Happy Mag’s picks for the 10 best albums of 2022

From the return of industry titans to the breakout of newborn stars, we’re counting down the ten best albums of 2022.  

It’s nearing those latter 2022 months when we begin to reflect on the year that was, which thankfully for listeners, means a round-up of stellar music releases.

2022 saw the return of pop giants in the likes of Beyonce and Harry Styles, and welcomed to the scene a slew of young stars with debuts from Mallrat and Wet Leg. Musicians searched for respite in the wake of the pandemic, and evidently found it in an array of genre-flitting albums. 

Credit: Emily Lipson; Renell Medrano; Nick Mckk; Handsome Tours Australia Pty Ltd

We were elsewhere treated to semi-final releases from Charli XCX and Kendrick Lamar — whose 2022 projects marked their last with their respective labels — and basked in the homegrown fire that is the work of Confidence Man and Julia Jacklin. While there’s still a handful of weeks before we officially drop the pin on 2022, Happy Mag is counting down our picks for the year’s best albums, in no particular order. Feast your ears below. 

Mallrat — Butterfly Blue

It’s almost hard to believe that Butterfly Blue marked Mallrat’s debut album upon its arrival in  May, given the singer’s history of consistently triumphant releases since as early as 2016. On Butterfly Blue, Mallrat solidifies her ascent to the heights of the Australian music industry, with a 12-song tracklist that synthesises her fluid vision of the pop genre, complete with assists from the likes of Azealia Banks and Alice Ivy.  

Charli XCX — Crash

Marking the singer’s final album with her former label Atlantic Records, Charli XCX’s Crash saw the once-experimental musician lean firmly into pure pop, with euphoric results. Charli’s fifth studio album is certainly her most “mainstream,” but in the favourable sense of the word. Built for the dance floor and brimming with lush production, Crash takes a clamorous nosedive into ‘80s revival, exemplified by the September-sampling single Beg For You

Julia Jacklin — Pre Pleasure

Steeped in a deep understanding of self, Julia Jacklin’s Pre Pleasure sees the singer-songwriter come to terms with the turbulence and imperfection of life. Jacklin’s third studio album was released in August and is nominated at this year’s ARIA Awards, and touts a newfound affinity for piano instead of her signature guitar. The album’s more sombre moments (as on I Was Neon) never weighs-down its nostalgic sweetness.

Confidence Man — Tilt

Confidence Man were never known for their subtlety, but on sophomore album Tilt — released in April — the Brisbane duo offer an even more hedonistic take on electro-pop, with blaring synths, earworm melodies and characteristically over-the-top lyricism. While it boasts staple Confidence Man grooves on What I Like and Angry Girl, band mates Janet Planet and Sugar Bones unearth a tender emotionalism, too, with standout cuts like Luvin U Is Easy

Beyonce — Renaissance

No album quite captured the imagination (and dancefloors) of 2022 quite like Beyonce’s Renaissance. Prefacing the release of her seventh LP with her desire for “escape and freedom,” Beyonce made good on that promise with a tracklist evoking the full breadth of dance music, from the ‘80s New Orleans of Energy to the hyperpop of All Up In Your Mind. Renaissance is one of a trilogy of albums Beyonce will release in the coming years.

Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

It’s hard to fathom just how high the expectations were in the lead-up to Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album, and final under former label Top Dawg. And while Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers might lack in comparison to its Pulitzer-prize winning predecessor DAMN, the album more than cements Lamar’s place among the greats, spanning a wealth of topics from generational trauma to gender identity, with assists from Summer Walker and Sampha.  

Harry Styles — Harry’s House

We’ve never heard Harry Styles quite as reflective as on his third solo album, Harry’s House. The popstar loosens the shackles of the artists he often emulates to pinpoint his own sound, and ponders the meaning of home with signature vivid lyricism. Veering away from the acoustic rock that once defined him, the former One Direction bandmate dips his toes into old-school funk, disco and soul, and relishes in a newfound horniness on album highlight, Keep Driving.  

Wet Leg — Wet Leg

With their self-titled debut, indie-pop darlings Wet Leg made good on the hype of its viral lead single Chaise Lounge, providing witty and infectious vignettes of the duo’s experiences of break-ups, house parties, and young adult life. The indie anthems promised by Chaise Lounge are giddily echoed on standout tracks Angelica and Wet Dream, collectively justifying on the wave of anticipation that preceded Wet Leg’s debut.    

Rosalía — Motomami

With a credits list that spans the likes of Pharrell, Frank Ocean and James Blake, it’s no wonder Rosalía’s brazen sophomore album Motomami made its way to this list. Reflecting on her meteoric rise to fame, the record amalgamates a swathe of euphoric genres from reggaeton to flamenco and pop, and birthed the TikTok viral sensation that is lead single BIZCOCHITO.

Gang of Youths — Angel in Realtime

Gang of Youths’ ARIA-nominated third album Angel in Realtime sees the Sydney-born band channel stadium rock for reflections on grief and family heritage. Released in February, the LP offers the most polished version of Youths’ sound to date, the band revel in the euphoria of newfound love on album standout The Angel of 8th Ave, while making room for deeper ruminations on soulful, Springsteen-esque track, In The Wake Of Your Leave