In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve reached a new calendar year! Well, we reached one 3 months ago, but still, what a thrilling experience this is! If there’s one thing that’s helped quell the absolute hellscape of modern-day life, it’s the refreshing gift of brand-new music. Thankfully, 2022 offered up some delectable albums that delivered a veritable slew of surprises, and you know what? I would love to shine a spotlight on them and share these songs with you. Can I do that? Please? Wonderful! Let’s dig in, then!

Give Me the Future – Bastille

This album was so hotly-anticipated, it seems almost unfair to include it with the others. While every other album on this list came as a surprise in some way, Give Me the Future would deliver no matter what. This isn’t to say that I’m never critical of my favorite band, Bastille. I do know when to call them out on a rather forgettable song. However, the arrival of a new Bastille album always heralds the arrival of a new Bastille entirely. That is a new genre for the boys that they are more than willing to tackle head-on. This time around, the British storytellers took on the digital landscape, offering dance club bangers (“Thelma + Louise”) and ballads (“No Bad Days”) alike, complete with 80s synthesizers and talk boxes. Of course, they had to bring the aesthetic into the real world as well, what with virtual reality concert experiences, albums sold on flash drives and AR-type games that tailored custom Spotify playlists based on questionnaires of our dreams. Perhaps the greatest gift this era brought us was the release of a deluxe album, entitled Give Me the Future + Dreams of the Past, which included the original album, a few new songs (“Family Ties” is a bop), a couple of acoustic renditions, and some covers – they essentially released their next mixtape the same year as their album. It’s clear Bastille has been working their asses off in quarantine, producing so many songs they’re practically bursting at the seams. It was such a joy – no pun intended – to receive so much from them this year, and with yet another world tour kicking off soon… the hype train keeps on chugging!

(Un)commentary – Alec Benjamin

I mentioned before how these albums were all pleasant surprises in their own right. One of 2022’s greatest surprises as a whole was introducing me to Alec Benjamin’s discography and unprecedented talent. This kicked off early, as I started a new job in April and almost instantly turned to his music as my entertainment while slaving the day away. Unfortunately, the sound of heavy machinery at my workplace may have muffled some of his instrumental creativity upon first listening, but when Alec’s vocals cut through the noise like a steadfast feather on the wind, I knew I was listening to something special. There’s a grace to Alec Benjamin’s songwriting that is hard to put into words. Songs about growing up, heartache, and learning how to be one’s self – all told through vaguely Shakespearean storytelling that you just don’t see in modern-day lyricism. I was instantly drawn into his catalog, and I was even more delighted when I found he had just released an album that month. I quickly ate that up as well, and so my life as an Alec Benjamin fan began. I soon bought tickets to see him in Boston, and the rest is history! Alec proceeded to release songs throughout 2022, most notable are the songs entirely performed in Mandarin, a language he studied for three years and can somehow sing fluently in. I don’t mean to keep praising the guy, I’m just dumbfounded by his talent and his style of songwriting; he’s really one of a kind and I’m happy I found his music this year. I’ve yet to even recommend songs, so I’ll mention a couple that really spoke to me: “Older,” “One Wrong Turn,” and “The Way You Felt.” Enjoy!

Harry’s House – Harry Styles

I can’t recall if I’ve ever listened to a Harry Styles album in its entirety. I remember liking the majority of his first self-titled outing, but if I had to hum a few bars of each song I’m sure I would fail. His sophomore album, Fine Line, was full of a lot of radio hits, but I don’t believe I listened to anything obscure from it, so to speak. With Harry’s House, I found myself being drawn in by the absolute bangers I heard on the radio, and then my fiancé and I decided to “rank the album” based on snippets we skipped through. The most surprising thing? We ended up listening to almost the whole album front to back! There’s just a certain charm to Harry’s House that really makes it accessible to anyone. Whether you’re looking for something in your face that you can dance to (“Music For a Sushi Restaurant”) or something to take a relaxing drive to (“Daylight”), there’s a song for every mood on this one. My biggest qualm with Harry Styles, though, is his inability to really establish a vibe for the entire album. Songs from each album could be rearranged so much better, compiled into three different albums that fit everyday moods. Instead, we’ve been given three albums that seem rather jumbled in terms of overall “feel,” but the positive is that they’ve been three winners in a row! There’s a reason Mr. Styles is on top of the world these days, rising up as the modern-day Prince of Pop. If you haven’t heard anything from this album yet – I envy you – but go give “As It Was” a listen, come back, and tell me you didn’t get up and dance. I’m eagerly awaiting your reply.

Guitar Songs – Billie Eilish

Oh, Billie. Our love/hate relationship continues as another year passes. If you read my Albums of 2021 piece, you’ll know I called Happier Than Ever one of my least favorite albums last year. It was some hot street trash. I even gave it a re-listen recently, and it just did not do it for me. I cannot recommend that thing for the life of me. But for some reason, I find myself having Logic syndrome again and I just can’t quit Billie. I know there’s an extremely talented songwriter in there somewhere, and she just needs to dive deep to find her again. With Guitar Songs, the old Billie shone through once again and I was transported back to 2019. I got that feeling of somber darkness that I look for in Billie Eilish’s songs. Now, I must note that this was released as a “single,” or as close to a modern-day single as we can get these days. Two songs – “TV” and “The 30th” – don’t usually constitute an “album.” I’m cheating a little bit here. But I wanted to shine a spotlight on this acoustic project as a beacon of hope for Billie Eilish’s career. There’s nothing in these songs that are outwardly stated. In fact, when I first saw this “album” pop up in my Spotify recommendations, I remember listening on the way home from work and thinking “what is all this even about?” It’s cryptic, it’s existential, and it’s downright sad. It’s Billie at her best, whisper singing, feeling raw emotion, telling a story without openly saying “you hurt me, and here’s why.” I love the mysterious nature of her music; it just works best when she makes less sense. Call me crazy, call me wrong, but I look forward to more like this. Bravo.

Let Yourself Free – Fitz and the Tantrums

The last album on this list was the last surprise gift of the year – well, besides Christmas. If you’d asked me at the beginning of 2022 if I was expecting a new Fitz and the Tantrums album to drop this year, I would’ve answered with a resounding “no.” Having gotten the Fitz solo album in 2021, I barely noticed that it had been three whole years without a proper album with the Tantrums. Not to mention, the songs of All the Feels still felt so fresh, thanks to the insane amount of tracks we got on that album (17 songs! Who does that?!) But I digress, I was quite happy and surprised when they announced a new album would be coming within a few months! Very quickly, the hype train started rolling. First, we got “Sway,” then “Moneymaker,” then a slew of concerts all over the place! Andy Grammer teamed up with the gang to release “The Wrong Party” while they were on tour together, and soon enough the full album finally dropped! While it didn’t include said song with Mr. Grammer, it did include some total bangers. In fact, Let Yourself Free feels like the most varied Fitz and the Tantrums album yet. It explores their soulful roots (“Silver Platter”), kicks the party into high gear (“Heaven”), and lets you down slowly in the end with an atypical ballad that mourns their shortcomings in love (“Someday”). It’s a true rollercoaster of emotions from top to bottom, and that’s a refreshing change of pace for those who aren’t all about party rocking. I quite enjoyed such a dive into the grand scope of the band’s talent, and while I do hope they take a turn back into party vibes with their next album, I’m just grateful we got more Fitz in 2022.

I hope you now feel enriched and satisfied. I know I sure did after hearing these albums last year! But I’d love to know in the comments, what were you listening to in 2022? Share your favorite songs with us, and don’t forget to check out all our amazing content here at VGU!

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