The Best Albums Of 2022

Let’s just get right to it, shall we?

20. Drug Church – Hygiene

With the rise of Turnstile last year, there have been tons of hardcore and hardcore-adjacent records that have stood out throughout 2022. Drug Church’s follow up to 2018’s Cheer was one of the most melodic records from the genre this year. So many of the songs on Hygiene veer into indie rock and post-punk territory, with shimmering leads, perfectly set under Patrick Kindlon’s gruff clean vocals. While so many of the hardcore albums that have transcended the genre are built on short and to-the-point lyrics, Kindlon takes a literary approach with poetics that reward repeat and thoughtful listens.

19. The Weeknd – Dawn FM

With a much more lax approach to COVID, so many popstars seemed prepared to get back to the club with dance-oriented records (including Drake and Beyoncé), but none did so as enjoyably as The Weeknd. The R&B singer flirted with dark new wave with tracks like “Gasoline” and “Less Than Zero,” while also providing the same sort of sensuous pop that some would expect from him with erotic thrillers like “Best Friends.” While so many of the records that returned to dance parties this year sounded joyful, The Weeknd’s colder approach made Dawn FM a sleeper hit from the beginning of the year.

18. Chat Pile – God’s Country

One of the more caustic leaning metal/hardcore releases of the year was Chat Pile’s debut full-length. The trudging guitars offered a perfect backdrop for singer Raygun Busch to painfully confront personal anxieties (“Slaughterhouse”) or ask larger societal questions like in “Why?” which questions why housing issues even exist. The record concludes with an eight-minute jam “Grimace_Smoking_Weed.Jpeg,” which narrates being stalked by none other than the McDonalds mascot. While Chat Pile address serious issues throughout the album, the embrace of ridiculousness continues to feel like one of the few reprieves still ever present.

17. Gregor Barnett – Don’t Go Throwing Roses In My Grave

Menzingers co-frontperson Gregor Barnett ventured out on his own for his first foray into solo bluesy, heartland rock. Channeling some of the great singer-songwriters from the classic rock canon, Barnett delves into how the mind can wander on a long drive to traumatic childhood memories to how we carry some of the small gestures with us. While there’s a lot of similar DNA to Barnett’s main band, guitar solos are a welcome addition, and he gets to flex his songwriting chops to realms outside of punk, more so than the Menzos have.

16. The Linda Lindas – Growing Up

After going viral with their breakout song “Racist, Sexist Boy,” the California teen quartet delivered polished pop-punk in one of the most enjoyable releases of the year. While they touch on hardcore, power pop, and other genres, the group are an absolute joy with how well written their songs are.

15. Camp Cope – Running With The Hurricane

The Australian emo trio take a step in a more subdued direction than their previous albums. Singer/guitarist Georgia Maq’s lyricism and powerful voice gets to shine stronger than on previous records, with powerful tracks like “Sing Your Heart Out” and singer-songwriter inflected tunes like “Blue.” The record dives deep into the romanticism that scratched the surface on previous albums for a much more personal look at the band than their first two albums.

14. Brockhampton – The Family (& TM)

The rap boy band’s farewell record reflects fondly on all the group has done in their brief time. Incorporating elements of soul, punk, and more, the group reminds fans just what made them so special, while also reflecting on Kevin Abstract’s seemingly conflicting thoughts about breaking up the group. Still the short record (and less focused companion album) are a high note to say goodbye to the best boy band since One Direction.

13. Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor

Zeal & Ardor were one of the most inventive metal bands of recent memory fusing black metal with Black spirituals for a bluesy, yet just as intense take on the genre. On their self-titled third album, the band have mostly leaned into the metal angle, but many of Manuel Gagneux’s raspy vocals carry the same qualities that they had on Devil is Fine and Stranger Fruit. Even though the spirituals may be less so, Zeal & Ardor’s record is still perhaps the most unique metal record this year. With country inflected ballads (“Golden Liar”), soaring electronic elements (“Emersion”), and never faltering its intensity. Tunes like “Death to the Holy” and “Götterdämmerung” are sure to please traditional metal fans while never feeling like they’re regressing.

12. Arm’s Length – Never Before Seen, Never Again Found

Canadian emo up-and-comers Arm’s Length have slowly been building buzz through EPs, and they carry the momentum through their debut full-length. With a sense of grit that connects them to beloved acts like The Hotelier, the band carry the torch with tracks that tug at the heartstrings, filled with frayed friendships and strained relationships. From a long title to the yelping vocals, the band is sure to be a favorite of those who came of age with many of the classic emo revial acts.

11. Zach Bryan – American Heartbreak

Country troubadour Zach Bryan had a lot to get off his chest with American Heartbreak. A sprawling 34-song track list and an over 2 hour run time, make it a surprise standout from a genre that often relies on comfortability and nostalgia. The kicker is that each song is really great. While it may not be the most apt for casual album listens, Bryan is truly a gifted songwriter, as he explores substance use, loneliness, and of course heartbreak.

He comfortably breezes between barn-burning drunken rockers to minimalistic ballads to heart-wrenching admissions. While some artists may take time to rest and recharge after dropping enough music for 2 or 3 albums at once, Bryan has released a slew of singles and Eps since American Heartbreak, and they’re similarly solid. It’s exciting to see where the road will take him.

10. Oso Oso – sore thumb

Oso Oso’s latest effort captures the band at their most joyous, from the instantly catchy chorus on “computer exploder” to the laidback, bedside strumming in “carousel.” The upbeat nature of the tunes, calling back to the power poppiest elements on Basking in the Glow, assert the fun that the band can have, but the lyrical anecdotes that feel like two friends shooting the shit really tie the record together. Like pals who didn’t even realize they struck gold in the garage.

9. Mindforce – New Lords

Hudson Valley hardcore stars Mindforce deliver one of the most enjoyable releases in the genre of the year. Barking vocals with a New York accent, the group’s metallic take on the genre is all at once catchy and brutal. The band’s rough-and-around the edges delivery contrasts just how tight these songs are. With crisp production, the band embraces fantastical lyrics, while never sounding out of place from the scene.

8. Avril Lavigne – Love Sux

Travis Barker has been one of the most surprising rising forces in the music industry. The blink-182 drummer has stepped behind the board for a slew of younger artists, stirring up older pop-punk fans while welcoming a new, younger fanbase to the fold. Regardless of how you may feel about any of the many Travis disciples, the fact that he was joining Avril Lavigne to collaborate on a straightforward pop-punk record was surely exciting, and Love Sux delivers in the most perfect way.

Lavigne has been grandfathered into the pop-punk canon for her hits “S8r Boi”, “Girlfriend” and a handful of other songs, and while she may not have reinvented the genre, her biggest hits were impossible to ignore, and were undeniably fun with her bratty approach to the genre. Love Sux delivers 12 solid songs that are perfect for pogoing or hopping in the car for a drive to Hot Topic. Tunes like “Bite Me” and “F.U.” wouldn’t sound out of place on The Best Damn Thing, and it’s a best of both worlds for both aging millennials who may roll their eyes at a Machine Gun Kelly feature and the younger fans who are excited about it.

7. Proper – The Great American Novel

After garnering respect from the emo and pop-punk community with their first two records, Proper ventured into heavier territory with their third record. Embracing prog rock and metal, the band holds their punk values and delivery while fleshing out their sound into something much more complex. Vocalist Erik Garlington also tackles political issues more head-on through scorchers like “McConnell” and “Red, White And Blue,” while continuing his explorations of family (“Huerta”), navigating being a rising band (“Shuck & Jive”), and self (“In The Van Somewhere Outside Of Birmingham”). The band’s newfound heavy sounds though do compliment when they more confidently shed light on the issues.

6. the Mountain Goats – Bleed Out

Continuing their prolific output, the Mountain Goats dropped their fourth album in five years with Bleed Out. While the group’s most recent releases (Getting Into Knives and Dark in Here) saw John Darnielle explore more wide-ranging themes, the songwriter returns to his flow of revisiting a singular idea on a record to great effect on Bleed Out. Taking a page out of the action-movie handbook, Darnielle takes joy in playing both vengeance seeking heroes (“Training Montage”) and villainous robbers (“Hostages”) throughout the record. Like so much of the songwriter’s other albums, Bleed Out is really a record about resilience, even if it’s dressed in the clothes of a blockbuster film.

5. Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems

The band also seamlessly brings other genres into the fold, dropping rap verses, hints of nu metal, and electronic music. It ultimately makes for one of the most intensive heavy releases of the year, while also positing them to the same type of surprise success that bands like Turnstile have seen in recent years.

While so many hardcore releases this year made waves, few had the type of range that Soul Glo had. The Philly band have been making underground waves for years, but Diaspora Problems thrust them into the mainstream on the heels of 2020’s Songs To Yeet At The Sun. While much of hardcore is built on songs that have lyrics that are quick to learn once they’re deciphered, Soul Glo cram as much as they can lyrically into thrashing, fast songs. While not every line may stand out, while reading along to Pierce Jordan’s lyrics are scathing indictments at a broken system.

4. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

Kendrick Lamar’s long-awaited return had expectations building for years, and a double album was the perfect return for him. While not as tight as To Pimp A Butterfly or concise as Damn, the rapper’s latest record is a much more personal assessment than his past releases. While tracks like “N95” reflect on the larger world, tunes like “Worldwide Stepper” and  “We Cry Together” see the rapper looking much more inward and interpersonally rather than at the world at large. While there are a few moments that raise eyebrows, when Kendrick (or one of his collaborators) really shine, it’s still just as exciting as those early records.

3. Anxious – Little Green House

Connecticut emo outfit Anxious’ debut record harkens back to some of the genre’s classic eras. With easycore-inspired chugging and melodic songs, reminiscent of the best names from the genre of the early 2000s, the band made one of the catchiest records in the genre for the year. Whether it’s the fist-pumping “In April” or the mellow post-punk “You When You’re Gone,” the record has something for everyone, while still being cohesive. As one of the earliest releases, Little Green House was a sleeper hit. Where a band like Arm’s Length felt like they arrived out of nowhere to become one of the most exciting new names in punk, Anxious felt like a slow build through tours and word-of-mouth. With more tours on the horizon and their excellent singles “Where You Been” and “Sunsign,” Anxious will surely be one of the most intriguing bands in the latest iteration of emo.

2. Bartees Strange – Farm To Table

Hot off of 2020’s Live Forever, Bartees Strange was posited for an amazing follow-up, and he delivered with Farm To Table. While tunes like “Heavy Heart” hearkened back to some of indie rock bangers that became favorites from his debut record, Strange dove deeper into the realms of genres with his sophomore record. Tunes like “Wretched” veer more into pop and electronic music, while “Cosigns” felt like a hip hop victory lap. The singer-songwriter’s versatility made him a standout on his first record, and he doesn’t shy away for the new album, incorporating gospel (“Hold the Line”) and barroom folk (“Hennessy”) into the mix.

Throughout the record, Strange explores the gamut of emotions, from the joyous “Wretched” to the heartbreaking “Hold The Line,” which was written as a tribute to George Floyd’s daughter. Whether he’s reflecting on how he’s grown like in “Black Gold” or doing his best to live in the moment (“Mulholland Dr.”), Bartees is one of the most exciting new songwriters.

1. The Wonder Years – The Hum Goes On Forever

“You’re brave, so I’m brave, or I’m trying anyway/Put the work in, plant a garden, try to stay afloat,” Dan Campbell sings to close out “You’re The Reason I Don’t Want The World To End” and Philadelphia band The Wonder Years’ seventh album. The continually growing group venture into explorations of parenthood, tackling a fear of failure, and revisiting some of the past ghosts that have appeared in previous records.

While there are certainly bleak moments like in “Old Friends Like Lost Teeth” or the epic ode to depression “Low Tide,” the record is overly joyful. While there’s tinges of sadness in opening song “Doors I Painted Shut” or fear in the closing track, there’s an undying sense of love for Campbell’s kids, and it shows when the record explodes in “Wyatt’s Song.” Besides his love for his kids, he also sings to a grandmother in the warm ballad “Laura & The Beehive,” a family member struggling with addiction in “Oldest Daughter” and yet another tribute to the City of Brotherly Love in “The Paris of Nowhere.” Once again, The Wonder Years show themselves as a band ever-growing and evolving with their fanbase, rather than pandering on throwback sounds or jumping to something completely unheard to reach a new group of people.

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