Nabil Ayers’ Favorite Musical Moments of 2022

2022 Countdown
photo by Gabriela Bhaskar

In 2020, my musical taste reflected a world gone dark. I listened with more intention than ever before, looking for meaning and comfort, and like so many people I know, I had a difficult time listening to music almost exclusively in the confines of my home. While there’s still plenty of darkness in the world, 2022 was a musically bright year for me. I saw tons of shows, I bought lots of records, and I happily returned to the listening habits I missed: spending time with music on subways and flights.

Natural Brown Prom Queen by Sudan Archives was my favorite album of 2022. Prom Queen crept up on me gradually, revealing layers of depth beyond its welcoming exterior. “Selfish Soul” was easily my most listened to song of 2022, and it’s the song that’s in my head the most. But over time, it was heavier songs like “Homesick (Gorgeous & Arrogant)” and “Home Maker” that pulled me into the album’s wide range of emotions. 

I first heard Duval Timothy’s album Meeting With A Judas Tree only weeks ago. The songs sound so intimate that I feel like I’m hiding in Timothy’s room while he plays the piano, and only the occasional tasteful electronic flourishes and field recordings remind me that I’m actually listening to a beautifully crafted, thoughtful album by an immensely talented (and very busy) person who lives between London and Sierra Leone, and recently published a cookbook.

The Atlanta band Upchuck was my favorite new discovery of 2022. I’d noticed the band’s record covers—they’re hard to miss thanks to the bloodied face of singer KT. But this year’s debut album Sense Yourself was my first listen. It would be easy to call Sense Yourself a punk album, but there’s so much more going on. It’s heavy without feeling heavy-handed, and it carries a sense of timelessness with its delayed vocal effects, quick tempo shifts, and swirling guitars.

Speaking of guitars—2022 was a good year for them. PLOSIVS—a newly-formed supergroup of San Diego musicians from bands I’ve loved for decades (Pinback, Rocket from the Crypt)—released a self-titled debut album that sounds fresh, not nostalgic. Soul Glo squeezed an incredible amount of energy into three-and-a-half-minutes on “Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future)),” which helped make Diaspora Problems one of my favorite albums of 2022. Paramore’s “This Is Why” surprised me with a Can-like rhythm section and happy gang vocals, and it became one of my top earworms of the year.

My most nostalgic musical moment of the year was watching Jane’s Addiction play the opening bass line to “Up The Beach” live at Madison Square Garden. I first saw Jane’s Addiction when I stayed home for spring break during my senior year in high school just to see the Nothing’s Shocking tour. I’ve seen them a few times since then, but this time it was more joyful than ever to see sixty-three-year-old Perry Farrell lead a band who was obviously having a great time playing together.

(Read More About Jane's Addiction from our 50 Years of Music series)

I published my memoir My Life in the Sunshine in June. There’s a lot of music in the book, so to go alongside it I made an hour-long mix for KEXP’s Midnight in a Perfect World. I took the assignment quite literally—thinking about what an hour in a perfect world sounds like to me—and I pulled from familial connections, seminal indie rock, essential Seattle sludge, and some current favorites. It’s got anxious guitars and soothing synths; pounding drums and laid back grooves, and it’s an hour of music that I return to often.

(Listen to Nabil's Midnight in a Perfect World Mix)

With albums by Rosalia, SAULT, Tom Skinner, Bjork, They Hate Change, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and artists I’m lucky to work with like Aldous Harding, Bartees Strange, Black Midi, Circuit Des Yeux, Oliver Sim, and the Smile, 2022 gave me a lot to be thankful for.

Nabil Ayers is a former Seattleite and the President of Beggars Group, US in New York. His memoir My Life in the Sunshine was published with Viking/Penguin in June 2022. @nabilayers

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