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The Best Albums of 2022 (So Far)

2022 has been both an exciting and challenging year for music. Touring is very firmly back, but for many artists it’s come with a whole raft of financial and COVID-related frustrations. With a glut of major post-pandemic releases, the competition for those top chart spots (and vinyl pressing slots) is fiercer than ever. And as the unstoppable rise of TikTok has continued, the nature of pop songwriting has only further bent to its will.

But through it all, the year’s best albums have served as both an escape and a balm. From the return of pop mavericks like Beyoncé and Charli XCX to genre-bending releases from Rosalía and Sudan Archives to alt-rock revivalists from Drug Church to Wet Leg, it’s been a bumper year for music—and there are still another two months to go.

Here, Vogue editors make the case for their favorite albums of the year so far.

Arctic Monkeys, The Car

As a millennial Brit, I don’t really have any choice but to love the Arctic Monkeys, but something about their sixth album, 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, with its jazzy, lounge lizard, Serge Gainsbourg–derived pop didn’t quite land for me. Still, I’ll always have time for the Monkeys, so I gave their new record, The Car, a spin—and it feels like everything Tranquility Base should have been but didn’t quite achieve. The deliciously sinister “Sculptures of Anything Goes” is unlike any song they’ve ever written and would make the perfect soundtrack to a spy thriller, while the swaggering, Bowie-esque “Body Paint,” with its lush strings and retro keyboard riff, could have been plucked straight out of the soundtrack of a 1970s French new wave classic. The Monkeys are back on form—and offering a keen reminder, if you needed it, that their Bond theme song is long overdue. —Liam Hess, contributing editor

Beach House, Once Twice Melody

Beach House’s trajectory feels radical mostly because they’ve never tried to be radical. Over eight albums, the band has released, like clockwork, a new record every two or three years, gently evolving their Cocteau Twins–meets–Mazzy Star brand of shoegaze-y dream pop in subtle, sophisticated increments along the way—never reinventing the wheel, but always spinning it in a new direction. And with Once Twice Melody, released in four “chapters” throughout the winter of 2021 and 2022, the Baltimore-based duo presented their most sweeping, widescreen vision yet. A Beach House album feels less like something you actively listen to and more something to give yourself over to—and getting swept along the current of Once Twice Melody as each chapter unfolded was one of this year’s greatest sonic pleasures, its reverb-drenched beauty feeling like a summation of everything that makes them so brilliant. —L. H.

Beyoncé, Renaissance

Renaissance was more than a great Beyoncé album. It was also a cultural bellwether that signaled it was time for all of us to dance together again…for real this time. There is a strong through line of jubilation and rejoicing across the album—perfect for our post-Trump, post-COVID, post-everything landscape—with lyrics such as “I feel like falling in love” and “Just vibe / Voting out 45, don’t get out of line” being sung over groovy ballroom party-ready beats. What makes Renaissance the album of the year for me is not how much I have enjoyed it, but how much others have too. TikTok is littered with creative and astonishingly high-concept, high-production dances to songs from the album. (There’s also this very hilarious edit.) Since its release in July, I’ve heard the album pop up everywhere in day-to-day life. It was a mainstay during NYFW affairs. Cars in Brooklyn blast “Break My Soul” out of their open windows. A friend spent a whole conversation shouting the memorable “Alien Superstar” refrain, “Unique!,” at me. And at a recent Quentin Tarantino–themed apartment party, a group of girls propped a phone against a wall and recorded a dance to “Cuff It” for TikTok, full of joy. The album is not only a masterpiece of creativity but also a sparker of it. Renaissance certainly lives up to its name. —André-Naquian Wheeler, fashion news writer

Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

If Big Thief’s more recent albums have been self-contained mini-masterpieces, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is exactly the sort of sprawling (20 songs!), no-boundaries pastiche of experimentalism that pushes the band farther in every direction than it’s been before. (With a title like that, could it be anything else?) For best effect: Repeat often. —Corey Seymour, senior editor

Carly Rae Jepsen, The Loneliest Time

Few songwriters better capture the head-rush of falling in love better than Carly Rae Jepsen—I dare you to find a more emotionally succinct lyric than “Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad.” Proving that “Call Me Maybe” was no viral fluke, Jepsen has continued to make some of the hookiest pop records of the past decade. Her sixth studio album, The Loneliest Time, doubles down on the bubblegum pleasures of Jepsen’s best-known hits while diving headfirst into the more melancholic shades of love and lust. “Surrender My Heart” is an ascendant pop record about Jepsen’s desire to let her guard down (“I paid to toughen up in therapy / She said to me, ‘Soften up’”), while the title track is a disco ballad dedicated to a lover that she knows isn’t good for her. Like all of the best dance music, there’s an undercurrent of sadness laced throughout The Loneliest Time that makes it linger. —Keaton Bell

Charli XCX, Crash

With Crash, the final album in Charli XCX’s deal with Atlantic Records, the pop artist said she wanted to embrace “everything that the life of a pop figurehead has to offer in today’s world—celebrity, obsession, and global hits.” Less a contractual obligation than an all-out rager capping off her major label era, Crash effortlessly synthesizes Charli’s commercial instincts with her more experimental impulses. It plays like a mixtape of lost ’80s and ’90s dance-pop, with nods to everyone from Janet Jackson (in the title track) to New Order to Prince. If Crash is Charli’s so-called “major label sell-out” record, it’s a helluva way to go out. —K.B. 

Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul, Topical Dancer

I first discovered Charlotte Adigéry in 2019 via “High Lights,” a smart, sexy, deliberately tongue-in-cheek lament for her obsession with switching up her wigs over a finger-snapping electro-pop beat, before she fell off the radar for a couple of years. So it was a pleasure to see her return earlier this year with her debut album, made in collaboration with Bolis Pupul, as well as Adigéry’s long-time coproducers Soulwax, the pioneering electroclash Belgian DJ duo. Titled Topical Dancer, it’s a subversive skewering of both racism and the self-righteousness of identity politics, all laid over beats so infectious they could be added to a CDC list. On “Blenda,” Adigéry sings “Go back to your country where you belong / Siri, can you tell me where I belong?”—but with its funky, squelchy bassline, you only want to dance. Where other pop artists attempting to fold politics into their music feels desperately clunky, Adigéry and Pupul’s absurdist vision slips down like an ice-cool cocktail. —L.H.

Drug Church, Hygiene

Have you heard? Hardcore is having a moment—or what’s sometimes called post-hardcore is: meaning big emotionally piquant punk music that balances pummeling assaults with hooky liftoffs. Turnstile are the heroes of this scene, but I prefer Drug Church, a five-piece from Albany, New York, whose fourth album, Hygiene, is the perfect on-ramp to the genre (as is their 2018 album Cheer). Listen to “Million Miles of Fun” or “Super Saturated”—tracks on Hygiene in which crystalline melodies are somehow carried by squalling crunchy guitars, songs that give you a rush even as the lyrics conjure workaday malaise. If you have a tolerance for noise, Drug Church is the angry, exhilarating sound of right now. —Taylor Antrim, deputy editor

Florence + the Machine, Dance Fever

I come to every new Florence + the Machine record anticipating bombast. I wanna hear tambourines flailing and harps plucking while Florence Welch elegantly wails about sex, love, violence, and death. And Dance Fever, the baroque pop outfit’s fifth studio album, is both sonically and emotionally grand. Welch was primarily inspired by the medieval phenomenon of choreomania, wherein crowds of hundreds in 16th-century Europe would dance and flail to the point of exhaustion (and, depending on some reports, death). Plenty of songs on this album sound like they could soundtrack a medieval dancing plague while simultaneously containing some of Welch’s most personal songwriting efforts to date. Before the stunning  “Choreomania” erupts into a frenzy of claps and stomps, she opens it with a spoken-word monologue: “I am freaking out in the middle of the street with the complete conviction of someone who has never had anything actually really bad happen to them.” Dance Fever is an album to lose yourself in that also interrogates the reasons we feel the need to escape in the first place. —K.B.

Harry Styles, Harry’s House

Harry Styles’s third solo album, Harry’s House, is a sonic trip through the showman’s psyche. It starts with an infectiously funky dance party on “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” (a song with horns that served hints of Huey Lewis), progresses to the synth and sadness of the massive hit “As It Was,” meanders to the melancholy and moody (“Little Freak,” “Matilda”), before looping back to the groovily hopeful (“Keep Driving”). Mr. Styles’s album releases are full-scale pop cultural events, but HS3, like Fine Line before it, prove the hype is well-earned. Whether it’s bops to blast or songs to cry to, Styles once again gave us “something to dream about.” —Michelle Ruiz, contributing editor

Khruangbin & Vieux Farka Toure, Ali

Whether or not you’ve heard of Ali Farka Touré, his son Vieux, and/or the Houston-based pan-world band Khruangbin, this album is a treasure: Vieux and Khruangbin pay tribute to the late Mali desert blues guitar legend by covering eight of his songs, imparting their own distinctive ease to songs that helped define a genre, a region, and a generation. —Corey Seymour


Leave aside, if you can, the absolutely unhinged provocations M.I.A. has tossed into the world recently, and you might just be able to appreciate the tantalizing sonic productions she has put together on MATA—layered with Tamil choir singers, a kind of spoken word poetry, woodwinds, sharp percussive beats, and the voices of children. There is some of the “Paper Planes” magic in MATA with its wild and uncontained pastiche, and it feels like a welcome return. —Chloe Schama, senior editor

Nilüfer Yanya, Painless

The world of indie female singer-songwriters is vast and varied at the moment, but Painless, the excellent second album by Londoner Nilüfer Yanya stands out. Yanya writes songs like someone who grew up listening to equal parts Rihanna and Radiohead, Prince and PJ Harvey, and the 12 songs on Painless have soul and mood as well as a crisp indie rock tension. The standouts might be “stabilise,” “midnight sun,” and the joyful closer “anotherlife”—all show Yanya at her intimate best, her smoky voice carrying guitar-driven melodies that simmer and combust. —T. A.

Panda Bear & Sonic Boom, Reset

Noah Lennox—a.k.a. Panda Bear, cofounder of Animal Collective—and Pete Kember—a.k.a Sonic Boom, the pioneering electronic musician who, most famously, cofounded Spacemen 3—have known each other and worked together (mainly with Sonic Boom producing Panda Bear) for more than a decade, but Reset is the first thing they’ve put on that’s essentially on equal footing from both of the artists. Even if you know the work of either (or both), you might be joyfully surprised by this odd and expansive concept: They’ve essentially sampled and splintered a handful of minor pop masterpieces from the 1960s and then added their own singular harmonies, drones, echoes, reverberations, and electronics, with the result being a joyous and revelatory reinvention. —Corey Seymour

Rosalía, Motomami

Even as a fully paid-up Rosalía fan, I had my moments of concern during the chaotic lead-up to Motomami, with the singles feeling a little all over the place. But turns out that chopped-and-screwed spirit was exactly what would make Motomami so thrilling when it dropped in full. Reviewers compared it, accurately, to the deliberately abrasive, stop-start energy of Kanye’s Yeezus and Frank Ocean’s Blonde—an experimental rollercoaster ride through Rosalía’s uniquely eclectic vision for the future of Latin pop. The debate over whether her prominence in the Latin music charts as a European artist is problematic is something I will leave for others—but there’s no doubt that the wild, wonky, genre-carnivorous spirit of Motomami is a sonic thrill ride that deserves every accolade it has received. —L.H.

Shygirl, Nymph

Shygirl’s previous releases have cycled through the various alter egos the London-based musician has adopted over the years, but with Nypmh—her debut album—she promised to tell a more personal story, discarding the smoke screens she’d previously used as part of her image. You might think this would involve Shygirl dialing back her signature lyrical filth (previous songs titled “Freak,” “Gush,” and “Nasty” do exactly what they say on the tin), but instead it sees her retain the explicitness while transforming it into something strangely sentimental. “Coochie,” a song about performing oral sex—“spread that little coochie for me, show me how you do”—is subtitled “a bedtime story” and features a saccharine, lullaby-like melody; the gorgeous, hymnal “Honey” sees her yearn for “kisses written on me, slick like honey” over sensuous, pulsing synths. It’s an illicit, irresistible treat. —L.H.

Sudan Archives, Natural Brown Prom Queen

Who doesn’t love an experimental, self-taught violinist who somehow has managed to make one of the catchiest songs of the year? (That would be “Selfish Soul”—at least it gets my nomination.) This album feels like a celebration and a rallying cry, an invocation for self-love without any of the saccharine baggage that the term has accumulated. It’s rare that you come across an artist who feels truly original, but I count Sudan Archives among them. I’ve been a fan since her first album in 2019, but this one feels more playful, buoyant, and invigorating—an all-around delight. —Chloe Schama

Taylor Swift, Midnights

I’ve loved 8/10 albums that Taylor Swift has put out, and—while I won’t reveal the missing two—Midnights is firmly on the list. The first seven songs on the album are a particularly strong mini playlist, filled with aching sentimentality, earworm hooks, and bridges that rival the work of John A. Roebling. (That’s a bad bridge joke. Sorry.) —Sarah Spellings, fashion news editor

Warpaint, Radiate Like This

Six years after their last album, Heads Up, the four members of Warpaint have variously dispersed, relocated, expatriated, given birth, collaborated, and gone solo, but have no fear: They’re still, joyously, one band under a harmonious groove, and their newest album sees them doing everything from branching out (“Hips”) to doubling down on their signature ethereal sound (“Melting”). —Corey Seymour

Wet Leg, Wet Leg

Still not sick of it: their almost illegally catchy debut single, “Chaise Longue,” which garnered obsessive praise from Iggy Pop and seemingly every friend you know. But the rest of the debut from this Isle of Wight duo is well worth it—for the hooks, the riffs, the retro vibe, and the easy attitude. —Corey Seymour



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