The 25 Best Albums of 2022

2022 may have departed just beyond the horizon but it is a year that undeniably left its mark with a plethora of albums and projects each more gripping than the last. Whatever genre or lack thereof that caught your ear last year, 2022 seemingly had something for everyone—from those who let TikTok inform their musical discovery to those keen to search every last hidden crevice for those under-the-radar hidden gems. Of course, all of this holds true for all of us here at Ones To Watch who came to know and love albums that not just defined a singular point in time but the year itself. So, without further ado, these are our top 25 albums of 2022.  

25. redveil - learn2swim

learn2swim is much more than just redveil’s celebration of success, it’s an album made in anticipation of what’s to come. As the young DMV rapper grows into adulthood and the newfound space he’s made for himself among modern hip-hop’s cultural canon, redveil is stricken with feelings of grief, optimism, fear, dismay, and everything in between. Unlike his 2020 debut Niagara, learn2swim sees redveil laying his signature pensive and meditative bars over more jazz and soul-laden mixes. Whether he’s delivering motivating words of perseverance on the viral banger “pg baby” or wrought with internal tension on “diving board,” redveil’s perspective is wiser and informed by more than just the immediate world around him. Though learn2swim had some big shoes to fill after almost a year-and-a-half away, redveil’s 2022 release has earned him a spot in the current rap music pantheon. — Carter Fife

24. yeule - Glitch Princess

The project of London-based artist, livestreamer, and cyborg Nat Cmiel, yeule’s sophomore album Glitch Princess is built from the skeletal infrastructure of lush, electronic textures but what is arguably most unmistakable is its human component. Touching on themes of drug abuse, sexual intimacy, dissociation, and the otherwise mundane against soundscapes that feel as if they’re being constructed in real-time by robotic limbs, yeule’s sophomore effort is an idiosyncratic affair that truly positions itself in an ethereal realm of its own. Bridging emotionally confessional left-field pop with patchwork electronic-infused production, the world of yeule’s Glitch Princess is a vast introspective affair that feels akin to an ego death and subsequent rebirth in a parallel plane of existence. — Maxamillion Polo

23. Warren Hue - Boy of the Year 

Few artists this year have had debut projects that I’ve anticipated like Warren Hue’s BOY OF THE YEAR. Found at the chaotic intersection of pop, hip-hop, and electronic music’s unlikely synthesis, Hue’s debut album showcases a versatile new star on 88Rising’s roster. Equally invested in clever writing and genre-blurring bangers, our hero delivers a tightly-woven offering that does nothing if not showcase his rarified versatility. Whether spitting unrelenting jabs over pulsating bass signals on “I$$EY” or flexing his vocal chops on the breezy and laidback “IN MY BAG,” Hue consistently proves himself to be not just a talent asking for a spot on your radar but a generational force deserving of both your eyes and ears. BOY OF THE YEAR is just the beginning after all, and though the title may seem like a boisterous example of hip-hop posturing, the music makes me think he isn’t too far off. — Carter Fife

22. Bladee - Spiderr

Bladee is nothing if not otherworldly. We’ve seen this proven release after release, from the alien synth melodies of “Be Nice 2 Me” to the fan-favorite *boing* of “Mallwhore Freestyle.” Despite this, there is something about Spiderr that sees Bladee ascending to an entirely different level… an entity outside of our understanding while heavily invested in music about the human experience. He’d likely disagree with this idea too, as he raps “I tried to tell 'em we're not special, but still, they idolize us / You might catch me in the grocery store or riding on the bus / Ah, I’ll start to blush / Perfection is just an illusion and a punishment of love” on the abrasive-yet-dreamlike mix of “ICARUS 3REESTYLE.” No matter your take on Bladee, it’s hard to deny that he and his cohorts haven’t been heavy hitters in the cloud rap scene over the past few years, and Spiderr is a healthy reminder that there’s still new ground to cover. — Carter Fife


This year welcomed ROLE MODEL’s debut album, Rx, and it is just what the doctor ordered. While ROLE MODEL’s music generally falls into the bedroom pop sphere, Rx denounces the myth that he is a ‘bedroom pop artist.’ Simply put, he’s an artist who makes whatever music he wants to make. Between hip-hop inspired tracks like “neverletyougo” to the bubbly, lovey-dovey indie-pop anthem “forever&more,” Rx experiments with its production while maintaining a cohesiveness through its clever and quick-witted lyricism. ROLE MODEL speaks to his personal experiences with religion, sex, and love, making for an honest documentation of introspection and self-reflection in a way that is palatable and relatable to all. — Tatum Van Dam

20. Orville Peck - Bronco

Cinematic and critically acclaimed, Orville Peck has revived an untouched genre and made it completely his own on his second studio album, Bronco. Packaging ‘50s and '60s classic country with elements of psychedelic rock and bluegrass, there’s truly no other artist stepping near Peck. But what draws us in so closely is that his affinity for traditional outlaw country is not at the expense of his rockstar demeanor. With tattoos and an undisclosed age, it’s hard to infer who truly lies behind the lone-ranger mask, though that’s just the point: his complexities are his star power. He’s an openly gay South African country artist with a voice that holds octaves, making your eyes well through stories of deep heartbreak and humble tragedy. Bronco pulls on heartstrings, tumbling down hills of broken memories and the ghosts of old lovers. The role he’s playing in music is larger than himself, and Bronco is proof that his craft is only getting closer to perfection. — Jazmin Kylene 

19. Shygirl - Nymph

In the wake of Shygirl's 2020 EP ALIAS, an experimental six-track EP filled with intoxicatingly chaotic club bangers, expectations were high for the young UK star’s debut. Though fans might have expected Nymph to be another project full of seductive anthems primed for your late-night playlists, Shygirl doubled down on her affinity for risk-taking and provided fans with something entirely unique. Like the double-entendre that the album’s title evokes, Shygirl’s debut is both a return to form and a step forward, showcasing her signature knack for energetic and refreshing revelry between moments of tender and ethereal sincerity. Whether polished and pristine or raging and raw, Nymph sees Shygirl at her undeniable best. — Carter Fife

18. Nilüfer Yanya - PAINLESS

Lightyears ahead in a lane entirely her own, indie rockstar Nilufer Yanya is peerless. Taking time to get to know the truth of herself before crafting her sophomore album, there's a tangible essence a project matured to full capacity emits, something made with patience and precision. PAINLESS is a stew meant to be digested slowly, untangling intricacies and exploring the depth of human emotion. The London singer and guitarist is fully stripped down, doing the suffering for us while somehow remaining ethereal. “the dealer" is a standout track, reminiscent of early UK indie fused with modern alternative, exploring the blurred lines between desperation and longing. "midnight sun" confronts the comfort we build in chaos, while “chase me" sings the perspective of being on the receiving end of unrequited love. A raw take on the messiness of emergence, PAINLESS finds the beauty in suffering. — Jazmin Kylene

17.  ericdoa - things with wings

Wunderkind ericdoa may have been one of the artists responsible for spearheading the widespread popularity of hyperpop but he certainly isn’t shackled by the confines of the genre he helped to define. Nowhere does this sentiment ring truer than in things with wings, ericdoa’s debut studio album and a love letter to pop maximalism in all its forms. The 15-track effort sees the internet-bred rising star pushing pop to its limits, exploring the full range of the genre and its ensuing subgenres. From city pop-evoking soundscapes to the emotional push-and-pull of pop-R&B to driving pop-rock bouts of catharsis, ericdoa cements himself not just as a master of the genre but a driver of what’s to come. — Maxamillion Polo

16. Coco & Clair Clair - Sexy

Charming and lustrous, the internet’s favorite besties Coco & Clair Clair are the Paris and Nicky of alt-pop. Setting every room they enter ablaze, they’ve brought sexy back with their debut project. Equipped with quick-witted one-liners, a seductive take on self-love, and stand-out features, Sexy pays homage to the digital age that raised the duo, crafting a sound specifically for the girls in a deep romance with their own online persona. This album gives you permission to feel entitled to luxury, demand more space, and remember that hotness is a mindset. From softer tracks like “Lamb” that give lip gloss and lavender essential oil to trap-esque bangers like “Bitches” that give lost vape pens and overpriced Ubers, Sexy is a digital daydream. — Jazmin Kylene

15. Conan Gray - Superache

You think you’ve moved past your heartbreaks, and then Conan Gray puts out an album, and suddenly your heart finds itself broken into a thousand pieces yet again. In true Conan-fashion, Superache mourns the loss of a relationship that never happened, begging for closure and questioning the ‘what ifs’ throughout 12 tracks laced with painstaking vulnerability and angelically honest vocals. The indie-pop artist offers a versatility of sounds, whether it be the pop-rock anthem “Jigsaw,” the upbeat synth-pop “Disaster,” or the beautifully melancholic piano ballad “Yours.” Superache feels like the 2.0 version of Gray’s debut EP Sunset Season; from his vocal delivery and instrumentation to his songwriting, Superache signals development and growth as an artist. — Tatum Van Dam

14. EKKSTACY - misery 

You could probably imagine that EKKSTACY’s sophomore album misery is not the brightest and most positive album to grace our list. The young Vancouver artist’s distinct blend of new wave and post-punk sensibilities only amplifies our hero’s dejected songwriting, but the result is a beautiful album decorated with haunting and hypnotic ballads wrought with emotional tension. This isn’t to say that EKKSTACY is merely apathetic or indifferent to the world around him, as tracks like the explosive “im so happy” and the emo-pop adjacent “i want to sleep for 1000 years” showcase a rare and complex ambivalence from an artist just barely in the second decade of their lives. Some moments make you want to bang your head along to the beat, others make you want to sink into your seat to never be seen again, but the common thread that links them together is the candor and wisdom that shines through EKKSTACY’s hazy and reverb-laden vocals. — Carter Fife

13. Fred Again.. - Actual Life 3

Actual Life 3 may be the culmination (at least for now) of UK producer and artist Fred Again..’s Actual Life series, but in many ways, it feels like something much larger than a collection of distinct vocal samples conveyed through the vehicle of emotionally expansive house music. Chronicling just under a year in the breakout producer’s life—which featured everything from landmark Coachella performances to after parties thrown in Chinese restaurants and waffle vans—Actual Life 3 unsurprisingly rings out like a celebration of life itself, a testament to its mountainous peak and valleys. While it doesn’t drastically change up the tried-and-true Fred Again.. formula of reconciling snippets of people’s musings and wishes with euphoric house music, what it does do is further cement the promise of the UK artist’s transcendent vision for dance music. — Maxamillion Polo

12. Djo - DECIDE

Within the shadows he shines, and beneath his Djo identity, Joe Keery is free. You can tangibly feel what a release it is for the Stranger Things star to live both in disguise yet more loudly than ever before and DECIDE is a submergence into that liminal void, both nostalgic and futuristic, infused with funk and wit. A poisonous concoction of existential dread and psychedelic vocals, this album is a confrontation with everything that’s consumed us and what remains underneath. Greed, ego, and mindless scrolling are all among its deadly sins, shining a mirror at the shell that stares back. He’s his own observer, picking himself apart as he floats around his own psyche, and the results are fascinatingly disorienting. The project’s lead single “Figure You Out” is a jive through the ethers, asking of us who are we outside the things we tell ourselves we need and the roles we let ourselves become. “Slither” speaks on the endless race of self-actualization, while “On and On” greets the consciousness trapped within us as we’re held hostage by algorithms. Grabbing onto the intangible is exhausting, yet Djo makes it intergalactic. — Jazmin Kylene

11. Domi & JD Beck - Not Tight

Confronting the prestigious world of jazz with drums, keyboards, and nonchalance, Gen Z duo DOMi & JD BECK have done something sonically unexplainable on NOT TiGHT. What’s most impressive about this project is that its features, ranging from Herbie Hancock to Snoop to Mac Demarco to Thundercat, don’t outshine its true stars. 22-year-old Domitille Degalle and 19-year-old James Dennis Beck have found hidden pieces of themselves in each other, creating something so alchemical it’s no wonder they were the first to sign to Anderson Paak’s label, APESHIT INC. This project burdens overtechnical jazz doers with witnessing how these young talents are redefining the genre with ease and little inconvenience, and that’s the true marker of a job beautifully done. 15 tracks deep, there’s an excess of material to get lost in on NOT TiGHT, each scratching different parts of the brain. — Jazmin Kylene

10. beabadoobee - Beatopia

In Beatopia, beabadoobee teleports us into the unique world of an adolescent Bea Kristi, and it is nothing short of magical, nostalgic, and playful. While Bea’s previous album, Fake It Flowers, captures teenage angst through proper ‘hard rock’ songs with screaming vocals about dyeing hair and wreaking havoc, Beatopia feels like the gentle older sibling offering a hug and some sisterly wisdom. While tracks like “10:36” and “Talk” carry the traditional beabadoobee sound, they display a sense of maturity both instrumentally and vocally. At its core, Beatopia taps into one’s inner child, serving as a dose of escapism for any other kids who grew up in the 2000s. — Tatum Van Dam

9. Jean Dawson - CHAOS NOW*

In no way does CHAOS NOW* feel like a misnomer. The sophomore studio album from Jean Dawson launches forward as a controlled bout of pandemonium that pushes the genre-defying artist to his most thrilling heights yet. Through snarled, gritted teeth and backed by production that ebbs and flows from clashing guitars to angelic, orchestral departures, Dawson paints a multi-faceted portrait that is anything but simplistic in its scope or intent. CHAOS NOW* is not just a love letter to Dawson’s myriad of influences but a piece of sonic salvation for the outlier, a rallying point for those who had to fashion their own place in the world. There are no two ways about it—Dawson is a misfit pop star for the outsider. — Maxamillion Polo

 8. Charli XCX - CRASH

I’m high voltage, self-destructive, end it all so legendary. Charli XCX, aka the queen of pop, returned for one final album under her five-record deal with Atlantic Records, and saying she’s left with a bang would be a gross understatement. In Charli’s own words, CRASH is her attempt at “a major label album in the way that it’s actually done.” The self-awareness of CRASH is what makes it so successful: Charli critiques pop artists who sell their soul to the music industry while simultaneously crafting 12 perfectly accessible pop songs. With its use of iconic interpolations sprinkled between retro-futuristic instrumentals, CRASH manages to reinvent modern pop while paying homage to its roots, making for an intoxicatingly infectious record. Once you finish, you can’t help but come back for more. — Tatum Van Dam

7. Holly Humberstone - Can You Afford to Lose Me?

Holly Humberstone’s Can You Afford to Lose Me? includes 10 tracks from her previous projects Falling Asleep At The Wheel and The Walls Are Way Too Thin along with one new addition, the eponymous title track. The EP is a reflection—and an evolution—of Humberstone as a musician and artist, with the order of the songs carefully curated, giving them a whole new meaning in turn. Combining synth-pop and bedroom-pop into a sound that is uniquely Humberstone’s, Can You Afford to Lose Me? touches on topics of closing relationships, the blossoming of new ones, and one-sided romances and false hope. Humberstone’s vocals are haunting and soft, yet strong and powerful, echoing into a chamber of uncertainty that somehow feels reassuring. An emotional, coming-of-age slow burn, Humberstone is closing one chapter in order to prepare for the new one ahead. — Tatum Van Dam

6. Ethel Cain - Preacher’s Daughter

Upon initial listen, it would be easy to dismiss Ethel Cain as Gen Z’s answer to Lana Del Rey’s prolonged absence, but the affectionately dubbed Mother Cain’s debut album Preacher’s Daughter tells another story entirely. Grappling with love, violence, religion, and the way in which the three intersect across a multi-generational story, Preacher’s Daughter is a grand journey away from home that unfurls as a sweeping, cinematic epic. It’s a testament to Cain’s penchant for fatalistic storytelling that fully leverages her cult-like mysticism and hushed vocal timbre that escapes her body like a siren’s call home… even if that home is falling apart at the foundation. A haunting fusion of ambient, slowcore, classic rock, and restrained pop, Cain’s debut is one for the ages. — Maxamillion Polo

5. Montell Fish - JAMIE

JAMIE is an album deprived of any gimmicks or much flair. It’s a sobering, haunting debut statement piece that wrenches itself into every crevice of your being, and in turn, paints its star Montell Fish as an otherworldly figure. Built around minimalistic soundscapes that are adorned by Fish’s often lone guitar, light-to-the-touch key presses, and bewitching falsetto, JAMIE is the synthesis of the New York artist’s multidisciplinary background—a new age gospel for a new generation of soul. The relative sparseness of Fish’s lauded debut also means there’s little for the breakout star to hide behind, with each distinctive note or inflection carrying with it a grand weight all its own. — Maxamillion Polo

4. BROCKHAMPTON - The Family

All good things must come to end… and with The Family, BROCKHAMPTON chronicles not just the culmination of the greatest boy band since One Direction but the rapid ascent and descent of a supergroup plagued by hunger, ego, and a one-of-a-kind vision. Originally formed on a Kanye West fan forum around frontman Kevin Abstract, those two founding influences are unmistakable here, with The Family arriving as a largely solo Abstract affair, outside of production, that delves into early aughts pop-rap cuts, gospel-infused bouts of soul-searching introspection, and cutthroat glances at the triumphs and costs of self-grandeur. The end result is an unapologetic look at a found family who raced towards chart-topping highs with a reckless abandon, even if it was at the cost of themselves. — Maxamillion Polo

3. Steve Lacy - Gemini Rights 

Few artists soundtracked 2022 quite like Steve Lacy. The Internet guitarist and solo artist was certainly no stranger to the music world at large, but it was Gemini Rights and its breakout single “Bad Habit” that skyrocketed Lacy into the realm of household names. And while the TikTok-fueled viral hit certainly has its merits as one of the catchiest songs of recent memory, Gemini Rights as a whole stands as a testament to Lacy’s continued artistic evolution. An emotionally-supercharged exploration of desire, confusion, sex, and self scored by kaleidoscopic, genre-eschewing R&B, Gemini Rights is a luscious deep dive into Lacy’s psyche, a look at the artist and human behind it all. And while only time will tell, Gemini Rights has the gravity and impact of a magnum opus. — Maxamillion Polo

2. Wet Leg - Wet Leg

Honestly, I don’t think even Wet Leg could have predicted the accidental success of their debut, self-titled album, but it is absolutely worth the hype. With its tongue-in-cheek writing accurately conveying the deliberate quick wit of British humor, Wet Leg captures the chaos of going through a quarter-life crisis in a way that makes you want to sing and dance along, even if you may not fully grasp the gravity of the situation at hand. Over an earworm combination of post-punk and classic pop, Wet Leg pokes fun at their past relationships and the uncertainty of adulthood. At its core, Wet Leg is the product of two best friends having fun with some instruments and a microphone—Thelma and Louise style—and it shows. Wet Leg have established themselves as the CEOs of passive vocals, redundant basslines, and deadpan delivery that accurately and tunefully express one’s mid-20s with a nihilistic charm. — Tatum Van Dam

1. Omar Apollo - Ivory

Ivory single-handedly catapulted Omar Apollo into the next level of superstardom, and after just one listen, it’s more than evident why. As a multifaceted artist, Ivory gives us all of Apollo, from his yearning for affection to his charming and warranted arrogance. It’s a difficult feat to seamlessly transition from the traditionally Mexican sonnet "En El Olvido" to the boisterous The Neptunes-produced banger “Tamagotchi” with such fluidity, but that’s just what makes Ivory such a standout. We can taste hints of Frank Ocean on some notes while getting a glimpse of where the evolved Apollo stands. "Evergreen" is his declaration of vocal ability, burning quickly on TikTok and garnering over a hundred million streams on Spotify. But above all else, the true ingredient in Ivory that makes it so special is the expectation that rode on it and the clear humble wink at anyone who dared to doubt him. Ivory is the reward for knowing what the rest of the world has now finally come to realize: Omar Apollo is a star. — Jazmin Kylene

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