WNXP’s Top 30 Albums of 2022

Every intro to a year end list will let you know how foolish it is to rank the top albums of any year, and they are right because the best albums are the ones that last beyond this year. But lists like this are a part of that journey. They also serve as a time capsule of what we thought was important in this moment. Read into these tea leaves and you will find our values and principles. So let this be our time capsule of the year 2022.

30. Caitlin Rose – CAZIMI

29. Big K.R.I.T. – Digital Roses Don’t Die

28. Erin Rae – Lighten Up

27. Sharon Van Etten – We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong

26. Sault – 11

25. Namir Blade – Metropolis

24. Friendship – Love the Stranger

23. Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights

22. Julia Jacklin – Pre Pleasure

21. TSU’s AOB – The Urban Hymnal

20. Mitski – “Laurel Hell”

19. Spoon – “Lucifer on the Sofa”

18. JID – “The Forever Story”

17. Black Country, New Road – “Ants From Up There”

16. Soccer Mommy – “Sometimes, Forever”

15. Ibibio Sound Machine – Electricity

14. Porridge Radio – Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To the Sky

13. Samm Henshaw – Untidy Soul

12. Toro y Moi – MAHAL

11. Alvvays – Blue Rev

10.Nilufer Yanya – Painless

It’s a challenge to answer the question – what kind of music does WNXP play? Sometimes it’s easier just to name an artist like Nilufer Yanya, who is equally difficult to describe, in all the best ways. Her 2022 album Painless is one of our top picks specifically because it’s so slippery, gliding between styles and disrupting expectations even within a single song. As the tepid reasons behind genre construction and division continue to crumble, albums like Painless prove there’s new life for guitar-based music beyond the limiting idea of “rock.” – Jason Moon Wilkins

9. Beyonce – RENISSANCE

When Beyoncé released “Break My Soul,” I knew my summer was going to be filled with vibes. I can talk about how fun this record was and how much I loved the use of House music, disco, bounce. But for me it was her empowering lyrics and her swagger throughout this record that made me love it even more. Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers was so soothing to my mental. But Beyoncé’s Renaissance gave me balance. Life can be stressful, but have some fun, dance, sweat a little bit, and be comfortable with who you are. Also, the segues for this album are amazing. – Marquis Munson

8. Sudan Archives – Natural Brown Prom Queen

In the middle of the song “Selfish Soul,” Brittney Parks — stage name: Sudan Archives — breaks from being self conscious and declares, “About time I embrace myself.” And that is what Parks does all over this album. In “Natural Brown Prom Queen,” Parks proves herself as one of the best producers in music in this ambitious and sound-rich triumph. – Justin Barney

7. Built to Spill – When the Wind Forgets Your Name

2022 marked a new era for indie rock veterans Built to Spill with When the Wind Forgets Your Name. The record, produced by BTS mastermind Doug Martsch, features his visceral, in-your-face chord progressions and unique guitar tone backed by Le Almeida and João Cases, two members of the Brazilian psychedelic band Oruã. While the collaborations are new, the sound is quintessential Built to Spill. Every song feels like it could fit on 1999’s fan favorite Keep It Like a Secret and proves just how timeless Martsch’s sound truly is. – Emily Young

6. Twen – One Stop Shop

Twen is a Nashville band Program Director Jason Moon Wilkins dubbed DEY – do everything yourself – because One Stop Shop was a sophomore record written, recorded, produced, released and promoted solely by the duo Jane Fitzsimmons and Ian Jones. More impressive, still, Twen did all of the above masterfully – the certified earworms on this LP are numerous – while living in a converted van that they carefully outfitted over the pandemic. 

From lyrical sentiments such as “Feeling like a one short shot from a fading revolution” (“OneStopShop”) and “Sedentary life, down to your soul. If anybody asks, you’re just trying to watch the show” (“Dignitary Life”), it’s clear that Twen are smart and serious songwriters. Their Nashville Artist of the Month playlist featured Oasis, Blur and a deep cut from The Verve, endearing them to me as a fellow Brit-rock devotee. 

But the psychedelic tones and grunge-y guitar solos hinged by Fitzsimmon’s impressive singing voice make for a whole work that moves beyond ‘90s rock reverence, sounding generationally pertinent, powerful and playful. I return to the sonic safe harbor that is “HaHaHome” almost daily. And other WNXP hosts agreed this was not only a noteworthy Nashville album released in 2022, but one that holds up against all the music consumed this year. – Celia Gregory

5. Harry Styles – Harry’s House

For anyone still questioning the musical ability of Harry Styles, Harry’s House should prove them all wrong. The record finds Styles at his most ambitious and marks an end to any cliche boyband tendencies. The name itself is a nod to the Japanese singer-songwriter Haruomi Hosono’s 1973 album “Hosono House,” and one of the album’s standout tracks, “Daydreaming,” samples funk group The Brothers Johnson’s “Ain’t We Funkin’.” These diverse influences are shown throughout this perfectly-timed record and blend effortlessly with Styles’ impressive vocal range. Harry’s House may very well go down in history as one of the best pop records ever made. – Emily Young

4. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

When Kendrick Lamar announced he was releasing his new album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, I knew it would take over some of my music consumption. However, I didn’t know the subject matter and vulnerability on this album would hit me in a way that it would become one of the only things I listened to for the better half of 2022. On my Spotify Wrapped, my top five songs were songs from this record including “We Cry Together” (I love listening to a couple arguing over an Alchemist beat, I guess). This album was therapeutic for me like I’m sure it was for him, as well. – Marquis Munson

3. Danger Mouse and Black Thought Cheat Codes

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since the super producer who initially made his name in hip hop actually made a rap record, but Danger Mouse finally delivered with a return to form for both him and Roots rap legend Black Thought. While the album boasts features galore — from Run the Jewels to Michael Kiwanuka — it’s the sonic skill of Danger Mouse and the lyrical supremacy of Black Thought that makes Cheat Codes both an enjoyable throwback for longtime fans and a master class introduction for the next generation. – Jason Moon Wilkins

2. Wet Leg – Wet Leg

Someone once told me that the key to being cool is seeming effortless. Wet Leg is a band that seems effortless. The hooks are so simple. The lyrics plainspoken. A deadpan biting joke. Some coy suggestive positioning. Surely it must take a great amount of work to sound like they are not trying so hard. But overthinking it is anathema to the idea of this band. It is to simply have fun. -Justin Barney

1.Yard Act – The Overload

Oh the glee that my favorite band of 2022 – one I literally crossed the Atlantic to see – ended up at the top of the whole staff’s year-end list on 91.ONE. Yard Act frontman and lyricist James Smith told me in January that their record, The Overload, is about “money, struggling and corruption… and acceptance of being a hypocrite, really.” Even though most of the British quartet’s songs are tongue-in-cheek, somehow nothing felt as appropriate and as “fists in the air” this year as this stanza in the title track:

“Show some respect and listen to my advice. Because if you don’t challenge me on anything, you’ll find I’m actually very nice. Are you listening? I’m actually very f**king nice.” 

Congrats to Yard Act for an amazing year that included befriending Sir Elton John, getting shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, playing a million and one incredibly energetic live shows. And, of course, topping the list from the early adopters here, your friends on WNXP. – Celia Gregory