Summer is right around the corner, meaning two things: Festival season is upon us and the year is already halfway over. Whether you’re looking to open up the pit to mosh at a show or throw on a wistful album to accompany a long drive, indie musicians have already shared a number of exciting releases in 2022.
From Arcade Fire’s triumphant comeback album We to Angel Olsen’s country-leaning Big Time and Sharon Van Etten’s monumental We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, indie artists gave us some of the most compelling releases of the year thus far. With the steady roll out of new music, it can be hard to keep track of all the best new albums — and that’s where we come in. Check out our unranked list of 2022’s best indie albums (so far) below.
Angel Olsen — Big Time
Fans who were introduced to Angel Olsen on her synth-led 2019 effort All Mirrors won’t recognize the songwriter’s Southern drawl on her sixth studio album Big Time. Big Time is Olsen’s version of a country record; steeped in emotion and penned following a particularly devastating period of time after both of Olsen’s parents passed away just months after she came out as queer to her family. As a result, Big Time is humbled and down-to-earth as Olsen attempts to make sense of the contradictions in her life; grief amid love, and tragedy amid romance. – Carolyn Droke
Arcade Fire — We
It’s hard to stay relevant as a rock band today, especially when your most nostalgia-inducing era ended well over a decade ago and when pop stars like Olivia Rodrigo work rock into their music and make guitar-based groups less necessary for a casual music fan to seek out. Arcade Fire took a pretty good stab at it this year, though, with We, which was better-received than its predecessor Everything Now. We works because instead of trying to modernize with dance influences like Everything Now did, it reaches for, and often touches, the same feeling that Funeral gave wide-eyed fans back in 2004. – Derrick Rossignol
Band Of Horses — Things Are Great
After a period of spotty records in the 2010s, Things Are Great felt like a conscious return to the brawny, vision-quest-y rock of Band Of Horses’ mid-aughts era, when they first roared to indie fame on the strength of their 2006 debut, Everything All The Time. After all this time, Ben Bridwell remains uniquely talented at crafting big-hearted rock songs that sound predestined to soundtrack life-changing road trips. – Steven Hyden
Beach House — Once Twice Melody
Not only did Beach House essentially define the contemporary dream-pop genre (or at least raise its bar), but a decade after making that type of music, they’re probably still the best at it. The massive scope of Once Twice Melody — an 84-minute, 18-track album — matches the grandiosity of the band’s sound. This epic-scale (again, both in structure and aesthetic) doesn’t come at the cost of intimacy, though, as the album is still filled with enough detail and vulnerability to prevent it from being just a sea of reverb, a balance Beach House has always been able to strike better than just about anybody else in their field. – D.R.
Big Thief — Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
So much of the pleasure of listening to this masterful album comes from appreciating the subtle and delicate ways in which Big Thief works and plays together, whether it’s the excellent jam that closes “Little Things,” the surprisingly heavy rock groove that subsumes “Flower Of Blood,” or the way Buck Meek’s voice rises to harmonize with Adrianne Lenker on the chorus of the stunning love song “12000 Lines.” An instant classic. – S.H.
Black Country, New Road — Ants From Up There
Ants From Up There is no casual affair. Black Country, New Road put on an idiosyncratic folk-rock opera with clashing instruments and Isaac Wood’s warbling baritone. The album fluctuates between colossal moments of bombast and quiet periods of withheld intensity like on the dynamic “Concorde” when the sound pauses and Wood wonders calmly: “I was made to love you / Can’t you tell?” Every second matters on Ants From Up There; the stakes are always getting higher, and catharsis is always brewing, even if it’s beneath the surface. – Danielle Chelosky
The Black Keys — Dropout Boogie
Since taking a lengthy break between albums, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been as productive as any point in Black Keys history over the past few years; This past May delivered Dropout Boogie, the duo’s third album since 2019, and if it sounds like a return to their roots, that makes sense: The three latest albums are the duo’s first to be produced solely by them since 2006’s Magic Potion. The result is the Black Keys in its purest form: no-frills rock music built on guitar, drums, and not a ton else. – D.R.
Camp Cope — Running With The Hurricane
Returning for the first full-length release since their acclaimed 2018 album, Aussie rockers Camp Cope showcase their refined and relatable ballads on Running With The Hurricane. Contrasting the music’s sunny chords and distinct rhythms, the project as a whole is confessional, tender, and sincere. Over shimmering, folksy instrumentals, Camp Cope deal with heavy subject matters like misogyny in the music industry, sexual assault, and mourning the death of loved ones. – C.D.
Caracara — New Preoccupations
The Philly band Caracara use less as more on New Preoccupations, an album that thrives off of intense restraint that helps create a dynamic, cathartic listening experience. Songs explode into each other seamlessly and Will Lindsay’s earnest vocals imbue them with color and raw emotion over soaring instrumentals. A guest appearance from Anthony Green proves that Caracara are still connected to their emo roots, interested in digging into complicated feelings and sharing them with the world unabashedly. – D.C.
Caroline — Caroline
When the collective Caroline released their self-titled debut this year, it was clear why the band garnered comparisons to groups Black Midi and Black Country, New Road. Not only do they have an unusually large amount of members, eight to be exact, but the album was produced by Black Midi producer John “Spud” Murphy. There are not many lyrics to be found throughout the release, but there doesn’t need to be — the music speaks for itself. Inventive and evocative, songs like “IWR” open with a hymn-like chorus while others like “Skydiving Onto The Library Roof” break down into a dizzying array of strings and cool-toned guitars. –C.D.
Christian Lee Hutson — Quitters
Christian Lee Hutson quickly became this decade’s buzziest folk artists with his gentle and ruminating 2020 album Beginners. Continuing to showcase his observant songwriting, Hutson translated reflections on how time alters memory on his timeless sophomore album Quitters. The Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst-produced project is filled with wistful, ballad-like tracks like “Strawberry Lemonade” and “Rubberneckers,” led by acoustic chords and thoughtfully arranged orchestral sections. – C.D.
Father John Misty — Chloë And The Next 20th Century
If an FJM album drops and there isn’t a polarizing press tour to go with it, does that album make a sound? I’ll admit I’m still getting used to this era of Father John Mum. But it feels appropriate for his most recent batch of songs. Rather than write about the familiar swaggering anti-hero that was his persona on the first four albums, Josh Tillman has instead focused on his other made-up characters — the titular “borough socialist” Chloë, a striving entertainment biz creative named Simone, the actress known as Funny Girl, an unnamed pair of ex-lovers who are reunited by their recently deceased cat Mr. Blue. It’s as much a collection of short stories as it is a record. – S.H.
Fontaines DC — Skinty Fia
Fontaines DC is a commercial juggernaut in the UK and Ireland: Their new album, Skinty Fia, went No. 1 in both areas. They’ve managed to cultivate a high level of respect stateside, too. That’s something they’ve earned via both consistency and a sense of adventure, emphasized by tracks like the grungy alt-rocker “Jackie Down The Line” and the trip-hop-influenced title track. – Derrick Rossignol
Gang Of Youths — Angel In Realtime
If 2017’s Go Farther In Lightness was this Australian band’s Joshua Tree — the fearlessly earnest collection of guitar-based spirituals rooted in an unending desire for transcendence — then perhaps the follow-up could be their Achtung Baby. An album in which beat-heavy, danceable, and often ecstatic music acts as a shield for blood-and-guts, dark-night-of-the-soul introspection. An intimate confession made to sound loud enough to engulf the entire world. – S.H.
Girlpool — Forgiveness
LA duo Girlpool did not hold back on their new album Forgiveness, which candidly explores lust, shame, and relationships, maturing suddenly since their previous, more innocent material. Vivid imagery and unabashed emotion propel the album forward: “Every day it’s Friday night / I hold my body like a butcher knife,” Harmony Trividad lulls over soft rhythms on “Faultline.” The unhurried pace doesn’t take away from the electricity and thrill of this album; they can excite with simple melodies and succinct lines about parties that are whispered honestly over twangy guitars. – D.C.
Haai — Baby, We’re Ascending
After honing her sound over the last five years with a handful of singles and a 2020 EP, Haai’s technical skills are on full display in her euphoric debut LP Baby, We’re Ascending. Tailor-made for sweaty, low-lit dancefloors, the album is moody, glitchy, and euphoric, jam-packed with fractal beats and atmospheric soundscapes. Her songs layer dizzying beats over gauzy vocals, like you’re hearing the words from within a dream. Fans of Porter Robinson, Hot Chip, and Kelly Lee Owens will fall head over heels with this London-by-way-of-Australia producer/DJ. – C.D.
Horsegirl — Versions Of Modern Performance
Chicago teenage trio Horsegirl effectively delivered one of 2022’s most exciting indie debuts with their shoegazey LP Versions Of Modern Performance. Drawing inspiration from the greats that came well before them like Kim Gordon and Brian Eno, Horsegirl subvert modern-day indie rock expectations. They evoke the grittiness and intellect of groundbreaking post-punk artists on tracks such as “Option 8” and “Dirtbag Transformation (Still Dirty),” combining droning guitar tones and deadpan lyrics that infuse just the right amount of humor and apathy. – C.D.
Joyce Manor — 40 Oz. To Fresno
Following up Million Dollars To Kill Me, Joyce Manor are summoning the chaotic, raw energy of 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired with their new album 40 Oz. To Fresno. The album clocks in at 16 minutes in a sort of sonic collage featuring taut, off-kilter rock songs like “You’re Not Famous Anymore” and “Don’t Try,” catchy tracks with poppier melodies with “Dance With Me” and “Reason To Believe,” and absolute rippers such as “Gotta Let It Go” and the merciless finale “Secret Sisters.” – D.C.
Khruangbin, Leon Bridges — Texas Moon
The companion piece to 2020’s Texas Sun is filled with David Axelrod-like explorations from Khruangbin, Bridges’ impeccable vocal delivery, and symbiotic sounds from the group. “I think my collaboration with Khruangbin is really where my heart is. I love how raw our sound is,” Bridges said in Uproxx’s February cover story on their project. Their chemistry is palpable throughout the spirituality of “Doris” and “Father Father,” the tender love of “Mariella” and “Chocolate Hills,” and the stone, cold groove of “B-Side.” Texas Moon fully established the foursome as a bonafide supergroup, one that makes you want to look deep into the Texas night sky, and hope that there’s much more yet to come. – Adrian Spinelli
The Linda Lindas — Growing Up
Viral moments are terrific for getting a young act off the ground, but it also takes more than that to maintain liftoff. So, after “Racist Sexist Boy” vaulted The Linda Lindas to internet stardom (and a record deal with Epitaph), they got to work on Growing Up, which is just a flat-out good rock album, no qualifications necessary. With how adept and confident the group is here, it’s easy to forget that they’re all in their teens. Well, except for drummer Mila de la Garza, who turns 12 this summer. Growing Up is a substantially stronger creative product than the vinegar-baking-soda volcanos and copy-pasted middle school essays most of us were making at that age. – D.R.
MJ Lenderman — Boat Songs
The reference points for this album — early Wilco, “ditch” era Neil Young, all periods of Jason Molina — might seem pretty standard for an alt country-leaning singer-songwriter. But as is the case with his regular band, the rising North Carolina twangy shoegaze outfit Wednesday, Lenderman has a way of taking the familiar in new and refreshingly irreverent directions, like in the song “Dan Marino,” which references the former Miami Dolphins quarterback and an obscure quote from The Last Waltz over a lo-fi guitar rumble that sounds like side two of Tonight’s The Night. – S.H.
Nilüfer Yanya — Painless
This buzzy British singer-songwriter was a breakout artist back in 2019, thanks to an eclectic amalgam of influences suggesting that Yanya ultimately wanted to fuse the slinky grace of Sade with the sort of chunky and lovably punk anthems associated with Blink-182 and Libertines. But she really raises her game with this album, in which she channels mid-period Radiohead through the lens of ecstatically dark-hued millennial pop. – S.H.
Orville Peck — Bronco
The gravelly-voiced gentleman of the lowlands, one Orville Peck is back with his second full-length album. Though Peck plays into the traditional cowboy and country tropes in some ways, he also subverts them in just as many; Peck is a South African musician based in Canada, so he’s twice removed from the American west. Maybe that’s part of what helps him see the humor and mystery in the great outdoors, and all three subjects are laid bare within his baritone blues, fringed mask intact. Bronco is an expansion of the queer themes that his debut album, Pony, explored and proves that Peck is anything but a one-trick musician. – Caitlin White
Porridge Radio — Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky
Porridge Radio rose in the music scene for their unafraid expression of complicated feelings, which continues on their new album Waterslide, Dive Board, Ladder To The Sky. Their powerful honesty can best be exemplified by “Birthday Party,” in which vocalist Dana Margolin sings, “I don’t want to be loved” 57 times. The instrumentals are as massive and evocative as ever, but this time around there are also gentler moments, allowing for intensity to be conveyed through smallness in a way that is truly beautiful and resonant. – D.C.
Say Sue Me — The Last Thing Left
The South Korean indie favorites got a lot of folks on their side with their 2017 self-titled debut album and have been building up a nice discography for themselves since then. They added to it this year with The Last Thing Left, which, like many exemplary albums, is a mixed bag. As far as the overarching aesthetic at play, though, it’s best summarized by songs like “Around You,” relentlessly sweet and joyful on its surface but with more emotional depth if you pay attention to what’s being said. – D.R.
Sharon Van Etten — We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Deviating from the usual album release cycle, Sharon Van Etten didn’t release any singles ahead of her album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong. Even still, her monumental sixth studio effort was worth the wait. Departing from her rocking 2019 album Remind Me Tomorrow, Van Etten’s latest effort is far less guitar-driven. Translating the restlessness and anxiety of the last two years into music, the album revolves around themes of coexistence and motherhood over sprawling beats and atmospheric production. – C.D.
The Smile — A Light For Attracting Attention
This side project for Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood presents itself as the most un-Radiohead-like of propositions — a guitar-driven power trio! — that happens to sound, tantalizingly, like a version of Radiohead that Radiohead no longer is apparently interested in being. Given the dearth of actual Radiohead albums since A Moon Shaped Pool, it’s almost too easy to regard A Light For Attracting Attention as the next best thing, a kind of musical methadone for Kid A nation. – S.H.
Soul Glo — Diaspora Problems
Philadelphia group Soul Glo didn’t hold back on this new album Diaspora Problems, a collection of eclectic songs whose common denominator is relentlessness. From the start, the opener “Gold Chain Punk (Whogonbeatmyass?)” melds together metallic riffs with chaotic rap and piercing screamo; the album brilliantly balances humor with seriousness, grappling with capitalism, police brutality, and the complicity of leftists, all under clever song titles like “We Wants Revenge” and “F*cked Up If True.” It might be the loudest, most unafraid album of the year, but it doesn’t want to be; it wants others to scream, to pick up their instruments and shred, and to use their voices to the fullest possible capacity. Along with bands like Turnstile, Soul Glo is expanding the meaning of hardcore music and creating space for others in the scene. – D.C.
Toro Y Moi — Mahal
Everything Toro y Moi does these days exudes coolness. With Mahal, he’s dug deeper into his Filipino roots, by cruising around in a vintage jeepney and probing the influence and evolution of ’60s mod rock and ’70s global funk. The utter psychedelia of “Déjà Vu” sees these inspirations converging, whereas on “Magazine,” he brings on Salami Rose Joe Louis for a hypnotic duet. But it’s on “The Loop” where the sleek veneer and fashionable lean of Toro’s Chaz Bear shines the brightest. It’s the sound that galvanizes skater kids, hip-hop heads, audiophiles, and mouth-breathers alike. And it hardly feels like the lesson in vintage rock and roll history that it is. – A.S.
Wet Leg — Wet Leg
When was the last time an indie band released six tracks before the album came out that were actually worthy of being singles and not just some boardroom marketing play? With their blend of tongue-in-cheek Britpop lyrics with downright electric rock and roll guitar riffs, the Isle of Wight duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers have been this year’s true lightning-in-a-bottle indie band. And yes, it’s not just “Chaise Longue,” “Wet Dream,” “Too Late Now,” “Oh No,” “Angelica,” and “Ur Mum” that go extremely hard. Enjoy the ride. – A.S.
Wilco — Cruel Country
Wilco rose from the ashes of alternative country group Uncle Tupelo and the band retained that twangy sound early in its life. They eventually strayed from it, but now the prodigal son has returned, as Wilco has gone back to country for its twelfth album, the indicatively titled Cruel Country. The result is an album that’s mostly understated on its surface but not undercooked, bringing Jeff Tweedy and company’s collective wisdom to the aesthetic by which their younger selves were most immediately enamored. – D.R.
Some of the artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.