The Top 10 Albums of 2022

HONORABLE MENTION:

Destroyer/ Labyrtinhitis

Dan Bejar seems to just keep pumping out solid records one after another these days, but there’s an increased lushness and full-band feel here on bright spots like opener “It’s In Your Heart Now” and the vibrant “All The Pretty Dresses.” The constantly shapeshifting disco-rock hybrid “June” stays true to its indelible core riff and leads into Bejar’s patented spoken-word vocal style through an explosive coda, while the bridge on “Tintoretto, It’s For You” bursts like an atomic bomb complete with a behemoth synth riff, and amounts to one of the most breathtaking moments in the Destroyer catalogue.

Special Interest/ Endure

A focused anger from the punk-rockers is evident and palpable throughout Endure, and becomes increasingly difficult to stomach at times as lead singer Alli Logout makes no attempt whatsoever to hide her clear disdain for white people. Still, a more polished vocal approach makes moments like the sparkling disco funk of “Midnight Legend” and raucous anthem “Herman’s House” all the more memorable, and quite the deviation from the grimier sounds of its stellar predecessor The Passion Of.

Perfume Genius/ Ugly Season

Mike Hadreas followed his career best album Set My Heart On Fire Immediately by turning a complete 180 in an unexpected direction and delivering an album that drips with uncertainty, doom and dread. From the ominous wall of sound within “Herem” to the eerie synth backbone of “Photograph”, the lightly lifted respite of “Pop Song” and the trip hop-meets-reggae belly of the title track, this is an album that flows brilliantly within the sum of its parts.

#10: Alex G/ God Save The Animals

It would be easy to get lost in the simplicity of Alex G’s practically unparalleled penchant for melody without recognizing his ability to constantly experiment and surprise. God Save The Animals, his fourth full length and first true studio album, effortlessly blends both attributes. On highlight “Runner”, acoustic guitar melts into a piano riff and evolves behind Alex’s G’s scream over what would otherwise seem like a straightforward track. Instead, it all combines joyfully into perhaps his greatest single song over what is certainly his best album. Lovely opener “After All” is immediately engaging while the piano-driven “Early Morning Waiting” is bright and well executed. The stakes are higher on tracks like “S.D.O.S” and “Cross The Sea”, where processed vocals add a disorienting effect. These songs gain a fuller sounds from the studio production while staying true to the artist’s lo-fi style. It all concludes on a hopeful note with the astonishing “Forgive”, as Alex G’s voice emotes with wails above a sharp banjo riff.

#9: Cate LeBon/ Pompeii

The supremely talented Cate LeBon delivered a career topper with Pompeii, building on 2019’s impressive Reward with a continued immersion into her uniquely textured, almost theatrical form of psychedelic pop. Horns abound behind massive bass grooves throughout, and early on, “Moderation” is the album’s pinnacle. Subtly intertwined saxophones, bouncy bass riffs and falsetto wails combine perfectly into a track that resonates with its bright, playful nature. Shimmering synths line the airy “Harbour” above its punchy bassline, while piano drives the richly orchestrated lavishness of the title track. Le Bon straddles the line between new wave and antiquity with a delicate precision.

#8: Beach House/ Once Twice Melody

An overlooked an underrated offering from the greatest band of the last decade, the ambitious Once Twice Melody was released in four chapters over the winter. What it lacks in cohesion and direction it nearly makes up for by sheer scope, and arguments that the album is overstuffed and overlong should be combated with a simple question- exactly which songs would you have preferred the band to have cut here? Tracks like the stunning “Over and Over” feature the familiar build and crescendo so paramount to the band’s sound, while darker cuts like “Masquerade” beckon a dungeon dance party. Even if the final chapter echoes a bit slight and repetitively structured here compared to the rest, would you really forsake the subtly discordant beauty of “The Bells” or the apocalyptic dread of closer “Modern Love Stories”? This is Beach House throwing a wrench into the previous convention of how an album should be made, and watching them let their ideas collide so haphazardly is a thrilling listen. They’ve earned the right.

#7: Weyes Blood/ In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Natalie Mering’s heavenly voice has such a calming, warming essence. The 8 proper tracks on In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow constitute a career effort across her fifth full length as Weyes Blood, melding together like hymns delivered with poise and delicacy. Beginning alone at a party throughout the patient, building opener “It’s Not Me, It’s Everybody”, Mering finds comfort in the universal nature of the human ordeal. Her greatest talent may actually be for arrangement, and the piano-driven “Children of the Empire” is a masterclass as it builds confidently and effortlessly. A lush wall of atmospheric sound (glockenpsiel!) evolves from a simple guitar line on “Grapevine”, while the hypnotic, ambient “God Turn Me Into a Flower” showcases true beauty. “Twin Flame” changes the game entirely and might have seemed right in place on a Hot Chip or Junior Boys album, a welcome electronic innovation, while the upbeat major key progressions of the jangly penultimate track “The Worst Is Done” are a clear highlight here.

#6: Beyonce/ Renaissance

Watching the pop mega-star innovate and point in a new direction entirely is an invigorating and welcome experience on Renaissance, a grand tour-de-force effort that molds her unparalleled R&B credentials into a club dance record that takes no prisoners. The first pandemic restriction free summer in three years was absolutely dominated by the catchy house beats of “Break My Soul”, while “Cozy” cuts deeper and hits harder early in the album. There’s a propulsive energy present here unlike any other album Beyonce has made, and it’s held together by a rock-solid midsection, from the playful, bouncy “Church Girl” to counterpart “Plastic Off The Sofa” and eventually swinging on the addictive disco funk of standout “Virgo’s Groove” to the album’s back half. But zeroing in on the individual tracks somewhat misses the point here, as this is an album made to be played in its entirety in celebration of the joy of the club, the history of its impact, and its return to the fold in the aftermath of the ruthless, politically motivated and incredibly ill-advised shutdown of society.

#5: Animal Collective/ Time Skiffs

There’s a different vibe altogether from the experimental indie rockers that results from an increased focus on instrumentation and melody. No previous Animal Collective album has ever sounded this pretty, and Time Skiffs pulls the band out of somewhat of a recent album rut and stands as a welcome reinvigoration of their sound. Tribal beats on the rollicking call-and-response number “Strung With Everything” and swelling synths on “Car Keys” provide some familiarity, but overall there is a beauty here that seems atypical for Animal Collective. Early highlight “Prester John” combines psychedelic synths with lovely vocal harmonies, while standout “Cherokee” dances lightly and intimately across its seven minute length. The atmospheric glory and bittersweet melancholy of closer “Royal and Desire” ties everything together, ending the album with a burst of horns that might well be the most gorgeous piece of music this band has ever created.

#4: Beth Orton/ Weather Alive

Perhaps no other album in 2022 established such consistency for mood as the hypnotic ambiance of Weather Alive, which is the sort of album you can turn on in the background and drift away to. Orton’s vocals are delivered with such restraint across these 8 spacious, soothing and atmospheric tracks. Early on, “Friday Night” stands out as an immediate highlight, as Orton’s whispery voice cracks repeatedly behind as she recounts the sorrow of another weekend to be spent alone, and it doesn’t seem to be a sober one. “Fractals” is one track that seems deliciously out of place here early on, with its groovy bass interjections, disparate piano lines and fluttering horns that melt together into perfect chaos behind Orton’s subtle vocal delivery. A mournful piano line dominates “Forever Young”, a stunning track showcasing a dark yet pulsating beat that belongs in a lounge bar full of heartbroken clientele. Like so many of the songs here, woodwind and horn elements add an additional layer of complexity.

#3: Alvvays/ Blue Rev

The Canadian four piece delivered the best pure rock album of the year with their third full length. Highlight “Many Mirrors” is a gem of dream pop perfection in its simplicity, hitting all the right notes with its persistent, ringing guitar riff and lead singer Molly Rankin’s soft and sweet vocals emoting as she sings “I can’t believe we’re still the same,” her voice fluttering over an extra syllable on the last word. The moment where that song ends and shifts aggressively into the pulsating synth beat of “Very Online Guy” is an essay in transition and serves as an ear-catching centerpiece. Catchy opener “Pharmacist” is immediately engaging and concise before leading into the rollicking anthem “Easy On Your Own?” Power pop jangle “After The Earthquake” explodes after those two, culminating into a whispery bridge before bursting back into a cascade of distorted guitars through the coda; you’re not likely to find a better 1-2-3 punch to start an album in recent memory than what we have here as the band shows a penchant for the immediacy of melodies. The payoff is massive as Rankin absolutely nails seemingly out-of-her-range notes across the climaxes of highlights like “Velveteen” and “Lottery Noises.” With so many highly anticipated albums released this year, Alvvays provided the biggest “where did that come from?!” moment for me, and will enter 2023 as the band I am most anxious to see live.

#2: The Smile: A Light For Attracting Attention

While it would be difficult to reduce Radiohead, one of the greatest bands of all time, to the sum of its parts, if forced to do so, one might land upon lead singer Thom Yorke and multi-instrumentalist Johnny Greenwood as the fundamental pillars of the band’s sound. It’s not surprising, then, that their first record as a two man band sounds a lot more like a proper Radiohead offering than any of the previous solo work by either artist. And how can that reality be viewed as anything but a great thing? The trademark beauty of the band’s balladry resonates on the lovely and straightforward “Free In The Knowledge”, the gorgeous piano lines of “Open The Floodgates” and the atmospheric synths of “Speech Bubbles”, while rockier tracks like the snarling “You Will Never Work In Television Again” and ominous “We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings” seem to harken back to The Bends era stylistically. There isn’t a single weak moment across the 13 tracks here, and highlights abound on less familiar sounding and exciting tracks such as the bouncing funk bassline that combines with blasts of horns underneath Yorke’s unmistakable falsetto on highlight “The Smoke”, the foreboding guitar rhythm that permeates “The Opposite” and the backward piano progressions of the haunting “Pana-Vision.” These songs couldn’t have been made by anyone besides Yorke and Greenwood, and we’re thirsty for more.

#1: Big Thief/ Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

On the heels of a 2019 that saw Big Thief place an unprecedented two different albums in our Top 5 of the Year list, the old adage that a band at the top of its game is allowed to do whatever it wants to do is on full display here. With unapologetic disregard for formula over these 20 sprawling tracks, the folk rock band demonstrates not only its range, precision and consistency, but also showcases an intellectual curiosity in regard to the possibilities and limitlessness of music itself. What separates the ambitious Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You from its landmark predecessors UFOF and Two Hands lies in the way it tests, experiments against and bursts out of the range seemingly established over the course of those records, and how it does so with such a thrilling combination of nonchalance, confidence and jubilation. Listeners hoping for any sort of cohesion across these 20 tracks completely miss the point and are in for a surprise, and never is this more evident than in the transition from the end of the first half of the record into the start of the second, which sees the dark trip hop sounds of “Blurred View” explode into the bright, cheery honky tonk of the foot-stomping “Red Moon”, which actually culminates with lead singer Adrianne Lenker shouting “That’s my grandma!”– a refreshing disorientation to say the least.

Whether you came here for more country, like the road trip-ready sunniness of closer “Blue Lightning” or the impossible to be real lyrics on “Spud Infinity”, or if you fancy the subtle acoustic beauty of the title track, opener “Change” or the penultimate tearjerker “The Only Place”, there’s something familiar here for everyone. Even a song as simplistic as “Certainty” manages to standout based solely on the sheer perfection of its execution. But the band truly soars to new heights as it expands into less comfortable terrain, like the blasts of distorted, discordant and feedback-laden electric guitar that combines with sampled percussion on “Flower of Blood”, the off-kilter time signatures of “Little Things” and “Simulation Swarm”, or the gorgeous flute on “No Reason”, which is quite possibly the prettiest song in the band’s entire catalog. The glorious chaos of all of these songs colliding against one another is what truly separates this effort as the top album of 2022, and at this point, of the young decade.

Explore posts in the same categories: Tunes

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: