The 40 Best Albums of 2022

It’s that time of year when our team of music writers and editors get together to count down the 40 best albums of the year. And while this has been no usual year, the quality of music that has been released has been incredibly high. Suffice it to say, this has been a very difficult list to put together – for every record we included, handfuls we loved didn’t make the cut. But nonetheless, our list has arrived.

Our head music critic Dylan Marshall, alongside our editors Bruce Baker, Simon Clark and Dylan Oxley, and contributors John Goodridge, Chris Singh, Ben Somerford, Peter Gray and Larry Heath contribute to the AU review’s 14th annual list of the 40 best albums from Australia and around the world! We start off at home, with one of our favourite Sydney acts…

40. Johnny Hunter – Want

For a first up album, Want is everything Johnny Hunter could have hoped to achieve when they started out as a band. There’s a sense of nostalgia and strength in their songs that bodes well for their ability to connect with listeners beyond a traditional rock scene.

Read our review HERE.

39. Aurora – The Gods We Can Touch

AURORA’s 2022 album The Gods We Can Touch builds upon her existing sound to great effect. The album is as ethereal and otherworldly as you’d expect from the Norwegian artist; but you can also hear her experimenting with genre a bit more. All in all, an empowering, and immensely enjoyable release. – Simon Clark

38. Mallrat – Butterfly Blue

Coming six years after her debut EP and a plethora of massive singles, Butterfly Blue has been worth the wait for Mallrat fans and music lovers alike. Mallrat delves into a variety of sounds, themes and production that won’t scare off fans, while also allowing plenty of borderline listeners to jump firmly on the bandwagon.

Read our review HERE.

37. Harry Styles – Harry’s House

The One Directioner had already proved he was no flash in the pan with his sophomore effort Fine Line, but the Brit pop sensibilities of Harry’s House and its encompassing of city-pop (the wildly catchy “Music for a Sushi Restaurant”), synth (cruisy jump-off single “As It Was” and glossy R&B (“Late Night Talking”) more than certify his musical credentials beyond being just a former boy band player. – Peter Gray

36. Darren Hanlon – Life Tax

Having followed Darren Hanlon intently for near enough to 15 years now, it’s reaffirming and satisfying knowing that he’s managed to have his trademark brilliance come through once more with Life Tax. Sure to be a hit when he ventures out on the road sometime this year, make sure you get around Life Tax and Darren Hanlon, we need more storytellers like him.

Read our review HERE.

35. Thornhill – Heroine

It’s clear that Thornhill have their sights set on bigger and better things as they evolve with each release. The sophomore record from the Melbourne hardcore five-piece is as experimental and theatrical as it is seductive and clever. – Dylan Oxley

34. The Wombats – Fix Yourself, Not the World

The Wombats have also been Australian favourites for the whole of their career. Early this year they released Fix Yourself, Not the World ahead of an Australian tour. With a cover by eBoy, the album was a pointed take on modern life and people’s obsession with the internet. – John Goodridge

33. Flume – Palaces

I’ve always been a sucker for Flume’s bassy electronic hyper pop, which continued to evolve on Palaces. This LP is chaotic, stilted, strange and, at times, pure weird, but the euphoric heavy drops make it all worth it. Flume saturates his tunes with noise that creates emotion in a way unlike most, which sets him apart. ‘Palaces’ may not be for everyone, but if you know, you know. – Ben Somerford

32. Bill Callahan – YTILAER

Bill Callahan returned this year with his eighth solo album, his third in as many years. The album , which further extends Callahan’s current creative groove, was devised as an attempt to rouse listeners from their post-pandemic stupor. With a dream team of a band backing him up – including Dirty Three’s Jim White – Callahan succeeds in his attempts. Reality is a truly gorgeous listen. Meditative, playful, full of charm and creativity, it’s the kind of album that keeps revealing its secrets with each listen. – Simon Clark

31. Yard Act – The Overload

Yard Act has managed to find their own little weird niche in the British scene, with lyrics speak-sung for the most part, and a mixture of traditional rock matched with an at times chaotic and dry delivery.

Incredibly well weighted, The Overload has hits strewn through it, including stand outs “Tall Poppies” and my personal favourite “Pour Another”, the latter of which has a Blur “Boys & Girls” vibe written all over it. Filled with classic indie guitar and organ/ synths, plus a chorus that will result in more than a few dance floors or sweaty pubs to be filled with joy and pure ecstasy from punters, “Pour Another” is The Overload at its best.

Read our review HERE.

30. Foals – Life Is Yours

The progression and willingness of the band to release a dance-heavy album showcases their self-confidence and strength in a studio space. With a plethora of international and domestic tours already booked in, 2022 and 2023 shapes up to be a defining time for the band; you’d be a fool to not jump on the bandwagon.

Read our review HERE.

29. Art vs Science – Big Overdrive

Coming seven years after their previous album, Art vs Science were back with their unmistakable sound here on Big Overdrive. Now more than a decade removed from their wall-to-wall hit filled debut, Big Overdrive showcases a matured vibe, that touches on sounds similar in style to Pond, Disclosure and King Gizzard, as well as a plethora of other 80’s synth acts. If that sounds eclectic, you’re bloody right. Big Overdrive is big on sound; it’s just as big with its intent.

28. Annie Hamilton – The Future Is Here But It Kind of Feels Like the Past

Multi-talented to a fault, Annie Hamilton evokes levels of mystery and magic in her music, bouncing in and out of this realm and lifting the listener to a level of weightlessness, with each of the eleven songs on the album continually delivering from opening note to closing sentiment. I’m not sure if the future will feel like the past, but what I am sure of is that the future is here but it feels kinda like the past will be one of Australia’s best debut albums of the year (if it isn’t already).

Read our review HERE.

27. Sly Withers – Overgrown

As if their insanely good sophomore record wasn’t enough, the Perth punk quartet returned a year later with 14 more amazing tracks. The sequel to Gardens showcases their effortless knack for crafting emotive singalongs with deft musicianship. – Dylan Oxley

=26. Soccer Mommy – Sometimes, Forever

With the release of sometimes, forever, Sophia Regina Allison has captured the guitar heavy Nashville sound. Solid storytelling songs that hark back to a simpler time. – John Goodridge

=26. Aldous Harding – Warm Chris

Possibly not instantly accessible, but with repeated listens this album rewards richly. If you’re lucky enough to have seen Aldous live, you’ll know that she is somewhat unconventional. This is largely sparse folk-pop, yet each time she takes it to the edge of the cliff, she pulls it back and leaves you in wonderment at how craftily this is constructed. – Bruce Baker

25. Jack White – Fear of the Dawn

While it would be hard to argue that Jack White has ever disappointed in his solo output, his first of two records this year was nonetheless a surprise – because few would have expected him to drop one of his finest albums to date. It’s a record that barely takes a breath, from the epic first notes of “Taking Me Back”, through to the stunner “Shedding My Velvet”, with tracks like “Hi-De-Ho (ft. Q-Tip)” elevating the whole experience. Like a fine wine, White is only getting better with age. – Larry Heath

24. The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field

Over the past five years, The Beths have become one of the most reliable indie-rock bands from here or abroad. Sure, they’re not re-inventing the wheel with each album, but when you can manage to churn out smart lyrics and killer hooks like the band does, you really don’t have to even think about the wheel. – Dylan Marshall

23. Wallis Bird – Hands

Wallis Bird released a fun and playful album called Hands. It’s a reference to her left hand, which was damaged in a lawnmower accident when she was a child. The songs have a celebratory and uplifting vibe about them, which reflects on her sunny personality. – John Goodridge

22. Maggie Rogers – Surrender

Surrender is a ripper album to smash while fangin’ it through the Canadian countryside in a BMW the car rental place mistakenly gave you. A step away from her Heard It In A Past Life sound, Surrender maintains all parts of Maggie Rogers we’ve come to love, but has now evolved to be cheeky, witty and filled and overwhelmingly wholesome. – Dylan Marshall

21. Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights

Hit single ‘Bad Habit’ won us all over but it was just the gateway to a brilliant second LP from Steve Lacy, formerly guitarist of alt R&B group The Internet. This album blends R&B with rock and funk, expertly produced, with songwriting with contemporary charm and relatability. Gemini Rights rocks along oozing a mellow under-stated cool throughout, plus there’s a heap of banging grooves to lure you in. – Ben Somerford

20. Florence + The Machine – Dance Fever

In her first album in four years, UK artist Florence Welsh delivered her best album since her debut in the remarkable Dance Fever. It’s a diverse record that is stitched together beautifully; from lead single “Free” to powerful gems like “Daffodil”, this is Florence at her most raw and poetic, yet anthemic and – yes – danceable. And while it was mostly written and recorded during the pandemic, at a time when the return of live music was a vast unknown, this is a record that transforms beautifully on the stage. If you haven’t listened to Florence + The Machine in a while, this is the album to jump back into! – Larry Heath

19. Darren Hayes – Homosexual

Darren Hayes came from nowhere and burst back on the scene with Homosexual. An unashamed tribute to the club and disco scene, Hayes really found his niche. Pure dance tracks sit comfortably side by side with a tribute to the victims of the Pulse nightclub fire. – John Goodridge

18. Ruby Gill – I’m Gonna Die With This Frown On My Face

Oh lordy, as if this album isn’t just great and miserable and bleak and funny from front to back. After a string of singles of the past few years, I’m Gonna Die With This Frown On My Face is the culmination of Ruby Gill’s talent and magic. – Dylan Marshall

17. Courtney Marie Andrews – Loose Future

Loose Future, the eighth album from Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews, brought with it a new producer and a switch in sound and aesthetic. With an expanded aural palette to play with, Loose Future is an assured and evocative release that is full of warmth and style; all whilst losing none of Andrews trademark emotional frankness and songwriting prowess. – Simon Clark

16. Ashley Davies – Gold

Gold is a unique take on the legend of Lasseter’s Reef. The songs are based on interpretation of a series of paintings that his uncle had produced. It’s an instrumental interpretation of a well-known Australian story that would appeal to history lovers. – John Goodridge

15. Gang of Youths – angel in realtime.

The album emerged from the passing of lead singer Dave Le’aupepe’s father. An examination of his father’s past and unexpected discoveries led to a lush and emotional collection of songs. It’s an intimate and emotional rollercoaster. – Bruce Baker

14. Saviour – Shine & Fade

It’s been a rough few years for the Perth metalcore six-piece, but the legends came through with their most formidable work yet. The addition of a new technical guitarist and clean vocals from their bassist gives the band’s fifth album an unexpected breath of fresh air. – Dylan Oxley

13. Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry

Drug-addled rap elevated to high-art was something Pusha T and Ye accomplished on 2018’s Daytona, and much of that shine has spilled over to the rapper’s latest album. Except here Pusha T gets more aggressive, doubling down on what makes him such a formiddable (and feared) emcee. – Chris Singh

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

Wow. To think Kendrick would be able to release something on par with ‘Damn’, everyone thought that it was his pinnacle and yet, here, on Mr Morale and The Big Steppers we see a more mature Kendrick. Not only does the album incite emotion in the listener, but it gives us a real look into the mind of the artist. Kendrick not only faces his own traumas, helps paint an image of the enlightened artist who seeks to help all. The album is a treat and “Auntie Diaries” is a memorable standout that epitomises these feelings. – Dan Hanssen

11. Orville Peck – Bronco

The mysterious fringed masked troubadour Orville Peck released his second full length album this year and dialled everything up that extra notch. Bronco is a record that practically revels in its audacity – it’s big, bold and often gloriously theatrical and grandiose. But, then it all needs to be, to match Peck’s powerful vocal. Like a magpie, Peck borrows from across genres and eras to create a countrified musical landscape that is unabashedly his own. – Simon Clark

10. Angel Olsen – Big Time

Angel Olsen has embraced her inner Country singer on her sixth album Big Time; and the results are utterly wonderful. It’s an album steeped in classic country — heartbreak and all — but delivered in Olsen’s inimitable unflinching and direct style. Come for the beautiful vocals, stunning instrumentation and stay for the heartbreak and whisky. – Simon Clark

9. Slowly Slowly – Daisy Chain

The fourth album from these Melbourne sweethearts hits hard in all the soft spots as always. It’s rich with poetic metaphors, catchy hooks and refreshing sounds that keep you coming back again and again. – Dylan Oxley

Read our review HERE.

8. Julia Jacklin – Pre Pleasure

Julia Jacklin, now three albums deep, never ever fails to deliver. For an artist with a matured sound from the get go, Pre Pleasure is the most well rounded and complete release from the Blue Mountains native. Doing sadness like no other, Julia Jacklin is a national treasure who should be afforded all the successes she wants. – Dylan Marshall

7. Fontaine’s DC – Skinty Fia

Here on their third album, Ireland’s Fontaines D.C is removed enough from their first two albums that their new album Skinty Fia could in the long run become their magnum opus. For an album whose title quite literally comes from a combination of an extinct native deer and an Irish-ism for ‘for fucks sake’, there is an undeniable sense of depth, nostalgia and magic on Skinty Fia. – Dylan Marshall

Read our review HERE.

6. The Comfort – Experience Everything. Live and Die

As the title suggests, the Brisbane emo punk quartet’s sophomore record is an evocative reflection of self by looking at the bigger picture. Passionate vocals, poignant lyrics and bold instrumentation make it a standout from the local scene. – Dylan Oxley

5. Camp Cope – Running With the Hurricane

Running with the Hurricane is an evolved jump away from their previous releases. The album has a more pop-centric sound, all the while still managing to not lose the essence of what has made Camp Cope become so notable to so many. Gone is the anger that filled their earlier works and in its place is a determination to grow as people and as a band; something that suits Camp Cope incredibly well.

Read our review HERE.

4. Vince Staples – Ramona Park Broke My Heart

You’d be forgiven for counting Vince Staples out these past few years. Not that the man has ever released a bad album, but because his output hasn’t been quite as prolific as it once was. Ramona Park Broke My Heart changes all that, giving us Vince at his very finest over some of the most lush production he has rhymed over to date.
This is the best production Staples has rapped over in his career, from the lucious “When Sparks Fly” through to the mind-bending nostalgia of “East Point Prayer.” Just back-to-back-to-back brilliance from an emcee that’s much craftier than he first appeared back when he debuted with classic EP Hell Can Wait. – Chris Singh

3. Ball Park Music – Weirder & Weirder

Even after so many albums, Ball Park Music never cease to find a new way to put a twist on their same classic sound. This most recent release, Weirder and Weirder proved that again. The album is fantastic, displaying a new mature edge to the band’s somewhat whimsical flavour. The title track, ‘Weirder and Weirder’ was the true highlight of the album and by far a favourite of mine so far this year. Here’s to many more! – Dan Hanssen

Weirder & Weirder shows the band evolving and growing up once more, just as they have on every album they’ve released prior. With hints of their best sprinkled throughout all twelve songs of the album, there appears a renewed sense of adventure, joyousness, reflection and awareness on Weirder & Weirder; which honestly isn’t all that hard to do for a band that has always been more than handy at creating sing-a-longs and classics in waiting. The album is Ball Park Music making sense of everything in a time where not a lot is making sense.

Read our review HERE.

2. Wet Leg – Wet Leg

Let’s face it, 2022 was a gruelling endeavour. Wet Leg was a joyous beacon on the horizon, with their humour and well-crafted songs. Is your muffin buttered? indeed! – Bruce Baker

Rhian Teasdale and the epically shy Hester Chambers’ Wet Leg are the band you never expected to love or need, bursting out in 2021 with quirky popular single ‘Chaise Longue’, but followed up with a sexy swathe of catchy and humorously-written bangers on their maiden LP. There are hooks galore in their rollicking indie rock, while Rhian’s vocals have a captivatingly dry sense but her lyrics really drawn you in, with their self-deprecation and honesty. – Ben Somerford

In spite of all the buzz and hype, you may as well call Wet Leg Australia Post, because they’ve well and truly delivered here with their debut album. – Dylan Marshall

Read our review HERE.

1. King Stringray – King Stringray

We’ve been fans of the band since their debut release. and their debut long play was exceptional. Taking inspiration from their blue-blood musical lineage, Yothu Yindi, they’ve opened the ears and minds of another generation to the sounds of North-East Arnhem Land. – Bruce Baker

As we heard with their banging singles last year, King Stingray have created an awesome combination of contemporary rock and Yolnu manikay, not heard since Yothu Yindi. Their sound is joyful rock, with touches of punk, Indigenous percussion and vocals, along with pure fun. It’s hard not to be drawn in by this buzz band full of energy and surprising delights. – Ben Somerford

Waking up bleary eyed in Germany after having a couple too many beers celebrating my birthday, little did I realise King Stingray had just released the album of the year and it was going to feature heavily on my playlists for the remainder of the year. Opener “Lupa” is a standout and sets the tone for what’s possibly the most fun debut of 2022. – Dylan Marshall