It’s been another rough year on the live music scene. Gigging restarted and rescheduled tours finally went ahead, but with the cloud of further restrictions ever present. As a result, we didn’t get to as may gigs as we would have liked, but we’ve still been busy with our music reviews, taking in all the new albums we could manage. We invited the Wee Review team to vote for their favourite albums of the year, and as usual, got quite the selection, including some we never got round to reviewing at the time. Here are our Top Five…
5. Tori Amos – Ocean To Ocean
Created while locked down with family in Cornwall and grieving the loss of her mother, Amos’s 16th album couldn’t help but be shaped by circumstance. And what a rich, emotional album resulted. “The musical subtleties and nuances begin to permeate your consciousness, like a burst of flavour at a wine-tasting,” said The Arts Desk, while MusicOMH called it “a moving, poignant and inspiring document of a journey most of us have had to take over the past 18 months.”
4. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
One of the year’s genuine global successes, Sour channeled Gen Z angst and relationship insecurities into a package that was not only a hit with its target demographic, but their Millennial cousins, and Gen X mums and dads as well. Even Joe Biden pretended to know who she is to get her to promote covid vaccines to the kids. Perhaps some of its cross-generational appeal was down to the stirring of old memories. “The production is slick and draws on a current trend for 00s emo-pop,” noted the Forty Five, while the NME identified among its genre-blending the “wiry guitar chug [of] Elastica… [and] more than a trace of Alanis Morissette”. Either way, it was an old-fashioned smash hit.
3. Deer Leader – We’ve Met Before Haven’t We?
“The debut record – four years in the making – from the Glasgow three-piece [is] an absolute cracker,” declared Scott Caldwell in his review for us back in August and it proved to be our most popular Scottish album of 2021. In a relentlessly miserable year, there was positivity to be found on the album: “The underlying message across many of the songs is that there is still time. Still time to be yourself, be true to who you are and not worry about what or where your supposed place in life is.”
2. Bo Burnham – Inside (The Songs)
The comedian’s lockdown Netflix special became quite the talking point. Filmed alone in lockdown in sparked off a thousand thought pieces of the usual variety – Is it comedy? What does it say about the modern condition? Has it set a new bar for quarantine art? The album of accompanying songs was deemed ineligible for the Best Comedy Album category at the Grammys, but was eligible for the far more prestigious Wee Review Best Album list. And though we didn’t review it ourselves, we weren’t the only ones who thought it worked alone without the visuals. “Transforming the work into an entirely audible experience removes some of the agony and ecstasy, but in return, it presents a way for us to easily process what we’ve all gone through in the last year, but without having to fully confront someone who was driven to the brink by it,” said Spectrum Culture.
1. Sleaford Mods – Spare Ribs
From the bleakness of Lockdown January emerged this life-saver of an album from the Mods – a musical emetic for all we’ve sucked up this past couple of years. It wasn’t all the usual angry dad-ranting either. An air of sad nostalgia hung over it, a paean for cul-de-sac 70s Britain that was once dull and easily derided but in the “new normal” seems like a lost paradise. “Williamson and partner Andrew Fearn continue to go about their business with the determination of men who missed their first chance in life and won’t have this second one taken from them,” said editor Robert Peacock in his review, before concluding, “as 2020 rolls grimly over into 2021, we’re going to be glad of Spare Ribs.” And so we are into 2022 too…