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Best albums of 2022
Image: Steve Beech / Time Out

The 20 best albums of 2022

Our writers and editors raided their music libraries to choose their favourite records of the year

Edited by
Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Time Out editors
&
Time Out contributors
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2022 was a good year for music. We found a whole team of exciting new artists, we were slapped in the face with comeback after comeback (and they weren’t disappointing) and we actually got to hear music live (IRL!) once again. 

One of the main takeaways of the past 12 months has to be that the album is still alive and well as an art form, despite the continuing rise of streaming services and TikTok audios. It’s hard to argue with the skill involved in sculpting a proper piece of musical storytelling. In 2022, boundaries were pushed, records were set and legends came back to remind us who’s boss. That’s not to mention some genuinely innovative debuts from breakthrough stars like Sudan Archives and Kojey Radical, as well as producers who stepped into the spotlight after spending many years in the shadows (Lil Silva and Fred Again, we’re looking at you guys). 

From dancefloor-ready mixtapes and comebacks from our favourite Sheffield rock stars to killer film soundtracks and blockbuster rap LPs, we asked Time Out writers and editors to choose the one record they had on repeat all year. As it turns out, it wasn’t an easy choice. In no particular order, here are 22 of our favourite albums of 2022.

RECOMMENDED: 
🎥 The best films of 2022 (so far)
🎵 The 22 best songs of 2022
📚 The best books we read in 2022

Best albums of 2022

‘The Car’ – Arctic Monkeys
Image: Courtesy of the artist

1. ‘The Car’ – Arctic Monkeys

It’s a bold claim to make given it was only released a month ago, but I genuinely think that the Arctic Monkeys’ seventh LP might be their best one yet. Alex Turner’s masterful lyrics have once again taken a turn for the surreal, but the whole thing is just a touch more coherent than the last album’s space-hotel-lounge-singer vibe. With its sweeping strings and expansive guitar riffs, it’s basically what I’d imagine James Bond would listen to on a driving holiday along the French Riviera. If we’re staying on the topic of motoring, I’d say the Arctic Monkeys are very much in cruise control with this one. Rosie Hewitson, Events and Newsletter Editor, London

‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’ – Sudan Archives
Image: Courtesy of the artist

2. ‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’ – Sudan Archives

With daring lyricism and classical influences, singer and multi-instrumentalist Sudan Archives’ second album ‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’ is a psychedelic road trip through electronic beats, sparse violin notes and trappy influences. Standout tracks ‘OMG BRITT’, ‘Ciara’ and ‘Freakalizer’ are melodic and punchy, with lyrics delivered as rap that morphs into emotionally soothing storytelling about identity, femininity and power. There’s no individual genre that can define this 18-track masterpiece – Sudan Archives is a one-woman band, in complete command of your listening. Ellie Muir, contributing writer

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‘Renaissance’ – Beyoncé
Image: Courtesy of the artist

3. ‘Renaissance’ – Beyoncé

I can only apologise to my neighbours for playing Beyoncé’s seventh studio album on repeat for three months straight after it was released at the end of July. But it deserves to be listened to again and again – and not just to work out who is being sampled from the huge list of influences and collaborators. Like a gorgeous view that’s the same but different every time you look at it, there are new things to be unearthed on each listen: nuggets of melody you didn’t notice the first time around, lyrics that speak differently the 20-millionth time you hear them or a sample that suddenly pops out. It’s also a masterclass in Black music history. From the thudding deep house of ‘Cozy’ to the shimmering disco-infused brilliance of ‘Summer Renaissaince’, ‘Renaissance’ is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Alex Sims, contributing writer

‘Autobahn’ – SCH
Image: Courtesy of the artist

4. ‘Autobahn’ – SCH

This is the quintessential ‘French rap look’ of 2022: shiny, opaque sunglasses, a hoodie or jacket zipped up as high as feasible and glossy, slicked-back hair (if not bald). SCH is a cliché in that sense. But his latest album – his sixth and best – is truly original. Combining autotuned bits that recall PNL with gruff, macho verses that betray Booba’s influence, ‘Autobahn’ is immaculately produced and filled with absolute bangers (I challenge you not to jiggle your limbs when ‘Marginaux’ comes on). It’s so good and cohesive and listenable that when the hackneyed car vrrrms and Mafia nods slip in, you barely even notice. Huw Oliver, UK Editor

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‘Blonde (Soundtrack)’ – Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
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5. ‘Blonde (Soundtrack)’ – Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Unlike everyone – yourself included, probably – I actually liked that Netflix Marilyn Monroe biopic. I didn’t like it as much as Nick Cave who described it as his ‘favourite film ever’. But then again, unlike Nick Cave, I didn’t write the film’s extremely effective soundtrack. ‘Blonde’ was directed by Andrew Dominik and got widely panned for being prurient and exploitative, despite it being a psychological-horror flick that used Monroe’s life as a convenient vehicle. The film’s paranoid, hysterical ambience was due in part to its fantastically doom-laden synth score, supplied by Cave and his old chum Warren Ellis. It’s a frightening listen, drifting from dissonant melancholy to warm, yearning Eno-worship. To me, nothing released this year matches its emotion and intelligence. Ignore the film if you like, but don’t sleep on this. Joe Mackertich, Editor, London

‘Cry Sugar’ – Hudson Mohawke
Image: Courtesy of the artist

6. ‘Cry Sugar’ – Hudson Mohawke

Hudson Mohawke’s third album treds a fine line between total chaos and hardcore bliss, but that’s why it’s so enjoyable. A proper workout for your auditory canals, it’s textural, trashy, wonky, weird – and at times, just ridiculous. Helium-skewed vocals overlap with feverish percussion and rising, ethereal strings; reverberating bass battles it out with panicked, jabby synths. The result is a truly distinctive record that sounds at once like an old-school rave tape and a glimpse into an alien future. There’s a carefully calculated build-and-release that holds the whole thing together – as though he’s pushing you to your limits, giving you a glimpse of dystopia, then covering your eyes at the last minute. Chiara Wilkinson, Chief Features Writer, UK

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‘Yesterday is Heavy’ – Lil Silva
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7. ‘Yesterday is Heavy’ – Lil Silva

Lil Silva takes you on a voyage with this album. Best listened to from start to finish, the melancholic opening track instantly pulls you in. What follows is an oscillation between uplifting soul, wiggy electronic hooks spliced with swelling orchestral moments, darker anxiety-inducing rave tracks and basslines that make you want to get up and dance – all alongside stellar collaborations from Ghetts, Sampha, serpentwithfeet and BadBadNotGood. It was certainly worth the ten-year wait. India Lawrence, contributing writer

‘I Love You Jennifer B’ – Jockstrap
Image: Courtesy of the artist

8. ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ – Jockstrap

Jockstrap’s ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ has to be one of the most joyously strange releases of 2022 – and it’s a personal favourite. Teaser tracks like ‘Glasgow’ gave a hint of what was to come: bizarre string arrangements, acoustic thrums and random vocalisations all collide to create something poignant, if a little chaotic. It’s a brilliant entryway to Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye’s unique chemistry. Strap in for a dramatic, emotional ride from a band that’s genuinely unlike anything else you’ll hear this year. Georgia Evans, Deputy Commercial Editor

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‘The Runner (Soundtrack)’ – Boy Harsher
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9. ‘The Runner (Soundtrack)’ – Boy Harsher

I’ve spent a good chunk of this year listening to spooky ’80s movie soundtracks, so it’s pretty sweet that one of my favourite contemporary bands dropped a whole mini-album (and accompanying experimental horror short) inspired by… spooky ’80s movie soundtracks. I haven’t actually watched the movie – total wuss here – but the music is fantastic: dark, majestically atmospheric, heavily inspired by OST overlords John Carpenter and Vangelis, but also packing some legit electropop bangers in the vein of Depeche Mode and New Order. All hail! James Manning, Travel Editor

‘Cheat Codes’ – Danger Mouse & Black Thought
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10. ‘Cheat Codes’ – Danger Mouse & Black Thought

There’s a lot to be said about not being wildly leftfield or experimental, but instead simply doing something familiar and doing it really, really well. That, for me, is the appeal of Cheat Codes, which saw two legends – rapper Black Thought (of Roots fame) and beatmaker Danger Mouse – simply do their thing. Every verse, beat and guest is delivered with such swaggering panache: no track breaks pace or isn’t watertight. Everything is designed to play to the duo’s strengths. It’s all such satisfyingly expert stuff. Ed Cunningham, contributing writer

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‘Peculiar, Missouri’ – Willi Carlisle
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11. ‘Peculiar, Missouri’ – Willi Carlisle

Who knew one man with a banjo could bring so much joy? Arkansas folk singer Willi Carlisle’s storytelling sound is pitched somewhere between punk and poetry, bringing traditional American music bang up to date with songs about living out of a van, the fate of the modern magician and a tender cover of anarchist songwriter Utah Phillips’s ‘Goodnight Loving Trail’. Magical. Leonie Cooper, Food & Drink Editor, London

‘The Ruby Cord’ – Richard Dawson
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12. ‘The Ruby Cord’ – Richard Dawson

Dawson’s double album is the third part of a trilogy following ‘Peasant’ and ‘2020’, and while it’s a lot less sharply focused than those (the opening track ‘Hermit’ is 42 minutes long), it’s still a cosmic headfuck that makes most modern ‘folk’ music look like some sort of VisitSomerset.co.uk corporate presentation deck. It’s a difficult listen, but so are the things that Dawson writes about. Is it set in the future, is it set in the past? One thing’s for sure: life is clearly shit, so it’s definitely set in the UK. Chris Waywell, Deputy Editor, London

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‘Motomami’ – Rosalía
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13. ‘Motomami’ – Rosalía

Rosalía’s third album is a hammer blow to conformity. The Catalan singer enjoys leaping into the dark with each song, playing fast and loose with the various genres of Latin music: bachata, bolero, reggaeton, cante jondo... the list goes on. Essentially a supremely well-executed catalogue of her influences, ‘Motomami’ is fun, outlandish – and betrays a star at the height of her creative powers. María José Gómez, Editor-in-Chief, Time Out Barcelona

‘emails i can’t send’ – Sabrina Carpenter
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14. ‘emails i can’t send’ – Sabrina Carpenter

After a very public breakup, singer-songwriter Sabrina Carpenter’s new album is probably one of the most talked-about on social media. It’s witty, laughing at classic lines from F-boys in ‘Read your Mind’, as well as silly, as she plays with various fun rhyme schemes in ‘Nonsense’. The wide range of this album means it could soundtrack just about any scenario – which is perfect as we head into the emotional rollercoaster that is holiday season. Glendalys Medina, contributing writer

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‘Special’ – Lizzo
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15. ‘Special’ – Lizzo

‘In case nobody told you today, you’re special,’ Lizzo serenades on her aptly titled album, ‘Special’. They’re words we could all hear more often, and Lizzo delivers. This empowering self-love-fest of a record continues with sexy ballads like ‘Naked’, witty one-liners like ‘It’s bad bitch o’clock’ and the birthday song that’ll dominate Instagram stories for years (‘Is it your birthday, girl, ‘cause you looking like a present’). She wraps the album up with a message about her process, noting that she believes the world needs to hear these songs. We couldn’t agree more. Rossilynne Skena Culgan, Things to Do Editor, New York

‘Mr Morale & the Big Steppers’ – Kendrick Lamar
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16. ‘Mr Morale & the Big Steppers’ – Kendrick Lamar

Thanks to the pesky pandemic, I haven’t been back to my hometown in California since 2019. I often chuck on some Kendrick Lamar when the homesickness creeps in and I’m craving a reminder of where I grew up – so when the Compton rapper released his fifth studio album this year, I was stoked. It’s everything I hoped it to be, seamlessly blending funk, soul and disco motifs with Lamar’s signature poetic flow. Pure bliss. Adena Maier, Lifestyle Editor, Melbourne

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‘It’s Almost Dry’ – Pusha T
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17. ‘It’s Almost Dry’ – Pusha T

In ‘It’s Almost Dry’, Pusha T’s fourth studio album, everyone’s favorite ‘coke rapper’ remains as compelling as ever. Though the subject matter driving the bars – drug dealing – is still the same, the tracks are musically expansive and dripping with brash arrogance, in the best way. And clocking in at just 36 minutes, the LP is a concise effort that leaves you wanting more. Jeffy Mai, Assistant Editor, Chicago

‘Blue Rev’ – Alvvays
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18. ‘Blue Rev’ – Alvvays

Find the repeat button now, because ‘Blue Rev’ is nostalgically hummable on the first listen and just as jangly-fresh a dozen plays later. In the mould of Teenage Fanclub and Yo La Tengo, Molly Rankin’s vocals bring a tenderness to the fuzzy melancholy of the Canadian indie-pop group’s most shoegaze-leaning record to date. But this is also an album filled with moments of powerful pop perfection: ripping guitar solos, vocals-to-the-fore bridges and sudden dynamic shifts (the soaring key change in the lyrically heart-wrenching ‘Belinda Says’ is a late-album revelation). Michael Juliano, Editor, Los Angeles

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‘Dawn FM’ – The Weeknd
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19. ‘Dawn FM’ – The Weeknd

I’m a sucker for funky dance tracks and ‘Dawn FM’ by The Weeknd is filled with them. The ’80s synth-pop sound that carries most of the songs is enough to whisk you into a trance-like state, while the many disco-tinged melodies are guaranteed to get you up on your feet. The tracks effortlessly blend into each other when you listen to the album all the way through – making the whole thing an irresistably trusty soundtrack for any situation. Cherry Chan, Staff Writer, Hong Kong

‘Dreams of Dysphoria’ – Vacuous
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20. ‘Dreams of Dysphoria’ – Vacuous

The UK has become a hotbed of exciting, new, underground death metal in recent years, and Vacuous are some of its leading exponents. With ‘Dreams of Dysphoria’, they stated their claim to the crown as kings of UK death metal. A maelstrom of brutal riffs, vile guttural vocals, creeping atmosphere and crushing production, it’s everything good modern underground death metal should be: totally disgusting. Eddy Frankel, Art & Culture Editor, London

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