A (near) 150 albums survey of the year, with choice eclectic albums chosen by the Monolith Cocktail Team.

Well was I wrong last year when I called 2021 the annus horribilis of all years. It has been soundly beaten by the shit-show that is 2022. The invasion of the Ukraine, cost of living crisis, another hideous wave of Covid – which even if the jabs are being rolled out, and the deaths rate, hospitalisations is nothing like the first wave back in 2020, is still causing major illness, absences and disruptions to a society already facing a heap of doomsday scenarios -, strikes, activism, fuel poverty, Iranian protests, and the continuing horror show of a zombie government being just some examples. Yes 2022 qualifies as one of the most incomprehensible years on record of any epoch; an ungovernable country in the grip of austerity point 2.0, and greater world untethered and at the mercy of the harridans on either side of the extreme political divide, the billionaire corporates and narcissist puritans.

And yet, it has been another great year for music. Despite the myriad of problems that face artists and bands in the industry, from a lack of general interest to the increasingly punitive costs of touring and playing live, and the ever encroaching problems of streaming against physical sales and exposure, people just can’t quit making music. And for that we, as critics – though most of us have either been musicians or still are – really appreciate what you guys do. In fact, as we have always tried to convey, we celebrate you all. And so, instead of those silly, factious and plain dumb numerical charts that our peers and rivals insist on continuing to print – how can you really suggest one album deserves their place above or below another (why does one entry get the 23rd spot and another the 22nd; unless it is a vote count) –, the Monolith Cocktail has always chosen a much more diplomatic, democratic alphabetical order – something we more or less started in the first place. We also throw every genre, nationality together in a serious of eclectic lists: no demarcation involved.

The lists include those albums we reviewed, featured on the site in some capacity, and those we just didn’t get the time to include. All entries are displayed thus: Artist in alphabetical order, then the album title, label, who chose it, a review link where applicable, and finally a link to the album itself.  

Because of the sheer number of entries, we’ve split that list in to two parts: Part One (A – L) starts with Anthéne & Simon McCorry and finishes with Lyrics Born; Part Two (M-Z) begins with Machine Girl and finishes with The Zew.

This year’s picks have been chosen by (Dominic Valvona), Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Matt Oliver, Andrew C. Kidd and Graham Domain.

A.

Anthéne & Simon McCorry  ‘Mind Of Winter’  (Hidden Vibes)  Dominic Valvona
Review

Seigo Aoyama  ‘Prelude For The Spring’  (Audiobulb)  DV
Review

Armstrong ‘Happy Graffiti’  Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea
Review

Yara Asmar  ‘Home Recordings 2018-2021’  (Hive Mind)  DV
Review

Avalanche Kaito  ‘S-T’  (Glitterbeat)  DV
Review

Avantdale Bowling Club  ‘TREES’  Andrew C. Kidd

B.

Caterina Barbieri  ‘Spirit Exit’  (Warp Records)  ACK
Review

Jam Baxter  ‘Fetch the Poison’  (Blah)  Matt Oliver

Oliver Birch  ‘Burning Daylight’  BBS
Review

Black Mesa ‘Research Facility’  (猫 シ Corp. ‘Selected Works’)  ACK

Brigitte Beraha  ‘Blink’  DV
Review

Brian Bordello  ‘Cardboard Box Beatles’  (Metal Postcard Records)  DV
Review

The Bordellos ‘Ronco Revival Sound’ (Metal Postcard Records)  Graham Domain
Review

Boycalledcrow  ‘Wizards Castle’  (Waxing Crescent Records)  BBS
Review

Broadcast  ‘The Maida Vale Sessions’ (Warp Records)  GD

Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene  ‘Cost of Living’  (Mello Music Group)  MO

Brown Calvin  ‘dimension//perspective’  (AKP Recordings)  DV
Review

C.

Loyle Carner  ‘Hugo’ (EMI)  MO

Tom Caruana  ‘Strange Planet’  (Tea Sea Records)  MO

Cities Aviv  ‘Man Plays The Horn’  (D.O.T.) DV

Claude  ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’  (American Dreams)  DV
Review

Clouds in a Headlock  ‘Breakfast in Phantasia’  (Offkiltr/Fat Beats)  MO

Julian Cope  ‘England Expectorates’  BBS
Link

D.

The Dark Jazz Project  ‘S-T’ (Irregular Frequencies)  DV
Review

Aftab Darvishi  ‘A Thousand Butterflies’  ACK
Review

The Difference Machine  ‘Unmasking the Spirit Fakers’  (Full Plate)  MO
Review

Ferry Djimmy  ‘Rhythm Revolution’  (Acid Jazz) DV

Matt Donovan  ‘Habit Formation’  DV
Review

The Doomed Bird Of Providence  ‘A Flight Across Arnham Land’  DV/BBS
Review

Dubbledge  ‘Ten Toes Down’  (Potent Funk)  MO
Review

E.

Eamon The Destroyer  ‘A Small Blue Car – Re-made/Re-modelled’  (Bearsuit Records)  BBS
Review

El Khat  ‘Albat Alawi Op​.​99’  (Glitterbeat)  DV
Review

Kahil El’Zabar Quartet  ‘A Time For Healing’  (Spiritmuse)  DV

Roger Eno ‘The Turning Year’ (Deutsche Grammophon)  GD
Review

Eerie Wanda  ‘Internal Radio’  (Joyful Noise Recordings)  DV

Exociety  ‘Deception Falls’  (Exociety)  MO

F.

Fera  ‘Corpo Senza Carne’  (Maple Death Records)  DV

Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita  ‘Echo’  (bendigedig)  DV
Review

Flat Worms  ‘Live In Los Angeles’  (Frontier Records)  DV
Review

Forest Robots  ‘Supermoon Moonlight Part Two’  (Subexotic)  DV
Review

Nick Frater  ‘Aerodrome Motel’  (Big Stir Records)  BBS
Review

Future Kult  ‘S-T’  (Action Wolf/AWAL)  DV
Review

G.

Mike Gale  ‘Mañana Man’  DV
Premiere

Dana Gavanski ‘When it Comes’ (Full Time Hobby / Flemish Eye)  GD
Review

Gold Panda  ‘The Work’  (City Slang)  ACK

The Good Ones  ‘Rwanda…You See Ghosts I See Sky’  (Six Degrees)  DV
Review

Goon  ‘Hour of Green Evening’ (Demode Recordings)  Graham Domain
Review

Guillotine Crowns  ‘Hills to Die On’  (Uncommon Records)  MO
Review

Gwenno ‘Tresor’ (Heavenly Recordings)  GD

H.

Aldous Harding  ‘Warm Chris’ (4AD)  GD

Healing Force Project  ‘Drifted Entities Vol. 1’  (Beat Machine Records)  DV
Review

Sven Helbig  ‘Skills’  (Modern Recordings)  DV
Review

Bruno Hibombo  ‘Parting Words’  DV

Houseplants  ‘II’  (Win Big Records)  DV
Review

John Howard  ‘From The Far Side Of A Miss’  (Kool Kat)  DV
Review

I.

IBERI  ‘Supra’  (Naxos World Music)  DV

J.

Juga-Naut  ‘Time & Place’ (Juga-Naut)  MO

JPEGMAFIA  ‘OFFLINE!’  ACK

K.

Kamikaze Palm Tree ‘Mint Chip’  (Drag City)  BBS
Review

Kick  ‘Light Figures’  (Anomic Records/Dischi Sottoernnei/Sour Grapes)  DV
Review

King Kashmere  ‘Woof’  (High Focus)  MO

Evan Kertman ‘Rancho Shalom’  (Perpetual Doom)  BBS
Review

KMRU  ‘Temporary Stored’  ACK

L.

Labelle  ‘Éclat’  (Infiné)  DV
Review

The Legless Crabs ‘Always Your Boy’  (Metal Postcard Records)  BBS
Review

The Legless Trials ‘Cheese Sandwich’  (Metal Postcard Records)  BBS

Kristine Leschper  ‘The Opening Or Closing Of A Door’  (Anti-)  DV
Review

Liraz  ‘Roya’  (Glitterbeat)  DV
Review

Francesco Lurgo  ‘Sleep Together Folded Like Origami’  (Bosco Records)  DV
Review

Lyrics Born  ‘Mobile Homies’  (Mobile Home Recordings)  MO
Review

Keep an eye out later this week for Part Two.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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ALBUM REVIEW/Matt Oliver

Lyrics Born ‘Mobile Homies Season 1’

(Mobile Home Recordings)

Despite the title sounding something like a caravanning show found on Channel 5, Mobile Homies from Bay Area veteran Lyrics Born makes the most of lockdown restrictions as a collaborative collection fleshing out LB’s purpose-made podcast of the same name. Much more than just a make-do stopgap, it salutes the long established Lyrics Born mantra of performance being all about entertainment and extravaganza. No variant will hold him back, manoeuvring the live show experience as a soul/R&B spectacular where you can imagine a stage filled with backing singers and musicians, spotlights and catwalks, and the promise of good, clean fun or your money back; all the while looking more and more the sharp suited fly guy to rank him alongside the likes of Bruno Mars, Andre3000 and Anderson .Paak.  

Born has long held one of the most serious flows in the game, cultivating singsong flamboyance (“my shows are like a party for a bachelorette”) as a people’s champ with unquestionable underground-educated skills and a voice once sold as “like sandpaper dipped in maple syrup”. Here, his lowness (for want of a better description) into the mic is less a Chali 2na-style baritone (the stiffer delivery on ‘Misfits’ aside), but a rat-a-tat amplified whisper, an almost monotone, always chill, malleable flow from the deepest vocal chord that allows him to be cyborg-like, possessed by playing games with syllables. Contrarily, it also enables the persona of a dead-eyed charmer sans ego or sleaze, his silver-tongued devilry akin to the Fonz clicking his fingers. 

Amongst the lovey-dovey expressions where heartthrob-served butter wouldn’t melt – back and forthing with himself on the Netflix & Chill-ready ‘Everyday Love’ with Prince Paul providing perky foreplay on production; cutting in on the super polished, Con Brio-lead performances of ‘Sundown’ and ‘Mistakes’ causing ‘Hey Ya’! levels of hysteria, possibly involving underwear removal – is the seething racism exposé of ‘Anti’. A tensely humid, low rider ball of high pressure agitation, brought to the fore from behind the pandemic smokescreen and pierced by Cutso’s wheezing siren infuriating like a fly out of swatting reach, it packs a chorus that intelligently dares you to holler back from the front row. Crucially in the face of such provocation, LB’s flow, taking his cue from Dr Dre’s ‘The Watcher’, is masterful in never losing its cool, its points further rammed home by Shing02, Bohan Phoenix and Dilated PeoplesRakaa on the remix. 

In terms of routine it’s almost like LB asking for the house lights to be turned on and the band to hold fire, with the final track remix providing the encore so you definitely won’t forget the message; the savagery of this uncensored PSA under a blood red spotlight a showstopper without stopping the show dead. While not quite a case of the show must go on, ‘This Song’s Delicious’ with Sitcom Dad and Dan the Automator arrives from the Paul Barman school of jaunty verbosity doing chucklesome show-n-prove, developed from Netflix band Hello Peril from the film Always Be My Maybe. ‘Desperada’ takes the feeling of sand between your toes into the club, and ‘My City’, displaying wistful hometown pride with enough matriarchal room for interpretation, poignantly features his late Soulsides comrade and Blackalicious lifer Gift of Gab.

Enter another pertinent state-of-the-world address, this one packed with Instagram filters fiending for those thumbs ups. Over a nifty first generation grime production that Ghetts, Kano or Taz would have rinsed, ‘Enough About Me’ gets trending to the tune of crowds showing pixellated appreciation while literally keeping the action at arm’s length. Guests The Grouch and Eligh attempt to differentiate between projected and actual reality; LB does the opposite, going into overdrive like a big bucks hype machine (“I don’t want privacy, I want all y’all to see/selfie-selfie-selfie, I’m my own paparazzi”)and knowing the only way to avoid fading into obscurity is to dive in twice as hard.

While the zoom call intermissions with his collaborators quickly become skippable, the sound is so rich and accomplished (as standard), with impressive divergence, that even if the album wasn’t completely conceived over Microsoft Teams, it’s a great demonstration of how Lyrics Born can play second fiddle before stealing the show, and solidifying his claim as a great entertainer still remaining underrated.

 

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