A bit more than a baker’s dozen, here are 22 alternative songs in 2022 out of a few thousand that I listened to this year. Most have streams of the full songs that you can play right from your phone. I hope you fall in love with them and buy them!
First things first, these are in no real order other than what I can readily find on my Best Songs list on Evernote and scrolling through downloads or discs I’ve already bought. It’s a mess, frankly, but I’m going to try and bring some order to the chaos. And for you, that means curated top shelf listening. Most, not all, are not from albums that will end up on my Top 10 or 20 list. But they’re all amaze.
These 22 alternative songs in 2022 are numbered, but just help me keep track of when I get to 22 tunes. They are not in order of preference or awesomeness!
1. “Wild” – Spoon (Lucifer on the Sofa)
How many bands can compare to Spoon, album for album, for almost 30 years? It’s rarified air. Having said that I liked, didn’t love, Lucifer on the Sofa. Several bangers, and Spoon remain an American original. Here is early single “Wild,” which I cannot be on drugs, is an absolute straight-up tribute to INXS.
I can’t imagine a better way to start a list of the best alternative songs in 2022.
HOLD ON A SECOND BUSTER! Check out these top songs already out in the New Year…you’ll love them!
2. “(Wishing I Had) Tickets for Saint Etienne” – The Photocopies (Holiday Romance EP)
Michigan-by-London songwriter Sean Turner has released probably 100 songs as The Photocopies since the start of the year. They come in batches of singles, b-sides, EP’s, full-lengths and remixes.
I’m feeling guilty enough not including the Holiday Romance EP among my favorite EP’s of 2022 — an oversight — that I want to highlight “Saint Etienne” from that EP. Fuzzy jangle pop without fuss or needless ambition. Just a perfect pop song, like almost everything Turner does.
3. “Wrong Side of the Sun” – Best Bets (On An Unhistoric Night)
Voted by me the #1 song to see live in 2022, I present Best Bets‘ “Wrong Side of the Sun.” They must call the riot police and water cannons when the kids hear this insanely catchy chorus. Growing out of New Zealands’ Transistors, Best Bets rockin’ On An Unhistoric Night belongs on the shelf of every post punk fan of The Ramones or Replacements.
Has to be one of the catchiest alternative songs in 2022. Hit play and rock.
Release your inner 19-year-old with Meritorio Records’ “On An Unhistoric Night.“
4. “Dressed in Black” – Ezra Furman (All of Us Flames)
I ultimately didn’t put All of Us Flames on my list of records to buy this year. You can’t own everything.
But I love this musky 60’s love song, “Dressed in Black.” Transgender woman Ezra Furman’s lyrics throughout reflect darker tensions of love, sex and gender. The album is sometimes distorted and menacing but still frequently reinterprets AOR.
5. “End of the Empire IV (Sagittarius)” – Arcade Fire (WE)
Arcade Fire’s 6th album WE adds to the Montreal legends’ nearly 20-year legacy since the influential Funeral, Neon Bible and The Suburbs. It will also inevitably be conflated with the allegations of sexual misconduct by founder Win Butler. When looking for top alternative songs in 2022, WE has moments, if not the consistency of their early records.
The instrumentation and art rock arrangements, like the 4-part “End of the Empire” sound very much like The Flaming Lips here.
OBVIOUSLY you need to critique my Top 20 albums of 2022. Listen, comment and disagree!
6. “Old Picture of Ourselves” – The Boys with the Perpetual Nervousness (The Third Wave of…)
Next, a multi-continent jangle pop supergroup of sorts, The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness may actually end up on my best album list. But I had to share one of their songs from The Third Wave of… TBWTPN are Scotland’s Andrew Taylor, also in Dropkick…and Spain’s Gonzalo Marcos, who plays in El Palacio de Linares. (Note to self: check out El Palacio de Linares.!)
For fans of Teenage Fanclub and lovers of all things jangle.
Do you dig it?! Buy The Boys third album from Bobo Integral Records!
7. “Sick of Everything” – Gorgeous Bully (Am I Really Going to Die Here)
Daniel Johnston, exemplar of melodic sincerity to Kurt Cobain and Yo La Tengo, grew up in West Virginia and is revered in many circles as an Appalachian prodigy. An acquaintance of mine actually gave him a place to live in the late 80’s. This was either before or during some of Johnston’s drug use and increasing mental health struggles, which eventually saw him committed.
Does Manchester’s Gorgeous Bully mimic Johnston’s arch low fidelity cassette recordings? Mostly, no. GB builds more traditional song structures of bedroom pop. The lo-fi soundscapes and lyrics are relatively dynamic compared to Johnston’s arrested development.
And Thomas Crang recognizes a pop hook when he finds it. “Sick of Everything,” originally a 2021 single, is a cleaned-up version of Gorgeous Bully that leads off 2022’s Am I Really Going to Die Here. Just 90 seconds makes it one of the top alternative songs in 2022.
Johnston and GB do share a bit of the same strumming DNA that you can hear in some of Johnston’s touching live performances. Also you can watch the excellent The Devil and Daniel Johnston on Amazon.
Okay kids HERE THEY ARE: The very best songs from summer 2022! Listen and tell me I’m wrong!
8. “Watercolours” – Neil Brogan (Things Keep Getting in the Way)
Irish musician, host of this year’s new music podcast Brogan’s Run and former Sea Pinks lead Neil Brogan writes perfect, economical guitar pop on his new album Things Keep Getting in the Way. Brogan will take you back to pristine 90’s indie pop like The Lucksmiths and Trash Can Sinatras.
Download your ray of sunshine from 2022 with Neil Brogan’s Things Getting in the Way.
9. “Our Songbird Has Gone” – The Chesterf¡elds (New Modern Homes)
Let’s stay in this tasty indie pop space for a moment so that I can share one of my very favorite songs of the last year.
Cult favorites The Chesterf¡elds reunited in 2022, despite the untimely death of their band mate Davy Chesterfield in 2003. This delightful tribute to Chesterfield namechecks and evokes everything about C86 bands that birthed The Chesterf¡elds nearly 40 years ago.
Clearly one of the best alternative songs in 2022. I have probably sung the chorus to “Our Songbird” in my car more than any other this year.
10. “Pana-vision” – The Smile (A Light for Attracting Attention)
In the winter and spring of 2022, I bought a clutch of new releases by well-known artists sight unseen. I rarely do that — I sample almost everything. However, a few artists I will buy on faith. As it turned out, I was unimpressed by many of them…including The Smile’s A Light for Attracting Attention.
This summer, a friend persuaded me to revisit The Smile and some of my other impetuous purchases. I can report, of the 4 or 5 discs, I was most glad to return to The Smile. I had listened to Attention probably a half dozen times on earbuds. This is a terrible way to consume dense production, particularly a Radiohead side project.
In the end, however, the sum is less than the parts.
Thom Yorke is one of the two or three most influential songwriters of the last 50 years, so I think it’s fair to hold him to a high standard. Attention is front-loaded and musical ideas are hit or miss after the first five tracks. Attention reminds me of Yorke’s debut solo The Eraser in some ways. Tom Skinner’s complex syncopation is a revelation and it is rewarding to hear Jonny Greenwood playing guitar again for God’s sake.
Ironically, though, my favorite songs are keyboard numbers…”Open the Floodgates” and April single “Pana-vision.”
11. “No End to Love” – Orlando Weeks (Hop Up)
Don’t let the absence of blog coverage of Maccabee’s singer Orlando Weeks dissuade you from buying his second solo, Hop Up. Brimming with the joys of fatherhood and watching his young son emerge as a new personality, it is far too loving and un-ironic for beat hipsters to tolerate. The album has been criminally ignored.
Light as air and irrepressible with new life, it is impossible not to hear Roxy Music’s Avalon on songs like “No End to Love.”
12. “I Wish I” – Arlo McKinley (This Mess We’re In)
It has been a damn fine year for alternative country. New music by Wilco and genre-defining releases by Big Thief and Angel Olsen…what a time to be alive!
My favorite show of the year, not even close, was Cincinnati’s Arlo McKinley playing This Mess We’re In at Salt Lake City’s Urban Lounge. One of several highlights was “I Wish I,” as McKinley narrated the eternal tension between the comfort of known things and the progress of growing old.
“I Wish I” lyrics
Thinking about settling up,
Kicking off the dust,
Removing all the rust that keeps me still.
I think it’s my time to go.
Say goodbye to everyone I know
And I hope someday I’ll be forgiven
For the bonds that I broke.
I wish I could take you with me,
But this road I must walk alone.
I gotta get out of the city.
I gotta lose myself just to find my way back home.
Every song, like “I Wish I,” on This Mess We’re In is genuine and moving.
This may be another album that creeps into my Top 20 of the year. Indulge your inner Southerner this Christmas with This Mess We’re In.
SPOILER ALERT! Arlo McKinley (above) gets more love in my top 7 alt country albums of 2022 (:
I would like to personally nominate alt country 2022 as one of the recent best…Keep reading
13. “Teeth” – Perfume Genius (Ugly Season)
I’m a little late to the Perfume Genius party but was quite enthralled by his 5th album, 2020’s Set My Heart on Fire Immediately. For fans looking for relatively simple song structures after that album, Ugly Season may not satisfy. The album is a score to the dance performance The Sun Still Burns Here. Much of it reflects the abstraction of dance.
I try to post only audio streams but here you’ll need to rely on the video. The brittle melody and especially Mike Hadreas’ delicate falsetto are a marvel that place it among the top alternative songs in 2022.
Ugly Season, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately and other Perfume Genius items are available to buy at his website.
14. “Windowpane” – Aluminum (Windowpane EP)
San Francisco’s gazey power pop outfit Aluminum released the Windowpane EP about two months ago. Their guitar pop and electronica is smartly interspersed with pedals worthy of My Bloody Valentine. For examples, listen to “Solar” and early single, “Windowpane.”
15. “Celebran Por Nosotros” – Mañana el Espacio (Casi Nada es Para Siempre)
How have I gotten this far into my list of alternative songs in 2022 without a Spanish language tune? This is like my signature thing now, and I speak barely a word of Spanish beyond “carnita.” Stupid American.
This year I’ve absolutely fallen in love with bands like Mañana el Espacio (South America) and Torres Satélite (Spain). It is so connecting and universal — and something needed right now — to know that Mañana singer Ricardo José Vergara is creating these pop gems, possibly raised on the same Sonic Youth records as you and me.
“Celebran Por Nosotros” lyrics
Ricardo is a gifted lyricist and has been kind enough to send the translation for his lovely album Casi Nada es Para Siempre. He plans to post them on Musixmatch and Spotify as well. The translated opening of “Celebran Por Nosotros”…
We watch the stars mutliply.
The city looks peaceful from here.
The moment is unforgettable
But I’ll have to wake up.
Color gets all over our faces.
I’m sure better times will come
I ask myself,
Do they celebrate for us?
Is that why they’re lighting the city up?
Or is it my imagination?
Is that why they’re lighting the city up?
Or is it my imagination?
Okay I’m going to cheat on my 22 songs and drop an extra Mañana song here, because they range way outside of shoegaze to the most delightful indie pop. Check out the crazy flanged guitar at the end of “Yo No Ma Haces Falta,” (“I Don’t Need You Anymore.”)
Buy Manan’s Casi Nada es Para Siempre from Bandcamp. ¡Es excelente!
16. “Dreamin of the Past” – Pusha T (It’s Almost Dry)
Kids I have to tell you.
As I wind into my 50’s, it is harder to find hardcore bands or rap music that I authentically connect with. Possibly, just possibly, I’m not the target audience. But I did find a few hip hop releases that I liked which specifically DID NOT include Kendrick Lamar. Both Radiohead and Lamar could publish 50 minutes of fax noise and the bloggers swoon.
I did super enjoy Pusha T’s “Dreamin of the Past,” which he did on Fallon in the spring. Hiphopdx recounts Pusha T’s story to Charlamagne Tha God about how he persuaded Kanye West to let him release Ye’s beat on King Push’s It’s Almost Dry instead of last year’s Donda.
“I begged for the beat,” he said. “It was just one of those ones that I kept going back to and was like, ‘Listen, man, I need this. I need this record.’ And I was like, ‘You know what? You should be on the record too.’ That’s the compromise.”
Here is “Dreamin of the Past” featuring a few bars of Kanye at the end as “the compromise.”
You can buy “It’s Almost Dry” from just about any store on Earth.
17. “Coke Jaw” – Infinity Knives and Brian Ennals (King Cobra)
Let’s establish up front that by posting two hip hop songs in a row, I am in no way implying I have street cred in urban music. But I really did sample a good bit of rap this year. Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals is one I want to spend a little more time with before the end of the year for my favorite albums list.
These guys have all the buzzy descriptions, experimental hip hop…fusion. It’s a bit hard to categorize but I kind of dig it. Infinity Knives (NPR’s Tariq Ravelomanana) provides the electronics and Baltimore’s Brian Ennals brings the rhymes. If there is a bridge too far, it is incorporating Infinity Knives’ orchestration into the album and not hearing them simply as interludes.
“Coke Jaw” is a good example of the mashup that makes them so different.
18. “Doers” – Bodega (Broken Equipment)
“Doers” is the maddeningly catchy portrait of modern life by Brooklyn punks Bodega. I bought Broken Equipment early in 2022. It was such a joy to come back to it tonight and hear the ramped intensity in “Doers,” the extension beyond sprechgesang.
If “this “Doers” doesn’t encapsulate work life in 2022, I don’t know what does:
Ten minutes : calendar
10 minutes : Bandcamp
Ten minutes : wiki browse
10 minutes: planning my next ten minutes
It’s all about auto bio of Benjamin.
Ten minutes: Ted talk
10 minutes: Notepad
Ten minutes: Amazon
10 minutes : planning my next ten minutes
To thine own shelf be true.
This city’s made for the doers. The movers. shakers. Non-connoisseurs.
This city’s made for the doers. The humors. Tubers. entrepreneurs.
You didn’t know you needed Bodega until you heard “Doers.” An angry song for angry times, as we explore the best alternative songs in 2022.
19. “Backseat Politic” – Eades (Delusion Spree)
Can we give a song one minute to build in 2022?
Look, I’m not entirely crazy about the arrangement on “Backseat Politic” but behold Mike Ness fans, the locomotive of fun that Leeds’ post punk bank Eades creates on Delusion Spree. Give them just. one. minute. and dig the groove. More mathy than Social Distortion but HOLY CATS what a churning beat on that chorus!
20. “Shotgun” – Soccer Mommy (Sometimes, Forever)
Sophie Allison checks all the boxes.
Her songs are indie perfect, cagey and cynical. On Sometimes, Forever she has sharpened her hooks and her knives. Both “newdemo” and “Shotgun” show off the singer-songwriter who has emerged since 2018’s Clean. “Shotgun” also displays Allison’s sweeping hooks and Soccer Mommy at her most accessible.
21. “Fatal Folly” – The Silent Boys (Sand to Pearls, Coal to Diamonds)
A late entrant on my best music dashboard this year, Sand to Pearls, Coal to Diamonds came out November 4. Richmond, Virginia indie pop veterans The Silent Boys’ ninth album is getting tons of recognition that it rightly deserves. A little twee, a lot of jangle, The Silent Boys hit on just about every song here.
If you don’t fall in love with the simple joy of “Fatal Folly,” then we have nothing further to discuss.
You can buy the digital release from the band or get the disc from French label Too Good to be True Records.
22. “Velvet Sun” – Semiwestern (single)
Finally, my last song for you is a bit of a cheat. I found out this weekend it was originally released a decade ago.
Still, I could listen to this November single by Semiwestern 1,000 times and still feel teary about it. The haunting guitar on the chorus to “Velvet Sea” hearkens to Dean Wareham’s post-Galaxie 500 luminaries Luna. The transcendent line hits at 1:15. It is guaranteed to be the best five minutes of your 2022.
That said, I learned from The Google that this is a remix of an earlier “Velvet Sun” released in 2012 by Austin’s The Vliets. Semiwestern is the new incarnation of The Vliets (pronounced VLEETS).
I’ll touch on two things. First, by any measure this remix is a superior, more mature and elegant version of the original. BUY IT! Second, ten years later, it begs the question: Why now? Should we look forward to a longer release from Semiwestern soon? No word yet from California lo-fi label Spirit Goth but I will let you know!
A boy can dream, can’t he?