It’s that time of year when I impose my musical opinions on you lot and you just have to sit there and take it. There was a ridiculous amount of great music this year, so I changed my Top 20 to Top 25. These are in no discernible order and I hope you come away with at least one album you enjoy from this list.
Now… without further ado:
LET’S GET LOUD
- MARLOWE – Marlowe 3
So far, Marlowe (L’Orange on production and Solemn Brigham on bars) have been batting 1.000 since their debut in 2016 and I’ve been waiting for a new album for almost 3 years now. The duo came out the booth snarling at the scene and turned in an album that features some of L’Orange’s finest beats to date and a non-stop flow from SB that’s as relentless as beachhead artillery. This album don’t keep it 100. It keeps it a rack and it was my favorite album of the 2022.
- NAS – King’s Disease III
Every Kings Disease album Nas has dropped has ended up in my end-of-year lists in the past couple of years but this may very well be his post-90’s magnum opus. Without a single feature, Nas carried this joint from start to finish without an ounce of fat and breaking concrete with every step of the astronomically-dope production from Hit-Boy. This is my favorite Nas album since God’s Son.
- KENDRICK LAMAR – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
When the titans woke up post-pandemic, they all came out swinging, but few came harder than Kendrick and few distilled the chaos of our current events, our beliefs and turned the mirror on the audience with a funk/soul-tinged production the way “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” did. A departure from his other albums but a welcome one that further solidifies the legacy of a man whom I consider—rhyme-for-rhyme, bar-for-bar and track-for-track—to be the best rapper of his generation.
- PUSHA T – It’s Almost Dry
King Push may be pushing closer to a half century, but he sure as shit ain’t slowing down. “It’s Almost Dry” is a remarkably well-produced album from start to finish with some seriously dope bars. Already on record saying he wants to be the “Scorcese of Cocaine Rap”, he makes a strong case for that title here and with some of the best tracks being produced by the late Kanye West, it’s kind of a shame that we may never see a good album like this again. I just hope I get to see a Clipse reunion in the future.
- THEE SACRED SOULS – Thee Sacred Souls
Freshly signed to Penrose Records, Thee Sacred Souls had a very good year considering they have only been together for a little over 2 years. Originating from San Diego, Thee Sacred Soul’s meteoric rise can only be attributed to their raw talent as musicians and the buttery dulcet tones of Sacramento native Josh Lane’s vocals. A much
- BJÖRK – Fossora
As I’ve come to expect from Björk since I was still a teenager, Fossora album is dripping with sonic texture and her avant-garde lyricism. This album has 2 honors from me this year: My favorite album artwork of the year and my favorite track of the year with “Ancestress”, a love letter to her late mother but one that I easily applied to my own maternal figure in a year that I very badly needed to be reminded how much all of us need guidance and how we cope with trauma.
- BONOBO – Fragments
Simon Green has been one of my favorite artists since I was introduced to “Days To Come” over a decade ago. From the opening seconds of “Fragments” and its orchestral arrangement, it goes right into the ethereal beats I’ve come to know and love from Bonobo since he shed the downtempo easy-listening style of his beginning and began to spin in the richly-textured “North Borders”. A wonderful addition to an already impressive body of work, this album should be on a lot of people’s best of lists.
- THE LINDA LINDAS – Growing Up
If you were as blown away by the raw talent exhibited by this teenage bomb squad when their song “Racist, Sexist Boy” was recorded at the LA Public Library and you rightfully compared them to Bikini Kill, then you know why “Growing Up” is on this list. Their meteoric rise has been nothing short of awe-inspiring and it has provided a blueprint for countless young kids to follow in their footsteps. It’s as close to a wholesome “coming of age” piece of pop culture in a timeline where we’re constantly inundated by endless cautionary tales. This was my favorite rock album of the year.
- CANNONS – Fever Dream
Ever since I started listening to Cannons in the early days of the pandemic when all I could do was circle the drain with a whiskey bottle and listen to “Fire For You” on repeat, watching the LA natives weave their endlessly-sexy package of nostalgic dreampop and slick retro visuals in everything they produce has been nothing short of satisfying. “Fever Dream” expanded on one of my favorite tracks of last year “Bad Dream” and take off like a fiery arrow across a sky dimly lit with lesser copies desperate trying to emulate this winning formula.
- FREDDIE GIBBS – $oul $old $eparately
Featuring production from DJ Paul and Alchemist, you know you got a banger right from the opening bars of “$oul $old $eparately”. Freddie Gibbs has been on a roll lately and he’s still bodying tracks like his life depends on it. This is his best joint since his Madlib collab “Piñata” back in 2014.
- CONWAY THE MACHINE – God Don’t Make Mistakes
Look: The body of work that Conway The Machine has put out to date is staggering, to say the list, and in a year when he dropped bars like, well, a machine, “God Don’t Make Mistakes” stood like a gritty giant among lesser beings.
- TITUS ANDRONICUS – The Will To Live
For almost 15 years now, Titus Andronicus has been putting out a reliably-solid-yet-oddity-spaced brand of pop rock. They played here in Visalia for us at Garden Street Plaza (we relocated the show from Cellar Door to make it an all-ages show, if I remember correctly) when they toured on the ambitiously-long but ultimately rewarding “The Most Lamentable Tragedy” in 2015. With “The Will To Live”, they have dialed the length back considerably and turned in their most accessible and enjoyable album since… shit… possibly EVER.
- JOYCE MANOR – 40oz to Fresno
I became a fan of Joyce Manor when I first saw them perform at Catacomb Party 2015 and have been consuming everything they’ve made ever since then. “40oz To Fresno” is another stellar entry in a catalog already studded with poppy bangers a sunny disposition not always afforded to bands that don’t become cogs in the machine.
- CURREN$Y & THE ALCHEMIST – Continuance
Every since “Covert Coup” (an album that was almost entirely produced in a single day) dropped in 2010, Curren$y and The Alchemist have been steadily producing a highly-revered body of work and the feature-packed “Continuance” fits snugly next to all their previous heavy-hitters.
- BLACK THOUGHT & DANGER MOUSE – Cheat Codes
Already named Best Hip-Hop Album of 2022 by several social media hip-hop heads and bloggers, it’s hard to argue that the legendary duo comprised of prolific producer Danger Mouse and The Roots founding member Black Thought, dropped one of the best albums, not just of the year but of the past decade. This joint is sparsely-layered with the barebones production native to Danger Mouse’s dome and compounding Black Thought’s 30+ years of tearing into mics produced an album without a single weak track and loaded with features from the likes of the late MF DOOM, RTJ, Raekwon and Conway. If you haven’t already dug into this, you need to stop playing with yourself and play with these “Cheat Codes” instead.
- PLANET ASIA – Medallions Monarchy
The hardest working rapper from The ‘No came back this year with another album completely devoid of fat. At 23 minutes, this is the shortest album in my top 25 list but not a single bar is wasted as Fresno’s finest floats rhyme after rhyme through your ears.
- JOEY BADA$$ – 2000
Oddly enough, I didn’t get into Joey Bada$$ until this year. Until I listened to “2000” my only frame of pop culture reference to him was his acting turn as Leon in what I consider to be the best TV show of the past decade: Mr. Robot. Imagine my surprise when the relentless flow of “Make Me Feel” and the production of Statik Selektah laid the foundation of an album that feels right at home with modern Brooklyn greats like Joell Ortiz, Fredo Starr or Steez (RIP).
- FLUME – Palaces
For several years now, Flume’s music has lived in repeat cycles in my playlists. His deeply-textured and spine-winding beats are an anomaly in a sea of his identical pill-popping peers and “Palaces” continues to weave another patch on the quilt of an already-impressive discography.
- BLACK STAR – No Fear of Time
Ever since I’ve been listening to hip-hop in the early 90s, few groups have managed to nab my attention the way that Black Star did. The combination of underground legends Mos Def and Talib Kweli did with their debut album in 1998 left me craving for another album with that same earthy flavor. And, hey, that only took TWENTY FOUR FUCKING YEARS; more than half my life. “No Fear of Time” is a shining example of what it’s means to write and produce new-age hip-hop that’s as lean in its production as its predecessor.
- SABA – Few Good Things
I’ve been jonesin’ for a Saba album since 2018’s “CARE FOR ME” and the Chicago native delivered in spades with “Few Good Things”. Melodically, it’s more mellow than “CARE FOR ME” but, lyrically-speaking, it’s still very much the same introspective soul of a young man with the experience of a grizzled veteran who still deals with loss and trauma in the same way I have come to expect from him since I met him at Grizzly Fest in 2019: through writing painfully-relatable music that can speak to his generation as well as older audiences, like myself. Believe me when I say that the world is a better place because of young men like Saba.
- SON LUX – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Ever since being blown away by their performance in 2014 at Cellar Door, I’ve been an evangelist for Son Lux to any poor soul who will listen to me like an unhinged corner preacher on a 72-hour meth bender. Not only was the film the mostly wildly-imaginative piece of pop culture this year, the accompanying soundtrack scored by the New York trio with features by Mitski and David Byrne was a thoroughly-enjoyable sonic romp through the chaos and madness fitting of a film that features sentient rocks, butt plugs and bagel-loving antagonists. This is the first time I’ve ever had a film soundtrack album on my year’s end list since I started making these things in the early 2000s.
- NICHOLAS CRAVEN & BOLDY JAMES – Fair Exchange: No Robbery
Craven may have started doing tracks for Griselda, Planet Asia and Ransom a few years ago, but he really came into his own with his self-titled EPs starting in 2017 and he’s been reliably dropping these bangers every 3 years or so. With “Fair Exchange: No Robbery”, we’re treated to cold beats juxtaposed by hot bars from Boldy James. This is a slow burner album with clearly defined valleys and mountains and a worthy addition to the Quebecois producer’s already impressive body of work.
- APOLLO BROWN & PHILMORE GREENE – Cost of Living
Philmore Greene is a newcomer to my rotation this year and I have the reliably-dope Apollo Brown to thank for that. His deep baritone voice is a perfect accompaniment to the rhythmic dusty beats provided by Apollo. “A Day On The Ave” was one of my favorite hip-hop tracks this year.
- SOCCER MOMMY – Sometimes, Forever
Sophia Allison is an artist whose only contemporary I can compare her to is Snail Mail, whose album “Valentine” ended up on this list last year as well. “Sometimes, Forever” is a great exploration of emotions like the fleeting high of romantic infatuation and bitter loss; themes that are the usual byproduct of growing pains. Every year I keep hearing how young artists are preoccupied with short attention spans and are losing a grip on what it means to write music that isn’t used as backing tracks for bitches falling off milk crates on TikTok. Trust me. With girls like Soccer Mommy leading the way, y’all have nothing to worry about.
- THE 1975 – Being Funny In A Foreign Language
We are now 2 decades into the impressive career of the English pop rockers and each album they release not only brings a slightly different sound but brings a maturity to their subject matter that’s honest and introspective as well as painfully self-aware of the human mistakes all of us make.
Please feel free to leave a comment disagreeing with any choice on this list and I’ll let you know how wrong you are when I wake up next year. 💅🏽