15. ‘The Overload’ – Yard Act
One of 2022’s first breakthroughs, Yard Act’s debut album of boisterous post-punk stormed into January packed with wry, sardonic wit and scathing political satire. Its title track ‘The Overload’ was first released in late 2021 but, as a punchy opening set-piece for the album, it takes on new life, James Smith’s dry, semi-spoken vocals bringing to mind Ian Dury, as well as the tongue-in-cheek attitude and unabashed Englishness of Britpop.
14. ‘Te Guardo’ – Silvana Estrada
Silvana Estrada has a way of voicing her lyrics that lends each syllable such meaning and emotional weight whether or not you’re familiar with the language she is singing in. Lacing her expressive vocals with pristine guitar and strings and tiny twinkles of piano, the Mexican singer-songwriter effortlessly worms her way into your heart with her delicately-spun folk.
13. ‘She Still Leads Me On’ – Suede
‘She Still Leads Me On’ is that rarest of gems: a euphoric stadium rock anthem recorded in the 2020s that doesn’t sound like a cheap or contrived pastiche. The grand opening to Suede’s monumental Autofiction, the song’s dark and cavernous verses, far more American emo than the band’s Britpop roots, feed into one of the year’s most triumphant, blistering choruses.
12. ‘Ice V’ – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Proof that this ridiculously prolific band can exceed expectations with quality as well as quantity, this 10 minute jazz-funk jam is an explosion of wild creativity and vibrant sonic joy.
11. ‘This Is Not America’ – Residente feat. Ibeyi
An incendiary pairing, a cataclysmic collision of talents, Puerto Rican rapper Residente and French musical duo Ibeyi join forces for this explosive declaration of belonging. Residente spits fire on his thoughtful verses about nationhood and identity, before twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz take over with their radiant harmonies in a chorus fiercely asserting the voices of marginalised people of the American continent.
10. ‘Crow’ – Hailey Beavis
Guitar strings swooping out from underneath the melody, and raw, sad strings reminiscent of the titular bird’s primal caw, Hailey Beavis’s ‘Crow’ is a sparse, wintry masterpiece about feeling uncomfortable, restrained, wrong. The Scottish singer-songwriter’s fragile Kate Bush-esque vocals float weightless through the celestial soundscape, pinpricked with crisp guitar and a light dusting of electronics.
Read my review of Beavis’s debut album for SNACK Magazine.
9. ‘Hearts Aglow’ – Weyes Blood
If it was possible to create an album more sublime than 2019’s Titanic Rising, Natalie Laura Mering aka Weyes Blood outdid herself with November’s glittering opus And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow. In the fiery, amber luminescence of ‘Hearts Aglow’ she forged what must be her most beautiful song yet. Mering’s signature ethereal shimmer veils warm, rousing chord changes, and a harpsichord arpeggiates through the soulful crescendo.
8. ‘Back to the Radio’ – Porridge Radio
From one of the simplest, most straightforward melodies on this list, Porridge Radio build something indomitable, all-encompassing, nostalgic and insistent. Built around the raw, humane vocals and lyrics of Dana Margolin, ‘Back to the Radio’ is a song both uplifting and devastating at the same time.
7. ‘(I’m) Screwed’ – Titus Andronicus
A mammoth stadium belter, decked out with all the extravagance of Meat Loaf, the growling menace of Alice Cooper and a triumphant melody worthy of Springsteen, Titus Andronicus’s ‘(I’m) Screwed’ is the year’s biggest rock and roll anthem. Despite all their retro influences, the New Jersey band deliver an organic and impassioned performance, culminating in a euphoric guitar solo.
6. ‘Checking Out’ – Divorce
Some songs could just never be duplicated. No other take could recapture their spontaneous magic and delightful imperfections. ‘Checking Out’ by Nottingham four-piece Divorce is one such track. It’s hard to imagine the pieces all falling together in the same configuration ever again: the vulnerability in the lead vocals; the fraying guitar riff: the overlapping vocals and imprecise harmonies; the dreamy vortex of watery piano that leads the song out. String all these elements together with a beautiful refrain and you have lightning in a bottle.
5. ‘Ancestress’ – Björk feat. Sindri Eldon
Cloaked in silken strings and twinkling with celestial chimes, ‘Ancestress’ is Björk’s enchanting, orchestral ode to her late mother. Featuring her son Sindri Eldon’s backing vocals, the song feeds into Björk’s tenth studio album’s themes of heritage, parenthood and intergenerational connection. The ethereal elegance of Vespertine and the lamenting strings of Vulnicura come to mind, but truly ‘Ancestress’ is a song unlike anything else in the Icelandic musician’s discography. Painting a crisp, starry nightscape, it’s magical and whimsical, yet full of sadness.
Read my review of Fossora here.
4. ‘Free’ – Florence + The Machine
‘Is this how it is? Is this how it’s always been? To exist in the face of suffering and death and somehow still keep singing?’ asks Florence Welch as the driving beat eases up for a moment in her propulsive, exhilarating dance-rock single ‘Free’. A bracing rush of fresh air, the track pulsates with hope and resilience, as Welch celebrates music as a force of resistance and liberation: ‘Cause I feel the music, I feel the beat, and for a moment when I’m dancing,’ admit her commanding vocals, ‘I am free!’
3. ‘Year of Love’ – Jenny Hval
The couple whose marriage proposal disrupted Jenny Hval’s 2019 Paris concert surely never predicted this moment being immortalised in song. And they certainly couldn’t have foreseen the emotional turmoil it would trigger in Hval, resulting in this reflection on the ‘normcore institution’ of marriage and its dissonance with her avant-garde artistry and ethos.
Like a kaleidoscope of pastel colours, ‘Year of Love’ is a mesmerising, ever-shifting tapestry of sweetly harmonious shades, never saturated or overwrought. Hval’s crystal-clear vocals flow effortlessly through showers of soft, pattering percussion, sunlit glints of guitar, and breezy reggae-tinged grooves.
Read my review of Classic Objects here.
2. ‘The Unfurrowed Field’ – Fergus McCreadie
A highlight from his Mercury-nominated Forest Floor, Fergus McCreadie’s ‘The Unfurrowed Field’ is a rippling cascade of piano and double bass. There should be a word for this distinctly Scottish kind of jazz: jazz that tugs and swells with the restlessness of Celtic folk music, where you can hear the fog rolling over a seething sea, burns splashing and tumbling down craggy mountainsides.
Imagery aside though, McCreadie’s musicianship is breath-taking. The piano seems to run away with itself as he surges through the melody, rising and falling, slowing and accelerating like a bird in flight. And across eight exhilarating minutes of music, McCreadie’s every note continues to feel urgent, weighty and heartfelt, stirring deep and bittersweet emotions there isn’t a word for.
Song of the Year: ‘The Heart Part 5’ – Kendrick Lamar
Masterpieces flow from Kendrick Lamar like water from a tap. The Compton rapper has spent the last decade merely cementing his status as one of the 21st Century’s greatest innovators. But once the dust has settled, ‘The Heart Part 5’, the world-shaking single released in advance of his long-awaited fifth studio album Mr Morale and the Big Steppers, will be a top contender for his magnum opus.
‘The Heart Part 5’ is a song with a whole world squeezed inside it. Based around a glorious Marvin Gaye sample, Lamar strides confidently through multiple sections, from the lush, soulful chorus to a sparse, vulnerable stretch where bass and tabla drum are the only accompaniment to his stark elegy.
Because, though it heralded a new chapter in Lamar’s career, ‘The Heart Part 5’ is also a farewell. Considering both his cultural legacy and the unfinished business he would leave in his own family and community, Lamar looks ahead to his own death: ‘I woke up that morning with more heart to give you. / As I bleed through the speakers, feel my presence.’
If this is some sort of goodbye to his fans, it’s a hell of a way to cap off his career. Completing his ‘The Heart’ series, the track feels like a grand summation of everything Lamar is and has been as an artist and an activist. It’s a song shaped by political struggle, by class and by race, by money and by the modern music industry. It’s also a song about the tension between being an individual and being part of a community and a movement. And without a doubt it will go down in history as one of the defining songs of 2022. As Lamar concludes, ‘though my physical won’t reap the benefits, / the energy that carry on emits still.’
Listen to Myriad Voices’ top songs of 2022 on Tidal