The WAV Awards: Favorite Releases of 2022

Across all genres of electronic and dance music, fans were graced by an outpouring of new singles, EPs, and albums during 2022. From the minimal tech house mastery to wonky beats, hyperpop, and everything in between, we found ourselves going back to many of the instant hit releases this year, but there were a few that we had on repeat. Here are MP3 MAG’s favorite releases in 2022.

Back Around by Light Night Radio

Late Night Radio resembles the eclectic mix and abstract listening experience of tuning into the radio at 3 am and hearing the playlists the DJ host put on for their late-night crowd. In the spirit of versatile soundtracks and experimental design, musician and producer, Alex Medellin mixes his unique production style and hybrid-electronic sound design within his latest EP and recent release, Back Around

Influenced by classic soul, gospel progressions, and third-coast hip-hop, Late Night Radio designed his original style of electronic production to encompass a decisive mix of emotional and atmospheric tones, electric instrumental baselines, hip-hop beats, and melodic vocals. 

Released through Philos Records, Back Around embodies the full scope of Late Night Radio’s creative ingenuity. Within five tracks, the EP introduces heavier sounds of electronic bass whilst still guiding listeners through an expansive arrangement of emotionally charged vibrancy. Each song has its own story to tell, fluctuating between heavy bass drops, melodic instrumentals, and stylized hip-hop, trap beats. The track list samples a mix of vocals and voiceovers, setting a reflective tone amidst experimental bass and hard-hitting drops.

Back Around is a masterful collaboration of Late Night Radio’s extensive versatility and a perfect release for a late-night listen. 

—Valerie Yoder

Brad by Kyral x Banko & Mport

Comedy and bass music haven’t always gone hand and hand, but Kyral x Banko and Mport’s recent EP, simply titled Brad, was created with an equally simple statement: bass music is supposed to be fun. Thankfully, that’s exactly what the trio accomplished with their debut Wakaan release.

Brad is more than a compilation of collaborative tracks from the three Denver-based producers — the 13-minute EP also includes a handful of thematic skits revolving around a superfan caricature, embodied by the absurd stereotypes of an annoying, but well-intentioned character who doesn’t know when to leave their favorite artist alone. Whether Brad is sneaking backstage, begging for unreleased IDs, or giving some unwelcomed pointers on how an artist could improve their sound, he always overstays his welcome and quickly becomes the butt of inside jokes.

Aside from the comedic elements, the Brad EP is packed with bangers (including the bass-house track, appropriately titled “Banger”) touching every genre bass music has to offer. Looking for some classic dubstep? Check out the opening track, “Stimulate.” Some experimental bass? “ID Please?” is calling your name. Of course, we can’t forget drum and bass, which makes up the back half of the closing track, “Zoinked.”

From the tongue-in-cheek skits to the multifaceted tracklist, every element of the Brad EP was created with careful attention and a creative intention that makes the entire listening experience an undeniably fun ride.

—Logan Sasser

“Business & Pleasure” by Dennis Cruz

Whenever the name Dennis Cruz appears on a lineup, the dance floor will move and groove. The Madrid native has been a reputable name in the minimal, deep-tech, and tech-house scene, as he has charted No. 1 hits on Beatport and performed at countless Solid Grooves party series. His release “Business & Pleasure” through his imprint MÜSE is a representation of his mastery of producing minimal tech house.

The maestro’s ability to work a crowd by incorporating the perfect amount of crisp percussions, palpitating basslines, and distorting vocals that cue a deep groove. The track starts subtle, yet deep, with vocal samples layered over micro-sounds and dubby melodies. The buildup intensifies seconds before a pounding bass that rides across bumping riffs, reverberated ticks, and cogent hi-hats. The vocals, “cause I’m gonna shine,” fire up a high-energy groove, along with all the other minor yet potent elements in this song. 

Aside from being picked and nominated by many Beatport and Resident Advisor awards, he has also launched and co-founded prominent record labels such as Lemon-Aid Music, GOLFO TRAXX, and MÜSE, alongside other powerful forces in the scene such as PAWSA and EDDY M

Not only does Dennis Cruz radiate a contagious smile and positive energy on every stage he performs on, but he also has listeners vibing to his sound at a 360-degree level.

—Michela Iosipov

Crash by Charli XCX

Charli XCX broke into the music scene at age 14 with her signature dream pop and bedroom pop ethereal earworms from mixtapes Heartbreaks and Earthquakes and SuperUltra. Ten years later, she is a defining voice in the electropop scene, garnering a loyal fanbase of listeners and locking in collaborations with the likes of Tiestö, Caroline Polachek, and late producer SOPHIE. Her 2022 release of Crash, a 12-song album exploring her roots and identity as an ever-changing artist, catapulted her to the top of the electropop ladder, earning her spots at renowned festivals such as Firefly Music Festival, Lollapalooza, and Life is Beautiful. 

Crash delves into Charli’s relationships surrounding identity, love, loathing, and the apocalypse. The titular track touches on Charli’s obsession with cars (see previous releases “Vroom Vroom,” “White Mercedes,” “Backseat”). She depicts a tale of self-destruction and all-consuming romance, all with a catchy production line backing the track. “Good Ones” traipses down a darker path, admitting her inability to stay in a relationship with a “good one.” The repetitious drum line snivels into your ear, causing you to tap along to the rhythm subconsciously. 

The playful “Yuck” carries the message set out in “Good Ones.” With lyrics like “You tell me I’m pretty, Yuck!,” we get the sense Charli can’t handle traditional relationship standards, and she also doesn’t take herself too seriously. 

The final track, “Twice,” examines a response to the end of the world. In the words of Charli, “All the things I love are gonna leave me. One day you’re never gonna be there. I tell myself to take it easy. Don’t think twice about it, baby.” Cryptic, yet sage, sage advice.

—Gabrielle Reeder

Infinite Falling Ground by Ivy Lab

Contemporary, yet familiar; simplistic, yet complex. A million contrasting words seem to come to mind all at once when dwelling on the presence of Infinite Falling Ground, the 2022 album from Ivy Lab. From the start of the show with “Celeste” to the curtain call of “Boyfriend Jeans,” the album feels like a movie, viewed best in a dark, velvet-draped theater while sipping on a nice glass of “cognac.”

Ivy Lab takes listeners on a cinematic, atmospheric journey through love and vulnerability. The emotive nature of each song juxtaposed with striking, glitched-out percussion to production confirm Ivy Lab as a force in halftime, future beats, dubstep, or any other subgenre or classification they feel like dipping into next.

The immediate staying power of tracks like “NOVV,” “Everythingmustchange,” and “Q-Niz” highlight Ivy Lab’s adherence to pushing boundaries, while the R&B influences in “Our Time” and “Dogma” personify the idea of (confidently) crying in the club. 

From start to finish, the soft, catchy repeated vocal samples and powerful looping beats that compose this collection of songs show the world how Ivy Lab’s signature sound continues to evolve and become refined, like a vintage “merlot.”

Based on the glowing reviews from the Infinite Falling Ground A/V tour, the accompanying live show takes this timeless album to new heights, and its celebration of raw expression is not one to miss.

—Shaina Sklar

INTERTWINED by EAZYBAKED

Anyone who’s been around the bass music scene for a hot minute is undoubtedly familiar with EAZYBAKED. The Orlando-based duo, made up of best friends Eric Ray and Andrew Principe, is well-known for their intricate sound design and explosive beats. Their unique approach to experimental bass has earned them spots on countless festival lineups and consistently pushes the boundaries of electronic music itself.

EAZYBAKED has pushed these boundaries even further with the release of their debut album, INTERTWINED. Since its release in March of 2022, INTERTWINED has racked up nearly 1 million streams on Spotify. It features collaborations with Of The Trees (“Sapped”) and VCTRE (“The East”) and album art by the multi-talented RUKU.

Conceived during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, INTERTWINED showcases EAZYBAKED’s more sensitive inclinations. Each of the 10 tracks communicates a warmth and emotionality that is slightly different from what fans have previously heard from the duo. At the same time, the album retains the signature punchiness that has come to define the EAZYBAKED sound. From the melodic introspection of “Letting Go,” to the gravity-bending bounce of “Simulated,” EAZYBAKED shows off an impressive versatility that cements their status as the kings of experimental bass.

—Ashley Eady

New Earth Formula by Potions

The bass music world has seen a wide range of talent over the years but it’s always refreshing when an artist brings a distinct new sound to the genre. Potions did just that with the release of his latest album New Earth Formula earlier this year, which consists mostly of solo tracks and two vocal features from the artistic and multi-talented RUKU.

At first glance, New Earth Formula doesn’t seem to necessarily fit the typical bass music mold, but contains elements of soft vocals, soothing melodies, and instrumental ease which can all be found in tracks like “Rabies” and “Mistakes.” While the album has a consistent dreamy and emotional feel to it, listeners also get the mysterious, deep, heavy bass sound that we all love in tracks like “Spirit” and “New Aura,” both of which have been played out on big sound systems across the country by multiple artists in the bass realm. 

Potions has had a busy year with a large number of festival bookings as Lab Group, but it’s been a pleasure to see his solo project thrive as well with bookings at renowned festivals such as Okeechobee and Electric Forest. We hope to see more from the artist as he continues to grow his project and gather more fans from across the country. 

—Madison George

Smoak Sesh by Smoakland

Smoakland was one of the biggest success stories in the bass music world in 2022. While they’ve been grassroots fan favorites for years now, this past calendar year saw their biggest successes to date and legitimately catapulted them into relevancy in the North American music festival industry. 

In September, they minted their breakout year with the Smoak Sesh EP on Zeds Dead’s Deadbeats label. The EP charted No.1 on Beatport’s Dubstep chart, and all five tracks placed in the Top 100. The West Coast duo supported the project with a 25+ date headline tour in the fall and winter, and look to be one of the main players in bass music for the foreseeable future.

Their debut Electric Forest set garnered 10k+ at Sherwood Court to open the festival on Thursday, and they capitalized a few weeks later during a Deadbeats’ Denver run that saw them go back-to-back with Mersiv and hop on stage with SuperAve. at Red Rocks. 

The Smoak Sesh EP showcases the state of dubstep, which calls for a range of sound and emotion that all ties into having a good time on the dance floor.

—Franz Hilberath

Unfold by Imanu

2022 has been an undeniably successful year for Rotterdam-based artist IMANU. With the project only being three years old, it is amazing to see how his name has been circling the electronic music scene, quickly gaining momentum throughout the world.

This year specifically, he released his debut album, Unfold. In an Instagram post, he states, “I have been taking inspiration from all sorts of genres and emotions and everything I’ve had the privilege of experiencing whilst traveling around the globe. This album is a result of all those things combined and I can’t wait for people to hear it.”

Consisting of fourteen songs, Unfold takes the listener on an emotional journey of sound that is perfectly curated down to the second. Tracks like “It’s our Destiny,” “Pillow Talk,” and “Somehow We Lost It All” combine melodic baselines with enchanting vocals to put you into a dream state when listening. This body of work also covers the opposite end of the spectrum, including heavy percussion and hypnotizing loops in tracks such as, “Haunt My Mind,” “Empress,” and “Shoyu”.

All around, this album is truly a work of art. While we could break down every track on the album, fans will have to take a listen for themselves to fully experience the album’s glory.

—Ashley Kelaita

Read MP3 MAG’s Favorite Artists of 2022 and Favorites Events of 2022.

Tags: