The joys and struggles of putting together an End of Year best-of list are many. Going back through all the incredible songs released this year, some of which seemed to come out ages ago, and comparing them to the tracks you’ve had on repeat the last month or so. What holds up, what doesn’t.
Going through a list of over 160 finalists, these are the top fifty that soundtracked 2022 here at The Indy Review. As you would expect, they run the gamut in style and genre, but each one felt fresh, special and exciting in their own way. We hope you discover some great tracks here you may have missed over the last 365 days, ones that may stay with you for years to come.
Here are our Top Fifty Songs of 2022!
- New Junk City – Rosey
I loved this song on the first instant I heard it. There’s a pureness and innocence at the core of the New Junk City‘s melody that evokes a wistful nostalgia while not sounding dated. There’s a charming casualness to the lyrics (“I woke up late again. Heard you moving around outside. Hungover hanging out until you can catch a ride”) that capture everyday in your twenties so well. As the story develops, and we feel the relationship drift apart between the narrator and his partner, you feel the ticking clock of their romance which is coming to an end. The melancholy on the bridge is beautiful. And the way the singer delivers the wordy chorus with such ease (“As you start spinning another stream of conscious lie…”) makes it all the more memorable. It’s a perfect song, filled with heart and hooks.
2. Jamie T – The Old Style Raiders
Jamie T always finds an unexpected way to deliver an anthem, and the first single from The Theory of Whatever continued the trend. Opening with a simple two-note guitar line, the serenity is quickly bombarded with symphonic drums and a scratchy scream that adds a wild texture to the track. T’s accented, street rap sparks over the crunchy guitars with the catchy delivery fans have become accustomed to. What skyrockets the song to the next level is the epic chorus. While T will never be considered a classically great singer, his voice has an empathetic character to it which makes the lines “Toe the line, hard to find. Told to find something you loved in life” hit with an extra power. While his lyrics are always somewhat esoteric, there’s a clear thruline in this track about finding something meaningful in your life that anyone could connect with.
3. Frank Turner – A Wave Across a Bay
While Frank Turner‘s latest album was filled with fast, hard punk bangers, nothing on the album hit quite as hard as his emotional tribute to his friend, the late Frightened Rabbits frontman, Scott Hutchinson. What Turner does so beautifully here is to not only remember his friend, but to attempt to empathize with the troubled singer, and parce out some sense of serenity from Hutchinson’s suicide. As Turner sings “There must have been a moment /Just before you hit the water/ When you were filled with a sense of peace and understanding/ With the wind in your hair And the light in your eyes/ As you realized you were finally escaping”, it’s hard not to picture Hutchinson’s potential final moments diving into the water where he drowned, and finding some comfort in the end to his troubles. Most importantly though, Turner remembers his friend “always smiling”, contradicting the reality of the demons that haunted him. Ultimately, the song doesn’t attempt to conclude any easy answers; it’s simply Turner’s beautiful way of saying “I miss you” to someone lost too soon.
4. Gang of Youths – Forbearance
To say there’s a lot to unpack in “Forbearance” is an understatement, but it’s also what makes the song so incredible. While angel in realtime was filled with stand-out tracks, none was quite as haunting as this track, especially once you learn the story behind it. Told from the point of view of singer David Le’aupepe as he sits by the hospice bed of his dying the father, the track not only tackles his grief, but also his own regrets from a past suicide attempt (“If the whole thing was fair/ It would be me that was fighting for air”), and a pang of survivor’s guilt from it. Le’aupepe’s storytelling is breathtaking and painfully honest (“I just wish that I’d said/ Something more than I’d be back in ten
And if I went there in time/ I’d take a second to go and kiss you goodbye”), but most miraculously, as he accepts “the world is not done with me”, it becomes a universal reminder that we can all move forward and on from the worst the world throws at us. Also, the song gets points for throwing in a Simpsons reference.
5. Arkells – Past Life (feat. Cold War Kids)
Arkells released what we believed was the best album of 2021, so the fact that they could return just a year later and have another banger like “Past Life” up their sleeve is astounding. And to make it extra scrumptious, they recruited California indie-rock heroes Cold War Kids to join them on this upbeat, 80’s flavored jam. While the number of references to The Wallflowers (“I’m a little wallflower singing “One Headlight”) will certainly grab your attention at first, it’s the chorus that really hits home (“I want to live this life instead”). There’s so much positive energy in this song, it would make you want to dance even if it didn’t pack as much of a groove as it does.
6. The Hu – Triangle
Mongolia’s premiere folk metal band The Hu returned this year with another album featuring their signature throat singing combined with heavy riffs and eclectic instrumentation. And while many of the songs on the album definitely felt like a “rumble of thunder”, it was the jaunty, folk dance song “Triangle” that had me moving my feet. I have no idea what the song is about (I have yet to find an English translation of the lyrics) but honestly one is not needed to enjoy the sing-song cadence and hand clapping/foot stomping melody of the track. Never have I wanted to break out my silliest dance moves than when listening to this track, which put me in a great mood any instant it came on.
7. Calexico – Harness the Wind
The Arizona-based Tex Mex indie rockers have never sounded more like themselves on this arid, celestial single. The tropical guitar line immediately takes you to an exotic location, whether a blue sky desert horizon or a Caribbean island. There’s a philosophical bent in the lyrics (“You get so high/ Don’t wanna come back down/ to a world of problems with answers/ never found”), but it’s all in service to the exploration of a romance on the brink (“If our worlds don’t collide/ is there a chance for you and I?”). The humid harmonies are pitch perfect, bringing out the sadness in the lyrics that plays off the bristling melody. The song plays to all of the group’s strengths and becomes one of their best songs to date.
8. The Interrupters – Raised by Wolves
“You left a child out in the wild, and I was raised by wolves” sings Aimee Interrupter in this rocking single from their latest album In the Wild. Addressing her father’s abandonment of her family, the band turns what could have been a pity party into an empowering anthem about survival and forgiveness; “My teeth got sharper, my skin got tough/ So I forgive you for your giving up”. Filled with wolf howls and raging riffs, the song storms through the pain and anger at its core into clear skies of strength.
9. Eddie Vedder – Try
In his long career, Eddie Vedder has written songs of power, songs of mercy, songs of revelation, songs of devastation. With “Try”, he sounds like he’s finally written a song of fun. Attacked with a punkish energy over a blistering harmonica (courtesy of the great Stevie Wonder), Vedder sounds like he’s having a blast here, and it’s hard not to share his excitement when listening to it. The drums are in high gear from the offset, and the guitars are chock full of Ramones inspiration, but it’s Vedder, smiling through the song, that completes the formula.
10. Guise – Don’t Come Back
The second great new discovery of 2022 was Jessica Guise (aka Guise). What first struck me was her voice; Guise has a timbre that almost sounds more suited for musical theater, but which works surprisingly well on her folk rock songs. Her upper-registry lilt on “Don’t Come Back” helps disguise the shade given to the former lover at the heart of the song with a spritely innocence. The song’s chorus has a wonderful, doo-wop inspired bounce to it that easily gets stuck in your head, and there’s a warmth to the production of the track which gives the song a comforting base throughout. Also fun fact: Guise is married to Frank Turner (who has our #3 song of the year). Damn talented couple.
11. Lit – Kicked Off the Plane
Late-90’s rocker write the spiritual follow-up to “My Own Worst Enemy”; a self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek rocker about stupid drunken mistakes.
12. Simple Plan – Congratulations
Canadian pop-punks write one of the catchiest kiss-off tracks of their 20+ year career.
13. Sunliner – Jo, Joni, Mary & Maria
UK punks write a song of praise for staying true to yourself at the cost of fame; “And they may never know your name, but you’ve got your integrity. That’s more than me.”
14. Sea Girls – Lonely
Smooth, soulful and hook-filled Britpop full of love and longing; “I get a little bit lonely when I’m not with you”.
15. Bedouin Soundclash – Walk Through Fire (Feat. Aimee Interrupter)
Excellent folk-ska blend about overcoming adversity, with a deft feature from the current queen of ska-punk giving the track that extra heft.
16. Kendrick Lamar – Mother I Sober (feat. Beth Gibbons)
Lamar addresses his past trauma and breaking the cycle in this devastatingly powerful track.
17. Coheed & Cambria – The Liars Club
Prog-emo masters filter their latest sci-fi storytelling through a stadium-sized anthem.
18. A Wilhelm Scream – GIMMETHESHAKES
Hyperactive punk rock filled with harmony-laden sing-along lines and a John Mellencamp reference that will certainly get any circle pit fired up.
19. Jimmy Eat World – Something Loud
Jimmy channel the best of 80’s hair metal in this fist-pumping, power-rock banger.
20. Yungblud – The Funeral
On this swinging track, Yungblud will make you want to dance everywhere (even at a funeral).
21. Onelinedrawing – Worry is a Habit
Big soaring emo rock from a scene veteran.
22. King Princess – Little Bother (feat. Foushee)
Moving and thoughtful processing of a failed relationship through a lush alt-pop window to the past.
23. The Wonder Years – Oldest Daughter
A lovelorn farewell to a troubled ex lost to the world from these nu-school punks.
24. Black Thought x Danger Mouse – Strangers (feat. A$AP Rocky and Run the Jewels)
Killer, soulful rap with dangerously great guest verses from two of hip-hops greats.
25. Surf Curse – Sugar
A rock n’ roll rallying cry for a little love and affection.
26. Florence + the Machine – Free
Florence dances away her anxieties on this cathartic new song.
27. Mondo Cozmo – WW3
The Los Angeles indie rock songwriter compares a fractious relationship to a war on this somber yet hopeful track.
28. Eve 6 – Mr. Darkside
The 90’s alt rockers continue their renaissance with this epic blast of sunny power pop.
29. Caleb Kunle – All In Your Head
The Irish by way of Nigeria faces his doubts on this 60’s-inspired R&B/soul number.
30. Ace Hood – Greatness (feat. Killer Mike)
The rapper recounts his struggles towards achieving greatness on this powerful, uplifting track.
31. Motor Sister – Sooner or Later
Elements of Meat Loaf, Thin Lizzy and Bachman Turner Overdrive can all be heard in this classic-sounding heartland rocker.
32. Christian Lee Hutson – Rubberneckers
Hutson tries to convince us and himself that he’ll be okay “with our without you” in this clever and weighty piece of indie rock songwriting.
33. Craig Finn – Messing With the Settings
His storytelling prowess on full display once again, the Hold Steady frontman shares a eulogy for a former drug buddy.
34. Steve Lacy – Mercury
While “Bad Habits” was his break-out hit, “Mercury” showed off Lacy’s experimental side with Latin rhythms, cowbell and a sultry R&B delivery.
35. Pixy Jones – I’m Not There
The Walrus-Masked singer/guitarist channels 60’s psycho-pop perfection in this hazy retro single.
36. Unwritten Law – Beggars
“Took a trip down to New Orleans. I’ve been drinking from the skulls of my enemies” – if that first line doesn’t manage to grab you, the versatile drumming and Scott Russo’s dark, barroom rock melodies certainly will.
37. Panic! at the Disco – Middle of a Breakup
Rediscovering the lost sound of guitar pomp that bands like Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy did so well, Brendan Urie is in top form with this ode make-up sex.
38. Matt Nathanson – German Cars
A touching acoustic love song (“I’m never gonna forget your name. Never see the world quite the same”) that’s destined to soundtrack a million future teen romances.
39. Lee Bains + The Glory Fires – Lizard People
Bains takes aim at racists, bigots and conspiracy theorists on this fiery folk punk screed.
40. Panda Bear x Sonic Boom – Edge of the Edge
Sounding like a lost Beach Boys song, this beach-ready alt pop track is filled with the kind of vocal harmonies and layering that would make Brian Wilson smile.
41. Dehd – Bad Love
A head-bobbing, endlessly catchy search for love and redemption from these up-and-coming alt pop rockers.
42. John Mellencamp – A Life Full of Rain (feat. Bruce Springsteen)
The classic Indiana rocker is joined by the New Jersey icon on this stark, piano-driven lament about facing the consequences of life-long choices
43. Samiam – Lights Out Little Hustler
The underrated NorCal punks return with another heart-wrenching tale of disconnection.
44. The Dead Bolts – The Throes
These indie rockers shoot out some new wave guitars over their Kings of Leon-swagger on a track that should be blasting through jukeboxes nationwide.
45. Marcus Mumford – Better Off High
“Better off hiiiiigh than dead” Mumford sings, building up to a truly life-bringing chorus that rocks harder than most people would expect from the folk-leaning troubadour.
46. Broken Bells – We’re Not in Orbit Yet
Cosmic psych-soul that will make you drift away into your own private nirvana.
47. Takuya Kuroda – Time Coil
A funky, horn-led jazz jam from one of the scene’s rising stars.
48. Jimmy Cliff – Bridges
The reggae icon drops one of his most powerful ballads ever, showing his voice is still full of soul.
49. BLACKSTARKIDS – Boycott
The genre-bending trio tackle police violence and the current state of life for young black people in this vibrant, hip-hop/pop-punk banger.
50. Tears for Fears – Rivers of Mercy
While their enduring hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” went viral this year, the 80’s hitmakers were releasing their long-awaited new album, with this somber and soothing stand-out on it.
Find all of these amazing tracks in our Top Songs of 2022 Playlist on Spotify or Apple Music!
Our thanks and love to all of the incredible artists who released music this year. We know how tough it is out there, but please know your musical contributions to the world do not go unappreciated or unheard. Keep releasing great music, and I promise we’ll keep supporting you!