The 50 Best Songs of 2022

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The 50 Best Songs of 2022

Paste’s music writers nominated more than 300 tracks for the Best Songs of 2022. The 50 songs below are the ones that came out on top. They vary stylistically and lyrically, but there’s something about each of these compositions that caught the ear of multiple writers. As always, we’ve limited it to one song per artist. Here are the 50 best songs of 2022:

Listen to Paste’s Best Songs of 2022 playlist on Spotify.

50. Denzel Curry: “Walkin”

“Walkin’,” the lead single off Denzel Curry’s magnum opus Melt My Eyez, See Your Future, does a lot without all the bells and whistles. The soul sample and folky guitars morph into a lush, minimalist beat as Curry reminisces on how far he’s come. Then, everything cuts out, leaving the vocal sample to hop onto new territories, with Curry switching up his flow effortlessly, slowly rising into the spitfire delivery he’s become known for. It’s Curry at some of his best, as he ushers in a new era with Melt My Eyez. —Jade Gomez

49. Father John Misty: “Buddy’s Rendezvous”

When Chloe and The Next 20th Century appeared earlier this year, the Father John Misty of biting, self-aware songs about marriage or loudmouth laments on society was nowhere to be found. We got “Buddy’s Rendezvous” instead, a melancholy ballad orchestrated with jazzy strings, brushed drums and muted horns that’s most effective in how different its storytelling is. “Everybody’s girl, what’s the fun in being everybody’s girl?” is how its narrator starts, and he only comes across more pathetic as the song drives onward. “Buddy’s Rendezvous” revolves around a loser who hangs out with other old timers at a bar and brags about how well he raised his estranged daughter, whom he sort of resents. It’s an enthralling and profoundly sad veil for Father John Misty to put on, aided by the woozy, bummed-out waltz behind his words. —Ethan Beck

48. Rachika Nayar: “Tetramorph”

A standout from Brooklyn-based artist Rachika Nayar’s new album Heaven Come Crashing, the nearly 10-minute “Tetramorph” is an entrancing combination of post-rock and ambient electronics. Its title means, roughly, “something that has four forms”—this offers us a roadmap to the track itself, which Nayar somehow manages to hold together as its immersive instrumentals shift shape again and again, evoking both dreams and nightmares along the way. Central to “Tetramorph” is the give and take between Nayar’s oceanic guitars, a la Explosions in the Sky, and thrumming synth and drum machine, which combine to conjure a dark beauty. “I remember being in high school and listening to ‘Impossible Soul’ by Sufjan Stevens. That song is a journey that can take you through so many realms and spit you back out,” Nayar told Paste of the song’s inspiration. Someday, perhaps future musicians will say the same of her “Tetramorph.” —Scott Russell

47. Why Bonnie: “90 In November”

Why Bonnie appear fully formed on their debut album 90 in November. This is music that’s made to spill out from car speakers when it’s so hot out that the summer sun burns your thighs through the windows like ants under a magnifying glass. The album’s title track showcases how good Why Bonnie are at making songs that, while varied in tempo, feel cohesive. From lackadaisical verses to its sweltering, jagged chorus, “90 In November” is a song to get lost in. Howerton sings of frying electrical grids, construction, the “technicolor” sun, roadside billboards—the various harbingers of a brutal summer. Through fits and starts of distorted guitar and distant piano keys, the song kicks into gear, delivering a grooving guitar riff that feels like frustration lifting, leaving you in a long exhale. —Eric Bennett

46. Sadurn: “Snake”

The lead track from Philadelphia four-piece Sadurn’s full-length debut Radiator, “snake” is a rustic love song whose knots are a delight to untangle. Vocalist, guitarist and bandleader Genevieve DeGroot’s poignant lyrics trace the ins and outs of a troubled relationship, candidly confronting its accompanying shame and temptation, as well as the ever-looming existential threats that render all of the above a moot point: “I looked the snake right in his face, I’ve seen the way he blinks that eye at me / But I am not afraid, I’ve heard we’re all gonna die / In a cascade of system failure or in the blink of an eye,” they sing over loping folk-rock instrumentation, warm guitars intertwined like vines growing together in the sun. DeGroot concludes the song with an eternal oath, repeating, “But my idea of love is that it’s lasting.” Sadurn’s sound, too, is built to last, with a beauty to move anyone left standing. —Scott Russell

45. Sudan Archives: NBPQ (Topless)

he third Sudan Archives full-length and, at 18 tracks long, an undeniable “statement album” from an artist with plenty to say. It’s a wild ride through Parks’ restless mind, bouncing around among styles like a wide-eyed kid on their first visit to a sweet playground in the wealthy part of town. The result can be thrilling, as on the title track, “NBPQ (Topless),” which runs through a rubbery bouzouki riff, a speedy club-banger beat, a sumptuous Beach Boys-style interlude and a drowsy coda where Parks finally brings her violin to the front of the arrangement. —Ben Salmon

44. yeule: “Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty”

If yeule (the musical alias of Singaporean writer and producer Nat ?miel) spent their first two albums cultivating a surreal, otherworldly brand of ambient pop, this year’s Glitch Princess marks their first brush with something tactile and devastatingly human. Perhaps no individual track represents this shift better than the album’s second single, “Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty,” a minimal ode to battling self-loathing by trying to see yourself through a loved ones’ eyes. Over a strumming acoustic guitar and music box keyboard melody, yeule strips their pain bare, letting a stream of bruised, raw imagery peel back their proverbial skin and expose the exact spot where they’re hurting. In its visceral content and delivery, the song provides a candid look at the call for unattainable perfection and finding acceptance through love—without ever feeling cloying or clichéd. Still, despite the power of the lyrics, if the track was cut down to just yeule’s strained whisper of the final few words, the atmosphere they create is potent enough that the emotion would remain palpable. —Elise Soutar

43. Nilufer Yanya: “midnight sun”

Like much of PAINLESS, English rock singer/songwriter Nilüfer Yanya’s follow-up to 2019’s Miss Universe, “midnight sun” is atmospheric, yet propulsive, with arpeggiated guitars and a busy kick drum as the pistons powering its engine. Yanya sings like the xx’s dual vocalists were merged into one person, her voice no less emotive for its hushed delicacy. As the song progresses, her piercing voice becomes wreathed in buzzing guitar distortion, but is never overwhelmed by it. —Scott Russell

42. Skullcrusher: “It’s Like a Secret

Imagine trying to weave a spiderweb with your voice, and you’re close to arriving at a Skullcrusher song. Singer/songwriter Helen Ballentine (aka Skullcrusher) has released a new single “It’s Like a Secret,” and it’s just as heartbreaking and heart-filling as you’d expect. Her voice is full, yet very delicate, and there is not much accompaniment besides dreamy, airy guitar. This is the third track released off her forthcoming debut album Quiet The Room, out Oct. 14 via Secretly Canadian, and as the title might suggest, it really does feel like Ballentine is imparting something vulnerable and close to her heart to you. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski

41. Animal Collective: “Strung with Everything”

There’s a lot of looking backwards on Time Skiffs, and at worst, one could argue that the sound palette comprising it doesn’t allow the album to serve as a vessel for Animal Collective’s typically visceral and surprising styles of songwriting. But this claim is countered by “Strung With Everything,” one of the most exciting, ecstatic and enchanting songs the band have released in years. Slowly evolving from a sort of Hawaiian-flavored mix of harmonies, the track morphs into an impassioned explosion of keys, vocals and an evolution of Panda Bear’s inimitable, passionately intense style of drumming. The scene is familiar for fans of the band: Amidst a raucous display of joyful instrumentation, wistful voices build into harmonies while Avey Tare paints a picture of the sky expressing itself in different colors and shades, finding a unity within himself in that dynamic presentation. —Jason Friedman

40. Perfume Genius: “Hellbent”

On “Hellbent,” Mike Hadreas creates a bed of synth drones that sound like helicopter blades that are too close for comfort. In fact, the feeling the song evokes is like if Henry Hill had taken PCP and was being chased by a fleet of choppers that could blot out the Los Angeles sun in that infamous sequence in Goodfellas. Much like Hill in that moment, Hadreas depicts someone flying down the highway in a crazed state, with the world delivering “L” after “L.” He’s looking for cosmic reasoning for why his night is going so horribly and hoping that by the time he makes it to Jason’s house to smooth things over, things will be right in the universe again. “Hellbent phoneless belligerent Aquarius / It happened again / It’s still happening,” he says, as if we’re all supposed to sympathize. Drummer Matt Chamberlain once again provides frenetic and muscular blasts behind the kit as bonafide wizard Blake Mills unleashes fuzzed-out guitar leads that bend into madness in the song’s last moments. —Pat King

39. Porridge Radio: “Birthday Party”

While Porridge Radio’s lyrics are often rife with cryptic metaphors, keeping you guessing until you reach some illuminating insight, one of their most impressive skills is their use of simple repetition. Several tracks on the Brighton, U.K., four-piece’s new album Waterslide take a line and use it repeatedly, laying into you like the pricking needle of a tattoo gun as the constant impressions make something bigger, something beautiful. The stellar “Birthday Party” contains some of the band’s finest writing; lyrics like “Invite me to your birthday party / Watch me cry across the room” and “Panic sweats you wake up crying / Always feeling kind of sick” unfold like devastating vignettes. However, it is the repeated “I don’t want to be loved” that sells the song. Frontwoman Dana Margolin says it so many times in a row that you both stop believing the message, and watch as it fills gaps in the rest of the track’s narrative. It reveals that the quiet pain and fear of abandonment previously teased stem from insecurity and a belief that our narrator is herself unlovable. Margolin is known for her volatile, moving performance, and her voice here reaches such a fever pitch that each word at the end of the song feels like glass shattering as you receive it. —Eric Bennett

38. Kendrick Lamar: “N95”

The opening frame of Kendrick Lamar’s self-co-directed music video for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers standout “N95” pretty much sums the song up: Against a muted background, red block letters proclaim “This shit hard” nine times, nearly filling the frame. After setting your expectations for Mr. Morale on mercurial opener “United in Grief,” Kendrick then delivers a vicious uppercut with “N95,” angrily dressing down everyone hiding behind “the flex and the white lies,” “bullshit and gossip,” and staunchly refusing to do so himself. When he asks, “Can I vent all my truth?” in the song’s back half, it’s purely rhetorical—accompanied by twitchy production from Sounwave, Jahaan Sweet, Boi-1da and Baby Keem, Kendrick effortlessly switches flows as he surveys a “world in a panic” and defiantly declares, “I’m done with the sensitive takin’ it personal / Done with the black and the white / The wrong and the right,” framing materialism, lies and hypocrisy as especially unforgivable sins. All told, “N95” is one of Mr. Morale’s most fearless peaks, in which Kendrick puts his inner turmoil on unsparing display. —Scott Russell

37. Pool Kids: “That’s Physics, Baby”

“That’s Physics, Baby,” was the first release leading up to Pool Kids’ self-titled album, and the Tallahassee, Fla.-based band announced their comeback in a big way with a single that sounds like math-rock meets mid-western emo. Lead-singer Christine Goodwyne’s lyrics serve as a snapshot of the dizzying circles someone spins her in as she belts, “can’t quite tell what you’ve ever been after / clockwork motor, you wind me up again / crumple me up like a candy wrapper / throw me away, I’d rather not pretend.” While the song expresses her frustration with the situation, the accompanying music video captures the band’s quirky side as they pose as a down on their luck nature documentary crew. —Samantha Sullivan

36. Kevin Morby: “This Is a Photograph”

“This Is a Photograph” the title track from his latest album, finds the prolific Kevin Morby reminiscing over rustic, propulsive Southern rock: “This is a photograph, a window to the past / Of your father on the front lawn, with no shirt on,” he describes, referencing the Morby family photo that inspired the entire album. Various tapped and hand-drummed percussion, and, eventually, producer Sam Cohen’s bass, keep the track moving swiftly, even as Morby sinks wistfully into the past. But what he’s ultimately doing is appreciating the present, in a way that will last him into the future: His refrain goes, “This is what I’ll miss about being alive.” —Scott Russell

35. The 1975: “Happiness

The one and only 1975 have found “Happiness,” the latest single from their forthcoming album Being Funny in a Foreign Language (Oct. 14, Dirty Hit). “Happiness” is our second preview of Matty Healy and company’s Jack Antonoff-produced Notes on a Conditional Form follow-up after lead single “Part of the Band,” which Paste ranked among July’s best songs. Speaking to Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1, Healy said, “‘Happiness’ is like … there’s literally loads of us in the room on that track. Locked eyes … it doesn’t really have much structure. It came through like jamming. And we haven’t done that in years.” You can feel that rhythm-driven immediacy in the finished product: “Happiness” is five minutes of ebullient dance-pop, a bass- and keys-driven jam—complete with multiple sax solos—in which Healy sounds reborn into his purpose, singing, “I’m happiest when I’m doing something that I know is good / That’s happiness for me.” —Scott Russell

34. Chat Pile: “Why

Oklahoma City’s Chat Pile are the perfect people to expose the dark, seedy underbelly of American life. If their first scathing single “Slaughterhouse” from God’s Country stared into the face of God and spit in it, “Why” shoves his face to be confronted with the human condition. Frontman Raygun Busch desperately wails, “Why do people have to live outside?” as the chugging guitars erect a wall of sound between him and his hope to change such a pervasive issue as houselessness. A chilling tornado siren rages on with the biting riffs, forcing those complacent to reckon with the vulnerability of those left in the margins. —Jade Gomez

33. Dry Cleaning: “Don’t Press Me

After breaking out on the strength of one of 2021’s best albums—their electric full-length debut New Long Leg—London’s Dry Cleaning returned to make their mark on 2022. On Stumpwork a newly confident Dry Cleaning—that is, Nick Buxton (drums), Tom Dowse (guitar), Lewis Maynard (bass) and Florence Shaw (vocals)—didn’t fix what wasn’t broken. They returned to rural Wales and reunited with their trusted team of producer John Parish and engineer Joe Jones to record their LP2 (and play some table tennis, too) over an extended period in the studio. “Don’t Press Me” has enough sonic similarity to the band’s New Long Leg era to feel familiar, as well as subtle signs of Dry Cleaning pushing boundaries. The quartet wield a crunchy guitar-rock groove, with Dowse’s guitar, Maynard’s bass and Buxton’s drums in a tense lockstep alongside Shaw’s signature Sprechesang. “Just don’t touch my gaming mouse,” she commands in the verses, only to take a more conciliatory tack in the chorus, crooning (!) “Don’t press me” over keys and whistles, as if pleading for relief—wrenching the blood of pathos from a stone of deadpanned non sequiturs. She repeats this feat only once, as the space where the song’s second chorus should go is occupied instead by a washed-out Dowse solo, all the more satisfying for being so unexpected. All this takes place in the span of less than two minutes, Exhibit A in support of Dry Cleaning’s newfound self-assurance. —Scott Russell

32. Enumclaw: “Cowboy Bepop

Tacoma, Washington’s own rising rock stars Enumclaw announced their arrival with “Cowboy Bepop.” Over his and Nathan Cornell’s warm guitars, Aramis Johnson’s narrator finds himself happy with his life, yet longing for more control as it flies by. ”’Cause if you had to choose, would you / Wanna be brand new? / Well, joke’s on you, nothing’s new / I’m just the same as you,” he sings, finding peace in helplessness—like throwing your arms in the air on a rollercoaster. When a volcanic guitar solo punctuates his contemplation (“If you had to choose / What would you do?”), it hits like all of life’s possibilities manifesting at once. —Scott Russell

31. Lizzo: “About Damn Time”

The queen of positivity delivered the song we all needed to hear in the spring of 2022. It acknowledges the anxiety that permeates everything right now and still manages to re-start the party. “Oh, I’ve been so down and under pressure,” she sings on the bridge before launching into the chorus: “Turn up the music, turn down the lights, I got a feelin’ I’m gon’ be alright.” The lead single from Special was the song of the summer we all came back together and features the funkiest flute melody I can remember. —Josh Jackson

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30. Oso Oso: “computer exploder”

“I feel like weed helped make me introspective,” Jade Lilitri, the mastermind behind indie-emo fixture Oso Oso, said in a 2019 interview. “It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.” “computer exploder,” the opening track from this year’s sterling sore thumb, is rife with drug references: “Dragging my toes through the sand / I think I burned through 20 grams,” goes one couplet. However ambiguous or bleak an initial scan of its lyrics may be, sore thumb writ large pays tribute to Lilitri’s late cousin and Oso Oso guitarist Tavish Maloney, whom he recorded the demos with. Despite the fact that the song documents Lilitri’s struggles with mental health, “computer exploder” also functions as an opening salvo for the strong connection shared between two close friends. —Grant Sharples

29. Harry Styles: “As It Was”

Where “Watermelon Sugar” clawed and fought its way up the Billboard charts for nearly a year after Fine Line’s release, “As It Was” was born with a silver spoon in its mouth, set to be a bonafide #1 hit before it even hit streaming services in April 2022—and rightfully so. Our first glimpse into Harry Styles’ newest era, where he is fully immersed in his own flamboyant intricacies, the song is a thoughtful rumination on the exhaustion that stems from not enough love and too much fame. The immediate popularity of the song speaks, at least in part, to everyone finally arriving to the Styles party, but recency bias be damned: May we forever be entrenched in the hype of this deeply personal, triumphant and tightly arranged document of dance-floor pop. The drums sound like the best parts of The Strokes’ discography; Styles plays tubular bells; the whole thing is boldly vulnerable. “Answer the phone / Harry, you’re no good alone,” Styles rings out in the second verse, as he combs a heap of personal trauma into a synthy, hook-heavy anthem. —Matt Mitchell

28. Caroline Polachek: “Billions”

Until this spring, it had been a while since we’d heard from Caroline Polachek, who popped up on our radar last year with “Bunny is a Rider,” one of our favorite 2021 tracks, and the first follow-up to 2019’s Pang. In February, she returned to show us that our patience was worth it with “Billions.” The track begins as what seems like a return to the dreamier electro-pop moments on Pang, but steps apart from what’s expected as it progresses and reaches its final, otherworldly crescendo with the chant of “I never felt so close to you,” sung in a stilted round by a children’s choir. “Billions” sees Polachek attempting to transcend anything that’s tethered her to earth on previous releases, hinting that the view from up there isn’t as perfect as she would’ve expected: “Headless angel / Body upgraded / But it’s dead on arrival,” she sings on the song’s bridge. Each piece of the song adds up to something addictive and ethereal in equal measure. —Elise Soutar

27. MUNA: “Home by Now”

On their new single, “Home By Now,” MUNA find that life might not be as fun as they initially thought it was on “Silk Chiffon.” The latest from their forthcoming self-titled album (which will be out June 24), the band wrestles with a million “what if’s.” A muted electro-pop bop, Katie Gavin is stuck questioning her decision to part ways with a former partner as she spins hypothetical scenarios where she stuck it out with them a little longer. The song is glossy with punchy drum machines and an easy groove even as Gavin recalls, “said I didn’t know if it’s enough to make it last / you said if I even had to ask / you had your answer.” The sort of song you dance to with tears in your eyes, as she wonders what life would’ve been like with “the one that got away,”; you can’t help but contemplate the same thing. —Samantha Sullivan

26. The Smile – “Thin Thing”

Nearly half of The Smile’s A Light for Attracting Attention—the side project of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, along with Tom Skinner, drummer for the British jazz group Sons of Kemet—seems like an excuse for Yorke and Greenwood to shirk expectations, set aside their film scores, and turn up their amps like it’s 1994 and Yorke’s bleached-blonde hair still flops over his ears. “Thin Thing” is menacing and wonky, with a burbling guitar riff that seems maximized to confuse those YouTube guitar tutorial guys. It’s insular and anxiety-ridden, shorn of soaring choruses or straightforward rhythms, but also an invigorating jolt of art-rock energy. Like much of this album, the emphasis is on proggy interplay over studio trickery. The percussive nature and busy, rustling rhythms are likely to remind fans of a certain rhythm-heavy Radiohead album from 2011. —Zach Schonfeld

25. Cate Le Bon – “Moderation”

The centerpiece of the Cate Le Bon’s Pompeii is “Moderation,” a soulful, Avalon-esque undertaking about our habits, whether in romance or life in general. Le Bon’s bass lines converse with her bedroom-pop guitar quivers—it’s like watching someone leaning into the tenacity of a Joe Jackson groove with the anonymity of Noel Redding’s complementary style. “I get by pushing poets aside / ‘Cause they can’t beat the Mother of Pearl / I quit the earth, I’m out of my mind,” she sings in a lush falsetto. There’s a specific nod here to the sounds and songs on Roxy Music’s final album, an obvious blueprint for how Le Bon approached her Pompeii arrangements. —Matt Mitchell

24. Grace Ives: “Loose”

Marking her debut release on her new label True Panther/Harvest and first new material since 2019, Janky Star single “Loose” sees Brooklyn artist Grace Ives feeling just as anxious as the rest of us about, well, everything. “Oh what a loser sound / I let out when I hit the ground / I never squeal like that / I need some respite, please,” she pleads over kinetic, wiry beats that arrive like pinpricks traveling over the skin in contrast to our stagnant narrator. By the time the chorus’ heavy synths bring weight to the dire situation described, Ives’ voice flies far overhead, dodging every obstacle she sings about. It condenses the reality of daily life into a compact, danceable pop song that you want to keep on an endless repeat, which is never an easy feat. —Elise Soutar

23. Soul Glo: “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)”

Soul Glo’s Diaspora Problems begins—as every great album should—with the sounds of a bong hit mimicking the wind-up drumbeat of the 20th Century Fox theme song. From there on, the album is a long exhale of thick smoke that can leave you dizzy and delirious when inhaled secondhand. The first song “Gold Chain Punk (Whogonnabeatmyass)” gives you a taste of the undeniable force of what’s to come. Singer Pierce Jordan shrieks and screams his vocals at the velocity of tumbling stones as the band—(now-former) guitarist Ruben Polo, bassist GG Guerra and drummer TJ Stevenson—constantly realigns itself with different time signatures and pummeling riffs. As the song enters its final breakdown territory after two minutes of anthemic chords and shifts, Jordan—furious with the thought of explaining himself to anyone ever again—is ready for his last stand. “The unlimited worlds in this one Earth / Their work and its worth motivate my love of life undermined by / As it were / Feeling insecure,” he concludes, after feverishly trying to convey that it’s not the chain that he bought (and lost) that makes him. As it comes to a close over chunky beatdown riffs, Jordan is outside drunk with a Smith and Wesson in his pocket, welcoming anyone who wants to talk some more shit to show their faces. “Who gonna beat my ass?” he screams repeatedly, with his vocal cords shredded like damning evidence in the hands of an intern at a shady hedge fund. The song contains as many musical ideas and rich narrative turns as a lesser band could fit into a single album. —Pat King

22. Dehd: “Bad Love”

The first glimpse listeners got of Blue Skies, “Bad Love” is a baptism. The rapturous comeback track kicks off Dehd’s new era with Emily Kempf fleeing the false love she fell for in the past. Following Flower of Devotion, on which Kempf and Jason Balla were still navigating their new, post-breakup friendship with each other, the album still ruminated on the past (see “Letter,” in which Kempf sings “I was there first / Yeah, you’re just following me / Good luck with that, girl / I’m a tough act to beat”), whereas “Bad Love” rejoices in having a clean slate. Instead of rehashing old relationships, Kempf finds inspiration elsewhere as she breathlessly pursues someone new: “Forgive me give it to me / Tell me what to do tell me what to do to keep it / I need your lovin / I wanna be your honey.” Leaning into the revitalizing strength and purifying power of a new love, the song feels like a long-awaited shot at redemption after the complex territory that Dehd’s past discography covered. —Samantha Sullivan

21. Fontaines D.C.: “Jackie Down The Line”

Back in April, Irish quintet Fontaines D.C.;—Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan III (bass guitar), Grian Chatten (vocals) and Tom Coll (drums)— released their third album, Skinty Fia on Partisan Records. Lead single “Jackie Down the Line” is a grungy strummer with shades of Nirvana. Over rumbling bass and acoustic guitar chug, Chatten sings from the titular figure’s cruel perspective, delivering fatalistic promises of pain (“I will hurt you, I’ll desert you / I am Jackie down the line”) and looking out only for number one: “What good is happiness to me / If I’ve to wield it carefully?” he muses. The track finds Fontaines D.C. at their darkest and hookiest alike, a formidable combination. —Scott Russell

20. Black Country, New Road: “The Place Where He Inserted The Blade”

If For the first time found Black Country, New Road muscling their way up a steep incline, Ants From Up There is the band enjoying the wind in their hair as they take in the view from their new vantage point. Few tracks on their second effort make that contrast clearer than “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade,” one of the few Black Country, New Road songs that can only be described as possessing a tender beauty. Drawing inspiration from late-period Bob Dylan (“I started writing this in response to, or heavily inspired by, [2020’s] “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You,’” said Wood in press materials), the song grows from a bed of delicate piano, flute and guitar, building not to a thunderous stampede, but rather to a lovely singalong straight from the early Arcade Fire playbook. Lyrically, “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” may be the sweetest song Wood has ever written: He sings about a love that offers respite from anxiety, expressing a hope that his invisible wounds will heal and declaring, “Darling, the rest of my body, it’s yours, then.” The usual dark and referential undercurrents remain—Wood’s narrator fears co-dependency (“Show me where to tie the other end of this chain”), and name-checks Kanye “Ye” West’s “Bound 2” to underscore the point. But there is a serenity to “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” that stands alone in Black Country, New Road’s discography. —Scott Russell

19. Tomberlin: “tap”

Sarah Beth Tomberlin shared “tap” as the third single ahead of i don’t know who needs to hear this…, her career-best follow-up to 2018’s At Weddings. “tap” finds the singer/songwriter taking a sonic leap forward, albeit in an entirely different way than the singles that preceded it. Over shifting sands of hand percussion, hypnotic fingerpicking, and sparse flickers of electric guitar, bass, piano and strings, Tomberlin spends “tap” exploring the elements of daily life that make her feel alive—or do the opposite. Her mesmerizing vocals consider social media (“Tap the heart until I hate myself”) and nature (“Do you think about the trees in the breeze / How they swing and scream and talk and breathe?”), internet friends (“Talk to strangers like we already met”) and the communal gift of music (“I love the people playing songs in the park”), “movies that make [her] feel” and “trash TV.” Ultimately, she remembers that these pursuits are hers alone to prioritize: “Remind me that I don’t have to be anything.” —Scott Russell

18. “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”

By the late 2010s, Natalie Mering embraced chamber pop as Weyes Blood, finding this lustrous, connective style conducive to the messages she wanted to broadcast. “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” is one of her finest, not just in style but in message, as well. Art that tries to critique the modern condition and our changing relationship with each other often places the smartphone in the line of fire, leading to increasingly facile critique that boils down to “Phones Bad.” But in the poignant and campy video for “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” Mering is astute, humorous and self-aware. Sure, the smartphone is evil, but we’re all acting in concert with it. The song itself is lush, cinematic and instantly memorable, with Mering’s voice projecting gentle power over a lush orchestra featuring winds, strings, a harp and the piano. —Devon Chodzin

17. Horsegirl: “Anti-glory”

Prior to their acclaimed full-length debut, Versions of Modern Performance, Chicago rock trio Horsegirl’s output, including their 2020-standout EP Ballroom Dance Scene et cetera (best of Horsegirl) and 2021 one-off “Billy,” skewed towards throwback shoegaze and no wave, but “Anti-glory” hits differently. Over Gigi Reece’s blunt percussion, Nora Cheng and Penelope Lowenstein trade hard-nosed riffs and point/counterpoint vocals, as if they’re singing two parallel songs. Cheng’s dense lyrics evoke anxiety (“Feeding for a foe till it’s found”), while Lowenstein’s are like nihilism’s siren song (“Dance / With me please / If black / Turns to blue / Well, there’s nothing I can do”). The song’s two minds become one in its staccato dance-punk choruses, with Cheng and Lowenstein commanding us to dance as Reece stomps the kickdrum. —Scott Russell

16. Spoon: “Wild”

Laid-back and urgent are on equal footing on “Wild,” the centerpiece of Spoon’s Lucifer on the Sofa. The arrangement adds and subtracts elements over a sleek groove as the song progresses: A stinging guitar riff opens the song, another guitar adds a bold, overdriven complement after the first verse, and piano adds rich, bell-like chords on the second chorus. Next, a fierce, but controlled guitar break builds to a climax before the whole thing recedes back to the stinging riff and unshakeable beat holding the track together. “Wild” is catchy, it’s rhythmic in an almost subliminally danceable way, and it’s got soul—all the essential elements of Spoon, neatly wrapped into one three-minute and 14-second package. Add those things together and the effect is exhilarating—it’s the sound of a band in peak form who are pushing to get better, go further and resist any temptation to slack off. If Lucifer has taken up a position on their sofa, Spoon have no intention of sitting there and keeping him company. —Eric R. Danton

15. Soccer Mommy: “Shotgun”

The first taste of Sophie Allison’s Sometimes, Forever was a doozy, as befitting an album produced by Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never, which Paste praised as ”[Soccer Mommy’s] most creative work to date, and sacrifices none of their signature sound.” First reactions online crowned “Shotgun” Soccer Mommy’s best song yet, and while it’s still too soon—and Allison’s catalog is too strong—for us to jump to that particular conclusion just yet, the track is undeniably excellent. It’s a love song built around a simple concept: romance as an intoxicating high with no hangover. Meanwhile, Allison’s hooky and intimate guitar-rock melds with subtle synth work from Lopatin to create a new and improved Soccer Mommy sound. “Uppers and my heart never meshed / I hated coming down / But this feels the same without the bad things,” Allison sings softly over a lurching guitar riff, swearing in the track’s soaring choruses, “So whenever you want me I’ll be around / I’m a bullet in a shotgun waiting to sound,” the killer hook at the center of a song we’ll be hearing for a long while. —Scott Russell

14. Taylor Swift: “Anti-Hero”

Midnights is like if your sleep paralysis demon took up with your therapist and went to a club. “When my depression works the graveyard shift / All of the people I’ve ghosted stand there in the room,” Swift sings on the techno-y “Anti-Hero.” She goes on to target both insomnia and karma (again) on the track, where she swims around in her own nightmares as “midnights become my afternoons” and blasts her enemies as having too much time on their hands (“It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero”). It’s one of the most immediate songs on the tracklist, if we can only forgive her for the puzzling line, “Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby / And I’m a monster on the hill.” —Ellen Johnson

13. Ethel Cain: “American Teenager”

Contrary to the line “it’s just not my year,” 2022 is clearly shaping up to be Ethel Cain’s year. Preacher’s Daughter, her Southern Gothic opus of a debut album, demonstrated a unique and immersive approach to songwriting—with melancholy slowcore atmospheres of bands like Duster and Codeine paired with vocal top lines so powerful and catchy, they can deservingly be compared to those of Cain’s own pop idols, Florence Welch and Sky Ferreira. Sonically, “American Teenager” is probably the least representative teaser for what the rest of Preacher’s Daughter sounds like, but it manages to encapsulate the whole character arc of Ethel Cain into one self-contained pop song, vividly setting the scene and luring you into the tragic and gruesome story to come. With its The War On Drugs-meets-Taylor Swift heartland shoegaze style and all-American coming-of-age story, it’s no surprise that “American Teenager” took off as the album’s most popular track, but it doesn’t feel like a label-mandated upbeat pop moment or a song made to play in car commercials. This is a deeply felt portrait of a doomed, yet hopeful character taking one last grasp at a normal life before being crushed under the weight of the American Dream. She’s trying to be optimistic, push through and overcome the immense pressure she is under, but she’s already beginning to fall apart at the seams. You can hear the pleading desperation in her voice as she belts the pair of lines, “Jesus, if you’re listening let me handle my liquor / And Jesus, if you’re there, why do I feel alone in this room with you?” “American Teenager” has the stadium-sized scale, relatability and ambition to become the biggest song in the entire country, but what makes it special is how it captures the intimate specificity of Hayden Ahedonia’s experiences growing up in her particularly tiny Florida town and successfully Trojan-horses them into the spotlight—telling the story of a kind of American girl so often overlooked. —Jacqueline Codiga

12. Mitski: “Love Me More”

Mitski’s usage of repetition drives home the devastating honesty of her lyrics, and “Love Me More” is a clear ode to the drama and theatrics of ‘80s pop. Building synths and ominous pianos urge toward a thrilling climax as Mitski yearns for a love as satisfying and fervent as hers, singing, “I need you to love me more / Love me more, love me more / Love enough to fill me up.” She bows in front of her aching heart, acknowledging the need for love and the salvation it gives. —Jade Gomez

11. MJ Lenderman: “Hangover Game”

Possibly the only track here about Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals (but don’t quote us on that), “Hangover Game” marked MJ Lenderman’s first release since 2020, as well as the lead single from his breakout solo album Boat Songs. “It wasn’t a pizza that poisoned him in Utah,” Lenderman argues over clashing guitars as the track reaches a crescendo, claiming that Michael Jordan’s infamous bout of severe illness wasn’t due to food poisoning, but simply a bad hangover: “Yeah, I love drinking too / I love drinking too.” It reads like a five-second conversation based on zero solid evidence you might have with friends, but Lenderman transforms it into a funny, almost poetic two minutes of alt-country bliss. —Elise Soutar

10. Destroyer: “June”

Ahead of the release of their new record LABYRINTHITIS, Destroyer’s third single “June” allowed yet another layer of the world Dan Bejar and collaborator John Collins created to unfurl. With influences on the album including disco, Art of Noise and New Order, it’s not surprising that “June” is tailor-made for the dance floor, albeit with head-scratching lyrics characteristic of the band that only add to its absurd charm. The song closes with a two-minute spoken-word passage that distorts as the recording collapses in a heap. Even while he’s rambling, Bejar doesn’t let his foot off the gas or his hold on your attention waver. Extra points just for the inclusion of the line, “A snow angel’s a fucking idiot somebody made / A fucking idiot someone made in the snow.” Guess we can’t argue with that, Dan. —Elise Soutar

9. Alvvays: “Easy on Your Own?

The long-awaited return of Alvvays continues to be one of this summer’s most pleasant surprises. Their latest single “Easy on Your Own?” is our second preview of Blue Rev (Oct. 7, Polyvinyl), the band’s first new album in five years. Alvvays shared Blue Rev’s opener “Pharmacist” upon its announcement last month, and in August followed up with the album’s second track, “Easy on Your Own?” It’s another brisk blast of the band’s signature dream-pop sound, with complex textures not previously found in their discography. Molly Rankin’s vocals sit lower in the mix than usual, entering alongside synth buzz and forceful low end before buzzing glide guitar envelops her voice a la My Bloody Valentine. When her singing does burst through in the choruses, it hits like a ray of sunshine through the clouds, even though her lyrics (where discernible) describe a long-term relationship so damaged, it might not be worth saving. The song shudders to a stop in under three minutes, another concise stunner seemingly designed to reward repeat listens. —Scott Russell

8. Bartees Strange: “Heavy Heart”

This year, indie-rock renegade Bartees Strange took on the tall task of following up his breakout debut album, 2020’s Live Forever. But the first step on his road to Farm to Table, one of the year’s best albums so far, was “Heavy Heart,” the innovative artist’s first release on 4AD. Co-produced by Strange himself with Chris Connors, “Heavy Heart” is a sleek guitar-rock track that finds Strange grappling with conflicting feelings, recalling his “reasons for heavy hearts” only to realize, “Then I remember I rely too much upon / My heavy heart.” Propulsive drums, chugging guitars and even celebratory horns lend the track an irrepressible energy, as if buoying Strange’s lyrical efforts to consign his pain to the past. —Scott Russell

7. Wet Leg: “Angelica”

There’s much more to meteoric English duo Wet Leg than their smash-hit “Chaise Longue,” as this standout from their self-titled debut album attests. Wet Leg titled the track after Teasdale’s oldest friend, and recorded “Angelica” in Chambers’ living room with bandmate Joshua Mobaraki. The song is a sunny psych-rock track with punchy percussion and vocal hooks to spare, and its lyrics about a fun and free-spirited friend have strange shadows playing around their edges: “She brought lasagna to the party” later becomes “She brought a ray gun to the party / Angelica obliterated everybody,” and the narrator struggles with the urge to withdraw from everyone around her, even in the best of times. “It’s laced with disenchantment,” Teasdale says of “Angelica” in a statement. “Even though the chorus is ‘good times, all the time.’ That’s just impossible, isn’t it?” Not with a soundtrack like this, it isn’t. —Scott Russell

6. Julia Jacklin: “Lydia Wears a Cross”

It’s a great time to be a Julia Jacklin fan: The Australian singer/songwriter has announced her third album, PRE PLEASURE (Aug. 26, Polyvinyl Record Co.), shared the video for its lead single and opener, “Lydia Wears a Cross,” and announced a 2022 world tour. “Lydia Wears a Cross” finds Jacklin examining religion through her childhood eyes over sparsely atmospheric drum machine and piano—at least at first. “I’d be a believer / If it was all just song and dance,” she insists over an indistinct guitar riff, unable to feel a connection to her spirituality except through the transportive power of performance. Live drums and synths kick in unexpectedly as the song builds, and Jacklin vocalizes wordlessly through its climax, as if finally finding the transcendence she was seeking. —Scott Russell

5. Wednesday: “Bull Believer

Asheville, North Carolina, quintet Wednesday have a new label, Dead Oceans, and a stunning new single and video, “Bull Believer.” The eight-and-a-half-minute track actually stitches two distinct song concepts together, “Bull” and “Believer,” as if challenging the listener to connect their seemingly disparate emotional dots. With its guitar-harmonic flares and quiet, coiled tension, “Bull” feels something like a spiritual successor to Sonic Youth’s “Bull in the Heather”—at least at first. In the second verse, while Karly Hartzman traces the cyclical heartache of caring for someone in the throes of addiction (“Comfort fools us into faith / Then fate pulls us away again”), MJ Lenderman and Xandy Chelmis suddenly unleash explosions of distorted guitar and lap steel, respectively, as if attempting to tear the song apart. Hartzman soon bridges the gap between the song’s two phases—literally referencing a bridge on either side of the shift—as “Believer” swerves into subdued shoegaze strums, images of lightning-split skies and makeshift roadside memorials steering the song from anger into sadness. Between its first two verses, the song shakes, as if sobbing. Margo Shultz and Alan Miller’s steady low end and Lenderman’s probing riff accompany Hartzman into her memories of teenage angst, but it’s the vocalist’s emotional catharsis, buoyed by the band’s waves of crashing noise-rock, that takes over the track as she quotes Mortal Kombat with increasing intensity: “Finish him.” Eventually, her words dissolve into full-throated screams, as if Hartzman is exorcising a lifetime of pain. —Scott Russell

4. Momma: “Speeding 72”

Rising rock act Momma’s Household Name is a summer album through and through, and standout “Speeding 72” figures to soundtrack plenty of joyrides in the months to come. Vocalists and guitarists Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten co-wrote the track with guitarist Aron Kobayashi Ritch, building the song around its revved-up opening riff. “Speeding 72” overflows with the sounds of youthful escape, the simpler days when blissful freedom was always just a gas pedal stomp and volume knob twist away. But there’s also a subtle wistfulness to it all, as Momma name-check Pavement’s “Gold Soundz’’ and acknowledge, “Speeding 72 / We’re faster getting nowhere,” in the song’s propulsive choruses. “We wanted it to be the sort of summertime anthem that you can turn on during a drive to impress your crush,” the band say of the song in a statement—they hit that mark with ease, delivering the kind of rocker that you’ll yearn for even as you keep it on repeat. —Scott Russell

3. Angel Olsen: “All The Good Times”

On Big Time, the grand, burgeoning, symphonic gestures of Olsen’s last three studio LPs are gone, substituted with Phases-era, minimalistic, pedal steel-tinged sobcore and dreamy twang. It’s a one-woman show, a prize fight where the challenger no-showed. Big Time isn’t a bummer opera; it’s a last-call, honky-tonk bar encore—and it rules. On opener “All The Good Times,” Olsen vividly channels Tammy Wynette’s swagger and surrenders the album’s thesis, declaring that she’s done making excuses for everyone else. “I can’t say that I’m sorry when I don’t feel so wrong anymore,” she sings. The horn arrangements here are subtle, and Drew Erickson’s organ trembles slightly beneath Olsen’s vocals. It’s an announcement, a warning, that this is a new era of her songwriting. —Matt Mitchell

2. Big Thief: “Simulation Swarm”

The eighth (!) single released ahead of Big Thief’s universally acclaimed double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, “Simulation Swarm” might have felt like overkill if it weren’t so mesmerizing. A previously unreleased track that has been a live staple for the band, the song is driven by a positively hypnotic tangle of acoustic guitar and bass, with James Krivchenia’s percussion doing just enough to reinforce its insistent groove. A verse-heavy arrangement gives Adrianne Lenker plenty of room to unspool evocative lyrics like, “Once again, we must bleed new / Even as the hours shake / Crystal blood like a dream true / A ripple in the wound and wake.” Her meaning is elusive throughout, but feels informed by a lifetime of experiences, and the song’s refrain of “I wanna drop my arms and take your arms / And walk you to the shore,” which rubs elbows with a thrilling Buck Meek lead guitar line, is as beautiful and mysterious as anything Big Thief have released. —Scott Russell

1. Alex G: “Runner”

After scoring We’re All Going to the World’s Fair earlier this year, Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) released a pair of killer singles, “Blessing” and “Runner,” and announced his ninth studio album God Save the Animals, which will be out Sept. 23 via Domino. In line with the religious imagery of both singles, Giannascoli notes that the divine appears in many of the tracks on his forthcoming album. Instead of appearing as a concrete religious entity, God is a generalized sense of faith that serves as a guiding light for many of his characters, often in fraught situations. Heaven-sent, “Runner” has a glow bestowed by angels, further accentuated by the crystal-clear recording quality. The single sports a clean guitar tone and meandering percussion as Giannascoli praises the people he looks up to, “Who don’t judge for what I say, but judge me for what I do.” —Samantha Sullivan

Listen to Paste’s Best Songs of 2022 playlist on Spotify.