2022 was a great year for music in general, and the album in particular. It was a year of sensational debuts from acts as diverse as Wet Leg and Gabriels, global superstars such as Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar released some of their finest work after a lengthy break, and there were some real returns to form from the likes of Pixies. There was sensational pop, insightful indie, rap, jazz and even some experimental modern-classical from Sault to keep you guessing.
At Bowers & Wilkins, we love the album as an art form. It’s why we partner with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and support initiatives such as Record Store Day, and why we are a sponsor of the Mercury Music Prize. So, we had a lot of fun when we put our heads together and came up with our 22 albums of 2022.
At Bowers & Wilkins we love the album as an art form.
There are so many fabulous albums to choose from that there’s hopefully something for everyone in our selection, with some potential modern classics that may have passed by even the most avid listener of new music. Notable by its absence in this list is Little Simz’s exceptional Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. We love this album, which won the 2022 Mercury Music Prize, but it was released in 2021, so we can’t include it here.
We’ve collected our thoughts on our favourites, and even compiled a playlist of a track from each record for you to stream.Qobuz
We hope you enjoy them!
On Renaissance, her first real studio album in six years, Beyoncé manages to reinvent herself once again. This time the most talented solo artist of her generation takes on the heady world of the club dancefloor, something millions of people missed during the pandemic, including on this evidence Beyoncé herself. The result is a thrilling hour plus of show-stopping tunes that make this incredible record one of the albums of the year.
Recorded just before the departure of lead vocalist Isaac Wood, BC,NR’s second album proved the quality of their debut was no flash in the pan. Thoughtful indie mixed with jazzy almost free-form elements, Ants From Up There is packed with killer tunes from start to finish. Who knows where they will go following Wood’s departure, but we are excited to hear it.
The Bafta-nominated actress and the former Suede guitarist combine to make one of the albums of the year. Over a dozen beautiful tracks, the pair take the listener on an enchanting journey through love, loss and everywhere in between. They take inspiration from American, Irish and English folk traditions, but this soaring album stands on its own.
Craig Finn is best known, by those who do know him, as the lead singer of The Hold Steady. This, his fifth solo album proper, sees Finn tread familiar ground in terms of subject matter – love, loss, some drugs, life in the bars, despair, and existing on the edge of sanity, solvency and society – with one of the most lyrical, distinctive approaches to storytelling currently creating new music.
Fontaines D.C.’s third album in three years is a fantastic collection of songs that somehow manages to blend the raw enthusiasm of their raucous first album with the more mature sound of their second in one exceptional package. Skinty Fia is a deftly-paced, highly measured album that places lead singer Grian’s drawling poetry on top of an increasingly more complex bed of drums, bass and guitars.
All Of Us Flames is Ezra Furman’s sixth solo album, and rather amazingly considering her past offerings of bold and beautiful lovelorn indie, it is perhaps her boldest and most beautiful yet. As always, it pays a huge debt to Furman’s love of Bruce Springsteen, but sheds some of the punky lo-fi vibes of her past albums, with more theatrical bombast and space around Furman’s voice and instrumentation. And all that makes for an incredible album from a very talented musician.
This sensational, soulful debut is quite possibly the best half an album you will have ever heard. It clocks in at a little under 30 minutes, and that half an hour is packed with beautiful, danceable music. Jacob Lusk’s vocals are the star turn of this LA/UK trio, but the quality on offer goes well beyond simply THAT voice. Part 2 comes out in March 2023, and if it’s a patch on this first instalment it could be the second half of one of the best full albums we’ve ever heard.
Gweno’s third solo album is sung almost entirely in Cornish, with one Welsh song breaking the rules. But this album isn’t included as a linguistic curio, Tresor is a wonderful collection of songs leaning into both her folk and pop sensibilities, which proves you don’t have to understand the words to enjoy the songs.
Dealing with the darker, more desperate side of life, Scottish singer Joseph’s beautiful voice and fragile sounding keyboards are the focus of this folktronica masterpiece, but the subtle interaction with collaborator Lomond Campbell’s modular synths lifts the album from the simply wonderful, to the wonderfully interesting.
Hannah Peel's collaboration with a Bristol-based ensemble of disabled and non-disabled musicians playing analogue, digital and assistive instruments is definitely one of our musical highlights of our year. The eight pieces across the double album explore the natural world and our relationship to it, and veer from the mediative to the downright explosive. As a crossover point between electronica and the classical world, there’s not been a better album in 2022.
Kendrick Lamar made us wait five years for a new album following the release of the incredible Damn, but it was worth it. Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is epic in scope and scale, addressing a wide range of issues and topics, both personal and political, while drawing on a stellar supporting cast including Ghostface Killah, Sampha and even Beth Gibbons of Portishead fame.
The London collective’s debut full length album is a heady mix of jazz and afrobeat that will have your toes tapping and your spirits soaring. We love its more mediative musical moments, but it’s the funkiest tunes on here that really hit the spot, like the excellent Something’s Going On – with its repeated chanting of the title – and War Dance, both of which are phenomenal.
Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie’s third album is inspired by Scotland’s nature and landscape, which like this exceptional album can be both lush and craggy. Recorded as a classic jazz trio of piano, double bass and drums, Forest Floor is an album of primarily slower tempo, contemplative pieces, with occasional moments of intense action adding some spice to the mix.
The self-described ‘urban-punk’ duo’s second album was without doubt the rockiest offering among this year’s Mercury Prize nominees. Packed with big bass, pounding drums and guitar riffage from start to finish, Supernova grabs you and doesn’t let up until the very last note!
Pixies could have happily made a living playing festivals around the world as a nostalgia act, cashing in on that three-album period when the 80s became the 90s and they changed alternative music forever. But that would go against their pioneering spirit, so instead they have released a series of late-career recordings that while they don’t match the quality of those early years, certainly don’t diminish it. Doggerel is easily the best of those new releases, and well worth inclusion here.
We can’t quite believe this is Kojey Radical’s debut album. He’s been an integral part of the London music scene for a decade and classing his previous offerings merely as EPs seems to lessen their impact. So, it’s not surprising that as a debut, this incredible mix of hip-hop, neo soul and jazz is exceptionally mature and fully realised. A breath-taking, heady mix of insightful, poignant lyrics and well-considered collaborations.
This mind-bending album defies categorisation. The Spanish superstar’s third record is a heady mix of pop, electro-Flamenco, minimalism and pretty much any genre in between. Helped by her decision to partner with an eclectic group of producers, Motomami keeps you guessing from start to finish – like when the traditional-sounding track Bulerias sidesteps into some briefly auto-tuned vocals. Given all this, Rosalia’s most amazing feat is that she still manages to hold it all together as a cohesive body of work.
Sault’s sixth album in three years is something of a departure from their previous offerings, eschewing the funk and soul that has been their hallmark and delving into the world of modern classical and choral work. Yes, you did read that correctly. The (relatively) anonymous collective have here produced a work that challenges perceptions about themselves, genre, and about black music full stop, and which is one of the truly stand out musical moments of 2022.
Considering this debut double is created by two-fifths of the band it should come as no surprise that it could be mistaken for a Radiohead album. But the addition of drummer Tom Skinner (Sons of Kemet) to Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood has allowed them to explore new avenues, with a funky backbeat to their almost prog-like musings. A Light for Attracting Attention is a beguiling album, and one which we hope isn’t the last we hear from the trio.
This incredibly well-received album is the latest step on Harry Styles’ journey from boy band pin-up to full-on creative force. A path very few others have trod with such aplomb. Harry’s House is replete with catchy pop tunes, some funky soul, and the occasional slower, more contemplative number. A classic summer album, that will be played long into the winter months.
Wet Leg’s exceptional self-titled debut album saw the Isle of Wight duo immediately break through from quirky indie act to Number 1 sensations. Some cracking and playful singles such as the viral hit Chaise Longue brought the band to the attention of all the major radio stations, but this album more than lived up to the promise of those early releases.
Leeds-based Yard Act’s debut is an astounding record that gets you dancing while remaining relevant, insightful and political throughout. If you haven’t encountered them before, think Franz Ferdinand crossed with The Fall, and to our ears that’s a very good combination.
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