Even at the halfway point of the year, 2022 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and unexpected years for music.
From the epic double album by hip hop heavyweight Kendrick Lamar, the debut breakout of Koffee, to the stripped down, new sounds of Angel Olsen, 2022 has already seen some of the industry’s hottest musicians creating their best work to date. And we’re only halfway through the year!
Here’s our look back at the best albums 2022 has to offer (so far, at least). From The Weeknd to FKA twigs, here’s the new music we can’t get enough of.
Angel Olsen – ‘Big Time’
Angel Olsen has been putting out tons of music the last few years, most recently with her stellar brooding EP of 1980s covers “Aisles.” But with this year’s “Big Time,” Olsen shifts her sound (not for the first time) to produce the year’s most memorable, tough and tender country album.
Best Song: “All The Good Times”
Bad Bunny – ‘Un Verano Sin Ti’
Bad Bunny‘s carefree, laidback spirit shines on his new LP Un Verano Sin Ti. Recorded in his native island of Puerto Rico, the 23 songs on Un Verano Si Ti are Bad Bunny’s longest track list to date, and its Caribbean groove and relaxed beats might be the summertime playlist we’ve all been waiting for.
Best Song: “Ojitos Lindos”
Beach House – ‘Once Twice Melody’
Baltimore indie legends Beach House took a different track in releasing their eighth album, opting to release Once Twice Melody in short, four-song “chapters” before the full Sub Pop album debuted in February of this year. The drawn-out release was worth the wait, as Once Twice Melody continues their streak of dream-pop reverie.
Best Song: “Superstar”
Big Thief – ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’
In a year of mammoth, double albums, Brooklyn-based Big Thief decided to get in on the fun, spending five months recording a 20-track opus of their own. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is a sprawling and inventive collection of songs about grief and acceptance.
Best Song: “Certainty”
Charli XCX – ‘Crash’
With her fifth studio album, Charli XCX goes for broke with Crash, moving beyond her experimental, hyper pop sound and graduating to an ’80s pop production. It’s no surprise that Charli has cited Janet Jackson as a strong influence on her new direction with tracks like “Good Ones” and “Yuck.”
Best Song: “Beg For You”
Earl Sweatshirt – ‘Sick!’
Earl Sweatshirt is one of the more enigmatic and experimental voices in hip hop today, returning this year with Sick! Boasting a brief 24-minute runtime, Earl’s verses are more confident and concise than ever as he navigates the global pandemic and his new role as a father.
Best Song: “2010”
FKA twigs – ‘Caprisongs’
On Caprisongs, FKA twigs sheds her raw, exposed production for a playful, avant-pop sound on this new, thrilling mixtape. With guest features by The Weeknd, Solo and Daniel Caesar, twigs continues her streak as one of the most versatile, shapeshifting artists in the game today.
Best Song: “Tears in the Club”
Girlpool – ‘Forgiveness’
Indie darlings Girlpool open their fourth album, Forgiveness, with “Nothing Gives Me Pleasure,” a track that blends glitch drum production and Avery Tucker’s soft, bubblegum melody with lyrics that illicit a whiplash double-take from first-time listeners: “Do you even want me if I even have to ask? / Break it to me gently with your fingers up my ass?” It’s an album that boasts surprises at every turn.
Best Song: “Lie Love Lullaby”
Kendrick Lamar – ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers’
Kendrick Lamar took five years to follow up his Pulitzer Prize-winning “DAMN.” And with Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, it’s clear it was worth the wait. Continuing 2022’s trend of immersive double albums, K-Dot rewarded his patient fans with 19 tracks of his patented introspection, slick beats, ambitious scope and astonishing bars.
Best Song: “Die Hard”
Koffee – ‘Gifted’
Straight from the Bob Marley sample on Koffee’s opening track, “x10”, it’s clear this Jamaican reggae star’s debut is something special. Gifted, Koffee’s first proper LP, follows up her Grammy-winning “Rapture” EP, a collection of songs recorded amid the pandemic. Gifted sees Koffee breaking out of that cramped environment with a breezy, confident album that exudes positivity — and may be the debut of the year.
Best Song: “Pull Up”
Pusha T – ‘It’s Almost Dry’
Pusha T’s fourth studio album continues the streak of excellence and somewhat surprising return to form that began with 2018’s Daytona. Featuring co-signs from hip hop greats like Kanye, Jay Z and Kid Cudi, It’s Almost Dry sees Pusha flex his trademark sneering and vicious flows over some of the year’s most dynamic beats (courtesy of West and Pharrell Williams).
Best Song: “Neck & Wrist”
Sharon Van Etten – ‘We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong’
Like the rest of us, Sharon Van Etten has been a bit cooped up recently. While we might spend our day off bingeing The Bear, Van Etten made one of the best albums of the year. Recorded in her home studio in LA, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is her most dynamic and lyrically compelling album to date.
Best Song: “Mistakes”
Vince Staples – “Ramona Park Broke My Heart”
Long Beach native Vince Staples always seems to work his hometown into his music one way or another, but he dedicates his most recent album to Ramona Park, the neighborhood where Staples was raised. A master of narrative, creating a vivid time and place for listeners to share in (as evidenced by his 2015 masterpiece “Summertime’ 06”), “Ramona Park Broke My Heart” acts as a companion piece to his 2021 self-titled album.
Best Song: “Rose Street”
The Weeknd – ‘Dawn FM’
After releasing one of the biggest albums of 2020 with After Hours, The Weeknd returns in 2022 with Dawn FM, a concept album of sorts imagining a retro radio station trapped in purgatory. The structure allows Abel Tesfaye to stretch his music beyond the dance floor bangers of After Hours and result in an album that’s more deliberate and revealing than his previous work.
Best Song: “Less Than Zero”
Wet Leg – ‘Wet Leg’
Another impressive debut from 2022, Wet Leg’s self-titled LP sees the indie rock duo expanding their sound beyond their viral hit “Chaise Lounge” of 2021. With shades of Courtney Barnett, Parquet Courts and MGMT, Wet Leg blends humor and the self-delusion of your 20’s with dueling-guitar-indie-rock-appeal.
Best Song: “Ur Mum”
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