Albums of 2022, the Year to Reset and Revive -By: Eric Gustafson

Written by on January 5, 2023

For music venues this was the year of reopening, cutting hours, closing and partial reopening. It’s just one dimension of unpredictability running rampant – another middle finger waving at us after years of virus- or government-induced dismay. Music in 2022 reflected the convoluted spheres we navigate: stepping onstage after honing the craft in lockdown; seeking “revengertainment” by going to and doing everything in surge mode, savings and Ticketmaster be damned; or shaking a fist at the system that got us into this mess. If music is the language of the spirit, the best albums of 2022 express the spirit of the age: lamenting what’s been lost, sure, but also building something new from what’s left and (Kyrie, eléison) moving forward. For instance:


“Angels & Queens – Part 1” by Gabriels

The American-British trio made a mark in the second half of 2021, with a series of EPs and ecstatically received club shows. They followed up that success in 2022 with this mini-album. The group’s style is not all that complicated: they update past strands of American R’n’B to make pop music that sounds rich, woody and luxuriant, preferring instrumentation to electronics. “Angels & Queens – Part 1” showcased Jacob Lusk’s glorious voice; it sounded like the work of a group built to last.


“Diaspora Problems” by Soul Glo

Hardcore punk is traditionally among the whitest of music genres, but throughout its history there have been black pioneers such as Bad Brains. Soul Glo, a band from Philadelphia, have joined their ranks with “Diaspora Problems”. The music displays more ambition and scope than most race-to-the-finish hardcore and is interpolated with hip-hop. Pierce Jordan’s lyrics are dense screeds of words, full of righteous anger at America’s racial politics.


“Freakout/Release” by Hot Chip

You can often hear the fatigue in a band eight albums into their career, but there is no sign of that with Hot Chip. The group continues to combine melancholy and euphoria in music that manages to be both danceable and deeply emotional. “Freakout/Release” offers joyful songs (particularly “Eleanor”) alongside ruminations on lives slipping out of focus (“Broken”). Nowadays Hot Chip deserves to be thought of not as some hipster concern, but part of a tradition of great and distinctively English pop groups.


“Lucifer on the Sofa” by Spoon

Like Hot Chip, Spoon are deep into their career: this is their tenth album. Also, like Hot Chip, the Texan band has managed to escape the law of diminishing returns. Their gift is to be able to make each of their records sound different from the previous one. What links them all is their unshowiness and craftsmanship. Songs are never cluttered, sounds are always perfectly chosen, and instrumentalists serve the track, not their own egos. Their cover of “Held”, by Smog, was so expertly done you would never have guessed it was not their own composition.


“Maliba” by Fatoumata Diawara

Hundreds of thousands of manuscripts were produced in Timbuktu between the 11th and 18th centuries; around 350,000 were secretly moved from the city in 2012 to save them from jihadist violence. Google Arts and Culture have begun digitizing the fragile books, and Fatoumata Diawara collaborated with them to create a soundtrack for the project. The result, “Maliba”, is a wondrous work of cultural preservation from one of the biggest names in contemporary African music. Her soulful vocals, swinging strings and pattering rhythms never disappoint.


“Motomami” by Rosalía

The Catalan flamenco-pop star more than proves her genre-defying credentials with her third studio album, which displays her musical range, knack for innovation and extraordinary ambition. The 16 tracks borrow from bachata, reggaeton, electronic music and hip-hop, among other influences. “Bulerías” plunges the listener into a pueblo in Andalusia, while “Chicken Teriyaki” might play in a Puerto Rican nightclub. As a result, Rosalía is at the center of debates over who stands to benefit when Western artists borrow from other genres. Still, her flair and originality are winning plaudits: “Motomami” won Album of the Year at this year’s Latin Grammy Awards.


“Remember Your North Star” by Yaya Bey

This lithe, multifaceted album has the intimate feel of a friend reading her diary aloud. As she combines spoken-word poetry and song, the singer-songwriter from New York moves breezily through R’n’B, easy-going reggae and Afro-house sounds. In “Keisha” and “Meet Me in Brooklyn” she reveals tiresome break-ups and disappointments in love without wallowing in self-pity. Her tracks are groovy, rousing tributes to feminine power (try “Pour Up”) that focus on her experiences as a black woman.


“Renaissance” by Beyoncé

With her seventh solo album, “Queen Bey” cements her place in pop-music history. She is now tied with Jay-Z, her husband, for the most Grammy nominations of all time, a record 88. The two hitmakers will reportedly collaborate again on future installments of this monumental album, which mixes nineties house revival (“Break My Soul”) with delicious neo-soul (“Plastic Off the Sofa”), as well as hip-hop and dancehall. Altogether it is a state-of-the-art R’n’B album aimed at the dance floor.


“(self-titled)” by Marcus Mumford

For his first solo album, Marcus Mumford turns inward, reflecting on his childhood sexual abuse in stark and unsettling terms. At times the lyrics read rather like transcriptions of therapy sessions (a bit of a trend this year, what with therapy-related music from First Aid Kit and Rina Sawayama). What stops the album from being pure misery is the music, which is expertly done adult pop. Even those who dislike Mumford & Sons might be surprised by “(self-titled)”.


“Where I’m Meant to Be” by Ezra Collective

The quintet’s third album flits between pulsing Afrobeat, frenetic salsa rhythms and velvety fusions of funk, jazz and R’n’B. It is a genre-busting, riotous musical tour of the globe that is energetic without being overwhelming. A stellar line-up of collaborators, which includes Sampa the Great, Emeli Sandé and Kojey Radical, shows Ezra Collective to be one of the most exciting names in London’s vibrant jazz scene.

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