Presenting in its entirety, Across The Margin’s Top 50 Albums of 2022…
Once again, we are thrilled to share with you, our readers who we are forever grateful for, the music that ruled our world this year. As is always the case when we annually celebrate our Top 50 Albums at Across the Margin, what we are proud to present here is simply the albums we are most thankful for in any given year (not particularly “the best”). Those which received the greatest play, moved us with the deepest emotion, and settled most soundly in our souls. So, without further delay, let’s step in and drop the needle…
50. Christian Lee Hutson — Quitters
Los Angeles singer-songwriter Christian Lee Hutson’s latest album, Quitters, is produced by Phoebe Bridgers and her Better Oblivion Community Center bandmate Conor Oberst. Bridges can be found adding backing vocals to “Rubbernecker,” an alluring, sentimental song which finds Hutson singing of heartache and loss and the will to move on: “I am gonna be okay someday / With or without you.” Rife with vivid imagery (I’m a self esteem vending machine / A doctor’s office magazine / A funhouse at the county fair / A staircase to nowhere) and poetic lyricism, “Rubberneckers” exemplified just how talented a song composer Hutson persists as, one to certainly keep an eye on. Unsurprisingly, this is only one of the captivating offerings on Quitters, an album chock full of dreamy, thought provoking ditties.
49. Molly Tuttle — Crooked Rain
Molly Tuttle is a California native, but one thing that is emphatically clear on her third album, Crooked Rain, is that her heart and soul are bound to the rolling hills of Appalachia, the birthplace of bluegrass. The talented songstress, we learn in the album’s closer, “Grass Valley,” fell in love with bluegrass when her father took her to a Father’s Day bluegrass festival in Grass Valley, California when she was ten years old. “It was my first time going to a music festival and the songs that I heard on stage and jammed in the campground stuck with me for years to come,” she explains. This enduring love of bluegrass shines brightly throughout all of Crooked Rain, an album that also features the great Gillian Welch and another one of bluegrass’s young phenoms, Billy Strings.
48. Revelators Sound System — Revelators
“You had me at ‘A new instrumental project from Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor and bassists / producer Cameron Ralston.’” This is what we found ourselves uttering upon the news that a few of our favorite folk / rock artists were venturing into uncharted territory. It didn’t hurt that they were releasing this album on the record label founded by Justin Vernon and Aaron & Bryce Dessner, 37d03d. Revelators journey far out there, with cosmic, jazz grooves and atmospheric palettes that invoke Sun Ra, Phaorahe Sanders, and even Miles Davis. Strong words, we know, but we couldn’t be more impressed by this bold musical risk from Taylor and Ralston and hope to hear more from this ambient-jazz project.
47. Sam Cohen — Slow Fawn
Sam Cohen, it can be easily argued, is one of the most impressive and prolific producers in the music business. The Brooklyn-based vocalist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, artist, and producer (and also founding member of the psychedelic rock and pop band Apollo Sunshine) has been the secret weapon on albums by Kevin Morby, Curtis Harding, and Norah Jones, to name just a few. While skilled in helping to bring other’s projects to life, Cohen’s solo albums are also terrific, and that includes his latest offering Slow Fawn, an album that is, interestingly enough, about the limitation of words. “I don’t have a lot to say verbally about these last couple of years. Everything was chaos. It didn’t need pointing out. Whereas music can transmit joy and healing, those words themselves can sound hokey, or just sort of evaporate,” Cohen discloses. When words are employed on Slow Fawn, Cohen makes them count, but it is the truly unique and intricate soundscapes — crafted with the likes of Cochemea, Stuart Bogie, Dustrider, Photay, and Saundra Williams — that make this album a must-listen.
46. Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart
Vince Staples is proving to be one of the most prolific rappers in all of hip-hop. Just a year after the release of his fourth album, Vince Staples, the Compton, California emcee dropped Ramona Park Broke My Heart on the world,encompassing a sprawling sixteen track album featuring assists by Lil Baby, Ty Dolla $ign and Mustard with production by Kenny Beats, Cardo, and DJ Dahli. Ramona Park persists as a nod to, and examination of, the place Staples calls home. As he puts it, “I have been exploring the utility of home, security, comfort, meaning. The answer. The excuse. To outgrow is to love blindly no longer. Ramona Park Broke My Heart is the story of that growth.” The first single from the album “Magic,” exhibits Vince’s deft storytelling ability where he paints a picture of what it was like growing up: “Crip and blood shit / That’s the only thing I ever been in love with / So I hope you know we never goin’ public / Hands full so I can’t hold grudges, nah / I be thuggin’, jumpin’ out the backseat bustin’.”
45. Freddie Gibbs — $oul $old $eparately
Gary Indiana’s own Freddie Gibbs is, at this point, as bonafide in hip-hop as an artist can be. The bombastic gangster rapper has a bevy of albums that are considered by ardent hip-hop fans as modern day classics (particularly those produced by Madlib). His first solo outing since 2018’s hard-hitting Freddie features guest appearances from Anderson .Paak, DJ Paul, Moneybagg Yo, Musiq Soulchild, Offset, Kelly Price, Pusha T, Raekwon, Rick Ross, and Scarface. Now that Gibbs is indeed bonafide in the game, $oul $old $eparately finds the gifted emcee exploring what it means to be successful. Gibbs is at the top of his game and because of that $oul $old $eparately persists as a celebration, he is riding high and a comedown isn’t taking place anytime soon. Or as Gibbs puts it on the superb track “Lobster Omelette,”: “You could take away this rap shit today, throw the whole shit away, and I’ma still get rich.”
44. Destroyer — Labyrinthitis
Destroyer, the Canadian indie-rock band from Vancouver fronted by founding member Dan Bejar, released their thirteenth album this year, Labyrinthitis. This superb new offering is alive yet with all the fixings that make Destroyer so special where warm, pulsating new-wave grooves are paired perfectly with Bejar’s sardonic lyricism. Yet, true to form from the always adventurous veterans, Labyrinthitis, yet again ventures into unique territory. Take the lead single “Tintoretto, It’s for You“ for example, a song that is almost menacing in its feel, and encroaching in its poetic stylings, before the beat drops that is. It’s a song that is equally ambitious, beguiling, and wholly captivating. A persistently fascinating project, which commenced as a solo home-recording project in the early to mid-nineties, Destroyer, even this late in their career, have found imaginative ways to sound fresh and distinct, and, as always, penetrating.
43. Cate Le Bon — Pompeii
In each ensuing album, we fall deeper and deeper for the musical stylings of Welch singer-songwriter and producer Cate Le Bon. Her sixth album, Pompeii, assuredly — as the title implies — nods to our current moment, living in the times of a global pandemic almost comically coupled with a catastrophic climate emergency. Yet a potential apocalypse is far from the only theme Le Bon explores with her captivating lyricism, as love, religion, and the nature of existence is considered wholly. There is a sonic minimalism found throughout Pompeii which is poignant and bellies the profound lyricism that pacifies yet also arrests. But this stunner of an album also swells with might at times, showcasing the brand of 80s synth-pop and brass-infused ballads that make Le Bon’s music oh-so-special.
42. Oneida — Success
The veteran Brooklyn, New York rock outfit known as Oneida have released their most accessible album to date, Success. On their first album since 2018’s Romance (this is their longest gap between albums), conventional — yet provocative and refreshing — guitar riffs drive the album and returned a band that has become an admired Brooklyn institution back to their roots. As Oneida puts it: “Sometimes even the longest journey ends close to where you started. Previously, Oneida pushed further into abstract sounds, recording compositions that couldn’t have been more different than the hammering anthems of their past. They return with Success, their most guitar-centric, rock album in decades.”
41. Spiritualized — Everything Was Beautiful
The legendary English rock band Spiritualized latest album, Everything Was Beautiful, is the companion album to its predecessor, the brilliant and beautiful And Nothing Hurt, as both albums are birthed from the same demo sessions. What we fortunate fans have been gifted with is another heady dose of lush and soaring soundscapes that are breathtaking in their scope and splendor.. It must be noted that Spiritualized lead vocalist (and sole permanent member), Jason Pierce, played sixteen different instruments across the album, exemplifying his awe-inspiring talents.
40. Aldous Harding — Warm Chris
It’s uncanny to behold Aldous Harding’s Warm Chris. A strange and dynamic piece of art, the New Zealand folk singer’s latest is characterized by a smattering of sparse, airy piano and guitar instrumentations where Harding’s voice fluctuates brilliantly with emotional accents. Upon peculiar, captivating soundscapes, Harding’s voice transforms from song to song, offering charming musical surprises in each ensuing track. If pressed to describe Harding’s fourth album, produced by long-time PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish in one word, we could answer without skipping one beat: magical.
39. The Bogie Band featuring Joe Russo — The Prophets in the City
Multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and music producer Stuart Bogie’s latest project finds him teaming with drummer extraordinaire Joe Russo to bring to life an album that is adventurous and fantastically boisterous. The Prophets in the City features a supporting cast of musicians whose resumes run through some of New York City’s most beloved bands including Antibalas, The Dap-Kings, Budos Band, St. Vincent, and David Byrne’s American Utopia. The resulting efforts on this debut album are riotous and jubilant, pushing the boundaries of instrumental music. “The music we’ve created here revels in the human mysteries that unfold in New York City, basking in its connections, ironies, and myths,” explains Bogie. “Through observing its humanity, we hope to invoke the underlying world of the spirits.”
Essential Tracks: “The Prophets in The City (Arrival, Balance, Discipline, Joy),” “The Struggle.”
38. Leikeli47 — Shape Up
The most cranking song on this year’s Top 50 list is undoubtedly Leikeli47’s “Chitty Bang,” the lead off song on her excellent new album Shape Up. The anonymous, persistently masked, Brooklyn rapper’s third album is raw and energetic and once again named after Black beauty treatments as was 2017’s Wash & Set, and 2018’s Acrylic. “Chitty Bang,” while a fun party/club banger, also highlights the vast musical influences that makes Leikeli47 such a compelling artist, where house and dub inflections are as present as old school-boom bap.
37. Spoon — Lucifer on the Sofa
Spoon continues to be one of the most consistent acts in all of rock, in their inspired live performances as well as their album output. The Britt Daniel fronted band released their tenth album this year, Lucifer on the Sofa, and it might be their most pure offering of rock and roll yet. Or as Daniel puts it, “the sound of classic rock as written by a guy who never did get Eric Clapton.” The third single released entitled “Wild” is a perfect example of this, a track which inspired an excellent Western-theme music video that can, and should be, seen here!
36. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava
The Australian horde of musical phenoms who go by the moniker King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard are at it again, releasing outstanding albums at a jaw-droppingly prolific rate. One of our favorites of the five (yup, five) released in 2022 has the unique, yet appropriate, title of Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava. The album is described by the band as “built around the 7 Greek modes,” “collaborative,” and “jammy,” and was reportedly recorded over the space of a week, with the six band members improvising in a different musical key and tempo each day. We remain in awe of not just this band’s quantity of output, but of the quality of each. Not sure what is in the water down under, but we’d like to request a sip.
35. Dehd — Blue Skies
The Chicgo indie rock trio that are Dehd craft songs that are airy, pulsating, and entirely catchy. In the follow up to 2020’s excellent Flower of Devotion, their latest offering, Blue Skies, Dehd heighten their driving dreampop with the addition of Grammy winning mixing engineer, Craig Silvey (The Rolling Stones, The National, Arcade Fire), and mastering engineer, Heba Kadry (Slowdive, Bjork, Cate Le Bon). According to the band, they “booked the same studio where they recorded Flower of Devotion but tripled their stay, giving themselves time to play with arrangements and delight in a wonderland of drum machines and synthesizers. While continuing to write and record every part of the album themselves.” What came of that extra time and aspiration is an album that one can throw on and just feel good listening to, and what’s better than that?
34. Goose — Dripfield
Widely considered the premiere new jamband on the scene, the Connecticut-borne quintet Goose is the toast of the improvisational music scene. Yet, we find this view a touch narrow, as we find Goose to be more Vampire Weekend than String Cheese Incident. As much indie as jam. Dripfield is easily their most focused studio effort yet, where lead guitarists and vocalists Rick Mitarotonda’s easily-digestible lyrics soar over the band’s dynamic, buoyant soundscapes. If not your thing, we very much urge you to look past that jamband label and give this exciting band a chance. But it is also worth noting that they do jam with fervor live, so catching a show is a must.
33. Black Country, New Road — Ants From Up There
Black Country, New Road’s sophomore album, Ants From Up There, was recorded at Chale Abbey Studios, Isle Of Wight with the band’s long-term live engineer Sergio Maschetzko to tremendous results. The swelling soundscapes found on the album, which build slowly and patiently, ignite with swirling aggression time and again. Take the excellent “Concorde” for instance, which erupts enthusiastically in its concluding moment in the way Black Country, New Road are only capable of, where bandmembers Lewis Evans, May Kershaw, Charlie Wayne, Luke Mark, Isaac Wood, Tyler Hyde and Georgia Ellery wield their respective instruments with a fiery might. But those intoxicating crescendos always feel earned, as Black Country, New Road are masters of classic minimalism that has the capacity to burst, and we simply cannot get enough of their unique blend of indie-folk, pop, and rock.
32. Nilüfer Yanya — Painless
The sonic palettes found on London-based singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya’s second studio release, Painless, are both fascinatingly complex and mollifying. There is a duality at play throughout the entirety of the album, where there is an energy at play that is palpable, but also Painless is rife with a bevy of tracks you can sink into like a cloud. There is a depth of introspection driving the music too, an album that “runs head first into the depths of emotional vulnerability,” effecting an work of art with so many layers to peel back and enjoy, which is unsurprising being that is was crafted by a phenom of a musician, one that grew up listening to Turkish and classical music playing at home and who gravitated to guitar rock and learned how to play the instrument at the age of twelve.
31. Jeff Parker — Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Club
We at Across The Margin do our best to avoid live albums when we are compiling our end of year list, but sometimes exceptions must be made and rules must be broken. This year that deviation from the norm is courtesy of acclaimed guitarist and composer Jeff Parker. Known as a member of the post-rock group Tortoise since 1996, and a founding member of Isotope 217 and the Chicago Underground Trio, Parker’s skillset is appropriately universally heralded. This “solo” release captures a few intimate evenings playing with drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, and New Breed saxophonist Josh Johnson at ETA, a cozy Los Angeles cocktail bar. Mondays consist of four album side-long tracks, each spanning about twenty minutes, and is a journey of an album, one that is hypnotic in its essence and stunning in its exploratory adventurousness.
Essential Track: “2019 07-08 II.”
30. MJ Lenderman — Boat Songs
Boat Songs is Asheville, North Carolina singer-songwriter MJ “Jake” Lenderman’s first solo album recorded in a studio. While studio produced, it is thrilling how organic and almost live the entire album sounds. Maybe that is because during the album’s recording WWE matches and basketball games were silently projected on the studio walls, potentially injecting the potency of their action into the music. Lenderman’s brand of driving, sarcastic garage rock, amplified by exceptional musicianship, is a fascinating and compelling combination of alt-country and garage rock and we are already thrilled to see more solo work from the guitarist otherwise found in the band Wednesday.
29. Chris Forsyth — Evolution Here We Come
Philadelphia based musician and guitar extraordinaire Chris Forsyth’s latest album, Evolution Here We Come, is largely an instrumental work and a powerful and driving work of art. Featuring contributions from Douglas McCombs (Tortoise), Marshall Allen (Sun Ra Arkestra), Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), Linda Pitmon (The Baseball Project), Tom Malach (Garcia Peoples), Ryan Jewell (Ryley Walker), and co-producer Dave Harrington (Darkside), Evolution Here We Come is seven sprawling sonic journeys that exhibit just how talented of a guitarist Chris persists as.
28. Seawind of Battery — Clockwatching
Easily the most subtle, and too one of the most beautiful, albums we point to in this year’s countdown is Seawind of Battery’s Clockwatching. Clockwatching is the debut instrumental solo endeavor of Mike Horn, who’s released more cosmic music as Goldkey and Sunblinders. A pacifying piece of art, Clockwatching persists as an ambient, experimental exercise that “acts as a sonic balm for those in a state of existential anxiety.” In the often tense, divided times we live in, albums like this are a must, ones that allow us to relax our entire being and become fully taken by the sincere beauty that only music can offer.
27. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — Endless Rooms
The story of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s latest album Endless Rooms is a story of dancing around Australia’s strict Covid lockdowns. As the story goes, the album was “born during small windows of freedom in which the band would decamp to a mud-brick house in the bush around two hours north of Melbourne.” “It’s almost an anti-concept album,” says the band. “The Endless Rooms of the title reflects our love of creating worlds in our songs. We treat each of them as a bare room to be built up with infinite possibilities.” Regardless of its enlivening origin story, Endless Rooms is as fun and exciting a rock n’ roll album we’ve come upon all year.
26. Alvvays — Blue Rev
Alvvays third studio album, Blue Rev, was a work five years in the making. This was never the plan of course, as Covid did its thing and complicated the situation, and beyond that the band’s extensive touring slowed things down. Also, unbelievably, a bunch of demos for the albums were stolen by a thief. And, oh yeah, there was an episode where a basement flood nearly ruined all the band’s gear. The Toronto-based band persisted, and the wait was beyond worth it as Blue Rev is dripping with the sort of dreamy, animated pop songs that make the talented trio one of our favorite young bands out there.
25. Fantastic Negrito — White Jesus Black Problems
Fantastic Negrito (Xavier Dphrepaulezz) puts his entire being into his music. The winner of the first ever NPR Tiny Desk contest in 2015, who utilized that momentum to propel him towards to three Grammy wins, is a musician from Oakland who experienced the highs of a million-dollar record deal, the lows of a near fatal car accident that left him in a coma, and is now in the midst of a thriving career. His latest, White Jesus Black Problems, was inspired by his desire to tell the story of his seventh-generation grandparents, an interracial couple who lived in Virginia in the 1950s. “It was a story of courage, a story of perseverance, a story of inspiration and a story of good old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-something-done,” he states. Like we said, he puts all of him in his music, and the impact of that personal injection makes the Fantastic Negrito listening experience a thought provoking, compelling funk-fest.
24. Little Simz — NO THANK YOU
Absent from far too many end of year “Best Of” lists, simply because of when it was released (12.12.22), Little Simz’s latest album NO THANK YOU is just more confirmation of how insanely talented the UK emcee is (We are all truly witnesses…). The follow-up to her tremendous 2021 breakthrough Sometimes I Might Be Introvert makes it clear Simz has bars upon bars, and spits with a fury and precision that is just jaw-dropping. But it’s the emotion that the album is packed with that really makes it hit. On the emotional centerpiece of the album, “Broken,” Simz rhymes about breaking free from the shackles of racism (“Look how far you’ve come and see you’ve only just started / You exist, you alive, you are deservin’ of life / You are a beacon of light, you are determined to fly”), the burdens of generations trauma (“It’s the armageddon city, this shit might damage your soul / They won’t take the weight off you when you can’t manage the load / Like they’re just waitin’ to hear a fucking crack in your bones /Generational trauma you’ve had to deal with alone / No father, how do you become a man on your own?”), and the stigmas on mental health (“No one ever told you your mind is not to be played with / No one ever taught you ’bout moderation and patience / Under all the eyes and the pressure and the scrutiny / Why is mental health a taboo in the Black community?”) That is all in one song, and so we very much urge you to discover what you can uncover throughout the rest of NO THANK YOU.
23. Bartees Strange — Farm To Table
Bartees Strange latest album, Farm To Table, is far and away his most personal to date. In it he comes to terms with his relationship with his parents and with seeing their lives from the new lens he has of adulthood. Farm To Table finds Strange “looking at the people who came before you. When you’re young you don’t understand, but as you get older and you start to do the same things, you begin to understand way more deeply. You know why those decisions were made as you make the same ones.” Bartees Strange was once a football player on the path towards superstardom. He was once, also, get this, a spokesman for the FCC. But we couldn’t be more grateful he found his true calling as a musician, one whose lyrical depths are a reason to press play alone, but the soundscapes he waxes poetic over are lush, often smooth and sultry, and brilliant in their own right.
22. DOMi & JD Beck – Not Tight
One of the most buzzed about acts in all of music this year was inarguably the jazz duo consisting of French keyboardist Domi Louna and American drummer JD Beck, and with good reason. Signed to Anderson .Paak’s imprint on the iconic Blue Note label, the duo has a whimsical, youthful spirit that pairs wonderfully with their superb musical chops. Their debut album, Not Tight, is brimming with seasoned stars happy to help shine a light and play with these intriguing young talents. Veterans such as Thundercat, Mac DeMarco, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, and even Herbie Hancock. It is clear we are going to be hearing a whole lot more from DOMi & JD Beck, and Not Tight is one hell of a start to their musical journey.
21. Father John Misty — Chloë and the Next 20th Century
“Anyone else have some demented fake jazz music to show for their time in lockdown? Just me huh?” Those are the words of Father John Misty (Josh Tillman), at a late September show at Radio City Music Hall, an evening which found Misty’s timeless brand of satirical rock enriched by the New York Pops. What he is referring to is Chloë and the Next 20th Century, Misty’s fifth studio album which was written and recorded August through December 2020 and features arrangements by Drew Erickson. The album sees Misty and producer/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Wilson resume their longtime collaboration, and while a departure of sorts it is still rife with the sort of vivid,specific imagery and sardonic lyricism bounding over dense, ornate soundscapes we have come to know and love from the enigmatic artist.
20. Pusha T — It’s Almost Dry
Virginia rapper and one half of the Clipse released his first full length studio album since 2018’s Daytona this year, a remarkable effort entitled It’s Almost Dry, co-produced by a producer we refuse to name (for obvious reasons) and Pharrell Williams. The album features a variety of appearances from artists including Jay-Z, Lil Uzi Vert, Kid Cudi, and Don Toliver, yet it is King Push’s innovative lyricism and emphatic flow that shine on his fourth solo effort. It’s wild that this late in his career Pusha is raising his craft to new heights and sounding more passionate and creative than ever — but that is surely the case. What It’s Almost Dry amounts to is another instant classic for Pusha, yet while the album is easily one of the best hip-hop albums of 2022, we do have one note: For the next album we’d love to see more production assists from Pharrell (and maybe even Hit-Boy!) and less from the Chicago producer we once again chose not to even name.
19. JID — The Forever Story
We truly believe that Atlanta’s JID has the talent to one day be regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time, and his latest album, The Forever Story, emphatically serves as evidence to this claim. The Forever Story is an album of bangers after bangers, with “Surround Sound” and “Dance Now,” just to name a few, widely celebrated as a few of the best club ragers of 2022. The Forever Story features assists from talents such as 21 Savage, Johnta Austin, Baby Tate, Yasiin Bey, EarthGang, Eryn Allen Kane, Ravyn Lenae, Ari Lennox, Lil Durk, Lil Wayne, and Kenny Mason, and it’s impressive to consider that this is just JID’s third studio album, as he rhymes with the confidence and skill set of a seasoned veteran.
18. Black Midi — Hellfire
We admit that the British punk post band Black Midi is an acquired taste, and we are grateful we have acquired that taste. In spades. It’s remarkable to find a post-punk band with a flare for the theatrical, but that is exactly what Black Midi is. Beyond that, their incredibly novel sound incorporates elements of prog-rock, funk, pop, jazz, classical music, cabaret, electronics, flamenco, and more. The arrangements across Hellfire are complex but somehow never jarring, unless they mean to be. To give you a taste of how unique of a beast Hellfire is, in the closing track “27 Questions,” which is brimming with Primus vibes, listeners are introduced to a character by the name of Freddie Frost, a dying actor delivering one last performance only to combust in front of his audience. Yup, it’s that wild of a ride, one we urge you to take.
17. Kikagaku Moyo — Kumoyo Island
It was a bittersweet year for fans of the Japanese prog-rock band Kikagaku Moyo. The bitter: they played their last North America show at Brooklyn Steel this past Fall, and their days as a band are numbered (we are absolutely devastated about this news). The sweet: Kikagaku Moyo gifted fans with their fifth and final studio album, Kumoyo Island, which takes listeners on a psychedelic journey to a mythical island where it is suggested that parallels exist between the topography of the band’s home country — an island nation, surrounded by bodies of water — and the mysterious isle of Kumoyo. The band describes the album as “best-suited for counting stars, looking at the ocean, and dancing in one’s daydream,” but we suggest this album be devoured at any time, anywhere, and often. While tough to swallow the pill of this being the end for Kikagaku Moyo, we are eternally grateful for the ride they took us on in their extraordinary ten year existence.
16. Elkhorn — Distances
If you are not familiar with Elkhorn, the guitar New York duo featuring Jesse Sheppard on twelve-string acoustic and Drew Gardner on electric who “interweave the extended folk tradition with psychedelic improvisation, moving freely from pre-rock to post-rock and beyond,” their latest album Distances is the place to become acquainted. While the mainstays of the band remain Gardner and Sheppard, for Distances they formed a quartet featuring two drummers, Virginia-based Ian McColm and DC-based Nate Scheible. While only four tracks, there is so much to chew on here, particularly considering the final two offerings are eleven and eighteen minutes respectively. Distances is a sonic journey, that’s wholly alive, always fascinating, and beautiful journeying psychedelic rock at its finest.
15. Sharon Van Etten — We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Sharon Van Etten released her sixth studio album, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, the first week of May and as unfathomable as it is to ponder, the Jersey born and bred singer-songwriter appears to just be getting better and better with each passing day. Notably, with the release of this album, Van Etten didn’t share any singles in the build up to the album drop. “I wanted to approach this release differently, Van Etten said, “to engage my fans in an intentional way, in an effort to present the album as a whole body of work,” If you were to abide by Van Etten’s wishes, you had to wait for the album release to encounter “Mistakes,” an inspiring nod to finding ways to own errors as steps towards something better, a theme found reverberating throughout the album. Regrets are all about perspective, and “Mistakes” makes it known that the errors that we make in life, like this phenomenal album, can sometimes “turn out great.”
14. Joey BadA$$ — 20
In his third studio album, Joey Bada$$ embraces his legacy as one of hip-hop’s most influential MCs today, placing himself in a triumvirate of today’s greatest rappers alongside J Cole and Kendrick Lamar: “Who’s the best MCs? Kenny, Joey, and Cole.” There’s a wide ensemble of some of hip-hop’s best lyrical talent, including Diddy and Westside Gunn, and some heavy-hitting producers like Statik Selektah and Chuck Strangers to drop some ‘90s-inspired boom-bap beats. At the end of “Cruise Control,” Nas presents Joey Bada$$ to listeners as a “wise man” with “age on him like he’s been here before, yet he’s a young king,” a fitting endorsement of someone who’s lyrically enlivened hip-hop since his acclaimed 2012 debut mixtape, 1999. In “Show Me,” Statik Selektah and Heavy Mellow sample Emmanuelle Proulx’s silky soft crooning from Men I Trust’s single “Show Me How,” and the blending of her ambient chorus with Joey Bada$$’s intimate lyrics to a lover create a downtempo stand out among the album’s fourteen tracks. “Written in the Stars” puts a satisfying bow on an album that signifies the long-awaited return of a rapper who’s maintained humility throughout the decade’s-long rising of his star: “Congratulations to the top, never stop Love.”
13. Sault — 11
Sault, the British music collective that forges brilliant music from a concoction of R&B, house and disco, continues to astound us. The project is helmed by producer Inflo, best known for his work with Little Simz, Michael Kiwanuka, Jungle and Adele. It was extremely challenging to decide which album to choose from this fruitful collective, as they unleashed five excellent albums on their fans this year. Our favorite (Air was close) is 11, an album overflowing with sultry, smooth funk and propulsive, inspiring rhythms. The energy that pulsates of every single track across 11 is absolutely intoxicating, and there is a positivity that breathes throughout all of Sault’s music that we simply cannot get enough of.
12. Maggie Rogers — Surrender
The second full-length major label release for singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers, co-produced with Kid Harpoon, is one of the most dynamic alt-pop albums released in 2022. Rogers continues to surprise us, delighting us with soundscapes we just didn’t see coming. Take the third track off of Surrender, “Want Want,” which commences with an industrial sounding burst. Or, “Shatter” that kicks off with boisterous 80s-inspired synth rock rhythms. There isn’t a track on Surrender that isn’t compelling, and always for very different reasons. And lyrically, Rogers’ narratives are a breath of fresh air in their honesty, as she contemplates the nature of fate, of life, of the current moment. There is so much to appreciate about Surrender, a beautiful, and vibrant, work of art.
11. Danger Mouse & Black Thought — Cheat Codes
Danger Mouse at the top of his game. Black Thought at the top of his game. A collaboration that, when first announced, got fans charged up, the fandom eager to see what a team-up between these two hip-hop legends would yield. And the duo delivered in spades. While the final product sounds exactly like the type of album Danger Mouse would produce, with Black Thought flowing as smoothly and fluently as we’ve ever heard him, the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. And some of these parts include OG veterans like Raekwon, Joey Bada$$, MF Doom (RIP), A$AP Rocky, Run the Jewels, and Conway the Machine. It’s moody and grainy in places, upbeat, jazzy, and psychedelic in others. Black Thought hits hard with every song, unrelenting as he glides over Danger Mouse’s trip-hop soundscapes. The album maintains a healthy rhythm as the rapper and producer seem to instinctively know when it needs to slow down the tempo after a fast-paced banger, before picking the beat back up again for some more head nodding. This future classic will age well, serving as a testament to the pair’s immense talents in their respective roles as musicians.
10. The Smile — A Light For Attracting Attention
There hasn’t been a release day like May 13, 2022 in some time. On that fateful day we saw Kendrick Lamar release the instant classic Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers into the world as Kevin Morby put forth potentially his best album to date, This is a Photograph. Alongside that stacked new release lineup, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, released the debut album for their side project The Smile. Entitled A Light for Attracting Attention, the thirteen song album is everything fans of Radiohead’s work could ever want. An example of this is “The Smoke,” whose driven bass line and pulsating guitar loops and frantic drumming could have easily fit in seamlessly on In Rainbows or Hail To The Thief. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as this All-Star cast of musicians leans into each and every track on A Light for Attracting Attention, a front to back album that makes it clear that The Smile is far from a just Radiohead side project.
9. Sampa the Great — As Above, So Below
Sampa the Great (Sampa Tembo) is a poet and singer-songwriter hailing from Melbourne, Australia, not a city widely known for their hip-hop. But regardless of where she hails from, Sampa is the real deal. And besides, Melbourne doesn’t define this Zambia-born, Botswana-raised artist whose African roots course throughout As Above, So Below, an album recorded in Zambia over a two-week period, working with local musicians and producers. And thus, this affecting follow up to 2019’s sprawling The Return persists as an album where Sampa not only connects with her roots, but expresses who she is, a burgeoning, confident queen of hip-hop that can spit as nimbly and with as much passion as any emcee out there.
8. Kevin Morby — This is a Photograph
Kevin Morby’s last album This is a Photograph was inspired by a box of old family photos he found in the basement of his childhood home in Kansas City. From there, snapshots of his life, then and now, conjured up a series of vignettes that acted as the backbone of an album he describes as his best yet (we agree). The title track is a stunner, but we’d like to point you to “Bittersweet, TN,” a heartfelt folk song featuring a duet with Nashville-based singer-songwriter Erin Rae, as tender a track Morby has ever birthed and just one of the moving moments found on Morby’s outstanding seventh album.
7. Nas — Kings Disease III
King’s Disease III is the third entry in Nas’ King’s Disease series of albums that the legendary Queensbridge emcee has brought to life with the help of easily one of the best producers doing it, Hit-Boy. The duo, it is blatantly clear, have a synergy and working relationship that finds both of these geniuses wholly inspired. King’s Disease III is a stunner, giving fans of Nas and hip-hop more than they could ever want: a playful reignition of his beef with Jay Z, old-school boom-bap with exciting samples that sounds fresh out the box, and stunningly, no features (not needed, Nas hold the whole thing down solo impeccably). The forty-nine year old Nas just continues to add to his already ironclad legacy as one of the best emcees of all time, and although this is the final installment of the ‘King’s Disease’ series, we hope that Nas and Hit-Boy spend many, many more days in the lab together gifting the world with the sort of magic found on every single track of King’s Disease III.
6. Saba — Few Good Things
Twenty-seven year old Chicago rapper Saba released his third album this year, Few Good Things, an impressive work of art that feels like a cathartic breath of fresh air. Suffice to say the reason for this is that Few Good Things follows his 2018 album Care For Me in which Saba was struggling with the profound trauma of the murder of his cousin, rapper John Walt. There’s a newfound levity throughout the album, as exhibited by the airy, exuberant “One Way of Every N***a With A Budget,” an extremely hopeful song that speaks to the idea that there is more than just one right way to live your life and to succeed. While more at ease than its predecessor, there persists a depth and a weight throughout Few Good Things, where Saba contemplates how loss can stick with you and the systematic failures in society that were the foundation of the pain. Saba is one of the most impressive young voices in hop-hop, and Few Good Things is another shining example of not only an extremely skilled lyricist, but one that has something important to say.
Essential tracks: “One Way of Every Ni***a With a Budget,” “Fearmonger (feat Daoud),” “Few Good Things (feat Black Thought and Eryn Allen Kane).“
5. Denzel Curry — Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Denzel Curry’s latest album, Melt My Eyez See Your Future, is far and away his best to date, a jaw-dropping display of Curry’s wide-ranging skills. The album features T-Pain, 6LACK, Rico Nasty, JID, slowthai, Kenny Beats, Thundercat, Robert Glasper, Karriem Riggins, JPEGMAFIA, Boi-1da, Cardo, Powers Pleasant, and Buzzy Lee, and the varying soundscapes found throughout it make it clear Curry put his everything into it. “I like traditional hip-hop, I like drum and bass, I like trap, I like poetry, so a lot of that is going to be interwoven in this album, including jazz and a lot of genres that I came up on as a kid and just being in my parents’ house,” Curry states. “This album is made up of everything that I couldn’t give you on TA13OO or Imperial because I was going through depression and anger issues.” “Walkin” sets forth as the lead single of the album, making clear the grandeur of what was to come, a fierce song that digs deep into the inequalities and traumas that face the black community in America, and it’s just the start of a breathtaking journey through one of the most passionate emcees in the game’s psyche.
4. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard — Omnium Gatherum
Once again, and for the second time in this countdown, we celebrated the most prolific band in all of rock n’ roll: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. On their 20th studio album, a double album chock full of around eighty minutes of genre-bending musical madness, it is blatantly obvious to see how talented of a band we are dealing with here. The recording of Omnium Gatherum marked the band’s first time recording together since the pandemic began, and it was a special experience for all involved. As singer/guitarist Stu Mackenzie put it, “We decided, this is like our classic sprawling ‘double album.’ Our White Album, where anything goes.” That White Album talk might sound blasphemous to some, but Omnium Gatherum is a work of art we are sure will be celebrated for decades to come. But we think it’s possible their true White Album high water mark might still lie ahead, as even though they are twenty-three albums in (yes, they released three after this), somehow it oddly and exceptionally feels The Gizz are just getting started.
3. Anaïs Mitchell — Anaïs Mitchell
Tony and Grammy-award-winning singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell (Hadestown, Bonny Light Horseman, Big Red Machine) released one of the most gorgeous albums you will come upon all year, a self titled stunner which is introspective, honest, and captivating at every turn. We’d like to point to the second single from the album which exemplifies the beauty found within this album, “Brooklyn Bridge,” which depicts an “unbearably” romantic trip over the Brooklyn Bridge as Michael Lewis (from Bon Iver) accompanies with heart-wrenching saxophone bawls. “Brooklyn Bridge” is Mitchell’s love letter to her former home: “Having left New York, I was able to write a love letter to it in a way I never could when I was living there. It was like, fuck it. This is how I feel. There is nothing more beautiful than riding over one of the New York bridges at night next to someone who inspires you.”
2. Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Rattling the world of music with the release of an incredibly complex and introspective work of art, Kendrick Lamar’s long awaited fifth studio album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, was released this year to critical acclaim. The weighty, exceedingly impressive album features guest appearances by Ghostface Killah, Kodak Black, Blxst, Sampha and Summer Walker, among others. The double-disc album sees Kendrick digging deep, reflecting honestly and earnestly about fatherhood, gender identity, infidelity, masculinity, the pressures of fame, therapy, cancel culture, materialism, and beyond. Choosing one song to highlight from Big Steppers isn’t easy, but one with unstoppable replay value is “N95.” In it, Kendrick, aggressively at times, uses the oddly controversial N95 mask — used by many amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as a metaphor to dissect inauthentic people and actions in American society. This is the sort of depth found around every corner on another remarkable effort from a true artist and lyricist who awes upon every release.
1. Big Thief — Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You
Even though Big Thief’s latest album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You was released in early February, we have not stopped spinning it and unpacking its grandeur. Manifesting as a sprawling twenty song epic, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You was the result of pent up artistic energy and spirit following the Covid-19 lockdown. As the band tells it, “To truly dig into all that the music of Adrianne Lenker, Max Oleartchik, Buck Meek, and James Krivchenia desired in 2020, the band decided to write and record a rambling account of growth as individuals, musicians, and chosen family over four distinct recording sessions. In Upstate New York, Topanga Canyon, The Rocky Mountains, and Tucson, Arizona, Big Thief spent five months in creation and came out with forty-five completed songs,” which were eventually whittled down to twenty. There are a multitude of reasons why Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You landed atop this year’s list, but to put it simply, we just cannot get over the quality of every single song on this extemsive, gorgeous, rousing twenty-five song album. Just incredible…