Once again, I am happy to share my annual post on the music that I found in 2022, and share some of my favorites.
I found I purchased about as much music as I did last year, and my friend readership should know by now that my tastes gravitate to indie rock and related genres. Sometimes I do branch out, but if you are looking for ultra-popular music, this will not be the blog post for you.
To start, I will cover some releases that didn’t make the cut. Apologies to bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shearwater, and solo performers like Eddie Vedder and Father John Misty. A non-apology to Arcade Fire, who are ruining their legacy with post-Grammy mediocre records and newfound knowledge that Win Butler is a jerk.
There is also an incredibly large volume of music I haven’t discovered. The indie rock world in particular is large, vast, and a lack of commercialism is considered a feature, not a bug. When I look back at previous annual music lists I have created, then compared it to my Apple Music playcounts, I can easily find music that I found after the fact, that doesn’t make it into the blog.
So on that note, please excuse the inevitable that I missed something. Feel free to reach out if you know of some great music I should give a listen to.
Without further ado, here is my list, ordered by album release date. Where possible, I include a Bandcamp.com embed, the absolutely best place to get music and adequately support the artists. Streaming sucks!
Sapien, by Bonobo
Released January 14, 2022
Bonobo (nom de guerre for Simon Green) is something of a dance/electronic artist, and I typically prefer when his track lean toward the latter. His catalog is good and plentiful enough that I purchase an album whenever it comes out. This album isn’t his best, if you want to see Bonobo’s best work, check out Dial ‘M’ for Monkey and Black Sands. But this was a standout track that was one of the first I earmarked for this post in 2022.
Held, by Spoon
Released February 11, 2022
Spoon’s most recent album, Lucifer on the Sofa, is not their best record at all. The fact that this is an excellent album says everything about how amazing their discography is. After nearly 30 years (Wow, how? I am so old…), they are finally being nominated for the Grammys and all seems right. While so many of the tracks on the record are great, this one is by far my favorite.
Housekeeping note: Spoon IS on Bandcamp, but only the entire album can be embedded, so I did use Youtube to give you one track. Buy the entire album on Bandcamp!
Sunset, by Beach House
Released February 18, 2022
I guess you would call Beach House some form of Dream Pop. I usually steer clear, but this album really stayed with me. It is a double album, and at times when you listen, it really does feel like a double album needing some tidying up. But there are a number of tracks that just hit your feelings just right, and this song was one I enjoyed returning to all year.
O Horizon, by Akasha System
Released March 18, 2022
I have loved Akasha System ever since I first heard a track on KEXP. Many of the tracks are inspired by the outdoors, and somehow, an electronic musician pulls off that feeling. I have yet to come across any of his work that isn’t fantastic. This year, he didn’t release an album, but there were 4 singles available, and this one was the best.
Making Room, by Duster
Released April 1, 2022
I don’t know if listening to Shoegaze in 2022 makes me feel young or makes me feel really old, but I was astounded and so happy to get a new Duster album after decades of hiatus. On the young side, this reminded me of discovering My Bloody Valentine as a young teenager. On the old side, “my” decade is now presented as nostalgia. Duster’s album, Together, just really hit with me. So many great songs, but this the one I want to show my friends.
5.17, by Thom Yorke
Released April 3, 2022
Regular friends and readers will be totally shocked to hear I loved something Thom Yorke released. I suppose I am a superfan. This was part of a 2-side single released this year, as Thom was busy with another band that I will be covering below!
Shedding My Velvet, by Jack White
Released April 8, 2022
Jack released 2 albums in 2022, Fear of the Dawn and Entering Heaven Alive. The former was presented as his “Arena Rock” performance while the former was his “Quiet Acoustic” release. If you listen to both albums, it isn’t quite that cut and dried. While both albums differ in presentation, they both fall right in the Jack White oeuvre, from the White Stripes to his side-bands and solo work. There were a mountain of great tracks, but this was the one I came to again and again.
Stuffed Leopard, by Kurt Vile
Released April 15, 2022
Kurt Vile’s latest album, Watch My Moves, isn’t his best album. But in a theme I seem to keep returning to, that has more to do with the quality of his catalog than anything. 2018’s Bottle it In was so good, that I had unrealistic expecations this time.
It is hard to believe he once played guitar for The War On Drugs, as his style is so different! Kurt is always good for some laid-back indie rock, and some of the tracks really resonate. This one I loved.
Tastes Just Like It Costs, by MJ Lenderman
Released April 29, 2022
I found the record, Boat Songs, late in 2022, so it had been on the market for over 6 months by the time I found it. I have seen it described as country rock, but it really calls back to electric-era Neil Young. The entire record covers so many emotions, and following the lyrics adds a lot of subtlety to the arrangements. This song in particular starts with a couple arguing about a hat and reveals a lot of issues in the relationship under the surface. This was one of my favorite albums of the entire year. Lenderman is also in the band Wednesday with his partner Karly Hartzman, and they have a new album coming out in 2023, so I suspect he may appear in my 2023 post as well.
Trouble, by Warpaint
Released May 12, 2022
If there is a blind spot on the music I follow, it is that I just don’t get to enough work by female artists. But I discovered their amazing 2016 album, Heads Up, while browsing music at the Mad Platter in Riverside (RIP). This album doesn’t quite hit me as hard as that one (here we go again), but it is still very, very, good. This was the standout track for me.
Open The Floodgates, by The Smile
Released May 13, 2022
A Light for Attracting Attention by The Smile was the best album released this year, and I know you are quite shocked that I loved an album by the two songwriting members of Radiohead.
Some people have been saying that this is the “best Radiohead album in years.” My guess is that somebody on Pitchfork or Rolling Stone said it, and everybody simply copied the phrase. I get tired of hearing it, thought, because I think it is a lazy thing to say.
For one, this is a paring down to a 3-piece band, with Thom and Jonny joined by Tom Skinner of Sons of Kemet. As a result, the arrangements are simple and precise. I really do believe this is the best album of the year. Practically every song stands on its own, and taken together, is an incredibly compelling piece. As with Grammy policy, this album will be ignored, and then they will be nominated one album later, even if it isn’t good.
This song was my most played track of 2022, 163 and counting. That’s all I have to say. It’s amazing.
Degree, by Cola
Released May 20, 2022
Cola is both a band and a drink I need to stop ingesting. This is another 3-piece, with 2 of the members coming from the band Ought, that broke up in 2021. This is an indie/post-punk rock outfit, with quick, tight, tracks. An album listen whizzes by, but not to the point of exhaustion.
Kid, by Sun Era
Released August 20, 2022
Now, let’s go to a one-piece band. First, let me cover my usual music discovery lanes. Amazingly, after all these years, the best is Pandora. Next, would be NPR’s All Songs Considered. Next would be KEXP, although I find keeping up with their radio shows and podcasts to be a real challenge.
I found this one by Youtube of all places. My speakers are hooked up to my home Apple system, so during work hours at home, I usually use Youtube to put something on my work laptop to keep me focused. While I hate algorithms for reasons covered elsewhere, this one quietly showed up on my recommendations.
I loved this song, a lot, so I headed right to Bandcamp and found the album. I was rather blown away. Turns out, Sun Era is the work of one guy. I would like to think Prince and Trent Reznor would appreciate this. It helps that many of the songs hearken back to my fabled 1990s, from lo-fi to early indie-rock. This was seriously one of the best albums I heard all year.
Not bad for an unsigned artist (seriously, Sub Pop, XL, 4AD, etc, give this guy a call!). Then I can get this album on vinyl. I can’t recommend this album highly enough.
S.D.O.S., by Alex G
Released September 23, 2022
Alex makes impressively weird, impressively structured, relaxed indie rock. God Save The Animals is also one of the best best albums this year. I am generally not a fan of auto-tune effects, so it may seem odd for me to recommend a song with obvious vocal down-tuning, but for some reason it works.
Animal Espionage, by Dead Cross
Released October 28, 2022
I am also a huge fan of Mike Patton, and keeping track of his dozen or so side-projects to Faith No More is quite a task. This is another side-band that he plays in with former-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. This is something like metal-punk, and provided quite the adrenaline rush this year. While Faith No More lost out on a new World Tour due to Mike’s pandemic-laden social anxiety, it also allowed this record to be finished.
No Rule, by Manchester Orchestra
Released November 10, 2022
My friend Tyler turned me on to this band, and their past 2 albums, A Black Mile to the Surface and The Million Masks of God, turned out to be amazing pieces that I missed when they came out. How did I miss this band? The amount of good music out there is impossible to fully curate. Manchester Orchestra did release 2 singles this year, however, and this one is perfect.
Memory Within The Present, by Oranj
Released November 19, 2022
Now, let’s do some ambient. My friend Tyler again recommended this one, made by one of his friends and partly inspired by time spent at the Idyllwild Pines Camp. Ambient isn’t for everybody, but when you are in the mood, there isn’t anything better to truly relax your mind to.
Clouds Appear, by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Released December 9, 2022
Not sure when we are getting a new Nine Inch Nails album, but this will do. Atticus is really the only person to have a full-time gig with Trent in NIN, despite the large number of people inducted as them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
These two also team up to create a number of musical scores. I remember way back, collecting the entire Nine Inch Nails Halo Series, and the singles always had remixes and other instrumentals that sounded like they would go perfect in a movie. At some point, I think Trent realized that too. And it won him an Oscar.
These guys released 2 musical scores this year, Bones and All, and Empire of Light. The latter was my favorite of the two releases. So many good tracks, but this one was really good.
I appreciate everybody who labored through what was a very long blog post and listened to some of the tracks. Go on Bandcamp and buy some music. Especially on Bandcamp Fridays, when all proceeds are donated to the artists.
Thank you, and I look forward to more great music in 2023.
T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.