Hey, hope everyone is doing great! It’s been an interesting year, both personally and in the world around us in general. As you may have noticed, I have taken a step back from In Search of Media – I’ve been writing less reviews, but writing more poetry and making more music. How that is going to materialise in 2023 I’m not entirely sure, but I’m excited regardless. This year also brought some incredible music, and for the first time in In Search Of Media history, I will be ranking my favourite albums and EPs of this year. The only criteria for this list is 1) How much I listened to the album (and revisited it throughout the year) and 2) what kind of an impact has this album made on me this year. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
30. Kokoroko – Could We Be More
Kokoroko’s debut album Could We Be More is a gorgeously textured album meandering between the sounds and textures of jazz afrobeat, highlife, soul, and funk. It’s a poignant and mesmeric body of work that captures their artistry and chemistry effortlessly over 15 tracks. The more I listen to it, the more I’m drawn to the organic and free-spirited energy of their music. A truly stellar album and one I would recommend to anyone. Review
29. Nilüfer Yanya – PAINLESS
Nilüfer Yanya may be one of the discoveries of the year for me, even though I probably did listen to her 2019 debut Miss Universe more. The London-based singer-songwriter released her sophomore album this year titled PAINLESS. The synth and guitar-led body of work is as catchy as it is soulful, with Nilüfer’s hypnotic and husky being central to the charm and aura of her music.
28. mejiwahn – Beanna
The earthly, entrancing soundscapes that mejiwahn is able to produce on Beanna are the absolute definition of hypnotic and beautiful. The guitar-led soundscapes are complemented by atmospheric synths and delicate drumming, while the vocal features sprinkled throughout add so much colour and beauty to the already soulful and groovy body of work. It’s an album that deserves recognition as one of the more cohesive instrumental-focused projects to come out this year. Review
27. Blackhaine – Armour II
The Manchester-based multidisciplinary artist Blackhaine has come through with a haunting EP this year titled Armour II and produced by longtime collaborator Rainy Miller. Blackhaine’s passionate lyricism and delivery, as he raps about his experiences growing up in the North of England, is complemented by jarring electronic and drill-influenced production that sounds spooky and unassuming throughout, making for an enthralling listen. Review
26. Freddie Gibbs – $oul $old $eparately
Freddie Gibbs has easily been one of the most consistently great rappers, releasing the most consistently great albums in the last decade or so. $oul $old $eparately is another one of his great albums, with varied production from the likes of the Alchemist, Kaytranada, Boi-1-da, James Blake, Jake One and Madlib, among others. It contains some of my favourite hip-hop tracks to come out this year, and it would have been higher on my list if I didn’t overlook it until a few months ago.
25. ShrapKnel – Metal Lung
Curly Castro and PremRock have already been on my radar as one of the most talented and visual storytellers working today. As ShrapKnel, they have come through with a lyrically dense and sonically experimental album, abrasive at times and demanding full attention. The dystopian themes are perfect for the abrasive and sometimes subdued production, with both emcees bringing the best out of each other, with intricate and incredibly complex raps that I’m still trying to digest today. Review
24. They Hate Change – Finally, New
They Hate Change’s Finally, New is such a breath of fresh air. The hip-hop duo combines fast-paced and rhythmic 2-step garage-inspired production with diverse and eclectic flows that are just so infectious to listen to. It does include some of the most futuristic hip-hop production I’ve listened to this year, and seeing them live in London earlier this year has only made me an even bigger fan. I can’t wait to see what they have cooking next!
23. Oliver Palfreyman – SEWER OPAL
Oliver Palfreyman is a London-based producer making some of the most futuristic, hard-hitting, experimental beats you’ll hear today. There is something truly mesmeric about the way he’s able to craft these desolate, often abrasive soundscapes, and SEWER OPAL shines a light on his varied talents as a beatmaker, composer and arranger of sounds. It’s a trippy, moody album I recommend everyone checks out. Review
22. black midi – Hellfire
black midi are the new kings of rock-surrealism, and with their album Hellfire they really took their sound to a whole new level, both in terms of pure, unfiltered energy, and the complexities of their compositions. It’s a dense, crazy body of work that really captures the crazy, unassuming energy of the band in such a fun and engaging way. I’ve been lucky to see them live this year performing tracks of the album – it really was one of the most memorable gig experiences I’ve had in a very long time. Review
21. Dry Cleaning – Stumpwork
Dry Cleaning’s deadpan, Post-punk sound is something I fell in love with last year through their excellent debut album New Long Leg. A year later, they’ve blessed us with their sophomore album Stumpwork, a lighter, more delicate project featuring some of their most beautiful and intricate compositions to date. The more I listen to it, the more I pick up on the subtleties that make this album so great.