The Best Albums Of 2022

In 2022, the world’s biggest pop artists put out some of the most acclaimed albums of their career. Indie rock and hip-hop also had a strong showing, delivering releases that expanded the artists’ sound in new ways or further developed familiar and beloved aesthetics. International artists also continued to gain footing in America as genres like K-pop, afrobeats, and Latin music enthralled English-speaking audiences more and more each day.

There was a lot to sort through this year, but we’ve done it: Below is the Uproxx list of 2022’s best albums. Continuing the tradition we started with last year’s year-end list, this 2022 installment also presents the included albums unranked and in alphabetical order. We’re not here to argue about who’s better than who: We’re more about celebrating the best of the year without pitting all of these superlative releases against each other.

With the intro out of the way, find our best albums of 2022 list below.

The 1975 — Being Funny In A Foreign Language

The 1975 Being Funny In A Foreign Language
Dirty Hit/Interscope

Next year is the ten-year anniversary of The 1975’s stunning debut album that put them on the map alongside other alt-heartthrob crews Arctic Monkeys and The Neighbourhood. While both of those Tumblr bands still thrive off of the hits from that era, The 1975 have managed to evolve continually and somehow get better each time. They’ve done it again with the sprawling Being Funny In A Foreign Language, which has as many wise-cracks as it does heartwrenching lines. “Part Of The Band” is unforgettable with its cutting comedy; “About You” is a masterpiece because of its immersive, poignant atmosphere and contagious sadness. – Danielle Chelosky

Alex G — God Save The Animals

Alex G God Save The Animals

It’s possible that there’s no current indie artist more consistent than Alex G. The 29-year-old has been churning out instant-classic records for over a decade, and they somehow keep getting better. 2019’s House Of Sugar was a hard masterpiece to follow up, but God Save The Animals turned that LP into an afterthought. Singles like “Blessing” and “Runner” previewed a perfect idiosyncrasy through random grunts or unexpected squawks, delicately balanced with intense feelings like nostalgia, longing, and contentment. He gives everything an effortless texture of profundity. – D.C.

Alvvays — Blue Rev

Alvvays Blue Rev

Alvvays remain very good at sounding like Alvvays. The formula on Blue Rev is simple but effective — reverb-heavy guitars that jangle and sprawl, a wiry bassline, sighing synths, a chorus that lifts out of the verse in a manner that can only be described as shyly grandiose, a vocal that sounds sampled from a long-lost radio hit from 1965, and (typically) one well-placed reference in the lyrics to pop culture ephemera. – Steven Hyden

Angel Olsen — Big Time

Angel Olsen Big Time album cover

If there’s one thing you can expect from songwriter Angel Olsen, it’s to expect the unexpected. Having already explored lonesome solo folk and classic rock-indebted indie, Big Time, finds the singer planting her roots firmly into country music. Just as the album’s title suggests, this is Olsen’s defining moment. Across the ten tracks, her hypnotic songwriting makes heartbreak seem like an aspirational task. Marinated in Americana, topped with sprinkles of jazz and orchestral compositions, Big Time is a dramatic showcase of instrumentation juxtaposed with Olsen’s bashful vocals. The core of any country project is storytelling, and on Big Time, Olsen knocks it out of the park. – Flisadam Pointer

Ari Lennox — Age/Sex/Location

Ari Lennox age/sex/location cover 2022

Social media has had a huge effect on how we do everything in our day-to-day lives, from something as simple as where we get our news to something more complex like the dynamic of our person-to-person relationships. Ari Lennox’s sophomore album Age/Sex/Location is born out of this world, and through anecdotes of romance, heartbreak, and growth, Dreamville’s First Lady indirectly acknowledges these hardships by creating a world of her own. With help from J. Cole, Lucky Daye, Chloe, and Summer Walker, Lennox signs into a world where she’s in control and her standards are met without her having to alter them in hopes of true love. – Wongo Okon

Asake — Mr. Money With The Vibe

Asake Mr. Money With The Vibe
YBNL Nation/Empire

Nigerian singer Asake shot out like a rocket in 2022. From the year’s start to its final weeks, Asake found numerous ways to stand out in the afrobeats genre that he was fairly new to. His debut album Mr. Money With The Vibe stands as the best offering from the genre in 2022. Whether it be the project’s appetizing singles like his “Sungba (Remix)” with Burna or “Peace Be Unto You (PBUY)” or the album’s fulfilling deep cuts like “Dupe” or “Joha,” Asake operates with a fervor that is both admirable and infectious for the listener, making it impossible to get through the project without showcasing your best legwork moves, even if you’re alone. Point being, with Mr. Money With The Vibe, Asake won 2022 in afrobeats. – W.O.

Blackpink — Born Pink

Blackpink Born Pink
YG Entertainment/Interscope Records

We all know Blackpink is composed of a bunch of baddies that go by the name of Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé, and Lisa. When the group released their second studio album Born Pink this year, it felt like all their feelings were out in the open in the form of eight tracks. The YG Entertainment quartet shows off their duality with hard-hitting and bass-heavy tracks like “Pink Venom” and “Shut Down” and seamlessly counteract it with mellow and soft serves with “The Happiest Girl,” “Tally,” and Rosé’s solo “Hard To Love.” Dropping F-bombs and expressing the pain and gains of love throughout, YG Entertainment’s in-house producer Teddy and Blackpink deliver their signature sounds that Blinks all over the world love. – Lai Frances

Bad Bunny — Un Verano Sin Ti

Bad Bunny -- Un Verano Sin Ti

Bad Bunny gave the world the soundtrack for the summer with his album Un Verano Sin Ti. The Puerto Rican superstar celebrates the music of the Caribbean throughout the 23-track LP, while returning to his reggaeton roots in club anthems like “Me Porto Bonito”
alongside Chencho Corleone and “Party” with Rauw Alejandro. But he keeps fans on their toes when he takes the genre to new places with alternative acts like The Marías in “Otro Atardecer” and Bomba Estéreo in the dreamy “Ojitos Lindos,” and samples the sounds of the Dominican Republic in the merengue-infused “Después De La Playa” and the dembow-driven “Me Preguntó.” Bad Bunny continues to prove that his sound has no borders or limits. – Lucas Villa

Beyoncé — Renaissance

Beyonce Renaissance

Since the release of her Lemonade in 2016, Beyoncé fans from all over waited patiently (and then impatiently) for her next solo album. They wondered when it would arrive, how it would sound, and what they would love most about it. Finally, those questions were answered with the arrival of Renaissance this past summer. Through 16 songs, Queen Bey brought listeners on an electric ride through dance-pop and disco tunes that honored and celebrated the qualities and history of Black and brown queers and trans individuals while giving them, and others, a unique soundtrack to enjoy the freedom they so rightly deserve. – W.O.

Big Thief — Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

Dragon New Warm Mountain Mountain I Believe In You
Big Thief

It’s typical these days to see bands hitting a resounding peak on their breakthrough albums and then gradually coming back down to earth a bit as they start to experiment and explore the possibilities of what they can create. But not Big Thief. They just keep getting better with each release and the layers of Adrianne Lenker’s songwriting are practically limitless. Some of Dragon’s 20 tracks feel like worlds away from each other; take the embraceable space rock of “Little Things” alongside the whimsical bluegrass twang of “Spud Infinity.” But instead of sounding disjointed, they sound like unique parts of a diverse ecosystem of whimsical personalities that reflect the beauty of the world around us. – Adrian Spinelli

Black Country, New Road — Ants From Up There

Black Country, New Road Ants From Up There
Ninja Tune

A few days before Ants From Up There was released in February, it was made clear the album represented the end of an era, when it was revealed that singer and guitarist Isaac Wood had decided to leave the group. It also sounded like the start of a new one, though: While 2021’s For The First Time was rock-solid post-punk fare, Ants From Up There was a noticeable and strongly executed palette expansion, which adds even more intrigue to the already-fascinating prospect of where the band goes from here. – Derrick Rossignol

Brent Faiyaz — Wasteland

Brent Faiyaz Wasteland
Lost Kids/Venice/Stem

Brent Faiyaz, the enigmatic frontman of the musical ensemble Sonder and successful solo artist, dials up “toxic n**** R&B” to the umpteenth power with his second studio album, Wasteland. Throughout the 19-track project, Faiyaz welcomes us into his world of fast cars, designer clothes, beautiful women, and superstardom. The crooner treks through the pitfalls of love as he struggles with his growing notoriety. The project also offers a bit of dinner theater, with Faiyaz layering several skits throughout the project. – Alexis Oatman

Burna Boy — Love, Damini

Burna Boy Love Damini
Bad Habit/On A Spaceship/Atlantic

Since he deemed himself the African Giant back in 2019, Burna Boy has lived up to that title and then some. For his sixth album Love, Damini, the Nigerian superstar sought to extend his global reach and recognition as he’d done with African Giant and 2020’s Twice As Tall. What we received was a body of work that watched Burna Boy sit comfortably on his throne as he invited names from all corners of the world for records that celebrated life (“Rollercoaster”), championed a perfect companion (“Toni-Ann Singh”), and committed to a lifelong love (“For My Hand”). Even in Burna’s solo moments, he unsurprisingly gave us memorable records like the summer anthem “Last Last” and the celebratory “It’s Plenty.” All in all, Love, Damini is proof of Burna Boy’s resounding stature in music. – W.O.

Cordae — From A Bird’s Eye View

cordae from a bird's eye view

Cordae may have deemed his solo debut a more successful effort than its sequel, but as he told Uproxx in his October cover story, the latter may end up becoming the better project artistically when all is said and done. With tracks like “Chronicles” and “Coach Carter” unlocking his storytelling and highlighting his growth as a writer and as a human, he’s got plenty of evidence to back that claim. – Aaron Williams

Denzel Curry — Melt My Eyez See Your Future

Denzel Curry - Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Denzel Curry

After spending a decade of his career at the forefront of the thrash rap movement (and mixing in a little traditionalist boom-bap), the Florida mainstay spreads his wings on his latest effort. In addition to dabbling in drum and bass on “Zatoichi,” Denzel advocates for going to therapy, and expresses his desire for a Star Wars starfighter over a new whip. The standout is “Walkin,” a motivational track that encourages perseverance through any manner of adversity. – A.W.

Ethel Cain — Preacher’s Daughter

Ethel Cain Preacher's Daughter
Daughters of Cain

Preacher’s Daughter blended the conceptual and concrete versions of Hayden Silas Anhedönia’s alter-ego Ethel Cain to create her debut album. As religious themes are woven throughout, she pulled inspiration from her real religious background growing up in the South. There are tales of longing on “A House In Nebraska” and a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque couple heading for California on “Thoroughfare.” And, at the end of it all, the tension and trauma end in Cain’s destructive demise. Ending with the somber “Sun Bleached Flies,” she realizes that praying wouldn’t save her, chalking it up to “if it’s meant to be, then it will be.” – Lexi Lane

FKA Twigs — Caprisongs

FKA Twigs Caprisongs Cover Art
Young Recordings/Atlantic

Arguably one of the more underrated albums from this year, FKA Twigs followed up her critically-acclaimed Magdalene with the dreamy, astro-themed Caprisongs. (She is, in fact, a Capricorn.) The record boasts party-ready collaborations with The Weeknd on the apt “Tears In The Club” and Pa Salieu on “Honda.” Still, Twigs proves once again that she’s also perfectly capable of shining on her own, with equally-enticing tracks like “Meta Angel.” – L.L.

Fontaines DC — Skinty Fia

Fontaines DC Skinty Fia
Partisan Records

Vulnerability and poetic prose aren’t characteristics typically associated with the post-punk genre, but Irish rockers Fontaines DC smashed all expectations on their polished third studio album Skinty Fia. The album is a love letter to their Irish upbringing that has managed to take the world by storm. Songs like “Roman Holiday” and “Jackie Down The Line” evoke the sound of ’90s-era Oasis, while others like “I Love You” and the title track manage to be both deadpan and stirring. – Carolyn Droke

Fred Again.. — Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022)

Fred Again.. Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022)
Again.. Records

Fred has been an in-demand producer for years now — he has collaborations with Ed Sheeran, Charli XCX, and BTS under his belt. His profile as a solo performer has risen recently, though, especially with the Actual Life 3 project. The album is dance-ready banger after dance-ready banger, all of which are expertly composed, impeccably produced, and effective at getting the absolute most out of Fred’s many collaborators. – D.R.

Freddie Gibbs — Soul Sold Separately

freddie gibbs soul sold separately
Warner Records

Freddie Gibbs has made it abundantly clear that he considers himself one of the best rappers in the biz and Soul Sold Separately is yet another resounding exhibit of proof. Rather than working with only one producer (Madlib on Pinata and The Alchemist on Alfredo), Gibbs brings in an elite full stable of beat conductors to put him on a pedestal: Kaytranada, DJ Paul, Boi-1da, DJ Dahi, James Blake, etc… The result is perhaps the most accessible Gibbs release yet, one that sees the rapper unafraid to confront his insecurities in a concept album about being holed up in a casino putting the finishing touches on a masterpiece. – A.S.

Future — I Never Liked You

future i never liked you

Hailed as one of the poster boys for toxicity due to the handling of his very public split from his former fiancée Ciara, Future doesn’t run from the label on I Never Liked You. Instead, he embraces it. Throughout the 22-track project, he taps into what we love about him the most, his pernicious ability to address the pitfalls of relationships. The album, which is the Atlanta rapper’s ninth, cleverly plays off the social media conversations surrounding the rapper and the women he has dated. He has no problem being a vindictive lover and wants us to know it. – A.O.

Gunna — DS4EVER

Young Stoner Life/300

With his third studio album, the rapper had the entire world “pushing p.” The 20-track project debuted at No.1 on Billboard and became Gunna’s second number-one album, following 2020’s Wunna. Gunna seems to drip a particular cool you can’t find the store — complete with his eccentric style, the rapper is no stranger to grabbing attention from the masses. With this album, the rapper solidifies his position in the rap game as one of the most notable rappers in hip-hop today. – A.O.

IDK — Simple

IDK Kaytranada Simple

Before Beyoncé and Drake laced Renaissance and Honestly, Nevermind with house, IDK tapped Kaytranada to executive produce Simple. The May album is an exemplary juxtaposition — slicing bars about the trauma found in Simple City, a DMV neighborhood, packaged as dance/hip-hop candy. “Taco” is code for bullet shells. “Dog Food” featuring Denzel Curry interpolates Lil Wayne’s “Tha Block Is Hot” and illuminates IDK’s dizzying wordplay, making a generational drug crisis palatable. “Let me catch my breath,” IDK sings in “Breathe,” the project’s spacious sonic respite. Those who know, know; those who don’t can at least catch the rhythm. – Megan Armstrong

JID — The Forever Story

JID The Forever Story

The long-awaited third album from the Dreamville veteran proved to be worth the wait as he dove into autobiography (“Kody Blu 31,” “Crack Sandwich“) and bent his prodigious lyrical skills to broader social commentary (“Money,” “Lauder Too”). In the midst of his introspection, though, he still found time to prove that he is one of the best rappers out today on tracks like “Surround Sound,” where he defied convention and pinned his pride to his pen, rapping like the rent was due and he wanted to get paid up until the next election cycle. – A.W.

Jack Harlow — Come Home The Kids Miss You

jack harlow come home the kids miss you
Jack Harlow

Jack Harlow’s Grammy-nominated Come Home The Kids Miss You hinges on the same sentiment as his standout 2020 debut, That’s What They All Say: reconciling home with newfound fame. The Fergie-boosted “First Class” monopolized the mainstream this year, but elsewhere on the album, Drake, Lil Wayne, Justin Timberlake, and Pharrell validate Harlow as their peer. “Like A Blade Of Grass” stands mas Harlow’s sharply penned thesis: dripping in clumsy romance, reminiscent of the awkward Louisville kid, and nodding toward the women shouldering his fan base. – M.A.

Julia Jacklin — Pre Pleasure

Pre Pleasure Julia Jacklin
Julia Jacklin

After blowing up, touring the world, and then suddenly facing over a year of isolation, Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin learned to appreciate the positive on her masterful third studio album Pre-Pleasure. Marking a more joyful pivot from her sophomore breakout Crushing, Jacklin tried her hand at piano for the first time ever, resulting in 10 touching, catchy, and raw tracks like “I Was Neon” and “Love, Try Not To Let Go” that explore pleasure, boundaries, and the art of finally living in the moment. – C.D.

Kehlani — Blue Water Road

Kehlani Blue Water Road

With their third studio album, the Oakland singer allows themselves to be more vulnerable than ever. The 13-track project is presumably the first time Kehlani stands firm in their queerness, boldly addressing their love life and sexuality. From beginning to end, the album seems to flow perfectly in and out of each song, with the warmth and richness of ’90s R&B. Like ocean tides, this project beckons you to come closer and let the waves wash over you. – A.O.

Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

Kendrick Lamar Mr Morale & The Big Steppers

There’s nothing comforting about Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. The double-disc release, which brought a close to his time as the face of TDE, goes against nearly everything Kendrick was heralded for. He is often praised for his ideologies and thoughts that were deemed as politically correct, both of which contributed to his placement as “rap’s savior.” However, Kendrick intentionally set out to prove that he is none of the aforementioned items on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, and he succeeds in doing so. Whether you agree with Kendrick’s sentiments or not, the way he goes about through his lyricism, boldness, and honesty is not only admirable but proof of why he’s still one of today’s best rappers. – W.O.

Latto — 777

Latto - 777

With all the chit-chat back-and-forth recently about charts and relevance, it’s easy to forget (and that’s by design) that Latto’s single “Big Energy” had the streets in a chokehold for just about the entire spring. The album that followed it is full of bangers that resonated with Latto’s target audience, if not the pop audience that discovered her through her Mariah Carey-sampling hit, and with songs like “Sunshine,” the Atlanta native flexed creative muscles that prove she’ll remain a powerful presence in the rap world even without appealing to that certain fanbase which inspired much of the recent wave of hate. – A.W.

Leikeli47 — Shape Up

Leikeli47 Shape Up

A criminally overlooked gem from the year’s still-innocent first quarter, Leikeli47’s third studio album turned out to be prophetic and subversive. “BITM” is rooted in the ball culture that also informed Beyoncé’s Renaissance later in the year, while “LL Cool J” pays homage to street corner cyphers as Leikeli details a flirtatious interaction that asserts bold, independent femininity and an alternate take on the unabashed sexuality that has become a hallmark of rap’s unofficial women’s division. – A.W.

Lil Durk — 7220

Lil Durk - 7220
Sony Music

With his eighth studio album, 7220, Lil Durk has matured from the promising young talent from Chicago’s bubbling drill music scene into one of the hottest hip-hop artists in the game today. This project offers the grittiness we expect from the rapper and gives fans a peak into his life as he deals with insecurities from his past, fatherhood, and the pitfalls of fame. Throughout the 30-track project, the rapper also addresses dealing with grief, especially after watching some of his closest friends die, particularly with the recent passing of his protegee, King Von, in 2020. – A.O.

Lizzo — Special

Lizzo Special
Nice Life/Atlantic

After two years of being trapped inside amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lizzo knew it was “About Damn Time” to get out and dance. Her second major-label album, Special, is filled with therapeutic bangers, celebrating female friendships (“Grrrls”), nights out with your chosen family (“Everybody’s Gay”), and grand returns to the dance floor (“About Damn Time”). This collection of 12 soulful, punchy tracks is exactly what we needed to get our groove back this year. – Alex Gonzalez

Nilüfer Yanya — Painless

Nilufer Yanya Painless
ATO Records

After a series of EPs, Nilüfer Yanya delivered the proper follow-up to her 2019 breakthrough, Miss Universe, and it’s an explosive expression of self-empowerment through actualization. What Yanya does especially well is packing emotions and epiphanies into tightly-wrapped shredders that are a helluva lot of fun to rock out to. She admits to being an inconsistent partner as she figures herself out on “The Dealer,” while her guitar floats alongside a spritely bass. “Midnight Sun” is an anthem for going against the grain that morphs through movements blissfully with Yanya never wavering from her insightful self. – A.S.

Plains — I Walked With You A Ways

Plains I Walked With You A Ways

This duo composed of Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield and Jess Williamson is a continuation of the Lucinda Williams-esque alt-country vibe of Crutchfield’s excellent 2020 album Saint Cloud. Actually, it’s hardly “alt” at all — I Walked With You A Ways is full-on twang that would dominate Nashville in a better universe. Of course, the only downside to this album is that it delayed the release of another Waxahatchee record. But any vehicle for Crutchfield’s songs is worthy and welcome. – S.H.

Pusha T — It’s Almost Dry

Pusha T It's Almost Dry
G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam

Pusha T began the year with the bold claim that he would undoubtedly have the rap album of the year by the end of 2022. It’s Almost Dry arrived to prove that he was not talking up a big game. A rarity in today’s streaming era, the concise 12 songs that made up Pusha’s latest body of work feature a blend of production from Kanye West and Pharrell. While the championed producers’ beats differ in style, one thing remains the same: Pusha’s never-ending yet exciting spool of coke bars, that he unwinds for his captivated audience from top to bottom on It’s Almost Dry. Now throw in a thrilling appearance from Jay-Z and a long-waited awaited Clipse reunion, among other things, and you have an album that is in great contention to receive the crown that Pusha seeks. – W.O.

Ravyn Lenae — Hypnos

Ravyn Lanae Hypnos

After a four-year hiatus from music, Chicago’s red-haired songstress, Ravyn Lenae, returned to drop Hypnos. The debut studio album is familiar, with Lenae’s signature high-pitched, breathy vocals reminiscent of Minne Riperton. Still, it positions the singer light years ahead of her previous efforts with futuristic production and burgeoning lyrical maturity, a la Brandy’s post-adolescent ‘Full Moon.’ The confidence present in the chorus of the Monte Booker-produced “Venom” and lyrical depth of “Deep In The Word” properly reintroduce the artist and build upon Lenae’s moody sound initially found in her breakout tracks like 2018’s “Sticky.” Stick around for the album’s penultimate female-forward track, “Mercury,” for a taste of Lenae in fresh collaboration. The whisper tone and angsty lyrics on the track are assisted by alt-R&B breakout Fousheé, switching up from her typical collaborators to step into a new era. – Ellice Ellis

Rosalía — MOTOMAMI

Rosalia motomami

Rosalía has created her own lane in pop music that wasn’t bound to any language barriers. Having positioned herself as a global pop star, her 16-track LP experiments with genres from around the world like electronica, reggaeton, flamenco, and bolero. She revs into her new era with “Saoko,” a cyberpunk joyride with a jazz detour. Elsewhere, Rosalía reflects on the toxicity of fame in bachata-infused “La Fama” alongside The Weeknd. She also lets her hair down with the delectable “Chicken Teriyaki” and the bouncy “Bizcochito” that is reminiscent of a Nokia phone ringtone. On MOTOMAMI, Rosalía races into the future with her newfound sound. – L.V.

Sampa The Great — As Above So Below

Sampa The Great As Above So Below
Loma Vista

In my September review of the Zambian artist’s sophomore album, I called it one of the top five hip-hop albums of the year. I stand by that, and now, with one of the album’s songs gracing the Wakanda Forever trailer, it is apparent that others are taking note. By shedding a light on African musical styles, Sampa sets herself apart from her contemporaries while broadening hip-hop’s horizons in a way that will probably become more and more apparent in the coming years. – A.W.

Shygirl — Nymph

Shygirl Nymph album artwork
Samuel Ibram

Was any singer as adaptable to different electronic producers this year as Shygirl on Nymph? She balances on an Arca beat on “Come For Me,” treading into abrasive if not for her heavenly vocals. “Nike” is a boy-bye hip-hop cut that she co-produced with Mura Masa and Oscar Scheller. Then there are her experimental pop ventures into a hyper-atmospheric realm on “Firefly,” a serotonin-boosting journey of a track if there ever was one that she produced with Sega Bodega and Kingdom. This is as stellar of a vocal-based electronic pop debut as any in recent memory. – A.S.

The Smile — A Light For Attracting Attention

The Smile A Light For Attracting Attention
XL Recordings

If we didn’t know any better, we might’ve thought that The Smile’s A Light For Attracting Attention was maybe just the next spectacular Radiohead album? In actuality, the side project of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, along with Sons Of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, stands on its own but locks into place like a missing puzzle piece of the Radiohead canon. Greenwood’s production feels almost haptic, beginning with the self-analytical/fairly paranoid “The Same” and continuing all the way through to an emphatic acoustic guitar on the long-lost Radiohead song “Skirting On The Surface.” Meanwhile, Skinner’s drums on the latter are reminiscent of Philip Selway’s, further adding to the glorious Radiohead/The Smile mind game. – A.S.

Smino — Luv 4 Rent

Smino Love 4 Rent
Zero Fatigue/Motown

Simply put, St. Louis native Smino is a cool cat. From his mellow personality to unique style to his music sensibilities — Smino makes it seem effortless. However, on Luv 4 Rent, the melodic rapper revealed his carefree persona is an act of self-preservation. The gumbo of funk, gospel, rap, R&B, and blues chronicles the fickle nature of love when tethered to chaos. Loaded with a flurry of witty metaphors and punchlines, Smino chronicles the peaks and valleys of relationship (personal, familial, romantic, and professional) maintenance that only becomes more challenging with fame. Smino’s most vulnerable body of work to date required him to reach a new creative peak, to which he overdelivered. – F.P.

Steve Lacy — Gemini Rights

Steve Lacy Gemini Rights

Though the astronomical fame of “Bad Habit” is deserved — it’s a ridiculously groovy track — it’s a shame how much attention was stolen from Gemini Rights as a whole. The album is meant to be experienced in full, with the jittery atmosphere of “Helmet” following the quiet ambiance of “Static,” or the drama of “Cody Freestyle” prefacing the endearing piano-driven ballad “Amber.” Gemini Rights is a hypnotizing masterpiece from start to finish. –D.C.

Stray Kids — Oddinary

Stray Kids Oddinary
JYP Entertainment

Something was in the water for Stray Kids to go off when they released Oddinary. One can argue this album was the turning point for the octet’s transition from being boys to men in terms of sound. If you were one of the lucky ones to attend the group’s sold-out Maniac Tour, you’d agree the choreography is sexually aggressive – especially for songs like “Venom“ and “Charmer.” Other than that, the sixth EP from Stray Kids showcases their range as two b-side tracks like the ‘90s hip-hop-inspired “Muddy Waters” and the rock ballad “Waiting For Us” are sung by two sub-units for the project. – L.F.

Syd — Broken Hearts Club

Syd 'Broken Hearts Club'
Columbia Records

With the release of Broken Hearts Club, certified lover girl Syd overcomes the sophomore slump. In just under 40 minutes, the crooner solidifies her spot as one of the leaders in alternative R&B. Across the 13 tracks, the former The Internet frontperson blends a wide spectrum of sonic elements — impressively without repetition. From robotic lo-fi instrumentation to swaggered basslines, the project oozes with Syd’s creative confidence as her masterful songwriting abilities are placed on display. Stationed in her tried-and-true musical arena of love, Syd’s signature whisper tones tuck neatly into each track’s romantic current. On Broken Hearts Club, Syd knows who she is as an artist, what her sound is, and allows her sharp ear for production to lead the way. – F.P.

Taylor Swift — Midnights

Taylor Swift Midnights

Taylor Swift came out swinging for her tenth studio album, Midnights. A collection of songs written about her self-described “sleepless nights,” she dazzles on tales of daydreams (“Paris”), nightmares (“You’re On Your Own, Kid”), and everything in between (“Mastermind,” “The Great War”). And it appears to stand as one of the most cohesive bodies of work in Swift’s discography. As fans have put it, there are truly no skips. Even “Karma” grows on you. –L.L.

Toro Y Moi — Mahal

Toro y Moi Mahal album cover
Dead Oceans

Prolific artist and musician Toro Y Moi is oftentimes credited as one of the pioneers of the chillwave genre. In recent years, though, he has adopted a more maximalist approach to music, which comes through on his seventh studio album Mahal. Toro Y Moi pays homage to his Filipino roots while embracing a disco-pop attitude with tracks like “Millennium” and “The Loop.” Overall, the album is packed with sun-drenched psychedelia, woozy synth-pop melange, and funk-infused art rock that keeps you coming back for more. – C.D.

Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart

vince staples ramona park broke my heart

Over the last couple of years, Vince Staples has been putting out flawless art. His fifth album, Ramona Park Broke My Heart, arrived in the spring of this year, for what some could reasonably argue is his best project to date. Unlike his earlier collections, the 16 songs on Ramona Park Broke My Heart use softer production as a soundtrack for Vince’s raps. Nonetheless, Vince’s lyrics and stories remain the same. His blunt tales pierce the ear and leave you in shock at the circumstances he was dealt with as a youth. Yet, there are moments of nonchalance and peace that signal better days on the horizon. Ramona Park Broke My Heart doesn’t reveal Vince’s disappointment with his hometown, but rather, it touches on all the things that altered him and his approach to the world. – W.O.

The Weeknd — Dawn FM

The Weeknd Dawn FM

The Weeknd is one of the biggest pop acts of the past decade, but above that, he’s an artist. While After Hours was bursting with No. 1 hits, Dawn FM was a more overtly conceptual endeavor, as the Jim Carrey narrations and recurring allusions to purgatory evidence. Of course, this is a Weeknd project, so it’s also packed with memorable showstoppers like “Take My Breath” and “Out Of Time.” All in all, Dawn FM sees The Weeknd yet again striking an ideal balance between pop hit-making and innovative artistry, but perhaps better here than he ever has before. – D.R.

Wet Leg — Wet Leg

Wet Leg album

The Isle Of Wight duo were the very definition of lightning in a bottle this year. After “Chaise Longue” came out just as tours were finally getting back into full swing last year, the prospect of hearing a new band’s smash single then instantly seeing their upcoming tour dates became a reality again. Wet Leg helped us start to feel normal and, well, these songs ripped. They thrive in the tongue-in-cheek margins, with a punk panache to boot on so many bangers: “Wet Dream,” “Oh No,” and “Too Late Now.” The singles felt endless and the entire album is a thrill. – A.S.

Weyes Blood — And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Weyes Blood And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow
Sub Pop

It’s been three years since Weyes Blood released 2019’s psych-folk stunner Titanic Rising. But Natalie Mering pretty much picks up where that album left off on And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, which once again spotlights her flair for beautiful soft-rock melodies that complement a serrated lyric edge. Never before have songs that portend certain doom for mankind sounded so sweet and catchy. – S.H.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. .