From the Intercom: The 25 Best Albums of 2022
Okay, let’s get the obvious question out of the way. Why is our 2022 year end list coming out in… 2024? Of course, I could go on a long-winded tangent about how things got pushed back for us at the site, which inadvertently led to our 2022 year-end list to become forgotten for months… but I’ll spare you the bloody details. The point is, the 2022 list is finally here!
All of the albums on this list were picked and voted on by our staff back in December of 2022, and I haven’t gone back to make any retroactive changes. It’s a neatly compiled time capsule of our tastes at that moment in time.
It’s kind of interesting going back to a list that we as a staff deemed the best of 2022 all the way out here in January of 2024. Did we get it right, or very, very wrong? The good news: yup, the list still holds up, even two years out. Hopefully, that’ll continue to be the case years later as well.
Here are the best albums of 2022, as selected by the From the Intercom staff back in December 2022.
Special thanks to Justin Ricafort, Jacob Ugalde, Nancy Jiang, and Mya Worrell for contributing blurbs and voting. Additional thanks to Derrek Chow, who created the header graphic.
Julien Chang – The Sale
In another universe, Baltimore musician Julien Chang’s The Sale and its predecessor, Jules, would be on every indie pop lover’s playlist. Released on Transgressive Records in the cold of November, The Sale flew under the radar for the most part – maybe due to the fact that it’s more a summer album than a winter one. Dazzling guitar-driven indie pop with a touch of instrumental jazz is how I would best describe the gorgeous songs on the album, infusing a sense of sunshine daziness that really hits its stride when played on a hot summer’s day.
Chang, who plays every instrument on the album save a few exceptions, is a master of jangly guitar-pop – calling to mind the throwback vocal production of early Tame Impala and the hazy, sun-drenched vibes of Hoops in the album’s DNA. From the gooey love song “Marmalade” to the harder hitting groove “Snakebit Side / Snakebit,” The Sale is indie pop at its best. -Li-Wei Chu
Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights
Sometimes — after a devastating, soul-crushing breakup — you just need a slice of clarity, your own personal version of the transcendence meme. Last year was an incredible (and incredibly long) year of anguished, straight-up-spiteful, and dare I say… Sour music dominating the charts, yet I truly believe that the climax of the woe-is-me post-relationship mountain has to be the stage of self-actualization that comes from the apex.
The Internet bassist Steve Lacy, who pairs his affinity for ‘70s funk with a signature goofball attitude, hits gold (and also #1 on Billboard!) on this warm and breathlessly light project. Lacy looks into himself, opens up, and above all, slowly (but surely) nestles into a healing path toward fulfillment. The beauty of it is that there’s no timeline and no agenda, despite the finicky reputation of Geminis. As the “Bad Habit” singer says: “It’s a marathon, not a race.” Oh, and the four Grammy nominations? That’s just icing on the cake, baby. -Nancy Jiang
SASAMI – Squeeze
SASAMI’s second full album Squeeze swings like a metal bat to the mouth with its opening song, “Skin a Rat.” It’s abrasive, hypnotic, and delightful. Don’t let first appearances scare you off either. (Andrew Thomas Huang combined SASAMI’s face; her mother’s Korean calligraphy; and snake yokai, nure-onna; to make the the fearsome album cover.)
Squeeze explores a full breadth of emotion—rage, bitterness, hope, apathy; weary love and cyclical obsession—through musical genre, pulling and pushing nu-metal, punk, country, pop, and “the hysterical sides of Fleetwood Mac.”
The word for this album is satisfying, as if you took steel wool to a mosquito bite. Squeeze scratches the itch bloody, soothes with a bouquet of orchestral strings in “Feminine Water Turmoil,” and reopens the scab with the heartrendingly beautiful “Not a Love Song.” Do NOT shuffle this album. –Mya Worrell
HAOTING – Marigold
At the very end of HAOTING’s tour-made music video for retro-banger “O.N.S.,” the Taiwanese musician spins singer/actress Pai Bing-Bing around before posing for a freeze-frame shot over which the credit rolls. Though I could only decipher so much with my elementary Mandarin skills on the accompanying Instagram post and music video, it’s clear that the cameo from the legendary Taiwanese songstress (who was wildly popular for singing Taiwanese Hokkien pop songs in the 80s) is a symbolic passing of the torch to the next era of musicians.
HAOTING’s Taiwanese pop songs (and to be clear, these are songs sung in Taiwanese Hokkien, not Mandarin Chinese) similarly draws from the flashy, byegone era – lovingly combining modern electronic production with an old-school charm. All the songs on the saxophonist-slash-singer’s debut, Marigold, drips with a smoky sexiness (“Sax-iness,” if you will) that recall gaudy neon lights and bad late night decisions. Even when the album pauses the promiscuity for prom-scene slow dance jams (“That’s All My Fault”), it’s done with such style that it feels like you’re listening to a long lost cassette from your mom’s prized high school music collection. At a time when Japanese city pop is making such a large comeback, HAOTING’s Marigold arrives at precisely the right time – maybe we should all be turning to Taiwan to soundtrack our next ’80s themed dance party. -Li-Wei Chu
Peach Luffe – Everything is Peachy
If you ever want to drift off to the sounds of a lo-fi dream, Peach Luffe has got you covered. Everything Is Peachy is an indie rock album that’s true to its name, envisioning a time and place where summers are forever and golden hours last all day long. Masterfully, Peach Luffe incorporates hazy strings and warped soundfonts into the typical summer rock soundscape, making it feel like the record itself is a decades-old record store find.
You can hear this warped haziness in standout tracks like “Yoshi’s Island” “Sunset,” “Twilight,” and “Honestly,” several of which act as subtle interludes that really makes you feel like the day is just passing you by. Other highlights, like “Blue Summer,” “Fallen,” and “Fly Fly Fly” are high points on this journey, providing that signature melancholic indie rock sound, with Peach Luffe’s personal touch of comfort and (peach) fuzziness. Overall, Peach Luffe has made quite the soundtrack for the summer, whenever and wherever one may find it next. -Jacob Ugalde
Pinkshift – Love Me Forever
When I heard Pinkshift’s Love Me Forever album for the first time, I was not prepared for just how much whiplash it would give me—not from the headbanging, but from the instant nostalgia I got for going to Warped Tours and being absolutely blown away by just how hard punk rock can go.
Love Me Forever is quintessential punk for today’s musical landscape, with every track somehow being crazier than the last. It’s also a true delight to hear the showcase of lead singer Ashrita Kumar’s vocals on every single song: while already impressive to hear her shout and scream in the anthems “GET OUT” and “BURN THE WITCH,” it’s even more impressive to hear her belt her heart out in “Dreamer” and the surprise piano ballad “in a breath,” still carrying that same raw emotion, drive, drama, and passion. The entire album is an absolute delight, and it’s the perfect soundtrack for the much-needed catharsis of rage after a long year. -Jacob Ugalde
Hitsujibungaku (羊文学) – our hope
Japan’s Hitsujibungaku has been knocking around for a while now as a mostly domestic fan-favorite act, but that’s all about to change with the release of their sophomore album, our hope. Thanks to “光るとき,” which served as the opening to the cult favorite anime Heike Monogatari, there’s been a renewed interest in the band’s meticulous and nostalgically scuzzy guitar style. And really, any one of the songs on the alt-rock trio’s album could be plucked out of the album’s context and given its own spotlight as a TV theme song.
There’s a devastating and effortlessly cool aura to each of these songs, which finds the band picking up where they left off on their similarly driven POWERS. With a knack for naturally infusing bleary shoegaze into wondrous rock anthems, Hitsujibungaku are leading the charge as one of Japan’s premier alt-rock bands of the modern era. -Li-Wei Chu
Charli XCX – CRASH
I’ll be the first to admit that there was a period of time when CRASH was released that I listened to “Yuck” almost three times a day for a week. Teetering on camp, “Yuck” shouldn’t work on paper – but the UK musician makes even the most obnoxious-sounding lyrics sound like mean girl fun (“Yuck, lookin’ at me all sucky / Yuck, quit acting like a puppy / Fuck, going all lovey-dovey on me”).
And honestly, “Yuck” isn’t even the best song on this album full of standalone bangers (that would have to go to songs like “Good Ones,” “Baby,” and “Used to Know Me,” for my money). At this point, Charli XCX is one of music’s greatest purveyors of pop and knows how to turn anything into a good hook. On CRASH, she pulls back from the how i’m feeling now hyperpop aesthetic just a smidge and makes a ‘80s/’90s main pop girl heel turn, reviving nostalgic productions from earlier eras. In doing so, Charli XCX continually reminds us why she’s so good at what she does. Sticky hooks are scattered all throughout CRASH like bits of shattered glass – at any given moment you’ll get caught in the glittering carnage. -Li-Wei Chu
Kainalu – Ginseng Hourglass
If you’ve ever wanted to just dance the night away but don’t know what to play, your newest go-to might be the instantly timeless Ginseng Hourglass. Psychedelic funk musician Kainalu (Trent Prall) has been making grooves for a while now, but his latest offering Ginseng Hourglass feels like his most cohesive project yet. Dubbed as a celebration of life, the album is filled with retro jamming that turns the clock back while boasting synthpop tunes that make your nights feel eternal. It’s also the first album on which he’s invited collaborators, inviting artists like MUNYA and moonfruit into his psychedelic realm.
Get your dancing shoes on, because you’re going to need them. -Li-Wei Chu
SUNNY CAR WASH – HANEDA! HANEDA! HANEDA!
How do you describe the music of SUNNY CAR WASH? Youthful, exuberant, and innocent with pop rock ferocity, perhaps? And the frontman’s voice – that voice! Let’s be clear: frontman Yuuya Iwasaki’s singing voice isn’t what you would traditionally consider to front an indie rock band. Each lyric he sings is boosted by a squirming and neurotic quality, portraying the band’s frontman as a fast-talking protagonist who feels like he’s seconds away from falling apart at any moment. At times purposely off-key and off-kilter, the music on HANEDA! HANEDA! HANEDA! stands out from the other bands on the scene almost due to the audacity alone. Together with bassist Gou Haneda, SUNNY CAR WASH sounds like that random friend duo who came together to just sing their hearts out and jam real loud in the garage, everybody else be damned.
There’s a Scott Pilgrim-esque youthful energy emanating from the album that makes you feel like you can take on the world (“Fancy,” “Moon Skip,” “Kill Me,” “TOKKO”). That feeling of reckless abandon gives you the strength to barrel through life without slowing down. Though it’s been confirmed that HANEDA! HANEDA! HANEDA! is SUNNY CAR WASH’s one and only album, they can rest easy knowing that that universal feeling of teenage angst will live on forever. -Li-Wei Chu
GRMLN & TAESAN – American Boy
Don’t be fooled by the EDM-stylized name – one of the year’s most touching indie folk albums came from an artist named GRMLN. Although Yoodoo Park’s music may be new to the writers on this site, he’s been making music for a little more than a decade. With his collaborator TAESAN, GRMLN’s self-released 21st(!) album American Boy offers only a taste of the singer-songwriter capabilities, bringing a homespun take on indie folk music that dives deep into family trauma and histories.
It’s hard to know what exactly inspired the album and the songs on it, but the lack of press for the album’s origins allow the work to speak for itself. “Family Tree” dives straight into a presumed personal history, while album closer “Boy & Girl” ponders a better future for the next generation. Meanwhile, introspective charmer “Why Am I Sad On Christmas?” is a journey through memory, highlighting Park’s talent for turning icy sadness into magical stories. On other songs like the life-affirming “Hello,” GRMLN holds onto that glimmer of hope and turns it into a stomp-clap singalong. If you’re a fan of similar singer-songwriters like St. Lenox or Kishi Bashi, American Boy is not to be missed. -Li-Wei Chu
Renata Zeguier – Picnic in the Dark
I get this impression that Renata Zeguier wouldn’t mind sipping wine with the fireflies on nocturnal summer nights. With delicate songbird vocals, Zeguier’s lyrical attitude aims somewhere between St. Vincent and Billie Holiday. Focused, careful, and at times haunting, the entire album rolls out a tasteful spread of indie folk, bedroom pop, bossa nova, and jazz standards thanks in part to the precise production of Sam Evian.
My favorite has to be the dark and bouncy tension of the track “Evergreen.” Picnic in the Dark offered me a sonic palette completely distinct from an oversaturated buffet of “head empty, vibes only” tunes this year. Mark my words, this will age beautifully. -Justin Ricafort
Rina Sawayama – Hold the Girl
The spirit of ’90s and 2000s pop lives on through Rina Sawayama. If Sawayama’s debut SAWAYAMA didn’t already clue you in to the singer’s influences, Hold the Girl hits you over the head with them – drawing upon maximalist Gaga-esque pop (“Hold The Girl,” “Holy (If You Let Me Go”), slow ballads (“Forgiveness,” “Send My Love to John”), and monster stadium pop songs (“Hurricanes,” “This Hell”) to help her become a pop diva in her own right.
Though the origins of the album come from a dark place (“Your Age”), Sawayama is able to turn traumatic experiences into a weapon of her own choosing: all the while making pop songs that could get any party started. -Li-Wei Chu
Rachika Nayar – Heaven Come Crashing
When Heaven Come Crashing starts, it feels like we are already in the middle of something life altering. I can hardly explain it without being trite. The album is like if 2001: A Space Odyssey’s doomed spaceship played Explosions in the Sky on the onset of the event horizon.
Blissful, epic, and idiosyncratic can only hope to define Nayar’s web of electronic, post-rock, and midwestern emo soundscapes. I promise you every second of this album is worth your time. This is the type of music you want to breathe in high on every emotion. -Justin Ricafort
Numcha – Bloom
Soft indie pop has never sounded as twinkling and bright as they do on Numcha’s debut album Bloom.
While the Thai musician first rose to international prominence four years ago on the viral “Keep Cold,” Numcha proves that she’s no one-hit wonder. Bloom turns that concept into a flowering flurry of tunes, fusing cues from Japanese city pop and modern day bedroom pop into a slow moving haze. Striking the sweet spot between Raveena’s enchanting R&B vocal work and Sunset Rollercoaster’s funk-jams, Numcha’s debut will find a way to bloom into your heart. -Li-Wei Chu
Say Sue Me – The Last Thing Left
South Korean indie rockers Say Sue Me have had a rough couple of years between the release of their self-titled sophomore album and this year’s The Last Thing Left, but you wouldn’t know it from a cursory listen. By now, the band has perfected their brand of surf rock elements so well that anything that they put out (including this year’s other release 10 celebrating their 10th anniversary) has a uniquely refreshing charm to them.
The Last Thing Left, however, is the answer to the question of what love sounds like filtered through fuzzed out guitars and daiquiris under a tropical cabana. From the reverb-laden “To Dream” to the nostalgic “Photo Of You” and the theatrically triumphant “George & Janice,” The Last Thing Left shows flashes of the band’s vital spirit. -Li-Wei Chu
Utada Hikaru – BAD MODE
This is the part where the writer embarrassingly wastes an entire sentence admitting that Kingdom Hearts was his first exposure to Utada Hikaru. The point isn’t entirely moot because the official Kingdom Hearts opening song and Skrillex collab “Face My Fears” is featured three times on this album.
I digress. I was in an instant trance once the first track “BAD モード” started. Without a ton of knowledge on Utada Hikaru’s career, I could still feel years of experience and refinement beaming out of this record. I’m certain a lot of baggage comes from being one of Japan’s best-selling, most influential pop artists, yet the sound of BAD MODE comes off as fresh, comfortable, and effervescent. Whether it’s the electronic ’90s rhythm on “FIND LOVE” or the palpable longing on “PINK BLOOD,” you will have a good time on BAD MODE guaranteed. Even with three “Face My Fears,” no skips. -Justin Ricafort
Elephant Gym – Dreams
How do you describe the music of Elephant Gym? The Taiwanese band has been around for about a decade at this point, but with each release comes new avenues of discovery. This time around, on the meandering Dreams, Elephant Gym stretch their genre tendrils further than they have before, dipping into bossa nova, post-rock, funk, jazz, spoken word, and of course, interlocking math rock.
On this venture, however, Elephant Gym also pays homage to their Taiwanese roots – tapping in local musicians like up-and-coming R&B crooner 9m88, Golden Melody winner Lin Sheng Xiang, and a number of local traditional bands to add a complex cultural texture to the album. Dreams is not only a breezy listen that can stand alongside your favorite math pop projects, but it’s also an album that really only Elephant Gym are capable of making. -Li-Wei Chu
Son Lux + Various Artists – Everything Everywhere All At Once OST
It’s saying something that for the first time in FTI history, a movie soundtrack made our EOTY list; it’s even moreso saying something that it broke the top 10. But that’s simply just how good it is—even if you’re not the film score type. Through music alone, the Everything Everywhere All At Once soundtrack is able to tell the exact same story as its movie counterpart, including all of the same off-the-walls energy and heartbreaking emotional moments.
Perhaps most impressively, the soundtrack also includes subtle musical cues that even die-hard fans might have missed if they’ve only ever seen the movie: from the 4-note motif that’s snuck in on every other track, to the bits of “Clair de Lune” that occur whenever Dierdre is on screen, to the void-like spatial pad that plays whenever Jobu Tupaki is on screen, to the movie’s opening song “Wang Family Portrait” having a reprise in the final climactic fight… to many, many more details. It’s an exceptional score for an exceptional movie, and it’s nothing less than a work of genius from the minds of Son Lux. -Jacob Ugalde
beabadoobee – beatopia
I’m not ashamed to admit that beabadoobee is the effortlessly cool big-sister role model of my dreams — and even more so, that if Beatopia had been released when I was in high school, I probably would’ve made it my entire personality for at least a month, give or take.
It’s truly not my fault. I’m just a big sucker for sad indie-girl jams — especially ones that have sincerity seeping through its bedroom-pop choruses and thinly-veiled teenage braggadocio, forcibly transporting me to my youthful yesteryears (like, 2016) and then back again for some end-of-the-year reflection. The British-Filipina — with the help of acoustic guitars, some melodramatic but tasteful strings, the wisdom of a 40-year-old in a 22-year-old’s body, and the soothing, coddling voice of an angel — takes you through the modern-day, Gen-Z byzantine of hook-up culture, breakups, drifting friendships, and of course, trauma. “Ripples,” a heartwrenching and standout track, is, as Bea prefaced when I saw her in concert a few weeks ago, about her experience growing up without a proper male role model, “and what it’s like to live in a world like that.” Needless to say, congrats to Bea and Beatopia, because if your mission was to make us all cry, you succeeded, there wasn’t a single dry eye in the house! -Nancy Jiang
yeule – Glitch Princess
Welcome to the romantically grotesque wasteland of the singularity. Listening to yeule’s 2021 single “Don’t Be So Hard On Your Own Beauty” could not prepare me for the full length project it would be organ to.
Glitch Princess presented an aesthetic that was equal parts alluring and corruptive. It’s not just glitches, synths, and pitch shifts. It’s yeule’s character that brings in an uncanny theatrical and existential edge to the entire journey. Conceptually, I was actually terrified by how much I loved this album. yeule has a firm grasp on what post-internet, post-IRL culture sounds like. -Justin Ricafort
NoSo – Stay Proud of Me
The songs on Stay Proud of Me, singer-songwriter NoSo (Baek Hwong)’s debut album, sound like they belong to a coming-of-age film.
Diaristic and drawing from Hwong’s experience with gender dysphoria, Stay Proud of Me chronicles intimate moments in their life that are filled with longing, personal growth, and capped with a hint of suburban malaise. Liminal spaces are explored throughout – the transition between genders and their Asian American identity are deeply ingrained in NoSo’s songwriting, all wrapped together in a bedroom pop package. From the creeping “Honey Understand” to the yearning love song “Everything I’ve Got,” Stay Proud of Me chronicles the excitement – and realization – of what it’s like coming into your own. -Li-Wei Chu
Laufey – Everything I Know About Love
There’s a quiet ode to love that many may associate with jazz singer-songwriters of days past, like Chet Baker and Billie Holiday. It’s the type of love that can feel bountiful, melancholic, warm, hopeful, and everything in between—and it’s all that and more that Laufey masterfully distills in her 13-track debut album.
From happiness to heartbreak, Laufey can tell you all about it, with an edge of classical and jazz influences that make each tune feel like a timeless classic. Her warm strings and soft voice caress you on a musical journey, enchanting the air with memories of what once was, playful reflections on what is, sorrow for what could have been, and optimism for love that has yet to come. It’s a thematic exploration that feels both young and old, both new and vintage; like a cozy night in wrapped up in your favorite blanket.
All of this, of course, is told through the lens of a young songwriter who’s still in the process of growing up herself, though don’t let that dissuade you. Laufey is the voice of a generation, proving just how much of a hopeless romantic one can still be. -Jacob Ugalde
Luna Li – Duality
Duality had a lot of great music to contend with this year, but what it has above practically everything else is endurance. I could not shake the sound of Luna Li this year off any of my playlists. Duality is instrumentally slick, clean, well thought out, charismatic, TikTok friendly, danceable, cryable, repeatable in a way only a savant like Luna Li could charm out.
In addition, Li released a sequel to her instrumental jams EP this year, proving her work ethic is unmatched. Featuring major league indie acts like Jay Som, Dreamer Isioma, and beabadoobee, it’s the perfect record for 2022 and deserves every adoring fan under the afterglow. -Justin Ricafort
Sobs – Air Guitar
What makes a great pop song? Perhaps nobody knows how to answer that better than Singaporean pop band Sobs (Celine Autumn, Jared Lim, and Raphael Ong), who has churned out hit after hit since releasing their Catflap EP back in 2017. But on this year’s Air Guitar, they’ve truly outdone themselves – putting out one of the best pop albums of the year via insatiably catchy hooks, chiptune dubstep, and truly rock-out moments that’ll have you pressing replay over and over again. Drawing from 2000s pop (the band’s “Cool” cover serves as a wayfinder for the album’s pop rock direction), Air Guitar somehow manages to pack in massive feelings into explosive, catchy choruses delivered by Autumn’s fiery, saccharine voice.
This is an album that feels like a closely guarded secret: one that you might’ve accidentally downloaded from LimeWire back in the day alongside your favorite Avril Lavigne Mediafire rip. There’s no way they’ll stay that way for long. Air Guitar is an album that feels destined to be cranked all the way up wherever you go – or at the very least, one of those cult gems that’ll outlast us all. But for now, there’s probably no other album that the staff at From the Intercom had on repeat more than this year, and maybe the designation of “Best Album of 2022” will just have to do for the time being. -Li-Wei Chu