We don’t know how it happened, but we’re halfway through 2022. (Is it too cheesy of us to say that time flies when you’re having fun?)
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Regardless of how slowly or quickly the sun seems to be rising these days, the music world is encroaching on New York City’s title of “never sleeps.” Album after album has been released in 2022, and there have been countless gems. So, we thought we’d pull together a few of our favorites. Without further ado, check out some of the best albums of 2022. So far.
Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar
There are few musicians who release albums that, when they do, it feels like an event. It’s like a sonic version of the Super Bowl. The album immediately becomes something you know thousands (millions?) of other people will dive into almost as soon as the songs become available. And you know they will bring out their myriad opinions on the best tracks, and verses, almost right after.
This year, the Compton, California-born Kendrick Lamar gave us one of those events on May 13 with the release of his latest studio offering, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, an 18-track masterpiece bolstered by tap dancing, Broadway-worthy skits, and both subtle and symphonic beat production. Standout tracks include the brutally honest “Father Time ft. Sampha” in which Lamar talks about his “daddy issues” and the heart-wrenching “We Cry Together ft. Taylour Paige” which depicts an argument between lovers. What sets Lamar apart is not his celebrity or even the fact he’s won a Pulitzer Prize. It’s his ability to cut to the core of honest expression and to be able to do it so unflinchingly. What a ride. — Jacob Uitti
Dance Fever by Florence + The Machine
With Jack Antonoff and Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley on production duties, Dance Fever sees Florence Welch in a series of indie gems, including “My Love,” “King,” “Choreomania” and “Free.” Blending baroque-style pop with folky textures, Welch tackles the themes of joy, womanhood, fury, and grief. Equally pulling from ’70s Iggy Pop and Lucinda Williams, it is perhaps Florence’s most eclectic album yet.
The singer alludes to tragic heroines and shifting ideas of feminity throughout the LP, striving to break the chains that hold her back. In songs like “King” Welch bellows with characteristic fierceness We argue in the kitchen about whether to have children / About the world ending and the scale of my ambition. Elsewhere, softer gems like “The Bomb,” “Back In Town” and “Girl Against God” take on heartbreak in the face of an unobtainable lover. — Alex Hopper
Just Like That by Bonnie Raitt
“It’s like putting together a great meal,” says Bonnie Raitt of the 10 songs on her 18th album Just Like That… “I’m not a terrific cook, but I appreciate why you wouldn’t want to put this vegetable with that vegetable when this one will be a better match.”
Initially touched by a human interest story she saw on 60 Minutes about a woman who met the recipient of her son’s heart and would hear it beating for the first time since his death, Raitt began writing the title track. Another newspaper story about volunteers who spent time with terminal inmates inspired “10 Down the Hall,” while the remainder of Just Like That… was a collection, snapshots of songs Raitt meant to cover over the years, from “Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart,” by NRBQ’s Al Anderson; Toots and the Maytals’ “Love So Strong,” a song she originally planned to duet with her friend Toots Hibbert before his untimely death from COVID in 2020; the more uptempo blues of “Made Up Mind” by alt-country group The Bros. Landreth, who she had friended nearly a decade earlier at the Winnipeg Folk Festival; and her own rendition of “Here Comes Love” by the California Honeydrops, which she initially cut during her Dig In Deep session in 2015.
Throughout Just Like That… Raitt hoped to tell stories as great as her late friend John Prine. “Those story songs—Prine and Jackson and Paul Brady from Ireland, and Bob Dylan—was really what I wanted to do on those two songs,” says Raitt, “to come from that fingerpicking simplicity of just a person on the guitar.” —Tina Benitez-Eves
Wet Leg by Wet Leg
One of the hardest things to do in music is to be funny. And the British-born band Wet Leg has that talent in spades. Not only did the group’s Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers create an album that pushes and propels and entertains, but they did so with a tongue placed firmly in each of their cheeks. Wet Leg also endured the burden of being basically the buzziest band of 2022 with people left and right saying they were their new favorite, including Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. The most impressive cut off the band’s self-titled studio debut was likely the smile-inducing track, “Oh No,” which depicts all the perilous problems of 2022, from credit cards to being woke to cell phones and feeling gross on the daily. The album surely portends more great things for Wet Leg, but if they never put out another LP, this one would stand on its own forever. — Jacob Uitti
Harry’s House by Harry Styles
Once Harry Styles dropped his third solo studio album, Harry’s House, his music catalog was forever changed. We would actually go as far as to say that his musicianship will never be “As It Was.” Overall, Harry’s House is 13 tracks of Styles’ most delightful, most complex artistic musings to date. And individually, the horn sections and mature vocals on each song lead us to believe that Styles will have a difficult time topping Harry’s House. Fan favorites include “Late Night Talking,” which oozes with boyish charm, and the slightly more melancholic “Matilda.” Personal favorites, though, include the impressive trio “Daydreaming,” “Keep Driving,” and “Satellite” (in that order, too!). And as the album wraps up with the infectious “Love Of My Life,” you might find yourself in love with the love Styles has been singing about. — Catherine Walthall
Fever Dreams Pts. 1-4 by Johnny Marr
Sifting through his library of books on The Beatles and Lennon for inspiration, Johnny Marr randomly received a delivery from Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono—the 50th-anniversary box set of the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. “I was like ‘okay, this is a sign,” laughs Marr, who was prompted to start writing “Human,” for his fourth solo album Fever Dreams Pt. I – IV. Everything flooded out from there, from opening “Spirit Power and Soul,” to the anthemic “Tenement Time” and “Hideaway Girl,” and cinematic “Receiver,” partially inspired by his work on the James Bond No Time to Die soundtrack, for which he won an Oscar for Best Original Song along with Billie Eilish and Finneas in 2022. Adding more spoken word and abstract textures, “Rubicon” finds Marr singing Don’t let the good slip away on a song written during a particularly emotional low point for the artist, while “Night and Day,” featuring Primal Scream’s Simone Marie, and hazier “All These Days” revisits the dormancy of life during a pandemic.
“I’ve been on this journey from being a kid that’s happy to be in rock music,’ says Marr, “but when something tells me that I need to dig deep, then that’s what I do.” —Tina Benitez-Eves
Home, before and after by Regina Spektor
The Russian-born Regina Spektor could make a song out of a grain of salt on the edge of a safety pin. She’s got an eye for lyrics and melody like a hawk does hundreds of feet up spotting a mouse in the grass field. Her songs fill the heart and grin on your lips. Her latest LP is a skillful demonstration of what songwriting can be. Spektor is likely your favorite songwriter’s favorite songwriter.
On her new LP, she talks about getting a beer with God, who doesn’t have to pay because he’s God. It also talks about dew in a flower, mountains in the ocean, and the value of sugar. From “Up The Mountain” to “Loveology” to “SugarMan” to “Becoming All Alone,” the record includes characters that will last in your memory and melodies that will become essential. You will assuredly learn more about yourself the deeper you dive into the music from Spektor. — Jacob Uitti
Twelve Carat Toothache by Post Malone
Post is back! Thank goodness.
Post Malone dropped his fourth studio album, Twelve Carat Toothache, in early June and each song is an electrifying blend of R&B, rap, and pop sounds. This record somehow sounds more serious, more mature. It feels like, whether it is true or not, this is the most genuine version of Post Malone we’ve heard to date. We heard the party rocker on the acclaimed Beerbongs & Bentleys and the critic in Hollywood’s Bleeding. And now, we’re hearing the Post Malone that isn’t afraid to read out his epic “Love/Hate Letter To Alcohol.” Other tracks on this latest album include the sister songs “I Like You (A Happier Song) (with Doja Cat)” and “I Cannot Be (A Sadder Song) (with Gunna)” as well as the T-Pain-esque “Lemon Tree” and the bubbly “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” The Kid LAROI, The Weekend, Roddy Rich, and Fleet Foxes also make featured experiences taking this record to that next level. — Catherine Walthall
The Tipping Point by Tears For Fears
Working through several years worth of songs along with longtime co-writer Charlton Pettus, Tears For Fears’ Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith kept five tracks from their previous session and continued writing from there for The Tipping Point, the duo’s seventh album and first in 17 years. Marking moments of societal and political imbalances and personal plights, while questioning humanity, The Tipping Point see-saws between misconceptions about freedom and other imbalances in its unsettled state. Reason gonna bind you / Cripple and confine you / Listen as your poor heart breaks / Take a trip to America / Let the wind blow right through your hair, they sing on opener “No Small Thing,” while the symphonic pop of “Break the Man” is inspired by the notion of “Make America Great Again”—This is nothing like they said it would be / This has gone too far. Losing his wife to depression and alcoholism, Orzabel moves from the tempered “My Demons” through “Rivers of Mercy,” the point where everything tips from rage and rioting to escape and forgiving oneself on the album.
“We separated and we came back, and ending up with Charlton [Pettus]to finish it off together,” says Orzabal. “‘The Hurting’  was the start of the cycle. I think that cycle is completed with ‘The Tipping Point.’” —Tina Benitez-Eves
Crash by Charli XCX
Crash saw the Charli XCX teeter the line between underground risk-taker and fully-fledged pop phenom. Charli’s songs seem to come into two varieties—unapologetic mainstreamed pop and the glittering moments of experimental wonkiness. On her latest album, it seems she is trying to have it both ways—and we might just let her.
The album’s opener “Lightening,” opens up with a bang, showcasing the delightfully alternative side of Charli while elsewhere she’s pressing the pop pedal all the way down with tracks like “Baby;” wherein she flaunts her sexual side in three minutes of unabashed radio perfection. Both are successful in their individual pursuits, a dichotomy that stands for the duration of the album.
Elsewhere, she expertly elevates ’80s avant-pop with the help of Caroline Polachek and Christine and the Queens on “New Shapes.” She even brings glitchy Eurodance music into the mix with Rina Sawayama on “Beg For You.” It seems that Charli, even when reaching for the upper echelons of pop radio, can’t help but experiment a little – an inclination that sets her apart from her fellow artists in the pop scene. — Alex Hopper
angel in realtime by Gang of Youths
Inspired by the passing of frontman David Le’aupepe’s father, angel in realtime. is soaring and weird and we love it. Le’aupepe wrote the record as an account of all the things he learned about his family and himself in the wake of his father’s passing. And what he discovered is a story that seemingly came out of left field: His father had another family that he didn’t know about. Thus, angel in realtime.
With this in mind, “you in everything” sets the scene as Le’aupepe searched for his newfound brothers. The opening track also serves as a sonic microcosm of the larger album. “returner” speaks to the low points of self-discovery with unabashed courage, and “unison” is a sweeter moment of bliss. “tend the garden” and “the kingdom within you” are beautifully curated tracks written from the perspective of Le’aupepe’s father. Le’aupepe also touches on themes of his Samoan heritage in several of the tracks. All in all, this February release from Gang of Youths is worth at least one listen to hear the bursting melodies and elements of traditional Samoan song. — Catherine Walthall
Palaces by Flume
I was worried about how I would like this album based on the singles Flume released. But, as usual, Flume surprises me. Cohesively, this album is one of my favorites of 2022 in the way that I always find myself listening to it. The great pioneer of dance music continues in his experimentations developing his sound from his famed “Tennis Courts” remix. The album serves as an art collective for him and artist Jonathan Zawada, which is seen on the album cover and Spotify art. Flume took influence from nature, specifically the birds, around his home in New South Wales. It also pays homage to the late SOPHIE through its hyperpop stylistics while balancing his dance sound. — Winnie Litchfield
Laurel Hell by Mitski
Something interesting about Mitski: she was going to quit the music business after her 2018 album, Be The Cowboy, but her label contract required her to create one last album. That album happens to be this masterpiece, Laurel Hell. Yet Mitski didn’t quietly hand her work over and forfeit. Instead, she committed to promoting Laurel Hell and is currently on a 48-stop tour. What’s incredibly powerful about Mitski is that she knows how to distance herself. She’s never been a stranger to heart-wrenching, self-evolving songs that separate her from her relationships. That may be in part because of her ever-traveling childhood, and Laurel Hell captures this exactly. Her lyrics are isolating, yet close-to-heart in slow and sad songs like “I Guess” to more upbeat (yet still sad) tunes like “The Only Heartbreaker.” Beyond this, Mitski has ’80s melodies to Laurel Hell that make it different from any of her other albums. There are retro-synths and droning drums in almost every song, and her song “That’s Our Lamp” draws similarities to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” Laurel Hell may be distanced, but Mitski knows exactly what she’s doing—marking an unforgettable tragedy. — Lauren Surbey
Ants From Up There by Black Country, New Road
I have never put an entire album on my monthly playlist until now. Ants From Up There provides a truly unique sound that is perfectly concocted with post-punk sounds and the perfect sprinkle of jazz. This breakup album captures the weight and emotion of it all through its crescendo chords. If I had to suggest two songs off the album (a near-impossible endeavor) it would be “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” and “Concorde.” — Winnie Litchfield
Five Seconds Flat by Lizzy McAlpine
McAlpine’s Five Seconds Flat truly had me speechless the first time that I listened to it. It’s the 22-year-old’s sophomore album and captures the overwhelming, yet nostalgic feelings we experience in our twenties. The musician has range—demonstrating a soft voice in “What A Shame” to vulnerable belts in “Erase Me.” She presents a new perspective for those undergoing heartache that anyone who’s had their heart broken can relate to. Collaborating with musicians from Jacob Collier to FINNEAS, McAlpine goes beyond being tough and tender—she’s timeless. — Lauren Surbey