So far, when it comes to music, the first half of 2022 has been stacked. We’ve seen highly anticipated releases from artists who have been away for a minute, new bands joining the party and making their mark immediately, and regular forces chugging along and adding terrific new music to their storied discographies.
Since we’re just about at the year’s midpoint, now is a good time to look back and see which albums have stood out above the thousands that have vied for our collective attention over the past few months. So, below, find our list of the year’s best albums so far, presented in alphabetical order.
Amber Mark — Three Dimensions Deep
Amber Mark showed her potential with her 2017 and 2018 EPs 3:33am and Conexao, but it would be almost four years until we saw the true beauty of her artistry. Her debut Three Dimensions Deep arrived as a magical collection of records that documented a leap of faith towards a new love. While she shows her hesitance to commit on “Most Men,” Mark later freefalls onto cloud nine on “Out Of This World.” Altogether, it’s an excellent tale that proves Mark is one to pay attention to in the foreseeable future. – Wongo Okon
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
Bad Bunny — Un Verano Sin Ti
Very few artists are able to pull off the surprise release technique, but in the case of Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti, this album came at just the right time. Across 23 tracks, Bad Bunny tells a story of heartbreak, longing, and healing. The album feels like an hour-and-a-half-long movie, ending with the Tainy-produced “Callaita,” which, even three years after its release, still sounds so fresh in the context of the full album. – Alex Gonzalez
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. – Steven Hyden
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
Coi Leray — Trendsetter
Despite a relatively lukewarm commercial reception, Coi’s debut project did exactly what it set out to do. There’s literally no one out doing what she’s been doing. That can make her slippery delivery somewhat bewildering and give fans few obvious hits to hold onto (the excellent Nicki Minaj collab “”Blick Blick“” notwithstanding) but those who want to put the New Jersey rapper in a box are missing out on what she’s truly capable of. Who else can do an “”Anxiety“” and a “”Twinnem“” on the same album while shifting hip-hop’s conventions into unrecognizable new shapes? – Aaron Williams
Cordae — From A Bird’s Eye View
In the lead-up to Cordae’s second album, I was convinced it’d be one of the year’s best and I wasn’t disappointed. A more muscular version of his 2019 debut, The Lost Boy, FABEV cuts the fat, getting to the foundation of Cordae’s appeal: fiery battle raps, like the ones on “Super” and “Sinister“”; lush, moody vocals, such as on “”Chronicles“; and the vulnerable, relatable autobiography of “Momma’s Hood” and “C Carter.” – A.W.
Denzel Curry — Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Denzel Curry had a mission with Melt My Eyez See Your Future: be himself and give himself fully to listeners. It is the most intimate offering of the South Florida rapper’s career, with a lot of soft and mellow sounds accompanying his more calculated flows. These elements combined, along with the presence of acts like T-Pain, 6LACK, Slowthai, and Robert Glasper, to make what could very well be Curry’s best project to date. “Walkin,” “Angelz,” and “X-Wing” pretty much force you to press that “Repeat 1” button and let the music transport you into the artist’s multi-faceted mind. Thus, the album is aptly named. – Armon Sadler
Ethel Cain — Preacher’s Daughter
Debut albums can be tricky in the streaming era, especially for artists like Ethel Cain who have already created a robust social media presence. But as good as the missives that flow off-the-cuff from the @mothercain Twitter handle might be, her debut album Preacher’s Daughter is even better. Between the oh-so-breezy synth-pop diatribe of “American Teenager” and what just might be Cain’s opus, the sprawling “A House In Nebraska,” she’s made it clear that being cute online isn’t the end game here — full-blown pop star is. Preacher’s Daughter proves she’s got the chops to pull it off, no svengalis needed. – Caitlin White
FKA Twigs — Caprisongs
FKA twigs’ latest mixtape is all over the place, in the best way possible. The entire tape is mostly devoid of catchy hooks or a singular narrative, but it works for the artist whose sound is genre-bending by nature. Thinking back to projects like Magdalene, where we see Twigs pair up with Future (of all people), collaboration is rare for her. But with Caprisons, we get Twigs and The Weeknd on a track straight out of Abel’s universe, “Careless” with Daniel Caesar, and “Jealousy,” an afrobeats single featuring Benin City’s Rema. Although different from her dark, alt-pop past, each track on Caprisongs features at least one element of Twigs that we love, whether her soprano vocals, honest lyrics, or electro-acoustic stylings. – Ellice D. Ellis
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
Future — I Never Liked You
Everything you love about Future, he gives on his ninth studio album I Never Liked You. He holds down his thrown as the “Toxic King” and even embraces his position in the video for his No. 1 hit song “Wait For You” featuring Drake and Tems. Within Few’s assortment of melodic raps, live pockets of sweetness are cut with bitter rhymes, which help convey the ebb and flow of Future’s romantic relationships. “Love You Better” is a way-too-short R&B song about letting go of someone who is seeming falling out of love with him (maybe they took too long to text back?), abruptly preceded by the next track, “Massaging Me,” as if the rapper suddenly remembered that he is FUTURE. “We turn to Miami to Sky-ami” he belts out within the first seconds, coupled with a chorus that sounds like he’s saying “misogyny” not “massaging me.” Future’s I Never Liked You gives exactly what you came for. – Cherise Johnson
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.
Gunna — DS4EVER
Gunna took his mixtape series Drip Season to the mainstream with his third studio album DS4Ever. The selection of 20 songs reinforces Gunna’s ability to offer an album with a lot of songs — mostly good — just as he did with Wunna. Sure, “Too Easy” and “Livin Wild” were the chosen singles, but when the people heard “Pushin P,” the attraction drove the song to viral paradise and the Hot 100 chart. “Poochie Gown,” “Thought I Was Playing” featuring 21 Savage, “South To West,” plus many more have the potential to be sleeper hits. Though Gunna is locked up and facing RICO charges, the cultural impact he presented with DS4Ever off “Pushing P” alone will forever be remembered. Mission accomplished. – C.J.
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.
IDK — Simple
DMV-bred artist IDK has released a project a year since 2014, but in recent years, he’s really spread his wings. In contrast to his last few rap-oriented projects, Simple takes a hard left turn. Embracing the sounds of funk and jazz-influenced dance music, IDK and producer Kaytranada craft a project that truly stands out amid the glut of new hip-hop in the streaming era. Whether trading bars with Denzel Curry on “Dog Food” or preaching meditation on “Breathe,” IDK’s latest is an impressive example of what rap can be when you commit to ignoring the rules and doing your own thing. – A.W.
Jack Harlow — Come Home The Kids Miss You
Jack Harlow embraces the good side and bad side of fame on his sophomore album, Come Home The Kids Miss You. He’s still curious why he is slept on after multiple No. 1’s and Grammy nominations, but his curiosity doesn’t supersede his confidence. He opens the Drake collaboration “Churchill Downs” with the affirmation, “Sometimes when I sit back and really let it register / I did everything I said I would and said it first / I mean the world’s in denial but they all know what I’m headed for.” Though he obviously gets outperformed by The Boy on this soul sample-laden song, there’s a clear improvement from his previous effort, That’s What They All Say, in terms of flows and production. Legends Lil Wayne, Justin Timberlake, and Pharrell join the mix for a record full of standard Jack punchlines and simping. – Ar.S.
Kehlani — Blue Water Road
Where her second album It Was Good Until Wasn’t chronicled the series of unfortunate events in her life, Kehlani’s third album Blue Water Road documents the sunny days after the apocalypse. Serenity and happiness take precedent throughout her latest body of work. Kehlani combines elements of R&B and pop for a project that stands as one of her best. Blue Water Road also presents some of Kehlani’s best songwriting through records like “Melt” and “Everything” on 13 songs that offer a new level of clarity for her. – W.O.
Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
When you wait an extended amount of time to receive something, the expectation is that said item will be worth the wait. However, on Kendrick Lamar’s fifth long-awaited album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, the Compton rapper couldn’t care less if you like him or his latest body of work. He pushes boundaries in ways we never expected him (see: “Worldwide Steppers,” “Savior,” and his collaborations with Kodak Black). While some of us may disagree with some of his points, it’s quite admirable that Kendrick goes out of his way to destroy the facade placed on him against his will, and he does it on yet another intricate and impressively built body of work. – W.O.
Latto — 777
Latto hit the jackpot with 777, rapping with authority, showing off her singing pipes, and providing several empowering anthems for women in a world that still can’t seem to figure out how to respect them. Though “Big Energy” is the major hit here, songs “Like A Thug” featuring Lil Durk and “It’s Givin” possess a similar formula for greatness by employing popular colloquial phrases. Though the album only features dudes (Lil Wayne, Childish Gambino, 21 Savage, Kodak Black, Nardo Wick) that may typically be the nucleus of these kinds of records, Latto does a great job asserting herself both as a woman and rapper. – Ar.S.
Leikeli47 — Shape Up
The long-awaited follow-up to Leikeli’s 2018 album Acrylic did not disappoint. The masked rapper fully embraced her eclecticism and versatility on her third album, going from booming techno-rap on “Chitty Bang” to thumping house on “BITM” to full-on yearning R&B on “Hold My Hand.” It’s also Leikeli’s most personal project to date. She recounts a love at first sight encounter on the stripped-down “LL Cool J” while detailing a messy breakup on “Free To Love.” Showing off her tender storytelling, rugged battle raps, and engaging party rhymes across Shape Up‘s 14 tracks, Leikeli proves she is one of rap’s most fascinating artists today. – A.W.
Lil Durk — 7220
Lil Durk has been reveling in a seismic career shift since 2020, and 7220 continued that momentum. While one could say he doesn’t deviate much from his usual repertoire, there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken as “The Voice” has multiple pitches. “Petty Too” featuring Future and “What Happened To Virgil” featuring Gunna serve as the project’s two-headed monster with precise, melodic rap hybrid flows. “Difference Is” with Summer Walker successfully follows up their collaboration “Toxic” from her 2021 album Still Over It, and is arguably better. Durk has no issue getting heartfelt, whether it’s towards women or reflecting on his fallen friend King Von. – Ar.S.
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. – C.W.
Pusha T — It’s Almost Dry
Pusha T’s It’s Almost Dry is the coke album that everybody can enjoy. The production is updated, his flows are updated (snapped on “Call My Bluff”), his lyricism is there, and King Push’s resilient energy is present throughout the 12 song project. Push even has something for the kids, too. “Scrape It Off The Top” with Lil Uzi Vert and Don Toliver doesn’t sound too forced, but it does sound right on time. Then, the flip to “Neck & Wrist” with hip-hop vets JAY-Z and Pharrell sees inspiration from that same new generation of artists. The synergy is immaculate. It’s Almost Dry proves that Pusha T can make palatable coke raps and modernize his flow, while also staying true to his roots with songs like “Diet Coke” and “Open Air.” – C.J.
Ravyn Lenae — Hypnos
In a time when many believe that albums should arrive at an annual rate, Ravyn Lenae reminds us that some things take time – time that isn’t in our control to declare. Her debut album Hypnos took four years to create but the luscious and pristine music that exists on it makes the wait worthwhile. Her gentle vocals are entwined on records that sit on varying productions. Through records that are dance (“Venom”), traditional R&B (“Lullaby”), or alternative R&B (“Skin Tight”), Lenae manages to construct a body of work that flaunts her very best without any missteps. – W.O.
Rema — Rave & Roses
Coming off the extremely strong year that afrobeats had in 2021, it was expected that the genre would continue to thrive in 2022. Nigerian singer Rema proved that will be the case thanks to his debut album Rave & Roses which presented the young singer at his very best. In addition to his summer 2021 afrobeats hit “Soundgasm,” Rema flexed his craft with ear-pleasing records like “Dirty,” “Jo,” and “Mara” on an album that proved that the genre is in the best hands. – W.O.
Rosalía — Motomami
On her most ambitious project to date, Spanish singer Rosalia conquers a writer’s block she felt early on in the pandemic and documents a spiritual transformation. Motomami sees Rosalia experiment with an alternative form of reggaeton, utilizing synths and distorted pianos. Songs like “Chicken Teriyaki” feature Rosalia showing off her rapping chops, while the brazen “Hentai” puts Rosalia in the driver’s seat, as she owns her sexuality, unabashedly sharing her desires for — well, it’s pretty self-explanatory here. – A.G.
Saba — Few Good Things
Let’s face it; the last couple of years have been absolutely terrible for many of us. But for a lot of us, they were just more bad news on top of what was already a daily struggle. Saba’s new album, intended to be a dramatic shift from the somber fan-favorite Care For Me, acknowledges the hardships that come with being Black in America while also dealing with a global pandemic, then tells us to find those moments of joy that make it worth going through. – A.W.
Syd — Broken Hearts Club
Syd is always a welcome presence within the R&B space because she brings something different to the table. It’s truly impossible to box her in, especially here as a myriad of sounds and unfiltered vulnerability make up Broken Hearts Club. The project is loaded with special guest appearances, namely “CYBAH” featuring Lucky Daye, “Right Track” featuring Smino, and “Out Loud” featuring Kehlani. However, the solo cut “Fast Car” may have outpaced them all for a VIP seat in the Broken Hearts Club. Still, misery loves company so the aforementioned collaborations deserve sympathy invites. – Ar.S.
Tate McRae — I Used To Think I Could Fly
Tate McRae is as real as it gets. Breakups and broken hearts are a dime a dozen for teenage pop stars, but Tate’s take on the pain and loss she’s experienced in her short life remains entirely her own. Against a backdrop of synth production and trap beats, she crafts mesmerizing, personal missives that still get your body moving. And don’t be surprised to catch her turning things up on a notch on highlight tracks of her debut album I Used To Think I Could Fly, as pop-punk creeps into bangers like “She’s All I Wanna Be” and “What Would You Do?” – C.W.
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.
Vince Staples – Ramona Park Broke My Heart
While you weren’t looking, Vince Staples dropped his best record to date. Sharing poignant anecdotes of his childhood in Long Beach, while tying in contemporary issues, Ramona Park Broke My Heart allows for the listener to better understand Staples as he recounts his tumultuous upbringing and opens up about his mental health. The low bass and often downtempo production within the tracks allow for a West Coast feel throughout the record. – A.G.
The Weeknd — Dawn FM
Kicking off the year by dropping a hotly anticipated pop record, The Weeknd tuned us in to Dawn FM, a conceptual radio station played in dance-floor purgatory. Filled with ’80s-inspired synthpop tunes and filthy dance bangers, The Weeknd guides us through a waiting room to heaven while forcing us to examine our consciences. From the bouncy “Take My Breath” to the forlorn “Out Of Time,” with narration by Jim Carrey included, the music sounds like what the past two years have felt like: trying to make it out of a period of uncertainty. – A.G.
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. – Adrian Spinelli
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.
Winona Oak — Island Of The Sun
There’s a certain excitement that surrounds the debut album from an artist like Winona Oak. Just on the cusp of breaking out into mainstream American pop, Winona has been slowly but surely releasing a string of strangely sad, unbelievably sweet Swedish pop songs that prove her worth. She’s been working through her past experiences for some time now, mining the jewels from her childhood, past lovers, and time in the industry. Now, she’s ready to share just how bright her lyrics and melodies are. Island Of The Sun is one of the best pop debuts of 2022, and will likely quickly become one of the year’s best albums, too. – C.W.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.