There is a lot of discourse in the music community about what the best album of 2022 is. From Pitchfork to Anthony Fantano, nobody can seem to come to an agreement on what the actual best album of the year is. There are some familiar favorites on each list such as Black Country, New Road: Ants From Up There and Kendrick Lamar: Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. There has been a lot of really great albums released this year, and even though we can’t talk about all of them, we can talk about some of the ones we enjoyed the most.
RYAN: PREACHER’S DAUGHTER BY ETHEL CAIN
Preacher’s Daughter, the debut record from the artist known as Ethel Cain, is devastatingly beautiful. Hayden Silas Anhedönia has created an alter ego under the name “Ethel Cain”, and Preacher’s Daughter is the story of that character. I won’t go into much detail for this post, but it’s an incredibly dark story about how she follows a man across the country who inevitably kills her. Anhedönia provides vivid songwriting, incredibly punchy chords, and an ethereal sounding voice that vibrates across wavelengths. The album has beautiful ballads, catchy rock songs, and horrifying tracks that might scare you if you listen to them in a dark room at night. It’s incredibly spiritual, and most of the tracks come to a climax throughout, similarly to southern church music. It’s here where you can hear Anhedönia’s upbringing, in rural Florida where most of her musical inspiration was from singing in a church choir. Pair this with her limited access to media, which ended up being her grandparent’s horror films, you start to understand why Anhedönia’s music sounds the way it does. It’s incredibly unique, and if you’re looking for something fun and haunting to get you through the day, look no further than Ethel Cain.
Songs to try: American Teenager, Family Tree, Hard Times, Gibson Girl (definitely this one), and Sun Bleached Flies. You should listen to everything if you have the time, as this is how you’ll get a better understanding of Anhedönia’s storytelling ability. But, if you only have a limited amount of time, work Gibson Girl and Family Tree into your next playlist.
ANGELA: SUBJECT TO CHANGE BY KELSEA BALLERINI
I’ve been a huge fan of Kelsea since 2019, and this has been one of my most listened to album of the year. That being said, prior to it’s release, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this one as much as her others. I was afraid she was going to go so pop that the country charm of her past albums would be lost. Then she performed the final track off the album, What I Have, at the Grand Ol’ Opry. This performance is what got me really excited about this new collection of songs. It’s a slow song that talks about the constant comparisons going on in our heads; how we’re always trying to reach made-up standards. This is still my favorite song off of Subject to Change. If I were to describe this album in a mood, I would say it was fun-confessional. While having fun, upbeat instrumentation, most of these songs speak on subjects such as the pains of growing, living with past mistakes, and learning to accept yourself as you are. I’d say my top 5 favorite tracks off the album are DOIN’ MY BEST, SUBJECT TO CHANGE, I CAN’T HELP MYSELF, WHAT I HAVE, and UNIVERSE.
ZEKE: CRASH BY CHARLI XCX
I’ll be honest, it was more than challenging for me to pick just one album from this year as my favorite. With new projects from Post Malone, Maren Morris, Tove Lo, Carly Rae Jepsen and more, there was a lot of good music to choose from. In the end though, I had to pick the English singer-songwriter Charli XCX‘s latest record Crash, released in March of this year. While her 2020 release How I’m Feeling Now focused on aggressive, distorted, and eclectic hyperpop, this new album takes a step back towards clubs and parties.
That being said, Charli doesn’t shy away from the glitchy elements that made the 2020 project so successful. Just the first track plunges the listener into a sonic space of 80s-inspired drums and basslines mixed with her all-too-recognizable vocal chops and seemingly endless supply of disorienting foley. The following song New Shapes featuring Christine and the Queens & Caroline Polachek showcases how seamlessly Charli XCX is able to support other vocalists with or without a vocoder on her vocal chain.
Throughout Crash, Charli addresses themes of love, betrayal, and loneliness. Even if her songwriting doesn’t offer any surprises, the wide variety of production keeps the record engaging from start to finish. That being said, you could easily hit shuffle in a club and any of the 12 songs would be more than fitting for the dance floor. Because of this, the strongest trait of Crash is its striking consistency even with its array of sounds. With such a solid album, I can’t help but look forward to wherever Charli XCX ventures next in her winning streak of musical releases.
JUSTIN: IVORY BY OMAR APOLLO
This album is near-perfect. The album is a collection of amazing indie R&B that features the likes of Daniel Caeser and Kali Uchis. Both of these features only make their respective songs better, and don’t take away from the masterful work put in by Apollo. Ivory is a collection of subdued beats with some of Apollo’s best vocal work, and I feel that’s where he shines best. Their is only one lowlight on the album, and for me that’s Tamagatchi. On this song Omar Apollo decides to try his hand at rapping, and I don’t feel that it was very well executed. However, the highlights make up for it. Check out Invincible, Bad Life, Evergreen, and Petrified.
DAVIS: HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT BY DRUGDEALER
Favorite song: Somebody to Love
The whole album is just… so groovy and passionate. Drugdealer goes back to his roots while singing about love and passion. This album also features the work of other artists, who match perfectly with the rhythmic bass and sexy saxophone parts on the tracks.
GARY: MOONSHINE BY NIGHTLANDS
When Nightlands, the solo project by David Hartley, released the single Hymn To Me late last year, complete with a catchy, looping guitar line that progressively builds in complexity and emotion as more and more instruments are added, cascading, harmonizing, swirling vocals, and heart-wrenching, yet inspiring lyrics describing the mysticism and mythology of the American South, I was instantly drawn to the edge of my seat in anticipation as I awaited the next release. That next release, Moonshine, finally arrived in July, 2022, and easily recaptured and expanded on the qualities that made Hymn To Me so inexplicably alluring. Featuring the same ethereal vocals, tantalizing percussion parts, intricate and moving basslines, attention-grabbing synth lines, well-crafted vocals, superb production quality, and so many more nuanced and tasteful components, the album easily represents Nightland‘s best work. Some the highlight tracks include Looking Up, Moonshine, and Break My Bones, although the album is thoroughly enjoyable throughout, flowing seamlessly as each track transitions to the next. This album has earned a light-to-medium 10/10, and it is easily my favorite release of 2022.
AUSTIN: LIKE THAT BY COOL SOUNDS
I fan boi over Cool Sounds, hard. I have been obsessing over their discography since I discovered their music two years ago. Their latest release, Like That, was highly anticipated by me and my cat in the Wetzel house. My first impression of the album came from the single, Hello, Alright, You Got That?. I was curious as this 80’s drum machine and cowbell was driving the lead singer, Dainis Lacey‘s, singing and guitar. It was a departure from my expecting jangly country guitar which Cool Sounds provided previously in their album, Bystander. The lyrics and bongo drum supporting the single were familiar but foreign. I was surprised and eager for more.
This sense of familiar global synesthesia was continued for the release of their second single, 6 or 7 more. I can’t escape thinking how much the main bassline sounds like, Another One Bites the Dust by Queen. This is almost infuriating until the bass line backed by saxophone and Lacey’s guitar. This weaving of noise makes a song that is groovy and sing-along-able. The song makes me feel like pumping my arms vigorously as the car I’m in zooms down the highway à la Dumb and Dumber.
The third and my favorite song on the album comes from their third single, Like That. The song sounds and feels heavily inspired by the song, Just Like Honey by The Jesus and Mary Chain. The repetitive drum powering distant guitar and vocals is a recipe that is copied beautifully by Cool Sounds. Once again this song is given horns to back up and amplify the pattern created by the guitar and drumming.
All of these songs have great synth and backing vocals provided by Lacey’s partner – Ambrin Hasnain. I’m a sucker for music made by couples. Cool Sounds is technically a solo project of Dainis Lacey‘s but I can’t help my romantic bone from placing more importance on the art since he works with his partner.
I look forward to hearing how this prolific band continues to morph with time.
ASHLYN: A FOUL FORM BY osees
If you like noisy, garage-punk, and just an over the top explosion of music, this is the album for you. Best known for their ripsaw guitar sounds and shouting vocals, Osees has been through it. This album came out in August, and it felt like what Christmas morning feels like for little kids. Raw, unfiltered, and loud, this album is fucking awesome. Each song blends into the next almost seamlessly, and it’s all loud as hell. Definitely worth checking out purely to see how much their music has evolved since their first release. Sacrifice, Funeral Solution, and A Foul Form are all worth checking out.
ISAK: UNISON LIFE BY BRUTUS
This is my favorite album because it is so heavy but also beautiful. This Belgium band reminds me of the sounds that Deftones go for but instead their is a female vocalist. She really kills it on this record and the mix entirely is well done. I can only describe it that further because it takes you on an indescribable ride. I highly recommend listening to the beginning tracks that link together Miles Away + Brave as well and the songs Victoria and Liar.
Caden: Skinty Fia by Fontaines D.c.
Sick ass vibes by these guys