It’s that time of year again, when we sit down with our chief record buyer Marty for his rundown of some of his favourite albums that have passed through the Exchange in 2022, listed here for your perusal. What do you think?
10 – Richard Dawson – The Ruby Cord
I was first introduced to Richard Dawson through his 2017 avant-garde, weird-folk, mediaeval concept album Peasant. If that sounds obscure and inaccessible, it’s because at first it is. But like coffee, beer or wine, once you’ve tried it a few times you can pick out all the wonderful intricacies within (and some people just won’t like it, and that’s fine!). Following on from Peasant and 2020, The Ruby Cord is the final album in Dawson’s unofficial trilogy of past, present and now future. Elaborate folk melodies and lurching guitar intertwine with Dawson’s mellifluous falsetto vocals. This album is a portent, casting melancholy and doubt on the future, but with enough light that it looks like there could be hope yet.
The Ruby Cord is available on indie exclusive double blue vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
9 – Naima Bock – Giant Palm
Debut album from the ex-Goat Girl bassist. Tender, intimate and heartfelt, reminiscent of 90s indie singer-songwriters like Mazzy Star, but supported by an extensive instrumental section, expertly arranged by Joel Burton. Giant Palm is a work of swelling orchestral strings, folky melodies, Bock’s understated but potent voice. An album that, to my mind, takes a journey from long afternoons in the dog days of summer into the first chill of Autumn.
Giant Palm is available from Ventnor Exchange online store. Fans
8 – Kojey Radical – Reason To Smile
The Mercury Prize nominated debut from Kojey Radical was very much anticipated this year, after several EPs and features from the East Londoner. The eponymous opening track is a beautiful fanfare, leading into an album of some of the best UK rap in years. The production across Reason To Smile is spectacular, dancing from Anywhere’s smooth neo-jazz to the bouncing dancehall of Talkin’. Radical’s lyricism is sparkling throughout, with Payback being a deserved victory lap.
Reason To Smile is available on double black vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
7 – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Made In Timeland; Omnium Gatherum; Ice, Death Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava; Laminated Denim; Changes
I know this is cheating, but putting out five albums in a year and none of them being bad is no mean feat. Considering these albums are the 19th-23rd ones released by King Gizz, each sounding fresh and exciting is amazing. Omnium Gatherum is even more of a mix of genres and styles than Gizz usually are, with opening 18-minute track The Dripping Tap being incredible, guitar riffs circling round and round before meeting back again where they started. Ice, Death Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava is seven songs, each of which is based around the seven modes of the major scale, Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian (the first letter of each giving the album its name). Made In Timeland and Laminated Denim are fascinating exercises in an artist giving themselves limitations, each being based around a ticking clock, with a 60 BPM tempo. Changes is the least jammy album out of all five of these releases, funky, soul-like and considered. Not bad at all.
6 – Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B
The wildly energetic and theatrical experimental electropop debut from Georgia Ellery & Taylor Skye. I Love You Jennifer B is a wonderfully weird album. For example, in Concrete Over Water, Ellery’s virtuoso voice soars above the orchestral music underneath, before being pierced with stabs of discordant synthesisers and breakbeat drum machines. But 50/50 is an about-face, a full-on dance track, Skye layering Ellery’s vocals into a techno-pop banger. Glasgow, one of my songs of the year, is different again, layered with acoustic guitars, a song for getting lost in the woods on a summer’s day. Many of the other songs on this album mix all of these elements together in a figurative blender. A highly confusing album, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.
I Love You Jennifer B is available in indie store exclusive green vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
5 -Ezra Collective – Where I’m Meant To Be
The second album from the London-based jazz ensemble is incredibly accomplished. Where I’m Meant To Be has great features from the aforementioned Kojey Radical along with Sampa The Great, Emile Sandé and Nao bring R&B, hip-hop and soul to proceedings. The instrumental tracks, from the reggae-tinged beats of Togetherness and Ego Killah to the salsa inspired Victory Dance, draw from a deep well of influences to make an album, which as the copy describes: Will light up sweaty dance floors and soundtrack dinner parties in equal measure.
Where I’m Meant To Be is available in limited edition orange vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
4 – Danger Mouse & Black Thought – Cheat Codes
Cheat Codes is pretty close to a perfect album. When it was announced at the start of this year, I thought “Cool, new music from Danger Mouse, and I really like Black Thought too, this seems like a good collab :)”. This album is much better than just cool. BT’s flow is so good, like it’s sprung fully formed from a primordial hip-hop egg, and then Danger Mouse is like a chef that has cooked that egg to a pitch perfect medium-soft boil and it makes you want to fall into the nice warm yolk and not come out. Add the salt and pepper of features like Michael Kiwanuka and a posthumous verse from Metal Fingers himself, and Cheat Codes is a breakfast of champions.
Cheat Codes is available in Exclusive Double Red vinyl from Ventnor Exchange
3 – Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul – Topical Dancer
This first collaborative album from the Ghent-based Adigéry and Pupul is a beat-laden masterwork of electropop. Topical Dancer is produced by the duo along with Soulwax, and the influence of the brothers is present on tracks like It Hit Me, but it’s Adigéry and Pupul who shine incandescently on this debut. A Belgian electropop album might bring to mind shallow, club-scene affluence and excess, but this is anything but. Both artists bring funny and acerbic lyrics about xenophobia and sexism to this LP, “We see pop music as a vehicle to say something” Pupul said to The Guardian. I couldn’t agree more.
Tropical Dancer is available on black and white vinyl in a gatefold sleeve from Ventnor Exchange.
2 – Izaak Opatz – Extra Medium
Indie country singer Izaak Opatz has found a big new fan in me with his third album Extra Medium, a gorgeous work that lives up to its name. A little bit Mac Demarco, a little bit Townes Van Zandt. You can hear the mountain town influence of Opatz’s native Montana, but it doesn’t come across as parochial. Lyrically clever, but not verbose. Not so heartfelt as to feel mushy, not so irreverent as to seem cynical. Like a jumper that’s been worn so much that it feels like a second skin, this album is just Extra Medium.
Extra Medium is available on limited edition ‘cheddar’ vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
1 – This year’s top album is yet again cheating, because it’s not one, but three albums, as 2022 has been a year where the Isle of Wight’s musical levee has very much broken, with excellent LPs from three island bands, Lauran Hibberd, Plastic Mermaids and Wet Leg.
Following on from their 2019 debut album Suddenly Everything Explodes, Plastic Mermaid’s sophomore outing It’s Not Comfortable To Grow is composed of tracks only they could make. Orchestral and electronic, immense and intimate. This album is tinged with heartbreak and nostalgia, but ultimately comes across as uplifting and hopeful. They were also kind enough to come and perform in store at the Exchange as part of the album launch for It’s Not Comfortable to Grow.
Lauran Hibberd’s Garageband Superstar is a raucous debut for the pop-punk princess, angsty lyrics and catchy melodies abound. Hibberd’s music has garnered a lot of fans, along with her energetic live shows and online posting prowess. An album of fantastic songs like Still Running (5k) which features production from DJ Lethal of House of Pain and Limp Bizkit fame, and I’m Insecure with a music video shot at Blackgang Chine’s Cowboy Town!
Wet Leg need no introduction. Their barnstormer eponymous debut album came earlier this year on the heels of the lead single Chaise Longue that rocketed them to worldwide fame, each follow-up single also being lauded by fans and press alike. The debut album from Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers has been probably the best selling album of all time for Ventnor Exchange.
These bands are just the tip of the iceberg of musical ability emerging from this Island, with this year also seeing the wonderful Coach Party and Panda Swim release EPs, CHAMPS and Grade 2 announcing new albums, and many more bands and artists working hard to show why our weird little rock is a musical wellspring.