The 15 Best Indie Pop Albums of 2022

The 15 Best Indie Pop Albums of 2022

The best indie pop of 2022 provided a much-needed melodic boost to our daily existence. From Hatchie to Jockstrap, these albums are the best.


The Dream
(Infectious / Canvasback)

With a wide-ranging audience in the palm of their free left hand and a swanky new Islington studio in which to take their 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)

If you’re like me, you might’ve held your breath when you heard Beach House‘s newest LP would be a four-part, 18-track, 84-minute epic. An album like this would be overstuffed and overly long-winded in most hands. Thankfully, that’s not the case with Once Twice Melody. Credit Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand’s incredible work ethic—the album took over three years to complete—and a little help from Alan Moulder, who mixed albums for My Bloody ValentineRide, and the Jesus & Mary Chain. Wherever you give credit, Once Twice Melody is that rare thing: a very long record (consisting of four “chapters”) that somehow never wears out its welcome.

How did Beach House do it? The answer is relatively simple. Once Twice Melody doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, nor does it follow in the footsteps of its predecessors. It’s not a record with a definite “place” in Beach House’s catalogue—it’s not a leftward turn, a change of pace, or even more of the same. This LP feels like a summation of everything Beach House has ever done in many ways. It’s got the sunny, the gothic, the theatrical, the inward-looking. It avoids the trappings of other long albums through its infinite variation. — Parker Desautell


Giving the World Away
(Secretly Canadian)

When you listen to Keepsake, the debut LP by Harriette Pilbeam—known professionally as Hatchie—it’s a clear throwback to the indie dream-pop of days past, when names like Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins dominated the indie music narrative. But with her second studio album Giving the World Away, Pilbeam has kept the synths but embraced more of an alt-pop sound and image reminiscent of Sigrid or Sky Ferreira. The record goes places its predecessor did not and helps establish Hatchie as a voice to watch on the alternative/indie pop scene.

Where Keepsake felt composed mostly of lovelorn dream sequences, Giving the World Away forges a more concise narrative, one that feels familiar within the landscape of pop music made by musicians in their twenties. The album doesn’t necessarily feel like a pandemic record, but the reflections its lyrics explore were most certainly influenced by the periods of isolation that the last few years have brought. — Jeffrey Davies


Jenny Hval
Classic Objects

Jenny Hval expresses a strong belief in the power of dreams. It’s the place a person no longer has control. It’s where our id and ego disappear, and we exist only in a symbolic state. She sings, “A dream is where we set ourselves aside / Dreaming is the plan without the plan” on the hopeful “The Revolution Will Not Be Owned”. Dreams are where we are free from restrictions and external control and celebrated as such.

The eight songs on the Norwegian musician’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. — Steve Horowitz


(AntiFragile Music)

With his latest release, Heterosexuality, pop renaissance man Shamir channels trauma, rage, and feelings of angst, and in response to our troubled times, he’s released an album of uncommon beauty. Employing sharp, pointed lyrics and applying his gorgeous, androgynous vocals to a dark, lush industrial synthpop, Shamir’s album makes a significant musical contribution to the ongoing debates over identity, queerness, and sexuality. Looking to musical cues of the 1990s, Heterosexuality feels bracing, fresh, and ingenious.

Working with producer Hollow Comet, Shamir returns with a record that explores development and growth in his sound. His LP debut, 2015’s Ratchet, was a burst of electronic-laced pop and dance music. The album was a critical success, but his subsequent releases were thoughtful indie-pop records that were intimate. But on Heterosexuality, the singer embraces a bigger, more expansive, almost cinematic sound that echoes shades of Trent Reznor, Trevor Horn, and 1990s-era Prince. — Peter Piatkowski


First Aid Kit

Sweden’s First Aid Kit have been strongly influenced by Americana music. They have lived in the US during the past decade and are best known by many for their song “Emmylou”, a tribute to the unofficial queen of Americana music, Emmylou Harris. The duo recently returned to Sweden and recorded their latest album in Stockholm. Their newest release, Palominostill reveals the heavy influence of the States on their music. However, they have expanded their sound and become more pop-oriented. They have cited acts such as Fleetwood Mac and Hall & Oates as influences, especially in adding a fuller sonic palette to their repertoire.

The Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg harmonize in ways that allow both voices to sing lead on the same song, even when they take turns with the lyrics. The results suggest these women are of one mind. The instrumentation on the album is generally upbeat. Songs like the title track superficially seem positive in contrast to the more uncertain mindset of the tunes’ narrators. The contrast adds complexity to the life lessons expressed. — Steve Horowitz


I Love You Jennifer B
(Rough Trade)

Jockstrap’s I Love You Jennifer B is provocative and ambitious, testing attention while operating on a fine line between listenability and overkill. The way Jockstrap play with expectations keeps listeners on their toes. Trying to anticipate the next 180-degree turn or sudden zero to a hundred acceleration makes them an exciting listen. Admittedly, the album didn’t initially spark my curiosity. I found the transitions to be choppy and too drastic of a shift. But after spending time with the release, getting used to the sharp turns and harsh sounds, it’s become one of the most intriguing releases this year so far. The first couple of times through might feel a little rocky, but with time, I Love You Jennifer Bcan grow on you and reward you with intelligent, experimental pop if you give it a chance.

Their dynamics are widely varied: one second, a guitar quietly strums; in another second, a digital beat tramples through, leaving trails of raygun sounds. It’s these jarring surprises that make their release both stirring and fascinating. While Jockstrap’s music may not sound remotely like punk, they evoke a similar brash carefree attitude that rubs against the grain like any old punk song.