Welp, another year is in the bag. And it wasn’t quite as…hellish(?)…as the past few? I guess that’s debatable. But what’s not up for debate is the quantity of amazing music released this year. As we compiled our list of the best albums of 2022, two themes stuck out: Artists that had previously toed the line of greatness finally breaking through with career-defining albums (MUNA, Denzel Curry, Future Teens) and artists returning to form in unexpected ways (Panic! at the Disco, The Wonder Years, The 1975).
Whatever the case may be, it was a year to be delighted and surprised by sounds by artists that have provided joy to us in years past and those we will assuredly be singing along to for years to come. Take a look at our list below – and as always – share your favorite albums of the year with us in the replies!
15. The Early November – Twenty
Twenty is an album that explores what it means to mature by reflecting on the material that has been cut from albums throughout the band’s career. Each song traces a different era, album, and sound that has helped define The Early November for two decades. In doing so, Twenty showcases a legacy of personal and professional growth, as well as the evolution of the genre’s sound stylistically. Twenty isn’t great because it finally reveals breakout gems long hidden away. It’s magical because it embraces the youthfulness of sloppy songwriting, lyrics written by someone just learning the art (“Pretty Pretty”), and explores the evolutionary path of sound from the crunchy emo of 2000 (“Make It Happen”) to the polished and introspective pop that has defined Ace Enders’ enduring career as a songwriter (“My Own Dialogue”). – Kyle Schultz
14. Mitski – Laurel Hell
Laurel Hell was the first album I wrote about this year, and it was one of my most anticipated. It not only lived up to the hype, but surpassed it. Mitski is one of the best songwriters of our generation. Every time I put on one of her albums, I feel privileged. The album is rich in lyricism and poetry, not unlike other Mitski albums, but here it felt more serious. Lyrics like “I always knew the world moves on / I just didn’t know it would go without me”, convey feelings I’ve had before, and yet here it was so plainly put before me. This album was a constant for me this year in a very fast-changing world. Mitski has a way of tying together her lyrics with her instrumentation the likes I hadn’t seen before listening to her music. Almost a year later, I still get excited to hear the opening notes of this album. – Nadia Alves
13. Underoath – Voyeurist
For a band that has been as prolific as any during their 20-year existence, the four years between Underoath’s 2018 comeback album Erase Me and January’s Voyeurist felt like an eternity. Certainly, a lot happened in our world during that time, but the Tampa hardcore stalwarts used the time for some soul-searching that resulted in the best heavy music release of the year. In a way, Voyeurist, harkens back to the band’s heyday in the mid 2000’s, full of post-hardcore ragers and moments of eerie electronic experiments. But this album is anything but a replica – it’s a document that captures Underoath where they are in this moment as friends, artists, and humans. It is punishing and unrelenting in its existential questions, finding an unexpected solace in the absence of answers. – Kiel Hauck
12. Pinkshift – Love Me Forever
Pinkshift’s debut album seemingly exploded out of nowhere. A perfect blend of punk, emo, and the type of flare that made My Chemical Romance a stand-out, Pinkshift find the perfect balance of aggression and vulnerability. Songs like “the kids aren’t alright” manage to encapsulate the stress of modern living while the piano-driven “in a breath” plays with goth imagery and showcases singer Ashrita Kumar’s vocal ability to dizzying effect. Love Me Forever takes the best of what punk has to offer and infuses it with the aggression of youth and the passion of a group making their mark in a genre easy to get lost in. – Kyle Schultz
11. Florence and the Machine – Dance Fever
I am head over heels for Florence and the Machine. Regardless of what they come up with, I am bound to not only enjoy, but throw myself headfirst into whatever aesthetic and mood they’re trying to convey with their latest offering. With Dance Fever, Florence and company have tried to usher us into a new era, apart from the tragedies of the years since we last heard from them in 2018’s High As Hope. Songs about femininity, losing ourselves in song to drown out what is around us, and finding our way back into ourselves round out one of Florence and the Machine’s most sonically exciting and breathtaking albums yet. This was one of the albums I pre-ordered going into this year and it still sits in my disc drive eight months later. – Nadia Alves
10. Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future
One of the many incredible things about Melt My Eyez See Your Future, the fifth studio album from Denzel Curry, is that it feels as though it could have existed in so many different eras without feeling the least bit out of place. First and foremost, Curry is a great rapper, winding lyrics so intricately woven and thought-provoking that he’s often off to the next bar before you’ve had a chance to fully digest his words. It’s a self-reflective and moody album, backed perfectly by raw and sometimes hauntingly sparse, drum-driven beats that pay homage to great rap albums of the past without sounding dated. A vulnerable and powerful collection of songs created by an artist finally stepping into his well-deserved moment in the limelight. – Kiel Hauck
9. Taylor Swift – Midnights
Midnights is the first album from Taylor Swift that feels unpolished. Hovering somewhere in a Venn diagram between Reputation, 1989, and folklore, Midnights struggles more than any other work from Swift to find its own identity. But in doing so, it embraces every era of Taylor in a vulnerability unlike many of her other albums. The polish of an over-the-top pop album are juxtaposed against the softer tones and acoustic guitar of indie rock (“You’re On Your Own, Kid”) to create a mood in and of itself. Midnights revels in themes of anxiety (“Anti-Hero”) and the fairytale-like romanticism of her early career (“Snow on the Beach”). It appropriately follows the bouncing thoughts of sensationalism and doubt that haunt us all in equal measure like a daydream (“Sweet Nothing”).. – Kyle Schultz
8. Valleyheart – Heal My Head
Valleyheart was my top artist this year, and Spotify said I spent 573 minutes listening to them. Even though I wasn’t particularly surprised at that, it didn’t feel like nine-and-a-half hours. It felt like nothing at all. Valleyheart’s Heal My Head is smooth and fiercely listenable. I let the album play through again and again and didn’t even register it. The album is complex, it’s raw. It’s full of emotion and ambition. It’s a worthy sophomore full-length from a band that has plenty of miles left to go and sonic ground to cover. A major theme I felt throughout my favorite projects this year was finding positivity in darkness, and this was definitely an album that stood out to me as successfully channeling that, and it did so effortlessly. – Nadia Alves
7. Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry
Pusha T has never been one to wane in confidence. Even so, it oozes from every corner of his self-proclaimed masterpiece, It’s Almost Dry. Four years ago, Push cemented his legacy as one of hip hop’s greatest with Daytona. Here, he leans harder than ever into his own mythos as a drug kingpin anti-hero, hell bent on spinning his raps into virtuosic stories that highlight and solidify his rise to greatness. It only adds to the magic that his two longtime collaborators (Pharrell Williams and Kanye West) split production credits across the album, adding an even deeper historical layer to Push’s claim to the throne. – Kiel Hauck
6. The Wonder Years – The Hum Goes On Forever
Not content with having helped define the sound of pop punk for the entirety of the 2010s, The Hum Goes On Forever finally perfects The Wonder Years. While still enjoyable, the band’s last few efforts have fallen flat at times. However, THGOF proves that those stumbles were building the bridge that connects the opus of classic sound (The Greatest Generation) and the edgier, mature sound (Sister Cities) of a band pushing the boundaries of genre in the direction it was always meant to. In many ways a sister album to fan-favorite The Greatest Generation, THGOF revisits questions and themes addressed a decade ago about leading in a world of despair, fighting against depression (“Low Tide”) and the ever-looming doubt that haunts us all. Revisiting old names (“Oldest Daughter”) and finding new ways to rage with pride and hope (“The Paris of Nowhere”), THGOF finds meaning in the struggle that it will help the next generation thrive. Just as importantly, it shows that no matter the demons we battle, it’s worth keeping up with the fight for those we love (“Wyatt’s Song (Your Name)”) and ingraining them with hope. – Kyle Schultz
5. Future Teens – Self Help
I don’t think anyone but Kiel got to actually look at my review for this album. It never got posted, and even though I felt like I had so much to say about it, nothing ever felt right when I sat down to compile something cohesive. And I’ve come to realize I kept writing and re-writing and deleting and typing only for myself. I think I needed to spend some time self reflecting and Self Help really was that album for me this year. Each year, at least once, I come to the point where I say to myself, I think I’m finally over this. I finally get sick of reading about band members being terrible people and having few people to discuss the classics with. But then an album like this comes out and I realize there is no other place for me in music that fits me like a glove. This album was a balm for my heart this year, and I know my fondness will only grow over the years. Sometimes it only takes one band who wants to do good to restore my love and high regard for the scene. – Nadia Alves
4. MUNA – MUNA
One of the most delightful events in music this year was watching MUNA fully hit their stride. The stage was set last fall with the release of “Silk Chiffon” – a track that marked a stark shift in both tone and sound for a band that had remained on the cusp of a breakthrough. This self-titled release is more varied, more hopeful, and more self-assured than anything the band has put to tape. From the dance-filled synth pop excellence of “That’s What I want” and “Runner’s High” to the more patient and delicate sounds of “Home By Now” and “Anything But Me”, MUNA create a safe and exciting space to celebrate queer love. – Kiel Hauck
3. Panic! At the Disco – Viva Las Vengeance
Viva Las Vengeance is not for everyone, but for those willing to look beyond the topsoil will find a messy masterpiece of art. A melancholy mixture of broadway sensationalism (“Something About Maggie”) and a revenge album taking aim at Panic’s previously most controversial album, Pretty. Odd. (“Local God”), Brendon Urie finally lets loose the demons that have kept him awake at night for over a decade.
Heavily orchestrated and brimming with tempo changes and odd breaks, Viva Las Vengeance is a fever dream that strips back the veneer that has always covered Panic! At The Disco and exposes the raw nerve of anxiety, creativity, and vengeance that has driven Urie for so long. Equal parts art piece, concept album, and autobiography, the album holds nothing back, gives in to too many temptations, ignores conventions, and ignites a fire unlike anything else you will ever listen to.
Viva Las Vengeance fights the listener from song to song, challenging them to enjoy it, but Panic! At The Disco push through it with a confidence and sincerity rarely found in modern music. – Kyle Schultz
2. The 1975 – Being Funny in a Foreign Language
When I make my end-of-year list, I always fight between my favorite albums and the albums that are truly the best of the year. With Being Funny In a Foreign Language, The 1975 have managed to combine the two in what is easily my top mainstream album of the year. A stark turn-around from their last two, hugely experimental albums, Being Funny is a comfortable return to form for the band. It brings back the nostalgia of the early 2010s when all my friends and I could talk about was indie pop.
Production darling Jack Antonoff helped the guys with this one, and on tracks like “Oh Caroline” and “I’m In Love With You”, that fact is undeniable. They’ve put aside their computers for a full band, and they’ve taken everyone on tour with them. In fact, the end of their set is the classic band introduction as each member stops playing their respective instrument and leaves the stage, eventually leaving only frontman Matty Healy. It’s a group effort, but ultimately comes down to one guy who thinks he knows it all – He’s shown off in the past how much he knows about drugs and the fast life, but here he shows us how much he doesn’t know, and how much he is learning about being sincere. The foreign language here is love. – Nadia Alves
1. Stand Atlantic – F.E.A.R.
From the opening moments of F.E.A.R., it’s crystal clear that Stand Atlantic have something to prove. With the release of 2020’s near-perfect Pink Elephant, the Aussie pop punk band clearly hit another level. On F.E.A.R., though, vocalist Bonnie Fraser and the rest of the band are anything but satisfied.
The album’s 14 tracks move at a furious pace, as Fraser pours her anxieties and frustrations as an artist across a canvas that runs the gamut from fast-paced punk (“Molotov”, “Hair Out”) to more experimental rock sounds (“Dumb”, “Cabin Fever”). The result is one of the most dangerous and thrilling pop punk releases in years. Yet Fraser and company manage to tread this new ground without losing the deep sense of melody and catchiness that have launched them to the forefront of the genre.
Stand Atlantic’s insistence on bucking trends in favor of doing whatever the hell they want continues to serve them well, with F.E.A.R. delivering the ultimate unexpected payoff. The title, an acronym for “fuck everything and run,” captures the band’s current aesthetic – and honestly, most of our own states of mind – perfectly. – Kiel Hauck
Carly Rae Jepsen – The Lonliest Time
Kid Cudi – Entergalactic
Pale Waves – Unwanted
Wallows – Tell Me That It’s Over
L.S. Dunes – Past Lives
Posted by Kiel Hauck