Exclaim!'s 29 Best Albums of 2022 So Far
Published Jun 15, 2022After two years of hibernation, the music world has exploded back to life in 2022, with a seemingly endless stream of high-profile albums that has been hard to keep up with. Some of those big-name artists are featured here, in our ranking of the best albums of the year so far.
But as well as big blockbusters, 2022 has also brought surprises: indie upstarts climbing to majestic new heights, unfamiliar artists generating underground buzz with outstanding debuts, and familiar faces reemerging in new configurations. These are Exclaim!'s top 29 albums of the year so far. Listen along on Apple Music and Spotify.
29. Lisa LeBlanc
After cementing herself as the country's preeminent purveyor of traditional Acadian music, Lisa LeBlanc took a slight left turn to the nearest disco. You'd be forgiven for wondering whether this amounts to a cash grab to jump on the genre's current popularity or an authentic foray into the genre. Thankfully, Chiac Disco is the latter, with LeBlanc taking an earnest and straightforward approach while infusing the genre with her trademarks — humour, wit and plenty of banjo.
28. Charli XCX
Veering from pop icon to iconoclast has been a hallmark of Charli XCX's career. Yet, for the first time, the artist born Charlotte Aitchison is captured mid-swing between these two extremes. CRASH is as ambitious as it is familiar, pairing old grooves with new melodies while balancing performance art with chart-topping ambitions. Aitchison pulls it off with an effortless grace, paving the way for the next phase of her prolific and always-surprising career. Next level Charli, indeed.
27. Let's Eat Grandma
Dense with overlapping synth and vocal lines, brimming with tough choices and hard feelings, the third effort from childhood friends Let's Eat Grandma is a sparkling and sorrowful album dealing with loss (the deaths of a partner and onetime producer SOPHIE can be felt here), friendship and growing up. Two Ribbons is another precocious synthpop outing for the British duo; they may have written it apart for the first time, but they sound as synchronized as ever.
THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND
(Little Dipper / Rise)
PUP have been gloriously grappling with themselves for over a decade, combining brutally honest lyrics about depression and failure with blistering melodies and seriously catchy hooks. On THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND, the Toronto punks take a self-aware look at the precarious business of being in a successful band, with songs about exhaustion, implosion and self-doubt that retain their earnest essence and self-deprecating sense of humour. The album also sees PUP at their most instrumentally experimental: meticulously crafted brass and synths make for compelling and unforgettable choruses that explode with ecstasy, perfectly exemplifying how the band continue to break their own ground and make feeling bad feel so good.
25. Les Louanges
There are few Canadian emerging acts that draw as much on jazz and funk while still showcasing a pure pop sensibility as Les Louanges. On his sophomore effort, Vincent Roberge builds on his 2018 debut by leaving more room for electronics with a slightly darker tone. The result is a multifaceted yet coherent album whose diverse influences (soul, new wave, industrial) are put at the service of self-reflexive stories about friendships, heartbreak and fame.
24. Earl Sweatshirt
(Tan Cressida / Warner)
Earl Sweatshirt's personal growth is on full display on SICK!, as he revels in a level of clarity that was absent from his previous two efforts. Paired with some slightly more polished production, Earl sharply communicates his new outlook on life, letting go of his demons and pushing forward, hoping for a better future. Clearly impacted by the pandemic and his experiences as a new father, this LP sees Earl delivering some of his most thoughtful and poignant material to date.
23. Tess Roby
Ideas of Space
We've been rediscovering what it means to be embodied, to take up space, to move through it together. We were locked down, closed off, tensed up, and now, we're maybe somewhat less so. Do our bodies remember how to stretch out? Can our minds still spill beyond our present circumstances across planes less constricted? The second album from Montreal-based artist Tess Roby presses on these questions, conjuring depth and distance through entrancing synth tones, fluttering mantras and trails of gorgeously warbled vocals.
22. Cave In
Following the tragic death of bassist Caleb Scofield in 2018, Cave In needed time to regroup. On Heavy Pendulum, their first studio album in 11 years, the Boston alt-metal unit have turned a personal story of triumph over grief into the most revelatory record of their career. The inclusion of Converge bassist Nate Newton in Scofield's place feels entirely natural, adding a bottom end dense enough to crack planets to the band's already colossal sound, alongside towering riffage, expansive vocals and propulsive percussion.
21. Luna Li
(AWAL / In Real Life)
After the viral fame of the clips that became 2021's jams EP, all eyes were suddenly on Toronto's Hannah Bussiere Kim, a.k.a. Luna Li. On much-hyped debut album Duality, the relatability of complicated relationships, insecurity and uncertainty are paired with everything from sweet harmonies ("Cherry Pit," "What You're Thinking") to punchy lyrics and riffs ("Silver into Rain" featuring beabadoobee, "Star Stuff"). It's the latter that stand out the most, both on Duality and her heralded live show — perfect timing with her first headline tour underway.
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