Metro Weekly

The 10 Best Albums of 2022

Comebacks, breakthroughs and reinventions mark the best music of the year.

Hikaru Utada
Hikaru Utada

If anything summed up the awkward psychological tension of the past year, it might be the uneasy coexistence of the introspective lockdown album alongside the defiant, jubilant post-lockdown album. Some artists found inspiration in the isolation, trauma, and introspection they experienced over the past two years, while others celebrated their return to the world, and still others returned to stake out a space in a world that has changed profoundly.

More than any other year, the best albums of 2022 seem to have fallen out of several different timelines, and for one reason or another, they all connect and resonate in this profoundly weird moment in history.

10. Steve Lacy, Gemini Rights

Steve Lacy took us on a journey this year with his vibrant sophomore album, Gemini Rights. His particular brand of psychedelic R&B captures something of the ’70s with its funk and disco that feel like they have fallen out of another time, or perhaps another plane. Track after track, Lacy oozes charisma, and even when he is at his most full of himself, it’s hard not to love him.

9. Stromae, Multitude

Nine years since his celebrated Racine carrĂ©e and seven years since his social media went blank, Belgian singer Stromae’s third album brims and pulses with hypnotic dance beats over some decidedly heavy material. As much as Multitude draws inspiration from the darker parts of his mind, Stromae has been candid about the sense of balance he found in the time away from music — with results that easily stand alongside the best work he has ever done.

8. Carly Rae Jepsen, The Loneliest Time

Brimming with unbridled joy and featuring what is surely the most addictive bridge in any pop song to come out this year, Jepsen’s disco-pop duet with Rufus Wainwright would have been enough to land her sixth album among the best of the year. But The Loneliest Time glows with dreamy optimism and warm, expansive production throughout, and even in its more angsty moments, her natural open-hearted curiosity and optimism can’t help but shine.

7. Tegan and Sara, Crybaby

For Crybaby, Tegan and Sara tapped back into the adolescent emotional tumult of their early work, marrying their instinct for a snarling indie rock anthem with their finely-honed ability to craft a catchy pop hook. The twins are fresh off a high school memoir, the angst and quiet desperation raging underneath the bland exterior of suburban Calgary is palpable throughout the album — a vivid reminder that Tegan and Sara are not so far from their roots as either their fans or the sisters themselves might have assumed.

6. Björk, Fossora

Björk remains unconquered in her uncanny ability to craft sonic dreamscapes that allow us to both from the immediate world and enter into a sort of transcendent communion with it. On Fossora, she transports us once again, taking us on a journey with her into an otherworldly fungal paradise which for her is a means to explore the death of her mother, a fiery new relationship, and a rediscovered passion for dance music.

5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cool It Down

Given their associations with bombast and spectacle, adopting a more measured approach has proved to be a risky yet rewarding move for Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their more thoughtful, measured approach on Cool It Down trades in raw energy for a bigger, more deliberate sound that recalls Bowie both in its sound and their willingness to evolve on their own terms and in their own direction.

4. Muna, Muna

Few bands reacted against the uncertainty and loneliness of the last two years like Muna did. With their self-titled album, they burst back into the world and gave us everything our collective queer hearts desired. Muna delivers both high-octane pop and small-hours tenderness, all in an ambitious and affirming package.

3. SZA, SOS

Leave it to SZA to sweep in at the end of the year with a sophomore album seemingly calculated to upend both the charts and our already high expectations of what she was capable of. Although the songcraft and vision are both incredible, the real feat of SOS is the way she bares an exhaustive catalog of emotional turmoil and still manages to come off as one of the most self-assured and interesting people on the planet.

2. Beyoncé, Renaissance

We all know that every album is bigger than the artist behind it, but Renaissance is a rare album that self-consciously pays tribute to its contributors and the influences that came before it. There is no question, however, Beyoncé is firmly at the center of it all, justly celebrating her own success as we have come to expect and never getting lost in the sea of incredible talent she has curated.

1. Hikaru Utada, Bad Mode

Hikaru Utada’s first bilingual album represents a turn to a mellow, electronica-adjacent R&B that is one of the more unexpected and satisfying reinventions an artist has pulled off in recent memory. Bad Mode takes us on a tense and emotionally charged meditation on the act of seeking to be known and loved. Utada moves fluidly not only between Japanese and English, but between urgency and calculated restraint, and as a result, the album is as cathartic as it is disquieting — a tightrope they walk expertly.

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