2022 was an amazing year for music! I have a gigantic list of great albums that came out this year… and I also had one of the best years ever for concerts, seeing Yumi Zouma and Magdalena Bay in Atlanta, Beach House and Alvvays in Asheville, and Purity Ring and Cannons here in Charlotte! Wow!
Also, my apologies for not getting this out sooner. I wanted to publish it in early December, but life kept interfering (as did the list itself, more on that later). So I planned to get it out the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but one of my clients had a serious, LEVEL-1 DISASTER I had to address. I love billable hours, but didn’t have the “relaxing week of nothing” I was hoping for.
So anyway, below are my ten favorite albums of 2022. The list comes from my Last.fm stats generally; I reserve the right to tinker with the specific order. After that are the honorable mentions, followed by the “Song of the Year”, “Live Song of the Year” and the raw data from Last.fm.
My Top Albums of 2022
10) Lovers Lake – Lovers Lake – It seems like every year I stumble upon a new artist for which there is little to no information. Lovers Lake is that band for 2022. Their Last.fm page just says “if you know anything about this band, add to the wiki!”. Spotify’s bio only lists their socials. I haven’t looked through every post on their Facebook, Insta and Twitter pages, but as yet I haven’t learned anything about them. Where are they from? How many are they? Who knows? But their self-titled debut album is pretty good! It’s heavily influenced by vaporwave, but it’s a well-rounded album with actual instruments – real guitars and basses! There’s lots to love here, if only we knew more about them!
9) Kid Moxie – Better Than Electric – It seems like the #9 spot on my lists is reserved for acts “showing up out of nowhere” every year. And just as Munya’s Voyage to Mars surprised me in 2021, so too did Kid Moxie’s Better Than Electric in 2022. This is a surprisingly solid album, although for some reason it doesn’t include her (pretty awesome) cover of “Creep”.
8) Kid Francescoli – Azuro (bande originale du film) – Kid Francescoli is no stranger to my end of year music lists! 2020’s Lovers was ranked #7 that year, while 2017’s Play Me Again hit #5 and 2014’s With Julia ended the year all the way at #2. 2022’s Azuro only makes it to #8, mostly because it’s a short, instrumental soundtrack for the film of the same name. That doesn’t make it “bad”, but it kind of limits where he can go and what he can do with this music. I was happy to pay for the digital version of this, and would buy it again. But of all the albums Mathieu Hocine has put out, this is the one I like least. It’s good for relaxing or concentrating, but it’s just not something you’d put on at a party. There are no thumpers like “You, Love” here. Still good, though.
7) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down – Nine years. Nine years of nothing. Oh sure, Karen O was busy with solo work, but no one had heard from Yeah Yeah Yeahs in NINE YEARS.. and then they go dropping this outta nowhere! I like “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” as much as the next guy, but “Wolf” really does it for me! The album is OK – I mean, it’s #7 on my best-of list, after all. But it’s somewhat disjointed to me? Like, it almost feels like half of one album, then half of a different album? Is it just me?
For what it’s worth, Yeah Yeah Yeahs DO win “Best Physical Media of the Year” – an award I made up just now – for this fantastic limited edition of Cool It Down on stunning purple\pink swirl vinyl:
6) Tempers – New Meaning – Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper, from NYC, are a band called Tempers. And they’re not to be underestimated. Their 2019 album Private Life hit #3 on my Best Of list that year with very little fanfare. Almost everything they do “just works” for me, a cool mix of modern electropop with a nod to old Goth stuff of the 80s and cold wave from earlier this decade. You have to work pretty hard to find something to dislike about these guys! This is also one of those albums you put on and 38 minutes later you’re like, “wow… is it over already?”
5) Minimal Schlager – Love, Sex & Dreams – Minimal Schlager blew me away last year with the song of the year, “FMB”. Needless to say, their debut album isn’t quite as good as “FMB”, but it’s solid. It’s modern, 2022 synthpop, made and produced well. I just wish they’d HURRY THE HELL UP in shipping my LP of this. Ordered last September, it was supposed to ship in late November… but is now “scheduled to ship [from Germany] on 11 January 2023” (today, as I write this). I just wanna hear “Rush” and “Forbidden Fruit” on vinyl… is that too much to ask? Anyway, they’re a fun band. I really like them!
4) Maud Geffray – Ad Astra – This French DJ, producer and musician has been on my radar for some time now. Her debut album – 2017’s Polaar – made it to #4 on my “Best of” list that year, even though the album was more of a “sketchbook” than a fully fleshed-out record. As I mentioned in that post, a couple songs are just remixes or reworks of other songs on the album. She’s made progress, as this album is ALL THAT. The thing with Geffray is, not everything she does is great, but when it IS good, she knocks it outta the park. Take “Way Out”, below. That song is what I imagine heaven sounds like. But the collaborations on this album range from “just OK” (“PLUR”, “I Fall at 5”) to filler (“Royal Bellies”). But the tracks that are good – the aforementioned “Way Out”, “Fallin'”, “Break”) are almost unimaginably great!
3) Beach House – Once Twice Melody – Beach House’s 2012 masterpiece Bloom was my album of the year that year… but I was surprised to see that 2018’s 7 didn’t even make my Honorable Mentions list (2018 was, by far, the “most stacked” year since I started doing this). It seems like a no-brainer that Once Twice Melody would be a big hit this year. But is a Beach House double album too much of a good thing? Because while “Superstar” and the title track are indeed swoon-worthy bits of dream pop, a lot of the lyrics seem… well, lazy if I’m honest. Like Lana Del Rey knockoffs. I used to joke that David Sylvian always figured out a way to cram the word “trees” into every song he wrote, and I sometimes think Victoria Legrand is on the very edge of writing an amazing song, only to fall back on cliché at the last minute. Which is a pity, because the music on this album sounds fantastic. But how many references to “the sky” and “stars” can one band put on one album? Well, when it’s 84 minutes long, it turns out to be quite a lot. Which admittedly sounds like a knock on the album (and well, it kinda is). Part of me thinks the band should have developed half these songs this year, and held the second half for a quick follow-up next year. Still, like Cocteau Twins, Legrand has rarely trafficked in the literal meaning of her words, relying more on the sound of her voice saying the words. This is a REALLY GOOD album, but as you can probably guess, I think it’s a bit too much.
2) Alvvays – Blue Rev – You guys, part of the reason this list is so late is because I had a battle royale in my mind over which album should be #1. This album was SOOOOO CLOSE to #1! As you were waiting patiently for this list, I flip-flopped I dunno how many times. And why not? Alvvays has always been a solid band, but this is just the damn epitome of everything they’ve done. As a band, Alvvays is tight, cranking out indie pop, college radio pop, jangle pop, dream pop, synthpop, or whatever it is Molly Rankin wants to do, and they do it well. This is a band at the top of their game.
My 50+ year-old self also appreciates their maturity. Now mostly in their 30s, the band still has the “young person angst” all good rock music needs… but they’ve long since aged past the solely black & white world of teenagerdom. This isn’t “you broke my heart” music, it’s “you broke my heart, then moved away and now you’re back 10 years later” music, and all the weariness that comes with that. And I really like that. There’s not really a bad song on this album.
And despite me talking about how much I like “older, more mature” Alvvays, I just… love that their music always sounds like it should have been THE ALBUM from my sophomore year in college, ya know? Somewhere in North America, two college friends are listening to Blu Rev over and over again, and one day they’re gonna look back to sophomore year at college and think “man, we listened to Blue Rev so much that year!”
Alvvays just somehow gets me, you guys!
1) Yumi Zouma – Present Tense – Surprise! By the narrowest of margins ever, Yumi Zouma wins album of the year! I bet most of you don’t even know who Yumi Zouma are. Well, they’re a group of friends from Christchurch, New Zealand. After school, they scattered – one to New York City, another to London. They wanted some way to actually be able to “hang out” remotely. Someone suggested starting a band, so they started rehearsing over the Internet. They were kind of up in the air about trying to be a for-real band. But two friends – one named or nicknamed Yumi, the other Zouma – convinced them they yes, you guys REALLY ARE GOOD. And 10+ years later, here we are.
Oddly, the road here involved Purity Ring. I was super-excited when Purity Ring released WOMB in 2020. I WAS GOING TO SEE “STARDEW” LIVE IF IT WAS THE LAST THING I EVER DID, DAMMIT! I got tickets to their May 2020 show at The Tabernacle in Atlanta. The show was, of course, cancelled due to COVID. But it was rescheduled for the Buckhead Theatre in November 2020… which was cancelled. That show was rescheduled for the Buckhead Theatre again, this time in November 2021… and cancelled again.
I was kind of irritated with Purity Ring, if I’m honest, on top of tired of making (and canceling) hotel reservations. Other bands had started tours by then, so what was THEIR hold up? Anyway, a few days after the 2021 cancellation, one of the ticket sites emailed me that Yumi Zouma was coming to Atlanta. I wasn’t “all-in” on them yet – I’d had a few of their songs on various playlists going back to 2015. But something just told me they’d put on a good show. So, if almost to spite Purity Ring, I drove to Terminal West in Atlanta to see Yumi.
So, anyway, to FINALLY get to this album… well, that’s funny. ‘Cos I can’t really explain it. It just hits deeper than Blue Rev somehow. I assume that lead singer Christie Simpson writes most of the lyrics, and if so I think it’s fair to say that we get along juuuuust a little bit better than Molly Rankin and I do. Yumi Zouma might not be quite as “tight” as Alvvays, but they’re still so good, y’all. Yumi Zouma also invokes the “mysterious nostalgia” I get from bands like Postiljonen and Mint Julep. For instance, “In the Eyes of Our Love” (below) absolutely reminds me of a song James, one of my best friends going back to high school, would have recommended in 1987. There’s even this bouncy bassline I can almost hear him saying “oh yeah, this is my favorite part… the bass… BUMP-A-DOO-DAT-DOO! Good, huh?”
Look, I don’t write for Rolling Stone. I don’t know enough about New Zealand’s music scene to talk about where Yumi Zouma came from. I don’t know enough about music generally to talk about unusual chord progressions, clever bits of hi-hat playing, or the “Johnny Marr-ian use of the flanger on the last track”. I just like what I like. And I really like Yumi Zouma. Have a listen for yourself:
Honorable Mentions and EPs
Silly Boy Blue – Breakup Songs
Adam Miller – Gateway
Ruth Radelet – The Other Side (EP)
Leslie Medina – Bon Courage (EP)
Dubstar – Two
Leith – Birthdays in July
Sigrid – How to Let Go
Fishbach – Avec les yeux
Whimsical – Melt
Alexia Gredy – Hors saison
Methyl Ethel – Are You Haunted?
Sally Shapiro – Sad Cities
Warpaint – Radiate Like This
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Emotional Eternal
Hatchie – Giving The World Away
Yann Tierson – 11 5 18 2 5 18
Mr Little Jeans – Better Days
xPropaganda – The Heart is Strange
Stars – From Capelton Hill
Lykke Li – EYEYE
Hazel English – Summer Nights (EP)
Graveyard Club – Moonflower
Frazerdaze – Morningside
Causeway – We Were Never Lost
Working Men’s Club – Fear Fear
Sylvan Esso – No Rules Sandy
Nyxen – PXNK
Au Suisse – Au Suisse
Minuit Machine – 24
Zanias – Unearthed
Song of the Year
Spotify put this song on one of my “Discover Weekly” playlists. At first, I was blown away by the album cover:
“Man, that girl’s HOT!”. But then I actually listened to the music… and couldn’t get enough of “Amours Imaginaires”. It’s just another French love song, but it just… so captures the all-or-nothingness of French love songs. If you thought Spanish pop was the only place singers beat their hearts while dramatically singing about their CORAZOOOONN!!, you’ve been misinformed. Although, technically, since this is French it would be more like “COOOOOEEEEEUURR!!” Anyway, this video is amusing (and disturbing), but I’ve listened to the song over and over this year:
Live Song of the Year
Everyone knew it was coming. The crowd of a couple thousand, jammed in the painted parking lot that is Rabbit Rabbit, was sweaty and gasping for air in North Carolina’s stifling July humidity. Still, as the last notes of “Dark Spring” faded away and “Superstar” started, the crowd audibly gasped anyway. This video is of a “shortened for TV” version of the song, performed on Colbert. In this case, it’s about quality over authenticity:
All data scraped on 12/20/2022.
Overall albums of the year from 01/01/2022 to 12/20/2022, with release year and annual play count:
1) Mint Julep – Broken Devotion (2016, 1585)
2) Empathy Test– Monsters (2020, 646)
3) You Drive – You Drive (2018, 494)
4) Yumi Zouma – Present Tense (2022, 422)
5) Mint Julep – Stray Fantasies (2020, 417)
6) Mint Julep – Save Your Season (2011, 732)
7) Maud Geffray – Ad Astra (2022, 371)
8) Beach House – Once Twice Melody (2022, 355)
9) Mint Julep – In a Deep and Dreamless Sleep (2021, 339)
10) Yumi Zouma – Truth or Consequences (2020, 332)
Adjusted albums of the year, 2022 releases only:
1) Yumi Zouma – Present Tense (422)
2) Maud Geffray – Ad Astra (371)
3) Beach House – Once Twice Melody (366)
4) Alvvays – Blue Rev (324)
5) Mint Julep – Covers (264)
6) Kid Francescoli – Azuro (Bande originale du film) (269)
7) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down (234)
8) Tempers – New Meaning (188)
9) Minimal Schlager – Love Sex & Dreams (130)
10) Kid Moxie – Better Than Electric (108)
Total plays per artist, 2022
1) Mint Julep (3,677)
2) Yumi Zouma (1,733)
3) Empathy Test (1,177)
4) Minimal Schlager (1,018)
5) Purity Ring (834)
6) Alvvays (823)
7) Leslie Medina (690)
8) Kid Francescoli (536)
9) Beach House (506)
10) Maud Geffray (504)
Total plays per artist since joining Last.fm in 2010
1) Mint Julep (7,389)
2) Marsheaux (6,174)
3) Saint Etienne (3,886)
4) You Drive (3,763)
5) Purity Ring (2,664)
6) Empathy Test (2,463)
7) Yumi Zouma (2,148)
8) Chromatics (2,096)
9) Desire (2,081)
10) CHVRCHES (2,019)
Previous “Albums of the Year”
2021: Mint Julep – In a Deep & Dreamless Sleep
2020: Mint Julep – Stray Fantasies
2019: Chromatics – Closer to Grey
2018: You Drive – You Drive
2017: Saint Etienne – Home Counties
2016: Marsheaux – Ath.Lon
2015: Purity Ring – Another Eternity
2014: La Roux – Trouble in Paradise
2013: Marsheaux – Inhale
2012: Beach House – Bloom
2011: The Raveonettes – Raven in the Grave
2010: Katy Perry – Teenage Dream*
* – There was no single choice for “best album” in 2010; the article simply listed my favorite albums that year in no particular order. The choice of Teenage Dream was made ex post facto from that list of albums.