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.

Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia [Partisan]

Fontaines D.C. Skinty Fia

Fontaines D.C.’s Skinty Fia isn’t just a literate, philosophical engagement with the trope of the stranger in a strange land. It’s also an expansive and compelling maturation of their sound. If the group’s debut, Dogrel put the emphasis on “punk” in post-punk, Skinty Fia pushes the “post”. There is rhythmic darkness that pulsates throughout the album, reminiscent of the agonized genius of Joy Division. This is especially present on the title track, where Deego’s bass and Tom Coll’s drums propel an ominous, hypnotic beat intermittently interrupted by industrial guitar riffs. Grian Chatten’s monotone delivery overlays this, delivering a vocal performance that belies the turbulence driving the song. Chatten’s vocals throughout the album carry an intensity that seldom needs to raise the volume. – Rick Quinn


Gang of Youths – Angel in Realtime [Mosy / Warner]

Angel in Realtime

Sydney-based rockers Gang of Youths make music that feels massive. The band’s live shows have drawn comparisons to U2. Their records are always sweeping endeavors, layer after layer of carefully-positioned sound coming together in satisfying fullness. That’s truer than ever on the new album Angel in Realtime, where power ballads and dirges alike are immaculately produced and loaded with the group’s natural energy. The album’s beating heart, though, is something far more singular: the very human vulnerability inextricable from its lyrical themes. Gang of Youths produce skillful, well-polished, thick sounds with a cinematic atmosphere. The amount of thought put into each moment, especially in light of the subject matter at hand, is even more impressive. – Adriane Pontecorvo


Ghost – Impera [Loma Vista]

IMPERA

Long-delayed due to the pandemic, Ghost’s fifth album Impera strives to maintain the momentum that the hook-laden 2015 album Meliora started. Indeed, it feels like a companion piece to Meliora and Prequelle in both tone and musical direction. It sounds big, its memorable riffs plumb the depths of 1970s and 1980s metal and hard rock while sounding distinctly modern, and best of all, the vocal hooks are everywhere. One needn’t look further than the two singles that preceded the album’s release, which both follow right where “Rats” and “Dance Macabre” left off. “Hunter’s Moon” juxtaposes 1970s horror movie menace and dread with ’80s gothic rock and heavy metal dynamics to create a quirky yet danceable track that veers from tinkly synths to Black Sabbathesque string bends with ease. “Call Me Little Sunshine” revisits the doomy dread of 2015’s “Cirice”, built around a classy, spiraling seven-note riff, the simplicity of which would make Tony Iommi proud. – Adrien Begrand


Guerilla Toss – Famously Alive [Sub Pop]

Famously Alive

In all likelihood, you’ve never heard the words “you need help” delivered with quite the combination of directness and reassurance as when Guerilla Toss frontwoman Kassie Carlson sings them at the outset of “Cannibal Capital”, the opening track on Famously Alive. The quirky art-rock outfit’s fifth proper full-length—and first for the iconic Sub Pop label—Famously Alive marks the first time that Carlson and her bandmates have made a deliberate effort to uplift the audience. But even when they weren’t trying, Guerilla Toss had already perfected the art of zapping listeners with intoxicating high-energy jolts that were hard to walk away from without feeling giddy. – Saby Reyes-Kulkarni 


Guided By Voices – Crystal Nuns Cathedral [GBV Inc.]

Crystal Nuns Cathedral

Guided By Voices’ Crystal Nuns Cathedral is a startling late-career classic that brings back the welcome string arrangements from the last record and flaunts some of the most uplifting, imaginative rock songs of recent memory. Robert Pollard raises the stakes yet again with a hi-fi indie rock record for the ages and one of Pollard’s finest works. Here in-house producer Travis Harrison (known as the sixth member of Guided by Voices and now the equivalent of a George Martin for the band) delivers the most cultivated production possible, the latest iteration of the band sounding like an arena-tested live institution of the highest order. On It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them! slick production moves such as the fade-in to “Black and White Eyes in a Prism” and the underwater static of guitar riffs on “The Bell Gets out of the Way” perfectly wedded a hi-fi sound with a lo-fi ethos. This same mindset saturates the solid rock edifice of Crystal Nuns Cathedral. Paul Rowe


Tigran Hamasyan – StandArt [Nonesuch]

Tigran Hamasyan StandArt

StandArt is the 11th album from Tigran Hamasyan, whose 34 years belie his consistently strong output. Hamasyan’s past albums have been drawn mainly from his bespoke amalgam of jazz, rock, folk, and traditional Armenian music. However, on StandArt, Hamasyan’s first covers album, the attention is set firmly to jazz standards from the Great American Songbook. Recorded in Los Angeles by Hamasyan with drummer Justin Brown and bassist Matt Brewer and contributions from Ambrose Akinmusire, Mark Turner, and Joshua Redman, the record is a rich listen with many layers of moods and expression. Writing about the album and the origins of jazz, Hamasyan said, “As an immigrant—an Armenian-American—I relate to these composers and musicians from various backgrounds who have that kind of history, a dark history, but managed to succeed in an embodiment of freedom.” – Jay Honeycomb


Hatchie – Giving the World Away [Secretly Canadian]

Giving the World Away

Giving the World Away‘s preoccupation with alt-pop sensibilities allows for a concrete listening experience scarcely found in Hatchie’s discography up until this point, especially as she learns to trust her gut and listen to the rhythm within. Although her voice and meaning can sometimes get lost in the dreamlike state, she continues to emulate, Giving the World Away comes through the most when Pilbeam lets her anxieties take the lead. Where an ambitious production like this one would cause the deeper messages of other indie artists to get lost in the mix, Hatchie pulls it off by inviting us deeper and deeper into her world with each track, no matter how sleepy or domineering. – Jeffrey Davies


Hurray for the Riff Raff – Life on Earth [Nonesuch]

As Alynda Segarra (Hurray for the Riff Raff) sings on “Wolves”, the opening track on her latest album, Life on Earthit’s not secure at home or anywhere else anymore. The song was written and recorded during the ever-recurring pandemic. Segarra suggests life on the run may be the only answer. Staying behind walls doesn’t work. This is meant metaphorically and literally. But thankfully, the music doesn’t end after one track. The ten songs that follow explore different survival strategies one can take to endure and thrive during our short Life on Earth. The schemes include a combination of having the right pissed-off punk attitude and an appreciation of one’s place in the natural world. – Steve Horowitz


Jenny Hval – Classic Objects [4AD]

Classic Objects

The eight songs on the Norwegian musician Jenny Hval’s latest album, Classic Objects, are purposely dreamlike. They are more atmospheric and rhythmic than narrative and follow tangents into unexplored places. As both narrator and protagonist, Hval starts in a waking state and then lets the songs float away into unknown territory. The results suggest our primal urges and our conscious thoughts are out of balance. “Life could be a dream”, as the Chords sang us so long ago on “Sh-boom”. But then it wouldn’t be real. Hval implies that we need to find a way to incorporate our dreams into our everyday life but to be wary. Hval’s ethereal voice suggests that her art serves a higher purpose. Her role is that of a doula to help the listeners release their inner selves. The specifics of her experience help ground us. – Steve Horowitz


Imarhan – Aboogi [City Slang]

Aboogi

Imarhan’s Aboogi is rich with luminous moments. The stripped-down openness of “Derhan” makes for a lively display of string skills over crisp rhythms. A lament for society’s selfishness, “Temet” is cut with dissonant pangs that communicate desperation on a visceral level. Perhaps the most exquisite track is “Asof”, a song of deep personal longing and betrayal on which a cushion of synths billows beneath the tension of simmering guitars and constantly building vocals. Following it, “Assossam” is a blatant, fever-pitched refusal to stay silent in the face of top-down displacement and destruction. Imarhan have always been strongest for their subtleties, and never more so than on the immaculately crafted tracks of Aboogi. – Adriane Pontecorvo


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