The 50 Best Albums Of 2022 (40-31) We ranked our 50 favorite records of the year, from hip-hop to classical and everything in between.

The 50 Best Albums Of 2022

NPR Music's 50 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.)

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Hurray for the Riff Raff


Hurray for the Riff Raff, LIFE ON EARTH

"Nature teaches us that our work has to be nuanced and steadfast," adrienne maree brown writes in Emergent Strategy, "and more than anything, that we need each other ... in order to get free." Alynda Segarra's eighth album as Hurray for the Riff Raff, deeply inspired by that text, embodies that maxim. Its 11 tracks of "nature punk" are sharply constructed and deeply felt, finding hope in the power of compassion and the fundamental interconnectedness of all living things. —Marissa Lorusso

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




Saddest Factory

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Come for the blissed-out pairing of "Silk Chiffon" and "What I Want" — each of which ranks among the greatest queer-liberation anthems of this young decade — but stay for the mellower pleasures that fill out MUNA's unimpeachable comeback album. "Anything But Me" channels the harmony-rich L.A. breeziness of Haim, "Kind of Girl" unfurls as a slow-burning rumination on self-advocacy, and "Shooting Star" closes the proceedings with a bout of hopeful swooning, but those are just a handful of the pleasures that abound. The more time you spend with MUNA, the less inclined you'll feel to skip a single song. —Stephen Thompson


Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul

Topical Dancer

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul, Topical Dancer

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Wicked humor has always revved the engine of avant-garde dance pop, from Grace Jones' deadpan sneer to the glitchy giggles of Yeule. Adigéry and Pupul deploy their laughs — literally, in the showstopping "HAHA," which turns Adigéry's laughter into a rollercoaster of self-expression — to dismantle racism, sexism and generalized human foolishness on this beguiling and endlessly inventive manifesto of an album. Some tracks critique pop music itself — "Making Sense Stop," for example, lovingly takes down white appropriators — while others take on the absurdity of everything from courtship rituals to tourism to motherhood. Thanks to these two Belgian pranksters for insisting that we always need a laugh. —Ann Powers

(This review appears on Ann Powers' Top 20 Albums of 2022. Read the entire list.)


Nancy Mounir

Nozhet El Nofous

Nancy Mounir, Nozhet El Nofous

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Nancy Mounir's Nozhet El Nofous is a conversation with the past. The Cairo-based composer and instrumentalist weaves aching arrangements around crackling recordings of 1920s Egyptian singers. In translations provided, we grasp how Mounir's own violin, bass and piano dance seamlessly with beautiful Arabic poetry of love, torment and darkness — characters who express longing and sorrow with the same nostalgic verve of what Brazilians call saudade. The ghostly effect, however, isn't haunting, but an empathetic hand across time. —Lars Gotrich

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



Laughing so Hard, it Hurts

MAVI, Laughing so Hard, it Hurts
MAVI 4 Mayor

The first time I saw MAVI perform, he was still studying at Howard, just trying to make this music thing work. In a dim basement in D.C., with a crowd still growing familiar with him, he gripped the mic, closed his eyes and performed the earnest, heady music of his 2019 debut Let the Sun Talk. In the three years since, the Charlotte, N.C., rapper has learned, loosened up and evolved. On his breezy follow-up, Laughing so Hard, it Hurts, he's drawn to a smooth, melodic style, a careful and deliberate unspooling of the web-like raps of Sun Talk. His producers — a cast including Dylvinci, monte booker and Wulf Morpheus — lend him a silky, almost R&B touch. And MAVI grapples poignantly with the weight of the last few years, and of generations past. —Mano Sundaresan

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


Caterina Barbieri

Spirit Exit

Caterina Barbieri, Spirit Exit

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The Italian electronic composer Caterina Barbieri thinks deeply about the spiritual impact of her music on the bodies and minds of others. Her intense album Spirit Exit was created in isolation during Milan's strict pandemic lockdown, inspired by hermetic visionaries including the mystic nun St. Teresa of Ávila and Emily Dickinson. Barbieri's layered tracks build and explode massively into moments of bliss, as if to musically recreate Ávila's ecstatic vision of being stabbed in the heart by an angel. —Hazel Cills

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



Anyways, Life's Great...

GloRilla, Anyways, Life's Great...

After blessing the break-up anthem canon with 2022's song of the summer, "F.N.F (Let's Go)," GloRilla obliterates all "one-hit wonder" talk with Anyways, Life's Great... It's the way Glo's accent careens around syllables as she provides positive affirmations like: "Ain't f***ed up 'bout no credit score, I might be rich as f*** tomorrow / Every day the sun won't shine, but that's why I love tomorrow." It's the self-assurance of setting and maintaining boundaries — "I ain't in these bitches beef, I'm in my motherf***in' prime / Told 'em, 'Leave me out the way, no parts and I'm not takin' sides.' " The Memphis, Tenn., phenom's major label debut EP boasts themes of optimism and autonomy with a Big Glo-sized dash of ratchet debauchery mixed in. —Sidney Madden

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



Blue Rev

Alvvays, Blue Rev

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To borrow the expression "more cowbell," the Toronto band's record is, simply put, "more Alvvays." With more layers of guitars, melodies and beautiful noise, Blue Rev builds and expands on Alvvays' sound, a musical mirepoix mixed with the soaring vocals of songwriter Molly Rankin. Big Star and Teenage Fanclub's hyper-melodicism comes to mind as does the noise-pop wizardry of My Bloody Valentine and Rankin's proclaimed love of Belinda Carlisle. Blue Rev is a new benchmark in the overlapping worlds of dream and power pop, impressively produced by Shawn Everett. —Bruce Warren, WXPN



imagine naked!

OHYUNG, imagine naked!
NNA Tapes

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Whenever I needed a pacifier this year — which was often — something that would bring me back down not just to Earth but calmly to the very apartment room I was likely sitting in, imagine naked! was there to help. It makes sense: Robert Ouyang Rusli, who records tender ambient like this under the name OHYUNG, based its song titles on lines from a poem by t. tran le, titled "Vegetalscape," that creates deep magic from scenes of the everyday. That OHYUNG also composes for film makes perfect sense; mine might be titled Post-Pandemic Basement Boy. —Andrew Flanagan

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


Wet Leg

Wet Leg

Wet Leg, Wet Leg

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Wet Leg's "Chaise Longue" was one of last year's greatest songs, an introductory single whose deadpan come-ons exuded wiry wit and playful cool. Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers' full-length debut lives up to that track's enormous promise, with songs that tap into several generations' worth of rock and post-punk influences while still capturing a cocktail of moods that's unmistakably of-the-moment: somehow both over- and under-stimulated, introspective but distant, lusty but numb. —Stephen Thompson

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

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