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/Dominic Valonva

The Good Ones ‘Rwanda…You See Ghosts, I See Sky’
(Six Degrees Records) 8th April 2022

Once more returning to the rural farmlands of a genocide scarred Rwanda, producer polymath Ian Brennan presses the record button on another in-situ, free-of-artifice and superficial production. The fourth such album of unimaginable stirred grief, heartache and reconciliation from the country’s nearest relation to American Bluegrass, The Good Ones latest songbook arrives in time to mark the 28th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide in the mid-90s; a 100 days of massacre, the fastest ever recorded of its kind in the 20th century with the true figures disputed but believed to be around the million mark.

Triggered, its argued even to this day, by a history of tribal warfare, insurrection, civil war, foreign interventions and the assassination of the then president Juvénal Habyarimana, the events of that three month period in 1994 saw a sudden death cull, ethnic cleansing of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority at the hands of the majority Hutus: though even moderate Hutus, along with Rwanda’s third main tribe the Twa were also far from safe, with many caught-up, trapped in the ensuing bloodbath.

Barbaric beyond any semblance to humanity, victims were brutalized, raped, cut to ribbons or herded together in buildings, churches, and schools and burnt alive. Unlike so many previous genocides however, most of those victims were murdered by hand with machetes, rudimental tools, weapons and gallons of Kerosene. No family was left untouched, with both The Good Ones dual roots vocalist set-up of Adrien Kazigira and Janvier Havugimana both losing loved ones, siblings and relatives.

On the remote hilltop farm where he was born and still continues to work, but record too, Adrien managed to hide and survive. But Janvier lost his older brother, a loss felt considerably by the whole trio who looked up to him as an early musical mentor. As a healing balm all three members, including the as yet unmentioned Javan Mahoro, all represent one of Rwanda’s main three tribes: Hutus, Tutsi and Twa. And so bring each culture together in an act of union, therapy and as a voice with which to reconcile the past.

Instantly drawn to the band during a research trip in 2009, Ian recorded their debut international album and the subsequent trio of records that followed: 2015’s Rwanda Is My Home, 2019’s Rwanda, You Should Be Loved, and now in 2022, Rwanda…You See Ghosts, I See Sky. Ian’s wife and longtime partner on both this fourteen-year recording relationship and countless other worldly projects, the filmmaker, photographer, activist, writer Marilena Umuhoza Delli was the one to instigate this Rwanda field trip. Marilena’s mother herself ended up immigrating for refuge to Italy, her entire family wiped out..

In between numerous productions in dangerous and traumatized spots (from Mali to Cambodia and Kosovo) the partners recorded the fourth volume of Glitterbeat Records Hidden Musics series in Rwanda (back in 2017); bringing the incredible stirring songs, performances of the country’s Twa people (or pygmy as they’re unfortunately known; bullied and treated with a certain suspicion by others) to a wider audience.

Back again on Adrien’s farm and haven, this quintet was reunited to record a thirty-song session. Already receiving accolades aplenty in the West, working with an enviable array of admirers, from Wilco to TV On The Radio, Gugazi, Sleater-Kinney and MBV, it’s extraordinary to think that these earthy harmonic songs were produced in an environment without electricity; music that’s made from the most rudimental of borrowed farm tools in some cases.

The true spirit of diy, raw emotion, The Good Ones speak of both love and the everyday concerns facing a population stunned and dealing with the effects of not only that genocide but the ongoing struggle to survive economically. The album begins on a reflective tone of disarming hope however, with the tinny scrappy cutlery drawer percussive and rustic natty-picking bluegrass leaning, ‘The Darkness Has Passed’. From the outset those beautiful of-the-soil sagacious and honest vocals and harmonies prove moving and powerful. Whilst songs like the Afro-Cuban and bluesy bandy turn ‘Columbia River Flowers’ sound positively romantic; a sentiment that also permeates the almost childlike abandon of ‘Happiness Is When We Are Together’, which sounds not too dissimilar to a sort of African version of Beefheart or Zappa. ‘Berta, Please Sing A Love Song For Me’ is another lovely romantic smooch, which features the Orlando Julius like serenades of the noted NYC saxophonist Daniel Carter.

Often, the outdoors can be heard as an integral, fourth band member, with the farmyard, cowshed gates struck like a percussive metal rhythm, as on the poetically romantic ‘Beloved (As Clouds Move West, We Think Of You)’

Considering the themes of the last three albums, the fourth is said to be the group’s most personal yet. ‘My Son Has Special Needs, But There’s Nowhere For Him To Go’ has a more edgy tone, featuring a sort of post-punk dissonant electric guitar – almost Stooges like – and relates to Janvier’s struggle to get educational assistance for his son who has special needs. ‘My Brother, Your Murder Has Left A Hole In Our Hearts (We Hope We Can Meet Again One Day)’ makes reference to those lost in the genocide, and in this most personal of cases, a sibling but also musical mentor. Again, the sound of the rural escape can be heard, its chorus of chirping birds mingling with a banged tambourine.

Existing almost in its own musical category, its own world, The Good Ones play real raw but also melodic, rhythmic roots music that sways, resonates with vague threads of folk, bluegrass, rock, punk and even a touch of the Baroque. Ian, a man with an enviable catalogue of productions behind him, from every region of the globe, considers Adrien ‘one of the greatest living roots writers in the world, in any language’. That’s some praise; one I’m willing to believe and repeat.

The Rwanda trio expand their sound and bolster their artistic merits to produce another essential album of honest graft, heartache and longing for better times on the most incredible of songbooks.

PLAYLIST SPECIAL 
COMPILED: Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Gianluigi Marsibilio
ARTWORK: Gianluigi Marsibilio 




From an abundance of sources, via a myriad of social media platforms and messaging services, even accosted when buying a coffee from a barristo-musician, the Quarterly Revue is expanding constantly to accommodate a reasonable spread that best represents the Monolith Cocktail’s raison d’etre.

As you will hear for yourselves, new releases and the best of reissues plucked from the team – that’s me, Dominic Valvona, and Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Andrew C. Kidd and Gianluigi Marsibilio (who also put together the playlist artwork) – rub shoulders in a continuous musical journey.

The final playlist of 2019 is no less eclectic and frantic, with electrifried peregrinations from Mali next to the best new hip-hop cuts and a wealth of post-punk, souk rock, jazz, noise, indie and the avant-garde.


That tracklist in full:

Automatic  ‘Too Much Money’
Dead Rituals  ‘Closer’
Comet Gain  ‘The Girl With The Melted Mind And Her Fear Of The Open Door’
BRONCHO  ‘Boys Got To Go’
SUO  ‘Honey I’m Down’
Pocket Knife  ‘Manger Constructeur’
Prince Rama  ‘F.A.T.E (Bought Us Together)’
Cate Le Bon & Bradford Cox  ‘Fireman’
Elizabeth Joan Kelly  ‘Baleen Executioner’
Bear With Me  ‘Cry’
Max Andrzejewski’s HUTTE  ‘Little Red Robin Hood Hits The Road’
Tapan Meets Generation Taragalte ‘Yogi Yamahssar’
Junis Paul  ‘Baker’s Dozen’
Invisible System  ‘Diarabi’
Homeboy Sandman  ‘Yes Iyah’
Guilty Simpson & Phat Kat  ‘Sharking’
Iftin Band  ‘Il Ooy Aniga’
Kalbata ft. TIGRIS  ‘Tamera’
The Budos Band  ‘Old Engine Oil’
Aziza Brahim  ‘Hada Jil’
Atomic Forest  ‘Life Is Anew’
Klashnekoff ft. K9 & Ricko Capito  ‘The Road Is Long’
Chris Orrick & The Lasso  ‘No Place Is Safe’
Blockhead  ‘Spicy Peppercorn’
Willie Scott & The Birmingham Spirituals  ‘Keep Your Faith To The Sky’
Jehst & Confucius MC  ‘Autumn Nights’
Xenia Rubinos  ‘DIOSA’
Genesis Elijah  ‘Haunted Trap House’
Rico James & Santos  ‘New York Cut’
Hiach Ber Na  ‘Another Human Brain’
Mike Patton & Jean-Claude Vannier  ‘Cold Sun Warm Beer’
TELGATE  ‘Cherrytight’
Land Of OOO  ‘Waiting For The Whales (Radio Edit)’
Big Thief  ‘Not’
Gary Davenport ‘True Freedom’
Northwest  ‘The Day’
The Cold Spells  ‘I Hate It When You’re Sad’
Mick Harvey & Christopher Richard Barker  ‘A Secret Hidden Message’
Boa Morte  ‘Sleep/Before The Landslide’
Vola Tila  ‘All Alone’
Owen Tromans  ‘Burying The Moon King’
The Good Ones  ‘My Wife Is As Beautiful As A Sunset’
Dub Chieftain  ‘Enter The Chieftain’
Provincials  ‘Cat’s Cradle’
Right Hand Left Hand  ‘White Sands’
Ringfinger  ‘Burning’
Giant Swan  ‘YFPHNT’
Rafiki Jazz  ‘My Heart My Home Home (Shallow Brown/Light of Guidance/The Settlers Wife/Shedemati)’


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