My Top 100 Albums of 2022
2022 is the best year for music so far this decade. Whether it be the plethora of underground releases or the chart-topping mainstream albums, there has been so much fantastic music to discover. In this article, I'll go in-depth for my top ten favourites of the year, then list the remaining ninety afterwards for those interested in my complete list. If you only care about my in-depth thoughts, feel free to skip over the second half of this article. However, I implore you to look through the whole list, and if you see something you’re unfamiliar with, add it to your checklist for the next week.
10. Black Thought & Danger Mouse – Cheat Codes
Few hip hop albums have amazed me this year in the way Cheat Codes has. Danger Mouse is a producer I have a lot of respect for, and after this album I’m an even bigger fan for the rustic, gritty style he experimented with on this album. Black Thought’s vocals sound compressed, almost distorted, matching the gritty sample-work and dark, melancholic melodies of Danger’s production. The album encapsulates such a sombre atmosphere, complemented by Black Thought’s poetic sense of lyricism and the host of features which each bring a new dynamic to the tracklist. From the fiery El-P verse on “Strangers” to the classic MF DOOM feature on “Belize”, Thought and Danger knew exactly where to place their guests and never let them hold the mic for too long. Despite there being eleven features through twelve tracks, Black Thought is still undeniably the focus, with at least a verse on every song with his signature smooth flows and profound lyricism. While I found the song structure throughout the album repetitive at points – verse, instrumental break, repeat – that was only a minor issue which is outweighed by the array of highlights on Cheat Codes.
9. Charli XCX – Crash
Going into Crash, I was sceptical. The lead single “Good Ones” was a catchy enough tune, if a little short, but the subsequent singles left a lot to be desired during the album rollout. And, as expected, I wasn’t blown away by Crash upon first listen. It’s Charli’s most accessible sound in years, casting aside the harsh and eccentric hyperpop elements which had defined her sound since 2018. Running at a mere thirty-three minutes, it’s an album which passes by swiftly, but over time, the brevity of Crash has become part of what I love about it. The sound, while more mainstream, is far from basic, with Charli’s strong vocals and talent for making an earworm chorus still prominent. Whether it be the addictive “Baby”, the 80s throwback “Yuck” or the explosive “Lightning”, Charli packs so many unforgettable moments into such a short runtime. At the end of the day, it may not be her most ambitious work, but there’s no denying the catchiness of this record, and that is what has drawn me back to it over and over.
8. Rina Sawayama – Hold the Girl
Hold the Girl may not be Rina’s most daring work, but the emotional depth of her writing coupled with the eccentric pop appeal of the record has brought me back to it countless times. Even though it’s less experimental than SAWAYAMA, the same diversity of sounds is still present, with elements of pop, electronica, and rock laced together into a dynamic album which remains cohesive thanks to the overarching themes of self-love and mental health. The singles are the obvious highlights, with “Hold the Girl” being up there with my favourite Rina songs to date and “This Hell” embodying that same quirky, animated character she’s known to portray. Some moments are stronger than others, but as an overall experience, Hold the Girl is one of the most emotional and captivating I’ve heard all year.
7. Harvey Gold – The Gold Vein
Having heard his work from last year – such as the diverse mash of sounds on Genre Time 2 or the charming Christmas EP Da Chrixmix – I had high hopes for The Gold Vein. Even so, it still blew away all expectations. It’s one of the most expertly produced albums I’ve heard all year, with Harvey putting aside his more eccentric blend of genres for a lighter, more luscious sound full of strings, groovy bass and catchy samples. The transitions between songs are seamless, with each track weaving into the next, creating one of the most cohesive projects all year. Aside from Harvey’s production, there are dozens of guests featured on the album which all bring their own unique flavour. Unruly on “Hear Me When I Say” is ferocious and passionate; Mansdem on “Elmer Fudd” is laidback and articulate; Mourning Run on “Ramshackle” shows off his innate ability to rhyme and rhyme. Some features are stronger than others, but Harvey’s production remains consistent throughout, with the instrumental songs sprinkled throughout the album being some of the greatest highlights. Moreover, the album concludes with the ever-changing “funny dog”, a seemingly endless song with dozens of different beats squished together into a single track without ever sounding messy. The Gold Vein is Harvey’s sharpest work yet and fully showcases his talent as a producer.
6. black midi – Hellfire
There are few bands as exciting, unique, and creative as black midi. Their modern take on progressive rock is fantastic, with sudden transitions, slow build-ups and tense climaxes being the backbone of this record. Geordie and Cameron both bring their all when it comes to the vocals, with the former offering these loud, manic performances while the latter brings a more cool-headed approach which makes his more aggressive moments all the more impactful. The chaotic sound of this album is difficult to articulate. The explosive crash of instruments on “Welcome to Hell” showcase just how abrasive and impactful their sound can be, while “Sugar/Tzu” displays the complexity and skill of the band with these quick rhythms which sound hypnotic in their repetition. I don’t think it’s their strongest album, but that’s no criticism, because Hellfire is still up there with the best albums I’ve heard all year.
5. Weyes Blood – And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow
This is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I have heard this decade. The instrumentation on this album is dense, creating these vast, lush atmospheres which complement the smooth tone of Natalie’s voice. Her singing is angelic, made stronger by the blend of piano, guitar, and synths which forge this wave of soothing sound. The album can be catchy, such as with the opener “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”, but it’s in the atmosphere Natalie creates where the album truly shines. The best example is the revered “God Turn Me Into a Flower”, where glittering synths and the faint noise of birdsong transport the listener into the eyes of flower blooming from the earth. With this album, Weyes Blood shows that words aren’t all a singer needs to have an impact on the listener.
4. Nas – King’s Disease III
I knew this album would be fantastic, but I did not expect it to quite be on this level. King’s Disease III is further proof that Nas never left his prime, nor did he have a prime to leave: he has always ebbed and flowed from excellence to mediocrity, and with King’s Disease III, he’s rapping at his highest level in twenty years. Hit-Boy’s production is an improvement upon Magic and King’s Disease II, capturing the same punch of the previous projects but with even more detailed instrumentals and a glamour to the beats which adds to Nas’s confidence on the mic. Nas sounds so alive, with a variety of fierce flows and witty lyrics which come off like the energetic performance of a newcomer breaking into the scene, not a hip hop veteran thirty years into his career. This album combines the cohesion of King’s Disease II with the vigour of Magic, making this a satisfying album experience where every song is a highlight. It’s Nas’s best album this decade, and one of his best projects ever.
3. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
I went into this album with no expectations and came out having had one of the best listening experiences of my life. I adore the strained, soft vocals of Adrianne Lenker which express so much emotion without having to show off with flashy riffs or dramatic balladry. The instrumentation is lush, with the modern folk production taking so many different turns in style, making for an eclectic album which never loses steam over its twenty tracks. There is no song I don’t love on this album, whether it be the addictive guitar solos on “Simulation Swarm”, the upbeat instrumentation of “Spud Infinity” or the hypnotic vocal melodies on “Sparrow”. Despite its length, the record only leaves me wanting more after it’s finished. It’s an exciting blend of folk sounds brought together with a brilliant vocalist and some of the most lush instrumentation I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing.
2. Beyoncé – RENAISSANCE
Going into RENAISSANCE, I expected no more than a pleasant dance-pop album with a few standouts to take away, but what I heard was one of the most catchy, cohesive, and meticulously detailed pop albums of the decade. The dance-pop production is fantastic, with new intricacies being added to the production with each passing minute, leading to every track being as rich in detail as any great house song. Each song transitions into the next effortlessly, making the album experience irresistible because it doesn’t feel right playing one song without playing the next, then the next. Despite this being a brand new sound for Beyoncé, she sounds so comfortable, thriving on the busy production with a range of different performances. There are touching moments of balladry, spoken word passages which border on rapping, and bright pop bangers which embody that signature Beyoncé glamour. Vocally, it’s fantastic; instrumentally, it’s phenomenal; and put together, it’s one of the finest albums in modern pop.
1. billy woods – Aethiopes
After countless listens, Aethiopes has already become one of my all-time favourite hip hop albums. The album is fully produced by Preservation who provides these spacious, ominous instrumentals which come together to form this vivid, foreboding atmosphere. Songs like “Sauvage” and “Haarlem” have beats I could not compare to anything else I have ever heard – they defy all conventions of hip hop in favour of building on the otherworldly sound of Aethiopes. And that’s not even mentioning billy’s performance. His lyricism is known to be cryptic and dense with meaning, and Aethiopes may be his best written work yet. His ability to build a world with words and transport the listener to another world is unmatched. His drunken flows convey so much emotion, sacrificing the conventional delivery most rappers would use to make the listener bob their head to instead make the listener fully immerse themselves in the emotion and atmosphere of this masterpiece.
Before I list the entire Top 100, I would like to mention two albums I forgot to mention which should have made the list. These are Disoriented by Spiky (a moody ambient album with elements of dance and hip hop) and 2000 by Joey Bada$$ (a great hip hop album with slick production and a host of exciting guests). Now for the list.
100. Big K.R.I.T. - Digital Roses Don't Die
99. FINNEAS - Optimist
98. Drake & 21 Savage - HER LOSS
97. Quadeca - I DIDN'T MEAN TO HAUNT YOU
96. Brent Bronze - PRODIGAL SON
95. Harry Styles - Harry's House
94. Backwood Sweetie & Furious Stylez - Sweetie Got Stylez
93. Your Old Droog - YOD Wave
92. KnowItAll & OGknownforsmokin - Soul Surgery
91. DRE Colombian Raw & Ras Beats - Crudo
90. Xhef & Teekoh - Extension of the Hand
89. Patty Honcho & Numbz - LIFE
88. Jiggs - God Meant It
87. Rome Mallory - Protect Your Inner Peace
86. BlaQ Chidori - White Melodies B Side
85. Open Mike Eagle - Component System with the Auto Reverse
84. S.I.N. & B.Positiv - Nightlife 4 (Thinking) Introverts
83. Skip the Kid - Fuck Ur Beats
82. Logic - Vinyl Days
81. Björk - Fossora
80. The Koreatown Oddity - ISTHISFORREAL?
79. Midnight Samurai - Training Sessions, Vol. 3: Benevolence
78. IDK & KAYTRANADA - Simple.
77. MANSDEM & J4K - Hitmans
76. Filip Neuf & Mourning Run - Pearls Before Swine
75. Rome Streetz - KISS THE RING
74. E L U C I D - I Told Bessie
73. Recede - Bloom
72. KnowItAll & Owlkast - The machine
71. SZA - SOS
70. Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There
69. Vic Spencer & Stu Bangas - IMPACT (I Must Punch a Car Today)
68. Metro Boomin - HEROES AND VILLAINS
67. Black Star & Madlib - No Fear of Time
66. twogeebs - Tha Geeb Tape 3
65. Blank Thought & Zim - Movies at Midnight
64. Blank Thought - Repetition
63. Tomorrow People & Teekoh - MORE MUSIC PLEASE
62. Roc Marciano & The Alchemist - The Elephant Man's Bones
61. Loyle Carner - hugo
60. LUNAR. - FLOYDBERG
59. Future - I NEVER LIKED YOU
58. Klwn Cat & Matt Draugos - Dragon Li
57. Jimmy Luciano - Grand Rising
56. Fly Anakin - Frank
55. Cities Aviv - MAN PLAYS THE HORN
54. yeule - Glitch Princess
53. Ghais Guevara - There Will Be No Super-Slave
52. The Weeknd - DAWN FM
51. Young Nudy - EA Monster
50. billy woods & Messiah Musik - Church
49. Earl Sweatshirt - SICK!
48. Borborygmus4000 - Hyperopia
47. Thought Provokah - I'M GOOD I'M GOOD
46. Brando Bambino & Pyramid Tapes - Bandito
45. Boldy James & Futurewave - Mr. Ten08
44. Sonnyjim & The Purist - White Girl Wasted
43. Pusha T - It's Almost Dry
42. DJ MUggs & Rigz - Gold
41. Klwn Cat & Nonazz - The Turning Point
40. Westside Gunn - 10
39. Beach House - Once Twice Melody
38. Che Noir - Food for Thought
37. Benny the Butcher - Tana Talk 4
36. Filip Neuf - Riviera Arkestra
35. Perfume Genius - Ugly Season
34. Dot-Com Intelligence & August Fanon - Precipice
33. Bun B & Statik Selektah - Trillstatik 2
32. Freddie Gibbs - $oul $old $eperately
31. Ari Lennox - age/sex/location
30. KnowItAll & Skip the Kid - Music Saved Me 2
29. Boldy James & Real Bad Man - Killing Nothing
28. death's dynamic shroud - Darklife
27. Soul Glo - Diaspora Problems
26. Jockstrap - I Love You Jennifer B
25. Ab-Soul - HERBERT
24. Alvvays - Blue Rev
23. Phife Dawg - Forever
22. Rosalía - MOTOMAMI
21. Richard Dawson - The Ruby Cord
20. Luna Li - Duality
19. JID - The Forever Story
18. Natalie Lafourcade - La Todas las Flores
17. Ka - Languish Arts & Woeful Studies
16. Denzel Curry - Melt My Eyez See Your Future
15. Unruly - Black Graffiti
14. Kendrick Lamar - Mr Morale & the Big Steppers
13. Carly Rae Jepsen - The Loneliest Time
12. Conway the Machine - God Don't Make Mistakes
11. Little Simz - NO THANK YOU
10. Black Thought & Danger Mouse - Cheat Codes
9. Charli XCX - Crash
8. Rina Sawayama - Hold the Girl
7. Harvey Gold - The Gold Vein
6. black midi - Hellfire
5. Weyes Blood - And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow
4. Nas - King's Disease III
3. Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
2. Beyoncé - RENAISSANCE
1. billy woods - Aethiopes
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