Kyle Kohner’s Top 50 Albums of 2022

2022 was quite the up-and-down year for me. My highs were mountaintops while the lows were devastating plummets into earth’s torrential core, moments that sunk me with the weight of a thousand bricks, especially as death close to home rendered the last part of my 2022 a blur.

Darkness lingers within as you read this, but there has been some light to follow along the way. That light reeling me back in has been the therapeutic power of music. 

I’m no stranger to wanting to punch a hole in the wall or speeding my car 30 miles over the speed limit while listening to music. Hell, I probably bawl my eyes out more than what would be considered normal too! I’ve always been an emotional listener, but this past year showed me what good music is supposed to do after eliciting the visceral — heal and inspire.

In my time doing this whole music journalism thing, no year has touched me with brilliant releases like 2022. Each of the 50 projects listed below has either moved me to tears — both of joy and sadness, moved my body, or even reshaped my worldview in ways I couldn’t conceive possible as the second hand crossed the threshold past 11:59:59 PM on Dec. 31, 2021. 

With a few hundred records experienced, many of which I will cherish forever, there are distinguished 50 records that made what should have been an outright terrible year, a complex one at the very least, and that’s a win. These albums were my light, my mountaintop, and a saving avenue through much pain in 2022.

Without further ado…

50. Young Jesus – Shepherd Head: Young Jesus’ back catalog is full of inertia and momentum, but Shepherd Head encourages listeners to be pensive and thoughtful. This posture leads to no solid conclusion or answers to life’s unsolvable qualms. But the record’s meditative pose does offer comfort in the gray.

49. Animal Collective – Time Skiffs: Just as I closed the book on AnCo, they surprised the hell out of everyone with a return to wonky form. Time Skiffs is far from a perfect project from AnCo, but it sounds as if the band is having fun throwing crap against the wall to see if it’ll stick. And it certainly sticks here!

48. Crack Cloud – Tough Baby:  There was once much uncertainty over whether Crack Cloud would release music ever again, this on the heels of releasing a debut record to the chagrin of much praise. But this recognition shifted plans and has continued to bear fruit — this time far sweeter and saccharine in the form of Tough Baby.

47. Vince Staples – Ramona Park Broke My Heart: Ramona Park Broke My Heart doesn’t capture the same meditative slow-burn of his self-titled. But it is a banger-filled rumination on childhood, growing old, and the swaying bridge that links the two. As he crosses it, Vince shows, yet again, few rappers tell a story quite like him.

46. Deliluh – Fault Lines: Fault Lines sees Deliluh maintain their hankering for darkly neurotic storytelling and bleakly spoken narration; meanwhile, they’ve tapped into an arcane musical world of enveloping darkness, a world that was predestined for them as global pandemonium ensued 2 years ago.

45. Maya Hawke – MOSS: Though her birthright is in Hollywood, Hawke’s a talented musician adeptly in touch with the gen-z spirit. This new record finds Hawke waxing poetic with incredible nuance and making folk music with an oddball touch that veers from the status quo twee folk-pop that has become popular.

44. Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!: SICK! doesn’t possess the same, seamless cohesiveness of his last record; however, Earl once again proves himself as hip-hop royalty with a collection of effortless raps that topple the overarching and overwrought narrative of pandemic struggles and anxiety.

43. Beach House – Once Twice Melody: Beach House projects are like impressionistic paintings where no single object, or in this case, song, stands out. But with Once Twice Melody presented in four parts, there is breadth and space to these songs, providing listeners with the band’s most palatable experience yet.

42. Wet Leg – S/T:  Who gives a damn if Wet Leg are industry plants or not? This record is whipsmart, endearingly jaded, barebones indie rock with brains and infectious musicality that burrows into your ears, then down into your nervous system to get you moving. 

41. Preoccupations – Arrangements: Though a thematic broad-stroked approach remains, the Preoccupations have painted a gloomy picture abundantly more relatable than the last. Having always made art befit of a world edging toward self-immolation, Arrangements, oddly, sees the band back in a moment that welcomes them.

40. FKA Twigs – CAPRISONGS: It’s wild to think this is a project full of odd ends and off-the-cough abstractions splintered off the brilliant mind of Twigs. It’s still incredibly cohesive and unified with vision and purpose. It is a complete flex by one of the greatest alive. Mixtape, I’ll be damned!

39. Gilla Band – Most Normal: Whatever name you want to attach to them, Gilla Band’s latest album is a quaking menace writhing with uncontainable anxiety. And yet, through the vibrations, glitches, and ungodly mania possessing this album, Most Normal is a captivating experience that’s far too fleeting. I need more!

38. Leikeli47 – Shape Up: Leikeli47’s Shape Up does everything but. It’s amorphous, spontaneous, without shape, and one of the more unique hip-hop experiences of 2022. Amid the weird sonic diversions, one thing remains unwavering — the rapper’s delivery, moxy, and gonads to say the things she says.

37. Rosalia – MOTOMAMI: The rise of Rosalia has been rapid but well-earned. She’s a damn savvy artistic mind, and that’s selling her brilliance short, especially once after hearing the blistering MOTOMAMI. Overbearingly stunning as it is disorienting, Rosalia’s third album is true musical turbulence.

36. The Koreatown Oddity – ISTHISFORREAL?: Thinking of theatrical rap, Slick Rick, Eminem, or newer blood like Danny Brown come to mind. The Koreatown Oddity is next of kin. Following the autobiographical dramatics of his debut with more flair on his latest, placing him alongside the aforementioned isn’t farfetched.

35. MY IDEA – CRY MFER: By living in messy tension in real-time, the debut record from My IDEA pushes against the conventional post-breakup narrative always told – embracing the persistent disarray, brushing through its coarse shrubbery and wreckage while licking shared wounds obtained along the way.

34. Freddie Gibbs – $oul $old $eparately: With the growing exposure, Freddie Gibbs continues to make his name stand clear and above his contemporaries. His latest effort proves that much so. Once again, a virtuoso behind the mic rapping about industry beef, family, and life on the road, $oul $old $eparately is Gibbs’ most industry record yet but remains an unabashed reflection of his headspace. 

33. Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems: In 2022, no album was as righteous in anger than Soul Glo’s Diaspora Problems. This pulverizing project is an utter cathartic mess, full of one acerbic lyrical bits that’ll have you pounding your chest in unison as the trio explodes in a fury over the injustices of our society.

32. Florence + The Machine – Dance Fever: To say Florence’s latest snuck up on me would be short-selling this glorious return. Produced by Jack Antonoff, Dance Fever brims with utmost radiance and catharsis because Florence sounds more self-assured than ever, and the music surrounding her voluminous voice even more so. 

31. Conway the Machine – God Don’t Make Mistakes: God Don’t Make Mistakes is Conway’s tipping point into singularity. The hip-hop equivalent of Edgar Allen Poe: Conway is dark, striking with his words, but outright devastating with his tales of death, despair, and internal tumult. God Don’t Make Mistakes is Conway at his best.

30. Porridge Radio – Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky: Where Porridge Radio’s first few projects were the manifestations of a numbed mind, body, and soul, Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky is the profound exhalation of pent-up passion — a result of holding breath for far too long. To breathe is to feel.

29. Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyes See Your Future: Open your heart and mind to a more tender and measured version of Floridian emcee, the inimitable Denzel Curry. On Melt My Eyes See Your Future, Curry shows his knack for storytelling, taking his time as he maneuvers calm and collected boom-bap and neo-soul.

28. Burial – Antidawn: Atmospheric, swampy, rainy, and just downright drab, the Antidawn EP witnesses the legendary Burial once again deliver downtempo dub for the sad and desolate and those in need of a world to escape into when ours is even drabber.

27. billy woods – Aethiopes: billy woods ages like fine wine. With every passing project, his bars become more impactful, more economical, and of course, pertinent and adaptive to the current climate. Aethiopes is proof and also his most remarkable display.

26. Girlpool – Forgiveness: Between Tucker’s gradual transition into his true self and Tividad’s growing confidence in reflecting on lingering trauma, the difference in Girlpool from past to present has been made clear, bold, and absolutely glorious — an unmistakable evolution not only heard, but felt on Forgiveness.

25. Sorry – Anywhere But Here: Unlike Sorry’s debut, their latest, Anywhere But Here, fully leans into being weird, so much so that the duo comes across as a pair of extraterrestrial beings from another universe traversing our deeply sad planet to observe the many pains and anxieties that plague us. 

24. Black Midi – Hellfire: Black midi will continue to invigorate with something new and unheard with every outing. Though many of the band’s distinct hallmarks show face – heavier than ever, even – somehow, Hellfire sounds miraculously and hideously new, proving their aversion to any mindless repetition.

23. Show Me The Body – Trouble The Water: Trouble The Water once again finds Show Me The Body — even in this post-Trump and neo-fascist moment in history — down in the deep, dingy trenches. However, this time, their righteous anger and volatility manifest in some of the most refreshing hardcore the east of the Atlantic have to offer.

22. Hyd – CLEARING: Rarely do words so perfectly parallel the sonic happenings throughout the procession of an entire album. But Hyd, with the helping hands of their dear SOPHIE and other PC Music pillars like A.G. Cook and Carolina Polacheck, has made this rare occurrence possible on the CLEARING.

21. JID – The Forever Story: It has been hard to get past the eerie Kendrick-isms and likeness, whether that be his flow, delivery, or similar topical musings. But color this skeptic a skeptic no more. The Forever Story is a sweeping hip-hop epic that will only continue the rapper’s meteoric rise through the ranks — not as another Kendrick clone, but as JID himself.

20. Sudan Archives – Natural Brown Prom Queen: There may not be a more fun record to shake your ass away to in 2022 than Natural Brown Prom Queen. Constantly upbeat, sometimes to a robotic degree, this album leaves you stuck in a trance, like a mindless, puppet-strung machine, except the puppeteer, Sudan, is maternal — a sentinel to shield listeners from life’s drudgery.

19. Jordaan Mason & Their Orchestra – Rewrite The Words Again: Jordaan Mason has made it their artistic prerogative throughout their career to outline the anxieties and ecstasies that form the very person and artist they are today, which have always been one and the same — they’ve just done so to a far more striking degree on Rewrite The Words Again.

18. Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B: Even with the shocking and head-spinning nature of their breakbeat art pop, Jockstrap surprise with an unforeseen level of emotional nuance that forms the textured appearance of their thrilling and equal parts heartfelt, I Love You Jennifer B.

17. Battle Ave. – I Saw The Egg:  Battle Ave.’s I Saw The Egg weighs with such depressive emotion that it’s quite a miracle the band is able to contain such intimate stories of heartache within its subtle alt-country, emo-tinged environment. 

16. Special Interest: Dance punk is abrasively alive in 2022, reinvigorated by Special Interest. Their last album, The Passion Of, put them on the radar with resonant dissonance, even if it was a bit overbearing. Endure maintains that fierceness but distills the unbridled fury into a more refined offering.

15. MJ Lenderman – Boat Songs:  Underwritten to charming effect, Boat Songs embraces a lo-fi drawl to give meaning to shoegaze-y slacker country — yes, that’s a thing in our world of labels. But most impressive is MJ’s Twain-like storytelling that drives to the heart of the American spirit. 

14. Wunderhorse – Cub: Stripped-down, gravelly guitar music with a bit of reverb is oddly refreshing in 2022. By going against the post-punk grain he once was part of, the solo debut of Jacob Slater, aka Wunderhorse, is more “punk” than if he’d released something akin to his old stylistic flame on Cub.

13. Nilüfer Yanya – Painless: A refreshing breath of fresh air for indie rock, as amorphous of a term or phrase that may be these days, Nilüfer Yanya amazes with familiar sounds on Painless, spicing things up merely through the feelings she expresses via a voice so resonant, you can’t help but perk your ears.

12. Caroline – S/T: Life can be so incomprehensible that, at times, the only thing to do is to allow ourselves to react accordingly — with emotion. caroline‘s self-titled debut is one such miraculous occurrence that indulges the emotional self to sit and respond to what formless, imprecise beauty could be.

11. Backxwash – HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SUFFERING! : Self-produced and self-realized by her own brilliance, Backxwash’s HIS HAPPINESS.. is the proverbial bow to her concaving and ever-tightening universe in which many have found solace — a true benchmark moment from a transcendent talent who remains unflinchingly authentic. 

10. Chat Pile – God’s Country: The power of God’s Country doesn’t rely solely on the socio-political commentary that bubbles up from the fissures cracked open by their hometown’s pervasive plagues. Its power is found in the band’s ability to trap and pin you down to experience a place unholy.

9. Pusha T- It’s Almost DryDaytona was easily one of the best rap records of 2019 and thrusted Pusha T into his rightful throne as someone far more than an a-list feature. Succeeding the coke raps of Daytona undoubtedly stood as a tall task, but he’s done it again, firing away at will on “It’s Almost Dry.”

8. Oliver Sim – Hideous Bastard: Nothing sounds like Oliver Sim’s debut. Torn and pieced together like its cover with extraterrestrial sounds gurgling within, still; Hideous Bastard is everything but ugly. It’s stunning with vulnerability, revealing that we’re all a little hideous but deserving to be heard. 

7. Charlotte Adigéry – Topical DancerDespite a scant back catalog between the both of them, there’s no denying that whatever Charlotte Adigéry or Bolis Pupul touches turns into gold. Together, they’ve made a treasure trove of dance music in Topical Dancer, an escapist paradise, possessive of that magic formula of futuristic sounds and bombastic beats to drown out the world’s noise.

6. Tomberlin – i don’t know who needs to hear this: At Weddings unwound in its pastoral self, but not without simultaneous uncertainty of laid ahead and above. 4 years later, this bashful posture persists on Tomberlin’s idkwntht, but with more texture and emotional nuance to embrace listeners deeper into her somber heart. 

5. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big SteppersOn his latest offering and final under TDE, Kendrick did what Kendrick does best — subvert and enthrall. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is not his most musically exceptional record; neither is it conceptually. It is, however, his most lyrically riveting offering yet.

4. Shygirl – Nymph: Nymph is an engrossing experience that can’t be contained in a single quotable; however, there is a word. Nymph IS sex, perspiring with an aural drive and sensuality that moves listeners with such vigor, that you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exhilarating record in 2022. 

3. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You: A double album of folky indie rock doesn’t sound appealing on paper, that is, unless it’s from Big Thief. DNWMIBIY is Adrianna Lenker and friends’ crowning achievement as It pins a band at its creative zenith, exploring and pushing the boundaries they’ve set for themselves.

2. Alex G – God Save The Animals: I first heard God Save The Animals on a recent long flight, face peering into the window. It had found me. My throat swelled with emotion. Tears fell. This was not entirely due to what I was seeing. It was the small, weird and special music of Alex G’s resonating.

1. Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up ThereAnts From Up There is an emotional journey that’ll forever have listeners grasping for their emergency air masks — not because it’s the same kind of unstable spectacle the band’s first record was, but because it’s ballasted with wandering beauty while wielding a threatening emotional dagger.

TOP 100 SONGS OF 2022: