Our 2022 Midyear Report continues with our favorite albums of the year so far.
Art is not sport, there’s no such thing as a best album, and roundups like this one are built on a foundation of sand. We’d happily shove the whole thing into the ocean if we could, and we’d list our favorites in alphabetical order if such an arrangement would generate even half the clicks. But it wouldn’t. Even you, reading four sentences into an introduction, are the exception, lingering on an appetizer as the vast majority of readers scroll to the main course.
But that doesn’t mean the exercise is without value, even beyond the need for independent publications like this one to keep the lights on in an increasingly hostile media environment.
To start, there are the arguments. Oh, we love the arguments! Passion drives the artistic economy, arriving ahead of money like clouds before the rain. Is our list perfect? Of course not. Could we have done better? We’re sure you’ll let us know.
Aside from that, roundups like this have two more virtues. The first is providing a boost to smaller acts who depend on word of mouth, as well as medium-sized acts poised for the big break. And finally, they offer a snapshot of the preoccupations, politics, and musical preferences of both artists and audiences. This year’s trends will be obvious with a little historical distance, but in the moment we can attempt an educated guess.
2022 is shaping up to be the year of the big statement. These aren’t collections of singles surrounded by filler, or lengthy data dumps released in the hope that streaming numbers will push them to undeserved heights on the charts. Many of the most thrilling musical statements are leaning hard on the L in LP — and that includes a couple of great albums that came out after our vote had concluded. We’ll know more later.
For now, let’s revel in a year that seems to delight in large ideas developing over time.
— Wren Graves
30. Yard Act – The Overload
The debut LP from Leeds’ finest has everything you want out of a post-punk album: angular riffs, astute observations about class, and an extra-thick British accent. The Overload is a showcase for the band’s range, with emotive frontman James Smith showcasing both vulnerability and a sense of humor across 11 can’t-skip tracks. — Spencer Dukoff
29. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Unlimited Love
Consequence cover stars Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Unlimited Love is their first album with John Frusciante back in the band since 2006, and that reunion feeling is happily on display throughout the album. The band retains its usual playfulness and California-centric funk rock, but there’s a refreshing exhale from Red Hot Chili Peppers on this effort, and it’s one that finds one of the world’s biggest bands operating with freedom and vigor. — Paolo Ragusa
28. Rammstein – Zeit
When the pandemic shut down Rammstein’s plan to tour extensively in support of their 2019 untitled album, the German industrial masters hit the studio to record a new album. Ahead of their highly-anticipated North American stadium tour, the band unveiled Zeit, a new LP’s worth of wild yet infectious songs that cover such topics as plastic surgery (“ZIick Zack”), large-breasted women (“Dicke Titten”), and unprotected sex (“OK”). — Spencer Kaufman
27. The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention
A Light for Attracting Attention, the debut album from Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner’s The Smile project, delights in the balance of contradictions. Though Yorke’s tendency to find clarity in the murkiest of headspaces — as he does best on the darkly comforting “Free in the Knowledge” — leaves him perfectly suited to face daily uncertainties like “We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings,” The Smile can at least extract some pleasure out of it. — Bryan Kress
26. Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Just when it had felt like we had been nearing the end of UK post-punk’s heyday from the last couple of years, in come Wet Leg. Our April Artist of the Month burst onto the indie scene seemingly out of nowhere and armed with witty, droll lyrics about life’s anxieties, all delivered with deadpan vocals (toss in a Mean Girls reference, too) and a wry smile. Never has ennui and casual nihilism lamented over a throbbing bass line felt so infectious; life may be pretty shit, but at least we’ve got Wet Leg. — Cady Siregar