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KPBS Staff Picks: Best Albums of 2022

Graphic by Tony Zuniga
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KPBS
A graphic of several covers of albums released in 2022 with white text reading: KPBS staff picks best albums 2022.

It was a pretty wild year for music — some might even say cathartic. But is it really all that surprising? Given all the pent up energy from the past two years of pandemic lockdowns and canceled tours the world needed some cosmic release.

For artists, the time has also been rife with inspiration and maybe even a little urgency. And after some artists left Spotify, our streaming and consumption landscapes have changed, however, slightly. Still, the music released this year is plentiful and powerful. The best of this year's releases seem to feel immediate, present and specific — but also human and universal.

From landmark albums by superstars like Bad Bunny and Kendrick Lamar, to deeper cuts from local artists like Julianna Zachariou and Jack Van Cleaf, this year's releases offered something for everyone.

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Here are some of KPBS' staff picks of the best albums released in 2022 (in no particular order).

Our Top Picks

'Un Verano Sin Ti' by Bad Bunny

This. Was. The. Album. Of. The. Year. Feel good songs. Everyone knew the lyrics. The tour at Petco Park was a highlight of my year. Good all around, even months after its release.
—Tania Thorne, Reporter

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It's fun, relatable and full of life! Puerto Rican artist who does what he wants to show that being kind is all you have to be. He's known for his unique style, whether it is pants or a skirt, painted nails, fun hair styles and his love for showing that men and women can express themselves freely and creatively. He's huge on promoting inclusivity with his music and wanting to make changes in communities to provide a better life for minorities.
—Dianna Gonzalez, Development Coordinator

'MOTOMAMI' by ROSALÍA

This album has been getting a lot of (well-deserved) attention — it’s NPR’s #3 album of the year and ROSALÍA won the Latin Grammy for album of the year — so there’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said. However, this album is personal to me. It came out while I was living in Madrid, Spain, and I have distinct memories of dancing to “CHICKEN TERIYAKI,” “SAOKO” and “CUUUuuuuuute” in club basements and then going home at four in the morning and winding down to the beautiful piano and organ-forward ballads “G3 N15” and “COMO UN G,” only to wake up the next day and listen to “DELIRIO DE GRANDEZA” on repeat. When I say that this album was the soundtrack of my life for a long time, I’m not kidding. Also, the album exudes creativity and is unashamedly beautiful and personal. I am so excited to see what ROSALÍA does next.
—Brenden Tuccinardi, News Web Producer

ROSALÍA is trained in classic flamenco and fuses that with hip-hop, electronic, reggaeton, jazz and Latin pop sounds. She produces and composes her own works, and off stage advocates for women’s rights. Personally, I chose this album as my favorite because I found it refreshingly new and different. It’s really just fun to listen to. I was fortunate in my youth to study abroad in Sevilla, Spain, so hearing the undertones of flamenco also brings me great joy.
—Trisha Richter, Director of Grants & Engagement

'Blue Rev' by Alvvays

I've always loved Alvvays' jangle-pop tunes but I think "Blue Rev" shows the band growing as songwriters. The album marries the group's signature catchy melodies with shoegaze-type timbres, creating a richer audio experience than previous efforts. Hands down, the star of the show is frontwoman Molly Rankin. Her Celtic-inspired vocals effortlessly shine over Alvvays' wall of sound with memorable lyrics like "College education's a dull knife." (Relatable. 🙄)
—Lara Azevedo-McCaffrey, News Web Producer

'Midnights' by Taylor Swift

Her writing and lyrical talent is amazing and every song is meaningful!
—Jay Jay Maniquis, Co-host & Co-creator of "Out of the Boondocks"

'Hero of Your Heart' by Julianna Zachariou

A Julianna Zachariou show at Soda Bar was one of my first shows "back" in the summer of 2021, and her music always has this wistful exuberance to me (that is at least partly due to that short-lived period of societal hopefulness). She's local, and this album, "Hero of Your Heart," came out in August and it just feels really human, packed with tons of stories and questions and heartbreak and hope. She masters a blend of pop, folk, rock, indie and Americana and turns it into something that feels fresh, like it's just hers.
—Julia Dixon Evans, KPBS/Arts Producer and Editor

'PRE PLEASURE' by Julia Jacklin

Jacklin is an artist from Australia under the Polyvinyl Label. I really enjoy her songwriting and themes that she covers within this album. She isn't afraid to explore topics and personal experiences with such intimacy on such an un-intimate medium, a widely available album release.
—Adrian Villalobos, Media Production Specialist

'Dirt Femme' by Tove Lo

Unpretentious Swedish dance pop/nu disco album that, in truly Swedish fashion, deals with some dark subject matter.
—Andrew Bowen, Metro Reporter

'Fruit from the Tree' by Jack Van Cleaf

Great San Diego-based folk artist. The album is produced seamlessly. It also pushes the lyrical boundaries of the genre. Relaxing and cohesive listen overall, but also complex and thought-provoking songwriting.
—Jacob Aere, Reporter

'Dropout Boogie' by The Black Keys

Nice and relaxing, can't go wrong.
—Brandon Dean

'Mr. Morale & The Big Stepper' by Kendrick Lamar

This is a record so poignant it’s hard to enjoy frivolously. Every minute is jam-packed with heartbreak or introspect.
—Parker Edison, Podcaster/Content Creator

'Marigold' by Alex Isley

Not anything I would usually listen to, but a friend turned me on to this album. Alex's smooth vocals transport me to a place where I'm completely sucked into the music. This is the album I listen to when I'm feeling stressed out. Her father is one of the Isley Brothers.
— Anonymous, KPBS staff member

'Harry's House' by Harry Styles

This album was full of fun, feel-good dance tracks with some more vulnerable songs sprinkled in.
—Roxy de la Rosa, TV Programming Coordinator