The Best Albums of 2022 So Far
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.
Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, ‘Get on Board’
In its title, cover art, and some of its songs, Get on Board replicates the 1952 Folkways album by blues harp master Sonny Terry and his longtime collaborator, guitarist Brownie McGhee (with percussionist Coyal McMahan also aboard for that project). That record was a set of stomping unplugged blues that felt spontaneous and casual. Mahal and Cooder, who alternate vocals and fretted instruments throughout, extend that mood; starting with their weathered voices, the music feels intimate and lived in, the sound of two old friends jamming away in a small room. —D.B.
Trueno, ‘Bien O Mal’
Bien o Mal, a project from 20-year-old Argentine rapper Trueno, takes inspiration from old-school hip-hop from the U.S. while celebrating traditions from Argentina and Latin America. It’s also a deeply politically and socially engaged LP that outlines struggles happening across the continent. Splitting the tracks between two sides, “The Bad” and “The Good,” Trueno raps about dictatorships, economic hardships, crime, and inequality across 14 songs, all while urging people to stand up and rise together. It’s a strikingly mature statement for an artist so young. —J.L.
Fransisca Valenzuela, ‘Vida Tan Bonita’
The Chilean American artist Francisca Valenzuela has always had a knack for making smart, razor-sharp pop music — and she’s found a way to level up on Vida Tan Bonita, an album that celebrates finding joy even in moments of difficulty. She honors some of the rock and alt-pop sounds she grew up on through fuzzed-out, guitar-driven tracks like “Se Va” and “Hola Impostora,” while also showing off lyricism that’s insightful and as confessional as ever. Sebastian Krys lends a hand on the production end, helping her achieve a tightknit project that’s radiant, refined, and super catchy. —J.L.
Sharon Van Etten, ‘We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong’
Sharon Van Etten has become a paragon for the type of stormy, sincere singer-songwriter rock she has perfected over her half-dozen albums. We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, her sterling sixth album, doesn’t reinvent or revolutionize that sterling reputation so much as it reaffirms it. That’s not to say the record is a simple retread or victory lap; producing alongside Daniel Knowles, Van Etten seems more committed than ever to gently tweaking and toying with her tried-and-true formula. “Mistakes” more fully explores the dance-music flourishes she began playing around with on 2019’s Remind Me Tomorrow. —J.B.
Eddie Vedder, ‘Earthling’
On his latest solo outing, Earthling, Vedder unapologetically backspaces onto Pearl Jam’s turf with 13 tracks that recall both the band’s punk energy and its mainstream-rock aspirations in a way that feels distinctively Vedderish. It’s his most revealing solo release, since, musically, it feels more like the Vedder we’ve known for 30 years and not a purposeful departure from Pearl Jam. Vedder’s hallmark has always been the way he could sound both confident and vulnerable at the same time, and the moments where he hits that balance on Earthling make for the best songs on the record. —K.G.
The Weeknd, ‘Dawn FM’
We love our artists fucked-up, frankly. There’s something in the deep recesses of self-induced suffering that seems to bring out the best in them. But it’s all fun and games until they wind up a walking self-help aisle. The 16 songs on Dawn FM don’t grapple with the idea of addiction in the way we’ve come to expect from him (none of the addled “glass-table girls” of last decade’s demon time), and infidelities amount to wistful moments of vulnerability as opposed to tortured diatribes. If there’s a self-help vibe here, it’s refreshingly light and accessible — self-help for the selfie set. —W.D.
Wet Leg, ‘Wet Leg’
Two women with guitars, coming on fierce, cool, arrogant, lusty, funny, not the least bit apologetic. Wet Leg might revel in Pavement-style guitar slack, but, again like Pavement, they turn it into deceptively crafty tension-and-release eruptions. It goes with the emotional roller coaster of the songs — for all the sardonic laughs, Wet Leg don’t play coy about sexual politics. “Piece of Shit” seems like a funny diss song, but it’s full of acerbic reflections on misogyny. Same with “Loving You” and “Ur Mum,” where Rhian Teasdale rips an ex to shreds: “When I think about what you’ve become/I feel sorry for your mum.” —R.S.
Wilco, ‘Cruel Country’
The fact that they’ve decided to detour back to the country roots they never wanted isn’t as big a deal as it might have been 10 or 15 years ago. But it’s not nothing, either, as their new record’s ironic title suggests. Mostly, they evoke Americana at its folkiest and most comforting, from the New Morning-era Dylanesque “I Am My Mother” to the cosmic pastoralism of the Dead-like reveries “Many Worlds” and “Bird Without a Tail/Base of My Skull.” These songs, all 21 of them, flow by at a languid pace, rolling into dark eddies of moody personal reflection, then opening out into warm vistas of guarded generosity. —J.D.