Coming after two years of on-off lockdowns, of cancelled summers and cautious gig going, 2022 was always going to feel like a fast ride downhill with the stabilisers off. For Heavenly Recordings, this year’s ride was done with rocket boosters strapped on.
It represented one of the biggest years in the label’s three decade plus history. It saw massive breakthroughs and inspirational new signings; new festivals to visit, richly deserved awards nods and the loss of a much-loved Heavenly hero.
Perhaps the story of Heavenly’s crazed year is best summed up by a track that snuck out at the back end of 2021. Confidence Man’s Holiday was primed for summer in the Southern Hemisphere yet coincided with a period of uncertainty in the UK. What should have been a dance floor anthem over the Christmas season ended up being more a song of hope for better days ahead. As British summer rolled around, the band arrived to tour their phenomenal second album (Tilt). The band turning heads all over, never more so than their Friday afternoon slot at Glastonbury which brought multiple WTF tweets from viewers at home, people who tuned in with no idea before rewatching as zealous converts. By the end of the year, after the band had played a tour that kept adding dates that then kept selling out in seconds, Holiday was enjoying a second – or maybe third – lease of life, having been on the Radio 1 playlist and getting a nod from the Guardian as one of their singles of the year. At the time of writing, the Holiday was very much still ongoing.
2022 saw an unprecedented amount of album releases by established signings, and each release reflected how much those artists had branched out musically over the last few years. Whether it was Mattiel’s stunning Georgia Gothic; The Parrots’ heavy duty Dos; July’s trio of killer releases by Katy J. Pearson (Sound of the Morning), Working Men’s Club (Fear Fear) and Gwenno (the Mercury nominated Tresor); Unloved’s deeply immersive Pink Album or The Orielles dream pop masterpiece Tableau each album seemed to push the artist into fantastic new realms of creativity. Elsewhere, releases by Belfast legend David Holmes and new signings OneDa and Eyes of Others planted flags in the ground for next year’s best of lists.
And it saw gigs. Hundreds of gigs that each felt like homecomings, like New Year’s Eve parties, like emotional reunions. The caution of the preceding years was abandoned in front of the stage, night after night. Special mention to Pip Blom here, who played more shows this year than any of us can remember. New record next year (i.e. new album… actually, they’ll possibly play a record number of shows too!)
Heavenly’s much-loved remix compilation series got a welcome addition in the form of a collection of the best mixes our dear friend Andrew Weatherall did for the label over three decades. A flawless tribute to one of the greatest producers of recent times, it reflected the close working relationship Andrew always had with Heavenly. In a similar musical vein, Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy’s Balearic Breakfast album was the perfect shot of pure sunshine to soundtrack any season.
Last summer saw Heavenly take over a stage at the inaugural Kite Festival, emphasising talks about music books in the day and partying as hard as possible into the night. Kite recently announced 2023 dates and a first set of bookings, including many from the Heavenly stage (look out for Baxter Dury, Sofia Kourtesis, Decius, David Holmes, Lynks and many more). We’ll be there all weekend, the plan is very much the same.
While there has been so much to celebrate in 2022, we have to remember the loss of Mark Lanegan in February. As we wrote at the time: “Mark was a true soul singer, in that he sang from the soul, about the soul and all the dark places a soul could go to. And he was a storyteller, as anyone who’d lived such a life would surely be. Because of that life and Mark’s reputation, we’d get asked time and again “what’s he like to work with?” It wasn’t always the easiest road to travel – the best creative relationships never are – but it was more often than not a truly inspiring, often revelatory experience.”
We miss him every day, but we strive to keep finding those revelatory experiences wherever we can, with our artists and with friends old and new.
See you somewhere in 2023.