Here's a selection of songs I was impressed by or had on repeat this year. Limited to one per artist.
The Weeknd - Gasoline
This song is immense and left me with my jaw on the floor after the first listen. With a disarming droney, new wave singing style that's unlike anything we've heard from The Weeknd before making way for his typically. Picks a lot of what made The Weeknd's music tick and combines them into one of my favourite tracks of his.
Pharrell Williams - Cash In Cash Out (feat. 21 Savage & Tyler, the Creator)
A wonderful collaboration, pairing 21 Savage's slightly comic, clever gangsterisms alongside Tyler, the Creator's carrying on his energy from last year's CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, with a really energetic performance. Though Pharrell Williams's beat is also a star, with big bass and a squeaky vocal flip. 21 Savage's simple hook of "cash in cash out cash in cash out" etc. ends up hypnotising.
Mallrat - Your Love
This cloud rap style beat is one of my favourites of the year, with angelic vocal samples, big synths and steel drum. Mallrat doesn't have to do much to make this a hit, but her vocals and repetition of what she wants - your love, is great. Then it ends with a vintage Gangster Pat sample which is the cherry on top.
Steve Lacy - Bad Habit
Probably the best number one hit song in a long while, Steve Lacy produces one of the stickiest songs of the year. It hasn't left my head since I first heard it. It just seems engineered to be a indie pop hit. Excellent vocals, excellent instrumental and it's so damn catchy. Then it switches things up in the second half, as if it couldn't get better.
Jean Dawson - PORN ACTING*
Fresh indie rock with very fun self-deprecating lyrics. Lots of memorable lines ("fake my death 2pac myself") and a big, catchy hook.
Flume - Highest Building (feat. Oklou)
Still not really many artists who sound like Flume despite him being around for enough time to spawn copycats. Highest Building keeps the classic 'drop' era of EDM alive and sounds colossal.
brakence - caffeine
This track is just insane. A production flex that taps into hyperpop's maximalist tendencies but leaves the competition feeling underwhelming in comparison. How can you even describe what this sounds like? In a record in which brakence seems unsure of his emotional state, it's an affirming and impressive song like this that shows he's top of his class in terms of music production.
Beach House - Masquerade
Beach House still has tricks up their sleeve. Nocturnal synths envelop this track, which doesn't really have many points of comparison within their vast discography. Has a powerful and haunting aura to itself.
Weiland - Dangerous Woman
Weiland is trying his best to learn from his mistakes and not fall for the titular dangerous woman, but his warnings turn into excuses. A bass heavy, autotuned synth pop tune with a really catchy hook. There's specifically something about how strong the bass is combined with the hazy synths and autotune that make this a hit for me.
Toro y Moi - The Loop
An effortlessly cool psych-pop jam. Toro y Moi is always trying more things and the excess charm and personality put into tracks from his latest album Mahal combines sweet lyrics with unleaseshe instrumental range due to his focus on jamming with mostly traditional instruments rather than synths.
Fred again.. - Danielle (Smile on My Face)
Fred again.. flips a live recording of a 070 Shake song and realises its untapped potential to apparently be a radiant club hit. A fun DIY style collage that reminds me of searching up a song I like and "remix" on youtube or soundcloud to find tons of weird flips of tracks. This is strong track which mines a good song to make something quite different but just as good.
Cochise - TURN IT UP
Cochise still scratches the lizard part of my brain that wants catchy nonsense. "TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP!"
Beyoncé - BREAK MY SOUL
This year I am proudly pro-Beyoncé since her move to being the Queen of dance music pays off so well. BREAK MY SOUL feels familiar due to its Show Me Love sample but Beyoncé's take on dance music is focused on self-love and the repeated mantra of YOU WON'T BREAK MY SOUL is a direct and affirming hook.
Caroline Polachek - Billions
Another year, another excellent single from Caroline Polachek - but still no album! I guess if she keeps releasing tracks as strong as this then I don't mind though. Amazing art-pop.
midwxst - okay (feat. brakence)
One of the most bonkers songs of the year. Production that sounds like someone putting a gameboy through a meat grinder. Lots of satisfying bleeps and bloops. Combined with a affirming chorus that makes way for some nice guitars. brakence is on this too which is a big plus, and a big part of what makes it such a hit for me, with his insane maximalist production style.
$NOT - 5AM
It's the combo of an airy cloud rap style beat and melodic rapping then contrasted with hilariously loud shouted ad-libs that makes this so good for me. "WHERE THE FUCK YOU AT!?"
Ethel Cain - American Teenager
An irony tinged take on pop music was an early highlight from Ethel Cain's breakout project from this year. A painfully uncomfortable sort of pop anthem for the flyover states. Catchy, clever and unmistakably fits within Ethel Cain's twisted vision of America.
Fred again.. x Swedish House Mafia - Turn On The Lights again.. (feat. Future)
Club banger of the year? Definitely up there for me, a combo of names I'd not expect to be together on a singular song but I'm very glad they all are.
piri & tommy - on & on
I guess we're in the era of bubblegum drum and bass. Simple and effective, carrying on the UK garage scene's vibe with a different take on the vocal side of things.
Yeat - Nëw Turban
I predicted last year that 2022 would be the year of Yeat, and it kinda was. He rose to be the king this new brand of trap music, and even scored a collab with The Minions (yes, the cartoon characters). Though Nëw Turban is my favourite track of his this year, with droning synth and bass, his trademark bell sounds and hilarious ad-libs.
Denzel Curry - Zatoichi [feat. slowthai]
One of my favourite Denzel Curry tracks and at this point he has a vast discography to choose from so this is a feat. With pumping breakbeats and a warbled sample/chorus from UK rapper Slowthai, this is hugely interesting and a unique sort of hip-hop banger.
Paramore - This Is Why
Paramore will return with an album next year of which this is the lead single. Seems like we're in good hands. A social isolation anthem that feels like a COVID hangover in a good sort of way.
KayCyy - OKAY!
Here's something fresh in hip-hop. Produced by Gesaffelstein, KayCyy raps over a droning techno beat with a charming scrappy rapping style and deliriously melodic hook. The restraint to not make the beat drop or follow trendy production styles makes this an alien sounding track in 2022, and it's wonderful because of this. "They can not steal this, a whole different sound" - I think he's right. What a combo!
Sam Gellaitry - New Wave
I really like how honestly romantic Sam Gellaitry's oddball takes on pop music are. NEW WAVE has a great beat, assured lyrics and ends with a prayer over bright synths.
Smoke DZA and Girl Talk - Season
Smoke DZA raps over Girl Talk's flip of Toro y Moi's chillwave classic Talamak in a buoyant, summery hip-hop track. A flow like butter and a slick hook make this a hit.
Yung Lean - Trip
Yung Lean's commital to being in his own lane and trying weird styles pays off so well. This lead single from his Stardust project is very charming and off-kilter. With his eager rapping, catchy hook and ear grabbing synths.
Oliver Francis - Jolly Ranchers
This loosie is a nod to Oliver Francis's early work, with a pitched down hook and punchy rapping. It's the beat that really makes this work well though with a cloud rap instrumental that blossoms out of a piano into heavenly vocal samples for the return to the hook.
Soccer Mommy - Shotgun
Soccer Mommy still has one of the disparate stage names to music quality ratios of a lot of indie artists. But her album from this year was a clear improvement on her previous work and Shotgun is an easy stand out with a fantastic chorus and amazing production.
Northlane - Carbonized
I'm fully on board the nu-metal revival and this track from Northlane's latest album is hitting the spot. A great showcase of Marcus Bridge's vocal range going from snarled shout-rap to a soaring chorus. It's got a glorious breakdown as well. Proper headbanging stuff.
PinkPantheress, Sam Gellaitry - Picture in My Mind
One of the best PinkPantheress tracks yet, one that is actually the length of a real song and not a TikTok snippet as well! Teaming with Sam Gellaitry, providing contrast with her clear vocals and Sam's which are covered with effects.
Djo - Change
Djo is the musical alias of the dude who plays Steve from Stranger Things, though he does have some good music cred. His album DECIDE features enjoyably cheesy psych-pop, of which I like Change the best. With a lovely psych-pop bounce, Tame Impala aping vocals and a nice build to a energetic conclusion.
Braxe + Falcon - Step by Step (feat. Panda Bear)
A nice track really, after his collaboration with Daft Punk was such a hit it's great to see Panda Bear return to provide an emotional french house track. Lots of passion in this collab.
AVOID - Blast Off!!
"I fucking love my life I fucking love being high I fucking love writing songs in the middle of the night I fucking love my friends I fucking fast cars I fucking love it when your mom buys me shots at the bar I fucking love that shit I fucking love it!"
I'll end with that one :) Here's to another year of great songs.