TOP TEN: Acts we discovered in 2022

We continue our fortnight of top tens looking back at 2022 and looking forward to 2023.

As much as we moan about music, we actually quite enjoy listening to music. And there’s been a lot of new exciting releases and artists we have found. Here are the top ten amazing musical acts we discovered in 2022.

Kojey Radical – I’d been seeing the name Kojey Radical around for a few years, on features and those “people to look out for” lists that always end up being full of people it wasn’t worth looking out for. For some reason, I kind of dismissed him. There are lots of names bandied about in 6 music circles that often leave me disappointed, so I probably wouldn’t have even checked out Kojey’s 2022 debut if it hadn’t been for the tweets of some people I tend to agree with who were calling it a potential album of the year.

My first listen was during a walk on my own, and within around three songs I was already taking my phone out to message people. “Listen to Kojey Radical”. The excitement I felt on that first listen was only to grow as I spent more time with the album – which might now be my favourite hip-hop album of the last 10/15 years. It’s joyous, infectious, powerful, and addictive and it’s Kojey’s charisma that makes it tick all the way through. I think I’ll be listening to him for a very long time. Fran Slater

Ethel Cain – My first full year on the Picky Bastards podcast has shaped a lot of the ‘new’ music I heard in 2022, but nothing we covered has defined my year like Preacher’s Daughter by Ethel Cain. A crossroads between the drama and mystical of Florence Welch, the heartland Americana of Brandi Carlile, and the Hip-Hop adjacent lounge singer vibes of Lana Del Rey, this music truly spoke to me this year. Sam Atkins

Sinead O’Brien – I have already, and will again, mention Sinead in these end-of-year lists. Spotify told me I was in her top 0.05% of listeners so she’s got to be my artist of the year all round. I’m almost embarrassed then in 2022 to say that I first came across her on Later… – but then there’s usually one performance per series that stays with me. And that’s exactly what happened back in May. Extensive re-watching and repeated streaming of EPs followed before the album dropped a few weeks later. I’ve tried to describe Sinead’s music, mostly unsuccessfully, in various ways to people who haven’t heard her. There’s nobody to usefully compare her to. It’s poetic, it’s performative and I guess it’s post-punk. But you should stop reading me and go and listen to it. Go on. James Spearing

Yard Act – Well, this was an easy pick for me. Their debut is one of my most listened-to albums. The Overload is a big dose of deadpan humor. Throughout, Yard Act paint vivid caricatures of people, places, and situations. And despite all these witticisms, some of the album’s best moments come when the facade drops during ‘100% Endurance’ and ‘Tall Poppies’. The sincerity of these songs has added weight in the context of the “dickhead singer’s” persona. Bring on the next album. Matt Paul

Jeshi – Even in 2022, I don’t take much notice of Spotify’s algorithmic potential. I read about music or get tips from others, and manually add the albums or songs myself. My discovery of Jeshi’s Universal Credit LP suggested at the bottom of one of my playlists, has made me consider embracing the machine. I was astonished that I’d never heard a thing about an artist capable of releasing something so fully formed. Universal Credit (the album, not the system) is front-to-back excellence, full of evocative tales of what it’s like being young and broke in contemporary Britain. The beats and bars are outstanding – and I probably would not have heard it if I hadn’t gone “Universal Credit? That’s a good name for an album”. Algorithm, I submit myself to you. Tom Burrows

Jill Lorean – The first of two begrudgingly accepted recommendations from Fran here (only joking, I’m more open-minded than I seem). This was an easy one though as it ticked plenty of boxes for me. Album This Rock made an immediate impression on me from the drama of the strings and abrupt ending of ‘The Breaking Down’, to the Blur-like guitar of ‘Beekeeper’. The record, complete with a hand-written note of thanks from Jill herself, arrived a few days later. I possibly got carried away saying it should have been nominated for the Mercury prize – but hey who said I was here to be objective? James Spearing

SASAMI – Another discovery that came from Matt and Fran picking well on the Podcast for once, Squeeze by SASAMI quickly became one of 2022’s most unexpected records to make it into rotation. Part gothic rock, part West Coast soft rock, this music had so much soul and emotion to make the more intense heavier moments shine with just a bit more spark. I’ve enjoyed her debut self-titled record a lot this year too, less intense, but equally as rounded in sound and musically interesting. Now I just need to find a way to see SASAMI perform these records live without having to drag my boyfriend who had described this music as ‘noise’ when I had it playing. Sam Atkins

Laura Veirs – For a couple of reasons, it might be a stretch to say that I ‘discovered’ Laura Veirs in 2022. I have been hearing her name for years now and have heard the odd song that has made me think ‘I really ought to give this person a listen’, so she was already on my radar. And really, my Veirs listening in 2022 has all been about her exceptional new album Found Light – I still have ten or eleven of her albums to listen to before I can truly claim to have ‘discovered’ her.

But if I love even one of those albums as much as I love Found Light, then it will be fair to say that I’ve gained a new favourite this year. It’s a gorgeous, hypnotic, melodic album that melts me every time I hear it – here’s hoping all the others affect me in the same way. Fran Slater

Yaya Bey – This was a discovery through Pitchfork, who gave passionate praise to her June release Remember Your North Star. The reasons for their enthusiasm are easy to hear even on a first listen to the album. You can reel off a list of Bey’s influences and even other neo-soul artists she sounds like, but when it’s done this well, all of that fades into irrelevance. I struggle to think of albums from this year that are as smooth and easy to listen to as this. The short songs allow for a constant sense of momentum, even as you luxuriate in its catchy grooves. The storytelling, largely focused on romantic and familial relationships, is so casually compelling, you forget how long you’ve been listening – it could have been hours, but the album is only 35 minutes long. A fine album, and a low-key top discovery from this year. Tom Burrows

Just Mustard – A more unexpected like from a Fran recommendation this time. Just Mustard’s music leans more into the type of thing that Fran loves that I generally don’t, rather than our usual common ground. But album Heart Under struck me from first listen. I’m wondering at this point if actually I hate male vocalists (none in my top 20 albums of the year) and that’s part of the reason why I took to Just Mustard over, say Fontaines DC or anyone of similar ilk. Heart Under is the musical equivalent of settling into a slightly depressed mood (in the best possible way), probably on a rainy day, but oddly luxuriating in it and enjoying it until you’re out the other side. The guitar sounds, the detached and ethereal vocals and whatever all the other noises are (listen to ‘Still’ for an idea of what I mean) mixed in there, all contribute to a sound that is uniquely theirs. A brilliant surprise. James Spearing

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