The 67 best albums of 2022: 54-41

Amanda Shires, Mitski, Shinedown, Jack White, Sharon Van Etten, Luke Combs, Blackpink, Broken Bells, Lamb of God, Bad Omens, Noah Cyrus, Kevin Morby, Freedy Johnston, Zach Bryan, best albums of 2022

The best albums of 2022 include Amanda Shires, Mitski, Shinedown, Jack White, Sharon Van Etten, Luke Combs, Blackpink, Broken Bells, Lamb of God, Bad Omens, Noah Cyrus, Kevin Morby, Freedy Johnston and Zach Bryan.

Welcome back! Or, if this is your first click into our list of the best albums of 2022, start with Part 1.

Part 2 includes the title for best K-pop LP of the year: Blackpink, as well as the indie rock of Kevin Morby, Freedy Johnston, Sharon Van Etten and Broken Bells; a double-dose from Jack White, hard rock from Lamb of God, Bad Omens and Shinedown, the country of Luke Combs, Amanda Shires and Zach Bryan; and the alt-pop of Mitski and Noah Cyrus.

Find out why we thought Blackpink continued to grow its sound in 2022 and what makes the others on this list worthy.

54. Freedy Johnston

Back On The Road To You – Forty Below

Back On The Road To You is Freedy Johnston’s ninth album and first since 2015’s Neon Repairman. These 10 new songs offer his usual style of writing— a combination of detailed descriptions and verbal imagery— and provide both vivid impressions and some major questions unanswered. And they’re often accompanied by music more upbeat than the words. “Tryin’ To Move On” ties an upbeat rock arrangement to lyrics about a man so anxious to move on to his next chapter that he sees himself in the rearview mirror as he floors the gas pedal toward his new life. For the most part, Johnston doesn’t lean on complicated characters like the fire-starter he chronicled in “Gone to See the Fire” from 1997 masterpiece Never Home and more like people who miss their baby, or who know their love is gone. In most cases, that complicated person is Freedy himself.

53. Kevin Morby

This Is a Photograph – Dead Oceans

On his seventh album, singer-songwriter Kevin Morby delivered his strongest set of songs yet, combining the best of Americana and indie rock. Written at the historic Peabody Hotel in Memphis and inspired by a medical emergency his father had suffered (from which he’s since recovered), This is a Photograph finds Morby contemplating his own past and mortality in general. Richly backed by banjo, harp and occasional string arrangement in addition to the usual guitar, bass and drums, Morby has a Dylan-esque vocal delivery but a less cryptic sense of lyricism. “This is what I’ll miss after I die/ And this is what I’ll miss about being alive,” he sings on the title track. His directness and honesty bring real joy and pathos to his work. This is a Photograph hits all the right notes, from beginning to end.

52. Amanda Shires

Take It Like a Man – ATO Records

Amanda Shires’ latest is mostly not an easy listen. On it, she talks about a struggling marriage with a sort of honesty that you wonder how it survived (“Fault Lines,” “Empty Cups”). She also sings about how female musicians are disrespected, talked down to and taken advantage of in the music industry and beyond it (the title track). There’s not a lot of mincing of words going on; it hits like a brick. These songs are solemn and dramatic in instrumentation, too, even as they highlight Shires’ lyrical skills better than any of her prior albums. But at the same time, there’s hope with songs like “Stupid Love,” and fun on album closer “My Own Galaxy,” offering a way out at the end.

51. Blackpink

Born Pink – YG Entertainment

This was a tricky one. We think the K-pop group that released the best music in 2022 was Stray Kids. But they didn’t release any LPs. The mini albums that are so popular in the genre lead to more sales, but don’t help here. That means that our favorite Kpop album of the year was Born Pink, the sophomore effort by Blackpink. While what BLINKs (the group’s fanbase) have come to know from the group still shines through, Blackpink also dabbles in bubblegum pop and alt-pop, an uncharted area for Jisoo, Jennie, Rose and Lisa.

If “Pink Venom” was representative of the group’s earlier sound, “Shut Down” is a testament to the sophistication and refinement of where Blackpink has gone from there. Blackpink seamlessly blends the intricate and pointed notes of the lively strings to pierce through the drop bass introduction. Blackpink show real growth as artists by experimenting with new sounds instead of stagnating.

50. Noah Cyrus

The Hardest Part – Columbia Records

The Hardest Part is a modest offering of 10 folky, borderline alt-country songs; Noah Cyrus’ ability to weave deep emotion into her music gives the album a weightiness beyond her years. Gut-wrenching honesty, a knockout duet and simplistic orchestration position her as the star of her own story in a way that feels equal parts refreshing and heartbreaking. Allusions to her parents’ messy divorce and songs about death all give it a somber tone. She writes about these topics in a way that makes you feel seen and the pain easier to bear. Her lyricism shines because the arrangements don’t overdo it. Higher-tempo, beat-driven tracks like “I Just Want A Lover” and “Hardest Part” show she can delve into that realm, but the slower vibes are far more suited to this particular collection of songs.

49. Shinedown

Planet Zero – Atlantic Records

This album is Shinedown’s most ambitious album. Verging into concept album territory, the band offers a stark portrait of modern society, taking a critical look at cancel culture, groupthink, social media addiction and mental health. The group ventures deeper into both its heavier and softer tendencies. Opening track “No Sleep Tonight” takes a little thrash and a little punk and condenses it into the Shinedown sound. It’s immediate, in your face and one of the band’s most urgent songs to date. The title track takes a swing at internet culture and the tendency to pile on. It comes off less as a political statement than a cautionary tale of not thinking as an individual. That message of free thinking permeates much of Planet Zero.

48. Luke Combs

Growin’ Up – Columbia Records Nashville

Luke Combs succeeds on his third album by sticking to traditional country and avoiding pop crossover. His storytelling, authenticity and humble nature make both the artist and the album one of the brightest stars in country music. The general message here is his understanding that he’s ascending to the genre’s highest tiers, but that it won’t change him one bit. In this case, it’s a bolder statement than trying to reinvent himself. “Used To Wish I Was” follows the theme of humility as he reveals that he had dreams of being a football star or NASCAR driver, but how he’s glad that they didn’t pan out. He argues he’s just another “Carolina boy” who happened to get big by playing guitar and writing songs. It’s easy to believe he’s grateful for how his life turned out.

47. Bad Omens

The Death of Peace of Mind – Sumerian Records

Bad Omens’ third album offers the most fully formed potential of vocalist Noah Sebastian and crew’s vision. Bad Omens seamlessly blends hard rock and metalcore with pop and dance music, separating the band from its hard rock contemporaries. Songs like “Who Are You?” And “Artificial Suicide” sound like they could have come from entirely different bands, Sebastian’s dynamic vocals shifting from the most brutal of screams to a nuanced falsetto. Add Bad Omens’ anthemic sensibility to the mix and you get the most memorable rock songs of the year, such as “Like a Villain” and “Just Pretend.”

46. Jack White

Entering Heaven Alive and Fear of the Dawn – Third Man Records

These two albums were the flip sides of the same coin. Both were great. April’s Fear of the Dawn is a technological achievement as much as it is a musical one. White’s sound on the album derives from a slew of new guitar effects and production tricks, many of which he developed himself. It’s gritty, grainy and dark—a cyberpunk stew: part Ministry-style industrial aggression, part hip-hop trap beat swagger, part space age bluesman riffing. July’s Entering Heaven Alive is the polar opposite. It’s soft, fleshy and acoustic. On songs like album opener “A Tip From You To Me,” “Tree on Fire (From Within)” and “Please, God Don’t Tell Anyone,” White foregrounds the piano and acoustic guitars. The AM radio vibe draws from Bob Dylan, Dire Straits and Wilco. But there’s also a massive helping of Beatles influence here, too.

45. Mitski

Laurel Hell – Dead Oceans

Laurel Hell sees Mitski dive deeper into the melancholy-drenched dance pop in which she immersed herself on 2018’s Be the Cowboy. “Working for the Knife”  details her reluctance to keep the machine running to avoid stagnancy at all cost. It hints at a larger critique of societal pressures and consumerism that helps shed light on why Mitski chose to step away from the limelight after her last album. Throughout these songs, Mitski shows a will to break binaries and to delve into new narratives she had not previously explored in her art. Where she before indulged in short-fused analogies for feelings of loss and longing, she’s now adamant on residing in a gray area that more accurately reflects who she is.

44. Zach Bryan

American Heartbreak – Warner Records

Zach Bryan’s American Heartbreak is a bold (34 songs!), beautiful and gut-wrenching collection third album from one of country music’s newest and brightest stars. Being a Navy vet with a tumultuous past gives Bryan a wealth of experience that he weaves into his songs. His distinctive raspiness imbues the album with deep emotion that you can feel on every song. He writes with a wisdom and vulnerability beyond his years, which gives American Heartbreak so much more depth. Standout songs include “Something In The Orange” and “Damn Cold Vampires.”

43. Lamb of God

Omens – Epic Records

Lamb of God achieves diversity through its aggression, pushing barriers to deliver an unrelenting sound on Omens. The band captures lightning in a bottle—the record feels like it’s being performed live. Tracks like opener “Nevermore” roar from the speakers with guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler trading machine-gun guitar riffs over the punishing rhythms of drummer Art Cruz. Vocalist Randy Blythe does mix in some melody in between the guttural groundswell of screams. Morton dishes out pinpoint riffs all over the record.

42. Sharon Van Etten

We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong – Jagjaguwar

Sharon Van Etten’s latest album arrived fully formed, deep and powerful. Her lyrics have always been cryptic, and while they still are here, themes do emerge: domesticity snuffing out the flame of romance, worry about being a good mother, drinking and smoking too much and losing one’s sense of self. We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is mysterious and subdued, but occasionally peppered with some of the synth sounds that were new for her on Remind Me Tomorrow. It sounds true to form for a new mother trying to make it through a pandemic.

41. Broken Bells

Into the Blue – AWAL

The music that James Mercer and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) make together as Broken Bells is unique and hard to classify. And it’s not entirely clear what all these songs are about; whether they’re metaphors or commentary about specific situations. That vagueness is probably by design, as it lends them an air of mystery. Their partnership, marrying Burton’s studio wizardry with Mercer’s folk-pop sensibility, has created another album that’s more than the sum of its parts. It immerses listeners in Broken Bells’ sonic world.

54. Freedy Johnston. 53: Kevin Morby. 52: Amanda Shires. 51: Blackpink. 50: Noah Cyrus. 49: Shinedown. 48: Luke Combs. 47: Bad Omens. 46: Jack White. 45: Mitski. 44: Zach Bryan. 43: Lamb of God. 42: Sharon Van Etten. 41: Broken Bells.

The 67 best albums of 2022: 40-31