(1) Big Thief - "No Reason"
Big Thief's Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is indie rock's big important artistic statement of 2022. Twenty songs, eighty minutes, it is a lot in every sense of the word. It's also great, and it works as an album that is much more than the sum of its parts. I know this because they released eight singles before the album, and none of them really caught my attention. In listening to the album for the first time, the two tracks that immediately jumped out to me were "No Reason" and "Change" ... both of which were singles. Why do they sound better in context? I have no idea. But they do.
(2) String Machine - "Churn It Anew"
Big Thief might have made the most important album of the new year, but my favorite album of the year so far is absolutely String Machine's Hallelujah Hell Yeah. It sounds exactly like you would expect an album called Hallelujah Hell Yeah to sound.
(3) Caracara - "Strange Interactions In The Night"
Jimmy Eat World are, somehow, from Mesa, Arizona. If they were from Philadelphia, as they probably should have been, they would sound like this.
(4) PUP - "Matilda"
Rapidly becoming one of my favorite bands. Ilana and I are going to be in California in April, and we're going to see PUP, Pinkshift, and Sheer Mag at The Warfield. If you are in town, you need to be there.
(5) ME REX - "Robotswalkonwater (The Floor Is Made Of Lava)"
It is now March 7, 2022, and I am still refusing to shut up about this band that no one likes but me.
(6) Foxes - "Growing On Me"
I hear this as a CRJ song, Ilana hears it as a HAIM song. Either way, I have a pretty good sense of who reads this blog and I would say that if you (yes, you) are going to listen to one song on this list, it should probably be this one.
(7) HAIM - "Lost Track"
Speaking of the Haim sisters, it turns out they can do more than just act! (It also turns out that they are turning into Vampire Weekend at exactly the same speed that Vampire Weekend is turning into HAIM. Win-win.)
(8) Caroline Polachek - "Billions"
She has such a clear path to pop stardom right now, and she's actively choosing weirdness instead, and I love that so much.
(9) Florence and the Machine - "King"
Like I talked about with Spoon last month, Florence and the Machine is another one of those bands where the gap between "I can see why people would love this" and "I love this" has been impossible for me to cross (likely because I've never seen them live). "King," though, is awesome. This is my new favorite Florence song.
(10) Bartees Strange - "Heavy Heart"
Just got back from two weeks in Mexico, and if you're wondering who vacations on the Oaxacan coast, it turns out that the answer is almost 100% Canadians. So, given that, it's not surprising that a song featuring the line "we should go to Toronto more often" was stuck in my head for pretty much the entire time. Also it's a great song and Strange is the odds-on favorite to be the breakout indie star of 2022.
(11) Signals Midwest - "Gold In The Grey"
Debut album came out in 2009, I discovered them last year. Thanks for your patience, guys, this is great.
(12) Oceanator - "Bad Brain Daze"
Elise Okusami adds horns to her endlessly shape-shifting musical universe.
(13) Oso Oso - "Pensacola"
The man can write a chorus.
(14) Lucy Dacus - "Kissing Lessons"
Dacus recently threw her back out and, instead of cancelling tour dates, she has been performing her shows while lying on a couch. It turns out that "hardcore" can sometimes be very soft.
(15) Obongjayar - "Try"
After his star turn on Little Simz' "Point and Kill," Obongjayar keeps the groove going on his latest solo single.
(16) Lucius - "Heartbursts"
Can you compare something to both HAIM and Prince at the same time? Is that possible?
(17) Sharon Van Etten - "Porta"
A synth-ier SVE than we're used to, but it works.
(18) Hurray For The Riff Raff - "Saga"
Allow me to co-sign a Ryan Joyce recommendation: this album is lovely.
(19) Gang of Youths - "Spirit Boy"
If, like me, you think "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" is the best U2 song in at least twenty years, you are going to love this Gang of Youths album. You may love it anyway.
(20) The Rural Alberta Advantage - "CANDU"
They do basically one thing, and they do it incredibly well.
(21) Riverby - "Birth By Sleep"
A bit like Lucy Dacus' "Thumbs," Riverby's first new single "Baseless" was so emotionally raw that I could barely listen to it, which I guess counts as an impressive artistic achievement, but probably not something I'm putting on a playlist. "Birth By Sleep" is only a little less vicious, but that little bit counts.
(22) Pillow Queens - "Hearts & Minds"
Of the "discovered during Covid" bands, Pillow Queens are near the top of the list for who I'm most excited to see in concert (May 16 at Cinetol!).
(23) Ex-Void - "No Other Way"
Friends of Martha, Part One.
(24) Big Nothing - "Accents"
Friends of Martha, Part Two.
(25) Wet Leg - "Angelica"
Your new favorite song about bringing lasagna to a party.
(26) Madi Diaz - "Resentment (New Feelings Version)" (feat. Waxahatchee)
Somehow the third version of this song - Diaz originally wrote it for Kesha, then released it on her own solo album, then released it again with Katie Crutchfield sharing vocals. Not surprisingly, I much prefer the Crutchfield version.
(27) Samia - "Born On A Train"
In my opinion, "100,000 Fireflies" by The Magnetic Fields is the saddest song ever written. "Born On A Train" is the counterargument that it might not even be the saddest Magnetic Fields song, and Samia's cover is just as heartbreakingly beautiful as the original.
(28) Stars - "Pretenders"
Speaking of historical sadness, let's talk about Stars. We often talk about "outgrowing" music as a bad thing, and sometimes it is, but sometimes I think about how often I listened to Stars' Set Yourself On Fire in the 2004-2007 time period, and how rarely I listen to it now, and how this is almost entirely due to the fact that I am losing touch with how terrifyingly lonely I felt back then, and it just makes me feel so incredibly grateful for how my life turned out.
(29) Maren Morris - "Background Music"
Maybe our most self-aware pop star, Morris sings:
Maybe all we'll ever be to them in a hundred years
Is three minutes in a car, in a bar, that says we wеre here
If that's you and mе when it's all said and done
Hard not to see we're the lucky ones
Not everybody gets to leave a souvenir
As someone who actually has a song that will likely still be played in a hundred years ("The Middle" currently has almost 1.2 billion plays on Spotify).
(30) The Reds, Pinks and Purples - "New Light"
Summer At Land's End is just as charmingly dreamy as I hoped it would be, go check it out.
(31) Gregor Barnett - "Driving Through The Night"
The man can write a bridge.
(32) Proper. - "Huerta"
If you're an American, your ancestors probably came from somewhere else, and you've probably thought about what your life would have been like if they hadn't. Erik Garlington considers the many possible paths of a third-generation Mexican-American.
(33) Porridge Radio - "Back To The Radio"
Just a captivating vocal performance.
(34) The Beths - "A Real Thing"
Paradiso April 23!
(35) Illuminati Hotties - "Sandwich Sharer"
Paradiso May 21!
(36) Hannah Diamond - "Staring At The Ceiling"
"Retrofuturism" is the name given to depictions of the future produced in the past (like Jetsons-style flying-car stuff). Even when predictions turn out to be inaccurate, it's still fascinating to see how prior generations thought the world to come would turn out. Anyway, PC Music is basically retrofuturism now.
(37) Charli XCX - "Baby"
Just including this here so Charil won't yell at me on Twitter. It's fine.
(38) BANKS - "Holding Back"
Sounds like an early-200s chipmunk-soul Kanye beat, which I was not expecting, but I'm certainly not mad about it.
(39) Niliufer Yanya - "anotherlife"
Album of the year for people who really want to talk about the nuts and bolts of how albums are made. A lot of people on Twitter talking about how well this has been mixed, who am I to question them?
(40) Superchunk - "Wild Loneliness"
Title track from a consistently solid album.
(41) MJ Lenderman - "You Have Bought Yourself A Boat"
I never really got into Lenderman's band Wednesday because they weren't quite melodic enough for me. I guess he was saving the catchier songs for his solo record?
(42) Belle and Sebastian - "Unnecessary Drama"
Should B&S songs have this much harmonica? Early signs point to ... maybe not. It's still good, I just have impossible expectations for them.
(43) Spoon - "My Babe"
Well, I thought we had a Spoon epiphany last month, but it turns out that maybe I just love "Wild." This is fine.
(44) Mdou Moctar - "Nakenegh Dich"
Bonus track from the deluxe version of Afrique Victime, his hot streak shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
(45) Mici - "Respond" (feat. Sun-El Musician)
There is no stronger guarantee of quality in a new song than seeing "(feat. Sun-El Musician)."
(46) Kurt Vile - "Like Exploding Stones"
As The War On Drugs continue to take over the world, it seems only fair that Kurt Vile gets a piece of that action.
(47) Good Looks - "Vision Boards"
Your new favorite song about how vision boards are stupid.
(48) The Weather Station - "To Talk About"
It seems like a lot of bands were just insanely productive during the pandemic. I don't know how The Weather Station has another album out already, but here we are.
(49) Christian Lee Hutson - "Age Difference"
A little too slow and sparse for my tastes, but Hutson is such a great lyricist that I can't leave it out entirely:
Well, you ask so many questions, I'm just making up the answers
"I'd Do Anything For Love" is a response to "Tiny Dancer"
(50) Black Country, New Road - "Good Will Hunting"
This month's aspirational song, I don't quite get BCNR yet, but it seems impossible that a band could be compared to Los Campesinos! this many times without me eventually coming around on them.