Best New Artists of 2022

The Best New Artists of 2022

The best new artists of 2022 are pushing boundaries as popular music becomes less genre-focused. They are forging new identities and moving music forward.

Jensen McRae

Jensen McRae offers possibly the most exciting indie folk debut of the year with Are You Happy Now? Her story is effortlessly 2022, a viral Phoebe Bridgers parody spurring widespread interest in her original music. Her songwriting is the same, striking a chord with younger crowds through relatable, straight-shooting lyricism and gorgeous vocals. 

McRae’s soulful voice stands tall and center throughout the album, acting as the perfect vehicle to deliver her moving songwriting to the forefront. Frequent comparisons to Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell are warranted. There’s a fair share of fine musicality on display, bridging gaps between folk-pop and R&B with McRae’s striking delivery. — Jonathan Frahm

ena mori

ena mori is a dedicated and brilliant student of pop music. Her sound is a spunky, sparkly, glittery pop that touches on bubblegum, dance-pop, synthpop, and electronica. You can hear echoes of Björk, Katy Perry, Madonna, Gwen Stefani, and even Enya in her music – but this collage-like approach to making music makes her an individual because she takes these influences and creates a fun, endearing sound. This year, she finally released a full-length studio album Don’t Blame the Wild One! after a series of singles and an EP, and delivers on the promise she showed in her earlier work. mori, more than many of her peers, understands that great pop music means heart, soul, and joy. — Peter Piatkowski


Like Working Men’s Club, South London electronic band PVA root their sound in post-punk with funky, pounding beats, but an element of gothic rock creeps in that informs Ella Harris’ mesmerizing vocals. Add a bunch of kinetic, industrial textures, and PVA cook up an exciting debut album with BLUSH. That industrial urge sits from and center on the opener “Untethered”, which thrills with its shrieking synths and stabbing beats. The mix of sounds that PVA concoct is startlingly unique, and they absolutely nail their aesthetic on their first record. Pulsing energy rides through each track. On “Bunker”, Josh Baxter sings of “the faces staring that show up at night” as the song feels like a fever dream with the roiling synths and trippy lines. From front to back, BLUSH is thoroughly exciting and original. — Sarah Zupko

Kojey Radical

One of the most exciting talents in UK music right now, Kojey Radical, is making a bid for stardom. The East Londoner is both versatile and productive and seems to have featured on endless streams of music, art, and fashion collaborations over the last few years. His ambitious music blurs the lines between myriad contemporary UK rap styles as well as funk and neo-soul – a fluidity brilliantly exemplified by Reason to Smile. The album contains countless highlights and surprises, from the bouncy, optimistic tone to its numerous guest features. This is the first major full-length release by this soon-to-be major artist. — Tom Morgan

Rat Tally

A name like an inside joke and a fondness for sprinkling “fuck” across the lyrics for shock effect shouldn’t bode well. But In the Car, the first full-length album by singer-songwriter Addy Harris—who records and performs as Rat Tally—sounds like the real deal. Composed primarily during a two-year stint in Los Angeles that coincided with the COVID lockdown and which Harris summed up succinctly in an interview with “I hated it”, the songs are grounded in memories of her Chicago base and her Boston haunts as a student at Berklee.

Harris’s gift for melody, penchant for slant rhymes, refusal to rush her songs’ tempos keep their intimate and confessional content connected with the outside world. Often harrowing, the expansive lyrics compare twisted relationships with the “aeroelastic flutter” that collapsed a suspension bridge (“Tacoma Narrows”) or the round-a-bout at a playground (“Spinning Wheel”). The best songs on the album stare into the depths, refuse self-pity, and make music and poetry there instead. They merge the warm intimacy of Rat Tally’s voice with producer Max Grazier’s soaring indie-pop guitars.

On “In My Car” and “White Girls”, Madeline Kenny and Jay Som, respectively, to pull the listener through a darkness that is at once intensely personal and brutally social. The stunning “Mount Auburn Cemetery” channels the dead-alive sensation of late adolescence through densely precise topography off-rhymed with personal memory (sanctuary/me, graveyard/restart) to conjure a space that feels in equally measure traumatic and therapeutic. It’s a gift. — David Pike


Five years after an acrimonious split with underground black metal band Absu, who jettisoned her as soon as she out as transgender, singer/songwriter/guitarist Melissa Moore returned in 2022 with a new band called Sonja, and better yet, hands down the strongest debut metal album of the year in Loud Arriver. With drummer Grzesiek Czapla and bassist Ben Brand, Moore has eschewed extreme metal in favor of a more old-school approach that blends classic metal with early goth, resulting in a confident album that feels equal parts Mercyful Fate, Riot, and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Loaded with enough reverb to take middle-aged listeners right back to 1985, Loud Arriver is wall-to-wall riffs and hooks, with Moore proving to be just as strong a singer as she is a guitarist. It’s rare to come across a debut metal album that’s so assured, and so unique, but by mining heavy metal’s past and creating her own distinct hybrid sound, Moore has accomplished just that. — Adrien Begrand

Sun’s Signature

It’s been longer since her last album than most new artists have been alive, and a full thirteen years even since her last song. That just makes Sun’s Signature, the eponymous EP debut by former Cocteau Twins singer Elizabeth Fraser and Massive Attack and former Spiritualized percussionist Damon Reece all the more unexpected and all the more welcome. Fraser’s voice has lost none of its distinctive power, crooning, keening, and conjuring over tight but adventuresome soundscapes featuring Reece and supported by a strong cast of musicians including former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett on three of the five tracks, including standouts “Underwater” and “Golden Air.” Fraser and Reece are evidently fans of The Lamb Lies down on Broadway, and “Underwater” especially has a mesmerizing prog vibe to it, its dynamics building and receding, with riveting solos bursting out of the taut flow.

Softer tunes like the shimmering “Apples” are buoyed by multitracked vocals and clear guitar lines. Fraser weaves her otherworldly voice throughout the organic ensemble of instruments both acoustic (Reece’s percussion, vibraphone, celeste, cimbalom, dulcimer, clarinet) and electronic, including Moog and Mellotron. Lyrics and visuals evoke a natural world with just enough contemporary angst and menace to escape the hippier undertones of prog’s heyday. More please. — David Pike

Thus Love

Judging by Thus Love’s early demos, they began life as an overly goth-influenced band that has since polished their messy sound to a confident post-punk sheen. Yet another tired crew of early 1980s Church/Chameleons/Bunnymen acolytes, you say? Roll your eyes if you must, but Memorial is much more than that. Whatever their influences, it takes serious talent for a band to write and sound this good their first time out. Mars’ vocals resonate like a subterranean Michael Hutchence on tracks such as “In Tandem”, which also features one of the more unconventional nine-time drumbeats to come around in a long while.

Early INXS is a fine descriptor for the energetic guitar-pop aspect that lifts this music above the bulk of today’s drearier post-punk efforts. Echoey Chameleons-style riffs, a la Reg Smithies, are a staple here, fusing with an aggressive rhythm section on “Crowd” to hit a livelier pitch than most purveyors aspire to; Sophia DiMatteo’s bass gets prominent placement as well. “Inamorato” may be the best example of a straight-out Mark Burgess composition, although that songwriter’s bleak-yet-rewarding aesthetic can be found all over Memorial. — Marc Edelstein


TSHA is one of the best young producers at the moment and her debut, Capricorn Sun, was hotly anticipated this year. The record is awash in warm electronic music of many stripes, but based around the dance floor. “The Light” is gloriously soulful with a hook you’ll remember for a long time married to some joyful keyboards and steel drum sounds. “OnlyL” feature’s NIMMO’s angelic and soaring vocals alongside some of the catchiest electropop of the year. Its pop sense is mixed with groovy beats that recall the best of Rudimental. Just call it electrosoul.

Following this pop high, TSHA ventures into African sounds by pairing with Oumou Sangaré for the dreamy and mellower “Water”. The synths glitter with rapid rhythms in the later sections as the track builds to a delicious crescendo. Other highlights include the singles, “Power” and “Running”. “Power” rolls to a banging rhythm with steel drum flourishes and encouraging calls to “come on”. This one packs the club to the rafters, as does “Running” with its wistful nostalgia.

TSHA’s sound and aesthetic are thoroughly her own and she draws from an exceptionally wide palate to craft her music. This is the brightest, emotional groove-fest of the year, and a truly astounding debut. It’s my number one album of the year in any genre. — Sarah Zupko

Wet Leg

The tiny Isle of Wight’s Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers (aka Wet Leg) were the surprise stars of 2022’s South by Southwest, and deservedly so. Their infectious pop-punk style took serious music down a peg to reveal the mundane facts of just living are as melodramatically appropriate for dancing to as more serious and conventional topics. The duo keeps their heads about them as they thrash about and offer humorous observations about the people and places with which they are familiar. They sing in a deadpan style that allows listeners to decide when the band is being serious and when they are pulling one’s—um, wet leg. There are different stories as to where their moniker came from. Was it a completely dumb name chosen by accident, what one calls a mainlander who has newly arrived at the Isle of Wight, or a sexually excited individual? The answer doesn’t matter as much as Wet Leg’s creative ability to create exciting alternative rock. — Steve Horowitz


There are a lot of discussions right now about post-genre music. Internet culture has collapsed stylistic boundaries, generating music that blends different forms into new alchemical creations. London’s Wu-Lu is an especially strong example of this trend. His debut for the esteemed Warp Records, LOGGERHEAD, is a wild fusion that journeys through disparate styles such as hip-hop, punk, grunge, and drum ‘n’ bass. Tracks like “Blame” and “Ten” feature what could be considered rapping, but of the most unorthodox kind. Better reference points would be the moody experimentalism of Ghostpoet or the uncategorizable Sleaford Mods. It’s a compelling and unique album that pushes hip-hop to its furthest edges. — Tom Morgan

Yard Act

This exciting alt-rock/quasi-punk quartet from Leeds, England combines smart political and social commentary with dark humor, clever wordplay, and offbeat tempos. They are the thinking person’s dance band, presuming one is willing to get lost in the swirl of words. Their music often breaks down into rhythmic spoken word soliloquies about everything from growing up, to the problems of capitalist exploitation, and the deteriorating state of the world. The band members—James Smith (vocals), Ryan Needham (bass), Sam Shjipstone (guitar), and Jay Russell (drums)—never seem to stop moving. The music is boastfully intelligent and funny as Yard Act is not afraid to bully their audiences. The band slyly demands one think as a prerequisite to feeling good. Yard Act also bring a sense of absurd theatre to their shows that makes one wonder what is happening on stage even as one dances one’s butt off. — Steve Horowitz