Features Year End Lists

The Best Albums of 2022 (So Far)

It’s that time of year again! It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway into the year. Odds are, you know what you’re getting into if you clicked this post, so let’s get into it.

In chronological order:

Storm Queen, Grace Cummings
Release Date – January 14

I’ve never been so hypnotized by someone’s vocal performance as I was by Grace Cummings on my first listen of her sophomore album Storm Queen. Grace has one of those throaty, intense voices that makes every lyric feel electric, the kind that infuses subtext between syllables and breaths. Storm Queen, also produced by Grace, is a dark folk project that explores loneliness, aging and the human relationship to the natural world. The project is raw, intense, and borderline uncomfortable- like being forced to look an acquaintance in the eyes for two minutes straight. What’s most impressive is that Grace doesn’t rely on lyrics to make Storm Queen feel so intimate. She’s a modern day siren- it’s almost impossible to not be sucked into her vocal orbit.  -Emma

Fix Yourself, Not The World, The Wombats
Release Date – January 14

Listen, getting up at six in the morning is a challenge in itself but getting up at six in the morning during the bleak winter in New York City is a completely different beast. I remember the days I used to enjoy the twenty degree temperatures…but those days are long gone. Fix Yourself, Not The World is jam-packed with upbeat bops that transformed my dreary mood each time I played this album. Particular favorites include “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You,” “Ready for the High,” and “People Don’t Change, Time Does.” It’s truly a wonder and a joy when a simple spin can knock the sadness right out of you: and that’s exactly what The Wombats accomplished on their latest full-length endeavor. – Sean

Ants From Up There, Black Country, New Road
Release Date – February 4 

There’s music that tells you the truth because it’s honest, and then there’s music that tells you the truth because it tells you everything. Black Country, New Road’s second album Ants from Up There is of the latter type. It’s an album so intensely vulnerable and open that you can’t help but almost recoil back. Each inflection of former-frontman Isaac Wood’s shaky voice is another crack in the dissolution of a relationship that the album follows. But it’s not quite a breakup record or a mental health record. Listening to Ants from Up There might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it deserves its flowers for insisting upon this vulnerability-to-the-point-of-embarrassment. Surrounded by the group’s post-punk-chamber-pop fusion, the songs rise and fall through devastating prettiness and sublime angst in seconds. Ants from Up There is a volatile album for a volatile world, and it’s surely one of the year’s best.  – Andy

Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe You, Big Thief
Release Date – February 11

In 2019, Big Thief played with tension on their two releases of the year: supernatural dissonance on UFOF and raw acoustic feedback on Two Hands. But from the ease of Adrienne Lenker’s voice on the album-opener “Change,” it’s clear they’ve settled into their own warmth and wisdom. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You strings together moments where the band—and many of its listeners—might feel most grounded: road trips, surrounded by nature, eating a potato knish. That’s not to say the record avoids challenge or anxiety. But even when it does, on songs like “Little Things,” Sparrow,” and “Simulation Swarm,” Lenker observes the world in a way that feels centered and timeless. She has an eye for beauty without vapidity. Even the most legendary double albums have their dud songs—this one doesn’t. Literary but approachable, calm but not sedated, and genius but not preachy. As I thought after my first listen of the album—but NPR wrote before I could (sigh)—this is music that just feels like coming home. – Andy

Squeeze, Sasami
Release Date – February 25

I recently chatted with a friend who also enjoys Sasami’s latest release, Squeeze, but we agreed on one fact: it’s not particularly easy to listen to from start to finish. Now, that certainly doesn’t diminish the quality of the project, but it is something interesting to point out. From one look of the album cover, I’m sure you’re wondering what the project sounds like. After several months of sitting with Squeeze, I still don’t really know. The 32-minute project spans several genres, from nu metal to alternative country to even folk. “Skin A Rat” is as aggressive as the title assumes, “Say It” sounds like it could have been a Grimes single: “Call Me Home” and “Tried to Understand” sound like Fleetwood Mac and Sheryl Crow. – Kristin

The Silence In Between
, Bob Moses
Release Date – March 4

The Silence In Between is the first Bob Moses project I’ve ever heard, and damn. Talk about a wonderful entry point for this effortless blend of dance and alternative. Each of the nine tracks boast their own powerfully unique instrumental crescendos that leave me starstruck upon every playback. This album has nestled its way into my massive driving playlist (the one that’s well over 500 songs, mind you). The simplistic vocals beg to be bellowed, the pacing of each track is just right, and this album never fails to put me in a great mood. I feel like I’ve missed out–I’ll have to trace back and explore the rest of Bob Moses’ discography sooner rather than later. – Sean

Nilüfer Yanya
Release Date – March 4

When Nilüfer Yanya plays the guitar, she means it. Across PAINLESS, she ranges from massive distortion to quiet arpeggios and acoustic strums. She often displays this kind of range in a single song, best demonstrated on the heavy-hitter “midnight sun.” The album sounds like it has all aspects of indie rock at its fingertips: it can be jagged, industrial, ambient, delicate, and catchy. But it’s all filtered through Yanya’s guitar and voice. Her deep-set vocals sound melancholy without feeling dulled; the album’s production is textured and varied without sounding synthetic. These are tricky balances to achieve, but PAINLESS makes it seem, well, painless. -Andy

Crash, Charli XCX
Release Date – March 18

Charli XCX is famously meticulous about her craft, so there’s something strange and satisfying about hearing her explore the concept of chaos. CRASH is her most cohesive pop project yet, one that was inspired by the end of the relationship that inspired Charli and how i’m feeling now. It’s overtly sexy, subtly sad, and absolutely stacked with bangers in a way her previous albums weren’t. For an album about total emotional upheaval, it’s impressively consistent- a lethal combination in pop music. -Emma

Raised, Hailey Whitters
Release Date – March 18

Like many great country albums, Hailey Whitters’ Raised is an ode to place. She spares no detail as she recounts her small town Iowa upbringing, coloring the images with alternating shades of reverence and cynicism. The Chicks are the patron saints of Hailey’s homegrown aesthetic- she keeps her production light, her lyrics snappy, and her creative vision untainted. Raised reminded me that modern country music doesn’t have to be subversive or genre-bending or to be good. And it is; it’s easily my favorite country album since Pageant Material.  -Emma

Motomami, Rosalia
Release Date – March 18

Throw everything you know about Spanish singer Rosalia out the window, because the album is so unique and so unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Rosalia, in her most personal album yet, explores so many Latin music genres throughout the album that it’s impossible to classify this album as one genre. That might make it sound like it’s a bit of a mess, but Motomami is expertly crafted. Every song is a fun surprise, including hearing the Weeknd’s turn at bachata music in “La Fama.” It’s going to be hard for any album to beat Motomami for my favorite of the year, but I’m excited to see what the rest of the year has in store. – Erin

Release Date – March 18

I’m still telling my friends about Yumi Zouma’s latest album PRESENT TENSE. I rarely love albums as much as I adore this perfectly balanced effort from the New Zealand quartet. I have a confession–I sing this album a little too often. Like, almost daily type often. I’m more of a visual learner, so it usually takes ages to learn lyrics to my favorite albums. I didn’t have that same issue this time around because I must have played this LP 300x since it was released on March 18. I particularly enjoy jamming out to “If I Had the Heart for Chasing” and “Of Me and You” but trust me, I’d be happy to hear any of these ten tracks. Infectious and powerful PRESENT TENSE will easily land in my top three this year. Stick around if you’re curious about my other picks.
– Sean

Tell Me That It’s Over, Wallows
Release date – March 25

In Tell Me That It’s Over, Wallows did the opposite of releasing a sophomore slump. The album, which ranges in genres from lo-fi, to boisterous pop-punk, to indie folk, is a fun exploration of moods and tones. I’ve never seen Wallows live, but Tell Me That It’s Over is the kind of album that you listen to and can immediately picture how fun the crowd would be at a live show, especially on songs like “Missing Out,” which makes me bop around at my desk as if I’m in my own mini-mosh pit every time I listen to it. – Erin

Camila Cabello
Release Date – April 8

Listen, I wasn’t expecting to have a Camila Cabello record in the list of my favorite albums of the year (so far) either. I certainly wasn’t expecting to have a Camila Cabello and Ed Sheeran song that’s about Shawn Mendes be one of my favorite singles released this year when “Bam Bam” was first announced, but I can’t help it! This album is heartfelt, fun and some of Cabello’s best work, probably, ever? In case you didn’t know Cabello is Cuban from her 2018 single “Havana,” you can instantly tell from the opening guitar licks in Familia’s “Celia.” She’s touched on Latin influences in prior music, but Familia sees Cabello really exploring her musical heritage and to great effect. – Erin

Five Seconds Flat,
Lizzy McAlpine
Release Date – April 8

While I’d certainly never consider myself one to be an expert in the technical execution of creating music, every once in a while, an artist comes along who is so absolutely well-trained in their genre that completely blows men away. Lizzy McAlpine is one of those people: when I first heard her song “Erase Me” with the equally brilliant Jacob Collier, I knew I had stumbled onto a once-in-a-generation artist. Five Seconds Flat successfully paints a vivid picture of the aftermath of a relationship ending, following a linear narrative from start to finish (in other words, don’t ever listen to it out of order). “all my ghosts” is a beautiful ode to a blossoming relationship and the baggage that inherently comes with it: “reckless driver” about refusing to let go when it comes to falling in love. The ending of the track is so brilliantly executed, you just may miss it. – Kristin

Wet Leg,
Wet Leg
Release Date – April 8

A British duo that sells out their North American tour dates before even dropping an album is one to take notice of: and Wet Leg did exactly that in late 2021. After returning to the states in the spring of 2022 to promote their self-titled debut album and an appearance at South By Southwest, Wet Leg’s popularity nearly quadrupled in size after the announcement of their tour dates with none other than Harry Styles, who also did a BBC Radio Live Lounge cover of “Wet Dream.” If you care to look past the hundreds, if not thousands of internet comments questioning the legitimacy of Wet Leg (I’d venture to assume members Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers are doing literally the same thing, considering they decided to form a band at the top of a ferris wheel at a music festival), you’ll find hilariously crafted indie rock songs full of irony and self deprecation. In a genre that takes itself way too seriously, Wet Leg‘s act of rebellion is doing the complete opposite. And it works. – Kristin

Giving The World Away,
Release Date – April 22

You know that scene in Ratatouille where Remy sees colors and hears music as he tastes different foods? For me, that’s how it feels to listen to Giving the World Away. Hatchie’s synth-pop-meets-shoegaze production is so lush, I see color. It’s musically ambitious but not inaccessible- the heavy production never distracts from her airtight melodies. Put simply, this is a project that literally just feels good to listen to, and the lyrical complexity keeps things from feeling too sugary. It’s the perfect album for anyone who feels a little lost but doesn’t want to stop dancing while they find their way. -Emma

Two Ribbons,
Let’s Eat Grandma
Release Date – April 29

Breakup records are overrated. Romantic relationships get enough coverage in music, and albums about friendships can be just as emotionally potent. Two Ribbons focuses on the relationship between the two members of Let’s Eat Grandma as they grow apart. We’ve all been there, drifting away from a friend for undefined reasons. While the album doesn’t have the whimsy of 2018’s I’m All Ears, the duo writes about the changing dynamics of friendship with clarity and directness. Thankfully, Two Ribbons softens the emotional blow with some of the best art pop of the year. “Happy New Year” came out on the first day of 2022, a bittersweet M83-esque anthem that set an impossibly high bar for best electro-pop track of the year. “Insect Loop” spirals around a circular synth; “Strange Conversations” blows out a guitar ballad into orchestral drama. Let’s Eat Grandma always had the ability to make prog rock and pop sound homegrown. Even with its complicated and shifting arrangements, Two Ribbons is handcrafted synth-pop straight from the heart. – Andy

Un Verano Sin Ti,
Bad Bunny
Release Date – May 6

Every time Bad Bunny comes out with a new album, I’m waiting for it to flop. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be a bigger fan of the reggaetonero, but Un Verano Sin Ti is his fourth album and every album has gotten better and better (and his debut was fantastic, too!). How long can an artist keep building on greatness? He’s got to crumble at some point, right? Maybe, maybe not, but he certainly didn’t on Un Verano Sin Ti — Bad Bunny’s absolute best work to date. His dembow-influenced “Tití Me Pregunto” is an obvious highlight of the album, and it was exciting to see “Callaita” included on the album, a single released in 2019 that I have fond memories of screaming at the club pre-pandemic. What a time. – Erin

Dance Fever,
Florence + The Machine
Release Date – May 13

Every time Bad Bunny comes out with a new album, I’m waiting for it to flop. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be a bigger fan of the reggaetonero, but Un Verano Sin Ti is his fourth album and every album has gotten better and better (and his debut was fantastic, too!). How long can an artist keep building on greatness? He’s got to crumble at some point, right? Maybe, maybe not, but he certainly didn’t on Un Verano Sin Ti — Bad Bunny’s absolute best work to date. His dembow-influenced “Tití Me Pregunto” is an obvious highlight of the album, and it was exciting to see “Callaita” included on the album, a single released in 2019 that I have fond memories of screaming at the club pre-pandemic. What a time. – Erin

Mr. Morale And The Big Steppers, Kendrick Lamar
Release Date – May 13

There’s something to be said for any artist whose album releases force the vast majority of music culture to stop, take a beat, and spend time with the music. Very few have reached this upper echelon, but when Kendrick Lamar drops an album, it requires multiple listens and intention to fully digest. There’s some camaraderie in processing this dense project, watching writers fumbling (like me, fumbling now) to review and assess. Kendrick himself rejects this singular focus and cultural insistence on the artist-as-savior. And that’s just one element to Mr. Morale that makes it such a captivating album. One of—if not the most—acclaimed and celebrated artists of the 2010s returned to reject the laurels and demand introspection from us. Kendrick chooses himself, not DAMN.’s image of a self-mythologizing rap star, but a flawed person striving to be his best version. Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers is masterclass in self-examination, a cathartic and often-painful excavation of formative experiences, institutions, and trauma. It’s not an easy listen, especially considering the Kodak Black cosigns. But Kendrick’s inwardness leads by example. To no one’s surprise, waiting for a Kendrick album is worth it yet again. – Andy

Big Earth Energy,
Cool Maritime
Release Date – May 20

Dreamscape. That’s the best way I can describe the transcending feeling I get every time I spin Cool Maritime’s Big Earth Energy. Each of the seven tracks have a playtime of longer than four minutes; most of the tracks exceed the six-minute mark. You have to play this album when you’re trying to study, or when you’re trying to relax, or when you’re stuck in traffic trying not to swear like a sailor. The melodies established in this ethereal project are some of my favorite melodies of all time. Each track possesses a sense of scope, wonder, awe, and belonging. I’m actually enthralled by this project I accidentally stumbled upon a month ago and I strongly encourage everyone to spin Cool Maritime’s gem at least once. – Sean

Harry’s House, Harry Styles
Release Date – May 20

When I first heard the opening melody on the first track of Harry‘s House, I knew something seismic was coming. For a musician who once seemed trapped as primarily one of five in a now defunct boy band, Styles has been forced to prove himself as a worthy solo artist time and time again, this time, finding mass appeal as a pop artist. This isn’t to say he wasn’t at this level of superstardom before, but the success of Harry’s House has grabbed even the most nonchalant pop culture consumers’ attention. With two albums already under his belt, Styles seems more relaxed and at ease in the aptly titled project, breezing through songs about music in a sushi restaurant, complete with scatting, sex with his girlfriend, and childhood trauma that oozes a sense of unattainable cool, yet simultaneously relatable at the same time. – Kristin

Banish The Banshee, Isaac Dunbar
Release Date – May 27

How do I describe Isaac Dunbar’s music to a person who’s never listened to it? Maybe by telling you the 19-year-old is well on his way to becoming the next Prince or David Bowie, with the same appeal and passionate fanbases as Gen Z artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Conan Gray. Banish The Banshee is debatably the most vibrant, theatrical, and shimmery project I’ve heard this year. The eight-track project feels like a musical in itself, Dunbar speaking on his vision with The Fader: “All of the songs are supposed to be parables, essentially, that are told from the perspective of this Banshee character that I created. A sort of higher self version of me – a person who is very wise and discerning and knows everything. In all of these parables, I essentially teach lessons through the songs – all the lessons that the Banshee has been through that created who he is.” – Kristin

Big Time, Angel Olsen
Release Date – June 3

It takes a profoundly gifted songwriter to write about heaviness in a way that doesn’t feel hopeless, adding meaning to mourning without getting cliche. It’s a difficult balance that seems to come naturally to Angel Olsen on Big Time, an expansive country-inspired project that unpacks the experience of losing her parents. Like grief itself, Big Time unrolls itself slowly, taking its time stepping through the tragedy, honoring any surprising emotions that emerge along the way. What’s most impressive is that the experience listening to this album isn’t terribly sad- it’s some blend of hope, understanding, and melancholy. – Emma

Life Is Yours, Foals
Release Date – June 17

In need of a mood booster? Then look no further. Foal’s recent LP Life Is Yours, while taking inspiration from the best of the late 80s and early 90s era of techno-dance music, maintains a sense of true identity. All eleven songs on this LP deserve praise, as they are packed to the brim with upbeat instrumentation and uplifting vocals. I stumbled upon Foals about a month ago and boy, am I glad I did. Sometimes albums remind me of memes–this album reminds me of the “Elmo in Hell” meme (you know what I’m talking about, don’t kid yourself). Anyways, 10/10 super hot fire. – Sean

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