The 50 Best Songs of 2022 (So Far)

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The 50 Best Songs of 2022 (So Far)

What’s the single best song of 2022 so far? It’s a staggering question, the kind only a true music obsessive can answer with any modicum of earned confidence. Dozens of albums come out each week, with, say, 10 tracks on each, hundreds of songs quickly becoming thousands … the mind reels at the sheer volume of it all, even only at the midyear mark. But numbers are for commerce—this is art we’re talking about, and with the help of our dogged, passionate contributors, the Paste Music team has narrowed that multitude of tracks down to our foremost favorites of the year.

Like last week’s ranking of the year’s best albums (so far), this list has doubled in size from the 25 picks of past years. You’d think upping the ante like that would help us avoid the tough decisions—no such luck. It’s really most akin to kicking the can down the road, delaying the inevitable agony that comes with locking in those last few slots, let alone finding the order of it all. (This, to be clear, is a phenomenal problem to have.) Ultimately, the ranks themselves mean very little! What matters is that we uplift this music, and share it with Paste readers like you. We’ve experienced and appreciated these songs already, and will continue to—now it’s your turn.

As our list of albums also illustrated, 2022 has been a special year for music. Indie darlings Big Thief released a bountiful, career-best double album; Spoon, Beach House and Pusha T continued their remarkable consistency streaks; Radiohead were reborn as The Smile; Ethel Cain, Wet Leg and Momma took off like rockets; Caroline Polachek, Doss, and Dazy & Militarie Gun only needed one-off singles to make their mark. That’s just a handful of the artists responsible for Paste Music’s favorite songs of the year so far—join us in celebrating the rest below.

Listen to our Best Songs of 2022 (So Far) playlist on Spotify right here.

50. Camp Trash: “Let It Ride”

Florida rockers Camp Trash first made waves in 2021 with their acclaimed debut EP Downtiming, and now the wait for their first full-length is over. The Long Way, The Slow Way arrived July 1 on Count Your Lucky Stars, just in time for summer. Lead single “Let It Ride” felt like a statement of intent: Camp Trash are going their own way, however long and slow it may be, and they’re not looking back. “My best, I guess, ‘no excuses and no regrets’ / Keep no record of wrong or the money I spent,” sings vocalist and guitarist Bryan Gorman. Crunching power chords from Gorman and guitarist (and Paste contributor) Keegan Bradford move in lockstep with Levi Bradford and Alex Roberts’ low end, with backing harmonies and searing riffs seeing the track through its anthemic crescendo. Camp Trash couch their all-too-relatable struggles “to feel less insane” in relentlessly hooky guitar-rock that feels nostalgic and new at the same time. —Scott Russell

49. Dehd: “Bad Love”

The first glimpse listeners got of Blue Skies, “Bad Love” is a baptism. The rapturous comeback track kicks off Dehd’s new era with Emily Kempf fleeing the false love she fell for in the past. Following Flower of Devotion, on which Kempf and Jason Balla were still navigating their new, post-breakup friendship with each other, the album still ruminated on the past (see “Letter,” in which Kempf sings “I was there first / Yeah, you’re just following me / Good luck with that, girl / I’m a tough act to beat”), whereas “Bad Love” rejoices in having a clean slate. Instead of rehashing old relationships, Kempf finds inspiration elsewhere as she breathlessly pursues someone new: “Forgive me give it to me / Tell me what to do tell me what to do to keep it / I need your lovin / I wanna be your honey.” Leaning into the revitalizing strength and purifying power of a new love, the song feels like a long-awaited shot at redemption after the complex territory that Dehd’s past discography covered. —Samantha Sullivan

48. Ho99o9: “NUGE SNIGHT”

Ho99o9 (pronounced “horror”) evade all expectations, blurring the lines even further between electronic, hip-hop and hardcore. SKIN’s raucous opener “NUGE SNIGHT” is confrontational, raw and loud. It starts off guns-ablaze, with multiple twists and turns. Staticky feedback makes way for visceral shrieks, guttural vocals and a slick transition into a trap-inspired breakdown. Ho99o9 snarl in your face with a bloody, toothless smile as the ear-shattering chaos of “NUGE SNIGHT” rages on. —Jade Gomez

47. Hovvdy: “Town”

Hovvdy’s Charlie Martin noted that there was “catharsis in almost every layer” of their April single “Town,” saying in a statement, “The song’s meaning isn’t terribly specific, but for me it’s about missing your friends and hoping they miss you.” The first song Martin and bandmate Will Taylor shared that was recorded after the sessions for 2021’s True Love, it bears the hallmarks of the cozy DIY twang they’ve pretty much mastered since their 2016 debut. Mellotron strings and differing melodies sung like a round wash over the outro, letting each new sonic texture communicate the catharsis Martin and Taylor wanted to convey. It’s proof that the duo still have a knack for capturing intimate moments within scenes that are universal, making it seem like you’re tuned into a familiar conversation between friends that you could fall asleep to because of how comfortable it all feels. —Elise Soutar

46. Another Michael: “Water Pressure”

Another Michael’s sole new single of 2022 so far, “Water Pressure” follows the Philadelphia-based band’s acclaimed first full-length New Music and Big Pop, which Paste praised as one of 2021’s best debut albums. “Water Pressure” is a lovely, acoustic guitar-driven tune that radiates gratitude and acceptance, zeroing in on those small, fleeting moments when everything just feels right. “One thing’s for sure, I sure am lucky / This is who I’m gonna be,” Michael Doherty begins, harmonizing beautifully with Alenni Davis over their cheery strums and Nick Sebastiano’s steady bass. “I’m just burning up some CDs for my friends / Icing up my broken heart again,” Doherty and Davis sing as the song moves through its heartfelt highs and lows, soaking up each flicker of joy while always wondering, “Why do good times sneak up on me?” —Scott Russell

45. Scott Hardware: “Watersnake”

Toronto-based musician Scott Harwood has been releasing compelling art-pop under the moniker Scott Hardware since 2016, and this year, he released his third full-length album, Ballad of a Tryhard. The project’s lush second single “Watersnake” finds him staring down the foe he compares to the titular animal, all while backed by a sea of breezy guitars and soaring strings, which propel his voice forward. “Take the snake from the water please,” he begs as angelic backing voices carry the sentiment over dense layers of instrumentation, making it sound more like a demand than a plea. What appears to be a beautiful haze of overlapping melodies quickly reveals itself as a warning with weight behind it. On “Watersnake” (and Ballad of a Tryhard as a whole), Hardware makes a compelling case for what he calls his aim to create a “reimagination of experimental adult contemporary.” Few things released under the banner of adult contemporary have sounded as intricate as this. —Elise Soutar

44. Chat Pile: “Slaughterhouse”

There’s something about the Midwest that breeds such dark, twisted music. Oklahoma City’s Chat Pile can be added to that roster. “Slaughterhouse,” the scathing lead single of their forthcoming debut God’s Country, is breathtaking. Vocalist Raygun Busch’s desperate wails and growls evoke an ugly, gruesome transformation scene. Chat Pile stare in the face of God and spit into it, taking upon the gritty nihilism of hardcore legends Man is the Bastard with the chaotic sonic inclination of The Jesus Lizard and Daughters. “All the blood / And the fuckin’ sound, man / You never forget their eyes … There’s more screaming than you’d think,” paints a bleak, gruesome picture of American life and monotony that is most honestly captured in dispatches from those existing on society’s margins. Chat Pile turn the repulsive into something tangible, and it’s as nostalgic as it is wholly original. —Jade Gomez

43. Real Lies feat. Zoee: “An Oral History of My First Kiss”

London dance-pop duo Real Lies—vocalist Kevin Lee Kharas and producer Patrick King—are on a roll on their sophomore album Lad Ash, reeling off tracks capable of transforming any room into a packed club at peak hours. “An Oral History of My First Kiss” finds Kharas and London pop artist Zoee tapping into what Kharas calls “that sense of being young and stuck somewhere, waiting for something to happen” over a bouncy King beat, busy drums and claps colliding with synths both ethereal and staccato. Halfway through, the song gets pulled apart and Kharas steps into the silence, speak-singing his way back into that moment with “that girl with the hot pink clipper and the stolen cigarettes, ’round the back of a perfume shop in the rain.” It’s a transportive combination of intimate lyricism and escapist instrumentation, like dancing through the middle of someone else’s cherished memory. “Now I don’t know where you are and I heard you’re digging for the dent / But I still write your name whenever I see wet cement,” Zoee concludes, still channeling that sense of youthful wonder and romance that struck Kharas like lightning. —Scott Russell

42. black midi: “Welcome to Hell”

The inimitable black midi are back again, having announced their third album Hellfire (July 15, Rough Trade) just shy of a year after the release of their second, and shared the video for its ominously titled lead single, “Welcome to Hell.” Telling the stories of “morally suspect characters” in the first-person, the album reckons with “overlapping themes of pain, loss and anguish,” per a press release. “If Cavalcade was a drama, Hellfire is like an epic action film,” says frontman Geordie Greep in a statement. In its lead single, black midi render “the story of a shell shocked soldier’s excess and military discharge” via the kind of theatrical, shape-shifting rock they’re known for, considering “The massacres of ages / Too many to recall,” as Greep croaks, through the lens of Private Tristan Bongo. About two-thirds of the way through, the track takes a turn for the nightmarish, accelerating into full-blown thrash as Greep’s praise for our good soldier becomes condemnation: “You’re lucky I don’t shoot on the spot / Bullets were made for men like you / The impotent idiots God forgot.” A fleeting euphoric high collapses back into black midi’s guttural squalls and stomps, ending the song right where it began. —Scott Russell

41. Animal Collective: “Strung with Everything”

There’s a lot of looking backwards on Time Skiffs, and at worst, one could argue that the sound palette comprising it doesn’t allow the album to serve as a vessel for Animal Collective’s typically visceral and surprising styles of songwriting. But this claim is countered by “Strung With Everything,” one of the most exciting, ecstatic and enchanting songs the band have released in years. Slowly evolving from a sort of Hawaiian-flavored mix of harmonies, the track morphs into an impassioned explosion of keys, vocals and an evolution of Panda Bear’s inimitable, passionately intense style of drumming. The scene is familiar for fans of the band: Amidst a raucous display of joyful instrumentation, wistful voices build into harmonies while Avey Tare paints a picture of the sky expressing itself in different colors and shades, finding a unity within himself in that dynamic presentation. —Jason Friedman

40. SASAMI: “Say It”

SASAMI (singer/songwriter and producer Sasami Ashworth) shared the mercurial “Say It” as the third single from Squeeze, describing it as “a rage anthem dance track about spinning out because someone isn’t communicating with you. I feel like when I hear the song I see a hot femme with a mystical flamethrower engulfed in emotional blue flames throwing elbows alone in an industrial dance club in outer space.” That checks out, honestly: Like “The Greatest” and “Skin a Rat” before it, “Say It” exemplifies how SASAMI obliterates—let alone pushes—her creative boundaries on Squeeze, melding styles with shocking fluidity. The track’s pounding industrial drum track and guitar chug are as heavy as SASAMI’s hooky chorus vocals are light, each disparate element enriched by its juxtaposition with the other. —Scott Russell

39. Harry Styles: “As It Was”

Where “Watermelon Sugar” clawed and fought its way up the Billboard charts for nearly a year after Fine Line’s release, “As It Was” was born with a silver spoon in its mouth, set to be a bonafide #1 hit before it even hit streaming services in April 2022—and rightfully so. Our first glimpse into Harry Styles’ newest era, where he is fully immersed in his own flamboyant intricacies, the song is a thoughtful rumination on the exhaustion that stems from not enough love and too much fame. The immediate popularity of the song speaks, at least in part, to everyone finally arriving to the Styles party, but recency bias be damned: May we forever be entrenched in the hype of this deeply personal, triumphant and tightly arranged document of dance-floor pop. The drums sound like the best parts of The Strokes’ discography; Styles plays tubular bells; the whole thing is boldly vulnerable. “Answer the phone / Harry, you’re no good alone,” Styles rings out in the second verse, as he combs a heap of personal trauma into a synthy, hook-heavy anthem. —Matt Mitchell

38. Father John Misty: “Buddy’s Rendezvous”

When Chloe and The Next 20th Century appeared earlier this year, the Father John Misty of biting, self-aware songs about marriage or loudmouth laments on society was nowhere to be found. We got “Buddy’s Rendezvous” instead, a melancholy ballad orchestrated with jazzy strings, brushed drums and muted horns that’s most effective in how different its storytelling is. “Everybody’s girl, what’s the fun in being everybody’s girl?” is how its narrator starts, and he only comes across more pathetic as the song drives onward. “Buddy’s Rendezvous” revolves around a loser who hangs out with other old timers at a bar and brags about how well he raised his estranged daughter, whom he sort of resents. It’s an enthralling and profoundly sad veil for Father John Misty to put on, aided by the woozy, bummed-out waltz behind his words. —Ethan Beck

37. Just Mustard: “I Am You”

Heart Under, Just Mustard’s sophomore album, is simultaneously ghostly and glorious, a wretched yet emancipatory tornado of distorted dissonance that places the band among the vanguard of the British Isles’ ever-crowded post-punk scene. The apex of the album’s tension-building approach is “I Am You,” where crawling bass first draws you in and subsequent guitar noise evokes infinitely echoing car brakes. The gradual pace at which this cacophony coalesces into a storm of ever-bending guitars is fully hypnotic, and the maelstrom drives frontperson Katie Ball’s most powerful vocal performance. “Change my head!” she repeatedly cries as the sounds under her become increasingly head-swirling and tough to follow. Her fire burns hotter with each yelp, and when the tempest gives way to sparsity, you can feel a weight lift off your chest, as though Ball has exorcised your demons alongside hers. “I Am You” is the rare Heart Under song where you can reasonably guess what Ball is singing about. “Change my hair / Change my dress / Change my head” suggests a desire to become a different person inside and out; by the time she starts belting the final line over and over, she sounds desperate to free herself of some sort of terrible pain. —Max Freedman

36. Enumclaw: “Jimmy Neutron”

Tacoma, Washington, rockers Enumclaw have announced their long-awaited debut album, Save the Baby, coming Oct. 14 on Luminelle Recordings. The band’s Gabe Wax-produced (Soccer Mommy, Adrianne Lenker, Fleet Foxes) first full-length follows their universally acclaimed 2021 EP Jimbo Demo. Lead track “Jimmy Neutron” opens with some convivial band chatter before Ladaniel Gipson’s drumbeat cues Aramis Johnson and Nathan Cornell’s dialed-in guitars, with Eli Edwards’ (Johnson’s younger brother) thrumming bass completing a pretty sonic picture. The song’s central riff is as hooky as Johnson’s vocal performance, his smoothest and most self-assured to date: “I want to fall in love / But I don’t think I can have it / Every time I get close to you / I start to panic,” he sings, steadfast despite being trapped in that emotional liminal space. The track confirms what we’ve believed since Enumclaw first burst onto the scene with “Fast N All” last year: The self-described “Best Band Since Oasis” can walk that walk with ease. —Scott Russell

35. Sharon Van Etten: “Porta”

Prior to the announcement of her latest album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, Sharon Van Etten released a one-off single, “Porta,” that should not be forgotten. The cathartic song showcases the singer’s love for electronic music, first introduced on Remind Me Tomorrow, and uses it as a therapeutic medium to reflect on life’s toughest battles. ‘80s synths and drums build the song up into a thrilling climax that ushers in Van Etten’s warm guitar playing. “Porta” is a reflection on the fear of losing herself, as she repeats, “Want to hear myself, wanna be there / Wanna stay but I don’t want to leave it.” —Jade Gomez

34. Nilufer Yanya: “midnight sun”

Like much of PAINLESS, English rock singer/songwriter Nilüfer Yanya’s follow-up to 2019’s Miss Universe, “midnight sun” is atmospheric, yet propulsive, with arpeggiated guitars and a busy kick drum as the pistons powering its engine. Yanya sings like the xx’s dual vocalists were merged into one person, her voice no less emotive for its hushed delicacy. As the song progresses, her piercing voice becomes wreathed in buzzing guitar distortion, but is never overwhelmed by it. —Scott Russell

33. Spoon: “Wild”

Laid-back and urgent are on equal footing on “Wild,” the centerpiece of Spoon’s Lucifer on the Sofa. The arrangement adds and subtracts elements over a sleek groove as the song progresses: A stinging guitar riff opens the song, another guitar adds a bold, overdriven complement after the first verse, and piano adds rich, bell-like chords on the second chorus. Next, a fierce, but controlled guitar break builds to a climax before the whole thing recedes back to the stinging riff and unshakeable beat holding the track together. “Wild” is catchy, it’s rhythmic in an almost subliminally danceable way, and it’s got soul—all the essential elements of Spoon, neatly wrapped into one three-minute and 14-second package. Add those things together and the effect is exhilarating—it’s the sound of a band in peak form who are pushing to get better, go further and resist any temptation to slack off. If Lucifer has taken up a position on their sofa, Spoon have no intention of sitting there and keeping him company. —Eric R. Danton

32. Sadurn: “Snake”

The lead track from Philadelphia four-piece Sadurn’s full-length debut Radiator, “snake” is a rustic love song whose knots are a delight to untangle. Vocalist, guitarist and bandleader Genevieve DeGroot’s poignant lyrics trace the ins and outs of a troubled relationship, candidly confronting its accompanying shame and temptation, as well as the ever-looming existential threats that render all of the above a moot point: “I looked the snake right in his face, I’ve seen the way he blinks that eye at me / But I am not afraid, I’ve heard we’re all gonna die / In a cascade of system failure or in the blink of an eye,” they sing over loping folk-rock instrumentation, warm guitars intertwined like vines growing together in the sun. DeGroot concludes the song with an eternal oath, repeating, “But my idea of love is that it’s lasting.” Sadurn’s sound, too, is built to last, with a beauty to move anyone left standing. —Scott Russell

31. Charli XCX feat. Rina Sawayama: “Beg For You”

With everyone trying their hand at hyperpop and PC music, it’s only fair that two of the most prolific innovators in the genres collaborate. A few months after the announcement of Charli XCX’s acclaimed CRASH, the English singer/songwriter unleashed “Beg For You” with multi-genre extraordinaire Rina Sawayama. The two frolic through a drum and bass-influenced romp with acoustic accents, ultimately leading up to a repurposing of the ‘00s classic “Cry For You” by September. As Charli expands the manufactured pop-star persona that she channels on CRASH, “Beg For You” adds a melancholy facet to the tragic tale, echoing the heartfelt songs of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera’s youth. —Jade Gomez

30. Momma: “Speeding 72”

Rising rock act Momma’s Household Name is a summer album through and through, and standout “Speeding 72” figures to soundtrack plenty of joyrides in the months to come. Vocalists and guitarists Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten co-wrote the track with guitarist Aron Kobayashi Ritch, building the song around its revved-up opening riff. “Speeding 72” overflows with the sounds of youthful escape, the simpler days when blissful freedom was always just a gas pedal stomp and volume knob twist away. But there’s also a subtle wistfulness to it all, as Momma name-check Pavement’s “Gold Soundz’’ and acknowledge, “Speeding 72 / We’re faster getting nowhere,” in the song’s propulsive choruses. “We wanted it to be the sort of summertime anthem that you can turn on during a drive to impress your crush,” the band say of the song in a statement—they hit that mark with ease, delivering the kind of rocker that you’ll yearn for even as you keep it on repeat. —Scott Russell

29. Pusha T: “Diet Coke”

The lead single and centerpiece of Pusha T’s DAYTONA follow-up It’s Almost Dry, “Diet Coke” is everything we’ve come to expect from the king of coke rap. Over an 88-Keys and Kanye West piano, drum and bass loop that’s equal parts lavish and menacing, Pusha points out how far ahead he is of that particular pack (“Everybody get it off the boat, right? / But only I can really have a snow fight”), as well as how long he’s stayed upright and in control (“The crack era was such a Black era / How many still standin’ reflectin’ in that mirror? / Lucky me”). It’s one thing to make these claims, but another to prove them in the same breath—Pusha T has been doing both for years, and “Diet Coke” is emblematic of how effortless he makes that success sound on It’s Almost Dry. —Scott Russell

28. Grace Ives: “Loose”

Marking her debut release on her new label True Panther/Harvest and first new material since 2019, Janky Star single “Loose” sees Brooklyn artist Grace Ives feeling just as anxious as the rest of us about, well, everything. “Oh what a loser sound / I let out when I hit the ground / I never squeal like that / I need some respite, please,” she pleads over kinetic, wiry beats that arrive like pinpricks traveling over the skin in contrast to our stagnant narrator. By the time the chorus’ heavy synths bring weight to the dire situation described, Ives’ voice flies far overhead, dodging every obstacle she sings about. It condenses the reality of daily life into a compact, danceable pop song that you want to keep on an endless repeat, which is never an easy feat. —Elise Soutar

27. Wet Leg: “Angelica”

There’s much more to meteoric English duo Wet Leg than their smash-hit “Chaise Longue,” as this standout from their self-titled debut album attests. Wet Leg titled the track after Teasdale’s oldest friend, and recorded “Angelica” in Chambers’ living room with bandmate Joshua Mobaraki. The song is a sunny psych-rock track with punchy percussion and vocal hooks to spare, and its lyrics about a fun and free-spirited friend have strange shadows playing around their edges: “She brought lasagna to the party” later becomes “She brought a ray gun to the party / Angelica obliterated everybody,” and the narrator struggles with the urge to withdraw from everyone around her, even in the best of times. “It’s laced with disenchantment,” Teasdale says of “Angelica” in a statement. “Even though the chorus is ‘good times, all the time.’ That’s just impossible, isn’t it?” Not with a soundtrack like this, it isn’t. —Scott Russell

26. Horsegirl: “Anti-glory”

Prior to their acclaimed full-length debut, Versions of Modern Performance, Chicago rock trio Horsegirl’s output, including their 2020-standout EP Ballroom Dance Scene et cetera (best of Horsegirl) and 2021 one-off “Billy,” skewed towards throwback shoegaze and no wave, but “Anti-glory” hits differently. Over Gigi Reece’s blunt percussion, Nora Cheng and Penelope Lowenstein trade hard-nosed riffs and point/counterpoint vocals, as if they’re singing two parallel songs. Cheng’s dense lyrics evoke anxiety (“Feeding for a foe till it’s found”), while Lowenstein’s are like nihilism’s siren song (“Dance / With me please / If black / Turns to blue / Well, there’s nothing I can do”). The song’s two minds become one in its staccato dance-punk choruses, with Cheng and Lowenstein commanding us to dance as Reece stomps the kickdrum. —Scott Russell

25. Doss: “Jumpin’”

Doss made her return to music in 2021 after a seven-year period of silence, releasing her 4 New Hit Songs EP. “Jumping’” is her latest endeavor, hopefully hinting at a full-length project in 2022. The single is an intense club banger with slices of diva house, techno and grimy EDM mixed into one. Soulful vocals make way for Doss’ whisper-singing and a nasty, floor-shaking bass breakdown. The ideas all come together for a whiplash-inducing collection of sounds that is the formula for another hit. —Jade Gomez

24. Vince Staples: “MAGIC”

If there’s one thing Vince Staples knows how to do, it’s keep his promises. Following a thrilling Super Bowl halftime performance dedicated to West Coast hip-hop, it’s only appropriate that the California rapper shared the full version of “MAGIC,” his collaboration with famed producer Mustard. The lead single ahead of Ramona Park Broke My Heart, “MAGIC” is a chilled-out ode to Staples’ beloved Ramona Park neighborhood of Long Beach, California, and his complicated relationship with the adversity he’s faced. Mustard’s distinct G-funk production, with subdued bass synths and minimalist percussion, allows Staples to take center stage as he questions if the euphoria he’s feeling is magic. The single, as described by Staples, “defines the project.” —Jade Gomez

23. Big Thief: “Simulation Swarm”

The eighth (!) single released ahead of Big Thief’s universally acclaimed double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, “Simulation Swarm” might have felt like overkill if it weren’t so mesmerizing. A previously unreleased track that has been a live staple for the band, the song is driven by a positively hypnotic tangle of acoustic guitar and bass, with James Krivchenia’s percussion doing just enough to reinforce its insistent groove. A verse-heavy arrangement gives Adrianne Lenker plenty of room to unspool evocative lyrics like, “Once again, we must bleed new / Even as the hours shake / Crystal blood like a dream true / A ripple in the wound and wake.” Her meaning is elusive throughout, but feels informed by a lifetime of experiences, and the song’s refrain of “I wanna drop my arms and take your arms / And walk you to the shore,” which rubs elbows with a thrilling Buck Meek lead guitar line, is as beautiful and mysterious as anything Big Thief have released. —Scott Russell

22. Angel Olsen: “Through the Fires”

Powerhouse singer/songwriter Angel Olsen’s Big Time centerpiece, “Through the Fires” is a sweeping slow-burn in which Olsen seeks to transcend all of the love, heartbreak and loss that informed her new record. The song begins with serenely sparse piano and percussion, over which Olsen stretches her delicate vocals, recalling when she “made up [her] mind / To learn to release the dreams that had died.” A string trio soon lend their sounds to hers, the instrumental gaining momentum as Olsen’s resolve solidifies. It’s only once she vows to “walk through the fires / Of all earthly desires / And let go of the pain that obstructs you from higher” that the song enters its cathartic crescendo, Olsen’s vocalizations dancing with the strings as she rises above it all. —Scott Russell

21. MJ Lenderman: “Hangover Game”

Possibly the only track here about Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals (but don’t quote us on that), “Hangover Game” marked MJ Lenderman’s first release since 2020, as well as the lead single from his breakout solo album Boat Songs. “It wasn’t a pizza that poisoned him in Utah,” Lenderman argues over clashing guitars as the track reaches a crescendo, claiming that Michael Jordan’s infamous bout of severe illness wasn’t due to food poisoning, but simply a bad hangover: “Yeah, I love drinking too / I love drinking too.” It reads like a five-second conversation based on zero solid evidence you might have with friends, but Lenderman transforms it into a funny, almost poetic two minutes of alt-country bliss. —Elise Soutar

20. Gang of Youths: “in the wake of your leave”

On Gang of Youths’ latest album angel in realtime, the Australian group tapped into raw grief and the meaning of healing following the passing of frontman David Le’aupepe’s father. On the soaring single “in the wake of your leave,” featuring backing harmonies from the Auckland Gospel Choir and percussion contributions from various drummers of the Cook Islands, the song is a loving tribute to the confusion that arises in the wake of death. “So as you canyoneered from our world upwards / And the angels took their place / I was the loser at your funeral / No emotion conveyed,” sings Le’aupepe. Explosive guitars and a Springsteen-esque chorus give “in the wake of your leave” blissful and thrilling highs despite the somber subject matter, as if Le’aupepe is sending the song into heaven. —Jade Gomez

19. Earl Sweatshirt feat. Zelooperz: “Vision”

Earl Sweatshirt makes music for himself, and his latest album SICK! is a testament to how therapeutic his solo path has been for him. On album standout “Vision,” featuring Detroit rapper Zelooperz, the two reflect on loneliness, brought on by both the pandemic and life changes. Earl alludes to the dissolution of Odd Future (“I did some dirt with the clique / Went and got cliqued by myself”) and his fear of those around him dying, and Zelooperz’s hypnotic verse surrounds his desire for a deeper connection to help him enjoy the lulls of life. Aided by Black Noi$e’s swirling piano loop, “Vision” is a chillingly beautiful lesson in loneliness and vulnerability. —Jade Gomez

18. Beach House: “Pink Funeral”

Once Twice Melody is yet another chapter in Beach House’s catalog that solidifies them as the wheel every modern dream-pop or shoegaze artist aims to reinvent. The only problem is, while Victoria Legrand and Alex Scully are always culling influence from Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Mazzy Star, no one has been able to capture what the Baltimore duo have accomplished across a massive, 18-year landscape of textures, psychedelia and ethereal pastiches. On their latest LP, “Pink Funeral” is a standout among standouts. It’s singular and familiar, with Legrand’s vocals reaching for the same octaves as she always has. The song—and record—is not as edenistic or utopian as, say, “Space Song” or “Myth,” as it leans more into the darker, distorted, new wave-style synths of 7 than it does the raindrop loops and pearly gates of Bloom. Yet “Pink Funeral” keeps time with where Beach House were always going to end up: a vast plain of consistency, where every note is meticulous, concise and considered. As is the case with the record itself, no note is out of place; the melody makes a proper space for Legrand to sing about a lost love amid familiar constellation-esque motifs. Like the stars it pleads to, “Pink Funeral” is a song we are always gazing upwards at, marveling over what indescribable progressions might arise through the synth layers and reveal themselves with every return. —Matt Mitchell

17. The Smile: “Free in the Knowledge”

The Smile is a musical recipe for success, composed of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood alongside Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner. They’re one of the better pandemic gifts, and A Light For Attracting Attention is the result of such a powerhouse group being born out of the darkness. On album standout “Free in the Knowledge,” Radiohead comparisons are inevitable, and the song’s slow acoustic build will turn some heads and tickle some ears. Yorke’s folky croon paints a portrait of nihilism, pointing toward a crumbling world. Producer Nigel Godrich adds in his signature string arrangements, paddling the song into a heart-wrenching momentum. It’s an exercise in restraint, and each member pulls back the curtain a bit more to reveal just a fraction of A Light For Attracting Attention’s magic. —Jade Gomez

16. Porridge Radio: “Back To The Radio”

U.K.-based quartet Porridge Radio released one of Paste’s favorite albums of the year so far in Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky, their follow-up to 2020’s Mercury Prize-nominated Every Bad. Lead track “Back to the Radio” is the kind of song that will drive live audiences wild, opening on a single repeated guitar chord backgrounded by probing feedback, the intensity building as the lone guitar slowly grows more forceful. Frontperson Dana Margolin’s quavering, rhythmic vocals find her narrator confronting feelings of fear and inadequacy that have opened a gulf between her and the song’s subject (“Laughing and talking, but I want to cry to you”). Bassist Maddie Ryall, drummer Sam Yardley and keyboardist Georgie Stott all fall in around Margolin, with strings and horns by Maria Marzaioli and Freddy Wordsworth, respectively, uplifting the track through its heartbreaking, yet healing choruses: “Lock all the windows and shut all the doors and get into the house and lie down on the cold, hard floor / Talk back to the radio, think loud in the car, I miss everything now, we’re worth nothing at all.” Margolin’s vocal performance is the powerful song’s centerpiece—her voice overflows with raw emotion in its moving climax. —Scott Russell

15. Mitski: “Love Me More”

Mitski’s usage of repetition drives home the devastating honesty of her lyrics, and “Love Me More” is a clear ode to the drama and theatrics of ‘80s pop. Building synths and ominous pianos urge toward a thrilling climax as Mitski yearns for a love as satisfying and fervent as hers, singing, “I need you to love me more / Love me more, love me more / Love enough to fill me up.” She bows in front of her aching heart, acknowledging the need for love and the salvation it gives. —Jade Gomez

14. Destroyer: “June”

Ahead of the release of their new record LABYRINTHITIS, Destroyer’s third single “June” allowed yet another layer of the world Dan Bejar and collaborator John Collins created to unfurl. With influences on the album including disco, Art of Noise and New Order, it’s not surprising that “June” is tailor-made for the dance floor, albeit with head-scratching lyrics characteristic of the band that only add to its absurd charm. The song closes with a two-minute spoken-word passage that distorts as the recording collapses in a heap. Even while he’s rambling, Bejar doesn’t let his foot off the gas or his hold on your attention waver. Extra points just for the inclusion of the line, “A snow angel’s a fucking idiot somebody made / A fucking idiot someone made in the snow.” Guess we can’t argue with that, Dan. —Elise Soutar

13. Denzel Curry: “Walkin”

“Walkin’,” the lead single off Denzel Curry’s magnum opus Melt My Eyez, See Your Future, does a lot without all the bells and whistles. The soul sample and folky guitars morph into a lush, minimalist beat as Curry reminisces on how far he’s come. Then, everything cuts out, leaving the vocal sample to hop onto new territories, with Curry switching up his flow effortlessly, slowly rising into the spitfire delivery he’s become known for. It’s Curry at some of his best, as he ushers in a new era with Melt My Eyez. —Jade Gomez

12. Alex G: “Runner”

After scoring We’re All Going to the World’s Fair earlier this year, Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) released a pair of killer singles, “Blessing” and “Runner,” and announced his ninth studio album God Save the Animals, which will be out Sept. 23 via Domino. In line with the religious imagery of both singles, Giannascoli notes that the divine appears in many of the tracks on his forthcoming album. Instead of appearing as a concrete religious entity, God is a generalized sense of faith that serves as a guiding light for many of his characters, often in fraught situations. Heaven-sent, “Runner” has a glow bestowed by angels, further accentuated by the crystal-clear recording quality. The single sports a clean guitar tone and meandering percussion as Giannascoli praises the people he looks up to, “Who don’t judge for what I say, but judge me for what I do.” —Samantha Sullivan

11. Caroline Polachek: “Billions”

Until this spring, it had been a while since we’d heard from Caroline Polachek, who popped up on our radar last year with “Bunny is a Rider,” one of our favorite 2021 tracks, and the first follow-up to 2019’s Pang. In February, she returned to show us that our patience was worth it with “Billions.” The track begins as what seems like a return to the dreamier electro-pop moments on Pang, but steps apart from what’s expected as it progresses and reaches its final, otherworldly crescendo with the chant of “I never felt so close to you,” sung in a stilted round by a children’s choir. “Billions” sees Polachek attempting to transcend anything that’s tethered her to earth on previous releases, hinting that the view from up there isn’t as perfect as she would’ve expected: “Headless angel / Body upgraded / But it’s dead on arrival,” she sings on the song’s bridge. Each piece of the song adds up to something addictive and ethereal in equal measure. —Elise Soutar

10. Tomberlin: “tap”

Sarah Beth Tomberlin shared “tap” as the third single ahead of i don’t know who needs to hear this…, her career-best follow-up to 2018’s At Weddings. “tap” finds the singer/songwriter taking a sonic leap forward, albeit in an entirely different way than the singles that preceded it. Over shifting sands of hand percussion, hypnotic fingerpicking, and sparse flickers of electric guitar, bass, piano and strings, Tomberlin spends “tap” exploring the elements of daily life that make her feel alive—or do the opposite. Her mesmerizing vocals consider social media (“Tap the heart until I hate myself”) and nature (“Do you think about the trees in the breeze / How they swing and scream and talk and breathe?”), internet friends (“Talk to strangers like we already met”) and the communal gift of music (“I love the people playing songs in the park”), “movies that make [her] feel” and “trash TV.” Ultimately, she remembers that these pursuits are hers alone to prioritize: “Remind me that I don’t have to be anything.” —Scott Russell

9. Julia Jacklin: “Lydia Wears a Cross”

It’s a great time to be a Julia Jacklin fan: The Australian singer/songwriter has announced her third album, PRE PLEASURE (Aug. 26, Polyvinyl Record Co.), shared the video for its lead single and opener, “Lydia Wears a Cross,” and announced a 2022 world tour. “Lydia Wears a Cross” finds Jacklin examining religion through her childhood eyes over sparsely atmospheric drum machine and piano—at least at first. “I’d be a believer / If it was all just song and dance,” she insists over an indistinct guitar riff, unable to feel a connection to her spirituality except through the transportive power of performance. Live drums and synths kick in unexpectedly as the song builds, and Jacklin vocalizes wordlessly through its climax, as if finally finding the transcendence she was seeking. —Scott Russell

8. Cate Le Bon: “Remembering Me”

Ahead of her sixth studio album, Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon shared “Remembering Me,” a final preview of Pompeii before its Feb. 4 release on Mexican Summer. In a statement, Le Bon described “Remembering Me” as “a neurotic diary entry that questions notions of legacy and warped sentimentalism in the desperate need to self-mythologise.” Her vocals float over fluttering synths and a hypnotic mixture of electric and acoustic guitars as she evokes the human predisposition to delusion—the stories we tell ourselves to feel larger than life. “Louder than empty rooms / Face down in heirlooms,” Le Bon sings over longtime collaborator Stella Mozgawa’s drums, her self-image’s shadow lengthening with each word while the instrumentation around her distorts like a Dali painting. —Scott Russell

7. Soul Glo: “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)”

Soul Glo’s Diaspora Problems begins—as every great album should—with the sounds of a bong hit mimicking the wind-up drumbeat of the 20th Century Fox theme song. From there on, the album is a long exhale of thick smoke that can leave you dizzy and delirious when inhaled secondhand. The first song “Gold Chain Punk (Whogonnabeatmyass)” gives you a taste of the undeniable force of what’s to come. Singer Pierce Jordan shrieks and screams his vocals at the velocity of tumbling stones as the band—(now-former) guitarist Ruben Polo, bassist GG Guerra and drummer TJ Stevenson—constantly realigns itself with different time signatures and pummeling riffs. As the song enters its final breakdown territory after two minutes of anthemic chords and shifts, Jordan—furious with the thought of explaining himself to anyone ever again—is ready for his last stand. “The unlimited worlds in this one Earth / Their work and its worth motivate my love of life undermined by / As it were / Feeling insecure,” he concludes, after feverishly trying to convey that it’s not the chain that he bought (and lost) that makes him. As it comes to a close over chunky beatdown riffs, Jordan is outside drunk with a Smith and Wesson in his pocket, welcoming anyone who wants to talk some more shit to show their faces. “Who gonna beat my ass?” he screams repeatedly, with his vocal cords shredded like damning evidence in the hands of an intern at a shady hedge fund. The song contains as many musical ideas and rich narrative turns as a lesser band could fit into a single album. —Pat King

6. Soccer Mommy: “Shotgun”

The first taste of Sophie Allison’s Sometimes, Forever was a doozy, as befitting an album produced by Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never, which Paste praised as ”[Soccer Mommy’s] most creative work to date, and sacrifices none of their signature sound.” First reactions online crowned “Shotgun” Soccer Mommy’s best song yet, and while it’s still too soon—and Allison’s catalog is too strong—for us to jump to that particular conclusion just yet, the track is undeniably excellent. It’s a love song built around a simple concept: romance as an intoxicating high with no hangover. Meanwhile, Allison’s hooky and intimate guitar-rock melds with subtle synth work from Lopatin to create a new and improved Soccer Mommy sound. “Uppers and my heart never meshed / I hated coming down / But this feels the same without the bad things,” Allison sings softly over a lurching guitar riff, swearing in the track’s soaring choruses, “So whenever you want me I’ll be around / I’m a bullet in a shotgun waiting to sound,” the killer hook at the center of a song we’ll be hearing for a long while. —Scott Russell

5. Dazy & Militarie Gun: “Pressure Cooker”

You might have missed it, but James Goodson’s Dazy and Ian Shelton’s Militarie Gun released the song of the summer back in March: the characteristically fuzzed-out and hooky “Pressure Cooker.” The collaborative single—and music video, in which the pair go from long-distance creative partners to sharing the stage—arrived ahead of both acts’ respective spring tours, let alone the dog days. Recorded on opposite coasts (Dazy is based in Virginia, Militarie Gun in Los Angeles), then mixed and mastered by Justin Pizzoferrato (Dinosaur, Jr., Pixies, Wild Pink), “Pressure Cooker” combines Dazy’s lo-fi guitar pop with Militarie Gun’s hard-charging hooks. Goodson and Shelton swap worn-out verses (“Tightrope slipping / One step, I’m flipping out,” Shelton growls) over the bass- and drum-driven track, joining voices in the choruses to admit, “Pressure cooker’s got me running out,” as jagged guitars arc and spike all around them. —Scott Russell

4. Kendrick Lamar: “N95”

The opening frame of Kendrick Lamar’s self-co-directed music video for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers standout “N95” pretty much sums the song up: Against a muted background, red block letters proclaim “This shit hard” nine times, nearly filling the frame. After setting your expectations for Mr. Morale on mercurial opener “United in Grief,” Kendrick then delivers a vicious uppercut with “N95,” angrily dressing down everyone hiding behind “the flex and the white lies,” “bullshit and gossip,” and staunchly refusing to do so himself. When he asks, “Can I vent all my truth?” in the song’s back half, it’s purely rhetorical—accompanied by twitchy production from Sounwave, Jahaan Sweet, Boi-1da and Baby Keem, Kendrick effortlessly switches flows as he surveys a “world in a panic” and defiantly declares, “I’m done with the sensitive takin’ it personal / Done with the black and the white / The wrong and the right,” framing materialism, lies and hypocrisy as especially unforgivable sins. All told, “N95” is one of Mr. Morale’s most fearless peaks, in which Kendrick puts his inner turmoil on unsparing display. —Scott Russell

3. Maggie Rogers: “That’s Where I Am”

Upon announcing her second album Surrender (July 29, Capitol Records), the follow-up to her acclaimed 2019 debut Heard It in a Past Life and 2020 compilation Notes from the Archive: Recordings 2011-2016, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and producer Maggie Rogers shared what was then her first proper single in three years. “That’s Where I Am” is a gleaming synth-pop jam in which Rogers celebrates the love of a lifetime over a melodic vocal loop, hand claps (that become loose, upbeat live drums) and synth drone, swearing in its anthemic choruses, “It all works out in the end / Wherever you go, that’s where I am / Boulders turn into sand / Wherever you go, that’s where I am.” It sounds like an artist with one foot in late-’90s, sunny, Sheryl Crow-style radio fare and the other in our electronics-dominated pop present—moreover, it sounds like Maggie Rogers. —Scott Russell

2. Bartees Strange: “Heavy Heart”

This year, indie-rock renegade Bartees Strange took on the tall task of following up his breakout debut album, 2020’s Live Forever. But the first step on his road to Farm to Table, one of the year’s best albums so far, was “Heavy Heart,” the innovative artist’s first release on 4AD. Co-produced by Strange himself with Chris Connors, “Heavy Heart” is a sleek guitar-rock track that finds Strange grappling with conflicting feelings, recalling his “reasons for heavy hearts” only to realize, “Then I remember I rely too much upon / My heavy heart.” Propulsive drums, chugging guitars and even celebratory horns lend the track an irrepressible energy, as if buoying Strange’s lyrical efforts to consign his pain to the past. —Scott Russell

1. Ethel Cain: “American Teenager”

Contrary to the line “it’s just not my year,” 2022 is clearly shaping up to be Ethel Cain’s year. Preacher’s Daughter, her Southern Gothic opus of a debut album, demonstrated a unique and immersive approach to songwriting—with melancholy slowcore atmospheres of bands like Duster and Codeine paired with vocal top lines so powerful and catchy, they can deservingly be compared to those of Cain’s own pop idols, Florence Welch and Sky Ferreira. Sonically, “American Teenager” is probably the least representative teaser for what the rest of Preacher’s Daughter sounds like, but it manages to encapsulate the whole character arc of Ethel Cain into one self-contained pop song, vividly setting the scene and luring you into the tragic and gruesome story to come. With its The War On Drugs-meets-Taylor Swift heartland shoegaze style and all-American coming-of-age story, it’s no surprise that “American Teenager” took off as the album’s most popular track, but it doesn’t feel like a label-mandated upbeat pop moment or a song made to play in car commercials. This is a deeply felt portrait of a doomed, yet hopeful character taking one last grasp at a normal life before being crushed under the weight of the American Dream. She’s trying to be optimistic, push through and overcome the immense pressure she is under, but she’s already beginning to fall apart at the seams. You can hear the pleading desperation in her voice as she belts the pair of lines, “Jesus, if you’re listening let me handle my liquor / And Jesus, if you’re there, why do I feel alone in this room with you?” “American Teenager” has the stadium-sized scale, relatability and ambition to become the biggest song in the entire country, but what makes it special is how it captures the intimate specificity of Hayden Ahedonia’s experiences growing up in her particularly tiny Florida town and successfully Trojan-horses them into the spotlight—telling the story of a kind of American girl so often overlooked. —Jacqueline Codiga


Listen to our Best Songs of 2022 (So Far) playlist on Spotify here.