The Top Ten Best Songs of 2022 (So Far)
Though the first half of 2022 has seen something of a dearth of mainstream musicians, this space has thankfully been filled by a number of highly talented alternative, indie stars. From the masterful indie-rock confessionals of Soccer Mommy to the affecting balladry of Regina Spektor, Q1 and 2 of 2022 have seen no shortage of great music, if you know where to look.
#10. “Becoming All Alone” – Regina Spektor
Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez
The earnestness that has always underpinned Regina Spektor’s music makes her a peculiar outlier in today’s irony-poisoned world. Thank goodness, then, Spektor returned this year after a six-year break having lost none of the grounded optimism that’s always been central to her appeal. Singing about getting beers with God while asking existential questions about the continued misfortune of the masses and pain not relenting with time, “Becoming All Alone” is a classic Regina Spektor ballad through and through. Spektor’s longing and disappointment hit so much harder than that expressed by so many of her contemporaries because it comes from someone who is still willing to believe a better world is possible.
#9. “California Belongs To You” – Erin Rae
Photo Credit: Bridgette Aikens
Erin Rae’s sophomore album Lighten Up exists in a lineage of timeless, heartbreak-centered, alt-country albums. Buoyed by breezy, twangy arrangements, subtle pop sensibilities, and Rae’s lilting Nashville voice, the album highlight “California Belongs To You” is an affecting inquiry into love and its aftermath. Unusually tender and forgiving for a breakup song, it captures the duality of nostalgia as both a memento of better times and as a crux preventing growth. Making uneasy peace with what’s lost, Rae reaches a resolution: “And because I could not be true // Gotta find other things to do // California belongs to you.”
#8. “No Reason” – Big Thief
Photo Credit: Josh Goleman
As AV Club critic Alex McLevy put it, indie-folk quartet Big Thief “crafts the closest thing we get to timeless music these days,” and no song off of their recent sprawling double album is a better testament to this than “No Reason.” Alluding to COVID-induced separation and mundanity, the lyrics of “No Reason” border on the nihilistic (“There is no reason to believe // No reason at all”) but the dulcet vocal delivery on Adrianne Lenker suggests a narrator who already triumphed through the worst of it.
#7. “Buddy’s Rendezvous” (Lana Del Rey Cover) – Father John Misty and Lana Del Rey
Photo Credit: Lana Del Rey & Father John Misty in “Freak” via YouTube
Given that both artists have long expressed admiration for each other – with Misty even taking the starring role in Del Rey’s “Freak” music video – it’s somewhat surprising that it took this long for Josh Tillman and Lana to appear on the same album together. Though relegated to bonus track status, Del Rey’s cover of “Buddy’s Rendezvous” shows her voice finding perfect synergy with the Golden Age, big band aesthetic of Tillman’s Chloe, and The Next 20th Century.
#6. “Should’ve Been Me” – Mitski
Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz
“Should’ve Been Me” is the most narrative-rich song on Mitski’s comeback album Laurel Hell. It’s a classic Mitski breakup song – documenting our narrator watching their ex with a “girl [who] looked just like me” and instead of becoming angry, feeling like they should’ve done more to be there for their ex when they were together. “I’m sorry, it should’ve been me,” she concludes downcast at the song’s end; making for one of the album’s most powerful moments.
#5. “Hentai” – Rosalía
Photo Credit: Daniel Sannwald
Though its title should have given it away, non-Spanish speakers may be surprised by the sexual explicitly of the lyrics from the final advance single for Rosalía’s Motomami. That’s because “Hentai”, sonically, is a stunning ballad, whose emotive power should be evident even to those who don’t understand a word. What initially seems like a mismatch between lyrics and sound, turns out to ultimately be a testament to Rosalía’s idiosyncrasy.
#4. “Angelica” – Wet Leg
Photo Credit: Parri Thomas
The fifth teaser for the debut album of Indie-rock’s most hyped band in years finds the Isle of Wight duo continuing their winning streak. Like the best songs from Wet Leg it’s alternately bizarre (“Angelica, she brought her ray-gun to the party // Angelica obliterated everybody”) and humorously relatable (“I don’t know what I’m even doing here // I was told that there would be free beer”). Oh, and it just so happens to be hugely catchy.
#3. “N95” – Kendrick Lamar
Photo Credit: Renell Medrano
“N95” is the most obvious ‘banger’ on Kendrick Lamar’s introspective fifth album. Lamar’s change of pace across Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers may be well-earned, and plenty rewarding, but there’s still no joy quite like watching the Compton rapper spit bars at the speed of light, refusing to take even the most momentary of breaths.
#2. “Bones” – Soccer Mommy
Photo Credit: Sophie Hur
The third single from Sophie Allison’s Oneohtrix Point Never-produced third album captures the dying moments of a relationship – of wanting to “Scream when you don’t look at me like you did back then.” It sees Soccer Mommy being brutally unfair to herself (“I wanna know what’s wrong // With all of the ways I am”) but also finds her reaching a revelation: “I’ve bled you out and patched you up again // Far too much to call it love.” In the final chorus, Allison admits downcast that she cannot be what her partner needs and a guitar solo sees the song out, as listeners are left reeling from the preceding 3 minutes of staggering songcraft.
#1. “The Place Where He Inserted The Blade” – Black Country, New Road
Photo Credit: Holly Whitaker
The centerpiece of Black Country, New Road’s fantastically ambitious sophomore album is the seven-minute “The Place Where He Inserted The Blade.” Led by expressive departing-vocalist Isaac Wood and propulsive rock arrangements that recall Funeral-era Arcade Fire, the song uses the metaphor of a cooking tutorial to tell of the healing power of a healthy relationship: “You come home and hold me tight // As if it never happened at all.”