2022 was an unbelievable year for music, releasing some of the most adventurous and boundary-pushing albums in recent memory. So many great albums came out in 2022 it was nearly impossible to keep track of them all. It seemed like once a week a new album would come out and instantly be considered one of the greatest releases of the year.
With that in mind, and to make sure you don’t miss any of the best records released over the last year, EC has put together a list of favorites from 2022. This was an incredibly difficult list to put together, and there are so many deserving albums that didn’t make the cut. It was quite the process, but after much debate, here are 21 of the best albums of 2022, in alphabetical order.
AJ Suede & Small Professor – Hundred Year Darkness
Filled with vivid imagery, commanding storytelling and sparse and sonically rich beats, Seattle rapper AJ Suede and Philadelphia producer Small Professor join forces on this unique collaborative project full of sparse, experimental boom bap beats and commanding lyricism.
Automatic – Excess
Combining a wide range of styles, Excess takes you on a journey down memory lane that sees all-female post-punk trio Automatic shifting into high gear to explore the outer reaches of genre boundaries.
Related Reads: Automatic – Excess Album Review
Billy Woods – Aethiopes
Billy Woods delivered the best rap album of 2022, hands down, and one of the best albums of 2022, period. Bolstered by production from Preservation, Aethiopes is an intricately layered masterpiece that rewards multiple listens to uncover all of its clever quirks and high-concept moments.
Related Reads: Billy Woods – Aethiopes Album Review
Boldy James & Futurewave – Mr. Ten08
With Mr. Ten08, Boldy James and Futurewave came together for a project that shows the two might have some of the best chemistry in the rap industry. By dynamically stretching the possibilities of rap while maintaining a classic sound, the duo crafted a timeless hip-hop record where Boldy’s captivating wordplay is backed by a lush fusion of beats from Futurewave rooted in the dulcet tones of soul-jazz.
Related Reads: Boldy James & Futurewave – Mr. Ten08 Album Review
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul – Topical Dancer
On their debut album, Belgian avant-pop duo Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul draw on the sweaty mid-2000s-flavored blend of pop and electronic music while channeling a cool, detached sensibility to craft an activist album that’s so catchy you don’t even realize at first that it is one. One of the most provocative and best albums of 2022.
Chip Wickham – Cloud 10
With Cloud 10, Chip Wickham delivered one of the best jazz albums of 2022, weaving his own path through the colorful and multicultural tapestry of modern jazz with hints of the work of spiritual jazz masters, exploring connections between sounds of the past and present to create an album that is timelessly beautiful and a truly original listening experience.
Related Reads: Chip Wickham – Cloud 10 Album Review
Danger Mouse & Black Thought – Cheat Codes
With Cheat Codes, Danger Mouse and Black Thought have joined forces with one goal in mind: to create a red-hot hip-hop album full of lush instrumentals and incredible bars from one of the greatest rappers to ever pick up a microphone.
Related Reads: Danger Mouse & Black Thought: Cheat Codes Album Review
Earl Sweatshirt – Sick!
As his formative years as Odd Future’s nucleus continue to fade into adulthood, Earl Sweatshirt comes off less like an outsider than ever before on Sick! while producing his best album to date—and one of the best albums of 2022—in the process.
Related Reads: Earl Sweatshirt – Sick! Album Review
Ghost Woman – Ghost Woman
The debut album from psych rock band Ghost Woman is raw in all the best ways— a swirling vortex of jangly guitars, ripping percussion, and melancholy lyrics that make you may feel like you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and into some lost piece of 1960s psychedelia.
Kahil El’Zabar Quartet – A Time For Healing
With A Time For Healing, avant-garde composer/percussionist/bandleader Kahil El’Zabar and his quartet construct a deep tapestry which seamlessly explores musical movements that have flourished in Chicago over the last century—from blues and R&B to house music, spiritual jazz and back to all of its common African roots.
Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
By touching on themes that are normally taboo in the rap world, Kendrick Lamar’s latest work pushes the boundaries of hip-hop and gives us one of the most honest, soul-baring albums of this generation.
Related Reads: Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers Album Review
Kevin Morby – This Is A Photograph
This Is A Photograph is Kevin Morby’s seventh record and feels more expansive than anything he’s made before—an ambitious collection of earnest folk explorations focused on heartache and redemption that occasionally swell into huge pop songs, all created with a grand sense of purpose.
Lady Wray – A Piece Of Me
Lady Wray’s sophomore album finds the New York songstress emerging with a sound that digs deep into the textures of analog soul while injecting a heavy dose of hip-hop courtesy of production by Leon Michels of El Michels Affair.
Related Reads: Lady Wray – A Piece Of Me
Loyle Carner – Hugo
Hugocements Loyle Carner’s place as one of the UK’s most exciting rappers, presenting an artist who’s completely unique in his sound, his perspective, and his ability to slice through the noise of today’s music with pinnacles of poetic genius. It feels like his previous work was all leading here, to this point of near-perfection and fearless exploration. Surely one of the best albums of 2022.
Related Reads: Loyle Carner – Hugo Album Review
Makaya McCraven – In These Times
Featuring 11 tracks with varied tempos and grooves that are also adventurous in approach to melody, harmony, and rhythm, In These Times is a masterclass in jazz fusion, a fever dream of live instrumentation, electronic manipulation and avant-garde groove construction – fitting for Makaya McCraven’s undeniable prowess as a modern jazz composer and performer.
Milc & Televangel – Neutral Milc Motel
With their first collaborative album, Neutral Milc Motel, Milc’s charismatic flow matches Televangel’s atmospheric beats to create what might be the best album out of Portland, and one of the best albums of 2022, period.
- Milc & Televangel – Neutral Milc Motel Album Review
- EC Interview: Televangel
- These 10 Producers Are Pushing Rap Forward
Misha Panfilov – The Sea Will Outlive Us All / Momentum
While any of the albums released in 2022 by the ever-prolific Estonian musician and composer Misha Panfilov could have easily made this list, two albums – The Sea Will Outlive Us All and Momentum – stood out as gorgeous and breathtaking journeys into the mind of one of today’s most interesting musicians. Both are mind-bending acid trips through the heart of the cosmos, blending ruminative jazz, dreamy ambient and cosmic grooves imbued with Panfilov’s signature notes of hazy bliss.
Surprise Chef – Education & Recreation
The Australian quintet’s latest album builds upon Surprise Chef’s singular sound, delivering a heavy batch of funk instrumentals that mix the mood of 70s film scores and soulful jazz with psych-laden hip-hop grooves.
Wu-Lu – LOGGERHEAD
Wu-Lu’s sonically-wired pop project is a fitting introduction to his unusual approach: a delirious mix of drum’n’bass breaks, grunge guitars and thoughtful lyrics patched together in sound collages that cover a breathtakingly wide range of genres and styles.
Related Reads: Wu-Lu – LOGGERHEAD Album Review
Yungmorpheus & Thereveda – Up Against The Wall; A Degree Of Lunacy
L.A. rapper Yungmorpheus had a prolific year. All of his 2022 projects were among the best rap released all year, but this collaborative project with New York producer Thereveda was the best of the bunch—ten tracks of Yungmorpheus’s smooth flow over some of the most soulful, laid back production around.