Music Music reviews

10 Best Albums of 2022.

Maybe, just maybe, 2022 stands out as one of those great years in music where every which way you looked there was something special or interesting to listen to. Of course, it’s impossible to listen to all the best recommendation, sometimes you just have to go on your own musical journey of discovery. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that lists are subjective. This year my best albums of 2022 is a collection of music and artists of where my headspace was throughout the last twelve months. While I also  listened to plenty of old stuff, classic albums and other contemporary music, I couldn’t escape the sounds and stories of the ten albums here below. Some were played more than others and one stands as my champion of 2022. Without further ado check out some of the outstanding albums of this year and as always I hope amongst them you find something worthy of your attention. 


10. Tough on Fridays – The Encore You Didn’t Ask For (Golden Robot/Archangel)

The Encore You Didn’t Ask For by Tough On Fridays is like a xmas stocking full of treats. The album’s lead-off punch begins with Overboard and concludes with a fine-tuning Message in a Bottle. In between you will hear a band working incredibly hard together punching out great chords and lyrics. Some of my favourite songs on the album, and the ones that jumped out at me the most, are Overboard and The Awakening. I especially love Carly’s bass in The Awakening. Interestingly, Encore never leads definitively one way or the other. That’s why its great to hear songs like Cabin Fever and Growing Pains which meander beautiful, if not unexpectedly on the album. I’ve always liked Tough on Friday but here they exhibit a rock swagger even Dave Grohl would be proud of.  


9. Hurray for the Riff Raff – ‘Life On Earth’ (Nonesuch Records).

I first discovered Alynda Segarra – better known as Hurray for the Riff Raff – in 2017. Her rebellious folk concept album The Navigator just missed out on my top ten list of best albums of 2017. This year marks the long awaited return of the ‘Riff Raff’ with Life On Earth. Everything about this new album feels both intimate and relevant in the flux we find ourselves in. It’s fair to say Segarra still remains a spellbinding force as a lyricist. She’s not afraid to expose her vulnerability and insecurities about life, love and the future. There is arguably no better example of this than on Pierced Arrows where Segarra declares “I don’t believe in anything/This whole f**king world is changing”. On Wolves she’s even more critical “It’s not safe at home anymore”. Of course it’s not all about gloom, despair and agony. For instance, the title track is a wonderful affirmation on life with its delicate piano and Segarra’s emotive vocals.


8. Kurt Vile – ‘(watch my moves)’ (Verve).

As arguably one of the leading voices of the psych-folk rock scene in the 2000s, you could easily forgive Kurt Vile if you thought he was going a little stale right about now. However it’s fair to say his new album shows he’s still got a few more tricks up his sleeve. While it might be reminiscent to his earlier work Wakin On A Pretty Daze (2013), the Philadelphian singer songwriter is seemingly more experimental here. I like how Vile shuffles between songs in his own little unhurried world with plenty of his trademark quirks and guitar playing. Standouts include Flyin (like a fast train), Palace of OKV in Reverse and Stuffed Leopards.


7. Eddie Vedder – Earthling (Republic/Seattle Surf).

In those rare moments where Eddie Vedder makes music without Pearl Jam, I’m always pleasantly surprised how much he’s manages to grow and reinvent himself as a musician. On his new solo album Earthling, Vedder is a man seemingly at peace with the world. He even gets to sing and play with some of music’s biggest names like Ringo Starr, Stevie Wonder and Elton John. This new album is Vedder in full celebratory mode, playing in the style of his musical heroes. For the record Vedder primarily employs the services of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer whose influence is felt throughout. Although there is an occasional nod which recalls Pearl Jam, Earthing as a whole feels like a passion project. Mellowing out over the years has certainly helped, but don’t be mistaken his intensity for activism and music is stronger than ever, often still colliding on Earthling with interesting results. But by far some of the best songs on the new album finds Vedder digging deep into subject matter about friendship, love and loss. His nod to Chris Cornell in Brother the Cloud is in particular a standout. Songs like The Haves, Good and Evil and the Beatlesque Mrs. Mills are also noteworthy highlights.


6. A.A. Williams – AS The Moon Rests (Bella Union).

When I first discovered A.A. Williams’ 2020 debut, Forever Blue back in 2020, I was immediately struck by its emotional heaviness and atmospheric qualities. It wasn’t something I often associated with a metal album but Williams proved that you didn’t have to be loud to be heavy and I quite liked her experimental approach. On her second studio album As The Moon Rests, Williams has replicated the success of her sound but upped the ante with a brilliant surge of distortion and fuzz on songs like Evaporate and Murmurs. Where the beauty and magic of metal and orchestral strings clash on songs like Hollow Heart and The Echo Williams shows us she still has a cinematic flair for drama. None of this would work if not for Williams hauling vocals. At times she soars and in her quieter moments she makes us feel like you are a part of her pain. Lyrically, like her debut Forever Blue, this new album continues on a trajectory of looking inward In short, As The Moon Rests is undoubtedly one of the year’s very best.


5. First Aid Kit – Palomino (Columbia Records).

The artist that spring to mind when I hear the lead vocals Klara Soderberg is Adele. No, I’m serious! It’s true. Even when Klara is harmonising with her older sister Johanna there is nothing better. It’s total bliss. Ever since the Swedish duo burst onto the scene in 2007 they have been breaking hearts. Their music (unlike Adele) is rooted in big beautiful dollops of Americana. It’s no wonder First Aid Kit are a band that would be easily mistaken for Kentucky natives. On their fifth and latest album Palomino, First Aid Kit really hits their straps, featuring not only their signature steel guitars but also synths, strings and brass arrangements. But maybe most notable is the duo’s venture into pop territory. Songs on Palomino definitely feel more playful than their previous effort but let’s not get carried away to think everything is uplifting here. There is still a lot of sadness that permeates beneath its vibe. Interestingly, not only has First Aid Kit matured since their last outing with Ruins (2018), it’s evident they have also blossomed even more as confessional and observational songwriters. For instance, Angel (my favourite track) is a song about a relationship on the verge of collapse: “What has that fear ever done for me but hold me back?/ What has jealousy and hate ever done for you but remind you of what you think you lack?” But then when the chorus kicks in the narrator stands fast: “Give me love and give me compassion/ Self-forgiveness and give me some passion/ I love you even though you can’t love me.”

Honestly, it can’t get any better than that!


4. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe You (4AD).

Great indie rock bands seem to be a dying breed. If anything they are few and far between especially on mainstream charts and radio. Often I have to resort to creating a Spotify playlist to discover something new. That’s what happened a few years back when Big Thief suddenly came into my life. I often gush when I talk about the New York quartet that is Big Thief especially lead singer Adrianne Lenker. Anyway 2019 was a huge year for the band releasing two acclaimed albums. It’s fair to say most of us wondered whether it was humanly possible for Big Thief to craft something new that might blow our minds. I’m here to say their expansive double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe You is as close to perfection as it gets for a band that marches to its own beat. It’s full of Lenker’s unbridled charm and honesty as a lyricist and sonically this new album veers in all sorts of experimental directions. There will be time I suspect for me to add a few more thoughts about Big Thief new album later this year. Though if I am disappointed in just one aspect about the album, I would say that it is the fact that it lacks one or two killer rock tracks (akin to ‘Not’) to puncture Lenker’s preference for introspect. But I guess that’s just being overly fussy.


3. Wet Leg – Wet Leg (Domino Records).

Wet Leg are arguably the best music story of the year. They came out of nowhere in 2021 with their novelty-inspired song Chaise Longue and turned that success on its head with their brilliant self-titled debut early this year. I recently said I couldn’t remember a time when a band like Wet Leg made falling in love with them so easy. Songs like Ur Mum (incidentally my favourite song of 2022), Being in Love, Wet Dream and Angelica showcased their incredible charm, quotable lyrics and infectious indie-rock chops. Of course a band like Wet Leg wouldn’t have worked if not for dynamic energy between Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, who seeming have their finger on the pulse of today’s evolving music landscape. Wet Leg are fun and a breath of fresh air, something we could all do with, especially with a glut of confessional songwriters (though there is nothing wrong with that) who use music to excessively express and process personal trauma. I guess the difference here is Wet Leg use humour as a coping mechanism, making light of things and shitty situations by laughing it off. 


2. Blackheart Orchestra –  Hotel Utopia (Ceander Records).

For the record Manchester-based Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington (of The Blackheart Orchestra) are two of my favourite synth prog musicians. They are humble and giving of their time especially when it comes to talking about their music. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to listen to their new album Hotel Utopia prior to its release. It’s fair to say I was immediately blown away by its superb production and great songwriting. Known for their various moods and imagery, Mostyn and Pilkington’s focus this time around was fixated on the afterlife. In my review of the album I wrote: “The centrepiece is arguably The Warning which looks at the death of the Earth. Here Mostyn’s lyrics act as a wake-up call to all of humanity. Then again, the album’s piano-led closing track The Flood is just too good to keep a secret. It runs at 9 minutes and 3 seconds, making it The Blackheart Orchestra’s longest-running track to date. Here Mostyn vocals are airy with lyrics foreboding an apocalyptic end to life. But just when all seems lost a spiritual rebirth shines a light on the unknown with a classic guitar solo amplified by Pilkington. It’s moments like these on Hotel Utopia that truly capture the existential brilliance of a band continually changing gears.”


1. Anna Tivel – Outsiders (Mama Bird Recordings).

Once in a while I’m in awe of those records that slip through the mainstream cracks. I’m so thrilled I’m not alone in my admiration for Oregon-based Anna Tivel’s Outsiders. NPR’s Ann Powers was so right to name Outsiders her album of the year. I couldn’t agree more. I really love the way Tivel sees the world through her music. While roots music which includes both Americana and folk have been around since forever, Tivel’s folk musings always manage to excite and feel relevant. Her observations of life, full of both pain and beauty, are guaranteed to induce an emotional response from her listeners. Often we are left to ponder what we have just heard. Tivel has this knack of finding a good story to convey and sing about. For instance on Black Umbrella she tells a story about a bystander caught up in a bank robbery and on the title track an astronaut is looking back on the world as a metaphor for loneliness and love. Some of the most profound moments shine through in quiet tunes about love and regret. Royal Blue with its tinges of electronica and Astrovan immediately come to mind. The latter is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It has one of the best lyrics on the album- “I love you I’m nervous, my heart beats imperfectly, sometimes I act like a clown/ In bright colored makeup, to hide my mistakes and the fear that you’ll figure me out.” We could so easy call Outsiders a folk album but it’s more than that. There are some really lush orchestrations that give a thrilling effect to many of the songs on Outsiders. Songs like The Dial, Heroes and aforementioned Royal Blue all add these incredible electronic layers to Tivel’s music. Overall, I feel Outsiders is an unrivalled introspective by a musician who understands human nature. That’s why it stands out as 2022 album of the year.

Honourable mentions:
Julia Jacklin – Pre Pleasure (Liberation Records).
William Crighton – Water and Dust (ABC Music).
Larkin Poe – Blood Harmony (Tricks-Woo).
Breanna Barbara – Nothin’ But Time (Fuzz Club).
Thundermother – Black and Gold (AFM Records).
Halestorm – Back From The Dead (Atlantic Records).
Photo Credit: The album cover artworks used for this review are all courtesy of their respective record labels, or the graphic artist(s). I make use of them under the rationale of fair use because no free equivalent seems to exist and they serve as the primary means of visual identification at the top of my article dedicated to the reviews in question. I am not the uploader of the You Tube clip embedded here.

Robert Horvat is a Melbourne based blogger. He believes that the world is round and that art is one of our most important treasures. He has seen far too many classic films and believes coffee runs through his veins. As a student of history, he favours ancient and medieval history. Music pretty much rules his life and inspires his moods. Favourite artists include The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Garbage and Lana Del Rey.

9 comments on “10 Best Albums of 2022.

  1. There are a few in your list that should have been bigger hits with me. It may just have been timing why First aid Kit or Eddie Vedder’s albums didn’t land on my list. I love those artists, and just didn’t interact with those records much yet.

  2. An interesting selection Robert. I’m familiar with all but the ones by Hurray for the Riff Raff and Anna Tivel, who has a fascinating sound from the track “Outsiders” you shared. I’ve seen several ‘best albums of 2022’ lists, and am amazed at how different they all are. Two albums I have seen on most lists, though, are the ones by Wet Leg and Big Thief.

    • Wet Leg and Big Thief are universally loved and rightly so. This year I feel I have listened to a lot of Metal and Americana/folk music (with other genres in-between). It’s an extreme that doesn’t make sense, right? Haha, I guess it’s the eclectic nature in what I like at the moment.

  3. I played the Vedder album once and almost totally missed it. After reading this I will try again

  4. I find it fascinating how different year-end music reviews can be from each other. I just published my six favorite albums of 2022, and there is zero overlap with your picks.

    Based on a first glance at your list, the albums by Eddie Vedder and Larkin Poe are the only ones from which we both featured music.

    As I discussed with Jeff from Eclectic Music Lover yesterday after I had looked at his Top 100 song list, this goes to show how much new music has come out this year. It’s simply impossible to keep up. And, yes, our music tastes aren’t identical. I think it’s all great, showing music in 2022 remains vibrant.

    Robert, I have enjoyed reading your blog, including the great interviews you do, and look forward to 2023. Keep up the great work! I also would like to wish you all the best for the new year!

  5. love LOVE big thief

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