The Alternative’s Top 50 Albums of 2022 + Yearly Awards

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2022 has been a great year for new music and for The Alternative. Although it has gotten harder and harder to run a music blog, with the help of our supporters on Patreon, we were able to not only survive, but continue to grow! We launched a new Discord to talk music with our readers, expanded our video and photography team, and grew our YouTube channel, including launching a music video show: Alt TV. And that’s not to mention all the incredible music we were able to find and recommend, the artists we got to interview, and all the good times at live shows, including our Gaslight Anthem afterparty in Asbury Park. We are so thankful, and we refuse to stop.

Everyone knows there’s no better way to end an incredible year than with a sweet end of year list! So we voted and consulted and came up with our list of the 50 best releases of 2022 along with the winners of the 10th Annual The Alternative Music Awards! We gave out awards for Album of the Year, Best Debut Record, Most Underrated Release, Best Non-LP, and for the 1st time, we had a fan vote via Discord where our readers were able to nominate 6 releases and pick a winner for Fan Vote AOTY!

Check out all of our picks below, and remember to support your favorite music (and music blogs) so that we can all keep this going in 2023! As usual, there is a playlist including all 50 artists below, so that you can listen while you read. Enjoy! We hope you find your new favorite band!


PAGE 1 (#50 – #31) – PAGE 2 (#30 – #11) – PAGE 3 (#10 – #1 + Playlist & Award Winners)

50. Carpool – For Nasal Use Only

For Nasal Use Only is a catalog of all the ways you screw things up in your 20s: you get stuck in a job you hate (so you quit the job you hate and end up broke), you rely a bit too heavily on alcohol and irony, you get caught breaking the law on a dare or a whim, and you run your mouth too damn much. Carpool knows those feelings well, and they channel all that frustration into fifteen minutes of throat-searing pop-punk. And it’s never sounded so good. —Zac Djamoos

49. Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future

Melt My Eyez See Your Future isn’t one of Denzel Curry’s most aggressive projects, but it’s his most mature to date. Instead of delivering banger after banger like on previous records, this one is laid back, relying heavily on chilled out and spacey instrumentals for Denzel to spit cold, introspective bars over top of. He’s at the top of his game lyrically—as he says on “Worst Comes To Worst,” “every line that Curry drop is equivalent to a punch.—Nate Cross

48. Joywave – Cleanse

Pray for the reboot”—but seriously, society is severely malfunctioning and Joywave is right so please hit the switch already. After releasing their third album the week the world went into lockdown, it was hard to be optimistic when everything you worked for was erased in the blink of an eye. Despite this tumultuous setback, Joywave took this time to Cleanse themselves of their battle scars from life on the road and reflect on the world as a whole. With track one leading you into a daze of synths, you’re already feeling their revulsion at society with lines such as “no help, no help / the world’s gone crazy, it’s on something lately.” In a world being inundated with excessively long albums in a race to get the most streams, it’s refreshing to hear a ten-song album that you can let finish and immediately restart for another listen. —Kyle Musser

47. snow ellet – Glory Days

It’s no coincidence that Snow Ellet’s sophomore EP is titled Glory Days. Where the debut suburban indie rock star was self-described as “indie rock for pop punk kids, pop punk for indie kids,” Glory Days leans into the latter, calling back to the heights of the genre. It’s the closest anyone’s come to capturing the youthful energy of bands like The Starting Line or Yellowcard at their peak. “I thought I’d stay 19 for a while / I was wrong,” Eric Reyes crows on the opening “19,” and though the world might keep spinning, Glory Days is a nice reminder that that childlike joy doesn’t have to go away forever. —Zac Djamoos

46. Bartees Strange – Farm to Table

Where do you go after you blow up big? For Bartees Strange, the follow-up to his 2021 of breakthroughs—a buzzy Pitchfork Fest set; support slots for tours with Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Courtney Barnett—is a push even further forward in sound and intent. “Cosigns” builds from a slow-burning laundry list of those music industry Ws (“I’m in L.A, I’m with Phoebe, I’m a genius, damn“) to a tear-up-the-dance-floor finale of raw ambition: “Hungry as ever, it’s never enough.” Country ballads, gentle piano soul and hard-driving rock elbow each other for room at Farm to Table, but the multiplicity is rapturous rather than merely chaotic. Bartees Strange’s unpredictability is his superpower, and it’s so exciting to watch his artistic expression evolve. —Molly Mary O’Brien

45. Joyce Manor – 40 oz. to Fresno

Even Joyce Manor seem a little unsure about what 40 oz. to Fresno is, exactly. The album opens with a cover and closes with a B-side from their 2014 classic Never Hungover Again. When the silly title and the sub-17 minute runtime were announced, there was speculation that the band was swinging away from the pop ambitions of Cody and Million Dollars to Kill Me and back toward the churning punk of their early years. It isn’t that, really. It’s not Cody again, either. 40 oz. to Fresno sounds like a band who wants more than anything to avoid autopilot. They want to give their fans something worthwhile, and (maybe more importantly) they want to have fun. This is their day job; it has been for a decade. It doesn’t sound like the early stuff but there’s a lot of ways that it feels like the early stuff. It’s fast, it finds one great idea and hammers it and it gets out before it wears out its welcome. “Dance With Me” is a string of sticky vocal hooks that, in places, echoes Bowling for Soup’s “1985.” “Don’t Try” is a mere minute and forty seconds long and finds a way to hit its perfect chorus four times. “Gotta Let It Go” is their best song since “Last You Heard of Me,” all enormous riff and a chorus that is somehow much more enormous. They’re just better musicians now, better at crafting pop hooks, taking smarter risks that pay off in unexpected ways. They have never tuned out or coasted. Joyce Manor would rather swing and miss than stop swinging. Joyce Manor dropped 17 minutes of music with the faith that it was good enough that you would just start the album over as soon as it ended. And I have, over and over. —Keegan Bradford

44. Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa

Even if Spoon isn’t the kind of music that fills your cup, no one who appreciates the craft can argue that the rock n’ roll veterans aren’t one of the genre’s most consistent and accomplished acts. With their first album in five years after the experimental 2017 release Hot Thoughts, Spoon are back and anything but basic; some of the tracks on Lucifer on the Sofa, like “The Hardest Cut” and “Wild,” immediately deserve a place in the debate among the band’s best songs ever, which is no small feat 16 years in. The sound is rich and layered, the guitars are loud and fuzzy, and the experience is nearly unmatched even in a year stacked with great releases. —Michelle Bruton

43. Camp Trash – ​​The Long Way, The Slow Way

Camp Trash isn’t just a real band—they’re a really good band. Their debut LP The Long Way, The Slow Way dropped in the middle of the summer. That’s appropriate, as it’s wall-to-wall bangers from the clean opening riff of “Mind Yr Own” to the post-metal detour of “Another Harsh Toyotathon” to the loving comedown of “Feel Something.” No matter when or where you are when you press play on The Long Way, The Slow Way, it’s sunny and 75 when Bryan Gorman urges you to “give it a rest, let it ride.” That’s the biggest lesson in The Long Way, The Slow Way, a record nearly a decade in the making—there’s nothing wrong with taking your time. Sometimes you end up with a masterpiece. —Zac Djamoos

42. Hatchie – Giving the World Away

Melding relatable lyrics with hazy guitar, Giving the World Away is the natural progression of a Hatchie’s dreampop style, this time blending poppier, more danceable tones with lush, dreamlike fuzz. Where most of Hatchie’s contemporaries lean too far in one of those directions, she stands above, finding a perfect way to sound dreamy and dancy. —Anne Hurban

41. Martha – Please Don’t Take Me Back

With its buzzing live-performance energy, Martha’s fourth full-length Please Don’t Take Me Back finds the band at their grittiest and rawest, but also their most refined and tightest, spitting out clever anti-capitalist screeds over infectiously bouncy power pop. Always a band with a chip on their shoulder lyrically, Martha deliver some killer lines here, from the joyfully bleak “optimism faded / dreams annihilated / fuck this place, I hate it,” to the unnervingly surreal “I was in a daydream while upstream a toxic river rose / I was staring right through a poison sky / nothing I was seeing was feeling like it was real at all / I’ll be in a daydream the day I die” to the meditative, rejuvenating mantra of “I smoked a cigarette / and burned the flag / and lit the candle.” Musically, the group has never captured their spark as much as on this record, sounding like it was recorded live, particularly at moments like the riff-and-drums opening of “Hope Gets Harder” or the emphatic bass hit going into the second verse of “Please Don’t Take Me Back.” Diehard fans of the group may not be ready to place anything above Blisters in the Pit of My Heart, but Please Don’t Take Me Back certainly makes a case for being Martha’s strongest album yet—a snapshot of a band flawlessly executing their formula while still sounding as fresh and urgent as a group recording an upstart debut record. —Aaron Eisenreich

40. Greet Death – New Low

Slowly rolled out over the start of the year, the songs on Greet Death’s New Low felt like a constant in 2022, capturing the mundane repetitiveness of recent years with a gloomy mood built mainly from acoustic guitars, drawn-out tempos, measured vocals, and an echoey, open feeling that hangs over the songs like an ever-present fog over a graveyard. Lines like “sometimes it feels like everything is coming to an end / I wish I could escape from this existential dread,” or “now I’m afraid / I don’t feel anything / it’s all the same / I hate everything,” or “I hate the things I used to love / I’m fucked and now I’m done” might sound heavy-handed or overly emotive if they didn’t fit so well in the somber landscape Greet Death has created on New Low. What’s even more impressive is how purely listenable the EP is—20 minutes of the year’s most understatedly great rock music that rises above the punishing existence described in the songs by embracing the feeling of doom, rather than running from it. —Aaron Eisenreich

39. The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field

The Beths have always been purveyors of catchy, crunchy power pop, but with Expert in a Dying Field they have built their wheelhouse even bigger. Elizabeth Stokes’ songwriting is almost literary, and the band’s sound has bloomed while still being rooted in their fun, riffy origins. It’s one of my most played albums this year, and I’ll be head-bobbing to it for a very long time. —Jami Fowler

38. Mt. Oriander – Then the Lightness Leaves and I Become Heavy Again

On his debut full-length as Mt. Oriander, Keith Latinen finally picks up where Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) left off after their final album in 2014. Here, guitars twinkle and shimmer like sunlight on frozen snow as Latinen captures potent snapshots of his daily life—this is an album full of faded photographs, frigid midwest springs, and insomniac nights in family homes. Latinen is a master of exposing the rich, uncertain emotions that bubble under the ​​quotidian details, his high and thoughtful voice mining the patient transformations of life for all of their fear and beauty. Latinen gathers a whole cast of guest contributors from the Count Your Lucky Stars roster—including a stunning feature from new signee Elliott Green, who carries the album’s closer into a swelling final coda—making his intimate revelations feel like honest conversations among family and friends. —Jordan Walsh

37. Inclination – Unaltered Perspectives

Inclination started with a desire for vocalist Tyler Short to create a straight-edge band. His ideas had been festering for several years, and you can tell listening to Midwestern Straight Edge: “No Exit” was a statement that would define the band and its ideology. But it’s been five years since the project began, and we now have a more considered philosophy in Unaltered Perspectives. It looks at the problem of drugs from all perspectives, telling an interconnected story through an entire album. But even if you’re somebody who is uninterested in this tale, this is still a record you can connect to. Guitarist Isaac Hale continues to establish himself as one of the most important hardcore songwriters, creating plenty of pleasing breakdowns, and Short’s vocals are as menacing as ever. —Hugo Reyes

36. Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti

“Best Of” lists always come right at the start of the winter season, when we bundle up in layers of wool and dissect the many layers of this year’s complex music releases. Despite the frigid atmosphere, Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti still feels incredibly fitting. It’s a record that transcends seasons; that finds its place in your head on the crystal beaches of Añasco (or any other coastal Puerto Rican town) just as well as on your Northeastern porch looking out at the falling snow. The album is a mixture of different native music styles from the Caribbean: cumbia from Colombia and salsa from my own inherited home of Puerto Rico. Un Verano is Benito’s longing letter to his true love, Puerto Rico, and is set to define the future of Latinx music and culture for years to come. —Kim Luciano

35. Rat Tally – In My Car

Upon my first listen to Rat Tally’s debut LP, In My Car, I was struck by the wispy vocals, strumming guitars, and dark comedic energy that immediately brings to mind some Phoebe Bridgers’ best tracks. But as I listened again and again, I came to appreciate vocalist and songwriter Addy Harris’s ability to write catchy hooks and short lines with the depth of a novel:  “But I’m okay if you’re okay / I’m too lazy to say I’m not / Even if I wanted to explain / It would probably take too long.” Now on maybe my one thousandth listen, I believe that In My Car may be the best songwriting of the entire year. We’ve already seen another lyrical songwriter rise up from 6131 records to larger indie rock stardom (Julien Baker), and I think Rat Tally is well on her way down that path. I can’t wait to see what is next, but until then, I’ll be listening to In My Car a couple thousand more times. —Henderson Cole

34. Ben Quad – I’m Scared That’s All There Is

I’m Scared That’s All There Is conjures memories of emo from a decade ago, back before mainstream publications declared an emo revival. When I close my eyes and listen to “Unclench Your Jaw,” I imagine a sweaty basement singing along as the mic stand flails around. But Ben Quad is clearly a student of the last ten years of emo, avoiding some of the pratfalls that have hurt the noodly side of emo. The guitar athletics are a bit more tasteful and never become cumbersome. This slight change makes for stronger and ultimately catchier songs, making for one of the best emo albums of the year. —Hugo Reyes

33. Nnamdi – Please Have a Seat

Another innovative, genre-mixing release from the multi-instrumentalist songwriter and record label co-owner, Please Have a Seat is a self-produced world full of stretched boundaries, brand new colors, and riffs galore.  I want to bump this everywhere I go. —Jami Fowler

32. Wet Leg – Wet Leg

The Isle of Wight-based band’s cheekily melancholy debut managed to exceed the high expectations set by their 2021 indie rock smash “Chaise Longue,” which was everywhere you looked faster than you could say “on the chaise longue / on the chaise longue / on the chaise longue / all day long on the chaise longue.” Wet Leg‘s 12 tracks detail the mundane ways that modern life can be rubbish for young people trying to become adults—”I Don’t Wanna Go Out” in particular perfectly captures the anxiety caused by partying hard through your late twenties—but the compact melodies, lively tempos and ultra-dry vocal delivery all keep things nice and light. Hey, who doesn’t enjoy listening to a casual bop about being too stoned at the grocery store? —Molly Mary O’Brien

31. Chloe Moriondo – SUCKERPUNCH

Chloe Moriondo seems to be an artist constantly evolving. Over the course of the past couple releases, Chloe has found a variety of paths to hits, usually more in the pop punk variety. But on SUCKERPUNCH, Chloe is sailing the auto-tuned seas of pure pop to find their way to some more gem tracks. While there are a couple of bumps in this attempt, when the combination lands and Chloe is able to incorporate a little of that punk energy from past releases, the result are massive dance hits. “Fruity” is a track ready for the club scene, no remix required. Similarly, “Hell Hounds” has a 3oh!3 energy that has us, and the wider music world, realizing that we may have a new pop star on our hands. Catch me in the pit frolicking. —Henderson Cole


PAGE 1 (#50 – #31) – PAGE 2 (#30 – #11) – PAGE 3 (#10 – #1 + Playlist & Award Winners)

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