Gang of Youths, Florence and the Machine among favorite music of 2022 so far

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Gang of Youths
Gang of Youths

I'm a firm believer that, if you can't find satisfying new music, you just need to wait a beat, shuffle some sources around, listen harder. What you need will find you.

2022 is proving the point, with a remarkable first half of the year in music. Stars, both bright and emerging, are processing a tumultuous world with big hearts and inventive sounds.

Ten albums — from the more than 175 LPs I've checked out so far — have distinguished themselves in my ears since January. Calling them the "best" of the young year is short-sighted: art isn't a competition, and it lives in the ear of the beholder, anyway. But these are the 10 I'd call my favorites so far, the most memorable and meaningful in my world.

We'll get back together in late December or early January to do this all again — for keeps. Some of these albums will return; some will drop off the list; some might even swap places. But all these records carried me along these past six months. And that's worth celebrating.

1. Gang of Youths, "angel in realtime."

"angel in realtime."
"angel in realtime."

Possessing an almost-reckless earnestness — and confidence to stretch its anthemic rock in both more ornate and stripped-down directions — this Australian band made the record I've needed to hear over and over again this year. Singer David Le'aupepe is uncommonly honest about the effects of shame and regret, then makes music that transcends his mistakes.

2. Florence + the Machine, "Dance Fever"

"Dance Fever"
"Dance Fever"

Florence Welch and Co. exercise deep magic on this swirling set of celestial pop. The album is grand, as per Welch's usual, but these songs do a remarkable job of sifting soil and scanning the sky, examining how we make our lives in the spaces between heaven and earth.

3. Big Thief, "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You"

"Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You"
"Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You"

Few albums blend the epic and intimate quite as well as Big Thief's latest. The band unveils 20 songs over the course of 80 minutes, but singer Adrianne Lenker and her cohorts are committed to warm sound and personal details, making each cut feel freshly painted.

4. Kendrick Lamar, "Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers"

"Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers"
"Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers"

An initial listen to Lamar's first record in five years feels like diving right into the deep end of a Marlon James or Louise Erdrich novel; with so many characters to keep straight and emotions to sift, you need more time to listen close, to return to the same passage again and find its beating heart. Every exposure is worthwhile — this is rap as theater, rap as documentary, rap as literature.

5. Kevin Morby, "This is a Photograph"

"This is a Photograph"
"This is a Photograph"

Pitchfork called the Kansas City stalwart's latest "a Memphis vision quest," and it's so right. Morby builds a colorful pop shrine to the city from memories and metaphysical elements. The result splits the difference between Lou Reed and Tom Petty, with a sound that's layered, soulful and more than a little haunted.

6. S.G. Goodman, "Teeth Marks"

"Teeth Marks"
"Teeth Marks"

Visceral while maintaining serious nuance and vulnerability, the new one from this Kentucky singer-songwriter is an emotionally satisfying mix of rock, folk, country and gospel. Goodman owns one of the most powerful voices in modern Americana and, here, explores its every nook and cranny.

7. Sharon Van Etten, "We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong"

"We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong"
"We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong"

Superlative songwriter Van Etten released no singles ahead of her sixth record, preferring listeners experience these 10 songs together, one building to the next. The album is worth listening to in full, a slow burn yet seasoned with moments of soaring catharsis.

8. Denzel Curry, "Melt My Eyez See Your Future"

"Melt My Eyez See Your Future"
"Melt My Eyez See Your Future"

At just 27, the Florida native is now five albums into his career, establishing himself as a force for artful hip-hop. Curry's thoughtful, direct lyrics lay perfectly over shimmering production that expands and contracts at will.

9. Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, "No Tongue Can Tell"

"No Tongue Can Tell"
"No Tongue Can Tell"

A veteran of bands such as Water Liars and Theodore, the now Arkansas-based songwriter crafts heartbreakers to rival Jason Molina and John Prine. His latest continues to sift, then weigh, nuggets of hope against the sadness in which they're found.

10. Wilco, "Cruel Country"

Wilco's "Cruel Country" album cover
Wilco's "Cruel Country" album cover

Some have been quick — too quick, I'd say — to judge Wilco's latest as a return to some earlier form. "Cruel Country" offers two much better gifts: the sound of quiet, intuitive collaboration between bandmates, and Jeff Tweedy making lyrical peace with so many of the concerns overshadowing his records for years.

The next 10:

Arcade Fire, "We"; Father John Misty, "Chloe and the Next 20th Century"; Andrew Bird, "Inside Problems"; The Smile, "A Light for Attracting Attention"; Shovels and Rope, "Manticore"; Wet Leg, self-titled; Saba, "Few Good Things"; Robert Glasper, "Black Radio III"; Angel Olsen, "Big Time"; Caracara, "New Preoccupations."

Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at adanielsen@columbiatribune.com or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: The 10 most memorable albums of 2022 so far