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Best Albums Of 2022: 40 Essential Releases Of The Year
List & Guides

Best Albums Of 2022: 40 Essential Releases Of The Year

From pop perfection to punk-inspired screeds, the best albums of 2022 are so attention-grabbing they simply demand to be heard.

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As 2022 comes to a close, we’re spoilt for choice with a range of new albums across an array of genres, including pop, hip-hop and indie-rock. From the poptastic coup d’état of Charli XCX’s CRASH to the conceptual tour de force of The Weeknd’s Dawn FM and the welcome alt-rock reboot of Red Hot Chili Peppers, here are the best albums of 2022 – a list of essential releases you simply cannot overlook… 

Listen to our Chart playlist here, and check out our best albums of 2022, below.

40: Cordae: ‘From A Bird’s Eye View’

Formerly known as YBN Cordae, American rapper Cordae Dunston has no interest in emulating his trap-infatuated peers on his second album, From A Bird’s Eye View; instead, he revives a 90s and 2000s alt-rap sound indebted to Nas and J Cole. From the braggadocio of his Lil Wayne collaboration, Sinister, to joining forces with soulstress H.E.R. and drill rapper Lil Durk on the rolling acoustic-rap of Chronicles, there is a sense that Cordae is still finding his own sound, but what he has is a refreshingly potent brew of beats that stand out in today’s trap-enamoured landscape. “I literally have a story on every single song,” Cordae told NME. “Every single song has a story attached to it.” As one of the best albums of 2022 so far, From A Bird’s Eye View has all the ingredients that Cordae needs to send him soaring skyward.

Must hear: Sinister

39: Muse: ‘Will Of The People’

Reportedly setting out to make a record that felt like “a greatest hits album – of new songs”, Muse delivered Will Of The People, a wide-ranging compendium of the band’s mix of showy rock bombast and 80s-inspired pop hooks. From the dystopian synth stomp of Won’t Stand Down to the Van Halen-esque guitar flair of Kill Or Be Killed, the album is a veritable grab-bag of all the musical styles the band has mastered to date. With such a diverse mix soundtracking frontman Matt Bellamy’s strident political tirades, Will Of The People stands among the best albums of 2022, setting the stage for Muse’s world tour in the best way they can. 

Must hear: Won’t Stand Down 

38: Slipknot: ‘The End, So Far’

With a considerable gear change, Slipknot’s seventh album, The End, So Far, shows us just how far the nu-metal godfathers have travelled since the release of uncompromising albums such as 2001’s Iowa. Weaving a slow-burning synth-rock experimentalism in among their trademark squalls of alt-metal rage, there’s an air of prog-inspired maturity to Slipknot’s new sound which finds them venturing well beyond what we’ve come to expect. In the same way that 90s bands such as Tool have been keen to diversify with age, only time will tell whether The End, So Far proves to be a stepping stone to something else for Slipknot. For now, however, it easily earns its place among the best albums of 2022 thanks to top-drawer tracks such as its no-holds-barred lead single, The Dying Song (Time To Sing).

Must hear: The Dying Song (Time To Sing)

37: Taylor Swift: ‘Midnights’

For her record-breaking tenth studio album, Midnights, country-pop icon Taylor Swift dropped a treasure trove of new songs she described as “a collection of stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life”. Returning to the synth-pop terrain she previously explored on 1989 and Red, Swift has never been more thought-provoking, penning lyrics which reflect upon her insecurities and mental health, with deeply affecting results. Upon its release in October 2022, Midnights instantly became a streaming sensation: it broke the record for the most amount of streams on its first day of release, resulting in ten of its songs entering the US Billboard Hot 100.

Must hear: Anti-Hero

36: The Snuts: ‘Burn The Empire’

Scottish indie band The Snuts returned with their second album, Burn The Empire, in September 2022, leaning into protest rock from the off by sampling the voice of firebrand Labour Party MP Tony Benn on the record’s title track. With searing singles such as Zuckerpunch – a savage takedown of the effects of social media on modern society – and the hook-filled la-la-la-ing of The Rodeo, the band leave plenty of room for surprises, dabbling as they do in everything from electro-pop to hip-hop-inspired drum samples. Proving that The Snuts are one of the most exciting indie-rock bands of their generation, Burn The Empire stands tall among the best albums of 2022 and is a colourful and multi-faceted record brimming with eccentricity.

Must hear: The Rodeo

35: Liam Gallagher: ‘C’mon You Know’

Released in the lead-up to Liam Gallagher’s solo shows at Knebworth – a noble effort to repeat the historic past glories of Oasis – C’mon You Know is exactly the sort of well-crafted Britrock record we’ve come to expect of the singer. Kicking off with More Power, Gallagher taps into the same philosophical vein of The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want (“You won’t get the girl you want, but you’ll get the girl you need”), while the opening riff to lead single Everything’s Electric comes across like a 21st-century iteration of Faces. However, with songs once again co-written by Andrew Wyatt, who penned much of Gallagher’s previous album, Why Me? Why Not., it’s surprising to hear the former Oasis frontman take some risks on this outing, from the nod to The Chemical Brothers on Better Days, to the dub reggae breakdown of I’m Free. In coming up with one of the best albums of 2022, it’s clear the elder statesman of Britpop is now willing to mix up his classic-rock touchstones, hinting at the future potential of his evolution as a solo artist.

Must hear: Better Days

34: Jamie T: ‘The Theory Of Whatever’

Coming out of the wilderness after a six-year absence, the street-smart indie troubadour Jamie T made a welcome return with his fifth album, The Theory Of Whatever. Released in July 2022, it was clear the material he’d amassed in hibernation would make for a fruitful listen, grabbing listeners by the ears with the gritty indie rocker The Old Style Raiders and proving he still has a way with words on the rap-rock barnstormer British Hell. As one of the few indie acts from the mid-2000s still going strong, Jamie T is in a league of his own.

Must hear: The Old Style Raiders

33: Kehlani: ‘Blue Water Road’

With guest spots from the likes of Jessie Reyez and Thundercat, Kehlani’s third album, Blue Water Road, sees her broaden her R&B credentials with an orchestral pop record flecked with touches of progressive soul and even folk; a standout moment, the early-90s flavour of Up At Night – featuring Canadian boy wonder Justin Bieber – makes the song an old-school celebration of a pair of lovers obsessing over one another during their honeymoon period (“I love you so much it keeps me awake at night”). Gentle and confident, Blue Water Road finds Kehlani in a more spiritual place than before, exploring new horizons for her unique style of R&B and proving why she continues to be one of the most magnetic personalities in pop music.

Must hear: Up At Night

32: Johnny Marr: ‘Fever Dreams Pts 1-4’

Drip-feeding us with a couple of EPs prior to its release, Johnny Marr released his spirited double-album, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, in February. Fiercely committed to his fondness for shimmering indie-rock and post-punk-style riffs, it’s a collection of 16 songs that shows the former Smiths guitarist at the peak of his powers, from the disco-flavoured Spirit, Power And Soul to the mass-media critique of Night And Day. “There’s a set of influences and a very broad sound that I’ve been developing – really since getting out of The Smiths until now, and I hear it in this record,” Marr told Rolling Stone. As one of the best guitarists of all time, Marr has nothing left to prove but, by releasing Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, it’s clear he has unfinished business. Fans of The Smiths will not be disappointed with what he has to offer here.

Must hear: Night And Day

 

31: The 1975: ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’

Blindsiding fans with the baroque-flavoured lead single Part Of The Band, The 1975’s fifth album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language, finds the Manchester indie group’s musical ambition unabated. While singles such as Happiness and I’m In Love With You perfectly fit the mould of their distinctive style of INXS-indebted indie-pop – full of dazzling synths and shimmering melodies – it’s frontman Matty Healy’s lyrics that steal the show. Weaving self-aware humour and cutting social observations into The 1975’s grab-bag of 80s-inspired grooves, Being Funny In A Foreign Language is a fantastic way to continue the band’s impeccable run of albums.

Must hear: Part Of The Band

30: Arctic Monkeys: ‘The Car’

Seemingly picking up where the easy-listening vibe of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino left off, Arctic Monkeys songwriter Alex Turner channels his love of 60s and 70s art-house cinema on his group’s sixth album, The Car. As if penning an imaginary soundtrack to a Fellini-directed opus, its songs veer from the disco-funk strut of I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am to the string-heavy show-stopper Big Ideas. With lyrics more mysterious and cryptic than ever, it’s hard to know if there’s a story to be gleaned from The Car, but it’s a rich and rewarding entry among the best albums of 2022, and it proves that Arctic Monkeys’ tank is anything but empty.

Must hear: There’d Better Be A Mirrorball

29: Yard Act: ‘The Overload’

Finding themselves in the unlikely position of being caught in a chart battle with Years & Years, Yard Act reached No.2 in the UK with their debut album, The Overload, in March. Like the bastard son of The Fall’s Mark E Smith, Yard Act frontman James Smith spits venomously satirical lyrics over irascible post-punk guitar, venting his frustrations about the parochial hinterlands of modern Britain. From parodying gentrification on Payday to lampooning “this crackpot country” on Dead Horse, Yard Act are easily one of the most exciting indie groups of recent years, mixing sprechgesang with dance-punk grooves. Likely to be remembered as one of the best albums of 2022, The Overload finds Yard Act leading the way for the UK’s current rebirth of post-punk, along with the likes of Idles and Fontaines D.C. What sets this Leeds four-piece apart, however, is their quintessentially British sense of humour – something we could all do with in these turbulent times.

Must hear: Payday

28: Wet Leg: ‘Wet Leg’

After going viral with the indie-rock earworm Chaise Longue, Wet Leg’s self-titled album proves the Isle Of Wight duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers have even more up their sleeves. Fun and often giddy-headed, tracks such as Wet Dream and Ur Mum succeed in reviving the über-quirky sound of female-led 90s alternative rock, recalling in particular bassist Kim Deal’s vocals for Pixies. With a mix of half-spoken sultriness and angular post-punk riffs, Wet Leg have re-popularised indie-rock at a time when it seemed unlikely to make a comeback. We can only hope they will open the floodgates for a new wave of female-fronted rock acts.

Must hear: Wet Dream

13: The Weeknd: ‘Dawn FM’

In January 2022, it was announced that The Weeknd officially became the most-streamed artist on Spotify. It’s hardly surprising, then, that his fifth album, Dawn FM, ranks high on our list of the best albums of the year, thanks to an intoxicating mix of styles encompassing 80s synth-pop, EDM and electro-funk. Anchored by a late-night radio concept voiced by legendary actor Jim Carrey, Dawn FM sees R&B sensation Abel Tesfaye continue his dark journey into the nihilism of nightclub culture – as reflected in an artwork that also stands as one of the best album covers of 2022. Branching out into synthwave, spellbinding tracks such as the Vice City-like disco of Take My Breath, the synth-funk squalor of Sacrifice and the smooth soul swing of Out Of Time only serve to elevate The Weeknd as the peerless pop talent he truly is. Few artists create music as unique and era-defining as this, so the sooner you tune into Dawn FM, the better.

Must hear: Sacrifice

26: Carly Rae Jepsen: ‘The Loneliest Time’

Time and time again, Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen has proved that she is one of the few modern pop acts who can court critical appeal as well as score gargantuan radio hits. With her fifth studio album, The Loneliest Time, it’s clear she’s having a great deal of fun marring 80s-inspired synth-pop with 70s disco-funk, as on the sunshine-ready earworm Beach House. With former Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij handling production on the album’s lead single, Western Wind, Jepsen is blessed with a certain amount of indie cred, making The Loneliest Time an effortlessly cool listen among the best albums of 2022.

Must hear: Beach House

25: Björk: ‘Fossora’

Now in her late 50s – yes, you read that right – the Icelandic pop goddess Björk is just as experimental and eccentric as ever. Her tenth album, Fossora, takes in techno beats and ventures through the sonic weeds of avant-pop, making for a bass-clarinet-heavy concept album Björk has described as a eulogy for her late mother; however, with the added richness of ecological metaphors inspired by mushrooms, Fossora takes listeners on a wild and enigmatic journey all of its own. There’s no one else making music like Björk, and this album reminds us just how much we need her.

Must hear: Atopos

24: Beyoncé: ‘Renaissance’

For her first new album since 2016’s Lemonade, R&B icon Beyoncé surprised her fans by turning to house music and 70s soul-based grooves for inspiration. Released in late July 2022, Renaissance landed like a long-lost DJ mix. Preceded by its dance-pop-flavoured lead single, Break My Soul, the album is an upbeat and eclectic breath of fresh air, galloping along on a rush of uplifting electronica while exploring ideas of self-expression and escapism through disco samples. With an album cover that features a Beyoncé sitting on the back of a crystal horse like Lady Godiva, Renaissance leaves little doubt that “Queen Bey”’s royal bloodline is assured.

Must hear: Break My Soul

23: Viagra Boys: ‘Cave World’

Hailing from Sweden, Viagra Boys take a raw and honest look at the dark side of human nature on their third album, Cave World, aided and abetted by catchy, hook-laden punk tunes. An instant classic if ever there was one, the album sees frontman Sebastian Murphy deliver hilarious – if a little unsettling – comic explorations of kleptomania (Ain’t No Thief) and the crazed obsessions of conspiracy theorists (Creepy Crawlers). Elsewhere, Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods pops up on Big Boy, a deranged punk-blues cut with a hip-hop groove, while Murphy singing in a baritone to the loping ape-like swagger of Punk Rock Loser is arguably the coolest sound you’ll hear this year. Not only one of the best albums of 2022, but also the finest punk rock record in recent times, Cave World is worth bringing out into the light.

Must hear: Punk Rock Loser

22: King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard: ‘Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms And Lava’

Few bands are as prolific as Australian psych-rock voyagers King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard. Despite only being active for the past ten years or so, Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms And Lava is their 21st studio album, and it erupts into our list of the best albums of 2022. With seven tracks built around Greek musical scales, the record dives head-first into a prog-heavy stew of red-hot creativity and molten musical mayhem, with a handful of tracks spewing out well beyond the ten-minute mark. What’s even more remarkable is that this album was jammed into existence in the space of a week, which is proof – if any were needed – that King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are arguably the hardest working band in the world today.

Must hear: Ice V

21: Weyes Blood: ‘And In The Darkness Hearts Aglow’

As the follow-up to her breakout 2019 album, Titanic Rising, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is a chamber-pop marvel which sees songwriter Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood) once again beguiling fans with her captivating voice. Released in November 2022, the album finds Mering evoking the easy-listening charms of singer Karen Carpenter and the intensely engrossing production wizardry of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. Released through indie label Sub Pop, it’s a spine-chilling record that veers close to the icy realms of ambient soft-rock, but Mering’s beautiful singing voice and the cool-as-ice production from Foxygen musician Jonathan Rado will never fail to melt your heart.

Must hear: It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody

20: Lizzo: ‘Special’

Full of Chic-esque guitar grooves and 70s soul hooks, Lizzo’s fourth album, Special, is a delight from start to finish. With a sprinkle of disco glitter and hefty servings of female empowerment, the Detroit-born icon lets her inner funk goddess run riot, inducing a sugar rush thanks to pop confections such as the TikTok phenomenon About Damn Time and the alluring swing of the 80s-flavoured pop banger 2 Be Loved (Am I Ready). Easily one of the quirkiest pop stars working today, the array of material on Special leaves little doubt why Lizzo has earned a special place in our hearts.

Must hear: About Damn Time

19: FKA Twigs: ‘Caprisongs’

Referred to as a mixtape, but far too well-produced to be considered as such, FKA Twigs’ art-pop powerhouse Caprisongs sees her own unique style of contemporary R&B in a state of flux. Shifting from the angst-ridden pop team-up with The Weekend (Tears In The Club) to tinkering with Afrobeat in consort with Nigerian rapper Rema (Jealousy), the collection unfolds like a fever dream, breaking out with icy and atmospheric beats that fizz and pop, over which FKA Twigs’ vocals sound like Alexa contracting a computer virus. Yet another assertion of FKA Twigs’ reputation as an avant-pop pioneer, Caprisongs easily earns its place on our list of the best albums of 2022.

Must hear: Jealousy

18: Foals: ‘Life Is Yours’

On their seventh album, Life Is Yours, Oxford-based indie rock band Foals have gone full-on disco, and the results are dazzling. Recorded with producer Dan Carey in his Speedy Wunderground studio, Foals bring an art-rock shimmer to a series of upbeat dance-pop songs full of Nile Rodgers[https://www.thisisdig.com/feature/best-nile-rodgers-songs/]-esque guitar work and summery vibes. “This has the potential to be an iconic year,” singer Yannis Philippakis told NME, “and I’d love this record to be the soundtrack to that.” Unrelentingly joyous and optimistic, rousing dance-rockers such as Wake Me Up and 2am help Life Is Yours make the misery of lockdown vanish almost entirely, with Foals lovingly crafting one of the best albums of 2022.

Must hear: Wake Me Up

17: Jack White: ‘Fear Of The Dawn’

Garage rock’s most esteemed elder statesman, Jack White – formerly frontman for The White Stripes – had a more productive lockdown than most. The first of two news albums for 2022, Fear Of The Dawn is an explosive collection of balls-to-the-wall rockers, as evidenced by the dynamite riffage that was Taking Me Back and the hyperactive funk-rock groove of What’s the Trick? Easily earning its place among the best albums of 2022, Fear Of The Dawn is the purest slice of unbridled 21st-century blues-rock you’re likely to hear all year, mixed with White’s fondness for squalling pedal effects and deranged sonic trills. Now sporting an azure Elvis quiff, it’s clear White is entering his blue period. Thankfully for us, the results are anything but mellow.

Must hear: What’s The Trick?

16: Paolo Nutini: ‘Last Night In The Bittersweet’

After an eight-year hiatus, Scottish folk-rocker Paolo Nutini dropped a surprisingly varied comeback album, Last Night In The Bittersweet. From throat-shredding cuts such as the touching ballad Through The Echoes to the half-spoken meander through the noisy indie-rock groove of Lose It, Nutini’s fourth album stands tall as a potent reintroduction to the songwriter’s blend of billowing Otis Redding-esque soul and smoky 70s barroom cool. Welcome back, Paolo – nobody else nails nonchalant grace more than you.

Must hear: Through the Echoes

15: Fontaines D.C.: ‘Skinty Fia’

In gifting us their third album, Skinty Fia, it’s clear that Irish post-punk rabble Fontaines D.C. have branched out. The driving rocker Jackie Down The Line sees the group at their most catchy and ear-grabbing, while singer Grian Chatten’s drawl on I Love You is brilliantly unsettling. The album’s title track even boasts a Madchester groove that Happy Mondays’ Bez would no doubt shake his maracas at. Nevertheless, Chatten’s love of literature is still on full display – he has claimed this album was mostly influenced by John Williams’ 1965 novel, Stoner, and Albert Camus’ 1947 philosophical novel, The Plague. Featuring accessible guitar riffs beneath enigmatic lyrics, Skinty Fia is an imaginative journey worth musing upon.

Must hear: Jackie Down The Line

14: Red Hot Chili Peppers: ‘Unlimited Love’

Following the much-lauded return of iconic guitarist John Frusciante, we shouldn’t be so surprised that Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 12th album, Unlimited Love, is such a stunning return to form. Produced by the legendary Rick Rubin – also returning to the Chili Peppers’ fold, for the first time since 2013’s I’m Beside You – it’s a supreme stroll into funk-rock grooves and psychedelia-tinged balladry, from the sea shanty-esque frivolity of Black Summer to the energetic alt-rock blast of These Are the Ways. Arguably their best work since 2002’s By The Way, Unlimited Love sees Red Hot Chili Peppers distil their funkadelic mojo to its very essence, infusing it with some of the most surreal lyrics frontman Anthony Kiedis has ever put to paper. Proving just what a magical foursome they are when Frusciante’s luscious guitar tones are back in the mix, it’s a delightful listen and a welcome entry among the best albums of 2022.

Must hear: Black Summer

13: Beach House: ‘Once Twice Melody’

Now veterans on the indie scene, Beach House deliver a double album for their eighth studio effort, transporting listeners into a neo-psychedelic dreamscape across 18 indie-pop songs. Awash with synths and shoegazey textures, Once Twice Melody is a lush and melancholic listen which may well come to be regarded as the Baltimore-based band’s defining masterpiece. Sure, that’s a big assertion, but for fans of Beach House there’s no doubting that this record is a grand achievement. Never have the group more successfully created a sonic realm of their own, so it would be scandalous for us not to consider it one of the best albums of 2022.

Must hear: Once Twice Melody

12: Kojey Radical: ‘Reason To Smile’

Released in March, Kojey Radical’s debut album, Reason To Smile, is a wonderfully eclectic British rap record that wildly diverges from grime and drill. Veering from socially conscious lyricism to neo-soul-inflected melodies, it’s a wholly original work that yields new fruits upon repeat listens, ranging from the G-funk strut of Payback to the smooth jazz-rap of Silk. There has for many years been speculation about which UK rapper could break the US – Skepta and Stormzy among them – and the safe money could be on Kojey Radical. Not only does he refuse to pigeonhole himself into subgenres of UK rap, but his artistic vision is just as streetwise and aspirational as any of the 90s’ hip-hop icons. If US fans latch onto him as much as they seem to enjoy Little Simz, Reason To Smile could be Kojey’s stepping stone to greatness. Without a doubt, he is a maverick, and we should be extremely grateful to have him.

Must hear: Payback

11: Alvvays: ‘Blue Rev’

Awash with aquatic touches of shoegazey guitar tones and power-pop vocal melodies, Blue Rev, the third album from Alvvays, sees the Canadian indie-rock group reach the summit of their achievements. From the My Bloody Valentine-esque dreaminess of Pharmacist to the punky thrash of Pomeranian Spinster, singer Molly Rankin is at the top of her game while guitarist Alec O’Hanley flirts with Smiths-style jangle-pop and neo-psychedelic distortion. As the playful, 80s synth-pop-inspired single Very Online Guy makes clear, Blue Rev is a truly hypnotic leap forward for Alvvays that entrances the listener at every turn.

Must hear: Very Online Guy

10: Gang Of Youths: ‘angel in realtime.’

Originating from Sydney, Australia, indie outfit Gang Of Youths delivered an autobiographical deep-dive into grief and bereavement with their third album, angel in realtime. With a baritone akin to that of The National’s Matt Berninger, frontman David Le’aupepe wrestles with the loss of his father, with deeply philosophical lyrics that cut to the core of the human experience. Channelling the spiritual heft of U2 and Bruce Springsteen, and the passionate catharsis of Arcade Fire, Gang Of Youths ultimately emerge with a sound of their very own. Featuring earnest and visceral anthems such as in the wake of your leave, the angel of 8th ave. and the man himself, angel in realtime. is a literate and melancholic expression of heartfelt trauma that is deeply affecting and relatable. It’s always a delight when a modern indie group strikes gold with a new seam of emotionally resonant rock, and that’s why this record sits among the best albums of 2022.

Must hear: the angel of 8th ave.

9: Kendrick Lamar: ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’

One of the greatest rappers of his generation, Kendrick Lamar has already made history by winning the Pulitzer Prize for his poetic and hyper-literate lyrics, and – as 2022’s Sunday-night headliner – for delivering one of the best Glastonbury performances in recent memory. His fifth album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, perfects his blend of socially attuned hip-hop with thought-provoking performance art, invoking the ire of anti-maskers on N95 while decrying society’s obsession with designer labels and shrugging his shoulders at the notion of cancel culture. Helping to make the record his most personal yet, Lamar also wades in on trans-rights issues by exploring his relationship with his uncle (Auntie Diaries), while We Cry Together depicts a bitter marital row as a potent metaphor for the tribalism of online culture and the schism between genders. Deservedly hailed as the voice of his generation, Lamar was always set to return with one of the best albums of 2022, and Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers certainly delivers.

Must hear: N95

8: The Smile: ‘A Light For Attracting Attention’

It was a surprise to see Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood embrace the thrill of post-punk guitar and team up with Sons Of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner to form a new group called The Smile. Not only is their debut one of the best albums of 2022, but it’s also the next best thing we’ll get to another Radiohead record. In many respects, A Light For Attracting Attention is a huge leap forward, with Yorke and Greenwood dispensing with the maudlin feel of 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool in favour of reigniting the punk-inspired bile of 2003’s Hail To The Thief, as on the turbo-charged rocker We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings. An argument could be made that the acoustic ballad Free In The Knowledge is one of the best songs Yorke has written in years, while Pana-Vision is a motorik-inspired guitar jam that sees Greenwood’s fretwork on suitably hypnotic form. It might not be Radiohead per se, but, thanks to The Smile, fans of The Bends and OK Computer have the sort of guitar album they’ve been hankering after for years. If that won’t put a grin on their faces, we don’t know what will.

Must hear: We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings

7: Denzel Curry: ‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’

For many years now, Miami-based rapper Denzel Curry has been a critics’ darling and one of the most incendiary voices in underground hip-hop. Now with his eye on the mainstream, his fifth album, Melt My Eyez See Your Future, boasts cinematic production from the likes of Thundercat, JPEGMafia and Kenny Beats which complements Curry’s references to Western movies and kung-fu flicks. From the Wild West flavour of Walkin to the samurai swagger of Zatoichi, featuring British rapper slowthai, Curry’s mastery of the mic is self-evident, delving into his inner psyche and lashing it into shape. With an ear for abstract sounds and a knack for capturing the visceral impact of hardcore rap, Melt Your Eyez See Your Future could well be the Floridian MC’s finest hour.

Must hear: Walkin

6: Big Thief: ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’

Brooklyn-based indie quartet Big Thief are no strangers to ambition. After releasing two records in 2019, their fifth, the double-album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, contains 20 songs of typically melancholic, down-at-home indie-folk. Written in quarantine in the woods of Vermont, frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s dreamy vocals and the band’s Americana-tinged musicality crackle like a warm log fire from start to finish. Whether it’s on the jangly clatter of Little Things or the hoedown bliss of Red Moon, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is a rich and sprawling treat packed with quirky lyrical nuances and bliss-inducing melodies. Standing at the vanguard of the indie-folk movement with a uniquely atmospheric and lo-fi sound, Big Thief have already stolen hearts, but it’s with this album they deserve to capture your attention.

Must hear: Red Moon

5: Danger Mouse And Black Thought: ‘Cheat Codes’

Given how producer Danger Mouse approaches each album like he’s an auteur filmmaker crafting a movie soundtrack, it’s no surprise that Cheat Codes, his collaboration with one of the greatest rappers of all time, Black Thought, of The Roots, has all the makings of a classic. From the crate-digging boom-bap of No Gold Teeth to the lush melancholic air of Aquamarine, the album is peppered with lo-fi breakbeats and the warm crackle of vinyl sampling, recalling a bygone era of hip-hop now displaced by tinny trap snare kicks. By bringing rap music back to its roots – focusing on Black Thought’s poetic rhymes and Danger Mouse’s pure-hearted approach to beat-making – the duo have created a modern masterpiece that leaves most modern hip-hop records in the dust. Let’s hope it inspires a new generation of rappers to follow their example.

Must hear: No Gold Teeth

4: Everything Everything: ‘Raw Data Feel’

Everything Everything’s sixth album, Raw Data Feel, sees the art-rock magisters recapture the lighting-in-a-bottle effect of their 2015 outing, Get To Heaven. With frontman Jonathan Higgs’ hair-raising falsetto and oddball lyrics on a roll, the songs are a masterclass in eccentric indie-pop and unconventional dance bangers, from the glitchy tempo of Teletype to the 80s art-pop tinge of Jennifer. Much has been made of the band’s decision to use an AI program to generate lyrics for the album, as well as help create its artwork, so it’s possible to interpret Raw Data Feel as the group’s attempt to hold a mirror to the algorithm-led randomness of our digital age. Cryptic and ephemeral as always, Everything Everything have once again proved why they are one of the most exciting indie bands in the UK, and it would be a scandal if Raw Data Feel weren’t considered one of the best albums of 2022.

Must hear: I Want A Love Like This

3: Black Midi: ‘Hellfire’

A dark and intense album that takes in carnival-esque post-punk, gothic prog ballistics and even jazz-tinged balladry, black midi’s 2022 album, Hellfire, is one hell of a head trip. Venturing deep into frontman Geordie Greep’s character portrayals of unscrupulous brothel owners, brow-beaten soldiers scarred by war and depraved pirates stricken with food sickness, the album blindsides as much lyrically as it does musically, bludgeoning listeners over the head with wild twists and turns. By far one of the best albums of 2022, Hellfire is a work of red-hot originality that does little to suggest its creators will cool down any time soon.

Must hear: Welcome to Hell

2: Black Country New Road: ‘Ants From Up There’

A notable departure from their ambling jazz-rock-flavoured debut, Black Country New Road’s sophomore release, Ants From Up There, is a much more accessible dalliance with folk-tinged chamber pop. Flaunting the oddball lyrical talents of singer Isaac Wood – who announced his departure from the band just a few days before the album’s release – Ants From Up There melds post-rock with abstract narrative songs. Richly endowed with oodles of mandolin, saxophone and flute, it’s by turns musically unconventional and inventive, inviting Black County New Road to step out from the shadow of their contemporaries Black Midi in order to plant their own flag in the sand. It’s uncertain where the band will go from here now that Wood has left, but, for now at least, Ants From Up There will be remembered as one of the best albums of 2022 – an indie-rock record unafraid to plough a very different furrow.

Must hear: Concorde

1: Charli XCX: ‘CRASH’

An undoubtedly innovative force in pop music for the past 15 years, Charli XCX doesn’t put a foot wrong on her fourth album, CRASH. Not only one of the best albums of 2022, but also her most radio-friendly offering to date, it sees Charli grapple with UK garage (Beg For You) and even disco-funk (Yuck). Bursting with confidence and assertive lyrics that show she means business, CRASH is arguably the most immediate and streamlined project Charli XCX has ever gifted us. Her first UK No.1 album, it’s clear the record will be remembered as a career high point – judging by all the dance lessons she is said to have taken for its lavish music videos, her hard work seems to have paid off. For a long time now, Charli XCX has proven herself one of the UK’s most experimental pop treasures, and with CRASH we truly get to see her shine.

Must hear: Baby

You’ve heard the best new albums of the year, now find out the best reissues of 2022.

Original article: 28 April 2022

Updated: 8 July 2022, 17 October 2022, 18 December 2022

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