Saturday, October 15, 2022

National Album Day: 2022

For this year's National Album Day, our contributors have banded together to compile a list of their favourite albums. 

Ranging from Radiohead, to Pixies, to Joni Mitchell and SZA, our writers have hand picked some of the most influential records from the 20th and 21st century.

Radiohead – ‘OK Computer’ 

My all-time favourite album is Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’: one of the most innovative albums of all time. Its abstract lyricism and layered art rock sound make it not only a personal favourite, but one of the most ground-breaking albums in history. Thom Yorke’s lyrical exploration of the alienation and anxieties of modern living – political corruption, rampant consumerism, our perilous relationship with technology – remains eerily relatable even 25 years after its release. Moreover, the album is simply a joy to listen to: a journey in every sense of the word, through sombre, melodic tracks to utterly explosive ones. My favourites, the melancholic ‘No Surprises’ and manic ‘Paranoid Android’, are perfect examples. Undeniably, ‘OK Computer’ is the album that redefined my perception of what music could be.

- Ellie Henderson

Lingua Ignota - 'Sinner Get Ready'

'Sinner Get Ready' isn't a fun album. Much like watching 'Schindler's List' or visiting my widowed mother, I've been putting off working my way through Lingua Ignota's most recent project since it's release in August 2021, but I'm so glad I finally got round to it. Kristin Hayter attacks her life trauma head on through music, combatting her experiences of domestic abuse, questioning her belief in god and drawing some provoking parallels between the two. The first three tracks are genuinely nightmarish, with lyrics are heavy enough to make all of your problems feel light, but persevering through the emotional bombardment brings with it a truly beautiful second half of the album. The instrumentation is both lush and subtle, the recording and mixing meticulous. And the result? A jaw dropping, unique sounding project, crafted to within an inch of perfection.

- Elliot Fox

The Beach Boys - 'Pet Sounds'

'Pet Sounds' by The Beach Boys is my favourite album of all time. From the beautiful melancholy of 'I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times' to the bonafide summer anthem 'Wouldn’t It Be Nice''Pet Sounds' is a masterclass in pop songwriting and experimental production. The vast layers of instrumentation from French horn to Harpsichord shouldn't work... but it creates the most incredible, complex soundscape that has yet to be replicated. Oh and it also has the greatest song ever written on it too ('God Only Knows'). Brian Wilson is a genius, go and listen.

- Euan Blackman

Black Country, New Road - 'Ants From Up There'

Not many albums have been touted as album of the year with a release date as early in the year as February, let alone been dubbed album of the decade two years in to the 2020s. Yet these are titles bandied around London post-rock seven-piece and Speedy Wunderground graduates Black Country, New Road and their sophomore album ‘Ants From Up There’. With heartrending tracks such as ‘Bread Song’‘The Place Where He Inserted The Blade’, and ‘Basketball Shoes’ standing out, the album carries even more emotional weight following the pre-release announcement of vocalist Isaac Wood’s departure. Tying together the record with recurring musical motifs and lyrical metaphors, ‘Ants From Up There’ is an cohesive yet sprawling hour-long exploration of topics relating to mental health and relationship issues that epitomises the album format and will remain on many listeners’ all-time lists for years to come.

- David Harrold

Pixies - 'Doggerel'

Released at the end of September, Pixies latest album ‘Doggerel’ has earned the title of my favourite album – at least for now! It is an accumulation of all the beloved signatures of the band which brought us the infamous ‘Where Is My Mind?’. ‘Vault of Heaven’ has the feeling of an epic tale with the way in which the guitar riffs rise and fall, eventually reaching a final crescendo. Another impeccable track, ‘Get Simulated’, is the best display of Black Francis’ distinctive, rasping vocals. The title track ‘Doggerel’, meaning verse that is poorly written, plays into Pixies’ irregularity and serves as a reminder that listeners should embrace the weird.   

- Maebh Springbett

Lauryn Hill - 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill'

Ms Lauryn Hill has only ever released one solo album, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’, which is indoctrinated by Rolling Stones as one of the greatest rap albums of all time, a testament to the groundbreaking talents of an iconic artist. With the album defining contemporary R&B and hip-hop, Ms Hill’s emotional journey through pregnancy and fame is immortalised in the development of the tracks, painting a picture of her self-questioning and discovery. After pioneering as the lead singer of the Fugees, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ gives a platform to a cultural legend who poignantly discusses themes of love, race and sexism during adolescence. 

- Alanya Smith

The Weeknd - 'After Hours'

Since when were nightmares supposed to be this enjoyable? The Weeknd's 'After Hours' is an album drenched in its nocturnal, self-pitying, nihilistic ways - yet it effortlessly connects with the darkest corners of your soul.  Like most devious monsters that haunt our dreams, this pulls you in with its alluring visual aesthetics - that iconic red blazer alongside those hauntingly grisly visuals. Its grip on you only tightens with a diverse sonic range, amplifying its themes of loneliness, heartbreak and self-loathing, delivered impeccably with the hypnotic croons of an artist who executed his nightmarish vision perfectly.

- Bradley Irish

Joni Mitchell – ‘Hejira’ 

It was no exaggeration when Joni Mitchell told the Ottawa Citizen in 2006, “I feel the songs on ‘Hejira’ could only have come from me”. A record unlike anything she recorded before or since, ‘Hejira’ is the sound of the road, of the wandering, restless spirit in all of us, of the ceaseless tension between freedom and love. With warm, jazz-influenced chords and solipsistic lyrics, the album is open and expansive like the vast, desolate plains Mitchell describes driving through. Restless waves of acoustic guitar and Jaco Pastorius’ wandering fretless bass accompany her as she contemplates the bittersweet loneliness that inevitably comes with freedom.

- Zoë White

Lorde - 'Solar Power'

'Solar Power’ took a completely different direction from Lorde’s angsty debut 'Pure Heroine' and the brooding 'Melodrama', and instead opted laid back acoustic tracks, shimmering production, and graceful vocals. But don't let this summer-sweet facade downplay Lorde’s reflection on her youth, relationships, and the music industry, whilst expressing her gratitude for the finer things, and finding a matured acceptance of relinquishing control. 

- Rachel Feehan

SZA - 'Ctrl'

SZA’s ‘Ctrl’ is a generation-defining album. A project that finds emotional resonance in the mundane, 'Ctrl' speaks to the uncertainty that comes with early adulthood. The emotional turbulence on this project is as fluid as its approach to genre. However, the album does not wallow in misery. She keeps hope alive by never losing her sense of whimsy and wonder. From subtle winks to the camera to using manifestation to carve out her identity as a means for survival. Ultimately, on this record SZA teaches the power that comes in accepting the things we cannot change.

- Briana Grant

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