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Bob Boilen's Favorite Music of 2022

Tomberlin's i don't know who needs to hear this... is among Bob Boilen's favorite albums of 2022.
Photo Illustration: Jackie Lay/NPR

Words and textures drive my love of music more than beats and hooks. It isn't always a narrative that grabs me, though that surely happens. What's best is when the poetry of the words, or the story they tell, seem woven right into the tone or atmosphere of a song. The feeling of intensity when story and sound build a feeling of intense connection makes me want to listen to a record over and over again. Just click on any of the songs below, and you're bound to hear what I mean.

Among the artists who made my list of 2022 favorites are quite a few new to me, including the charming, sometimes goofy, catchy debut album from Wet Leg. I was thrilled to discover the mysterious tangle of sounds made by Saya Gray and the fresh take on a sound you might have heard in a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, delivered by Hermanos Gutiérrez. I also discovered Anna Tivel's poetic and cinematic sounds; Curse of Lono's deep storytelling; the uplifting banjo, fiddle and harmonies of Mama's Broke and the dark underbelly of caroline.

It was also a year in which past favorites made better records than ever; maybe the time away from touring during COVID, shaped richer, more introspective sets of songs. In this group I'll include Big Thief's Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, which is both hefty and full of levity; the stunning, spacious sounds heard across Tomberlin's i don't know who needs to hear this...; the atmospheric self-titled album that Florist recorded on a porch in the Hudson Valley and Kevin Morby's This Is A Photograph, his reflections on family, life and death created after a pilgrimage to Memphis.

Below you'll find two lists: my 20 favorite albums and my top 40 songs of 2022, both ranked. Of course, there's so much more worth hearing, and I made a playlist that stretches to 100 songs that will hopefully help you discover some gems you may have missed in a year that felt like an overwhelming deluge of creativity and discovery in the rock-ish, folk-ish world I love to dive into.

ALBUMS

1. Tomberlin, i don't know who needs to hear this...
2. Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
3. Wet Leg, Wet Leg
4. Florist, Florist
5. Curse of Lono, People In Cars
6. Regina Spektor, Home, before and after
7. Saya Gray, 19 MASTERS
8. Lizzy McAlpine, five seconds flat
9. Aldous Harding, Warm Chris
10. Kevin Morby, This Is A Photograph
11. The A's, Fruit
12. Wilco, Cruel Country
13. Spiritualized, Everything Was Beautiful
14. Porridge Radio, Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky
15. Julia Jacklin, PRE PLEASURE
16. caroline, caroline
17. Mama's Broke, Narrow Line
18. Joan Shelley, The Spur
19. Gang of Youths, angel in realtime.
20. Hermanos Gutiérrez, El Bueno Y El Malo


SONGS

1. Regina Spektor, "Up The Mountain"
2. Curse Of Lono, "So Damned Beautiful" (feat Tess Parks)
3. Tomberlin, "stoned"
4. Big Thief, "Spud Infinity"
5. Porridge Radio, "Back To The Radio"
6. Florist, "Red Bird Pt. 2 (Morning)"
7. Lizzy McAlpine, "reckless driving (ft. Ben Kessler)"
8. Hurray for the Riff Raff, "PRECIOUS CARGO"
9. Madi Diaz, "Hangover"
10. Spiritualized, "Always Together With You"
11. Gang of Youths, "you in everything"
12. Frank Turner, "A Wave Across A Bay"
13. Anna Tivel, "Outsiders"
14. The Beths, "Expert in a Dying Field"
15. Hermanos Gutiérrez, "El Bueno Y El Malo"
16. Wet Leg, "Angelica"
17. Craig Finn, "Messing with the Settings"
18. Aldous Harding, "Ennui"
19. Winter, "good"
20. Saya Gray "IF THERE'S NO SEAT IN THE SKY (WILL YOU FORGIVE ME???)"
21. Horace Andy, "Feverish"
22. King Princess, "Cursed"
23. Cassandra Jenkins, "Pygmalion"
24. Jesca Hoop, "Hatred Has a Mother"
25. Julia Jacklin, "Moviegoer"
26. Wilco, "I Am My Mother"
27. Deer Scout, "Peace with the Damage"
28. Sudan Archives, "Selfish Soul"
29. Arooj Aftab, "Udhero Na (feat. Anoushka Shankar)"
30. Joan Shelley, "The Spur"
31. Mama's Broke, "How It Ends"
32. The A's, "He Needs Me"
33. Beth Orton, "Forever Young"
34. Big Thief, "Certainty"
35. Brian Eno, "We Let It In"
36. Brittany Davis, "I Choose to Live"
37. caroline, "Dark Blue"
38. The Comet is Coming, "TECHNICOLOUR"
39. Courtney Marie Andrews, "These Are The Good Old Days"
40. dani mack, "Someday"

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