The time has come for music publications to release year-end lists. Unlike some lists that come out too early, I waited to listen to as many albums as I could. The new SZA album hasn’t been on most lists for this exact reason. While there’s a possibility Frank Ocean comes out of retirement within the next week, I’m going to take my chances and declare these to be my favorite albums of 2022. These are all my opinions, and if you want to tell me any albums I missed, call in to my radio show on WCBN 12-1am Saturday nights.
22. The Forever Story – JID
JID has yet to reach the heights he seems destined to reach, but this album is a step in the right direction. The Yasiin Bey and Lil Wayne assisted tracks, along with “Dance Now” are high points.
21. The Loneliest Time – Carly Rae Jepsen
With assistance from Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and Rufus Wainwright, The Loneliest Time is a strong addition to Carly Rae’s discography.
20. Learn 2 Swim – Redveil
Redveil is 18 years old, and his most recent album already leapfrogs fellow rappers 20 years his senior. Excited to see what he does next.
19. It’s Almost Dry – Pusha T
I think the idea of a Kanye/Pharell-produced album for Pusha T was slightly more appealing than the outcome. “Neck and Wrist” and “Dreamin of the Past” are instant classics, but I left the album knowing there were some great songs left on the table.
18. $oul $old $eparately – Freddie Gibbs
While it pales in comparison to his past masterpieces with Madlib or the Alchemist, $$$ shows a new side to Gibbs. He’s dominated the underground, but this album showed he could rap on any trap beat as well as a chopped soul sample. Favorite tracks are “Too Much” and “Gold Rings”.
17. Being Funny in a Foreign Language – The 1975
The 1975 release one of their most “1975iest” records yet. It works for the masses and on an individual level.
16. Beatopia – Beabadobee
After hearing the pop masterpiece “He Gets Me So High”, I did not expect an acoustic album from Filipino-British prodigy Beadbadobee. However, she made it work.
15. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You – Big Thief
The latest Big Thief project strips back their sound to folky country rock with great success. Standout tracks are “Certainty” and “Simulation Swarm”.
14. SOS – SZA
SZA’s followup to Ctrl has been long-awaited, and the R&B artist gifted fans 23 songs. While the album is all over the place genre-wise, it allows SZA to show her talents on instrumentals from hip-hop, R&B, and even pop-punk on “F2F”.
13. Cocodrillo Turbo – Action Bronson
“My performance like Aaron Donald at the combine,” says Bronson on the track “Jaguar”. This is obvious to anyone watching the Queens’ rapper’s fitness journey, but also in his raps. Bronson’s latest album provides braggadocious claims, 90s sports references, and immaculate beat selection.
12. Motomami – Rosalia
Motomami captured the latin pop explosion of 2022, while occupying an entirely different lane than her peers. Rosalia’s voice towers over the purposely bare production. This ability to hold back allows bangers like “BIZCOCHITO” to shine even more.
11. Laurel Hell – Mitski
In the four years since Be the Cowboy, TikTok and word of mouth had propelled Mitski into the upper echelon of indie artists. Her new album did not disappoint, introducing darker themes and creating soundscapes reminiscent of 80s synthpop crooners.
10. Dawn FM – The Weeknd
When Dawn FM released, his previous album’s singles were still dominating the charts. As a result, the Weeknd had more breathing room to make a cohesive project that stands on its own, while continuing synthpop elements of After Hours.
9. Last Night in the Bittersweet – Paolo Nutini
Despite years of success, I had never heard of Paolo Nutini until I saw a poster for his new album in Amsterdam. After giving it a listen, it instantly became the soundtrack to my vacation. Nutini’s voice is the main attraction, shifting from songbird to soulful screech in songs like “Through the Echoes” and “Everywhere”.
8. CRASH – Charli XCX
Charli XCX knows how to make a pop record without sacrificing her jarring hyperpop sound. Songs like “Good Ones” and “Used to Know Me” relay themes of heartbreak into the most danceable product possible.
7. Cheat Codes – Black Thought and Danger Mouse
For a large number of people (myself included), Black Thought is one of the greatest MCs of the last quarter century. Danger Mouse’s boom bap beats are a joy to listen to as well.
6. NOT TiGHT – Domi & JD Beck
If there’s one band that utilized 2022 as a launching pad, it’s DOMi & JD BECK. The jazzy hip-hop duo were signed by Anderson .Paak, and used his connection to earn an amazing feature list of Snoop Dogg, Thundercat, and Mac DeMarco. Expect these two to be here to stay in the neo-jazz scene, occupying a similar lane as BADBADNOTGOOD.
5. Mahal – Toro y Moi
The first few seconds of Mahal portray Toro y Moi’s crystal-clear vision for the album. It has vintage warmth paired with futuristic ideas, like Jack Keroauc paired with synths. The Golden Gate backdrop also shows Chaz’s awareness of the free spirit of San Francisco, as he embraces various jam band elements a-la Grateful Dead. My favorite moment of the album comes at 1:45 of Foreplay. Overall, Mahal is a refreshing breath of psychedelia.
4. Un Verano Sin Ti – Bad Bunny
In the past year, one phrase has dominated nightclubs, and haunted DJs: “PLAY BAD BUNNY”. Un Verano Sin Ti was everything fans could’ve asked for, as the Puerto Rican singer/rapper delivered a greatest hits compilation, disguised as a studio album. Although his dominance had been documented for some time, this album cemented Bad Bunny as one of the few rappers with stadium status.
3. Mr Morale and the Big Steppers – Kendrick Lamar
What else is there to say about Kendrick Lamar that hasn’t been said yet? His previous four albums were so strong that the idea of following them up seemed like a herculean task. Despite the considerable weight, Lamar returned as a rejuvenated artist, and a new man. While his previous albums feel like epic poems, Mr Morale feels like an autobiography. The proof lies in the album art, along with the confessionals in songs like “United in Grief” and “Mother I Sober”.
2. RENAISSANCE – Beyonce
Beyoncé (or her albums) do not need an introduction at this point, which is why fans were so delighted to hear lead single “Break My Soul” in late June. The track symbolized a new creative direction for Queen B, and the influences of house and disco were a welcome addition to her catalog. Popstars making a house album seemed like a trend for Drake, but for Beyoncé, it felt like a birthright.
1. Gemini Rights – Steve Lacy
For those who had been following Steve Lacy’s career, his ascension from indie star to full on pop-star seemed inevitable. Since his days in The Internet, or his early iPhone recordings, his knack for singing, producing, and playing guitar has been undeniable. The only aspect that was missing was marketing. However, single “Bad Habit” rode the pitched-up wave of TikTok into virality. As fans and newcomers flocked to Gemini Rights, they found an album full of gems. Fousheé assisted “Sunshine” is a personal favorite, as Steve navigates love, heartbreak, and hedonism with the top album of 2022.
Bin Reaper 3 – Babytron
The Ypsilanti rapper delivers uncleared samples, random athlete shoutouts, and bars.
Big Time – Angel Olsen
The reworked title track with Sturgill Simpson is a gem.
Ramona Park Broke My Heart – Vince Staples
Vince Staples is a wise man. His music is good. Trust me.
Once Twice Melody – Beach House
Plenty for Beach House fans to appreciate.
10 – Westside Gunn
Griselda showed their dominance this year, securing their most impressive features yet.
Midnights – Taylor Swift
Not bad, but far from Swift’s best. Called “Mid”nights for a reason