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DJ Mag's top tracks of 2022

For 2022's end-of-year coverage, we've once again asked our contributors to write about their personal favourite tracks, albums and comps of the year, offering an unranked overview of the sounds that made the past 12 months so memorable for electronic music around the world

Ab-Soul 'Do Better'

The return of Kendrick Lamar with his divisive final TDE album ‘Mr Morale And The Big Steppers’ posed a question for rap fans in 2022: with the era-defining label’s headline name moving on, who, if anyone, would fill the void? In October, Black Hippy’s forgotten son Ab-Soul offered himself up as the answer with his return single — the stunning ‘Do Better’. Sampling Nick Hakim’s ‘Green Twins’, it’s an unflinchingly honest cut about processing pain, pointing towards a new chapter in the L.A native’s career and life. ROB KAZANDJIAN

AK Sports 'Flex (Mincy Remix)'
[Gallery Recordings]

Aussie artist AK Sports has had a busy year. Based in London and Los Angeles, they've released unruly sounds on Shall Not Fade, co-curated WARP MODE parties in LA, and broadcasted high-NRG mixes on Peckham’s Balamii radio and Neukölln’s HÖR Radio. On their collaborative EP with Mincy called ‘Rave Again’ via Sydney-based imprint Gallery Recs, Extra Spicy label boss Mincy remixes the tune ‘Flex’. Think colourful breaks, chunky bass and nu-rave madness of the best kind: aka heaps of fun. NIAMH O’CONNOR

Anti Traxx 'Leggo'
[Devon’s Road Recordings]

New South London label Devon’s Road have a future star on their hands in Anti Traxx — though his enigmatic persona might resist the tag. Plucked from his debut EP — a wall-to-wall-bangers affair — ‘Leggo’ recalls the glory days of Ganja Records and the like, with a simple but militant break and a gargantuan bassline. It’s been a huge year for jungle/drum & bass and tunes like this show just how much fun is being had in the deepest depths of the underground. Rewinds are a must. BEN HINDLE

AWEN & Caiiro 'Your Voice (Adam Port Remix)'

The original took the Afro house scene by storm, with AWEN’s enchanting vocals and strong message. However, when the award-winning and sought-after producer Adam Port got his hands on the track to remix it, he took it to new heights. Emphasising the powerful love message rolling off AWEN’s pen, Adam Port laces his remix with spellbinding keys and a bassline that has taken over dancefloors globally as the standout hit. The Keinemusik star proves he is unstoppable. KITTY AMOR

Beltran 'Smack Yo’'
[Solid Grooves Raw]

2022 has seen a chunky tech-house revival, brought on by the new wave of artists and labels pushing the sound to the masses. One of those imprints is Solid Grooves, and its sub-label, Solid Grooves Raw, which released one of the genre’s biggest bangers this year in the form of Brazilian breakout producer Beltran’s ‘Smack Yo’’. It’s been along-anticipated ID in sets from label head Michael Bibi, as well as soundtracking some of this year’s biggest viral dancefloor moments. AMY FIELDING

[Parkwood Entertainment / Columbia]

Beyoncé sampled the iconic piano riff from Robin S’s 1993 house classic ‘Show Me Love’, underlining dance music’s roots in New York vogue culture and the Black, gay nightclubs of the 1970s and ‘80s. When that beat drops and Bey’s voice cracks on the fourth “break” of the chorus, it’s clear she knows precisely what club music is about. Post-pandemic, ‘BREAK MY SOUL’ felt like the entire world returning to the dancefloor in unison. SAM DAVIES

billy woods x Messiah Musik 'Artichoke'
[Backwoodz Studioz]

If you’ve ever read billy woods’ non-fiction writing you’ll recognise the deep immersio ninto his direct perspective on ‘Artichoke’, a track that has formed from controlled yet almost dissociative recollections — “in hindsight it seems like someone else’s life”. This track off ‘Church’ continues his rich storytelling style. woods comments on homophobia in hip-hop culture, the apathy surrounding Black pain, and the tokenism surrounding societal change. There is an intimacy to ‘Artichoke’, as woods keeps us close in his imagery. TICE CIN

Bladee & Ecco2k 'The Flag Is Raised'

Drain Gang’s Bladee and Ecco2k are rollerblading down Rainbow Road to enlightenment with their warped pop anthem ‘The Flag Is Raised’. With producer Whitearmor’s sugary, distorted synths, which sound like you’re falling through time backwards, there is the sense that this track is not of this world, but belongs to another realm entirely. With Ecco2k’s otherworldly, mantra-driven vocals and Bladee’s spiritual sermons, this is pop through the looking glass, daring you to tumble down the rabbit hole with wonder. SOPHIE WALKER

Buck Bumble 'Buck Bumble'
[Ba Dum Tish]

What started out as an N64 video game track from 1998 has become one of this year’s most sought-after UK garage anthems. Finally tracking down the producer of the soundtrack, Justin Scharvona, Alec Falconer edited and re-issued the title track, plus another three club-friendly cuts. Finally released in October, it flew off the shelves and sold out on vinyl almost immediately, and will likely be heard in the clubs for months to come. Speed garage at its finest.  ANNA WALL

C1 x LD 'Hillside Demons'
[24 Hour Ent]

‘Hillside Demons’ has everything you could want in a UK drill track; two MCs shelling bars with pinpoint accuracy, a relentless beat by JS and Hilzz with earth-shattering drums, and one of the biggest hooks of the year, the latter which showcases an incredible interplay between the two rappers.The impact of the track was decimated when its video was taken down just three days — and hundreds of thousands of views — after its release, but both artists’ verses demonstrate why they’re considered at the forefront of the scene. ROB MCCALLUM

Dirty Bird 'The Question'
[Gum Studio]

After dropping seven projects in 2021, Virginia Beach’s Dirty Bird slowed it down this year with only the release of ‘Wagenmusik’. The EP’s lead track, ‘The Question’, launched the producer to mainstream recognition. Fusing the vintage textures of blues and his own take on garage, ‘The Question’ is a sweet song you’d listen to in a top-down convertible while driving along the coast. But it also offers a sugar-coated question we have after a highly dystopian three years: “Is it real?” ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

DJ Daddy Trance 'Day ‘N’ Night'
[Midnight Themes]

Kid Cudi rose to fame in the era of MySpace, which seems like a lifetime ago, as does the first club foray of his 2008 debut ‘Day ‘N’ Night’ — which was whipped into a fidget house smash by Crookers. Revisited by DJ Daddy Trance, aka Berlin-based Marlon Hoffstadt, in 2022 it was reborn as both a festival and club anthem. Accelerated to peak-time trance that rises to an irresistible melodic climax, it rocked both day and night — freeing minds whenever it dropped. JOE ROBERTS

Eliza Rose & Interplanetary Criminal 'B.O.T.A (Baddest Of Them All)'
[Rosebud Recordings / Warner Music UK]

When you first heard ‘Baddest Of Them All’, you knew it had something special; those warming organs and that sassy vocal hook had a tug. But we couldn’t have predicted the heights it would rocket to. Entering the UK charts at 93, Eliza Rose and Interplanetary Criminal leapfrogged to the top spot in a matter of weeks, making Eliza the first female DJ to top the UK charts since Sonique with ‘It Feels So Good’. It was one of the tracks of summer 2022, hands down. SOPHIE MCNULTY


GOMID, a duo comprising of Nigerian-British vocalist Iyunoluwanimi Yemi-Shodimu and British producer Samuel Scott, only released their debut EP ‘Seduction of a Hunter’ inJuly, combining Iyunoluwanimi’s gothic vocals with Samuel’s post-industrial ambient production. Their quirky Tobago Tracks-released ‘Go’ was the icing on the cake to a summer that showed they’re in the same league as fellow Manchester-based experimentalists like Space Afrika and Blackhaine. KAMILA RYMAJDO

Hamdi 'Skanka'
[Self-released / DUPLOC]

Finally self-released at the very tail end of last year, Hamdi’s ma-hoo-ssive ‘Skanka’ was put out again by DUPLOC halfway through 2022. Recalling Benga at his very best, the track’s ferociously wobbly bassline and Portuguese rap sample are a match made in dubstep heaven. It’s sad to say, but rarely do even the best tracks last longer than a few months these days. ‘Skanka’ has already proven its staying power and firmly cemented its place as a modern classic. BEN HINDLE

Hassan Ideddir 'Atfalouna'
[Dark Entries]

In 1987, a string of sold-out charity concerts across Morocco landed Hassan Ideddir a record deal. Over 30 years later, his release has been given a new lease of life with this expanded repress. Alongside the original single, which is a shimmering and sultry new beat slammer, sits a moody and percussive instrumental and a funk guitar-led dancefloor cut, both of which were hitherto unreleased. The reissue remains faithful to Ideddir’s charitable nature, with all proceeds directed towards humanitarian causes in Ukraine and Palestine. SAFI BUGEL

Jack J 'Only You Know Why'
[Mood Hut]

When this Vancouver artist shared the first single from his debut solo album in February, you could practically feel the winter thaw. The Pender Street Stepper introduced the record’s woozy fusion of Balearic ambience, soft rock and dub with a song that beamed with the hopeful warmth of spring, his voice oozing with quiet storm soul over gently blooming keys, drums and guitar. The track distils the tenderness of his 2014 house jam ‘Something On My Mind’ into sweet, perfect pop. EOIN MURRAY

John Noseda 'Climax'
[Moustache Records]

A certified club hit; hi-NRG Italo done right: John Noseda’s ‘Climax’ has been taking dancefloors by storm this year. His debut on David Vunk’s forever consistent imprint Moustache Records is a little piece of euphoria; with a nod to Lil Louis’ classic, ‘French Kiss’, it’s a selection that never seems to miss. Formerly Vunk’s secret weapon, played at Dekmantel Selectors and across various Boiler Rooms, the erotic hit has now been unleashed at many a festival and club. LIAM SMITH

Joy Orbison 'pinky ring'
[XL Recordings]

The first solo release from Joy O following his expansive 2021 mixtape, ‘still slipping vol. 1’, ‘pinky ring’ is a sparse but sonically beautiful cut. An understated production built on crackling percussion, warped basslines and repeating vocal chops, it’s a track that thrives on the space between, and somehow taps into the epic sound on his 2009 classic, ‘Hyph Mngo’, without sounding anything close to a pastiche. ROB MCCALLUM

Karen Nyame KG 'Taboo'
[Black Acre]

KG is the complete package. An incredible DJ, producer and vocalist, it’s only a matter of time before she goes supernova and becomes a fully fledged crossover sensation. Following last year’s hit track ‘Koko’, ‘Taboo’ continues KG’s exploration of various interconnected Afro-centric genres, and once again puts her own voice at the fore. The result is a track that’s sultry and hypnotic, while the lyrical content— about forbidden love — and smoky, swishing atmospherics leave a lingering sense of being uplifted long after the track has finished. A masterpiece. BEN HINDLE

KH 'Looking At Your Pager'
[Ministry of Sound]

Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) flips a 3LW gem into a hypnotic chirp atop a tight breakstep rhythm. Then, a shredding bass erupts into the air like a work of voodoo magic that commands a visceral reaction. Then, KH pulls it into Four Tet’s world with a cloud of million-lumen synths that shifts “I’m getting a little tired of your broken promises, promises” from a line of righteousness to yearning. The twists and turns of ‘Looking At Your Pager’ elicited more hard-nosed joy than any other track this year. NATHAN EVANS

Kimyan Law 'Taproot'
[PlusPlusPlus Music]

Kimyan aw (Nico Mpunga) has a very particular vernacular as a producer, fusing drum & bass with organic instruments to recall his Congolese heritage. This year he’s expanded this vision with a series of concept EPs, which construct a fictional universe populated by four tribes. ‘Taproot’ introduces ‘Xylo’ (the woodland tribe). Woodwind instruments and low-end bass give the track its earthiness, evoking roots passing messages between trees, while lush strings conjure a panoramic view. BECCA INGLIS

Kx5 'Escape feat. Hayla'

Everyone knows that summer can only begin AFTER an EDM super duo drop a singalong-worthy banger, and 2022’s festival season swagger came compliments of Kaskade and Deadmau5, who unveiled their dreamy single ‘Escape’ just ahead of their debut performance as Kx5 at EDC Las Vegas. Elevated by Hayla’s powerful vocals, ’Escape’ invites listeners to do just that against a sea of plucky synths and an energising, uplifting bassline. For fans of past collaborations like ‘I Remember’. MEGAN VENZIN

LF System 'Afraid to Feel'
[Warner Music UK]

Earlier this year, Scottish DJ/production duo LF System — aka Conor Larkman and Sean Finnigan — had their lives changed forever when their unofficial edit of Silk’s 1979 crooning funk hit, ‘I Can’t Stop (Turning You On)’, was signed and cleared by Warner Music. What resulted was a feel-good, glittering disco track in the form of ‘Afraid to Feel’, which spent eight consecutive weeks at number one in the UK Singles Chart. It’s a festival cut that radiates positivity, and arguably one of the best reimaginings to drop in 2022. AMY FIELDING

Liquid Earth 'The Electronic Brain'
[Liquid Earth Physical]

While tech-house has never gone away, it’s been a while since clubland hipsterdom didn’t blush at the mention of it. That changed in 2022, as more producers revisited the genre’s zippy BPMs. Liquid Earth’s final release of 2022, ‘The Electronic Brain’, was his best, showing off a slightly darker edge to his California lightness. But even with the slight techno bite, his ability to infuse acrylic detail over perfectly swung drums will get haters onto the floor. HENRY IVRY

Lizzo 'About Damn Time'
[Nice Life / Atlantic]

This is the best tune released this year and I will not be taking any questions on the matter. Three minutes 11 seconds of purest, solid-platinum disco emancipation, overstuffed with perfect musical events: that stank-face moment when the bass drops 18 seconds in, the sheer wide-eyed innocent rush of the soaring pre-chorus, the goosebump-inducing piano chords when she’s “coming out tonight”. Just sign me up, take my money, I’m in, 100%. HAROLD HEATH

Manga Saint Hilare 'Activated Remix feat. Roachee, Snowy & Logan OLM'

Besides Target (and brief members Skepta and Jme), few from the Roll Deep camp have adapted to the modern world as well as Manga Saint Hilare. Manga’s sound nowadays is ever-shifting, taking in everything from rap to garage to Baile funk, but this year he reminded us of his untouchable grime chops with this ‘Morgue’-esque chugger. The remix edges it thanks to the left-field genius of Snowy, Logan, and Roachee. JAMES KEITH

Michael Diamond 'Exodus'
[Vasuki Sound]

Michael Diamond’s work might be the most UK-sounding stuff we ran into this year, in the freshest possible sense. Taken from the first album to arrive through the label he co-runs, ‘Exodus’ is arguably the crown jewel of an impressive and unique discography, and not just because it encompasses everything the full length is about. A strong nod to Britain’s comment-worthy and ridiculously fertile electronic jazz scene, nevertheless it’s impossible to ignore that inviting, playful, two-step dancefloor bump. MARTIN GUTTRIDGE-HEWITT

Minder 'Boxes'

I was going to go for Minder’s ‘Knotted’ as my single of the year, but ‘Boxes’ is just so amazing and infectious. The bassline and the toasting are furious business: it starts off with a snippet of drum & bass and tinkering hi-hats, before a funked up breakbeat takes the lead. Then wallop, it all lets loose: five minutes of jump-up madness. MICK WILSON

Ngoni Egan 'Gaborone West Groove'
[United Identities]

Founder of Dublin electro collective Lepton and producer of gems on Winthorpe Electronics and All City, Rotterdam-based Ngoni Egan made giant strides in 2022 with the release of his ‘Re Teng’ EP on United Identities. While the unearthly ‘Difaqane’ showed his electro expertise, the techno missives ‘Re Teng’ contained were the most impressive of all. The highlight, ‘Gaborone West Groove’, was a spring-loaded Detroit-style slammer powered by chrome-plated chords and neck-snapping drums; it marked Egan as one of the year’s hottest underground talents. BEN MURPHY

Nia Archives 'Luv Like'

Breakthrough jungle star Nia Archives may have had bigger tracks this year (‘Baianá’, ‘Mash Up The Dance’, etc.), but ‘Luv Like’ is a persy. A perfect representation of her unique sound, gently plucked strings, subtly driving choppage and her own fluttering vox form a lush palette that feels as much akin to alternative R&B and pop as much as it does traditional liquid d&b and jungle. That Nia has helped propel jungle to such mainstream appeal without compromising her sound is a marvellous thing. Long may it continue. BEN HINDLE

Nick León 'Xtasis feat. DJ Babatr'
[Tra Tra Trax]

Odds are if you found yourself feeling particularly charged at a festival this summer, it was because of Nick León. The prolific Miami producer’s music has been everywhere, with no track more ubiquitous than the euphoric ‘Xtasis’. Featuring Venezuelan raptor house pioneer DJ Babatr, the track links Latin American club music’s legacy to its future with a propulsive four-to-the-floor pulse, slick and syncopated percussion, an ear-tickling vocal sample, and an organ bassline so irresistibly large it lingers on the mind for days. Pure ecstasy. EOIN MURRAY

Nikki Nair 'Startrack'
[Pretty Weird]

Atlanta-based DJ and producer Nikki Nair is well-known for his high-octane breakbeat and leftfield bass, and energetic style. Over the past year, Nikki has risen from the underground — becoming a well-known name and producing tracks that dominate club sound systems worldwide. The release of ‘Startrack’ — an infectious, hypnotic techno track — cements this multi-instrumentalist’s unique, fierce musical approach. Stay tuned: Nikki Nair is a DJ you don’t want to miss. JACK RAMAGE

Richie Blacker 'Space Cadet'

The Irish DJ/producer has been excelling of late, and this wafty, slightly mournful, widescreen post-rave ditty has been a mainstay of my DJ sets and 1BTN radio show this year. Often it’s led me to a Richie Blacker Half-Hour, following it up with his reworkings of FSOL’s ‘Papua New Guinea’ and Orbital’s ‘Belfast’, along with his ‘Summer Of Rave 89’ and ‘Unified’ cuts on Skream’s label and more. Like a more flexible Bicep, with judicious use of breakbeats and rave tropes, Richie is a keeper. CARL LOBEN

Ruff Cru 'THC (The Hardest Cru)'

Manchester label Hardline Sounds has made a buy-on-sight name for itself by delivering high-quality, early 2000s-sounding darkside garage since its inception at the end of 2019. Ruff Cru’s ‘THC (The HardestCru)’ — by an uncredited alias of DJ Cosworth, Main Phase and Interplanetary Criminal — is a 4/4 speed garage cut that first made an impact when the latter sent IDers into a frenzy after dropping it in his Keep Hush set last year. It’s big, it’s brash, and about as much fun as you can have in five minutes of music. ROB MCCALLUM

Saint Abdullah & Eomac 'At The Opposite Pole Of Architectural Virtue'
[Other People]

The opening track from St Abdullah & Eomac’s debut album is a thrilling sensory overload. A vibrant sonic collage full of blown-out dub, free jazz, urban chatter, abrasive textures and chopped-up tape noise, Tehran-born brothers Mohammad and Mehdi Mehrabani-Yeganeh evoke the spirit of traditional Persian bath houses with help from Irish beat-maker Ian McDonnell. Culturally-interrogative, it’s one of the best examples ofe lectronic music from the Iranian diaspora. CLAIRE FRANCIS

Steve Lacy 'Bad Habit'

There's certainly a conversation to be had about the efficacy of TikTok’s hit-making ability, but the chart-topping success of Steve Lacy’s ‘Bad Habit’ is an undeniably delicious off shoot. A wistful ode to unrequited love, the track finds the bedroom artist at his vulnerable best as he laments not making his feelings known to his love interest.Touting the muted charm of other 2022 open-hearted smashes like Harry Styles’ ‘As It Was’ and Glass Animals’ ‘Heat Waves’, ‘Bad Habit’ symbolises an era of unabashed longing. MAKUA ADIMORA

Two Shell 'home'
[Mainframe Audio]

Mysterious London duo Two Shell took the world by storm in 2022. Releasing ‘home’ on digital at the end of January, their bubbly, futuristic take on UK dance music mirrors the direction that labels like CloudCore have simultaneously been pushing. Not to mention their antics — sending in doubles to DJ for them, a self-destructing interview with The Face, 24-hour “secret box” drops — the cult of Two Shell demonstrates their savvy for blending old school rave mystique with Gen Z playfulness. JAMES GUI

Waajeed 'Motor City Madness'

Waajeed is fiercely dedicated to keeping Detroit culture alive, recently launching the Underground Music Academy to mentor young artists. The video for his latest track makes his mission explicit. Waajeed tears around town in a tricked-out Dodge Charger, visiting essential local merchants, healers and artists still holding on in the “New Detroit” — witness the “Hood Closed to Gentrifiers” sign. The track is a gorgeously bumping play on Underground Resistance’s classic hi-tech jazz style, with loopy horns and woozy keys channelling the city’s deep musical past. MARKE BIESCHKE

Yumbs & DBN Gogo 'Intliziyo feat. Sino Msolo'
[Yummy Entertainment]

In a scintillating first offering, South African producer Yumbs takes the “private school” path on the robust ‘Intliziyo’, (“the heart”), enlisting the talents of two of the nation’s best. As much as the silken tone of Sino Msolo has its own refreshing occupancy in the scene, DBN GOGO has risen to become a defining presence in amapiano culture as a producer and DJ, now taking a much more prominent role as a vocalist on this track, filled with the heady excitement of a blossoming romance. SHIBA MELISSA MAZAZA

Check out DJ Mag's top albums of 2022 here.