From January to December, here are our thirty favourite albums of the year. Featuring Foals, Arctic Monkeys, Alvvays and more!
2022 has been another massive year for music. Established acts returned and delivered mixed results, whilst many a new artist entered our radar. With so much great music released this year, we've taken our time to reflect on the past 12 months and have done our best to rank the best records we've heard.
So without further ado, here's our favourite albums of 2022!
30. Sea Power - Everything Was Forever
Sea Power may have grabbed headlines for recently dropping the "British" part of their name, but in February they delivered one of the most stunning rock albums of the year, which is far more worthy of attention for us. The Berkshire band really knocked it out of the park with their latest Everything Was Forever, a beautiful melancholy running throughout. A collection of heartwarming, stadium-sized tunes that simply stick with you and refuse to go away.
Best three: Two Fingers, Folly, Green Goddess
29. Jack White - Fear of the Dawn
It’s finally taken Jack White four solo albums to make something that stands shoulder to shoulder with the material from his days of being in The White Stripes. That’s how good Fear Of The Dawn is. It’s a frenzied assault on the ears perfecting the howl of garage rock he’s famous for. There’s hardly a breath to take on the opening three songs and when there is you’re a bit gutted. That sets the tone for Led Zepplin's pace for which the record races. (words by Neil Renton)
Best three: What's the Trick?, Take Me Back, Fear of the Dawn
28. Florence + the Machine – Dance Fever
Dance Fever has one of the strongest starts of any 2022 album. ‘King’ is a grand, brooding Fleetwood Mac-inspired opener. ‘Free’ follows, urgent and euphoric - it is one of my favourite songs of the year. And then ‘Choreomania’ has brilliant verse storytelling and a floorfilling chorus.
Track 5 ‘Girls Against God’ is home to my favourite lyric on the album (“and it’s good to be alive, crying into cereal at midnight”): ‘Daffodil’ & ‘My Love’ are the highlights of the LP’s second half, ensuring its early momentum is recaptured before later soothing us with a suitably slower ending. (words by Josh Robinson)
Best three: Free, Choreomania, Girls Against God
27. Gang of Youths - angel in realtime
One of the most reflective records released this year, angel in realtime is a highly emotional collection of songs written in the aftermath of Dave Le'aupepe's father's death. The Gang of Youths frontman takes an opportunity to mourn and investigate his father's life, a son questioning his old man's legacy and coming to terms with new truths. At over 67 minutes, the Sydney band's third album is a tad on the long side to be instantly accessible (full disclosure: this initially put us off). Instead, it takes us on an ambitious journey which takes time to appreciate, eventually coming to stick with us hard.
Best three: in the wake of your leave, the angel of 8th ave., tend the garden
26. The 1975 - Being Funny In A Foreign Language
With the assistance of in-demand producer Jack Antonoff, The 1975 have created their most accessible album to date: Being Funny in a Foreign Language. Matty Healy brings sincerity and love to the forefront, but still audaciously sprinkles in silly jokes about “fat ass” and QAnon.
‘Happiness’ is addictively fun and ‘Part of the Band’ is Healy at his lyrical best (see “soy milk” line), two perfectly selected lead singles. Christmas-ish song ‘Wintering’ and ‘Human Too’ act ideally as palate cleansers whilst ‘I’m In Love With You’ and ‘About You’ show evolution whilst still capturing the essence of the band.
Best three: Looking For Somebody (To Love), The 1975, Wintering
25. The Sherlocks - World I Understand
The Sherlocks third album World I Understand is a brilliant record full of enough big hooks, guitar anthems and universal lyrical themes of heartbreak and hope. It’ll please the established mainstream indie audience, plus there’s enough ‘oohs’ and ‘woahs’ across the album to demand a singalong (definite plus points in our book!). If a little formulaic at times, World I Understand is a heap of fun, righting the banal criticism of their first two albums.
Best three: World I Understand, Sorry, City Lights
24. The Mysterines – Reeling
The Mysterines debut placed number 18 in our six-month album review earlier in the year but, unlike some of the others on the list (Arcade Fire, White Lies, The Wombats), it has stuck with us to make the cut on our end of year list too. Released in March, the Liverpool band's debut album is one of the most thrilling and energetic records we've heard this year. Reeling features explosive grunge-rock tunes, creating both a brooding and gripping 43-minute listen. A band with a universal sound who just want to rock your socks off.
Best three: Hung Up, Dangerous, Life's a Bitch (But I Like It So Much)
23. Paulo Nutini - Last Night In The Bittersweet
Paulo Nutini albums are a rare event which is a shame as his talent is just as precious. He returned to critical and commercial success with this collection of soul songs that elevated him to the next level. By going back to a bygone age of production he stood out from everyone else. Like Wilson Picket gargling with Buckfast, Nutini cemented his status as the greatest force in music that Scotland’s produced in years. (words by Neil Renton)
Best three: Radio, Through the Echoes, Acid Eyes
22. Skylights – What You Are
With a large underground/social media following, Skylights are a Yorkshire band who produce infectious rock 'n' roll tunes, putting a spin on their Northern English indie influences (Oasis, Courteeners and Urban Hymns-era The Verve). Championed by Radio X new music expert John Kennedy and appearing on Soccer AM earlier in the year, the tunes are loud and euphoric. Lets be honest, they aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here, but the soaring guitar anthems and swagger on debut album What You Are are darn addictive.
Best three: Enemies, What You Are, Outlaw
21. Bloc Party – Alpha Games
Speaking about the frustrations of creating Bloc Party’s sixth studio album, frontman Kele Okereke would admit “there were lots of points during the making of this record where we weren’t sure if it was going to get made at all”. Such feelings of cynicism and anger eke out throughout this record, the energetic anguish providing the band a new lease of life.
Alpha Games is an excellent return, far more focused than many of their previous efforts. Bloc Party are simply bolder and punchier than ever - a band to be taken as a serious force again. And who doesn’t love a good redemption story?
Best three: The Girls Are Fighting, If We Get Caught, The Peace Offering
Read more: Album review | Bloc Party - Alpha Games.
20. Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There
Every year I compile a playlist of my favourite songs I’ve heard over the last twelve months. And despite this being my favourite album of 2022, there’s not a single song from Ants From Up There on it. It needs to be savoured and acknowledged for what it is - a modern masterpiece. On the eve of its release, Black Country, New Road singer Isaac Wood left the band to look after his mental health. He was a much-needed voice for those also fighting their own mental health battles. (Words by Neil Renton)
Best three: Chaos Space Marine, Snow Globes, Concorde
19. Julia Jacklin - PRE PLEASURE
“I care so much about the people around me,” reveals Aussie singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin in an album press release, “so much it makes me want to sleep forever, it feels so overwhelming”. This care and vulnerability pours out through the ten tracks on PRE PLEASURE, the third album from the 32-year-old singer who I'll admit to knowing very little about before this one. A gorgeous collection of songs, deeply personal and crafted so eloquently. It’s a beautifully contemplative listen from an authentic and big-hearted songwriter - direct, honest and poignant storytelling.
Best three: Lydia Wears a Cross, I Was Neon, Be Careful With Yourself
Read more: Album review | Julia Jacklin - PRE PLEASURE
18. The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention
Six years since Radiohead’s last album A Moon Shaped Pool, Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood joined drummer Tom Skinner for a new music project which sounds as close to a Radiohead album without actually being one. Through the pensive electronics, desolate vocals, uneasy strings, understated funk and anxious vocals, this is one to please the desires of the Radiohead fanbase and starve off the impatience for record number 10 (for now…). It may not be the main event, but what a stunning album from start to finish - did we expect anything less when Thom and Johnny get together?
Best three: The Same, You Will Never Work In Television Again, Thin Thing
17. The Lounge Society – Tired of Liberty
“You only get one opportunity at a debut record” state The Lounge Society in a pre-album press release, “anything that follows, is just an evolution from that”. Over this breathless collection of songs, the Yorkshire band seem aware of the need to create an impression. And they succeed with flying colours. Whether The Strokes producer Gordon Raphael’s prediction (by chance Raphael lives in the same Yorkshire town as them) that they can create another “chapter of rock music” will come true remains to be seen. But either way Tired of Liberty is a whole load of chaotic fun.
Best three: People Are Scary, Remains, North Is Your Heart
16. The Skinner Brothers - Soul Boy II
Fronted by shaggy-haired frontman Zac Skinner (a frontman not shy in creating a Twitter storm...), this year saw the London-based The Skinner Brothers release their debut. And it was a swaggeringly stunning effort with a lot of heart.
Encompassing the lyrical wit of Jamie T, the ferociousness of Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not-era Alex Turner and the attitude of Kasabian, Soul Boy II oozes grit, groove and charisma. So press play, pump your chest out and prepare for a feel-good experience from one of Britain’s most exciting rock ‘n’ roll bands.
Best three: Put Me Down As A Maybe, Low, Away Days
15. Alt- J – the Dream
Released in February, anticipation was high for alt-J’s fourth album and boy did they exceed these expectations. The Dream is a brilliant return from the Leeds art-rockers, finding success again after a four-year gap in impactful pop-focused songs and some beautiful meandering, darker tracks. It's more American-focused than earlier releases, as they take through a range of themes from cryptocurrency ('Hard Drive Gold'), failed dreams ('The Actor') and deathbed memories ('Get Better'). The Dream leaves you feeling reflective and yet, somehow, optimistic – like a hopeful nightmare.
Best three: U&ME, The Actor, Get Better
14. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Endless Rooms
Endless Rooms is Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s strongest and most coherent album to date. Unlike their previous two albums, never outstays its welcome. "It's January, we're on vacation, take your complaint to the United Nations" shrugs frontman Fran Keaney on the pulsating 'Tidal River', whilst 'Caught Low' has them at their laid-back, ambivalent best. 'Vanishing Dots' raises the stakes further, reaching them into more dreamy, atmospheric territory. There’s just something so appealing about the Melbourne band's slacker jangly indie sound which was hard to resist this year!
Best three: Caught Low, Tidal River, Vanishing Dots
13. Suede – Autofiction
Autofiction is Suede’s ninth studio album and first since 2018’s The Blue Hour. It’s a back-to-basics record full of soaring guitar anthems, big and punchy chorus and plenty of nostalgic drama. Rarely a moment is wasted, the band breathing a new lease of life into their already legendary career. The London Britpop icons sound two decades younger than they actually are.
Suede frontman Brett Anderson revealed “I wanted to come back and make something that felt a little bit more raw, a little bit more angry, a little bit more nasty. 'Autofiction' is our punk record, and we're f***ing proud of it.” And so they should be, it's fantastic.
Best three: She Still leads Me On, Personality Disorder, It's Always the Quiet Ones
12. Wunderhorse - Cub
Wunderhorse is the new project from actor and former Dead Pretties frontman Jacob Slater. In October he released his debut album with his new band. Cub is an impressive piece of work: the music brutally honest, introspective and shoegazey, the guitars moving effortlessly between heavy and delicate. It leaves quite the impact and little wonder big names in the indie rock scene like Fontaines D.C. (who turned me onto them in the first place, cheers lads....) felt the desire to ask Wunderhorse to open for them.
Best three: Teal, Poppy, Butterflies
11. Wet Leg – Wet Leg
The hype for Isle of Wight indie rock duo Wet Leg has been off the scale since last summer and their April released debut album proved the acclaim was entirely justified. Wet Leg is mostly characterised by absurdist lyricism and infectious energy. Be it references to “buttered muffins” and Mean Girls (‘Chaise Longue”) or simply asking “why don’t you just suck my d***” (‘Ur Mum’), there’s a distinguishable rude edge to rival their social awkwardness. Wet Leg is groove, social awkwardness and goofiness all rolled into one. The banger-filled soundtrack to two uncompromising twenty-something females.
Best three: Angelica, Chaise Longue, Too Late Now
10. Jamie T - The Theory of Whatever
As a big fan of Jamie T's earlier music, I would be lying if didn't admit to being nervous about his return after six years. Thankfully he smashed it. Now on his fifth studio album, The Theory Of Whatever is a varied mix of ballads, raucous anthems and darker moments throughout. The tension has increased, but the enjoyment still remains. Jamie T provides so many memorable moments over this return to counter any negativity. With his first UK number 1 album now under his belt, the appeal for the singer is as strong as ever. It's just great to have one of British rock ‘n’ roll's biggest characters back after a six-year absence, producing music that still sounds delightfully quirky and uniquely Jamie T.
Best three: 90s Cars, The old Style Raiders, Keying Lamborghinis
9. Working Men’s Club – Fear Fear
Hyped as one of the hottest new British bands, Yorkshire’s Working Men’s Club released their second album in July to critical fanfare. Written during lockdown, the sound of Fear Fear is one of anxiety, claustrophobia and 80’s inspired synth-pop: New Order influences echo across this record and frontman Syd Minsky-Sargeant channels the spirit of Bernard Sumner throughout. A post-punk/techno crossover both abrasive and melodic - all in all an absolutely gripping listen which can’t help but grab your attention.
Best three: Widow, 19, Cirumference
8. Confidence Man – TILT
Confidence Man were among the most talked about performers at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, bossing their Friday Park Stage set with an infectious eccentricity and energy. Soon a new legion of fans were to discover the Aussie dance-pop band's second album Tilt. Released in April, this sun-kissed record is as infectious as anything else you’ll hear this year – glam, totally ridiculous and, most importantly, fun. These dancefloor bangers are refreshing in their lack of pretentiousness as they made their case for album of the summer.
Best three: Holiday, Luvin U is Easy, Relieve the Pressue
7. Skullcrusher – Quiet the Room
Never has it been more important not to judge a book by its cover than with the music of Skullcrusher. If you’re thinking the name sounds like an angry Scandanavian death metal band, you couldn’t be further from the truth. It is, instead, the performance name of American indie-folk singer Helen Balentine. On her debut record, she delivered a beautiful and sad record, one which contrasts innocence and darkness to stunning effect. If you’re willing to judge the music before the name, you’re in for an absolute treat.
Best three: Whatever Fits Together, Lullaby in February, Pass Through Me
6. Arctic Monkeys – The Car
The swirling strings which possess prominence throughout seventh record The Car, contribute to creating Arctic Monkeys' most lush and classy effort to date. Despite the abundance of drama, what’s clear though is how down-to-earth The Car is compared to their last album Tranquillity Bass Hotel & Casino (in more ways than one...). Their seventh album is more emotionally involved too: a delightful listen which grows with each play. It’s time to embrace new Arctic Monkeys rather than bemoan how they’ve changed. This is wonderful stuff.
Best three: Hello You, Body Paint, There’d Better be a Mirrorball
5. Angel Olsen – Big Time
Over the past few years, Angel Olsen has established herself as a darling of the music press, yet something was always missing from each of her previous records for me to give her top-tier artist status. Until now that is. A lot has happened since 2020’s Whole New Mess: both her parents died and she even came out as queer. As a result, the emotion on Big Time is often overwhelming, but the beautiful subtleties remain.
The Nashville singer-songwriter’s sixth studio album finds her in Country-inspired terrain and the consistency on offer is outstanding. An album to stop you in your tracks as you soak in its power and vulnerability.
Best three: All the Good Times, Big Time, This Is How It Works
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down
Nine years is a lifetime in the music industry. Having been quiet since 2013’s Mosquito, it was enough time to assume Yeah Yeah Yeahs were done for. Thankfully the New York trio returned with Cool It Down in September: eight dreamy and intense synth-heavy tunes which proved their enduring relevance.
It was all so easy to get lost in. Be it the emotional power of ballad ‘Spitting…’, the ‘60s soul of ‘Burning’ or the animalistic dancefloor urges of ‘Wolf’, Karen O and co added to their legacy with their darkest and most dramatic album to date.
Best three: Spitting Off the Edge of the World, Wolf, Lovebomb
3. Alvvays – Blue Rev
Musically, Blue Rev is more consistent than anything else Alvvays have produced. Yes, it may be harder to identify as many radio-friendly hits as their first two albums (nothing as sugary as 'In Undertown' or 'Archie, Marry Me'.) Though this feels on purpose rather than an oversight – Molly Rankin’s vocals are often buried underneath the layers of guitars. You’ll quickly find the 14 tracks on the Canadian band’s latest flow through with ease and without the stutters of previous works.
The driving energy, layered guitars and added textures have created a more rounded record. They say too much sugar can make you sick, so toning this down has ensured our appetites are enriched, not overwhelmed on Alvvays brilliant new one.
Best three: After the Earthquake, Pomeranian Spinster, Very Online Guy
Read more: Album review | Alvvays - Blue Rev
2. Fontaines D.C. - Skinty Fia
I love Fontaines F.C. and have been obsessing over their newest one since it was released. You see Skinty Fia is a continuation of A Hero’s Death, certainly in terms of its darkened sound palette and bleaker lyricism, though with one difference. Instead, they’ve given themselves two years to refine what felt like a radical shift back in 2020. Where much of their second album fell flat, their latest vastly improves. First preview single ‘Jackie Down the Line’ is simply one of the best songs they’ve produced to date, its brooding 90’s guitar vibes are irresistible. ‘I Love You’ is equally as stunning, the hairs on the neck rising at Grian Chatten’s passionate rant which bemoans the state of Irish politics.
With three albums in four years, Fontaines D.C.'s consistency is to be admired. And with their latest record, the Irish post-punk band have delivered their most ambitious album to date, moving through ominous Irish choral openers, accordion-led ballads, brooding '90s alt-rock and dreamy indie pop. Fontaines D.C. have little else to prove and they're truly in a league of their own in the current brand of popular post-punk acts.
Best three: I Love You, Jackie Down The Line, Roman Holiday
1. Foals - Life Is Yours
Shock, horror! Foals have overtaken Fontaines D.C. to claim this year's top spot. Their latest is an outstanding piece of work. From the choppy synths of ‘Life Is Yours’, through the West African grooves on ‘Flutter’ to the overtly EDM vibes on closer ‘Wild Green’, Life Is Yours is filled with positivity and summer escapism. It's all done without a moment’s staleness, producing big ear worm singles with ‘2am’, ‘Looking High’ (a personal favourite) and ‘Wake Me Up’. The perfect fusion of dancefloor indie and Balearic trance influences which can’t help but win you over by the album’s completion.
This one was placed number 2, behind Fontaines D.C. in my mid-year album of the year list, and it's grown in strength over the months since to become my favourite album of 2022. They may be two band members lighter, but Foals have managed to reinvent themselves again, delivering a consistently fun and memorable record to soundtrack, not just the summer, but the entire year itself. Foals are ageing like a fine wine and we need to embrace them.
Best three: Looking High, 2001, The Sound
Agree or disagree with the list? Have I left anything out? Let me know on Twitter @BFloodlights!