2022 was a bewildering year filled with fantastic music and heavy-set duds that thread rudimentary pop notes — so, it’s like any year. But as we look back, your friends at the Twin Geeks Music Show have coordinated a list of our five favorite songs. Though we’d like to say they’re the best, it’s harder to break down those conjectures, so we let our feelings guide us through these lists. We both chose five songs that we thought stood out, grounded in our strong personal sensibilities in music. As Calvin taps the well of indie rock, conscious rap, and travels to Japan via France, Kevin seeks cultural enrichment in a wide variety of genres — everything from Latin Flamenco pop and singer-songwriters to returning mega-stars of the years past. With that, here’s our look back at 2022, and we hope it weaves your curiosity to check these artists out.
Calvin’s Five Favorite Songs of 2022
Honorable Mention: 10secondbeats – “Coffee for Closure”
Coffee for disclosure: The artist is one of our dear personal friends, appears often on this website, and we’d simply love everyone else to experience the joy he brings to all of us. You can succinctly do that in 10secondbeats’ new album Last Nightclub on Earth, on which “Coffee for Closure” offers one of the songs I’ve loved most all year, and think you will come to love, too.
Hikaru Utada – Somewhere Near Marseilles (マルセイユ辺り)
Vibes are important. In Hikaru Utada’s stunning “Somewhere Near Marseilles,” we undergo a hypnotic 12-minute journey through an endlessly listenable dance track. Because it is that long, it has so much in it, making it continuously playable. It’s long and varied enough that by the end of it, you’re simply ready to make the journey back to Marseilles all over again. It’s the song living rent-free in my mind. Even when it’s not playing, this is where I live now.
Danger Mouse, Black Thought, & Michael Kiwanuka – “Aquamarine”
A triumph of poetry, “Aquamarine” is a song you can write a whole dissertation on. If you would like to study the intricacies of rap, this is a functional Masterclass. Black Thought’s tools have never been sharper, as he is infinitely flexible and in the pocket around a gorgeously delirious Danger Mouse beat, with a courage-amplifying soul hook by way of Michael Kiwanuka. The internal rhyme structure is maddeningly complex, blending history and metaphor in a practice that comments precisely on current times. There is a certain timeless magic here, from the production to the staggering rap behind it, the song expands into a luscious affirming allegory. The more you listen closely and study it, the more the music expands. There is an entire world here.
Ever patiently waiting with the demons we deserve / Better be willing to pay with every dream that you deferred / If the vehicle should swerve, learn to lean into the curve / After working up the nerve almost equal in size / I walked around with iron for any wrinkle in time.
The National & Bon Iver – “Weird Goodbyes”
The last drive back from anywhere, “Weird Goodbyes” is leaving it all behind. What it feels like to leave. The immense outpouring of emotional memory and the crushing weight of now-past familiarities. How can we leave so much behind? Matt Beringer and Bon Iver help us sort it out. There are only so many songs you hear in your life where you know, where a record has tapped so deeply into the human condition, that it is not just felt, but fully lived by listening to it. That is “Weird Goodbyes” for me.
“Only it happens every time I put it on. It’s crazy, the things we let go / It finally hits me, a mile’s drive / The sky is leaking, my windshield’s crying / I’m feeling sacred, my soul is stripped / Radio’s painful, the words are clipped / The grief it gets me, the weird goodbyes”
The Smile – “The Smoke – Live at Montreux Jazz Festival”
This proves something. What? The “what” is almost the point as the three-piece unit functions as a uniform jazz band here, with Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood strumming down their bass and guitar respectively, one octave apart, perfectly in-time and on-key, with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, perhaps the most remarkable drummer of the moment, working the complexion of the song into a ‘60s soundscape. The Live at Montreux Jazz Festival album begins with “Pana-Vision”, a live wide-screening of the band’s wall of sound. You wonder how three people can make such a complete sound, more expensive-sounding and deeply layered than anything that has come from Rock music lately. Then it goes off better than in the studio, retaining the soul of the songs and their pacing before triumphantly launching into an increased version of “You Will Never Work in Television Again”. In this set, “The Smoke” is a functional apex, a climax of feeling and cohesion. The great joy of The Smile is that it escapes the Radiohead parallels we can make; the band speaks for itself in its own way.
Wild Pink & Julien Baker – “Hold My Hand”
Wild Pink singer John Ross was diagnosed with cancer. The band’s recent output, ILYSM, is a chronicle of treatment and recovery. In any one song, the preciousness of life hangs in the balance, threaded by a careful relationship between life and death. The veil is incredibly thin in these autumnal soundscapes, as the album presents a functional and deeply realized process of grief. It’s hard to choose any one song as the total sequencing of the album is utterly important to the total effect. For this purpose, I’m choosing “Hold My Hand,” as I find such moving hopefulness in the song. The song is like sitting beside the person you have loved the most, cherishing the presence they have had in your life. As a person in long-term recovery, this album means the world to me. It’s about recovering from cancer but for me, the song is universally useful for anyone recovering from anything.
Kevin’s Five Favorite Songs of 2022
Rosalía — “Despechá”
One of my most played songs of 2022, “Despechá,” took mambo/merengue and turned it on its head with this fantastical hybrid that sees Rosalía slightly rapping and singing, flexing as she describes how she moves with jovial inertia. It’s swift and vibrant, taking you through a journey filled with humbled braggadocio lines expressing effervescent fun that’s captivating and loading you with this need to dance. It’s done so for me. When Rosalía sings “Lo muevo de la’o a la’o y a otro la’o,” the cadence in her melodies is simply hypnotic; it fits the mold of luscious dance floor bravado and internalized reflections that boasts individualized confidence to be you.
P.S.: Be careful when you play it in the shower; we can’t have us slipping as we move side-to-side with the rhythm. Source: me.
Chance the Rapper — “Yah Know”
“The bombastic Afro-Beat influence within “Yah Know” takes the listener to exponential lengths as the beat comes rich with a crisp Hip-Hop base, then escalates it with these rich drumlines and boisterous horn section. It’s an experience that feels like it’s yearning for a stage presence, where the sounds can get amplified and further entice the dance nerves in your body to force some jubilant movement.” I wrote this when talking about the hype for the anticipated release of Chance the Rapper’s new album, Star Line Gallery, on my blog. When “Yah Know” dropped near the end of 2022, it came like a monstrous drop that took my head for a loop; it was unlike the many songs I’ve heard, except for moments in Sampa The Great’s album, As Above, So Below. It felt fresh for what Chance has given us since 10Day and it shines as this oddity that goes above and beyond a comfort zone.
Beyoncé — “Alien Superstar”
Channeling her inner Grace Jones, Beyoncé elevates the playing field by bringing forth this radiating performance that imbues luscious elements of dance, R&B, and house beneath these rhythmic vocals that boast confidence within its listener. The transitions between sections incorporate varying shifts in the percussion — House drums are effervescent in the chorus, and the melodies are lavishly blending R&B and Dance, similar to “Butterflies” by Skrillex, Four Tet, & Starrah. Though we get more infectiously danceable songs on Renaissance, there’s a mystique within the modernization of its nostalgic influence, specifically within her vocal patterns. It’s allowing itself to live freely in its composition without an over reliance on glam. It’s one of those songs that gets better and better upon listening to it over and over, and though Beyonce isn’t telling us to drop it like thottie, we still do so freely.
Jessie Reyez — “Break Me Down”
Though it shouldn’t have been the last thing I expected, I was still wowed by “Break Me Down,” one of the songs on Jessie Reyez’s sophomore album Yessie. She’s always radiated these dark undercurrents in her music. She takes it forward by releasing this angst into a pop-punk rock influenced anthem with heavy emotional grit. It hits you instantly with drearily vibrant melodies before a ferocity that comes in the chorus, becoming reminiscent of late mid-to-late 00s pop-punk. I was left aghast when it played on my first listen-through of Yessie, and as it repeated, the production only got better. Jessie Reyez complements it beautifully, adding a sense of anger and regrets as she recounts a break-up that was never perfect, but the sparks were always as bright as great ones. When the percussion kicks in, you’re taken to new heights, and all its greatness comes to light, and you’re left repeating this as frequently as me.
Canta La Arena — Natalia Lafourcade
Folk-like and tropical, “Canta La Arena” beautifully captures the grace of feeling one with nature. It uses these allusions to focus on one’s mind and spirit as one looks deep within and allows themselves to temper their expectations and go with the flow. The free-flowing cadence of Natalia Lafourcade’s vocals adds depth to her cheekiness as she engulfs you in a jubilant world. However, the instrumentation, which takes hold here, builds this world with visceral descriptions that feel true to her emotions. When she sings, “Juega al caracola con su amiga la bella ola/Si me canta el sol que nace aquí en la playa/Siento el corazón, no quiere que me vaya,” you feel her playing the conch with the sound of the sea, and this feeling of one with positivity as her heart aligns with the sun. It’s this incredibly fun listen and one of the best songs from a great Latin Pop album.