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Songs of the year 2022 Listen here

  1. Gustaf (Brooklyn, US) - Mine (May, Crofter’s Rights): WOW!! WOW!! WOW!! This was a truly electrifying live experience. Like watching a coiled spring explode - BANG!! - it was irresistibly catchy and brimming with energy. With razor sharp guitar riffs, funky drums and almost drinkable bass-lines that wouldn’t shame Tina Weymouth, I felt as if transported to early 80s New York. Really intense; really fun. Gig of the year? - YES YES - but only just edging the next three - so read/listen on…

  2. Go_A (Kyiv, Ukraine) - Shum (June, The Lanes): A poignant and powerful performance from Go_A, Ukraine’s 2021 Eurovision entry. It was both moving and exhilarating. ‘Shum’ was a favourite last year and as a result I’d followed Go_A ever since. Seeing the band’s post-Eurovision elation upturned by the awfulness of war shed a stark light on the life-changing nature of events. As a result, the song resonates ever more strongly and I will never forget the powerful finale to the set when audience and band merged for an incredible rendition of this song which, from now on, will always feel like an anthem of defiance.

  3. The Delines (Portland, US) - All along the ride (July, The Fleece): A sultry night in July was perfect to experience the world-weary country soul of this melancholic, story-telling outfit. Singer Amy Boone’s voice seems to ride every eddy of the troubled lives she sings about. Lines like “I could lie and say I’d get a thicker skin. I’ve been trying my whole life to get a thicker skin” cut me to the core in her hands.

  4. Jonathan Bree (Auckland, NZ) - Heavenly Vision (May, The Exchange): Postponed from the live-music-free days of 2020 this was SO worth waiting for. Unlike any gig I’ve seen before, this was a surreal visual spectacle with the entire band masked as mannequins. Musically it was song after song of glorious baroque pop. An artsy concept that could so easily come across as naff nonsense - it was delivered so perfectly, that no such question of pretence arose.

  5. Courtney Marie Andrews (Phoenix, US) - Satellite (October, Rough Trade): My third time seeing CMA and she is always a delight. This was a very intimate solo set at Rough Trade where her voice (truly that of an angel) shone through brightly.

  6. Orbury Common (Bristol, UK) - Haberdashery (October, Dareshack): I discovered these at Ritual Union - a one day multi-venue festival in Bristol. It’s a great thing to wander round catching performances by artists you have never heard of before - occasionally stumbling on gems like this. More than the sum of its parts - two chaps with synths; a little screen showing grainy old footage; woozy beats; and disembodied voices - in this case done so very well that all cliches were thoroughly transcended.

  7. Mandrake Handshake (Oxford, UK) - Hypersonic super-asterid (October, Strangebrew): Another Ritual Union find, this impressive looking eight-piece band knocked out an expansive wall of sound always anchored to driving motorik drumming. Wash-over psychedelia not a million miles from Jane Weaver’s more rocky stuff.

  8. Bas Jan (London, UK) - All forgotten (April, The Cube): I previously saw Serefina Steer as a solo performer supporting her great but obscure ‘Moths are real’ album (produced by Jarvis Cocker). She now collaborates with him in the JARV-IS project and is quite a lynch-pin in that band. With Bas Jan she successfully re-imagines the agit-pop of early 80s.

  9. Hurray for the Riff Raff (New Orleans, US) - Pierced arrows (September, Lafayette, London): HFTRR is the vehicle for singer Alynda Segarra - a truly charismatic performer. My only gig outside Bristol, this was at a new venue, the Lafayette in Kings Cross, which was good if a little soulless. The same couldn’t be said for the band, which oozed passion and character from start to finish. A very powerful and emotional live act.

  10. Floating World Pictures** (London, UK) - The Village Headman (November, The Cube): I’ll be honest, I had tickets for this but had to miss it. I love this track however (released on Bristol’s Friendly Records label) and I also know that the gig was a cracker. Second-hand knowledge but I’m playing the joker and sneaking this one in.

  11. Portishead (Bristol, UK) - The Rip (May, 02 Academy) : I never imagined I’d ever see Portishead play again - but it happened. All in aid of the WarChild charity (partly to raise money to support kids affected by war in Ukraine) the band re-convened for a short performance. Given the last-minute nature and (I understand) some tensions between the band members, it was a pretty incredible 20 minute set. Something of a roll-call of greatest hits performed with a passion and aplomb that had a few jaws dropping (mine included). The Rip is one of my favourite songs by them so I was thrilled to hear it. One to remember - and possibly their last performance.

  12. Belle and Sebastien (Glasgow, UK) - Another sunny day (July, Lloyd’s Ampitheatre): Another old favourite. I’d only ever seen B&S once before and that was back in the late 90s around the time they broke through. Back then I found them enjoyable but pretty ramshackle and just a little precious. The B&S of 2022 is a different beast altogether. They were immaculately tight and Stuart Murdoch has become quite the raconteur with a self-effacing banter that is almost as much fun as the music played. They played this song - I was happy!!

  13. David Bowie** - Moonage daydream (October, Watershed): Included because seeing the film “Moonage daydream” was the next best thing to seeing Bowie live (something I regretfully never managed). The film includes beautifully restored concert footage and experiencing this on the big screen was so immersive it was akin to a live performance and certainly the closest I will ever get to seeing the great man.

  14. Sparkleray** (UK and US) - Back to the Blackstar: A band that didn’t even play live, never mind me seeing them. But I had to include this psycho-geographic time-travelogue through Birmingham’s 70s/80s musical landscape. The haunting lyric takes you back to Barbarellas, the Holy City Zoo among many other places. It’s driven along by a propulsive, melancholic synth backing that perfectly compliments the evocative words. What’s more, its by a couple of my oldest friends and musical collaborators Bryn Corbett and Robert Shaw.

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