Well we’ve hit the end of the year, the time where I spend hours writing about the music I loved for 1-12 readers! As with most years, I focused more on albums than individual songs, so a grand albums post will be forthcoming. But there were more than a few songs I loved at first
sight listen, and unlike my albums post, I’ve decided to try and feebly do a ranking of them. I did not put much effort into the actual list and have absolutely forgotten something necessary, but I did work on the rankings. So here’s 30 songs I truly loved:
#30. Archive – “Mr. Daisy”
I came into this band by chance from a Facebook group talking about a song of theirs from 2009, only to discover that they’re still going strong and remain very popular in Europe. The band doesn’t contain themselves within genre, venturing anywhere between trip-hop and nu-metal. They released 2 albums this year, and a standout song is this track, a post-rock inspired alt tune that’s simple, fun and nostalgic. I’m excited to dive deep into this band’s catalog next year.
#29. Robert Stillman – “Cherry Ocean”
This is likely the most divisive and maybe the most obscure song on this list, as something that probably won’t appeal much to my core audience (those 4 people). Stillman’s soft, somber, 8+ minute jazz track sets the tone for the following album, though it’s the only song on it with lyrics. The song is sparse and drone-adjacent, but the scraps of melody are haunting and intriguing. Even though it’s a repetitive minimalist song, I find myself coming back to it repeatedly. It’s a warm and forgiving place to be.
#28. Meat Wave – “Honest Living”
This is my kind of thing – two-minute sucker punch of fuzz guitar and wicked vocals. I’m a sucker for even the worst garage rock, it’s my go-to and my comfort music, and Meat Wave’s recent album more than satisfies that crave within me. “Living” is a punk bruiser with depressingly satirical lyrics about the grind of the workforce. Throw in some good vocal rhythms to boot and you’ve got a memorable little garage punk tune.
#27. Gladie – “Born Yesterday”
A lot of indie-punk bands like to play it safe and merely threaten to go full throttle. Gladie aren’t that band, and they kick off their recent release with a amp-busting banger that makes a statement. I wasn’t aware of this band just a few weeks ago, and now I’m excited to see where they go from here. I’ve also just seen them live and can confirm that this track kills in a concert setting.
#26. Björk & serpentwithfeet – “Fungal City”
Leave it to Björk to make a “mushroom” album, a delightful and occasionally suspicious soundscape that makes it sound like you are lying on the forest floor. The album’s highlight and most on-point track is “Fungal City,” which barely hangs on to any rhythms to create a damp, foresty environment. It starts soft, gets heavy, and stays weird. I don’t know how you even approach crafting a song like this, but it is yet another Björk classic.
#25. The Smile – “You Will Never Work in Television Again”
I’m not really interested in debating whether Radiohead is done or what this offshoot means for their legacy – it’s a different project, no more no less. While the album mostly just sounds like Radiohead, this song has some rough energy that hasn’t been in the band’s music for many years. Very funny that they’ve played this on late night shows, hopefully they’ll play on Corden soon.
#24. The Beths – “Expert in a Dying Field”
If I were to somehow manage to actually list out my 10 or so favorite songs, the Beths would be the only repeat artist on that list. Count this one among the handful of their songs that I really love. Lush and heartbreaking lyrics and vocal melodies all contain themselves within a simple indie/punk song. This group always seems to find interesting ways to sing about despair and ennui, and this one is no different. Add in some of Elizabeth Stokes’s characteristically intriguing vocal rhythms and you’ve got another Beths banger.
#23. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – “The Harvest”
I treat doom metal like a sandwich – if it’s plain then fine, I’ll take it, but I probably won’t really enjoy it. Doom metal to me has to do something to tinker with the formula, and this song does just that. The Best Band Name in the World take a classic doom metal song structure and add synths and dreamy vocals into something fuller. It’s heavy and brutal, while still feeling fun and atmospheric. The band has always done stuff like this well, but this song and album is a high watermark for them.
#22. Van Buren Records – “FOUL”
One of my favorite rap records of the year came from a local group, Van Buren Records. The large collective makes fun and urgent music with a cascade of voices. The group is at their best when they’re moving quickly, as they do here. No voice or idea overstays its welcome, especially with key features. This is such fun stuff.
#21. Slipknot – “The Chapeltown Rag”
Slipknot’s new album was a divisive one – there was a lot of really stupid discourse around it including the phrase “Slipknot’s Radiohead album.” I loved it for the way it wraps together a more mature, balanced sound with some of their old angry bangers. Well this is the latter, just an old-fashioned Slipknot ear-gouger. Dopey lyrics about violence, manic drums (RIP Joey) and unexpectedly good vocals, this is classic Slipknot. It’s great that they’re finally moving past this kind of stuff, but it’s wild they can still do it so well, too.
#20. Billy Nomates – “spite”
“Don’t you act like I ain’t the fuckin’ man” rips Tor Maries across the chorus of this indie banger. I’m very unfamiliar with her work – I’ve heard a few songs and keep forgetting to check out more. But, this one recently grabbed my attention on the radio. It’s bold and brash while staying well within an indie song, a contained anger that’s delightful as it is genuine. It feels like a victory lap set to music, a ceiling-puncher and a song that probably kills live. I’m on board, now.
#19. 8 Kalacas – “Frontera”
I’m aware the phrase “ska metal” sounds about as off-putting as fruitcake but this song is wild. I first wrote about it in my “Songs You May Have Missed” midyear post and I’m going after it again. This song has horns and riffs and it’s an absolute blast to listen to. A sonic assault that lies more in metal than ska, this really isn’t like anything I’ve heard before. Part of that also lies in the lyrics – silly music is mixed with a dead serious story about a Mexican immigrant realizing the American Dream is a lie and sadly moving back home. The band has Latin roots that add an authenticity to the music that is often missing in wretched, ironic white guy ska. I urge folks to give this one a chance.
#18. Big Thief – “Simulation Swarm”
Big Thief make so many songs that are so heartbreakingly gorgeous that it doesn’t feel fair to other bands. “Simulation Swarm” isn’t nearly as good as 2019’s “Not” or 2020’s “anything” (from singer Adrienne Lenker solo), and yet it still makes the list. The music is calm and patient, featuring the effortless, minimalistic melancholy that the band is known for, and it’s complemented by Lenker’s soft, earworm vocal rhythm. As always, her unique voice elevates this into classic territory. Big Thief forever.
#17. My Chemical Romance – “The Foundations of Decay”
It’s so amazing to me that this exists at all. MCR’s first new release in nearly a decade, and it follows their path of switching up their sound with each album. I don’t know if a proper album is to follow – maybe they don’t, either – but I’d be intrigued if it does. This is slower and denser than you’d expect from MCR, more grown-up now than before. As per usual, the song rests on Gerard Way’s deceitfully strong vocals, but the whole band sounds great. This isn’t as flashy as the group used to be, and therefore the song is a grower – I wasn’t impressed on first listen, but after getting to see it done live (twice!) it’s won me over.
#16. Soul Glo – “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)”
I didn’t plan for this to be so close to 8 Kalacas but it’s only fitting. Soul Glo presents an equally scorned genre – rap-rock – in a way that’s genuine and refreshing. The opening track to their downright remarkable album Diaspora Problems is a manic, full-octane track that sounds dangerous. Inspired as much by hardcore punk and glitch as they are traditional rap and rock, this is “rap-rock” in the same sense that Death Grips is, not Machine Gun Kelly.
#15. Chat Pile – “Why”
Why do people have to live outside? is the simple question and refrain posited by post-hardcore upstarts Chat Pile. The centerpiece of a Top 5 of 2022 album is also one of the most bluntly political songs of the year (or ever, really). It’s a shakedown of America’s quiet housing crisis sung with a genuine, guttural anger. It feels like everyone in the country is boiling over with anger over their beliefs of choice, and that’s palpable on this barely-contained song. Anyone with an ounce of empathy can relate here, even if it’s abrasive on the ears.
#14. The Mountain Goats – “Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome”
It only took 21 studio albums for Mountain Goats to do their first true rock song. An album centered around low-budget action movies needed an energetic boost, so Darnielle et al up the energy for really, the first time in their storied career. Admittedly there are better songs across the unexpectedly great album, but this is my list dammit so I’m picking this one. Although the Goats have carved out their own niche in alternative music, I’d be curious to hear more of this side, too!
#13. Paramore – “The News”
I nearly disqualified this one for recency bias, it was released only a few days before I started this post. But it’s so damn good. Save for a pop-punk heavy debut recorded when they were all around 15, Paramore hasn’t released a bad song, and I’m delighted this stretch is continuing after a multi-year hiatus. The song abandons their more recent new-wave stuff for a return to fiery pop-rock, with more bite than they’ve ever had. There’s a fierceness that cuts through the music here, but also the melody is an instant earworm. I’ve only heard this song twice and it’s already so high.
#12. Fontaines D.C. – “Jackie Down the Line”
Imagine my frustration in 2019 when I first heard this group, a severely Irish post-punk group, only to be sufficiently bored by their album. I wanted to like it and decided to dive into the follow-up with an open mind and, thankfully, liked it much more. This is definitely the song I “sang” the most this year (as it’s not sung but spoken), because it allowed me to practice a ridiculous Irish accent. But it’s a great tune that’s simultaneously despondent and lively. There’s a lot of talk-sing post-punk bands coming out of the UK area (alongside IDLES, Black Country New Road and Dry Cleaning) and I’ve got varying opinions on it; this band has thankfully fallen in my good favor.
#11. MJ Lenderman – “Tastes Just Like It Costs”
Lenderman is an artist I ignored for a while because I thought he was the same brand of tired, acoustic stuff that Father John Misty occupies. My face was red when I finally spun an album, the great Boat Songs. This was my favorite song, a lively and fuzzy guitar track with a touch of humor but a melancholic vocal melody. This song, like much of the album, owes a debt of gratitude to the early alt groups like Meat Puppets and Dinosaur Jr. – a well I will never run dry. This is another catalog I will be diving into soon.
#10. black midi – “Sugar/Tzu”
I loved black midi’s debut only to be frustrated by the sophomore album. Their third righted the course and gave me what I think is their best song yet. “Sugar/Tzu” is one of the most raucous songs I’ve heard all year, manic talk-sung vocals mixing with a steady, revolving central rhythm and frequent…interruptions? The music video follows a boxing match, which is very fitting, as the resembles what it feels like to get beat up. The song sounds borderline improvised, closer to prime era Lightning Bolt than any of their more radio-friendly peers. I cannot overstress how wild this song is.
#9. L.S. Dunes – “Permanent Rebellion”
In most cases, I will side with any artist’s louder, more energetic tunes. This debut track from emo supergroup L.S. Dunes is no exception. The expectation-obliterating album’s penultimate song is also the loudest and most abrasive of the bunch, a throwback to all of the respective members’ heydays. The verses here are standard rock stuff, but the choruses hold a thrilling punch that separate Dunes from most supergroups; this isn’t a fun side project, this is a group with a statement to make. The emo revival will never die, baby.
#8. Weyes Blood – “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”
Natalie Mering is two albums into a trilogy that’s essentially about going through the rough of it. It’s sad enough on principle, and this album follows in the footsteps of 2019’s Titanic Rising by opening with the best song of the bunch. “Not Just Me” is a gorgeous chamber pop song, a heavenly ballad set over little more than vocals, harp and drums. It’s a dreamy, absorbing song with nightmarish lyrics about human suffering and ignorance. The album that follows is more of the same – and it’s one of the best of the year. But this one in particular is just a completely devastating yet rewarding listen.
#7. Weird Nightmare – “Searching For You”
When I heard that METZ frontman Alex Edkins was releasing a solo record, I had a feeling I knew what it would sound like – more melodic and alternative-based than his primary band, while retaining much of the energy. I was right, this song sounds like the crushing assault of (loudest band I’ve ever seen live) METZ filtered through the Minutemen. It’s loud and aggressive but it’s got a great rhythm and a more subdued approach. Like a few other songs on this list, it owes some to 90’s guitar alternative, revamped for today.
#6. Spoon – “Wild”
It’s very rare that a band can maintain a similar sound for decades and keep it fresh; they’ll either start to sound repetitive (AC/DC) or settle into a relaxed vibe (Wilco). But Spoon isn’t most bands, and “Wild” sounds like the same Spoon from 2005. They’re revamped and reinvigorated and they’re all the better for it. Britt Daniel’s odd singing voice remains the band’s best strength, as this would be a very standard song without it, but the Neil Young-like vocals elevate this to a Certified Spoon Classic.
#5. Leikeli47 – “Chitty Bang”
This song is just about as fun as music can get. The masked rapper kicks off her consistently excellent third album with this immaculately-produced bop. I don’t understand how this song isn’t topping the charts, I challenge anyone to spin it and sit still. A hip-hop song with pop structure and production, this song should really appeal to just about everyone. Although the artist has chosen to remain private, I hope 2023 sees her absolutely blow up.
#4. Gogol Bordello – “Fire On Ice Floe”
This one is circumstantial – after Peter Murphy checked into rehab and Bauhaus canceled their reunion tour, Riot Fest had to scramble to book a medium-big, evening act. Eugene Hutz and gang filled in, and delivered the best festival set I’ve ever seen (and went 10 minutes over, much to the chagrin of Glenn Danzig). I didn’t know this song when they played it, as it had only been released days prior, but they jammed on the chorus for an extended period. The easy, melodic refrain of “dance, dance, dance into the fire” had the massive audience all singing and dancing along. Although the band was there to promote defense for Ukraine, they still turned the set into an absolute party. This may or may not be a great song, but my vision will always be blinded by how I was first introduced to it.
#3. Perennial – “Tooth Plus Claw”
Again I am blinded, because my first interaction with this band’s music was when I had a chance to interview them (they’re really fun people to chat with, folks). This song doesn’t eclipse 90 seconds, just a dance-punk whirlwind that’s extremely high energy and just as fun. It’s loud and brash, but – like the rest of their album – is done entirely as a party. This is a throwback to The Hives and Be Your Own Pet, bands with short songs and contained chaos, that always still rely on melody above all. Love this so much.
#2. Arlo Parks – “Softly”
Arlo Parks just missed out on both my favorite song and album lists last year, and her sole release in 2022 is better than everything she delivered in 2021. This is one of those songs that will have you crying in seconds even though it’s a wholesome love song. The vocal melody perfectly matches the pure lyrics, a quiet message to a (potential?) lover. Her voice dominates over the music, seemingly mixed at a higher volume than a normal song would be. I’m not one for listening to songs on repeat but I could easily play this one for an hour.
#1. Orville Peck – “Daytona Sand”
Big surprise, the guy who goes by Orville Shrek on twitter loves the music of Orville Peck. There’s something about the mysterious, masked, Canadian, queer outlaw country/alternative singer that just works for me. The opening track to his stellar sophomore album Bronco picks up where Pony left off; the forlorn western lyrics, the driving snare drum and Peck’s deliciously commanding bass voice all propel this to the #1 spot. It’s catchy, fun and yet melancholic, and it’s probably my favorite song of the year.
For fun, here’s some songs that didn’t make the cut:
Beyoncé – “Break My Soul” (should’ve made the list, but do I really need to tell you about this one?)
The Linda Lindas – “Racist Sexist Boy”
Interpol – “Gran Hotel”
Rammstein – “Angst”
HEALTH & The Body – “AD 1000”
Thanks for reading this far! I wouldn’t have! I’ll be posting more year-end stuff, specifically an albums post on NYE and a films post sometime when I feel like.
By Andrew McNally