Our label owner Harry Towell has finalised his top 20 list of favourite albums of 2022, complete with a mix. See below a few words from Harry on his year in music, followed by the top 20, each with a link, a brief commentary and the artwork. You can check out the mix Harry created by clicking the picture above, which counts down with a track from each of his favourite albums. Alternatively, there’s a player below and you can click play whilst you read on…
“I feel like I’ve spent most of 2022 getting ready to move house, with our family having moved into our new home at last on the 9th of December. All year I had in mind that I wanted the cover image for this year’s end of year show to be a photo of somewhere in the new house and it was starting to seem like it might not happen, as we moved into December. Thankfully, the weekend after we’d moved I managed to take a moment to shoot a bird sat on top of our garage, on an icy -4 degree morning.
I changed jobs earlier this year and have spent much more time working from home, and therefore my appetite for music and of varying genres, has been in overdrive. I’ve felt like I’ve really pushed the boat out in listening through lots of genres this year, but when I look at my top 20 records whittled down from a list of 80, it’s mostly ambient, electro acoustic and modern classical music – which will no doubt please Whitelabrecs fans! There has been some jazz and more adventurous styles that have made the list though…
In terms of formats, I’ve mostly been scouring music on Spotify and Bandcamp, streaming over and over in the days whilst making a running list of my favourites. I use an app called ‘Paperless lists’ which allows me to adjust the albums that make the list into a running chart, which I was adjusting constantly. With the move, I’ll be able to play vinyl again on my Technics 1210s, but I also bought a cheap ‘run around’ in the form of a Crosley Voyager. So I’ve made it my mission to own as many of my top 20 albums on vinyl as possible; to date, I’m pretty much there with just a couple left to track down.
For my best-of list for 2022 then, I’ve followed the exact same format as last year, with a mix show counting down my top 20, which you can check out on my Spheruleus Mixcloud page. Last year I took the time to upload end of year mixes since 2010 and so I’ve kept the cover image format so that it matches these. We now have 13 years of mixes to listen back through; something very personal for me whenever I want to jump down a rabbit hole of nostalgia. But hopefully people who tune in will enjoy!
Then with this post, you can see my final list below; again, for simplicity I’ve kept last year’s format the same. I hope you enjoy the selections and as always, the links will transport you to a release page where you can explore more. If this list connects one person with an album they didn’t know about, and they decide to support the respective artist and label by purchasing, then it’s all been worth it!
“This year there’s been a clear winner for my album of the year ‘award’. I feel like I’ve played this one by Michael Scott Dawson pretty much every week, whether it be to help me drift off to sleep, to help my daughter to drift off to sleep, or to work to during the day. Not to mention my listens to the 12″ vinyl version on the turntable in the office. ‘Music For Listening’ came out in March this year on We Are Busy Bodies and initially I was struck by the design, with a thought provoking angled view through the window of a boat, or train on a bridge. Then the vinyl and its white disc grabbed my attention further and whilst a subtle listen to begin with, this record is one I’ve soaked myself into time and time again in 2022. It’s definitely going to be a record that instantly, when I hear it or see the sleeve, I’ll think back to this year. There’s so much detail in the field recordings and arrangement but also, it’s so simple and minimal at the same time.“
“I love retro-inspired, dusty funk records and was drawn to this one by its cover image, and the Brazilian influences referenced in the release notes. Hitting the play button, I was instantly sucked into the melting pot of cultures and styles across this record. It’s filled with sun-bleached tropical sounds, hints of bossa rhythymns, hazy electro-acoustic atmospherics, licks of funk, moments of folk song and the slightest hint of post rock. In the summer, this was my go-to album in daylight and I’ve fond memories sat in 25+ degree heat, absorbing the sunshine vibes of Hermit’s Grove.“
“Kranky output is always top quality and it’s a must-stop-by destination for any fan of ambient music. Certainly a regular haunt for me over the years and this year, I was really taken by ‘The Patience Fader’ by Pan American, which came out earlier in the year. I’ve had the vinyl copy on rotation in the office and these softly melancholy ambient guitar songs take me back to some of the early ambient guitar stuff I’d listen to when I first got into this scene.“
“Plenty of warmth in this one by Channelers and a generous body of work too, clocking in at around an hour. Sadly I’ve not got a cassette player that works properly, so I’ve had to settle for download / streaming this year but nevertheless, this record has lived up to its title, being played regularly throughout 2022. The album has a folk and americana feel but with some ambient and electro acoustic composition thrown in. It sounded particularly impressive in the warmer months and the record definitely soundtracked my summer.“
“I’ve always been into dusty lo-fi Hip-Hop and turntablism, and records with crafty sampling techniques. This one by Kolumbo was quite a discovery – initially I thought it would be a lo-fi or chillhop record, but I realise I was pretty wrong after a listen, as the madness unfolded. This one has strings, piano and beautiful arrangements, but also has a really imaginative aesthetic too, with dreamlike, retro-film composition. Very hard to explain, so instead, I recommend you take a listen for yourself!“
“I’ve been to Italy a few times and so the title and cover artwork drew me in to giving this one a spin. On inspection of the liner notes, I learned that Gianni Brezzo is in fact a Cologne, Germany based musician called Marvin Horsch. His work is inspired by 60s and 70s Italian composers, as well as annual visits to see his Grandmother in Sicily. The record is a low-slung form of Jazz, with swathes of strings, licks of sax and trumpet underpinned by double bass and slow grooves. The vinyl has an insert of images that really bring the concept to life.“
“I was really intrigued by this album, with its concept being a location-based visit to the Åland islands. When I read up on the islands, I was amazed that there are so many! Some 6500 in fact. Composers Jeremiah Chiu and Marta Sofia Honer visited the islands and captured field recordings and musical performances, in an aural study of the region and with the vinyl package, their booklet of liner notes really bring the trip to life. Musically, violin, piano and synth take center stage, alongside the field recordings and other incidental inclusions.”
“Again, as a theme this year, I was drawn in by the album cover of this album from Gerald Clayton and immediately, on listening, I was met with a feeling that this album would find its way into my end of year list. It’s got variety first and foremost, which always seems to help elevate an album for me and this is in part down to the two vocal tracks, sung by MARO and also, tracks with sax from Charles Lloyd. I’ve been a fan of jazz from a young age and there are many albums from the jazz greats. For me, this record will sit right up there, among the best of them – quite a statement, but it really is that good. Fittingly, it’s out on legendary jazz label Blue Note.“
“I discovered the Misha Panfilov Sound Combo a couple of years back and loved his Days As Echoes album. I was intrigued by this new one on 2 Headed Deer and it didn’t disappoint. Instantly I ordered the vinyl – this one’s a jazzy number with percussive rhythms, brass, piano, organ, synth and mellotron. It has a retro feel to it, with what is presumed to be tape effects, not to mention some field recordings along the way to give some further texture.“
“I check out a lot of Moderna releases, with their output always being of a high quality. The label offers modern classical music and I’ve often discovered new artists in their catalog. One such is Malcolm Parson, whose short album ‘Letters From Home’ came out in April this year. Piano and strings take center stage, in these nostalgic and melancholy arrangements. There is no clear concept to it, but with the old family photo and through a bit of reading, it’s apparent that Malcolm was looking to reconnect with his childhood in making this record.“
“In 2020 I loved Andrew Wasylyk’s ‘Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation’ and have followed his work ever since. I was excited to see him dropping singles for his new album and instantly ordered the vinyl direct from Clay Pipe, as soon as it came out. It was only released in late November, so I’ve had very little time to listen to it – particularly the vinyl version. But by the time the record arrived, I’d already streamed the album over and over again several times, making my mind up that this one’s to be placed pretty high in my end of year list. Lots of deeply nostalgic, retro-infused instrumentals here – highly recommended.“
“This year I went mad again for House music, reigniting my dormant blog Wallofhouse, scouring the scene and making mixes and playlists. As the winter drew near, I soon began neglecting the blog again, focusing again on Ambient music. But throughout the year, whenever there is work to be done around the house, I’ll reach for – house. What I tend to find is that quality, conceptually-leaning albums in the house scene are lacking. So when a record like this one by Melchior Sultana arrives, lavishly packaged in a beautiful gatefold vinyl sleeve, I tend to get pretty excited. Due to vinyl pressing delays, I waited months for this to arrive but it was worth it. Lovely Deep House music here.“
“Ambient legend William Basinski’s releases always tend to get gobbled up by fans and pretty much everything he does is a must have. I’ve always enjoyed the work of another legend, Janek Schaefer too and to see that these two collaborated in an album raised the intrigue. Sleepy piano loops play through over these reflective movements, full of field recordings and everyday happenstance. You guessed it – sounds amazing on vinyl too!“
“I was fortunate this year to call Brad Deschamps’ Polar Seas label a home this year, for my deeply personal collaborative album with Guy Gelem. When I got my copies, Brad had included a copy of the other release which came out at the same time – a record by Landtitles. I don’t own a CD player in the house, so this kind gift hung around unplayed in the office for a while – until one day I took it into my car, and it’s not left the player since. Pretty much everywhere I drove, this was my soundtrack – a beautiful collection of warm, electro-acoustic pieces, with light and slightly glitchy electronics.“
“Here’s another fine example of Moderna quality, with ‘Formations’ by Julia Gjertsen coming out at the beginning of this year. Gjertsen is a pianist and composer, based in Oslo, Norway and this record is full to the brim of high fidelity modern classical orchestration, with piano and strings combining into a beautiful Ambient-leaning soundtrack. The record is a little light on a concept, at least based on what’s available to read on the Moderna release page. But the album name, artwork, track titles and compositions themselves do a good job of pulling you into an immersive world.“
“I was getting regular notifications of new singles from Erland Cooper throughout the year, which culminated in this album, Music For Growing Flowers. This record compiles the tracks which soundtrack the Superbloom installation, in the moats of the Tower of London – where wild flowers were planted for a dramatic, and picturesque view, to celebrate the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The quality of the music, the concept and as a tribute to the Queen, made this into a much-cherished album in my collection. Not to mention the packet of accompanying seeds which I had to buy, so that this story can live on in the garden at my new home.“
“Through my relentless search for various styles of music, I’ve enjoyed a lot of Sweatson Klank’s stuff over the last couple of years. Typically his work tends to end up on my soul, jazz, funk, deep house or chill playlists and the odd DJ mix. But in this album, not only was I surprised to see a chicken on the front cover, I was surprised at how ‘ambient’ this one is, with exotic far-flung sounds serving as a travelogue from the artist, presented in a series of deep, droning moods. Unfortunately, this is one of the few albums from this year which I’ve been unable to hunt down on vinyl. Hopefully I can track down a copy sometime.“
“Sneaking into the list is this one by Flore Laurentienne, which came out in November on Rvng Int’l. Flore Laurentienne is a project helmed by Canadian composer Mathieu David Gagnon and this second volume follows the critically acclaimed first, which was released in 2019. I’m new to both, and the album artwork and white vinyl alone was enough to get pretty excited about. The retro approach to production, combining orchestral strings and synth textures cemented my need to own this one on vinyl and I’ve been enjoying this one on heavy rotation.“
“Another late, last minute entry to this list is from Snowdrops, with their album ‘Missing Islands’ having only just dropped in November. It is a luxurious arrangement of modern compositions, combining the talents of Christine Ott with Mathieu Gabry. After hearing the singles prior to release, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this album and currently, have had to settle for a digital version for the time being after being unsure of which address I’ll be at. But I’ll be sure to put the order in soon, as this is a must have for the collection.“
“I’ve followed Andrew Tasselmyer’s music, ever since I discovered his work as Gray Acres, in which he records alongside his brother, in an album released here on Whitelabrecs a few years back. I also keep a close eye on the always-high-quality output on Laaps Recordings. Limits is a beautifully minimal album, both in artwork and sound, with the snowy cover matching well with the scratchy, blurred edges of ambient drones.”