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The Best Albums of 2022 So Far

From Rosalía to Harry Styles to Bad Bunny, here are our favorite albums of the year so far — unranked

Sacha Lecca, 2; Lillie Eiger; Griffin Lotz; Renell Medrano

This year we’ve already seen epic albums from the Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, a legendary farewell from Daddy Yankee, breakout debuts from Fivio Foreign, Koffee, and Wet Leg, as well as new artistic peaks from FKA Twigs, Charli XCX, Angel Olsen, and others. Here is our (unranked, alphabetically ordered) list of the best LPs of 2022 so far.

From Rolling Stone US


Future, ‘I Never Liked You’

Future has proven himself capable of evolution. Only old heads that doggedly call him a “mumble rapper” can’t see that. But his changes tend to be subtle and made on his terms. On I Never Liked You he unashamedly indulges in his characteristic blend of misogynist impulses, reducing women to chattel to be consumed and dispensed with. Yet he also reveals how his relationships with the opposite sex affect him personally. He’s capable of drawing on deep wells of emotion, reasserting his primacy as a key (if not the key) figure in post-Weezy/T-Pain/Kid Cudi melodic rap. —M.R.


Girlpool, ‘Foregiveness’

Forgiveness is the stunning fourth album from the Los Angeles duo. After opening with a one-two shock-punch of the glitchy drum programming on “Nothing Gives Me Pleasure” (opening couplet: “Do you even want me if I even have to ask?/Break it to me gently with your fingers up my ass”) and the harsh industrial sounds of “Lie Love Lullaby,” Forgiveness settles into a carefully balanced collection of textured electronica and writerly folk-pop. That balance — between what might crudely be defined as new Girlpool versus old Girlpool — defines the album. —J.B.


Horsegirl, ‘Versions of Modern Performance’

Horsegirl’s debut runs through the modern indie checklist. Guitars where you can practically hear the picks scraping against the strings, unlike the processed-sounding instruments in modern pop? Check. Guttural bass lines that swoop up and down with counterpoint melodies? Done. Voices half-buried in a cavernous mix, singing elliptical lyrics or, in one case, name-checking Tom Verlaine and Patti Smith’s first album? Mission accomplished. An overall, heady vibe that you’re standing in a crammed basement club circa 1993, immersed in beautiful sonic squalor? Yep. —D.B.


Koffee, ‘Gifted’

On Gifted, Koffee combines traditional reggae with modern flourishes and hip-hop sensibilities, reminding us that rap’s roots are richly intertwined with Jamaican music. While a song like “Lonely” could make the purest purist smile, “Defend” breaks out dusty boom-bap production, and “Shine” sets sunny guitars over tittering hi-hats and strong 808s. The album’s musical backdrops range from breezy to absorbing, but it’s Koffee’s performances that are consistently bewitching. —M.C.


Kurt Vile, ‘Watch My Moves’

On Matador releases like 2015’s B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down … and 2018’s Bottle It In, Vile seemed to set his sights on a higher tier of modern-rock hitmaking, with tightly crafted singles like “Pretty Pimpin” and “Loading Zones.” There’s not much of that ambition to be found on Watch My Moves — fair enough, since it’s harder than ever to know what a modern-rock hit even means these days. Instead, he stretches out and gets comfortable on his loosey-goosiest jams to date, handing out 74 minutes of mellow wisdom off the dome. He’s wisely stopped searching for the next level up, focusing instead on the beautifully unfocused be-here-now beatitude that’s always been his greatest gift. —S.V.L.


Kendrick Lamar, ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers’

Despite literally presenting himself as Jesus on the album’s cover, we find Lamar in more fallible terrain than at any point in his career. Released as a double album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers takes on an ambitious concept, guiding us through Lamar’s psyche, with his longtime partner Whitney Alford as narrator. The ever jazz-influenced artist is diligent in the sonic progression through his subconscious. The album finds a space between Donda 2-style hurriedness and intentional dissonance. Most songs are cut into one or three different beats, giving individual songs the kind of narrative texture you’d expect from a full album. —J.I.


Miranda Lambert, ‘Palomino’

Palomino, Lambert’s eighth solo album, is full of departures. Lambert and her collaborators (including co-producers Jon Randall and Luke Dick) wrote a multihued batch of songs about movement and characters who drift from place to place — sometimes because they want to, sometimes because they have to. There are numerous nods to classic rock throughout. Album opener “Actin’ Up” has a spaced-out riff that recalls David Essex’s “Rock On” before morphing into a ringing, Led Zeppelin-style chorus, while the haunting “Strange” sits somewhere between Nirvana and Neil Young. —J.F.


Latto, ‘777’

While Latto has been rapping in public since she was a teen six years ago, 777 feels like an introduction. It is, of course, the first album she’s released with a new moniker, growing out of her incendiary former stage name. But more important, her hunger for respect and her love of the game permeates 777, from her hardcore tracks, dark and urgent, to her shiny pop entries like hit “Big Energy” and “Sunshine.” Here, she indicates she can out-diva the bossest HBIC as well as out-freak the raunchiest rappers. 777 is vibrant and viscous. —M.C.


Avril Lavigne, ‘Love Sux’

In 2002, Avril Lavigne’s skate-punk aesthetic and emo-but-energized angst quickly made her the queen of the aughts pop-punk revival scene. Her seventh album, Love Sux, brings her back to her roots, bridging the gap between her early emo vibe with the bubblegum confidence that brought her away from it. Lavigne packs the album, which is just under 40 minutes, with ferocious energy. The final product is crisp and fun, launching with the explosive “Cannonball,” a song that feels like it could’ve easily snuck out of the demos from her 2002 debut, Let Go. —B.S.


Coi Leray, ‘Trendsetter’

Coi Leray’s album Trendsetter marks the culmination of a nearly four-year journey that began with the RIAA-certified success of 2018’s “Huddy” and continued with 2021’s “No More Parties.” Stylistically, it’s easy to trace Leray’s pivots: the emo yelps of Trippie Redd and Lil Uzi Vert, the melodramatic crooning of Drake, the rope-a-dope aggression of Cardi B, the melodic drill of Lil Durk (who shows up on a remix of “No More Parties”). Her career may seemingly blossom in the wake of Doja Cat’s colorful IDGAF virality, but Leray’s difference — and the attitude that animates this beguiling but overlong debut — is that she brings real anger and energy. —M.R.


Lil Durk, ‘7220’

Chicago’s Lil Durk raps in a wavy warble that sounds like how a codeine high from a filled-to-the-brim double-cup probably feels. But there’s emotion in his register — built up from a lifetime of scrapping it out on his city’s crime-ridden South Side. Durk seems to thrive over lush productions. And on the seductive, Summer Walker–assisted “Difference Is,” he hits a smooth pocket that recalls his 2015 single, “My Beyoncé.” For all his strengths as the genre’s emotive griot, there’s a second life in the waiting for Durk as drill’s go-to-guy for R&B-friendly deep cuts. But most of these 17 songs are vivid retellings of what happens on the front lines. —W.D.


Los Bitchos, ‘Let the Festivities Begin!’

You won’t hear any singing when you put on Let the Festivities Begin!, the debut album by Los Bitchos. However, you will hear yips of joy, party-starting yeahs and woo-hoos, ecstatic chanting, and one anticipatory presong “1! … 2! …” count-off worthy of the Ramones. Los Bitchos are a four-piece dance-rock band from London who take their influences from well beyond the usual dance-rock template, incorporating Latin rhythms, Turkish psychedelic rock, disco and funk, Sixties surf rumble, and a whole panoply of Eighties guitar styles — from light teeth-metal pyrotechnics to clean, bright Afro-pop-like ripples and dream-pop swirls. —J.D.


Ella Mai, ‘Heart on My Sleeve’

U.K. singer Ella Mai’s breakout 2018 hit, “Boo’d Up,” was throwback R&B at its most warmly blissed-out. Her second album is similarly sweet, as she stretches her fluttering voice, at once relatable and exultant, over the understatedly lavish grooves of songs like “Trying” and the string-swathed “Pieces.” The theme of romantic resolve governs the whole album, and the production stays varied so the mood never becomes too same-y, from the piano ballad drama of “Hide” to the acoustic-sprinkled “Power of a Woman,” to an array of guests that ranges from Mary J. Blige to Roddy Ricch to gospel icon Kirk Franklin. —J.D. 


Mitski, ‘Laurel Hell’

Laurel Hell, positioned as Mitski’s comeback after a four-year absence, often feels more like a struggling contemplation of retreat than an easy return. On a series of songs that deliberately obscure the identity of the second-person “you” Mitski is referring to at any given moment (An ex? Her past self? Her audience?), she is questioning everything around her, nothing more so than her own sense of self. “There’s nothing I can do, not much I can change,” she sings on “Heat Lightning,” which simmers like an approaching storm. “Can I give it up to you? Would that be OK?” —J.B.


Kevin Morby, ‘This Is a Photograph’

Morby traveled to Memphis to make This Is a Photograph, an album of emotional ephemera set to song, culled from lives lived and lives imagined. Largely semi-autobiographical in nature and bookended by tracks inspired by Morby’s parents, the record alternates between worry and resignation, frenetic manifestations of nervous distress and quiet moments of humility. Unsurprisingly, This Is a Photograph is a house of spirits, haunted by the ghosts of Jeff Buckley, of Jay Reatard, of childhood and innocence, and moments long past. —K.B.


Angel Olsen, ‘Big Time’

Olsen’s sixth album is a jaw-droppingly confident step into the spotlight, revealing a singer who can’t wait to tell you how great life can be. “Good-morning kisses, giving you all mine/Pull back the curtains, show me the sunshine,” she sings on the title track, her voice ringing out bright and tender over a velvety countrypolitan arrangement. She’s Roy Orbison, she’s Patsy Cline, she’s Willie Nelson. She’s Angel Olsen, fully and completely, making the past decade of her career feel like a warmup. —S.V.L.


Phife Dawg, ‘Forever’

Any posthumous album is, by its nature, haunting — the sound of ghosts on wax forever floating in a state between unfinished project and final-ever recordings. But in the case of A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, it was obvious he still had plenty to give. Forever, which boasts appearances by Phife’s ATCQ partner Q-Tip, as well as Busta Rhymes, Redman, Rapsody, and De la Soul’s Maseo, and production by 9th Wonder and Nottz, is the sound of a man looking back on his successes and failures both personally and professionally, and an artist unknowingly confronting mortality and trying to make peace at the end.. —J.N.


Pusha T, ‘It’s Almost Dry’

Pusha T is to coke references what Larry David is to absurd social situations: He finds new and interesting ways to revitalize disquieting things that should have jumped the shark a long time ago. But for 20 years now, King Push has made high art out of discussing the myriad ways he can cut a brick with more finesse than Michael Khan cuts a film — all with humor, pathos, and not a little remorse. Those regrets make Pusha’s music so vital, in that he gives you the full spectrum. Though he’s lightened up a bit, some of that trademark viciousness is still on display here. Steely, sneering, defiant, and serious as an Old World Sicilian vendetta. —W.D.


Raveena, ‘Asha’s Awakening’

Raveena plucks influences from decades of music history to create a multi-hued synthesis of all the ways that Western and South Asian music have always intersected. The album centers around a character called Asha, who Raveena conceived as a Punjabi space princess learning about love and loss as she travels through time and across new planets. Asha is a glimpse at Raveena’s imaginative sense of world building: The sonic universe she’s created for the character is celestially bright and vibrant, rooted in Sixties and Seventies rock, soul, and disco, as well as touches of nostalgic pop and her favorite Bollywood classics. —J.L.


Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Unlimited Love’

When we think of the Red Hot Chili Peppers at their best — making rock that was both breezily Californian and exceedingly funky — guitarist John Frusciante has always been the heartbeat of that sound. Frusciante, who left the band in 2009, is back for Unlimited Love. Along with Frusciante, the Peppers also reunited with Rick Rubin, who produced every RHCP album from 1992’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik to 2011’s I’m With You. The result is vintage RHCP: a jammy, melodic effort that blends the wavy reflections of their 1999 triumph, Californication, with the expansive rock of Stadium Arcadium. —B.S.


Rosalía,’ Motomami’

Rosalía’s brazen new album, Motomami, refracts the noise that’s surrounded her for the past few years, bends it to her will, and launches it back into the ether. What she offers is a dizzying, kaleidoscopic self-portrait — brash and bawdy at some turns, crushingly vulnerable at other points, and completely ridiculous when it wants to be. Rosalía is uncompromising about who she is and what she wants to do: From the first seconds of “Saoko,” the hydraulic-charged opener, Rosalía declares herself full of contradictions and metamorphoses and impulses. “I’m very much me, I transform,” she sing-raps. “I’m everything, I transform.” —J.L.


Saba, ‘Few Good Things’

Chicago rapper Saba’s third album is a refreshing shift from the haunted melancholy of his 2018 masterwork, the universally acclaimed Care for Me. He’s still observant of the sociopolitical conditions afflicting his community, refers to “food deserts,” and describes a “tale of two Chicagos,” where family members try to hang on to hard-won property against gentrification forces. But the vibe is purposeful and forward-looking, and he takes modest pleasure at being recognized as a vibrantly talented artist. A major highlight is “Come My Way,” where he and Krayzie Bone of Midwest legends Bone Thugs-N-Harmony swag out over a warm, summery groove. —M.R.


Shamir, ‘Heterosexaulity’

Throughout Heterosexuality, Shamir is working through, and breaking from, intimate traumas, social constraints, and limiting binaries. It’s the eighth project from the prolific singer-songwriter, and it also marks his first time working with the producer Hollow Comet. Shamir’s shooting vocals are defiant over confrontational noise-pop that embodies the scalding resistance he’s built up in an oppressively heteronormative world. But Shamir, a winking renegade with a biting sense of humor and an ear for melody, also introduces music that’s light and tinselly with synth frills, playing and inventing as he defines himself beyond sexuality and gender identity. —J.L. 


The Smile, ‘A Light for Attracting Attention’

The Smile emerged as Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s Covid lockdown project, an opportunity to work on some tunes without all the pressure of being Radiohead’s Lennon and McCartney or, maybe more accurately, Waters and Gilmour — likely to the chagrin of the group’s other three members, since A Light for Attracting Attention contains some of the songwriters’ most easily enjoyable music in years. Although the duo haven’t gone back to writing chorus-forward singles like “Creep” or “High and Dry,” or attempted TikTok bids, the songs here feel more concrete than they have on recent Radiohead bangers like A Moon Shaped Pool or The King of Limbs. —K.G.


Spoon, ‘Lucifer on the Sofa’

Over the years, Spoon’s run has been so consistent and drama-free you can almost take them for granted. Which is why their 10th album, Lucifer on the Sofa, is so welcome. It’s the best thing they’ve ever done, more than exceeding their usual quotient of fire guitars, killer choruses, and crafty rock-history updates. Whether it’s the barbed-glam stomp of “The Hardest Cut,” the sidelong Seventies sleaze of “The Devil & Mister Jones” and “Lucifer on the Sofa,” or the rarefied roadhouse grit of “Held,” Spoon have never cranked up their Spooniness so Spoonfully. —J.D.


Harry Styles, ‘Harry’s House’

With his third album, Harry’s House, he’s pulled off the neat trick of making his music at once elegant and more refined but also warmer and more intimate — the polished-marble smoothness of Steely Dan with the generosity of an Al Green or Yo La Tengo record. Harry’s House is bright with synths and horns, often steeped in slick, sticky synth-pop and R&B. You almost expect to check the credits and find Greg Phillinganes and Rod Temperton in there with Styles’ longtime songwriting collaborators Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson. —J.D.


Various Artists, ‘Summer of Soul, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’

The Summer of Soul movie and its accompanying soundtrack album (which revives the tradition of live festival albums of that era, from Woodstock to Wattstax) are reminders of the ways in which soul and R&B had expanded and run wild in the period leading up to the Harlem Cultural Festival in the summer of 1969. Those changes are doubly clear on the album, on which we’re able to experience complete performances of songs only heard in snippets in the movie. Heard in full, both B.B. King’s “Why I Sing the Blues” and the Chambers Brothers’ “Uptown” are even friskier and more propulsive than on studio versions; the coming funk revolution can’t be denied. —D.B.


Syd, ‘Broken Hearts Club’

Syd, the impossibly cool writer, producer, and frontwoman of the beloved alt-R&B band the Internet, masterfully dictates the evolution of a failed coupling on Broken Hearts Club, her second solo endeavor. Syd’s sound is often atmospheric, and she knows it. Surprisingly, most of Broken Hearts Club doesn’t languish in heartbreak. Instead, it delights in the splendor of new love, even if it does so apprehensively. The Smino-assisted single “Right Track” is rejuvenating and upbeat, with a jolting guitar riff and a warm sense of relief. “Don’t you love it when things go right?” Syd sings airily. —M.C.