Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
AOTY22 2

The Best Albums of 2022 Ranked

05 December 2022, 08:30

We rank the 50 most outstanding records of 2022, including Björk, Taylor Swift, Jockstrap, and Ethel Cain.

Quitters by Christian Lee Hutson

“Are they siblings? Are they dating? Is the game that we are playing. At the festival in Kentucky, you say they are definitely fucking.” The opening line from “State Bird” exemplifies everything that is perfect about Quitters. The fourth full-length from LA singer-songwriter Christian Lee Hutson, it’s an observational critique of life as an older millennial and all the posturing and uncertainty that comes with it.

Following on from Hutson’s breakthrough 2020 release Beginners, a record that saw him catch the corners of Phoebe Bridgers’ starlight, Quitters puts Bridgers back in charge of production, this time splitting duties with Conor Oberst. Taking cues from Elliot Smith and sharing the same downcast and detached musical DNA, they kept the recordings intimate, capturing the warmth and diaristic confessionality of Hutson’s performance.

But it’s Hutson’s lyricism that really lifts Quitters. Full of cutting insight, self-deprecation, considered wit and loaded imagery, he can illuminate a scene with the turn of a few words. “I’m peeking through the bandages, to see if I can handle it”, he sings on “Endangered Birds”, while on “Teddy’s Song” he paints a glowing portrait. “Asleep with the radio next to the bed on the floor, ‘cause it sounds like my parents talking through the door.” His lines are evocative, instantly accessible and intuitive. While his use of first-person often has him playing the punchline, his delivery is so inclusive you always feel like you’re in on the joke. JEN LONG

Listen to/buy Quitters on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Christian Lee Hutson

Quitters by Christian Lee Hutson

Anywhere But Here by Sorry

On their second album Sorry lead us by the hand through back alleys, secret green spaces, crowded bathrooms and bridges whilst employing a remarkable arsenal of evocative techniques. Laden with 7ths that take you straight to certain street corners (the moody bassline of “I Miss The Fool” or conversely, the coy escalations of “There’s So Many People That Want To Be Loved”), insistent mantras descend across the album like a fog.

Every listen yields new life oozing from each beat - above all, Anywhere But Here feels like an album that will weather excellently as Sorry go onwards. IMS TAYLOR

Listen to/buy Anywhere But Here on Bandcamp

Anywhere but here by sorry

Midnights by Taylor Swift

Swift’s tenth studio album is her best collection of pop songs in almost a decade and despite feeling more like a gateway record to whatever comes next, did contain some of her best – and most personal - lyrics to date. Midnights saw its protagonist rise to the challenge of writing about Taylor Swift in love, and she did so with wit, and some surreal – and often clever – wordplay that made up for the lack of sonic focus. PAUL BRIDGEWATER

Listen to Midnights on Spotify

Taylor Swift Midnights

Save the Baby by Enumclaw

Proving that manifestation can just about make anything come true, while Enumclaw's repeated mantra of wanting to be bigger than Oasis hasn't quite landed them at a sold-out Knebworth, it has meant they’ve confidently delivered an album that lands directly in 2022's purest, shimmering iteration of indie music.

Save The Baby delivers as much potent melody as it does emotional deliverance for frontman Aramis Johnson. The killer combination of his croaking vocals and the battle between bass grooves and guitar drops with raw drums, makes for an infectious trip through the best part of the ‘90s indie scene, without any of the irony or pretension. As a much-maligned band once ruminated, sincerity is scary but with the likes of Enumclaw it feels like a raw part of life that can be embraced for the better. STEVEN LOFTIN

Listen to/buy Save the Baby on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Enumclaw

Save the Baby by Enumclaw

This Is A Photograph by Kevin Morby

If it’s a musical odyssey you’re after, look no further than Kevin Morby’s sprawling, intricate This Is A Photograph. On his seventh album, the free-spirited singer-songwriter is at his expansive, winding, rambling best, touching on life and death, and everything in-between.

Musically, there’s plenty to fawn over: the heartfelt duet between Morby and Erin Rae of the banjo-violin driven Bittersweet, TN; the crystalline plinks of harp and whispy sax that adorn the dreamy "A Coat Of Butterflies"; the picked guitar that shines through radiantly in "A Random Act Of Kindness"; the sweeping strings and fluttering flutes of "Stop Before I Cry", an ode to Morby’s partner Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee). Some of the prettiest songs Morby’s written live on this album, which is ironic, considering most if not all touch on the topic of death in some sort of way – Jeff Buckley’s tragic drowning is referenced (“If you go down to Memphis please don’t go swimming in the Mississippi River”, “I heard the mighty Mississippi took you out with just one punch”), and morose quips like “the living took forever, but the dying went quick” inhabit the tunes.

Sparked by an old photograph of his dad, “a window to the past”, Kevin Morby felt inspired to ruminate on mortality, and all the existential dread and anxiety that comes with it, on the songs that now make up This Is A Photograph. Who would’ve thought that it would turn out to be such a beautiful thing? OLI KUSCHER

Listen to/buy This is a Photograph on Bandcamp

This Is A Photograph by Kevin Morby

CAZIMI by Caitlin Rose

Caitlin Rose’s story is one of a start-stop situation. It’s been nine-years since she last appeared with her second album, 2013’s The Stand-In, but after a debut full-length (2010’s Own Side Now) and said follow-up not quite striking a match with her internally, it’s safe to say things didn’t quite work out as she’d planned – but that’s not the story of CAZIMI. Instead, hope radiates through the peppy country tracks Rose penned after finding her way out of the darkness, and it’s a sugary-sweet deliverance. While Rose’s past output relied on her evoking the darker, forlorn side of the Nashville haunts she surrounded herself with, CAZIMI is a guiding light for any who need a helping hand – but mostly, it represents Rose resting on knowing herself finally. All good country albums should paint a grand picture with the simplest detail and deftest touch, which Rose embodies wholeheartedly without serving anything false. The sounds are still rich in her past, but spread a sparkling warmth that feels brand new. STEVEN LOFTIN

Listen to/buy CAZIMI on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Caitlin Rose

CAZIMI by Caitlin Rose

Regards to the End by Emily Wells

Having broadened the palette of her songwriting with 2019’s This World Is Too ____ For You, a chamber ensemble suite inspired by the climate crisis, Emily Wells returned with her most richly layered and passionate work yet.

Regards to the End finds her in dialogue with artists and activists who spoke out against the failures of government to take the threat of HIV/AIDS seriously when the crisis first began to escalate in the US in the 1980s. Drawing parallels between then and more recent history, with Covid and the growing urgency of our overheating Earth, there’s a sometimes overwhelming sense of longing and sorrow, but also of hope and release: ‘the end’ as a concept is divinely undefined.

Aside from her swooping, startling voice, Wells’ skill as an arranger, producer and master of a small orchestra’s worth of instruments gives Regards to the End a gorgeous sense of theatricality. Recruiting skilled woodwind players adds further breath and colour to the songs, particularly the synth-driven art-pop of “Two Dogs Tethered Inside” and the luxe orchestrations of “Love Saves the Day”. ALAN PEDDER

Listen to/buy Regards to the End on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Emily Wells

Regards To The End by Emily Wells

Tough Baby by Crack Cloud

Tough Baby is a record of anthems for a doomed youth full of hope and fight. Described by the Canadian art-punk collective’s as “Based on true shit”, their third album reckons with innocence and its corrosion – and, most notably, grief. The wisdom of frontman Zach Choy’s late father, whom he has now reached the same age as, is the comforting presence with which the record begins and ends. Yet despite the bleak facts of loss, together, Crack Cloud find levity.

There is a tattered sense of grandiosity to their sound, sharing the spirit of Springsteen if he was writing from his nation’s ruins. Choy is a mesmeric frontman with grab-you-by-the-collar command, but he is merely a conductor for the band’s shared electric. They have never felt so unified, and the gravitas of their combined talents reach an orchestral scale that gives you a lump in your throat.

Underpinning this sprawling record is an urgency to be heard, to be understood. There are moments of no-fucks-given thrills, like with the chest-thumping showmanship of “Please Yourself”, but these are weighted equally with gut-wrenching truths. “Afterthought (Sukhi’s Prayer)” best captures the band’s fascination with childhood memory and innocence, the things that we believe to be good and true: “And there’s no more war and there’s no more hate / And there’s no more stigma, nothing left to debate / Your mom’s put down the drink and your dad’s back from the grave / And this world’s a better place”. And yet despite the world putting an end to those illusions, Tough Baby is a record that clings to that youthful hope. SOPHIE WALKER

Listen to/buy Tough Baby on Bandcamp

Tough Baby by Crack Cloud

Yesterday is Heavy by Lil Silva

Lil Silva takes explores new terrain like a forager – observing his surrounded while checking back on his footsteps. It’s a process that paid off for his debut album too. After working with the greats (Adele, Damon Albarn, Mark Ronson) over his 10+ year career, Yesterday Is Heavy represents a shift in creativity that’s wholly cohesive.

The record plays to Lil Silva’s strength’s: command of the track, inherent creativity, and ability produce from 0 to 100. In a journey through sound, vocals from Sampha and instrumentation from BADBADNOTGOOD prove to be the strongest pairings of talent as Silva explores his own limits. Dark, jazzy basslines are enough to stand out amongst the record’s many voices, and Silva proves himself as an orchestrator both on and off the mic. HANNAH BROWNE

Listen to/buy Yesterday is Heavy on Bandcamp

Yesterday is Heavy by Lil Silva

Hysteria by Indigo Sparke

It’s hard to reflect on music from the past couple of years without taking into account the global trauma that touched us all. But Hysteria, the title of Australian singer-songwriter Indigo Sparke’s second offering, certainly feels like an apt summation. A catchall word that covers the justified, personal, emotional and sometimes questionable moments we’ve all experienced since March 2020. The album began life at the start of the pandemic whilst Sparke was stranded in quarantine in Australia awaiting the renewal of her US visa. Growing from that period of uncertainty, on Hysteria Sparke covers vast emotional ground, all rooted in a sense of despair, grief and yearning hope.

Following on from 2020’s intimate and introspective debut Echo, produced by Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker, this time Sparke partnered with The National’s Aaron Dessner who in turn pushes her songwriting outwards. Bolstered by rich musicianship and strident drive, the songs on Hysteria bloom.

However, the crux of the record is still Sparke’s incandescent vocal, propelling Dessner’s instrumentation forward and fixed central and powerful on each song. Even in the album’s most hushed moments her voice still grips. Songs like “Pressure in my Chest” and “Set Your Fire On Me” provide the record’s hooks, a wash of timeless songwriting, while tracks like “Why Do You Lie” and “Golden Ribbons” highlight her talent for abstract subtlety. It may not wear its heart on its sleeve, but Hysteria is an album reflective of growth and all the pain and trauma that’s buried within that process. JENNA STEVENS

Listen to/buy Hysteria on Bandcamp

Hysteria by Indigo Sparke

Write Your Name in Pink by Quinn Christopherson

Alaskan native Quinn Christopherson delves deep into the complexities of identity and vulnerability on debut album Write Your Name In Pink. Shot into the spotlight following his win of NPR's 2019 Tiny Desk Contest, the songwriter’s exploration of gratitude and familial relationships form a wonderland of synth-tinged pop, spanning beautiful minimalism in isolated vocals that meld skilfully with lush choral uprisings.

Across the 12 track offering, an ethereal simplicity is underlined with heartfelt honesty; cutting bone-deep. In “2005”, he paints honey-soaked vignettes of nostalgia, reminiscing on young teenagehood, while the anthemic “Celine” is a joyous appreciation of his mother; a triumphant understanding of parental figures found only in adulthood. With “Bubblegum”, Christopherson recounts an adolescence grasping at a sense of self. As the record concludes with “Erase Me”, he finds himself adrift, wondering how to handle newfound privilege as a trans man. For a debut album, it’s a beautifully formed offering, exploring difficult themes with an introspective but excellently penned reflection on the past. AMY ALBINSON

Listen to/buy Write Your Name in Pink on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Quinn Christopherson

Write Your Name in Pink by Quinn Christopherson

Dirt Femme by Tove Lo

Dirt Femme was Tove Lo’s glorious re-introduction to the world. Debuting on her new label Pretty Swede Records, the album marked Tove Lo’s new independence as an artist – and is arguably her best work to date.

Since appearing on Euphoria with “How Long,” 2022 has truly been Tove Lo’s year. Lead single “No One Dies From Love’ was a summer hit, then follow-up “2 Die 4” further continued her romantic-banger success. Then, with a week to go before release, she gave us “Grapefruit” – a song lamenting her past struggles with an eating disorder. It’s these jumps that make Tove Lo so special, as these kinds of things would usually fall flat with other artists – but not with her.

The album’s collaborations are wonderful, with two appearances from producer superstar SG Lewis on the album’s high points (“Call on Me” and “Pineapple Slice”), and up-and-comer rapper Channel Tres appears on the album’s unexpected bop “Attention Whore.” Even a rogue appearance from duo First Aid Kit doesn’t feel out of place, and the final product gels together with ease. DAVID COBBALD

Listen to/buy Dirt Femme on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Tove Lo

Dirt Femme by Tove Lo

All of Us Flames by Ezra Furman

Ezra Furman is a born storyteller. After a career of unforgettable tracks like “Driving Down To L.A.” and “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend”, it’s no surprise that she arrived into 2022 ready to drop one of the best, most necessary albums of the year. All Of Us Flames takes her character-driven songwriting to new heights as she switches between personal moments and observational storytelling.

She reflects on heavy topics throughout the album: “Poor Girl A Long Way From Heaven” is one of many reflections on faith and “Book Of Our Names” seeks to envisage a more accepting future for the transgender community. But where others would get bogged down in the injustices of modern society, Furman wants to offer up a message of hope, resistance, and most of all, community. The most impressive moment on the album is “Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club”, further proof that Ezra Furman, in her infinite wisdom, writes songs that everyone can relate to.

All Of Us Flames polishes Furman’s previous sound without taking away the raw emotion that has always accompanied her songs. She was already an acclaimed artist, but this album made her one of the best musicians of a generation. VICKY GREER

Listen to/buy All Of Us Flames on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Ezra Furman

All of Us Flames by Ezra Furman

Ants From Up There by Black Country, New Road

Though the sophomore effort from London’s Black Country, New Road was marked by the departure of frontman Isaac Wood mere days before release, finding cohesion in chaos is what this band do best. Framed around the doomed Concorde, a repetitive lyrical motif, Ants From Up There explores heightened emotions and self-deprecation with observant anecdotes of an anxious body. Consisting of seven technically-skilled musicians, the album showcases a clever amalgamation of jazz-meets-post-punk, weighing up sacrifice, desperation and an off-kilter air of misplaced heroism in its lyrical themes.

Intensities fire on tracks like "Good Will Hunting," a breakup song that sees Wood’s narrator clinging to a grandiose sense of self that evaporates into painful desperation. On “Chaos Space Marine,” self-described by the group as the best song they’ve ever made, the band are anthemic and brimming with melodrama, exploding with bursts of saxophone and dashing piano keys throughout. Closing out the record, “Basketball Shoes” illustrates a finely tuned slow-build.

Simmering with vulnerability, slow-paced and forlorn in melody, the easing violins and delicate patter of keys are interrupted by cutting guitars and echoing drums to dazzling effect. As the danger in the undercurrent comes close to spilling over and the song spirals into chaos, the group arrive at an explosive destination; allowing a new journey to begin. AMY ALBINSON

Listen to/buy Ants From Up There on Bandcamp

Ants From Up There by Black Country New Road

Spiderr by Bladee

Equal parts angel and antichrist, Bladee has amassed a devoted underground following to rival any deity. The self-described CEO of Swedish art collective Drain Gang delights in blurring the parameters of pop and hip-hop to the furthest extremes. Spiderr, his second record this year alone, proves that his creativity is boundless – and just when you thought you’d pinned him down, you realise that the web he spins is far greater than you could’ve imagined.

Spiderr feels like his most vulnerable, communicative project yet. Across the record, he reckons with the tension between madness and sanity; the gulf between his idolised persona and his human fallibility; the friction between internal feeling and external appearance.

But it’s Drain Gang producer Whitearmor who animates the sonic dreamscape Bladee wanders through. It’s more urgent than anything he has created so far – and far more palatable and pop-driven than his previous output. “UNDERSTATEMENT” is an anthem for the terminally online, a count-the-pixels earworm, and “I AM SLOWLY BUT SURELY LOSING HOME” has us rollerblading down rainbow road with its pop-punk adjacent thrills. Every moment of this record feels like a transmission from another realm entirely, and it’s a privilege that Bladee is taking us with him. SOPHIE WALKER

Listen to Spiderr on Spotify

Spiderr by Bladee

Hold the Girl by Rina Sawayama

For the follow-up to her much-adored debut album SAWAYAMA, Rina Sawayama reached deep inside herself, found her inner child and attempted to heal with the help of both therapy and her creative process. The opening track of Hold The Girl, “Minor Feelings” provides a solid foundation to this concept as Sawayama remembers ‘dreaming of the day I was tall enough to save myself’.

Helmed by barn-stomping Shania Twain referencing (‘let’s go girls’) lead single “This Hell”, like all of Sawayama’s work lives in a world without rules. Its glam energy paired with cowboy clichés and shoutouts to Britney, Lady Diana and Whitney quickly made the track a fan favourite for Rina’s pixels who welcomed the track’s sense of community. While country music is referenced a number of times on Hold The Girl, Sawayama’s experimentation with genre is where she truly shines.

Playing like a mix CD from the ‘90s and early ‘00s, Hold The Girl flits between hair metal power ballads to Eurodance club anthems with ease, while it’s the album’s title track which is the most experimental. Combining soaring strings with ‘00s R&B, house piano, and a garage-inspired beat “Hold The Girl” is euphoric. Confronting trauma on this extremely personal album, Sawayama sees a path forward as her own pop superhero. MATTHEW KENT

Listen to/buy Hold The Girl on Bandcamp

Hold the Girl by Rina Sawayama

You Can’t Kill Me by 070 Shake

Often righteously angry, heartachingly yeaning, and containing multiple switch-ups, 070 Shake’s sophomore album You Can’t Kill Me paints the picture of a breakup and its emotional aftermath. She often reckons with the self placed against someone else on romantic moments like “Invited” or “Blue Velvet,” but the majority of the songs are more cutting, emotionally fueled alternative R&B jams about her former partner. “When you were sick, babe, I was your medicine / But I’m cutting off your supply,” she declares on “Medicine”, and though she’s often heartbroken on moments like “Se Fue La Luz” or “History,” her ending story is a victorious one. Her strength of musical dexterity comes into play here as well: “Body” is a rare moment of weightlessness, assisted by Christine and the Queens, and tracks like “Come Back Home” are imbued with immense theatricality. The record suggests a much-needed personal evolution and catharsis, told through fluctuating emotions. SAM FRANZINI

Listen to/buy You Can't Kill Me on Spotify

You Cant Kill Me by 070 Shake

$oul $old $eparately by Freddie Gibbs

The mainstream’s underdog, Freddie Gibbs’ luxurious major label debut $oul $old $eparately, and – if the rumours are to be believed – his last full-length undertaking is befitting an icon who out-ages his peers and out-styles them. His construct of a conceptual Triple-S hotel does its best to radiate gold and luxury while ensuring the dirt sticks because this is his truth. In a year where one of reigning kings returned, the underground sounded better than ever, and genres continued collapsing before our very eyes, Gibbs holding a firm place in his wheelhouse of bravado laden bars that relate to his time dealing drugs as much as they do the success he chased and the issues that arose alongside, is remarkable. Predominantly known for his collaborations with the likes of Madlib and Alchemist, the smorgasbord of talent brought on board with production credits from James Blake to Anderson .Paak, and features from Pusha T to Rick Ross is testament to Gibbs belief in $oul $old $eparately's rich concept and his own power as a rapper.

The underlying message appears to be all that glitters ain’t gold, and from opener “Couldn’t Be Done”, through to poignant closer “Grandma’s Stove” where Gibbs reckons with the metaphorical and literal empty shells on the floor that helped his success, it’s an all-or-nothing project that lives by its sword. STEVEN LOFTIN

Listen to $oul $old $eparately on Spotify

Oul old eparately by Freddie Gibbs

Riderless Horse by Nina Nastasia

A welcome and devastating return from Nina Nastasia, who all but disappeared from view after an astonishing run of six terrific records, from 2000’s Dogs to 2010’s Outlaster.

Welcome, because she’s one of our most incisive and distinctive storytellers, unrivalled in her ability to be both candidly conversational and formidably profound. Devastating, because it revealed not only that she had been psychologically abused and stifled by her partner and manager/producer Kennan Gudjonsson for over 20 years, but also that it took his tragic suicide for her to be able to recover her sense of self-worth.

Somehow both skeletal and sanguine, Riderless Horse is a solo album in the truest sense. Produced by Nastasia together with Steve Albini and Greg Norman, it features only her voice, her guitar, and stories that zero in on the agony and the aftermath of loving a man she also feared.

Without question, Riderless Horse is at times a deeply uncomfortable listen. But for all its stark grief and guilt, at its centre is a sense of unquenchable fire. Nastasia’s burning desire to live and to celebrate living shines through even the darkest of these songs. ALAN PEDDER

Listen to/buy Riderless Horse on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Nina Nastasia

Riderless Horse by Nina Nastasia

In These Times by Makaya McCraven

Seven years in the making, In These Times comes to no compromise; McCraven’s unmatched craftsmanship has never soared higher, resulting in a luscious amalgam of jazz and hip-hop. It opens with an ostinato and applause, stirring excitement in our bones whilst transcending us to a continuum full of comfort and disclosure – although it is at times rebellious, snapping us awake from the reverie with which the record has clothed us. When his initial groundwork is well-polished and meticulously arranged, he expands his elegant instrumentation, streaming into a fusion that is impossible to dismiss. Take “This Place That Place,” for example; McCraven and his band’s majestic improvisation reaches a stunning level of complexity and intricacy, weaving together passages that encourage us to scalp its many layers and rhythms. It is a celebration of the multiplicity of music – a reminder that tunes have no facets nor boundaries. TANATAT KHUTTAPAN

Listen to/buy In These Times on Bandcamp

In These Times by Makaya Mc Craven

Nymph by Shygirl

After an exhilarating run of eps and singles, Nymph offered an extended look into the sheer range of influences behind Blane Muise’s constantly shape shifting art.

Fans of Shygirls’ output over the last few years will appreciate Nymph’s seamless transition between ethereal tracks like the futuristic, “Heaven” and “Honey”, and the snarling moments of “Little Bit” and “Poison”. There is a beautiful arrogance to this album: you can almost hear the smirk on Muise’s face as she knowingly gives her fans exactly what they needed after the last few years.

A quiet sense of sexual liberation hangs defiantly over songs, “Shlut” and “Coochie (a bedtime story)”, however the absolute standout is the garage influenced “Firefly”, which flickers around as if it’s 2000 and the Sugababes are on everyone’s minds; and the Arca produced, “Come For me”, a track that once again exquisitely showcases Muise’s incomparable talent of sounding perfectly at home on any genre of song.

Nymph served as the perfect reintroduction to Shygirl; a wonderfully daring album, ensuring that everyone knows how good she knows she is. This debut has been a long time coming, and it’s unfurling to the world as this superb display of dark and joyful sophistication hasn’t been anything but impeccable. CALLUM FOULDS

Listen to/buy Nymph on Bandcamp

Nymph by Shygirl

Hugo by Loyle Carner

Loyle Carner’s grown into being one of Britain’s finest rappers. He wears his heart on his sleeve, never one to shy away from getting things off his chest. Across his first two albums he burrowed into his thoughts and feelings about friends and family, two pillars of his existence. But with third album Hugo, he’s turning his gaze inward, and going deeper than ever before.

Written mostly during lockdown, and having just welcomed his son into the world, Carner ultimately reflects on life as a new dad, and that of his troubled relationship with his own dad. It leads to thoughts on mixed-race and identity (the gospel-powered Nobody Knows (Ladas Road), the Madlib-produced Georgetown), owning up to making mistakes (the gorgeously tranquil A Lasting Place), accepting flaws (the piano-driven Homerton), and forgiveness (the skittering HGU). It’s revealing, touching, honest, and heart-wrenchingly human.

Through the brief 34-minute run-time – the rapper’s shortest album yet – that now-familiar composite feeling of nostalgia, melancholy and wistfulness drifts through the music, but it’s more palpable here. It’s as if by peering so thoroughly into himself this time round, Carner’s created something he can hold onto, to make sense of the world around him. And by sharing it with us, we can too. OLI KUSCHER

Listen to/buy Hugo on Bandcamp

Hugo by Loyle Carner

Weather Alive by Beth Orton

Coming from the wide open spaces of Norfolk, Beth Orton has always been attuned to the natural world in her songwriting. But her seventh album Weather Alive is the first to really feel really integrated with it. Atmosphere is not a given when you get even the most talented musicians in a room, let alone when you are forced apart by a global pandemic, but Orton harnesses it with all her might to create the most immersive music of her career. The fact that she produced it alone, shut away in her garden shed, makes it all the more impressive.

Perfectly titled, Weather Alive is a record that Orton could only have made at this stage in her life. Taking shape over five or six years as she slowly recovered from a frightening few years in which she suffered complex partial seizures that warped her sense of reality and time, the eight songs go deep into her experience of seeking answers to her own fundamental questions about her character.

Transformed from their start as demos recorded on a sooty old piano, the songs are elevated by Orton’s choice of collaborators, bringing in nuanced jazz textures that add so much to the expressiveness of the songs. Hands down her magnum opus, Weather Alive works both as a sensory exploration of memory and as a reckoning with a past of which she wasn’t always in control. Stirring, magnificent stuff. ALAN PEDDER

Listen to/buy Weather Alive on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Beth Orton

Weather Alive by Beth Orton

Frank by Fly Anakin

Spitting with a steady but firm flow, Fly Anakin’s rise through the underground hit a new peak this year with the release of his debut solo LP (he’s already bagged himself an enviable list of collaborative tapes with fellow Richmond, VA alumni Big Kahuna OG and Pink Siifu).

Frank, named after himself, posits Frank Walton as an essential voice. Pop culture references litter his vital bars, with the pace unrelenting, it’s as good of an introduction as any to the borderline-prolific artist whose 2022 releases continued to drop well into the year with additional singles. Tied together with skits that emphasise the personable element to Walton, including voice memos that sound make you want to be back at the age you can just wander around to a mates house and chill out, just in this instance it also involves creating a the kind of rap that feels equally vital and fresh as it does familiar and warm – Frank is a mixtape for the modern age by a modern voice with all the right elements building within him for a future classic. STEVEN LOFTIN

Listen to/buy Frank on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Fly Anakin

Frank by Fly Anakin

Big Time by Angel Olsen

Big Time could have been a painful gut-kick of a record. Released in the wake of a period of change, the subject matter should have been dense, cathartic and questioning. But what Olsen delivered was a hopeful, considered and mature celebration of love. In the time since her last release, 2020’s Whole New Mess, Olsen publicly came out as queer, fell in love and lost both her parents. That’s a lot to unpack, and while Big Time addresses the greater themes of love and loss, it does so in a manner that feels positive and relatable.

Pitching the personal against the geo-political, it’s fair to say we all had a lot to deal with over the last couple of years, and perhaps the pandemic afforded Olsen the time and pause for self-reflection. Whatever her process, the outcome is a heart-warming triumph. Never one to shy away from new directions, across her career Olsen has juxtaposed the stark with the symphonic, but on this album she fully embraced her country influences, leaning into the genre’s space for storytelling. Tracks like “Big Time” feel confessional, eschewing sticky sentimentality for direct vulnerability, while songs like “Right Now” are as tender as they are arresting. Big Time feels like a transformative record, and with that change her artistry took a big step forward. JEN LONG

Listen to/buy Big Time on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Angel Olsen

Angel olsen big time

Warm Chris by Aldous Harding

Aldous Harding's fourth album drips with drama, humour, and naturalness, making Warm Chris a sincere take on life. "Fever" interprets a dissatisfied character as blocked by her own barriers, while "Lawn" expresses that it is already too late. The beauty of Warm Chris is found as often in Harding's work in this ability to deliver touching emotions like the masterpiece "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain", when the chills run through your body. To crown it all, Harding picks and uses without complex of fantasies, which makes that we are never at the end of our surprises. AYMERIC DUBOIS

Listen to/buy Warm Chris on Bandcamp

Warm Chris by Aldous Harding

Rouge Carpet Disaster by Static Dress

Well-constructed worlds have felt lacking in the alt realm. Bands and artists give it a go, but more often than not they remain two-dimensional, resigned to an audio world, but then there’s acts like Static Dress. Building from the ground up a universe of their own making, featuring comics, videos and tie-in music, while Rouge Carpet Disaster, is certainly their debut, in reality it’s just another beam on the continued construction from the mind of Ollie Appleyard.

While this is all impressive enough, the brash sonics which harness punk energy with emo melodies, metal’s unrelenting energy, and even a hark to Deftones alt gaze, breathe a vitality into a scene that’s finding disingenuous and tenuous pop links evolving within the blink of an eye. The most impressive feat of all comes from each aspect able to be digested independently, giving Rouge Carpet Disaster, and Static Dress, a well-deserved place at the foot-holdings of alt musics new guard. STEVEN LOFTIN

Listen to/buy Rough Carpet Disaster on Bandcamp

Rouge Carpet Disaster by Static Dress

Universal Credit by Jeshi

On debut album Universal Credit, East London wordsmith Jeshi expertly taps into the modern conundrum of social malaise, his unflinching lyrics touching on a gamut of hopes and fears that will resonate acutely with those struggling to find purpose or make ends meet in Tory Britain. Thankfully, there are glimmers of happiness throughout the LP, although they’re unapologetically few and far between. “Two Mums” is a bittersweet tribute to the mother and grandmother who raised him, championing the maternal figures in his life without shying away from the hardships they faced including prison visits and overcrowded housing.

Bringing it all together in a stroke of genius, closing track “National Lottery” crystallises the project’s key themes, ultimately underscoring the importance of hanging onto hope against all odds. Reeling off fond childhood memories of kids’ show Art Attack, video rental chain Blockbusters, and the music of Limp Bizkit, Jeshi recalls entering the weekly sweepstakes with the dream of winning it big: “Lucky dip, six numbers and I’m rich”. As he’s made pointedly obvious over the past 38 minutes, the state isn’t offering a viable route out of poverty – so why not roll the dice? LUKE BALLANCE

Listen to/buy Universal Credit on Bandcamp

Universal Credit by Jeshi

Squeeze by Sasami

On her second album Squeeze, Sasami Ashworth has fun playing with duplicity. She loosely ties the album around the Japanese spirit Nure-onna, a reptilian creature with the head of a woman and the body of a snake. Folklore tells of her handing over a baby that turns to stone, of how good intentions can lead to deadly outcomes. Ashworth was drawn to the supernatural entity by way of her juxtapositions, she could be feminine and noble yet also powerful and vicious. The same duality can be felt across Squeeze.

On her self-titled debut Ashworth charmed with indie-rock jams that never got much heavier than a swathe of dreamy guitars, but on Squeeze’s opener she destroys all expectations. “Skin A Rat” is a brutal assault of guitar-work levelling Marnie Stern dynamics with the abrasive alt-metal of Poppy. Across the record Ashworth plays with endless influence, volleying between genres with a dizzying approach. She even brought in Megadeth drummer Dirk Verbeuren to up the ante on the album’s most invasive moments. Her cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Sorry Entertainer” explodes with relentless vitriol, calling back to the wonderful ridiculousness of early-00s metalcore, while “Say It” pounds with all the industrial menace of Nine Inch Nails. Conversely, tracks like the shimmering “Call Me Home” or melodic “Make It Right” are straight up indie-rock. Squeeze is disorientating, impossible to keep up with and defies logic, but it is damn good fun. JEN LONG

Listen to/buy Squeeze on Bandcamp

Squeeze by sasami

The Forever Story by JID

The follow-up to 2017’s The Never Story, JID’s eye over the world now casts down on himself with The Forever Story. A prequel of sorts, it covers the Dreamville artists early years – up until JID forwent college to pursue rapping – and the heaviness that his life encountered along this road. Armed with a smooth flow that gushes with clever word play and enough rhyming patterns to make Keats blush, the pairing of realism with nefarious beats drives forward his story, while compiling these scenes makes The Forever Story play out with ease. Aided by hooks that overtly dig deep (“Crack Sandwich”), and a swinging, soulful heart (“Kody Blue 31”) JID’s latest entry to his already heavyweight arsenal of full-length releases (including 2018’s DiCaprio 2) is an irresistible pay-off – particularly with the occasional placed skit to emphasise subject matter – that’s not to mention the energy rarely wanes.

JID’s unique placing as an artist who can deliver crowd-pleasing riots (“Can’t Punk Me”) with heartfelt sincerity (“Sistanem”) puts him in a rare class of talent who really can do it all, and fits aptly into a world that cherishes spiritual vulnerability, yet demands a crater-crafting impact. STEVEN LOFTIN

Listen to The Forever Story on Spotify

Copy of JID The Forever Story EX

Stay Proud of Me by NoSo

On the debut NoSo album, Baek Hwong embarks on a journey: across Stay Proud Of Me’s ten tracks they explore the struggles of their past, acknowledging both their flaws and their aspirations, looking to a future of liberation through their lens of shimmering indie-pop. Indirectly drawing nuances from their Korean heritage and queer identity, the album is an earnest coming-of-age story that reaches cinematic peaks on standout tracks like “Suburbia”, “David” and “Feeling Like A Woman Lately.”

There’s a magical duality to Hwong’s production and lyricism when paired together, they either offer reassurance through their joyful yet frank honesty or break you apart when you least expect it with an emotional sucker-punch. Album closer “Everything I’ve Got” falls into the latter camp – a masterful portrayal of queer longing, evolving confidence, and Hwong’s battle with gender dysphoria.

A tender insight into Hwong’s life thus far, Stay Proud Of Me is the product of not just a few months of hard work, but twenty-something years of being alive. Painting vivid pictures through their songs, NoSo’s voice lingers rather than haunts, it’s a soothing echo that safety is sometimes just around the corner. MATTHEW KENT

Listen to/buy Stay Proud of Me on Bandcamp

Stay Proud of Me by No So

for you who are the wronged by Kathryn Joseph

Kathryn Joseph’s songs often tread a fine line between comforting and chilling, which is an astonishingly difficult thing to pull off. On her Lomond Campbell-produced third album, for you who are the wronged, her aim was more in the direction of comfort but there’s still a spine-tingling strangeness to it that’s undeniably arresting.

This is an album about abuse and survival, but the stories here are largely not her own. Assuming the role of observer, these songs are Joseph’s way of trying to make sense of the violations she sees being imposed on those she loves, and how she might, with care, give them something to latch onto. At its core is a smouldering fury, which Joseph keeps mostly under or just at the surface. Erupting would be too easy.

When she does bare her teeth, as on “what is keeping you alive makes me want to kill them for” and the sinister highlight “the burning of us all”, it’s done with love and loyalty. There’s even room for hope in places. Joseph wants to open doors with these songs, or at least to signpost where they stand. Concluding with the cryptic, glitchy “long gone”, which ends abruptly as if shutting something behind, the hope is that, one day, the exit is found. ALAN PEDDER

Listen to/buy for you who are wronged on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Kathryn Joseph

For you who are the wronged by Kathryn Joseph

Melt My Eyez See Your Future by Denzel Curry

Where 2018’s TA13OO featured Curry’s many characters and alter egos, Melt My Eyez See Your Future sees the hip-hop artist confront his past head on, uncovering the deepest depths of his soul. The album is visceral and haunting, a result of Curry’s time spent in therapy. On the opener, “Melt Session #1”, we find the Florida rapper in a period of self-reflection, saying “Dealt with thoughts of suicide, women I’ve objectified / Couldn’t see it through my eyes so for that, I apologize.” It’s a stunning statement of accountability and newfound self-assuredness where Curry drops the facade to show his true self.

But Curry doesn’t fixate on his own circumstances, instead expanding his reach to the ills of the modern world. In his lead single, “Walkin”, he raps about the systems in place that hold him back; “I see the way the people get treated, it’s problematic / They ready to set us up for failure, it’s systematic.” In this way, Melt My Eyez acts like a list of diary entries that sees Curry questioning his own behavior as well as those in the world around him.

Instrumentally, Curry departs from his usual trap 808s, favoring a collection of diverse genres that spans from Kendrick Lamar-style jazz rap in “Mental” to frantic drum and bass in “Zatoichi”. “Worst Comes To Worst” boasts a deranged beat reminiscent of an Ol’ Dirty Bastard record while “Troubles” is a smooth vibe featuring T-Pain. It’s apparent that Curry has found a suitable sound to effectively communicate who he is and what he stands for. Filled with the aesthetics of Westerns and samurai films, Melt My Eyez is a kaleidoscopic experience that serves as both Curry’s most personal and comprehensive album to date. ALEX NGYUEN

Listen to/buy Melt My Eyez See Your Future on Bandcamp

Melt My Eyez See Your Future by Denzel Curry

Crash by Charli XCX

Charli XCX’s return this year was a smash – an album reaching number 1 for the first time in her career, with music that truly cements her with pop icon status. Collaborating with powerhouses like Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek on “New Shapes” only aided its success, not to mention the re-work of September’s “Cry For You” on “Beg For You” with Rina Sawayama.

Crash is a testament to XCX’s writing. Her ability to form punchy melodies and clever hooks on the most obscure of beats is astounding, and honestly never gets boring. The album’s hit, “Good Ones,” is a prime example of this. Seemingly simple, its intricate production and clever structure set it up for streaming success from the get-go – even if it was leaked a good two weeks ahead of its release.

Across Crash you get so many sides of Charli. From emotional ballads (“Every Rule”) to sexy singledom (“Baby”), you get every facet of her personality. This comes across in the album’s production too, as A.G Cook flexes his producer muscles on numerous tracks and serves up a tasting menu of pop interpretations.

The aforementioned re-work with Rina Sawayama set off the recent trend of reviving 00’s hits for modern listeners (I’m looking at you, David Guetta and Bebe Rexha), further proving Charli's talent for trendsetting. She even does it twice on the album, with a fantastic re-imagining of Cherrelle’s “Saturday Love” with “How Can I Not Know What I Feel Right Now.” Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Charli must be blushing. DAVID COBBALD

Listen to Crash on Spotify

Crash by Charli XCX


Life’s so fun on MUNA’s self-titled third album, but the LA-based trio know better than most that sometimes, even a lot of time, life can be really fucking hard. Their first record with Phoebe Bridgers’ Saddest Factory Records could’ve easily never happened.

The band were questioning their future together having been dropped from their major label deal, but following the runaway success of last year’s “Silk Chiffon” (Best Fit’s Song Of 2021) it was clear this new album would be the making of them. It’s no wonder that during sold-out US and UK tours supporting this album that the band’s self-proclaimed title “greatest band in the world” is all over their merch.

A step into the light, exploring queer joy, hedonism and the power of resolution MUNA sees Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson and Jo Maskin further develop their ‘80s-indebted synth-pop and expand their catalogue of cathartic country tearjerkers. From the experimental thrash of “Runner’s High” to the stomping roar of “Anything But Me” to the careful subtlety of ballads “Kind Of Girl” and “Shooting Star” – MUNA offers hope for whatever journey you find yourself on. MATTHEW KENT

Listen to/buy MUNA on Bandcamp

Muna by Muna

Topical Dancer by Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul

Social justice has never sounded so much fun as on Topical Dancer, the debut album from multilingual Belgian duo Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul. Sung in English, French and Creole, it’s a gloriously witty and body popping shakedown of misogyny, racism and other lived-experience ills.

Over fifty sparkling minutes, the pair combine wry humour and subversive wordplay with ambitiously playful electro-pop that draws not only from their direct antecedents – and label bosses – Soulwax but also from Talking Heads, italo disco, and the high watermark of the electroclash craze of the early 2000s.

Highlights are “Blenda”, with its reappropriation of a rank racist trope (“Go back to your country where you belong / Siri, can you tell me where I belong?”), the hilariously cliché-ridden “Ceci n’est pas un cliché”, and the raucous, pitch-shifted “It Hit Me”, which narrates the highs and (mostly) lows of adolescence. A gleefully fresh and stingingly relevant tussle of stories and styles. ALAN PEDDER

Listen to/buy Topical Dancer on Bandcamp

Topical Dancer by Charlotte Adigery and Bolis Pupul

Glitch Princess by Yeule

Singaporean avant-pop artist Nat Ćmiel stares unflinchingly into oblivion for their second record, Glitch Princess. This is a record of violence, eroticism, obsession and disassociation – a thousand deaths played out in a digital realm. Ćmiel has always described themselves as a cyborg: the limitations of their own body that they hold such disgust for is an eternal theme in their work. With Glitch Princess, they master how to communicate the tension of their existence and their tortured mind.

With production from PC Music producer Danny L Harle, Ćmiel hands over the keys to their towering castles of pop-driven ambience on Serotonin II – and the effect is a record that conveys their estrangement from the world better than ever. The synths on “Flowers are Dead” conjure a barren, digital wasteland; “Bites on My Neck” is a masochistic scream into the void with an amped-up pop chorus, energetic and yet still holding on to that sense of hollowness. “Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty”, however, is intensely human – not deep within the uncanny valley that the rest of the record seems to reside. Opening earthly, acoustic guitar, their voice has never felt clearer, more real, in this ode to someone who finally makes them feel at home in themselves. SOPHIE WALKER

Listen to/buy Glitch Princess on Bandcamp

Glitch Princess by Yeule

Gemini Rights by Steve Lacy

Compton-born Steve Lacy’s sophomore album is what you would call a defined second album. With a tighter sense of purpose compared to his debut Apollo XXI and ultimately starting himself on his own path of success, Gemini Rights sees Lacy explore his varied talents. Mixing sensitive lyrics and subject matter with funk-infused guitar hooks, it is an album that in parts does not play into his creative impulses, but provides summery, pleasure seeking thrills that are instantly enjoyable. Touching upon influences of yesteryear with a modern twist, the album is on the verge of being a classic. HAYLEY MILROSS

Listen to Gemini Rights on Spotify

Steve Lacy Gemini Rights

Dawn FM by The Weeknd

Unlike many of the blockbuster releases of our time, The Weeknd’s fifth studio album is produced by a relatively small circle, mostly comprising only of Martin and Daniel Lopetin of Oneohtrix Point Never - the niche and cerebral MIDI producer who is just one example of the post-modern, counterculture musicians from the early 2010s who now shape the sound of our biggest stars. Teaming up with Lopetin is the best creative move Tesfaye ever made, giving him the courage to embrace the cheesiest whims of 1980s synth and city pop fully, without meekly trying to water them down with sub-bass or hi-hats. And by god, do these men love the '80s. They huff the tastes of A-Ha and Duran Duran in the way those bands definitely huffed cocaine. Shooting for the sounds of English and Japanese pop groups of forty years ago is hardly an obvious move for a 21st Century pop star, and this shameless commitment lends Dawn FM cohesion and vision. LIAM INSCOE-JONES

Listen to DAWN FM on Spotify

Dawn FM by The Weeknd

The Overload by Yard Act

The post-punk boom of the late ’10s/early ‘20s has felt endless. As band after band popped up drawling lyrics of inanity and banality, the end never seemed in sight. But then Yard Act arrived with their unique blend of scathing satire and poignant reflection amidst cutting guitar lines, studious drums, and grooving basslines. While many try to pigeon-hole the four-piece under the aforementioned double-P label, the fact their debut album has cuts that Capitalising on their special sonic brew with ever-growing raucous live shows, these four lads from up north are a reminder that the purity of being in a band with your mates while the world tosses and turns is just about the best thing there is.

For proof of their staying power, albums released at the break of a year can often get forgotten in the oncoming months, but the spark Yard Act have ignited mean it feels like The Overload is still fresh as it was back in January, and the colourful characters are living breathing embodiments that continue to grow and inhabit our reality with their portrayal of modern life. Now even including a remix of album cut “100% Endurance” – already a poignant glimpse at life and all it considers – featuring Elton John and euphoric strings, Yard Act’s rise seems to be building to a career of untapped promise and potential. STEVEN LOFTIN

Listen to The Overload on Spotify
Read Best Fit’s interview with Yard Act

The Overload by Yard Act

Skinty Fia by Fontaines D.C.

The rainy Dublin streets Fontaines D.C. first wandered out of and into our consciousness five years ago, reign supreme of their third outing Skinty Fia. While their debut Dogrel was a storming entry, its followup A Hero’s Death retread those less impactful moments though still offered up something irresistible. Luckily, Skinty came along with its stories and visuals that feel fresh – though still rooted in a sepia-toned mindset – and, by design, collates its ten tracks into another striking entry for the lauded five-piece. An over-bearing presence of gritty reality runs deep throughout, backing Fontaines abilities to dig deep into the simples of stories. And where this third outing truly shines is in its service to the poetic side of Fontaines.

Pairing Grian Chatterns hypnotic drawl with sounds that evoke romanticism (“The Couple Across The Way”), emotional fury (“I Love You”) whirring might (“In ár gCroíthe go deo”, “Jackie Down The Line”), despair (“How Cold Love Is”) and even some industrial elements (“Skinty Fia”) fully playing into the future-promise of Fontaines and where they could go next. With three albums under their belt – each forming a different facet of one of the more focused and inimitable active bands – Fontaines DC’s year barrelled itself into a whirlwind akin to the haunting sounds of closer “Nabakov”, and with good reason. No one’s doing it quite like Dublin’s finest. STEVEN LOFTIN

Listen to/buy Skinty Fia on Bandcamp

Skinty Fia by Fontaines DC


Wu-Lu, the alias of Miles Romans-Hopcraft, wades through his repressed angst and agony with striking delicacy on his first album for Warp Records. At its greatest heights, such as gut-wrenching “South” and ruminative “Slightly,” his charismatic experimentation and confrontational lyricism converge to offer an immersive experience, one that plunges us through the history of unjustified prejudice and violence, letting us feel how damaged and crumbled his soul is by the cruel world. The result is a cathartic record that simultaneously soothes and unsettles us: at one point we resonate with his moving narrative, and at the other we are terrified at how these issues are still prominent in today’s society. On LOGGERHEAD, Romans-Hopcraft showcases his noble potential by killing two precious birds with one stone, and we know that he isn’t going to stop there. TANATAT KHUTTAPAN

Listen to/buy LOGGERHEAD on Bandcamp
Read Best Fit’s interview with Wu-Lu


Motomami by Rosalía

MOTOMAMI’s hits gave us some of the year’s best pop tunes, Rosalía's superstar status confirmed in bolshy, well-earned bravado. The gum-chewing, grating synth bop “BIZCOCHITO”s, the lyrically illegible but intoxicating singalong “CHICKEN TERIYAKI”s, the party-ready, assertive “SAOKO”s - all confirm Rosalía's readiness for stardom in the mainstream. Musicians performing in languages other than English are pitifully underrepresented in the highest echelons of pop, but on MOTOMAMI Rosalía announces her arrival on the world stage with serious force, with a formidable arsenal of hooks just as irresistible whether you follow the Spanish or not.

Rosalía's far from a newcomer, with two albums under her belt before MOTOMAMI, but her metamorphosis between records sees her reinvent herself and scale up on each round. From her ethereal, folky beginnings on Los Angeles to her tentative pop-traditional rebirth on El Mal Querer, the trajectory laid out for Rosalía's third release was clear and exciting. But MOTOMAMI’s energy and reception soared beyond anticipation, because Rosalía has never sounded more at home: the record bubbles with confidence and fun.

Perhaps more impressive, though, is how at home Rosalía is taking her sharpest pop work and blending it with a veritable feast of other genre influences. Flamenco, reggaton, dance pop, jazz flourishes and rap moments collide alongside stunning, classical vocal performances and sparsely instrumentalised harmonies. MOTOMAMI isn’t Rosalía progressing on from her sonic roots; it’s Rosalía embracing an unconventional cocktail with an intuitive knack for how to bring it all together. No sound feels out of place; she seems to have mastered it all. It leaves the field wide open for her follow-up, too. IMS TAYLOR

Listen to MOTOMAMI on Spotify

Motomami by Rosalia

Cheat Codes by Danger Mouse & Black Thought

Earlier this year, when it was announced that Danger Mouse, the producer of some of the finest albums ever made, had teamed up with Black Thought - one of the finest wordsmiths of his age - to create a brand new album, expectations reached almost insurmountable levels.

Thankfully, but not unsurprisingly, they absolutely delivered. Cheat Codes is already (rightfully) thought of as being one of the best albums ever made: it's currently sitting pretty at #460 on Rate Your Music's all time list, some fifteen places above Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, and a whole forty places above OutKast's Stankonia.

Why? Well, Cheat Codes is a comprehensive demonstration of the magic that happens when a singular recording artist teams up with an equally powerful partner, and a clear example of how much life is left in the traditional album format. It has a truly powerful political undercurrent, and features a surprisingly varied list of guest stars, from Run the Jewels and Joey Bada$$ to Michael Kiwanuka, A$AP Rocky, Raekwon and the GOAT, MF DOOM (RIP).

Of course, the collaborative album isn't a new concept to Danger Mouse - he's made great albums with DOOM, Sparklehorse and Karen O - but this is his greatest album by some margin. Black Thought, too, has made some fantastic albums, but Cheat Codes is levels above anything he's ever done before, with or without The Roots.

Cheats Codes is such a masterpiece because every single thing about it is considered, measured, designed and curated to perfection. The production is flawless, the samples are judiciously selected and well-researched, and every single lyric is powerful. Not a second is wasted.

"No Gold Teeth", with its speaker-rattling, blown-out Hugh Masekela sample, is a showcase for Black Thoughts' career-best lyrics and his showstopping flow. Belize, with the DOOM feature, is endlessly replayable and might be DOOM's most elegantly complex set of lyrics since 2004. The title track? It's a classic. The Darkest Part is Raekwon's best ever non-Wu feature. It all works. All of it. ROSS HORTON

Listen to Cheat Codes on Spotify

Danger Mouse Black Thought Cheat Codes 2022

I Love You Jennifer B by Jockstrap

London’s Jockstrap deliver a wildly ambitious debut in I Love You Jennifer B. With the shadow of a prestigious music school behind them, the duo shake all preconceptions with an expansive record that collates heavy electronics and crystallising vocals. Comprised of Georgia Ellery (also of Black Country, New Road) on vocals and lyrics, and Taylor Skye on electronic production, the pair breathe new energy into the expansive boundaries of pop.

Cohesively eloquent and atmospheric, their contrast of musical styles becomes their signature. Opener “Neon” eases in with gentle guitar plucks and breezy silences, melding sweetly with Ellery’s crooning voice before crunching synths dart in, heavy and droning. The titular “Jennifer B” sticks out as a creeping, woozy affair, with hazy elements woven around seedy samples. Soaring orchestral arrangements delight on tracks like “Concrete Over Water”, while “Glasgow” indulges in flourishes of keys and uplifting string accompaniments.

Together, the ten tracks are a barrage of lightheaded vertigo, a culmination of five years of recorded work. The unpredictable evolution of previous EP offerings, the pair’s experimentation displays a keen ear for melody, and a reinvention of the modern colliding with classical influences. For a debut, Jockstrap are brandishing hugely enthralling potential. AMY ALBINSON

Listen to/buy I Love You Jennifer B on Bandcamp

I Love You Jennifer B by Jockstrap

Fossora by Björk

An artist who continues to exist on another creative plane entirely, Björk is consistent in pushing the envelope across almost every conceivable element, album after album. Fossora remains among her most joyful records of recent ties but also ranks among her most personal. Bringing her family - son Sindri and daughter Ísadóra - along for the ride, the project took shape amidst a pandemic return home, her mother's passing, and Ísadóra leaving the nest. There's mushrooms and gabba too plus appearances from Emilie Nichols, Serpentwithfeet and rising Icelandic electronic trio Sideproject.

At least three of the tracks - "Ancestress", "Her Mother's House" and "Atopos" rank among her best work, and she's back on form vocally too, but the album's biggest achievement lies in its balance – a perfect equilibrium of playfulness, accessible and thematic cohesion. PAUL BRIDGEWATER

Listen to/buy Fossora on Bandcamp

Fossora by Bjork

Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar

2022 is the year that he hath risen. Kendrick Lamar's return to the scene with Mr Morale & The Big Steppers was every part the complex project you'd expect, with the minutiae still being picked through with a fine-tooth comb. With no discernible requirement for hooks or clout, instead Lamar spills his guts through a conceptualised therapy run-through of his most bare and vulnerable moments.

The first words uttered – “I’ve been going through something” – instantly set the scene for a biopic look at key occasions from his life, while wandering through unfamiliar territory across the two-disc offering. Taking in the outrageously bombastic (“N95”), the ruminative (“Rich Spirit”), the dramatic (“We Cry Together”), and the brutally honest (“Saviour”) – for just a glimpse at the labyrinthine emotions contained within – it’s an album befitting a world that’s just as complex and elaborate, where a mine-field of response and opinion awaits; but really, when you can’t appease the masses, as Lamar proceeds to do, just please yourself.

With an artist such as Kendrick Lamar, you’re guaranteed every included moment is purposeful and deliberate. The atom-bomb dropping of loaded words, while leaving space for them to fill with your reaction – after all he is not our saviour. He is offered his sins for us to find truth in ours. Truly, it’s a work of art from the surface, where the cover shows Lamar’s family, to the live performances which have expanded this compounded universe – SNL appearances, Glastonbury headlines sets, and a worldwide tour – and while he may have been going through something, nothing has quite captured the imagination of onlookers with as much force. STEVEN LOFTIN

Listen to Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers on Spotify

Mr Morale The Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar

Renaissance by Beyoncé

The word ‘Renaissance’ provokes a series of imagery, but, with no visual film in sight, Beyonce let the music speak for itself. Upholding the kind of critical acclaim that is expected for her work but with a stylistic and cultural evolution, Renaissance is an adventurous plot point in one of the most iconic pop culture legacies of the 21st century.

It’s easy to forget that Beyonce’s last studio album was six years ago. Between a film role and soundtrack (Black Is King), headlining Coachella, expanding her Ivy Park sportswear line, and lending her voice to the Oscar-nominated King Richard, her global reach is omnipresent and forever served with her shoulders back and chin up. On reflection, though, the last time we observed Bey in detail was Lemonade – a revenge outing simultaneously rooted in the pillars of her world.

Wading into the depths of the dancefloor, Renaissance’s through-line is euphoria via BPM. Her customary weapons (ballads and visuals) are instead traded for sheer energy. It’s sexual, liberating, and transcendent, adhering to the demands of house music while paying service to Black music and LGBTQ+ culture. Highlights “PURE/HONEY” and “ALIEN SUPERSTAR” pull samples from ‘90s club hits, while today’s innovators (Honey Dijon, A.G Cook, Syd, Tems) offer a contemporary enthusiasm for electronica and beyond.

Despite this, Renaissance isn’t about individuals, but, instead, a beautiful, collective spirit. With a duty to push forward once more, Beyonce blurs the lines between beginning and end to come out on top, experimenting with herself à la Sasha Fierce. HANNAH BROWNE

Listen to Renaissance on Spotify

Renaissance by Beyonce

And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow by Weyes Blood

With equal parts piercing intimacy and expansive, cinematic magnitude, Weyes Blood’s And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow blossoms beyond Natalie Mering’s cerebral songwriting and magnetic performance. And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is a world of its own, painted in six-minute intervals. Each song is given room to grow from still, serene piano and vocals into whatever all-encompassing soundscape it is destined to be, and once it’s there, Mering allows it to reach its own peak and then ebb back to where it began. Her craft is naturalistic, and she achieves excellence with striking consistency.

Mering’s velvet alto is as versatile an instrument as they come, providing the real points of difference across an album that relies on a steady instrumental blueprint to create its gorgeous atmosphere: “Children of the Empire” is delivered with intent and force, “Twin Flame” takes a turn in vulnerability, “The Worst is Done” is a delicious, heartbreaking blend of hope and regret.

And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is situated timelessly, too, because Weyes Blood’s distinctive sound is what brings it to life. No one else could conjure up the biblical space that it exists in with quite such a down-to-earth subtlety, because although the album certainly feels otherworldly, there’s also something very human about it. Weyes Blood’s exploration and emotion feels tangible and real, even as her sonics reach the stratosphere. IMS TAYLOR

Listen to/buy And In The Darkenss, Hearts Aglow on Bandcamp

And In The Darkness Hearts Aglow by Weyes Blood

Preacher's Daughter by Ethel Cain

Ethel Cain’s long-awaited debut Preacher’s Daughter is a staggering triumph on a world-building scale. The narrative device of Hayden Silas Anhedönia, ‘Ethel Cain’ is an All-American girl in virginial white who visited her fully formed with a story that demanded to be told. A girl already dead, her face printed on the milk cartons in Winn-Dixie. Cain is a vehicle for the chokehold of religion, the tension between heaven and hell – both real people and places she introduces us to – backlit by the dusty planes of Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Christ-Haunted South’ and rotten family roots.

Preacher’s Daughter is merely the first chapter in Cain’s sprawling story which unfurls across the record’s thirteen tracks. In almost Swiftian power ballad “American Teenager” complete with thrilling electric guitar riffs, we are introduced to her, a young girl with a “head full of whiskey” and wilful confidence. The almost eight-minute odyssey, “A House in Nebraska”, is lingered upon because it’s Cain’s only taste of joy: when she fell in love. The piano ballad is aches, now, for her absent lover, romanticising the “that house in Nebraska / Where we found each other on a dirty mattress on the second floor”.

What follows is Cain’s undoing, channelled through these timeless portraits. It’s often restrained, with the same composure her upbringing demanded of her in the Church. “Gibson Girl” is a death march taking place in a sleazy strip club, as she wrestles with who is in control, who is hurting who. Anhedönia proves herself to be a formidably gifted writer who can conjure the complexity of abuse, religion and womanhood so deftly in her lyrics. After her murder, on ‘Sun-Bleached Flies’ Cain reflects: “God loves you, but not enough to save you” – a death blow in itself dealt with astonishing precision. Ethel Cain’s Preacher’s Daughter is, undoubtedly, one of the most ambitious, well-executed records of 2022: a modern Southern Gothic masterpiece. SOPHIE WALKER

Listen to Preacher's Daughter on Spotify

Ethel Cain Preachers Daughter artwork

Read Best Fit's brand new interview with Ethel Cain on the groundbreaking success of Preacher's Daughter

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next