Exclaim!'s 50 Best Albums of 2022

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
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