There’s a lot of music to be inspired by. The first semester of this year gave us interesting albums, especially in the last two months. From remarkable releases to impressive debuts, the following are my favorite 5 albums of the first half of 2022.
Porcupine Tree – Closure / Continuation
After a 12-year hiatus, Porcupine Tree have returned with a new album. The new Closure/Continuation is the first of the trio formed by Steven Wilson, Gavin Harrison, and Richard Barbieri since The Incident (2009). The making process started during the 2010 decade; Wilson and Harrison began occasionally jamming together on music, with keyboard player Richard Barbieri contributing further ideas later in the process. The album was finessed and finished in September 2021.
Rhythmic complexity, electronic experimentalism, marvelous guitar riffs, sensitive chord changes, and an overall solid mix confirm Porcupine Tree as pioneers of progressive rock. From a drumming perspective, Gavin Harrison’s work is impressive for its ability to adapt to different musical textures. The opener track “Harridan” and “Rat’s Return” are the two episodes more emblematic, bolstered by complicated time signatures, solid riffs, and intriguing melodies.
Even if not comparable with their best past albums, Closure/Continuation marks the return of the British progressive rock band and this is what fans have been holding out hope for during all these years!
The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention
The Smile is the new project by Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, featuring the talented Tom Skinner on drums. Their debut album is a complete, unpredictable work exploring various genres from art rock to electronica, to post-punk and progressive rock with elements of jazz, funk, and psychedelic rock. The Smile began releasing singles in early 2022. On 5 January, their debut single, “You Will Never Work in Television Again”, was released to all streaming services, followed by their second single “The Smoke.” The album was released through XL Recordings on 13 May 2022.
Tom Skinner’s eclectic experience includes works with jazz-funk explorers Sons of Kemet, electronic fusionist Floating Points, and UK rapper Kano. The drum beats played on A Light for Attracting Attention merge funk with afrobeat, forging a unique approach that suits perfectly the beautiful arrangements of the band. The Smile’s debut is one of the highest musical peaks of this year.
Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia
The third album of the Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C. is a harmonic and creative work, incorporating a lot of musical influence, from Joy Division to Sinead O’Connor and Cocteau Twins. Relocating from Dublin to London, Fontaines D.C.’s identity can be greatly shaped by its new home environment. The opener track “In ár gCroíthe go deo” (the Gaelic phrase for “in our hearts forever”) is tender and tough at the same time, with Tom Coll’s rock drum beats steering the song toward its conclusion and resolution.
“Jackie Down The Line” has already become one of their best-known songs. Fontaines D.C. is one of the most interesting independent rock bands of the last years. They are here and now, they are working hard and continuing to grow.
Meshuggah – Immutable
Meshuggah’s new album Immutable (Atomic Fire Records) is a complex, solid, and dynamic work, that captivates the real essence of the Swedish metal band. Meshuggah’s drummer Tomas Haake following his drumming style, which weaves complex polymetric patterns in a 4/4 time meter, introduced new rhythmic elements. This is the album that has a backbeat for all tracks, as you can hear in the opening track.
Haake revealed he has recently suffered health problems, a condition that popped up suddenly in early 2020 passing almost a year without hitting a drum. As stated he hasn’t really touched the drums since Meshuggah recorded Immutable. Haake says that though the album was recorded and mixed during Covid, the pandemic wasn’t much of a hindrance to the band’s process, which spent more time than ever on the fine details. Meshuggah have effectively reconstructed their trademark sound, enforced by an extraordinary drumming.
Tigran Hamasyan – StandArt
StandArt is the tenth studio album by pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan, released on April 29, 2022, for Nonesuch Records. The album includes jazz standards from the 1920s through the 1950s by Richard Rodgers, Charlie Parker, Jerome Kern, David Raksin, and others; it also includes an original piece. StandArt features Tigran Hamasyan on piano, Matt Brewer on bass, Justin Brown on drums, and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, who is featured on two of the album’s tracks. Other special guests include saxophonist and label-mate Joshua Redman on Charlie Parker’s “Big Foot,” as well as saxophonist Mark Turner on “All the Things You Are.”
The Times wrote: “Standards are those tunes mostly borrowed from the Great American Songbook whose harmonic richness and rhythmic flexibility make them ideal for improvising. No matter how fashions in jazz change, they remain popular, yet Tigran Hamasyan certainly tests their durability on this intriguing, challenging album.”
Special mention for Perpetual Pendulum by Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, and Bill Stewart, Parrhesia by Animals as Leaders, Unlimited Love by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fragments by Bonobo, and Once Twice Melody by Beach House.