What to say about 2022? It was a year when the world emerged from a pandemic, only to be quickly knocked down again by other crises. Inevitably, it also affected music: an explosive cocktail of hope and fear, of light and dark, of anger and newfound party spirit. Either way, there were plenty of comforting and entertaining tunes to discover (I mainly searched the crates with indie rock, power pop, garage rock, jangle pop, country, and soul).
I checked out 2,400+ new albums – sometimes moving on to the next one after a few minutes, sometimes all songs on repeat – adding 135 of them to my longlist of wantlist-worthy releases. The Top 50 that emerged after long deliberation, is independent of sales figures, number of streams, expert reviews, or snobbish pretensions. It is simply a matter of what I liked and played the most – records that made 2022 more than worthwhile despite everything. Looking at the result, my choices are more folky and mature and less garagy and raucous than I expected beforehand – getting older daddy? – but with a relatively large number of debuting artists and only a handful of veterans.
So here’s my year-end list (you can also find most of it in a playlist on Spotify). Links point to Discogs or Bandcamp (the headings), and to previously posted reviews (in the body text) – add to your wantlist (or better: your collection) what you like!
1. Michael Kane & the Morning Afters || Broke But Not Broken
[Heartland Rock, US || State Line Records] The album title quite adequately captures our mood in 2022, but the 12 songs here are timeless. The 5-piece from Worcester, Massachusetts play powerful and passionate Americana with the punk heart in the right place, featuring impressive gravelly vocals and a soulful piano. It feels like this record has always been there for me and always will be.
2. KITIMOTO || Vintage Smell
[Indie Rock, US || Fort Lowell Records] The Phoenix, Arizona-based quartet’s debut album is diverse, bewitching and addictive, colors outside the lines of genres and expectations, with intense guitar duels, poetic lyrics and convincing vocals. It surprises and amazes me every time.
3. Good Looks || Bummer Year
[Folk Rock, US || Keeled Scales] It’s hard to exactly put into words why I played this record over and over again, but for some reason this music got under my skin. Honest 4-minute songs, layered but bright, with meaningful lyrics. Hypnotic.
4. The Roxies || Don’t Wanna Dance Because I’m Told To
[Power Pop / New Wave, Germany || Dirt Cult Records / Family Spree Recordings] This record evokes a kind of excitement in me that concertgoers must have felt in the late 70’s, when this kind of music was hip and happening. I’m so glad there are still hits like this in 2022 (that’s what all these songs are: hits).
5. The Bug Club || Green Dream in F#
[Indie / Garage Rock, Wales || Bingo Records] Short and catchy earworms, full of hooks and humour, with a lively, raw and unpolished sound, from an idiosyncratic, adventurous and focused trio. Irresistible.
6. Televisionaries || Mad About You
[Rock ‘n’ Roll, US || Hi-Tide Recordings] This kind of music isn’t made anymore these days? This kind of music feels dated in 2022? The 3 Lake brothers, backed up by their friend Aaron Mika on drums, prove you wrong, and will put a big smile on your face. While I’m not much of a dancer, I can’t sit still either.
7. Eades || Delusion Spree
[Garage Wave, UK || Heist or Hit] The 5 hyperactive band members wanted to record a classic debut LP, and succeeded. The songs here are punchy, restless, expressive, arty and infectious. Great fun on the turntable, even more so live.
9. Burghers Orquestra || Burghers Orquestra
[Psych Pop, The Netherlands || Dewityourself Records] Amsterdam-based musicians Niels de Wit and Simone Mansveld deliver wonderful melodies, beautiful harmonies and cinematic delicacies, rich in instruments and ideas. It’s exotic music that you experience differently at different times, but which actually fits always and everywhere.
10. Sean Keel || A Dry Scary Blue
[Indie Folk, US || Icons Creating Evil Art] The poetic, tear-jerking lyrics in combination with the distinctive, emotion-charged vocals and the spare folk arrangements hit me hard. Fragile and powerful at the same time. It doesn’t get much more beautiful than this.
11. The Haunted Youth || Dawn Of The Freak
[Psych Pop, Belgium || Mayway Records] Half of the tracks were previously released as singles, so I experience the long-awaited full-length debut of Joachim Liebens’ project as a greatest hits compilation. The songs, rooted in the 80s, are dark and mesmerizing, with jangling guitars, melancholic synths and dreamy vocals. An addictive trip.
12. Thee Escapees || Breaking Out
[Garage Beat, UK || Spinout Nuggets] This LP has the energy of a live show, and that’s how it unfolds. The band steps on the accelerator right from the start, already revealing what they have to offer (raw vocals, cool guitar riffs, fine organ melodies, a ruthless beat), but as an audience you don’t give in right away. Gradually, however, the songs get better and better, and slowly but surely you are absorbed by a party where you can’t help but dance. When the band then performs a successful cover of Del Shannon’s Runaway, it goes completely wild, but the musicians then go the extra mile in the encore. You are left sweaty and with a satisfied smile.
13. Best Bets || On An Unhistoric Night
[Power Pop, New Zealand || Melted Ice Cream / Meritorio Records] Based on a first taster we immediately pre-ordered the LP, in line with the band name we didn’t regret it. An infectious sound with strong guitar riffs and powerful harmonies.
14. X Ray Cat Trio || Haunted
[Surf Punk, UK || Property Of The Lost] This record brings together just about all the genres I love – rockabilly, garage rock, surf, punk, doo-wop and country – encapsulated in awesome songs. Dangerous and danceable.
15. Elvis Costello & The Imposters || The Boy Named If
[Rock, UK || Capitol Records / EMI] Just when you think you’ve got enough Elvis Costello LPs in your record collection, he casually poops out another one you need. Sounding so driven, on studio album number 32 (after a successful 45-year career), deserves respect, but in the end the new music also has to connect with you, and that’s certainly the case here.
16. Bastards Of Soul || Corners
[Soul, US || Eastwood Music Group] The East Dallas-based soul quintet were at their peak during the recording sessions for their sophomore album. Shortly afterwards, their charismatic front man Chadwick Murray passed away unexpectedly. Because of this sad event, this record – already thrilling in itself – evokes even more emotions. A grand farewell.
17. Night Owls || Versions
[Soul / Dub, US || F-Spot Records] Californian supergroup with alternating vocalists cover classic funk and soul hits and deep cuts with a Jamaican twist, but they do it like no other. It was my soundtrack from last summer and the best cover album of 2022. Groovy.
18. The Surfrajettes || Roller Fink
[Surf Pop, Canada || Hi-Tide Recordings] There was a lot of good surf music coming out in 2022. This instrumental concept album, set in an imaginary roller rink that still breathes the 50s, stood out for me. Sweet, sunny and sultry, very appealing in every way.
19. Mad Mojo Jett || Get Your Mind Straight
[Garage Rock, US || Rum Bar Records] Beneath the gritty lo-fi sound shine brilliant melodies and golden hooks, in which punk but also soul, doo-wop and bubblegum influences seep through. Exciting and cool, both in terms of music and cover art.
20. Personal Trainer || Big Love Blanket
[Indie Rock, The Netherlands || The Industry] Each of the 10 thoughtful songs is different, exciting and unpredictable. The subgenres and good ideas battle over each other, as if Personal Trainer put everything on the line to prove they are even better than expected.
21. GA-20 || Crackdown
[Garage Blues, US || Karma Chief Records] I used to like this band, this record made me fall in love. Their playing still is raw and swampy, but the memorable riffs and soulful sound are stronger than ever.
22. Willie Nelson || A Beautiful Time
[Country, US || Legacy / Sony Music] On his 89th(!) birthday, country legend Willie Nelson released his 72nd(!) solo studio album, and what an amazing one it is. Musically it’s first class, in no way rusty, but the tragicomic lyrics claim the spotlight here. Should the red headed stranger ever exchange the temporal for the eternal, chances are he’ll continue singing elsewhere, along with the friends who left before him – with this LP he takes an advance on that.
23. Melissa Carper || Ramblin’ Soul
[Country / Jazz, US || Mae Music / Thirty Tigers] Her previous album Daddy’s Country Gold hit me with that special mix of country, soul, jazz, R&B, bluegrass and western swing, and above all those unique vocals. With her new LP she continues on the same footing, but the songs are more diverse and upbeat, delivered with more confidence and wit. This is authentic and uplifting music.
24. Fantastic Cat || The Very Best of Fantastic Cat
[Indie Folk-Rock, US || Blue Rose Music] Four skilled songwriters join forces and prove the power of synergy in 10 songs with strong lyrics, appealing melodies and charming vocals. The stamp of high quality is well deserved.
25. Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds || Moon Rock
[Soul, US || Self-Released] The American singer-songwriter may be influenced by the great R&B artists of the past, but he brings his warm and subtle mixture of funky soul and bluesy rock ‘n’ roll to the present like no other.
26. Eels || Extreme Witchcraft
[Rock, US || E Works Records] In 2008, Eels front man Mark Oliver Everett published Things the Grandchildren Should Know, one of the most readable autobiographies ever. Until then I was a big fan of his music (one is probably related to the other), but that love gradually faded. This fresh record evoked the sparkles of its heyday, that any posterity will one day find in their inheritance.
27. Mark Le Gallez || Mark Two
[Mod Rock, UK || F.A.B. Records] Almost 40 years after his EP Mark One, the singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist is back with a successor. The 10 new songs are at least as energetic as the old ones, with irresistible organ melodies that steal the show.
28. Mary Ann Hawkins || Mary Ann Hawkins
[Surf Rock, Finland || Svart Records] Surf music comes in many guises. Mary Ann Hawkins’ tunes are menacing and thrilling, a chase soundtrack on thunderous waves, with 12 near instrumentals that are pretty cool.
31. Artsick || Fingers Crossed
[Indie Rock, US || Slumberland Records] The mutual chemistry between the admired band members creates a result that is more than the sum of its parts: 11 bouncy tunes bursting with enthusiasm.
32. Jim Nothing || In The Marigolds
[Indie Rock, New-Zealand || Melted Ice Cream / Meritorio Records] The finest parts of New Zealand/Australian underground pop are used as inspiration to create something new – varied and adorable – that feels familiar.
33. Hackensaw Boys || Hackensaw Boys
[Country Blues, US || Free Dirt / Sun’s Work Records] I knew their previous work and had seen them live, yet I was quite surprised by their new CD. Founding member/songwriter/guitarist David Sickmen struggled internally for years to decide what was Hackensaw Boys material and what was not, until he realized that his life experiences are actually what makes the songs real for him, and therefore appropriate. You feel that as a listener: these songs are stronger than ever, so pure and heartfelt that they make a big impression.
34. Tallies || Patina
[Indie Pop, Canada || Bella Union] To be honest, I had already put this release aside, but an impressive live show at the Left of the Dial festival forced me to listen again, and again and again. Pure, dreamy and angelic.
35. The William Loveday Intention || The Baptiser
[Garage Folk, UK || Damaged Goods] In a recent Rolling Stone interview between producers Rick Rubin and Finneas O’Connell, the older of the two stated that “The greatest writers in the world can only write one or two albums of material in a year.” I couldn’t help but think of Wild Billy Childish mocking that law. In 2022 he released at least 7 new albums with The William Loveday Intention, also LPs with The Singing Loins and The Guy Hamper Trio (keep reading), and an EP with Thee Headcoats Sect, in addition to all his other work. Although he also regularly recycles material from himself or others, this output is inimitable, especially since there’s not a single bad apple among the harvest. Hard to choose, but I think I liked this one the most.
36. Steve Earle & The Dukes || Jerry Jeff
[Country Rock, US || New West Records] The veteran singer-songwriter and his touring and backing band are in great shape here. They make the songs of Jerry Jeff Walker their own, but at the same time the covers are a grand tribute to the late Texan songman.
37. Frank From Blue Velvet || Frank From Blue Velvet
[Dark Country, UK || Property Of The Lost] A macabre and mysterious mix of alt-country, chain gang gospel, punk rock, bad luck blues and heavy roots in 11 songs about corruption, redemption, gambling and snake preaching without a happy ending in sight, although the harmony vocals suggest a sense of togetherness.
38. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard || Omnium Gatherum
[Garage Psych, Australia || KGLW] Of the 5(?) studio albums the multi-headed monster released this year, I’ve spent the most time with this one, and I still can’t fully comprehend what’s going on in these eclectic and boundless 80 minutes. It’s excessive in every way, even a successful hip-hop track isn’t missing.
39. Chris Pope & The Chords UK || Big City Dreams
[Power Pop, UK || E‑pop] The Chords, involved in the 80s mod revival, were revived in 2013 by founding member and songwriter Chris Pope, to continue playing the old tunes but also to create a new sound. On their 3rd new album they’re better than ever – 14 great sing-alongs, powerful and energetic..
40. 2nd Grade || Easy Listening
[Power Pop, US || Double Double Whammy] The 16 short but powerful songs here contain great riffs and entertaining lyrics. Power pop as power pop should be – melodic, catchy and dynamic.
41. Ponte Pilas || Old Enough To Know Better
[Indie Rock, Germany || Pianola Records] What makes this record so irresistible, is the combination of surprising hooks, exciting guitar riffs, driving rhythm section, edgy vocals and witty lyrics. Growing up has never sounded so much fun.
42. The Guy Hamper Trio featuring James Taylor || All The Poisons in the Mud
[Rhythm & Blues, UK || Damaged Goods] Another Billy Childish project, but here James Taylor (The Prisoners, The James Taylor Quartet) on Hammond organ takes the lead. Think of a wild and exciting garage rock version of Booker T & The MG’s and you know what to expect. Only released last week, but it immediately felt like a classic.
43. The Mieters || De Ruit Is Uit
[Nederbeat, The Netherlands || Grey Productions] It amuses me how the daily worries of the band members are expressed in local expressions and bygone slang, captured in catchy Nederbeat with the rough edge of 60s garage rock.
44. Fruit Tones || Pink Wafer Factory
[Garage Rock, UK || Alien Snatch! Records] Niek described it as a record that combines 60s and 70s rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia with craftmanship and provides contemporary fun, and I can’t help but agree.
45. Ferris & Sylvester || Superhuman
[Americana, UK || Archtop Records] Tough blues rock at one moment, sensitive country soul at the next, with strong and rich vocals as a constant – this is an album so versatile it never gets old.
46. Rat Tamango || As I Live and Breathe
[Blues Rock, Australia || Self-Released] This too is a diverse and surprising LP, with satisfying tempo and instrument changes, clever song structures and raw vocals, always powerful, well played and continuously captivating.
47. The Paranoid Style || For Executive Meeting
[Roots Rock, US || Bar/None Records] A sophisticated and fascinating mix of pop, rock and country with intelligent lyrics, also very enjoyable if you don’t know all the references.
48. 3LH || Silver Dream Road
[Garage / Surf Rock, US || My Grito Industries] Triumphant tunes that rock energetically but at the same time convey a relaxed vibe. Despite the warning cover photo, this sound worked especially well for me on the road.
49. The Len Price 3 || Ip Dip Do
[Garage Rock, UK || The Strood Recording Company] Cool and surprising songs that are good for a smile thanks to effective hooks, psychedelic elements, an organ or harmonica solo, and delightful lyrics.
50. Tchotchke || Tchotchke
[Indie Pop, US || Self-Released] Fine music with a 60s girl group sound, above average thanks to surprising baroque, psych, folk and rock influences. Wonderful arrangements, enchanting vocals.
You want more? In addition to the Top 50 above, these are 50 honorable mentions bubbling under (in alphabetical order):
7Horse || The Last Resort [Blues Rock, US || Self-Released]
Afterpartees || Family Names [Power Pop, The Netherlands || AT EASE / Goomah Music]
Bibi Club || Le Soleil et La Mer [Indie Pop, Canada || Secret City Records]
Black Lips || Apocalypse Love [Garage Psych, US || Fire Records]
Breanna Barbara || Nothin’ But Time [Garage Psych, US || Fuzz Club Records]
Bonny Light Horseman || Rolling Golden Holy [Indie Folk, US || 37d03d]
The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness || The Third Wave Of… [Indie Pop, UK || Bobo Integral Records / Tear Jerk Records]
Marco Busato || Night Of My Times [Psych Pop, UK || Bickerton Records]
Cheap Cassettes || Ever Since Ever Since [Power Pop, US || Cassettes On Record Records / Rum Bar Records]
The Chats || Get Fucked [Garage Punk, Australia || Bargain Bin Records]
Coco Jumbo || Misbehavin’ [Garage Punk, Australia || Self-Released]
Peter Doherty & Frederic Lo || The Fantasy Life Of Poetry & Crime [Indie Pop, France || Strap Originals]
Eggs || A Glitter Year [Indie Rock, France || Howlin’ Banana Records / Prefect Records / Safe In The Rain Records]
Elephant || Big Thing [Indie Pop, The Netherlands || Excelsior Recordings]
Fascinations Grand Chorus || Terror In The Night [Horror Pop, US || Silent Stereo Records]
Faz Waltz || On The Ball [Rock ‘n’ Roll, Italy || Snap!! Records / Spaghetty Town Records / Surfin Ki Records]
The Flops || Stuck in a Room [Alternative Rock, US || Self-Released]
Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations || Cockerel [Soulful Indie Folk, UK || Trapped Animal Records]
Green/Blue || Offering [Garage Psych, US || Hozac Records]
Guppy || Big Man Says Slappydoo [Mall Rock, US || Lauren Records]
Holm || Why Don’t You Dance [Indie Rock, Denmark || PNKSLM Recordings]
Kiwi jr || Chopper [Indie Rock, Canada || Kiwi Club / Sub Pop]
Tim Knol || Lightyears Better [Americana, The Netherlands || Excelsior Recordings]
The Kryng || Twelve Hymns to Syng Along [Nederbeat, The Netherlands || Soundflat Records]
LARAIGNÉ || The Brightside Of It All [Folk Punk, Canada || Shield Recordings / Snappy Little Numbers]
Raymond Little || Raymond Little [Alternative Folk, US || Lost Dog Records]
The Lost Noise Figure || Alive [Garage Psych, Greece || Self-Released]
Marie Mathématique || Nos Jours Étranges [Psych Pop, France || Lunadélia Records]
Matt Moody || Still A Kid In A Painted Sky [Folk Rock, US || Self-Released]
Morad || About a Woman [Soul, Indonesia || Berita Angkasa]
No Frills || Downward Dog [Bummer Pop, Canada || Self-Released]
Partner Look || By The Book [Indie Pop, Australia || Spunk Records / Osbourne Again / Trouble In Mind Records]
Peter The Human Boy || Stranger’s Life [Slacker Rock, Austria || Human Music]
The Photocopies || Pop Trivia [Jangle Pop, US || Subjangle]
Les Rencards || Les Rencards [Garage Rock, France || Groovie Records / Marlowe Records]
L’Resorts || Explorers [Electronic Folk, US || Self-Released]
Los Retumbes || Colección De Canciones De Mierda [Garage Rock, Spain || Family Spree Recordings]
The Routes || The Twang Machine [Surf Rock, Japan || Double Crown Records / Otitis Media Records]
Satan’s Pilgrims || Go Action!! [Surf Rock, US || Hi-Tide Recordings]
Ken Sharp || I’ll Remember The Laughter [Power Pop, US || Jet Fighter Records]
Swami John Reis || Ride the Wild Night [Folk Punk, US || Swami Records]
Tijuana Panthers || Halfway to Eighty [Indie Rock, US || Innovative Leisure]
Tommy and The Ohs || Mariposa Gold [Psych Folk, US || Perpetual Doom]
The Total Rejection || Off The Top Of Our Heads ...And Other Forbidden Pleasures [Garage Psych, UK || Raving Pop Blast! Recordings]
Frank Turner || FTHC [Folk Punk, UK || Xtra Mile Recordings / Polydor]
The Veras || V For Veras [Power Pop, UK || Spinout Nuggets]
Kim Ware and the Good Graces || Ready [Indie Folk, US || Fort Lowell Records]
Wave Electric || Wave Electric [Surf Rock, Italy || MuSick Recordings]
West Coast Music Club || Faded Scrapbook [Indie Pop, UK || 72rpm Records / Kool Kat Musik]
Ginger Wildheart & The Sinners || Ginger Wildheart & The Sinners [Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll, UK || Wicked Cool Record / Round Records]
Note: Niek will publish his AOTY list next week, I’m guessing with at least 80 percent other choices (update: it’s there).