Top 5 albums of 2022


Photo by Eric Krull

A look at the best music albums released in 2022.

2022 has been an odd year for music. Several artists who have been on hiatus have made long-anticipated returns from every genre, ranging from Rihanna to Kendrick Lamar, who have been MIA for a little over five years. Music, in general, has changed dramatically this year; artists emphasized looking back and focusing on classic, sample-driven sounds as global trends change in an attempt to revive some nostalgia. As a result, this year had a spectacular catalog of new music with vintage origins. With all of this being said, these are the five greatest albums of 2022.

A drawing of a red barn in a green field done by album collaborator Ecco2K. (Photo from Rate Your Music)

#5 “Crest” – Bladee, Ecco2k

A collaboration album between Bladee and Ecco2k has always been a matter of when and not if. The two Drain Gang members have been close collaborators ever since they met in school, all the way back in 2004. The duo first teased “Crest” all the way back in 2020 when they created the song “Girls just want to have fun” a bass-heavy electro pop banger that was a large diversion from their previous sound of glossy autotune mixed with cold cloud rap instrumentals. The track also happened to be the album’s only single. Their long-awaited collab finally released this March to surprisingly widespread acclaim, a first for the collective considering how divisive their past work was. “Crest” takes the number five spot due to the almost nine-minute opus “5 Star Crest (4 Vattenrum)”, a song that contains five phases, dedicated to their friend, who sadly passed away in 2019.

#4  “Melt My Eyez See Your Future” – Denzel Curry

“Melt My Eyez See Your Future” is heavily inspired by Japanese filmography and twentieth century music of various genres. (Photo from Rate Your Music)

Denzel Curry has had an amazing year in terms of artistry. He teased music fans around the world in January with the song “Walkin”, a return to form for Curry after his experimentation with Kenny Beats on Unlocked, a project that largely flew under the radar. The song teased listeners as to what was to come due May, when the album was released. It features a mature form of rapping, a first for Curry. He reflects on how therapy has helped his life, and encourages others to keep on walking, no matter how bad the world gets.

The themes of self-improvement continue on the later tracks on “Melt My Eyez”, specifically the opener “Melt Session #1” with Curry reflecting on how his life had been up to that point, with mentions of self-hatred and even abuse from people in his life. The song also benefits from the production of Robert Glasper, a prominent jazz pianist and producer who assisted Kendrick Lamar on his 2015 masterpiece “To Pimp a Butterfly”, an album that also had a heavy emphasis on jazz. Despite a strong start to the album, the latter half suffers a bout of misdirection, which earns it the fourth spot this year.

#3 “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar, with his wife and children and a firearm tucked in his belt. A diamond crown of thorns rests on his head, signifying his perceived holiness, but emphasizing his flaws. (Photo from Rate Your Music)

After a 1,855-day hiatus, Kendrick Lamar took the rap world by storm with “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers”, a double-LP that transformed the way people perceived the “greatest rapper alive”, a title he crowned himself with on “The Heart Part IV”, which preceded his previous album, “DAMN.”

“Mr. Morale” certainly is a more personal take on Lamar’s life, as he strikes sensitive chords with careful production from Sounwave and Bekon, as well as a robust feature list. “N95” and “Die Hard” are certainly the highlights, while the uncomfortable and uneasy reality that Lamar presents on “We Cry Together” and “Mother I Sober” (which contains one of the greatest verses of the year) are perhaps the most powerful elements of the album.

In a sense, “Mr. Morale” is not the album the industry wanted, but instead, the one it needed. Conscious hip-hop had been struggling for some time before Lamar’s return, with artists leaning in favor of safer, trap-focused instrumentals and party raps. However, “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” falters mechanically when compared with “To Pimp a Butterfly” and “DAMN., and it takes a more direct approach to conveying its message when compared with Lamar’s previous, more elaborate works. Additionally, Kodak Black’s inclusion on this project feels out of place given his history and the topics that Lamar discusses.

#2 “It’s Almost Dry” – Pusha T

The title “It’s Almost Dry” clears up any confusion as to what this record is about, as it contains a double-entendre within itself. It could be interpreted as a symbol of the amount of time since “DAYTONA”, Pusha T’s last album, or as a foreshadow of the record’s core theme: working the street life. (Photo from Rate Your Music)

The follow-up to 2018’s critically acclaimed masterpiece DAYTONA, It’s Almost Dry is perhaps the most lyrically impressive work of the year. Pusha T’s familiar tales about the harsh reality of growing up in New York City make a warm return, but the production quality soars to new levels over the course of 12 new tracks, all of which are executively produced by Ye and Pharrell Williams, two of the greatest musicians in hip hop. Ye’s sampling technique does not show any sign of fragility, as he demonstrates on “Diet Coke”, the lead single to this album, which contains a sample from Fat Joe’s “Get It Poppin’”.

The guest list is carefully curated, with common collaborators Ye and No Malice providing guest verses, along with another of one the greatest verses of the year from Jay-Z on “Neck & Wrist”, the second single from the album. Pusha T sets himself apart from other rappers in the industry, as his writing and delivery continue to level-up, as evidenced on “I Pray For You”, where he expertly flows through a deep and intricate opening verse. On the other hand, the album lacks focus and direction when compared to other entries on this list. Dedicated Pusha fans have heard all of these stories before, even through the clever wordplay and ever-evolving production. It’s Almost Dry is certainly skilled music (and good sounding music, at that), but there is more to the life of Pusha T than raps about street life.

#1 “Ants From Up There”Black Country, New Road

The cover for “Ants From Up There” is not actually a photograph. In fact, it was a painting by UK artist Simon Monk. (Photo from Rate Your Music)

Ants From Up There” had the challenging task of following up the band’s previous work “For The First Time”, an impressive debut album from a band that very few had heard of at the time, so when listeners finally got their hands on the band’s new work, it only made sense that their sophomore output would be even more impressive. “AFUT” is a grandiose album, one filled with passionate, emotional lyrics sung by the now former frontman Isaac Wood, who left the band just days before the release of the album.

The instrumentation on the album is quite diverse: seven members of the band perform at the time (now six due to Wood’s departure), all of whom are very talented. The band even has their own saxophonist and violinists who assisted this album reach the number one spot on this list, as well as so many others. One song that stands out on the album is the eighth track, “The Place Where He Inserted The Blade”, a seven-minute masterpiece that contains beautiful instrumentation throughout, mixed with Wood’s at times harsh – and also lush –  vocals. The flute and piano throughout create what could, hands down, be one of the best songs of the decade.

Another highlight of this project is the song “Concorde” , a romantic and melancholic track with an explosive, bombastic ending. These songs pushed “Ants From Up There” to achieve the number one spot for the greatest albums of 2022.