Continuing on from my last “Favorite Things” post about Books, this time I’m going to tackle music! I love music. It’s pretty much a constant presence. When I’m working, when I’m playing a game, as I fall asleep. Music is there. It’s one of those things that helps deal with my emotions, or helps me express something about myself to myself, if that makes sense. Whether it’s emotionally rich songs that connect with my experience, songs that provide an excellent background, or songs that make me laugh or dance—to know me is to know what music I love. And, my taste tends to be a little all over the place. So, here are my top 10 favorite albums of 2022. Unlike my book selections, these are limited to albums that were released in 2022. These are in no particular order.
The Last Goodbye by Odesza
Every album Odesza has put out, I’ve lapped up. The Last Goodbye is no different. Much like 2017’s A Moment Apart, it starts off with a track that includes some spoken word that sets the tone for the album. After a while, I have to admit, I started skipping the intro track from that previous album. But I’d never do that here. It’s a beautiful little piece that transitions into the cool electro-pop of “Wide Awake” nicely. The whole album has a lot of textures and different sounds going on. From the groove of Love Letter, the epic “Behind The Sun,” which samples some beautiful vocals from Persian singer Simin Ghanem there’s a lot to love here. The titular track with Betty LaVette is a particular standout. This has a particularly nice vinyl release, as all their albums have.
Be Here Soon by iamamiwhoami
Well, so far if Jonna Lee puts out an album, either her solo efforts under ionnalee or her collaborative efforts with Claes Björklund as iamamiwhoami, it’s going to end up on my favorites list at the end of the year. Be Here Soon is no different. Released track by track, with accompanying videos (except the last one, for a good reason I’ll get to in a second) it coincided with the “release” of her newborn Bauer. The album was timed to come out on her expected delivery date. Of course, nature has other plans and Bauer came out a little earlier, delaying the last video for spectacularly good reasons. I’ve documented why I love Lee’s work before, but to recap, her voice just… vibes with my internal self. I know that’s a weird way to put it, but there’s a glacial quality to it that’s both precise and clear but full of vulnerability. She can go epic, and she can conjure up the feeling of a whispered conversation. There’s an aching quality to the album. One that, collected, almost feels like a goodbye of sorts. One that is by turns searching, regretful, and hopeful. After some delays, I just got my deluxe vinyl package from her (with the CD and DVD of the accompanying visual album) and it sounds amazing. There’s not a bad track on here. I listen to the album as a whole almost every time I listen to it (which is often) but the tracks that connected with me the hardest are “Canyon,” “Changes,” “A Thousand Years,” and “Walking on Air.”
Dance Fever/Dance Fever Live by Florence + The Machine
I mean… it’s Florence. Do I need to say much more? I loved this album to bits, and it’s accompanying live album is one of the best live albums I’ve ever heard. It really captures the performance, and everyone is on fine form. The presentation is Florence at her most… Florence-y? She wrote this album as a “danceable” album. Partially a response to being stuck at home thanks to COVID and unable to tour, and wanting something she (and everyone else) could dance to on tour. Standouts for me included “King,” “Cassandra,” “Morning Elvis,” and “My Love.” The latter of which already feels like a song she’s been singing forever because it feels like pure classic F+TM.
Laurel Hell by Mitski
I’m definitely a Johnny-Come-Lately when it comes to Mitski. But I thoroughly enjoyed Laurel Hell. Working for the Knife is the first track that drew me in. It’s not hard to understand the cry of creative frustration here, especially under “the knife.” Whether that’s capitalism, time, etc. Some songs are slower and expressive, while some feature propulsive beats. An album favorite, “The Only Heartbreaker,” starts out sounding like something you’d have seen on MTV in the 80s. It’s great. Catchy and still emotionally expressive. But my favorite track after “Working for the Knife” is “Love Me More.” An aching ode making life worth living. It’s catchy and beautifully sung with lyrics that undercut it all by being world-weary.
How do other people live? / I wonder how they keep it up? / When today is finally done / There’s another day to come /Then another day to come
The Gods We Can Touch by Aurora
I’ve been a fan of Aurora’s since her first album after hearing the single Running With The Wolves. Honestly, you could say I have a thing for Nordic singers, I guess. I wouldn’t call Aurora and Jonna Lee’s voices similar, exactly, but there is some interesting connections there. In any case, The Gods We Can’t Touch is the latest in a string of interesting albums from her. There’s a certain maturity to this album. Now, I don’t want to give the impression that earlier albums were immature. In fact, I’d say the opposite. But there’s a sense of self here on display that I really enjoy. She has a wonderful vocal range that she showcases here, interspersing highs that sound fragile and tremulous with bold declarations. This is another album I can listen to back to front. But my favorite tracks are “Heathens” (a beautiful and bold ode to who walk out of step with the rest of the world,) and “Cure For Me” (a danceable rail against emotional manipulation.) The video for the latter is especially good.
Profound Mysteries I-III by Röyksopp
I’ve listened to Profound Mysteries a lot. I need to listen to it more. That’s part of the trouble with releasing three—THREE!—albums in a year. Obviously, they are all of a part. But this big splash after their (formerly) “last” album will take me time to fully absorb. I’ve played part I continuously. Part II I had a little harder time getting into. But Part III pulled me way down deep. What I haven’t done is listened to all three parts together, which I think I’d enjoy. I got in on Röyksopp early on with their first album. Some albums have connected with me more than others, but they’re always highly listenable. These are no different, offering electro-pop as well as electronic soundscapes and everything in between. Most of my favorite tracks feature Susanne Sundfør’s always emotive and beautiful vocals.
Cool it Down by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
This is a bit of an oddball because A) I only started listening to it in December and B) I’ve never been a particular fan of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs before? Not that I didn’t like the songs I’d heard on the radio, I just never got into them far enough to listen to a full album. This one got my attention with their collaboration with Perfume Genius, “Spitting Off The Edge of the World.” A soaring, sneering song that summons a generations-worth of disillusionment after being handed a giant turd ball by the last generation. It’s hard not to connect with that. The results are wistful and beautiful and angry all in one. There are a ton of great tracks on this one, but my second favorite is the sexy, dangerous “Wolf.”
Fever Dream by Cannons
I first got into Cannons with the song “Fire For You” from their 2019 debut album Shadows. I loved that whole album. Sultry, synthy, poppy—great from start to finish. Fever Dream continues it, and the songwriting just gets stronger. There’s some beautifully evocative songs on here. “Bad Dream” paints such a picture with lyrics and sonic soundscapes. It somehow transmits heartbreak even if you’re not actually feeling it in your life. My favorite track, however, is “Ruthless.” Other than the f-bomb, this song could have come out forty years ago. I mean that as a compliment. It feels like it’s been around forever, or should have been. It’s lush and gorgeous with attitude. Chillwave bliss. Annoyingly, their label seems to be making the band digital-only at this point. I would love their albums on vinyl. They’re not even available on CD yet! Hopefully this horrific mistake gets corrected soon.
We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong by Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten is one of those artists whose name keeps popping up in my world, but I never got around to listening to any of her music. That was a mistake, judging by her latest. I am looking forward to going back in her catalog and discovering more. We’ve Been Going On About This All Wrong is a wise, heartfelt album. There’s a sense of Von Etten putting it all out there on the floor. The album starts with the elegiac “Darkness Fades”—a warm sonic cushion ready to envelop you and bring you into the world of the album. Her expertly commanded voice going between soaring notes of beauty and tender fragility. Other songs on the album follow in the steps of this one, and are like little jewels to be savored. They’re surrounded by some fantastically propulsive songs like “I’ll Try” and, my absolute favorite track of the album “Mistakes.” The track opens with a blonky beat. Then Von Etten’s husky croon cuts through, and then floats above it all—incorporating a Seinfeld reference—to create a celebratory song about embracing your imperfections. I think. There’s a certain opaqueness to it that I like.
Andor Season 1 by Nicholas Britell
I buy a lot of soundtracks on vinyl. I love film scores, and they’re also great keepsakes for both the film and the film’s music. But, if I’m honest, I don’t listen to them a ton. There are always a few that break through to another level where I’m either spinning them on the turntable or listening to them digitally a ton. Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy score immediately comes to mind. One of the issues with soundtrack listening to me is that you really have to be up for a changing vibe when the beautiful chorus-tinged numbers give way to a scary action scene score. Andor is the best Star Wars TV series so far, and one of the absolute best Star Wars things done since Disney took over. I suppose this is spoilers for my Favorite TV shows of 2022 list, but Andor is definitely on it. The soundtrack is equally as innovative. It’s my favorite score of any kind in a long, long time. I listen to it all the time. I never skip a track. There’s so much variety and depth and freshness to the music. Something that Star Wars sorely needed. I really hope Mondo puts out one of those huge complete scores on vinyl for this like they did with The Mandalorian, because I’d love to have it all.
These are a few titles that didn’t quite make it into the top 10 for various reasons, but I’ve still enjoyed a lot:
Preacher’s Daughter by Ethel Cain. This could have easily made the list if I’d discovered it sooner. I’ve hear a lot about Ethel Cain but hadn’t really given her a listen. this is a dark, beautiful, haunting, badass album. It’s sort of… ethereal alt rock dream pop folk? There’s a lot here. I just hadn’t had as much time with it as the others.
Formentera by Metric. It’s weird for a Metric album to not make my top 10 of the year. That doesn’t mean Formentera is bad. Far from it. I just didn’t connect with it as directly as some of their past albums. That isn’t necessarily any “fault” of the album. Sometimes that just happens. There have been albums like that I’ve connected with later.
Is It Light Where You Are? by Art School Girlfriend. This one is another recent album I got into toward the very end of 2022. This one didn’t make the list partly because of that reason, and because it was actually released in 2021. It was just new to me. And, per my own rules, that doesn’t make the cut. But it’s another fantastic album that’s in the vein of another favorite of mine, London Grammar. Beautiful vocals, richly layered indiepop.
Try Them Yourself!
I’ve made a Spotify playlist so you can sample these albums yourself: