Our Favorite Songs of 2022

Maile Carballo / KUTX

As hard as it might be to believe, another year has gone by. And in the new normal, 2022 began to show some real improvement. With a few fits and starts, musicians are playing again, touring across the country and beyond. While here at KUTX, we’ve dusted off and cranked up Studio 1A again, and are hosting some great live sessions (which you can check out at kutx.org). 

We’re back in the office (sorta), back at shows (sorta), and at least in a musical sense, Austin is seeming more and more like Austin. Of course, even in the worst of times, great recordings still were coming our way. But now, musicians are back in person, alongside each other in the studio, and results are being made more organically. 

Asked to come up with their favorite three songs, the entire music-obsessed KUTX staff voiced their usual cries of “this is impossible”, but bravely forged ahead anyway. Here are the results; their hard-thought choices for 2022 standouts. Hopefully, you’ll find something you love here, too.  – Jeff McCord

Jack Anderson- Producer

Kendrick Lamar– “Silent Hill” (feat. Kodak Black)

Kodak Black on a Kendrick track: It looks a little wacky on paper, but boy, did they deliver a seamless collaboration. Kodak took a step towards Kendrick’s introspection as Kendrick leaned into Kodak’s frivolities. Bonus points for the title, which has nothing to do with the lyrics, but provides a creepy reference point before the first downbeat.

Santigold – “High Priestess”

Whenever I read the phrase, “awesome power”, my brain goes straight to this song. As much as I like laid-back Santigold, the pulsating power of “High Priestess” just barely tickles my threshold for inducing anxiety…and battened down by sexual braggadocio? I’m all about it.

Caramelo Haze– “Window Seat”

Do understated dynamics prevent a track from being a “banger”? If so, this is one of the heaviest “head-bobbers” out there. A panorama of groove perfection, my favorite bits of “Window Seat” are that falsetto “Funky Worm”-style West Coast synth. Instant grin.

Peter Babb- Digital Content Manager

Adrian Quesada- “Idolo” (feat. Angélica Garcia)

Adrian Quesada has been shaping my musical tastes since I was a college student sweating it out at Grupo Fantasma shows in the early aughts. Now, 20 years later and he’s still turning me on to artists and sounds I never would’ve heard otherwise. Angelica Garcia’s otherworldy vocals on “Idolo” bring the burning passion of the bolero back to life in the best way possible.

Kevin Morby- “This Is A Photograph”

Like that other midwest troubadour Jeff Buckley, Kevin Morby is on a mission to find the soul of America. From protest songs to personal reflections on private moments, Morby asks listeners to adjust their perspectives and listen closer. “This Is A Photograph” is a study of one such intimate moment, dissecting a family photo to uncover a universal truth. “This is what I’m going to miss about being alive.” 

Danger Mouse and Black Thought- “Because”

2022’s “Cheat Codes” marked a triumphant return for former Roots lyricist and rapper Black Thought. On “Because” producer Danger Mouse deftly weaves a classic Doris & Kelly R&B tune under the hip hop legend’s hard-hitting bars to create a song that’s as groovy as it is thought provoking.

Maile Carballo- Digital Content Intern

Spoon– “On the Radio”

As a late-to-the-party Spoon fan, this song was my turning point. I heard this song and never looked back. During SXSW, I saw the announcement for their Antone’s show & I made it my goal as an 18-year-old stuck in Small Town, TX to secure one of the very few spots – & I did!! Since then I’ve seen Spoon three times & almost cried not the first, but the SECOND time I saw Britt Daniel just walking around like a normal dude over near where I was. Call me a nerd, because I fully submit to it.

Fontaines DC– “Roman Holiday”

HOW CAN YOU RESIST THAT MOODY GUITAR OPENING? (Or lead singer Grian Chatten?) Fontaine’s DC is just everything I love in one band- catchy music, driving guitar leads, an almost “Trainspotting” feel, & of course, the Irish. I had the privilege of seeing them front row up against the stage at Paper Tiger when they came through Texas in September & it really did nothing but re-enforce my love for them. And bonus points- I got the setlist!

Andrew Bird– “Underlands”

Where do you even start with this song, apart from being proof that God is real? Andrew Bird is stuck somewhere between being human and a mystical being that can, in the words of Iron & Wine, “quite simply just whistle his way into any open part of your heart.” Discovering him has been an incredible journey for me. As an amateur violinist, it’s just completely revolutionary. I’ve discovered so much more of my musical voice, and Bird’s work just keeps inspiring me to go forward.

Susan Castle- Host

Cimafunk – “Rompelo

Their performance at our SXSW morning broadcast made most of us dance and a few of us cry at the pure joy of seeing live music as a group for the first time in two years. Then at ACL Fest, I got to turn my 25-year-old daughter Petunia on to this amazing Cuban artist and his band and she said it was, hands-down, the best thing she saw that day. 

Kevin Morby- “This Is A Photograph”

I knew Rick loved it and I liked it, but I instantly grew to adore it when I played it on the air the day after John Aielli died and I really keyed in on the lyrics and sentiment for the first time. Now it gives me chills every time I hear it.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” (feat. Perfume Genius)

Again, I liked it plenty when we first started playing it, but when this unabashed tree hugger found out it was about climate change, it became even more anthemic and more important.

Rene Chavez- Sound Engineer

Los Bitchos – “Las Panteras

The blend of cultures and influences here are insane. It’s like the Breeders took Cumbia courses. One of my favorite Studio 1A performances of the year. 

Kalu & the Electric Joint– “Garden of Eden

I don’t know that I’ve heard a tune quite like this one in a long time, if ever. It’s space-y, pop-y, kinda blues-y, and sweet. The guitar work is a vibe, and Kalu’s vocal layers are lovely.

Urban HeatTrust

This track is a big mood. It’s dark, but up-tempo with rich synths that remind me of ’81-’87 era Depeche Mode. And Jonathan’s baritone vocals sinch the whole thing together nicely.

Michael Crockett- Host

Marisa Monte & Jorge DrexlerVento Sardo

Brazilian singer Marisa Monte and Uruguayan singer Jorge Drexler take us for a sail as they intermingle phrases in Portuguese and Spanish on a song they wrote as an ode to the wind.

Carlos Vives & Fito Paez – “Babel

A native Colombian gaita flute weaves its way through this tropical rock song written and performed by Carlos Vives from Colombia and Fito Paez from Argentina, in which they lament the continued lack of understanding between different cultures.

Shervin Hajipour– “Baraye Azadi

This soulful song whose title means “For The Sake of Freedom” has become the anthem of this year’s largely youthful resistance to the religious autocracy that has ruled Iran since 1979. Self-produced and written using tweets from protesters in the streets, it reached 40 million views after being posted on Instagram before Iranian authorities took it down and jailed the singer.

Jody Denberg- Host

Adrian Quesada- “Mentiras Con Carino” (feat. Ile)

A highlight from Quesada’s groundbreaking Boleros Psicodelicos album. The mixture of these Latin ballads with eclectic production – each helmed by a guest artist – is intoxicating. Quesada is one of the great visionaries in Austin music. This project took flight, with performances on Stephen Colbert, at ACL Fest, and an ACL TV taping. And it was a privilege to have the first live performances from the album take place on KUTX.

Melissa Carper – “Ain’t A Day Goes By

A veteran of Austin’s all-female acoustic trio The Carper Family, Melissa followed her 2021 solo debut with another gem of an album featuring this single, which she wrote for her dog, Betty. Singer/songwriter/bassist Carper could get tagged as a revivalist, but this song speaks to us in a moment beyond genre. 

The Living Pins – “Oh Yeah

Last year, this duo, featuring veterans from Austin 90’s outfits Sixteen Deluxe and Ursa Major, scored with their Freaky Little Monster Children EP. This year it’s a double A-side single (which received international airplay). With fun, smart lyrics set to psychedelic garage rock dabbed with a touch of T. Rex, “Oh Yeah” jumped out of the radio with authority and a wink.

Jacquie Fuller- Assistant Program Director

Daniel Fears – “Keep On

Fears’ velvety voice has all the coziness of a blanket fresh out of the dryer, but this track pairs it with guitar that feels, for lack of a better word, aquatic. The result is warm and cool, comforting and disorienting, and irresistibly melancholic. It’s the textbook definition of wistful.

Spoon – “Satellite

Maybe it’s not fair to include this in my 2022 list – it’s not a new song. But it’s new to wax and one of the most magnificently-arranged tracks on an album (Lucifer on the Sofa) already stuffed with solid songs. “Satellite” takes the earthy swagger of the band’s 2000-era “Chips and Dip” and blasts it to new heights.

Adrian Quesada – “Idolo” (feat. Angélica Garcia)

Of all the tracks on Quesada’s spectacular Boleros Psicodelicos, this one is the most arresting. Garcia sings like a woman on the verge of madness – La Llorona haunting the banks of Quesada’s moody composition.

Laurie Gallardo- Host

Spoon – “Lucifer On the Sofa”

I knew something was up when Tyler Mahan Coe, host of the podcast Cocaine and Rhinestones (and not an easily impressed music lover), tweeted that Spoon’s latest album was the best this year. Somehow, in the darkest corners of my brooding mind, hearing the title track always leaves me speechless. It’s not a song. It’s a damn mood.

Santigold – “Fall First”

I love this one from Santigold’s LP Spirituals. It’s not goth, but it is. There’s darkness flowing from beginning to end, with a kind of Joy Division pulse to it.

Jack White – “Taking Me Back”

The master shredder unleashes more wicked licks on Fear of the Dawn, with this one as the opener. Top to bottom, this LP rules, but I was gleeful to crank this first release on top volume. Are you taking me back? We’ll see.

Deidre Gott- Live Music Producer

U.S. Girls – “So Typically Now”

Canadian producer and songwriter Megan Remy can do no wrong in my opinion.

10pmtoclose – “Osaka”

Part of the Austin Music Experience, Electronic/synth duo 10pmtoclose recruited R&B artist Jonny Jukebox and Houston rapper Rocky Banks for this banger of a track.

Flora & Fawna – “Never Mine”

Give this Austin outfit a record deal already.

Confucius Jones- Host

Charley Crockett– “I’m Just a Clown”

I love this record not just because he’s from Waco (I have family out there), but because the subject matter is easily relatable.

Luna Luna– “Talk Too Much”

I’m a huge Tame Impala fan and this song gives off similar vibes, but also has its own spin courtesy of this great band.

Future– “712PM”

A great album always has a great intro, and this song from Future’s latest album is no different. I love braggadocios records and this one is that, on steroids.

“Fresh” Knight- Host

Steve Lacy – “Mercury”

Steve Lacy has had a hell of a year in 2022, following up on his debut album with Gemini Rights. “Mercury” was a masterful example of Lacy’s sound and the graduation of what he did with his former group, The Internet.

Thee Sacred Souls – “Easier Said than Done”

What a supreme showcase of soul music in the 21st century. There is no debate that soul and R&B are alive and well with Thee Sacred Souls.

The Mars Volta – “Blacklight Shine”

What can be said about El Paso other than they continue to have hidden gems. Whether it be Beto O’Rourke, Khalid, or The Mars Volta. Blacklight Shine was a wonderful mashup of rock, soul, and funk that grooved me all year long.

Art Levy- Producer

Lady Wray – “Come On In”

A lot of the retro-soul crowd forget a key ingredient of the sound: space. There’s a lot of room to roam in “Come On In,” and it lets Lady Wray work her magic. She croons over a laid-back groove that makes you want to lean closer and say, “who is this?” Turns out, Lady Wray had a previous life working with Missy Elliott and getting a hit single in the ‘90s. “Come On In” is a reinvention and revelation of an incredible talent.

Good Looks – “Vision Boards”

The Austin band provides some meaningful bite to their steady rock and roll. Tyler Jordan sings from the trenches of indie rock, where “following your dreams” is much more dangerous than advertised. I love how the song explodes in the outro, transcending all the failure and anxieties Jordan sings about.

Caramelo Haze – “Caramelo Haze”

This is what cumbia sounds like when Austin gets its hands on it: psychedelic as a triple-digit, asphalt-melting day.

Jeff McCord- Music Editor & Host

Good Looks– “Vision Boards”

Biting satire on the myopia of privilege, and a dive inside the crushing doubt of a career choice devoid of encouragement, all within the confines of a smart and irresistible four-minute rocker. The defiance creeps in at the bridge (which curiously, comes at the end of the song), when vocalist Tyler Jordan snarls to the voice inside his head to “shut the fuck up”. Whoa. Without doubt, the song of the year. 

Beth Orton– “Friday Night”

Returning from motherhood’s exile, Orton reclaims the thrilling promise of her earliest genre-bending works on her meditative and transcendental Weather Alive, here musing on history and choices made, a relationship where “the only choice that was left to us was to bleed or rust in the rain.”

Adrian Quesada ft. Natalia Clavier– “Esclavo Y Amo

The Peruvian song that stopped Quesada dead in his tracks when he first heard it, and eventually launched his ambitious and impressive pandemic project Boleros Psicodelicos. Embracing the over-the-top melodrama of Latin baladas head-on, Quesada melded a wide range of collaborators to the music (both inspired by and covered) with astonishing results. In their second time for this pairing (the Echocentrics recorded this previously), Clavier nails “Esclavo”’s passion, while Quesada, as always, lays down the oh-so-cool underpinnings.

Rick McNulty- Music Director & Host

Charley Crockett – “I’m Just A Clown”

Charley is a master of covers and interpretations, and here’s hoping the success of this track will encourage him to write more often. He’s nailed a self-deprecating number about being on the losing side of a bad relationship. Kudos to producer Bruce Robison, who borrows strings and a bit of the guitar solo from B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone”.

Kevin Morby – “This Is A Photograph”

Starting with one of the most arresting guitar riffs of recent vintage, Morby confronts familial mortality and how fleeting life really is. You won’t hear a better song this year that will inspire you to call and check in with your parents.

Caramelo Haze – “Window Seat”

This is a refreshing piña colada on a sunny yachting tour of the Caribbean. It gives me great hometown pride knowing that it was made in Austin by Beto Martinez & John Speice of Grupo Fantasma/Brownout/Money Chicha, along with members of Dos Santos and MAKU Sound System. If you have a poolside playlist, put this on it!

Elizabeth McQueen- Producer & Host

Luna Luna – “Talk Too Much”

All I really want is a song that leaves me no choice but to dance, and this song does just that. It’s a banger from the word go, and I’m here for it! I’m grateful that the band moved here from Dallas, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Flora & Fawna – “Long Shot”

As I said, I want a song that compels me to dance, and this song does just that. Flora & Fawna is not afraid to write a pop gem. And I’m such a fan of Lili Hickman’s voice. 

Deezie Brown – “Malice at the Palace”

I have to send respect to Deezie for going after the rights for the sample for this song – who knew that the Fugees sampled Enya’s “Boadicea”?? Deezie is one of my favorite hip-hop artists, because of his ambition as an artist. And yes, this song definitely makes me want to move.

Jake Perlman- Engineer

Vieux Farka Toure & Khrungbin – “Tongo Barra”

Aside from the Sub Pop & AmRep noise I soaked up in the ’90s, I was enthralled by “world music” – which inspired rhythmic ideas for my drumming. One of my cool aunts gifted me a CD by Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder called Talking Timbuktu. Toure’s mysterious guitar sound struck me in a different way. This tribute album with Ali’s son makes total sense & broadens the funky horizons even further.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Gaia”

I’m such a sucker for odd-time shenanigans that still feel good in metal riffs and rhythms. KGLW seem to be looking forward and backward at the same time with their stuff, which morphs constantly. “Gaia” sounds like everything from 1994, yet heavier and cooler. Probably because it is.

Dehd – “Bad Love”

In the beginning, this song sounds like a Phil Spector production – get in and out under 3:00, get to the first chorus under :45. Yet it’s such a simple arrangement and recording. I love the basic floor tom & snare drum… no fat in this song. It could be a song from a John Hughes movie soundtrack. Jeez – I’m just reliving the ’90s this year, I guess…

Paisley Porter- Digital Content Intern

Harry Styles – “Daydreaming”

This song has such an upbeat sound that I can’t help but turn it up to 11 and jam out! With samplings from the Johnson Brothers’ “Ain’t We Funkin’ Now”,  it’s the perfect balance of 70s funk and contemporary pop. And it was the perfect opener for his residency at the Moody Center this past September!

The Backseat Lovers – “Silhouette”

I’ve been a fan since their debut in 2019, and their this new album showcases their talent. Beautifully engineered and long-awaited, this song is one of my favorites of the year. Having them in Studio 1A recently was surreal!

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Carry Me Home”

The heavy opening guitar riff is what makes this song my favorite on their new album Return of the Dream Canteen, the second record that they’ve released this year. Though it wasn’t on their setlist for ACL, they still rocked the roof with a wild performance. But the roof would have rocked even more if they had performed it.

Matt Reilly- Program Director

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – “Gaia”

I dI don’t like all metal. I like metal that comes from the Black Sabbath/Sleep family tree. You know, lotsa low-end power chords with a nice breakdown in the middle. “Gaia” delivers on all of it. I love this prolific band because they’re just as likely to put out a techno or folk song next. Just wait a week, you’ll see!

Kevin Morby – “Bittersweet, TN”

This duet with Erin Rae is a lovely folk ballad with banjo and a lush string arrangement. A meditation on Morby’s fear of death after witnessing his father have a near miss with the Reaper, Morby takes that most common of fears and turns it into a thing of beauty.

Urban Heat –Trust”

As a child of the ’80s, this is sonic comfort food. Like a lot of retro-sounding songs, it gets dismissed for borrowing from a previous generation. Lyrically, this kind of reminds me of Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime”, so the ’80s vibe comes full circle.

Soundfounder- Host

Jockstrap – “Concrete Over Water”

Jockstrap is the electronic side project of Black Country, New Road’s Georgia Ellery, along with electronic producer Taylor Skye. They create a dramatic soundscape and a modern take on avant-electronic pop that should please fans of Bjork or Kate Bush. It is something special.

Sudan Archives – “ChevyS10” 

I’ve been following Sudan Archives since her early releases in 2017, and it has been a joy to watch her upward trajectory from the underground LA scene to the fully-realized vision of her 2022 album Natural Brown Prom Queen.  “ChevyS10” is an emotional, ever changing showcase of everything she is capable of as a vocalist, violinist, songwriter, electronic musician and expert collaborator. 

Fennec – “girl”

Austin resident Fennec has the sound of his sample-based House music dialed in to perfection. His skilled layering of eccentric, dusty samples reminds me of early Avalanches releases, and his 2022 album A Couple of Good Days stands out as one of the most cohesive electronic albums to come out of Austin this year.

Jay Trachtenberg- Host

Vieux Farka Toure & Khruangbin – “Tonga Barra”

A compatible melding of the Malian guitarist’s hypnotic desert blues sounds with the Houston trio’s longtime penchant for sinuous global grooves – from the album Ali, a tribute to Vieux’s legendary father, Ali Farka Toure.

Odesza – “The Last Goodbye” (feat. Bettye LaVette)

An irresistible mashup of underrated soul stirrer Bettye Lavette’s pleading 1965 gem “Let Me Down Easy” and the Seattle EDM duo’s churning dance floor beats.

Spoon – “The Devil and Mr. Jones (Adrian Sherwood Reconstruction)”

Britt Daniel has injected elements of dub into various Spoon songs over the years. Here he dives in headfirst with iconic dub maestro Adrian Sherwood of On-U Sound fame on the new album, Lucifer On The Moon, a psychedelic, dub-wise treatment of Spoon’s Grammy-nominated, Lucifer On The Sofa.

Taylor Wallace- Host

Panda Bear and Sonic Boom – “Edge of the Edge”

At first glance, this direction seems a little grounded for two artists known for telling the word “abstract” to hold their beer, yet the pair have woven their style into the Brian Wilson fabric, adding new beauty to a stalwart cloth.

LCD Soundsystem – “New Body Rhumba”

They’re back, baby, even if only for a one-off soundtrack single. Clocking in at just over seven minutes, all the creature comforts of a perfect LCD Soundsystem dance-punk track are there, down to the cowbell and Murphy’s falsetto sweeps, set to a conceit about the Idiocracy-style efforts to keep us ever-hungry consumers.

Shiela – “Soltera”

Big shoutout to Confucius and Fresh for putting this Austin-born artist on my radar this year. Smooth bars, a Miami dance energy, and a sultry attitude wrapped in leather and latex make this banger the perfect addition to your Cuffing Season playlist. 

Ryan Wen- Host

Beyonce – “Virgo’s Groove” 

All I want is to roller skate on Saturn’s rings and listen to Virgo’s Groove on a loop until the end of time. Is that so much to ask?

Vieux Farka Toure & Khruangbin – “Tongo Barra”

It’s poetic genius for Vieux to record and reinterpret his father’s music in Texas with Houston’s Khruangbin. With these contemporary and ancient ingredients, Ali is an enchanting paradox, akin to eavesdropping on a mindblowing conversation between a person and their ancestor.

Plains – “Problem With It

Plains’ Katie Crutchfield, an Alabama native, rebelled against southern culture for much of her youth, but rediscovering Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road helped her reorient her relationship with the south. “Problem With It” is a beautiful marriage of her experiences; aggressive and uncompromising like her early punk, but with a wistfulness that is the hallmark of any great country song. As someone with a late-onset love for country music and a similarly fraught relationship with their deep south home, Crutchfield’s story was good to hear. Maybe it will be for you too.

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