Somehow 2022 is already nearing its end. I feel like the past few years I’d kick off these end-of-year posts with a “good riddance” adieu, but I’m trying to be less of a crank now. So whatever happened this year, let’s focus on what helped us get through it all: the music. This year, we have Le Matos, Graham Reznick, Rachel Reeves, Alex “Highway Superstar” Karlinsky, Andy Diamond of Diamond Field, and Hannah B of Nightride.FM, in addition to me, showing us what’s what.
Oh, perhaps I should provide some background, considering you might be new to Vehlinggo or perhaps you’ve just forgotten how this works. This is the fourth year in a row that Vehlinggo has published this type of end-of-year article — a few guests and I sound off on our favorite releases of the year. (I used to just do my own “Top 5 X” articles for the first few years of Vehlinggo, but ultimately that got boring.)
I keep the rules fairly loose. Contributors sometimes share five selections and others 10 or even 20. Some write blurbs and some just go with a bulleted list sans comment. You’ll find a few of us will agree on titles, leaving them to pop up more than once. Ultimately, though, they always curate a meaningful selection of music that has a decent chance of leaving an impression on you, fair reader. On that note, let’s go to it.
- Marina Herlop – Pripyat — Haunting, beautiful, and progressive. Reminiscent of Gazelle Twin, but still unequivocally and totally her own.
- Ben Lovett – Hellraiser (2022) — While I never doubted Lovett’s ability to fill the giant shoes of Christopher Young’s iconic original Hellraiser score, he exceeded all my expectations with this new interpretation. Incredible work from one of my fave modern composers.
- Charli XCX – Crash — Quintessential Charli attitude with some incredibly fun throwback vibes. Plus, her track ‘Hot Girl’ for A24’s Bodies Bodies Bodies is a real banger. Another great year for this underappreciated pop star.
- Drum & Lace – Natura — Stunning, ethereal electronic explorations that you will want to get lost in time and time again.
- Colin Stetson – The Menu — Unlike any score that Stetson has done to date. As a composer and a solo artist, Stetson refuses to be put into a box, and it only makes me love him more.
- Underoath – Voyeurist — Listen, I’m never gonna be able to kick my emo habit. I’m just not. And as long as bands like Underoath continue to deliver great albums like this, I’m not even going to feel bad about it. Plus, Underoath electronics wizard Chris Dudley has been scoring films lately, and I am so here for it.
- Ronen Landa – Picturebooks, Vol. 2 — This beautiful album collects original score pieces from several of the 1BR composer’s darker short film projects. While each section boasts its own unique identity, the album is a cohesive, atmospheric listen united by Landa’s wonderfully individual voice.
- Destryur – Tales of Terror — If you haven’t listened to The Vehlinggo Podcast, you totally should. Not only does it feature some great guests, but there are also some top-notch musical selections. I had honestly never heard Destryur before, but after hearing the track “Painsaw” off this album, I was hooked.
- Carpenter Brut – Leather Terror — Something tells me I don’t need to justify Carpenter Brut to anyone reading this list on this website. A killer second installation in their “Leather Trilogy.”
- Damn the Witch Siren – Gold Magic — Dreamy, danceable electro-pop that I discovered thanks to the film Poser. A horror film with a fictional story that centers around non-fictional live music in Ohio and the folks who make it, Poser gifts many things. This album is just one of them.
Andy Diamond (of Diamond Field)
(Maker of 21st Century ’80s Music; Vehlinggo contributor — writing, photography, and design; record producer; Vehlinggo Presents contributor)
- Taylor Swift – Midnights (Republic Records) — Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” single, Red and 1989 albums and her recent folk output had left me indifferent and uninterested in her work. As a rule, I do try to listen to as many new releases as I can to keep myself up to date with what’s going on musically. Midnights was no exception and when I heard the album’s opening track, “Lavender Haze,” it immediately got my attention. I liked it and I was curious enough to keep listening, until I found I’d listened to the whole album, five times in a row. The songs, lyrics, and production had everything to get me immediately engaged. Was I becoming a “Swifty”? Not at all, but I my opinion of Swift and her music had just made a complete 180 turn. Here was an album of very contemporary music that didn’t rely on current and overused production tricks which may actually stand the test of time. To me Midnights is a true modern classic that goes to show that our preconceived ideas about an artist can be shattered when the music has the ability to connect with you.
- Thyla – Self-titled (Easy Life Records) — The self-titled album by Brighton’s shoegaze/dreampop trio Thyla was a long time coming. After a string of excellent singles and EPs over the last several years, an album finally arrived in early 2022. No doubt the pandemic threw a spanner in the works and the band pairing down to a three piece (from its original four-piece configuration) all contributed in drawing things out. Here in 2022 frontwoman/guitarist Millie Duthie kicks ass, not in a Grrrl rock way but with the same swagger as our favorite female-fronted bands from the shoegaze era. Thyla are also versatile too — lead track “Amber Waits” is classic broody noise pop, which is followed by the almost dance floor chugging “Breathe.” If you love Pale Saints, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, The Sundays, and their kin, you’ll have an instant soft spot for Thyla.
- William Orbit – The Painter (Guerrilla Studios) — Finally, the William Orbit I know and love is back. After producing Madonna’s brilliant 1998 album, Ray Of Light, Orbit departed from his Strange Cargo and Torch Song projects with Pieces In A Modern Style and subsequent works, all of which lacked his knack of creating edgy electronic soundscapes. With The Painter, Orbit makes up for the near-30 year gap between drinks that was 1993’s Strange Cargo III with its iconic “Water From A Vine Leaf” (which introduced us to Beth Orton). Yes, The Painter totally feels like it could be called Strange Cargo IV. Orbit’s trademark synth sounds still reside here: there are elements of dub and soundtrack-esque trip-hop, instrumental cuts, and vocal-centric ambient pop. Orton makes return appearances, as does Katy Melua and Torch Song’s Laurie Mayer. Despite a couple of tracks that verge on snoozeville, there are some wonderful gems here, like “Bank of Wildflowers,” featuring Georgia, and transplant you to the after party clubs of the early/mid-90s. There is an argument that artists need to evolve and try new things, but in the case of William Orbit sometimes we just want to hear what they do best. The Painter fulfills that wish.
- John Crawford, Robin Simon – Arclight (August Day) — On paper, seeing Berlin’s bassist and chief songwriter, John Crawford, collaborating with former Ultravox/Magazine/Visage guitarist Robin Simon would be an exciting proposal. These two pioneers of post punk and new wave in the UK and the US in the late 1970s were coming together in the 21st Century — what would be the sonic results? In reality it’s pretty close to what you’d expect: Synth heavy, darker pop songs with dollops of Simon’s signature guitar sounds with Crawford’s bass and understated new wave vocals deliver a mostly satisfying experience. Released with little fanfare on the August Day label (who have been responsible for a recent swath of orchestral-orientated albums by ’80s icons like Wang Chung, A Flock Of Seagulls, and Berlin) Arclight deserves more of a look for fans of ‘80s new wave. Crawford has been busy recently, returning to Berlin with Terri Nunn and David Diamond. Berlin defined US new wave with its blend of synth hooks and evocative lyrics with definite influences from the like of Ultravox, so it’s not ironic that Crawford and Robin Simon (Ultravox’s early guitarist) could see themselves working together. Anyone who appreciates Crawford’s vocals in Berlin, and more specially his offshoot 1980 act Fahrenheit, will like his delivery here. Crawford is not a “singer” as such: He’s a new wave persona that provides just the right delivery for this style of music. Stand out tracks include “Like Crimson” with its Gary Numan “Down In The Park” vibes,;Vince Clark on the dance floor on “Vectors (Part 2),” Ultravox-ish opener “Firedogs” and “Shifting Sands.” Arclight is not a groundbreaking or essential record, but it is great listen of two guys having fun and bringing us some genuine ‘80s ethos.
- Tears For Fears – The Tipping Point (Concord Records) — This wasn’t the album I was hoping for, but a new album from TFF is definitely a special occasion. There are some great songs on here – “Long Long Time” and the title track amongst them. Fans of Seeds Of Love TFF in particular are rewarded on the most part. Thank god they ditched the tracks they reportedly did with the “hot/current” producers which sound like a disaster.
- Miami Nights 1984 – Sentimental (Rosso Corsa Records) — Michael Glover returned with a new MN84 album in 2022, his first in a decade (not counting his Flinch soundtrack). One of the pioneers of synthwave, how would a new Miami Nights album stand up in a sea of soundalikes that have flooded the scene since Early Summer’s debut in 2010? Pretty well in fact. Sentimental is unmistakably Miami Nights 1984 with a solid 15 tracks, mostly dispensing with the small soundbites of earlier work. In 2022 an album like this may no longer be a head turner, but it does pleasantly remind us where it all came from.
- Becca Starr – Speak No Evil — Becca is a killer vocalist from Scotland who lent her vocals to Diamond Field’s 2021 debut album. Speak No Evil shows Becca’s talent as major hip-hop artist and one of Scotland’s brightest hip-hop artists (recently winning the Scottish Independent Music Award for best hip-hop artist). Speak No Evil is full of hooks, great rhymes, and stories delivered by Becca, proudly retaining her Scottish accent for full effect, making this a unique stand out in hip-hop.
- The Motion Epic – Deep In The Heart Of America — The Motion Epic just keep getting everything right when it comes to releasing “epic” sounding ‘80s anthems. Deep In The Heart Of America is the follow-up to 2021’s Boardwalk Empire, which had some killer tracks on it. Another nostalgia trip of FM radio style AOR, you get all the synths, rock guitars, and emotive vocals you could ask for. It’s Foreigner meets John Waite. The “motion” part of the band’s name certainly makes sense if you’re talking “motion picture,” as in soundtrack. Yes, of course, it’s a contender for an imaginary John Hughes flick (despite the clumsy overuse of that description for synthwave vocal tracks). There’s also a great cover of Johnny Hates Jazz’s “Shattered Dreams” and Max Cruise drops a dollop of sax on the album’s sunset closer, “This Town.” It surprises me The Motion Epic aren’t as big as The Midnight, given the similarities they share.
(Sound design on Ti West’s X and The House of the Devil; creator of Shudder’s Deadwax; Until Dawn writer; releases on MONDO/Death Waltz and Burning Witches Records; and so much more)
For the first time in as long as I can remember, this past year’s worth of “new” music to me comprised primarily of re-issues and older music I heard for the first time. I still bought or listened to a fair amount of proper new music, but this list will reflect what struck me the most over the past year — in no particular order! (…And my usual disclaimer: I’m not including any close collaborators or music from labels I have releases with.)
- Lee Baggett – Anyway — I first heard Lee Baggett’s captivating voice on his 2004 split with frequent collaborator Little Wings, Harvest Joy/Octember Sketches. It instantly became some of my favorite (and still played) music — and yet there was so little widely available Lee Baggett for so many years, until 2021 when fantastic label Perpetual Doom gave his 2019 self-issued CDR Lee Baggett 3 a proper vinyl/digital release (as Just A Minute). And now in 2022 we have a whole new Lee Baggett album. Lee Baggett’s charmingly addicting, aggressively chill music and hyper laid-back style defy classification — does he carry a tune or does the tune carry him? I suspect it’s a little of both.
- Faust – Punkt — Fifteen years ago I came into a low-quality mp3 bootleg of this fifth and final Faust album from the band’s original run, recorded some time in late 1973 or ’74, and I was obsessed with it. I even centered a scene in my 2008 film I Can See You around the title track, “Morning Land.” (Though after realizing there was no way we could get the rights, we had to record a soundalike.) Now almost 50 years after its intended release, it’s finally here, and it sounds amazing.
- Panabrite (Norm Chambers) – Cortex Meridian/Mirage Colony — Norm Chambers died this October, about a hundred years too soon. I haven’t heard a recording of his that I haven’t loved, and yet despite the 10-15 albums I’ve given full attention to, I’ve barely heard half of it. His proper 2022 release, Mirage Colony, is a stunning mindscape of ambient soundcraft. If you’ve never heard Chambers’ music before, he also reissued an amazing 2013 electronic album, Cortex Meridian, a perfect and very approachable place to start. It’s an overwhelming tragedy that we won’t be hearing more music from Norm Chambers, but we’re lucky he left us with so much to explore.
- Keith Fullerton Whitman – GRM (Generators) — The first of three excellent (Generators) releases this year by sonic flamethrower Keith Fullerton Whitman, and my personal favorite. The intricately woven (and apparently procedurally generated) hypnotic-yet-brutal synthesizer patterns sound somewhere between prime Terry Riley and an out-of-control sentient sequencer juiced with alien electricity. Playing this record at top volume will shred new neural pathways across your unsuspecting subconsciouscape.
- Gloria de Oliveira & Dean Hurley – Oceans of Time — Dean Hurley has been cranking out fantastic tape after tape of wild samplescape odysseys over the past few years, but this collaboration with Gloria de Oliveira, on Sacred Bones, is an exceptional high point (which is saying a lot!). Oliveira and Hurley (a frequent collaborator with David Lynch) have managed to create a record that takes on the modern mantle of the classic Julee Cruise (RIP) and Lynch albums and then pushes it into a new cosmic realm. The remarkable production and sound design feels as if it’s been transmitted via cassettes only half phased into our reality, and it’s sometimes hard to tell if Oliveira’s unearthly voice is being shaped by oceans of reverb, or if she’s shaping the oceans of reverb with her voice. Lately it’s been my morning ritual to blast this record and bliss the fuck out of this dimension.
- Adam Miller – Gateway — Beautifully layered, urgently atmospheric guitar meditations from Chromatics founding member Adam Miller. This is the rare kind of heightened but ineffable music you can’t help but write movie after movie to in your head whenever you listen. And it’s the kind of perfect ’80s goth-industrial 4AD chorus guitar sound you can drive yourself mad chasing after until you’ve bought every pedal on Reverb. I’m very happy to do both.
- BONUS PICK: Ceephax Acid Crew – Baddow Moods — OK, this album is not actually out yet. Andy Jenkinson crowdsourced production of the vinyl (and handily blew past the goal) and the full release is on Dec. 25. But, four of its 12 tracks, roughly 24 minutes worth, have already been released, and it’s a boldly smooth and almost loungey turn for Jenkinson. Though elements of his signature acid electro house deviations are a welcome presence throughout. Rock solid and so super freaking good that I can’t stop listening to it; nor can I wait to hear the rest.
(DJ and guest editor for Nightride.FM)
- Alex Lustig, Elohim – “Breathe” — I’ve followed Elohim over the years ever since I fell in love with her gorgeous, delicate voice. This collaboration with Alex Lustig perfectly marries her vocals with piano and muted synths. The bridge sums up how I think a lot of us have felt in the 2020s so far, “This world’s pretty crazy, I don’t know where I fit. But I keep on dancing, keep on dancing through all of it.”
- The Midnight – “Photograph/Energy Never Dies, It Just Transforms” — I’d write something about them, but it’s always difficult to get through without shedding a tear or two. Go have a listen and remember to bring a tissue. You’re likely overdue for an existential crisis, anyway.
- Icarus – “Dynasties” — Icarus is the least synthwave synthwave artist in the scene (we play him on Nightride despite this as not to hurt his feelings), but he’s moving more in that direction with his recent Artlist releases (probably because he bought a Prophet Rev 2 and doesn’t want to let it go to waste). The song’s catchy chorus and bassline make it an instant favorite for me.
- Kavinsky – “Zombie”— If you know me, you know I’m not the biggest Kavinsky fan — let’s be honest, he’s not the nicest guy in the world — but I can’t get over this track. The backing orchestrals in “Zombie” remind me of Justice’s “Cross” and make me feel like I’m back in 2007 reliving my French House phase. “Cameo” is also a close second from Reborn. I know he doesn’t like the term “synthwave,” but congratulations on your hit synthwave album, Kavinsky.
- Droid Bishop – “Above the Clouds” — This is quickly becoming my favorite Droid Bishop track. The intro reminds me of a sped up “Tick of the Clock” from the Drive soundtrack (pssst, Aaron), and is followed by an array of signature Droid Bishop sounds that I’ve come to love over the years. The guitar licks (especially at 1:27) are magnificent and clean per usual and blend seamlessly into the gorgeous synths.
(Sally Shapiro collaborator; St. Lucia remixer; Kung Fury soundtrack artist; Vehlinggo Presents contributor)
- Kavinsky – “Renegade” — This track quickly slithered into my ears and any doubt I had about what a potential follow-up to Kav’s debut full-length, Outrun, would sound like flew right out the window. A true banger. [The track features on Reborn.]
- St. Lucia – “The Golden Age” — St. Lucia’s latest album, Utopia, is a true return to form, it feels warm and embracing, and as much as it is so, “The Golden Age” is the one song that stands out to me more than the rest. The musicianship, the lyrics, but most importantly that magical coda which seals the track.
- Duett and Yatte – “Keep Your Hold on Love” — I discovered Yatte thanks to a YouTube show/podcast we both participated in, and they quickly became one of my favorite artists in the retro genre. This collaboration is one that brings the best of both parties. Notable is the harmonic richness and Alex’s amazing vocals.
- Sally Shapiro – “Sad City” — Another big 2022 surprise was the reformation of the Swedish duo that I have the privilege of calling friends and collaborators. The title track from their new album, Sad Cities, is melancholic, haunting, and fitting for a movie in the best Sally Shapiro way imaginable.
- Young Gun Silver Fox – “Winners” — I’ve been obsessed with YGSF for a good few years now. Their mastery of the art of songwriting is truly a sight to behold. Rolling Back is a rhodes-infused, brass-laden love letter to funk, Motown, and the golden age of AOR.
- Dabeull, Holybrune – “Glitter Fonk” — While on the subject of funk. Dabeull is consistent in providing his funk in a sleek and sophisticated way, along with his long time collaborator Holybrune. Don’t sleep on this one.
- Mitch Murder – “Apex” — Taken from Selection 6, the 90’s nostagia-laden Apex shows just how versatile and unpredictable Murder can be in his creations.
- Ghost – “Griftwood” — Something about Ghost just didn’t sit well with me. That was until Impera. This album finally has every puzzle piece fall into its glam rock place. Simple, but never simplistic, Ghost is definitely one of the major bands of this decade, and Griftwood showcases the effective and catchy songwriting. Keep an ear out for the majestic c-part.
- Brothertiger – “Tangerine” — Why is Brothertiger so good? Why do his vocals hit so hard? All this and more in his latest, self-titled album.
Jean-Philippe Bernier (of Le Matos)
(Le Matos are the geniuses behind Join Us and Coming Soon; and composers of Turbo Kid, Summer of 84, Ninja Eliminator,and Exode; releases on MONDO/Death Waltz, Kitsuné, Vehlinggo Presents, and more. Bernier is also a notable cinematographer, shooting films such as Dinner in America, Turbo Kid, and Summer of 84.)
This year I decided to make three little top lists: Favorite albums and favorite film scores and singles released in 2022 that might end up in my EOY23 with the full album release. Maybe it’s because I’m getting “old,” but this year was a big jump back to my teenage years in the 1990s with punk, hardcore, emo (not that screamo, nu-metal shit, but ’90s emo) and indie rock. Let’s do this.
Top 5 Favorite Albums of 2022 (no specific order)
- Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – When the Lights Go — I’ve been a fan of TEED since the moment I heard his first ep back in 2010ish. I’m still obsessed with “Household Goods” from his 2012 (only) album. I’ve been bouncing from every remix, single, collab and DJ set for the past 10 years waiting for that album… I was not surprised to see “Crosswalk” at the top of my Spotify wrap-up this year. I’m in love with this album.
- Yotto – Erased Dreams — That release from Yotto caught me off guard. Away from his dancey EDM club sound, he went into the ambient world to release a beautiful soft electronic album that is my new go-to for commuting in the city or when I’m on a plane.
- No Pressure – No Pressure — This is where the 90s nostalgia starts to hit hard! No Pressure reached deep down to my teen years listening to skate punk and rollerblading to the DIY skatepark I build with my friend at the basketball court in the small village I grew up to. Don’t waste your time with the new Blink-182 album…
- Anxious – Little Green House — In the mid/late 90s, I was obsessed with the emo/indie rock & hardcore scene. That album from these kids just hit that spot perfectly. For the fans of Knapsack, The Promise Ring & early Jimmy Eat World with a touch of post-hardcore. This is my number-one album of the year.
- Sadurn – Radiator — Now that I was a fan of the label Run For Cover, thanks to Anxious & One Step Closer, Sadurn sneaked into my discover weekly Spotify playlist. It brought back memories from my college years listening to Weakerthans, with late-night studies and hangouts.
Favorite Scores of 2022 (no order)
- Blanck Mass – GAZZA
- SebastiAn – SAINT LAURENT MEN’S SPRING SUMMER 2023
- Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Bones and All
Bonus 2022 Singles of What I’m Looking Forward to in 2023
- Amtrac – “Extra Time”
- Men I Trust – “Billie Toppy”
- One Step Closer – “Dark Blue”
- Anxious – “Sunsign”
This year I had a hell of a time choosing just 10 or so releases, so I went with 25. However, there is more than likely some obvious one I’ve missed that is just going to eat at me after someone points it out. Actually, the potential omissions are already eating at me. (Ha.) In terms of order, you know how I roll: I hate hate hate ranking, because it’s just not helpful or interesting. It’s also kind of impossible in some instances. Instead, I’m sticking with alphabetical order (by first name or project name). Furthermore, I’m maintaining my custom of not writing anything about my selections — despite my status as a rather verbose person. However, I do link to the ones I’ve covered on this site or on the podcast. But yeah, otherwise, I think their mere inclusion suggests they were noteworthy enough to stick to my silly little brain cells.
- Adam Miller – Gateway
- Alan Braxe and DJ Falcon (Feat. Panda Bear) – Step by Step EP
- Ben Lovett – Hellraiser (2022) (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow – Archive 81 (Soundtrack from the Netflix Series)
- Beyoncé – RENAISSANCE
- Brothertiger — Brothertiger
- Dara Taylor – The Invitation
- Dawn to Dawn – Postcards from the Sun to the Moon
- Disasterpeace – Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- Drum & Lace – Natura
- Fawn – (all six singles the duo composed of former Chromatics and Glass Candy members released this year)
- Hannah Peel – The Midwich Cuckoos (Original Score)
- Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Let’s Turn It Into Sound
- Kavinsky – Reborn
- Mark Korven – The Peripheral (Music from the Original Series)
- Mecha Maiko – NOT OK*
- Miami Nights 1984 – Sentimental
- Michael Abels – Nope (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- Phoenix – Alpha Zulu
- Ruth Radelet – The Other Side
- Sally Shapiro – Sad Cities
- Tess Roby – Ideas of Space
- The Midnight – Heroes
- VAAAL – A Wounded Fawn (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- VH x RR – On The Shoulders of Giants
- Window Seat (new Ariel Loh project) – First Flight
(BTW, I played selections from some of these and talked a bit about them on the latest episode of The Vehlinggo Podcast.)
(Also, RIP Angelo Badalamenti. What an absolute titan of composition and what a devastating loss.)
* I did the liner notes for this one, but I still would have had it on the list if I had no involvement at all.
Here’s 2019’s and 2020’s and last year’s. If you’re really into lists, check out Vehlinggo’s 60 favorite synthwave albums and EPs of 2010s (although the inclusion of College is a stretch, he did help create the foundations for the genre); or 100 favorite albums and EPs of the 2010s; or 30 favorite soundtracks of that decade.