Whew. That was a hell of a year.
The struggles that emerged at the tail end of my 2021 bled well into 2022, but things slowly improved over the year. Yay! And as my increased writing output might suggest, music has been my primary coping and—let’s be honest—escape mechanism, and spinning my little musical cocoon took my listening time & volume to ridiculous all-time highs that I don’t ever expect to surpass.
I also don’t expect to ever top the explosion of discovery I experienced at the tail end of 2021, but I continued seeking out new music and found quite a bit to get excited about. As the vibes will testify, I got super back into shoegaze—specifically the Japanese variety—but shoegaze also seems to be making somewhat of a comeback as a component of many bands’ sound. I’m here for it.
Music is good therapy; not a solution in and of itself, but a comfort all the same. To that end, I made it a point to be more mindful of personally fulfilling endeavors last year, and listening to music definitely qualifies. I became a more intentional listener, making it the activity rather than something that happens barely noticed behind other tasks. I realized that laying in the dark with nothing to do but listen was something that I hadn’t done regularly for many years, and it is satisfying.
I hope your musical year was fulfilling as well. If not, perhaps there’s something here that could kick off a new era of discovery. Shall we?
(Note: I’ve written at length about some of this music. Look for the star ★ symbols if you’re interested in reading more.)
4,053 songs played
2,010 songs played
1,498 songs played
1,362 songs played
912 songs played
Though occupying the #2 spot, Softcult ★ is my favorite band of last year and continues to take 90s alt rock & shoegaze inspirations and make them their own. They consistently release a track every 3 months or so, and it always feels like they are trying something new each time. Recently, the tone seems to be trending toward more dark, dense soundscapes, but they’re maintaining the intensity of their social and political messaging: taking aim at global villains, wrestling with personal themes, and putting abusers on blast—all swirling in great riffs and beautiful vocals. This band has such an earnest heart, and I’m excited to hear where they take us with their upcoming See You in the Dark EP.
Pale Waves’ 80s gloom-pop era continued to dominate my ears, despite some lamentation on my part about recent stylistic changes. I’ve written quite a bit about my love affair with their pre-pandemic output and all the associated feels. It felt a lot like falling into The Cure back in 1989 all over again. The intensity is waning, but those hooks have kept pulling me in.
Alvvays and Fickle Friends are new to my Top 5s. The former is a band that was wholly new to me this year, and I was so, so bummed to find their Dallas show sold out in under 3 hours. I guess everyone else loves Alvvays’ crushed, reverb-y twee-pop, too. I’m still hopelessly obsessed with Blue Rev, and will just not shut up about it.
I was honestly surprised to see Fickle Friends hit the #5 spot. I listened to their sophomore album a lot this year, but it turns out I listened to their first album a lot more. Much like Paramore’s After Laughter, Fickle Friends are masters of the sad banger, putting anxiety, failing relationships, and insecurities into highly danceable, pristinely-produced, retro-flavored pop songs.
My Mind Makes Noises
2,189 songs played
Where Myth Becomes Memory
1,290 songs played
1,199 songs played
949 songs played
Year Of the Snake
897 songs played
My obsession with Pale Waves’ My Mind Makes Noises ★ continued strong last year, racking up a play count in the thousands. When you feel it, you feel it. Their third album, Unwanted ★, came out this year, and although pop punk & emo is not my usual cup of tea, there are some pretty catchy tunes on that record. I’ll be keeping my eye on them, and hoping their new direction grows & evolves into something a bit more unique.
Rolo Tomassi’s Where Myth Becomes Memory ★ was one of my most anticipated albums of the year, and it delivered in a big way. The increased contrast between crushing riffs and gentle melodies is next level and so, so satisfying. Beautiful stuff. In a screamy way.
Blue Rev ★ only came out in October, but I’m not surprised that it shot to the top of my charts. I’m obsessed with the warped, wobbling, live-off-the-floor-yet-still-hi-fi sound of this record, not to mention the profusion of earworms. Alvvays is coming along with me well into 2023.
Softcult’s Year Of The Snake is primarily a collection of singles released in 2022, and it contains my favorite Softcult song to date: “House Of Mirrors.” Like all their songs, this one has a very clear message: wanting to live a life that you’re proud of, but feeling like a failure because of the compounding social, political, and environmental mess that continues to derail even the most carefully laid plans. Paired with a dreamy shoegaze vibe, the song is beautifully sad & endlessly satisfying.
House Of Mirrors
There’s A Honey
Have you figured out my two favorite bands yet? It’s a real mystery.
Hey, at least my top 5 songs aren’t all tracks from My Mind Makes Noises like last year. But I’m not gonna lie: “Television Romance” continues to give me a little chill every time it starts. We stan classic Pale Waves here, and there will be no apologies.
Some of last year’s musical discoveries didn’t make my top fives, but are still worth mentioning:
Paramore – After Laughter
I’ve been a fan of brand new eyes for years, coming back to it many times but never really exploring the rest of Paramore’s catalog. Last year I rolled through all of their albums a couple times and found myself drawn again and again to After Laughter. Devastating explorations of sadness, loss, forgiveness, and personal growth rolled in bouncy new wave stylings is a wild choice, and turned out to be a potent juxtaposition that I can’t seem to get enough of.
Fin del Mundo ★
Argentinian post-rock was not something I planned on getting into last year, but such is the occasional magic of YouTube. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but this music is simultaneously joyous and wistful. Their performance for KEXP is endearing. They look so happy to be there, and sound soooo goooood. Can’t recommend this one enough.
Pronoun — OMG I MADE IT
Alyse Vellturo, aka pronoun (all lower case) hit my radar back in 2019 with her heartbroken-yet-resilient album i’ll show you stronger. It’s sad, it’s open, it’s tough, it’s wry, it’s charming. OMG I MADE IT sees pronoun transform into PRONOUN (all caps), pushing the vocals louder in the mix and absolutely tearing into the painful reality of mental health challenges. Coming on the heels of a pandemic becoming endemic, the EP powerfully and openly pits wanting to die against the will to live, all staged in front of effervescent emo pop tunes. Think Jimmy Eat World’s “Sweetness”, but low-key suicidal. Amazingly, despite the heavy narrative, the music feels light and energetic and ultimately perseverant.
FRITZ – Pastel ★
This album feels so comforting. After discovering Alvvays, I started hearing a lot of shared musical vocabulary between these projects. Either Alvvays is way more 90s alternative than I realized, or FRITZ is way more whatever-genre-Alvvays-is. At any rate, that connection made me come back to Pastel more frequently toward the end of the year and encouraged me to play it back to back with Blue Rev, weaving an ultra-satisfying security blanket of sound.
Crying – Beyond The Fleeting Gales
This album is bananas. One of those “where have you been my whole life?” type of records. It doesn’t sound exactly like The Go! Team, but that’s my easiest reference point. Okay, maybe a The Go! Team, Van Halen, and Weezer supergroup? I think it’s because it’s so energetic & exuberant, but also kinda grungy and fuzzed-out; at every turn, the tunes are cranked up to 11 with bright, Van Halen-esque riffs and keyboard flourishes. The somewhat buried, deadpan vocal delivery doesn’t seem like it should work pushed up against blasting power pop, but the result is surprisingly effective. It’s an overwhelming wall of detailed, layered, bright, and wildly uplifting stadium rock-level singalong melodies. If you’re ever feeling down, spin up this gem and cry for joy.
Total Time Listened
1,711 Hours 157%
Longest Listening Streak
365 Days in a row 310%
Total Tracks Played
Unique Songs Played
Average Plays Per Day
1,190 (68%) 554%
1,993 (76%) 353%
4,538 (63%) 243%
You made it this far, so…
I maintain a Spotify playlist of my favorite jams. Check it out!