premier albums

Sharon Van Etten ‘We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong’ 2022

‘We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong’ is the strongest and most beautiful Sharon Van Etten album since ‘Tramp’. It opens with the glorious “Darkness Fades” which is a perfect starting point and a wonderful acoustic-rock inspired slow burner that builds up to a layer of extremely well produced percussion, basslines and synths. Sharon’s vocals shine especially bright on “Darkness Fades” and “Born” where she sings her heart out with her emotion-filled lyrics and does so with so much maturity in her singing style. The album has some great electronic beats within on tracks like “Headspace” and “Home to Me” which conjures up a simple piano and dark floaty backing vocals. “Anything” includes a distant tambourine sound and talks of “peace and war” reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane. “Come Back” has a lo-fi produced acoustic guitar and a chorus that gets stuck in your head. The way she belts out “come back” after singing it so intimately is awe-inspiring. The final number “Far Away” is up there with the opener and “Born” as my personal favorites. The percussion is easy on the ears and her breathy backing vocals really add to the beauty of the track. Not to mention, “Doesn’t matter where she is, not far, I’ll be here for a little while” is one of my favorite vocal parts by anyone in 2022.

Bear’s Den ‘Blue Hours’ 2022

Bear’s Den are a duo whose latest album ‘Blue Hours’ features extremely strong indie-rock songwriting with really beautiful production elements, horns and most notably, gorgeous piano. The title track is a rocking arrangement somewhere between Frightened Rabbit and The National. “Frightened Whispers” is a wonderful take on electronic production with an easy listening songwriting technique that picks up a quarter of the way through and becomes an ear-worm. “Shadows” is the standout centerpiece that sounds like it could’ve been written by Coldplay. The piano is unquestionably intimate and beautifully arranged. The way the song adds elements like percussion and synths really is wonderfully executed. “I want you and all the shadows that walk beside you” is one of the strongest lyrically sang moments of the year. “All That You Are” has an amazing guitar tone to it and is one of the slower songs on the record, and it moves effortlessly throughout its 4+ minutes. The final number, “All the Wrong Places” is a wonderful way to end ‘Blue Hours.’ It’s chalk full of intimacy and the simplified beat does it justice and the vocals here are some of the best on the album. “You we’re crying, while we were laughing, rolling around on the floor” is sang perfectly and is one of my favorite parts to sing along with in a song this year. This is my personal favorite song on the album due to being the most emotionally expressive and haunting. 

40 Watt Sun ‘Perfect Light’ 2022

From the opening guitar in “Reveal” you are aware that ‘Perfect Light’ by 40 Watt Sun is going to be a very special record. “I’ll cross the distance in your eyes” is a beautiful lyric within the opener and it sets the stage for what’s to come. “Behind My Eyes” is otherworldly and quite perfect, reminiscent of the seminal Red House Painters work. The centerpiece “The Spaces in Between” has an eloquent piano and strong vocals that contain gorgeous melodies and perfectly drawn out syllables. It’s hard to believe the track is almost 10 minutes long because it seems to be much less and also endless at the same time. “A Thousand Miles” has the most enjoyable instrumentals on the album, with the masterful percussion matched with the understated guitar work and you can get lost in the song very quickly. The vocals are wonderful and they grow on you with each listen. “Of all the days of my life, I knew you here beside me” is a heartbreaking lyric in its delivery. This is another instance where the 9 minute plus runtime feels like it could be 5 minutes or 15 minutes depending on your mood when listening to it. The songwriting on this record is second to none so far this year and fully encapsulates the imagery within.

Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine ‘A Beginner’s Mind’ 2021

Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine have created one of the strongest albums of the year so far and a work more consistent than either of the albums Sufjan put out last year. The vocals are intimate, breathtaking at times and consistently glorious throughout. The songwriting is very relevant and should be studied to understand how the world works and how God provides. Sufjan has an incredible approach to songwriting and Angelo De Augustine really shines brighter than he ever has before when reflecting off one of the best musicians of the last 20 years. “The Pillar of Souls”, “(This is) The Thing” and “Lost in the World” have unbelievable songwriting and lyrical value, consider looking deeper into their meanings. “Olympus” is easily one of the strongest tracks of the year by anyone. Following it is “Murder and Crime” which is mind blowing in its intimacy and the production absolutely slays me.

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis ‘CARNAGE’ 2021

Nick Cave has been releasing some of the best music of his career lately and honestly it’s a lot better than most current artists and bands. The music is heartbreaking and strong willed. The songwriting is glorious and exquisite. ‘CARNAGE’ contains the best song of the year so far in “Albuquerque” which is written around the 2020 lockdowns. “Shattered Ground” is another perfect song with the end singing “goodbye, goodbye” tears my heart out of my chest. Nick Cave is used to creating music for soundtracks with Warren Ellis, and this album’s songs could be featured in virtually any great, emotional film and would be the highlight of the scene. I personally traded in 3 Rolling Stones records to get this beautiful album on vinyl.

Loney Dear ‘A Lantern and a Bell’ 2021

After we named “Habibi (A Clear Black Line) premier music, there has been no album we have been more exicted for! Loney Dear has not unimpressed us in any possible way, the production is intimate and beautiful, the songwriting is close to the vest and heartbreakingly personal. I love how he has taken this album in a much quieter direction then his last effort, much less electronics than used before as well. The piano notes and bells make for a theatrical listen, and with endings in songs like the perfect “Trifles” the experience only gets better as the song goes on. Another example is the excellent “Interval / Repeat” which carries the best instrumentation on the album. I am extremely impressed with this just under a half hour album from one of my favorite current songwriters.

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