The Rock & Roll Globe Top 30 Albums of 2022

Amidst a sea of key releases, what made this year’s list?

SZA SOS, Top Dawg Entertainment/RCA 2022

Back in the day, one needed to wait until at least early January to learn what made the Albums of the Year section in the year-end issue of your favorite music magazine. 

Lately, it seems like one big race to see which prominent music site will get their list up first. Well, that doesn’t fly here at the Rock & Roll Globe. We prefer to wait until the true year’s end to reveal the 30 records we methodically selected as the best of 2022. 

So on this New Year’s Eve, we proudly present our picks for the LPs we feel stood tall above the rest, from super hyped new school classics to underrated outliers that deserved more love throughout the year. Forget the other lists you’ve been reading and allow us to wrap your 2022 in fine style. 

 

30. Little Simz No Thank You  (Forever Living Originals/ AWAL)

Little Simz provided this year’s surprise album drop, releasing it mere days after it was announced in December. Its predecessor, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, was one of last year’s best. Whereas that one was a widescreen affair about the push and pull between the private woman and her public persona, this one is dialed back in scope of sound and focus. Simz has had to put up with a lot of industry bullshit, both personally and as part of wider scale issues (such as having to cancel a U.S. tour because the finances made it infeasible). Hopping between genres less, Simz still has the whip-smart lyrics and terrific flow, aided by longtime collaborator and producer Inflo. Here, private and public Simz are one, channeling frustration and fatigue into a justifiable demand for respect. – Kara Tucker

 

29. Spiritualized Everything Was Beautiful (Fat Possum)

There are no small gestures in the world of Jason Pierce. The Spiritualized leader has spent virtually his entire career serving up – to borrow from 2022’s most fascinating cinematic work – Everything Everywhere All At Once. On the latest offering from his ever-evolving, ever-growing ensemble, Pierce hits all his usual sweet spots – drones, classic country, surprisingly sincere slices of gospel included. Once upon a time, Brian Wilson claimed a desire to write “teenage symphonies to God”: Jason Pierce is now delivering unabashedly adult paeans to that Higher Power, wherever he or she may be. -Deborah Sprague

 

28. $ilkmoney, I Don’t Give a Fuck About This Rap Shit, Imma Just Drop Until I Don’t Feel Like It Anymore (DB$B)

My favorite discomfort rapper of the year reminded me of the Rent Is Too Damn High guy well before I reached his thoughts on the price of pussy. Swamp Dogg (ain’t dead yet!) as broom-on-ceiling rage rap and melt-in-your-headphones psychedelia at the same damn time, a weird marriage befitting a major-label rogue who blew his advance on mushrooms and white women and feels deep regret about the latter. – Ted Miller 

 

27. Black Star No Fear Of Time (Black Star)

Though it’s seemingly permanently sequestered on the Luminary app with no signs of a physical release at press time, the 24-years-in-the-making follow-up to the first Black Star is nonetheless well worth the hunt online for a ripped copy. Produced entirely by Madlib, No Fear of Time is a loose and spacey reaffirmation of Yasiin Bey’s and Talib Kweli’s collective mastery of the microphone that feels like 1998 all over again. – Ron Hart 

 

26. Jeff Parker’s ETA IVtet/Jeff Parker, Josh Johnson, Anna Butterss and Jay Bellerose Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy (Aguirre/Eremite) 

While he initially rose to prominence as a member of Chicago-based post-rock quintet Tortoise, guitarist Jeff Parker’s resume is extensive; he’s sat in with everyone from Josh Abrams to The Exploding Star Orchestra to Isotope 217, and has amassed a respectable pile of well-regarded solo LPs. Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy, recorded live in 2019 and 2021 with a nimbly game coterie of players, might just be his finest release as the nucleus or leader. Sleepily and steadily, over almost 90 minutes, the quartet swings and sweeps through stoned, mesmerizing grooves; this is Magic Eye quicksand jazz that often seems on the verge of a plummeting pulse even as it’s in the midst of fresh sally, bop, or vaguely Caribbean segue. Get hip. – Raymond Cummings 

 

25. Weyes Blood And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow (Sub Pop)

We often look to music as an outlet for uplift, but there’s a lot to be said for the splendor of sorrow – a beauty that resonates throughout this latest offering from Natalie Mering, who records as Weyes Blood. The singer-songwriter and sonic architect, who initially took her nom de disque from a work by Flannery O’Connor, has never been more musically eloquent, as borne out by the massed harmonies of “God Turn Me Into a Flower” and the enigmatically orchestrated “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody.” But more importantly, she’s attained a new level of outreach: Instead of simply baring her soul, she’s found a way to forge bonds with ours, a rare feat indeed. – Deborah Sprague

 

VIDEO: Weyes Blood “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”

24. Taylor Swift Midnights (Republic Records)

If some sharks have to keep swimming or they die, Swift might be part shark. She didn’t take much time off after releasing Folklore, Evermore and the Taylor’s Version re-recordings of Fearless and Red in the span of 16 months. Midnights doesn’t expand on the indie leanings of her previous two albums, instead going to a sound that leans towards Reputation: But Only More Subdued Version. Designed to be more reflective of late night thoughts (thus the title), she gives the obsessives more personal lyrics to ponder and plenty of moments that stick. If there are times where one wishes the album had been less musically minimal, there are plenty of peaks, like catchy confessional “Anti-Hero”, the wordplay of “Maroon”, the ’80s synth pop glory of “Karma” and “Vigilante Shit”, a witty pastiche so musically on point that one looks at the writing credits expecting to see the names Billie Eilish and Finneas. The 3 A.M. Edition, literally released three hours later, adds seven bonus tracks, of which the pointed, painful “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is the clear highlight. – Kara Tucker

 

23. Urge Overkill Oui (Omnivore Recordings)

On their best album since Saturation, Chicago’s Urge Overkill returned in 2022 with an album named after a popular 80s girlie magazine (evidenced in the utilization of its iconic font) and just as frisky. And if the rocked up cover of Wham!’s “Freedom!” doesn’t win you over, new school Kato/King compositions like “A Necessary Evil” and “Totem Pole” most certainly will. – Ron Hart

 

22. April March In Cinerama (Omnivore Recordings) 

One of the year’s bonuses was April March’s first album in almost a decade (and only her third since the Y2K “panic”) getting a proper release. Stuck with a very, very limited Record Store Day issue, it’s a shame an album this good was kept hidden that long. March makes the retro sound utterly timeless yet again. One can hear echoes of ’60s American girl groups and French Yé-Yé, ’70s A.M. gold and generations of indie pop since. It’s a winning collaboration with producer Mehdi Zannad, who wrote all the music, and with the late Tony Allen as the X-factor on percussion. Totally worth the wait. – Kara Tucker

 

21. Freedy Johnston Back on the Road to You (Forty Below Records

Johnston is one of those stalwart fixtures of late-20th century indie rock whose latest short break turned into a long hiatus during lockdown. Alone but for one MAGA neighbor on his brother’s Oklahoma farm in mid-2020, he finally had an epiphany that he never wanted to be disconnected from people again, sick once and for all of the “I Really Miss Ya Blues.” That spirit of outreach pervades this lovely album, the most serene-sounding set of songs he’s ever put out. His gimlet eye, boyish face and soft-gravel voice are perfectly untroubled since his debut; you put this on and wonder if you’re back in the mid-‘90s. And though there were always rays of hope glinting off his switchblade observations, he’s never come on like he has cynicism quite so conquered – even when searching deep in a robot companion’s eyes for love. – Ryan Maffei 

 

20. Sloan Steady (Yep Roc)

Nervy yet tight, rough and radiant in equal measure, one of a scarce set of contenders for the Canadian Beatles picked out a very apt title for their excellent thirteenth album. In three decades, none of their four singing/writing members has left the party, and as evidenced by the new batch of songs, their pop has lost none of its luster, and the power shot through it none of its spark. They’re dad-rockers all the way down, both in age and the never-disguised set of influences they flit between. No lameness about ‘em, though; the music is punchy and exciting, and the smoothly indirect lyrics have wisdom and bite. Nor do they settle for throwaways or recyclables – from the electrifying careen of “Magical Thinking” to the stately slow build of “Simply Leaving”, every gem here was polished from a different kind of rock. – Ryan Maffei

 

VIDEO: Sloan “Dream It All Over Again”

19. Cave In Heavy Pendulum (Relapse Records)

Just when you thought 2019’s Final Transmission marked the end of Cave In following the shocking and tragic passing of bassist Caleb Scofield in 2018, the art-core greats surprised fans with a brand new album this year in Heavy Pendulum. Their label debut on the esteemed metal imprint Relapse Records, the addition of Converge bassist Nate Newton into the fold only adds to the brilliant swell of melody, rhythm and rage coursing through this LP that finds frontman Stephen Brodsky incorporating his pop prowess with more authority than ever before. – Ron Hart

 

18. Alvvays Blue Rev (Polyvinyl Records)

From the cover photo of a five-year-old Molly Rankin getting off her parents boat to its title referencing an alcohol-laden energy drink hearkening back to youth in Cape Breton, Alvvays is glancing back as they get older. Full of sharp hooks and keen-eyed, witty lyrics, this is the band’s loudest album, but still merges dreampop, power pop and more into a concoction that intoxicates more effectively than cheap booze on a Nova Scotian Friday night. – Kara Tucker

 

17. Wet Leg Wet Leg (Domino Records)

For a lot of people, this was the Wet Leg chronology — 1. “That song’s kinda catchy. So’s this one…”; 2. “Umm, they’re kind of overhyped, aren’t they?”; 3. “Okay, I have to admit, they’re pretty good.” For all the tongue-in-cheek snark, there’s a serious sense of craft at work here, resulting in songs that are catchy and funny, but also reveal more heart than one would have thought after that talk about the Big D on “Chaise Lounge.” – Kara Tucker

 

16. Kendrick Lamar Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers (Aftermath/Interscope)

Peace to Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts,” but there’s never been a more self-critical Best Rapper Alive, and letting us witness his fuckups is a feature not a bug. If “Auntie Diaries” didn’t flub the pronouns and misappropriate the f-slur, we might still mistake him for the messiah he really doesn’t want to be. If he didn’t gift us with the “Kim”- (and Oscar-)worthy radiodrama “We Cry Together,” who else would make streamers look up from their RapCaviar to change their sushi soundtrack? Worrying he’s racist for cheating with a white woman, trying to break generational abuse cycles while granting Kodak Black an unearned second chance, bitching about women who still listen to R. Kelly, there’s nothing messianic about the deeply human ranting on this record except for the god-tier mile-a-minute rapping in vivaciously impossible sonic environments. Pulitzer Kenny has given us more bangers than every other Prize recipient combined, let’s all take a deep breath and eavesdrop on the therapy session Kanye West is too chickenshit to undertake. – Ted Miller

 

15. The Smile A Light for Attracting Attention (XL Recordings)

And speaking of hooks, someone’s been listening to Body Meπa. Radiohead as power trio: Two virtuosos and a Thom Yorke, imbuing one whole record with more than four different tones, colors, and tempos, from sexy blues (“The Smoke”) to, uh, sexy morse code (“Thin Thing”). – Ted Miller 

 

VIDEO: The Smile “Pana-vision”

14. Eddie Vedder Earthling (Republic Records)

Eddie has released solo material in the past, but Earthling marks the first time the Pearl Jam frontman crafted a suite of songs that rivals the work of his regular band’s acclaimed catalog. Produced by Andrew Watt with Chad Smith on drums and Josh Klinghoffer on guitar along with guest spots from Benmont Tench, Stevie Wonder and Sir Elton John, this record is the sonic anatomy of its creator and ranks amongst his very best work. – Ron Hart 

 

13. Pusha T It’s Almost Dry (Def Jam)

Hand the MC born Terrence LaVarr Thornton a dope beat, and he’ll blind you with brilliance. It’s Almost Dry slips him a dozen – courtesy of Pharrell Williams and, unfortunately, Kanye West – and the results comprise Pusha T’s crowning achievement thus far. Cocaine peddling, the imperial spoils thereof, and the implied overlaps between selling drugs and rapping about selling drugs remain the hooks he hangs his honed rhymes upon. But there’s a sparring-session playfulness at work here, and the impervious Clipse-era hauteur of old has softened somewhat, into a wary, steely bemusement peppered with broad winks. It helps that the music transforms Push into a superhero: “Diet Coke” dazzling, bobbing, and weaving, the way “Hear Me Clearly” warps its melody like neon lights reflecting off a $1,000 hub cap, the chipmunk soul swirl of “Rock ’n’ Roll”, the way “Dreamin of the Past” flips a John Lennon-written Donny Hathaway tune into soaring, nostalgic bravado. “When you used to platinum, that gold be bronze,” Pusha smirks at one point. “Your favorite rapper’s dressing like Comic-Con.” If you know, you know, and he knows you know. – Raymond Cummings 

 

12. Sudan Archives Natural Brown Prom Queen (Stones Throw)

Brittney Parks, who drapes herself in the mantle of Sudan Archives for her wildly over-arching, yet almost microscopically self-examining musical work, has created one of the year’s most challenging, most emotionally satisfying collections in Natural Brown Prom Queen. Parks takes cues from Sun Ra, in song structure and in universe-building, but alsop nods to Missy Elliott and Betty Davis in terms of embracing female empowerment. She’s a virtuoso violinist, which is abundantly evident on a number of the album’s short, sharp tracks, but she never lets technique overwhelm her message – one that lets the world know that young women of color can wave their self-worth flags high. – Deborah Sprague 

 

11. The Beths Expert in a Dying Field (Carpark Records)

Making the most of unplanned pandemic downtime, Beths singer and songwriter Elizabeth Stokes got the songs where she wanted. Starting with the title track, one of the year’s best songs, Stokes excels at mixing melancholy and anxiety with sugary hooks (the title track, “Knees Deep” and “Your Side”, for starters). With their best album to date, the Beths are the latest to keep the tradition of New Zealand guitar pop going. – Kara Tucker 

 

10. Beyoncé Renaissance (Columbia Records)

Auteur theory: Here’s the hardest-working billionaire (probably) pooling her considerable resources to conquer DJing this time around, pulling in Afrobeats, ballroom, Nile Rodgers, Skrillex, Grace Jones, Honey Dijon, the whole damn history. Math: It’s her first album that never drags, so it’s her best album. But it’s also got Syd midwifing “Plastic Off the Sofa,” an unmistakable Drake melody he knew was too good for his own album, “Virgo’s Groove” and “Thique” and an “America Has a Problem” that doesn’t deviate from the subject of her racks. And that doesn’t mean she forswore bars. “He thought he was loving me good / I told him go harder” is pretty funny. But the repurposed “must be the cash ‘cause it ain’t your face” burns harder than anything on Lemonade. – Ted Miller 

 

VIDEO: Beyoncé “Cuff It”

9. Robyn Hitchcock Shufflemania! (Tiny Ghost)

As unnervingly reliable as a haunted grandfather clock, Hitchcock found himself suddenly rescued from the brink of never making an album again when a certain feathery serpent god wriggled its way inside his recumbent muse, and took hold. Out spilled ten new songs about bagels and fish, at which point he started e-mailing them around to see who felt like chipping in – among the takers were Johnny Marr and Sean Lennon, who do one-man-backing-jobs on highlight tracks. Shufflemania is unusually lively, even devil-may-care, with gutbucket blues guitars, riveting rickety rhythms, and stirring swaths of psychedelia hovering over the horizon. It proves Hitchcock can shuffle through the same winning hand of eccentric tricks until the day his train finally arrives to pull him away from this realm, and into whatever’s next. – Ryan Maffei 

 

8. Midnight Oil Resist (Sony Music)

Given the passions of Midnight Oil, the sociopolitical events of the last two decades had to have left its members feeling like they had unfinished business (or at least anger at some of what they sang about having gotten worse). And thus, they returned, first for a well-received tour, then 2020’s The Marrakata Project -full of winning collaborations with talented First Nation artists. Bassist Bones Hillman passed away late that year, but he had recorded two albums of material, with Resist being the second. If tempered with disappointment with the state of a world that has too many people content to insufficiently worry about climate change and authoritarianism, the Oils aren’t content to go down without a fight. The surviving members, all in their 60s, say they’re serious about their 2022 tour being their last. But when the band is still this vital and tuneful, one is left hoping this isn’t their musical farewell. But if it is, it’s a fitting final chapter that shows many decades later how and why Midnight Oil mattered in the first place. – Kara Tucker

 

7. billy woods Aethiopes (Backwoodz Studioz)

Peace to Pulitzer Kenny, but there’s never been a more full-blooded visionary of literature in the whole genre. That is, this Best Rapper Alive is coming for that one. I can’t say it better than Keith Harris even if he prefers the equally stunning Church: “Rhymes heavier on detail than context, giving them a surreal, uneven mix of clarity and fog.” That’s also true of Preservation’s soundscapes, a term that doesn’t do justice to “Asylum”’s jazz falling down stairs or “Wharves”’ cold metallic percussion/hook, or the rattling chains and who knows what other bone machines on “Sauvage,” reggae of “Versailles,” harmonica accenting “NYNEX,” or the mighty synthesized flute of “Remorseless” that evokes nothing so much as the lament of a flightless bird. That anyone was able to match the kaleidoscopic darkness of the words is a testament to billy’s astounding synergy with collaborators, or maybe more people relate deeply to his phantasmagoric depressions than we could imagine. Intermixing truisms like “nothing ever happens til it do / waterproof boots” and “eyes glassy from the pain pills” with fever dreams of cannibals and dead men’s shoes and “autonomous computers sending shooters back in time at the behest of defunct message boards,” no one making music at all approaches woods’ genius for magical realism. And if his fanatics are really there for “There’s a freedom in admitting it’s not going to get better” then woods also knows we look to art for that betterness when all else fails. – Ted Miller

 

6. Horace Andy Midnight Rockers/Midnight Scorchers (U-Sound)

At 71, reggae oracle Horace Andy returned in 2022 with one of the best albums of his storied career with Midnight Rockers–an album that finds him pushing forward while looking back with the righteous assistance of heavyweight dub producer Adrian Sherwood. This is the pair’s first soundclash together and finds them reworking such Horace Andy classics as “This Must Be Hell” and “Materialist” in concert with fresh material like “Easy Money” and a cover of Massive Attack’s “Safe From Harm” in a nod to the singer’s longtime collaborators from Bristol. Even better is the companion title Midnight Scorchers that features dub and dancehall reworks of the album cuts along with a fantastic cover of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City.” – Ron Hart

 

5. Rosalia – Motomami (Columbia)

While Bad Bunny very deservedly earned an outpouring of critical respect for shattering the glass ceiling separating Latin pop from the “regular” pop stratosphere, this envelope-pushing Spaniard picked through those shards to build herself a launching pad for an equally eye-opening ascent. Rosalia knows her way around Latin musical tradition, from bachata to flamenco to champeta, but she’s not beholden to the past. Her attitudes are decidedly modern – her sensuality and flirtation don’t settle into the usual niches reserved for women capable of generating plentiful physical heat. Yes, Motomami has plenty of that, but there are also challenges aplenty, making the album a workout for the heart and head as well as the hips. – Deborah Sprague

 

VIDEO: Rosalia “Despecha”

4. Black Thought and Danger Mouse Cheat Codes (Def Jam)

Who suddenly cares about hanging on Tariq Trotter’s every word? The pioneer behind the groundbreaking idea that the rapper need not be the star sounds great as another hum in the matrix on this triumphant display of sample trophies. – Ted Miller

 

3. Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder Get On Board (Nonesuch)

Nobody curates folk authenticity, whatever its provenance, more elegantly than Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal. The two old bandmates (in the Rising Sons, which abruptly folded years before either came to prominence) have long been bookish lone soldiers in symbiotic efforts, to pay forward their interest in music history’s most vital or influential obscure patches. Here they tackle, and bring to rousing life, the increasingly undersung work of ‘40s blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Beaming like a Native grandma off the cover, Cooder adds a rusty, wily counterpoint to Taj’s undimmed, soulful bellow, and both men can wring casually beautiful noise out of any instrument they sidle up to. They sound live and in the flesh, and more comfortable than they have any right to be, filling up your living room with it. – Ryan Maffei

 

2. Harry Styles Harry’s House (Columbia Records)

Is it possible that the world’s biggest pop sensation is… underrated? Sure, this album has sold enough to put every one of Styles’ future children (claimed or unclaimed) through grad school; sure, the breezy yet understated bop “As it Was” felt inescapable this summer. But even that honeytrap didn’t buzz like “Bad Habit” or “Anti-Hero” or the Encanto song or the Glass Animals song, and when Styles sauntered blithely through his starring role in the shitshow press cycle for Don’t Worry Darling, the schadenfreude rained down at record levels. What is it about his blandly beautiful surface that seems to conceal what brilliant work he’s doing? Airy, luminous textures flirting with funk and Latin tinges; hooks declining the earworm route like gentlemen; lyrics far more insightful about female sexuality than a single scene of cunnilingus on a table. Dial in to any of the words rippling out of these inviting sonic pools, and you hear the sound of someone thinking, someone not content to simply let the most obvious choice out of the gate first. – Ryan Maffei

 

1. SZA SOS (Top Dawg Entertainment/RCA)

If you’ve experienced an extremely specific romance-related emotion, SZA has probably written at least one great song about that emotion. The St. Louis, Missouri-born singer/rapper is almost a medium for these sort of feelings – love’s highs, lows, extremes, voids, fugues – and expresses them with a dizzying vivacity. 2017’s much feted Ctrl found the woman born Solána Imani Rowe at what seemed to be the absolute peak of her creative and musical powers, and the eagerly awaited, undeniable SOS ups the ante considerably, a earwormy bundle of urgent status updates that (rightfully) debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart. No Top Dawg label mates guest this time out, and they aren’t needed or missed. A choir and live band performs all over these 23 cuts, lending a warmth and oomph to a rich, varied kaleidoscope of sonic hues: “F2F,” an arguably empowered-if-melancholic bummer disguised as an anthemic, power-pop rush; “Special” a yearning gloss on chirpy 00s acoustic MTV fare and Radiohead’s “Creep”; “Smokin on My Ex Pack” harder and sharper than most of the year’s rap singles in less than half the time, with a creamy, melisma coda at the end. “Snooze” seduces at a drowsy, beguiling lope while the hair-raising “Kill Bill” might be the most replay-inducing murder ballad in recent memory. “You was out of reach/you was at the farmer’s market with your perfect peach,” she rails, her measured vocal a hypnotic corkscrew. “Now I’m in the basement, planning home invasion.” And who could blame her? – Raymond Cummings 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “The Rock & Roll Globe Top 30 Albums of 2022

  • January 1, 2023 at 10:39 am
    Permalink

    Tedeschi Trucks Band, or GTFO.

    Reply

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