Best albums of 2022

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Handout // Getty Images

Best albums of 2022

Some could call 2022 the comeback year for music artists. Others might even dub it the year COVID-19 seemingly backed down, no longer thwarting the thrill live music concertgoers have longed for since the world was brought to a momentary halt thanks to the global pandemic.

We’re calling it one of the most inspiring years in music yet.

Beyoncé emerged for the first time in six years with a house-themed LP chock full of Grammy-nominated club hits; armed with her guitar, indie crooner Angel Olsen returned with one of her most sobering and ambitious projects yet; and the Weeknd took us all on a supersonic radio road trip with an ’80s-inspired endeavor narrated by the one and only Jim Carrey.

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Needless to say, many artists produced some of their most cathartic, retrospective work this year. Some analyzed the impacts of isolation and mourned loss, while others chose nostalgia and escapism. But no matter how they decided to express themselves, 2022 gave us some exceptionally emotional, experimental, and captivating music from some of the biggest names in music and also introduced us to new artists who are making music unlike anyone else right now.

Stacker looked at all 2022 albums on Metacritic and highlighted the top 25, according to Metascore. Only albums with at least 7 reviews were considered. Ties were broken internally at Metacritic, where Metascore data goes two decimal points beyond what’s published. This list covers genres from hip-hop and pop to rock and country; there’s even an instrumental electro-jazz album.

Read on to see how many of these albums you’ve listened to already—and more importantly, perhaps, what to add to your queue.

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Alex Giannascoli, aka (Sandy) Alex G performing at Iron City on August 10, 2018 in Birmingham, Alabama.

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#25. ‘God Save the Animals’ by Alex G

– Metascore: 86
– Release date: Sept. 23

After delivering the fan-favorite “House of Sugar,” chock full of folk cafe jams like “Hope” and “Near,” Alex G returned with yet another critically acclaimed offering in “God Save the Animals.” Writing for Pitchfork, Arielle Gordon remarked that the Bandcamp star’s latest effort “wrings strange beauty from our non-human companions, grappling with innocence and its discontents through their saucer-eyed stares.”

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#24. ‘Life on Earth’ by Hurray for the Riff Raff

– Metascore: 87
– Release date: Feb. 18

Alynda Segarra has released eight albums under the moniker Hurray for the Riff Raff, and as the singer continues to evolve, so does her sound. What began as a folk project has become a sparkling homage to 1980s music heroes ranging from Bruce Springsteen to David Bowie.

Loyle Carner performing a secret set at the BBC Introducing tent at Reading Festival day 2 on August 27, 2022, in Reading, England.

Joseph Okpako // Getty Images

#23. ‘Hugo’ by Loyle Carner

– Metascore: 87
– Release date: Oct. 21

Loyle Carner is back at it—this time with his third studio album, “Hugo.” Across the album’s 10 tracks, the London rapper touches on themes of race, police brutality, and his personal struggles with dyslexia, and ADHD.

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#22. ‘Wet Leg’ by Wet Leg

– Metascore: 87
– Release date: April 8

Wet Leg became viral sensations in 2021, thanks to their single “Chaise Longue.” That kind of attention may frighten some, but not Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers. The indie rock duo’s self-titled debut exudes that same kind of catchy crudeness and garnered them some famous fans, including Harry Styles, who covered their song “Wet Dream” in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge.

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#21. ‘Electricity’ by Ibibio Sound Machine

– Metascore: 87
– Release date: March 25

“Electricity” is the first album by Ibibio Sound Machine made in collaboration with other producers. The troupe, led by vocalist Eno Williams, enlisted electropop masterminds Hot Chip for the project, and the result is a remarkable melding of West African funk, post-punk, disco, and pop.

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#20. ‘For You Who Are the Wronged’ by Kathryn Joseph

– Metascore: 87
– Release date: April 22

Kathryn Joseph’s first two albums are painfully personal and speak on individual stories of trauma and loss. On her latest album, “For You Who Are the Wronged,” the Scottish singer-songwriter takes those concepts and delivers them in a more general sense, reaching out a hand to whoever might need it.

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#19. ‘This Is a Photograph’ by Kevin Morby

– Metascore: 87
– Release date: May 13

“This Is a Photograph” sees Kevin Morby grappling with the concept of death. The subject matter may be dark, but the singer-songwriter has such a way with words that makes his seventh studio album stand out from the rest.

Makaya McCraven performing at North Sea Jazz Festival on July 7, 2017, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

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#18. ‘In These Times’ by Makaya McCraven

– Metascore: 87
– Release date: Sept. 23

Jazz drummer Makaya McCraven draws on inspiration from 1970s jazz funk beats for “In these Times.” On the song “Dream Another,” there’s snippets of the flute sound while Brandee Younger’s harp plays fluidly over the tracks. McCraven released his debut album, “Yesterday’s Gone,” in 2017.

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#17. ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You’ by Big Thief

– Metascore: 87
– Release date: Feb. 11

“Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” is as ambitious in its sound as it was to make. Big Thief’s 20-song double album was recorded throughout five months in four different locations. It’s a lot to take in, and while that might be a negative for other acts, the folk rockers are able to keep your attention for the full 80 minutes.

Bass player Sean Dean, guitarist Travis Good, and singer Dallas Good of The Sadies performing onstage at Golden Gate Park on October 3, 2015, in San Francisco, California.

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#16. ‘Colder Streams’ by The Sadies

– Metascore: 88
– Release date: July 22

Through the pain of losing their bandmate, Dallas Good, who died earlier this year from a coronary condition, the Sadies still pulled together to create “Colder Streams,” a tribute to Good, who co-founded the group in 1994 with his brother Travis. In “Colder Streams,” the quartet displays their already diversified musical sound—comprised of rock, pop, country, and psychedelic beats. Dallas’ penned words can be heard across several tracks, including “More Alone.”

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#15. ‘Dawn FM’ by The Weeknd

– Metascore: 88
– Release date: Jan. 7

The Weeknd’s fifth album, “Dawn FM,” was conceptualized around listening to a retro-pop radio station in purgatory. That concept was executed with precision—complete with parody commercials and the R&B star’s real-life neighbor Jim Carrey playing a DJ—and resulted in the Weeknd’s most thoughtful and melodic project to date.

Bill Callahan performing live during a concert at the Admiralspalast on October 8, 2019, in Berlin, Germany.

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#14. ‘YTILAER’ by Bill Callahan

– Metascore: 88
– Release date: Oct. 14

In his latest musical endeavor, “Ytilaer”—”reality” spelled backwards—Bill Callahan renders a range of emotions: from introspection and raw emotion on songs like “Lily,” about a dying mother, to more lighthearted tunes like “Natural Information,” about his infant daughter and the creation of how the song was made. Callahan’s previous album, “Gold Record,” was released in 2020.

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#13. ‘Big Time’ by Angel Olsen

– Metascore: 88
– Release date: June 3

On her first five albums, fans have seen Angel Olsen transform from a folk rock darling to baroque poet. On her sixth effort, “Big Time,” the singer-songwriter transforms herself once more, letting her country influences shine like never before.

Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood performing during Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park on October 04, 2019, in Austin, Texas.

Erika Goldring // Getty Images

#12. ‘And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow’ by Weyes Blood

– Metascore: 88
– Release date: Nov. 18

Natalie Mering, better known as Weyes Blood, released her first single, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” and already has tour dates scheduled for December. Among the songs on the LP is “Grapevine,” a personal story for Mering inspired by her breakup with a narcissist during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nina Nastasia performing live at All Tomorrows Parties at Butlins Holiday Centre in Minehead.

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#11. ‘Riderless Horse’ by Nina Nastasia

– Metascore: 89
– Release date: July 22

After a 12-year music hiatus, Nina Nastasia has returned with her seventh studio album, “Riderless Horse.” The project somewhat fills her listeners in on what’s been going on in her life—from her abusive relationship with former manager and musical collaborator Kennan Gudjonsson, who is no longer alive, to coping with grief in other areas of her life. In August, the alternative indie artist performed for the first time in over a decade at Union Pool in Brooklyn, New York.

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#10. ‘Feeding the Machine’ by Binker & Moses

– Metascore: 89
– Release date: Feb. 25

“Feeding the Machine” sees free-jazz saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd team up with modular synth manipulator Max Luthert. The result is an atmospheric collection of six instrumental songs that clocks in at nearly 50 minutes in length.

Sudan Archives performing at End Of The Road Festival at Larmer Tree Gardens on September 01, 2022, in Salisbury, England.

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#9. ‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’ by Sudan Archives

– Metascore: 89
– Release date: Sept. 9

Brittney Parks, known under the stage name Sudan Archives, takes listeners on a ride of myriad sounds with her second album, “Natural Brown Prom Queen.” Inspired by a range of musical genres such as hip-hop, R&B, and Afro Beats, the Ohio native is determined to create music on her terms. While in Los Angeles, the songwriter and violinist landed a meeting with a Stones Throw Records record executive and has been freely experimenting with her musical style ever since.

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#8. ‘Heart Under’ by Just Mustard

– Metascore: 89
– Release date: May 27

It took Just Mustard four years to release the follow-up to their debut album, “Wednesday,” but “Heart Under” picks up where it left off. The Irish shoegaze quintet build a wall of sound on their sophomore album, broken only by singer Katie Ball’s hypnotizing voice.

Florist performing at DrkMttr in Nashville, TN, during the group's 2022 US tour.

Silvia Josefina Lombardo // Wikimedia Commons

#7. ‘Florist’ by Florist

– Metascore: 89
– Release date: July 29

Folk band Florist are continually inspired by their decadelong friendship. The foursome—comprised of members Emily Sprague, Felix Walworth, Rick Spataro, and Jonnie Baker—released their self-titled album, “Florist,” featuring such singles as “43,” a calming melody (the group’s signature style) where Sprague’s voice floats over the track. Florist also caught the attention of megastar Beyoncé, who used the instrumentals of the band’s 2016 song “Thank You” for her “Homecoming” Netflix documentary.

Taylor Skye and Georgia Ellery of Jockstrap performing at Islington Assembly Hall on October 27, 2021, in London, England.

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#6. ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ by Jockstrap

– Metascore: 89
– Release date: Sept. 9

London-based duo Jockstrap released their debut studio album, “I Love You Jennifer B,” with the first single, “Glasgow,” showcasing bandmember Georgia Ellery’s vocals and violin strings fusing with fellow bandmate Taylor Skye’s acoustic beats. The album, as suggested in the title, is a series of love letters with open-hearted emotions and a range of sounds.

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Beyonce performing on stage during the "On the Run II" Tour.

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#5. ‘Renaissance’ by Beyoncé

– Metascore: 91
– Release date: July 29

Beyoncé, known for her R&B and hip-hop sound, took a different approach with her seventh studio album, “Reanissance.” On “Renaissance,” Beyoncé fuses elements of disco and house music, with the album’s leader, “Break My Soul,” extracting Robin S.’s ’90s classic “Show Me Love.” “Break My Soul” reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, becoming Beyoncé’s first solo chart-topper in 14 years since 2008’s “Single Ladies.”

Nas performing on stage on the final night of the "New York State of Mind Tour" at PETCO Park on October 06, 2022, in San Diego, California.

Daniel Knighton // Getty Images

#4. ‘King’s Disease III’ by Nas

– Metascore: 92
– Release date: Nov. 11

For his 15th studio album, “King’s Disease III,” and fourth consecutive LP produced by Hit-Boy, Nas raps in typical New York fashion about being the King of New York. The effort also sees the emcee spitting knowledge while delving into history, giving nods to historical icons and change agents like Maya Angelous. Elsewhere on the project, on tracks like “Ghetto Reporter,” Nas raps about the frustrations of the music industry and his evolution as an artist. His 2021 prequel, “King’s Disease,” won the recording artist his first Grammy Award, claiming the trophy for Best Rap Album.

Burak Cingi // Getty Images

#3. ‘Ants from Up There’ by Black Country, New Road

– Metascore: 92
– Release date: Feb. 4

Black Country, New Road’s sophomore album, “Ants from Up There,” is a chamber pop masterpiece—think Arcade Fire’s “Funeral” but with a jazz influence. However, just days before its release, singer-guitarist Isaac Wood announced his departure from the group. Though it’s unclear how the now six-piece band plans to continue without him, there’s been no talk of a full disbandment.

Leon Neal // Getty Images

#2. ‘Supernova’ by Nova Twins

– Metascore: 92
– Release date: June 17

Nova Twins bring nu metal to a whole new level on their sophomore album, “Supernova.” The English rock duo, consisting of vocalist-guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South, dared to experiment more this time around—and it paid off.

Arturo Holmes // Getty Images

#1. ‘Motomami’ by Rosalía

– Metascore: 94
– Release date: March 18

Rosalía soared to international fame after releasing her Grammy-winning sophomore album, “El Mal Querer,” in 2018. Her genius struck again with “Motomami,” a 16-track project packed with bops, from the sticky-sweet “Candy” to the risque and sensual “Hentai.” After sweeping the Latin Grammys earlier this year, “Motomami” may just secure the Spanish chanteuse’s first Grammy Award (Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album) at next year’s ceremony.

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