2022 was inundated with new music- artists got back in the swing of creativity, headed out on the road and filled our ears with tunes from every genre. You’ve seen Atlas attend shows across the country so picking our standout albums of this year was a labor of love and anguish. Nevertheless, here are Taylor and Olivia’s choices for favorite records of a banner year.
Stray Kids – Oddinary
2022 was a record-breaking year for JYP Entertainment’s Stray Kids. The group released two major comebacks but it was Oddinary that propelled them into the million seller category- and for good reason. This album is the group at the best they could give, embracing a sound that critics and naysayers jeered when SKZ was finding their way. Now, Oddinary takes all that “noise music” and turns it into a catchy, cohesive and hopelessly addictive listen. While this is the band’s best work to date, it’s also indicative that we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s to come.
Standout Track: Muddy Water
Harry Styles – Harry’s House
He’s the biggest pop act in the world and this, his third solo album, is a masterwork from an artist who’s been in the game for over 10 years and still isn’t satisfied with just the catalog he’s released in the past. Harry’s House invites listeners into the sanctuary of Styles’ innermost thoughts- he may be reticent in interviews but we’ll always hear him at his most vulnerable and honest in these lyrics. It’s Styles’ most comforting and relatable work yet and deserves to be at the top of his discography.
Standout Track: Satellite
George Ezra – Gold Rush Kid
Nestled among the list of underrated vocal talents is George Ezra. The British baritone has one of the most golden voices in music and he quietly released his latest album this year. While it received little fanfare overseas (likely due to a lack of international touring), it’s impossible to overlook how warm this album feels. The first half is a romp through the English countryside that mirrors Ezra’s own pandemic wanderings while the latter half expresses longing without drifting out of positive waters. Ezra is consistent in his sensational musical skills and we’ll be front row when we finally get the chance to hear these tracks live.
Standout Track: Manila
L.S. Dunes – Past Lives
Born from a pandemic downswing, five of the most formidable talents in the scene got together for the ultimate jam session and made it into an album. Anthony Green, Frank Iero, Tucker Rule, Travis Stever and Tim Payne have been making stellar noise with their own projects for years and their unique skills lend themselves with fervor to this album. It’s a message of battling hopelessness and the negative feelings that pervaded the two years spent inside and off the road. Fans are familiar with these guys by themselves and in their well-known projects but this one is writing its own roadmap and we’re along for the ride.
Standout Track: 2022
Louis Tomlinson – Faith in the Future
When we talk about artists coming into their own, Louis Tomlinson has to be part of the conversation. Another former One Directioner on this list, Tomlinson is only on his second solo album and it’s been worth the wait to see him reach this point. Faith in the Future finds him well beyond the crossroads of his past in the band and his future as a solo artist- now we’re seeing him fully enveloped in the sound he started to explore on the first record. It’s an amazingly compelling rock album and one that’s already translating beautifully into his next era of live shows.
Standout Track: Face the Music
DPR Ian – Moodswings In To Order
This record really came out of left field this year and landed perfectly on our list. DPR Ian navigates a soundscape that inspires both sonically and visually- the songs burst into view as the record goes on. You can hear the theatricality on this album and the mental landscapes it creates in the unique mind of every listener. He’s been unflinchingly honest in his delivery of both the lyrics and his explanations in interviews and onstage, bringing his fans in ever closer for a look into his psyche. You’ll want to revisit this richly layered record again and again.
Standout Track: Avalon
Eric Nam: There and Back Again
Seventeen: Face the Sun
One Ok Rock: Luxury Disease
Omar Apollo: Ivory
Mark Tuan: The Other Side
half•alive – Give Me Your Shoulders, Pt. 1
Cohesive, naturally flowing albums are rare in the post-streaming age when artists are vying for TikTok views and trying to “hack” the algorithm. Even more elusive is the no-skip album — but that’s exactly what we have on half•alive’s sophomore effort. From the beat-heavy opener “Make of It” that’s about coming to terms with playing the hand you’re dealt to finding comfort on “Hot Tea” and cautious optimism on “Back Around,” there’s a clear narrative woven throughout the seven songs. It’s lean, only 23 minutes, and was eventually expanded to the lesser Conditions of a Punk, but that shows Shoulders is the cream of the crop.
Writer’s picks: Summerland, Hot Tea
Harry Styles – Harry’s House
There’s most likely nothing to say about this album that hasn’t already been said — it might have even been the most critically reviewed record of the year. Everyone from Pitchfork to Popmatters has waxed poetic about Harry Styles’ third LP, which taps into the aesthetics of multiple decades and has a lyrical lightness throughout. It’s been a huge year for Harry artistically, with a massive world tour and starring role in Don’t Worry Darling and appearances on magazine covers ranging from Rolling Stone to Better Homes & Gardens. He’s a superstar across music, entertainment, and fashion. And Harry’s House reflects this, oozing style and delight.
Writer’s picks: Daylight, Late Night Talking
Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti
Released in early May, Bad Bunny set the tone for the summer with Un Verano Sin Ti (a summer without you) that bottles up the beaches and reggaetón clubs of Miami and presents them as an album. This one’s a marathon — the same length as a feature film at one hour and twenty-some minutes — but there’s plenty of variety from the bombastic “Moscow Mule” to the afrobeats of “El Apagón” to keep things interesting. Benito has brought some Caribbean flavor to the mainstream here in the U.S., and pop as a genre is better for it. He’s reaping the rewards, too, to the tune of $10 million a night on his World’s Hottest Tour to promote the album. Puerto Rico está cabrón indeed.
Writer’s picks: Tití Me Pregunto, El Apagón
Daddy Yankee – LEGENDADDY
2022 was my reggaetón era, and I am not sorry about it. Find me a more fun genre that encompasses dancehall, bachata, cumbia, afrobeats, trap, electronic, hip hop, and plenty more that I’m probably missing. I’ll wait. So when the king/founder of reggaetón drops an album to celebrate an iconic career before retiring, it’s going on the end-of-year list. LEGENDADDY pays homage to the many styles the Daddy sampled over the course of three decades, a thoughtful album carefully composed during lockdowns. Of course, it takes a village, and Ramón had friends Bad Bunny, Pitbull, and Lil Jon join him as collaborators. And there’s pure power in these songs, the kind that makes you feel invincible.
Writer’s picks: HOT, BOMBÓN
COIN – Uncanny Valley
A handful of artists have returned to treating the album as an art form, and I couldn’t be happier about it. COIN’s Uncanny Valley is one such album, which came with a warning a few months ahead of time: It’s meant to be listened to top to bottom. And it’s no wonder why — the trio wrote “hundreds” of songs during the pandemic just to pass the time and take control of an element of their lives they still could. They had plenty to choose from. The result is a highly stylized reflection on the human experience, including sensory moments and emotional processing. You get a little bit of groovy disco, a little bit of T-Pain type autotune, and a little bit of classic rock overlaid with indie pop sheen. And you get a whole lot of relatable therapeutic lyrics.
Writer’s picks: Killing Me, Cutie
ODESZA – The Last Goodbye
To nobody’s surprise, ODESZA has done it again. The duo has created yet another rich, gorgeous soundscape to fall into like an audio-based kaleidoscope. This is another album born from the uncertainty of the pandemic, evidenced by the progression and experimentation you hear from front to back. The whispers of “This Version of You” set the tone for welcoming and accepting change, and the sampling on “The Last Goodbye” is unlike anything ODESZA has tried before. While the radio-friendly singles shine like the late summer sun, it’s the songs created for the drum line that are the strongest. After all, it’s not pure ODESZA if it’s not fully immersive from your ears to the beats you can feel at your core.
Writer’s picks: Wide Awake, Behind the Sun
The Blue Stones: Pretty Monster
The Wombats: Fix Yourself, Not the World
Kehlani: blue water road
Fred again..: Actual Life (January 1 – September 9 2022)
Story by Olivia Khiel and Taylor Knauf