Arts and Entertainment

A Year in Review: 2022’s Best Albums

The parts of 2022 that sucked the least.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

2022 was, by all accounts, a rebound. It’s been the first year in recent memory that was unimpeded by pesky viruses or riots. The status quo is returning. Just as the world is in a state of transitory flux, the music scene is scattered: some trends continued (strong year for boom bap), some imploded under their weight (sigh… pop punk), and some experimentalists explored new paths entirely. It was a relatively medium year—lots of weak, unmemorable releases—but here are 10 projects (and eight honorable mentions) that rose to the top in 2022.

Honorable Mentions

Florist - Florist (indie folk)

FKA Twigs - CAPRISONGS (alternative R&B)

J.I.D - The Forever Story (trap)

Ian Noe - River Fools & Mountain Saints (country)

Organ Tapes - Chang Zhe Na Wu Ren Wen Jin De Ge Yao (ambient pop)

Nas - King’s Disease III (boom bap)

Cities Aviv - Man Plays the Horn (experimental hip-hop)

Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You (folk rock)

10. Black Thought & Danger Mouse - Cheat Codes

Boom bap


Top Song: “Aquamarine”

Cheat Codes is one of the classiest, most likable albums of the year. Two bona fide legends fuse chunky drums, liquid loops, and sharp bars into a brick of airtight hip-hop. It may not take many risks, but it is the pinnacle of its craft. The feature list brightens and diversifies Cheat Codes’s strong baseline: neo-soul experimentalist Michael Kiwanuka lends his talents to “Aquamarine,” Conway the Machine adds his signature nasal flair to “Saltwater,” and MF DOOM’s posthumous verse on “Belize” is a loving tribute to his legacy and a brilliant centerpiece to the project.

9. Marina Herlop - Pripyat

Glitch pop


Top Song: “ubuntu”

Catalonian artist Marina Herlop turns into a Martian on Pripyat. The spliced, shattered cantorial vocals stretch and collapse, resembling Björk’s Medulla (2004), but the slippery pianos and guitars, spikes of deconstructed club bass, skittering metallic textures, and extraterrestrial ambience add influence from avant-garde masterminds like Arca and Holly Herndon. Pripyat sounds like an alien egg crashing through the stained-glass window of an old synagogue—the majority of the lyrics are Hebraic prayers—and it is one of the strangest and best projects of the year for it.

8. Bladee & Ecco2k - Crest



Top Song: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”

Internet culture staples Bladee and Ecco2k join forces to complete their transition from linear trap to androgynous, pastoral, airy pop music. With their newfound joyous aesthetic, they embrace genderbent sexual subtext and allusions to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity alike. The production is relatively minimalist, yet vibrant and full. Bouncy pads, breathy falsettos, pulsing house influence, and dreamy melodies are each one prismic piece of Crest’s immediately distinguishable mosaic identity. Crest is one of the most successful fusions of spirituality and sleek modernity of the decade thus far.

7. Alex G - God Save the Animals

Indie rock

Domino Records

Top Song: “Runner”

Alex G has come a long way from his ramshackle bedroom slacker folk. God Save The Animals is an ambitious undertaking, with tastefully integrated autotune, reversed piano, and a noisy guitar wall shoved into one pop song. Alex’s greatest strength remains his songwriting. He has a unique ability to make every verse, bridge and chorus equally catchy, distinct, and memorable with a limited set of tools. Standout tracks include “Runner,” one of the year's best sing-along anthems, and “Miracles,” one of its sweetest tunes. God Save The Animals may not be reinventing the wheel, but it is the most refined showcase of Alex G’s skills to date.

6. Duster - Together


Numero Group

Top Song: “Making Room”

Slowcore legends Duster have had a monster year. Besides soundtracking every other #aesthetic TikTok vignette of angsty jejunity, they quietly added a collection of 13 new languorous mid-tempo blissed-out waves of goopy guitar leads and pensive, steady vocals. With the massive distorted bass on “Making Room” and spinning arpeggios on “Feel No Joy,” Duster venture into the low end of the mix, trading the vintage brittle crunch from their typical formula for a new sense of grandeur. Still, Together is fundamentally the same wistful window-gazing music that Duster is known for. That is to say, it is just as great a backdrop for pondering your existence as it is for posing to your followers.

5. foxtails - fawn


Skeletal Lightning

Top Song: “space orphan”

A “screamo” offering may sound difficult to stomach for most listeners, but foxtails’s fourth and best album tempers lead singer Blue Luno Solaz’s despaired, throat-destroying screams with catchy, crooked riffs and beautiful violin harmonies. Thematically, the narrator’s sense of imprisonment to their physical body, the conditions of their life, and the expectations of those around them propels the project. Despite the heavy subject matter and sonic intensity, foxtails use multi-phasic song structures to properly build up anticipation and emotion, and often, their comparatively subdued breaths for air, expressed via post-punk angst, are just as gratifying as the anguished payoffs. foxtails are definitely a band to watch.

4. Silvana Estrada - Marchita

Chamber folk


Top Song: “La Corriente”

The prototype of a folk artist meekly hides their vocals behind poetic distractions and technical guitarwork. Silvana Estrada is not a typical folk artist. Estrada is the most electrifying vocal presence of the year, hands down. She can do it all, from breathy whispers to fiery belting to soft cooing. Estrada’s dynamism alone propels Marchita to greatness, turning sparse guitar and piano arrangements into blooming fireworks, complete with saxophone and string licks to accent her sublime vibrato runs. She is quite the songwriter as well. Each track packs a vocal riff that firmly lodges itself in the memory and refuses to let go. Overall, it’s hard to find a bad thing to say about Marchita.

3. Kali Malone - Living Torch


Portraits GRM

Top Song: “Living Torch II”

Living Torch is the overture to an imaginary cult ceremony. It is divided into two halves that sum to 33 minutes and 33 seconds, the former of which is dense with humming electronics, whistling, microtonal pipe organs, and progressions that are both tectonically massive and patient. It is both meditative and foreboding; it feels like the warmth of sacred candlelight encircling a kneeled devotee draped in silk and velvet. The second track is minimal, but its wails and waves of string drones surge together into a mesmerizing, hypnotic crescendo which could score either a deific encounter or the heat death of the universe. Both pieces are achingly gorgeous, and the most effective drone of the decade thus far.

2. Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There (AFUT)


Ninja Tune

Top Song: “Concorde”

Yeah, yeah. This is the safe pick. It’s safe for a reason though. It’s hard for critics not to fawn over Broadway-esque compositions, jittery melodic appeal, lovably dorky lyrics, and a strong emotional core—not to mention that the lead singer, Isaac Wood, departed BC,NR immediately following the project’s release for mental health reasons, so AFUT has future classic written all over it. Somehow, it makes melodrama and mental breakdowns feel fun with alto saxophone and soft violin whine draped atop meticulously arranged buildups and infinitely memorable outbursts that never seem to stop ascending. The narratives behind AFUT are still unfolding, but regardless of where Black Country, New Road end up, they’ve created a defining rock album for an anxious generation.

1. billy woods - Aethiopes

Abstract hip hop

Backwoodz Studioz

Top Song: “Remorseless”

Brooklyn rapper billy woods delivers another stunner, adding to his legacy as one of the most prolific and poignant poets in hip-hop history. On Aethiopes, he widens the scope of his lyricism from personal tribulation and subtextual systemic critique to direct, scorching, postmodern takedowns of imperialism. Well, “direct” is a misnomer—woods’s music takes work to fully understand; it is a brambly, tangled labyrinth of references, samples and surreal, bleak imagery littered on each track like gnawed bones on a barren beach. Veteran producer Preservation’s beats double down on depicting the rusted creak of a system beyond repair, with weeping synth leads, sunburnt saxophone blares, shambling percussive grooves, and slinking, catacombic guitars. Aethiopes is not only the best album of 2022, but among the greatest hip-hop projects in recent memory, with a singular voice behind the mic and a wholly unique aesthetic.