Top 10 Singles of 2022
10. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Unfold
This release was hugely nostalgic for me – it was recorded at around the time of Tame Impala’s Lonerism, when they were my favourite band. Melody Prochet and Kevin Parker were dating at the time, and I saw the two bands perform together in London. It was not long after that the two of them broke up, which I’m guessing is why this project was shelved for so long. This song, as well as the rest of the mini-album it’s a part of, are half finished demos and ideas. They’re sonically very similar to Melody’s Echo Chamber, the album Parker and Prochet made together, and they give me a feeling of what could have been. The lo-fi production, Parkers shuffled tom-tom drum beats, and Prochet’s soft vocal are what made the original project great, and to hear more of that sound made me feel sentimental, and that we all missed out on something great.
9. Caroline Polachek – Sunset
The song opens with a guitar riff that sounds about one note different from the melody from Penny Lane. The whole song is underpinned by Spanish-sounding guitar and propelling percussion. It’s chorus is floaty and uplifting, and is followed by some delicate vocal solo parts that feel unique to Polachek. The whole aesthetic of Polachek’s single artwork and videos for this album so far have a feeling of an alternate future. The video for Sunset is somewhere strange between futuristic and an ancient sort of Mad Max vibe, and it seems that the whole project has a fresh sensibility that feels unfamiliar. I enjoyed 2019’s Pang, but it seems from what I’ve heard so far that her upcoming album, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, is going to be a huge leap forward.
8. Gorillaz ft. Tame Impala – New Gold
Kevin Parker is often praised for having made Tame Impala’s records nearly completely by himself. I have a theory that he is actually much better when collaborating. The first two Tame Impala albums are some of my all time favourites, and they were produced by Dave Fridmann. They also feature some writing and playing from the band’s live members. Currents and The Slow Rush and purely Kevin, and I can barely find a couple of songs I like. Then he works with Mark Ronson and he’s great again. Writing with Damon Albarn has resulted in further proof for me, that he should always collaborate. Parkers vocal melody is bright and catchy, and the big disco style drums give the song real power. Without Parker’s production technique of overloading compression, and without any cheesy 80’s synths, we can hear that when working with others, he’s truly great.
7. Minor Conflict – Office Block
I had no idea what the instrument playing the (sort of) chords on this song was when I first heard it. I was surprised when I found out that it’s a harp, strummed like a guitar, and that it is one of the main instruments in the three piece – harp, bass, and drums. Half the song is an ambient synthesiser section, which builds into a jerky, post punk-style section which features the strummed harp. The spoken lyrics give a bleak image of modern city life which contradicts the bright harp plucks and funky drum feel. This is the only song the band have on Spotify, and I think its an exciting first taste of what they’re working on.
6. Alt-J – Hard Drive Gold
I’ve never completely got into Alt-J, but I’ve always been aware of them. Their singles always seem to be great, but I’ve never loved an album all the way through. For me, Alt-J are at their best when not taking themselves too seriously. Tracks like this one, and Left Hand Free for example, have a much more cohesive and immediate feel to them. They are definitely lighter in tone – Hard Drive Gold is a tongue-in-cheek song about cryptocurrency – but they feel more intentional and complete than the band’s more loosely structured and experimental work. I feel like if they focussed more on tunes in this kind of realm that they could be perfect festival headliners.
5. Puma Blue – Hounds
The sound is clearly indebted to Massive Attack, specifically Angel, but it is more than just pastiche. Slow, groovy bass chugs along underneath the vocal and stabs of saxophone, with occasional oily, jazzy guitar chords. The 16th note drum pattern paired with the saxophone solo recalls some modern jazz acts like Takuya Kuroda of Sons of Kemet. Puma Blue is the project of Jacob Allen, a 27 year old from London, where this jazz scene is thriving. His voice has a distinctly feminine character which serves the soulful and ethereal songs he writes well.
4. Julia Jacklin – Lydia Wears a Cross
Jacklin’s last record, Crushing, was one of my favourites from its year of release – 2019. It was full of heartbreak and intimately personal lyrics and stories. Lydia Wears a Cross seems to be a story from her childhood, mixed in with her questioning religious faith. It opens with open piano chords and a drum machine, both new sounds for this album. All these new features and themes bring a new dimension to Jacklin’s songwriting, whilst still feeling emotionally raw and vulnerable like her previous work. I saw her perform last year, and she does have a strong hold on the audience, enabling her to play these emotionally intense songs and have them received with the attention they deserve.
3. T L K – Most Alive
This is actually a song from an EP, but I’m including it here because I think of it as the standout from Strength in Tenderness. T L K, Tara Lily Klein, makes gently textured and atmospheric songs sometimes reminiscent of James Blake or elements of Holly Herndon. Klein’s ethereal vocal floats around hypnotic melodies and synth arpeggios. The drum parts on this song are broken up to give the song a wonky feel. The whole song smoothly moves around with sections fading in and out, each leaving plenty of room for the others to breathe. The irregular placing of vocal lines and harmonies keep you engaged throughout, and the final build towards the end is emphatic and powerful.
2. Getdown Services & Saloon Dion – Throbber
I interviewed both of these bands at Dot to Dot festival last year, when this song was still in the pipeline. They said it was going to be Dad Rock, and that the lyrics had been written in just a couple of days. There’s something in there about a Bay City Rollers t-shirt, and the chorus starts with the line “Kick the shit out of me”. The whole song sounds like someone psyching themselves up for a bar fight. Neither bands seem to take themselves too seriously, but also put out great music thats well crafted, energetic and catchy – and this collaboration shows what both bands can do well. The bands are also great live, so make sure you see them if you get the chance.
1. Caroline Polachek – Billions
I couldn’t choose between this and Sunset, so they’re both on this list. Many of the same reasons I love Sunset are present here – the vocal inflections and ethereal melodies take what is fundamentally a pop song to a whole new level. The skittering tabla and deep bass leave plenty of room for the vocals, layered harmonies, and a theatrical choral section to close the song out. Also worth listening to is the B-Side of this single, a new version of Long Road Home by Oneohtrix Point Never. Polachek sings on the original, but her vocal is buried so deep in effects that its sometimes difficult to tell its her. This version shows her beautiful voice front and centre, and shows just how great the song is when stripped back. I’m excited to hear Polachek’s new album, which comes out on Valentines Day.
List by Alex Wilson