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DJ Gabagool's 2022 Albums of the Year

Greetings dear reader, and happy new year from both myself and all the DJs here at 90.3 The Core! 2022 was filled with so much amazing music that this breakdown was originally going to be about fifty albums long. However, as the list matured, I decided to focus on a smaller number of albums that I could talk about more in-depth. Condensing my favorite albums into a top twenty-five for the year allowed me to focus on what music truly made an impact on me. The only problem I encountered making this list was deciding which Drake album would take the number one spot. But in all seriousness, before we get on into the meat and potatoes of this thing we’ll start with a few honorable mentions; I’d like to praise some albums I feel deserve their flowers. Some notable EPs that would've made their way on here if not for their runtime include Sacrifices by MedhaneIcons by Two ShellTAKEOUT by Harvey_dugBluff by yuné pinku, and Welcome To My Island by Caroline Polachek. Furthermore, eight LPs that ended up just short of my top twenty-five, but still deserve your time would be HYPNOS by Ravyn Lenae, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow by Weyes BloodSent From My Telephone by Voice Actor,  NO THANK YOU by Little SimzRENAISSANCE by BeyoncéHeartmind by Cass McCombsRunning In Waves by Georgia Riley, and last but not least Clearing by Hyd. Now without further ado, here are my twenty-five favorite albums from the past year:

  1. Black Country, New Road Ants From Up There

    The first I heard of Black Country, New Road was back in the Summer of 2019 (a much simpler time) with their eight-minute-long single “Sunglasses”. In all honesty, I doubt I truly appreciated this utterly crushing yet descriptive vision Isaac Wood laid out for his listeners over this sprawling post-rock instrumentation. What would ultimately become the launchpad for their debut album, For the first time, had me thrilled and longing for more. Upon its release my feelings were mixed, I enjoyed the album thoroughly but felt like there was some special ingredient that could make such an impressive album stand out amongst its contemporaries. After a steady release of singles starting on October 12 of the same year, BCNR would go on to release their sophomore LP, Ants From Up There, within a mere 364 days of their debut. Flawlessly combining their early post-rock experimentation with a more accessible arrangement makes for a project that feels like a breath of fresh air. The live takes of each song transport the listener into the rooms of Chale Abbey along with the band as you become absorbed in this controlled chaos of a soundscape. None of this would be possible without the help of sound engineer Sergio Maschetzko, who allows each member to shine in their own regard. Whether it be Isaac’s range of vocals, Charlie’s intense drumming, Georgia’s serene violin melodies, May’s elegant chords, Tyler’s ripping basslines, Luke’s passionate noodling, or Lewis’s alluring sax playing. Each of these wonderfully talented musicians complements the other in the most eloquent way imaginable. The most obvious example would be the way in which Charlie’s drumming compliments Isaac’s vocal delivery on songs such as “Concorde”, “Good Will Hunting”, and “Snow Globes”. The less pronounced example of this would be the synergy between Lewis, May, and Georgia that can be found in “Intro”, “Haldern”, “Mark’s Theme”, and “The Place”. The heartbreaking cherry on top of all this comes in the form of frontman Isaac Wood’s bitter lyricism. Ants From Up There is an album consumed by the idea of unrequited love and the grief that it causes. Isaac paints this picture of a chaotic relationship coming to a close, with the one still holding on willing to do whatever they can to make things work. Constant analogies between insects and humiliation, food and intimacy, but most importantly the clamp and mental turmoil. This album takes a common situation, one so easy to relate with, and strips it all back to its very core. Isaac manages to write in such a way that is both accessible at a surface level yet absurdly rich in substance when taking a more in-depth analysis. Something I seek from every album is depth, the very same depth expressed in Ants From Up There, layers that when peeled back reveal a new perspective. To put it simply, I’ve spent months rearranging my top fifty list each time a worthy, new release comes out, yet there’s one album whose spot #1 hasn’t changed since its release.

  2. Jockstrap I Love You Jennifer B

    You know that feeling you get when you hear something completely original for the first time? Well, that’s what I Love You Jennifer B was for me; after hearing “Concrete Over Water” on the radio one night I felt like I wanted to dance, cry, and sing all at the same time. This album’s sound is all over the place from the crushing drums and electric guitars on “Neon” to the calming harp plucks on “Angst” to the pulsating bass and chopped vocals on “50/50”. The way Georgia and Taylor play with sounds is phenomenal and blends the genres of glitch, noise, and electropop beautifully. Definitely, the greatest debut album I’ve heard this year and one of the best I’ve listened to in a long time. My words hardly do this project justice, it's one you need to let your ears thoroughly digest.

  3. Smino Luv 4 Rent

    If you have yet to give Smino a listen, you’re doing yourself a disservice. My favorite member of Ghetto Sage, and in my opinion, the most consistent. Due in part to the chemistry between him and producer monte booker, Smino raps with this aura of finesse I have yet to see any of his contemporaries match. The first time I heard blkswn, I was blown away at just how flawless an artist could come through on their debut. My opinion of NØIR was almost exactly the same, but with both, I knew Smino had something more to offer with his music. In comes Luv 4 Rent, this is what I believe to be the pinnacle of Smino’s career so far. With so many great releases this album had to battle to get to where it is, but after some time with it, I realized just how jam-packed it was with incredible songs. The way this album shifts between different moods, tempos, and themes without skipping a beat is just (and in the most literal/corny way possible) music to my ears. This is why I listen to music, this is an artist entering their prime, this is the marriage of hip-hop to R&B, and who else better to officiate than Smino?

  4. JID The forever Story

    What names come to mind when you muster up a list of the top ten greatest rappers in the game right now? If JID doesn’t crack the top five, let alone ten, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it might be time to get your head checked. Bar for bar (yes I’m using that figure of speech here) he’s the only rapper right now that holds a candle to Kendrick Lamar. With The Forever Story JID offers a masterclass in penmanship, flow, melody, and anything else you could expect from the full package of MCs. “2007” offers the perfect evidence as to why this man is where he is, over seven minutes of beautiful storytelling, flow switches, and beat switches the song ends up getting cut from the album. Only appearing in the expanded edition, “2007” serves as the thesis statement to The Forever Story as a whole. Who JID is, where he comes from his, and why he has the drive to keep doing what he does. Thematically sprawling from that point JID also focuses on the whole of black culture and how it relates back to his own family and upbringing.

  5. Nilüfer Yana Painless

    Up until this year, I had never heard of Nilufer Yanya. I remember seeing a Pitchfork review of her new album and being captured by the artwork in front of me. I put it down on my long list of new music releases to give it a listen at some point. However, some time passed and I relegated it to the back burner where I ended up forgetting about it for quite some time. It wouldn’t be until I was driving home one night and I heard “L/R” playing over the radio. It instantly grabbed my attention and I checked the artist only to realize it was the album I meant to listen to all these months ago. The next day I went back and listened to this album on repeat, with each elevating my appreciation for this remarkable artist. Yanya crafts something equal parts bouncy, intense, and infectious all packaged in the form of a one-word oxymoron, PAINLESS.

  6. Denzel Curry Melt My eyes, See Your Future

    What else would you expect from someone like Denzel Curry besides another excellent work of art? This utterly gorgeous epic finds Denzel at his most reflective since the release of TA13OO. We find our narrator seeking the redemption of his soul, feeling that the life he leads now has only added to the trauma experienced before being propelled into the spotlight. Melt My Eyez comes across as the most personal project Zel has released to this day and tackles many of the same themes present in Vince Staples’s RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART. However, the reason why this album ended up ranking so much higher has to do with the luxurious hip-hop/R&B/jazz fusion happening here. Not to mention the stunning “Cold Blooded Soul Version” of songs like “Melt Session #1”, “Walkin”, “Troubles”, and “The Ills” which offer more stripped-back, jazzier renditions of the album’s original tracks. It goes without saying that this couldn’t have been done without the super team of collaborators Curry assembled for this album including T-Pain, 6lack, Rico Nasty, JID, Thundercat, JPEGMAFIA, Robert Glasper, Karriem Riggins, Kenny Beats, and more. Everything about this album just works, no matter the genre Curry flows over each track with commanding lyrics about depression, maturation, and personal growth. It's been a long wait since the last fully realized Curry album, ZUU, but real reflection takes time.

  7. caroline caroline

    Probably the greatest surprise for me this year would be the self-titled debut from post-rock collective caroline. Another album I was attracted to simply from the cover, this beautiful shot of a WWII radar station being swallowed by the beach on which it lays. There’s so much space on this album, the way caroline uses ambiance makes the listener feel as if they’re drowning in this ocean of sound as the waves wash over them. While at other times the mix completely removes the listener from it and has them sitting in the passenger seat on this stunning journey. There’s the lead single “Dark blue” with its captivating guitar melody and this steady build that never fully resolves. Those echoing vocals on “Good morning (red)” where lead vocalist Jasper Llewellyn sounds like he’s miles away from the microphone and just screaming into the void. Not to mention all the messy sounds they play with throughout such as the ringing in the background of “messen #7” which sounds like a metal detector going off. I’m still searching for any resources giving insight into the recording process of this album because of how much it blew me away on the first listen.

  8. Kendrick Lamar Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

    I was really surprised when my favorite up-and-coming rapper released an album after years of silence, but Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers manages to further Kendrick’s legacy. At this point, Kendrick can retire and go down as one of the greatest to ever do it which might be the case since this happens to be his final project under contract with Top Dawg Entertainment. He’s the only rapper in the past decade or so that has to be compared to rappers outside of his generation when the conversation of GOAT status comes up. This long-awaited double album was conceptualized as a discussion between Kendrick and his therapist with snippets of discussion between the two spliced throughout. “Worldwide Steppers” tackles his addiction to lust, “Father Time” handles his upbringing, and “Crown” discusses the damaging aspects of fame. Kendrick releases his most personal album to date, a desperate plea to listeners that he is only human.

  9. Pusha T It's Almost Dry

    Time to put it all out there and say I think this is Push’s best album. I know the DAYTONA lovers are going to come after me for it, but this was probably the most exciting hip-hop release of the year. Hearing that one of the greatest rappers of all time would be putting out an album produced by Pharell Williams and a pre-October 8, 2022 Kanye West. I think the craziest thing about this album would have to be that Push had a son just so he could write, “The married drug dealer, even named my son Brixx”. This man really gave his son a middle name slang for the way dealers pack their drugs. Nonetheless, this album has everything you’d expect from a seasoned pro like Push: masterful lyricism, outstanding cadence, and expert wordplay. Not to mention a Clipse reunion that comes in the form of a No Malice feature on the closing track “I Pray For You”. I couldn’t ask for anything more than what I received from It’s Almost Dry.

  10. Sam Gellaitry VF Volume II

    Being in the top 0.5% of all Sam Gellaitry listeners, allow me to bend your ear for a moment and tell you just how amazing this album is. In the past ten years of Sam’s career seeing his development from SoundCloud beats to Escapism to producing for the likes of Masego and PinkPantheress to his second installment in the Viewfinder series. VF VOL II is some of the most forward-thinking electropop I have heard to this very day. I am eternally thankful to whoever told Sam to start putting his vocals on everything because each track sounds so full of energy. Although I believe his songwriting has a bit of a way to go before I rank him any higher, this being only the second project to feature Sam signing (the other being IV) there is so much room for this budding artist to grow. Sam Gellaitry is your favorite producer’s favorite producer, there is so much talent and creativity in every inch of this man’s being that he can only continue to improve.

  11. Earl Sweatshirt SICK!

    How do you follow up on one of the greatest albums of the 2010s? The genre-defining masterpiece Some Rap Songs exposed the current abstract hip-hop scene to the masses, but what would come next? SICK! is Earl’s first full-length album since 2018 and it certainly does not disappoint. Producer Black Noi$e handles the most tracks of any one producer on here and rises to the occasion, presenting a wealth of new ideas while staying true to Earl’s trademark sound. His use of keys, whether sampled or live, really adds a feeling of elegance to each beat Earl raps over. Additionally, an Earl album wouldn’t be an Earl album without some help from the usual suspects: The Alchemist, Navy Blue, Samiyam, Alexander Spirit, and more. The common discourse would have you believe that you have to pour your heart out to make good art nowadays. However, Earl proves that having fun, writing well, and presenting valuable ideas are all you really need.

  12. Kenny Beats LOUIE

    I’ve been a long-time fan of Kenneth Charles Beats III and if you know anything about the man himself, you will adore this album. What Kenny has done for the community should not go understated from his hilarious internet series The Cave to his weekly producer battles on Twitch. Giving back to fans of music and music makers alike is Kenny’s main prerogative now that he’s achieved such an acclaimed status. His work with an array of artists and genres makes him extremely unique compared to the slew of competition in the industry. There’s something about his tracks that feel like a breath of fresh air and if I had to take a guess it would be using physical instruments any time he can. Modern hip-hop production boils down to programmed drums, processed bass sounds, and drawn-in melodies. Kenny’s style produces this deeply organic soundscape, serving as an ample fit for his web of associates. At its core, LOUIE is a tribute album, one to his father who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier in the year. The amount of love and respect Kenny has for his father and his father’s impact on his musical career seeps through every crevice of this piece. It's an utter crime to call this album a beat tape, it is so much more than that in every way. With numerous guest features from Vince Staples, Slowthai, JPEGMAFIA, Thundercat, and more it feels as if Kenny is presenting a portfolio of what his career over the past decade has led him to.

  13. billy woods Aethiopes

    The more anonymous half of the infamous rap duo Armand Hammer, billy woods is one of the most prominent figures in all of underground hip-hop. Being the son of a professor of English literature and a Ph.D. Marxist writer, he clearly inherited their shared genius. Aethiopes is a dense album, to say the least. If you expected me to help you fully comprehend this album, you’re sadly mistaken. Covering every reference the man alludes to throughout Aethiopes would take me all of 2023 to research, let alone write. What I will tell you is this is the smartest rap album of the year and deserves your attention even if you’re not a college professor.

  14. SAULT Untitled (God)

    Inflo is the greatest producer working right now. Although it won’t make up for him taking 9 off streaming platforms, SAULT did put out five albums this year. If I could I’d put Untitled (God), Today & Tomorrow, and 11 on this list, but that severely limits my ability to highlight the laundry list of favorites I have. Today & Tomorrow is this mind-boggling fusion of soul and punk while 11 is SAULT’s usual funk-centric sound. On the other hand, Untitled (God) feels like the ideal mixture of every individual idea present in their other four releases from this year. Borrowing orchestral scores from Aiir, choral arrangements from Earth, groovy basslines from 11, and the swung drums from Today & Tomorrow. Untitled (God) sounds like what you would hear playing on Sunday Mass if Funkadelic was the band at your church.

  15. black midi Hellfire

    Another album rich in narrative and one much too layered to fully describe to you here, but one you should seriously give a listen. Obsessed with the idea of sin, black midi assembles an album that feasts on the absurd, weaving a story of corrupt characters and their final moments on Earth. From the bloodthirsty Captain on “Eat Men Eat” to the slimy actor Freddie Frost on “27 Questions” every character eventually comes face to face with Satan to pay for their evils against the world. Not to mention every bit of the production on this thing that manages to go above and beyond their prior two releases. Geordie, Cameron, Morgan, Kaidi, Seth, and everyone who worked on this managed to construct a showcase of technical ability without indulging too much in flashy techniques.

  16. Lupe Fiasco DRILL MUSIC IN ZION

    If Zion was real, would drill music exist there? That’s the question generational rap powerhouse and now MIT professor begs on DRILL MUSIC IN ZION. Lupe wastes no time over these forty minutes of decadent storytelling and narrative-driven raps. Every song title has a deeper meaning, even the order of each track has a purpose relating back to the concept of this album. Not to mention the punchy drums and lofty piano melodies producer Soundtrakk builds for Lupe to lay his lyrics over. His gifted wordplay implores the listener to hear his appeals buried in double and triple entendre. Lupe is tired of these violent delights promoted by mainstream street rap and drill music artists. DRILL MUSIC IN ZION feels like listening to a dissertation discouraging others from taking part in these kinds of “expression”.

  17. Sudan Archives Natural Brown Prom Queen

    This sophomore release from singer/songwriter Brittney Denise Parks, better known as Sudan Archives, is really something special. Natural Brown Prom Queen is an effortless amalgamation of trap, hip-hop, R&B, and electropop with dense string sections, fierce percussion, and stunning vocals. With themes ranging from self-discovery to the intricacies of relationships to womanhood and female liberation. This album feels like a self-portrait of not only Sudan archives the artist, but also Brittney as a person in her own right. NBPQ (Topless) condenses the many reoccurring themes of the album (colorism, misogyny, childhood, etc.) in a catchy three-minute package.

  18. MIKE Beware of the Monkey

    This has to be the latest an album has ever been released and still made its way onto my end-of-the-year list, but if it's going to be anyone I'm glad it's MIKE. On Beware of the Monkey, MIKE has come to accept his mother’s passing and realizes that his goal now is to spread the same gift she gave to him. Promising to reveal the blueprint she left behind on the track “Closing Credits”, MIKE’s focus on family here shows that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Continuing his prolific legacy, MIKE extends the ideas present on Disco! moving away from the themes present on weight of the world and tears of joy.


    It took me a while to come around on this one, I feel like Vince is going to get overlooked this year with all the amazing hip-hop we’ve received, but this album is so special. Vince has dropped back-to-back years for the first time since the brief hiatus he took after the release of FM! back in 2018. RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART offers a look into the more personal and behavioral aspects of Vince’s persona. Someone who has had his fair share of challenges to overcome not only to find belonging in this world but to reach the position he finds himself in now. This album is filled with layers of context buried beneath a more accessible exterior of summer-sounding, g-funk hits. Not only do its lyrics convey this theme of an artist's vulnerability, but Vince’s use of ocean sounds on tracks like “THE BEACH”, “MAGIC”, “WHEN SPARKS FLY”, and “THE BLUES” allude to his search for rebirth through art. Vince was numbed by the commercialization of his trauma, RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART is his journey to escape the vicious cycle of distress fame causes.

  20. MAVI Laughing So Hard, It Hurts

    At only 23 years old, MAVI continues to prove his ability as a rapper is sharper than those twice his age. Let The Sun Talk was this raw, passionate cry of an album tackling family, injustice, addiction, and maturation. Laughing So Hard, It Hurts is a sonic curveball of sorts featuring cleaner vocals and more mainstream production than the gritty lo-fi present on his prior releases. This shift is seemingly caused by the debate MAVI has with himself, whether to sign (sacrifice creative control to receive more recognition) or stay independent (and vice versa). Diving into the themes of addiction, the loss of his uncle and cousin, past relationships, and his girlfriend's decision to have an abortion Laughing So Hard, It Hurts directs listeners that sometimes the only way out is through.

  21. Hudson Mohawke Cry Sugar

    You’re probably tired of hearing it, but Tik Tok has changed music and the way a majority of people consume it. The fact that the song most people have heard from such a talented artist is related to an old Reddit post about some guy getting it on to “Cbat” pains me deeply. Scottish producer Ross Birchard is an interesting figure, but what he’s done for music as a whole should not go understated. Whether it's his solo work, his fingerprints being all over Kanye’s music in the early 2010s, or his collaboration project (TNGHT) with Lunice. HudMo has created a sound many imitated, but none duplicated. Personally, this has to be my favorite full-length project of his since Lantern was released back in 2015. Nineteen tracks of techno, acid, trap, industrial, hip-hop, and even gospel chops fill this beautifully composed work from beginning to end.

  22. Pinegrove 11:11

    I never truly appreciated Marigold as much as Cardinal or Skylight, and maybe I never will, but I believe Pinegrove is definitely back on track with 11:11. For a band that does so little to reinvent their sound, Pinegrove never ceases to impress me with their production. Maybe it's the rawness of Evan’s vocals presented over the feverish pace of the band's playing. This blend of Americana and emo is something I find fitting for such vulnerable lyrics about Evan’s mistakes and shortcomings. There’s a certain beauty in the simplicity of Pinegrove’s music, one I hope never changes for as long as they’re around.

  23. MJ Lenderman Boat Songs

    This feels like the most organic rock music I’ve heard in ages. With so many artists putting out albums that blur the lines between genres, something so raw is a refreshing change of pace for me. It feels like people just throw words together sometimes to grasp whatever new sound an artist is pushing. There is truly no better example of pure, unadulterated rock music than what MJ has done here with Boat Songs. The genre’s principal sounds can be found everywhere on this thing: crunchy guitars, blaring drums, and those sweet lo-fi vocals. Definitely check this project out first, but if you want more there’s the band Wednesday, in which MJ plays guitar, that also put out some amazing indie/alternative rock music.

  24. Steve Lacy Gemini Rights

    New Steve Lacy fans seeing “Bad Habit” blow up must feel the same as the old heads when “Dark Red” was getting traction. As someone who loves Apollo XXI, I have to admit that Gemini Rights is the better album. Although the debut will forever hold a special place in my heart, Lacy’s talents truly shine with this release. This album is so polished from front to back, all ten songs are so elegantly produced, mixed, and mastered that I can’t begin to understate their beauty. Steve’s vocals are great as always, the lyrics are more catchy than ever, and the arrangements are brutally intricate.

  25. Rosalía MOTOMAMI

    There were a lot of incredible pop albums that saw their release this year including RENAISSANCE by Beyoncé, Dawn FM by The Weeknd, Crash by Charli XCX, and many more, however, one stood above them all. That album is none other than Rosalía’s own MOTOMAMI and is packed with lyrics about transformation, sexuality, heartbreak, celebration, spirituality, self-respect, and isolation. Speaking from a production standpoint Noah Goldstein's influence can be felt all over tracks like “SAOKO”, “BIZCOCHITO”, “MOTOMAMI”, “CUUUUuuuuuute”, and “LA COMBI VERSACE”. Notably, Goldstein produced the Grammy-award-winning album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and that feeling definitely comes through in bass and key tones here. Also, bonus points for having the chorus of “CANDY” interpolate the same melody as those Ray J vocal chops Burial used on “Archangel”.


That wraps up my end-of-the-year list showcasing these twenty-five spectacular albums in all their glory. Hopefully, any of what’s contained inside my little write-up has piqued your interest enough to take a listen. Who knows maybe you’ll discover a new favorite just by giving any of these recommendations a listen. With that being said, I wish you all the best in your music-listening endeavors and whatever else 2023 brings!