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2022 offered us an endless array of songs from artists, new and old. Luckily for you, the music beat is here to save you from the endless sifting and scrolling with their picks for the best songs of the year.

— Claire Sudol, Music Beat Editor and Jack Moeser, Senior Arts Editor

Concrete Over Water” by Jockstrap

Certainly one of the premier talents to break into the public eye this year, London-based electronic duo Jockstrap released “Concrete Over Water” in early April, a hint at the mysteries and tension of late-night summer air. The song is inherently romantic, holding a shared moment fully as Georgia Ellery sings “Oh, a night on what bridge we stood / Concrete over water.” But for all the sweet languor of the introduction, they aren’t afraid to get into the heart-pounding excitement of fresh … shall we call it love? Taylor Skye’s production turns the ballad into a banger, using frenzied synths and an insistent drum machine that kicks its way into your chest. It is a song that could call up any number of intricate memories, with Ellery’s voice bending and holding pure, high notes so beautifully you could cry. Or you can not think, and just dance. Either way, the moon seems to light a pathway for this song, one leading to the arms of a lover or the middle of an intensely sweaty club floor. It’s hard to make something that holds such tenderness to the test of a dance beat, but Jockstrap has undeniably done it.

Daily Arts Writer Fia Kaminski can be reached at 

Simulation Swarm” by Big Thief

Big Thief’s “Simulation Swarm” undulates in the air around your head — it’s a sonic vortex that churns in a tumult. The instruments are almost humanly expressive, filling in the blanks where lyrics remain ambiguous. Lead vocalist Adrianne Lenker sings “O my stars, winged creatures / Gathering in silken height” and the track seems to grow wings: dragonfly-like, shiny and blue with rippling wings poised to take flight. Bone-dry percussion shimmers in the lower regions of the track, like a thousand beating wings, building into a feverish anticipation. The track’s production is enough to make you dizzy with all of its moving parts; a glowing bass line, electric guitar lines that buzz and zip to and fro, moving synths and feedback all work in communion, deftly woven together in a silken web of Lenker’s making. 

Big Thief’s lyricism is cryptic yet arrestingly vivid, and songs like “Simulation Swarm” seem to take on a life of their own — a living, breathing creature beyond the realm of our own limited comprehension. From Lenker’s mouth, a litany bursts forth: “Once again, we must bleed new / Even as the hours shake / Crystal blood like a dream true / A ripple in the wound and wake / You believe, I believe too.” Lenker’s lyrics delve into matters of the heart that are hard to place and oftentimes unintelligible to us, and when nestled in the depths of “Simulation Swarm,” these matters finally feel answered. 

Music Beat Editor Claire Sudol can be reached at 

Faust” by bladee and Ecco2k

2022’s Crest saw Drain Gang’s Bladee, Ecco2K and producer Whitearmor holed up in a cottage near the Swedish coastline, producing an album that felt like an oddity, even for their eclectic discographies. Inspired by ABBA and movie soundtracks by Swedish composer Björn Isfält, the album fuses the collective’s digital aesthetics with a naturalistic ethos, as human whispers and bleating sheep pierce through fortified layers of meandering pads and ambient textures. It’s the sonic equivalent of a utopian daydream, feeling as rustic as it is vividly mystical, completed by bladee and Ecco2K’s pleasantly addictive refrains and melodies. The lyrics take on a more philosophical bent, as both of them explore themes of life, death, existence and desire. 

The best of its offerings is “Faust,” named after the character from the German legend who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge and power. In “Faust”’s single verse, bladee skillfully meditates on his own existence and the circle of life, presenting almost celestial imagery. Their period of euphoria is fleeting, as they indulge in these unrealistic desires, something exemplified in Ecco’s hook: “I wanna live in Heaven / I wanna reach closer to you.” The instrumental mirrors this desire, as twinkling keys rapidly ascend and descend over a sparse kick-snare beat, as if to highlight attempts to reach that state of rapture. But even without these abstractions, it serves as a piece of gorgeous synthpop with an enthralling hook, reminding us to simply live in the moment: “A second, a moment, forever, ephemeral.”

Daily Arts Writer Thejas Varma can be reached at

Be Careful With Yourself” by Julia Jacklin

Julia Jacklin’s “Be Careful With Yourself,” off of her third studio album, PRE PLEASURE, is vulnerable and affecting. Our very first taste of this song is a wailing electric guitar trill that rips from the calm. Jacklin’s vocals are melodic and moody, moving almost sleepily through the track with the grittiness of a voice fresh from sleep, unused and still working out creaks and cracks. Jacklin finds herself pleading with her partner to look after themselves, quit smoking, keep their appointments, drive under the speed limit and share each of their woes and doubts — if not for themselves, then at least for her. 

This love song comes from a place of familiarity and carefulness — it’s a gentle reminder to act with caution and plan ahead. Without coming across as preachy or nagging, Jacklin offers listeners tenderness and care in equal measure, subdued yet vividly clear. “Be Careful With Yourself” is an expression of basic humanity, an intrinsic desire for love and care.

Music Beat Editor Claire Sudol can be reached at 

Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” by Taylor Swift

The standout track from Taylor Swift’s Midnights actually came from the bonus 3am Edition. “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is a song unlike anything Swift has released before. The much-loved and praised 10-minute version of “All Too Well” held the crown as the most tragic breakup song in Swift’s discography for a decade, but the usurper “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” quickly took that spot upon release. While all of Midnights is meant to reflect Swift’s train of thought during sleepless nights, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is arguably the most reflective song on the album, detailing a relationship from when she was 19 that keeps her tossing and turning 13 years later.

Aaron Dessner’s gritty and simple production on this song immediately gives it an angry and betrayed sound, and Swift’s lyrics are like a punch to the gut. Lines like “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first” and “If I was a child, did it matter / if you got to wash your hands?” paint a picture of a relationship with a very skewed age and power dynamic, one that still haunts Swift to this day. The song also features some very heavy religious references, suggesting that during and after this relationship, Swift repeatedly turned to religion to no avail, going as far as to say “you’re a crisis of my faith.” The track is perfect from beginning to end and quickly became a fan-favorite upon the release of Midnights. One of Swift’s best songs to date, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is a must-listen of 2022. 

Daily Arts Writer Gigi Ciulla can be reached at 

Do You Think I’m Pretty” by Kingfisher

With their debut album Grip Your Fist, I’m Heaven Bound, which came out last fall, Ann Arbor band Kingfisher cemented themselves as one of the most exciting bands in the local scene. While the entire album is fantastic and worth a listen, the LP’s closing track “Do You Think I’m Pretty” is a triumphant finishing statement that isn’t just the most powerful track on the album, but one of the best songs to come out in 2022. The song begins with a basic strummed chord progression in the guitar and a simple, wordless vocal melody sung by lead singer Sam DuBose, which serve as the foundation that the rest of the song is built upon. As the track progresses, it is strengthened by the band’s diverse instrumentation. First, muted trumpet and saxophone join DuBose in the melody, which transforms from vowel sounds to actual lyrics. But then at the song’s climax, when DuBose exclaims, “I’m so sorry,” the instrumentation greatly expands to encompass sustained violin notes and isolated piano notes that create gorgeous harmonies to go with the melancholic lyrics. Even though Kingfisher is a young band, it’s impossible to tell by listening to the powerful lyrics and masterful musical production of “Do You Think I’m Pretty.”

Senior Arts Editor Jack Moeser can be reached at 

Engine (eavesdropping)” by Caroline

Trying to qualify what actually happens in this song to someone who hasn’t listened to it is a bit like trying to figure out why your car doesn’t work without ever looking under the hood. To be as reductive as possible, one could simply call it a soundscape interlude; however, even that ignores the fact that it takes up the space of a full-length song and acts as the centerpiece of the entire album. In any case, Caroline goes into full composer mode on this track, elongating a single orchestral swell into becoming the primary backdrop. They invite us to keep our heads in the clouds, to wait for the storm to pass or perhaps even embrace its chaos. This chaos arrives in the latter half of the song, where the group participates in what can only be described as instrumental violence, doing as much damage to their equipment without actually breaking them. In any case, they achieve a sort of spirituality borne from music that feels reminiscent of something out of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden: a feeling simultaneously more foreign and more human than one could think possible. Despite all this, “Engine (eavesdropping)” doesn’t suffer from any self-imposed loftiness. It stays earnest in its attempt to unlock something within the listener. And my goodness does it succeed.

Daily Arts Writer Drew Gadbois can be reached at 

Spinning World” by Perfume

For nearly two decades, J-pop girl group Perfume — consisting of a-chan, NOCCHi and KASHIYUKA — has been pushing pop music to its limits. Spearheaded by Japanese superproducer Yasutaka Nakata, the group has traditionally woven together robotic vocals, thumping house rhythms and dagger-like synth stabs to present futuristic visions of techno-utopias. After a string of underwhelming records, 2022’s Plasma showed a return to form, while also advancing conceptually; Nakata described the title as a reference to the music being “futuristic but analog.”

Plasma’s lead single “Spinning World” represents Perfume’s mastery of both these futuristic and analog sensibilities. If previous Perfume songs were portals to parallel worlds, “Spinning World” wants to pull you back to Earth, without ever completely grounding you. The song carries an alluring, dreamlike aura, as if they’re floating on the clouds over a city. Their haziness is reflected in the hook: “Dancing spinning girl, in my dream / Elegant beautiful scent, easy flight.” Although lyrically minimalistic, it’s a constantly shifting piece — every refrain adds small touches to the instrumentation that make it burst with life. Marked by its electric pianos, funky rhythm guitars, lively synth bursts and a syncopated drum beat, “Spinning World” draws from ’70s and ’80s synth-funk and city pop. But rather than coasting off nostalgia, Nakata injects elements of Perfume’s distinctive hyper-electro sounds, most notably a synth bass that buzzes louder than a beehive. As a return to peak quality and a strikingly colorful song, “Spinning World” wants you to know that it’s one of the best songs of the year. 

Daily Arts Writer Thejas Varma can be reached at

Part of the Band by The 1975

Despite being the lead single from The 1975’s Being Funny in a Foreign Language, “Part of the Band” did not top charts, and in fact was quickly overshadowed by the album’s succeeding hits. The song’s strengths are more subtle than the buoyant indie pop The 1975 are loved for, though “Part of the Band” delivers a good amount of that too. Over artistically layered instrumentals akin to Vampire Weekend and Bon Iver, lead singer Matty Healy draws connections between his own struggle with addiction and the post-apocalyptic cultural landscape that sets the stage for his misery. In an oft-quoted line, Healy displays his talent for caricature, ridiculing “some ‘Vaccinista tote bag chic baristas’ / Sitting east on their communista keisters.”

As the instrumental turns from hiccupping strings to blooming, folksy guitar, Healy reaches farther into his self-doubt. Though he’s spent the entire song making fun of everything — himself most of all — he asks now, “Am I ironically woke? The butt of my joke?” Or, is he just “calling his ego imagination?” Combined with beloved pop producer Jack Antonoff’s expertly crafted instrumentals, Healy’s biting songwriting and sarcastic vulnerability make “Part of the Band” a standout track of 2022.

Daily Arts Writer Nina Smith can be reached at 

Nashville by CMAT

Irish musician CMAT has a knack for finding the humor in everything, and nowhere is this more present than on “Nashville,” the opening track to her 2022 debut album, If My Wife New I’d Be Dead. “Nashville” finds CMAT making plans, unceremoniously, to take her own life, declaring with an air of nonchalance that she’ll “get all (her) goodbyes / well out of the way” and tell her loved ones that she’s moving to Nashville instead.

Though the subject matter is heavy, “Nashville” is upbeat and markedly country, its cheerful guitar and cacophonous, echoing drum beat bringing an element of absurdity to the song. Contrasting devastatingly direct lyrics like “I’m tired of looking at this body / I’m tired of living in this brain,” with light-hearted references to K-pop, stealing hotel soap and Anna Nicole Smith’s hair, CMAT paints a poignant portrait of depression in the modern age, when melancholy can’t help but feel ridiculous. In the bridge, she introduces us to other themes that seep through the rest of the album, like her far-fetched but unrelenting ambition to be a country star. Her unique and powerful vocals throughout the song betray her desperation to the listener, exposing “Nashville” for the crushing, compelling ballad that it is.

Daily Arts Writer Nina Smith can be reached at