808s / Best of 2021 / Yearly Best Of

Best of 2022: Top 25 (Or 40 If I’m Honest) Albums

I always collate a Top 25 best albums of the year. Either because I was too lazy to condese this list down to that, or too much great music was released in 2022, here are the albums that nearly made my Top 25 from 40-26:

25) The Line Is A Curve – Kae Tempest

For me Kae has never been as dynamic, thrilling and cohesive as on The Line Is A Curve. I’ve always appreciated their ability as a poet, but have never found the music fully integrates itself with the lyrics. On this album it does, Move, No Prizes, More Pressure and Salt Coast; these songs are complete musical creations. It feels like Kae is speaking from inside for the first time rather than the worldly outlook of previous records.

24) Being Funny In a Foreign Language – The 1975

Sort of The 1975 record I had been asking for, their most cohesive end to end album following the overlong and tedious Notes, it’s over in just 40 minutes. Every song is great, Happiness, Looking For Somebody (To Love) and About You are 1975 all time classics. That said it’s also their least ambitious record to date, Jack Antonoff’s production style making a song like Oh Caroline sound a little too polished for a band who are known for being their own chaotic selves. Song for song this is brilliant, just needs a touch more Matty Healy chaos next time.

23) And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow – Weyes Blood

Like cuddling under a warm blanket on a cold and blustery night, this album is gorgeous. Weyes Blood doesn’t just capture influence from The Carpenters, this feels like an album fully out of time, a classic record that has emerged from obscurity. Opener It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody glides along beautifully, while Hearts Aglow and Twin Flame showcase such wondrous vocals.

22) Squeeze – SASAMI

It may seem like a strange choice to anyone who knows me quite well, especially above some out and out pop records below it, but SASAMI amazed me with this record. The blend of heavy guitars and soft rock Americana makes for such a unique sounding album. I never would have thought I’d have found a connection to this album after seeing the album artwork for the first time, Tried To Understand, Say It, Make It Right and the gorgeous closer Not a Love Song really defined my year.

21) Two Ribbons – Let’s Eat Grandma

It’s rare to hear such a stark depiction of what it’s like to lose a connection with a friend in your life. It’s this unique theme that carries most of Two Ribbons. Watching You Go soars in a way that nothing on their previous record did, while Happy New Year and Levitation are more euphoric than any of their previous songs. Even a song like Sunday is a slow burn but floats along with such grace and a delicate vocal. Another fantastic record from the band with the most ridiculous name in pop.

20) CRASH – Charli XCX

Every year I would go into the new Charli XCX record hoping, maybe this will finally be the year she makes the album I’ve always wanted. Charli wasn’t it, How I’m Feeling Now definitely wasn’t my thing, but going into 2022 I got myself into the same mindset; maybe Crash would be the one. It absolutely is. New Shapes, Baby, Constant Repeat, Move Me and Lightning are Alt Pop heaven. And then you get out and out BOPS like Used To Know Me, Beg For You and Good Ones? Charli finally delivers the world conquering pop record she always could and I’m more than happy to let her return to making Hyperpop mixtapes again safe in the knowledge that for a single year I finally ‘got’ Charli XCX.

19) Hideous Bastard – Oliver Sim

It’s not a shock that I really like the debut album from someone from The xx (See Jamie xx’s phenomenal In Colour), I can’t begin to explain the visceral effect that Oliver’s voice seems to have on me; he could sing the alphabet song and I’d find it enchanting. What is a shock is how brutally honest Hideous Bastard is, over a decade into his career with The xx we have never heard him be so open and free as he is on this album. On Never Here he sums that feeling up ‘I was never really here’, while opener Hideous is one of the year’s most gut wrenching records. Just enough of a step to the side from The xx’s sound to stand alone, but just similar enough for a fan like me to really dive deep into it.

18) Life Is Yours – Foals

Possibly the most upbeat, joyous and downright fun album of 2022 being the new Foals record should seem strange, but across these 40 minutes I haven’t heard anyone play with as much energy as these three do. 2am, 2001, Looking High and Wake Me Up all give me life, while it’s closing songs The Sound and Wild Green that seem to really take the dance elements of Foals music to new heights. They sound so effortless on these sort of records and while some may claim it’s all a bit one note, for me the hit rate is too high to claim that as a negative.

17) Hold The Girl – Rina Sawayama

Comparing Hold The Girl directly to Rina’s debut record SAWAYAMA it can feel a little like some of the urgency and energy has been lost among the clean production on the clearly higher budget Hold The Girl. I think this is true at some moments on the record, but for the most part this is the sound of Rina truly owning her crown as a new star in Pop. Your Age is visceral and impactful, while Imagining subverts the current 90s garage style of pop with a rock sensibility only Rina has. The title track is chaotic and exciting while This Hell and Holy (Til You Let Me Go) are pop bangers. Rina is here for the long haul and proves that her debut was absolutely no fluke.

16) Humble Quest – Maren Morris

The overall tone of Humble Quest is self reflection, not of blanket positivity, but of thinking of exactly how you want to live your life. Maren Morris has been pretty open about suffering badly with postpartum depression and you can hear her personal journey on songs like Detour, her new outlook as a mother and a wife giving the album a lived in feel that works so well with the more acoustic production style than her previous albums. The title track is a wondrous reflective take on what it means to speak up on issues she genuinely cares about, while living her own privileged life. It’s genuinely refreshing to hear music like this that’s so freeing in its openness of being a ‘work in progress’. Maren Morris is one of country music’s best songwriters and vocalists and here she continues to deliver a brilliant complete album.

15) For All Our Days That Tear The Heart – Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler

Probably the best vocal on an album in 2022, yes I know that the guy from Suede doing an album with his actor friend isn’t the most ‘organic’ artistic starting point on this list but for me I couldn’t get enough of this album. Jessie Buckley sounds phenomenal, no surprise to anyone paying attention, but this folk style suits her so perfectly. The opening two tracks are full of drama and expansive scale, while Babylon Days has a more urgent acoustic guitar sound. The orchestrations are as beautiful as her singing, and this album is absolutely worthy of being on this list.

14) Redcar les adorables étoiles (prologue) – Christine and the Queens presents Redcar

I sort of expected that Redcar les adorables étoiles (prologue) would be a more difficult album to unpack than the previous Christine and the Queens releases, but it’s so worth the effort. There is so much emotion and depth here some of the most emotive performances of their  career yet, all wrapped up with excellent forward thinking pop production. Les etoiles is spectacular, while rein dire is heart wrenching. It’s a true performance piece and best understood like that, which I’m gutted I never got to see performed live in 2022. Fingers crossed for 2023.

13) Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022) – Fred again..

Nobody is making dance records like Fred again.. is. I was slightly lukewarm on Actual Life 1, really enjoyed 2 but have fallen head over heels for the third instalment in Fred’s diary record series. Delilah (pull me out of this) is a thrilling dance track, while elsewhere Eyelar (shutters) and Berwyn (all that I got is you) are more emotive chillout moments. Clara (the night is dark) is the true peak of the record though, transcendent and euphoric I honestly get completely lost as the song builds and builds. Actual Life 3 is escapism at its best.

12) Reason to Smile – Kojey Radical

The grin on Kojey Radical’s face on every moment of Reason To Smile is so infectious it’s as enjoyable as the day I first listened. This is such a huge sounding record, diving between different styles of Hip Hop, across the world and a plethora of fantastic guest spots. Kojey always sounds honoured to be performing alongside these people, it’s a celebration not  contest and it gives this whole album such a brilliant atmosphere. Talkin’ is fiery with a superb guest from Kelis, while the opening title track is pure joy with funky slap bass. This record is a pleasure to hear every single time. 

11) Traumazine – Megan Thee Stallion

Megan Thee Stallion is the reigning queen of rap, sorry to any Barbz or Cardi stans that might read this, but after hearing Traumazine I can’t see anyone else at Megan’s level in mainstream rap. Her bars on fiery tracks like Plan B, Her and Ms. Nasty are obviously fire, but the biggest surprise on Traumazine is how Megan dives into her own personal struggle on tracks like Anxiety and Flip Flop, it’s personal and heartfelt without losing what makes Megan’s verses so intoxicating for a listener. I seem to be the only person who thinks that Traumazine is the strongest record of Megan’s career, but for me this is her crowning achievement so far.

10) Palomino – Miranda Lambert

I’m a broken record talking about Miranda Lambert. This is the 6th time she’s made it into my Top 25 albums of the year and her 3rd time in the top 10. Her consistency is incredible honestly, especially in a genre where artists can so easily fail to make any development from record to record, but for Miranda it just comes naturally. Palomino is expansive and luscious at times, twangy and soulful at others. Simple songs like Tourist and I’ll Be Lovin’ You become timeless classics with Miranda’s delivery, while Actin’ Up and Strange are full of her typical fiery attitude. I mentioned how revolutionary her record The Marfa Tapes was last year, and the new versions of In His Arms and Geraldine are incredible here. It’s Waxahatchee though that has gone on to be possibly my favourite song of her career, heartfelt and emotive. Miranda Lambert is the Queen, King and ultimate star of country music and she has been for well over a decade. 

9) Raw Data Feel – Everything Everything

There’s a chaos present on the best Everything Everything songs that when channeled makes them such a thrill to listen to. On Raw Data Feel it’s like they’ve mastered that and rammed it into the recording of every song on the album. Some of the most infuriatingly catchy pop music of the year is on this frantic album. Bad Friday is exhilerating and undeniably infectious, while I Want A Love Like This and Cut UP! are a smoke machine away from being a dance record. I got so much joy from listening to this album all year, Jonathan Higgs’ energetic performance throughout taking songs like Kevin’s Car out of the Indie Pop landfill they might find themselves in with a lesser frontman.

8) Preacher’s Daughter – Ethel Cain

There are albums that you remember exactly where you were the first time you listened to them, however mundane the situation. In 2022 that moment is pressing play on the new Picky Bastards podcast playlist while getting on a train to work and hearing the opening Family Tree (Intro) from Ethel Cain’s phenomenal Preacher’s Daughter. By track 3, A House In Nebraska, I knew this was going to be an album that would stay with me for a long time. By the time track 7, the outstanding centerpiece of the album Thoroughfare, came to a close I asked if I was listening to the album of the year. The unique perspective, with deep religious imagery throughout next to songs as explicit as Gibson Girl and as terrifying as Ptolemaea it’s unlike anything else released in 2022. Throw in a perfectly crafted country pop record in American Teenager and this album has it all. 1 hour and 16 minutes and every single moment feels necessary; a truly breathtaking record. 

7) Dance Fever – Florence + the Machine

Dance Fever isn’t a revolution, Florence Welch has released quite a few albums that could be seen as very similar to this, but what has changed this time is a renewed focus on the first part of that name. So much of this record is about the freedom of dancing, of the ecstasy of losing yourself, on the stage, to other people and to movement itself. Choreomania describes Florence ‘dancing herself to death’, while closer Velvet Elvis captures how outside of the stage she struggled even functioning before she was sober. It’s almost like a distillation of the greatest types of records that Florence + The Machine can deliver, Dream Girl Evil is epic and dramatic, Free is pure euphoria, while Back In Town is heartbreakingly bleak. Dance Fever is almost the ultimate Florence record, showcasing every part of her unique talent.

6) NO THANK YOU – Little Simz

How dare I claim that an album released just 19 days before the end of 2022 is an Album of the Year? When it’s a Little Simz record, surely it just makes sense? Little Simz and Inflo have created yet another phenomenal album with some of the most intense verses of the year, and the most luscious string and choir orchestrations. The work both have done as part of SAULT is clearly on display on tracks like X and Broken, 2 equally triumphant moments in a recent career where Simz genuinely hasn’t missed yet. NO THANK YOU feels like a coming together of the ambitious musicality of Sometimes I Might Be Introvert and the razor sharp focus on Grey AREA. Whether it comes close to matching either, we all need a little longer with this album to decide that, but even in the short time I’ve had, Little Simz has created an immense album yet again. She truly is unstoppable. 

5) RENAISSANCE – Beyoncé

Remember that era when Beyoncé was seen as a singles artist and I would complain that her albums were just a little messy to truly shine next to more complete records? With RENAISSANCE we are 3/3 for her last three studio records being all time classics, but truly she’s never released anything as cohesive and well rounded as this dance tour-de-force. As a celebration of dance culture, not just music RENAISSANCE is outstanding, songs like VIRGO’S GROOVE, PURE/HONEY, SUMMER RENAISSANCE and MOVE take their own influence from the true dance classics. BREAK MY SOUL is a bass thumping bop while ALIEN SUPERSTAR had me screaming ‘UNIQUE’ at random all year. The way songs blend together is effortless and takes this to new heights as a pop record for Queen Bey. 

4) Dawn FM – The Weeknd

One week. That’s the only time we spent in 2022 without Dawn FM, the second monumental album in a row from The Weeknd. Back in 2020 I said ‘It’s The Weeknd’s industry now, we are just here to listen to incredible music.’ after talking about my album of the year After Hours. Less than 2 years on, the effects of that album are still felt on music (Blinding Lights and Save Your Tears are probably still #1 somewhere) but also on The Weeknd himself. It would have been so easy to just throw together another few big hits, play the Superbowl and live off those hits for a few years. Instead we get an even more ambitious concept album, stacked with huge records and even more inward looking moments too. How Do I Make You Love Me, Sacrifice and Gasoline are huge, but then Best Friends and Out Of Time capture additional sides of The Weeknd’s musical style. Dawn FM was the benchmark in 2022, if I was considering a record for Album of the Year, the actual question I asked for so long was ‘Is this better than Dawn FM’? Only 3 albums got a ‘Yes’ from me in the end.

3) MUNA – MUNA

How else can I describe MUNA’s self-titled album without repeating myself. It seems genuinely silly to say that you feel proud of a band, these are people you don’t actually know, that you’ve only ever seen from a crowd at a gig, but seeing MUNA’s development from underground taste-maker pop favourite to full on superstar level this year has filled me with immense pride. It’s ridiculous really, but I couldn’t help but feel thankful that MUNA even exists as a band the first go through of this self titled album. Front to back, every single song here is essential. I’m not even typing out any song titles, no other album on this list will make me avoid doing that. All I can say is thank you to Katie, Jossete and Naomi for releasing music. I know I’m not the only person who needed an album so full of devastating joy as MUNA in 2022.

2) hugo – Loyle Carner

Loyle Carner packs so much emotion and self reflection into hugo that even looking down at my phone I can’t quite believe that this album only lasts 34 minutes. From opener Hate right through to closer HGU Loyle speaks on his place in the world, his difficult relationship with his father and his own feelings on his mixed heritage. He had hinted towards this on his first two albums, but I’ve never heard him rap like this, and be so honest in his music. There’s so many layers to everything, musically so diverse and interesting, I love the atmosphere of the production on Polyfilla, while the spoken word samples that play each feel poignant in their own way. He describes growing up with black skin but living within primarly white culture on songs like Blood On The Nikes and Georgetown and while I can’t possibly relate directly, it’s a perspective I genuinely can’t say I’ve heard in recent UK Hip Hop. On hugo Loyle Carner not only crafts the most emotional and musically detailed music of his career, but he brings us into his world so effectively. This will be the big favorite for the Mercury Prize in 2023, and very nearly made it to #1 as my favourite album of 2022.

1) MOTOMAMI – Rosalía

There really couldn’t be any other album by any other artist at my number 1 spot in 2022. Rosalía has managed to live up to and vastly exceed the ridiculously high expectations all of us had of her as she went from critical favourite Flamenco singer to Latin Grammy winning world conquering artist in just a few years. Somehow with MOTOMAMI she has defied the expectations and created a record that feels like it’s beamed in from 2032 never mind 2022. The genre bending, pulling from Flamenco, Reggaeton, Pop, RnB, Hip Hop, Salsa, Alternative, Electronic, Jazz and probably some genres I’ve never even heard of before. MOTOMAMI is doing for Reggaeton what Bjork did for Electronic music with Homogenic back in 1995. Rosalía has used the biggest genre in the world and subverted every single element to create something vastly unique and awe inspiring. SOAKO is pure energy, COMO UN G is a devastating vocal performance; CHICKEN TERIYAKI is unabashed fun; CUUUUuuuuuute is the most chaotic song of the year and I have been obsessed; BULERIAS is the greatest single track Rosalía has created with production that makes my heart sink it’s so powerful. The scale of ambition, musical ability and confidence that it must have taken to create an album like MOTOMAMI is staggering to me. Creative, diverse and unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, or ever will again. 2022 was the year of ‘La Rosalía’ and MOTOMAMI is already a timeless classic.

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