I could pretty easily fill this list with fifty brilliant albums from this year, but instead, I’ve had to choose only my absolute favourites, which was way more difficult than I thought it’d be. Got there in the end though!
10 – Pale Waves – Unwanted
Heather Baron-Gracie is such an excellent example of an artist that puts so much of themselves into their songwriting, that it’s hard not to feel something listening to every single song on this album. It’s a little heavier and a lot louder than their previous two albums, leaning more into the pop-punk sound rather than just pop, but it works really well, and Baron-Gracie’s vocals are as glorious as always.
9 – H.E.A.T. – Force Majeure
This album is through and through fun, vivacious and energetic, with no room for slowing down and doing anything less than belting your heart out. Especially with the switch-up of their line-up and the return of their original vocalist, this album felt like even though they were back to their basics, they were doing something new and interesting. And hey, even if it’s not all that innovative in the genre, they still give you a hell of a good time when you’re listening.
8 – I Prevail – True Power
It was only recently before this album that I got into I Prevail, and this was a real treat for only just starting out with them. The contrast between the two vocalists’ voices works perfectly, and while after everything they’re not necessarily doing anything new with their sound, they’re getting closer and closer to perfecting it, with this album coming pretty damn close to the most polished version of the band they can reach.
7 – Mitski – Laurel Hell
There is nothing like a good Mitski release to sit and cry to, and this is no exception. Honestly, it almost felt a little mediocre, given her previous offerings, but her mediocre is everyone else’s excellent. The combination of catchy tunes with absolutely devastating lyrics is a two-hit every single time, and she’s a master of having you tapping your feet and shedding tears at the same time, something that is ever expanded upon in this album.
6 – Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loneliest Time
My reigning queen of pop is at it again with an absolute banger of an album this year, every single song primed for getting stuck in your head. A section of the album’s title track went TikTok viral, and that’s not even the best part of that one song, every part of the album offering something either totally genuine and delightful or some upbeat fun pop for turning off the brain to.
5 – Ghost – Impera
Powerful and with beautifully written Gothic lyricism, Ghost have done it again thanks to the true-to-form efforts of Tobias Forge. Every song on the album carries an impressive vocal range and soaring instrumentals, which – while not necessarily accurate to the intended period– definitely make you feel as if you’re worshipping. Whether it religious or cultish, who’s to say?
4 – Rina Sawayama – Hold the Girl
Without a doubt, the best pop album of the year, and probably of the last several years, Rina Sawayama’s sophomore album is an absolutely incredible introspective journey. Written after extensive therapy, she pours her heart out into every song, each of them about healing from trauma and making amends with yourself. I saw most of this album played live this year and bawled my eyes out along with everyone else in the crowd, especially during Send My Love to John.
3 – Queensryche – Digital Noise Alliance
I would be a fake fan if they weren’t somewhere on the list, given how well put together this year’s album was, but it genuinely surprised me at how fresh-but-familiar it sounded. No band is ever going to be quite as good as they were in their heyday, but they’re close enough to it, and still going strong. The Billy Idol cover is a perfect cherry on top too.
2 – Bastille – Give Me the Future
One of my favourite groups of all time and they did not disappoint this year – and that’s not just because I’m a huge fan of Back to the Future. The whole album is a lamentation about the way the planet is going and how people are turning to technology for escapism and ignoring everything around them, which is a solid message wrapped in an album of bop after bop that I learned every word to almost a day or two after it came out.
1 – Florence + The Machine – Dance Fever
Somehow, Florence Welch manages to make every subsequent album better than the last, and this is no exception to that trend. Admittedly, it took a couple of listens for it to grow on me, but when you actually get into it, it’s a phenomenal display of songwriting prowess, incredible vocals, and beautiful, emotional storytelling. It’s genuinely incredible how she’s managed to keep going up and up with everything she releases – and it’s such a good album that I was almost annoyed at her for breaking her foot and postponing our tour dates.
Honorary mentions go to:
Miss May I – Curse of Existence
Nova Twins – Supernova
Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Confidence Man – Tilt
Skid Row – The Gang’s All Here
After a couple of years of no gigs at all, getting back into live music was fantastic this year, especially with the sheer volume of artists getting back on the road – almost too many to pick from! But again, we’ve managed to get down to my favourite ten shows from the year.
10 – Rise Against, Manchester Academy
Not actually a band I’m all that familiar with, but a friend had tickets so I went along, and I had an absolute blast. The crowd itself had a really good energy, and it was only encouraged along by the band themselves, controlled perfectly by keeping us all high energy for most of the evening and only giving us a little acoustic breather.
9 – Dua Lipa, AO Arena, Manchester
A full evening of some of the best pop music going at the minute, along with excellent showmanship and choreography, including a brief stint of some rollerskaters showing off. It was well worth the wait of being pushed back a few times.
8 – The Rasmus, O2 Ritz, Manchester
An absolute delight of a show, that made me feel full of life even though I was sick when I went. They had brilliant vibes for Halloween, and a frankly delightful dynamic between them, so even though it was pouring it down too, it ended up being a great way to pass the evening. Still hyped about the Ghostbusters cover.
7 – Billy Idol, AO Arena, Manchester
Billy Idol is such a huge name that it’s hard to expect anything but a banger of a show from him, and somehow, he exceeded expectations. He has to be the coolest almost 70-year-old on the planet by far, and both he and his whole band had so much energy and power the whole way through the show. I think he might also have had the most outfit changes of anyone I saw in 2022 as well.
6 – Bastille, AO Arena, Manchester
Bastille have been one of my favourite bands for years, but this was the first time I’ve seen them live, and it was so worth it. It was practically a full run through of their newest album, with a couple of others thrown in, set against the backdrop of the concept of virtual reality. There’s a certain connectivity to live music anyway, but there was such a coherent community vibe through the whole thing that no one really minded when they went over curfew.
5 – Rina Sawayama, Manchester Academy
Despite being stuck pretty far away from the stage it was unfeasible to not appreciate how good of a show Rina Sawayama puts on. Her music is fraught with so much meaning, I was sobbing through half of the show and dancing for the rest of it, even if I’m nowhere near good enough for her John-Wick-role-snatching choreography.
4 – The Struts, O2 Ritz, Manchester
This show was on one of the hottest days of the year, and even packed in like sardines and sweating every drop of moisture possible out of my body, it was impossible to not be moving. The whole band is so high energy that they carry you along with them, and Luke Spiller is such an effortlessly brilliant frontman that it really makes for an incredible gig experience.
3 – Alice Cooper and The Cult, First Direct Arena, Leeds
I missed out on Creeper’s tour earlier this year due to being unable to make the rescheduled date, so it was a delight to see them as support. The Cult also put on a great show, even if the stage was littered with tambourine bells afterward. I’ve never seen Alice Cooper live before but it was a genuinely incredible experience and I don’t think I’ll ever get over the giant baby and seeing him beheaded on stage, accompanied, of course, by some of the catchiest songs ever written.
2 – Whitesnake, Foreigner and Europe, AO Arena, Manchester
There’s not a huge amount that I need to say beyond the fact that seeing three of the biggest rock bands of their time perform one after another was one of the best evenings of my life. It was a mind-blowing event and it was totally impossible to choose a favourite between the three of them – every single performance had everything you could want.
1 – My Chemical Romance, Victoria Park, Warrington
I am an emo kid through and through, but even if I wasn’t, this was still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Yes, I did get there six hours before doors, and yes it was worth it to get to barriers to see one of the best rock bands of the 21st century play through so many of their ever-emotional back catalogue.
H.E.A.T. live image – credit Rob Wilkins
Billy Idol & Whitesnake live images – Callum Scott