into the dreamiest guitar solo. It’s been a favourite of mine since I heard it. The Jo Jo Man Band has its own sound, instantly recognisable and will have the tunes turning round in your head after the first play.
Album: Izzy Bizu – A Moment Of Madness
Track: Izzy Bizu – Dumb
I bought her album because I loved “White Tiger” and have been a fan of hers ever since.
Album: Lazy Habits – Vermillion Sands
It’s hard to believe it’s nearly a decade since I first saw this band at a festival and their mix of influences from numerous eras – ska, hip-hop, electronica and more – combined with sharp social commentary is still as fascinating a listen as ever.
Track: Scoobert Doobert – All My Friends Live on the Internet
Being a little tactical with this one – an electronic comedy track about the issues of relying on your internet connection for the majority of your human interactions. Definitely worth a listen for the level of “funny cos it’s true” relatability!
Album: Hil St Soul – Back In Love
Hil St. Soul is the alias of Hilary Mwelwa, a Zambia-born British singer/songwriter who is comfortable performing classic soul, smooth jazz, uptempo funk, and gospel. Her versatility earned her the honor of Best Newcomer by the U.K.’s Blues & Soul magazine.
Track: Lindsey Webster – I’m OK
The stunning, charismatic and amiable Lindsey Webster’s roots span the worlds of R&B, Pop, Rock, Jazz and beyond. Her flawless range has been compared to Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Minnie Riperton, while her breezy and poetic songwriting is reminiscent of Sade.
Album: Shea Rafferty – Making History
An Americana album from a Northern Irish artist based in London, this is an album of self-penned songs from Shea. Every track is memorable, from the upbeat Out Of The Blue through to the more reflective title track and the optimistic Don’t Be Hard On Yourself. Check it out and also the live set Shea performed for Phoenix FM presenter Stewart Pink.
Track: Jon Batiste, Pentatonix, Diane Warren – Sweet
Grammy Award-winning vocalist Jon teamed up with Grammy Award-winning a cappella vocal group Pentatonix and Grammy Award-winning songwriter Diane Warren for this feelgood release. The accompanying video begins by stating that the world has forgotten to play music. It then asks the question, “can anyone find their rhythm?” Finally, it states, the world is out of tune and have we lost music forever? The track then begins, showing that the artists know how to deliver music with rhythm and a tune. This track will get you dancing and remind you that even in 2022, life is sweet.
Album: Snow Coats – If It Wasn’t Me, I Would’ve Called It Funny
Snow Coats are an indie pop band from Arnhem in the Netherlands who have really come of age on their second album, released in September on the wonderful Alcopop! Records. More power pop than their first album, the songs are stronger too and Anouk van der Kemp’s voice is a perfect fit for the music.
Track: Vero – Beluga
A slow, grungy, brooding and menacing track which reflects the best of bands like Elastica or Garbage in their heyday. This Swedish band’s debut album, Unsoothing Interior, is pretty strong too.
Album: Roman Angelos – Music For Underwater Supermarkets
This album has that classic smooth easy listing feel to it, with a 1960 and 70’s vibe. With some modern sounds it transports me and relaxes at the same time. A surprise find for me and not something my show normal enjoys too.
Track: Blackcarburning feat Neil Francis – Happiness
New side project from Mark Hockings from West country band Mesh, paired with vocalist Neil Francis. This track for me has a positive spirit for 2022, with drama, melody and heartfelt feelings rolling all over a beautifully sung song, which should and would chart well if it was able.
Album: Wet Leg – Wet Leg
An impressive debut studio album by this highly original British indie rock band. Full of wit and warmth the band who broke through with the brilliant Chaise Longue last summer have created that rare feat of an album where every song is full of fun even in its more melancholic moments.
Track: Rex Orange County – Keep It Up
Who Cares is a close second for my album of the year, and the first single that dropped, Keep It Up, makes it as my single of the year. It’s infectious, poppy, but with a haunting string melody to accompany Rex’s ability to express emotions in his lyrics that we all feel but struggle to articulate. Sorrowful yet also uplifting at the same time. Fabulous tune.
Album: Taylor Swift – Midnights
Hey it’s Taylor Swift – what’s not to like?
Track: The 1975 – I’m In Love With You
Some years have so few decent songs to chose from, but other years like 2022 have been overflowing with great songs making it very hard to pick just one. However with some difficulty – and because it’s a fairly recent release – I’m going for this track by The 1975. They always come up with great songs and this is no exception.
Album: The Fizz – Everything Under The Sun
Those 80s harmonies, creative vocal arrangements and songs that the phrase “ear worm” was written for, this album is yet another classic from a band celebrating their 41st year. Along with being lauded by their extensive fan base, the album is receiving critical acclaim with, among others, Classic Pop magazine saying “it is unashamedly pop and brilliant”. Having just announced an anniversary gig at London’s O2 Indigo next year, fans will be able to hear the album in full.
Track: Sam Ryder – Spaceman
From championing him on my show for the past two years, I was thrilled to see Sam Ryder get the recognition he deserves with the song Space Man. Effectively “winning” Eurovision, the song is both retro and fresh and absolutely superb.
Album: Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
This is the album I’ve listened to most over the course of the year. It’s been the soundtrack of the year for me away from classical music.
Track: Sam Ryder – Spaceman
It can only be this song for me. The Essex musician bringing a place at Eurovision that many thought was not possible. Having then seen him perform the song at this year’s Standon Calling as part of a great live set, this is the sound of the hot summer of 2022.
Album: Alice Merton – S.I.D.E.S.
You’ll probably remember Alice’s breakthrough hit “No Roots” – if you liked that, you’ll love this! Carving her own path somewhere between rock/synth/pop this album takes us on a journey packed with catchy hooks and is a masterclass in combining bright uplifting music with dark lyrics and themes. I couldn’t get enough of it in the summer and when Alice joined us for a chat about the album on Drive I really enjoyed going on a deep-dive into a few of the tracks and how Alice writes to process emotions. Honourable mentions to Sigrid, Pale Waves, Shea Rafferty, Dorothy and Josh Ramsay who also produced killer albums this year!
Track: Roisin O’Hagan – Broken Wings
I’m always in awe of Roisin’s ability to paint such a detailed picture and tell a beautiful story in the lyrics of her songs yet between the words is often a valuable life lesson and some priceless advice all wrapped up in an absolutely stunning song. This track is just one from her EP “Dreamstate” featuring all the songs that I’ve had on repeat throughout 2022. One of the highlights of my year was hosting Roisin for a live acoustic session and a track-by-track on Drive. I loved seeing Roisin perform the whole EP live at Chelmsford’s Hot Box too and with more live dates planned for 2023, make sure you go and see her before she’s selling out arenas! Honourable mentions too to Sophie Griffiths, Ocean Flaws, Ellie-Marie, Maya Lane, Josie Beth, Jaz Beeson, Uno Mas, Grace Calver, Louise Parker and our own Michelle Ward along with so many great artists I’ve loved featuring on the show – it’s been a great year for new music!
Album: Years & Years – Night Call
I wasn’t really a fan of Years & Years, and after they announced that they would be continuing as an Olly Alexander solo project I was sceptical about any new music. But after a delayed release, the album finally dropped on 21st January when Night Call was officially released, and since then I have regularly played out the punchy pop songs on my show, a great mix of dance and pop bop.
Track: LF System – Afraid To Feel
Afraid to Feel by Scottish duo LF System is a mix that was created in 2019 but picked up for full release on 2 May 2022, by Warner Music UK. The single rose to popularity in June 2022 and spent eight consecutive weeks at number one in the UK Singles chart. It’s a great dance/pop track that was a song of the summer of ’22.
Album: Daphni – Cherry
Canadian musician/producer/DJ Dan Snaith has been enlightening clubs and festivals under his Caribou alias, while making a similarly enduring mark on the electronic music scene under the name Daphni. His forthcoming album Cherry released in October (coincidently on my birthday) was his first after five years … it was worth the wait.
Several of the lead tracks were already released as part of the Arrow EP which included the thumping Cherry and Clavicle, which are reminiscent of Daphni’s earlier releases like “The Truth / Medellin (Joli Mai- 2017). Dan Snaith on Cherry’s press release:
“It’s weird that when the tracks were put in what felt like the right order it took on a new coherence. Where it pings quickly from one idea to the next and at least for me, hangs together in way that feels unified. Maybe because it’s hard to avoid the musical fingerprints I leave on the music I make, whether I want to or not.”
Throughout the year I rightfully made Cherry and Cloudy my Track Of The Week. This album is certainly the product of someone who allows the listener to immerse the soundscape and to evolve spontaneously and organically.
Track: HAAI /Jon Hopkins – Baby We’re Ascending
Sydney-born DJ, producer and songwriter Teneil Throssell AKA HAAI, released this energetic and vibrant track under the same album name in May.
Collaborating with legendary DJ/Producer Jon Hopkins, this pulsating track is a perfect accompaniment to any time of the day. “Baby We’re Ascending” is addictive…be prepared to lose yourself in the euphoric moment.
Also check out the innovative video featuring choreographer Akita Uchida and animation by artist Tom Furse.
Album: Liam Gallagher – C’mon You Know
I think this is Liam’s best solo album to date. There are great song writing collaborations (including Dave Grohl and Adam Noble) which give us an album that is true to Liam’s Beatlesque and Oasis past. With some big anthems and choruses that beg to be sung along to, I loved every track!
Track: David Guetta, Becky Hill, Ella Henderson – Crazy What Love Can Do
I keep coming back to the great vocals from British singers Becky Hill and Ella Henderson on this summer dance track by David Guetta. My only complaint though is it’s less than 3 minutes!! Play on repeat … Da-da-da-da, du-du, Dun-du-du, dun-du, da-da!