ACRN’s Favorite Albums of 2022

By the ACRN Editorial Team

20. Soccer MommySometimes, Forever [Loma Vista Recordings; 2022]

By Grace Koennecke, Columns Editor

As an avid Soccer Mommy fan, her new album this year was nothing short of amazing. Sometimes, Forever is the Nashville singer-songwriter’s most vulnerable piece of work yet, a slow and dark peeling of her layers, giving insight to her struggles with mental health and fame as a young adult. These struggles come to life through the mastermind of Daniel Lopatin, a famous producer who is known for working with artists such as The Weeknd and Charli XCX. Their collaboration elevates the feelings of isolation, insecurity and depression, swallowing listeners whole on tracks such as “Unholy Affliction” and “Darkness Forever.” What makes this album so versatile, though, is the way Soccer Mommy can instantly shift her moods within her songwriting, symbolic of how one’s mental state can change based on their day to day experience. Songs like “Shotgun” see the singer turn almost giddy about her significant other, craving intimacy and attention, while other songs such as “Feel It All The Time” integrate a country sound, a coolness only the singer can emit through its lyrics. Overall, this album is much like reading a diary entry, the singer admitting to her unhinged thoughts full of paranoia and existentialism, a commonstance in many young adults.

19. BjorkFossora [One Little Independent Records; 2022]

By Cody Englander, Contributor

Fossora – “She who digs.” It would be unfair to go into this expecting the best Björk album, but this is still a quality project that proves her astounding consistency as an artist. Fossora is an introspective work, with a great relevance to both us and Björk. The emotions run rampant with her incredible vocal performance showing no sign of slowing down. It’s grand and demanding, ridiculously powerful, and accompanied by a featured guest that brings a good variety of tracks. The album has great pacing that makes the time feel like it’s fading from you as you listen, a purposeful choice that ties into the theme beautifully. Fossora demands multiple re-listens to fully grasp the entire album, and the sonic beauty of it makes each listen more and more satisfying. This is a Björk album that does so much for the listener – it’s impossible to find enough flaws to write it off, and you’ll be glad that you didn’t.

18. JockstrapI Love You Jennifer B [Rough Trade, 2022]

By Rocco Priorletti, Contributor

An exceptionally appreciated breath of fresh air for the often-suffocating landscape of pop music, I Love You Jennifer B is set to redefine just that. The duo expertly clashes the juxtaposing within each other: analog to digital or glitching synthesizers to jazz organ. Jockstrap’s debut exudes such originality and unabashedly playful ideas together in a way that’s so delightfully unique to them, and, most importantly, incredibly fun to listen to. “Concrete Over Water” stands to exemplify all this and more, being one of my favorite songs of the year. Jockstrap possesses the often overdone and cliche ability to expertly contrast the beautiful with the distorted.

17. foxtailsfawn [Skeletal Lightning; 2022]

By Roman Salomone, Contributor

Screamo has been in a relatively healthy place in the past couple of years. Vets like Touché Amoré and La Dispute alongside newer acts like SeeYouSpaceCowboy and Athen’s own Kaiba have been consistently pushing the envelope of intensity and what the genre can be. The list of killer acts keeps growing each year, but if there’s a band from the East coast you need to keep an eye on, it’s Connecticut’s foxtails. The band pulls from math-rock and post-hardcore, but what these guys bring to the table is a love for chamber music and dream-pop. They effortlessly create building tensions and heavily weave in violin, implementing nods of post-rock to their already dynamic sound. The real treat, though, are the incredible vocals of lead singer Blue Luno Solaz.

Solaz delivers a competitive attitude on tracks like “gazelle,” stunningly blissful singing on “ataque de nervios,” and some of the most intense vocals screaming I’ve heard on a record this year.

Spots like the desperate screeches on “space orphan” and the guttural growls at the end of “paper tiger” are absolutely jaw dropping. There’s great subtle moments like the heavenly, yet eerie slowburner “gallons of spiders went flying thru the stratosphere,” and nearly every track overflows with spectacular lyrical imagery, especially “life is a death scene, princess.” fawn is a record that shows a band with a unique approach and serious potential for the scene. If you’re a fan of skramz, emo, hardcore punk or literally any form of rock music, then this is a must-listen.

16. JIDThe Forever Story [Dreamville Records; 2022]

By Cody Englander, Contributor

Having an extremely personal work doesn’t always work out in album form, but here it flourishes. JID has been an artist working in the world of hip hop for years, but it wasn’t until The Forever Story that he tapped into his full potential. Being a ridiculously fun listen, JID gives such a complex and layered performance. The promising list of featured performances does not disappoint, and the triumphant sounds work hand-in-hand with the whimsical cadence and wordplay that JID brings to the table. His style is incredibly special and this album is where he really comes into his own. Even his vocal performance adds to his style as he brings a distinctly unique performance to each song. The samples also add to the free flowing fun, seamlessly woven into the tracks, reminiscent of Common’s 2005 record Be. The instrumentals and beats at play are both inspired and particular, offering a healthy variety.  For any fan of hip hop and rap, this is a must-listen.

15. Earl SweatshirtSICK! [Tan Cressida; 2022]

By Ethan Hofer, Staff Writer

Earl Sweatshirt is no amateur to the rap game. After releasing his fifth studio album in nine years, Earl once again proves that he is as versatile in his sound as he has ever been. His use of his famous abstract rap style with soulful samples on songs like “Tabula Rasa” mixed with trap on songs like “Titanic,” all show Earl’s poetic wordplay despite the changes in production. SICK! shows Earl moving into a new direction after Some Rap Songs and Feet of Clay, which feature his muddy vocals mixed with themes of grief and appreciation, while his new record turns toward many lines mentioning COVID-19 and his son. Earl has massively changed his sound since his days in the Odd Future collective, becoming a more mature, yet fun concept that grasps every emotion all throughout this project. While this project is more uplifting, the last song on the project “Fire in the Hole” is exactly the opposite. The line “I couldn’t toast a drink to demise” is a metaphor for coping with his father’s death, considering his complicated relationship with him. Earl’s father passed away with a legacy for being a great poet, and Earl has definitely continued it on SICK!

14. Alex GGod Save the Animals [Domino Recording Company; 2022]

By Ethan Bloomfield, Reviews Editor

Alex G has certainly left a mark on the indie rock space in his over decade-long tenure, and could easily rest on his laurels as a legend. God Save the Animals is a record, however, that highlights Giannascoli’s mastery over a variety of evolving and familiar sounds to create one of his most consistent and catchy releases to date. 

There is simply something here for everybody. “After All” and “Headroom Piano” are unapologetically classic Alex G, and “S.D.O.S.” and “Ain’t It Easy” are hypnotic and groovy in a way that only he can pull off. This record speaks to not only Giannascoli’s strengths, but branches out into new territory completely. “Blessing” is a tasteful, yet wonderfully loud synth-forward track, and the last half of “No Bitterness” briefly breaks into a hyperpop style that perfectly suits the vibe of the track. 

While this album isn’t as trippy or winding as the likes of DSU or Rocket, a foray into more traditional and cleanly-produced indie rock for a lot of the record is a welcome change, especially when interspersed with all the weirdness and charm that we’ve come to expect from the artist. God Save the Animals is just another reason to love Alex G.

13. Beach HouseOnce Twice Melody [Mistletone Records; 2022]

By Devon Risner, Contributor

As Beach House or any band goes to release an eighth album, it gets hard to create something fresh. Keyboardist and lead singer of the duo, Victoria Legrand, describes the creative process as “deepening that occurs” which ultimately shows on Once Twice Melody. This 18-track sonic journey was released in four chapters over the course of months starting in November 2021 and being fully released in February. Each chapter feels like its own complete idea and comes together as a whole vision. Instrumentally, this might be one of the band’s most diverse projects yet. The instrumentation includes the walls of lush reverb, dreamy guitar riffs, and atmospheric heavy synth pads which create the penultimate Beach House sound.  Once Twice Melody is not the same Beach House that released Devotion, Teen Dream or Bloom but a fresh take on their already amazing view of music. Having a runtime of one hour and 25 minutes might seem like it would feel monotonous, but the separation into chapters gives each section completeness and doesn’t drag the album out more than it should.  Overall, Once Twice Melody is a great release from the Baltimore dream pop duo once again.

12. The 1975Being Funny in a Foreign Language [Dirty Hit; 2022]

By Grace Koennecke, Columns Editor

The 1975 is usually known for singing overwhelmingly about heartbreak, evident on their previous works such as 2016’s I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, but on their fifth studio album, Matty Healy and his band members dive into new territory, self-reflecting on what adulthood means, as well as fixing their definitions of true love and infatuation. This album is pure magic at times, especially with tracks such as “About You” and “Happiness,” the latter being a follow-up to their 2013 fan-favorite, “Robbers.” Working with producer Jack Antonoff, it’s clear that Being Funny in a Foreign Language sets out to make a statement, one that erases the existential mindset Healy tends to project within his lyrics. Instead, the band is celebrating, rejoicing over the fact that they’re still alive, that they can still find happiness and sincerity in the small things. Other moments in the album, such as a subtle feature from Japanese Breakfast’s frontwoman Michelle Zauner in “Part of the Band,” as well as the orchestra-backed production of “The 1975,” also prove the cohesiveness between the tracks, providing a visual of just four adults trying to understand the world around them, even if it is daunting at times.

11. Pusha TIt’s Almost Dry [GOOD Music; 2022]

By Roman Salomone, Contributor

After 2018’s legendary DAYTONA, the king of coke-rap returned this year with his latest beast: It’s Almost Dry. At a watertight 12 tracks totaling 35 minutes, Push effortlessly delivers another round of all killer, no filler. The production is handled almost exclusively by Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, and Push makes sure to destroy every beat in sight. Tracks like “Just So You Remember” and “Hear Me Clearly” are so coated in drug talk and cunning wordplay that it feels like you shouldn’t be hearing it. Push steps out of his comfort zone here and there for some great highpoints, like on the woozy, left-field beat on “Call My Bluff” and the maximalist and heavenly “I Pray For You.”

And somehow 30 years into his career, Pharrell pulls through with some of his best production ever. The nasty and slick “Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes” and the monstrous “Neck and Wrist” already prove themselves to be top ten Pharrell beats. Other highlights come through the excellent features, like JAY-Z and No Malice giving some of their best performances in years, while younger faces like Labrinth, Lil Uzi Vert and Don Toliver hold their own on a hip-hop record that was going to be no frills from the start. Overall, It’s Almost Dry is another brilliant LP from one of rap’s most fascinating personalities. It’s got loads of great verses, next-level production, endless quotables, and enough replay value to last far beyond 2022.

10. Westside Gunn10 [Griselda Records; 2022]

By Ethan Hofer, Staff Writer

Cocaine, money, designer clothes have always been the topic at the forefront of Westside Gunn’s music, along with his iconic gun-sounding adlibs. The man with one of the most iconic rap voices, hailing from Buffalo, New York, is one of the exciting rappers to date. His unique sound, better described as “coke rap,” along with Griselda associates Benny the Butcher and Conway the Machine, has been a statement to the rap game, as their boastful flows that bring their own twist on a 90s hip hop inspired sound. Westside Gunn may have been in the rap game since 2006, but after getting exposure through being signed to Eminem’s Shady Records, and a list of notable artists he has collaborated on his albums such as Anderson .Paak, A$AP Rocky, MF DOOM and Tyler, The Creator, he has been finally making waves. Among the plethora of features on this album, the most interesting is the inclusion of an artist named “Westside Pootie” on the track “Nigo Louis,” which is his 10 year-old daughter wholesomely yet hilariously boasting her riches, as the listener listens to her grow up, making her usual appearance on each album. The rest of 10 is well polished with its use of hard-hitting, confident flows mixed with lo-fi, soulful beats that end up being an interesting juxtaposition

9. Soul GloDiaspora Problems [Epitaph and Secret Voice; 2022]

By Adrian Woods, Contributor

Every year, there seems to be an album that gives an adrenaline rush to the genre that makes it feel alive and thriving: Diaspora Problem is that album for punk. It’s not only a punk album, a lot of the time it feels like a punk plus an avant garde hip hop album mixed together beautifully. The aesthetic of the album feels like a modern take on the most hardcore songs of Minor Threat, with the vocal energy of Bad Brains. The songwriting is some of the best on a punk album of the modern era with the frantic vocals; everything that lead singer Pierce Jordan screams makes you believe he meant it when he put pen to paper on the lyrics. This is also one of the best produced punk albums in a while, clean yet heavy and rugged sound to it that makes it stand out from the other releases this year.

8. Black Thought and Danger MouseCheat Codes [BMG; 2022]

By Adrian Woods, Contributor

Legendary producer Danger Mouse collaborating with rapper and frontman of The Roots Black Thought is a duo that would be impossible to be a failure. From the cutting edge and fresh samples, smooth production, and appearances from artists like Run The Jewels, A$AP Rocky, MF DOOM and Raekwon, as well as some new faces of the hip hop scene like Russ, Kid Sister and Conway The Machine, this album is packed with features from hip hop artists at all levels. Black Thought’s performance on this album vocally is some of his best in years, and not that he ever took a step back quality wise, but this record is proof he can still go. This is also one of Danger Mouse’s best produced albums – everything on this feels so fresh and new, no one would have expected a Danger Mouse and Black Thought collab album to be this good in the year 2022.

7. AlvvaysBlue Rev [Polyvinyl Records; 2022]

By Julia Weber, Features Editor

Canadian indie pop darlings Alvvays are back after five years with their third album Blue Rev. Electric, eclectic and energetic, Blue Rev is the band’s most ambitious and cohesive project to date. It’s a departure from the band’s previous two albums, Alvvays and Antisocialites, but all signs in the band’s discography pointed to Blue Rev. Lyrically, the tracks on Blue Rev are straightforward and sincere, with cleverly-crafted lines like the gut-wrenching “At night I take the calls from telemarketers / In hopes of hearing your drawl / I let them blather on / Without a thought I surrender my credit card” from “Tile By Tile” and the defiant, unapologetic “Don’t wanna belong / I’m not nodding along / I don’t care if you liked me / Please don’t invite me” from “Pomeranian Spinster.” Alvvays unintentionally took their time with this album, facing numerous obstacles including the COVID-19 pandemic, theft and a flood that destroyed much of the band’s equipment, according to an interview with NME. Against the odds, Blue Rev came into existence and it was indeed worth the wait.

6. BeyoncéRENAISSANCE [Parkwood Entertainment; 2022]

By Grace Koennecke, Columns Editor

After a six year hiatus, Beyonce finally graced us with her seventh studio album, RENAISSANCE in August. The album serves as an experimental era for the mother of three, pulling in influences from the 1980s club music scene and iconic LGBTQIA+ DJs and activists. Tracks such as “BREAK MY SOUL,” “HEATED,” and ALIEN SUPERSTAR” are reminiscent of Madonna’s “Vogue,” with Beyonce putting her femininity and sensuality on full display. Meanwhile, other songs such as “VIRGO’S GROOVE” and “CUFF IT” are like taking a ride on a spaceship, blasting off into a disco-tech galaxy with 1970s instrumentation perfect for the dance floor. Beyonce’s return has reestablished her as one of the industry’s most powerful black artists, also paying homage to her culture and race, evident with songs such as “CHURCH GIRL” and “COZY.” Unlike the serious nature of “Lemonade” back in 2016, Beyonce seems to have let go of her past to move on and celebrate herself, her accomplishments and the people around her. At the end of the day, Queen Bey is “back by popular demand,” and this album is a clear example that experimentation pays off.

5. Viagra BoysCave World [Year 0001; 2022]

By Roman Salomone, Contributor

Sweden’s Viagra Boys triumphantly returned with their third album Cave World, in which they said ‘to hell with it’ and ramped everything up to 12. It’s exactly the post-punk record that 2022 needed. Everything a maxed-out VB record should have: pummeling bass lines, drums constantly on full-blast, incredible keyboard sounds and plenty of wild saxophone parts – it’s all here and louder than ever. Frontman Sebastian Murphy still portrays the loose and lazy punk he’s been on past releases, but has found interest in relating his characters to concepts of de-evolution and getting inside the mind of crazy political followers. 

He and the band embody their inner DEVO on tracks like “Troglodyte” and “ADD.” The ferocious “Ain’t No Thief” and the mutant blues-rock of “Big Boy” are some of the strangest yet infectious tracks of the year. And when Sebastian wants to deliver some political commentary, he goes all in. Both in outlandishness and humor. The ridiculous and explosive closer “Return to Monke” frames extremist conservatives moving to the jungle as they won’t be told that the Earth is round or can’t be “shot up with 5G” while blistering noise-rock rant “Creepy Crawlers” sees him simultaneously channeling and poking fun at alt-right conspiracy theorists in a set of lyrics that you need to hear first hand.

Cave World is a near flawless dance-punk album that sums up the post-pandemic world through the twisted, weirdo filter of an Adult Swim program. It’s loaded with personality, thought-provoking ideas, wonderfully crafted narratives and the strongest sense of absurd humor imaginable. The record that the boys made here is truly exceptional, and solidifies them as one of modern post-punk’s finest acts.

4. Charli XCXCRASH [Asylum Atlantic Warner UK; 2022]

By Grace Koennecke, Columns Editor

CRASH is simply a perfect pop masterpiece by Charli XCX. Like the album cover art, XCX is reeling herself in from an emotional high, bleeding out from a relationship that has left her in the dust, picking up the pieces and starting over from nothing. Unlike her previous experimental pop works, Charli and Pop 2, the singer focuses solely on creating songs that are catchy and sensuous, trying to replicate the early 2000s with tracks such as “Good Ones” and “Baby.” Yet, the utter highs of this album are thanks to its production, imitating a car crash on the album’s title track “Crash” and a thunderstorm later on with “Lightning.” While some may find XCX’s use of auto tune and synths annoying, she actually experimented more on this album than expected, collaborating with long-time friend and producer A.G. Cook as well as singers such as Rina Sawayama and Christine and the Queens. If you love pop music, you’ll love CRASH. It’s an impressive display of Charli XCX’s creative process and willingness to reinvent herself, even if it means working through heartbreak, negative self-talk, and criticism from the media.

3. Big ThiefDragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You [4AD; 2022]

By Julia Weber, Features Editor

Indie rock band Big Thief released their fifth and undoubtedly most intense, all-encompassing studio album in February. The title, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, is a mouthful that manages to perfectly encapsulate the ambitious, captivating nature of the double album. Big Thief are testing the limits with this release – they’re contemplating, speculating and reflecting on love, existence and what exactly it is that makes us human. The group leaves no stone unturned in the 20 songs totaling an hour and 20 minutes. 

Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s lyricism is unrivaled with lines like “Windmills turn and turn eternally / What do you yearn for, where do you long to be?” from “Red Moon” and “When I say celestial / I mean extra-terrestrial / I mean accepting the alien you’ve rejected in your own heart” from “Spud Infinity.” Big Thief’s discography is already intense and well-established with prior releases including their most recent album Two Hands and their debut album Masterpiece, but DNWMIBIY is a clear message from the band that there’s so much more in store. Though I can’t remember who I heard it from, I’m reminded of a remark about DNWMIBIY that succinctly sums up my thoughts on the album: “20 songs and they’re all good.” With this much content, it’s impossible to reflect on everything Big Thief presents to us as listeners – it’s an entire world you’ll need to explore for yourself.

2. Kendrick LamarMr. Morale and the Big Steppers [pgLang; 2022]

By Cody Englander, Contributor

Kendrick Lamar may be the biggest rapper in the world right now. It certainly seems that way with the continued conversation around Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, his long awaited return in album form. The range of songs is nothing short of impressive, with new trap sounds on the song “N95,” to a track dedicated to riveting performances by Kendrick and Taylour Paige depicting a toxic relationship. The personal songs and therapeutic journey Kendrick goes on throughout this album are easily the best parts. They contribute to the album’s concept and originality in a way that deepens our understanding of Kendrick’s personal life as well as his life in the spotlight. It’s vastly different from his other works, but that’s for the better, making a standout project in both Kendrick’s discography and as a standout project for the year. 

1. Black Country, New RoadAnts From Up There [Ninja Tune, 2022]

By Rocco Priorletti, Contributor

Acting as the deeply intimate swansong from former front-man Isaac Wood, Ants From Up There will remain an absolute pinnacle and an endearingly rich testament to Black Country, New Road’s limitless songwriting prowess. Their sophomore release effortlessly intertwines beautifully written motifs together, creating a seamless and heartbreaking narrative. Portraying Wood’s diminishing relationship through the demise of the Concorde jet, acting as the romantic catalyst to depict such substantial emotional vulnerability. Compositionally dense, each song acts as a distinctive picture book: colorfully illustrating each integral facet of longing. Concluding tracks “Snow Globes” and arguably the fan-favorite of their entire discography “Basketball Shoes” beautifully flourishes in the band’s knack for heartbreaking crescendos. Each repetition of mantras: “God of weather, Henry knows / Snow globes don’t shake on their own” and “In my bedsheets now wet / Of Charli, I pray to forget,” increase in their intense emotional intensity; ending with Wood’s achingly endearing screams, leaving a permanent imprint onto the listener. A group as instrumentally fluent as the then seven-pieced post-punk outfit comes only once in a lifetime. Ants From Up There is a record innately compact with magnificence, setting unprecedented standards for what a record can and should be.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s