Dreamhouse Albums of the Year 2022
Hello, dear patrons. Well, there's only a few more weeks of 2022 remaining, and like the inevitable increase in waistlines, hangover severity, and tolerance for amateur singers performing in public spaces, so is this special period also synonymous with end-of-year lists. This week, then, in a very special episode of Blossom the Dreamhouse newsletter, we reveal our picks of the Best Albums of the Year. It's been a truly stellar twelve months for new music, and narrowing the list down to the chosen few wasn't an easy task (and, of course, these things are ultimately subjective, aren't they?), but these were the LPs on which, more than any other this year, we at Dreamhouse repeatedly dropped the needle.
Well, it was a close-run thing, but Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul’s fantastic debut, Topical Dancer, just edged the competition to take top spot as our Album of the Year. Such a corker is the LP that we’ve even had a prize made. Well, it’s actually one of Jon’s old football trophies, which we’ve repurposed by scrawling ‘Album of the Year’ on a bit of masking tape and sticking it over the inscription (‘Coventry Sunday League Under-14s, Division II - “Most Improved Player”’). Anyway, in the unlikely event that we get to meet the Belgian duo, we will proffer this stunning memento, along with a warm handshake and a “jolly good show”, as is the English way.
If you haven’t managed to check out Topical dancer yet, imagine an Acid-inflected Italo Disco record that combines the art-pop vocal chops of Laurie Anderson with the joyful avant-funk of ESG, and you won’t be too far off the mark. French-born and of Belgian-Caribbean lineage, Adigéry’s arrestingly frank and beautifully poetic lyrics deal with racism and cultural identity head on; in lead track “Blenda”, inspired in part by Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, for example, Adigéry repeats the shocking phrase that she’s endured countless times: “Go back to your country where you belong” – made all the more arresting by the airy, sing-song tone with which she delivers it – and philosophises about how she feels like “a product of colonialism”. For anyone doubtful as to whether cutting edge dance music can also be effective politically, Topical Dancer is the perfect riposte. Stunning.
We've managed to procure a very limited amount of the super limited deluxe edition of the album that includes:
On Cheat Codes, production savant and Gnarls Barkley alum. Danger Mouse (AKA Brian Burton) and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter have teamed up for what is Burton’s first hip-hop album in 17 years since his phenomenal 2005 DangerDOOM collaboration with the late, great MF DOOM, and Black Thought’s only full-length collaboration beyond his duties as the frontman in The Roots. If you’re a fan of soulful hip-hop that puts bass-and-Hammond organ grooves and vintage Meters-esque funk at its centre, Cheat Codes will endow you with the overwhelming urge to cut some deliriously heavy rug. Oh, and the LP also features some stellar guest turns from Raekwon, Joey Bada$$, A$AP Rocky, Run The Jewels, and more.
Where Dry Cleaning’s debut record, New Long Leg, was a masterclass in post-punk, the south London quartet's excellent sophomore effort widens the net. Alongside some great alt-rock tunes, and songs that mix angular post-punk and jangle-pop (angle-jangle?) to wonderful effect, there is even a languorous, distinctly non-rock, drum-machine-and-loops track (“Anna Calls from the Arctic”), which is a kind of cross between Luscious Jackson and Saint Etienne, and as good as that marriage of true minds promises to be. Full of wit and invention, Stumpwork is yet more proof that Dry Cleaning are one of the most exciting British bands going.
It’s one thing to be prolific, but to also be consistently great is an incredible trick to pull off. That John Dwyer’s psych-punk outfit Osees (AKA OCS, Thee Oh Sees, etc) have never made a mediocre record, then, is simply remarkable. A gnarly pivot from the band's 2020 studio efforts Metamorphosed, Panther Rotate and Protean Threat, A Foul Form, recorded in Dwyer’s basement, sounds unapologetically chthonic, lo-fi, and full of sound and fury – signifying nothing but pure punk energy.
Hieroglyphic Being (AKA Chicago native Jamal Moss) has, in the past, used ‘Rhythmic Cubism’ to describe his oeuvre, which is kind of perfect. With the remarkable There Is No Acid In This House, released on the mighty Soul Jazz Records (always a seal of approval), Moss once again draws upon the vast scope of experimentation that has defined Chicago’s musical universe over the last half century – from the birth of house music to radical avant-garde jazz (The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sun Ra, et al) – as well as taking much inspiration from the city’s Afro-futurist lineage. And once again, he’s created a wildly imaginative album designed to destroy dance floors everywhere.
Don’t be mislead by the band name, for the jock-bro-ey springbreaker connotations it conjures are the antithesis of this North American trio’s beautiful and cerebral synth-psych, which takes in drone and polyrhythmic complexity in equal measure. Almost five years on since Bitchin’ Baja’s last official full-length, 2017’s excellent Bajas Fresh, Bajascillators exceeds lofty expectations, with highlights including “Geomancy” – its heavy drift and drone leading into a space of broken lines and Middle Eastern tonalities that roll back into the ether. In the words of bros everywhere, its, like, totally bitchin’.
Marisa Anderson’s instrumental Americana-folk compositions have established her as one of the most eminent, and virtuosic, guitarists working today. With Still, Here, the full artistry of Anderson’s playing once again takes the listener through a mosaic of folk musics and myriad musical traditions, while always sounding completely like Marisa Anderson. If you love John Fahey, then Still, Here is absolutely required listening.
Very few groups overtly espouse the central tenets of Marxism, presumably because they assume that discussing the finer points of dialectical materialism within the lyrics may harsh the mellow of the average punter. Given the hedonistic ethos synonymous with disco, then, it’s understandable that one may think it unlikely that the purveyors of such music would know their Entfremdung from their Gattungswesen – and yet, Marxist Love Disco Ensemble, with their debut MLDE (released via the seminal Mr Bongo label),gloriously confound that assumption. In expertly mining their collection of Eastern European and Mediterranean 70s disco records for inspiration, the group have created an album’s worth of songs that are beguilingly strange and extremely danceable.
This second collection of microtonal and monophonic Persian-tuned piano improvisations by the Iranian pianist Morteza Mahjubi (1900-1965) is, like the first (released last year), one of the most beautiful and transcendent albums I have ever heard. Cut from Iranian national radio broadcasts that Mahjubi made for the Golha programmes between 1956 and 1965, Selected Improvisations from Gohla, Pt. II is yet more proof of an incredibly important talent – and one which we in the West might never have got to hear, were it not for the sterling work of Jane Lewisohn and the Golha Project, as part of the British Library's Endangered Archives programme, and the consistently excellent record label Death is Not the End, through which it’s released. Sublime.
Formed in 2010 in Queens, NY, The Frightnrs marry vintage Jamaican rock steady, the raw energy and vocals of 80s Rub A Dub, and a punk ethos (developed in the DIY underground of NYC reggae/sound system culture) – and in the process have redefined what a reggae band can sound like. Six years ago The Frightnrs released their brilliant debut, Nothing More to Say; but tragedy struck only a few months after, with the death of the band’s vocalist Dan Klein, and so with the outstanding Always, The Frightnrs have issued a heartfelt final testament to their beloved late lead singer – a record on which the band remembers and celebrates the past, while looking to the future.