2022 has gone extremely quickly. With most people back at work in their offices and gigs being a regular occurrence, everything has felt far more like those old pre-2020 days. Almost as if to celebrate a shift back towards “normality” (though we’re no means out of the woods with regard to viruses) lots of our favourite bands went into overdrive, and a few of them even produced albums that are up their with their finest work.
Below, you’ll find Real Gone’s ten favourite releases of 2022, along with a few others that really stood out. It really has been a great year for music; some of the stuff we’ve not included was also of a very high standard, and it really felt like there was something new to explore every week.
THE DIRTY TRUCKERS – The Tisbury Joneser (Rum Bar Records)
This long overdue from The Dirty Truckers didn’t break new ground for the band, but it reconfirmed that Tom Baker and assorted friends could still bring the riffs, despite it being ten years since their previous new recordings, and fourteen since their last full length LP. Despite the long wait, ‘The Tisbury Joneser’ plays like “business as usual”: the love for The Rolling Stones looms large; other throwbacks to Izzy Stradlin & The Juju Hounds stoke up the rock ‘n’ roll trashiness, and swathes of Minneapolis influenced college rock from the 90s lend the material a huge heart. It’s the best album of 2022 that you probably didn’t hear. [Read a full review here]
MARILLION – An Hour Before It Gets Dark (EAR Music)
An album that’s likely to appear among a lot of rock fans’ favourites for ’22, we make no apologies for including it here. Following the release of ‘Marbles’ in 2005, Marillion seemed to lose their way. The next four albums disappointed as much as they entertained, and we approached this disc with a genuine caution. It features their strongest songs in a very long time – including a really heartfelt piece about the difficult Covid times. The melodies are very strong, but perhaps more importantly, guitarist Steve Rothery can be heard playing with a real vigour again. [Read a full review here]
FM – Thirteen (Frontiers Records)
Veteran rockers FM have released consistently good work over the five or so years in the lead up to this release, but their thirteenth studio album takes things a little further in terms of huge choruses and melody. There’s little here that isn’t immediately familiar if you’re a fan, but Steve Overland really shines throughout. His voice has held up brilliantly over the decades, and his melodic power really drives the best of the material here. [Read a full review here]
RUBY THE HATCHET – Fear Is A Cruel Master (Magnetic Eye Records)
Ruby The Hatchet first appeared on the pages of Real Gone back when the site was still relatively new, but we immediately loved their classic stoner sound. Ten years on, this fourth album shows off a much more confident band. Their big stoner vibe has now been infused with waves of deep, heavy psychedelia, traces of blues and garage rock to create one of the biggest retro noises ever. ‘Fear Is A Cruel Master’ starts strongly and never lets up. [Read a full review here]
BIG BIG TRAIN – Welcome To The Planet (English Electric Recordings)
Released at the end of January, this album got the year off to an amazing start. Such an early release date might run the risk of it being forgotten almost twelve months on, but this was such a strong set of songs, we immediately knew it was special. The album captures a classic BBT sound: proggy, pastoral, retro, warm. Its melodic harmony driven songs are some of the band’s finest to date, and the buoyant ‘Proper Jack Froster’, especially, is the perfect example of the band’s accessible yet adventurous approach to melody. A wonderful swansong for David Longdon. [Read a full review here]
EDWARD O’CONNELL – Feel Some Love (Dangerous Oaf Ramp)
Edward O’Connell’s debut album, ‘Our Little Secret’ gained almost unanimous praise from power pop and singer-songwriter focused websites upon release. It was easy to hear why; the Maryland based musician had taken all of the best bits of Tom Petty, Pete Droge, Graham Parker and the more reflective elements of Elvis Costello and created a familiar blend that was still his own. This third round of pulling the same musical trick shows how a classic style doesn’t wear thin in capable hands. Ed’s songs are always inviting, despite being narrative driven, and ‘Feel Some Love’ plays like a classic Americana infused adult pop record right from first listen. [Read a full review here]
BIG RIVER – Beautiful Trauma EP (self-released)
Over the last few years, Big River have got much stronger as a band. Their debut LP ‘Redemption’ featured a couple of songs which ran rings around their early singles, and this EP – featuring the first recordings with Adam Barron on vocals – is far stronger than anything on the previous album. It’s as if all of the musical pieces they’ve been looking for over the previous five years are now all in place. With a mix of rock, blues, and a little Americana thrown in, the band sound completely at ease, and completely natural for the first time. [Read a full review here]
PERFECT PLAN – Brace For Impact (Frontiers Records)
Much like FM, Perfect Plan’s brand of rock doesn’t try to be smart – it just wants to celebrate massive melodies, and their 2022 album was their best yet. Vocalist Kent Hilli (also of Giant) continued to show why he’s considered one of the best “new faces” on the melodic rock scene, and this album’s choruses cemented Perfect Plan’s place as one of the best bands on the Frontiers roster in ’22. [Read a full review here]
SAXON – Carpe Diem (Silver Lining Music)
Pretty much no-one had Saxon in the running for “best records of 2022” a year ago. The old warhorses of metal surprised a lot of people with ‘Carpe Diem’. In recent years, they’ve really reconnected with an audience on the live circuit, but this album is the most inspired and vigorous they’ve sounded since 1990’s ‘Solid Ball of Rock’. The speed is consistently good, giving the material a kick up the arse; the riffs are big, and Biff’s voice more than holds its own. Classic metal delivered in classic style. As one American reviewer pointed out, the bloated and epic-obsessed Iron Maiden could learn a thing or three by listening to this record. [Read a full review here]
ENVY OF NONE – Envy of None (Kscope Records)
The return of Rush’s Alex Lifeson received a mixed response. A completely different animal from his past work, EON took pop and electronica cues from the likes of Garbage and Metric to create something very radio friendly, which was – predictably – not to the liking of the typically un-progressive prog fans. Nevertheless, the album is superb, and its celebration of songs without bloat offers the listener something that’s smart and surprisingly contemporary. It’s also the kind of record that really stands up to repeated listens. [Read a full review here]
Also worth exploring: The Vice Rags’ long overdue return with ‘Midnight Ride’ brought some unexpectedly 60s vibes on a very cool and very melodic EP; Sweatpants Party showed the world that classic sounding pop punk was far from dead on a very strong debut album; Nick Shane’s live acoustic recording captured him in a particularly pure way that worked as the ultimate introduction to his work, if needed;, melodic rock stalwarts Magnum turned in their strongest set since 2007’s ‘Princess Alice & The Broken Arrow’ with ‘The Monster Roars’, and Volt Ritual tapped into some brilliant heavy riffs and Sabbath-y influences on a very confident debut release, very much guaranteed to be enjoyed by lovers of all things in that vein. [Full reviews for each can be found by clicking on the band names]
It’s also been a top year for archive themed box sets, with a Fall behemoth covering their first couple of years on a 12 CD set, and Cherry Red’s ongoing love for uncovering 60s and 70s gems. Their “toytown pop” box is certainly one of their most interesting and uplifting listens in a while. We also enjoyed most of the gigs we saw this year – so good to get back out there – with superb sets from Electric Six and Abdoujaparov among the highlights, but above all, we feel that the intimate show from Martin & Eliza Carthy deserves a special shout out for being so friendly and inviting. Some folk shows can feel a little elitist to the casual attendee, but this was a special family affair, and the Carthys made everyone in the room feel not only welcome, but also like their best friends for an hour or so.
Before we sign off, we’d like to extend a huge thank you to each and every one of you for visiting, supporting, and spreading the word this year. Real Gone wouldn’t be here without you. We’d also like to thank everyone for buying us coffee and throwing small change in the hat. The site is now expensive to run for no financial return, so your help is very much appreciated. Thanks also to all the bands, labels, PR companies and random people who’ve hit us up for reviews this year and kept the inbox full. You’ve all really believed in Real Gone this year, and we appreciate it.
There are a few more reviews to come before new year hits, but we’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2023. As long as you keep reading, sharing, and generally interacting, Real Gone will be here for the foreseeable… Cheers all.
Thanks for a great 2022. Here’s to another year!
Lee Realgone, December ’22