(1) Spoon - "Wild"
It's the question everyone is asking: Will 2022 be the year that I finally learn to love Spoon? I've been trying, but for whatever reason they've just never clicked with me. "Wild," though, is something else altogether. I loved it from the first time I heard it and I haven't been able to stop playing it since. The piano on this song is the best thing to happen in music so far this year.
(2) Ibibio Sound Machine - "All That You Want"
That said, the drop at 0:18 of "All That You Want" is the second-best thing to happen in music so far this year. If you're going to listen to one song on this mix, make it this one. I really can't imagine anyone not enjoying it.
(3) The Reds, Pinks, and Purples - "Pour The Light In"
You've probably heard me bemoan the fact that money has pretty much totally destroyed any possibility of a local music scene in San Francisco, and that's still generally true, but it's an overly negative assessment. Money just drives art further and further underground, making it harder to find. To that end, I am eternally grateful to this Bandcamp Scene Report from late last year, a deep dive into all that is still good about San Francisco. Near the top of that list is The Reds, Pinks, and Purples, who seem to put out a new gorgeous indie pop album every year like clockwork. "Pour The Light In" is the best single from the upcoming Summer at Land's End.
(4) ME REX - "Skin, It Itches"
Look, I am just never going to shut up about this band. Ilana doesn't like them. The Singles Jukebox said some very hurtful things about them. I don't care. (I obviously do care, or I wouldn't be talking about it, but still ...)
(5) String Machine - "Touring In January"
In for 2022: Twee! We're all going to get into bands with like ten members who play weird instruments and dress like they just robbed a Goodwill. We're going to use the word "adorable" as a real compliment, not in that ironic way that just signifies patronizing condescension. And then we're all going to feel mildly embarrassed about it in a few years. Worth it.
(6) Maren Morris - "Circles Around This Town"
I remain a sucker for mandolin.
(7) Good Looks - "Almost Automatic"
It's a band with a 1,000 word mission statement posted on their website and literally one actual song that currently exists in the world. I love them for this.
(8) Gang Of Youths - "In The Wake Of Your Leave"
There are thousands of people who absolutely adore this band and would probably hate to see me describing them in such reductive terms as "basically the Australian Killers," but ... they're basically the Australian Killers. And I mean that as a compliment!
(9) Christian Lee Hutson - "Rubberneckers"
2022 is shaping up as the year that Hutson steps out of frequent collaborator Phoebe Bridgers' shadow and becomes a star in his own right ... which would probably be easier if people like me stopped mentioning her every time we talk about him.
(10) Big Thief - "Simulation Swarm"
Big Thief's sprawling double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You comes out next week, and it's a good thing that there are twenty songs on the album, because by my count this is the eighth pre-release single. It's pretty clear that they've decided to get real weird on this one, and we'll have to wait and see if they pull it off. For now, "Simulation Swarm" is probably the single that sounds the most like a proper song, which I guess is either a success or a failure depending on your perspective.
(11) Ex-Void - "Churchyard"
Now that we've all accepted "tenderpunk" as a real genre, we need to carve out some space for another subgenre that I'm calling "Friends of Martha," which maintains the same ethos as tenderpunk while sticking to a brighter, more upbeat pop sensibility. Ex-Void is a good example of this, along with Woahnows, Spook School, Fortitude Valley, The Winter Passing, and probably a bunch more than I'm forgetting at the moment.
(12) PUP - "Robot Writes A Love Song"
“You can hear the band start to fall off the cliff, and because of that, I think this record is our truest and most genuine to date. There is nothing more PUP than a slow and inevitable descent into self-destruction.”
(13) Nilufer Yanya - "Midnight Sun"
If you're like me and you can basically feel your attention span withering away, you might be tempted to give this one a minute or two and move on, but you'd be missing out. You really need to listen to the whole thing. The fact that I'm talking about listening to the entirety of a song that is less than five minutes long as if it were some kind of arduous task is probably not a great sign for our collective mental health.
(14) Kevin Devine - "Albatross"
Speaking of which, here's a song about your brain being broken. Topical!
(15) Young Guv - "Only Wanna See U Tonight"
And, after that, some palate cleansing power pop.
(16) Goose - "Borne"
In For 2022: Jam Bands! Goose is the first legitimately popular jam band since ... Phish, probably. They're playing two nights at Radio City Music Hall this summer. They have a three-hour live album on Spotify, and it's actually pretty good!
(17) The Weeknd - "Less Than Zero"
I enjoyed Dawn FM much more than I expected to. Abel Tesfaye + Jim Carrey = Canadian Excellence. "Less Than Zero" makes this month's list, but there are plenty of good songs on the album and I wouldn't be surprised if something else ended up on my year-end list.
(18) Lucius - "Next To Normal"
The groove is a , the chorus is a  at best. It's like two-thirds of a Scissor Sisters song, and if you're going to go that way, you have to go all the way over the top.
(19) Let's Eat Grandma - "Happy New Year"
See, I would have released this on New Year's Day, or maybe even before New Year's Day, but sure, January 3 is also great.
(20) Hatchie - "Quicksand"
The subtle shift from dream-pop to just pop. In this case, it works.
(21) Teenage Halloween - "Floating"
They remain on call to rate your costume.
(22) Superchunk - "This Night"
Now we move into the Legacy Acts section of the mix. I mean, "Slack Motherfucker" came out in 1990. Thirty-two years later and they still sound great. We should all be so lucky.
(23) Guided By Voices - "Excited Ones"
Guided By Voices is one of my all-time favorite bands, and yet there are hundreds of GBV songs I've never heard, and may never hear. The band has released more than five hundred songs since their debut in 1987. They put out two albums last year, three the year before. And now, here's another one. The single ... sounds like a GBV song, which means it's good, but definitely feels like something you've heard before.
(24) Destroyer - "Tintoretto, It's For You"
What does any of this have to do with an Italian Renaissance painter? I have no idea.
(25) The Smile - "You Will Never Work In Television Again"
I'll be honest, this placement is more aspirational than anything. This is Thom and Johnny from Radiohead, and literally every music critic in the world loves it. I ... don't really get it. Yet!