End of Year Favourites

Top 7 – My Favourite Films of 2022

At long last, we are here. My favourite films of 2022. There were a lot of films I watched last year (at time of writing, 110 films) and a lot of them were really great! I feel like there was maybe a slightly higher level of excellence last year, but that doesn’t stop there being a lot of brilliance to see at the cinema or at home this year. Notably, I think there’s also a lot of films that are at the top of other peoples lists that I only thought were great and not masterpieces. We’ll see some of them soon. In the meantime, here is the rest of the stuff I have to say before we see a poster. My full list of films I saw from 2022 is here, feel free to browse my best and worst at your leisure. These are all 2022 releases as by UK dates. That means they have to have come out proper in the UK in 2022, previews or film festivals don’t count. Finally, there are also still lots of films I missed, even at 110. Forgive me, I am only mortal. All these lil things out the way, let’s move into honourable mentions!


All the problems I have with Nope and all the things that stop it from being a masterpiece are exactly the things that I think could make it seen as a masterpiece someday. It was exhilarating big screen entertainment that still makes me think, all these months later.


Aside from having the most gorgeous poster of the year, Aftersun also has a very gentle power that has kept working. It’s a film about time and its effects, so I think it’s only fitting that time is the very thing that is so kind to the strength of this film. A killer ending scene doesn’t hurt though.

Nightmare Alley

I love film noir. Can’t help it, won’t help it. So, when a film is as deliberately and deliciously indebted to that genre as Nightmare Alley is, I can only lay back and submit. I also think it’s one of those perfect examples of a film where seeing the ending coming is an example of great construction, making the story reach its perfect, dark and natural end.


I really liked a lot of Resurrection while I was watching it. Then we hit this long monologue suddenly. Rebecca Hall lays out one of the most bonkers confessions you’ve ever heard in a film. Yet you believe it. Or at least, you believe her. Those aren’t the same thing, and balancing between the two of those is what keeps the fire in the twisted belly of Resurrection.

The Souvenir Part 2

Life rolls into fiction rolls back into life again. Watching The Souvenir Part 2 feels like the sensation of remembering The Souvenir. I know that’s a confusing way to explain it, but there’s a lot going on in this brave sequel. It pushes everything that was subtext in the first film into the full realm of text. And yet again, one of the great endings of the year.

Red Rocket

Red Rocket is about a terrible human being who does terrible things that ultimately hurt decent people. It’s also hysterical. That’s not easy, but Sean Baker makes it look like it is. His dirtbag world is charming and sticky, but you cannot look away, no matter how bad things get.

Glass Onion

I’ve become a little bit hooked on murder mysteries since the first Knives Out and Glass Onion continues that brilliance. If it didn’t have the humour or the social critique or the sheer momentum, it would still be a knotty little thriller. Except it does have all those things, and more. I only mourn that more people didn’t get to see this in a cinema.

We’re done with the honourable mentions, into the big hitters now!

7. Compartment No. 6

I know what you’re thinking. Such a waste to have a film with 6 in the title place at number 7. What can you do though? The list is the list, we carry on regardless. We also need to stop though and really talk about and appreciate the wonder that is Compartment No. 6. Since I saw it at London Film Festival back in 2021, I’ve been a little obsessed. It’s the story of two travellers on a very long train journey across the east of Europe, where their journey is from one frozen town to another frozen town. Stuck with nothing to do and nothing to see, the two get to know each other. Think that first meet cute from Before Sunrise but at feature length and with a true ambiguity as to whether the two leads are actually going to have a romantic connection. Even while that is ambiguous though, the film absolutely sparks off the screen. The dialogue is a treat for the ears, brought into fruition by two stellar leads. The journey may feel ambiguous, but you trust the crew enough to stay to the final station.

6. Hatching

Eraserhead. Annette. Titane. What do all these films have in common? They’re all excellent films about weird little babies. Finally, getting to join those ranks, is Hatching. It’s a Finnish horror movie about a young girl who finds an egg in the woods, looks after it, and then it hatches. Hatches into what, you may ask? So few people have seen Hatching that I’m still really hesitant to actually talk much about what happens after the egg hatches. What I’m not hesitant to talk about is how much I love this weird freak of a movie. From the pitch I’m giving you, you’re probably expecting a very creepy movie that’s very serious. In parts, sure. But there’s also this wicked strain of comedy in the film that injects levity into the creepiness. The mother of the family runs a vlogging channel about her perfect family and their perfect life, while her daughter is still struggling with whether she actually wants to be the gymnast her mother insists on her being. The dad in the family is also brilliant, playing the father of all cucks, an absolutely pathetic loser who would have no idea what to do if his daughter was only going through puberty and not dealing with whatever is in that egg. Quite simply, I had a gleeful ride with Hatching. It was proper fun, playing in horror and comedy with the ease that would suggest a seasoned director, not a first time director. Watch it, because it’s the one on the list you probably didn’t!

5. The Worst Person in the World

Describing a film by saying “it’s everything” is a phrase that is completely useless at describing the film and also makes you think that the critic in question has absolutely no useful phrases in their dictionary to break down cinematic power. The problem is, sometimes films don’t give you many other options. The Worst Person in the World has been described as many things, but is, for me, mainly a romance movie. It’s about Julie, a Norwegian woman in her twenties, trying to fall in love with herself and the people around her. It also uses those stories to explore a sort of existential crisis that Julie is having. As the narrator says in the prologue, “this used to be easy”. It no longer is. It’s complicated and it’s messy and it’s falling in love with the wrong people at the right time. It’s also pretty heart-breaking at the right moments. Director Joachim Trier manages to wrong foot the audience by playing the first half of the film with such a light comedic touch that when more serious moments appear, they devastate. I saw the film with three people from work and we were all absolute wrecks afterwards, but all watched the film again after that screening. If a film can tear you apart that much and still pull you back in, something incredible has happened. To describe the film in two words; it’s everything.

4. Decision to Leave

Park Chan-Wook has made a career out of violent movies about dark people doing horrible things. Even films like The Handmaiden, notably lighter than films like Oldboy by the sole virtue of their lack of [REDACTED], are still full of very graphic sex and violence. Immediately, that makes Decision to Leave stand out. Though there is death and there is romance, it lacks the full on frenzy of director Park’s most notorious films. I mention all of this only because it seems to be the sticking point for so many people in not falling in love with this film. It was very much not my sticking point. For two and a half hours, we watch a master craftsman get to riff on Vertigo, make two people fall in love and tell every single shot in the most exciting way possible. It’s hard to explain it fully, but every single shot has been done in the most breathtaking way possible. A scene where a character is spying on another character? Time to abandon the literal and place the snooper in the room. Time for a chase? Make the shot extremely wide and launch our characters across it. Oh, there’s a mirror in this shot? Time to surprise the audience with which silhouettes are in focus. Nothing is taken for granted and everything is pushed to the limit, while carrying an air of classiness that evokes classic thrillers. It was a cinematic experience whose sheer cinematic qualities made me want to stand up and holler at the screen. That, is what the magic of the movies are for me.

3. Bones and All

I love Luca Guadagnino’s recent films. Call Me By Your Name is a sensuous love story about young people finding their hearts and Suspiria (2018) is a horror film that takes its time approaching its destination and treats you to all the pleasures of the new flesh. So, consider me delighted when I feasted upon Bones and All and discovered it existed as the middle of this Venn diagram of films I already treasure. We follow Maren, a wanderer who discovers a dark side to her at a sleepover (a scene which is such a dark treat) and goes on the run after her father abandons her. While running, she discovers others like her. One is Sully, a brilliant Mark Rylance, who slithers on and off screen with ease. He teaches Maren about herself, but also while demanding she learn about him. Another wanderer she meets is Lee, played by the already legendary Timothée Chalamet. Chalamet is an actor who changes on film. He’s compelling in photos or on the red carpet, but in films I cannot look away from him. There’s an attraction he carries that feeds into his dangerousness here, such a brilliant utilisation of star persona. We know his need for Maren is physical, but in what way? Throw in a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, properly sensuous cinematography by Arseni Khachaturan and an absolute knock-out, one scene performance from Michael Stuhlbarg, you have a film that leaves a mark. It has not been for everyone (and for God’s sake, please make sure people you recommend this film to know what it is), but it is so far up my street that I should be concerned about my confidential information being linked. I was, in short, very well-fed.

2. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Well, here we are . It’s the one everyone has on their 2022 list. In my defence… No, actually I have no defence. I think Everything Everywhere All At Once is just as good as all its fans say. It is everything. Everywhere. Quite a lot of the time. It is also, in weirdly reductive terms, a success story. I’ve been a fan of Daniels since their bonkers debut Swiss Army Man. A story of a suicidal man and a farting corpse (played by Daniel Radcliffe) going on adventures together was not for everyone but it worked wonders for me. That made me both very excited and very nervous about their follow up film. The logline didn’t make me excited. A woman, doing her taxes? Yeah, no thanks. Except, obviously, it’s more than that. It’s an examination of the multiverse, but crucially through the lens of a single verse. We see universes of martial arts, pixar charm, sausage madness, in a matter of seconds, extended over hours that stay with you for years. That multiversal attitude to genre extends to tone. The film begins very funny, becomes very strange and eventually becomes very emotional. I’ve seen the film twice and I’ve also failed to see the ending twice, because of something in my eye, could be anything, dunno what. No film this year (or in years) has pushed and pulled me in the way that EEAAO has, over and over again.

1. The Northman

When I left The Northman, I felt ready to flip a table. It turns out, I mean this as a compliment. With just three feature films, Robert Eggers has marked himself out as a creative force unlike any other. And though you can trace similarities through his films in their exquisitely detailed period settings, the feeling you get from them is completely different. The Witch was a creepy horror film, The Lighthouse was a full tilt breakdown, so the fact that The Northman is an action epic fits in with that pattern of these films not fitting in with each other at all. It’s the story of Amleth, a prince who loses his future kingdom after watching his uncle murder his father and kidnap his mother. This sends the boy (soon a man) onto a relentless quest for vengeance, first as a mercenary and later as a slave. You’re probably already doing the math and going “hmm, Amleth, that feels like an anagram of a famous play about a Danish prince” and I will stop you right there to say that this is based on the legend that Hamlet was based on. No ripping off and pretending it didn’t happen, the influences are worn on the sleeves here. Not that there’s a lot of sleeves to go around, but the point stands.

As you’d hope from a film about vengeance, the action absolutely rips. An early scene where a village is stormed by warriors perfectly sets the tone when it begins with a spear being thrown at Amleth, him catching it and then throwing it straight back at the attacker. There is a confidence to the presentation of this film, a swinging bravado that Eggers has earned. From this early scene and right up until the climactic battle (which, friends and lovers, is a hot treat), you feel safe in the hands of a man who knows how to ruin his characters days. If that were all that The Northman offered, it could probably still be my favourite of the year, but it’s the layers beneath this seemingly simple vengeance quest that keep the tale under my skin. All is not quite what it seems, and while some of that delves into spoilers (and oh, the scene where the true nature of the quest snaps open is delicious), some of it I can still talk about. Like with his previous films, Eggers engages with myths in ways that remain enigmatic, even as you watch your hero wrestle a dead warrior. You can take it as literal or as a refraction of Amleth’s brain, weighed down by the curse of prophecy. Either way fits satisfyingly into the narrative, a flexible little number that appears deceptively simple. Eggers has come out and said that he wasn’t happy with the final product of The Northman. That baffles me. I adore The Northman and think it is yet another singular work from a genius filmmaker who seems set to reshape cinema for decades to come.

End of Year Favourites

My Favourite TV of 2022 – The Rehearsal

Once again, I haven’t really watched a lot of TV this year. In fact, once you see the honourable mentions list down at the bottom, feel free to have a good chuckle that basically the only stuff I watched this year was reality TV. Sue me, I like the way TV moulds reality into compelling little nuggets of drama. Weirdly, that’s also exactly how we find our way to my favourite TV show of the year, which is not reality TV… Probably. Maybe. It’s hard to tell and I’m honestly not sure if I do want to make the distinction. If you haven’t heard of The Rehearsal, none of this makes any sense to you, so let me explain a little bit what the show is.

Nathan Fielder, former host/main character of the legendary Nathan for You, comes up with the idea of creating a space where you can rehearse for important life events. Maybe it’s a pivotal confession, perhaps it’s a family confrontation, or it could even be the raising of a child. That last one is what most of the show orbits around, as Nathan helps a woman practice the experience of raising a child. With this example, you can start to see where the strange, uncanny and often hilarious side of the show emerges. The fake children are played by child actors, but due to child labour laws the actors have to be regularly swapped out and for the evening the child must be played by a robot. The child is slowly aged up over the course of weeks as they are replaced by child actors of slightly older ages, all with the aim of “rehearsing” the process of raising a child. But who is the rehearsal for? Is it Angela, the woman playing the role of the mother? Or is this rehearsal all for Nathan’s sake, as he masterminds the plan from a room full of security monitors? Even though the answer feels obvious, it is never as clear as you’re expecting in the execution.

If you know Nathan Fielder from Nathan For You, he’ll feel familiar here. It’s a similar character to that show, in that he plays a fictionalised version of himself who is incredibly awkward and deadpan to all the real people he meets. Fielder also operates on largely the same principle, of just letting people talk at him. I genuinely think it’s a unique skill he has as a comedic personality, in that he never pulls out the truly ridiculous things his guests say. By Fielder remaining quiet, the others on screen fill the silence with some of the strangest confessions or statements you’ve ever heard. On Nathan for You, that included things like a shop owner talking about drinking his grandson’s pee when he gets scared. Here, it starts at a guy who sees conspiracies in all numbers, which help explain why he crashed his car while drunk driving, but slowly and suddenly escalates into quietly troubling places. As you might have worked out from that, it means that the comedy is often a little dryer and a little more underplayed, but it means the shocks are even greater.

In The Rehearsal, the character of Nathan becomes more part of the picture than ever. That’s not his intention from the start, but it’s a spiral, as things go absolutely bonkers. The only place you can really compare it to is suddenly not other sitcoms or comedy shows, but the Charlie Kaufman film Synecdoche, New York. In that film, a man creates a play that is a reflection of his own life, inside of a large warehouse, where actors play him and the people in his life. The barriers slowly start to dissolve between the play and the outside life and things go real crazy real fast. If you’ve been paying attention to the images here, you might have worked out that this is exactly what Fielder is doing. He builds these real locations and populates them with actors to get the most accurate recreation of an event. The spiral comes when he panics about not being accurate enough and starts to integrate himself into the rehearsal, while also keeping old sets and actors around for his own personal gratification. It is weird from the word go and it doesn’t get any less weird.

As a show, I find The Rehearsal less consistently hilarious than Nathan For You. Admittedly, it’s not an easy bar to clear, comparing a show to one of the funniest shows ever made. What The Rehearsal does have though is its consistent WTF factor. The barriers of reality and fiction have always been blurry in Fielder’s work, but he takes it to whole new levels now, as well as actually addressing some of the ethical complications that his experiments can create. The actual answer to “where is reality and where is fiction?” is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is the ambiguity of the line and the fact that you’re always thinking about it. Where Fielder plans to take a commissioned second season I have no clue. This first season feels like a complete thesis statement on artifice and reality, ending with an absolute bombshell moment. But, I will also be there the second it drops. For people like me, who don’t watch much TV anymore, The Rehearsal is powerfully compelling enough to lure me back to that world, for a taste of pure imagination.

Honourable Mentions

The Traitors – Though it was a reality TV show, The Traitors was the kind of reality TV show so special that it rivalled anything scripted. As a huge fan of social deduction games, this was the concept taken to the top, in all its scheming brilliance. No show had my mouth on the floor as much as this one did this year and if you still haven’t got around to it, I genuinely think you’ll still be rewarded.

Ru Paul’s Drag Race – So, I got really into Drag Race this year. I’ve watched huge amounts of the show (and it’s probably a large reason why I’ve seen so few other shows this year), but the 2022 entries I’ve seen are US14, UK4, Canada vs The World and the legendary All Stars 7, the all winners season. If I’m forced to pick one season, it would be All Stars, a victory lap for the franchise if ever there was one.

Taskmaster (UK and NZ)Taskmaster remains one of the single funniest shows on TV and the reason I’ve included the New Zealand version on this too is that the format is so rock solid that even when you don’t know any of the comedians, you can still laugh so hard that it hurts. Greg and Alex are probably TV’s strongest double act right now and we should treasure them.

The Boys S3The Boys has never been the best show on TV and it probably never will be. However, it is the most fun, the purest example of what I think TV could be and once was. Week after week, it was the show I wanted to talk to people about, the show that I got excited watching and the show that I am still excited to watch whenever its next season arrives.

The Suspect – I’m still not entirely sure if The Suspect is any good or not, but it was compelling! It was one of those ITV dramas where it’s moody and has twists and is a little trashy, but totally watchable from the first scene to the last. Like The Boys, it reminded me why I love TV as a medium.

End of Year Favourites

My Favourite Album of 2022 – The Loneliest Time by Carly Rae Jepsen

Well what do you know? A pop princess once again steals my heart. Honestly, I don’t know why any of you are surprised by me at this point. The only real question is whether the pop princess I love is going to have fun enough vibes to overpower the album I listened to by a female indie artist that absolutely ripped my heart in two. This year, love wins!

Every single time Carly Rae Jepsen comes up, I feel like I have to do a little defence of her as an artist. She is forever the artist who brought us “Call Me Maybe” and yes, she certainly is. Even her fans will not dispute that legacy. That was a song that was much maligned in its time and I think actually, the past decade has been very kind to it. The past decade however has been even kinder to Jepsen’s career. After her albums Emotion and Dedicated, she set herself out as the most reliable pop princess in town. I love Dua Lipa, I love Taylor Swift, but Carly is the one who I know can always knock it out of the park. So with another album on the way, my hopes were, naturally, high. I had some doubts, but those were of course completely foolish doubts.

Once again, this is another change in vibe for Carly. She’s still in pop, naturally, but this is now a dreamy 70s, Fleetwood Mac-ish vibe. “Western Wind”, the lead single, exemplifies that best. Many of my favourite songs from CRJ are ones that pack a huge punch with big sound, but “Western Wind” is immediately quieter. Even the chorus, Carly plays it low key on. It’s an almost casual introduction to the record, one that speaks to an immense confidence on the part of the artist. And of course, once you get into the album itself, the big sound pops out for you.

That first track “Surrender My Heart”, is such a sucker punch. It first highlights the top tier vocals that we’ve always known Carly can do, but also highlights that we’re still going on emotional journeys on this album. She starts by singing “I’ve been trying hard to open up” and that offers a chance for the audience to take these songs as a sort of confessional for Jepsen. She’s been trying hard, she wants to be open, this is her trying. Even with old school instruments backing her though, she keeps a modern beat and bass, which I love her sound for. It is this pure energy that flows through the music and from this first song into the last, it carries you.

I’ll be honest, I think the next handful of songs aren’t amazing. They’re by no mean bad, because even the worst Carly Rae Jepsen song is a breezy and delightful pop song, but I think they’re below her usual bar. We return to that bar pretty quickly though with “Beach House”, the funniest song on the album. It’s about all the terrible men that Carly has dated across the years, but done with the kind of wry smile that this genre needs now. Think of it as her take on “Blank Space”, a smart takedown of the criticisms female pop stars are labelled with. The ways these men are pathetic is hilarious too, whether it’s that they cry during sex, have their mother cook the food for their date or say “I love you” on the first date. On top of that, it’s an absolute bop.

The next song is “Bends.” I’m going to really struggle to talk about this song because it is one I associate very deeply with Annie, my girlfriend. It’s a slower song but still fully in the genre of pop, about having a bad day and it all being healed by the embrace of the one that you love. There’s this refrain of “I can feel the darkness sometimes too” that I think is gently sensational. I hear it and I take it as being about being someone who is incredibly emotional and finding solace in someone of the same ilk. You both have your moments of vulnerability but in each other you find peace. For me, “Bends” is about the healing power of someone who loves you and how that can heal you with the strength to be there for them when they need you. For me, this song is forever Annie, so it owns my heart for that reason.

That’s what I love about this album, it covers such a brilliant emotional spectrum, just as Jepsen’s previous two albums did. You might be jumping off the walls with glee or holding your head in your hands as you cry in the shower at any given point, but the transition between the two is never abrupt. Let’s take two songs on the album as examples. “Shooting Star” is an absolute, blast off to the moon banger. The tempo is immediately quicker than most and that gets the fun across, before we even get to the cheeky opener “I might sleep with you tonight, if you wanna know why, just because.” This isn’t a song about relationships with other people or even with yourself, it’s about a fun and quick hook-up that you have just because the moon is right and the feeling is nice. Of all the songs on the album, it’s the one I dance to the most. The flipside of it and the song that immediately follows it is “Go Find Yourself or Whatever”, a song that immediately slows things down. Just from the title, you know this is a song about the end of a relationship, maybe a relationship that spun off from that one night the last song depicted. I love that it depicts the attempt at indifference Jepsen feels at the breakup, using “or whatever” to mask the fact that “I wake up hollow”. By most metrics it’s not a stripped back song, but compared to this album it is and that makes the lyrics pack a punch, as Jepsen attempts (and fails) not to care about her ex. It feels almost casual, but is totally devastating.

That takes us to the final track, the titular one. We’ve made it through the good and the bad, so now it’s time to say goodbye. That’s exactly the vibe we get from the start. It’s a goodbye tinged with sorrow, but a farewell that we’ll still try and celebrate regardless. I don’t know enough about music history to say where or what it pulls from, but this sudden strain of disco emerges onto the album for the first time, signalling a definitive moving on. Maybe the most shocking facet of this song though is that it’s a duet with Rufus Wainwright, perhaps most famed for his cover of “Hallelujah”. Here, he fits in with ease. I have no idea how that works, but he and Jepsen perfectly compliment each other and I commend them trying something that could have so easily backfired. Plus, that middle eight! So much fun! It is a perfectly judged conclusion to an album that, while not itself perfect, is another sterling example of the perfect pop that Jepsen is beloved for.

In fact, in Carly Rae Jepsen tradition, even the bonus tracks are amazing! “Anxious” is one that’s been on repeat for me recently, for reasons that are obvious for anyone who has spoken to me in the past few weeks. If you haven’t properly dived into Jepsen’s wider work yet, this album is a great start, because it introduces you to the talent and variety she offers, while still saving her very finest work for exploration later. It is the burst of energy at the end of the year that got me back into music and it gives me energy every time I even see the cover. I adore it, because I am obvious like that.

Honourable Mentions:

Laurel Hell by Mitski – Had I not had such a happy end to 2022, maybe Mitski would have had my favourite album of the year. As it was, she was my most played artist of 2022 and the performer at one of my favourite concerts of the year and Laurel Hell is a worthy addition to her stellar discography

Dawn FM by The Weeknd After Hours came out just as the pandemic took us all into lockdown and therefore feels like this last signifier of a time gone by. And suddenly, after what feels like both two decades and five minutes, The Weeknd has released a follow up. It’s weirdly conceptual, it has bops, what more can a boy ask for?

CAPRISONGS by FKA twigs – I spent much of the various lockdowns listening to FKA twigs and so news of a new album from her delighted me. The album blew past my expectations though and is one that has failed to fade in my memory or in my heart since the start of 2022.

Ants From Up There by Black Country, New Road – It’s worth saying that I went to sixth form with some of the band members of BCNR and many of those band members are friends of close friends of mine. That shouldn’t be taken as a sign that this album is here because it’s from people I know, rather that I am in awe that people whose lives are so close to mine can create something as swaggeringly confident as this while I sit behind a keyboard and write four line reviews of albums.

Crash by Charli XCX – Charli is the pop princess for the alternative crowd, but she still knows how to craft an absolute banger. She has some of the cheekiest samples of the year on her album, but they’re all delivered with a knowing wink that sells them 100%.

WE by Arcade Fire – My relationship with Arcade Fire has soured recently for obvious reasons, but I can’t deny how much I loved WE on release. It is bold and ambitious and a little bit cringe worthy. It is Arcade Fire to a tee and I wish it was the impression of them that I ended the year with.

Big Time by Angel Olsen – There is still so much about Angel Olsen’s discography that I’m unfamiliar with, but even with the little I know, Big Time feels like a very refreshing change in tone for her. It wasn’t a necessary change of pace, but it’s a welcome one regardless.

Rising by mxmtoon – Singers who start because of online followings can go one of two ways for me, as I can often find them slightly grating, However, mxmtoon charms me. She has genuine talent as a singer and a songwriter and I’m excited for her future.

Everything Was Forever by Sea Power – After they provided the music for Disco Elysium, I fell in love with Sea Power and their soundscapes. Though it sounds like faint praise, they make music I can put on in the background and fade away into, and that’s one of the things I treasure most about music as a medium.

Muna by Muna – I have been rooting for Muna since “Number One Fan” in 2019 and now they’ve finally broken through into the mainstream, without losing a shred of their personality. I feel very proud of this band that I have very little to do with.

Wet Leg by Wet Leg – Rumblings were coming out of festivals in 2021 about this strange band from the Isle of Man, making pop music that was brazenly full of innuendos and strange turns of phrase. When that band, Wet Leg, finally released their debut album, I understood all the fuss and became part of the fuss myself.

Midnights by Taylor Swift – Released the same day as The Loneliest Time, I know that for many Midnights is the superior album. I however, found it as full of lows as I did highs. Those highs, however, were quite special indeed, and as a Swiftie I am dutybound to defend the stuff I don’t like with the vigour I praise the stuff I do love.

And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow by Weyes Blood – Weyes Blood is one of those recent discoveries for me, where people cooler than I told me who she was. Now that I’ve discovered her though, I love the way her operatic vocals play into and against her music, to create complex soundscapes I keep returning to.

Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You by Big Thief – If you were to define the sound of indie music with an album, it could well be this one. Its length is sometimes a weakness, but I adored the spikes of brilliance. “No Reason”, in particular, is one of my favourite songs of the whole year.

NO THANK YOU by Little Simz – Once again, I am won over by Little Simz. I don’t listen to a lot of rap music but when I do, it’s usally Little Simz and I always enjoy her flow and lyricism working in perfect harmony.

RENAISSANCE by Beyoncé – For years, I have resisted the pull of Beyonce. I thought I was better than everyone else for that. I was wrong, of course, which I can say now that I’ve succumbed. If I need an hour of solid vibes, I put on RENAISSANCE and jam hard to it. In particular, “Virgo’s Groove” is irresistible.

End of Year Favourites

My Favourite Video Game of 2022 – Immortality

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. As soon as I played it, I was desperate to talk to everyone about Immortality. The issue was, I didn’t want to be the person to spoil Immortality for people who haven’t played it. I did what anyone rational would do and made my girlfriend play it, who in turn made her friend play it and then we had a little video game reading club. Anyway, the point being, I was considering writing a post about the game around the time it first came out, but felt it needed time. Time we have given it and time it has endured. I’ll talk about the game in non-spoiler terms first and then do a bit of spoiling later. If you want to, feel free to skip it and go down to the honourable mentions. With all that said, let us finally discover Immortality.

The first main question; what is Immortality? Let me answer that question with another question; who is Marissa Marcel? That’s the question that opens Immortality and it’s what powers the first part of your investigation. We do have some knowledge to get us started. She was an actress who starred in three films, all of which were never released. We have clips (presented as full motion video, meaning these feel like true film clips) from these films, including behind the scenes clips such as rehearsal or audition clips, and we have to click through them for clues. Again though, not as simple as it seems. You will click on objects or faces in the clip and the in-game system will take you to another clip with that same object or face, usually a new clip. Viewing all of these clips will hopefully give you answers into who Marissa Marcel is (or was) and what happened (or didn’t happen) to her. It’s a delicious setup and one that never failed to compel me.

What also compelled me was the unconventional gameplay loop. If you played Her Story, a previous knockout from creator Sam Barlow, you’ll know the kind of thing to expect. You are hunting for and then sorting through clips, trying to piece together a story out of what you have already seen and attempting to work out what is still hiding. You don’t really know how many clips there are left, or what you’re looking for. You just know you’ll know when you see it. Adding to this loop is the ability to rewind and fast forward through footage. At first it feels a little pointless, but rewinding can help bring more out of the clips and allow you to pull deeper meaning than what initially appears on the surface. These things combined allow for truly original storytelling. You discover the path through the narrative and the order you discover things may change the final conclusions you come to. That is so thrilling and nothing apart from Her Story has ever done that for me (once I play it, I’m sure I’ll say the same about Telling Lies.) Playing a game and filling two sides of A4 while making notes is the kind of nerdy delight that not enough games offer me.

You only buy into the narrative through because absolutely everything stands up to inspection. The film clips we’re seeing are from three very different genres, three quite different periods and encompass plenty of forms, and not once do you question their validity. The team at Half Mermaid worked their asses off to create hours of footage that you are able to fast forward through or completely disregard. It’s also important to note that because of the object-matching mechanic that is inherent to the gameplay, the smallest thing in frame has to matter. Writing objects and themes across a novel or a screenplay is one thing, but having these exist across scenes that you could click through at random and still work takes talent. What I’m trying to get at is that it’s difficult to praise a game like Immortality for its graphics in the same way you would God of War, but the game is nonetheless designed perfectly. The score is amazing too, adding an air of mystery to the simple act of clicking through scenes. Somehow, tension appears! And then there’s the decision to make the controller rumble and add an ominous sound effect when rewinding certain scenes, which… Well, it’s time to get into spoilers, isn’t it?

Please, if you haven’t played Immortality, skip ahead now. What I’m about to reveal is one of the greatest discoveries I’ve ever had in a video game. While I was rewinding through a scene, a second scene started to appear through the first. This was not a scene I had seen before, and it didn’t seem to have any of the actors I’d seen before. There was also the matter of the dialogue being strangely cryptic, about becoming another or about survival through generations. I was hooked. What other clips had this sort of thing hiding in them? The moment where I found a clip that, upon rewinding, snapped into the scene with what I referred to as “the shadow people”, my jaw hit the floor and my heart started racing. There was a whole other story happening under my nose in Immortality, featuring characters called The One and The Other. I didn’t yet know who they were but discovering their story felt like the key to uncovering Marissa’s fate. Discovering each of these clips filled me with dread, as they stared through the screen into my eyes, but I was always hungry for even more.

Once you discover The One, the thematic breadth of the game becomes startling. When you begin Immortality, you take the title to be some kind of gesture towards the nature of film as immortalising and capturing the images of people to be preserved forever. To say the game isn’t about that would be wrong, but it soon reveals itself to be this in tandem with the stories of immortal beings. “Becoming another” no longer refers to just acting, but to the act of literally possessing a humans body. Thinking about the levels that the themes exist and thrive on it impressive, but you become even more impressed when you remember that these scenes have appeared to you in a different order than to other players. Certain scenes have to be watched before other scenes can be triggered in the timeline, but you’re largely left in the wild. All of these things lead to an outstandingly chilling ending. It becomes established that if an immortal immolates themselves, anyone who watches this act will become their next host. This knowledge however, occurs after you have witnessed exactly this act. Without realising it, you moved from the role of observer into the role of participant and now you are trapped. As the final film cells melt away, the face of The One fills the screen and chills ran up my spine. It is a superb way of using the form of the game itself to enhance the final sting in the narratives tail.

If I am to recommend anything about Immortality to you, I recommend that you play it at the same time as a friend. You can exchange notes, work out where the story is heading and cryptically dance around revealing a scene that the other has not yet discovered. It was what I did with my girlfriend and we had a giddy nerdy time with it. In a time where video games trend towards homogeny, Immortality is a gift. It feels special and unique. Please, play it and spend money on it if you can. Otherwise, it is (at time of writing) on Xbox Game Pass and, unbelievably, on Netflix. If its existence on that platform doesn’t convince you of the strange hybridity and unique categorisation at play, nothing will.

Honourable Mentions

Vampire Survivors – I adore a little game I can pick up and play, which is exactly what Vampire Survivors offers. No game lasts more than half an hour and it has a deceptively deep well of content. I only regret playing it when I look up and realise that two hours have passed in my “one quick run” session.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga – I was sceptical of a new Lego Star Wars, especially after the fatigue that I’ve felt for the film franchise these past few years. But, here is Lego Star Wars updated for the modern age, meaning it has all the filler you dread but also crave. One day I will try and 100% this game and it will kill me.

Pentiment – Despite consisting of almost entirely text and being about 16th century politics and religion (or perhaps exactly because of those things), Pentiment stole my heart. It’s the rare RPG where I felt like my decisions really mattered, especially the ones I didn’t want to make.

Escape Academy – Do you like escape rooms? Yes? Then Escape Academy is for you. The overarching story is nice but not needed, because I could have just played hour after hour of wacky and wild virtual escape rooms.

Lapin – We’ve had super hard platformers about blocks of meat, we’ve had super hard platformers about transgender women with depression, we now finally have Lapin, the super hard platformer about rabbits. The bits I played charmed and my girlfriend was absolutely head over heels for it.

Disc Room – I still feel nostalgic for the simplicity of games like Super Hexagon and Disc Room feels like a return to those kind of games. All you have to do is dodge spinning blades, but it’s the way the enemies develop and the game rewards your effort that makes Disc Room so much fun.

Trombone Champ – Toot toot! I love a rhythm game and it turns out that ones I’m terrible at are really really funny to play. Proper giggle inducing stuff, toot!

End of Year Favourites, top 7

Top 7 – My Favourite Films of 2021

It’s the big one! The list that I spend my entire year building up to, so that people can look at it and validate all of the hours of my life I have spent watching films to get great taste. And while 2021 has proven to be another not great year in general, I think there’s been a lot of incredible films to distract us from all the everything. So incredible in fact, that even excellent films like Dune, Spencer and Judas and the Black Messiah have failed to crack the honourable mentions. As per usual, my rules are simple. It needs to have been released in the UK during 2021, it must be a feature film and this whole list is entirely subjective. You can find my full ranking of all the 2021 releases I saw here on my Letterboxd, which will allow you to judge me more thoroughly and understand which films didn’t make the cut because I didn’t see them. I’m also going to link to any posts I’ve written about any of the films mentioned, in case you want to know more about them. With all of this said, into the honourable mentions!

Honourable Mentions

Pig – Nic Cage has done many incredible things throughout his career, but with Pig he does something he’s never done before: he made me cry. In a career spanning decades, Pig has immediately marked itself out as a special film for Cage.

Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time – If you are not into Evangelion then this film will not convince you in any way, but those (like me) who are completely on board with the whole nonsense of this franchise, you are in for a treat that goes as big visually as it does emotionally.

Sound of Metal – I don’t know whether to celebrate Sound of Metal for its unbelievably brilliant lead performance, its emotional reckoning with the unavoidable or the way it gave the Deaf community the stage many of us never knew it needed. I don’t have to choose though, all three are worthy reasons.

Censor – As we will get to a couple of times more on this list, I seem to love horror films that everyone else falls out of love with because of something weird in the third act. Censor is that perfectly, a film I am so deeply in love with that its idiosyncrasy only enhances it.

Last Night in Soho – My most controversial choice I’d imagine, I saw Last Night in Soho twice in cinemas and had a blast both times. It might be Wright’s weakest fiction film, but it’s also a lot of fun and an experience I have kept thinking about since release.

Invisible Life – You have not heard of this film. After playing festivals in 2019 under a longer name, Invisible Life has had to wait until 2021 for a UK release, which even then was in very few cinemas. Please, I urge you to check it out, it’s a sensational Brazilian melodrama that will pull you in so slowly that you won’t realise how deep you’re in until you start crying.

Promising Young Woman – I almost put Promising Young Woman higher up the list, but I haven’t seen it since release and feel like it could do with a second watch to confirm some feelings. As it stands though, note perfect casting and some tricky emotional wire walking have had me thinking non-stop all year.

With these very honourable mentions done, into the full ranked list!

7. The French Dispatch

There is a criticism surrounding The French Dispatch that it is too much of Wes Anderson’s style and artifice. After my first watch, I kind of got that. This is an anthology film that is so full of different visual quirks and character moments that you may not have time to actually form any emotional attachments. But then there was the second watch. Again, I was a really big fan of the film the first time, as I say in my review. That second viewing though, man. It opens this entire film up into something approaching one of Anderson’s best. The jokes are funnier, the visuals are even more impressive and finally, that emotional core so many believed to be absent opens up. In the second story, much maligned by detractors, I found myself welling up at the denouement. It is the culmination of this collection of stories about beautiful things taken away before their time is over but being forced to face that truth and enjoy the melancholy nostalgia of the past. Genuinely, I cannot recommend enough watching this film twice, at least. Your appreciation will soar and you too will realise that The French Dispatch is one of the best films of 2021 and one of the best in a filmography that is hardly full of duds.

6. Drive My Car

I’ll get it out the way now, Drive My Car is three hours long. That in itself is probably going to put most people off but believe me when I say that every minute in all three of those hours is essential. Drive My Car is the second excellent film adaptation of a Murakami short story in the last few years, but much different from the simmering tension of Burning. It is the story of a theatre director and actor who, after facing a personal loss, is attempting to adapt Uncle Vanya using a cast all speaking different languages. While putting on this production, he is required to have a driver driving his car and during these drives the two listen to tapes that contain the voice of a ghost on them. I’m aware this doesn’t sound thrilling so far, but believe me when I say it works because it is so hard to put your finger on what the film is. After seeing it, I said to one of my colleagues that I was surprised how sexy it was, which garnered the response “actually I thought it was really sad.” This conversation is testament to the brilliant fluidity that powers Drive My Car, a film that manages to be three hours long yet still leave room for interpretation. Set aside that time, put your phone away and settle in for this film which will quietly and slowly draw you in very deep.

5. Malignant

I watched Malignant at home and spent, as an educated guess, half of it slapping my bed with complete giddy joy. Most of this list is full of cerebral films that make me seem very smart (though I am letting weird ones slip through more than ever this year), but there is something about really powerful genre films that allows them to circumvent my consciousness and hit the middle of the monkey brain. A lot of the time it happens with really fun bad movies, but Malignant is a top-tier seat slapper the likes of which I haven’t experienced in a big budget movie this past decade. The story is barely important, something about a woman who had a surgery when she was younger and is now experiencing hallucinations of murders seemingly as they are committed. What is important, is that the story is a means of servicing some wild twists, very silly performances and a healthy portion of absolutely gonzo set pieces. Everything I love about bad genre movies is here, but done genuinely well and with deliberate intent. The fact that I’ve only seen this the once and by myself is frankly the only thing that holds Malignant this far back on the list. It is some of the most fun I’ve had with any film this year, you should have it too.

4. Never Gonna Snow Again

It’s finally here. I finally get to talk about Never Gonna Snow Again again. Back when I was covering the virtual London Film Festival in 2020, this film snuck up on me and became my favourite of the festival. The problem was, I didn’t know when I’d see it again. Being my most extensive stint at a festival to date, I realised that while some of the higher profile films already have distribution, a lot of smaller but still excellent films can fly under the radar and remain in film purgatory. Fortunately, Never Gonna Snow Again was picked up by Picture House Entertainment (who, full disclosure, are my employers) and it came out. For real. For finally. Having gotten what I’ve asked for though, I now have the difficult task of explaining this film to you. It’s a fairy tale about a masseuse in an upper class suburb, who may or may not have magical powers, but it’s also not that. It’s a comedy, a tragedy, a modern day myth about the destructive nature of late capitalism. It feels special in its uniqueness and has gone cruelly under appreciated before and since its release. So please, seek out Never Gonna Snow Again, a film that has to be seen to be felt to be believed.

3. Bo Burnham: Inside

I don’t care if you don’t think it’s a film, Bo Burnham: Inside is a feature film in my eyes and an excellent one at that. It’s also part of a very specific time in my life, where despite my degree being over I was still in a weird emotional limbo and feeling very stranded in the midst of a pandemic that remains a huge part of our lives. For as long as he’s been performing, Bo Burnham has been great at verbalising these tricky emotions that make up modern life, but he brought his A-game for his finest project to date. At first, Inside appears to be more of the same, a series of fun songs about modern life that contain a hint of darkness, but then it grows into something bigger. It gets a lot darker as the film develops, with Burnham visibly starting to crumble, yet I think even this is an attempt to mislead the audience. Inside is definitely a look into the emotional reality of living during the pandemic, but it’s also very specifically about being a creative person and how you separate your own life from your art. This thin line that divides reality and performance is one of my very favourite themes to see explored and at every turn, Inside tackles it. I think it is very special and to be incredibly honest, it became a part of me. Of course it made the list.

2. Petite Maman

Cėline Sciamma almost made the top spot on my best of the year list for a second year in a row, but take that only as a comment on how much I loved the top film this year and not even a shadow of a suggestion that Petite Maman isn’t as close to perfection as a feature film has gotten since Paddington 2. It’s a film about a young girl who, in the wake of her grandmothers death, returns to the home her mother grew up in and makes a new friend while adventuring in the woods. Importantly, it is also a film that is 72 minutes long. When was the last time you saw 1. a film that short or 2. a film that short that still manages to feel so full of affection? More than that makes Petite Maman special though, everything else about it is special too. The sparse but powerful use of music is special, the way editing is used to time travel is special and the two lead performances are incredibly special. Sciamma has yet again made a film that feels like an already timeless classic. She is too powerful. Arguably, she may need to be stopped. Until we stop her though, may we continue to get more knockout masterpieces like Petite Maman.

1. Titane

I’m tempted to just leave my thoughts on Titane as 😈. Words can only do so well at conveying how delicious the cinematic chaos hidden inside this film is, why not finally succumb to emojis? I also am tempted to leave it there because I don’t want to be the one who spoils Titane for you, a film so full of treats to unwrap, some of which may contain razor blades. In an inverse of the way I love Petite Maman because of its simple perfection, I adore Titane because of its chaotic mess. There is A LOT going on with this film. We’re talking serial killers, we’re talking the performativity of gender roles and we’re talking human relations with machines. Those all happen in the first fifteen minutes. If you didn’t know by now, Titane is a hell of a ride. The film uses the language of extreme cinema to speak to an innate truth about the extraordinary human capacity for love. It’s not that the extremity is all smoke and mirrors per se, more that it is a necessary leap of faith to get audiences to release their inhibitions. I do not doubt that this film will not be for everyone. A few years ago, it wouldn’t have been for me. But now it is. It really is. Titane is a lot of things to a small(ish) group of people and I am proud to consider myself in that number. You might be too. Take a bite and find out. 😈

End of Year Favourites

My Favourite Video Game of 2021 – Inscryption

I’ve warmed to card games as a genre recently. For a long time it felt like there wasn’t much middle ground between the exploitative whirlpool of games like Hearthstone or the absurd depth that leads to total inaccessibility that I found in things like The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game. Then I discovered Slay the Spire and fell in love with the possibilities of the genre. Much as I like its open ended and endless nature though, it means that there isn’t really room in my life for another endless card battler. Which is why Inscryption is so great.

Before I say another word about Inscryption, it’s worth knowing that this is one of those games that is best experienced when you don’t know anything about it. I’m going to try not to give away any of its secrets, but I played it fairly blind and would recommend you try the same too. For those who want to know more though, it is a card battling game based in the lodge of a being whose identity is mysterious. He narrates your journey and asks you to play his game so that he may do something nefarious with you. Between matches, you are allowed to explore his cabin and find what he is hiding, which may aid you in your future battles. But something here is wrong. When you started the game, why did it only let you click continue? What are all these greyed out buttons on the pause menu? Is this card talking to me?

(Spoiler alert, he probably is)

All of this fun meta storytelling would be totally worthless if the game itself wasn’t actually fun to play. Fortunately, the card battling in Inscryption is built on rock solid foundations and feels strangely fresh. There’s a central mechanic which requires you to sacrifice cards you already have on the table in order to place strong cards, a mechanic I’ve never seen before. It took a little while for me to work it out, as well as work out the further mechanics the game later adds on top, but once it clicks it feels properly satisfying. Sometimes I found the learning curve a little steep, like a section in the third act that I had to grind away at for over an hour to make any progress on, but it was otherwise a take on a tired genre that plays in fresh ways as well as subverting the old ways narratively.

Inscryption is the break from formula you need.

I’m also totally in love with the audio and visual design of the game. The tone feels a bit like it’s in the horror genre, almost entirely because of the weird noises of the world. It is the kind of game that is best suited to playing late at night, in the dark, with your headphones turned loud. The cabin creaks, the wind howls, the knives sound like they really hurt. Pair that with minimal but chilling visuals, it works immaculately. There’s a clear understanding from Daniel Mullins (the creator of the game) of what this genre needs to be satisfying at a fundamental level, which allows for playful visual subversion throughout. Again, I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but as the game changes, the visuals also change and set the tone for what’s to come. It never feels like an attempt to be weird just to be unpredictable, but always a natural continuation of the previous events.

So if you, like me, also remain tired of games that takes weeks to finish through hours of unrewarding grinding, Inscryption is the break from formula you need. It’s got a cool story to explore, feels great to be spending time with and has damn good gameplay to boot. Quite honestly, if you’re not already interested it’s not for you. It certainly is for me though.

Honourable Mentions

Overboard! – A video game adaptation of the “good for her” film genre, Overboard! (yes, the exclamation mark is in the title) asks you to help a new widow get away with the murder of her husband while on board a boat. How you do it is up to you, whether it involves seduction, sabotage or further acts of murder. Whatever you choose, great writing keeps each new attempt fresh.

Genesis Noir – A jazzy noir thriller about the life of the universe as imagined through the metaphor of a breakup. Explaining the plot of Genesis Noir gets us nowhere, but it looks great, sounds awesome and has an ending to drool over.

Maquette – It’s the requisite Annapurna game! Some of the puzzles in Maquette felt frustratingly oblique to me, but it is all based on this genuinely great hook of transferring items between spaces in which size is all relative.

Before Your Eyes – For the second year in a row, a video game made me cry. It feels a little like cheating that Before Your Eyes did it, because it relies on the player resisting blinking for as long as possible, but this gimmick is used in a way that never actually feels like a gimmick and is festooned with a narrative that would still probably have made me cry even if my eyes were experiencing normal function.

End of Year Favourites

My Favourite Album of 2021 – Solar Power by Lorde

Like I said last year, I feel weird doing end of year rankings for music, TV or video games. Sure, it’s all my opinion anyway, but I feel like I miss out on so many things that I could eventually come to call my favourites. So again, we’re doing this. I’m not ranking the best stuff I heard or played this year, I’m just talking quite in depth about a few things I loved and then throwing some extra love around as well for good measure after. Sound good? Good. Let us begin.

I could have told you last year that Lorde’s new album would be my favourite album of 2021. And here we are, surprise, it is. With Pure Heroine and Melodrama, Lorde created the soundtrack to my time at University. She gets the agony and the ecstasy of being a young adult in ways that few artists do, at least for me. And so naturally Solar Power, her first album since 2017, was an album that I had been hotly anticipating. What I hadn’t anticipated was the change in emotional tone. We’ll get more into the whole album in a minute, including the sections of it that don’t fit what I’m about to say, but it feels like talking to a friend you haven’t seen in a while. They’ve been struggling with their mental health for years but you ask them how they are and they smile. They pause for a moment and say “you know, I’m actually really good”. And you both know that they mean it.

That change in tone is what has made Solar Power a somewhat divisive album, with Lorde celebrating her newfound confidence in the life she has found. Take the title track as an example. It’s a song all about the joys of liberating yourself from the ties of your mobile phone or the expectations society puts on you, kicking loose and vibing out in the sun. It is a lot of fun, and also often cheeky with lines like “I’m kinda like a prettier Jesus”. You can sense the joy Lorde feels emanating through her music in ways that even her most joyous songs before couldn’t do. No, it’s not the most comforting feeling in the world if you’ve had an absolutely awful time this year, but as someone who has been able to find joy it works for me.

She’s still attuned to emotional complexities though, which the song “California” highlights. It’s a song about moving away from the toxic world that Los Angeles can create, as well as being a metaphor for an old relationship. She’s talking about moving away from “that California love”, something that is undeniably the right move but that comes accompanied with sensory triggers of all those good moments. At its best, the song is melancholic, accepting the need to move on from a moment which is fun but certain to be fleeting. Other songs on the album acknowledge this too, like “The Man With the Axe”, a song about still falling in love through all the red flags that are visible. Lorde has always been good at making songs with complex emotional layers hidden under cheery exteriors, and Solar Power is another album still full of those songs.

Solar Power is a 40 minute plea from Lorde not to let her be the voice of a generation and yet ironically she pleas in a way that once again speaks to and for millions of voices.

But then it’s also an album that is ready to rip your heart out at the right moment. The absolute song of the album, I think even my song of the year, is “Stoned at the Nail Salon”. Like I said, Solar Power is an album about being happy with the place where you’ve found yourself, but “Stoned” is a song about this terrifying fear that everything you’ve worked towards is wrong. This whole world you spent so much time and effort building and making completely concrete might not be the dream you want to live forever. It’s a song haunted by the ghosts of the past, visions of “two former hell raisers” threatening to ruin the tranquillity of now. It also features the absolutely devastating line “all the music you love at 16 you’ll grow out of” which as a 22 year old is starting to prove more and more true. Lorde being only a few years older than me, her lyrics can’t help but speak to the equivalent moment in my life. So even though I don’t really have it all sorted out right now, the idea this song posits of creating your dream life and still being unhappy terrifies me.

There is a sense that Lorde is the voice of a generation, specifically the one I find myself in. I know this sense exists, because I have called her exactly this on many occasions. But I think the genius of Solar Power is that it’s an album on which Lorde explicitly denies this responsibility. If “Leader of the New Regime” doesn’t convince you, with its pleas for someone to take over this world in which paranoia reigns supreme, the final lines on the album should convince you. As “Oceanic Feeling” fades out on a quiet note, lazing on the beach that so much of this album revolved around, Lorde sings “I’ll know when it’s time to / Take off my robes and step into the choir.” Solar Power is a 40 minute plea from Lorde not to let her be the voice of a generation and yet ironically she pleas in a way that once again speaks to and for millions of voices. Pure Heroine was the album for people whose blood has just started rushing, Melodrama the album for that blood being shed, but Solar Power is the album to let that blood finally cool down, “wherever that leads.” For my life and for hers, I think I am now ready for whatever this all leads onto.

Honourable Mentions

Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice – A close second favourite album this year, Blue Weekend is everything I want from a rock album. It kicks ass, breaks your heart and has only gotten better the more I’ve listened to it this year. Blast it loud, blast it now.

Daddy’s Home by St. Vincent – In hindsight, of course St. Vincent was going to struggle to top Masseduction, but Daddy’s Home is a valiant attempt. It goes all in on evoking the coolness and griminess of the seventies and is all the better for it.

Sour by Olivia Rodrigo – I’m not a teenager with a broken heart, but I still act like I am, so of course I loved Sour. It’s an incredible debut from Rodrigo and one that promises more excellence to come, whether her heart is broken again or not.

Long Lost by Lord Huron – There’s always been a Twin Peaks vibe from Lord Huron but they embrace it completely on Long Lost, climaxing with a fourteen minute instrumental song that might as well be made by Angelo Badalamenti. Of course I loved it.

Civilisation by Kero Kero Bonito – This album has to be on the list, if only because seeing it performed live this year is one of my most memorable nights of the year. Kero Kero Bonito were the only band I saw live in 2021, but it was such a high bar to clear that I’m glad I didn’t give any other artists a look in.

Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast – Thank you to everyone this year who has attempted to rehabilitate my taste in music, this album is a stand in for all the new discoveries I made. In particular, Jubilee is an album George recommended me and that I’ve loved walking to all year. I listen to it, think of him and smile.

Home Video by Lucy DacusHome Video is here entirely because of the song “Brando”. No song has ever made me feel so picked apart as this one, analysing all the ways that I am a shitty person romantically, despite the fact Lucy Dacus and I have never met. It’s incredible.

Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish – The first time I listened to this album, I was pretty apathetic for the first half. But then the last four songs happen. They completely recontextualise the album and deliver an incredible emotional punch that I am happy to suffer over and over again.

Woman on the Internet by Orla Gartland – Orla Gartland has been releasing music that knocks my socks off for a while, first with her Why Am I Like This? EP and then “Did It To Myself” broke my heart in Normal People. Her debut album delivers on everything those incredible projects promised.

star-crossed by Kacey Musgraves – Following on from Golden Hour, an album all about how happy Musgraves’ marriage makes her, we have star-crossed, an album all about her divorce. It’s a hard emotional turn, but one that pays off in all its complicated reflection.

You Signed Up For This by Maisie Peters – I don’t mean to sound cruel when I say this, but I’m not a big fan of Peters’ online presence. However, her music makes me forget all that, with densely written songs that evoke the best of Taylor Swift.

Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender – Sam Fender is Bruce Springsteen from the north of England. His appeal is that simple. He has great talent on a guitar but also an anger in many of his songs, an anger that is very specifically targeted, but always at things that are universal for young British listeners. Try not to love the guy.

An Evening with Silk Sonic by Silk Sonic – I’ve never really liked Bruno Mars, but on teaming up with Anderson .Paak, he has created the grooviest record of the year. It is banger after banger after banger, all soaked in serious style.