Just for Fun — 2022 Top New Music Plays

Scott Mordell
9 min readJan 16, 2023


Welcome to my 2022 Top New Music plays. I share this every year to connect with friends.

If you just want to click “play” here are links which are further explained below:

Scott’s 2022 Top Music Plays (27 artists. 3½ hours of fun)

Scott’s New Artists to Watch in 2023 (16 more artists. 80 minutes of fun)

Of all the art forms, I especially enjoy music. It brings people together, helps me stay current with evolving perspectives, and it is so much fun!

There is too much new music released every year for anyone to hear it all, so I enjoy sharing my music “finds” with others. I am not a musician and certainly not an artful music critic. I am just someone who likes what he likes and respects others may feel differently.

Objectively ranking art forms and subjective emotional expressions into a single list is ultimately a fool’s game. But I’m all-in to try!

My music listening bias is toward newer artists and their albums as a body of work. I enjoy the quest to find interesting music that is enjoyable enough to listen many times.

Much of this year’s music reflects the angst of our times. While there is some great art in the anger, I just don’t dwell there with repeat listens. That leaves out some great art and music, but hey, it’s my list ;)

Music touches people differently. You may not like it all, but hopefully, you discover some music you had not enjoyed previously.

So, here we go. Open your heart. Open your mind. Give ’em a listen.

You can easily sample all the artists on the Spotify playlist (>4 hours of fun) or otherwise go to the links for each specific album in the write-up below. Spotify has more than 2x any other streaming platform, though these artists are also available on Apple, Amazon, Youtube, Tencent and others too. A free Spotify account is easy to establish if you choose.

Scott’s 2022 Top Music Plays (27 artists. 3½ hours of fun)

25. Let’s start with a little classic rock revival trifecta. New bands carrying the spirit. It’s just fun.

  • ThundermotherBlack and Gold. AC/DC and Zeppelin vibes from a female quartet from Sweden.
  • DorothyGifts from the Holy Ghost. Dorothy Martin has a perfect rock voice and her LA band brings the guitars.
  • Goodbye JuneSee Where the Night Goes. This is what we might have had if Bon Scott from AC/DC had been raised in Georgia.

24. Horsegirl — Versions of Modern Performance

This Chicago trio are still in their teen years. This debut album meshes ’80s and ’90s indie, post punk into a noisy and unruly bunch of hooks and melodies.

23. Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway — Crooked Tree

Bluegrass is growing in popularity. This California native’s third album is strong and upbeat. Special thanks to Billy Strings for driving my interest in the genre last year. For those “not bluegrass”, my advice is to listen a few times and let yourself adjust to the sound palette. It’s great stuff.

22. Hellacopters — Eyes of Oblivion

No rock revival here — just continuing on. This high-energy garage rock band from Sweden released its first album since 2008. It’s a full-on burner, described by the band as, “sounds like The Beatles meets Judas Priest or Lynyrd Skynyrd meets the Ramones”. If you like this, check the rest of their catalog. They are masters.

21. The Regrettes — Further Joy

This Los Angeles-based band landed on my 2017 list when leader Lydia Night was just 17 years old. Their sound has evolved over three albums from garage punk to pop. The production is excellent with pointed lyrics and energy. Lydia noted the change, “For ages, I was worried about proving something to the 50-year-old dads at the back of the room.” Well, dads, deal with it. They are authentically pop now — and great live performers.

20. The Beths — Experts in a Dying Field

This power pop band from New Zealand’s third album explores finding joy among sadness. The lyrics are smart. The vibe zips among punk rock, emo and indie with tight musicianship and guitar riffs. A first listen all the way through can feel a little “samey”, but stay with it. There is more and it pays off.

19. Marcus King — Young Blood

The South Carolinian blues prodigy’s second album is a manic rock ’n’ roll journey produced by Black Keys’ front man Dan Auerbach. King is very open about his personal challenges which adds to the emotional impact as he blisters his way through some of the songs. You can hear many musical influences here, but this is not a retro adventure. King’s reputation for amazing live shows makes sense as all the vocals and guitars were cut live.

18. Plains — I Walked With You A Ways

This debut album from the duo of Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield and Jess Williamson bring country harmonies to heartbreak and southern scenes. Unabashedly direct and vibrant folk-pop-country. I have nothing more to add. Just press play.

17. Noah Cyrus — The Hardest Part

This debut album from Miley Cyrus’ younger sister yearns to get out from under the family shade. It’s a sensitive and modern country-pop expression across love, loss and anxiety. This seems like an album that will still sound fresh in the future. She is just 23 and getting started. We can look forward to more.

16. Goose — Dripfield

This album is like a favorite pair of blue jeans. It just fits and feels great. Dripfield is a jam band from Connecticut that has been around a while, though I just learned about them this year. Unlike most jam bands, this is a great studio recording. You can hear influences (such as Fleet Foxes, Bon Ives and Vampire Weekend) that add to a cohesive sound that doesn’t get tired on replays. Try not to let the “jam” part scare you off. Whenever I play it, my mood shifts. I am now eager to see them live.

15. Rosalia — MOTOMAMI

The third album from Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalia Vila Tobella is truly a masterpiece. The rhythms, intonations, musical variety and production quality are all extraordinary. It is a great example of global music and influences. The album is a critical favorite this year and appropriately so in my view. I am not fluent in Spanish, so I didn’t listen to this as often as others on my list. It belongs on every summary of the best of 2022 for the sound palette alone.

14. ODESZA — The Last Goodbye

The fourth studio album from the electronic music duo from Washington state feels sincere and vulnerable. I have been listening to more electronic music each year, though most is oriented to individual tracks more than albums. ODESZA makes a more complete expression across many moods, vocalists and samples. If you are not an electronic music fan, this is a good place to start and play all the way through.


The California synth-pop trio’s third album emphasizes freedom and fun, rooted in beats and direct lyrics. I saw them perform live and they deliver a knock-out show which was life affirming in the journey to live your truth.

12. Kevin Morby — This Is A Photograph

The Texas indie-folk rocker Kevin Morby’s thematic focus here is sickness and mortality highlighting when one’s time on earth ends too soon. It’s wistful and melancholic, but never depressing. The music is accessible, holds up in repeated listens and leaves me living with a little more urgency. Life is always short, right?

11. Rex Orange County — WHO CARES?

London-based singer/songwriter Alex O’Connor recorded and produced his fourth album in just 12 days. It’s blissful and fun, with a mix of unique instrumentals, classical rhythms and a side order of pop. It sounds old and new at the same time, and served us well as a summertime boat soundtrack.

10. Danger Mouse & Black Thought — Cheat Codes

This is a collaboration between Tariq Trotter from hip-hop group The Roots and producer Danger Mouse. The album draws on old-school hip-hop with an urgency in lyrics for today. Great energy. All killer. No filler.

9. Wallows — Tell Me That It’s Over

This year’s sunny LA-based alt-rock/pop entry to the list has been a fun find. Their second album addresses love, life and relationships in among pop song structures. They are more than good production though. They have great presence on stage and deliver a really good show.

8. Grace Ives — Janky Star

This New York-based synth-pop artist is in her own lane. Quirky pop albums seem common these days, but Ives’ stoner next door observations uniquely emphasize beats, sharp lyrics and distinctive melodies. The more I listen, the higher I rate the album. If this list were to be published later in 2023, it might be #1.

7. Taylor Swift — Midnights

What can I say? I have to admit since her Folklore album, I am slowly becoming a latent Swiftie. She simply writes fantastic songs, and they keep coming! Many say this album is not her best, which may be true. Like Beyonce and just a handful of other artists, she has her own standard, which stands her apart from most everyone else. This is great songwriting, storytelling and production. On this album, Swift turns self-doubt into more success.

6. Weyes Blood — And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Californian singer-songwriter Natalie Mering has made a timeless album for the current moment. She embraces isolation, reunions, hopes and dreads experienced since the pandemic lockdowns. She sings in a pure voice that reminds me of Karen Carpenter. This is lush and poetic art that connects.

5. Gang of Youths — angel in realtime.

The Sydney alt-rock quintet’s third album is about the life and legacy of lead singer Dave Le’aupepe’s father. He touches on death, grief, God and an angel. The storytelling reminds me of Springsteen and the song structures remind me of U2. Then, add in breakbeats, great musicianship and guitars too. There is a lot packed into 13 songs here, but it works.

4. SZA — SOS

New Jerseyite Solána Imani Rowe also appeared on my 2017 list with her debut album. Her second album is best described as alt-R&B, though it is an incredibly eclectic mix ranging from pop-punk to grunge to rap to R&B. SZA explains, on the whole, “it’s about heartbreak, it’s about being lost, it’s about being pissed.” The range of styles may overwhelm in a single listen, but it is really, really good.

3. Wet Leg — Wet Leg

Finally, a band lives up to the hype! The duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers from the Isle of Wight dropped their debut album and a tour that only built upon great anticipation from 2021. They created Wet Leg because they “wanted to have more fun than every other single band.” They won that point for sure. Wet Leg plays like a snapshot of your mid-to-late-20s, when you have energy for everything. The lyrics are clever and the music is fun without being the same all along. They sold-out most of their US tour. When you listen, you may realize you have heard much of it already!

2. Weeknd — Dawn FM

Abel Tesfaye’s album came out in January and may have suffered from “released too early in the year” syndrome. The album now seems under-appreciated. The album is arranged like a radio broadcast, DJ-ed by actor/comedian Jim Carrey. The songs play uptempo then to brooding and then back again. Thematically, it’s a journey from the purgatory of the pandemic to a light at the end of the tunnel. There are plenty of 1980’s influences while the Weeknd’s melancholy underlies the adventure. It’s a complete artistic achievement.

1. Zach Bryan — American Heartbreak, Summertime Blues, All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster (Live)

There are two debut albums from this 26 year-old Oklahoman, followed by a live album which captures him as a performer. Once he finished his 8-year tour in the US Navy in 2021, he was ready to go with an extraordinary amount of material. If good art is all about emotional expressions that can be felt deeply beyond the artist, then here it is shared in a country/Americana format. I saw him perform on a side stage at Lollapalooza early on, and he brought himself to tears in a special moment for everyone there. He reminds me of Jason Isbell, but already has more commercial and audience uptake. He has a bright future ahead, and I have more to gather from playing these tunes.

Thank you for reading this far! Those are my favorite albums of 2022 to share.

Scott’s 2022 Top Music Plays (27 artists. 3½ hours of fun)

For your further listening pleasure, here is a playlist of some up and coming artists. Some have albums, some have just singles so far. They are still working toward bigger things.

Scott’s New Artists to Watch in 2023 (16 more artists. 80 minutes of fun)

With so much new music these days, it can take a long time for an artist to break through and build a reliable audience. Keep an eye for these artists that resonate with you in 2023 and beyond.

Please let me know what you think! If I missed some new music that you liked during 2022 or if you like a particular genre and would like some other recommendations, please message me. I enjoy checking out your “finds” too.

Best wishes throughout 2023. We are blessed in so many ways.


Scott Mordell