The best albums of 2022 so far

Six months into 2022, this year has already given us several memorable albums in every genre, from reggaeton to dream pop to hip hop to post-punk. In fact, there were enough great albums that we couldn’t quite leave this list at just a top 10 list of the best albums of 2022. Before we get started on the list proper, here are some honorable mentions of albums that our writers also loved this year.

Honorable Mentions

Ethel Cain – Preacher’s Daughter

In her 13-track debut album, Ethel Cain declares herself a formidable force to be reckoned with in the indie-pop/alternative scene. To experience listening to the gothic Americana-inspired Preacher’s Daughter is to allow yourself to succumb to the delirious dreamscape the album has created. Pulsating with the hollowed-out energy of great classic rock mixed with bubbly pop hooks in songs such as the single “American Teenager” (a strong contender for song of the year), the album is intoxicating in its narrative misery, haunted in how it clings to your skin after experiencing. It is, without a doubt, one of the most startlingly assured full-length debuts in years, a signifier of an immense talent that is only now at the start of their career. [Allyson Johnson]

Regina Spektor – Home, Before and After

Ever since her breakthrough debut in 2001, Regina Spektor made a name for herself as one of the most experimental and unpredictable names on the scene. With each release, she has leaned into a new sonic aesthetic and built one of the most encyclopedic and diverse music catalogues we have ever seen. And with a full six years going by since her previous offering, she makes a largely enjoyable and intriguing return with the sensational Home, Before and After, a record that proposes some of her most ambitious concepts to date. Filled with wonderful, insightful, and playful moments that really connect with the heart, what you will find here is a set of vibrant and cosmic songs that are a little strange but work perfectly fine. [Semih Özdemir]

Kehlani – blue water road

Kehlani only gets better with time! Although it’s not their most commercially successful album, blue water road is an undeniable testament to their growth, both as an artist and especially as a person. Within all thirteen tracks lies a newfound sense of emotional and spiritual stability that we haven’t heard from them before. Many of the lyrics allude to romance and the idea of being one with your partner (“melt”). However, the overall essence is about being so intoxicated with every aspect of your life that you can finally release the need for control (“wondering/wandering”). Almost as if the dust has settled and in its place is a wave of clarity. Blue water road reminds us to be generous with our love, and the fruits of our vulnerability will inevitably bloom. [Isis Prince]

Cave In – Heavy Pendulum


One could be forgiven thinking Cave In’s 2019 reunion album Final Transmission would also be their swan song, given both its name and the death of bassist Caleb Scofield during its recording. Instead, the Boston post-hardcore legends returned in 2022 with their heaviest record to date. Heavy Pendulum is a dark and imposing record that pinwheels through a variety of metal subgenres (from stoner to sludge to doom). Songs like “Blinded by a Blaze” and “New Reality” perfectly balance the band’s technical prowess with the melodic vocals of singer Stephen Brodsky. The closing epic “Wavering Angel” builds from atmospheric solo guitars into a colossal metal behemoth anchored by the impressive drumming of John Robert Connors. Heavy Pendulum is sonically miles away from their spacey post-hardcore of their 1999 classic Jupiter or the more mainstream stylings of their lone major release of 2003’s Antenna. Yet, it’s also clearly the work of the same band that made those records and the progression to the harder sound will thrill Cave In fans instead of alienating them. Heavy Pendulum is one of Cave In’s strongest albums to date and the best heavy record of 2022 so far. [Ryan Gibbs]

Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems

The landscape of hardcore has changed so much over the past 15 years. With Turnstile, Dogleg, and others releasing stellar albums, the 2020s is shaping up to be another amazing decade for the genre. This year, however, belongs to Soul Glo. The Philly hardcore group planted their flag this year with Diaspora Problems, their debut album for Epitaph Records. Diaspora Problems spouts some of 2022’s most guttural moments and is bound to leave you swinging hands ready to mosh. The opening track “Gold Chain Punk” sees vocalist Pierce Jordan repeating the refrain “Can I live?”. It’s a prevailing sentiment across the album as the band explores topics both political and personal. In a world of Machine Gun Kelly’s, it’s nice to have authentic punk still shine and get its just due. [Mark Wesley]

Lizzy McAlpine – Five Seconds Flat


There’s something to be said about lyrics that feel as though you’re coming up with them as you’re hearing them. The kind that feel as conversational and natural as if they were happening in real time. On her second studio album Five Seconds Flat, Lizzy McAlpine reads pages from her diary as she recounts heartbreak and motion in all its forms. Calling on talent such as FINNEAS, Jacob Collier, and Laura Elliot, Lizzy walk us through her growth from past experiences on “All My Ghosts”, and in cases such as “Erase Me”, how destructive that can be if you’re not careful with that process. A balance of mellifluous melancholy and tender effervescence puts Five Seconds Flat as another fantastic singer-songwriter album to look out for. [Jordan Lee]

Hector Molina – Travesía

Venezuelan cuatrista Hector Molina’s second album Travesía is one of 2022’s most fascinating listening experiences. The album is an exploration of the cuatro, a string instrument from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and other Latin American countries. While it is often heard in traditional settings, Travesía showcases the versatility of the instrument beyond its normal context and presents it with a sound engineering that make it seem right next to the listener. Pieces like the meditative “S.E.R” and the endearing cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” show the full rhythmic potential and harmonic range of the instrument and the fascinating “Simbiosis” serves as a contrast to more traditional offerings like “Entreverao llanero” and “Río Caipe.” [Pedro Graterol]

Mahalia – Letter to Ur Ex (EP)


UK artist Mahalia is an underrated gem in the R&B scene. Letter To Ur Ex perfectly encapsulates why she deserves far more appreciation. Skilled in the art of storytelling, she dedicates two interpolated tracks to confronting her lover’s other partners in the most honest and impassioned way. In between the tension are odes to ignoring outside judgment and having faith in who you are. From prioritizing loyalty (“In the Club”) to refusing to change for anyone else (“Whatever Simon Says”), Mahalia’s confidence is palpable. Along with her rich tone and contagious energy, this EP is uniquely her. [Isis Prince]

The Young Folks’ Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2022 (January-June)

10. Nilüfer Yanya – Painless

Unlike many of her fellow modern indie artists, Nilüfer Yanya does not drink away or dance through the pain—she understands that pain can be a valuable way for one to further connect with themselves and uses the emotive power of her guitar as a means of catharsis to channel the complex relationship she has with it. But do not let the theme intimidate you though, it is an immensely enjoyable record. In contrast to her overstuffed slow burner debut, Painless ditches the experimental elements of its predecessor for a more consistent and hard-to-define-but-easy-to-love sound that flies over synth-pop, electronic, soul-jazz and grunge skies. If this is hinting at where Yanya is heading next, it is undoubtedly very exciting! [Semih Özdemir]

9. Beach House – Once Twice Melody

Once Twice Melody contains all the melodic hooks and hazy soundscapes you’d expect from the Baltimore band over the course of four sections split across a double album. There’s plenty of deviation from the norm too and the band never rest on their laurels: “Runaway” and “New Romance” add an 80s synthpop vibe to that formula, while “Superstar” is haunting and kaleidoscopic and comes across as a shoegazier version of a Devotion album cut. At 18 songs and 84 minutes, Once Twice Melody is stuffed with some of Beach House’s best songs and feels the perfection of the dream pop formula that the band has explored over their previous seven albums. It is another winning entry from one of indie rock’s most consistent and rewarding acts. [Ryan Gibbs]

8. Wet Leg – Wet Leg

An indie-rock duo from the Isle of Wight, whose “Chaise Longue” went viral last year, leading them to capitalize on its success with this, their full-length debut. In the great punk/post-punk tradition, these two young women transcend limited vocals with a whirlwind-rush energy and an irresistible enthusiasm to their guitar-playing, plus an unstoppable melodic drive to their songwriting. It’s a formula that works as surely as blues-derived chords in its ability to work music critics and rock fans up into a frenzy. But it’s far from easy to pull off; how many new rock bands emerge each year, and how many become as quickly and universally beloved as Wet Leg? Their jokes all land; their riffs all stick; their minor variations on the punk formula all stand out. They’re just plain better than most rock bands. Their debut album is as entertaining as taking a dozen puppies for a walk, though similarly, you may find that half an hour is quite long enough before the dopamine starts to wear off. So give the girls their dues for keeping the album not much longer than that, whilst simultaneously dropping enough hints of possible future musical directions (e.g. the instrumental breakdowns on “Angelica” and the accordion flourishes on “Loving You”) to leave you hungry to hear more from them in the future. [Oliver Hollander]

7. The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention

As the pandemic and lockdowns reigned, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood decided to put together a new project – The Smile – borrowed from a poem by Ted Hughes. Adding Tom Skinner on drums, they began writing and recording. There’s a feeling of reckless dynamism about the album, raw and energized, while at the same time defining the Radiohead sound. “The Opposite,” with its jazz-flavored drum shuffle intro, glows with tasty art-rock textures and Yorke’s ghostly vocals. While “You Will Never Work in Television Again” rolls out on dirty-sweet guitars dripping with visceral tones. From the meandering flow of “Speech Bubbles,” with its prog-rock sensation, to the edgy, grinding, lysergic colors of “Thin Thing,” A Light for Attracting Attention is akin to a monster riddled with serenity. [Randy Radic]

6. Haru Nemuri – SHUNKA RYOUGEN

More mature, but no less inspirited, Haru Nemuri bursts forth on SHUNKA RYOUGEN with an undeniable energy. Heavier tracks like “春花寮原”(Shunka Ryougen)” and “森を燃えているのは”(Who the Fuck Is Burning the Forest?)” interwoven in between softer tunes like “セベンス•ヘブン(Seventh Heaven)” and the spoken word passage that is “zzz #sn1572” patently displays her iconic range– in a literal sense in terms of her voice as well as the overall musicality present. Fulfilling the namesake of “spring fire lighting the field ablaze” (the rough translation of the title), SHUNKA RYOUGEN is a string of several smoldering and conflagrating moments filtered through Nemuri’s signature lens. [Jordan Lee]

5. Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti

After evoking “old perreo” in YHLQMDLG (2020) and exploring the intersections of rock and reggaeton in the pandemic-inspired El Último Tour Del Mundo (2020), Bad Bunny continued pushing the boundaries of reggaeton with Un Verano Sin Ti (2022). This love letter to the Caribbean highlights the musical styles that lie at the roots of reggaeton. From the mambo beat drop that anchors “Después de la playa” to the hypnotic dembow in “Titi me preguntó”, listeners embark on a fascinating summer-infused journey full of Caribbean cultural richness that also comments on pressing  Puerto Rican political issues such as gender violence, electric privatization, and gentrification. [Pedro Graterol]

4. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers

At the beginning of Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers, Kendrick lets us know that he’s been going through something. Is it writer’s block? Lack of motivation? Something really personal? What is the SOMETHING that Kendrick has been experiencing? Kendrick dives deep into his personal demons and pleads with us to be open-hearted.  The album’s centerpiece, “Mother I Sober”, is a crushingly honest track that will go down as one of 2022’s most essential songs. It’s rare to find mainstream rap that hits so many points and touches so many taboo topics, let alone do it WELL. Through his experiences, Kendrick created an album that stands as one of his best but will age like fine wine. [Mark Wesley]

3. Black Country, New Road – Ants from Up There

This young band is often described as an English Arcade Fire, because they’re a mixed-gender band of multi-instrumentalists, but also because of the unabashed emotional maximalism of their music. Yet on this sophomore effort, there are only a couple of times (on the chorus of “Chaos Space Marine” and the ending of the epic “Basketball Shoes”) where they really sound like that Canadian collective. Elsewhere, they delve much further into prog-rock-styled excess, with track lengths that would’ve scared the shit out of the young Arcade Fire, multi-act suite song constructions, folk-rock and jazz detours, unusual time signatures (for popular music at least – “Good Will Hunting” is partly in 6/4), and at times impenetrably obscure lyrics. Theirs is the sound of a young band digging deeper into prog-rock complexity, whilst never losing touch of the heart-on-the-sleeves emotionalism that makes them so endearing. Which is to say, they pull off the trick of being complex and accessible at the same time. As such, the album already seems like a future landmark, one that’s so steeped in beauty it overcomes any objection you might have about the opacity of much of the lyrics (what’s with all the Billie Eilish references? Do they just really dig her?). A stunning peak for the group; lead vocalist Isaac Wood will be missed, although he has all of our sympathy and understanding for why he had to leave. Mental health issues are so cruel. [Oliver Hollander]

2. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

Stylistically, Big Thief’s grand, sprawling, superb Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You ranges all over the musical map, from folk opener “Change” to the hootenanny-flavored “Spud Infinity” to the Dylan-esque “Wake Me up to Drive.” Singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker explains the band’s sound, saying, “One of the things that bonds us together as a band is pure magic. I think we all have the same guide and none of us have ever spoken what it is because we couldn’t name it, but somehow, we are all going for the same thing, and when we hit it… we all know it’s it, but none of us to this day, or maybe ever, will be able to articulate in words what the ‘it’ is. Something about it is magic to me.” [Randy Radic]

1. The Weeknd – Dawn FM

Following his pop fantasy spectacular in the 2020 release After Hours, The Weekend returned this year with something just as tremendous yet notably different and subdued in execution. Produced by Max Martin and Oneohtrix Point Never, Dawn FM is a hypnotic, dark spin on his most recent sound, with cinematic parallels pulsating throughout. While the album hosts several big-name guests from Tyler the Creator and Lil Wayne to Quincy Jones and Jim Carrey of all people, the best moments are, that there’s still ample opportunity for the sheer talent of Abel Tesfaye to pierce through. His voice is the main star, as usual, but how he utilizes it against varying levels of distinct songs creates a cohesive quality. From the percussion-heavy and didactic “Gasoline,” to the 80s synth throwback of “Take My Breath” (beautifully extended on the album compared to the original single release), the mid-tempo “Here We Go…Again” to the album closer, the catchy and radio-friendly “Less Than Zero,” the production and Tesfaye’s considerable talent fuse for something sonically experimental and distinct. Ultimately, Dawn FM is the perfect, organic next step for The Weekend. As a whole, it’s an album that naturally builds on the sound fans have become accustomed to. What makes it stand out however and elevates it to being one of the best of the year is how he manages to deconstruct and challenge his self-made image through contemplative lyricism and playful to haunting musical motifs. [Allyson Johnson]


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