Albums of the year 2022

The best albums of 2022, as voted by The Forty-Five team

The music industry hasn’t been without its challenges this year but in the midst of tour cancellations, cost-of-living crisis and lots of less-than-encouraging news, some truly stunning work has been created: albums that attempt to make sense of the troubled times we live in, that capture the zeitgeist or just provide an hour of much-needed escapism. As ever, attempting to rank them has been a near-impossible task but with the help of our network of esteemed writers and creatives, we’ve drawn up a list that we think honours the best of the best. Hopefully, you’ll find something in here that you haven’t heard or can use our list to revisit some of your favourite albums of 2022. Enjoy!

45Niki – ‘Nicole’

For most of us, looking back at our teenage selves would be a cringe-inducing nightmare – unless you’re NIKI who, her latest album ‘Nicole’ revealed, spent her youth writing brilliantly melodramatic indie-pop about the trials of coming of age. A mix of old songs revisited and new tracks written in the spirit of her younger self, NIKI’s second album was a dazzling tribute to getting through those trials. Rhian Daly

Read our interview with NIKI

44Lowertown – ‘I Love To Lie’

Atlanta duo Olivia Osby and Avsha Weinberg have been crafting songs that pushed the boundaries of their bedroom pop beginnings for a while now. But on their Lowertown debut, they made a record that strode forward in leaps and bounds, veering between scrappy indie on ‘Bucktooth’, to an introverted stream-of-consciousness on ‘It’s It’s It’s’ to frenzied cacophony on ‘I’m Not’. Alison Craig.

Read our interview with Lowertown

43Beabadoobee – ‘Beatopia’

Beabadoobee Beatopia album cover

Fleshing out the titular fictional world that a young Bea Kristi had conjured up as a form of escape, ‘Beatopia’ often dealt in a similarly dream-like palette. With intimate bossa nova beats on ‘the perfect pair’, and a swirling, heady high on ‘See you Soon’, it broke down the pure ‘90s grunge nostalgia of her debut, broadening Beabadoobee’s scope and proving she was always more than just a revivalist. Alison Craig

42Big Joanie – ‘Back Home’

With an album that draws from influences are far reaching as Riot Grrl to The Pixies, Big Joanie‘s long-awaited debut LP was an experimental full-length that blended punchy power chords with soaring synths and strings. “I’ve compromised too many times in my life, sang Stephanie Philips on ‘Into My Arms’, a moment of vulnerability on an album oozing with DIY ferocity. Charlotte Gunn

Read our interview with Big Joanie

41Horsegirl – ‘Versions of Modern Performance’

To enter Horsegirl’s world on their debut album ‘Versions Of Modern Performance’ was to dive into a labyrinth of riddles and mystery. The trio set those cryptic lyrical tales against an equally compelling web of wiry, jittery indie that felt brilliantly out of step with current trends, whether on the clattering, clanging ‘The Fall Of Horsegirl’ or the chiming opener ‘Anti-glory’. Rhian Daly

40Sorry – ‘Anywhere But Here’

Sorry Anywhere But Here album cover artwork

South London quartet Sorry made one of 2020’s most exciting, idiosyncratic debuts with ‘925’; on its follow-up, the band followed their noses ever-further, crafting a document of the city cloaked in nocturnal unease and strange unpredictability. Teetering between rickety naivety and structural experimentation, it cemented their reputation as the Brixton Windmill scene’s most innovative exports. Alison Craig

39Kae Tempest – ‘The Line Is A Curve’

Kae Tempest‘s fourth album was about release and letting go. Having felt increasingly uncomfortable in the limelight over the years that preceded it, on ‘The Line Is A Curve’, Kae welcomed us into their world, more comfortable in their own skin and sure of themselves as an artist. Produced by Dan Carey and Rick Rubin, it featured contributions and collaborations from the likes of Kevin Abstract, Grian Chatten of Fontaines DC and Liane La Havas across twelve powerful spoken word tracks. Charlotte Gunn.

Listen to Kae talk through the album, track by track in our podcast

38Natalia Lafourcade – ‘De Todas Las Flores’

Following up from 2020 and 2021’s ‘Un Canto Por Mexico Vols. I & II’, Natalia Lafourcade, released her first album of completely original songs in seven years. It was a step away from the more polished work we’d come to expect from the Mexican artist, whose fluidity and bold use of instrumentals meshed together to create truly special work. Charlotte Gunn

37Soccer Mommy – ‘Sometimes, Forever’

Soccer Mommy Sometimes Forever album cover

Soccer Mommy considered both the finality and impermenance of life on ‘Sometimes, Forever’. The Nashville artist – alter ego Sophie Allison – stayed true to the 90s influenced sound of her earlier work but found new depth with Oneohtrix Point Never’s electronica. Never one to shy away from the shadows, Soccer Mommy’s music provided a comfort to those of us ruminating over life’s big questions. Charlotte Gunn

Read our interview with Soccer Mommy

36Momma – ‘Household Name’

LA duo Momma unashamedly lean into the tropes of ‘90s alt-rock, and on ‘Household Name’ they proved that, sometimes, wearing your influences loudly and proudly is no bad thing. The big sweeping guitars that opened ‘Speeding ‘72’ or the tongue-in-cheek rifferama of ‘Rockstar’ (“Yeah I got what they want/ I’m a real rockstar”) were big, ballsy songs that could soundtrack a coming-of-age movie’s finest moments: the highest praise. Alison Craig

35Björk – ‘Fossora’

For Björk’s tenth studio album, the artist looked to the earth. ‘Fossora‘ – translated as “she who digs” – unraveled the disruptive layers of growth the groundbreaking artist had displayed over the last 45 years as a recording artist. It was a record that pounded with a biological pulse, celebrating matriarchal power with nods to both to her daughter and mother and reaffirmed Björk’s status as a world-class disrupter. Charlotte Gunn

34Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘The Loneliest Time’

Though the image of a sad Carly Rae Jepsen is like someone kicking a labrador puppy, on ‘The Loneliest Time’ pop’s sparkliest songwriter proved she still couldn’t help but find light in the shadows. There was a more introverted side to Jeppo here, sure, but there was also a gorgeously classic title track duet with Rufus Wainwright and one the finest sass-pop moments of the year in ‘Beach House’. Alison Craig.

33Nina Nastasia – ‘Riderless Horse’

Nina Nastasia’s first six albums were made with her late manager and partner Kennan Gudjonsson, with whom she was in an abusive relationship for two decades. She left him in 2020 and the next day, he died by suicide. On ‘Riderless Horse’, Nastasia’s pared-back vocal over acoustic guitar attempts to survive the grief, guilt and trauma she has experienced. No longer hinting at her pain in thinly-veiled lyrics, as on her previous work, ‘Riderless Horse’ talks of the relationship and its impact, in plain terms but offers hope too, for a new type of future, proving once again music’s cathartic power. Charlotte Gunn

32Rina Sawayama – ‘Hold The Girl’

Nobody could accuse Rina Sawayama of being a one-trick pony. Leaving behind the maximalism of her debut, ‘Hold The Girl‘ looked inward, dealing with generational trauma over thirteen tracks which flit from the pure hedonism of cowboy-book kicking ‘This Hell’ to the raw emotion of ‘Dear John’. If Rina’s position as a main pop girlie was ever up for debate, ‘Hold the Girl’ cemented her status. Charlotte Gunn

31Raveena – ‘Asha’s Awakening’

Raveena Asha's Awakening album cover

One of the most interesting and striking elements of Raveena’s second album ‘Asha’s Awakening’ was the New York artist’s vibrant incorporation of South Asian instruments like the tabla and the addition of Bollywood samples, as well as vocals sung in Hindi. The album was a magnificent bringing together of upbeat R&B and more tranquil balladry, the story itself told from the perspective of a Punjabi space princess. Arusa Qureshi

30Cate Le Bon – ‘Pompeii’

Cate Le Bon Pompeii album cover

Locked down in her native Wales as opposed to the Joshua Tree desert that she now calls home, Cate Le Bon dug deep to explore themes of religion, impending doom and self reflection over nine claustrophobic tracks on ‘Pompeii’. With layers upon layers to unpick, the Welsh artist proved that even when confined physically, her creativity is boundless. Charlotte Gunn.


Muna MUNA album cover

Heart-swelling maximalism has always been the remedy to dark times for MUNA, but their self-titled third album showed that the LA trio could also celebrate growth. From bursts of queer joy on ‘What I Want’ (“I wanna dance in the middle of the gay bar”) to cotton wool-swaddled tear-jerkers like ‘Kind Of Girl’, ‘MUNA’ was a hopeful reminder of the light at the end of the tunnel. Hollie Geraghty

Read our interview with MUNA

28Phoebe Green – ‘Lucky Me’

Phoebe Green – Lucky Me album cover

After shaking off the doubts that once prevented the Manchester artist from exploring her pop impulses, Phoebe Green’s candid debut album proved that it pays to go with your gut. Seamlessly gelling witty lyrics with innovative sonic landscape, the singer-songwriter’s courageous LP was a truly impressive showcase of creative experimentation and genre-fluidity. Hollie Geraghty

Watch our interview with Phoebe Green

27Let’s Eat Grandma – ‘Two Ribbons’

Let's Eat Grandma Two Ribbons album cover

Two friends coming back together after a period of intense grief, ‘Two Ribbons’ saw Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton reacquaint themselves with the worlds wonder. Synth-pop single ‘Happy New Year’ perfectly captured the anticipation of a euphoric midnight countdown, while the title track was a heartbreaking ballad, realising that even as life throws its hardest curveballs, there will always be that person who feels like home — “I can only be your best friend/And hope that that’s enough.Jenessa Williams

26Nilufer Yanya – ‘PAINLESS’

On ‘Painless’, Nilufer Yanya realised she didn’t need the lofty concepts that bound debut ‘Miss Universe’, instead letting the likes of scattershot opener and mathy highlight ‘the dealer’ veer into Radiohead-esque realms that spoke for themselves. ‘Painless’ felt like a confident step forward from an artist with nothing left to hide behind. Alison Craig

Read our interview with Nilufer Yanya

25Snail Mail – ‘Valentine’

Snail Mail Valentine Album Cover

Addressing the head fuck of love in all its myriad forms, Lindsey Jordan’s second as Snail Mail took the heart-on-sleeve rawness of debut ‘Lush’, ripped it off and left the bloody bits for all to see. It addressed the confusion of newfound fame and brought in Waxahatchee on guest vocals for ‘Ben Franklin’, but fundamentally ‘Valentine’ was a love letter to the catharsis of allowing yourself to slug it all out. Alison Craig

Read our interview with Snail Mail

24Angel Olsen – ‘Big Time’

In the space of a few weeks, Angel Olsen came out as queer and lost both her parents: a compact rollercoaster of love and loss that informed her sixth studio LP. Embracing the folkier, Americana-soaked end of her sonic spectrum, ‘Big Time’ found the singer luxuriating in the cinematic sweep of Big Feelings, evoking the spirit of classic heartbreak storytellers past for a sumptuous album whose emotions ran deep into its bones. Alison Craig

Read our interview with Angel Olsen

23The Beths – ‘Expert In A Dying Field’

The Beths Expert In A Dying Field album cover

A near-perfect indie-pop album from the New Zealand quartet. For their third album, The Beths explored bitterness and broken relationships across 45 minutes of sugary catharsis. The immediacy of Liz Stokes’ crystal clear lyrics paired with thrashing guitars and exquisite production elevated the band’s status on the world stage and spoke to anyone, encyclopaedic on the likes and dislikes of a former flame. Charlotte Gunn

Watch our interview with The Beths

22Julia Jacklin – ‘Pre Pleasure’

Julia Jacklin Pre Pleasure album cover | The best albums of 2022

Over two previous albums, Australia’s Julia Jacklin had mastered a knack for startling intimacy – delivering suckerpunch confessionals with calm and collection. ‘Pre Pleasure’ picked up that baton, but interspersed moments of starkness and pain (‘Ignore Tenderness’) with softer ones of charm and levity, such as the tender instructions of ‘Be Careful With Yourself’. Alison Craig.

21Warpaint – ‘Radiate Like This’

Soft and nurturing, Warpaint’s first album in six years found the hypnotic quartet leaning into their new stage of life, embracing motherhood and tenderness with a record that often felt like a comforting embrace. The sound of four friends propping each other up, from the enveloping encouragement of ‘Champion’ onwards (“And here it is, I’ve got you”), ‘Radiate Like This’ emanated gentle beauty. Alison Craig.

Read our interview with Warpaint

20Charli XCX – ‘Crash’

Charli XCX Crash

Hyperpop is home for Charli XCX, but fifth album ‘CRASH’ found the star gazing towards broader horizons. Still plenty of pop debauchery and dayglo futuristism to go round, her final outing with Atlantic Records saw the singer experiment with retro influences and a different kind of vulnerability that seemed to signal a pivot. Things could go anywhere from here. Hollie Geraghty

19Maggie Rogers – ‘Surrender’

An album that sought to foster intense connection and humanity following the world’s communal period of fraction, ‘Surrender’ submitted to a sense of hungry excitement – with a new ‘90s rock edge to boot. Gone was the flickering, dappled pop of her debut and in came boldness and guts; a record that audibly came out fighting, ready to seize the day. Alison Craig

18Sylvan Esso – ‘No Rules Sandy’

Made during lockdown with boundless amounts of time, on ‘No Rules Sandy’, Sylvan Esso‘s Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn stayed true to the album’s title: experimenting with sounds and styles to create some of the duo’s most exciting work to date. The result is a frenetic masterpiece that captures the chaos of the last few years and naturally, for a Sylvan Esso record, urges you to dance it off. Charlotte Gunn.

Watch our interview with Sylvan Esso

17Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Cool It Down’

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Cool It Down album cover

Returning nearly a decade after previous album ‘Mosquito’, ‘Cool It Down’ found Karen O and her cohorts emerging back into a world riddled with environmental crisis and general despair. In response, Yeah Yeah Yeahs made their biggest-sounding record yet: one that captured the magnitude of modern life, but via huge messages of hope (‘Spitting Off The Edge of the World’) and fear (‘Burning’), with time still left for the occasional boogie (‘Fleez’). Alison Craig

16Florence & The Machine – ‘Dance Fever’

An emotional exorcism performed via questions of womanhood and adulthood, with suggestions of answers in the saving power of movement and the body, ‘Dance Fever’ was a lockdown record done Florence-style. Resilience stands at its core, but around it – via production collaborations with Jack Antonoff and Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley among other new ideas – Welch allowed herself to twirl and slide in increasingly varied directions. Alison Craig.

15Megan Thee Stallion – ‘Traumazine’

We all love Megan Thee Stallion for her indomitable attitude, but on second album ‘Traumazine’, she invited us all in to meet the human behind the hottie persona. Revealing the vulnerabilities that exist when you’re constantly threatened, underestimated and disbelieved by the very community that should have your back, she tackles mental health, (‘Anxiety’), betrayal (‘Not Nice’) and ballroom braggadocio (‘Her’) with equal gusto, showing just how versatile her flow can be. Bad bitches may have bad days too, but they rarely sound this well put together. Jenessa Williams

14Ethel Cain – ‘Preacher’s Daughter’

A gothic American epic that bleeds with the trauma of a dozen lifetimes, Hayden Silas Anhedönia – AKA Ethel Cain’s – debut album told a troubled tale of religion, generational turmoil and twisted love. Sprawling, hallowed anthems soared alongside pensive piano reflections and show-stealing crescendos, making for a deeply visceral storytelling experience. Hollie Geraghty

13The Big Moon – ‘Here Is Everything’

The title of The Big Moon’s third album ‘Here Is Everything‘ summed up its grand scale perfectly. The record captured singer and guitarist Juliette Jackson’s experiences either side of pregnancy, reflecting that monumental life moment from all heart-bursting and painful angles. The results were some of the band’s best songs yet – rich in emotion and the big indie hooks they’re known for, but never shying away from difficult truths. Rhian Daly

12Grace Ives – ‘Janky Star’

A pop album with beats. On debut, ‘Janky Star’, Grace Ives’ far-from-janky compositions and complex use of synths and sound effects put the Brooklyn artist in a lane of her own. With breathy vocals atop chirruping birdsong, Ives pulled us deep into the really-rather-fun sonic universe she created. Charlotte Gunn

11Nova Twins – ‘Supernova’

Taking the riffs and battle cries of their 2020 debut and turning them up to maximum capacity, Nova Twins’ second was when Amy Love and Georgia South went stadium-sized. An album that stepped up to the plate from the very first seconds of opener ‘Power’, it was a call to arms – forcing the wider world (and the Mercury Prize committee) to acknowledge the important space they’d help carve out for Black female voices in rock. Alison Craig

10Sampa The Great – ‘As Above, So Below’

Sampa The Great – As Above So Below album cover

Though Sampa the Great has been a significant presence in Australian hip-hop since her 2019 debut, with this year’s follow-up, we were welcomed to her native Zambia, thanks in part to the artist’s relocation to the southern African country during the pandemic. ‘As Above, So Below’ was a defiant release, recorded with local musicians and producers and inspired by Zamrock, paying homage to Sampa’s identity and strong musical roots. Arusa Qureshi

9Weyes Blood – ‘And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow’

Weyes Blood album cover for In The Darkness Hearts Aglow

Written in the depths of lockdown, it’s no surprise that a bleak heart steers its way through Natalie Mering’s latest, ‘And in The Darkness, Hearts Aglow‘. However, via warm Laurel Canyon folk, a sweeping sense of nostalgia and a crystalline voice that evoked the spirit of the late, great Karen Carpenter, ‘And In The Darkness…’ arrived this winter as a record to illuminate the dying embers of 2022. Alison Craig

Read our Cover Story with Weyes Blood

8Taylor Swift – ‘Midnights’

If there was any doubt over the cultural significance of Taylor Swift‘s tenth studio album ‘Midnights‘, then let the numbers do the talking: 186 million streams on day of release, 10 top 10 Billboard100 singles (the most of any album), three million album-equivalent units sold, worldwide, in week one. The record sees Swift at her most vulnerable, in the depths of night, dealing with the insecurities that come with being one of the most famous and critiqued women on the planet. If there was ever an advert for turning self doubt into success, this is surely it. Charlotte Gunn

7Rosalía – ‘Motomami’

An artist that has become known for her innovative fusing of experimental pop and traditional flamenco, Rosalía’s masterful collage of styles reached a high point this year with the release of ‘Motomami’. In addition to the power in her vocals and the eclectic production throughout, the album presented an ingenious balance of energy from heartbreak ballads (‘Como Un G’) and Burial-sampled tracks (‘Candy’) to reggaetón bangers (‘Saoko’) and playful TikTok favourites (‘Bizcochito’). Arusa Qureshi

6Beyoncé – ‘Renaissance’

Beyonce Renaissance album cover

There was something innately feelgood about Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’, be it the album’s insistence and emphasis on Black joy or its nod to queer history and pioneers of genres like disco and soul. But aside from the party atmosphere, Beyoncé’s seventh outing proved to be a confident, sensual and commanding release; the artist once again leaning towards empowerment and adventure in her music. Arusa Qureshi

5Sudan Archives – ‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’

In 2022, Beyoncé wasn’t the only one exploring her dance side. On ‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’, multi-instrumentalist Sudan Archives shimmied around diasporic sounds; the pulsing rap-disco of ‘Freakalizer’, the smooth R&B of ‘Ciara’ and the skittish middle-eastern strings of ‘NBPQ (Topless)’ just three contrasting highlights. It is on the latter song that she perhaps sells her versatility best: “I’m not average, average, average”. You can take her word for it — this Queen is more than worthy of her self-appointed crown. Jenessa Williams.

4Mitski – ‘Laurel Hell’

On ‘Laurel Hell’ – yet another astonishingly good Mitski album – the artist, who has earned herself a new army of teenage TikTokking fans with her modern brand of melancholia, wrestles with her own career and the choices she’s made along the way. Across eleven synth-heavy cinematic tracks, Mitski questions the road ahead and that past, and the endless quest for happiness. Charlotte Gunn

3Shygirl – ‘Nymph’

While the release of ‘Nymph’ this year ended the long wait for Shygirl’s debut album, it also offered an alternative and pleasantly surprising look at the audacious artist. Though her club-ready undertones remained intact, in tracks like ‘Woe’, ‘Firefly’ and ‘Honey’, we saw an overwhelming intimacy and vulnerability that amplified the album’s ambition, as well as Shygirl’s own tenacious spirit. Arusa Qureshi

2Wet Leg – ‘Wet Leg’

2022 was the year that sent Wet Leg stratospheric. Injecting a much-needed dose of fun into an oft-gloomy post-punk scene, Wet Leg’s self-titled debut album built on the monster success of their first two singles ‘Chaise Longue’ and ‘Wet Dream’ to create a record that cemented them worldwide as one of the most exciting new bands on the planet. Scratch the surface and amidst the saucy lyrics about buttering muffins, there is also astute commentary about what it’s like to be a women in your late twenties. With the album earning a UK No.1 and five GRAMMY nominations to boot, it’s clear Wet Leg’s success won’t be short lived. Charlotte Gunn

Read our interview with Wet Leg

1Jockstrap – ‘I Love You Jennifer B’

With the arrival of lead single ‘Concrete Over Water’ (a tale of two halves, one classic and beautiful; one glitchy and experimental, backed by a wildly adventurous, celestial video) back in April, it was clear that South London duo Jockstrap had level-upped in preparation for their debut. But in ‘I Love You Jennifer B’, Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye strode forward into a realm of their own: one where lush orchestration, old school hip hop samples, twitchy electronics and hauntingly-picked acoustics rubbed together in strange and beautiful ways. With it, the duo raised the bar of what ambition and innovation could sound like, making a modern masterpiece along the way. Alison Craig



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