As the festive season hits and things begin to wind down, it’s only natural to get a bit misty-eyed and reflective. So it feels like the perfect time to look back on the past twelve months, and to shine a light on some of the incredible music that’s been offered up.
To mark the occasion, we’ve rounded up our lovely DIY contributors to get stuck into exactly which songs they could not get out of their heads this year. From indie anthems to emo bangers via mammoth pop hits, 2022 was full of brilliant songs that we’ve been constantly hitting repeat on.
So, without further ado, let us take you through DIY’s top 20 Tracks of 2022. It’s been a good’un, we promise…
20. Ethel Cain - American Teenager
A glimpse at the comments underneath Ethel Cain’s ‘American Teenager’ is all you need to show you why it’s one of our top songs of the year. “Finding out who Ethel Cain is in 2022 will be the same type of magical feeling as people who found out about Lana Del Rey in 2012,” one reads. “Life is and always has been difficult and exhausting for me, but when I listen to this song I feel young and free,” says another. The comments encapsulate the certain magical quality that runs throughout Ethel’s songs: in this year’s debut album ‘Preacher’s Daughter’, but especially in ‘American Teenager’. An epic and ethereal pop song which deconstructs the stereotypical “American dream” - questioning the ideas of serving one’s country (“The neighbour’s brother came home in a box”) and loving one’s god (“Jesus, if you’re there, why do I feel alone in this room with you?”) - ‘American Teenager’ rallies against normality and expectation with a distinctively Ethel flair. To quote one of the song’s comment, again: “Ethel Cain is gonna be a very very very important singer in a few years.” (EW)
19. Special Interest - (Herman’s) House
Herman Wallace, a Black revolutionary who was kept in solitary confinement for more than 40 years for a crime he didn’t commit, is an unlikely subject for an undeniably thumping dance-punk breakthrough track. But on ‘(Herman’s) House’ - named for the dream abode he wrote about while trapped in the smallest of cells - Special Interest channel a precise mix of frustration and righteousness that’s capable of igniting an insatiable dance floor storm. Their first track for Rough Trade, it pushed the New Orleans no-wave group above the parapet, shining a light on a vital historical figure as they went. (LW)
18. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Spitting Off The Edge Of The World ft. Perfume Genius
All too often, dear readers, our much-loved and missed favourites are encouraged to begin their return on some bizarre (not least given the world’s post-pandemic attention spans rarely spanning multiple seconds) assumption that audiences need ‘easing in’ to what’s coming next. Now, we’d never stoop so low as to claim Yeah Yeah Yeahs have any ‘lesser’ tracks, but that the iconic New York trio - and October cover stars - decided to go full-pelt with ‘Spitting off the Edge of the World’ hit all the right excitement-based notes. A blistering, epic number on a scale where you’d almost be forgiven for not even noting the presence of pal Perfume Genius - it sonically matches the apocalyptic tone of the lyrics in exquisite fashion. (ES)
17. Eliza Rose & Interplanetary Criminal - B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)
There is no chance that you have not heard ‘B.O.T.A.’ this year. Maybe its thumping dance grooves pulled you in as you were stumbling around Glastonbury Festival; perhaps you heard its infectious melodies while scrolling through TikTok, or perhaps you searched it out after it topped the UK singles charts for a few weeks. Regardless, Eliza Rose’s ‘B.O.T.A.’ has earned its 2022 summer anthem status. A nostalgic, club-ready banger, the song is an instant ear-worm that Eliza says perfectly shows off her personality: “Girly and cutesie, but a bit of a bad gal too!” Oozing with an overwhelming sense of fun, as the lyrics ask “Do you wanna dance baby?”, it’s impossible not to oblige. (EW)
16. Wet Leg - Angelica
Shitty parties, homemade lasagne and a daydream of obliterating everyone with a ray gun: these were the ingredients that contributed to the wonky wonder of ‘Angelica’, an idiosyncratic indie hit that elbowed its way to the top of an album full of them. Mixing depressingly familiar thoughts (“I don’t want to follow you on the ‘gram / I don’t want to listen to your band”) with flights of surreal fantasy, and telling them all over a track that builds from twanging beginnings to a fuzzy wall of noise, it epitomises the brilliance of 2022’s most ubiquitous band - a group who can dredge endless fun from the quagmire of life’s crap bits, and make it all sound utterly effortless. (LW)
15. Nia Archives - Baianá
While looking through her “samba / bossa” playlist, Nia Archives stumbled upon the song ‘Baianá’ by traditional Brazilian choir Barbatuques. A fan of the group and the song, Nia sampled the track, repurposing the “bouncy” original into a harder dance version that will have you grooving along within seconds. A stirring track from the producer, singer, songwriter and artist that follows her love of jungle music and Brazilian culture, Nia’s ‘Baianá’ is a rave-ready number that’s impossible not to groove to. A dance along anthem, it’s but one of the reasons why Nia is tipped for huge things next year. (EW)
14. My Chemical Romance - The Foundations Of Decay
Given that, back in January, many still believed the long (long) awaited My Chemical Romance reunion tour would never actually happen, the fact that the dates eventually came preceded by a brand new song - not one found festering in the vaults - would’ve blown their tiny winter emo minds. Atmospheric and expansive, with Gerard Way’s vocals distorted and often hidden among the song’s multiple layers, it’s not the most immediate track the outfit have put their name to, but when it hits, it’s slyly euphoric. And while fan chatter at the time seemed to ponder the question of there being more to come (the band’s merchandise for the tour featuring wholly new concepts), that it didn’t clearly allows them to head absolutely anywhere next. If they even feel the need to at all. (ES)
13. Alex G - Runner
Introducing his ninth studio album ‘God Save The Animals’, the internet’s favourite songwriter - Alex G, of course - gave us his own unique spin on classic pop-rock with ‘Runner’. Perhaps one of the most sonically accessible songs not just from this album but the Philly musician’s whole back catalogue, although ‘Runner’ may appear like a paint-by-numbers country-tinged catchy pop track, Alex was always gonna add his own twist. Most obvious with his screaming yelp towards the song’s end, the track’s lyrics mark a weirder underbelly, with interpretations of the lyrics ranging from drug references (“What’s a couple of grand rolled up in your pocket?”) to a nod to a reddit fan theory that all his songs are about dogs (“Mouthing off to everybody else but me /They hit you with the rolled up magazine”). Truly something for everyone. (EW)
12. Harry Styles - As It Was
When news of ‘Harry’s House’ was first revealed, it was unsurprising to hear fans wonder if the album would offer up a more open look into Harry Styles’ internal life. And while the record, perhaps, did not live up to those specific expectations, its lead single at least gave it a shot. A glistening track that vibrates with reflection (“You know it’s not the same as it was”) and self-doubt (“Harry, you’re no good alone / Why are you sittin’ at home on the floor?”), not only was ‘As It Was’ a gorgeous example of modern pop nous, but it also offered listeners a certain sense of catharsis. It’s little wonder that - over a billion Spotify streams later - it’s become such an omnipresent anthem since. (SJ)
11. Charli XCX - Yuck
Chocolates and flowers are all well and good, but sometimes you just want to get it on without any of the feelings attached, y’know? “I really struggle with that feeling of being smothered,” Charli XCX agrees. “It’s probably an only child thing, or something. When you’re like, ‘Get away from me, give me some fucking space’ - that is seriously how I feel 50% of the time.” It’s this that forms the core of her pop-tastic track ‘Yuck’. A fun-filled shun of romantic cliches (“That boy’s so mushy / Sending me flowers, I’m just tryna get lucky!”), ‘Yuck’ rejects any simping (“Quit acting like a puppy / Fuck!”) over an instantly catchy pure-pop melody which will inspire you to embrace your independent bad bitch self. (EW)
10. Shygirl - Nike
It’s not every day that a song references Nike, McDonald’s and Nandos in one go and yet still manages to ooze sex appeal and coolness, but such was the magic of Shygirl’s ‘Nike’. Released as the fourth teaser for her debut album ‘Nymph’, the icy pop track finds the London-artist effortlessly pulling you in with every whispered vocal. Created alongside Oscar Scheller and Mura Masa, ‘Nike’ is packed with alluring hooks and clever references all about getting it on (“He told me ‘Nike, just do it’ / Hands on my breasts and my batty like he knew it / I tell him ‘Lay the pipe’ and he blew it / He tell me what he like, nothing to it”). If you need an update to your “in the mood” playlist, look no further. (EW)
9. Alvvays - Belinda Says
A self-contained soap opera set to a slice of shoegaze euphoria, ‘Belinda Says’ might be a more complex tale than the Carlisle reference from which it gets its name (“Belinda says that heaven is a place on earth”), but there’s undeniable hope to be found here too. Telling the story of a woman who moves to the country to start a new life after getting pregnant, Alvvays’ warm wall of fuzz - coupled with a celebratory mid-song key change - holds the decision up as a positive one. As singer Molly Rankin told DIY back in October, “The idea of a leap into the unknown is such a beautiful image to me… [The track] is about the bravery that’s involved in that”. (LW)
8. Arctic Monkeys - There’d Better Be A Mirrorball
While many of Arctic Monkeys’ latter career offerings may be more suited to soundtracking an old school Hollywood black-and-white thriller than being performed on arena stages across the world, that doesn’t mean they’re not glorious all the same. And with ‘The Car’’s lead single, things really do get atmospheric. Building upon the foundations laid with ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ is a swooning, luscious affair that both sets the scene for their seventh album and feels somewhat like a conclusion (“So do you wanna walk me to the car? / I’m sure to have a heavy heart”) all in the same breath. Simultaneously mysterious, gut-wrenching and gorgeous? It could only be Arctic Monkeys. (SJ)
7. Fontaines DC - I Love You
A love letter to Ireland that also dug into the complex political history of Fontaines DC’s homeland, ‘Skinty Fia’ highlight ‘I Love You’’s double-edged sword swung both lyrically and melodically. On one hand, from its title through to the simplicity of its soft verses, it contains some of the most straight-forward moments the band have committed to tape. Yet in between, Grian Chatten unleashes a snarl of contempt, laying into the country’s past atrocities and the delicate seesaw of what it means to love something that hasn’t always historically held up its end of the bargain. Masterfully capturing this push and pull, it’s a fine addition to a canon that eulogises the country better than perhaps any other. (LW)
6. The 1975 - Happiness
We know by now that The 1975 love a bit of brass, so it’s little surprise to see their trusty saxophone take centre stage once more. Opening with ’80s-style guitar licks and imbued with glistening disco, ‘Happiness’ is one of the most gloriously ear-wormy hits to be taken from the band’s latest ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’. Warm and addictive - like much of their concise, pop-focussed album - this ode to love may not be the most straight-forward for our narrator (“I’ve gotta stop messin’ it up because I’m / Feelin’ like I’m messin’ it up,” admits Matty Healy) but it does feel like an authentic one all the same; and for that, this one will stay with you. (SJ)
5. Taylor Swift - Anti-Hero
Released as the lead single for her tenth studio album ‘Midnights’, Taylor Swift’s ‘Anti-Hero’ might well be one of the finest lead tracks she’s ever shared. Inspired by her own nightmares and insecurities, the Jack Antonoff-produced song is a synth-infused, ’80s-inspired pop-rock banger that finds Taylor playfully dissecting her self-loathing feelings over an infectious melody. Rife with incredible imagery (take the visual of Taylor’s future family realising she left them nothing in the will and screaming, “She’s laughing up at us from hell!”, or the “sexy baby” versus the “monster on the hill”), its catchy chorus (“It’s me. Hi! I’m the problem, it’s me!”) has already become one of the most iconic pop lines of 2022. She may admit that it’s exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero, but it’s impossible not to be Team Taylor after hearing this one. (EW)
4. Arctic Monkeys - Body Paint
A tale of deception told in three parts, ‘Body Paint’ arrived as the meatier, brooding cousin to ‘…Mirrorball’ - a second single in the run up to ‘The Car’ that picked up its lush orchestration but hinted that Arctic Monkeys’ road map on LP7 would not be all smooth travels. Where its first act found Alex Turner revealing the “subterfuge” at the centre with a quivering falsetto, at 90 seconds the track’s strings take a Beatles about-turn before Nick O’Malley is left to deliver a scorching guitar solo to bring things home. Amongst an album of softer, more grown up pleasures, ‘Body Paint’ stayed true to the palette but gave us an additional frisson of riffy electricity: a track more than worth turning the car stereo up a few notches for. (LW)
3. Jockstrap - Concrete Over Water
‘Concrete Over Water’ is one of those tracks that contains enough emotional pathos, dramatic misdirection and artistic invention to fill an entire streaming series; but instead, uses just six minutes to take us on a whistle-stop guide through the brand new sonic dimension that Jockstrap have created. The push-pull tension between the two central tenets of the group – that being the classical elegance and melodic sophistication of vocalist Georgia Ellery, and the diabolical, warped sonic destruction of producer Taylor Skye – create a soundclash that could seem dissonant and unfriendly at first, but only because it has managed to find a new form of profound musical beauty that none of us are yet trained in identifying. (MP)
2. Rina Sawayama - This Hell
The moment that ‘This Hell’ line-danced its way into view with a Shania Twain-referencing opening line (“Let’s go girls…”) and enough classic pop shimmer to sink Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s entire ship, it was clear that Rina Sawayama mk II did not come here to play. Though her genre-hopping 2020 debut LP had thrown the doors wide open for a multitude of potential next moves, Rina’s comeback was more cheeky, joyous and downright brilliant than we’d have dared hope: a piece of perfectly-polished pop perfection that stuck two fingers up to the placard-waving religious Right, and led a pied piper trail to an underworld full of Britney references, Paris Hilton cameos and unabashed queer joy. Who needs heaven when hell sounds this fun? (LW)
1. Paramore - This Is Why
When the line-up was first revealed for this year’s inaugural When We Were Young festival, the inclusion of Paramore at the top of the bill rightfully sent fans into a flurry about the possibility of new music. And did that promise deliver: with ‘This Is Why’, the trio have really thrown open the doors of a new era for the band.
The first track to be revealed from their forthcoming sixth album of the same name, ‘This Is Why’ illustrates the band’s evolutionary prowess perfectly; slinking away from the sugar-coated synth-pop of former record ‘After Laughter’ - which, in itself, was another bold move from the trio - there’s a darker force at play this time around, with Hayley Williams taking square aim at the crumbling, corrupt world around us. Backed by angular guitars and staccato beats, it’s easy to feel the influence of early ’00s indie royalty such as Bloc Party, The Rapture and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but here that comes fused with the subtle fury that permeated Williams’ recent solo debut. Yet more proof that they’re a musical force to be reckoned with, ‘This Is Why’ shows just how far Paramore have come. (SJ)
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