2022 has been a year for rebirth. Not just for us, but also for music.
As we relearn the simple pleasures of packed concert halls and achieving “Certified Fan” status, music, too, is becoming new again. This year, we have seen everything from The 1975’s revival of Tumblr alt–rock to Beyoncé’s tribute to Black dance music of the 1970s.
The list of new album releases this year seems never ending. Luckily, Street has you covered! We’ve collected our staff’s ten favorite albums of 2022, which run the gamut from K–Pop to indie folk. Sit back, hit play, and join us in reflecting on this year through song.
– Kate Ratner, Music editor
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, Big Thief
Top Tracks: “Spud Infinity,” “Little Things,” “The Only Place”
When I say all–timer, I don’t just mean exceptional; I mean these are songs that feel like they've been playing on repeat since the beginning of time. The tune of “Sparrow” is threaded across history all the way back to Genesis, and “The Only Place” plumbs even deeper—to the Big Bang and the formation of the first atoms in the universe. Its concerns—change and space, heartbreak and death—are writ large across the cosmos, but Dragon is also crammed full of mundane details. Adrianne Lenker understands that sometimes even eternity is quotidian.
Lenker is the greatest songwriter of our time, bar none. Her intricate poetry is diffuse, like wind blowing through the reeds, and also deeply human—a densely packed study of her own life. She’s not afraid to use humor as a stepping stone to transcendence, either; on “Spud Infinity,” it takes her two lines to wander from kissing our elbows to the “edges of experience.” At the end of album closer “Blue Lightning,” you can hear one of Lenker’s bandmates asking “What should we do now?” Dragon is a continuous journey, and with Lenker as our guide, Big Thief allows us to join them for a part of that voyage into the unknown.
–Walden Green, Print editor
Being Funny In A Foreign Language, The 1975
Top Tracks: “About You,” “When We Are Together,” “Part Of The Band”
I never thought I’d live through the iconic 2014 Tumblr girl fall again, yet here I am: Everyone’s breaking out the Dr. Martens, Alexa Chung is on TikTok, and the latest 1975 album is blowing up. Just as I can reminisce about middle school while lacing up my classic Docs, Being Funny in a Foreign Language calls back to the band’s original self–titled record. It carries the same danceable 80s–synth–meets–indie–rock sound, but trades teenage romantic angst for a cliche yet hopeful message about love. “About You,” featuring addictively dreamy vocals by Carly Holt—wife of lead guitarist Adam Hann—is apparently a musical continuation of “Robbers” from the band's debut album, but the lyrics are far more mature and reflective. In an era of dating apps and sliding into DMs, Being Funny In a Foreign Language encourages physicality and presentness: Look up from that screen and live in the moment.
–Arielle Stanger, Assignments editor
Top Tracks: “ALIEN SUPERSTAR,” “CUFF IT,” “MOVE (feat. Grace Jones & Tems),” “PURE/HONEY”
Beyoncé’s RENAISSANCE lives up to its title—a cultural and artistic rebirth. As extraordinary as the Queen Bey herself sitting atop a glass horse, clad in precious metals, this album is nothing like what we’ve seen from her so far. Paying homage to the pioneers of '70s Black dance music and ballroom culture, “ALIEN SUPERSTAR” calls us to the dancefloor to experience a moment of liberation and cosmic connection. This energy persists for the remainder of the album, which is nothing short of a celebration of joy and movement. On “CHURCH GIRL,” Beyonce reclaims her body, mind, and soul as her own. She has finally reached a point of solace, “swimmin’ through the oceans of tears we cried.” “MOVE” is self–explanatory and arrives without warning. When Beyonce realizes she's in full control, there's no force strong enough to stop her. “I’m with my girls and we all need space,” she demands. “PURE/HONEY” begins with a sample of Kevin Aviance’s “Cunty”—”cunt to the feminine, what?” This song brings the record to a close, inviting the audience back to the dance floor once again. Whether you’re a “bad bitch,” a “money bitch,” or both, this album is for everybody to experience.
–Kate Ratner, Music editor
Entergalactic, Kid Cudi
Top Tracks: “Somewhere To Fly (with Don Toliver),” “Livin' My Truth,” “Do What I Want”
A revolutionary artist who made it acceptable to talk about emotions in hip–hop, Kid Cudi offers his deep, psychological take on romance with Entergalactic. In contrast to a previous few albums that touched on poor mental health, depression, and addiction, Entergalactic portrays Cudi as a revitalized, healthy artist ready to live happily and lovingly. While Cudi is known for witty, innovative bars, most of the lyrics in Entergalactic are straightforward, joyously recounting the ups and downs of a relationship.
Though the common theme of the album is love, Cudi experiments with different music styles, ranging from mellow, dreamy ballads (“Angel”), to more upbeat R&B tracks like “Somewhere To Fly” with Don Toliver. Swerving from his progressive drill–style rap, a good portion of the album features Cudi's distinctive croon, singing about how he “Can’t Shake Her” and the experience of being “In Love.” Cudi uses the more classic hip–hop tracks to reflect the hardships that come with relationships; on “Livin' My Truth,” he passionately raps about how life goes on and all that’s important is staying true to yourself. Of course, Kid Cudi stays true to his own carefree, drug–friendly outlook with “Do What I Want,” reassuring longtime fans that the old Cudi is back—he never really left.
–Ryanne Mills, Staff writer
Hold The Girl, Rina Sawayama
Top Tracks: “This Hell,” “Minor Feelings,” “Send My Love To John”
Therapy and throwing it back are two–for–one with Rina Sawayama’s new album Hold the Girl. Sawayama envisioned her second studio album as a “reparenting” of herself—looking back to her childhood memories and holding the girl she once was. While the album is an ambitious endeavor, it doesn't disappoint. Speaking to her younger self, Rina also speaks directly to the unaddressed feelings and experiences of her listeners, writing hits that fans can dance their hearts away to while unpacking their childhood trauma. There’s a song for everyone in Hold the Girl; Sawayama experiments in storytelling through a variety of avenues, from dance–pop beats with “This Hell” to country ballads in “Send My Love To John.” The album's best moments come when she leans into these dichotomies—bridging the differences that exist within our relationships with others and with ourselves. Hold the Girl is the perfect Friday night album, whether you’re going out or crying your eyes out at home.
–Norah Rami, Ego beat
Once Twice Melody, Beach House
Top Tracks: “New Romance,” “Hurts to Love,” “Through Me,” “Many Nights”
Beach House delivers a dreamscape across 18 tracks in their double feature Once Twice Melody. The Baltimore duo continues to impress with this masterpiece of an eighth studio album, proving once more why they're the king and queen of dream pop. The album explores the romance of life in a place where time is sometimes suspended, sometimes circular. Once Twice Melody puts forth mantras of openness and resilience, imploring “If it hurts to love/You better do it anyway” on “Hurts to Love” and proclaiming “what cuts you makes you bolder” on “ESP.” Dreamy synths gauze over gloomy lyrics as Legrand sings “My little runaway/Your heart can't take the games you play/It cuts you like a razor blade” in “Runaway” and of how “blue skies turn black” in “Pink Funeral.” Luxuriating in lightness and darkness in equal measure, Once Twice Melody is the album you put on when you want to color everyday life with the sublime.
–Halla Elkhwad, Music beat
Ants from Up There, Black Country, New Road
Top Tracks: “Bread Song,” “Haldern,” “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade”
The departure of lead vocalist Isaac Wood shortly before the release of Ants from Up There might suggest a deficiency in writing or ideas, signaling that Black Country, New Road had nowhere left to go after their seminal 2021 debut For the first time. In spite of all that, Ants from Up There sounds like a band more ambitious and cohesive than any of its contemporaries. The British septet (now–sextet) brings their trademark ferocity and instrumental density, but the anxiety of their debut has transformed into a stirring catharsis. From the devastating tale of heartbreak in “Bread Song” to the album’s lengthy and explosive final songs, there's still plenty to be worried or upset about. However, a palette of warm strings, rich horns, and emotive vocals give the impression of a group finding comfort in itself—even if that comfort comes through making thrilling and colossal music that often transcends the boundaries of genre entirely.
–Grayson Catlett, Music beat
I NEVER DIE, (G)I–DLE
Top tracks: “TOMBOY,” “MY BAG,” “Never Stop Me”
(G)I–DLE had a tumultuous 2021 after one of their former members, Soojin, left the group due to an alleged bullying scandal. Yet, on their 2022 comeback and first album, I NEVER DIE, not once do the remaining members falter in confidence. For a girl group that defies expectations—they're one of the few that both writes and produces their own music—I NEVER DIE showcases the self–assurance and independence that shattered the K–Pop industrial complex. Lest we forget, the group trailblazed the pop–punk sound in K–Pop this year, as groups like Billlie and Kep1er emulated what (G)I–DLE effortlessly started.
Lead single “TOMBOY” is the mission statement for the project, where members proudly declare “I’m a fucking tomboy” in the explicit version of the track while defying gender norms in their bombastic music video. “Never Stop Me” balances “TOMBOY”’s brashness with sincerity in rebellion: “Mama, don’t ever, ever stop me / Regardless of what I’ve done” go the translated lyrics, a mix of English and Korean. Personally, the highlight of the project is the boastful “MY BAG,” where the group’s leader Soyeon commands everyone who wants to see the “Red five diamonds in [her] bag” to “dance to [the] beat like that.” For an industry where this kind of bold expression is limited to boy groups, these girls give a middle finger to those expectations. All that’s to say, (G)I–DLE is here to stay.
–Derek Wong, Music beat
Big Time, Angel Olsen
Top Tracks: “All The Good Times,” “This Is How It Works,” “Big Time”
Angel Olsen’s Big Time delves into grief, new love, and self–actualization in the most pivotal and vulnerable moments of her life. Olsen sings of both longing and existential dread in a more stripped down version of her music than we’ve seen from her on this Americana–inspired, country–rooted album, written after she publicly came out as queer in 2021. Three days after she came out to her family, her adoptive father passed away; a few months after, her adoptive mother passed as well. Olsen does not refrain from being vulnerable about her loss. On “This Is How It Works,” Olsen sings “I’m barely hanging on,” and pleads someone to “Pull me out from what I’m in.”
As much as the album deals with grief, it's about falling in love as well, as heard in the title track, which she co–wrote with new partner Beau Thibodeaux. Olsen sings “I’m loving you big time, I’m loving you more,” with the triumphant bliss of freeing herself from heteronormativity. Olsen not only creates a devastatingly beautiful album about her own deeply personal experiences, but she also peers deep into the human psyche to produce songs invoking introspection of the listener.
Listening to this album is like dissociating for the entirety of the 47 minutes, staring back at your life, and feeling the dread of time. It is melancholic, it is bittersweet, it is human. Big Time perfectly encapsulates the anxieties characteristic of 2022, while also being truly timeless.
–Hannah Sung, Music beat
Natural Brown Prom Queen, Sudan Archives
Top Tracks: "Home Maker," "OMG BRITT," "Homesick (Gorgeous & Arrogant)"
Written and produced in the depths of lockdown, Natural Brown Prom Queen unsurprisingly coalesces around a loose sense of home and homesickness. From the opening track "Home Maker" to the closing "#513" (the area code for Brittney Parks' hometown of Cincinnati), the album's journey begins and ends at Parks’ doorstep—twisting and winding its way through all the loneliness, exuberance, self–loathing, and clarity that brings. Each song is deeply visceral, from the punchy percussion of "NBPQ (Topless)" to the contemplative fiddle of "TLDY (Homegrown Land)." Somehow, Sudan Archives manages to puzzle together a series of spontaneous moments that, when placed in sequence, feel like a surprisingly purposeful expression. "Homesick (Gorgeous & Arrogant)" freezes you in the specificity of longing while "OMG BRITT" jars you back into indiscriminate motion. And just when you think you've gotten to a place where you know what to expect—Parks takes another detour on her journey back home.
–Emily White, Editor–in–chief