As 2022 reaches its halfway mark, the year has already boasted acclaimed music albums from a variety of genres. Here are some of the best albums of 2022 (so far)!
The Weeknd — “Dawn FM” (Jan. 7)
“Dawn FM” is the newest album from Abel Tesfaye (better known as “The Weeknd”) that reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart shortly after its release. “Dawn FM” is the first concept album for The Weeknd, conveying an eerie sense of humanity’s ultimate demise. The album is framed as a radio show titled “103.5 Dawn FM,” with Jim Carrey as the radio host. Carrey’s eerie voice narrations along with The Weeknd’s classic ’80s sound tells the listeners that although we are going to eventually reach an end, we should sit back and enjoy the ride. Or in Carrey’s words, “We’ll be there to hold your hand and guide you through this painless transition / But what’s the rush? / Just relax and enjoy another hour of commercial free yourself music on 103.5 Dawn FM.”
FKA twigs — “Caprisongs” (Jan. 14)
Earlier this year, English singer-songwriter FKA twigs released “Caprisongs,” a mixtape showcasing her avant-garde genre-warping sound. “Caprisongs” is also host to the most features twigs has on her music works — including the likes of The Weeknd, Daniel Caesar and Jorja Smith. However, twigs remains the standout on the album, experimenting with new vocals and snippets of lo-fi production.
Black Country, New Road — “Ants From Up There” (Feb. 4)
Arriving just a year after their highly acclaimed debut, “Ants From Up There” is the second project from English rock band Black Country, New Road. Dropping just four days after lead singer Isaac Wood tragically announced his departure from the band due to mental health struggles, the project arrived to nearly universal acclaim. Praise ranged from the fantastic, dynamic instrumentals, Isaac’s one-of-a-kind lyrics and delivery, and just how creative and refreshing the project was in regards to recent rock releases. Isaac’s incredibly pained, strained vocal delivery on standout songs like “Concorde” and “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” combined with the explosive and evocative percussion, heart-wrenching strings and flawless brass performances create such an enveloping feeling of hopelessness and despair that really is present throughout the whole album. The band also experiments a fair bit on the project, such as the absolutely manic drumming toward the end of “Snow Globes” and the constantly changing journey that the near 13 minutes of “Basketball Shoes” takes you on. “Ants From Up There” is certainly one of the most special projects released in recent memory and is sure to stick with you for a long time, even if Isaac’s time in the band was a lot shorter than fans had hoped.
Big Thief — “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” (Feb. 11)
Three years after treating us to two albums in the span of a few months, Big Thief returned with an album the same length as “Two Hands” and “U.F.O.F.” combined, “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You.” Matching its length in versatility, the folk group explores everything from folk rock and alt country to elements of lo-fi and dream pop in the gigantic 20-track project. What sets it apart is not necessarily its innovation but rather how seamlessly the tracks come together both individually and as a collective, creating 80 minutes of top quality folk tunes backed by lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s signature voice, songwriting and lyrics. Despite its seemingly daunting length, “Dragon” never seems to drag on, partly due to the sheer quality of the tracks in terms of production and songwriting and partly due to the versatility in genres Big Thief manages to squeeze into this project while still maintaining a definite sense of cohesion. The Brooklyn band’s fifth studio album is sure to stand as one of the best folk albums of this decade.
Beach House — “Once Twice Melody” (Feb. 18)
“Once Twice Melody” is the eighth studio album from dream pop duo Beach House. The duo, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, rolled out the album over the span of four months by releasing four “chapters” — essentially, four EPs. While Legrand and Scally are often heavily involved in the production process of their music, this album was produced entirely by themselves. This distinct style can be heard in standout tracks like “Superstar” and “New Romance” that feature new shimmering vocals and instrumentals, while still maintaining their signature lush, ethereal sound.
Rex Orange County — “WHO CARES?” (March 11)
In contrast to his other releases, Rex Orange County’s fourth official studio album, “Who Cares?” focuses on a happier message. Rex showcases the duality of being a human and a singer-songwriter which can be found within the album title itself. These 11 indie alternative songs on the album all have two consistent messages: change is constant and be yourself. In a new piece in Vulture, Rex voiced the messages that he hopes his fans and audience will take away from the album. “I’m just trying to spread this message to let people know that it’s okay to be nice to yourself and that you don’t have to change anything about yourself … We only have one life to live, so just be yourself and see how that goes.”
Bad Bunny — “Un Verano Sin Ti” (May 6)
Only a year after “El Último Tour del Mundo” was released, Puerto Rican reggaetón trailblazer Bad Bunny dropped his fourth studio album. “Un Verano Sin Ti” showcases the rapper’s versatility; he draws from Caribbean influences like merengue, bachata and mambo, and also unveils new sounds through features from indie pop band The Marías and psychedelic cumbia band Bomba Estéreo. These sounds cultivate a story of a lost lover and a continued love for Boricua and Dominican culture. From “Ojitos Lindos” that ponders about falling in love again after heartbreak, to “El Apagón” that highlights concern about gentrification in Puerto Rico, the album encompasses many themes. There are also plenty of summer-y party hits like “Después de la Playa” and “Me Fui de Vacaciones” proving that “Un Verano Sin Ti” is set to be an on-repeat album of the summer.
Kendrick Lamar — “Mr. Morale and & The Big Steppers” (May 13)
Five years after the release of his last studio album, Kendrick Lamar returns with the long-awaited “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.” His final album with Top Dawg Entertainment, the work boasts 18 songs and covers a range of themes — his childhood, fatherhood, religion and dealing with the pressures of fame. While many fans expected a centralized theme and sound reminiscent of his past works, Kendrick continues to forge his own path, as expressed in the album’s closer, “Mirror”: “I choose me / The pressure’s taking over me, it’s beginning to loom / Better if I spare your feelings and tell you the truth / Lately, I redirected my point of view / You won’t grow waitin’ on me.”