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Under the Radar’s Top 100 Albums of 2022 Part 1

Dec 23, 2022
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Are things back to normal in 2022? They are, aren’t they? Well not quite. In the past year we eased out of the pandemic, but COVID-19 is still around and still deadly to some (just look at what’s happening in China, now that their long national lockdown has lifted). The pandemic door has been left ajar, rather than fully closed. We put the chaos for the Trump administration in the rearview only for us to relive it via the very necessary January 6th Commission and the specter of the former president running again in 2024 (if he’s not barred from doing so or even in jail). And while Biden’s administration has been fairly steady and helped lead the Democrats to an unexpectedly strong showing in the midterm elections, over in the UK chaos has reigned with no less than three different prime ministers in one year (Liz Truss being the shortest serving prime ministers in British history), the death of the Queen, strikes across the country, and a recent poll having a majority of Brits admitting that Brexit was a mistake.

Those of us who grew up during the tale end of the Cold War and the beginning of perestroika have not been totally surprised that Russia has become a major adversary to the West again in the last decade, but it was still shocking when Russian President Vladimir Putin followed through with his threats to invade Ukraine. On top of the terrible toll on the Ukrainian people and its extraordinary President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the war has destabilized financial markets worldwide and helped lead to massive inflation, with all this talk from financial experts of a possible recession next year seemingly willing such a thing into existence.

After the last few years of the pandemic and all the political upheaval worldwide, the massive right and left divisions in this country and in others, it leaves one wondering if the events of every single year felt this monumental to our younger selves and to our ancestors. Certainly there have been other eras of even greater turmoil (World War II, the 1960s), but will things ever feel truly normal again?

Musicians continued to find their footing in 2022, with live shows and festivals pretty much back to normal and free of major COVID restrictions. Still, many musicians were finding it more expensive than ever to tour this year, in large part because of inflation, but also because of the unfair financial cuts some venues were taking of merchandise sales. With it being hard for indie artists to make much money from streaming or record sales in recent years, this year touring also became a less reliable source of income, with bands such as Animal Collective cancelling whole tours because they knew they’d lose money. 2022 also saw a slew of albums written and recorded during the pandemic, with some lyrics betraying their lockdown inspiration. Ben Gibbard, for example, sang about missing strangers on Death Cab For Cutie’s return-to-form, Asphalt Meadows, a lyric likely written at a time when interacting with strangers could prove deadly.

Asphalt Meadows lands at #12 on Under the Radar’s Top 100 Albums of 2022 list. Prior to June 2021, we had never even heard of the band that made it to #1 on our list, so meteoric was their rise. The rest of the list is filled with some familiar faces to be sure, but some other debut albums are peppered throughout our Top 100. To arrive at such a list, 23 of our writers and editors (including myself and my co-publisher/wife Wendy Redfern) submitted ballots of their 45 favorite albums of 2022, listed in order of preference from first to last. They were submitted via a Google Sheets spreadsheet that helped tabulate the eventual list. An album had to be picked by at least three or four writers to make the list (19 of our writers had our #1 album on their list and it was the clear winner of the vote, getting 100 more points than our #2). Then we worked out the Top 94 albums and held a separate vote to determine which albums should round out the bottom six, with our writers deciding between 21 albums that could make the bottom of the list. Some albums that almost made the list include (in no particular order) ones by GIFT, Tomberlin, Crack Cloud, Broken Bells, Skullcrusher, Sam Prekop and John McEntire, Just Mustard, Florence + The Machine, Warpaint, Cheekface, The Weeknd, Maggie Rogers, Craig Finn, The Orielles, and My Idea. Consider those honorable mentions.

As the next year dawns, I’ve already heard some January to March albums that will surely make our Top 100 Albums of 2023 list. It’s already shaping up to be another great year for new music. But it’s been exhausting living through history, so can 2023 please just be a boring year?

1

Wet Leg

Wet Leg

Domino

Some commentators would probably believe it somewhat inevitable that Wet Leg would pick up the coveted number one slot for this year’s best album bearing in mind the furor surrounding the duo’s first two singles. But let’s flip that on its head and look at it another way. Not many acts would be able to follow up two glorious 45s as “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream” with an album full of bangers, all of the same caliber. Indeed, there are no fillers or “skippers” as they’re predominantly called in the digital age among the 12 songs that make up Wet Leg. Instead, the duo—Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers—have created one of the most delightful debut albums of the 21st century and already elevated themselves to Academy venue and festival headline status (in the UK at least) after one headline tour and a summer’s worth of slots.

So, the sky is undoubtedly the achievable limit for Wet Leg, and while the doubters might argue that the proof in the pudding as to whether they have any longevity lies with the second album, this is as fine a collection of songs as any released in 2022 and is therefore fully deserving of its place at the top of Under the Radar’s end of year tree. By Dom Gourlay

2

Weyes Blood

And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Sub Pop

When following after one of the best albums of the last decade, the greatest praise one can offer Weyes Blood’s And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow is that it manages to reach the same celestial heights as its predecessor, 2019’s Titanic Rising. With the second record in her planned trilogy, Natalie Mering expands her songwriting outward, offering meditations on love and togetherness as the only paths forward through today’s turbulent era.

In other hands, this vision could feel heavy-handed and saccharine, but Mering animates the record with deep empathy, gentle nostalgia, and abiding melancholy that gives the album the ring of truth. The specter of environmental collapse that loomed over Titanic Rising arrives in full effect on Mering’s latest effort as she struggles to eulogize a world she still prays is not lost. These are songs written for the waning days of history.

Meanwhile, Mering continues her stylistic update on ’70s Laurel Canyon folk and lush chamber pop, but this time gives the instrumentals greater space to unfold. Her flawless arrangements lilt and sway, gently blossoming from serene piano-led meditations into cinematic sweeps of sound and color. Mering’s songwriting continually rewards those who are willing to sit and wait with her, offering both a warm companion through life’s troubles and a wellspring of transcendent musical beauty. By Caleb Campbell

3

Beach House

Once Twice Melody

Sub Pop

On their eighth LP, Beach House execute a mid-career victory lap. Released in four monthly installments throughout the end of 2021 into early 2022, Once Twice Melody is a tome-like collection of the band’s most inspiring textures arranged into 18 brand-new, stunning tracks. With Beach House making it ever more difficult to top their preceding album, it was a wonder how they would follow the gothic masterpiece of 2018’s 7. Yet, despite its heft, the record finds the band exploring even deeper into their now legendary sound. Through the haze of “Illusion of Forever” and the heightened bliss of “New Romance,” we find dreamy sonic callbacks. The synth lines soar as they always have and the drum machine pulses fly down the train tracks endlessly. Meanwhile, “Pink Funeral” and “Masquerade” dive into darker caves than dream pop has ever dwelt, while “Sunset” begs you to bask in the day’s last glow amongst a siege of warm acoustic guitar chords. Everywhere you turn in the scopic, sensory maze of Once Twice Melody you are reminded why Beach House are among humanity’s most daring duos. By Paul Veracka

4

Alvvays

Blue Rev

Polyvinyl

There are many reasons to love Alvvays’ Blue Rev. For some, it could be the Canadian band’s folding of shoegaze (“Pharmacist”) and punk (“Pomeranian Spinster”) into their signature dream pop sound. For others, it could be Molly Rankin’s vocals, which are at once tender and seething as she rails about breakups (“Easy On Your Own?”) and unseemly tragedy (“After the Earthquake”). There are many more reasons, and none of them are wrong.

Blue Rev is Alvvays at their most urgent, immersive, and inventive: only a handful of these songs run over three minutes. But they can grow from hushed moments into roaring rock (“Belinda Says”) or capture power pop at both its most glowing and peppy (“Velveteen”). Blue Rev mimics our best and worst memories, leaving us floored with enough emotion and resonance to stick with us for the long haul. By Carlo Thomas

5

The Smile

A Light For Attracting Attention

XL

The best three-piece bands are like three-legged stools. The most minimal structure to stand upright, but still surprisingly stable on uneven ground. In this case The Smile is Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood along with Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner. A Light for Attracting Attention is like a compilation of all your favorite, latter-day Radiohead tunes, but stripped down and really allowed to breathe. There’s a lovely wide palette of styles on the record: “You Will Never Work in Television Again” gallops along at a 1978 punk rock pace, but that’s followed by the very stately “Pana-vision.” “Open the Floodgates” beautifully restates the less-is-more manifesto: “We want the good bits/Without your bullshit/And no heartaches.” Finally, a pop star gives the world a directive we can all get on board with. A Light for Attracting Attention got rave reviews pretty much everywhere. All were justified and all were deserved. By Ian Rushbury

6

Nilüfer Yanya

PAINLESS

ATO

PAINLESS, the sophomore album from British singer/songwriter Nilüfer Yanya, actively resists classification, with Yanya building up an artful and seamless mix of genres. She thrives in the dark contrast between her airy melodies and swirling and existential lyricism, weaving the record full of restless rhythms, knotted guitar lines, and subtle hooks. At the same time, she unites her disparate impulses with a singular vocal style and organic yet hazy production. In a crowded world of indie music, it’s a testament to Yanya’s creativity, vision, and artistry that no record sounded like PAINLESS this year. Even with only two albums under her belt, Yanya owns her own lane. By Caleb Campbell

7

Big Thief

Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

4AD

Back in 2019 when Big Thief released the one-two punch of U.F.O.F and Two Hands, it simultaneously felt like a moment of artistic maturation and a mission statement, one that saw the band pitching themselves between the sinewy folk tales of the former and the more gnarled guitars of the latter. Three years on, what makes their double album follow-up all the more impressive is how far beyond that remit Big Thief have extended. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You is the sound of a band confounding expectations without betraying their artistic roots, a triumphant extension of Adrianne Lenker’s singular songwriting into stranger furrows. When other bands enter the big leagues, they often end up standing still. Big Thief metastasize. By Blaise Radley

8

Sharon Van Etten

We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong

Jagjaguwar

It can often sound like a cliché to call an album cathartic. But listening to a Sharon Van Etten full-length release you do get a sense that you are being allowed to experience her innermost thoughts and feelings as she strives to step from the dark into the light.

We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is certainly an album best experienced in one sitting, from the majestic unfurling beauty of “Darkness Fades” through to the hypnotic “Far Away.” Van Etten’s remarkable voice has never sounded so potent and powerful, full of bruised nobility as she weaves sparse minimalism with the huge soaring pop noir of tracks such as “I’ll Try,” “Anything,” and “Headspace”—which arrive adorned in their full pomp replete with rumbling basslines and gleaming synths mixing vulnerability and raw power. All of which adds to the album’s dark allure as Van Etten once more proves herself to be an artist of huge depth capable of summoning dark beauty from the minutiae of everyday life and can now surely be considered to be one of the greats. By Andy Von Pip

9

The Beths

Expert in a Dying Field

Carpark

This year, the best hook writers in indie rock returned with their third full-length album, Expert in a Dying Field. The Beths have a way of honing directly in on the brain’s pleasure centers, delivering an addicting rush of endorphins with each sweet harmony or jangly guitar line. The New Zealand band’s latest iteration of their charming power pop style is leaner and cleaner than ever before, polished to a pristine gleam in perfect contrast to their yearning lyrical barbs. When singing along to Expert in a Dying Field, even heartbreak will feel euphoric. By Caleb Campbell

10

Ezra Furman

All of Us Flames

ANTI-/Bella Union

In a year when attacks against queer and trans people have been ramping up publicly, directly, and relentlessly, Ezra Furman’s All of Us Flames is undoubtedly among the year’s most essential records. With her latest effort, Furman has written a powerful paean to hope and solidarity, traced via heartland rock grandeur, classic pop songcraft, and stark plaintive lyricism. It feels like the culmination of everything Furman has built in her decade-long career, uniting her restless storytelling and stirring portraits of self-discovery into a raging tornado of vibrant emotive weight. By Caleb Campbell

11

Mitski

Laurel Hell

Dead Oceans

Following the rapturous and exhausting reception to her 2018 breakout record, Be the Cowboy, Mitski was cautious to say whether she’d ever return to write another album. Laurel Hell was born in the aftermath of that creative fatigue and finds Mitski weary yet triumphant, exorcising her demons amidst harrowing balladry and shimmering synth-laden pop songs. By Caleb Campbell

12

Death Cab for Cutie

Asphalt Meadows

Atlantic

“Roman Candles” paints a confessional portrait of paranoid anxiety in an era of pandemics and late-capitalist chaos, while “Here to Forever” and “I’ll Never Give Up on You” eloquently explore middle-aged disillusionment. This is the album Death Cab for Cutie was destined to make, serving as the indie pioneers’ long-awaited return to form. By Austin Saalman

13

Dry Cleaning

Stumpwork

4AD

London’s Dry Cleaning don’t do epic. Their combination of evocative post-punk instrumentation with frontwoman Florence Shaw’s droll spoken-word vocals instead produces a unique mix of relatability and curiosity. Stumpwork is an improvement on and progression from last year’s New Long Leg, adding more layers of sound and a touch more emotional depth, and cementing them as pioneers of poetic indie rock. By Scott Dransfield

14

Black Country, New Road

Ants From Up There

Ninja Tune

Listening to Ants From Up There, it’s hard not to feel a twinge of sadness knowing that you are hearing former frontman Issac Woods’ swan song with Black Country, New Road. However, that sadness is blunted thanks to how gorgeous a song it is. It is at every moment sprawling, funny, and ambitious, presenting a band that is intent on constant reinvention. Whatever their next reinvention holds, Ants From Up There is a pitch-perfect farewell to Woods’ era with the band. By Caleb Campbell

15

Angel Olsen

Big Time

Jagjaguwar

There’s no doubting Olsen’s eclectic taste in music. She’s dug deep into a vast cabinet of euphoric sounds over the last 10 years, making some undeniably mesmerizing albums. She’s got the magic. Her last two albums were 2019’s orchestral and majestic All Mirrors (our #1 album of that year) and 2020’s Whole New Mess (featuring stripped down versions of the same songs). 2021’s Aisles EP found her covering 1980s pop hits. Maybe one day she’ll make a metal album or an electronic one. For now the country melancholy works on Big Time. She has the entire scope and we melt. By Jordan Michael

16

Hatchie

Giving the World Away

Secretly Canadian

As Hatchie, Harriette Pilbeam makes dream invasion music, the kind that slyly slips into the subconscious with waves of reverb-saturated shoegaze guitar and cloudy beds of synthesizer only to implant some of the richest pop melodies of 2022. This might sound sinister, but for the fact that Hatchie’s is a joyful message of reclaimed confidence, of taking back the things worth fighting for and feeling good with the lights on. By Chris Thiessen

17

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Cool It Down

Secretly Canadian

Yeah Yeah Yeahs strike a remarkably relaxed and confident pose on their first album in nine years. Even though it clocks in at a brisk eight songs and 32 minutes, Cool It Down feels massive, like the soundtrack to a lost sci-fi epic. From the majestic opener “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” to the spoken-word closer “Mars,” the band sounds reenergized and vital as ever. By James Scott

18

Yard Act

The Overload

Island/Zen F.C.

Yard Act singer James Smith’s humorous sprechgesang which he employs throughout The Overload—assuring listeners on the opener, “I’m actually very fucking nice” and chewing on every word of the line “It appears I’ve become so, so rich, I’m literally drowning in it” on “Rich”—is deliciously satirical. Combined with the band’s sharp guitar riffs and dance-punk rhythms, the quartet have crafted a debut full-length album that relishes in critiquing of British middle-to-upper-class masculinity as cheekily as possible. By Chris Thiessen

19

Destroyer

Labyrinthitis

Merge

From the slyly dark humor to the cryptic lyrics, Labyrinthitis has all of Vancouver cult favorite Destroyer’s hallmarks. But anyone dismissing him as inscrutable will delight in catchy grooves, propulsive choruses, and heartstring tugging melodies in, respectively, “June,” “Suffer,” and “All My Pretty Dresses.” They could become surprise crossover hits, à la The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” Labyrinthitis couldn’t be less true to its name. By Kyle Mullin

20

Stella Donnelly

Flood

Secretly Canadian

Stella Donnelly’s sophomore album manages to both charm with its wit and surprise with its depth. On Flood, Donnelly emerges from her quiet pandemic years with a record that is more layered, vibrant, and vulnerable than ever before, tinged with incisive character portraits and lush sound palettes. Though the record is more subdued than her debut, it is possibly more rewarding, allowing Donnelly to settle into her expansive new arrangements and embrace the uncertainty of change. By Caleb Campbell

21

The 1975

Being Funny in a Foreign Language

Dirty Hit

On Being Funny in a Foreign Language, arguably The 1975’s strongest effort to date, frontman Matthew Healy demonstrates his graceful evolution from pop’s resident enfant terrible to a thoughtful songwriter capable of mature lyrical introspection, with his group delivering the pristinely apocalyptic millennial pop epic for which it has spent the past decade rehearsing. By Austin Saalman

22

Kendrick Lamar

Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers

pgLang/Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath/Interscope

In a way, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers feels like Kendrick Lamar’s most personal work, which is saying something since the good kid has worked near-exclusively in autobiography since at least 2012. The pain is visceral, from the unnerving fly-on-the-wall marital clash of “We Cry Together” to the broken prayer “Where did I lose myself?” on “Mother I Sober.” As always Lamar offers a hopeful way through, an opportunity to choose our full humanity in transformative ways. By Chris Thiessen

23

Alex G

God Save the Animals

Domino

On the surface, Alex G’s God Save the Animals seems to be his most cohesive and straightforward effort to date. This isn’t a slight—take note of how the album moves from the glistening guitar number “Runner” to the ominous synths of “Cross the Sea” to the tender ballad “Miracles.” He packs these ideas and many more into an album that, at its core, is driven by his signature knack for unwavering empathy. By Carlo Thomas

24

Fontaines D.C.

Skinty Fia

Partisan

Skinty Fia is as chilling and alien as it is melodic and comforting and fits perfectly with the mood of the times. With a decidedly slicker, more mature sound than the rough and angular music of Fontaines D.C.’s earlier releases, it explores contrasting moods, building crafty Irish post-punk with cool bass grooves, icy atmospheric textures, and an underlying layer of pop hooks hiding in the darkness. By Matt the Raven

25

Spoon

Lucifer on the Sofa

Matador

Showing off a leaner, meaner, more mature sound that is broader in scope than past efforts but just as ferocious and cracking, Lucifer on the Sofa stands as proof that Spoon are one of the most reliable and entertaining rock bands around. The songs are well-played with an honest raw energy and are uncluttered with sharp driving rhythms that are catchy and upbeat. The buzzy guitars are crisp, and the keyboards add a touch of melancholy. By Matt the Raven

26

Julia Jacklin

PRE PLEASURE

Polyvinyl

The brain may control the heart, but the heart controls the soul. For three consecutive albums, Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin has wrenched our hearts, however almost in a fun, dancey kind of way. It’s confounding how we can feel a person growing up through the music they release. In Jacklin’s case, we first heard her when she was 26 years old (Don’t Let the Kids Win), barely known and playing with her more undeveloped songs. And here she is now, much wiser, and very much in control. By Jordan Michael

27

Phoenix

Alpha Zulu

Loyauté/Glassnote

Trust Phoenix to come up with the idea to record an album in Paris’ Louvre Palace. Far from the gravity of that institution, Alpha Zulu is bubbly and quirky, light dance fare, albeit with melancholy lyrical sentiment. Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk’s assistance in the production of Alpha Zulu gives it that extra zing and a boost to its danceability. By Lily Moayeri

28

Soccer Mommy

Sometimes, Forever

Loma Vista

Produced by Oneohtrix Point Never, Sometimes Forever showcases a new side to a band—and Sophie Allison—that always makes your heart ache. From the glistening synths that open “With U” to the shoegaze standout “Don’t Ask Me,” these 11 songs are noisier and denser, yet never sacrifice their immediacy. By Carlo Thomas

29

Suede

Autofiction

BMG

As with many things, Suede have gotten better with age. The beloved group harnessed the pent-up energy and unapologetic abandon of their live performances into Autofiction. The album showcases Suede’s songwriting abilities and their cohesion as a musical unit to its fullest, providing the perfect setting for vocalist Brett Anderson’s mind-melting lyrics. By Lily Moayeri

30

Jockstrap

I Love You Jennifer B

Rough Trade

Rewind the clock 12 months and little was known of London-based duo Jockstrap outside of the Brixton Windmill scene that unearthed them. Not that their output had been anything other than prolific for a while now, even if only those “in the know” were aware of them. Having released a number of singles and EPs over the course of three years, it was perhaps only fitting the duo—Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye—would finally unleash their debut album, I Love You Jennifer B. And what an incredible record it was, fusing all kinds of musical styles while crossing genre boundaries from jazz to post-punk, soul and techno. I Love You Jennifer B was the sound of progress. Futuristic music set to a despairing landscape that served as a poignant yet ultimately uplifting soundtrack to these austere times. By Dom Gourlay

31

Father John Misty

Chloë and the Next 20th Century

Sub Pop

On his fifth album, Joshua Tillman (aka Father John Misty) ditched indie rock in favor of the sort of lushly orchestrated swinging jazz that soundtracked Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The singer’s burnished croon is perfectly suited to “Funny Girl,” in which a normie fantasizes about a romance with a Hollywood star. But don’t worry, Tillman hasn’t turned into Harry Connick Jr. On the moody epic “The Next 20th Century”—arguably his finest achievement—he utilizes his acerbic wit to examine the jarring cultural shifts of the new millennium. By Stephen Humphries

32

Horsegirl

Versions of Modern Performance

Matador

Having first come to our attention via 2020’s Ballroom Dance Scene et cetera (best of Horsegirl) EP on the excellent Sonic Cathedral label, it didn’t really come as a surprise that Horsegirl’s first LP, Versions of Modern Performance, represented a triumphant exercise in lo-fi art rock. Taking their cue from early ’90s slacker and slowcore bands like Galaxie 500, Velocity Girl, and Pavement, the Chicago-based trio—Penelope Lowenstein, Nora Cheng, and Gigi Reece—combined to create one of the most charismatic records of 2022 and one that will undoubtedly stand the test of time in years to come. By Dom Gourlay

33

Charli XCX

CRASH

Atlantic

With CRASH, Charli XCX crafts a vivid portrait of the hyperreal 2020s, her glossy hyper-pop fantasy merging its intoxicating waves of ’80s pop fascination with dreamlike glitch and electropop influences. CRASH’s 12 odes to love, passion, and modern delirium will surely timestamp it as an integral release of its era. By Austin Saalman

34

Bartees Strange

Farm to Table

4AD

Washington, D.C.’s Bartees Strange takes a large-scale leap forward on his sophomore album, Farm to Table. Where most artists would have been content to hold their ground over the course of the last two years, Strange plowed forward. Not in spite of the daunting odds, but because of them. “Wretched” crushes harder than anything on his debut, while the George Floyd tribute, “Hold the Line,” reveals the album’s beating heart. By Mark Moody

35

Spiritualized

Everything Was Beautiful

Fat Possum

Spiritualized is at its best when the group’s central figure, J Spaceman (aka Jason Pierce) is self-referential. That is the case for its latest, the seven-song Everything is Beautiful. “Cosmic love songs” would be the elevator pitch for these layered sonic explorations that are, in turns, dreamy and sorrowful, and threaded through with romantic sentiments. By Lily Moayeri

36

Cate Le Bon

Pompeii

Mexican Summer

Welsh art-pop singer Cate Le Bon perfects her craft on her sixth album, Pompeii. All elements—the sax, the synths, the squiggly bass, the shimmering guitars, and of course Le Bon’s pristine vocals—are composed to cohere into a brilliant and full sound. “Moderation” and the title track in particular are some of her best songs ever. By Scott Dransfield

37

Beyoncé

RENAISSANCE

Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia

Beyoncé has been so consistently brilliant for so long at this point that it’s almost become difficult to appreciate her. The bar is sky-high. And yet, RENAISSANCE is a laid-back masterpiece that reveals itself layer by layer over time, the rare pop album that benefits from multiple front-to-back listens. Of course, it’s hard not to skip ahead to “Cuff It,” “Break My Soul,” or “Summer Renaissance” but this is a record with no throwaways. By James Scott

38

Tears for Fears

The Tipping Point

Concord

While Tears for Fears songs from four decades ago are on the tongues of Gen Zers, thanks to TikTok, the duo released an album that confirms its songwriting chops are still sharply honed. Lush and gorgeous, their musicianship bests even themselves. Their voices are smooth and rich, presenting a sound that is as vital in 2022 as it was in 1982. By Lily Moayeri

39

Viagra Boys

Cave World

Year0001

Much of music for the past few years has been reflecting on society seemingly crumbling at the seams. Some artists mourn it, and others revel in it, as is the case with Viagra Boys’ latest record, Cave World. Skronking sax grooves and gnarled post-punk guitars soundtrack a record filled with venomous portraits of angry incels and paranoid InfoWars-style rants. The band leaves the darkest and most absurd impulses of the cultural zeitgeist on full display, perfectly satirized in their trademark chaotic style. By Caleb Campbell

40

black midi

Hellfire

Rough Trade

Foolishly lumped in with the UK’s 2017 post-punk explosion, black midi have spent the past five years getting ever proggier and stranger. On their third album, Hellfire, the odyssey continues, a dizzyingly complex show of technical ability that’s as liable to flick into flamenco rhythms as it is to crash into walls of distorted noise. And then there’s the lyrics. The cantankerous captain of a mine drains his worker’s stomachs to make wine. A man named Tristan Bongo dopes a horse to aid his gambling addiction. There’s a Christian pimp. The world doesn’t contain enough post- prefixed genres to explain what’s happening on Hellfire—and it’s all the better for it. By Blaise Radley

41

The Linda Lindas

Growing Up

Epitaph

Los Angeles’ teenage riot grrrl quartet had a banner year with a raucous debut that channeled youthful exuberance through politically conscious punk rock. A refreshing, vital album notable for its breakthrough single “Racist, Sexist Boy,” Growing Up proved that punk, far from being dead, just got a brand new start. By Michael James Hall

42

Aldous Harding

Warm Chris

4AD

From the gentle roll of “Lawn” to the organ-drenched weirdness of “Leathery Whip,” Harding has concocted a deliciously disjointed set of 10 tunes on Warm Chris. One that’s guaranteed to grow on you with each listen, until its subtler charms, like the beautifully understated “Staring at the Henry Moore,” get you fully in their grip. By Mark Moody

43

Metric

Formentera

Metric Music International/Thirty Tigers

Formentera, the eighth LP from the Toronto institution known as Metric, starts with the 10-minute shifting, exploding “Doomscroller.” “Dog whistle links to a torch song/Torch song links to a statue, burning/Moon landing links to Qanon/Rabbit in a deep hole, keep on dancing,” sings frontperson Emily Haines on the topical epic. It’s ambitious and unexpected, but probably not. Metric have always been an outfit fit for shock and awe. By Jordan Michael

44

Sorry

Anywhere But Here

Domino

Domino has as many as around 100 current artists who are all very talented, so it’s a triumph for these haggard, frustrated Londoners to end up smack dab in the middle of our favorites of 2022 with their sophmore album. Bittersweet, earnest, dynamic, and grungy, Anywhere But Here is a sonic mood. Full of lovely tension, the album (with Portishead’s Adrian Utley on the boards) is shadowy and atonally cryptic. Sorry casts their sardonic earnestness to the masses. By Jordan Michael

45

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Endless Rooms

Sub Pop

The Australian band’s third album is more dense, a little more polished, and certainly more ambitious. Traces of a slower, dreamier sound exist amongst a tightly packed mix of angular guitar riffs, thumping bass, and precise drumming. With the best tracks showing off a precise balance of burly riffs and contagious hooks with a layered, three-guitar attack, occasionally sporting a slinky bass line or wiry guitar solo, Endless Rooms is rock solid and a sneakily good record. By Matt the Raven

46

Marlon Williams

My Boy

Dead Oceans

Aotearoa singer/songwriter Marlon Williams is probably best known for his long history in alt-country, but his turn towards indie pop with My Boy is a hugely rewarding rebirth. He pays homage to breezy folk, wiry funk, and ’70s soft rock, even incorporating a sunny Māori strum pattern on the title track. In any scene and any genre, Williams honeyed croon and thoughtful songwriting work brilliantly. By Caleb Campbell

47

Panda Bear and Sonic Boom

Reset

Domino

On Reset, Panda Bear and Sonic Boom prove themselves masters of melody and sampling, pulling in listeners with the breeziness of their songs that never lack sophistication. Take in the psychedelic strums of “Go On,” the surf rock vocals of “Edge of the Edge,” or the sweeping string samples of “Livin’ in the After,” and be pulled away all the same. By Carlo Thomas

48

Florist

Florist

Double Double Whammy

Brooklyn folk band Florist returned this year in full, after a few years and a 2019 album made solely by singer Emily Sprague. This self-titled effort is quietly sprawling, dreamy, and collage-like, incorporating song sketches and atmospheric sounds into its 19-song tracklist. It’s one of the most warmly enveloping and soothing listens of the year. By Scott Dransfield

49

beabadoobee

Beatopia

Dirty Hit

With Beatopia, beabadoobee builds upon the thoroughly ’90s inflections of her 2020 debut for a far more ambitious follow-up. She plays with kaleidescopic production, glimmering chamber pop ballads, and sizzling guitar pop, breaking her nostalgic mold to showcase a gifted songwriter with a formidable talent for hooks. By Caleb Campbell

50

Taylor Swift

Midnights

Republic

After a turn toward woodsier songcraft alongside Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon in 2020, Taylor Swift rejoins Jack Antonoff to remind us that she is still a pop mastermind, cryptic and Machiavellian as she directs her own Swiftian Cinematic Universe. But don’t let the pop hooks fool you; she is just as intimate and cunning with her pen over 808s and interstellar synths as she is over idyllic folk guitars. By Chris Thiessen

51

Ethel Cain

Preacher’s Daughters

Daughters of Cain

52

Björk

Fossora

One Little Independent

53

Animal Collective

Time Skiffs

Domino

54

Arctic Monkeys

The Car

Domino

55

Dehd

Blue Skies

Fat Possum

56

MJ Lenderman

Boat Songs

Dear Life

57

Daniel Rossen

You Belong There

Warp

58

Frankie Cosmos

Inner World Peace

Sub Pop

59

Bill Callahan

YTI⅃AƎЯ

Drag City

60

SASAMI

Squeeze

Domino

61

Carly Rae Jepsen

The Loneliest Time

604/Schoolboy/Interscope

62

Harry Styles

Harry’s House

Columbia

63

Cass McCombs

Heartmind

ANTI-

64

The Mountain Goats

Bleed Out

Merge

65

Toro y Moi

Mahal

Dead Oceans

66

Kevin Morby

This Is a Photograph

Dead Oceans

67

Sudan Archives

Natural Brown Prom Queen

Stones Throw

68

Everything Everything

Raw Data Feel

Infinity Industries/AWAL

69

Perfume Genius

Ugly Season

Matador

70

Porridge Radio

Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky

Secretly Canadian

71

Shearwater

The Great Awakening

Polyborus

72

Belle and Sebastian

A Bit of Previous

Matador

73

Gwenno

Tresor

Heavenly

74

C Duncan

Alluvium

Bella Union

75

Let’s Eat Grandma

Two Ribbons

Transgressive

76

Wild Pink

ILYSM

Royal Mountain

77

Kurt Vile

(watch my moves)

Verve

78

alt-J

The Dream

Infectious Music/Canvasback Music/Atlantic

79

Beth Orton

Weather Alive

Partisan

80

Hot Chip

Freakout/Release

Domino

81

First Aid Kit

Palomino

Columbia

82

Danger Mouse and Black Thought

Cheat Codes

BMG

83

Sunflower Bean

Headful of Sugar

Mom + Pop

84

Foals

Life Is Yours

ADA

85

Maya Hawke

MOSS

Mom + Pop

86

Sondre Lerche

Avatars of Love

Sondre Lerche LLC

87

Jenny Hval

Classic Objects

4AD

88

Plains

I Walked With You a Ways

ANTI-

89

Andrew Bird

Inside Problems

Loma Vista

90

Lambchop

The Bible

Merge

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