2022: An End of Year Review

At Secret Meeting, it feels extremely important to share and support the new music that we love. Over the last five years, we have done just that, and tried to amplify as many incredible records as we can through our zine, and this website. As we approach the end of the year, we want to shine a light on twenty records that we loved from 2022. As in previous years, we haven’t created an arbitrary ranking, but, instead, created a list that we hope will guide you to a discovery that feels as important as it does to us.

Alex G – God Save the Animals

Over twelve years, and what is now nine studio albums, Alex G has developed quite the niche for himself. The auto tuned vocals, sample laden sound collages, and heart on sleeve sincerity have all become calling cards for his work. And with every subsequent release, he refines and improves upon all of these aspects. God Save the Animals makes a bold claim for his best record to date. Runner is, in essence, the perfect modern folk song. While No Bitterness and Headroom Piano are perfect reminders of how alluring his quirkiness is. You may have a good idea of the tools he’ll use going into a new Alex G record. But you will never be prepared for the way in which he uses them, and his ability to steal you from the greyest of days with a stunning melody remains his most breathtaking quality.

Anaïs Mitchell – Anaïs Mitchell

A triumphant return for one of the great American songwriters of the 21st century, Anaïs Mitchell’s self-titled album extols the beauty of experience, and appreciating the world around you. From the  opening notes of the starkly beautiful Brooklyn Bridge to the closing moments of closer, Watershed, we’re reminded what an incredible wordsmith Mitchell is, and her unfalteringly wonderful voice delivers them in such a way, it is hard to pull yourself away. 

Beach House – Once Twice Melody

On their eighth album, Once Twice Melody, Beach House dismiss the immediacy of ‘everything now’ culture, and use the sprawl to their advantage – honing in even closer to what makes them so special. 

Bonny Light Horseman – Rolling Golden Holy

With each release, Bonny Light Horseman are inching closer to birthing their own batch of standards – carefully etching their name into the barriers that surround the realm of modern folk music. Rolling Golden Holy offers a glimpse of fresh footprints beyond the barricade and shows Bonny Light Horseman for what they are: an incredibly adept and talented ensemble, and more importantly, a thriving creative partnership without a ceiling.

Deer Scout – Woodpecker

Deer Scout’s Dana Miller describes her approach to songwriting as ‘a process of boxing things up, or putting away a time capsule.’ It makes sense then that the alternative folk songs found on her debut record, Woodpecker, are graced with the often warming – sometimes uncomfortable – nostalgia of a past that is not too far behind.

Friendship – Love the Stranger

There is nothing immediate about Friendship. But it is for that we should be thankful: on repeated listens, the way that Love the Stranger buries itself deep into your conscience is what makes it the best, most perfect representation of the band to date.

Good Looks – Bummer Year

The real beauty of Bummer Year is in how personal Good Looks make the grand themes they cover feel. It’s very easy to make big statements about the state of the world as you see it, but it is another for those protestations to take root and really make the listener care. At the heart of this record is empathy – both in terms of how Jordan identifies with his community and how you, as the listener, feel a kinship with what he is singing. It is an incredibly mature record that, despite its serious themes, is a ton of fun to listen to.

Gwenno – Tresor

Tresor’s title track translates into English as ‘Treasure’, and that is an apt way to describe the art that Gwenno and her collaborators make. The accompanying visuals not only provide more colour to the music, but also display a keen eye for understanding and capturing the subjects that you’re covering. Whether that is a lyric, a riff, or a camera shot, everything feels painstakingly considered. So while it is right that the languages Gwenno writes in remain in focus so as to amplify the cultures she is singing about, don’t let that distract you from what is a fully rounded, beautiful record.

Indigo Sparke – Hysteria

From all angles, Hysteria offers an unsparing look into Indigo Sparke’s interior world. Its lens lays bare the struggles of coming to grips with chaos. In its head-on confrontation with existential uproar, it not only locks eyes with the void, it leaps into it, arms exalted, worries cast to the wind. The album subsequently becomes its own oasis – a pool of tranquility inside the eye of the storm. It teaches us that, ultimately, once entrapped inside the madness, often the only choice we have is to let go.

Jo Schornikow – Altar

Jo Schornikow uses the weight of years of touring, juxtaposed with the potent intensity of motherhood and looking at the debris of those parallel lives to shape Altar. And although a sea change in terms of sound, it loses none of the potency that made us fall in love with her music on Secret Weapon.

Kurt Vile – (watch my moves)

KV has never sounded more ‘cool, calm and collected’ than he does on his major label debut, (watch my moves). Whether he’s jamming in his music room in his pants (Flying (like a fast train)), chillin’ out watching movies with his family (Like Exploding Stones), or looking back in a dream like state at the fact he got to support his hero, Neil Young (Goin on a plane today), the rambling anecdotes keep on coming and coming. Highlight, Jesus on a Wire, also sees a co-production credit for Cate Le Bon – whose wonky vocal makes her the perfect accomplice for the freewheelin’ Philly band leader.

MJ Lenderman – Boat Songs

On Boat Songs, Wednesday guitarist, Jake Lenderman, establishes his solo work as something far more than just a side project. His outsider indie-rock and subversive Americana courses through the album – ensuring numerous unmapped deviations as he tackles both the wacky and surreal (Hangover Game), and the heartbreakingly sincere (TLC Cagematch). As indebted to Sonic Youth as it is to Will Oldham, the ten tracks have a joyous restlessness. And it is testament to his songwriting that, despite being little over 30 minutes long, by the end of the album, you feel like you have been blessed by days spent in his excellent company.

Naomi Alligator  – Double Knot

Throughout Double Knot, James’ ace in the hole comes from the constant challenge of asking why? Why do we fall in love or befriend those that we do? Why do we keep them around when they are no longer good for us (or us for them)? And above all, why is life so damn hard sometimes? The record is a leap forward from what was already an impressive EP. It is the sound of post-teen trauma set to luscious alt folk. And when there are so many questions, why? It’s nice to have a record radiating this level of quality to retreat into and think it over. 

Skullcrusher – Quiet In The Room

Piquing the interest of Secretly Canadian after just her first live show, Helen Ballantine’s early career already shows similar signs to the label’s most revered songwriter, Jason Molina, and recalls the folk meets tape mangling of Phil Elverum’s Mount Eerie. These are big names to mention in relation to an artist in their formative period, but the discomforting gothic of Quiet The Room shows this is a world she already knows so well – the excitement, now, is that her gift is ours to explore – in our own time.

Tenci – A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing

To the uninitiated, you might assume while listening that this is a traditional ‘band’ record, and feels in parts like a continuation of Shoman’s appearance on Friendship’s Love The Stranger. At its heart though is an artist who is pushing the very boundaries of what folk music can be, and her vital, modern take on the genre – complete with nods to an array of others – is a wonderful return for a special artist.

The Reds, Pinks and Purples – Summer At Lands End

The latest release from The Reds, Pinks and Purples eases into your consciousness. Sugar sweet indie pop with bleach washed shoegaze leanings, it is, for want of a better word, a ‘comforting’ record. Glenn Donaldson’s voice is immediate and reassuring, and despite the lyrical themes not always matching the sunny disposition of the tracks, with Summer At Lands End on your headphones, you never feel alone. It has quickly become my most listened to album of the year – a comfort in uncomfortable times.

Tomberlin – I don’t know who needs to hear this

Despite being another album of hushed recesses, compared to folk debut, At Weddings, it is a different type of quiet that wanders through the hybridity of I don’t know who needs to hear this. Where her debut was a bedroom record, the follow up is a nuanced studio collection. Its backbone is considered jazz, and real beauty is scattered throughout via the sweetest melodies yet. collect caller is the closest she has ventured towards the modern pop territory owned by Lana Del Rey or Taylor Swift’s work with Aaron Dessner. While happy accident sees a slacker feel entering into the distinctive world of this distinctive artist.

Walter Martin – The Bear

Walter Martin is of an age now that bigger questions about life and meaning perhaps hang heavier than they once did. The Bear represents this contemplative state of mind and is as focused on goodbyes as it hellos. But it also relishes in the beauty of the memories we can cling to, and the way in which they can shape our present; the fact that each day is a new opportunity, and hope and wonder are never out of reach.

Wild Pink – ILYSM

The band’s fourth album picks up where its predecessor – A Billion Little Lights – left off, only this time it feels like everything that made that record great is dialled right up. Despite being diagnosed with cancer early in the writing process, John Ross managed to channel it into something truly life-affirming.

Will Sheff – Nothing Special

It is no exaggeration to say that Will Sheff’s first outing under his own name is an alt-Americana masterpiece. Yes, you can tell it comes from the same man behind Okkervil River – namely due to the unmistakable world wearied fragility of his voice – but the songs on Nothing Special occupy another realm entirely. If Okkervil River records sit atop mountains and gaze out over endless oceans, then Nothing Special dwells in the tough climbs to the summit, or the desert crossings before reaching the waters edge. Each note feels hard won, every line like it may be the last, and the enduring effect is a record that cracks open the interior of songwriter and listener alike. Pretty special indeed. 

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