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The 50 Best Albums Of 2022

NPR Music's Best Albums of 2022
Illustration: Huston Wilson for NPR

A year like this one makes hand-wringing about the death of the album seem silly (if anything we should be concerned about the single). Musicians gave us experiences in 2022. Immersive, ambitious, focused, sprawling, explosive, swerving albums expressed their power in any number of ways: Vibes to make summer stretch on into the year's cold months. Bottomless layers of invention. History lessons that sparkled like the best party you could imagine. There were too many great albums to count, let alone narrow down to a round number. But here are 50 that made us feel awe, ache or adoration, selected and ranked by the contributors, public radio partners and staff of NPR Music. (Oh, and we also ranked the 100 Best Songs of 2022.)

Stream NPR Music's 50 Best Albums of 2022:
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50.

Ashley McBryde

Presents: Lindeville

Ashley McBryde, Presents: Lindeville
/ Warner Music Nashville
/
Warner Music Nashville

Ashley McBryde is known for her singular ability to make it feel like she's lived what she sings about. On Lindeville, which sits at the intersection of storytelling country concept albums and musical theater, she puts other talents to use, gleefully getting into character and filling out the cast of salty, scrappy small-town neighbors with her singing peers and writing buddies. Over playful picking and loose-limbed, loping grooves, McBryde and her cast mates send up their protagonists' acting out, and it makes for the most vivid, rollicking and unexpected country song cycle of the year. —Jewly Hight, WNXP

49.

Soul Glo

Diaspora Problems

Soul Glo, Diaspora Problems
/ Epitaph
/
Epitaph

When Black folks say "diaspora," we're not just speaking about our shared origins in the past. For us, diaspora points to our shared experiences in the present and an interest in our collective future. Throughout its album, Diaspora Problems, Philly hardcore punks Soul Glo address the multitudinous nature of the diaspora and what we go through. The riffs are fast and furious while the lyrics are funny and incisive. Beautiful, Black punk rock for our folks. —John Morrison, WXPN

(This review also appears in NPR Music's Best Rock Albums of 2022. Read the entire list.)

48.

Sean Shibe

Lost & Found

Sean Shibe, Lost & Found
/ Pentatone
/
Pentatone

The mild-mannered, conservatory-educated classical guitarist from Scotland possesses an untamed imagination, a sharp ear for curation and extraordinary technique on his Mexican Stratocaster. Repertoire-wise, strange bedfellows have rarely sounded this good together, as music by Moondog rubs against Bill Evans while Olivier Messiaen and Meredith Monk lie down with Julius Eastman and the medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen. Shibe can shred, but more often he makes the instrument sound as featherlight as an angel's wing. —Tom Huizenga

(A version of this review appears on NPR Music's Best Classical Albums of 2022. Read the entire list.)

47.

Huerco S.

Plonk

Huerco S., Plonk
/ Incienso
/
Incienso

Blissed-out minimalism might be a balm for our busted biochemistries, but Huerco S. seems to want his work ingested less as a mood stabilizer than he does a mood consorter. Behold: 10 tracks, all titled Plonk, fissured together, gently jaggily so as to resist any threat of "easy listening." The penultimate piece uses D.C.'s greatest living rapper, Sir E.U, as a frontispiece — wayward and sprawling as a mind moving in the moments before fidgety sleep. —Mina Tavakoli

46.

JID

The Forever Story

JID, The Forever Story
/ Dreamville/Interscope
/
Dreamville/Interscope

The Forever Story opens with a reveal that JID's been grinding on his singing skills. He lulls earnestly over the airy piano "Forever can't be too far away from never...," an acknowledgement that, since 2017's The Never Story, he's put in the performance and prayer required to reconfigure his reality. That juxtaposition of gratitude and hunger is the driving tension behind the kaleidoscopic project that shows just how daring and vulnerable he can be. The fluidity of genre and nods to inspirational musicians all work together to negotiate his place in Black music history forever. —Gabby Bulgarelli

45.

Cécile McLorin Salvant

Ghost Song

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Ghost Song
/ Nonesuch
/
Nonesuch

The glorious, gothic peculiarities of this era's leading song exploder have rarely been on more vivid display. Ghost Song finds Cécile McLorin Salvant in a bardic mode, singing intently of lost minds, phantom lovers and budding resentments; it's an emotionally complicated canvas, one that she fills with shadow and color. —Nate Chinen, WRTI

(A version of this review appears on Nate Chinen's Favorite Music of 2022. Read the entire list.)

44.

Lucky Daye

Candydrip

Lucky Daye, Candydrip
/ RCA
/
RCA

Candydrip is the sugary sweet follow up to Lucky Daye's 2019 debut, as he continues to refine his signature feel-good R&B that smoothly serenades listeners about the twists and turns of romance. Once again, Daye teams up with D'Mile and Alex Isley, as her unmistakable background vocals peak throughout the album. Featuring a flavorful palette of grooves, focused storytelling and more soulful soundscapes, they turn up the heat with sleeker production, yet deliver a poetic project that feels timeless. Daye has proven himself to be consistent, continuously evolving and leaving his imprint within the realm of R&B and soul. —Ashley Pointer

43.

Robert Glasper

Black Radio III

Robert Glasper, Black Radio III
/ Loma Vista
/
Loma Vista

"We were born of a people who were torn from their people," proclaims poet Amir Sulaiman on the powerful first track of Robert Glasper's Black Radio III. "Black Superhero" follows, both songs reminders of the seriousness that comes with today's Black experience. While the rest of the album centers on themes of love and positivity, what's consistent throughout is Glasper's musicianship and songwriting genius, the outstanding contributions of his all-star collaborators and an alluring assimilation of jazz, hip-hop and R&B grooves into Black music excellence. —Suraya Mohamed

42.

caroline

caroline

caroline, caroline
/ Rough Trade
/
Rough Trade

There's a seed inside every caroline song; sometimes it's a weighted-blanket chord progression, a mournful interval or a simple phrase repeated. And in that fragile inkling of an idea, something grows outward and seeks light. On its self-titled debut, the London-based octet pulls from minimalism, Midwestern emo, post-rock, free-jazz, folk and chamber music not as genetic genre splice, but as a way to build community sprouted from an unforgiving Earth. —Lars Gotrich

(This review appears on NPR Music's Best Rock Albums of 2022. Read the entire list.)

41.

Sam Prekop & John McEntire

Sons Of

Sam Prekop & John McEntire, Sons Of
/ Thrill Jockey
/
Thrill Jockey

Sam Prekop and John McEntire first collaborated in the Chicago band The Sea and Cake in the late '90s, but here they ditch guitars and drums for modular synthesizer experiments. The songs were largely improvised — on stage or through emailed snippets — and they sizzle and morph into strange shapes. The best improvisation transforms music into a living thing. With wires, knobs, patience and attention, this duo makes electricity itself sing. —Art Levy, KUTX


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