Top Albums of 2022

2022 was a plethora of musical riches. There were amazing new albums from artists of all genres and all corners of the world. From veterans to new artists just starting to make a name for themselves, these are the releases that stood out as complete bodies of works with the most memorable and meaningful songs. The albums that will be worth returning to years down the line. These are our Top Albums of 2022.

  1. Gang of YouthsAngel in Realtime

Angel in Realtime was everything an album should be. Epic scope, painfully honest storytelling, and powerful songwriting. Written about the death and unburied secrets of frontman David Le’aupepe’s father, the songs here deal with love, grief, regret, acceptance and healing in ways that feel intimate, even as the songs reach stadium heights. First single “the angel of 8th ave” is a breathtaking rock number with a romantic heart (“I want to lay you down and be lover of the year”), with a fantastic hook and incredible energy. On the other end of the spectrum there’s the haunting “tend the garden”, told from the point of view of Le’aupepe’s father. One of the most powerful tracks, “forbearance” finds Le’aupepe breaking down at the bedside of his dying father, and processing his regrets over a past suicide attempt (“If the whole thing was fair, it would be me who was fighting for air”). It’s songwriting like this that solidifies Gang of Youths as not only one of the greatest Australian rock bands, but simply one of the best rock bands out there today.

2. Frank TurnerFTHC

From the very first note of Frank Turner‘s FTHC, it’s clear Turner has returned to his punk rock roots, and throughout the album he sounds completely reenergized. Partially due to the return of live shows and the pandemic’s end, the songs here are made to get the audience going nuts (and “The Gathering” is an ode to that communal live experience). But Turner also gets very personal here, tackling his broken relationship with his father (“Fatherless”) and the healing of that relationship as his father comes out as transgender (“Miranda”). Turner embodies all of our feelings during the pandemic on “Haven’t Been Doing so Well”, and writes one of his most memorable anthems on “Perfect Score”. And on “A Wave Across a Bay”, Turner manages to empathize with his lost friend Scott Hutchinson, turning the late Frightened Rabbit singer’s suicide into a beautiful and moving tribute. FTHC is simply top notch songwriting from one of the UK’s best punk troubadours.

3. Black Thought x Danger MouseCheat Codes

It need to be said that The RootsBlack Thought is an incredible MC, and that Danger Mouse an amazing producer, but the combination of the two of them working together on Cheat Codes still exceeded expectations. Black Thought‘s lyrics remain as insightful and powerful as ever (“A lotta n****s probably gotta see psychologists/To understand why we wallowing where the bottom is”), and when paired with the soulful production and samples Danger Mouse brings to the table, the duo create an iconoclastic vibe that bleeds cool. It doesn’t hurt that they are joined by some incredible guests (Killer Mike‘s verse on “Strangers” kills, while Michael Kiwanuka provides a stunning chorus on “Aquamarine”). There’s also a perfect cohesion to the songs here, truly making this feel like an album. Here’s hoping there are future collaborations from this duo to come.

4. The InterruptersIn the Wild

Proving the success of their previous album was far from a fluke, SoCal ska-punks The Interrupters came back with the best album of their career with In the Wild. The band showed a greater range than ever before, moving beyond the typical ska-punk sound, incorporating dub (“Kiss the Ground”), soul (“Burdens”) and balladry (“Love Never Dies”) into their repertoire, while front woman Aimee Interrupter dug deep into her battles with mental health (“In the Mirror”) and her troubled childhood (the incredible “Raised by Wolves”) to write some of her best lyrics. And of course, there are still fantastic hooks and crowd-ready choruses to make these all potential future live staples (I’m looking at you “Jailbird”). Anyone who says ska is dead has clearly never listened to this band, who are keeping it alive and strong.

5. A Wilhelm ScreamLose Your Delusion

I was only lightly familiar with A Wilhelm Scream‘s music prior to this year, a band that has been around nearly twenty years. Better late than never, because Lose Your Delusion is a wild rock masterpiece. Every song is a powerhouse of propulsive, pulsating punk that forgoes traditional verse-chorus-verse structure while still heaping in brash hooks and addictive gang vocals. And it’s not just pure riffage on display; there’s intricate bass solos (“Yo Canada”), shimmering guitar lines (“Figure Eights in My Head”) and meta John Mellencamp references (“…and at the risk of being sued, well ain’t that America?”). “I’m Gonna Work it Out” swells to anthemic heights, and the energized “GIMMETHESHAKES” creates a buzz that’s impossible to shake. There’s always something new to pick out from the lyrics on repeat listens, so if you haven’t had your first listen of this album yet, get to it.

6. Bedouin SoundclashWe Will Meet in a Hurricane

After the incredible MASS in 2019, Bedouin Soundclash thankfully did not keep fans waiting another nine years for an album. We Will Meet in a Hurricane finds the band close to where they last left off, which is a great place to start from. The group has managed to find a way to combine various influences and styles in ways that make them indescribable and impossible to classify in any way that would do them justice. While the breezy “Walk Through Fire” is a coasting slice of island ska (with a truly fire verse from Aimee Interrupter), tracks like “Birds of a Feather” mix in elements of afropop and psychedelia into the reggae rock hybrid with no piece ever sounding out of place. UK group The Skints join in for the upbeat pop number “Shine On”, and “Man from Cascades” makes the case that Bedouin Soundclash should be given a shot at scoring a spaghetti western. The band’s innovation is constantly inspiring, and the results always touch on brilliance.

7. Jamie TThe Theory of Whatever

One of the best surprises this year was getting a new album from British punk/pub rocker Jamie T. Having been a fan since Panic Prevention, a new album from the man is always welcome, and he continues to show growth on The Theory of Whatever. First single “The Old Style Raiders” took a minute to grow on me, but as I absorbed it and read the lyrics, the track became one of my favorite anthems of the year (“Toe the line, hard to find. Told to fight for something you loved in life” hit like a bullet). For the old school Jamie T fan, there were still catchy, caffeinated rockers like “Between the Rocks”, but Jamie now ventured into more delicate compositions (“St. George Wharf Tower”), darker electro-alternative (“Keying Lamborghinis”) and moody lounge (“The Terror of Lambeth Love”). Jamie T is no one-trick-pony, but even as he ventures into new sonic arenas, he never lets go of that famous young punk spirit that made him so great to begin with.

8. Rocky VotolatoWild Roots

After a long absence, singer-songwriter Rocky Votolato returned this year with one of his most beautiful and moving albums of his career. An album of love and loss, Votolato has never sounded more vulnerable or as confident as he does here. Opener “Evergreen” is a somber, haunting acoustic number with exceptional lyrics (“Grief celebrates as we dance on a stage 
of desolation days” is just one small taste). There is so much heart on this record, especially on the heartbreaking “Becoming Human”, written in honor of his son who died tragically in a car crash last year. Wild Roots is a processing of grief, but not without moments of hope. “There is a Light” finds connection in the dark, while “Breakwater” is at once nostalgic (“We were always taking damage but never defeated”) and looking forward (“and the best part is still ahead of us”). It’s a record that is entirely human, and one any human should listen to.

9. New Junk CityBeg a Promise

The first time I heard “Rosey”, the first single from Atlanta’s New Junk City, I knew I had found a special new band. This was a band with melodic and songwriting chops miles ahead of their peers, able to fit incredible narrative songwriting with universal sentiments of heartbreak, hope and the general ponderances of life into songs that have the effortless melodicism of groups like the Gin Blossoms with a modern pop-punk sensibility. Songs like “High Contrast” and “Last Looks” are the rare punk songs with a positive outlook on life and the future (“I’ve got everything I need. I’ve got a life I finally want, and I can start to believe”). It’s an album that makes you feel good, and as the songs ingrain themselves into your consciousness, the joy of singing along to them only intensifies. New Junk City are a hidden treasure deserving of discovery.

10. Kendrick LamarMr. Morale & the Big Steppers

The moment I first listened to Kendrick Lamar‘s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, I knew the album would win all of the Grammys next year (he received eight nominations, including Album of the Year). The double album finds Lamar addressing everything from generational trauma to his uncle transition into his aunt, and does so with a thoughtfulness and grace that is unmatched. And honestly, this is an album that could be studied and dissected as part of a college course because of all the layers to unpack. Even the more uncomfortable tracks, like the back and forth battle in “We Cry Together”, stem from a real place in the culture of broken people in broken relationships. And the power in “Mother I Sober”, as Lamar addresses breaking the cycle of trauma, has brought tears to many an eye. Whether you’re a rap fan or not, this is a masterwork that will still be discussed for years to come.

11. Sea GirlsHomesick

Britpop group write the kind of sticky-sweet melodies and hooks that make every song sound like a potential single. And you’ll never get sick of listening to “Sick”.

12. Unwritten LawThe Hum

The SoCal rockers returned after a nine year absence sounding reenergized, with their best album since Elva twenty years ago. Tracks like “Magnetic” and “Beggars” stand with their best, and any old school fan will get a thrill hearing Cailin Russo join her dad on a cover of Fleetwood Mac‘s “Little Lies”.

13. Surf CurseMagic Hour

The indie rock duo expanded to a four piece for their latest album, and busted out a full-on rock album. Tracks like “Sugar” charge on all cylinders, and “Fear City” throws in a frighteningly good sax solo to give the track that extra edge up.

14. Matt NathansonBoston Accent

The singer-songwriter’s latest album is less outwardly pop, but still sneaks into your consciousness with subtle, enduring hooks and a lyrical acumen that any songwriter should be envious of.

15. Coheed and CambriaVaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind

The prog/emo band returned with another sci-fi indebted epic that had some of the band’s most accessible songs in ages. “The Liars Club” goes to stadium levels, while “Rise, Naianasha (Cut the Cord)” bursts with warmth even through the complex narrative.

16. OndaraSpanish Villager No. 3

The Kenyan immigrant’s latest concept album explores the immigrant experience through the eye of a fictional immigrant, but the insight and views of our troubled world are packed with honestly. An exceptional folk record for our modern age.

17. Eddie VedderEarthling

The Pearl Jam frontman’s latest solo work writing great road songs (“Long Way”), mourning Chris Cornell (“Brother Cloud”), and sounding like he’s having more fun than ever before (The Stevie Wonder-assisted “Try”). Produced by hitmaker Andrew Watt, Vedder’s latest is a solid rock opus all the way through.

18. Panda Bear & Sonic BoomReset

The enigmatic Animal Collective member teamed with the Spacemen 3 founder and the results are an indie-pop beach album drawing influences from Brian Wilson and even mariachi music.

19. Camp CopeRunning With the Hurricane

The Australian indie trio’s latest has the kind of sweeping pop songs that made Fleetwood Mac a household name, with soulful vocals that enhance every track.

20. Nathan Gray & The Iron RosesRebel Songs

The prolific punk songwriter continues to show an astounding skill in writing uplifting, powerful songs with political leanings, while throwing in a few new influences (including a rap breakdown from Iron Roses member Eugenius). Tracks like “Look Alive” shuffle in ways Gray has never explored, and “That Said” acts as a perfect closure both narratively and sonically for the album.

21. StereophonicsOochya!

The Welsh rock band sound more classic than ever, with tracks that belie the romantic heart at the band’s center (“Right Place Right Time”). Songs like “Forever” swoon and soar, while “Made a Mess of Me” and “Don’t Know What Ya Got” are foot stomping rockers.

22. Ryan AdamsChris

After his #MeToo-induced hiatus, songwriter Ryan Adams returned in 2022 with hopes of redemption and four albums of new material, much of which was strong. The best of them was Chris, with Adams’ leaning into his rock side, while still striking emotional chords.

23. Jean DawsonCHAOS NOW*

The rising genre-bending artist showed he could just as easily write a pretty, country-leaning track (“PIRATE RADIO*”) as he could a full-throttle head banger (“THREE HEADS*”). And while he may not identify as a punk, tracks like “SICK OF IT*” and “KIDS EAT PILLS*” have deservingly gotten him a spot on next year’s When We Were Young Fest.

24. Broken BellsInto the Blue

The James Mercer/Danger Mouse collaboration may finally have surpassed Mercer’s day job in The Shins with this spacey, ethereal opus. “We’re Not in Orbit Yet…” drifts with a haunting melancholy, while “Saturday” adds more bounce to their formula.

25. Ace HoodM.I.N.D.

The Florida rapper finds glory on “Glory” and greatness on “Greatness”, as he “creates his own light in the dark” through his incredible flow and thoughtful commentary on the violence in our society and his own personal battles with fear and doubt.

Listen to all of these incredible albums in our Top Albums of 2022 Playlist on Spotify or Apple Music!

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