We're a little more than halfway through 2022 and BrooklynVegan has already posted its 50 Favorite Albums of The Year So Far list, and now here's Indie Basement's mid-year list. As I usually do 40 albums for my end-of-year albums list, I initially picked 20 and stopped in June, but then upped it to 22 as there were a couple from July I really wanted, and also 22 of '22 has a nice ring to it. This is very much a wet cement list, so don't be surprised if some records on this list move up in stature, and others move down or completely off the list by December. Tastes change with the seasons but these albums feel evergreen.
Check out Indie Basement Favorite Albums of 2022 So Far list, in alphabetical order, and a playlist featuring songs from all of them, below.
You can also check out the Indie Basement archives for lots more great stuff from this year.
INDIE BASEMENT'S FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2022 SO FAR
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Aldous Harding - Warm Chris (4AD)
There are new voices heard on Aldous Harding's Warm Chris, her fourth album and third for 4AD, all emanating from her. She sounds smaller, somehow; more delicate, almost like a different person than the one who made 2019's wonderful Designer. Warm Chris is an equally beguiling record, just different. It's more pastoral, almost faery folk at times, more subtle. Whoever is the subject of these songs also appears to be head-over-heels in love. "Cut it up, put it in my hand," she sings on the bright, airy opener "Ennui." While Warm Chris doesn't grab you by the lapels the way Designer did, it's an album whose many charms creep up on you and before you realize, you're totally under her spell once again.
Beach House – Once Twice Melody (Sub Pop)
Beach House's sprawling, wonderful eighth album is a journey through the looking glass, out the window and into the stars The layering of sounds is intoxicating, with a few sonic motifs recurring throughout the record. There are oceans of arpeggiated synthesizers, be it the pulsating ABBA kind that can drive a song, or the swirling, dream sequence variety that mimic a harp (and is quite possibly an Omnichord). There are also choral samples all over the album — think the low "Ahhhhs" in New Order's "Blue Monday" — that provide a through-line to Beach House's early cathedral sound, but here send it in to the cosmos.
Belief - Belief (LEX Records)
Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa and producer Boom Bip (Bryan Charles Hollon) have been friends for more than a decade, beginning when she was enlisted as a touring member of Neon Neon, Boom Bip's collab project with Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys. They bonded over '90s techno and acid house artists like LFO and 808 State and for years talked about making their own. Belief is an album that is a wonderful tribute to a time, place and person, but also a killer record in its own right, not to mention a lot of fun, and it's loaded with bleep-y bangers. This is bass-heavy, ultra low-frequency dance music, that often feels like it was made a few leagues under the sea, colored by squelchy, acid-house 303s, ticking sequencers, breakbeats, ethereal synthpads, and a relentless four-on-the-floor kickdrum. Also: big hooks. "WOT," "I Want to Be" and the housey "Luther" are absolute stormers that could've been (UK) hits in the era of Orbital and Underworld.
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Belle & Sebastian – A Bit of Previous (Matador)
The comfortable environs of working from their home turf seems to have done them well as A Bit of Previous is their most enjoyable, relaxed album in over a decade. (Mind you it's also their first proper studio album in seven years.) There's a sleek, poppy vibe to much of the record that's very reminiscent of 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress, mixing new wave with horn-and-harmony-powered blue-eyed soul and breezy soft rock. This is all fertile soil for Stuart Murdoch who long ago shed his bookish wallflower persona for that of a consummate showman. As charming as the big-and-brassy "Come on Home," the rocking (from them) "Unnecessary Drama" and the discofied "Prophets On Hold" are, Murdoch is still at his most affecting on delicate songs like "Do It For Your Country" that evoke Belle & Sebastian's baroque, folky beginnings.
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Cate Le Bon - Pompeii (Mexican Summer)
Nobody sighs like Cate Le Bon. Going back at least to Mug Museum's "Are You With Me Now?" (but probably further), she has a way with "ahhs" that are beautiful, ethereal, and achingly sad. But it's a deep, earthy kind of melancholy that feels both ancient and warm, existing before us but traveling through Le Bon to our ears. Like Cate, it seems to emanate from a mysterious, unknowable land: Wales. Those sighs, which are all over her sixth album, Pompeii, also provide an emotional anchor to Cate's songs that are often alien and lyrically obtuse, even to the songwriter herself, but always alluring.
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul - Topical Dancer(DEEWEE)
"Are you polite or political? Are you correct or cynical?" Belgian duo Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul ask a lot of questions you might not expect on their debut album. Especially for an act associated with DEEWEE, the mostly dance music label run by Soulwax's David & Stephen Dewaele (who co-produced and co-wrote the album). But with Topical Dancer, a very apropos title, Charlotte and Bolis are aiming to engage listeners from their head to their feet. Topics these dancers address include racism, cultural appropriation, social media obsession, wokeness, vanity and misogyny, but as they note, "no matter how painful the subject, we use a certain lightness and humor to address things. It doesn’t minimize the problem, it only makes it easier to process, accept and overcome." While the album is not wall-to-wall bangers (it's not trying to be), Charlotte and Bolis never lose the beat.
Destroyer – LABRYNTHITIS (Merge)
Dan Bejar said that when he and regular collaborator John Collins first started talking about making the album that became LABRYNTHITIS, they originally wanted to make a full-on electronic dance album, with "slamming techno," acid house and maybe dash of late-'90s Cher. And that is apparently where Dan thought Collins would take his skeletal song-sketches he sent to him, but "in the end, that's not what we made, because we make what we know, and we don't really know those things." This Destroyer’s most danceable record to date, but one informed by the '80s, from the over-the-top production of Trevor Horn (ABC, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Art of Noise) to peak New Order, and John Hughes soundtracks. But all in a very Bejar way.
Fontaines DC – Skinty Fia (Partisan)
Even if you aren't aware of the specific lyrical genesis of Skinty Fia (coming to terms with what it means to be Irish after you've left Ireland), the sense of unease is palpable. The shouty punk rippers that epitomized their debut, Dogrel, have given way to dark, textured guitars more akin to early-'80s postpunk (The Sound, The Chameleons) filtered through late-'90s UK alt-rock and dance music, with chunky basslines and increasingly adventurous drumming, making for music that is both expansive and claustrophobic.
Fresh Pepper – Fresh Pepper (Telephone Explosion)
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. Across eight jazzy, groovy songs, Andre Ethier and Joel Shabason lay out a day in the life, from prep cooks who find themselves in the weeds and faced with new ways to chop onions, to post work partying, late, late night meals in Chinatown, and the infuriating sound of the alarm that always comes too soon. Sultry sax and flute and twinkling piano guild the lily like truffles and first-cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. It's delicious bite after delicious bite — never say no to an offer of Fresh Pepper.
Hollie Cook - Happy Hour (Merge)
Any record with Hollie's angelic vocals and harmonies (and songs) at the center is going to be good, but the arrangements on 2018's Vessel of Love brought things a little closer to earth. Not so with Happy Hour, which reintroduces the string section but also keeps the horns around, making for a very happy medium…This is a perfect summer album and Hollie's honeyed harmonies remain the star, but Happy Hour is the sound of Cook truly finding her own voice, and cheers to that.
Horsegirl - Versions of Modern Performance (Matador)
On their debut album, Versions of Modern Performance, Horsegirl seem to have absorbed the whole of '80s and '90s indie, post punk and "songs that no one else knows" and created their own version of it. You can feel Pavement and Pixies, lots of Sonic Youth and the rosters of well-curated labels like Flying Nun, Rough Trade and Matador (to which they're signed), but their songs are expertly constructed, often complex and always full of hooks and melodies that draw you in.
King Hannah – I'm Not Sorry, I'm Just Being Me (City Slang)
“I thank God the day we met in the gross bar," Hannah Merrick sings on "It's Me and You, Kid," the closing track on Liverpool duo King Hannah's excellent debut album. It's a track that also serves as their origin story, detailing Merrick and guitarist Craig Whittle's first meeting, when they both worked as bartenders by night at the same watering hole. "It's Me and You, Kid" is King Hannah in a nutshell: darkly sarcastic but utterly sincere, a great eye for details, and an even better ear for mood and atmosphere. I'm Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me is absolutely swimming in atmosphere, the kind that evokes if not a gross bar than a dingy club, probably near closing time, and definitely well past when you should be out. Whittle's guitarwork is responsible for a lot of that. It hangs in the air like cigarette smoke on the songs, pure texture at times. You can almost smell it. Merrick's vocals are similarly smouldering and cool, all perfect for the bluesy music they make that usually stays at a low simmer but occasionally rips open into a rolling boil.
Just Mustard – Heart Under (Partisan)
Heart Under, the second album from Irish band Just Mustard, isn't an album about big hooks and melodies (though it's got some), its focus is creeping dread and ratcheting tension slowly, steadily over the course of 45 minutes. They are very good at it. Even more than on their 2018 debut, Heart Under is the sound of a band that knows exactly what they want. As blunt a force as it can be, it's also a delicately layered record, forming an undulating, menacing beast where guitars, loops, synths and voices melt together.
Kevin Morby: This Is a Photograph (Dead Oceans)
Kevin Morby has never lacked empathy, sincerity, or ambition but he has rarely sounded as inspired and dialed-in as with these 10 songs. This is a Photograph is warm and wistful, melancholic but witty too, as he ruminates on mortality, memory and those whose time came early. As to the latter, at the center of the album are two tributes to Jeff Buckley who died in 1997 in Memphis, drowning in the Mississippi River: the mournful "Disappearing" and the dreamlike, harp-laden "A Coat of Butterflies," which weaves in other artists who met an untimely end. He also looks at doomed romance through Jack Nicholson's character in Five Easy Pieces, asking "How do you make a bad time last?" "Five Easy Pieces" is one of the best songs on an album with no bad ones, alongside "It's Over," which features Cassandra Jenkins and wonderful string arrangements, and "Bittersweet, TN," a duet with Erin Rae whose voices sounds so good with Morby's you'd think they were kin.
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Midlake – For the Sake of Bethel Woods (ATO)
For the Sake of Bethel Woods is another gorgeous long-player, uniquely Midlake in their signature, highly orchestrated mix of '70s soft rock, prog, spacerock, komische, and folk. As usual, the album sounds incredible, especially if you have a fondness for Pink Floyd and the Alan Parsons Project, and it boasts one of their most memorable collections of songs to date, played with an energy not usually associated with the band. You wouldn't say "Bethel Woods," "Exile," "Meanwhile" or "Gone" rock, per se, but they've got real drive. They keep the mossy earthtones and fondness for vintage synths, mellotrons, flutes and lush vocal harmonies, but mostly jettison the lyrical preoccupations with the lives of people in 1891, for the here and now and personal. For the Sake of Bethel Woods doesn't feel like a history lesson, it feels like a homecoming.
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Naima Bock - Giant Palm (Sub Pop / Memorials of Distinction)
Giant Palm, the solo debut from former Goat Girl co-founder Naima Bock, is quietly dazzling, drawing from a wide range of influences including '70s British folk, jazz, and Tropicalia. There's hardly a misstep on Giant Palm, which feels autumnal and springlike, melancholic and hopeful, all at the same time. "And when the world, crumbles at my feet / I’ll pick it up and pull it tight against my cheek," she sings on the title track which opens the album. "Until the wind, blows it all away / And leaves me here to waste away another day." The song's all gloomy English weather till the chorus, "So I float higher, high above it all." Bock's breathy vocals are in ethereal harmony, and things take gorgeous flight. The album plays like a giant sunset, the feeling lasting long after the light has disappeared below the horizon.
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Nilüfer Yanya – PAINLESS (ATO)
If you invested in Nilüfer Yanya's terrific 2019 debut, she pays out big dividends on Album #2, refining the sound of that album, parring everything down in a way that sounds bigger and brighter at the same time. The beats are jazzy, and so are the guitars when they're not melting into shoegaze and post-punk territory. It fits so well with Yanya's sly, smoky vocals that don't try to mask her London accent and are also capable of diaphanous harmonies.
Pick up Nilüfer's album on blue vinyl.
Porridge Radio (Secretly Canadian)
Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky represents the three prominent emotions on the album and Margolin's life: joy (waterslide), fear (diving board) and "endlessness" (ladder). All three are present on the album's towering penultimate track, "The Rip," that has Margolin, secondary vocalist Georgie Stott and bassist Maddie Ryall chanting "And now my heart aches" repeatedly over some of the most overtly joyous, anthemic music Porridge Radio have ever made. This not only exemplifies the theme of the album but also feels like a mission statement for the band, where these intense feelings coexist and blur — they urge you to take it all in.
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Sea Power – Everything Was Forever (Golden Chariot)
Now known as Sea Power, losing the "British" seems to have also lifted a creative weight off their shoulders. Their first album in five years, Everything Was Forever is also their best record since their mid-'00s time on Rough Trade. Yan and Hamilton Wilkinson have a way with magisterial indie rock and they are still very sharp here on standouts like the swaggering "Two Fingers," and the melancholic "Fire Escape In The Sea." If you haven't checked in with this band in a while, now's the time to reconnect. British Sea Power is dead, long live Sea Power!
Spiritualized - Everything Was Beautiful (Fat Possum)
Everything Was Beautiful boldly evokes Spiritualized's 1997 masterwork Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space, from its prescription meds artwork to its recording (using studios all over the world with dozens of musicians), to the way it opens with a female voice whispering the album's title, sounding like a transmission from the third ring of Saturn. (In this case it's his daughter, Poppy.) In doing so, you get the sense he knew how good this one was, and it more than holds up to the comparison.
Wet Leg – Wet Leg (Domino)
Wet Leg plays like a snapshot of your mid-to-late-20s, when hangovers start to get worse but don't stop you from going out all the time, and you start looking for more serious relationships while still wanting to shag everything that moves, and questioning the direction your life is heading — all set to ridiculously catchy indie rock. Songs are peppered with memorable, saucy lines — "Baby do you want to come home with me? / I've got Buffalo 66 on DVD," "I hope you choke on your girlfriend," "I got the big D" — but Wet Leg know the value of a "la la la" or "ah-eeh-ah" chorus, too.
Yard Act – The Overload (Island)
"In the age of the gentrified savage, there’s no hope!" James Smith, singer for Leeds four-piece Yard Act, is doing his best to keep his head above water while being bombarded with information, disinformation and unease from all directions, at all hours of the day and night. He and the rest of the band tackle this very relatable dilemma with anger, humor and danceable post-punk on Yard Act's very enjoyable debut album, The Overload. Shouty Brits, spiky guitars, disco bass — we've heard this before, but Yard Act make it seem seem, if not new, exciting and fun again.
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