We’ve still got six months left to go but already 2022 is looking like it’ll go down as one for the books when it comes to brilliant music. So far, this year has seen returns from icons at the top of their game like Kendrick Lamar and Liam Gallagher, thrilling British bands pushing guitar music into inventive new places, young stars come good on their early promise – and much, much more. Revisit the best albums of 2022 so far below (in no particular order) and get ready for another six months of gold that’s hopefully to come.
Pusha T – ‘It’s Almost Dry’
In 2018, Pusha T reached new heights with his critically-acclaimed album ‘Daytona’. Its follow-up – and his fourth studio album so far – ‘It’s Almost Dry’ found him raising the bar once again, combining with producers Ye and Pharrell Williams for a record that’s creative and soulful, vulnerable and understated.
NME said: “Pusha T has managed to elevate his art to new heights, signalling that the artist is nowhere close to being done. Despite being longer than ‘Daytona’, there is succinct preciseness to ‘It’s Almost Dry’ with Pusha’s lyricism, in particular, never left wanting. Alongside the outstanding production, it makes for an instant hip-hop classic.”
Wet Leg – ‘Wet Leg’
The stakes for Isle Of Wight duo Wet Leg’s debut album were high – would it live up to the whirlwind of hype that had been kickstarted by their debut single ‘Chaise Longue’? Or would it burst their bubble less than a year into their story? Fortunately, their self-titled release was the former – an instant classic of brilliantly bold and witty indie anthems that made you want to bounce directly to your nearest indie disco.
NME said: “[‘Wet Leg’] rushes with liberating, infectious joy that makes you want to grab your own partner-in-crime and speed off on an adventure to find somewhere that’s, as ‘Angelica’’s mantra suggests, is “good times all the time”. With Wet Leg as your soundtrack, it seems inevitable you’ll find that place.”
Fontaines D.C. – ‘Skinty Fia’
Since they emerged in 2019 with their electric debut ‘Dogrel’, Fontaines D.C. have proven to be one of the sharpest bands around, deftly tackling everything from the disillusionment of youth and income inequality via barbed post-punk. ‘Skinty Fia’ saw them turning their sights on their relationship with their home country of Ireland as well as more issues affecting their generation and fellow country people, crafting a record rife with guilt and rage that made you feel every last drop.
NME said: “No matter how tormented this album gets, you can feel ‘Skinty Fia’’s wounded heart beating throughout. The fight for a better Ireland deserves songs that mirror the depth of the crisis, and in its endlessly captivating glory, ‘Skinty Fia’ rises triumphantly to the task.”
Rosalía – ‘Motomami’
Spanish star Rosalía has always been something of a musical magpie and her third album ‘Motomami’ only accelerated that facet of her artistry. Across 40 minutes, she danced through flamenco, reggaetón, pop, R&B, gospel and more, always throwing curveballs and never sitting still long enough to be boxed in by her influences and inspirations. When she wasn’t getting brilliantly experimental, she was delivering first-class bangers, like the playful and colourful ‘Chicken Teriyaki’.
NME said: “Rosalía isn’t so much carving out her own lane as building her own ultra-modern, super-bendy sonic motorway. It’s one you’ll want to hurtle down again and again.”
Father John Misty – ‘Chloë And The Next 20th Century’
Father John Misty – aka Joshua Tillman – tapped into theatrical intensity on his fifth album, breaking free from the downcast indie-folk sound in which he made his name. ‘Chloë And The Next 20th Century’ spun wildly into big band arrangements and bossa nova experiments, each delivered with a dramatic wink and a challenge to follow him down his unpredictable path.
NME said: “‘Chloë and the Next 20th Century’ showcases what Tillman’s imagination can do when it is set free to explore new and unpredictable sonic paths […] Nothing on this album ends up quite where you’d expect it – including the ever-evolving artist who made it.”
Kevin Morby – ‘This Is A Photograph’
Inspired by a photo he found of his father after the patriarch had suffered a heart attack, Kevin Morby’s follow-up to 2020’s ‘Sundowner’ formed a moving, powerful celebration of life itself. Gritty rock’n’roll and sweeping Americana led the way as the troubadour mused over family, love, death and more, creating one of his finest works in the process.
NME said: “The 34-year-old covers an astonishing amount of ground across 12 tracks, cheerily toasting his worst self atop a chugging ‘50s guitar riff on ‘Rock Bottom’ and wearily blaspheming on the bruised ‘A Coat of Butterflies’ […] Whether his heart-bursting affirmations are carried by minimalist or maximalist tunes, Kevin Morby has never struggled to find the words.”
Kendrick Lamar – ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’
Five years after his last album – the Pulitzer-winning ‘Damn’ – Lamar returned with not one disc of new music, but two. ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ closed out his contract with Top Dawg Entertainment in grand fashion, pouring out a wealth of ideas as he tackled topics including generational trauma, religion, gender identity, fatherhood and more. Aided by appearances from Summer Walker, Ghostface Killah, Baby Keem, Sampha and others, it was the cherry on top of a glorious first chapter for the rapper.
NME said: “While ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ showed the world what it’s like to grow up as a kid in Compton, his fifth album serves up vignettes about what it’s like to be a Black adult whose trauma still haunts them. This album is as much about struggle as it is freedom, and what a beautiful sentiment that is.”
Black Country, New Road – ‘Ants From Up There’
Days before the release of ‘Ants From Up There’, Black Country, New Road singer Isaac Wood announced his resignation from the band. The move came as a surprise to fans but this second album saw the vocalist end his tenure with the group on a high, at least. More accessible than their 2021 debut ‘For The First Time’, the record didn’t sacrifice any of the intrigue or inventiveness that made them so exciting to begin with, marching on with equal parts bombast and intimacy.
NME said: “This singular record will remain a stunning collection to be cherished for years to come, and a remarkable high on which to end Wood’s tenure at the front of the band. It’s a future cult classic.”
Cordae – ‘From A Birds Eye View’
An artist already endorsed by the likes of Dr. Dre and Stevie Wonder, rapper Cordae justified that legendary support on his jazzy second album. It featured collabs with big names like Lil Wayne and H.E.R., but Cordae was never outshone as he delivered soul and savagery on a record that planted him firmly ahead of the pack.
NME said: “This is an album to give you goosebumps, as Cordae sets glorious tales to nostalgic hip-hop sounds, crafting three-minute bursts of quality. ‘From A Birds Eye View’ is a true delight, revealing greater depth with each listen, and Cordae truly seems to be having fun while proving he’s here to stay.”
Saba – ‘Few Good Things’
On his third album, Chicago rapper Saba celebrated the wins he’s made through music, but kept one eye peeking back where he’d come from. An accomplished record that moved the artist into softer territory sonically, it seemed destined to continue his ascent upwards to even greater heights.
NME said: “Saba expertly blends the whimsical and spiritual nature of soul music with GOAT-level penmanship reminiscent of the conscious rap of yesteryear.”
Denzel Curry – ‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’
Denzel Curry’s fifth album saw the Florida rapper change tack. His previous release, 2019’s ‘ZUU’, brought the ruckus; ‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’ instead delivered more mellow, nostalgic hip-hop. It might have been less energetic, but it was no less powerful, showcasing versatility and vulnerability in an experimental epic.
NME said: “Denzel Curry is fast becoming the Renaissance man of Southern hip-hop, always 10 steps ahead of the game. For the fifth time, Curry has provided a priceless sense of self-discovery as he explores his countless facets.”
Liam Gallagher – ‘C’mon You Know’
For his third solo album, Liam Gallagher embraced the weird without losing sight of his innate knack for making euphoric anthems. ‘C’mon You Know’ encompassed everything from trippy Beatles rock, children’s choirs and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig tootling on the sax, but at its heart was pure LG – big, in-your-face and undeniably excellent.
NME said: “At once experimental and familiar enough to keep his stunning second act on course, ‘C’mon You Know’ finds Liam Gallagher having his cake and eating it – and there’s plenty to go round at this party. If he doesn’t overthink it, why should you? Turn off your mind, relax and bring the cans.”
Horsegirl – ‘Versions Of Modern Performance’
Every once in a while a new band comes along that gets lauded to the high heavens with praise. For 2022, that band is Chicago noise-rock trio Horsegirl, who, on their debut album ‘Versions Of Modern Performance’, deftly displayed just why the indie world was losing its collective mind over them. Confident and captivating, the album takes its cues from the likes of Sonic Youth and Guided By Voices but brings those sounds into the present with Horsegirl’s own thrilling experiments and expressions.
NME said: “Compelling from its first note to its very last, the record presents a band who, yes, are still in their infancy, but clearly know who they are and what that sounds like. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but its rushes of no wave-tinged indie-rock are fit to burst with infectious energy and intriguing experimentation.”
Nova Twins – ‘Supernova’
London duo Nova Twins have been carving out their own path to rock stardom for a while and their second album ‘Supernova’ proved that that glory is well within their grasp. More dynamic and experimental than their 2020 debut ‘Who Are The Girls?’, the new record presented a band really hitting their stride as they delivered moshpit-worthy slammers and thought-provoking lyrical statements, both destined to catapult them even further forward.
NME said: “Rightly championed as a vital new voice in the world of rock, Nova Twins haven’t let any of that pressure get in the way of creating a flamboyant, fantastic second album that’s as playful as it is powerful.”
Epik High – ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Pt. 2’
The second half of the statement Epik High began back in 2021, ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Pt. 2’ closed a chapter, in commanding form, for the Korean hip-hop icons. A soul-searching record, the album provided resilience and reassurance, offering up answers to some of life’s big questions, packaged in an eclectic and exceptional masterpiece.
NME said: “A light in the darkness and a beautifully encouraging portrait of the very essence of life, it’s an album that should be remembered for a long time to come.”
Arcade Fire – ‘WE’
Inspired by the 1924 tome We by Russian novelist Yevgeny Zamyatin, Arcade Fire’s sixth album put modern life under the microscope, the band dissecting everything from online insecurities to the uprising of the right-wing. Backed by typically soaring indie-rock and flashes of disco, it felt not like a harbinger of doom, but a rousing record to disperse the gloom and bring back brighter days.
NME said: “Arcade Fire’s natural dynamic wins through, merging glowering alt-rock and sci-fi disco-pop with the measured intricacy of a vaccine lab. It finds them right back where they belong – up on a soapbox, thumping their chests and promising to lead us out of the storm.”
Yard Act – ‘The Overload’
One of the biggest debuts of the year, ‘The Overload’’s arrival in January quickly propelled Yard Act onto one helluva rise. Full of vivid characters you could see knocking around your local, the record thrived on frontman James Smith’s humour and incisive observations, set to fresh spins on typical post-punk. If it’s good enough for Elton, who teamed up with the Leeds post-punkers for a new version of their song ‘100% Endurance’…
NME said: “The familiar touchstones of the post-punk scene’s rigid sound – minimalist grooves, sharp guitars – are all here, but the band thrive when they shake up the magic eight ball […] Their time in a diverse array of groups on the Leeds scene results in a record that’s at once funky (‘Dead Horse’) and spunky (‘Witness’, ‘The Incident’) – even when they slip into cliché (‘Rich’) they sound better than most.”
Mitski – ‘Laurel Hell’
At one point, Mitski‘s future in music seemed to be hanging in the balance – in 2019, she announced the end of her touring plans “indefinitely”, citing the desire to not let her self-worth become dependent on “staying in the game, the constant churn”. Although she’d said she wasn’t quitting music entirely, it seemed unlikely we’d get new material from her so soon – but ‘Laurel Hell’ arrived two-and-a-half years later, processing ideas around an artist’s personal pain as a commodity and losing yourself to capitalism.
NME said: “With each record, Mitski’s sound has grown bigger and grander […] ‘Laurel Hell’ often pairs darkness with strobing lights (see: ‘Should’ve Been Me’ and ‘Love Me More’). After exploring the isolation of feeling like a “nobody“, Mitski’s explorations of being somebody prove just as compelling.”
Kehlani – ‘Blue Water Road’
Kehlani might be more typically associated with R&B songs filled with badass attitude and no-fucks-given spirit, but on ‘Blue Water Road’, the Californian artist shared a look at them in a much gentler incarnation. Their third album coursed with healing and peace, both in its words and in the sounds it used, from lush orchestral movements to graceful R&B.
NME said: “For the most part, this album finds Kehlani in spectacular form – softer, stronger and better than ever […] The darkness of 2020’s ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ has dissipated and been replaced by breezy bops and odes to transformation.”
Harry Styles – ‘Harry’s House’
Harry Styles’ third solo album found the former One Direction star truly coming into his own, shaking off the shackles of artists he wanted to emulate and finding freedom in his own, ahem, direction. A pensive, often exhilarating ponder on the meaning of home, it married the personal with surrealist imagery to create a true pop great.
NME said: “He counterbalances tales of domesticity and romance with songs that blast to the heart of old-school funk, disco and soul, but never strays into pastiche, homage or cheap retro knock-off territory […] ‘Harry’s House’ is undoubtedly Styles’ best record yet and presents a musician comfortable and confident in what he wants to create right now.”