Exclaim!'s 50 Best Albums of 2022

Photos (clockwise from top left): Beyoncé by Carlijn Jacobs, Alvvays by Norman Wong, OMBIIGIZI by Rima Sater, Sudan Archives by Shane Parent

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Nov 30, 2022

Back in 2020, when lockdowns arrived, optimists began speculating how much great art would be created in that time. King Lear had supposedly been written in quarantine, they said.

For most of us, it didn't quite work out like that, leading to a period that felt more like stasis than a creative incubator. But as lockdowns lifted, artists started plotting their next steps — and in 2022, we began reaping the rewards. This year had a jam-packed release schedule, with some bands dropping more than one album, and others releasing grand opuses that felt years in the making. Anyone who had been waiting to release an album until touring reopened did so this year.

The result is a year of grand, ambitious statements: a soul-searching double album from arguably the world's most acclaimed rapper, a dance-floor expiration by a generation-defining pop star, the experimental R&B opus from an adventurous violinist, and Canadian indie artists who reached beyond their scenes to make worldly masterpieces. This was a year of long, dense and impeccably crafted LPs.

Read Exclaim!'s 50 Best Albums of 2022 below. See all our year-end lists, including Exclaim!'s 50 Best Songs of 2022, here.

50. Sister Ray
(Royal Mountain)

The exchange Sister Ray's debut album undertakes is an act of witnessing. With their voice creaking like attic floorboards, Edmonton-born Ella Coyes unpacks interpersonal and intergenerational violence in a disarmingly subdued, conversational way, spinning hard truths about power negotiations into grounding practice. "But there's no pedigree when we're half-breeds," they sing on "Good News," which felt like a twig snapping inside when I first registered it — and it's moments like these, in the thicket of identity, where Sister Ray sees you.
Megan LaPierre

(Loma Vista)

Cool goths know: HEALTH's DISCO delivers the goods. The latest iteration of their collaborative series — with standouts including "MURDER DEATH KILL" with Ada Rook and PlayThatBoiZay, "COLD BLOOD" with Lamb of God and "GNOSTIC FLESH/MORTAL HELL" with Backxwash and Ho99o9 — mines the depths of HEALTH's darkness, providing a base for Jake Duzsik's effervescent vocals, while dissecting and reanimating multiple genres simultaneously. Look no further for evidence of their adventurous spirit than on album opener "DEAD FLOWERS" with uncanny valley pop star-turned-metalhead Poppy. 
Allie Gregory

48. Daphni

Daphni = Caribou = Dan Snaith. An important equation to understand when listening to the third LP from the Dundas, ON-born musician. That's because, on Cherry, Snaith buries himself even further into digital valleys and peaks, staying true to Chicago house and Detroit techno by remaining anonymous across 14 simmering tracks. Allowing elementary samples and austere sounds to fortify each song's skeleton, Cherry is remarkable for the sonically lush world Snaith builds from such slight scaffolding.
Daniel Sylvester

47. Badge Époque Ensemble
Clouds of Joy
(Telephone Explosion)

In all their varying shapes, and through their drift toward new sonic horizons, Toronto's Badge Époque Ensemble float to their highest point yet on Clouds of Joy. On the outfit's third LP, the jazz-funk forecast is brightened by changes in approach: bandleader Max Turnbull moves behind the boards to play producer and arranger, and the group dynamic is bolstered by returning and recently added players alike — making for nothing short of a spellbinding, creative cloudburst.
Calum Slingerland

46. MUNA
(Saddest Factory / Dead Oceans)

MUNA's self-titled album is a portrait of a band perfectly in its element. From the gorgeous "Silk Chiffon" to the propulsive "What I Want," the L.A. trio's joyous queer pop bristles with energy and confidence. The record constantly finds ways to combine excellent hooks, immaculate production and the emotional intimacy of their best work. But most importantly, this record never loses its sense of fun. It's a celebratory record, one where it's hard to not be disarmed by MUNA's passion and energy.
Matt Yuyitung

45. Joyful Joyful
Joyful Joyful
(Idée Fixe)

Joyful Joyful's self-titled debut captures the singular sonic communion that Cormac Culkeen (voice/lyrics) and Dave Grenon (soundscapes/effects) have refined over many years since first collaborating through Peterborough's CFFF FM. This album serves as a reclamation of religious music (Culkeen was exiled by their Christian Evangelical church after coming out as queer), offering secular devotionals that speak to a deep, shared humanity. Joyful Joyful offers deep feeling that eludes definition and convention, asking, as Culkeen sings on "Oh Jubilation," "What is art compared to your skin?"
Sam Boer

44. Magi Merlin
Gone Girl

Nothing is missing from Magi Merlin's Gone Girl. "Fuck you, babe / You ain't entitled to my time," the Montrealer breezes off the top on "Milkweed," assertively reintroducing herself as a spare clang spirals into a hypnotic Motown-indebted soul melt. She and creative partner Funkywhat punch up analgesic alt-R&B by way of electropop synths, house beats and razor-sharp wit — and the twists are as thrilling as the titular source code, Merlin varying her delivery with the cunning of Amy Dunne herself.
Megan LaPierre

43. Sharon Van Etten
We've Been Going About This All Wrong

Sharon Van Etten attempts to make sense of her surroundings on her sixth album, We've Been Going About This All Wrong. The heartfelt songwriter refuses to hold back, documenting her journey of dealing with her personal struggles over the past few years. Sonically, she picks up on where she left off on her last record, 2019's Remind Me Tomorrow, continuing to experiment with different textures as a way of building emotion, sharing another cathartic body of work.
Sun Noor

42. black midi 
(Rough Trade) 

It takes a lot of nerve for an alternative band to draw as openly from prog and jazz fusion as black midi do. These genres may not be the coolest things in 2022, but the English post-punkers fuse them in a collage aesthetic reminiscent of Frank Zappa or Mr. Bungle. Hellfire, their third album, is their most adventurous yet, bringing in elements of flamenco, country, musicals and more. It's cacophony with a purpose, resulting in a world where technical prowess and fun can coexist. 
Bruno Coulombe

41. Cave In
Heavy Pendulum

It's one thing to bounce back from tragedy and return with your career-best record, but it's another thing entirely when it's also your first studio album in eleven years. And yet, against the painful loss of longtime bassist Caleb Scofield in 2018, Massachusetts rockers Cave In have done exactly that. Heavy Pendulum, the group's colossal seventh LP, takes their metallic spin on spacey alt-rock textures and blasts it out like a supernova. Crushing, dense and fittingly triumphant.
Owen Morawitz

Click "Next" to continue reading.40. Gang of Youths
angel in realtime.

A de-facto rock opera that effortlessly transcends the confines of rock music, Gang of Youths' angel in realtime. is a culturally rich and deeply layered work of musical storytelling. The Australian band delivers heart-on-sleeve, U2-style arena rock infused with drum and bass, Britpop, contemporary classical and Pacific Islander choirs to soundtrack singer David Le'aupepe's eulogy to his father and ensuing exploration of his history and Maori heritage. Highly approachable yet endlessly rewarding, it's a record that's so complexly poignant and so beautifully constructed that it's likely to move you to tears.
Adam Feibel

39. Mitski
Laurel Hell
(Dead Oceans)

After a hiatus from social media and a period of uncertainty about whether Mitski would return to music, the singer-songwriter returned for her ambitious sixth album, Laurel Hell. Mitski takes her feelings of self-doubt, burnout, existentialism, love and heartbreak and places them on a glittering dance floor, with rock, synthpop, new wave and disco influences shining. Like the rest of Mitski's discography, Laurel Hell is poignant and earnest — but this time, it just wants to dance in between processing those big human emotions.
Jordan Currie

38. Julianna Riolino
All Blue
(You've Changed)

The starry-eyed country rock of Julianna Riolino's All Blue strikes near-universal chords through simplicity and clear sentiment, making the many life lessons presented by the Toronto musician on her first solo album all the easier to follow. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Riolino laughs at her mistakes, pulls up her boots and trudges on; she lends a shoulder to those in need despite her own hurting heart. Though melancholic at times, Riolino's debut is a shining reminder that blue comes in radiant hues, too.
Leslie Ken Chu

37. Grace Ives
Janky Star

This proper sophomore effort from NYC's Grace Ives will likely be the first exposure to her music for many, and it's the kind of first impression any artist would covet: assured, sophisticated yet accessible, and disarmingly goofy at times as well, with breathy, multi-tracked verses delivered in socially awkward bursts like she's whispering into your ear at a frat party you're both hating. Let this Janky Star guide you into 2023.
Luke Pearson

36. PUP
(Little Dipper / Rise)

It seems appropriate that arguably PUP's best album yet is the one where they take the biggest piss out of themselves. The beloved Toronto punks have spent a career toeing the line between snarky lyrics and thoughtfully self-aware lyrical themes, accumulating critical acclaim and an international following along the way. On THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND, they take to task the miserable business of being a successful band, with sneering self-deprecation ("Totally Fine") and unrequited love songs from the perspective of frontman Stefan Babcock's guitar ("Matilda") paired with anthemic choruses, lush synths and wonderfully experimental horn arrangements, firmly establishing themselves as masters of the art. 
Yasmine Shemesh

35. Steve Lacy
Gemini Rights
(L-M / RCA)

Steve Lacy has always had "it": he's an agile instrumentalist, a nimble vocalist and he's dripping with charisma. But on Gemini Rights, he finally combines these powers to give us more than just a collection of decent songs. The breakup album sees Lacy come of age and offer us all of the musical skill we loved before, with some welcome extras: depth, honesty and emotion. It's the first time he really tells a story.
A. Harmony

34. Ken mode

Very rarely does a band create their heaviest and most abrasive album 20 years into their existence. NULL has ditched the riff-centric focus of the band for a more atmospheric and brooding record. The album captures feelings of anxiety and futility in a way that creates a perfectly uncomfortable experience for the listener. With Ken mode showing a desire to never be stagnant with their sound, NULL is a hellish soundscape that refines the band's approach to heavy music. 
Mark Tremblay

33. Earl Sweatshirt
(Tan Cressida / Warner)

Earl Sweatshirt's messages of resolve tucked within SICK! resonate as strongly at year's end as they did upon this album's early January arrival. Fit together with warmer, if not always brighter production, every one of his quotable lines instil resilience to the world's ills. Chief among them: "You only trash if you trash," "Keep changing for the better, what to do when your job thankless," and "It's no rewinding, for the umpteenth time, it's only forward."
Calum Slingerland

32. Fontaines D.C.
Skinty Fia

Charting new musical territory while also remaining incredibly focused, nearly all of Fontaines D.C.'s risks on Skinty Fia pay off handsomely. The Irish five-piece dabble in genres like jangle pop ("Jackie Down the Line"), Britpoppy psychedelia à la the Verve ("Roman Holiday"), and traditional Irish folk music ("The Couple Across the Way"), among others. Covering themes like paranoia, misanthropy, addiction and grappling with one's Irishness while living in England, the band's third LP is soaked in plenty of dry wit and piss and vinegar.
Dave MacIntyre

31. Les Louanges

Quebec's Vincent Roberge revamps his sound while staying true to his sonic roots on his third album as Les Louanges, Crash. Going for a more in-your-face approach, the project is less dreamy than past releases. Blaring synth lines and a narrative writing approach are backed by strong melodies and catchy hooks on this risky offering. Instead of milking his old formula, Roberge drives off-course and ultimately takes listeners on a wild ride. 
Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo

Click "Next" to continue reading.30. Cate Le Bon
(Mexican Summer)

Forced isolation caused Cate Le Bon to simultaneously rethink her songwriting process and ruminate on life at a standstill. With Pompeii, she capitalized on this shift in activity and mindset and welded interrogative existentialism to her idiosyncratic pop sensibility. The record's glistening yet gritty synths dazzle with a surreal charm. Le Bon continuously manages to reveal the comfort in the uncanny, and Pompeii's alluring hallucinations were the warm embrace the world needed as 2022 came into focus.
Bryon Hayes

29. Ravyn Lenae

Across three EPs released between 2016 and 2019, Ravyn Lenae burnished her sound, making each track shimmer like another pearl placed delicately along a string. That sound — compelling for its shrewdly stacked vocals, thick percussive swings, and sumptuous atmospherics — emerged with the Zero Fatigue collective, made up of Lenae, rapper-musician Smino and producer Monte Booker, almost seven years ago, yet it still stands on the cutting edge. Lenae took her time with her debut full-length, HYPNOS, and it's a crystalline exhibition of her talent, replete with warm arrangements that forecast possible paths for the future of R&B.
Noah Ciubotaru

28. Björk
(One Little Independent)

Björk is one of the rare artists who is still a force four decades into her career. She accepts her flowers as she continues to create — with Fossora acting as her matriarchal sonnet. While addressing the death of her mom and ever-complicated mother-child dynamics, Björk retains her signature hope. With that, the earthly, mushroom-filled imagery throughout Fossora becomes the perfect allegory for grounded growth and self-discovery.
Sydney Brasil

27. The Weeknd
Dawn FM
(XO / Republic)

After the runaway success of his slick 2020 album After Hours, the Weeknd takes things one step further on Dawn FM, the pop star's fifth proper album and the supposed middle entry in a "new trilogy." Featuring Jim Carrey as an ethereal radio DJ, Dawn FM guides listeners on a sonic voyage through purgatory in a creatively stunning and narratively rich concept album, containing an '80s-inspired, upbeat synthpop sound layered with dark undertones. It's perhaps Abel Tesfaye's most fully realized, mature and introspective work to date. And If one were to shuffle off this mortal coil, well then, the Weeknd's Dawn FM would be the perfect record to spin while dancing into the afterlife. 
Matt Owczarz

26. Backxwash
(Ugly Hag)

Completing a trilogy that began with the Exclaim! cover-gracing God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It and followed with last year's punishing and unrelenting I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES, Backxwash's HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SUFFERING feels like both a natural progression and a logical endpoint. This latest collage of brutal lyrics and riotous production manage to pull all three projects into focus while laying the groundwork for what lays ahead for the Montreal multi-hyphenate.
Scott Simpson

25. Status/Non-Status
Surely Travel
(You've Changed)

Surely Travel is a record about telling truths. Status/Non-Status's semi-conceptual album about touring, the music industry and everything left behind in the pursuit of art continues to evolve and morph in new and provoking creative directions, with every listen rewarding listeners with a uniquely beautiful experience. Interlaced between folk, grunge, and psychedelic songs, band leader Adam Sturgeon sings about Indigenous identity, family, forgotten responsibilities and community. "When life fades as the fading sunset, I'll come to you," sings Sturgeon on "Mashkiki Sunset."
Myles Tiessen

24. Black Country, New Road
Ants From Up There
(Ninja Tune)

A brilliant balancing act of sonic breadth and emotional intimacy, Ants From Up There possesses a gravitational pull that has only become stronger since vocalist Isaac Wood departed from Black Country, New Road. Ripe with more substance than initially gleaned, there's much to Ants From Up There that many initial reviews couldn't quite grasp in full. It's a devastating closed chapter and a bittersweet statement, yet one that has unraveled with more beauty as time passes — a beauty that still hints at a band with an exciting and bright future.
Kyle Kohner

23. Freddie Gibbs
$oul $old $eparately 

There is no doubt about it: Freddie Gibbs is one of the best rappers alive today. Following his last two critically acclaimed albums with legendary producers Madlib and the Alchemist, respectively, $oul $old $eparately expands Gibbs' career and ventures into new ideas with an eclectic array of beats that marry his distinguished, guttural voice with eloquent rapping. In a Vegas casino, Gibbs reflects on his musical hardships, his former life and everything he endured from his rough upbringing to hitting the jackpot of life. 
Papa Minnow

22. Beth Orton
Weather Alive

Beth Orton's eighth record feels like a rebirth. A world away from the various mutations of folk and electronica that Orton's crafted in the past, Weather Alive resists traditional structures and traditional thought, breaking apart and reforming like a great murmuration of starlings. In its imperfect, jazz-inflected whirl is an entire universe of dreams and ghosts and aching loneliness; Orton and her band move in the margins of our world, passing through states and sounds like water. On the leaping "Fractals," she dissects the psychology of the dream, while "Friday Night" finds her sitting with Proust, gazing into the abyss of memory and lost time. In a year so packed with incredible music, no one else tapped into the world beyond our own quite like Orton. 
Kaelen Bell

21. Nilüfer Yanya

Where 2019's Miss Universe — Nilüfer Yanya's ticker-tape parade of a debut — conjured electric desert vistas and crowded, streamer-laden alleyways, the astonishing PAINLESS finds Yanya marooned on a grey and yawning coastline. From this new vantage point, Yanya dissects brain-flaying anxiety, isolation and heartache with an instinctive precision. Atop a steady conveyer of inflexible, mechanistic drumbeats and liquid mercury guitar, Yanya finds new shades of reality in the grey: "In some kind of way I am lost / In another life I was not," she sings on sterling closer "anotherlife." What would sound like defeat in a lesser artist's hands glows with the faintest hint of possibility; that other life is still there, just across the water. 
Kaelen Bell

Click "Next" to continue reading.20. Pierre Kwenders
José Louis and the Paradox of Love
(Arts & Crafts)

Recorded over four years and featuring numerous collaborators, Congolese-born, Montreal-based Pierre Kwenders' Lingala-, French-, English-, Tshiluba- and Kikongo-sung José Louis and the Paradox of Love was an unsurprising victor in the race for the 2022 Polaris Music Prize. With its myriad influences — combing electronic, pop and rumba, and using guitar, saxophone, cello, trumpet, violin and mbira — the resulting cacophony is equal parts challenging, danceable and heartrending, as the artist explores narratives of love and diasporic identity, blurring the lines between past and future, and borrowing his stage name from his grandfather to present 13 songs under the banner of his birth name.
Allie Gregory

19. Tomberlin
i don't know who needs to hear this…
(Saddle Creek)

On her second LP, i don't know who needs to hear this…, Sarah Beth Tomberlin moves in tandem with the delicate dance of the album's folk pop and meditates on faith, love, and so much more. The sparse arrangements leave room for Tomberlin to think and feel, which cultivates touchingly insightful lyrics like those on the shuffling "born again runner," when she sings, "I know I'm not Jesus, but Jesus, I'm tryin' to be enough." I don't know who needs to hear this, but you're enough.
Laura Stanley

18. Aquakultre
Don't Trip
(Forward / Black Buffalo)

Aquakultre wears both his heart and his influences on his sleeve. On Don't Trip's "Karamel" and "I Can Wait," the Halifax soul dynamo's impassioned singing and curatorial ear shake up new jack soul. He shouts out Lauryn Hill and D'Angelo on the audiophile's-date-night vignette "It's All Good." Best of all: his prodigal son-themed lyricism makes "Magic" feel like leafing through Luther Vandross's diary. Those R&B forebears should take note of both Aquakultre's good taste and his unabashed soul-baring. The latter helps him innovate while working within the tropes he so clearly adores.
Kyle Mullin

17. Destroyer

On LABYRINTHITIS, Dan Bejar disassembles everything that made so many of his works near-classics and fully rebuilds his delivery, rhythm and tone. Repeating themes like an electronic producer while slicing apart his beat poetry, the Vancouverite has crafted a masterpiece that audaciously stands alone. These 10 confounding, intricate tracks place Destroyer in rare company with Neil Young as Canada's most consistently fertile artist. How many more stunners does Dan need to release before his genius becomes canon?
Daniel Sylvester

16. Pusha T
It's Almost Dry
(Def Jam / GOOD)

Pusha T has always been about the hustle, so it makes sense to see him take such an economical approach on his fourth solo LP. The skip button sees no action on the reformed Virginia dealer's latest masterpiece, which breezes through productions by Kanye West's and Pharrell Williams's "A" material in a Spandex-tight 36 minutes. Slick talk abounds. Braggadocio spills over the rim. And the highlights — the hypnotizing "Brambleton," Mos Def's uncredited cameo on "Dreamin of the Past," hazy chipmunk soul revived on "Rock N Roll" — keep stacking like Jenga. Who'd have thunk that such an accomplished emcee could find a higher level than 2018's DAYTONA? Maybe Pusha did. "I've done the impossible," he spits. "I should wear a cape here."
Luke Fox

15. Aldous Harding
Warm Chris

Warm Chris comes across as a surprisingly relaxed record. One of the successes of its predecessor, 2019's Designer, was goading the listener into pinpointing what was and what wasn't persona as Harding shapeshifted across tracks. Warm Chris does no less shapeshifting, but the feeling of induced inertia is gone and replaced with a comfort in Harding's own internal congregation. The uptempo pop numbers are still off-kilter and wry, and the ballads are still somewhat opaque in their feeling, but we're well-acquainted enough with Harding by now to believe that she's not just playing in the topsy-turvy — she's living in it too. It's that sense of familiarity that makes Warm Chris as cozy as it is strange.    
Tom Piekarski

14. Angel Olsen 
Big Time

Written in the wake of coming out as queer and the sudden death of her parents, Angel Olsen immerses further into her Americana influences to craft a profound meditation on grief, loss and identity. Twangs of pain shimmer into reflection and acceptance ("All The Good Times"), while loneliness is so overwhelming that it completely envelops the spirit in an expansive symphony of lush pop ("Go Home"). Big Time has been described by critics as emotionally and musically rich, which is to say it's another gorgeous entry in Olsen's ever-impressive catalogue. Perhaps it's the accessibility of its themes, albeit deeply personal, that make it a universal salve for the turbulent times of yesterday, today and tomorrow, and Olsen's most poignant release yet. 
Yasmine Shemesh

13. Chat Pile
God's Country
(The Flenser)

"Why do people have to live outside?" asks Chat Pile vocalist Raygun Busch on the band's thunderous, socially poignant debut record. The Oklahoma sludge/noise group veer between some of the darkest guitars ever recorded and the most harrowing, pained vocals put to tape. For those who like their heavy music to mean something, and demand answers, Chat Pile's first full-length is a promising powerhouse of resistance.
Anthony Boire

12. The Smile
A Light for Attracting Attention

On paper, the Smile's debut doesn't get much points for pure originality — Radiohead comprises two-thirds of the band, and it's produced by Nigel Godrich, who has worked on all that band's albums since OK Computer — that doesn't matter when the material is this good. A Light for Attracting Attention stands easily as the best Radiohead side project. The lyrics are both prescient and timely, while the production runs the gamut from jazz, art rock, electronica, psychedelia, grunge and much more without coming apart at the seams.
Nicholas Sokic

11. Alexisonfire
(Dine Alone)

Alexisonfire's first new album in over a decade had a lot riding on it, but the band delivered a no-miss collection of songs that not only stand alongside their previous works, but also push the band into new and more evolved directions. Otherness is the St Catharines, ON-bred group's most collaborative, cohesive effort thus far, reminding listeners why this band remain a cornerstone of growing up weird in Canada. 
Manus Hopkins

Click "Next" to continue reading.10. Sudan Archives
Natural Brown Prom Queen 
(Stones Throw)

After turning heads with her debut LP, Athena, in 2019, Natural Brown Prom Queen hoists Sudan Archives to a new level as an experimental pop, hip-hop and electronic force to be reckoned with. The master behind the music, Brittney Parks, flexes technical prowess on the piano and violin, layering them over her impassioned vocals across 18 spellbinding yet distinctly different tracks. Not only is Natural Brown Prom Queen fully realized sonically, but it is also a masterpiece of lyrical storytelling. Throughout the album's 53-minute runtime, Parks pieces together moments of her life as a Black American, which sometimes feel daring and transgressive, other times intensely erotic, and always unflinchingly genuine.
Spencer Nafekh-Blanchette

Sewn Back Together
(Arts & Crafts)

This dynamic duo comprises vocalists/songwriters/guitarists Daniel Monkman and Adam Sturgeon, two  artists who have made a mark with their separate individual projects, Zoon and Status/Non-Status. This debut collaboration has upped the ante, showcasing these two formidable talents in a fresh and compelling setting. Producer Kevin Drew reportedly spurred the pair into coming up with a sound distinct from their other projects. The collection of songs is diverse yet focused, and, based on the sizzling Spiritualized-meets-Crazy Horse set this scribe caught in Hamilton, ON, this September, OMBIIGIZI know how to deliver the goods in concert.
Kerry Doole

Diaspora Problems 

Blending the hardcore punk of Black Flag and the political wit of Public Enemy, SOUL GLO's Diaspora Problems is one of the most powerful and essential albums of 2022. After a series of obscure releases, the Philadelphia quartet went for a bigger sound on their new full-length: refined production, a host of guest MCs, and songs that expand on the typical hardcore format. But the urgency stays the same, with vocalist Pierce Jordan snarling at the American left and right for their failure to tackle racism and poverty. It's a heavy, packed, intense album that leaves no room for breathing, which only makes its message hit harder.  
Bruno Coulombe 

7. The Sadies
Colder Streams
(Dine Alone)

The first thing you hear is his presence; the next thing you feel is his absence. Dallas Good completed his Sadies masterpiece and then unexpectedly left this world before its release. Mike Belitsky, Sean Dean and his brother Travis have carried on — a hard-working band, working harder than they ever have to bring these mysterious, explosive, eerily prescient songs about loss, afterworlds and uncertain journeys to life for the people. On stage during "Message to Belial," Travis, now on his own, screams, "Rise! Rise! Up from the ashes!" and we all know whom he's aching for. We ache too.
Vish Khanna

6. Kendrick Lamar
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
(Aftermath / Interscope / pgLang / Top Dawg)

With each successive album, Kendrick Lamar has widened his scope: 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d city chronicled life on the Compton streets, 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly took a global perspective inspired by world travels, and 2017's DAMN. tackled the moral quandaries of heaven and earth. But on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, he zooms way, way in, this time turning the focus on on himself. After an unflinching self-appraisal, he's forced to acknowledge, "I am not your savour." Morale is a slightly uncomfortable listen, with Lamar messily wading through topics like infidelity, vaccines, gender and cancel culture, raising more questions than he finds answers. But, amidst gorgeous arrangements full of strings and pianos, Lamar finally comes away with an idea of how to move forward: "I choose me, I'm sorry."
Alex Hudson

5. Wet Leg
Wet Leg

Some bands arrive in the industry with a splash. In 2022, Wet Leg's arrival was more of a crash landing – one the indie rock scene hasn't seen the likes of since the early aughts. On their debut self-titled album, they crack the code on millennial malaise with a signature bluntness and playfulness that gets you dancing and screaming your way through the catharsis. With fuzzy guitar riffs, biting hooks and post-punk sardonicism, the British rock duo deliver an album of anthems that already feels timeless. After the release of their first single "Chaise Longue," Dave Grohl predicted they would "take over America." With 2022 in the rearview, Wet Leg seem more on track for world domination.
Emilie Hanskamp

4. Alex G
God Save the Animals

Alex G cannot be stopped. God Save the Animals is another genre-fluid masterpiece full of spontaneous sonic deflections and cryptic lyricism from the Philadelphia musician, who takes another huge step towards affirming his place as one of this generation's defining indie rock icons. Nine albums in, Alex G has never made his hyperbolic idiosyncrasies feel more cohesive, yet he still effortlessly toe the line between intimate familiarity and inscrutable chaos. From the ominous, Auto-Tuned cloud of "S.D.O.S." to the bleary alt-country of "Mission," the highly prolific, spotlight-averse Alex G has "done a couple bad things" (according to his homage to '90s sunny radio-rock, "Runner"), but writing this record is definitely not one of those things.
Chris Gee

3. Big Thief
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

Big Thief's bewitching fifth album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, is a breezy, kaleidoscopic 20-song sprawl. Following previously explored pathways — themes spiritual and universal, emotional and elemental, small and grand moments with varying shades of vulnerability, humour and ambiguity — Dragon rambles more ambitiously than ever. Spontaneous and stylistically diverse, and anchored by Adrianne Lenker's vivid, abstract storytelling and the band's sparkling chemistry, it's a testament to letting creative instincts roam. From the heady freewheeling jangle of "Little Things" to the title track's blissful bloom, "Spud Infinity's" frog-hopping hoedown to "Simulation Swarm's" undeniable groove, Dragon breathes fire into moments of magic.
Chris Bryson

2. Beyoncé
(Columbia / Parkwood)

Beyoncé is at the point in her stardom where an album of fart sounds could easily go platinum. Still, she approaches RENAISSANCE with the same tenacity as a newcomer with something to prove. This studied ode to dance music — and the Black, queer icons who helped elevate it — pays meticulous attention to detail. She makes space for the LGBTQ+ creators who inform her work, brings disco and house back to life with astute sampling and smart collaborations (Nile Rodgers! Grace Jones!), and, right down to the song sequencing, puts her punctilious Virgo tendencies to good use. This isn't cosplay — it's commitment.
A. Harmony

1. Alvvays
Blue Rev
(Celsius Girls)

You could be forgiven if "Alvvays put out the year's best record" wasn't on your 2022 bingo card. Five years and one pandemic since their last album, it was a surprise that the band — Molly Rankin, Alec O'Hanley, Kerri MacLellan, Sheridan Riley and new member Abbey Blackwell — were still active at all. Flooded basements and stolen hard drives prolonged the album's genesis but gave them time to tinker and refine nearly every aspect of their sound. The result is sharper hooks, noisier guitars, and more plaintive stories about love and heartbreak. Nostalgia has always been a key arrow in the Alvvays quiver. Yet, even as they shout out Tom Verlaine and Belinda Carlisle, there's nothing backward-looking about Blue Rev. Instead, they boil down elements of power pop, shoegaze, dream pop, jangle rock and any other indie rock subfield you can think of into an alcopop-charged rush of guitar rock joy.
Ian Gormely

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