1 Jan 2023

Music 101's great albums of 2022

From Music 101, 3:00 pm on 1 January 2023

Photo: Supplied

It's here! The RNZ Music 101 great albums of 2022!

Instead of doing a countdown, we have collated the best albums from the music you loved hearing this year, and some of our friends.

Check out our Spotify playlist Best Albums of 2022

Here is our long list of great albums from 2022:

Aldous Harding: Warm Chris
Written largely in Geraldine during the lockdown in 2020, and recorded with producer John Parish (best known for his work with PJ Harvey). The Guardian reviewer Ammar Kalia called it: "Hugely satisfying ... 10 tracks of mid-tempo, folk-adjacent introspection ... off-kilter lyricism and a winning sense of playfulness."

Alex G

Alex Giannascoli uploaded his first songs onto MySpace when he was 12 years old, and has been honing his music since then. Photo: Supplied

Alex G: God Save the Animals
RNZ's Tony Stamp called this experimental folk-rock album: "Very hard not to get excited about. A collection of 13 songs that are each fantastic on their own merits, and together coalesce into something even greater ... the more I sit with it, the more I find things to love."

Amamelia: Bananamelia
Under the Radar's Chris Cudby described the Auckland-based electronic-pop producer's second album as "a sonic joyride through realms of breakbeat-driven electronica, swoony trip hop exotica, YMO-esque synth-pop, dreamily emotive balladry... A fruitful, vividly detailed collection."
RNZ talked to Amamelia in 2020, find the interview here.

Angel Olsen: Big Time
NME called the North Carolina-based indie folk singer-songwriter's offering "a vast emotional sweep that recalls the greats ... Americana-flecked triumph."
Olsen talked to RNZ about the album here.

Arctic Monkeys: The Car
RNZ's Elliott Childs said the Arctic Monkeys' seventh studio album continues the slide away from their earlier "scrappy, indie rock", and deeper into the influence of soul, funk and lounge music with "lush string arrangements and the unmistakable quack of a guitar run through an envelope filter. Music like this was designed to be played at suave parties where people dressed up and drank cocktails."

Tom Scott/Avantdale Bowling Club playing Meow

Tom Scott of Avantdale Bowling Club, performing at Meow Photo: RNZ/Kirsten Johnstone

Avantdale Bowling Club:  Trees
RNZ took a look at this album steeped in New Zealand experiences in October: "On the new album Trees, hip hop/jazz artist Tom Scott proves he's still one of Aotearoa's best musicians".

Beach House:  Once Twice Melody
RNZ said: "This well-loved Baltimore band have been making dream-pop for over 15 years now, and are in the process of releasing their eighth record - a double album that's arriving in four chapters (a process which started in November). This luxurious four-month release window seems appropriate given the grandeur of their music... it's their grandest, most cinematic outing so far."

Ben Woods: Dispeller
Tony Stamp said Christchurch musician Wood has skillfully crafted an intentionally jarring Antipodean-gothic sound design: "Woods would be a compelling singer-songwriter even without his interest in atonality and noise. But having the confidence to combine the inviting with the challenging is what makes his music special."
RNZ's live session is here.

Beth Orton:  Weather Alive
"With a vintage upright and painstakingly assembled songs, the English folk-pop-electronic songwriter's eighth studio album, Weather Alive, is her best," said The New York Times' Jon Pareles.


Beyoncé's 2022 offering Renaissance got people talking Photo: Supplied

The Beths:  Expert In A Dying Field
Writing for Stuff, Tyson Beckett said indie songwriting "prowess is all over the new album". And track 'Expert' is "The Beths at their fun, tight, guitar heavy best, with their collective harmonies rounding out the lyrical vulnerability."
Liz Stokes from The Beths walked Charlotte Ryan through the album track by track, and they played a live set for RNZ in September.

Beyoncé:  Renaissance
Landing slap in the middle of the perennial debate about the cultural and artistic value of pop music, Tony Stamp said, "Renaissance is a rich blend of pop elements that sparked discussions about its approach to gender and queerness, its critique of America, Black joy, and - with 104 artists credited on it - the use of sampling and interpolation as musical techniques."

Big Thief:  Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You
A lengthy album from prolific folk-rockers Big Thief, produced across four different studios with different sounds in mind. Tony Stamp said: "Big Thief are ostensibly an indie folk band, but flirt with country, rock and experimental forms. This album is full of songs that are heartbreaking, uplifting, scary, and amusing - often all at once."

Bill Callahan - YTI⅃AƎЯ
Kim Hill spoke with Callahan about YTI⅃AƎЯ in November, and described the music he records under his own name as largely country-inspired, melancholic and contemplative albums: "His songs often sound like poems, told in his comforting baritone, set to music." This one is about re-connection in the wake of the pandemic lockdowns.

Bill Callahan Photo: Supplied

Black Country, New Road:  Ants from Up There
Tony Stamp said this British rock band composes each song communally with all seven members of the group. They are "clearly a live band first and foremost - tempos shift, and playing is expressive rather than studio-polished", but "it has real musical maturity" and "all-in extremely heartfelt singing."

The Black Keys: Dropout Boogie
In an album packed with big name guest artists: "The collaborations are uniformly excellent, but it's on duo workouts … where Dropout Boogie sounds like gloriously old-school Keys and exemplifies their career-long vibe. Their rock & roll minimalism is more than enough," Joe Gross said in his Rolling Stone review.

Bret McKenzie:  Songs Without Jokes
Academy Award-winning songwriter and comedian Bret McKenzie set out specifically to write an album of songs that are not funny. What he ended up with was heavily inspired by the songwriting of Steely Dan, Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson. He spoke to Charlotte Ryan about the album, and performed the song 'Tomorrow Night' live for RNZ.

Bruce Springsteen:  Only the Strong Survive
The Guardian's reviewer described this as a "new album of old soul covers ... warm and enjoyable ... tender moments delivered with the effusive, upbeat vigour of the soul revue segments of Springsteen's live shows. A very feelgood record about feeling bad."

Cate Le Bon:  Pompeii
Written in Joshua Tree National Park, Pompeii is packed with sugary shiny harmonies that come together as reflective harmonic laid-back pop. Le Bon talked to Kim Hill about the album, and recorded a live session at Massey University in Wellington during her tour for this album.

Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul:  Topical Dancer
Charlotte Ryan described this album from the French/ Belgian duo this way: "Made for the dancefloor, brimming with a mischievous type of fun - but the pair have opinions on a range of topics and the album is focused on making them heard. There's something very Francophone about this cheeky attitude to serious issues."

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul

Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul's Topical Dancer combines lighthearted play with serious issues Photo: Supplied

Christine and the Queens:  Redcar Les Adorables Étoiles
NME said: "High art meets dark, uneasy synth-pop", with "the trajectory of an opera or theatre production [and] slowed-down, dramatically heightened grooves - think '80s French new wave".

DARTZ:  The Band from Wellington, New Zealand
Recently signed to Flying Nun, DARTZ are one of Aotearoa's fastest, hilarious, up-and-coming rock acts. Charlotte Ryan spoke with vocalist Danz, and they were interviewed for Introducing in April.

Don McGlashan:  Bright November Morning
An album of the upbeat, lush rock McGlashan is known for, his songs explore parenthood, life in Aotearoa and the government's invasion of Parihaka pā in the 1880s. McGlashan talked to Charlotte Ryan about the album, and last month performed a live set on RNZ.

Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork
NME said while Dry Cleaning are often described as post-punk, this bold new album "defies categorisation", and offers depth, with tracks covering jangle rock, woozy ambient and slacker rock and strange combinations and juxtapositions.

Auckland musician Aimee Renata performs as Erny Belle

Auckland musician Aimee Renata performs as Erny Belle and recorded her debut album in the small Northland community of Maungatūroto, which she says added an influence to the album Photo: Supplied

Erny Belle:  Venus is Home
Tony Stamp said: "This debut shows a knack for gorgeous hooks and acerbic lyrics, but those things aside, I appreciate that every track has had deep thought put into its concepts. Aimee Renata is a musician of Ngāpuhi descent who works under the alias Erny Belle. The track 'Sorry Not Sorry' is a good example of what to expect on her album Venus Is Home: angelic singing, sparse arrangements, and something a bit sarcastic sprinkled over like seasoning."
She talked to Music 101 about how places in Auckland and Northland added their influence to her first album, and  performed live for RNZ in May and talked about suddenly finding herself under the spotlight of the music press after the success of her release.

Joshua Michael Tillman, also known as J. Tillman or Father John Misty, is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist and drummer.

Josh Tillman performing in New Zealand previously. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Father John Misty: Chloë and the Next 20th Century
"Singer-songwriter Josh Tillman reaches far, far back to the golden age of Hollywood", Pitchfork said of this album, and he has created "a dreamy, lushly orchestrated, wryly comic collection of vignettes that all depend upon the timelessness of a love song." RNZ's William Dart took a look at how this album's sound evolved, looking back at Tillman's previous releases.

Fazerdaze:  Break!  (EP)
Amelia Murray's first release after a five-year pause, and her fans were waiting. She talked with Tony Stamp about the journey to this EP. Narc described it as fuzzy electropop and: "Easily one of the most pleasant surprises of 2022".
"Break! feels like a maturation of the bedroom pop sound that Fazerdaze started her career with, mixing in elements of dance pop and electronica into a really intricate jigsaw of different musical strands", the magazine's reviewer said.

FKA Twigs:  Caprisongs (mixtape)
Avant-pop artist FKA Twigs created a mixtape project, inserting "snippets of candid conversations ... fears, hopes, worldly advice, reassuring pep-talks and positive affirmations," Viva said. "There's still her genre-mashing wild experimentalism but the vibe is light, playful and plenty frisky, and filled with songs that are catchy, upbeat and more easily accessible, and party ready, than anything she's released before."

Florence + the Machine:  Dance Fever
"The ability to give us both the grandiose and intimate in one spoonful remains Florence Welch's greatest power," Double J's Dan Condon said]. "On her fifth album ... Welch turns her attention to big questions," and "every song ... features unexpected and delightful sonic twists."
William Dart takes a deep dive into it.

Fontaines D.C.:  Skinty Fia
"The Irish post-punk band's most demanding and musically adventurous album is also its most open-hearted, striking a perfect balance between tough and tender," Pitchfork's reviewer said. Tony Stamp talked to Fontaines frontman Grian Chatten about making the album.     

Album artwork from Angels and Queens, by the Gabriels

Album artwork from Angels and Queens, by the Gabriels Photo: Supplied/ Gabriels - Melodie McDaniel

Gabriels:  Angels and Queens
In September, Guardian reviewer Alex Petridis asked: "Could this be the album of the year?" Frontman Jacob Lusk's performance is nothing short of incredible on the intriguing soul/ R&B trio's debut album, he said, and the album delivers a powerful half-hour of top-tier songwriting proving the Gabriels are far more than soul revivalists, but they deliver a "cinematic" sound "that feels entirely of the moment."

Hans Pucket:  No Drama
RNZ's Tony Stamp said Hans Pucket are "a four-piece who specialise in power pop, but on their second album No Drama, find increasing room to flex into new modes and forms. "It's an album that fits into a certain lineage of NZ bands - the chorus on 'Misery Loves Company' evokes Split Enz, and the single 'My Brain is a Vacant Space' comes off like Lawrence Arabia (possibly fronting The Cars)."
Hans Pucket played a live set from the album for RNZ in November.

Harry Styles:  Harry's House
Harry Styles and Elton John took the top spots for 2022's Recorded Music charts for New Zealand - Harry's House was in the top 10 for 30 weeks straight, so this pop heavy hitter will not be a new discovery for most.

Jack White:  Fear of the Dawn
Music 101 said: Since The White Stripes disbanded in 2011, key early 2000s garage rock revival figure Jack White embarked on an eclectic solo career, and put out two albums this year - the mostly acoustic Entering Heaven Alive and the rowdier, more electric Fear Of The Dawn.
He spoke to Charlotte Ryan about the albums and touring.

Julia Jacklin:  Pre Pleasure
"Jacklin is the kind of lyricist who makes you want to understand what she's singing about. Her voice bleeds empathy, and her words invite scrutiny," Tony Stamp said.

Kendrick Lamar:  Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
NME wrote: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is a record outlining the Black plight and is created for his community. In this sense, it's one of the deepest cuts we've had from [Lamar]." His anticipated fifth album "Might exude a moodier, more melancholic sound than … previous albums, but there are pop gems on the record too."

Kendrick Lamar's fifth studio album: Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers

Kendrick Lamar's fifth studio album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is a concept album Photo: Supplied

Kevin Morby:  This is a Photograph
NME's reviewer gushed over this album describing it as: "Heart-bursting, life-affirming beauty. The Kansas City troubadour's seventh album is an epic ode to the fragility of life and the consequent need to cherish love, joy and family. …Its sprawling Americana and gritty rock'n'roll taking in the big themes: life, death, love, family …"

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard:  Changes
A long-term project from a band known for prolific rapid-fire releases, Double J said the Melbourne Australian rockers latest is "assured", and filled with: "Sleek 70s soul vibes.... based around a single chord progression."
RNZ talked to the Australian psychedelic rockers in 2017.

Koffee:  Gifted
Gifted is the first album from Mikayla Simpson, who grew up just outside Kingston in Jamaica, and scored a YouTube hit with a song about Usain Bolt when she was 17, then won a Grammy at 19 for her first reggae EP. Tony Stamp described Gifted as gutsy, full of interesting contradictions, with a breezy feel: "The positivity of this music, in the face of sociopolitical realities, is part of what gives it its power."

Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile Photo: Courtesy of The Label

Kurt Vile:  (watch my moves)
Pitchfork's reviewer wrote that the songs on this album chart an introspective journey: "Vile's singing leans toward the deadpan spoken word of late-career Lou Reed, an approach that helps the stoner-dad observations land harder. His latest LP conjures images of dreaming and travelling without worrying where they lead."
RNZ talked to Vile in 2018.

Laura Jean:  Amateurs
Double J said: "While she's never struggled to make beautiful music, there is perhaps something richer and more considered in these songs than anything we've heard from her before … her lyrics remain as poignant and insightful as ever. The album will keep you hooked musically, as often unpredictable arrangements ensure every track pulses with a certain energy - regardless of its tempo."
Jean talked to Charlotte Ryan about this pop album packed with harmonics and strings in October.

Marlon Williams:  My Boy
"There's a bit of mischief in it. It's my playful record, I'd say … I was just following my nose and that's where I ended up,'' indie pop songwriter Williams said of his latest album to Charlotte Ryan. Check out the full interview here.

Mel Parsons

Mel Parsons Photo: Andre Upston

Mel Parsons:  Slow Burn
"When Parsons sings 'it's been a hard year' on the title track … I was struck by how well country music is positioned to voice that collective grief," Tony Stamp said. "The interplay between musicians and singer on Slow Burn is inventive and engaging, and Parsons' delivery resolutely powerful … [and] so clearly genuine."
Parsons recorded a live session of songs from Slow Burn for RNZ in September.

Mitski:  Laurel Hell
The Guardian's Kitty Empire called Laurel Hell "a deep dive you can dance to… The indie artist delivers devastating emotional truths and unsettling imagery - with sharp hooks and an 80s pop sheen."
RNZ's Tony Stamp reflected on the album's context in his review here.

Motte:  Cold + Liquid (LP)
"Ethereal yet powerful sound … features a rich array of sounds from the environment," Charlotte Ryan said of artist Anita Clark's offering. "I like to make beautiful music but I like it to be dark, as well… something that's a bit harder. You have to balance things out and it needs to be contrasting," Clark told Ryan.

Myele Manzanza

Wellington musician Myele Manzanza is now London-based. Photo: Liane McGee

Mousey:  My Friends
Reviewing the Kiwi artists' second album, Rolling Stone said "The greatest strength of My Friends is how well it straddles the line between fresh and familiar. Mousey's lyricism and songwriting are excellent, bolstered by the album's phenomenal production. It's effortlessly creative without being contrarian, and immediately accessible without being shallow."
William Dart took a deep dive into the album and Close's earlier work, and Close played a live set from the album for RNZ in August.

Myele Manzanza:  Crisis and Opportunity Vol 3
Released in late November, the third installment in a well-received trio from London-based New Zealand jazz drummer and composer Myele Manzanza. Manzanza was profiled by The Guardian just before the release; they said the series had "so far traversed free-flowing, hard-swinging explorations of the London jazz scene," and the third instalment would add a 'house-inflection'.
Nick Tipping took a look at volumes 1 and 2 from the series here.

Nilüfer Yanya

Nilüfer Yanya Photo: Suppled

Nilüfer Yanya:  Painless
Yanya's music is "forged on knotty guitar playing, and downbeat verses that blossom into ethereal choruses; her pop sensibilities still very much intact," Tony Stamp said. "She has that magical combination of talent and x-factor, and has created something that's not quite pop music, but not far off."

Perfume Genius:  Ugly Season
"The expansive spirit of Mike Hadreas' terrific new album conjures and reimagines a mode of experimental pop music that is ecstatic, healing, modern, and queer," Pitchfork said.

Princess Chelsea:  Everything is Going to be Alright
Known for her whimsical indie pop/electronic sound; "The songs on Everything is Going to be Alright are … the best Princess Chelsea has written," Tony Stamp said. "They're her lightest in terms of tone, her darkest lyrically, and her heaviest in terms of production - by which I mean they feature a lot of guitars."
Princess Chelsea's Chelsea Nikkel talked about her musical influences on The Mixtape in April, and Jeremy Taylor took a look at the new album here.

Santigold: Spirituals
"Fourteen years after her debut album, it's become accepted wisdom that American musician Santigold was making genreless music before the internet made it commonplace," Tony Stamp said. "She became hugely successful. The fourth Santigold album … skips between sounds with ease, and stays coherent despite its large roster of producers. Thematically, she's concerned with race, and motherhood, and on a more macro level, keeping an even head while the world seems to be ending."

Sharon Van Etten:  We've Been Going About This All Wrong
Jeremy Taylor described Brooklyn singer Van Etten's latest album as anthemic indie rock. Charlotte Ryan spoke to Van Etten about the album and its unconventional release.

Six60:  Castle Street
NZ pop golden boys Six60 turned out an album drawing influence from everything from '80s pop hit 'Come On Eileen' by Dexys Midnight Runners to work by Sting and Nick Cave, Six60's Matiu Walters told Charlotte Ryan.  

SJD looks above the camera in a saturated image

Sean Donnelly released Sweetheart in 2022 Photo: SJD

SJD:  Sweetheart
Tamaki Makaurau musician Sean Donnelly (SJD) described his ninth album as: "A game of two halves … the first side is kind of my synth-pop with a dash of hyper-pop side, and the second side's more the organic singer-songwriter kind of thing. I think of the first side as the sweet side and the second side as the heart side."
William Dart took a thorough look on New Horizons, and Music 101 talked to Donnelly in November.

The Smile:  A Light for Attracting Attention
A side project by members of Radiohead, Tony Stamp said: "The ballads on this album are as emotive as anything Radiohead has ever done, like the instantly engaging chords of 'Open the Floodgates', with Yorke smothered in reverb like he's at the bottom of a cave. It's the ballads that really get me, but I appreciate that Yorke and Greenwood surround them with more challenging songs."

Soaked Oats:  Working Title
Writing for Under the Radar, Chris Cudby described the first song on "Ōtepoti's self-professed sludge pop" combo's album as "casually groove-driven … gently unfolding into a stained glass kaleidoscopic of psych-guitar expressiveness."
Soaked Oats played a live session for RNZ in November.

Spoon: Lucifer on the Sofa'
"Spoon has been around for over 30 years now, and it's notable how they … just kept doing the basics as well as possible, and became one of the most consistent acts in the world," Tony Stamp said in his review of this rock album. "Frontman Britt Daniel writes fantastic, straightforward tunes, and has a voice custom made for belting them out. … The main effect this album had on me was rediscovering the simple pleasure of guitars with different tones stacked on top of each other."

Stan Walker:  All In
Walker's seventh album, following his te reo album Te Arohanui. He talked to Afternoons about it in August.

Sudan Archives

Sudan Archives Photo: Supplied

Sudan Archives:  Natural Brown Prom Queen  
Ohio-born ethnomusicologist Brittney Parks delivers a technical, creative and aesthetic tour de force of smooth pop-sweetened hip hop and electronica with avant-garde teeth, and bumps of reggae and psychedelic.
Tony Stamp reviewed it here.

Tami Neilson:  Kingmaker
The Guardian review summed this up as: "The queen of Kiwi country at her imperious best. … She's laden with every music award her adopted homeland New Zealand can muster. The award-winning singer's effortless fifth album channels Patsy Cline and features a soaring duet with fan Willie Nelson."
Neilson talked to Nine to Noon in October and played a live set from the album for RNZ in July.

Taylor Swift:  Midnights
With tracks from Midnights, Taylor Swift become the first person in history to claim 10 out of 10 slots on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the US, and broke a handful of other records. Swift herself said Midnights is "a collection of music written in the middle of the night," while Pitchfork said it's: "More interested in setting atmosphere than chasing trends, [it] … pursues a newly subdued and amorphous pop sound."

Te Kaahu:  Te Kaahu O Rangi (LP)
This album is: "A meticulous package of gorgeous song-craft that has the feeling of something made with the greatest care - every word, image and sound the product of deep thought from its writer, designed as an immersion into te ao Māori," Tony Stamp said. RNZ talked to Kara Rickard about her album in June.

Te Kaahu

Te Kaahu Photo: supplied

Troy Kingi:  Year Of The Ratbags & Their Musty Theme Songs
This collection of 80s-inspired tracks is the sixth album in the Northland musician's ambitious plan to release 10 albums in 10 different genres. He spoke to RNZ about it here.

Vieux Farka Touré & Khruangbin

Vieux Farka Touré & Khruangbin Photo: Provided

Vieux Farka Touré & Khruangbin:  Ali
An album in tribute to Vieux Farka Touré's father, revered Malian musician and pioneer of the African Blues sound Ali Farka Touré, recorded with Texan band Khruangbin as an overqualified backing band, adding their "sonically lush" sound, Elliott Childs wrote for The Sampler.

Wet Leg: Wet Leg
The debut album from this British indie rock band from the Isle of Wight, who have experienced a steep rise to fameThe Guardian's reviewer said: "With millennial angst and humour to spare, the duo's quarter-life crisis album has a much broader remit than their repetitive breakout single." 

Weyes Blood:  And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow
Pop musician "Natalie Mering's majestic fifth record is a dispatch from the centre of catastrophe - an idiosyncratic set of love songs and secular hymns with lushly orchestral arrangements," Pitchfork's reviewer said.

Wilco:  Cruel Country
Recorded in live takes, Rolling Stone said: "their latest is a beautifully rootsy album with a broken sense of patriotic concern. Their signature stately, richly textured interplay is so automatic at this point … but it is less polished, like the most beautifully ornamented home recording imaginable."
William Dart looked at the album, here.

Womb, NZ band

WOMB Photo: Nicola Sandford

WOMB:  Dreaming of the Future Again
Tony Stamp said Pōneke band "Womb employ electronic elements throughout Dreaming of the Future Again, but crucially they always sound like a band. The slight imperfections that come from live playing are the beating heart of the record, with songs that are melodically minimal but beautifully written."

Yard Act: The Overload
This indie rock debut album made a big splash when it landed, charting at number 2 in the UK. Music 101 talked to Yard Act in November. "We're just these four idiots from Leeds that have been knocking around, making stupid songs in our bedrooms... I still don't understand it," singer and guitarist James Smith said.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs:  Cool It Down
Pitchfork said the indie post-punk "trio's first album in nine years ushers in a patient new era for the band, gracefully shedding the electrifying hunger of its early days to make room for tempered joy."
Kim Hill talked with Nick Zinner and Karen O from Yeah Yeah Yeahs in October.