During lockdown, electronic music displayed its emotional empathy with isolation and solitary working.
But as during The Cold War in its breakthrough years, it read the room again with the onset of worldwide and domestic conflicts, both armed and political. There were times in 2022 that were as if The Cold War had never ended and in amongst the turmoil, artists reflected their anxieties on top of those already existing.
Jori Hulkkonen of SIN COS TAN said: “Overall, this decade has been a real downer with the pandemic and now the war, so if we are trying to look for silver linings here, I think it will be interesting for the creative community to get something out of it, the frustration, the fears and all that.”
As further pandemic songs were released as well, what emerged were songs of varying moods and while there was fresh optimising in the air, there were calls to arms and resignation looming too. Overall, 2022 saw many great individual tracks issued and mention must be made of NNHMN, NATION OF LANGUAGE, O+HER, DIE ROBO SAPIENS, DESIRE and MOTHERMARY who were among those shortlisted for this year’s listing.
As ever on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, rules help control the fun… so restricted to tracks available on the usual online retail platforms with a limit of one song per artist moniker, here are the 30 SONGS OF 2022 in alphabetical order by artist…
ANNIEE featuring VON HERTZOG Danger Electricity
Bubbling with a dynamic thrust, the angelic voice of Anniee evoked the excitement of a night clubbing while Von Hertzog provided the hypnotic backing and beautiful soundscape. “I was jogging in London and came across the words in the sidewalk ‘danger electricity’” she said, “I had always wanted to create a dance track – something that reflected my love for EDM”.
Available on the single ‘Danger Electricity’ via Anniee and Von Hertzog
ALANAS CHOSNAU & MARK REEDER All You Need To Love
For Alanas Chosnau and Mark Reeder, the ongoing world tensions were a symbol of ‘Life Everywhere’. Like a Harry Palmer film given an electro soundtrack and hidden behind the facade of love songs, they poignantly made a statement on life during wartime. With a speedy conga mantra and a dominant digital clap, ‘All You Need Is Love’ entered funky electronic disco territory.
Available on the album ‘Life Everywhere’ via MFS
RODNEY CROMWELL The Winter Palace
Despite questioning selective memories on his second album ‘Memory Box’, with ‘The Winter Palace’, Rodney Cromwell was wanting to forget a former beau because “I dream of you regardless, whether I am asleep or awake”. With hints of classic NEW ORDER and OMD, the wonderfully icy number embraced motorik mechanisation and a glorious synth solo for a hopeful uplift.
Available on the album ‘Memory Box’ via Happy Robots Records
BOY HARSHER Machina featuring Ms. BOAN
BOY HARSHER made a short horror movie ‘The Runner’ and a soundtrack to go with it. Although comprising of their usual dark and danceable electronic pop, it featured several special guests. Sung in Spanish and English, ‘Machina’ featuring Ms. BOAN aka Mariana Saldaña was aimed at the dancefloor, recalling the Latino electronic disco of Bobby Orlando, particularly PET SHOP BOYS ‘A Man Could Get Arrested’.
Available on the album ‘The Runner’ via Nude Club / City Slang
CIRCUIT3 Valentina Fly
For his third CIRCUIT3 album, Peter Fitzpatrick presented a retro-futuristic narrative on the world before the space shuttle. Valentina Tereshkova whose 1963 adventure in Vostok 6 made her the first woman in space was celebrated with ‘Valentina Fly’, the wonderful piece evoking OMD. “She’s not a celebrated as Yuri Gagarin” said the Dubliner, but “in some respects, what she achieved was much greater.”
Available on the album ‘Technology For The Youth’ via https://circuit3.bandcamp.com/
GEMMA CULLINGFORD Tongue Tied
If Yoko Ono’s ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ had been reconfigured as a Balearic friendly electronic disco number, then it would have come out like ‘Tongue Tied’, the title track of the second album by Gemma Cullingford. With a nonchalant but sensual vocal style reminiscent of Sarah Nixey, ‘Tongue Tied’ exuded a positive if nervous energy in a purer metronomic adoption of electronics. Shyness is nice…
Available on the album ‘Tongue Tied’ via Elmo Recordings
DAWN TO DAWN Stereo
Canadian danceable dreampop trio DAWN TO DAWN celebrated the joy of music in times of adversity with ‘Stereo’. Driven by a Roland TR909, the song touched on the acceptance of confinement where “I wait for no one to ask ‘when do we go?’”. In its romantic reflection of good times, a breezy infectious allure was captured with a promise of better things to come.
Available on the album ‘Postcards From The Sun To The Moon’ via SSURROUNDSS
Since Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie reconfigured DUBSTAR as a duo, there was always the impression that the comeback album ‘One’ was a warm-up. Opening album ‘Two’ was ‘Token’; co-produced by Stephen Hague, it pointed to his work with PET SHOP BOYS and ERASURE. Its narrative about leaving behind abusive relationships and minor gestures was a topic that many could relate to.
Available on the album ‘Two’ via Northern Writes
EMMON The Battle
Since releasing her first sassy pop album ‘The Art & The Evil’ in 2007, Emma Nylen has got progressively darker and harder while still retaining an enigmatic presence. While most of her ‘Recon’ album headed in an EBM direction, synthpop was the sound on the ‘Black Celebration’ inflected mission that was ‘The Battle’, a timely commentary on world and deomestic events.
Available on the album ‘Recon’ via Icons Creating Real Art
As with previous FADER works, Benge worked alone on the instrumentation in Cornwall while Neil Arthur did his lyrics and vocals. Their third album together ‘Quartz’ was inspired by incidental atmospheric music used in vintage TV shows. Minimalistic structures provided a reflective and elegiac backdrop. The icy waltz ‘Serpentine’ opened the album with its sparse keys like Gary Numan meeting Brian Eno.
Available on the album ‘Quartz’ via Blanc Check Records
THE GOLDEN FILTER Drive
A reinterpretation of THE CARS’ mournful classic’, this chilling version of ‘Drive’ by THE GOLDEN FILTER simply captured the zeitgeist in amongst the turmoil of world events… the work of Penelope Trappes and Stephen Hindman, the duo defied people not to well up on hearing the words “Who’s gonna tell you when it’s too late? Who’s gonna tell you things aren’t so great?”.
Available on the single ‘Drive’ via The Golden Filter
H/P were formally known as HAPPINESS PROJECT, issuing their first album in 2008. For their H/P debut ‘Programma’, the trio not only shortened their moniker but also adopted a minimal synth approach. Acknowledging the debt of influence to cult French act MARTIN DUPONT, ‘Vicinities’ appled a complex spiral of delicate blips, while was enclosed is an emotional centre that recalled OMD.
Available on the album ‘Programma’ via BOREDOMproduct
I SPEAK MACHINE War
Adopting the dishevelled persona of a satanic Libertas, ‘War’ by I SPEAK MACHINE was another album that captured the zeitgeist. With hints of Gary Numan, the screeching title song set the scene. “It definitely has ‘Metal’ in there as an influence” she said, “It came about from me messing with my Casio SK1 and then running that through a Moogerfooger ClusterFlux to make it all bendy and provide actual notes from the feedback.”
Available on the album ‘War’ via https://ispeakmachine.bandcamp.com/
KAREN HUNTER Don’t Call My Name
Karen Hunter was a Gary Numan live band member between 1984-85 and recorded a wonderful cover of the ballad ‘Don’t Call My Name’ in support of The Ced Sharpley Drumming Bursary. The original was on the 1988 album ‘Metal Rhythm’ and given a serene feminine twist. Produced by music veteran Steve Hunter, Numan associates Chris Payne and Andy Coughlan also contributed.
Available as a digital single ‘Don’t Call My Name’ via Living Ornaments
Vincent Belorgey aka Kavinsky made his name with ‘Night Call’. But it was featured in the cult movie ‘Drive’, the Frenchman found it was an albatross around his neck. He upset people when he said “f*ck that ‘synthwave’ stuff as u name it”. Now ‘Reborn’, channelling his inner Moroder circa ‘Midnight Express’, ‘Outsider’ was a magnificent instrumental laced with orchestrated drama and tension.
Available on the album ‘Reborn’ via Record Makers / Protovision
KID MOXIE Shine
Taking both musical and lyrical inspiration from DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, there were darker and harder aesthetics at play on ‘Shine’ with KID MOXIE assertively declaring “I’m taking the lead in the back seat”. “We definitely channelled some DM vibes” she remembered, “it was even a running joke while we were in studio recording it with FADERHEAD”.
Available on the album ‘Better Than Electric’ via Pasadena Records
KITE Panic Music
“Sweden’s best kept pop-secret” returned with ‘Panic Music’ and exuded a fierce anxiety with front man Nicklas Stenemo presenting his characteristic screaming delivery. Over an epic neo-gothic backdrop now associated with KITE, Christian Berg continued his fascination for electronic drones and swoops while there was also the surprise of a guitar solo. The stress and strain of the past two years was captured in song.
Available on the digital single ‘Panic Music’ via Astronaut Recordings
From Vancouver in British Columbia, ACTORS keyboardist Shannon Hemmett continued with her more synth focussed solo project LEATHERS. Not completely divorced from the main band family, frontman Jason Corbett acts as producer and collaborator, just as Daniel Hunt did with Helen Marnie on her solo work during the LADYTRON hiatus. ‘Runaway’ was gorgeous dreamy synthpop to elope to.
Available on the digital single ‘Runaway’ via Artoffact Records
MECHA MAIKO Sunny, Softly (I Feel Love)
Hayley Stewart returned as MECHA MAIKO with ‘NOT OK’ to highlight the social-political flashpoints that emerged during the pandemic. But focussing on warmer moments and feeling the force of some mighty electro, ‘Sunny, Softly (I Feel Love)’ threw in the iconic throb from the Giorgio Moroder produced Donna Summer hit for a glorious beat driven statement enhanced by an angelic delivery.
Available on the album ‘NOT OK’ via New Retro Wave
MINIMAL SCHLAGER Submission
Sister and brother duo MINIMAL SCHLAGER began in 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic. Based between London and Berlin, Alicia Macanás and Francisco Parisi began to develop a brand of synth heavy dreampop. While bubbling with glistening synths, ‘Submission’ was a more of a new wave number with subtle guitar and a rhythmic bounce that set it apart from the other songs on their first album.
Available on the album ‘Love, Sex & Dreams’ via Duchess Box Records
R.MISSING New Present City
Fronted by enigmatic Sharon Shy, having released some fabulously ethereal singles in the past 18 months, New York-based darklings R. MISSING presented the sinister beauty of ‘New Present City’. In their embracement of the fragility of life with gently propelled soundscapes swathed in icy melancholia, this slice of electronic pop noir fittingly filled a gap left by the now disbanded CHROMATICS.
Available on the digital single ‘New Present City’ via Terminal Echo
RÖYKSOPP & ALISON GOLDFRAPP Impossible
‘The Inevitable End’ in 2014 was said to be the final RÖYKSOPP album but after various singles and soundtracks, they returned with the ‘Profound Mysteries’ trilogy. Featuring Alison Goldfrapp, the delicious ‘Impossible’ was a mighty avant disco excursion with a seductive high soprano middle eight drifting into an intergalactic twist.
Available on the album ‘Profound Mysteries’ via Dog Triumph
HANNA RUA Light In Your Dark
Swedish songstress Hanna Rua has a dreamy electronic pop sensibility with the emphasis on the pop, but her debut EP ‘Light Up Your Dark’ also demonstrated her scope and capability using darker aesthetics. With a wonderfully gritty austere, the title song played with gothier influences while remaining melodic, coming over like a Nordic NINA in her more recent work in a battle against the demons.
Available on the EP ‘Light Up Your Dark’ via Aztec Records
SALLY SHAPIRO Fading Away
Although they announced a retirement of sorts in 2016, Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO joined the Italian Do It Better family in 2021 to make an unexpected return. ‘Fading Away’ was an epic dance tune where an atmospheric template was merged with a relentless disco synthwave hybrid, utilising a glorious plethora of trancey electronics and thumping rhythms across its seven minutes.
Available on the album ‘Sad Cities’ via Italians Do It Better
SIN COS TAN Endless
With the bear next door, the title of SIN COS TAN’s fourth album ‘Living In Fear’ resonated with anyone resident in Finland or anywhere in the civilised world; “Do you fear the dark, love, war, or yourself? Whatever the answer, you can be certain: Fear is a powerful thing.” The windswept electro-motorik of ‘Endless’ used the melodic synthy highs of OMD to counter the melancholic expression.
Available on the album ‘Living In Fear’ via Solina Records
SOFT CELL Nighthawks
The tense industrialised pulse of ‘Nighthawks’ recalled the sweaty alternative club overtures of one-time Some Bizzare stable mates CABARET VOLTAIRE. Featuring a deranged expletive laden rap from drag performance artist Christeene, SOFT CELL fans were even treated to the deep growly voice of Mr Ball himself alongside Marc Almond while ‘Staying Alive’ backing vocals provided another counterpoint.
Available on the album ‘*Happiness Not Included’ via BMG
UNIFY SEPARATE Closure
Documenting a period of personal struggle, the new UNIFY SEPARATE album attempted ‘Closure’ which set the scene with a building atmospheric trance tune that simply mesmerised, especially when front man Andrew Montgomery hit his trademark falsetto. Instrumentalist Leo Josefsson cited influences such as MODERAT, NITZER EBB, UNDERWORLD and FRONT 242.
Available on the album ‘Music Since Tomorrow’ via How Music Group
BELLA UNWIN Cold Breeze
With shades of Alison Goldfrapp, Hannah Peel and the often forgotten Stella Grundy, the positively feline and angelic ‘Cold Breeze’ was the London-based Aussie Bella Unwin’s best song yet. The additional production and mix by Finlay Shakespeare boosted the punchy and immediate machine funk that was laced with wispy and alluringly coy vocals.
Available on the single ‘Cold Breeze’ via GOTO Records
THE WEEKND Less Than Zero
THE WEEKND again reminded the mainstream of the emotive beauty that can come from classic synthpop with ‘Less Than Zero’. ‘Less Than Zero’ itself sounded not unlike Michael Jackson produced by Tony Mansfield. The cross of catchy hooks, glorious counter-melodies and acoustic strums were reminiscent of Mansfield’s own combo NEW MUSIK who went produced most of A-HA’s debut album.
Available on the album ‘Dawn FM’ via by XO / Republic Records
xPROPAGANDA The Wolves Are Returning
Porduced by Stephen J Lipson, a stark warning on rise again of the far right was highlighted on ‘The Wolves Are Returning’. The message coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis and “did nothing” was poignant. Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag provided a worthy follow-up to ‘A Secret Wish’ as xPROPAGANDA.
Available on the album ‘The Heart is Strange’ via ZTT Records
A selection of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite music of 2022 is featured in its ‘Stay Negative To Be Positive’ playlist
Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th December 2022