Although it was grim in many ways, recorded music has felt the effects of the pandemic.

The more cooped up we are, the more we need the things that music brings – the buzz, the freedom, the fellow feeling. Music can help you lose yourself, which will allow you to find your own self.

Many musicians found themselves stuck at home, and turned back to being struggling artists. It resulted in an abundance of albums which will continue through 2022.

Here is my top 12 of this year, which could easily have been a top 20 – and still had no room for Adele or Ed Sheeran.

 

Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever

Eilish, who is just 19, has already proven herself to be a mature and wise soul. Working almost telepathically with her brother Finneas, she makes electro-pop that is deft, decisive and doesn’t do too much.

At just 19. Billie Eilish (above) is already a wise old soul. Working almost telepathically with her brother Finneas, she makes electro-pop that is deft

Only 19. Billie Eilish is a wise, old soul. She makes electro-pop almost in telepathy with Finneas.

 

The Anchoress“The Art of Losing”

Catherine Anne Davies, after earning her living as a keyboard player on tour with Simple Minds or Manic Street Preachers’, became an international star when she released her second album. She wrote, sang, and produced some stunning electro-pop.

After paying her dues as a touring keyboard player for Simple Minds and Manic Street Preachers, Catherine Anne Davies (above) became a star herself

Catherine Anne Davies was an accomplished keyboard player who toured with Simple Minds and Manic Street Preachers.

 

Elvis Costello & The AttractionsSpanish Model

Working with his producer Sebastian Krys, Costello went back to a classic album, This Year’s Model (1978), and gave it a spectacular makeover. 

The lyrics are now in Spanish, the singers are Latin pop stars, and in several cases, as Costello says, ‘songs I wrote about girls are sung by girls’. The music is still the same and pulsates with the enthusiasm of a young, driven man.

 

Joan As Police Woman Tony Allen, Dave OkumuThe solution is not in sight

Two legendary musicians died in the 2020s: Charlie Watts (mainstay of The Rolling Stones) and Tony Allen (master of Afrobeat). 

Joan Wasser had previously been playing in Paris with Allen and has now created an album of jazz-soul that builds on Allen’s rippling rhythms. 

 

Tim Finn & Phil Manzanera: Caught by the Heart

Split Enz’s vocalist and Roxy Music guitarist turn concern for the environment into a Latin-flavoured song that shines with humanity.

 

Dave: We’re All Alone In This Together

Dave Omoregie may be Britain’s most gifted rapper. His second album has appeal for both the heart and the brain.

 

Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend

Ellie Rowsell, coworkers try to do a bit of all things. It works because they are willing to take risks.

 

Celeste: Your Muse, Not You

In a vintage year for young British soul singers, Celeste’s debut album combines the poise of Billie Eilish with the pain of Billie Holiday.

In a vintage year for young British soul singers, Celeste’s (above) debut album combines the poise of Billie Eilish with the pain of Billie Holiday.

In a vintage year for young British soul singers, Celeste’s (above) debut album combines the poise of Billie Eilish with the pain of Billie Holiday.

 

James BlakeYou Need Friends to Break Your Heart

The most influential figure in 21st Century music writes songs that are like a walk in the winter sunshine – bracingly beautiful.

James Blake is the most influential figure in 21st Century music - and he writes songs that are like a walk in the winter sunshine

James Blake, the greatest figure of 21st Century pop music is – he creates songs that feel like taking a stroll in winter sunlight

 

Foo Fighters: Medicine At Midnight

When you’ve had enough of sad songs, send for Dave Grohl. His heavy rock now comes lightened by a love for David Bowie’s Let’s Dance.

 

Self EsteemPrioritise Pleasure 

Rebecca Taylor takes on today’s gender politics, and transforms it into a party. 

She is fearless in her lyrics and has a funny sense of humor.

 

AfterlightAfterlight

The break-up album of the year was expected to be Adele’s 30, fuelled by her divorce. 

Instead it turns out to be Thea Gilmore’s searing memoir of an abusive marriage.

Although she looks back with anger, her eyes also see the past in regret. She always has a warm intellect. Never mind the break-ups: here’s the album of the year.