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Top 30 Albums of 2022 (So Far)

Here are the sets that have held our attention for the past six months

best albums 2022 so far
Illustration by Steven Fiche
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    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.

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    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
    News Editor


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    30. Yard Act – The Overload

    Yard Act The Overload Artwork

    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

    Unlimited Love Artwork

    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

    Zeit artwork

    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

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    A Light For Attracting Attention Artwork

    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

    Wet Leg Artwork

    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

    25. Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful

    Everything Was Beautiful Artwork

    Nine albums in, Spiritualized are more dynamic than ever. That’s meant quite literally; the songs on Everything Was Beautiful are some of the most sonically dynamic of Jason “J. Spaceman” Pierce’s career. The pandemic affected everyone differently, with some musicians finding themselves creatively stifled and others opening themselves to the time. Spaceman falls in the latter category, leading to a lush, enchanting, and occasionally anguished sibling to 2018’s And Nothing Hurt. It’s almost like a double album released out of order, four years apart. — Ben Kaye

    24. Ghost – IMPERA

    IMPERA artwork

    Heading into the recording sessions for Ghost’s latest album, IMPERA, frontman Tobias Forge (aka Papa Emeritus IV) compared the effort to Metallica’s Black Album, not in terms of the sonic direction, but for its significance as the pivotal fifth album in the band’s career. Sonically, however, it calls to mind ‘70s arena-rock acts like Kansas, Styx, and Foreigner, juxtaposing the band’s sinister image with catchy-as-hell songs. — S.K.

    23. Tears for Fears – The Tipping Point

    The Tipping Point Artwork

    The Tipping Point is only Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith’s second Tears for Fears album since 1989, and a direct follow-up to 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. That’s a stunning timeline for a band to be able to deliver a record as beautiful and poignant as anything they released in the ’80s. The fact that it came from rejecting the modern hit-making algorithm by simply sitting Orzabal and Smith together with guitars just shows how you earn the moniker “legends.” — B. Kaye

    22. Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future

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    Melt My Eyes Artwork

    Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve. Denzel Curry’s Melt My Eyez See Your Future is dope because it highlights his humanity. Curry flexes his considerable rap muscles when discussing his religion, wavering devotion to said religion, his hypocrisies, his family, his aspirations, and the evil thoughts he keeps hoping will go away. — Marcus Shorter

    21. Jack White – Fear of the Dawn

    Fear of the Dawn Artwork

    On Fear of the Dawn, Jack White eases his grip on the earnest preserver of guitar rock pastiche and delivers a loose, sometimes jarring, and constantly intriguing set. Though July’s folk companion album Entering Heaven Alive is right around the corner, Fear has already earned its moment to shine as White’s most creatively ambitious effort (and album with the most Q-Tip features) in years. — B. Kress

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