Looking back at nearly a full year post-pandemic, we can see the influence it had on music. 2022 led to some fantastic music. While there are too many to mention, we asked the Steppin' staff their favourite releases of the year. As you might know, we cover a diverse set of music, which you'll find reflected in these staff selections.
Kay: DOMi & JD BECK - NOT TiGHT
“This one is a no-brainer. Hands down the greatest release of this year for me has been the highly awaited debut album by these two jazz protegès, Domitille Degalle (22) & JD BECK (19). With features from Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes (can’t get enough of PiLOT), Thundercat & Herbie Hancock, you already know you’re in for something special. Seeing their mind-blowing performance live at Super-Sonic Jazz festival in Amsterdam this winter only solidified their status of excellence and their playful presence has been entirely delightful. On repeat.”
Timo: Ron Trent Presents Warm – What Do The Stars Say To You
“When you say Ron Trent most people hear ‘House Music Legend’. After producing iconic House tracks since his teenage years, the Chicago producer takes a different turn on ‘What Do The Stars Say To You’ and delivers an album with a breezy, downtempo, dreamy vibe. Ron collaborates with Jean Luc Ponty, Khruangbin, Azymuth & others on the 10-track album and delivers a masterpiece. Our favourite track is WARM, which feels like it got some inspiration from Letta Mbulu’s Nomalizo but maybe that’s just a coincidence.“
Timo honorary mention: Stella Zekri - Detends Toi
A zouk-inspired contemporary album with 6 amazing tracks loaded with bittersweet harmonies and percussive grooves. Somehow missed this when it got released but got it in just in time for the holidays and it’s on repeat. Looking forward to more from Stella & Ed Longo and his ensemble.
Ruben & Mo: Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Ruben “For me personally one of the best albums made this year. It is really an album, something that you listen to from beginning to end. Especially ‘We Cry Together’ is one of the illest tracks made this year.”
Mo: When The Heart Pt. 5 dropped, I had that shit on replay and it raised the expectations of the upcoming Kendrick album to higher heights. I expected social commentary and critique, but not in the way the album eventually presented it. The highly personal and vulnerable personality Kendrick presented himself as was so humbling. To dare and venture in such a direction for an artist of his calibre is really commendable. Humanising not only himself but famous people in general ("Cole made you feel empowered, but he's not your saviour"). This humanising aspect is found in my favourite tracks; Saviour, Auntie Diaries, Mother I Sober and Mirror (and as implied by the opening line 'This is what the world sounds like' by Whitney Alford, Kendrick's wife on We Cry Together). It posited that we can't look at people like him for answers, which was the burden he carried since making To Pimp A Butterfly. Rather, only we can face the dark side of our psyche since we know them best. I did shed many tears listening to this album and will continue to do so.
PS: Also Baby Keem's verse on Saviour Interlude is really a bittersweet symphony.
PPS: No need for a link, we know you've heard the album or know where to find it.
Jelle: Ryota Kozuka, Toshiki Konishi - Shin Megami Tensei V OST
“I know it is kinda cheating but since the game was released in 2021, but the soundtrack came out in March of this year. The Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series of video games are very consistent in their soundtrack quality, and Shin Megami Tensei V is no exception. Even though I still have to play this game I couldn’t help myself from listening to the soundtrack when it got released. A really gloomy mix of synthesizer work, ambiences with hints of jazz fusion and rock-inspired battle themes.“
Lucas: SOYUZ - ‘Force Of The Wind’
SOYUZ is a collective with a knack for 70s music from Brazil, and blends it with their own folk-like influences. The orchestral arrangements on here are out of this world and evoke the brilliance of Brazilian maestros such as Arthur Verocai. It's also no coincidence that contemporary Brazilian vocalist Sessa features on this album, who is a perfect fit with his own vintage analogue sound. (Go check his album Estrela Acesa, another 2022 fav).”