Welcome back to this way-too dormant blog. I am really hoping to write here more often in 2023. For now, though, here are some of my favorite songs released in 2022. I listen to a lot of music and this list represents a very small portion of the “best of 2022” personal playlist I’ve curated over the past 12 months. Not really a fan of the “best of” terminology. I admit that, in many cases, there are much better songs than these out there, but the tracks listed below are the ones I gravitated to the most this year.
OK. Let’s get started…
“Murder Machines” – Marillion
Marillion is a longtime favorite of mine. In fact, their 1991 song “Cover My Eyes (Pain and Heaven)” includes the lyric I borrowed to name my fledgling DIY Ferocious Designs music project. Their 2022 album, An Hour Before It’s Dark, is one of their best in years, and “Murder Machines” is a very interesting and dark take on love, jealousy and heartbreak in the pandemic era.
“Bethel Woods” – Midlake
I’ve been a fan of Midlake since they released The Trials of Van Occupanther in 2006. They went on a hiatus that appeared to be permanent before they reconvened to record For the Sake of Bethel Woods,” which was released earlier this year. They don’t usually rock out like they do on “Bethel Woods,” but when they do, it is usually great.
“Mystery of Love” – Christian Beach
My friend and frequent collaborator Christian Beach has been a fixture of the New Jersey music scene since the early 1990s. After fronting a couple of industrial bands in the 90s and the modern rock outfit Ton of Bricks in the early 2000s, he emerged as a traditional singer-songwriter and released his acclaimed solo eponymous album in 2009. But he went 11 years until his next release, 2020’s DoubleLife EP. Since then, he has released a collection of unreleased demos called Basement Noise in early 2021 and this year’s somewhat experimental Direct and Free EP, featuring “Mystery of Love.” I love the entire EP, but something about this track resonates with me, probably because it seamlessly blends many of his influences into a beautiful electro-folk-prog-pop creation.
“Calendar” – Christina Ward
I discovered Bucks County, PA-based Christina Ward via Instagram a few years ago, and soon after started hearing her on WXPN, which also featured her on its website. Calendar is her first full-length release and it is a damn fine album. In addition to the title track here, another favorite of mine is “Alone.”
“In a Way” – Modern Chemistry
I’ve become a big fan of New Jersey’s Modern Chemistry over the past year and a half. “In a Way” is a standout track from 2022’s fascinating my battery is low and it’s getting dark album.
“The Hardest Cut” – Spoon
Spoon is a weird band for me. I seem to like everything I always hear from them that’s played on WXPN, but have never really become a fan. But something about this song from their fantastic Lucifer on the Sofa album kept sticking with me this year.
“I Can’t Grow Up” – Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara rarely disappoint. Still remember seeing them play an acoustic set while opening for Ben Folds at The College of New Jersey in early 2003 (actually heard “Walking with a Ghost” for the first time at that show — over a year before their breakthrough album So Jealous was released). Their latest, Crybaby, is full of pop goodness and I really love “I Can’t Grow Up.”
“West Side Jet” – Young Gun Silver Fox
As is the case with many bands and artists, I first heard Young Gun Silver Fox on WXPN, when the modern yacht rock duo’s “You Can Feel It” was getting a lot of play on the station in 2015. They keep putting out great albums and this year’s Ticket To Shangri-La is no exception. “West Side Jet” is my favorite track on the record.
“I’m Only Human” – Michaela Anne
WXPN played Michaela Anne’s “By Our Design” a lot back in 2019 so I checked out her Desert Dove album and instantly became a big fan. She’s been through quite a bit since then and it comes out in 2022’s Oh To Be That Free. “I’m Only Human” is my favorite track from the album, but it’s all great.
“Wretched” – Bartees Strange
Bartees Strange received a lot of hype in 2022, and sometimes — with me — that’s a bad thing, because I try to ignore it. If the artist is good enough, though, my resistance to their work is usually eroded. That’s the case with Bartees Strange, who is the real deal. Going with “Wretched” from his brilliant Farm To Table album here.
“Long, Long, Long Time” – Tears For Fears
One of the big music stories of the year was Tears For Fears releasing their first album in 17 years, The Tipping Point, back in February and for that album to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Album Sales chart and at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 album chart — their highest U.S. debuts ever and their first appearance in the top 10 in over 30 years. The album is brilliant and deserves all of it. “Long, Long, Long Time” is a personal favorite because a) it features frequent TFF guest artist Carina Round on vocals and b) I’m a sucker for time-signature changes in pop songs (verses in 7/4, choruses in 4/4).
“Modern Life” – Lo Moon
I love Lo Moon and their 2022 album A Modern Life is one of my favorite albums of the year. The lead single, “Dream Never Dies,” was released late in 2021 so it made my list last year. “Modern Life” is the first of two Lo Moon appearances here.
“Anti-Hero” – Taylor Swift
Yeah, it seems I’m a Taylor Swift fan now. Midnights is fantastic and I love the fun she has with the lyrics of “Anti-Hero.” We’ll be hearing from Taylor again in a few.
“Expectations” – Lo Moon
We’ve already heard from Lo Moon. After “Dream Never Dies,” which made last year’s list since it was released as a single in late 2021, my second-favorite track on A Modern Life is “Expectations.” It’s a great driving song and pretty awesome to hear them play live.
“Mastermind” – Taylor Swift
All of Midnights is fantastic, but “Mastermind” is my favorite track on the album. I’m a sucker for percolating synth lines and meta commentary.
“Once Twice Melody” – Beach House
I had never really paid attention to Baltimore’s Beach House until this year, but WXPN played “Once Twice Melody” a lot early in 2022 and eventually my brain realized it was a freakin’ amazing song. And the 18-song album of the same name from which this track comes is also my favorite album of 2022.