2022’s best electronic albums…
As ever, this past year saw a wealth of electronic music talent both new and old serving up a wide variety of tunes. Among those releases, there was a good balance between effective synth-pop as well as some acts keen to take electronic music in unusual and interesting directions.
Here are a selection of albums that are not presented in any particular order (aside from our top choice), but as a whole were the standout long-players for The Electricity Club in 2022.
~ ALBUM OF THE YEAR ~
PRINCESS CHELSEA – Everything Is Going To Be OK
The descriptions for the TEC review of Princess Chelsea’s latest included melodic delights that dabble in 60s girl grooves, celestial pop and hard-edged rock. The title track ‘Everything Is Going To Be Alright’, for instance, trades on familiar territory with wistful, downbeat vocals and lyrical musings that are brief, but focus on reassurance.
Meanwhile, ‘Love Is More’, one of the album highlights, is a euphoric pop gem. That mood continues on ‘Time’, whose organ-led groove underpins a baroque pop appeal. ‘Forever Is A Charm’ is a delicate, more nuanced affair (whose pop hooks will also lurk around in your ear for hours afterwards). Chelsea’s vocal melodies are captivating, while her glockenspiel notes are sprinkled across the song like a sugary ice cream topping.
Everything Is Going To Be Alright emerges as not only a necessary album given the current cultural climate, but also as a showcase for the evolving talents of Princess Chelsea as an artist.
Album Review: Everything Is Going To Be OK
KAT BRYAN – Music For The End Of The World
Kat Bryan’s folk-inspired debut album was envisioned as much a therapeutic process as well as a collection of songs. Music For The End Of The World emerges as an album that features plenty of evocative moments, including the haunting fragility on the brooding ‘Centre of the Earth’, the gauzy pop of ‘The Sonnet’ and the more sedate ‘Long Way Home’.
Meanwhile, the poignant ‘At the End of the World’ is a thing of beauty in itself. Slow piano notes trickle across a mesmerising track that features Bryan’s honeyed vocal delivery (“When the solar system dims/And the world no longer spins/You will find me waiting here for you”).
Music for the End of the World is, on the surface, an unusual electronic music project that certainly invites the listener to expand their musical boundaries. But the album is ultimately filled with moments that manage to touch something deep in the heart, while also serving up an impressive vocal performance.
Album Review: Music For The End Of The World
RÖYKSOPP – Profound Mysteries
Röyksopp’s new album project, cryptically titled Profound Mysteries, was billed as “an expanded creative universe and a prodigious conceptual project”. In delivery Profound Mysteries offered up a sumptuous album of engaging electronic compositions. This includes ‘The Ladder’, which sounds like the theme song from a TV series from the universe next door. ‘Impossible’ utilises Röyksopp’s distinctive crunchy synth fills, but also combined it with a smoother set of textures, producing an intriguing contrast of sounds. Meanwhile, Alison Goldfrapp’s hypnotic vocals glide through the whole affair, suggesting hints of Felt Mountain-period Goldfrapp.
The album’s most outstanding moment is the stunning ‘If You Want Me’, featuring Susanne Sundfør. Röyksopp have successfully worked with Sundfør previously, but this composition raises the bar by a considerable height. Meanwhile, Pixx is brought onboard for the introspective ‘How the Flowers Grow’, her vocals taking on a more grounded, earthy quality. Sundfør returns towards the album’s end for the sepulchral moods of ‘The Mourning Sun’, which manages to utilise space as effectively as it does arrangement and melody.
It’s encouraging to think that Röyksopp can still manage to dream up solid electronic music that can engage the brain on several levels.
Read the full review in Blitzed Magazine
BEKIMACHINE – Another Atmosphere
There’s a definite video game aesthetic lurking in Bekimachine’s music, which paints science fiction tales with an electronic sheen.
‘Ethereal’, as an example. has a dreampop sensibility with some smartly composed layered effects. There’s also some treated vocals which give this composition a suitably otherworldly vibe. ‘Mecha’ is a more dynamic offering with its repeating beats and neon hooks. Among the album’s highlights is the perkier ‘Into The Dark’ and the more languid ‘Crescent’.
As the TEC review summed it up, Another Atmosphere offers up an electronic music talent that’s worth keeping an eye on. This is a collection of songs that catch the ear on a first playthrough, but that also reveals deeper appeal on subsequent spins. Bekimachine is one of the grassroots electronic music community’s more intriguing talents.
Album Review: Another Atmosphere
SOFT CELL – *Happiness Not Included
The return of new material from Soft Cell came as a pleasant surprise, particularly as Marc Almond and Dave Ball had previously announced that they were wrapping things up back in 2018. The 40th Anniversary of their classic Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret album definitely seemed to reinvigorate the duo however.
*Happiness Not Included certainly has its moments, as the TEC review by Simon Heavisides illustrated: “‘Bruises on my Illusions’ is classic Soft Cell, a minimal electro pulse and a mood of increasing tension and foreboding soundtracking a brutal moment of self-realisation. In some ways it’s the 2022 successor to The Art of Falling Apart’s ‘Heat’ but of course filtered through a lifetimes’ highs and lows.”
Meawnhile, the melancholic ‘Happy Happy’ shares its sadness at the failure of the sleek and shiny future we were promised to actually materialise, with Pet Shop Boys’ ‘This Used to be the Future’. The mention of the Pet Shop Boys is also a reminder that the album features a collaboration between both groups on a remixed version of ‘Purple Zone’.
The review concluded: “Welcome to the wonderful world of Soft Cell, what a long, strange trip it’s been and on the evidence of *Happiness Not Included I’m happy to say: it’s not over yet…”
Album Review: *Happiness Not Included
DUBSTAR – Two
Dubstar’s new album saw Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie coming to terms with their legacy alongside Stephen Hague (whose production chops graced Dubstar’s classic 1995 album Disgraceful).
Perhaps the album’s best track is the crunchy ‘Tectonic Plates’. This composition offers up some nice vocal lifts and some effective guitar fills. Two also features the charming ‘Social Proof’ which throws a nod towards 60s bubblegum pop with its jangly guitars and Blackwood’s bright yearning vocal. ‘Kissing To Be Unkind’ serves up a more self-reflective, moodier moment. The album closes out with a fragile cover of REM’s ‘Perfect Circle’.
The new album is perhaps a step removed from the more raw, kitchen sink narrative that Dubstar originally were feted for. But Sarah Blackwood’s engaging Northern burr is present and correct and the arrangement and production of the album is crisp and lean. In the end, Two is a refreshingly vivid album.
Album Review: Two
WOLFGANG FLÜR – Magazine 1
One of the year’s surprise delights was the new album from Wolfgang Flür. Magazine 1 represented the culmination of five years of work with Wolfgang’s long-time musical collaborator Peter Duggal. The album was also bolstered by the involvement of an impressive number of fellow musicians, including Midge Ure, Peter Hook and Claudia Brücken among others.
One of the album’s best moments, ‘Zukunftsmusik’, comes courtesty of Wolfgang and U96. A crunchy, chugging electronic dynamo which throws a nod to Kraftwerk. Meanwhile, Midge Ure’s involvement delivers the superb ‘Das Beat’, featuring some yearning melodic lifts on a song that celebrates the global power of music. The combination of Claudia Brücken & Peter Hook on ‘Birmingham’ provides a change of gear, with Brücken’s distinctive vocal cutting through a layered electronic collage.
The album also offers some social commentary, particularly on the empathic ‘Say No!’. This track, which includes the talents of electronic artist MAPS, is a softer, gentler synth outing featuring a spoken word piece that revolves around themes of passive protest.
Magazine 1 offers a collection of dynamic, vital electropop.
Read the full review in Blitzed Magazine
a-ha – True North
Norwegian outfit a-ha returned with True North, an album produced in combination with the Arctic Philharmonic. Magne Furuholmen summed up the project as a “musical letter from our home country”.
Certainly, ‘I’m In’ is a fine composition that successfully captures that richer, mellower sound from the band. ‘As If’ delivers a shimmering pop moment that sounds like a-ha covering Belle & Sebastian. The album’s title track resonates with more than a passing nod to 1988’s classic ‘Stay On These Roads’ while the sprightly ‘Bumblebee’ serves up a summery vibe against the arctic moodiness that dominates the album as a whole. Meawnhile, the poppier ‘Make Me Understand’ dips back into the band’s classic era.
Although the album perhaps doesn’t quite match the power of its predecessors (2015’s Cast In Steel and 2009’s Foot of the Mountain) like a fine wine, True North will likely improve with age.
Album Review: True North
MORE – Appraisal
Across Appraisal’s eleven tracks, Magnus Dahlberg’s vocals take on a ponderous, weighty quality. ‘Waterfall (time in an uproar)’ is a slow-burning slice of brooding synth-pop peppered with moody piano elements, while ‘Provoked by Motions’ has a more sweeping, melancholic feel to it.
One of the album’s highlights, ‘Thread Of Hope’ has a tangible, physical quality to it emphasised by the oddly organic-sounding percussion. It calls to mind Empathy Test at times, treading similar angsty territory with its polished synth delivery. ‘Shine in the Dark’ takes MORE into a definite darkwave pop direction. Here, engaging rhythms power the song along while synth melodies are peppered across the composition like piquant seasoning.
”Does love conquer all, even in dark times?” ask MORE of the listener. It’s a question that’s worth dwelling on even after the final notes of Appraisal fade.
Album Review: Appraisal
TEARS FOR FEARS – The Tipping Point
Tears For Fears’ new album offered up a sober, more introspective collection of songs than people might expect.
The evocative ‘No Small Thing’ throws nods to American country and folk foundations. Elsewhere, the album’s title track has a deep, personal quality with lyrics that are pointedly drawn from Roland Orzabal’s experience watching his wife in hospital. That personal touch is also revisited on the emotional ‘Please Be Happy’.
There’s a more upbeat mood on the breezy ‘Break The Man’, a lyrical narrative about breaking the patriarchy (a call-back of sorts to 1989’s ‘Woman in Chains’). Elsewhere, the album also offers up the angsty energy of ‘My Demons’, the euphoric ‘End Of Night’ and the narrative bite of the sweeping ‘The Master Plan’.
The Tipping Point shows a band older, perhaps wiser and musing on the passage of time.
XPROPAGANDA – The Heart Is Strange
Propaganda’s legacy was firmly established with the release of the classic A Secret Wish in 1985. In 2022, Susanne Freytag and Claudia Brücken reunited to deliver a superb new album that also saw the pair team up again with A Secret Wish producer Steve Lipson.
The Heart Is Strange boasts some fine moments, including the attitude-laden ‘Don’t (You Mess With Me)’, the intimacy of ‘Ribbons Of Steel’ and the lush dreampop of ‘Only Human’.
The end result is an album that stands as the natural successor to A Secret Wish. The magic of The Heart Is Strange is spread across a series of tracks that embrace deeply layered electronic tunes with Freytag and Brücken’s distinctive vocal talents.
Read the full review in Blitzed Magazine
PALINDRONES – The Principle Of Consciousness
Palindrones serve up an unusual combination of ambient mood and glitchy beats to produce warm, dreamlike compositions. The Principle Of Consciousness offers up tracks such as ‘Beltane’, a tight, intense number which seems to occupy the strange territory between dance music and electronica.
Meanwhile, ‘This Inebriating Darkness’ crafts a strange, hypnotic presence with immersive synth washes and ethereal vocal overlays. The warmer ‘Sulis Minerva’ offers lush rhythms while closing track ‘Cernunnos’ features mournful piano combined with slow strings.
Palindrones seem content to dart between genres, but at no point do these switches in style seem jarring or out of place. Or as Palindrones themselves sum it up: “The whole defines the parts, as the parts define the whole.”
Read the full review in Blitzed Magazine
NATURE OF WIRES – Building Reflections
The latest offering from Nature Of Wires comes in the form of a series of dark ambient pieces. ‘Borealis’ presents a sweeping, majestic affair matched by the unearthly vocal style of Madil Hardis. ‘Nautilus’, meanwhile, has a slightly unsettling physicality to it, like some alien landscape that Jóhann Jóhannsson might have dreamt up. Similarly, the album’s title track has a machine-like rhythm that seems reminiscent of OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ in part.
‘Network’, another composition featuring Madil Hardis, serves up gauzy, floating moods. It’s also the only track on the album that employs actual lyrics, offering Hardis an opportunity to demonstrate another aspect of her considerable vocal talents.
Building Reflections offers a dark fever dream of electronic enigmas.
Album Review: Building Reflections
Other albums worthy of attention in 2022 included Hauntology In UK, a compilation album via Eight Tower Records that the TEC review summed up as a “symphony to lost futures”. Generation Blitz: Concrete and Chrome and Generation Blitzed 3: Extended, the latest collections from State Of Bass that pulled from the grassroots electronic community, Modified Toy Orchestra’s Silfurberg which featured venture into dark, experimental territories via the use of small Casio and Yamaha keyboards, Erasure’s intriguing Day-Glo (Based on a True Story), a remix album of sorts that calls back to their previous album The Neon. Also, the 6122 compilation album, a collection of Depeche Mode covers by the likes of Polly Scattergood, Northern Kind and Tin Gun created in tribute to the late Andrew Fletcher.
The Blitzed Effect
“Culture is the antidote to propaganda” Vivienne Westwood
This year also saw the expansion of new music and culture magazine Blitzed. That publication recruited the talents of the Electricity Club team to provide reviews, interviews and features across the year.
Blitzed was conceived as a celebration of the music and culture that revolved around legendary 1980s London venue, the Blitz Club. That venue was the focal point that birthed the New Romantic scene and led to an artistic explosion in the worlds of music, fashion and culture. At the same time, Blitzed is a publication that acknowledges that the legacy of that period has evolved into the contemporary culture of today. As a result, Blitzed celebrates the modern era’s musical and cultural talents that the Blitz Era inspired.
Blitzed has featured interviews with luminaries such as Andy McCluskey (OMD), Martin Ware (Heaven 17, Human League), Toyah, Ladytron, Altered Images. Howard Jones, Neil Arthur (Blancmange), Rusty Egan (musician and Blitz Club co-founder), Steve Strange (musician and Blitz Club co-founder), xPropaganda and Alan Rankine (Associates).
Many of the potential reviews for TEC were penned as exclusives for the print edition of Blitzed. You can check out the magazine in either digital or print format here: https://blitzedmag.com/shop/