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Sun 13’s Top 50 Albums of 2022

We select our top 50 albums of the year.

Another year, and another with its up and downs. The scandal, the absurdity, the tragedy. This strange world getting stranger by the day. And yet here we are. Still trying to put a positive spin on things (to a degree).

We’ve always felt that a site like this should be an escape route from the world’s ills. A safe haven somewhere in the backwaters of Internet land to try and discover something new, and at this time of year, there’s plenty of that to welcome into our lives.

While this year has seen the veterans across the independent and underground landscape prosper, it’s also important to note that there have been a swathe of excellent releases from artists totally new to our ears.

Back to the former point, and never in a million years would I have considered someone like Spoon to be in calculations for the top 50 releases this year, but it actually happened. There have been many others from yesteryear who delivered the goods, too, including The Cult, who released their finest record in decades with Under the Midnight Sun. It’s been one of those years, but that’s the beauty of music: always expect the unexpected. That’s why we keep coming back.

Having said that, while some may be surprised at certain omissions from the below list, for a site like this it’s vital to stick to your principles: for us it’s underlining the importance of the outlier. With features such as this, it’s essential that these artists are acknowledged, because they are the focal point of what we do here.

While exposure for the outlier continues to recede with every passing day, it’s absolutely vital in a space like this to try and elevate that collective voice. We don’t have mission statements or partake in any marketing-speak nonsense that others may use as a foundation or to ‘measure success’. We know what works for us, and that starts by giving voice to those who struggle to be heard elsewhere.

Having said that, we don’t treat Sun 13 as a free-for-all. We publish what we consider important to the story; not only in the landscape of new music, but to the essence of this site. Some may disagree with those principles, and that’s fine, however in this site’s current guise, that’s how we are trying to create the patchwork, so to speak. It works for us (at the moment), and while small operations like this are always met with obstacles and various other moving parts, we’ll continue to do what we do: give voice to the outsider.

The below 50 records are what we consider to be the most important over the last 12 months. Albums that completely moved us at one point or another. We hope that some (or all) of these releases have the same impact on you.

Sun 13’s Top Local Releases of 2022

50.
BUÑUEL: Killers Like Us
Profound Lore Records / La Tempesta International

The third part of their trilogy, which started in 2016 with the guardrail-scraping malevolence of A Resting Place for Strangers, BUÑUEL followed it up in 2018 with the avant-garde cow-punk stomp, The Easy Way Out. Now the final piece of the puzzle is complete with Killers Like Us.

Described in their press release as “good music for bad people”, Killers Like Us combines the aesthetic of its two older siblings to finally form this vicious three-pronged attack. Essentially, it’s a new soundtrack to an outlaw biker gang that’s spent far too much time on class a drugs, drinking copious amounts whiskey and listening to High On Fire.

With Killers Like Us, this is music produced by unlikely bedfellows, but this is where the most valuable treasure is found, and here there’s a gold rush. A fearless head-charge into the dangerous terrains where BUÑUEL conquers all with pure harmonic rage.

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49.
Nadja: Nalepa
Midira Records

After last year’s sensational Luminous Rot, Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff return with another Nadja album, Nalepa.

Recorded live-in-studio at Berlin’s Funhaus alongside drummer Ángela Muñoz Martínez, here we have a series of withering soundscapes and brooding atmospherics that merge the most sinister sound worlds. In fairness, Nadja have been doing this for years, however they keep finding new ways to enthral and here it’s no different.

The second part of these recordings sees Baker explore the more experimental sides of drone and ambience, providing a nice foil for the first instalment that contains the kind of intensity tailor-made for these times. The band’s stunning run of form continues.

Interview
Labyrinthine review
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48.
Ellis Swan: 3am
Quindi Records

Also of the band Dead Bandit alongside James Schimpl, Ellis Swan is cosmic drifter. Now based in Chicago, Swan originally hails from the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, having also spent time in Vancouver, Montreal and New Orleans. Getting into the inner grains of sound with Swan’s music, and not only can you hear the essence of a lonely traveller: you can feel it.

Consisting of 14 tracks clocking in at just under 35 minutes, 3am is ambient fractured folk designed for solitude and dark rooms. With an opening song like the languid dread of Basement Suite, a bleak picture emerges.

With distant arrangements akin to a prairie hum, their position perfectly illuminates Swan’s weighty vignettes; the kind that underline that hard moments have been lived. With the plethora of folk artists banging out the same conventional tropes, Ellis Swan is the kind of artist that should be the reference point.

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Sparta: Sparta

47.
Salisman & Hi Celestial Bodies: Gulch
Cruel Nature Records

Continuing the pattern of their preceding two releases by way of a slight moniker alteration, this time under Salisman & His Celestial Bodies (the previous two being Salisman & His Hermetic Order and Salisman & His Blessed Eunuchs),Gulch may just be the band’s finest moment caught on tape so far.

Comparing the two 2022 releases, and while Clairvoyance was a tourism of sound encompassing experimental rock music of the past 25 years, Gulch feels like the more streamlined of the two.

While Gulch may be one of those records that takes a little longer to sink into the bones, the results are splendid. All told, it’s merely splitting hairs when trying to pick out the better of their 2022 releases, to the point where it really doesn’t matter – just listen to them back-to-back, as the adventure is an absolute treat.

Interview
Clairvoyance review
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46.
Esmerine: Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More
Constellation

Like Duster dropping their Together LP out of the sky, Esmerine (Rebecca Foon; percussionist, Bruce Cawdron, once of Godpseed You! Black Emperor; percussionist, Jamie Thompson of The Unicorns and Islands; multi-instrumentalist, Brian Sanderson; and bassist, Jéremi Roy) have inadvertently followed suite with their latest collection of bliss, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More.

Post-rock, neo-classical, experimental, whatever genre or sub-genre you wish to file it under, it makes no difference. Good records are good records and, whichever way you slice it, Esmerine’s return is not only needed, it’s one of the beautiful surprises of the year.

The more time spent with Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More, the stronger it will get. With this record, Esmerine may just be the masters of the slow burn.

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45.
Oneida: Success
Joyful Noise Recordings

when Oneida release a good record, they release a really fucking good record, and Success is just that.

A band that has perhaps been too rock for psych and almost too psych for the indie purists, Oneida has always projected outlier tendencies. Make no mistake, though: Success is a rock ’n’ roll record that everyone needs in their lives.

A record that simply just lines up, Oneida kick against the status quo whilst still maintaining the kind of artistic relevance so many of their contemporaries of the last two decades no longer have. While Success isn’t likely to draw in new ears, as the disposability of pop culture continues to be the scourge across the creative landscape, bands like Oneida confirm that there is still hope.

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Ivan The Tolerable: The Aleph

44.
Houseplants: II
Win Big Records

Between his experimental improv’ freak-outs as Ivan The Tolerable and his twisted folk dub psych adventures with King Champion Sounds (not to mention Year Of Birds, University Challenged, Shrug and Detective Instinct) the big talking point of 2022 lies with Houseplants: the project between Oliver Heffernan and Leighton Crook of Edinburgh punk outfit, Country Teasers, who released their the second LP, II.

II is like a like post-punk blur. Abstract musings through the foggy sing-speak prism (“Pick a day to die / Eat dirt and die / Everything ends in despair” – The Barrows; and “Everything good must die/ Except for a balance of probability” – I Want to Drive You Home), II is a dirge-y bastion for the underground and DIY culture, underlining the bleak realities currently enveloping this world.

Even with the current atrocities unfolding across Europe, there’s an eerie prescience captured by Crook and Heffernan here.

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43.
Sarah Davachi: Two Sisters
Late Music

Deeply inspired by baroque music, the Fluxus movement and deep listening purveyors such as Terry Riley and Lamonte Young, the year in new music is never complete without Sarah Davachi featuring in it. And following Mother of Pearl – the 2021 collaboration release with Sean McCannDavachi offers her latest voyage into the meditative state with Two Sisters.

Influenced by Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 classic film, Possession, Two Sisters sees Davachi taking minimalism into exciting new places. While featuring a choir, string quartet, trombone quartet, electronics, the drone continues to be the focal point for Davachi.

While perhaps not Davachi’s most immediate release, Two Sisters is arguably the composer’s most rewarding and emotionally vexing to date.

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42.
Oren Ambarchi/Johan Berthling/Andreas Werliin: Ghosted
Drag City

Once again, Oren Ambarchi is ushered into the Drag City broad church, this time alongside Swedish artists, Johan Berthling (bass), and Andreas Werliin (drums) for the collaboration release, Ghosted.

Ghosted marks yet another collaboration between Ambarchi and Berthling; their last release the 2015 LP, Tongue Tied. Recorded by the trio at Stockholm’s Studio Rymden in November 2018, Ghosted is an amalgamation of trio’s greatest strengths.

Providing equal influence throughout these compositions, Ambarchi, Berthling and Werliin combine for some sort of rambling Necksian doom improv’ experience. Berthling’s heavy bass stabs leave enough of an open wound for Werliin’s nimble percussion and Ambarchi’s flickering passages of sound in what is a completely organic experience that is equally chaotic and cathartic. A true snapshot of each artist operating outside their own comfort zones.

Interview (Ghosted)
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The Lord: Forest Nocturne

41.
Raum: Daughter
Yellowelectric

Alongside drone veteran Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Liz Harris returned in 2022 for their surprise second album as Raum, Daughter.

The duo’s latest offering is a tribute to their late friend, filmmaker Paul Clipson, who passed away in 2018. The ideas of Daughter were constructed two years prior to Clipson’s passing; a series of field recordings and sonic sketches from the vaults. The end result is a deep-listening exercise that guides us through the dream-state tunnel filled with blinding white light.

Call it what you want, but Daughter is a post-soundtrack collage of mournful, reflective sounds. Harris has always explored great emotional depth with Grouper. Alongside Cantu-Ledesma as Raum, they have created something cathartic and removed from any of their previous works.

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40.
Droneroom: Whatever Truthful Understanding
Desert Records

Following the release of 2021’s Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, Blake Conley returns in 2022 with what could be considered his most panoramic series of sounds with Whatever Truthful Understanding.

As Whatever Truthful Understanding consists of nature-inspired field recordings, sweltering drones and left-of-centre effects, Conley’s brand of warped drone folk meanderings is also wildly cinematic.

In many respects, Whatever Truthful Understanding is all about tones and juxtapositions. Wild arcs and soothing nightscapes, Conley creates his own cinematic haze through the drone. It’s a release that captures the reality and the mundane of the everyday. Throughout these passages of sound, Conley also shows us how dangerous these very facets of life can be.

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39.
Nightingales: The Last Laugh
Tiny Global Productions

Following King Rocker, the documentary written by long-time fan and comedian, Stewart Lee, and directed Michael Cumming (Brass Eye)King Rocker, Nightingales have welcomed the kind of praise that’s been four decades in the making.

Recorded in Valencia’s Elefante Studios with Jorge Bernabe, surprisingly enough, for those yet to delve into their world, The Last Laugh isn’t the worst place to start in the Nightingales canon. Mixing their countrified, mind-bending charm with new found accessibility, The Last Laugh is arguably the band’s most immediate record yet.

On The Las Laugh, Robert Lloyd hasn’t lost an ounce of wit. A lifetime spent in pubs and jockey clubs, if anything it’s sharpened, as these stories become bolder and funnier the more time spent with them.

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Mike Weis: Ring the Bell for the 10,000 Forgotten Things

38.
Kenneth James Gibson: Ssih Mountain
Meadows Heavy Recorders

Through the prism of tech house ([a]pendics.shuffle, dubLoner), IDM freak-outs (Eight Frozen Modules), and a mixture of both (Reverse Commuter), Kenneth James Gibson has crashed through the ceilings of conventionality, spending years intersecting ideas through the world of experimentation, which has seen his music released by some of the most well-renowned labels around the world, not limited to Kompakt, Planet Mu and City Slang.

Having released the Groundskeeping LP earlier this year through the label, the fearless creator returns with Ssih Mountain: an album filled with a new warmth through cascading soundscapes and luscious drones.

Ssih Mountain combats the dark frontiers with luminous drones and otherworldly ambience in what is yet another boon for Gibson.

Interview
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37.
The Reds, Pinks & Purples: Summer At Land’s End
Tough Love

One half of the excellent Skygreen Leopards, Glenn Donaldson’s The Reds, Pink & Purples returned in 2022 with Summer At Land’s End.

While previous albums have seen Donaldson ramp up the speed with wall-to-wall jangle, throughout Summer At Land’s End the pace is dialled down, enabling us to really get into the fissures of the world Donaldson has created with this project.

Highlighting the same dark sentiments and everyday struggles that Mark Eitzel projected through his protagonists on Everclear, if a song like I’d Rather Not Go Your Way doesn’t bring a tear to the eye then you’re probably dead on the inside. Beauty and heartbreak often intertwine, and  Donaldson has always accentuated this through sound and lyric to great effect.

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36.
Rocio Zavala: Invisible Miracles
Monastral

Based in Chicago for some time now, Mexican artist, Rocio Zavala’s debut album, Invisible Miracles, is a work that continues the ascendency of Monastral in their bid to unveil niche artists, giving voice to those that would otherwise remain completely under the radar.

An album performed on instruments built by Zavala herself (not limited to synthesizers and zither), Invisible Miracles is a cathartic journey of the state of consciousness, with a wide array of samples, field recordings and loops.

Oscillating through varying states of the mind, Zavala’s untethered interpretations in the world of experimentation are some of the most dreamscape-orientated etched to tape this year.

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Shaking Hell: Supersonic Festival 2022

35.
Luke Mawdsley: Luke Two
SPINE Records

It’s not a stretch to suggest that no one is making music like Luke Mawdsley. While the Liverpool visionary’s 2020 release, Vulgar Displays of Affection (Maple Death Records), was something likened to splintered bones passing through a meat grinder, Mawdsley’s Luke Two is far removed, solidifying the notions of an artist leaping from one sound world to another.

Pitting together Suicide-inspired BPM and left-field off-cuts of Scott Walker with a dash of Morricone chime, it’s a spacious backdrop for Mawdsley’s spoken-word passages, caked in poeticism that is equally grotesque (Trauma Corset Part I  & Part II) and humorous (Higher Plains Suffering, Piss Poor Omens).

Featuring Rachel Nicholas on vocals, with its fractured folk and micro doses of pop and BPM, A Butchers Tide ties together Luke Two in what is the first great experimental release out of Merseyside in 2022.

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34.
Duquette Johnston: The Social Animals
Single Lock Records

On The Social Animals Duquette Johnston is backed by Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley (drums), Emil Amos of Holy Sons, Grails and OM (bass), David Swatzell (guitar) and Seth Brown (keys) in what is an album tailor-made road trips.

The Social Animals is one of those rare albums that has no weaknesses. Carefully plotted and wonderfully arranged, everything is where it should be. From the breeze-laden opener in Year to Run to the closing arms-aloft delight of Tonight, Johnston delivers an album brimming with cosmic energy and outlier anthems.

In between the brilliant opening and closing tracks lies even more majesty. The multi-layered dream-gaze of Whiskey and the Wine. The lonesome road crawl of Baby Loves A Mystery. The slow dance swoon of Holy Child and To My Daughters, and the hazy neo-psychedelia of Forgive Me. Songs that belong in the upper echelon of the songwriting brethren.

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33.
Nik Colk Void: Bucked Up Space
Editions Mego

Granted, this is not a carbon copy of Factory Floor. Anything but. There’s a meticulousness in how Nik Colk Void has shaped Bucked Up Space. The cavalier bludgeoning of Factory Floor has been replaced by something more cerebral. But the vibe, it holds a similar essence and, to these ears at least, it’s unshakable.

With the muffled static of someone trying to find a radio station in a post-apocalyptic world, Oversized ends the journey with the kind of fractured electronica that is simply born for these times. It’s a thick blanket of dread that has you asking yourself the question of ‘what just happened?’

The answer? Multi-dimensional shards of noise produced by someone with a mental nimbleness so few in this space currently offer. There’s little doubt that Void views the world through a different prism, and while it feels like Bucked Up Space has been something she has chipped away at for years, the final conception is indeed immaculate.

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Escaping Reality: Primavera Sound 2022

32.
Steven R. Smith: Spring
Soft Abuse

Steven R. Smith has been making splendid guitar music for years now, and it doesn’t change on his latest offering, Spring.

The Los Angeles-based artist offers an array of subtle tones and gentle reverb in what is the kind of record that just washes over you. With the track, Mountains of the Moon, you might not get a better instrumental guitar-based composition all year. It’s just magic committed to tape.

Spring is yet another great album from an artist who has produced many. Growing stronger with each listen, it may even be his finest yet. William Tyler fans might want to get a hold of this sooner rather than later.

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31.
Aidan Baker: You Are All At Once
Broken Spine

While Aidan Baker has spent most of his creative years focusing on dissonance and hypnotic aural bludgeoning via Nadja and various other projects, on You Are All At Once the Canadian experimental pioneer excavates the cold terrains of slowcore to devastating effect.

Throughout this incredible journey lies a deathly hum, as Baker conjures up an atmosphere so quiet, you can almost hear the blood running through your veins.

On You Are All At Once there is a naked intimacy simply not heard during Baker’s previous works. On this occasion abrasiveness is wholly consumed by tenderness, with Baker going so far against the grain, it’s like an artist reinventing themselves.

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30.
Archers of Loaf: Reason in Decline
Merge Records

Their first full-length release since 1998’s White Trash Heroes, Reason in Decline is comfort blanket Archers of Loaf. The days of the marauding alt-rock beast that gave us Toast and Harnessed in Slums, merely nostalgic blur. This is Indian summer Archers of Loaf and it’s no bad thing. A band growing old graciously yet capturing new ideas that catch alight.

This is no reunion of defiance. Throughout Reason in Decline, you get the feeling Bachmann couldn’t have delivered some of these songs without Matt Gentling, Eric Johnson and Mark Price. High-wire moments that needed to be addressed as a unit to maximise their effect.

While many Archers of Loaf devotees perhaps expected something more aligned to the band’s visceral and slightly unhinged past, that’s not what reformations should be about. It’s about developing new ideas and moving with time, and on Reason in Decline, Archers of Loaf have done both to great effect. It’s great to have them back.

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Mike Vest Interview: “It’s great to see albums form over time”

29.
Empty House: Rituals of Romance
Yoshiwara

Fred Laird is an artist within the U.K. experimental landscape who continuously provokes thought. One undoubtedly for the crate diggers and Bandcamp bloodhounds alike, Laird has consistently been releasing music under the Earthling Society and Taras Bulba monikers.

While the Empty House patchwork so far consists of soundscapes tailor-made for meditation through a series of warped piano and a range of flutes, bells, synths and field recordings, The Rituals of Romance is Empty House’s most wholesome set of recordings to date.  

All told, The Rituals of Romance is one of the shining beacons of the U.K. experimental underground in 2022, bringing to life ideas and sound worlds that few have dared to explore.

Interview
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28.
Breathless: See Those Colours Fly
Tenor Vossa Records

Breathless have always been a band that has by-passed the traditional record/release/tour cycle. Their music doesn’t lend itself to these rigours, simply due to the subjects they tackle.

This Mortal Coil collaborator Dominic Appleton is once again joined by Ari Neufeld, Gary Mundy and Tristram Latimer Sayer, and on See Those Colours Fly Breathless’ present further proof that few of contemporaries have captured the sunken gloom they ceaselessly operate in.

See Those Colours Fly is an album for a certain time. However, Breathless have always been this band, and while that hasn’t changed in a career that has spanned over 30 years, they share more poetic snippets of life while still managing to refine their sound to something pure and grandiose. It may just be their finest moment committed to tape yet.

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27.
Soulside: A Brief Moment in the Sun
Dischord Records

A Brief Moment in the Sun sees Soulside truly comfortable in their own skin. No one wants a band of this ilk trying to canvass past terrains, and Soulside know this only too well. Gone is the gut-busting assaults of their formative years, replaced by a perceptive refined post-hardcore vibe that – surprisingly – has inflects of heartland rock.

While it’s a band slightly longer in the tooth, they aren’t trying to be anything else but themselves. A band still asking those questions, and while it may be a different world to the one they inhabited back in the ’80s, the ills that continue to grapple us still remain.

Not only are Soulside aware of this, but they tackle these issues with a wisdom that transcends the cheap sloganeering many others in this space have adopted over the years.

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Water Damage: Repeater

26.
Swami John Reis: Ride the Wild Night
Swami Records

Prior to the brilliant debut album from PLOSIVS – the supergroup including John Reis, singer/guitarist Rob Crow (Pinback), drummer Atom Willard (Against Me!, Rocket From The Crypt) and bassist Jordon Clark (Mrs. Magician), in February to little fanfare, the Hot Snakes/ Rocket From The Crypt/ Drive Like Jehu mainstay released his much-anticipated debut solo album as Swami John Reis, Ride the Wild Night.

With clinical precision, Ride the Wild Night is delivered from someone who knows all their strengths and plays to them emphatically. With his trademark scuffed-on-asphalt vocals and thunderous riffs, Reis dispenses hit after hit right here.

Lyrically, you won’t find a more honest snapshot than Ride the Wild Night. Bursting with direct vigour, on Ride the Wild Night Reis plays on instinct and applies the goods in what is an album for all concerns.

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25.
Gvantsa Narim: Gvantsa
Cruel Nature Records

Hailing from Tbilisi, Georgia, experimentalist Gvantsa Narim has been making music for almost 10 years now.

Written between 2018 and 2022, Narim’s second album, Gvantsa, is the medicine we all need. A multi-faceted journey where Narim expertly weaves ambient composition within the warm aspects of sound design, the result is peaceful splendour, whether it be for night time solitude, mediation, or just aimlessly walking through green open fields.

All told, Narim produces the kind of drones that sneak up on you in your dreams, and while inspired be religion, esotericism and Georgian polyphonic music, Gvantsa has so many hidden elements to it, not only does it stretch the mind, but possibilities, too.

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24.
…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead: XI: Bleed Here Now
Dine Alone Records

From the Sonic Youth homage to the era-defining Madonna, Source Tags & Codes and Worlds Apart, to the prog-inspired Tao of the Dead and rambling assault of Lost Songs, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have been a staple, garnering the kind of fierce cult following that any band would dream of.

Clocking in at over 70 minutes, this stands as one of the longest in the …Trail of Dead oeuvre, but that’s not to say it’s bloated. Ambitious yet graceful, this is a band showcasing their maturity, further defining them as true exponents of moving with the times.

While the notion of the “album” continues to recede from the collective consciousness, overshadowed in an era filled with buzz words, brevity and immediacy, with XI: Bleed Here Now, …Trail of Dead kick against the pricks. And in truth, in their own way, they always have done. This is yet another reminder of that.

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Winged Wheel: No Island

23.
Earl Sweatshirt: SICK!
Tan Cressida

In 2018, Earl Sweatshirt shifted the needle with Some Rap Songs. In many respects, it was rap’s answer to no-wave. With off-kilter rhymes and melodies scarce, Sweatshirt entered a new dawn. Clocking in at under 25 minutes, Some Rap Songs follow-up, FEET OF CLAY (2019) was an even a shorter dose of glitches and stream-of-conscious sermons.

Sweatshirt’s lyrical dexterity and fever-dream rhymes emerge through the woozy synths during SICK!. The first great record of 2022.

With the kind of ambient-scapes we would associate with Shabazz Palaces, here Sweatshirt majestically combs landscapes of conscious-rap.Filled with spatial tones and rich textures, with SICK!, clocking in at just over 24 minutes, Sweatshirt covers a ridiculous amount of ground.

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22.
Chat Pile: God’s Country
The Flenser

Mental health is a space that noise-rock-orientated artists often swerve. Few have illuminated this topic like Chat Pile. Often castigated as masculine at best, toxic at worst, while certain aspects of the noise-rock scene are perhaps true, with their debut long-player, Chat Pile open the floor for a conversation with their roaring debut album, God’s Country.

The Oklahoma City four-piece (vocalist, Raygun Busch; guitarist, Luther Manhole; bassist, Sin; and drummer, Captain Ron) don’t achieve this my moping around the house word-vomiting their ‘reality’ like some insufferable bedroom pop trope who preaches social awareness yet possess fuck all of their own.

Like a discarded cigarette, Chat Pile’s realistic notions grind idealism into the dirt. It’s the wakeup call most of us needed, and alongside Kal Marks, noise-rock enters a new important phase of breaking down the boundaries in a bid to stop the rot. Chat Pile are front and centre of this shift, and God’s Country is evidence of that.

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21.
Kal Marks: My Name is Hell
Exploding in Sound

Cult bands like Kal Marks are why we love music. Bands that don’t necessarily reach the widest audience but mean everything to those they do.

Kal Marks are a band who have never shirked from the truth. With album titles such as Life Is Alright, Everybody Dies and Life Is Murder already under their belt, how could they? My Name Is Hell continues in this vein with themes that remain vitality real, brutally honest, and steadfastly poignant. Shane continues to illuminate the realities of the everyday struggle.

From the howling blast of My Life Is A Freak Show to the rip and tear of Shit Town and the sludge-laden dirge of Debt and the title track, these are all vital components of the new look Kal Marks. Songs that possess the immediacy and ability to remain coursing through your bloodstream for months on end.

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No Age: People Helping People

20.
Preoccupations: Arrangements
Self-released 

I’m suffering fools/Like a suffering fool,” sings Matt Flegal during the brilliant Ricochet. It’s been a while since the last Preoccupations record, and with good reason. Any band as pissed off as this needs time to take aim, because when music is as intentionally visceral as this, targets need to be hit.

And hit they do, as Preoccupations showcase a perceptive bleak outlook like never before on Arrangements – hands down their best album to date. Lyrical shards and rifling sonic assaults are all the way through this album, which illuminates the Canadian four-piece like never before.

The lyrical flashes throughout Arrangements are as underrated as they are scintillating (see Tearing up the Grass). While not many are talking about this record, they should be. It’s probably the best post-punk record released in 2022, and in a year where FACS have been holed up writing their next record, fear not; we have PreoccupationsArrangements to tide us over.

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19.
Destroyer: LABYRINTHITIS
Merge/Bella Union

There are no two ways about it. You’re either in or out with Destroyer: the solo project of Dan Bejar, which ‒ with his latest release LABYRINTHITIS ‒ is 13 albums deep.

It’s always hard to gage a Destroyer record, simply because there are so many moving parts. The mental dexterity and forward-thinking production revealing something glittery and new every time.

Ultimately, LABYRINTHITIS is all the finest parts of the Destroyer canon. From the frenzied mad poet rush of Destroyer’s Rubies and the stream-of-conscious sermons of Your Blues and Trouble In Dreams, to more the spaciously arranged Kaputt and Ken, it’s all here rolled into a one.

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18.
Lensmen: Somewhere Somewhere
Irregular Patterns

Stroud-based quartet Lensmen are the type of the band that take mundane snapshots of life and turn them into something cataclysmic.

No one track is the same here. It’s like each band member has thrown a bunch of records across the table and concocted their influences into one wild tasting broth. Lensmen break down the boundaries in what is something bravely original. and despite each track having its own personality, Somewhere Somewhere still feels steadfastly coherent. It’s a record in every sense of the term.

While we talk about the sonic framework of Somewhere Somewhere, the poetry is equally as striking. But with art like this, there’s no point in trying to dissect the meaning of Alun Hughes’ subjects. So splintered and nonfigurative, the meanings of these songs shift and form different shapes with each listen. That narcotic effect, which, in turn, renders Lensmen as a new psychedelic force.

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Label Watch: Trouble In Mind Records

17.
Loop: Sonancy
Reactor/Cooking Vinyl

With Robert Hampson joined by a new cast, including Hugo Morgan (bass), Dan Boyd (guitar) and Wayne Maskell (drums), Sonancy is packed with otherworldly nuances of sound and song titles that feel more aligned to a Philip K. Dick compendium. Essentially, it’s Loop building their own world yet again.

It all ends with Aurora. Capturing the same mystic fire of Supra, Loop call time on an album that barely has an ounce of fat to trim. It’s all the best bits of Loop rolled into one, and that’s why Sonancy will draw in new comers. The next generation of soundheads.

It’s funny how it all works out. They say time changes things, but once again (forever the contrarians) Loop do things on their own terms. The best bands often do, and on Sonancy, with its hypnotic intensity and ear-piercing thrum, that continues.

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16.
All Structures Align: Distance and Departure
Wrong Speed Records

Piquing our interest earlier this year with their fantastic debut LP, Details and Drawings, All Structures Align (consisting of brothers Tim and Adam Ineson formerly of underground gems, Nub), created a series elastic ’90s-inspired soundscapes that ghosted between the lines of past and present. The result was something elusively original.

Drafting in veteran percussion, Neil Turpin (Bilge Pump, Ivan the Tolerable, Yann Tiersen et al), All Structures Align made it a quick turnaround for their equally striking follow-up, Distance and Departure.

While immersed in the pantheon of ’90s touchstones, All Structures Align don’t really sound like any of them. An album and band that is mightily hard to pin down, this is where the real beauty lies. That unknown quality that awaits with each listen.

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15.
Jenny Hval: Classic Objects
4AD

I want to live in a democracy/ Where art is free / Not that it ever was,” sings Jenny Hval during the atmospheric art-pop jam, Freedom. One of the many surrealistic snapshots during Classic Objects – the Norwegian avant-garde maverick’s eighth album and first for indie heavyweights, 4AD.

Entangling her bizarre hybrid of baroque eccentricities with sunny pop immediacy, while still maintaining the unique juxtapositions only Hval knows how, she carves out what is her most accessible album yet.

And in doing so, Hval has orchestrated an art-pop classic. Completely unique as two worlds collide, and the lightshow that fills the night sky is something like we’ve neither seen nor heard before.

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Weirdo Rippers #2

14.
Duster: Together
Numero Group

In some perverse way, Duster have been making the same song since their acclaimed debut, Stratosphere (1998). Only it’s a protracted number that never grows old, drawing you in for more each time.

Duster are a band that don’t recapture the old world: they crystallise it. The world where every lyric and note meant something. Where you were immersed in spending time with something and not being plagued by of the immediacy in a bid to keep up with everything in this mire of the modern age.

Together is a record where Duster attempt to piece together half-forgotten dreams. Only they can’t, and that’s why we keep coming back. There’s always been an unspoken mystique and an impenetrable quality to their music, and while it perhaps makes them immune from these times, it’s the very essence of their legend. It’s what makes the Duster experience so enthralling.

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13.
Winterwood: Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide
Self-released

A project now consisting of eight releases, Winterwood has always been about atmospheres. Last year’s Sketches in Monochrome was like walking across thin ice through the winter mist. A bone-cold record evoking the images of iron-grey skies, this time around Zac Winterwood goes it alone with Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide.

Following the February release of Exploratory Guitar – two humid compositions touching on the meditative aspects of Sunn O))) but with an uplifting William Tyler vibe, Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide sees Winterwood adding subtle new textures and tender nuance. The upright piano a welcome addition to these skeletal compositions that have you reaching for the skies.

Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide is all about the mysterious juxtaposition. Something like this shouldn’t provide weighty emotional force, but that’s exactly what it does, going beyond the cinematic lustre that ambient composition often touches upon.

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12.
Matt Christensen: Pittsfield
Self-released

“Just heaven with you,” whispers Christensen on the opening cut to Pittsfield, Pittsfield USA. With so many albums released in a calendar year, including Christensen’s fine array of instrumental records, some may see it as difficult to differentiate between so much material. However, when music speaks to you the way Christensen’s does, it’s quite easy.

And Pittsfield certainly breaks through the incredibly high ceiling Christensen has set over the years. With a slowcore hush and beautiful washes of reverb, Pittsfield is one of the finest moments Christensen has captured on tape.

The haunting darkness of I Can Go to Church sees Christensen drawing from familiar themes, while the achingly beautiful She Says would even bring a tear to the eye of the most emotionally bankrupt soul. Similarly with the lay-it-on-line magnificence of I Felt Everything With You and the defiant Let’s Get It On.

Feature
Yellow Works album review
Don’t Fall Down Your Own Well review
Interview: Part 1 / Part 2
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11.
Brutus: Unison Life
Hassle Records/Sargent House

Resolutely uplifting, fast, pummelling and gnarly all in the same breath, following their fantastic 2019 sophomore LP, Nest, Brutus return with a new air of confidence with Unison Life: their third album that has all the sonic twists, turns and high-wire drama that instantly sparks the senses.

Brutus quickly developed a reputation as not only one of the finest live bands around, spearheaded by Mannaerts’ vocal/drums combo; they are also the type of band that makes a record collection look bare should they not be included in it.

Brutus have been on a gradual ascent, and they reach the summit with Unison Life. An album that sees the band going from strength-to-strength. Not only is it their best album so far; in a year where punk and post-hardcore have thrived, Brutus join the party with something as good as anything in this space.

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The Jonny Halifax Invocation: Acid Blüüs Räägs: Vol. 1

10.
Pan-American: The Patience Fader
Kranky

Unfailing and vital, Mark Nelson has spent the last 25 years delivering albums that illuminate the darkest corners of the universe. While still following Labradford’s shadowy lineage tailor-made for late nights, with Pan-American, Nelson builds a world that permeates contemplation and homespun warmth.

The Patience Fader has a nomadic, escapist quality to it. Nelson’s pieces are agile, finding beauty along different paths. The ethereal twang and lo-fi crackle of Swimming in a Western Motel, Outskirts, Dreamlit and album highlight, Harmony Conversion.

An album that is a worthy acquaintance in solitude, The Patience Fader is yet another excellent addition to the Pan-American creative sphere, reaffirming Nelson as an omnipotent force in the world of ambient and experimental music.

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9.
Sea Power: Everything Was Forever
Golden Chariot Records

Sea Power (formerly known to us as British Sea Power) are one of the few acts producing music that sink into the pores, forever occupying the bloodstream. Like following your football team, they are a disease. Unlike most peoples’ teams, however, Sea Power’s form rarely slips.

With a quick reshuffle in the collection from ‘Bs’ to ‘Ss’, Everything Was Forever is yet another solid chapter in this inimitable story. Seven studio albums in, and Sea Power maintain their wistful grandeur and uplifting surge of majestic charm (or, indeed, that ‘iridescent sheen’). The same hallmarks which make Sea Power the most vital guitar band in Britain since the turn of the century.

Everything Was Forever only strengthens the claim, with more outer-church religious harmony on offer.

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8.
Enablers: Some Gift
Wrong Speed Records

Exclusive dealers in high-watermarks and resistant to mediocrity, Enablers’ rebellious march through the fires in a bid to tackle the world’s ills continues on Some Gift.

Led by Pete Simonelli’s mind-bending poetry that evokes surrealistic imagery, once again his oral snippets lead the way on the latest Enablers LP.

Meanwhile, Kevin Thomson and Joe Goldring deliver another stirring performance on guitars, and alongside Sam Ospovat, whose work behind the kit morphs the kind of unique shapes that make Enablers what they are: true originals, underlining the spit and sawdust of life in completely unmoored ways; a belching hellfire that defines reality; a band like no other that walks this earth.

Interview
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Sneers. Interview: “We weren’t thinking of a specific situation but a general feeling”

7.
Oren Ambarchi: Shebang
Drag City

While each Oren Ambarchi album naturally contains the vestiges of its predecessor, from one release to the next there are always vastly different textures and methods applied.

This is what makes Ambarchi essential in the experimental music landscape. No one album is constructed in the same way, and that’s why he is an artist that those with curious ears will always gravitate towards.

Flanked by an all-star cast which includes Julia Reidy, BJ Cole, Chris Abrahams, Joe Talia, Sam Dunscombe, Johan Berthling and Jim O’Rourke, Shebang is another priceless jewel in the Ambarchi crown, and not only is it his finest work committed to tape, it’s his most atmospheric, too.

Interview (Shebang)
Interview (Ghosted)
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6.
Haress: Ghosts
Wrong Speed Records

Haress produce music like no other band in the U.K., and while they have been around for some time now, quite frankly, they should be celebrated far more than they are.

A motley selection of musicians that have featured heavily in the New Weird Britain scene for well over a decade now, on Ghosts, Haress combine atmospheric electric folk with meandering post-rock, resulting in a primordial vastness all the way through the record.

Essentially, Haress are a band for all the heads and Ghosts only solidifies this position.

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5.
The Mars Volta: The Mars Volta
Clouds Hill

A band many had thought to be on the other side of their creative arc, The Mars Volta sees Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-López clawing their way back towards the summit.

While sonically The Mars Volta showcases the band’s biggest shift, lyrically it’s their most revealing, evoking the kind of juxtapositions that emerge from the thick fog and obscurity of the band’s past.

Disentangling the complexities and mind-fuckery of their past, The Mars Volta isn’t the pop record some are claiming it to be. Nor is it anything remotely like the insidious yacht rock. The Mars Volta are a punk band, and by extension this is a punk record in every sense. Not only is The Mars Volta one of sharpest creative left-hand turns of 2022. Over the past decade, there are few acts that have left a mark like The Mars Volta have done here.

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Engine Roar: In Conversation with June of 44’s Jeff Mueller

4.
Suede: Autofiction
BMG

Measured in execution, since Bloodsports Suede have moved their own boundaries, working outwards with grandiose statements which reach fever pitch on Autofiction: the band’s awe-inspiring seventh album. Suede’s self-professed ‘punk’ record, Autofiction sees the band in new visceral ways.

With hairpin turns, anthemic arcs and lung-busting choruses, Autofiction sees Suede being as decisive as ever. Stripped back with the directness of Bloodsports and the dynamism of Dog Man Star, in many ways it’s the album Suede aficionados have long been waiting for.

Yes, Autofiction is a high-watermark moment in the Suede story. Through blood, sweat and tears, they have well and truly ploughed their own furrow.

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3.
Mondkopf: Spring Stories
Miasmah Recordings

An album inspired by drone overlords Sunn O))) and Earth, Spring Stories is arguably Paul Régimbeau’s finest moment yet. So far removed from his previous body of work, to the point where no artist so far this year has made a greater creative leap.

Featuring appearances from Frederic D. Oberland and The Necks percussionist, Tony Buck, Spring Stories tells a story of the last two years. Chaos in solitude with a vast range of emotions laid bare during these five compositions.

There have been a plethora of good drones records in 2022, but few have captured the raw intensity of Spring Stories. A record that feels like it takes drone to its logical conclusion, and a beautiful addition to the Mondkopf canon.

Interview
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2.
OFF!: Free LSD
Fat Possum Records

With a line-up change which sees McDonald and Rubalcaba replaced by Justin Brown (Thundercat, Herbie Hancock) and Autry Fulbright II (…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead), OFF! don’t just shake off the rust from their dormant years; they completely blow us into a different orbit with their latest record, Free LSD.  

Brimming with a raw defiance that has Keith Morris chewing up the world’s injustices and spitting them out, through a raging tsunami-like sound via Dimitri Coats’ droning buzz-saw guitars and Brown’s hell-raising blast beats, Free LSD is one of those vital recordings that makes you feel that life is worth living.

With Brown’s howling blast beats and Fulbright II’s tearing grooves, the pair add stirring new dimensions to OFF! and with Free LSD, it’s no surprise they’ve delivered one of the best punk record in 2022. The only surprise is that there aren’t more people talking about it.

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1.
The Lord + Petra Haden: Devotional
Southern Lord Recordings

Following his debut full-length release as The Lord in Forest Nocturne, Greg Anderson returns with his second LP in 2022, this time teaming up with the vocal spectre otherwise known as Petra Haden.

On Devotional, Haden is a fearless one woman choir. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the singer’s wordless vocalisations transcending Anderson’s droning psychadelic dread that explodes through the amps.

Haden’s performance arguably the most emotive you’ll hear in 2022, pulling the listener through orbits of dread, euphoria, and both at the same time. It’s the kind uncertainty and drama that makes Devotional what it is – a record that varies with impact every time you listen to it.

That’s the impact of all high-watermark albums, and with Haden’s captivating vocal performance and Anderson’s rolling cascades of drone, the pair combine for the kind of hypnotic heaviness that, indeed, spells an experimental masterpiece. Haden and Anderson have captured the kind of burning energy and tonal intoxication that doesn’t come around often. The very kind that most artists wish to bottle up and preserve for an eternity.

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Forest Noctures album review
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Top 50 recap:

50. BUÑUEL: Killers Like Us
49. Nadja: Napela
48. Ellis Swan: 3am
47. Salisman & His Celestial Bodies: Gulch
46. Esmerine: Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More
45. Oneida: Success
44. Houseplants: II
43. Sarah Davachi: Two Sisters
42. Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling / Andreas Werliin: Ghosted
41. Raum: Daughter
40. Droneroom: Whatever Truthful Understanding
39. Nightingales: The Last Laugh
38. Kenneth James Gibson: Ssih Mountain
37. The Reds, Pinks and Purples: Summer at Land’s End
36. Rocio Zavala: Invisible Miracles
35. Luke Mawdsley: Luke Two
34. Duquette Johnston: The Social Animals
33. Nik Colk Void: Bucked Up Space
32. Steven R. Smith: Spring
31. Aidan Baker: You Are All At Once
30. Archers of Loaf: Reason in Decline
29. Empty House: The Rituals of Romance
28. Breathless: See Those Colours Fly
27. Soulside: A Brief Moment in the Sun
26. Swami John Reis: Ride the Wild Night
25. Gvanska Narim: Gvanska
24. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead: XI Bleed Here Now 23. Earl Sweatshirt: SICK!
22. Chat Pile: God’s Country
21. Kal Marks: My Name Is Hell
20. Preoccupations: Arrangements
19. Destroyer: Labyrinthitis
18. Lensmen: Somewhere Somewhere
17. Loop: Sonancy
16. All Structures Align: Distance and Departure
15. Jenny Hval: Classic Objects
14. Duster: Together
13. Winterwood: Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide
12. Matt Christensen: Pittsfield
11. Brutus: Unison Life
10. Pan-American: The Patience Fader
9. Sea Power: Everything Was Forever
8. Enablers: Some Gift
7. Oren Ambarchi: Shebang
6. Haress: Ghosts
5. The Mars Volta: The Mars Volta
4. Suede: Autofiction
3. Mondkopf: Spring Stories
2. OFF!: Free LSD
1. The Lord † Petra Haden: Devotional

Previous Sun 13 Top 50 Albums of the Year:

2021
2020

Sun 13’s Albums Quarterly 2022 round-up:

AQ #8
AQ #7
AQ #6
AQ #5

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

10 replies on “Sun 13’s Top 50 Albums of 2022”

[…] Not least the series of excellent releases via East Cape Calling (namely photo(sphere)’s self-titled debut and Barnaby Oliver’s My Arms Are Hollow Tubes), but with their Winterwood project, Zac and Holly extracted countless diamonds from the quarry, including Exploratory Guitar and Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide. Both releases still primary go-tos from week-to-week, with the latter offering featuring at the pointy end of our Top 50 Albums of 2022. […]

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