Luke Nuttall (Editor / Writer)
Petrol Girls – Fight For Our Lives
At their best, Petrol Girls can elevate themselves above so much similar punk by a frankly astonishing degree, and Fight For Our Lives is the pinnacle of that. It’s its intensity that really does it, between Ren Aldridge’s admonishments of violence against women in such a barbed, brutalising tone, and an instrumental palette akin to staring into the yawning void in how the bass and drums loom over. It’s purposeful and righteous in the most full-throttle way, a manifesto more than a typical song, and utilising every liberty that allows for with undeniable success. ‘Passionate’ isn’t even the half of it; Fight For Our Lives is bloodthirsty, in ways that most won’t even come close to cracking.
Magnolia Park – Addison Rae
If there was any song this year that siphoned every bit of energy into its monster hook and went to town from there, Addison Rae probably did it better. It’s no wonder that this is the song that marks Magnolia Park’s name on the pop-punk map at this stage, when the wallop is so succinct all the way through. Furthermore, it’s also the best example of the super-modern pop-punk template working at full capacity, in the guitar crunch and vocal power that circumvents the need for nuance by blowing it off its hinges entirely. It’s got a freshness in a way that most placed in a similar field will lack, and with the unequivocal barnstormer of that hook to back it all up, it’s little wonder this earworm doesn’t feel even close to dying down yet.
Beauty School – Pawn Shop Jewels
Beauty School released Pawn Shop Jewels right at the start of February as one of their first tracks, and even since, it’s been the lynchpin of where this band’s successes lie. Within emo, it’s got the exact melodic richness that one would expect from an experience, top-tier act, not a band just breaking out, but that’s the beauty (no pun intended) of Pawn Shop Jewels as a single. It’s bright and buoyant, with every element standing out and carrying its own, and culminates in a chorus and a vocal performance that swings for the fences on every spin. Along with some impressively tight writing and an ear for production that remains sharp yet organic throughout, it’s as effective as early salvos get. The rest of their debut album is certainly up there, but Pawn Shop Jewels is a hard one to beat.
Deaf Havana – Nevermind
There’s something magical about Deaf Havana stripping it down and laying themselves bare. It was true with Happiness back on All These Countless Nights, and here’s Nevermind to maybe even overtake it. If not, it’s remarkably close, in James Veck-Gilodi’s acknowledgement of his own self-sabotage and failings that’s well-worn ground for him, but is sold with an honesty and conviction that’s simply flawless. Setting it to solemn acoustic guitar is a natural backdrop, but when it builds into strings and marching-band drums, and the cries of genuine pain that embody the final chorus, it’s emblematic of a band for whom the Britrock label designed to box them in has been cracked wide open. They’ve constantly elevated a sound that’s often met with extreme derision into something infinitely more than the sum of its parts, and when they just keep getting better, it’s hard not to look back and marvel. Incidentally, this might just be their best yet.
Kid Kapichi ft. Bob Vylan – New England
With a buzzsaw riff that wastes no time in making itself known, and a penchant for snark empowering the takedowns of a British populace complicit in their own degradation, and the winning formula has been hit. New England is a song whose luster has never even drifted towards dimming in almost a full year of release, mostly because Kid Kapichi’s mantra of simple but effective songwriting and composition is more than enough to see them barrel by. The street-level punk vibe; the flirtations with hip-hop in the flows and cement-cracking percussion; the explosiveness of the hook that hits like a brick to the face every time; it’s all simple enough, but it’s also the purest distillation of Kid Kapichi’s appeal. Almost even enough to make Bob Vylan’s contributions feel like an afterthought, if they weren’t an equally tight extension of the rest of the song’s core ideas, slightly tweaked and recontextualised to a black perspective, and keeping the momentum of the scope rolling along as a result. It’s hardly a game-changer for punk, especially in a year like 2022, but the effectiveness is undeniable, and the staying power is borderline unprecedented.
Georgia Jackson (Deputy Editor / Writer)
Charlie Puth – Light Switch
Charlie might not have been the record Charlie Puth needed at this point in his career, but lead single Light Switch has been something completely impossible to put down in 2022. Deceptively simple on the surface, the song is meticulously crafted around the click of the titular light switch, Puth light-footing his way through verses and playing with the tempo of his vocals mid-song like it’s nothing. It’s uber-polished, but the beats Light Switch follows keep you hanging on again and again.
Harry Styles – As It Was
2022 has been the year of Harry Styles, something that’s mainly down to As It Was. There’s a reason why it made charts home in April and hasn’t left them since—it’s a perfect summation of what much of Harry’s House does, which is marry influences from decades past (in this case bands like a-ha) with modern characteristics and boyband choruses. It also helps that there’s probably catnip in the synth line to this song; it’s peppy like Styles is, but also gives room to dig deeper and show swoonworthy vulnerability.
Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero
2022 was the year Swifties rejoiced as Taylor Swift finally chose the right lead single for a pop album! A shimmering ‘80s callback, Anti-Hero delves into Swift’s deepest insecurities in the most creative yet smirking way, the singer likening herself to smarmy politicians and a Godzilla-esque threat towering over civilisation. Just when naysayers could dismiss such sentiments as rich people problems though, it all comes together in a hook that everyone who isn’t mega-famous can relate to too.
Paramore – This Is Why
Paramore got used to presenting their sadnesses and resentments via neon-lit guitar-pop before their five-year-long hiatus, but this year’s return This Is Why stripped that gloss for something with more bite. Angular guitars (already stated to have been influenced by bands like Bloc Party and those on the current post-punk circuit) and staccato melody are incredibly catchy but not audibly wanting to provide listeners with an in, just like the paranoid and web-fatigued lyrics say. This Is Why and follow-up single The News point at a really exciting direction for Paramore in 2023.
Ethel Cain – American Teenager
Looking in from the outside, American Teenager is vastly different to the six-minute laments Ethel Cain (aka Hayden Anhedonia) feels at home in, but the soaring pop rock anthem isn’t predictable, even when this type of song could feel done to death. Cain takes down the idea of the American Dream and the idea that teenagers are brought up to believe that can do anything, an idea that for many working class or marginalised young people is quickly proven to be untrue. In the context of album Preacher’s Daughter, this far and away the most uplifting-sounding track, which is probably to be expected considering the gruesome fate the central character meets at the end. But as well as being a perfect mission statement for the character of Ethel Cain, it’s a mission statement for disillusioned American teenagers everywhere.