Top 50 Albums of 2022

It’s hard to believe that this is already the seventh time I have made one of these lists. What is harder to believe is that I haven’t gotten sick of it yet. There is something special about being able to look back through the years and reflect on all the albums I either overrated, underrated, or completely missed. I am sure the same will go for this list but I am proud to say this was actually a really difficult list to put together. I listened to well over 100 releases this year and really liked a good majority of them. This means I had to make more cuts than ever before. Artists I love who have been on these lists before like Harry Styles, Mitski, Charli XCX, Rina Sawayama, FKA Twigs, Ghost, and Miranda Lambert all failing to make it just shows how lucky we were to get the albums we did. Now that I am thoroughly exhausted from writing, I will end this by saying I am deeply appreciative of everyone who keeps coming back to read my thoughts on the year’s music. It’s very rewarding for me and it is the only reason I keep doing this. 

50) King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Omnium Gatherum

Even as a fan of King Gizzard I will admit it is difficult to keep up with their output in a meaningful way. This is one of five releases the group put out in 2022 and I have a feeling they have a few more ready for 2023. This makes the band a bit hard to recommend to people, especially when they change up their sound so often. Here comes Omnium Gatherum to fix this issue as a perfect sampler of what this band does best. Psych rock, thrash metal, rap-rock, this record has the band pulling out every sound they have experimented with in the past and absolutely crushing it. As a fan of King Gizzard this 80-minute collage of genre is exactly what I needed from the band and is the best thing they put out all year.

Top Five Tracks

  1. The Dripping Tap
  2. Gaia
  3. Predator X
  4. Magenta Mountain
  5. Evilest Man

49) Björk – Fossora

If you’ve stuck with Björk up until now, you should generally know what you’re getting from her albums. Grand, challenging production with vocal performances unlike anything you’ve heard before. This is all true with Fossora, but Björk still manages to make this record stand out among her recent releases. The production is more layered with some genuinely unfamiliar sounds creating songs that are difficult to sit with but rewarding to dissect. The themes of grief following the death of Björk’s mother are clear throughout, making this seemingly alien record feel surprisingly human. Few artists are putting out music this innovative at this stage in their career and it is heartwarming to see Björk still pushing boundaries like this.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Ancestress (feat. Sindri Eldon)
  2. Atopos (feat. Kasimyn)
  3. Fossora (feat. Kasimyn)
  4. Her Mother’s House (feat. Ísadóra Bjarkardóttir Barney)
  5. Fungal City (feat. Serpentwithfeet)

48) Muna – Muna

Easy rule of thumb, if you have a Phoebe Bridgers co-sign I am going to like your music. Muna have already carved a much different lane for themselves, however. For one, the songs on here go incredibly hard. After one listen of “What I Want” I was absolutely hooked for the rest of the album. The record bounces around from one pop inspiration to another so effortlessly, never losing cohesion. Much of this can be attributed to Katie Gavin’s unapologetic writing where she expresses herself freely in a way that I know will speak to many listeners. This record is insanely enjoyable and a fresh jumping off point for a group who have the potential to become legitimate pop stars.

Top Five Tracks

  1. What I Want
  2. Silk Chiffon (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)
  3. Anything but Me
  4. Solid
  5. Runner’s High

47) Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti

I can write this and pretend that I am at knowledgable on reggaeton, but unfortunately it is a genre I am completely out of my depth with. Fortunately, this is an album that there was no way to avoid in 2022. All summer a new song from this release would catch me out in public and eventually I sat down and listened to this massive 23-track record and Bad Bunny’s appeal was made immediately clear. The production across here is colorful and swaggering as Bad Bunny pulls out no stops to show his versatility as a performer. Even with a language barrier the 82 minutes of Un Verano Sin Ti flew by and I have never been more sold on the hype for one of the biggest artists in the world.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Después de la Playa
  2. Tití Me Preguntó 
  3. Ojitos Lindos (feat. Bomba Estéreo)
  4. Yo No Soy Celoso
  5. Party (feat. Rauw Alejandro)

46) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down

After a cool nine year break from putting out new music, I was curious to see how the Yeah Yeah Yeahs would play in 2022. It turns out that even with just over 30 minutes of music the band sounds as good as ever. Despite the album’s focus on how bleak the planet has become, the band manages to tap into a refreshing sound that is unlike any of their past works. Even if this never reaches the heights of those classic albums, it was still a treat to hear the band boldly explore new territory and show evolution after too long of an absence. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Spitting Off the Edge of the World (feat. Perfume Genius)
  2. Burning
  3. Wolf
  4. Fleez
  5. Lovebomb

45) Chat Pile – God’s Country

This is one of the albums that I put on the list and then recommend most people stay away. Not just because death metal can be a tough sell but because this death metal album really sticks with you. Chat Pile fill their debut album with despair and horror, crafting images of paranoia and decay over instrumentation that methodically powers forward. For a band so young, the ambition of a project like this is noteworthy and shows a group that is more than likely only going to explore this dark sound further. If you have any interest in a heavy, horrifying record look no further than God’s Country. Good luck.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Grimace_Smoking_Weed.Jpeg
  2. Why
  3. Tropical Beaches, Inc.
  4. Slaughterhouse
  5. Wicked Puppet Dance

44) Tears for Fears – The Tipping Point

I’ll admit that I did not see Tears for Fears making it onto a Best of 2022 list. Mainly because I didn’t realize the duo had any interest in putting out new music. The band’s first album in 18 years is surprisingly fresh, utilizing its tight ten tracks to create arena ready rock  that we are sadly lacking. Tears for Fears goes back to what they used to do best. Expansive production, impassioned vocal performances and memorable hooks that will bring you back to the band’s prime. This is the perfect album for a legacy act to put out at this point in their career. They do just enough to satisfy lifelong fans while modernizing their sound enough to bring on new fans.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Rivers of Mercy
  2. The Tipping Point
  3. No Small Thing
  4. Master Plan
  5. End of Night

43) Spoon – Lucifer On the Sofa

After nearly three decades together, Spoon has once again proven that they are one of the most consistent rock bands out there. Their tenth record is fresh set of lively and energetic tracks as the band goes back to basics with a classic rock sound. Over the course of its short length, Lucifer On the Sofa shines with memorable riffs and hooks as the band recaptures the magic of their older records without rehashing ideas. Hopefully at this point there does not need to be any additional convincing to check out a Spoon album. You should already know this is going to be a hit.

Top Five Tracks

  1. The Devil & Mister Jones
  2. Wild
  3. On the Radio
  4. The Hardest Cut
  5. Lucifer On the Sofa

42) Vince Staples – Ramona Park Broke My Heart

One of the things I appreciate most about Vince Staples is his ability to vividly paint a picture. On Ramona Park Broke My Heart, Staples explores his youth and the darkness that defined it. Even with bouncy West Coast production, pain can be heard beneath Staples’ deadpan delivery. It is a beautiful companion to his self-titled album last year, diving deeper into the experiences that made the Long Beach emcee into the artist he is today. This record certainly flew under the radar for far too many people and deserves to be recognized among Staples’ best releases.

Top Five Tracks

  1. When Sparks Fly
  2. Magic (feat. Mustard)
  3. East Point Prayer (feat. Lil Baby)
  4. Aye! (Free the Homies)
  5. The Blues

41) Viagra Boys – Cave World

While many of us might be getting tired of albums influenced by the pandemic, Viagra Boys have found a unique twist on it. Instead of focusing on the isolation and desperation we all felt, they are instead focusing on the wild mania it fueled including vaccine conspiracies, QAnon, and other misinformation. The subject matter works for a band as manic as Viagra Boys ,who approach these punk songs with intense levels of theatrics. This is certainly not an album for everyone, even punk fans might have trouble engaging, but I have never heard this band in better form and given how insane the post-pandemic world has been…this was cathartic. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Baby Criminal
  2. Punk Rock Loser
  3. Ain’t No Thief
  4. The Cognitive Trade-off Hypothesis 
  5. Troglodyte

40) Pup – The Unraveling of PUPTheBand

Even when not reaching the greatness of their last two releases, Pup is still one of the most entertaining groups in punk right now. As the title implies, The Unraveling of PUPTheBand is a self-aware reflection on the band’s growing popularity and playfully toys with the ideas of selling out. Does this theme work? Eh, not totally, but the messiness is part of the charm here. Even when slightly missing the mark Pup is making loud and infectious songs that you will be banging your head along to. There are so many elements here that work and will hopefully lend themselves to Pup’s next release being a true masterpiece.

Top Five Tracks 

  1. Totally Fine
  2. Waiting
  3. PUPTHEBAND Inc. Is Filing For Bankruptcy 
  4. Robot Writes A Love Song
  5. Matilda

39) Benny the Butcher – Tana Talk 4

With each release Benny the Butcher proves to be the Griselda rapper with the most range, continuing his winning streak with Tana Talk 4. Like on the series’ previous installment, Benny delivers fierce, tight flows with swaggering confidence. We are also blessed with production from the Alchemist, painting this album with a smoother palette than what Benny has rapped over in the past. Even without hitting the same highs of the last Tana Talk project, Benny’s consistency is still incredible and hopefully this is just one more step towards him being recognized as the star he is.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Johnny P’s Caddy (feat. J. Cole)
  2. Weekend In The Perry’s (feat. Boldy James)
  3. 10 More Commandments (feat. Diddy)
  4. Thowy’s Revenge
  5. Tyson vs. Ali (feat. Conway the Machine)

38) Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry

It’s Almost Dry is the perfect follow-up to Daytona, even if we had to wait four long years to get here. Pusha T delivers his typical brand of bravado over production from Pharrell and Kanye West, creating a project that sounds both meticulously crafted and effortless. Despite the quick 35-minute length, Push packs each track with one quotable line after another, giving his fans exactly what they have come to expect. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Dreaming Of The Past (feat. Kanye West)
  2. I Pray For You (feat. Labrinth & Malice)
  3. Diet Coke
  4. Let The Smokers Shine The Coup
  5. Just So You Remember

37) Freddie Gibbs – $oul $old $eparately

After years of pumping out modern classics, Freddie Gibbs has finally gotten his chance to release on a major label and he did not waste the opportunity. A quick look at the feature list, with names like Pusha T, Anderson .Paak, Offset, and Rick Ross, will let you know that Gibbs is fully flexing his connections. But what is even more impressive are the producers that are able to give this record some of the best beats of the year. Gibbs has proven he can sound flawless on anyone’s production but with names like The Alchemist, Madlib, Kaytranada and James Blake behind the board you can count on this sounding flawless. Gibbs, once again, has proven to be one of the best rappers in the game now and $oul $old $eparately is just further proof that he is just getting started.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Dark Hearted
  2. Feel No Pain (feat. Anderson .Paak & Raekwon)
  3. Grandma’s Stove (feat. Musiq Soulchild)
  4. Couldn’t Be Done (feat. Kelly Price)
  5. Gold Rings (feat. Pusha T)

36) Wet Leg – Wet Leg

Every year I am recommended indie albums that are fun, light, but instantly forgettable. I’ll be the first to admit that when I saw the immediate acclaim for Wet Leg’s debut album, I was reluctant to buy into the hype. Even upon listening to the record it seemed to check all the boxes of similar indie rock project in the same lane. The difference, however, is Wet Leg wastes no time establishing themselves as one of the boldest young voices in the genre. The duo inject an immediately recognizable personality, as well as many catchy hooks, into this record. There are certainly more ambitious releases from 2022, but as a debut Wet Leg has set the bar impressively high and show no signs of letting up.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Wet Dream
  2. Angelica
  3. Too Late Now
  4. Ur Mum
  5. Chaise Longue

35) Taylor Swift – Midnights (3am Edition)

I am writing this knowing that there is nothing else I can say to add to what makes this album so special to so many people. Taylor Swift is a once in a lifetime artist that has spent years building an intimate relationship with her fans through her art. On Midnights, Swift rewards those years of devotion with an album that was designed for fans to be able to pick apart more and more with each listen. The sounds and lyrics call back to many of Swift’s past records with a new perspective from an artist who has never stopped growing. With each release Swift continues to prove why she is worthy of all the acclaim she has gotten. Also, the bonus songs on here are so phenomenal that I had no choice but to break my personal rule against including deluxe editions on this list. There is zero reason for “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” to not be on the standard album!

Top Five Tracks

  1. Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve
  2. Mastermind
  3. Maroon
  4. You’re On Your Own, Kid
  5. Bigger Than The Whole Sky

34) Conway the Machine – God Don’t Make Mistakes

As much as I adored From King to a God, Conway the Machine has managed to reach a new high on his latest record. The members of Griselda have always been open about their come-ups and the hardships they overcame to get to where they are, but never have I heard songs as brutally vivid as these. Conway does not shy away from his dark past, putting his flaws on full display throughout this project. This type of raw, introspective hip-hop will not be for everyone but those who connect with this will connect with it deeply. Easily the best release from Griselda this year and one of their greatest achievements to date.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Stressed (feat. Wallo267)
  2. John Woo Flick (feat. Benny the Butcher & Westside Gunn)
  3. God Don’t Make Mistakes (feat. Annette Price)
  4. Lock Load (feat. Beanie Sigel)
  5. Chanel Pearls (feat. Jill Scott)

33) Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems

There are always a few albums that come out and hit you in the face like a cold splash of water. This is one of those albums that came through as a harsh, yet refreshing, rush to my ears. There is not a moment of this album that is not going at 150% effort, from aggressive punk instrumentation to the fast screaming vocals Diaspora Problems has so much to say and a million ways to say it. The results might be a lot to take in but hardcore punk fans will be ecstatic about what they get. Even if it takes a bit of an effort to brace yourself for this sound, it is still one of the most impactful releases of the year. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)
  2. Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!!) ((by the future))
  3. Spiritual Level of Gang Shit (feat. McKinley Dixon & Iojii)
  4. John J (feat. Kathryn Edwards & Zula Wildheart)
  5. Driponomics (feat. Mother Maryrose)

32) Weyes Blood – And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow

I think it is safe to say that Weyes Blood has found the lane that suits her best. Between this and 2019’s Titanic Rising it has shown that nobody is making vast, atmospheric singer-songwriter pieces quite like Natalie Mering. Much like her last album, Mering focuses on expanding the scope of these tracks to include lush instrumentations that pair excellently alongside her angelic vocals. Fans of Titanic Rising will be happy to see that Weyes Blood has absolutely nailed the follow-up and can feel safe knowing that Mering has it in her to keep putting out music as beautiful as this.

Top Five Tracks

  1. God Turn Me Into a Flower
  2. Children of the Empire
  3. The Worst Is Done
  4. It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody
  5. Hearts Aglow

31) Death Cab for Cutie – Asphalt Meadows

After 25 years and multiple classic records it would be easy to guess that Death Cab would be out of things to prove. And if we are being honest, the last decade has felt unremarkable for the indie rock band. These lackluster expectations, however, did not stop me from ultimately falling for this album. Asphalt Meadows has no right feeling so refreshing as Death Cab expands on their typical sound. The results are about as good as you can imagine from this band in 2022. Dramatic lyrics, exciting production and powerful performances all coming together for a sound that will both satisfy old fans and intrigue new listeners. There is not much else you can ask for on your tenth album and I am so glad we got one more classic from this group.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Asphalt Meadows
  2. Here To Forever
  3. I’ll Never Give Up On You
  4. Pepper
  5. I Don’t Know How I Survive

30) Maggie Rogers – Surrender 

While there was obvious talent on Maggie Rogers’ debut Heard It In A Past Life, I was still left feeling she was a few steps behind many of her contemporaries. While her songwriting talents were undeniable, many of the songs failed to resonate or stick in my mind. Thankfully the opposite can be said for Surrender, an album I have had on heavy rotation since its release. Each track sounds crisp with Rogers’ delivering the best vocal performances of her entire career. Whether she is bursting with energy on “Shatter” or mourning lost love on “Horses,” the emotional power is undeniable. Rogers has clearly found her voice here and will absolutely be building upon this in the future.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Horses
  2. Anywhere With You
  3. Honey
  4. Shatter
  5. That’s Where I Am

29) Backxwash – His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering

If you have listened to Backxwash for even a few seconds you know what you are getting into. His Happiness Shall Come First is the conclusion of a trilogy exploring Backxwash’s past as she works through her trauma and demons with ferocity. This record reflects on Backxwash’s youth and acts as one last blast of rage as she finds catharsis. If that sounds intense, you would be correct, as these songs flare up with a manic level of emotion and intensity as Backxwash yells over crushing instrumentals. Despite all the rage and ferocity, the heart of this record is ultimately therapeutic and after two records of seeing her suffer it is rewarding to watch Backxwash finally find herself throughout this project.

Top Five Tracks

  1. JUJU (feat. Ghais Guevara & Michael Go)
  2. NYAMA (feat. Pupil Slicer)
  3. VIBANDA (feat. Morgan-Paige & Michael Go)
  4. NFWITI (feat. Michael Go)
  5. Mukazi

28) Florence + The Machine – Dance Fever

Florence Welch is able to make explosive, theatrical ballads so effortlessly that her work is almost taken for granted. This is the genius of an album like Dance Fever which plays to Welch’s strengths while feeling like a breathe of fresh air. Fans of the band’s vast production will still be captivating by Welch’s strong vocal performances and bombastic instrumentation, but producer Jack Antonoff pushes the lyrics to the forefront where they belong. Welch’s writing here is much more poetic than her past records, creating beautiful pieces that are as fun to dissect as they are to listen to. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Cassandra
  2. Morning Elvis
  3. Dream Girl Evil
  4. Free
  5. My Love

27) Sudan Archives – Natural Brown Prom Queen

I caught up on this one late, which was a massive oversight on my part. This was my first exposure to Sudan Archives, a genre-blending R&B artist who uses Natural Brown Prom Queen as her opportunity to push her sound in any and every direction. The 18 tracks on this album are all unique while mostly being held together by Brittney Parks’ vulnerable and expressive songwriting. There are several moments where Parks pushes herself as a genuine pop star, creating some of the catchiest R&B songs to come out this year. Few artists this early in their career are as ambitious as this and if the acclaim this album got is any indicator of success, Sudan Archives has the potential to be a real star.

Top Five Tracks

  1. NBPQ (Topless)
  2. Yellow Brick Road
  3. Selfish Soul
  4. Omg Britt
  5. Freakalizer

26) Black Midi – Hellfire

For a band as young as Black Midi, it is amazing to see just how fast they have evolved over the course of three albums. Each of their first two records had plenty to appreciate but Hellfire is where the group really come into their own. While the wild performances and messy instrumentation they are known for are here, this album has more direction than their previous work. The album plays more like a musical, drawing clear inspiration from show tunes without sacrificing the progressive and experimental rock aesthetic that the band has been sold on up until now. This makes Hellfire one of the most fun rock albums to come out this year, demanding you to play it from front to back with no interruptions. Few albums have taken me on a ride like this one and I cannot wait to see where Black Midi takes us next.

Top Five Tracks

  1. The Race Is About To Begin
  2. Sugar/Tzu
  3. 27 Questions
  4. Welcome To Hell
  5. The Defence

25) Petrol Girls – Baby

There is no way to properly talk about this record without acknowledging why it is so important in 2022. This English punk band has an extremely blunt way of writing songs and considering this album was released the day Roe v Wade was overturned, this hit very close to home. Some will certainly be turned off by the direct shots being taken here but I found it entirely necessary given the themes. Petrol Girls know that equality is not won silently and they are taking no prisoners as they scream against modern forms of fascism and oppression. It is unfortunate I have found so many reasons to keep returning to this release, but each time I do I am reminded of how important it is to have revolutionary artists like this to advocate for those who need it most.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Baby, I Had an Abortion
  2. Fight for Our Lives (feat. Janey Starling)
  3. Preachers
  4. Bones
  5. Feed My Fire

24) The Wonder Years – The Hum Goes on Forever

There is nothing more punk than being a dad. At least that is what Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years would like you to believe. The Hum Goes on Forever is Campbell’s first release since becoming a father and much of this album is a reflection of parenthood. This, mixed with the struggles of the pandemic, make this feel deeply personal from a band that has never been afraid to wear their heart on their sleeves. Fans of the group will latch onto lyrical nods to past songs and classic Pennsylvania charm (yes, they manage to fit a Nick Foles reference in here). This group is showing they can age gracefully and are evolving as they do so.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Songs About Death
  2. Oldest Daughter
  3. The Paris of Nowhere
  4. Low Tide
  5. Wyatt’s Song (Your Name)

23) The Mountain Goats – Bleed Out

At this point we can just reserve a yearly spot for the Mountain Goats on this list. Even at their weakest, John Darnielle is able to throw out a few lyrics that will hit and have me replaying for weeks. Bleed Out might not seem like the band’s most emotional record, drawing inspiration from action movies from the 60s-80s, but I ultimately found myself deeply invested in this record just like their last few. Darnielle’s storytelling muscles are fully flexed out as he tells stories of fights and shootouts. This is an album I really only think the Mountain Goats could make and fans of the group will find these songs as entertaining as the movies that inspired them.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Bleed Out
  2. Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome
  3. Training Montage
  4. Guys on Every Corner
  5. First Blood

22) Little Simz – No Thank You

This is why I try and wait a little bit before putting out this list. After releasing her strongest album to date last year, Simz decided to drop another project seemingly out of nowhere. Like her last two albums, Little Simz pairs up with producer Inflo who gives her large, smooth production for her to rap over. Unlike those albums, No Thank You definitely feels a bit looser and more introspective. It is an excellent lane for Simz, especially with this being an independent release. You feel that Simz is comfortable and confident on each song and uses that energy to throw fire and open up. There is no questioning that Little Simz is one of the strongest emcees right now and it is clear that she is not slowing down at any point. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. X
  2. Hearts on Fire
  3. Broken
  4. No Merci
  5. Gorilla

21) Ethel Cain – Preacher’s Daughter

This album snuck up on me, partially because of how unassuming it comes across at first. Ethel Cain’s voice is soft and pretty as she sings over mellow instrumentation, reflecting on love and her hometown struggles. The deeper you dive into this album, however, the darker it becomes until it turns into something downright horrific. Cain’s ambition for her debut is truly exceptional as she tells this gut-wrenching story with disturbing detail. This is the kind of album that I would never expect from a 24-year-old and shows a level of maturity that storytellers twice her age would love to have. This could very easily be the start of a legendary career and you are going to want to get on the bandwagon as early as possible.

Top Five Tracks

  1. American Teenager
  2. Gibson Girl
  3. Ptolemaea
  4. A House In Nebraska
  5. Strangers

20) SZA – SOS

After waiting five long years ,SZA has finally blessed us with a follow-up to CTRL and she did everything she could to make that wait worth it. SOS feels like a step up in just about every way from the length to the production while still excelling at what SZA has always done best. The eclectic blend of sounds across these 23 tracks paint a colorful picture of SZA’s heartbreak. Whether she is experimenting with R&B, hip-hop, or even pop-punk, SZA’s writing is as empathetic as ever with an endless flow of lines that will be on Instagram stories for years to come. There are rumors that this might be SZA’s final record and as sad as that would be, she certainly left everything she had on these songs. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Open Arms (feat. Travis Scott)
  2. Special
  3. Good Days
  4. Ghost in the Machine (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)
  5. Low

19) Beyoncé – Renaissance

After the showstopper that was Lemonade it really felt like we would never get a proper studio album from Beyoncé again. While the collaborations, visual art pieces, and loose singles were keeping things interesting, we all wanted a massive return like Renaissance. And massive really is the best way to describe this record. From start to finish this is an electronic dance masterclass with Beyoncé coming through with one groovy song after another. This might be her most cohesive album to date, seamlessly going from one moment to another while still changing its sound up consistently. I might not be the biggest fan of house music but when it comes out as immaculate as this, it is hard not to be sold on it. 

Top Five Tracks

  2. CUFF IT

18) Danger Mouse & Black Thought – Cheat Codes

There are some collaborations that work so well that you are left wondering how they took so long to come together. After a long break from hip-hop, legendary producer Danger Mouse has not missed a beat with layered, sample-based production that complements Black Thought’s tight flows excellently. And as for Black Thought, this is the best the acclaimed emcee has sounded since his last project with The Roots. While not necessarily raising the bar, he remains focused as he goes up against some of the best rappers out there. There are few hip-hop albums this year that are this pristine, showing these two storied artists might still have classics left to make.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Belize (feat. MF DOOM)
  2. Strangers (feat. A$AP Rocky & Run the Jewels)
  3. No Gold Teeth
  4. Beacause (feat. Joey Bada$$, Russ, & Dylan Cartlidge)
  5. Aquamarine (feat. Michael Kiwanuka) 

17) Bartees Strange – Farm to Table

I usually have a couple regrets looking back at these lists throughout the years. Several great albums fly under my radar far too often and Bartees Strange’s 2020 debut Live Forever is certainly a prime example. An absolutely killer indie record with anthemic bangers, it set Strange up to be an indie rock star. Now we have the follow-up released on a bigger label and thankfully Strange has somehow gotten even better. While Live Forever was not afraid to play with genre, Farm to Table sees Strange pushing his sound in new directions with even sharper writing. Whether it’s on a braggadocios banger like “Cosigns” or a political ballad like “Hold the Line,” Strange’s performance is captivating. If Bartees Strange can keep leveling up like this between projects, we are close to getting the classic he has in him. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Wretched
  2. Mulholland Dr.
  3. Hold the Line
  4. Cosigns
  5. Escape This Circus

16) Rosalía – Motomami

I feel like I might be jumping on the bandwagon late here but Rosalía really is one of the most exciting pop artists out right now. Her last album, El Mar Querer, was absolutely stunning and Motomami manages to surpass the high expectations that record left me with. Rosalía does not take the safe road and creates a genre-bending experience that is unlike anything else I have heard all year. Even with my Spanish skills being next to none, I was completely sold on every emotional turn this project would take. Very rarely do albums this experimental feel so flawlessly executed and if Rosalía is going to continue to push sounds like this into the mainstream, I will be thrilled.

Top Five Tracks

  1. SAOKO
  2. LA FAMA (feat. The Weeknd)
  4. COMO UN G

15) The 1975 – Being Funny in a Foreign Language 

After the overly ambitious and bloated Notes On A Conditional Form, it felt like the 1975 might never make a traditional album again. With each release the group would seem to take bigger swings to varying levels of success and while there have certainly been highlights, I was beginning to get concerned. I guess Matt Healey took the critiques of the last album to heart and decided to team up with Jack Antonoff to bring this record back to Earth. The results might not reach the same exciting highs of their past works but this is still everything that works about this band in its purest form. Groovy production, overtly dramatic writing, catchy hooks, the 1975 are giving their fans everything they have come to expect. While the tour clips and interview highlights have definitely taken much of this album’s attention, I am happy to see fans being won over by this group once again.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Part of the Band
  2. All I Need to Hear
  3. The 1975
  4. Happiness
  5. When We Are Together

14) Alvvays – Blue Rev

There is only so much you need to say about a record like Blue Rev. If you listen to any song from this album, you will understand why so many people are praising it. In a year as heavy as 2022, Alvvays came out with an indie pop record that was able to take my mind off of everything, even just for a 40 minutes. This is not to reduce Blue Rev as just a light indie release because it is genuinely a phenomenal piece of music and handily Alvvays best release to date. These are their biggest songs yet and do a great job of capturing the band’s pop ambitions. Not a single moment of this is wasted and not a single track fails to live up to the standards of this album. If you are looking for a consistently great pop album, look not further than one of the best gems that 2022 had to offer.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Belinda Says
  2. After the Earthquake
  3. Tile by Tile
  4. Velveteen
  5. Easy on Your Own?

13) JID – The Forever Story

There was never any doubt that JID was a talented rapper. I would even go as far as to say he is the most exciting artist signed on Dreamville. But when you go nearly four years without a solo release and then finally have a breakout hit with Imagine Dragons, there is cause for concern. Fortunately, The Forever Story is easily the best project of JID’s career and puts him in league with some of current hip-hop’s best artists. This project feels like an important milestone that sees JID reflecting on his early years and struggles. JID proves to be an amazing storyteller with more vocal range than he has ever been given credit. Not only are his flows consistently incredible but his singing chops are legitimately beautiful on slower moments in the tracklist. If there was a rapper who deserved a level-up like this, it was JID. This is a special moment for his career and there is no doubt that he can build off of this for another classic.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Kody Blu 31
  2. Sistanem
  3. Dance Now (feat. Kenny Mason)
  4. Money
  5. Surround Sound (feat. 21 Savage & Baby Tate)

12) Wild Pink – ILYSM

This is an album that needs a bit of context to fully be appreciated. Singer John Ross wrote these songs while battling cancer, being inspired by his doctor who advised he continued to create music. The end result is a more subdued and meditative record than anything Ross has made before. When you dive into the lyrics you are struck by just how powerful it is. The writing across this project creates images that are devastating in how they describe fear, mortality, and hope in a way that hopefully few have to understand. While the subject matter can make this record difficult to get through, the long list of guests that help fill out these tracks help make the journey easier. Julian Baker’s vocals on “Hold My Hand” are gorgeous as are the guitarist courtesy of Ryley Walker and Yasmin Williams later on the project. This is one of the most emotionally impactful records you will hear all year and a testament to how gifted John Ross is as a songwriter.

Top Five Tracks

  1. ILYSM
  2. Hold My Hand (feat. Julian Baker)
  3. Sucking On The Birdshot
  4. ICLYM
  5. The Grass Widow In The Glass Window

11) Orville Peck – Bronco

If there was ever an artist who needed a bigger budget to match their voice it was Orville Peck and on his sophomore album he was able to get just that. As the titles imply, Bronco is larger and stronger than Pony in every measurable way. Prolific producer Jay Joyce gives Peck the vast production he has needed and these 15 tracks all sound incredible for it. And it should be no surprise that vocally Peck is able to rise to this occasion. His deep voice is instantly commanding as he flexes between hard grit and angelic falsettos. If anything, this album only proves that he is one of country’s most powerful performers. And even with the technical improvements, Peck’s songwriting continues to feel genuine and personal. For an artist who chooses to remain anonymous, his identity can be heard all over these songs. This is one of 2022’s best glow-ups and it could not have happened to a more deserving artist.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Let Me Drown
  2. Daytona Sand
  3. C’Mon Baby Cry
  4. Kalahari Down
  5. Bronco

10) Special Interest – Endure

There were no albums like Endure that came out in 2022. Or the 2020s in general. From just a musical standpoint, the New Orleans punk group combines house and disco influences to create a sound that is unlike anything I have heard. The lyrics are genuinely radical as lead singer Amy Logout lets loose on the vivid details of all the injustices around, encouraging people to fight back. It is a strong message and one that is only amplified by the poppier production, which only makes these songs more commanding. Endure might be more inviting, but the group uses this sound to cover more thematic ground. It is both challenging and accessible, making it one of the year’s most unique listens and Special Interest an extremely exciting band to watch. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. My Displeasure
  2. (Herman’s) House
  3. LA Blues
  4. Midnight Legend
  5. Foul

9) The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention

I have come to terms with the fact that I will never hear a new Radiohead album. Maybe I’m wrong but at this point I am just accepting side projects as the closest thing I will ever get. While Radiohead side projects are hit-or-miss, The Smile is easily the best thing any member has done outside of the core group. Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood join up with jazz drummer Tom Skinner to make a record that has the same musical ambitions of Radiohead while experimenting with totally new sounds. The fusion of electronics, jazz, and rock production is exciting as Them Yorke delivers some of his best vocal performances since A Moon Shaped Pool. Even with my Radiohead biases, I can safely say this is a special project that once again proves why these are some of the most talented artists of my lifetime. And if Radiohead really is gone for good, The Smile is more than enough to fill that void.

Top Five Tracks

  1. You Will Never Work in Television Again
  2. Free in the Knowledge
  3. The Same
  4. Skrting On the Surface
  5. Thin Thing

8) Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future

Denzel Curry has proven to be one of the most consistent rappers putting out music now. He has put out some insane projects but this is the year he put out his best work to date. Melt My Eyez is a conceptual record where Curry reflects on his place in hip hop while taking a journey of self-discovery. Curry does this with flows and wordplay that need to be heard to be believed. For such a young emcee, Curry has some of the best control on the mic and finds new way to deliver electric bars. For an artist as expressive as Denzel, being able to keep pushing new conceptual themes and lyrical ideas is impressive and only proves that the acclaimed rapper is getting better over time. Hip-hop fans should already be more than aware of who Denzel Curry is but if you need another example of why he is one of the most dynamic and important voices in the industry right now, look no further. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Walkin
  2. Ain’t No Way (feat. 6LACK, Rico Nasty, JID, Jasiah, & Kitty Ca$h)
  3. Melt Session #1 (feat. Robert Glasper)
  4. X-Wing
  5. Troubles (feat. T-Pain)

7) The Weeknd – Dawn FM

Aftercelebrating The Weeknd for over a decade, this is the release where I genuinely felt that he was making exactly what he wanted to be. The retro dance and synth-pop production of this record fits perfectly with Abel Tesfaye’s angelic vocals. Despite the wide array of producers that had their hands in this, the project feels fully cohesive from song to song, blending electronic beats effortlessly as Tesfaye delivers endless hooks that will keep you moving. Old fans of the Weeknd might not be initially into the idea of an album this clean but the writing is not afraid to go into dark places. The Weeknd gets incredibly existential as he ponders death and the afterlife on songs that sound like they belong on late night dance radio. It is ambitious, especially for a pop album of this size, but the Weeknd fully sells it, making this one of his most unique releases to date. Dawn FM sets a mood and keeps it going wonderfully and once you are grabbed by it you will be stuck listening to it from start to finish. It is awesome to see the Weeknd getting the resources needed to match his growing ideas and wherever he takes this sound will certainly be amazing.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Out of Time
  2. Take My Breath
  3. Less Than Zero
  4. Sacrifice
  5. How Do I Make You Love Me?

6) Father John Misty – Chloë and the Next 20th Century

There are few songwriters that hit me more than Father John Misty. Across his entire discography he has found ways to write about love, politics, despair, all with a unique wit and beauty. While I have admired many of the big swings he has taken, none of them have been as bold as what he did on Chloë and the Next 20th Century. This album sounds immaculate, taking Misty’s previous musical ambitions and applying it to jazzy, cinematic backdrops that are elegant against his restrained vocals. It is a total departure from the character we are used to seeing Josh Tillman play. Even with more straight writing, Father John Misty is never lost under the vintage aesthetic he is singing over. All of the charm and heart of Tillman’s best songs are intact on several songs that go right for an emotional gut punch. Father John Misty has never put out anything less than stellar in my eyes and the fact he is succeeding when stepping this far out of his comfort zone is proof enough that this is an artist who is somehow more talented than he is already been given credit for. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Q4
  2. Chloë
  3. Funny Girl
  4. Kiss Me (I Loved You)
  5. The Next 20th Century

5) Adeem the Artist – White Trash Revelry

I was fortunate enough to discover Adeem the Artist last year on their album Cast-Iron Pansexual. While the record was clearly small in its size, Adeem’s ability to write deeply vulnerable music with tons of personality was clear. On their follow-up, Adeem was able to successfully crowdfund for a bigger budget and it seems they might have saved their best crop of songs for it. The songwriting is top-notch as Adeem reflects on the culture they grew up in and how it impacted their upbringing. It could be easy for a member of the LGBTQ+ community to look down with disdain at the Deep South, but Adeem chooses to show an incredible amount of compassion without sugarcoating or downplaying anything. It is mature storytelling from a voice we are unfortunately not able to hear often in country music. The country music industry and be brutal so when we get an album as impactful as White Trash Revelry it really is important that we pay attention. It might only be a few weeks old but this might be the best country record since Jason Isbell’s The Nashville Sound. Not enough people paid attention to Adeem’s last album, let’s do our best to make up for that here. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Middle of a Heart
  2. Books & Records
  3. Baptized in Well Spirits
  4. For Judas
  5. Run This Down

4) Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

If there was ever a band I would define as overrated before 2022, it would be Big Thief. Not to discredit their previous albums but they really never hit me as much as it seemed to hit everyone else. Of course, I am now having to eat my words because they have put out an absolutely epic record that should not only be seen as a landmark in their discography but a landmark for indie folk as a whole. Across these 20 tracks, Adrianne Lenker flexes every songwriting muscle she has with a variety of fun, bold, and experimental moments that are far beyond anything the group has ever attempted. The results are so emotionally engaging that you have no choice but to keep replaying all 80 minutes of this. Even on the songs that are lyrically beyond my comprehension I am struck by a melody or piece of instrumentation that hooks me into it. This is the kind of surprise that makes being wrong about an artist feel weirdly nice. I had no idea that Big Thief could ever reach heights like these and now I am absolutely thrilled to follow them wherever they go next.

Top Five Tracks

  1. Simulation Swarm
  2. Change
  3. Flower of Blood
  4. Time Escaping
  5. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

3) Gang of Youths – Angel in Realtime.

Sometimesyou discover a band and immediately wonder why the are not already filling arenas. This is absolutely the case with Gang of Youths, a group whose size and ambitions match those of some of the most popular touring acts now. Listening to these songs brought me back to hearing the best albums from artists like U2 and Coldplay, being blown away by the scope while getting lost in the anthemic choruses. This album sounds big and polished but at its core it is deeply personal. Lead singer Dave Le’aupepe was inspired to write this record after the death of father. He chronicles his journey of discovering his family and processing his grief and lets the messy subject matter leads to some appropriately messy moments on this album. This only adds to what makes this album feel so special, however. For all the grandiose production and sticky hooks ,there is a personal core that only Le’aupepe could have written. In a fair world, this album would have catapulted this band to stardom. Even if that did not happen, it at least put them on my radar and I really hope I can put them on everyone else’s too. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. in the wake of your leave
  2. the kingdom is within you
  3. spirit boy
  4. the angel of 8th ave
  5. the man himself

2) Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

There are no modern artists that have received the kind of critical acclaim that Kendrick Lamar has over the last decade. This is for good reason, even I put To Pimp a Butterfly as my album of the decade with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City not too far behind it. Now we have Kendrick’s latest album, which feels like the thematic conclusion to a trilogy started by those two legendary releases. On Mr. Morale, Kendrick takes a hard look at the persona he has built throughout his career and challenges it, going as far as to tear down the image many have for him. It is a genuine reflection of one’s place in music culture and it is absolutely fascinating to dissect. But those themes are for the internet to tear into, I do not have the time nor the intelligence to do that here. Instead, I will say that outside of the lyrics, Kendrick has opted for more minimal production that only amplifies the emotional impact of these songs. For an artist who has never been afraid to get vulnerable in his music, Kendrick makes powerful reveals on here that make you reconsider his entire career. This might be Kendrick’s most challenging release to date, and I completely understand why reactions were not as overwhelming positive as they have been in the past. For me, however, this is another classic and further confirmation that Kendrick Lamar is a generation defining artist that will not just be remembered but studied and adored for decades to come. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. Mother I Sober (feat. Beth Gibbons)
  2. Savior (feat. Baby Keem & Sam Dew)
  3. Father Time (feat. Sampha)
  4. N95
  5. Count Me Out

1) Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There

This might be one of the more divisive albums to top my year-end list and I understand why so many people outwardly dislike it. Black Country, New Road are a weird group with lead singer Isaac Wood’s vocal delivery absolutely being an acquired taste. That aside, if you are open to taking this album in you will be blessed with what will certainly go down as one of the greatest releases of the decade. I enjoyed this group’s debut For the First Time last year, but Ants From Up There is a step up in every single way. The production alone is worth every bit of praise. The band swings for the fences as they go for one rock crescendo after another, giving Wood’s expressive vocals all the dramatic swell necessary to hit you like a freight train. And speaking of Wood, this will sadly be his final record with group, after leaving earlier this year to focus on his mental health. While it is devastating to see a key member leave so early, there is no denying he left every piece of himself with this record. The songwriting is gut-wrenching as Wood vividly paints stories of heartbreak and depression. This makes the album a tough listen, even I will admit I have trouble making it through some moments on here, but as soon as you get into it you will be fully invested until the end. I know this album will not be as well remembered as many other releases from 2022, it does not define the era or make bold statements about our present moment. Instead, this is an album that succeeds on how powerfully it grabs you and sticks with you. There has never been an album quite like this and I would be shocked if I ever heard an album that hit me quite like this one did. 

Top Five Tracks

  1. The Place Where He Inserted the Blade
  2. Bread Song
  3. Chaos Space Marine
  4. Basketball Shoes
  5. Good Will Hunting

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