First Floor's Favorite Tracks of 2022
a.k.a. There's no avoiding list season, even here.
Are you sick of year-end lists yet? Quite possibly.
December isn’t even halfway over, but the annual onslaught of lists is fully underway, with virtually every click-chasing media outlet on the planet rushing to roll out a round-up (and in many cases, multiple round-ups) of the “best” music of 2022.
Even for the perpetually online, it can be a bit much, particularly when there’s often so much overlap from one outlet to the next. In some ways, the most interesting aspect of all these lists is how they demonstrate the critical groupthink that seems to takes hold within the music industry each year, even during an era when the sheer volume of releases on offer is higher than it’s ever been before.
All that said… I too have made some lists. What can I say? Old habits die hard, and year-end listmaking I’ve been doing my entire adult life. I certainly don’t need to keep doing it, and I doubt that even the most ardent First Floor readers are anxiously awaiting my picks, but it’s also kind of fun to take stock at the end of the year and think about what music I actually liked the most. (Moreover, given that I literally highlight my favorite new tracks each week here in the newsletter, it makes sense to put together a year-end round-up, no?)
To be clear, I haven’t put together any “Best of 2022” lists. I haven’t even bothered to rank my selections. What I have done is prepare two wholly subjective lists, one of my favorite tracks of the year, and another of my favorite releases. The former is below, and the latter will sent out tomorrow in a special Wednesday edition of the newsletter. (And for those who are curious, the regular Thursday edition of First Floor—the one with news, links, release announcements, track recommendations from the past week, etc.—will still be published this week at the usual time.)
This is not meant to be a comprehensive look at the year in electronic music. These selections are 100% my own, and are only definitive in the sense that they are the tracks I personally enjoyed the most during the past 12 months. Some of the names will likely ring familiar—I too am susceptible to that groupthink I mentioned earlier—and while pretty much all the tunes pertain to the electronic music sphere, there are club bangers, ambient meditations and plenty of songs that fall somewhere in between. As I said before, they are not officially ranked, but they have been presented in an order that roughly correlates to my enthusiasm (i.e. my absolute favorites come first).
Anyways, let’s dive in. Even in a year where electronic music (and dance music specifically) often felt like it was lacking in substance, there were still plenty of great tunes out there.
Note: You can click the track titles to hear each song individually, or you can also just head over to this convenient Buy Music Club list to find them all in one place.
Nosaj Thing “Blue Hour (feat. Julianna Barwick)” (LuckyMe)
Combine Mezzanine-era Massive Attack—and more specifically, the sultry percussive stutter of trip-hop classic “Teardrop”—and the celestial pipes of Julianna Barwick (who rarely sounds this emotionally vulnerable), and you’ve got one of 2022’s most quietly sublime tunes.
S-Type “Be Where You Are” (LuckyMe)
Hudson Mohawke “Behold” (Warp)
Bite-sized bits of neon-streaked chipmunk gospel with booming rap beats. These two songs are joy concentrate.
Nick León “Xtasis (feat. DJ Babatr)” (TraTraTrax)
’90s rave techno meets galloping post-reggaeton rhythms on one of 2022’s few bona fide anthems. The sounds of Latin America (and its diaspora) have been slowly creeping onto electronic music dancefloors for years now, but “Xtasis” properly threw open the floodgates—and did it with a big smile on its face.
Two Shell “home” (Mainframe Audio)
Are these guys childish trolls or savvy cultural critics? Maybe it doesn’t matter. As Pitchfork’s Cat Zhang recently wrote, “Two Shell could really piss you off if their music wasn’t so fantastic,” and “home”—a bubbly, hyperpop-at-the-rave tune which technically first surfaced in 2021 as a limited-edition white label—offers a instant shot of candy-coated glee.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Spitting off the Edge of the World (feat. Perfume Genius)” (Secretly Canadian)
Not technically electronic music, but a triumphant return from a band whose angsty art-rock was always tinged with stadium-sized ambitions. Call it “indie sleaze” if you must (or if you work in lifestyle marketing), but this is a gripping song that speaks to the sullen teenager in all of us.
Rhyw “Honey Badger” (Voam)
So. Many. Drums. This giddily blistering cut is the techno equivalent of a carnival ride that failed its last three safety inspections, and the unhinged kid operating the machine is wearing neon-green Crocs with flames on the sides.
Bianca Oblivion “Selecta” (Magic City)
Energy! If Kromestar had gotten his hands on the sample pack Timbaland & Magoo used to make “Indian Flute” back in the early 2000s, he might have made something like this zooming grime cut.
The Range “Ricercar” (Domino)
The closest thing to a perfect pop song on this list, “Ricercar” is a shambling (and subtly slapping) slice of sample-based soul.
Moin “Melon” (AD 93)
“You don’t know me, but I know you. I sure as FUCK know you.” Those scornful words come from an uncredited spoken word artist that Moin sampled on “Melon,” but they’re intimidating all the same, and fuel the angst that runs through this glorious post-hardcore throwback. Think of it as the best song Slint never wrote.
Jacques Greene “Leave Here” (LuckyMe)
There are plenty of artists out there making post-rave sadboi R&B, but only Jacques Greene makes it sound like something for the big screen. This tune is capital-E emotional.
The Soft Pink Truth “Is It Gonna Get Any Deeper Than This? (Dark Room Mix)” (Thrill Jockey)
Slip into something comfortable, because this deliciously deep epic—a provocatively slow-burning tribute to the history of nightlife, and queer nightlife in particular—is arguably 2022’s most sumptuous piece of house music.
Dawn to Dawn “Stereo” (SSURROUNDSS)
An ’80s-style synth-pop ballad with a dreamy sparkle, its hazy allure enhanced by the palpable longing in Tess Roby’s voice.
Caterina Barbieri “At Your Gamut” (light-years)
Can anyone else make arps sound more majestic than Caterina Barbieri? “At Your Gamut” combines floaty modular wizardry with the pomp and elegance of an 18th-century royal court.
Kelly Lee Owens “One” (Smalltown Supersound)
LP.8 is Kelly Lee Owens’ coldest album to date, but “One” is its warmest moment, an open-hearted declaration of love in which her voice takes flight atop thick sheets of industrial-strength bass.
DJ Hank “Lift Gate” (Hyperdub)
Chicago footwork meets UK garage on this fluttering gem, but its gleaming chrome and dramatic sound design also echo the high-end sonics of the Fractal Fantasy crew.
Mosca “You Smell That, Marsha?” (Rent)
Mosca “Foot Clan” (Rent)
Borderless, inventive and utterly essential, these are just two of the genre-defying (and jaw-dropping) mutant club heaters that Mosca dropped in 2022.
Prayer “A Love So True” (Hooversound)
A proper “tears in the club” anthem, “A Love So True” is a hardcore rumbler that’s more interested in emotional catharsis than rattling bassbins.
IVVVO “Bleached Butterfly (feat. Abyss X)” (AD 93)
Is it time for a grunge revival? Listening to “Bleached Butterfly,” which sounds a bit like a pissed-off PJ Harvey fronting Dirty-era Sonic Youth, it certainly doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
ABADIR “Another One” (SVBKLT)
Maqsoum is an Egyptian folk rhythm, but on “Another One,” the sound smashes its way into the hardcore continuum, the song’s feverish darbuka strikes intermingling with jungle to form one of the years’ hardest (and most thrilling) club tracks.
Slikback “I WISH YOU WERE REAL” (Self-released)
Slikback “THROUGH YOU” (Self-released)
Slikback “ERIT” (Self-released)
Trap. Techno. Noise. Footwork. Jungle. All that and more goes into the wildly inventive work of Slikback, a Kenyan producer who does no PR, very little press and dropped 12 separate releases this year—all of them as name-your-price downloads on Bandcamp. These three furious cuts were my personal faves, but there’s so much more to explore, and doing so often feels like opening a portal to the future.
Ignez “Anahata” (SK_eleven)
In purely creative terms, 2022 wasn’t a banner year for techno, but “Anahata” is a brawny dancefloor marauder, its barreling kick drums flanked by taut (and dubstep-indebted) bass ribbons that swoop out of the sky like birds of prey.
µ-Ziq “Giddy All Over” (Planet Mu)
Across three separate releases this year, Mike Paradinas explored his past self—and more precisely, the version of himself that made 1997’s Lunatic Harness LP—and wound up making some of the most joyous material of his entire career. That includes “Giddy All Over,” a free-floating hardcore throwback that provides a quick shot of colorful rave energy.
Shawn Reynaldo is a freelance writer, editor, presenter and project manager. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter, or you can just drop him an email to get in touch about projects, collaborations or potential work opportunities.