I’m always finding it harder to put together a “best songs of the year” list than a “best albums of the year” list because whenever I listen to music, I prefer to consume the entire album rather than pick out specific songs. Yeah, there really are people like me out there! Nonetheless, here are ten standout songs that have been in my rotation throughout the year.
“Red Moon” –Big Thief
“Bad Habit” –Steve Lacy
“Expert in a Dying Field”–The Beths
“Belinda Says” –Alvvays
“Out of My Head”–First Aid Kit
“Less Than Zero” –The Weeknd
“The Dripping Tap” –King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
“Becoming All Alone” –Regina Spektor
“Let Us Die” –King Princess
#10. “My Babe” – Spoon
Photo Credit: Courtesy Of The Artist
Love songs often fail because they’re trying to say too much about something too complex or explosive to wrap in a four-minute song format. Therefore, it must come as a surprise to some like Spoon’s 51-year-old Britt Daniel, an unmarried man without kids who always kept his private life a well-kept secret, has crafted the most beautiful love song of the year with “My Babe.” A typically swagging piece of bluesy alternative rock, this tune praises long-lasting love and the beauty of waking up next to your loved one every day for the rest of your life and ultimately proves that whoever Britt spends life with, it must be someone great.
#9. “Walkin'” – Denzel Curry
Photo Credit: Adrian Villagomez
Agree if you will, but in the hip-hop year of 2022 was a bore. Apart from Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers and Denzel Curry’s Melt My Eyez See Your Future, I was left unimpressed. For a moment I asked myself whether I had given up my appreciation for the genre. Eventually, Denzel’s “Walkin” convinced me that was not the case. Two minutes into the song, he’s delivering one of the most hard-hitting lines I’ve heard for quite some time. “Clear a path as I keep on walkin’ // Ain’t no stoppin’ in this dirty, filthy, rotten, nasty, little world we call our home,” he spits, and everyone like me desperately trying to get our fractured December finances together can relate.
#8. “Angelica” – Wet Leg
Photo Credit: Parri Thomas
A three-tone, reverberating guitar riff that turns into messy noise pop – “Angelica” is like a playlist constantly shifting from the B52’s to Sonic Youth sped up by 50 percent. But most importantly, it tells a hilarious story about “Angelica,” who goes to a house party that turns out to be a complete bore. There is none of the promised free beer to be found, just people seeking Instagram followers and Spotify streams. It ends with Angelica bringing her ray gun and obliterating everybody, to the tunes of Hester Chambers’ “pew-pew”-sounds in the background. Wet Leg’s entire debut is filled with moments like this, but “Angelica” is the funniest. Most importantly, it also stands the best chance of luring over the rock purists.
#7. “It Gets Dark” – Sigrid
Photo Credit: Armand Nasiri
We already knew after “Strangers” and “Don’t Kill My Vibe” that Norwegian dance-pop singer Sigrid Raabe knew how to write a radio banger. But “It Gets Dark” transcends the radio banger category as it grows to a full-fledged Scandi-pop masterpiece, paying tribute to fellow Nordic pop legends such as Roxette (the guitar riff towards the end is suspiciously similar to this of “The Look”) and Robyn. Impressing vocals, catchy hooks, cosmic proportions, and a big dose of pure fun – this is pop music for all ages.
#6. “Thoroughfare” – Ethel Cain
Photo Credit: Irina Rozovsky
Hayden Anhedönia’s unique debut album about the final days of her partly biographical character Ethel Cain plays almost more like a horror novel than a record – and that’s not saying it doesn’t work as music. With “Thoroughfare,” Ethel has contributed another hymn to the great American road trip alongside let’s say Paul Simon’s “America,” Gram Parsons “Return of the Grievous Angel,” the Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” This time, eventually, it ends with murder.
#5. “After The Earthquake” – Alvvays
Photo Credit: Eleanor Petry
It is almost impossible to pick just one song from the Canadian group’s brilliant third record, but in the end, “After the Earthquake” was the one that made me feel the urge to give a public announcement to everyone capable of playing the guitar. Here it comes: Learn how to play this wonderful, jangling piece of the Smiths- and Teenage Fanclub-inspired masterpiece complete with all the little variations and delicate chord progressions, and raise the volume as you’re entering the second verse just as Molly Rankins and company does. For everyone not knowing how to play the guitar, read the lyrics, based on Haruki Murikami’s book After the Quake, about how the population in a village was affected by the strange events occurring after an earthquake.
#4. “Ain’t No Thief” – Viagra Boys
Photo Credit: Fredrik Bengtsson
The Swedish punk band’s third album Cave World is filled with statements. “I AIN’T NO THEIF – WE JUST GOT THE SAME STUFF,” is probably the most memorable and frightfully arrogant catchphrase of the album, as Sebastian Murphy turns down accusations aimed towards him about stealing jackets and cigarette lights. Backed by the most furious dance-punk instrumentation I’ve ever heard, pumping out an adrenaline-rousting impenetrable wall of tight, electric beats, “Ain’t No Thief” punches you in the face right from the start, leaving a mark that can’t be washed away with water.
#3. “As It Was” – Harry Styles
Photo Credit: Kevin Winter
Apparently, Harry Styles decided it’s been time to cut his One Direction bonds once and for all with this timeless pop banger about a relationship falling apart. Unlike on let’s say “Watermelon Sugar,” where he still came across as a man of cheap thrills, he’s here proving himself capable of writing blockbusters and chart-toppers fuelled with soul and emotion, taking us about as far deep into the mind of a mega-star as most of us will ever come.
#2. “The Place Where He Inserted The Blade” – Black Country, New Road
Photo Credit: Rosie Foster
“Show me the fifth of the cadence you want me to play // Good morning // Show me where to tie the other end of this chain.” This is the sort of manufactured brilliance that I normally dislike, the kind of musical show-off that has always turned me off with bands such as black midi, Chat Pile, Squid, and Black Country, New Road. Then, as a gift from God, Ants from Up There was released. “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” is as melodramatic as suggested by its title, yes. But Isaac Wood puts not only his entire body into these words about heartbreak and self-doubt but his entire existence. The music is perfect, but Isaac’s not. Rather the opposite, he’s hopelessly trying to make sense of the situation, making this seven-minute epic stand out not only as the record’s most masterful track but one of the most spellbinding pieces of progressive rock music ever made. Maybe if more progressive art rock would be inspired by Bob Dylan’s late-career masterpiece “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You,” I would like it more.
#1. “Concrete Over Water” – Jockstrap
Photo Credit: Eddie Whelan
“Oh, one night on the bridge we stood // Concrete over water // I think you remind me of the night // But also of the day // I think of Italy, Champagne // I think of Spain.“ Like a beautiful painting cluttered with graffiti, “Concrete Over Water” sounds like nothing I’ve heard before. Reading it on paper, it comes off as Georgia Ellery’s (who’s also the violinist in Black Country, New Road) love letter to the romantically charged hot nights of French, Italian, and Spanish cities, expressing her vivid thoughts with an astonishingly well-controlled and sophisticated vocal performance. Simultaneously, electronic producer Taylor Skyle twists and dislodges the structure from every possible angle, finding lo-fi bedroom pop right and episodes of experimental electronics and reversed vocals. “Concrete Over Water” is a piece of modern art, the sound of two young geniuses coming into their own and finding a previously unattended path where classicism meets the futuristic. Besides, belonging at the top of everyone’s lists for Songs of The Year, it also belongs in an art museum.