2022, Or Some Semblance Of It

by Ray Finlayson

The song remains the same: there’s just not enough time to listen to all the music I want to. Heaven knows I want to get my ears acquainted with all the recommendations from my fellow BPM employees, or just spend more time with the slew of promos I get from a wide variety of (very lovely and much appreciated) PR folk. The days are finite though, and the whole matter isn’t helped by my personal listening habits (which can find me playing a mid-level to mediocre record on repeat to try and eke out something good from it). 

Still, I found plenty of highlights this year. Some of them were mainstream and popular amongst the majority (Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Big Thief); some were surprises for me as I ventured into the worlds of artists I had not explored before (BACKXWASH, Tanya Tagaq, Otoboke Beaver); and some were just plain old surprises for me and what seemed like no one else (Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer, Kelsey Magnuson, Melissa Weikart). I love finding new delights, and though colleagues here may look at me in confused wonder as to why I write about smaller names and mid-range albums most of the time, it’s because I always love exploring and finding something new to tell the world about (even if it isn’t “perfect”).

This year my place of work started hosting regular concerts in house from a variety of local artists here in Scotland. It was a great way to not only get a frequent dose of live music, but also to see artists in action who I might otherwise have not. It wasn’t always great: the unprepared string quartet, for instance, who ran out of material after twenty minutes and repeated the pieces they knew over and over – which weren’t particularly well played in the first place. But for the most part it was a varying delight: I sat in awe at the sheer talent of flamenco guitarist Daniel Martinez; swayed along to the bluesy-inflections of Megan Black; and was left absolutely agog by jazz musician Rachel Duns, whose band put on a truly electrifying performance that’s up there with one of the best live jazz shows i’ve ever seen and heard.

I also wanted to give mention to a few songs, particularly ones which nestled in my head after first hearing them and lived in my brain comfortably thereafter. The jittery Big Freedia sample on Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” brings me an absolute club-ready energy while I used Confidence Man’s “What I Like” to warm up during numerous dance classes. Pretty much all the songs from Sprout’s enchanting little self-titled EP are always circling about some avenue of neural pathways in my head while the sound of Andrew Bird harmonizing with his violin was given more fuel to a mind already packed with this sound (thanks to the likes of “Atomized” and “Make A Picture”). And that instrumental part at 4:49 on Weyes Blood’s “Children Of The Empire”? It just does something to my synapses. An MRI scan would surely be lit up if it caught me listening to that part or any of the above mentioned songs. (Full disclosure: I don’t know how MRI scans work or display their output.)

But most poignantly and surprisingly of all is Blue Wilson’s “Come Back Soon.” An unassuming song that I imagine most folk haven’t heard, there’s just something about the cadence of Michael Stevenson’s voice, tender like he’s on the verge of tears, but gently pining too. Those titular words – a slightly melancholic motif that was occasionally rustled awake across the year – are now set to beforever associated with this wonderful song. A shopkeeper or a relative welcoming me back soon will instantly start this song in my head, a new theme to the soundtrack of my life which plays in my head.

And then there’s those records which I never got time to scribble words out for. It’s one thing finding time for all the music I want to listen to, but another carving out time to write a good few hundred words that does justice to a record. Sometimes that time just never manifests and even though I am not adverse to writing and sending in a review well after the fact/release date, one has to draw a line somewhere and admit defeat. 

With that in mind then, below are some brief thoughts on records I appreciated and didn’t find time to write about fully. These records, in my opinion, are still worth your time (just like all the songs on the playlist at the bottom). If you have the time then do give them (or any of the others I mentioned here) a spin – but only if you have time. Heaven knows it’s a finite thing. 

Ellie Bleach – No Elegant Way To Sell Out

[Sad Club]

A long awaited release for me, since I adored early singles like “He Bought Me Nikes” and “Doing Really Well Thanks” (which was one of my absolute favourite songs last year). The latter is the centerpoint of Bleach’s EP, and it stands tall above the other four tracks. While admittedly the EP isn’t as full of stone-cold hits as I hoped, there are still great additions to her discography. “Tupperware Party” is a testament to Bleach’s excellent storytelling style, full of sardonic humour and great one liners, and “Big Strong Man” is wistfully self-analytical. No Elegant Way To Sell Out will certainly tide me over until the next release, because my excitement for what Bleach has ahead has not waned.

Julie Odell – Autumn Eve


Odell’s voice is a thunderous entity that does acrobatics aplenty on Autumn Eve. I mostly just want to write about “Envelope” to be honest. With its itchy and excited guitar chords, bustling drums, and ever-so-slightly tropical tinge, it’s half comedown come the end, Odell reaching truly admirable and explosive highs with her voice. (You just know it would absolutely destroy in a live setting.) “Caterpillar”‘s gentle freak-folk edge and the drawn in tenderness of “Space” show that she’s just as good at reigning it in too. With a voice this good, it’ll be hard to ignore Odell’s future releases. 

Space Between Clouds – Space Between Clouds

[AKP Recordings]

The self-titled debut from Space Between Clouds (aka David Ralicke) stuck with me because the first few times I listened I recalled it opening and shutting strange parts of my brain. Ambient music that felt psychologically engaging too. There’s echoes of the peaceful electronics of Sufjan Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit, languorous clarinet drones that morph into simmering synths on “Metacarpal Bones” and soft flugelhorn calls that recall Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen on the title track. With analogue and FM synthesizer sequences pulsing at 30 BPM (“roughly half the speed of the human resting heart rate,” Ralicke says), it’s no wonder that this is a record that leaves you a little calmer than when you went in – and one should always make time to get a little calmer.

Svaneborg Kardyb – Over Tage


Svaneborg Kardyb are Nikolaj Svaneborg (Wurlitzer, Juno, piano) and Jonas Kardyb (drums, percussion), and their third album, Over Tage, is a wonderful way to pass the time. Full of delicate genre fusion – minimalism, jazz, ambience, electronica – the album is incredibly easy to fall into. It’s busy but only if you take specific notice, like “Orbit” with its numerous jostling percussive features; but in passing it glides over you like a soft duvet, like on cushiony opening track “Op” or the glistening “Farvel.” The kind of music to soundtrack a long game of chess or that might be playing in an expensive Scandinavian furniture store (which might not sound like a compliment but I assure you I mean it as one).

Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola – Open

[Hush Hush]

Another highlight in the ambient field this year, Open brings together two Finnish musicians who work only to complement each other. Tapani’s reed work adds slow, glacial lyricism to Mäki-Patola’s tranquil backdrops. Evoking the likes of Max Richter (see the sleepy, slightly troubled tone of “Still”) and Floating Points (there are reverberations of last year’s Promises throughout), the album has plenty of welcoming touchstones that invite listeners into its snowy, gelid environment. Picking highlights is like choosing your favourite cloud in the sky, but similar to cloud watching, you will come away from Open feeling like you’ve seen full landscapes before your eyes. 

Tuff Bear – Tuff Bear’s Picnic


Tuff Bear is Bristol-based musician Theo Vernon, and Tuff Bear’s Picnic is a neat little introduction to him. Conjured and created during lockdown, the EP is a self-reflective document that takes its musical cues from 70s and 80s disco and pop. It’s very likeable, with enough slippery bass, horn fanfares, and spritzy strings to leave you with a smile on your face. Sure, it’s a little dorky, but that’s definitely part of the charm. “Not Very Well”‘s nervous lyrical matter is married handsomely to its simple groove while bb sway makes a good duet partner on the slinky “Talk To You.” There’s a little Jeremy Greenspan in Vernon’s voice too, which is no bad thing, and his lighthearted heartbreak romance on “The World’s First Trillionaire” shows his tongue in cheek side. If this is the picnic, then count me excited for a full three course meal.