The 50 Best Albums of 2022 So Far

The 50 best albums of 2022 offer sublime music as major artists return with new albums and brilliant new sounds bubble up from the underground and worldwide.

700 Bliss – Nothing to Declare [Hyperdub]

700 Bliss – Nothing to Declare

One of the best hip-hop albums released in May was 700 Bliss’ Nothing to Declare. The duo, comprised of Philadelphia artist/rapper Moor Mother and New Jersey producer DJ Haram, craft an exciting and muscular brand of experimental electronica, an intensely-physical style of production over which Moor Mother spits off-kilter bars teeming with charisma and menace. Tracks like “Discipline” and “Bless Grips” epitomize the album’s tough, captivating, and often downright-scary tone, making Nothing to Declare as rewarding as it is confrontational. – Tom Morgan


Alt-J – The Dream [Infectious / Canvasback]

alt-J - The Dream

With a wide-ranging audience and a swanky new Islington studio in which to take time, Alt-J cooked up their most accessible collection of songs. The Dream came together over five years, and in that time, two of the members joined the New Dads Club. This unhurried approach combined with fatherly bliss has engendered a more measured, mature record as evidenced by the agreeable singles “U&ME” and “Hard Drive Gold”—pentatonic groove rockers that sound like a demented take on Jack White or the Black Keys. The former is a summer holiday reverie (yet not without reference to Skarsgård senior), and the latter a playful vignette of a 15-year-old cryptocurrency aficionado who becomes a millionaire (“My neighbor Sue is watching me from her window / Oh, mama, did you tell Sue I’m a millionaire now, baby?”). – Hayden Merrick


Beach House – Once Twice Melody [Sub Pop]

Beach House Once Twice Melody

Beach House’s Once Twice Melody succeeds where other albums of its length fail. It showcases everything Beach House do well and stands as a testament to their incredible staying power and constant refining of their sound. Some people say that Beach House never change but this is a shallow take. The Beach House of Once Twice Melody is a very different band from the one that made Devotion and Teen Dream. The changes happen subtly and are usually too small to notice from one album to the next. The duo is always tinkering around the edges of their sonic universe, getting darker, weirder, subtler, and more expansive. They do all of that on Once Twice Melody, and the payoff is enormous. – Parker Desautell


Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You [4AD]

Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You collates everything Big Thief are now known for – pristine arrangements, tight performances, urgent emotionality – into a behemoth of stellar songs. Though it clocks in at about 80 minutes, somehow it all flies by like a breeze. Having stretched their boundaries on 2019’s celestial U.F.O.F. and craggy Two Hands, Big Thief maintain the thrill of discovery on this record based simply on which direction they choose to pursue. Dusty folk songs like “Change” or “Certainty” might yield to the tight-coiled bounce of “Time Escaping” or the crystalline ambiance of the title track. Lucid sentiments give way to crypticness before returning like a boomerang. In some songs, previous incarnations of the group resurface like faded memories; in others the band feels wholly transformed, rejuvenated. Throughout it all, they swerve between styles confidently without betraying their unplaceable essence. – Rob Moura


Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There [Ninja Tune]

Ants From Up There

It’s hard to overstate just how good Ants From Up There is. It’s not quite Black Country, New Road’s masterpiece, as the band are too young and raw for it to be that perfect. However, it’s tough to find much fault with it. The sprawling nature of the tracks, especially the final two, makes for staggeringly compelling listening. The disregard for conventional structure and instrumentation, combined with the adroit, sincere lyrics, makes Ants From Up There one of the richest and most emotionally-honest albums released by a young British band for quite some time. In a world that seems content to reanimate the past perpetually, Black Country, New Road are daring to dream up something different. – Tom Morgan


Congotronics International – Where’s the One? [Crammed Discs]

Congotronics International Wheres the One

Congotronics International is a project in which everyone and everything is swept up in transformation. It’s clear from start to finish that these stylistically disparate but equally talented musicians have impacted one another. Their sounds interweave and morph from beginning to end of Where’s the One?, and it’s an archive of sound and spirit. It ensures that the complex logistics of assembling this ensemble will be remembered, and the creative brilliance generated will remain available to everyone, an extraordinary event honored through not just preservation but careful production. This is the Congotronics series at its most invigorating and collaborative, and it’s just plain phenomenal. – Adriane Pontecorvo


Destroyer – LABYRINTHITIS [Merge]

LABYRINTHITIS

What’s ultimately stunning about Destroyer‘s LABYRINTHITIS, besides the fact that it’s the most upright that Bejar’s sounded for years, is how little he feels wrapped in this manufactured world or the status quo of the musical one. Instead, his focus, more often than ever, is on our own. The music on LABYRINTHITIS rings with a sense of vitality that Bejar and the band haven’t demonstrated in years. Compare the restrained disco groove of “June” or the manic bop of “It Takes a Thief” to the bleached thumpers on ken or the mid-tempo lethargy of Have We Met, and you’ll notice a striking difference. Like many musicians during the pandemic, the band may have taken advantage of remote recording and file-sharing to juggle ideas in an asynchronous space. They arrived with a collection of tunes loosely tethered to disco rhythms and led by piano and drums but is otherwise strikingly eclectic. – Rob Moura


Drug Church – Hygiene [Pure Noise Records]

Drug Church Hygiene

Drug Church have a real knack for doing a lot with very few ingredients. The muscular, two-riff hardcore track “World Impact” takes a conventional song structure and injects it with subtle flair and variation, all within the space of just over two minutes. “Million Miles of Fun” is almost the same length but the spatial opposite – all huge guitars, booming drums, and some of Patrick Kindlon’s cleanest vocals. Again, it deconstructs our understanding of song structure but in such a brief and effervescent flurry that you hardly notice it. This off-kilter, bracingly-unique tone is Drug Church’s not-so-secret weapon. Whether or not the band can be classed as “postmodern punk” is another debate for another time. However, one can draw a clear comparison between their unorthodox chord progressions, wonky guitar tones, and sardonic mood and with postmodernism’s deconstructive approach to artistic creation. – Tom Morgan


Fanclubwallet – You Have Got to Be Kidding Me [AWAL]

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

The songs on Fanclubwallet‘s You Have Got to Be Kidding Me hum with life and animation, but Hannah Judge’s equable tenor purrs clearly through the production (thanks to producer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Watson). If she wanted, Judge could sound like emo-imbued indie acts such as Rilo Kiley and Death Cab for Cutie, but she doesn’t. The scratchy, staccato guitar patterns, clunky clavinets, and siren synths could sound like the Talking Heads (whom she covered), but they don’t. The esoteric, keyboard-led lo-fi of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, the ruminative car journeys of Modest Mouse, and that one Atlas Sound song that sounds like a ringtone (“Walkabout”)—these touchstones make themselves known but never overstay their welcome. – Hayden Merrick


Father John Misty – Chloë and the Next 20th Century [Sub Pop / Bella Union]

Chloe and the Next 20th Century

With Chloë and the Next 20th Century, it’s obvious straight away that the orchestral swoop of Pure Comedy is back in the fold. But this time around, John Tillman (aka Father John Misty) seems more committed to the style, so much so that more than a few of the songs on Chloë sound like smartly remastered recordings of tunes from a bygone era. The moments on Chloë and the Next 20th Century that seem normal and traditional are executed so perfectly that you can’t fault Tillman for simply making a pop album of the highest order. But when the album delivers surprising, sometimes jarring episodes, it’s a reminder that Father John Misty is an important, unique, and undeniably brilliant artist. – Chris Ingalls


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