The WXPN Best of 2022 MEGA LIST: Albums of the Year - WXPN
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Our hosts have been polled. The votes have been tallied. And today, we are thrilled to celebrate our favorite music of the year with you.

The Best of 2022 MEGA LIST encompasses the top 25 albums of 2022, as determined by the ears you trust and the voices you love, the tastemakers and playlist curators of the WXPN airstaff. Everyone has pitched in their personal top fives, from the regular weekday hosts who keep you company from Monday through Friday, to the specialty show hosts you hang with on nights and weekends.

You can explore those individual top fives here, but today we turn to the collective list, the points of consensus, the music we rallied around over our airwaves and through our conversations in the studio hallways, at our desks, and on our social media feeds. These 25 albums represent a range of generations and genres, of old favorites and new discoveries, and are ranked based on votes from XPN’s on-air hosts (in the case of a tie, program director Bruce Warren and digital content editor John Vettese determined the ordering through a rock-paper-scissors marathon).

Read on for The Best of 2022 MEGA LIST: our favorite music of the year.


25. Cosmic Guilt – Cosmic Guilt (Guilt Trip)

Cosmic Guilt - Silver and Lead

Philadelphia’s James Everhart loves a good vintage aesthetic: canned lagers, cutoff denim, American traditional tattoos. In his band Cosmic Guilt, the singer-songwriter and guitarist applies that outlook to music, delivering an expansive take on 20th century sounds: country and folk-rock dipped in psychedelia. Bolstered by some nine multi-talented players who contribute slide guitar and glockenspiel, ripping harmonica leads and radiant voices, their self-titled debut sounds like a gorgeous collision between The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Gram Parsons’ Grievous Angel, creating a dreamlike setting for Everhart’s lyrical ruminations on life, love, and existential dread. – John Vettese


24. The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention (XL Recordings)

The Smile - The Smoke

“Almost like Radiohead” is to miss the point of The Smile and its debut album. The fact that Radiohead’s lead singer Thom Yorke and their guitarist Johnny Greenwood are two of The Smile’s three members – along with jazz drummer Tom Skinner from Sons of Kemet– is important to the making of this album, and this side project is every bit as interesting and adventurous as the band itself, but in a different way. Pitchfork put it best: this very Radiohead-y album isn’t an actual Radiohead album. With elements of classic alt-rock, prog and electronic music, Skinner brings his jazz playing experience to the rhythmic elements on several of the songs, most notably the shuffling 7/8 time shifter “Pana-Vision,” the afro-beat grooves of “The Smoke,” and the Krautrock influenced boogie of “The Opposite,” and their combined chemistry makes A Light for Attracting Attention the best of many Radiohead side projects. – Bruce Warren


23. Charley Crockett – The Man from Waco (Son of Davy / Thirty Tigers)

Charley Crockett - I'm Just A Clown

From playing on street corners in the French Quarter to busking in New York City subways, Charley Crockett has always been willing to play for whoever would listen. With his latest studio album, The Man From Waco, it’s fair to say he has our attention. The charismatic storyteller churns out records quicker than most, but maybe we should just recognize that he’s keeping pace with his musical heroes, like Willie Nelson and Ray Charles. He spins tales of his travels on songs like “Black Sedan,” pens the prettiest of love songs with “Time of the Cottonwood Trees,” and even serves up a classic country murder-ballad on “July Jackson.” Hop on-board the ride that is The Man From Waco, and it will take you to the perfect intersection of country music and southern soul. – Mike Vasilikos


22. Father John Misty – Chlöe and the Next 20th Century (Sub Pop / Bella Union)

Father John Misty - Goodbye, Mr. Blue

So much of popular culture is fueled by nostalgia that sometimes it feels like there are no new ideas. Every movie is a reboot or a sequel, fashion goes in circles. On the surface, Chloe & the Next 20th Century might seem like an embrace of nostalgia, as Father John Misty directs a series of vignettes in flickering black and white set to music that sounds like it could have been ripped from a long-lost Hollywood soundtrack. But his songwriting and persona have always occupied a space between artifice and authenticity, and on his fifth album, he often uses that artifice to get closer to the truth. All of the stories here are deeply human, but the key to the whole thing lies in the last song: “The Next 20th Century,” which reveals not an embrace of nostalgia, but a weary truce with it: “I don’t know ’bout you / But I’ll take the love songs / And give you the future in exchange.” – Raina Douris


21. Wet Leg – Wet Leg (Domino Recording Co.)

Wet Leg - Ur Mum

Could a band seemingly formed on a lark during an extended sleepover become the most important new rock group of the year?  With a self-titled album that arrived in spring 2022, the buzz and word of mouth following Wet Leg’s first single made for a unique situation – what would the pressure be like to have an album seemingly come out of nowhere to debut at #1 in the English, Australian, and Irish album charts, be shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, and eventually earn five Grammy nominations? As great as “Chaise Longue” is, the album proved that Isle of Wight pals Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers are way more than a one-hit wonder. It is full of songs full of observations of life and love in the now, loser boyfriends and floundering twenty somethings, with spiky riffs and vocals delivered with a dry and deadpan delivery.  There’s a thing happening these days in the UK – with bands like Dry Cleaning, Yard Act, Sports Team, and Sorry all taking bits of a post-punk past, but applying different shades of today’s frenetic social media youth junk culture to bring us to the future.  At the top of that list, Wet Leg has applied the most singalong pop hooks atop their sharp wit, and I for one am psyched to see and hear what’s next from all these bands, one of the most exciting movements in music today. – Jim McGuinn


20. Sylvan Esso – No Rules Sandy (Loma Vista Recordings)

Sylvan Esso - Didn't Care

I was a huge fan of Sylvan Esso’s debut back in 2014. They even played my World Cafe retirement party. The playfulness of songs like “Coffee” and “Hey Mami” with simpatico electronics was something new, and big fun. Gotta say that not until this 2022 effort No Rules Sandy has that playfulness returned for me. Maybe it was the expectations of following their surprise hit album that took some of the fun out of the next two SE releases but, people, the looseness is back on their fourth. COVID locked the duo in an LA hotel room with, as the title implies, No Rules and almost inadvertently the album emerged. Amelia Meath is back with wise adult nursery rhymes and Nick Sanborn’s arrangements (including a string quartet on “Your Reality”! ) just meld perfectly. There are pop hooks on songs like “Echo Party” and “Didn’t Care,” and the album finishes with Sylvan Esso’s first acoustic number, Meath’s intimate “Coming Back To You.”  Kind of ironic that such a fun album emerged from a three-week lockdown. – David Dye


19. Lizzo – Special (Nice Life / Atlantic)

Lizzo - About Damn Time

Not gonna lie, I laughed out loud multiple times during my first listen to Special, starting with the cheeky opening line, “Hi, MF-er, did you miss me? / I’ve been home since 2020 / I’ve been twerkin’ and makin’ smoothies / It’s called healing.” Those lyrics set the tone for an album full of funny, funky, uplifting pop jams that are somehow also intimate, vulnerable, and refreshing. Maybe that’s because Lizzo wrote over 100 songs for this record and whittled them down to a dozen tracks specifically chosen to make you smile. It’s impossible to feel bad about anything while listening to her music, which is medicine for weary souls, so take that prescription for self-love and acceptance! It’s About Damn Time!  – Kristen Kurtis


18. The Weather Station – How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars (Fat Possum)

The Weather Station - To Talk About

Tamara Lindeman’s follow up to her 2021 album Ignorance is its companion piece in every way.  How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars of 2022 directs the view of The Weather Station’s frontperson in much the same gaze as the album before it, but with a hushed quietude that comes in direct opposition to its danceable partner. Recorded just days before the COVID-19 crisis and worldwide lockdowns, Lindeman finds herself steeped in the dread and worry of our planet and its climate crisis.Yet her worry is a series of poetic and calming pieces that feature hushed vocals, sparse piano and instrumentation that at first glance seem to belie her dismay, but upon further listening we are attuned to the gravity of the cause. Her quiet intensity and subtle nuance throughout the disc makes for an exceptional headphone listen. You go through all of the phases of worry, regret, grief, and even rage, but are thankful for the journey. – Keith Kelleher


17. Shemekia Copeland – Done Come Too Far (Alligator Records)

Shemekia Copeland - Too Far To Be Gone

Becoming a parent can make us modify our thinking, or perhaps just focus and enhance what we already felt more deeply. Such is the case with Shemekia Copeland’s three albums since the birth of her son. On the latest of these, this year’s Done Come Too Far, Copeland’s incomparable vocal power delivers some uncompromising social commentary in song. She is clearly singing about her son in “The Talk,” a song about something that many Black parents share with their kids — advice on avoiding conflict when being questioned by police. Many of the songs look at race relations, including “Too Far To Be Gone,” which is about the failure of the civil rights movement to finish the job of establishing true equality. Gun violence, which Shemekia has sung about before, is the topic of “Pink Turns To Red,” about a mass shooting at a school. There are some funny songs too, including the possibly politically-incorrect “Fell In Love With A Honky,” which is probably semi-autobiographical (her husband is white). That song and “Why Why Why” suggest that Copeland’s talent could well extend successfully to country music. Shemekia wraps up the set maintaining a tradition of singing one of her father’s songs on each of her albums, and the late bluesman Johnny Copeland would surely feel that his gifted daughter was singing “Nobody But You” directly to him. – Jonny Meister


16. Weyes Blood – And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow (Sub Pop)

Weyes Blood - Grapevine

Weyes Blood is the project of the Doylestown, PA-raised singer/songwriter Natalie Mering. Her fifth album, And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow builds off of her excellent 2019 release, Titanic Rising, taking that record’s dreamlike majesty and synthesizing it into something that comes as close to perfection as anything released in 2022. The songs float by, recalling psychedelic folk pop that ranges from early-’70s Pink Floyd to the retro-contemporary sounds of the Los Angeles band Drugdealer (with whom Mering has collaborated). Her long and thoughtful passages never meander; rather they become more effective as each sound and lyric enhances the one before it. And with songs like “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” “God Turn Me Into a Flower” and “A Given Thing,” Mering seems to take the uncertainty and anxiety of our time and turn it into a communal thought, as if she’s saying, “I see you, I feel that way too, and we’re going to be okay.” Whether you’re paying attention to her every word, or simply spacing out with it on in the background, it’s an endlessly beautiful record that proves more rewarding with every listen.  – Julian Booker


15. Beth Orton – Weather Alive (Partisan Records)

Beth Orton - Weather Alive

I keep coming back to the piano. It’s the beating heart of Beth Orton’s latest (and self-produced) album, Weather Alive. She’d been going through a difficult time, dealing with health issues and being dropped by her record label, when she went for a stroll through London’s Camden Market and found it: a piano she’d end up taking home to her garden shed. The songs on Weather Alive came to life on that piano, a defiant album that is signature Beth Orton. Songs like “Lonely” and “Friday Night” share touchstones with her earlier albums, ones that made her synonymous with the word folktronica, yet here land with more weight and less novelty. The beauty of the music gives way to the struggle inherent in the lyrics, and Orton, as producer, has a masterful command of knowing how to balance both. Weather Alive pulls the heartstrings, takes you to a melancholic place, and lets you live in the catharsis, because this is a record that knows you, the listener, have endured as well, much like Orton and her piano.  – Stephen Kallao


14. Sun Ra Arkestra – Living Sky (Omni Sound)

Sun Ra Arkestra - Day of the Living Sky

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to refer to the Sun Ra Arkestra as one of the great living institutions of Black American music and culture. Although their founder Sun Ra left the planet decades ago, the Arkestra continues on touring and releasing new music under the direction of 98 year-old saxophonist, Marshall Allen. The Living Sky is not only full of fantastic performances, it is the latest link in an unbroken continuum of music that stretches from the 1950s to today. “Firefly” is an epic, ten-minute exploration of sound, while “Wish Upon A Star” is a gorgeous ballad. Like the best records that the Arkestra has made throughout the years, The Living Sky strikes a lovely balance between so-called “free” playing and traditional styles. – John Morrison


13. Alvvays – Blue Rev (Polyvinyl Records)

Alvvays - Pharmacist

What makes the new Alvvays album one of the best of 2022? To borrow the expression “more cowbell,” the Toronto band’s record is, simply put, “more Alvvays.” With more layers of guitars and melodies and beautiful noise than we’ve heard in the band’s previous efforts, Blue Rev builds and expands on their sound, a familiar musical mix of super melodic guitar power and pop hooks, all under the soaring vocals of songwriter Molly Rankin. With musical touch points that bring to mind the hyper-melodicism of Big Star and Teenage Fanclub, the noise-pop wizardy of My Bloody Valentine, and Rankin’s proclaimed love of Belinda Carlile, Blue Rev is a new high benchmark in the overlapping worlds of dream pop and power pop, impressively produced by Shawn Everett. – Bruce Warren


12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down (Secretly Canadian)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Burning

First, let me say I was shocked to hear the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were going to resurface with a new album. I thought we had lost them like many bands in the great silence of 2020. I read that frontwoman Karen O had said essentially they were only coming back when the music and timing was right. And right she was. There are no skips on this album. I was hooked when I heard the fuzzy guitar, bold strings, and unhinged vocals on “Burning”. Once I dug in, I found it’s wild and chaotic (“Wolf”) as much as introspective and dreamy (“Different Today”) and just when you think you can follow the path, they conclude with a spoken word piece about O’s son (“Mars”).  – Wendy Rollins


11. Vieux Farka Touré et Khruangbin – Ali (Dead Oceans)

Vieux Farka Touré et Khruangbin - Diarabi

I’ve loved Khruangbin ever since a friend shared “August 10” with me three years ago. So as a fan of Laura Lee, Mark Speer, and DJ, this year was awesome for me. I got a joint EP with Leon Bridges called Texas Moon, that had one of my favorite tracks, “Mariella.” I got to see them live for the first time in March at The Met, and witness them doing an unforgettable cover of Maxwell’s “Ascension.” And to top the year off, they dropped another joint project called Ali, this time with Malian singer and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré. The best way to describe this album – dedicated to Toure’s father, acclaimed guitarist Ali Farka Touré – is “freaking amazing.” Hearing Laura and Mark’s chords move over DJ’s beats is always an enjoyable experience but the Malian flavor that Touré adds to it takes it to another level. “Savanne” and “Lobbo” sound so funky that James Brown could dance on the tracks, literally and vocally. “Tamalla” starts off so chill until the beat switches and the energy starts to sound like 2nd Sunday service at church. The album came out in September, but according to Apple Music Replay, “Diarabi” was my top song of the year, and it deserved every stream from me. – Abdur Rahman


10. Kevin Morby – This Is A Photograph (Dead Oceans)

Kevin Morby - This Is A Photograph

We’ve all flipped open old photo books, maybe at your grandparent’s house or close relative’s, and gotten lost imagining a time before our own. Those are the stories that inspire Kevin Morby on his latest album This Is A Photograph. Static images are brought to life through an introspective and nostalgic collection of songs. Morby honors those close to him, including his parents, his girlfriend, and his musical heroes, like Jeff Buckley. In fact, Morby ventured to Memphis, Tennessee to demo the album and seek inspiration from musical landmarks like Graceland and the actual location of Buckley’s passing along the banks of the Mississippi River. And while, at times, there’s a darkness that penetrates the foundation of these songs, there’s also a cathartic, almost celebratory vibe that wraps itself around them. Dig into album standouts like the title track, “Bittersweet, TN” (featuring singer-songwriter Erin Rae) and “Rock Bottom” to find out why This Is A Photograph is a high mark for Kevin Morby. – Mike Vasilikos


9. Grace Cummings – Storm Queen (ATO Records)

Grace Cummings - Heaven

After witnessing Grace Cummings lead a full-band performance for World Café this spring, my first order of business was to scrape myself down off the rafters. The Australian singer’s voice is like an acetylene torch; brimming with fury at its full caterwaul, yet still coursing with energy when pulled back to an intimate hush. Cummings’ second album, Storm Queen, wisely puts that voice front-and-center, with each song offering its own ear-catching flourish. An otherworldly theremin haunts “Fly a Kite,” a baritone sax drones through the title track, and a pileup of guitars punctuates the opening anthem “Heaven.” Storm Queen is an album whose songs sound wrenched from the pit of their creators’ soul. It’s an exorcism to which you’ll want a front row seat. – Eric Schuman


8. Florence and the Machine – Dance Fever (Polydor / Universal Music Group)

Florence and the Machine - King

The Ginger Enchantress returns. I can’t really talk about this as an album; this is immersive. Florence Welch is a singer, but there is imagery and art and choreography to her work. A few albums back, Welch started personifying her albums, but I think with Dance Fever she has truly transported herself – and the fans that choose to go along. I encourage you to watch the music videos: when I saw the first video for “King,” I understood Welch was not interested in being the heroine, she was exploring power. This album is not a concept album, but it feels like a collection of women sharing their brightest light and darkest fury. – Wendy Rollins


7. Momma – Household Name (Polyvinyl Records)

Momma - Motorbike

After just finishing XPN’s “90’s A to Z”, I was struck by the fact that Momma’s latest album Household Name wouldn’t have seemed out of place at all during that decade. From the cheeky album title, all the way through the dozen tunes on the album, Momma proves they know both how to write a hooky song AND not to take themselves too seriously. There were a number of us who were completely taken by them at their Free At Noon appearance back in June, and they’ve been welcome additions to our playlists ever since. And… what’s that sound I hear? Distorted guitars? OK by me… – Dan Reed


6. Sharon Van Etten – We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong (Secretly Canadian)

Sharon Van Etten - Mistakes

What will you do when it all comes crashing down? Seek comfort in the presence of friends and loved ones? Bury your head under a pile of your preferred vices? Alternately laugh and scream yourself hoarse over how inevitable it all feels? If you’re Sharon Van Etten (you are most likely not, but congrats if you are), you’ll make the best album of your career. While the plates of the acclaimed songwriter’s world were shifting, she surveyed the cacophony around her and channeled her frustrations and hope into the year’s most cathartic songs. Building off Remind Me Tomorrow’s dark new wave and the stacked guitars of her Angel Olsen collab “Like I Used To,” We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is a home-recorded marvel. Landing the day after Van Etten took the stage at this year’s NON-COMMvention, the dynamic record insists on being taken as a complete statement piece. From the aching “Home to Me” to the pulsating “Mistakes,” Van Etten conjures an appealing apocalypse for all wild hearts. – Eric Schuman


5. Black Thought & Danger Mouse – Cheat Codes (BMG)

Black Thought & Danger Mouse - No Gold Teeth

On a November episode of the State of the Game podcast, I appeared alongside my fellow Philadelphian, Zilla Rocca, to discuss Danger Mouse and Black Thought’s album Cheat Codes. Throughout the course of the conversation, we discussed the album’s production, its backstory, and Black Thought and Danger Mouse’s chemistry. When the subject of Black Thought’s lyrics came up, the show’s host, Dan Olney asked me how I would advise listeners to approach Black Thought’s dense, stream of consciousness approach to writing. In short, the point of listening to Black Thought on an album like Cheat Codes, is in the power of wordplay itself. Linear narratives be damned, Black Thought’s imagery and references fly by a mile a minute, melding beautifully with Danger Mouse’s ornate, sample-based beats. – John Morrison


4. Alex G – God Save The Animals (Domino Recording Co.)

Alex G - Runner

Philly’s Alex G can be noisy, raw and irreverent; he can also be deeply sensitive and reflective, delivering gorgeous and candid songs without a trace of irony. It’s a balance the multi-instrumental singer-songwriter has struck since his early days of scrappy lo-fi recordings and through his increasingly more polished productions over the past decade. This year’s God Save The Animals – his fourth album for Domino, and ninth overall – arrived at a juncture where he’s selling out multiple nights at the biggest venues he’s played, with more folks listening than ever before. So which way does he lean: more Slint or Elliott Smith, more experimental or accessible? For Alex, the decision is not one of either/or, but rather both/and, with the result being the most rewarding record of his career. He announced the album with the ripped numetal tones of “Blessing,” then leapt right into the massive pop earworm “Runner.” He explored themes of hazy childhood memory through trippy pitch-modulated vocals on “No Bitterness” and then unpacked the fear (and hope!) of first-time parenthood and raising a new generation on “Miracles,” possibly the most vulnerable Alex has ever been on record. As much as it encompasses a spectrum of textures and ideas cohesively, nothing about God Saves The Animals feels calculated: rather, it’s a reflection of an artist with a wide range of taste – and a wide range of thoughts and emotions – putting it all on the table and making something beautiful. – John Vettese


3. Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia (Partisan Records)

Fontaines D.C. - Jackie Down The Line

The third studio album from Dublin rockers Fontaines D.C. was recorded live to tape over a two week period, and it certainly sounds like it (in the best way). An exciting, sincere, post-post-punk adventure from start to finish, Skinty Fia is chock full of excellent tunes, not the least of which is possible song of the year “Jackie Down The Line.” The record moves in step with like-minded bands Idles, Yard Act, and Foals, and builds on the momentum of the band’s 2020 LP A Hero’s Death – which Fontaines didn’t get to properly support because of lockdown, making their tour kickoff at a sold out Free at Noon one of the year’s best. Still in their 20’s, there’s really no telling how much better this group can get. Their live show is loud and cathartic and just what we needed in ‘22. – Dan Reed


2. Spoon – Lucifer On The Sofa (Matador Records)

Spoon - "My Babe" (Official Music Video)

When most artists have already shown their best tricks by album #2, it’s not easy to keep growing artistically 25+ years into your career.  But with Lucifer on the Sofa, Spoon reached a new level.  It’s still the same basic premise – indie rock guitar songs filled with tension, space, noise, dread, and beauty, but somehow it landed better, harder, stronger than a veteran band should be expected to hit this far along. It’s Spoon’s tenth album, but first to be nominated for a Grammy, as tracks like “The Hardest Cut,” “Wild,” “My Babe” and “On the Radio” dominated our radios this year.  Despite most of the record being cut before COVID (how hard was it for bands to sit on albums waiting for the pandemic to pass?), the lyrics and songs hit the zeitgeist of this year, with Spoon rising to the status of Indie Rock Elite, whatever that’s worth in our fractured musical landscape these days. It felt great to have some old friends return after the tumult, and it takes skill to keep it both simple and deep, but with Lucifer on the Sofa I found myself spending much of the year flipping that orange vinyl over and over, like the version of himself that singer Britt Daniel is writing about in the title track, wondering about all those records and all those cassettes.  Put this album at the top of the stack for me in 2022.  – Jim McGuinn


1. Bartees Strange – Farm to Table (4AD Records)

Bartees Strange - Heavy Heart (Official Video)

Bartees Strange’s second LP was originally conceived as an EP,  but — like his sprawling and adventurous sound — his creativity couldn’t be contained.  And thank goodness! Because his undefinable yet distinct voice continues to be an open door in a gate kept world. This is an album that demands to be heard and wants you to feel seen, too. Whether it’s portrayed through the slow-building comfort rocker “Heavy Heart,” the affirmative and danceable banger “Wretched,” or the delicate acoustic tribute to his parents in “Tours,” Farm to Table is ultimately a record about finding your tribe, your purpose, and your reasons to celebrate in the face of adversity … lest you forget that joy is a form of resistance.  – Kristen Kurtis


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